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Nature calling baby toilets

So the latest trend in hotel bathrooms is the baby toilet.

By baby I mean a toilet for a baby.

About three inches around and two inches off the floor.

Just big enough for a baby’s bottom.

I do not have a baby’s bottom.

I discovered these baby toilets a few months ago when staying in a Cleveland hotel.

Nature called in the middle of the night. I hate it when nature calls in the middle of the night. It’s almost never good news. But I answered anyway and stumbled into the bathroom and sat down.

And down.

And down.

I’d say I hit rock bottom, but my bottom hadn’t hit the rock yet.

Down, down, down I went until, finally, my derriere met the cold plastic seat of the toilet. Or, about 25% of my derriere did. The rest was on overhang duty.

Now when nature calls in the middle of the night, I mostly keep my eyes closed. I don’t want to see no nature. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I felt my knees tickle my chin. What are those, I asked myself? Squirrels? Burglars? Whatever, what are they doing in my bathroom? Had nature called them as well?

Eventually, my head cleared enough to realize that my chin was resting on another part of my anatomy. I felt below me and found generous portions of my derriere just hanging in the breeze and, below that, the floor.

I’m dreaming, I thought. Has to be a dream. Maybe if I stand up, I’ll wake up.

But, my butt won’t budge. I’m too low to the ground and too old to and my knees too creaky to get up from the baby toilet. I can barely get up from a normal toilet.

Now I’m starting to panic. What if I’m stuck here all night? What if nature calls again? And again?  This toilet is so tiny we could be talking dam spillway failure. I’d call someone, but the phone is out of reach, I can’t get up, and even if I could, I don’t anyone finding me on this baby toilet with nature all over me.

I did the only thing I could. I rocked once, twice, tucked my head between my knees and somersaulted through the bathroom door, which, I have to admit was pretty nifty, but, um, messy.

Satisfied, I staggered back to bed and fell sleep.

Until nature called.

Fathead or flathead?

I made a huge mistake today.

I built something.

I have spent 30 years telling my wife that while I’m named Gene, I have no handyman genes. None. Zippo. Nada. Nessuna.

That’s Italian for, um, none.

Anyway, my wife would ask me to do some sort of handyman stuff and I’d say, “My handyman skills are nessuna.”

She’d hand me directions to hang a picture and I’d read them and say, “It says here I need a flathead screwdriver.”

“So?” she’d say. “You’ve got a whole toolbox full of tools.”

“Toolbox? You put your lunch in that?”

“Tools,” she’d say. “Tools. Hammer. Wrench. Nails.”

“Flathead screwdriver?”

“Probably?”

“Can you point it out to me?”

“Isn’t it the one with a flat head?”

I’d shrug and she’d walk away mumbling something under her breath.

It worked. For 30 years.

Soooo, we recently moved, and my wife tricked me by leaving town for several months. Don’t ask. One of the last things she said before she caught a plane out of town was, “Maybe we can get some shelves built in our garage.”

In our old place, we had shelves in the garage that I didn’t build because I didn’t have a flathead screwdriver. Or maybe I did. (Cue shrug here.)

Anyway, a few days after we moved in we had a real live handyman, someone with a flathead screwdriver no doubt, come and put together a small table in our foyer. The sum total of his work involved screwing four wooden legs into the tabletop. I don’t know if he used a flathead screwdriver, because you know, shrug.

But because he was a real live handyman – he had a card that said HANDYMAN – my wife urged me to ask if he could build us some garage shelves, just like the snazzy ones we had at our previous home. This was a young handyman that had all the energy of one of those zombies on “The Walking Dead.” He looked at me and grunted, “Maybe,” and said he’d text me, but he never did.

That was fine by me. I’ve spent my days alone here watching Steve Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres and not even remotely thinking about flathead screwdrivers.

Then and evil spirit entered my body. “Hey,” a voice in my head said. “Bet you could build some shelves.” And magically, my computer opened a Home Depot page showing garage shelving with the words EASY TO PUT TOGETHER, ABSOLUTELY NO SCREWDRIVERS – ESPECIALLY FLATHEAD – NECESSARY.

An hour later, I had 753 pieces of stuff laid out on the garage floor.

There were directions, but directions are for dummies, so I threw them away and began my work.

I had the bottom of the shelving put together – all clamps, no bolts or nuts – and was starting on the second shelf, when I realized I’d done the bottom shelf all wrong and had to start over. I did and was working on the second shelf when I realized that half of that was wrong and had to be redone.

 A handyman could have put this sucker together in 20 minutes. It took me six hours.

But it’s up. Sure, it leans a little and sags a little, but it’s up.

Proud as a peacock, I took a picture of it and sent it to my wife.

My second big mistake of the day.

“You’ve been hiding this talent for the last 30 years? Oh, just wait until I get down here. I’m gonna have so many projects for you.

“And don’t worry. I’ll bring a flathead screwdriver.”

Who you gonna call?

If I ever have an accident in my new home, I know whom to call.

Well, maybe not.

We have moved to what may be the most litigious area of the country. The Deep South. You can’t spit and not hit a personal injury lawyer. Or, you could spit and get sued.

Every other ad on TV or radio is for a lawyer who “guarantees” to get you all the “money you deserve.” The width and depth of the personal injury landscape is breathtaking. At last count, there 5,658 personal injury lawyers advertising on local TV and radio stations.

Injured in a car accident? Call Sinklaw!

Slip and fall on someone’s property? Call Michael Hostilo and “Make sure you’re getting Mike Hostilo!”

Wrongful death? Twenge & Twombley.

Business partner has absconded with your 401k and your wife? Query Sautter Forsythe.

An accident waiting to happen? Call any of the 5,658 and you’ll get what’s coming to you and get if faster!

I understand that personal injury lawyers are everywhere. But they’re thick as June Bugs down here and they’re just so darn convincing I want to go out and “accidentally” ram my car into the side of a house.

“That home’s ugly puce paint job distracted me! It wasn’t my fault! I was only going 125 miles per hour. I’m hurt. I need everything coming to me and fast!”

I suppose it’s a good thing to have someone looking out for my best interests, tho.

You know just in case I accidentally happen to be making a photocopy of my derrière and the glass on the copy machine breaks when I sit on it.

When … uh, if that occurs, I’ll know whom to call.

Even if I have to do it standing up.

Mom’s 93 today … and still finds me “too much”

My mother turns 93 today, and tho her surgically repaired back only allows her to move with the speed of a tortoise on Quaaludes, her mind is sharp.

And so is her tongue.

Even now, as I waltz to the brink of 70, she puts me in my place when she thinks I’m “too much” (her favorite expression), which is frequently.

Because of our recent move, I was unable to be with her today, but we chatted for about 40 minutes. I can tell she worries that every phone call will be our last and that we might never see one another again separated as we are by 800 miles.

But then, my mom, Italian through and through, has been dying for the last 20 years.

During every visit and call, at some point, she’ll say, “I don’t know how long I’ll be around.”

She keeps plugging away, however, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

These are my fondest memories of mom.

When I was 5, the thing I wanted most in the world was a plastic Superman that, when attached to a slingshot that came with the toy, could fly across the room. My father, a practical man, said no.

I cried. And cried. And cried. You know the ploy. When I saw my tears had no effect on him, I cried harder. And harder. And harder.

So hard, I fell asleep on our couch. When I woke up, there on the footrest lay Superman in all his red and blue glory. My father had relented not because of my tears, but because of my mother’s steely stare, of which he, and all of us frankly, feared.

The other memory that sticks out most is when, as a first grader, a drunk driver slammed into me as I was getting off the school bus. Mom would always watch me from the window of our home to make sure I had crossed our busy highway safely. We lived out in the country in a farmhouse, (tho we didn’t farm) on Ohio Route 62, where cars whizzed by at speeds equaling those at the Daytona 500.

On this particular winter afternoon, a man zipped around the stopped bus, ignoring the flashing warning lights and the bright red STOP sign, and hit me so hard it knocked me out of my shoes and nearly over the nearby power lines.

I landed face first in a snow bank, which likely saved my life. 

Because we lived in the country and my mother wasn’t working (she was a nurse but was between jobs) we had no second car, and the nearest hospital was miles away. We were new to the area and didn’t know anyone, so we had a dilemma. Who could, would, drive us to the hospital?

Easy. The drunk.

My mother gathered me up from the snow. She wept when she saw my bleeding face. But she pulled herself together, got me into the back of the drunk’s car, gave him the stare, and told him to drive. He sobered up pretty quickly.

As we rode, I kept asking, “Mom, am I going to die? Am I going to die?” and as calm as a breeze on a summer afternoon, she would say, “No, you’re not. I won’t let you die.”

And I didn’t.

My mother gave me life. She gave me her fierce love. I love her just as fiercely back.

She said today she’s proud of her family, proud of me and my sister and our respective broods.

“I’ve had such a good life,” she said. “And I’ve gotten so many calls today.”

“But the most important one is mine, of course,” I said modestly.

There was a pause and then she said, “Son, you’re too much. Too, too much.”

Boxed out …

There’s a book to be written about moving.

It would be horror.

I have finally located officially to South Carolina, the low country, where the seafood is fresh, the scenery achingly beautiful and the traffic into Hilton Head enough to make you want to buy a gun.

Anyway, I’m here. I told you I’d be back and I am. Keep your applause until the end, please.

As I mentioned earlier, we decided we’d pack ourselves to save some money. Bad idea. Terrible idea. The worst idea in the history of ideas.

To start, we bought a ton of boxes from the moving company. We ran out in a day. Went back to the moving company and bought some more. We ran out in a day.

Embarrassed, we started buying boxes from Staples. We made so many box-buying trips that as I walked into the store, one of the clerks said, “The usual?”

At the end, we were throwing things into anything with four corners and a top. We used about 300 miles of packing tape and enough paper to print a daily newspaper. If daily newspapers still existed.

The movers came on time, tho, and in between phone calls to friends and business partners – one young mover discussed a business plan for a juice bar in downtown Cincinnati – they managed to get everything on the truck.

Then we got in a car and drove south.

And had to UNLOAD all those boxes.

The thing about moving is this: In your old home, everything had its place. In your new home, nothing has a place. You gotta figure it out.

So, while we were doing that, we had folks from a nationally known home store, whose name will remain unsaid but rhymes with hose, delivered a new washer and dryer and refrigerator. They were SUPPOSED to hook up everything, but left without connecting the dryer, switching the hot and cold hoses on the washer, and leaving the fridge in many pieces/parts.

The movers on this end somehow managed to put the guest bed’s headboard on backwards, despite the sticker that said THIS IS THE BACK.

And we had to UNLOAD all those boxes.

So. Many. Boxes.

Stacked in the garage. From side to side. From floor to ceiling.  The car has to be parked in the driveway.

Then there’s the money. Or should I say no money. Besides buying a new townhome, and the washer, and the dryer, and the fridge, we’ve had to buy a new bedroom set, a new dining room table, new dining room chairs, new bar stools, a new TV, window treatments, and built-ins for the closets, the office and the living room.

At last check, my bank account has 33 cents remaining.

Only good thing about that?

Can’t afford to buy another box.

I’ll be back!

Did I sound like Arnold? I meant to sound like Arnold.

Where am I going?

South.

Five back surgeries have left me with a loathing for cold weather. The colder it gets, the stiffer and more painful my aching back. And, the older I get, the more I despise snow. Noah Greene, star of my three mystery novels, shares my animus for white stuff that falls from the sky. My thought? If God had meant us to love winter, He/She wouldn’t have created Florida.

Anyway, I’ve been absent from my blog and social media for several days and will be for many more going forward.

The Internet provider where we are moving says they can’t get around to us until sometime in April. I’m assuming 2019, but …

I guess it’s okay because, frankly, we’ve got no money left. I know, I know. You’re thinking “How can you, a New York Times best-selling author not have any money?” A legitimate question, I’m sure. But if you do a quick check of the Times’ weekly list, you’ll note that my name and newest novel, “My Grave Is Deep,” is, well, missing. (I only need about 40,000 more readers to reach the pinnacle of publishing.)

Moving is always a costly exercise. Still, we haven’t helped ourselves. We thought that we’d save a bunch of money packing ourselves. Obviously, we miscalculated. Thus far, we’ve spent about $100,000 on boxes and packing tape. If we survive the tension in the air that right now is so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut it, it’s true love.

Anyway, I know you’ll all miss the words that drip like pearls from my golden (clammy? oyster-like?) fingers, but you’ll just have to muster on.

Rest assured, I’ll be back!

More like Arnold?

The neverending paragraph

I was getting my hair coiffed the other day, when my stylist – only a stylist can coif – when he asked if writing was hard.

Ten minutes into my answer I discovered that writing is hard. For me anyway.

Perhaps it took me decades to write that first Noah Greene novel – “Tears in the Rain” – because of my approach to writing.

That approach can be summed up in one word: alloverthestinkingmap.

My problem is this. I write a paragraph, then another and another. As I start paragraph four something suddenly comes to mind on how to make paragraph one better. I go back, rework it. Which requires reworking paragraphs two and three. OK, start on paragraph four again. Wait a minute, I just thought of something that will make paragraph one even better. Go back, rework paragraph one, then two, then three. Start paragraph four for the third time. Stop. If I just do this, paragraph two will be sing like Sinatra. But then, I need to redo paragraphs one and three. Meanwhile, whatever I was planning for paragraph four has fled the loony bin of my mind, shouting “Gggaaaahhh, I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

When I started writing TITR I was composing on a typewriter – yes, I’m that old – I had to remove the paper (yes, we wrote on paper) to retype those paragraphs. Over and over again. I think I spent about $3 million on paper over the years just trying to get through the manuscript.

Of course, that includes the times I lost the manuscript, but still …

It’s a bit easier these days now that I can write on a computer and can make changes on the fly, which probably explains how I’ve managed to shorten my writing time between books.

But the approach is the same. Write paragraph one, and then another and then … oh wait a sec. I just thought of something that would make the first paragraph of my blog even better!