Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Inner Retard

We all use our brains in different ways, but I’ve noticed that almost everyone has what I call an “inner retard.” For higher cognitive functions, we use the part of our brain that is the most highly developed. But lots of things don’t require high-level analytical thinking, so there’s a part of your brain you use for such things. It can’t read or write, doesn’t appreciate art, can’t tell the difference between a filet mignon and a Big Mac. If you are scratching your ass, you delegate that task to your inner retard while the rest of your brain does something hard, like writing a blog. Which is very hard to do while scratching my ass.

We flew to Boston last week and met up with some old friends. One of them, who I will call Prudence, drove my wife and I to Maine, where we would be staying with other friends in their converted barn. The drive normally takes about 3 and a half hours, but we made it in about 7 hours, partially because we stopped at L.L. Bean. This is just a small part of the snowshoe department. I had no idea snowshoes were such a big business.


The other reason it took so long is because my wife sat next to Prudence in the front seat. When two women sit next to each other in the front seat, they talk. Constantly. This requires the higher brain functions, so Prudence’s inner retard was driving.

Conditions began to deteriorate almost immediately, and soon we were driving through sleety snow and slushy, icy roads.


The windshield was frequently fouled with dirty spray thrown up by other cars, so Prudence fiddled with the wipers, which were way overdue for replacement. They streaked and chattered, smearing the gunk around until visibility was near zero. Worse, the washer fluid ran out within minutes. I interrupted a conversation concerning dresses or shoes to beg Prudence to pull off the highway.

We bought a gallon of windshield washer fluid, and I refilled the reservoir, which to my dismay was about the size of a teacup. We didn’t get far before it ran out again. And again. Eventually, it ran out of fluid and when I refilled it, the lines had frozen. We drove the rest of the way with only small clear spots on the windshield, while I clenched my teeth in terror at every turn, and the women chatted about children or cooking with fresh spices.


Once in Maine, my friend (who I will call David), took me out snowmobiling. This is me, ready to ride a snowmobile or hold up a convenience store.


Snowmobiles are very fast. This one has a speedometer calibrated up to 160 m.p.h.


Conditions were very cold and sleety, and my goggles kept icing up, impairing my vision. At one point, I looked down and noticed that I was going 60 m.p.h., and it occurred to me that my inner retard was driving. I don’t know what my primary brain was doing, but it quickly calculated that if something unfortunate were to happen at that speed, there was an excellent chance that my head would strike a tree or a rock. I putted home at a much slower speed and made the acquaintance of Mr. Johnny Walker. This delicious and short-lived bottle of Scotch Whiskey costs $22 but when you return the empty bottle, they give you a 15-cent deposit refund.


Interestingly enough, drinking is one activity that everyone trusts their inner retard to do. The next morning, my primary brain calculated that there was a very good chance that my head must have struck a tree or a rock.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy Family

I haven’t posted recently because we’ve been engaged in some home renovations that were very disruptive to our normal routine. OK that’s bullshit. The real reason I haven’t posted lately is because there have been some family issues. Back in the day, we used to call it “dirty laundry.”

An old comedian once said, “The definition of family is that when they knock on your door, you have to let them in.” It’s true, you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes there’s a lot of bad to spread around.

I have one brother who is experiencing some health problems, another brother who is experiencing some financial problems, and yet another brother who is experiencing some legal problems. Yeah, I have to let them in, but do they all have to knock at once?

As if that’s not enough, my 19-year old daughter has been feeling her hormones over the past year or so, and my wife is dealing with similar issues associated with menopause. They are like oil and water. On fire. During a hurricane.

So things have been unpleasant to say the least. Lots of incidents where one or the other would storm out of the house, leaving me with the tattered remnants of the unfinished argument and the thankless role of peacemaker. When I was invited to visit with another family on Christmas Day, I jumped at the chance.

The family is all ethnic Chinese, although they come from South Africa and have that peculiar accent that sounds like Steve Irwin with a sinus infection. It was a typical chaotic family Christmas. The men played poker all day and the kids flew their new remote-controlled helicopters around the room, slicing the blossoms off the potted orchids that had been given to the women.

During dinner, someone brought out an iPad and Skype-called other family members in Canada. It was surreal, as everyone passed the tablet with a smiling Chinese face on it around the tablet, chatting with someone a thousand miles away. Thirty years ago it would have seemed like magic. I imagine that engineers are working on a system right now that will enable the tablet to float around the room, eliminating all that manual labor of passing it around.

After dinner, the women took over the poker table for a serious game of mah-johng against the men.


Mah-johng isn’t my game, and judging from my empty wallet, neither is poker. I said goodnight and returned home.

The next day, my wife wanted to order Chinese food from a local restaurant. Along with the usual dishes on the menu there was a section called “Chef’s Special,” with familiar dishes such as “General Tso’s Chicken.” One dish caught my wife’s eye. “I’d like to try this ‘Happy Family’,” she said.


“No, don’t bother,” I replied. “It’s a Chinese restaurant. In half an hour you’ll be unhappy again.”