Book in a Year #252

I know, I know…. seriously quiet for a while, so to make it up to you, here's something I wrote for the holidays.

A Piece of Potato.

It's the Christmas Story I mentioned a while back. 


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Book in a Year #242

When I was a kid, Christmas was one of the times when family and friends would make an extra effort to meet up and spend some time together.  It wasn't like we wouldn't see each other the rest of the year, but at Christmas there was that little bit of extra time to make it happen.

As a kid, the bonus here was that you would always get extra treats, goodies and maybe even gifts.

That wasn't me being greedy or self-serving. That was me being a kid.

Which, now that I think about it, is kinda one and the same.

Of course, there was always the chance that if you visited in the days after Christmas, a cousin might well have gotten that really cool thing you had been yearning for… nay, dreaming of your whole life… right from the first moment you had seen it… in their hand… 30 seconds after you arrived.

But those were fleeting moments, as I was lucky enough to have cousins who would share… and there was a more than good chance they were feeling the same jealous pangs about whatever I'd received.

Fast forward to today.

Where I live a 3500 miles away from most of my family.

And the majority of those miles are the wet kind, so it's not like I could set off super early and make the drive.

In years past I've had family even further away and friends I went to elementary school with go all the way around the world.  

Full disclosure: On some level, in the part of my head that's still the little kid who would get excited about going over to see cousins, in the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, this concept still blows my mind.

I have friends across the globe.  Old friends and family still in the UK.  New friends close at hand and some spread across the continent I now call home.  I have friends I've met through work or socially, in person and online.  Friends who are so far away they will start their celebrations almost a day before I do.

And yes, with that time difference I'm even taking into account the fact that No.3 Son will likely be awake at an ungodly hour to see if Santa has been yet.

The thing that brought me so far away from the place I was born and raised is the thing that helps me keep in touch with them now.  The interwebs.

So I'll use that technology to send out this message.

Wherever you are, and however we know each other, be that relations, friends new and old, or you've stumbled on something I've written and decided to stay around to see what I come up with next (if you're in this group, thanks for reading), I wish you all the happiest holiday season.  I hope it finds you with the ones you care about, and if you have to spend time with some of the less liked relations…

Y' know, like cousin Morty, with the bad comb-over, weird cabbage-like aroma and wandering hands.

…that time is short and cushioned by alcohol… or candy canes… or a chance to use that new app on your phone that will fake an emergency call.

However you celebrate this time of year, wherever you are, have a great time and have a drink for me.

'Cos I'm gonna be having one for you.

Possibly two… because I care.


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Book in a Year #224

I know with the recent casting of Wonder Woman in the next Superman movie happening… and then the first official trailer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 coming out… and a half dozen other things that are of major importance to the maintenance of a free world, it's easy to miss smaller stories that happen somewhere else.

Of course, on occasion, even things that happen in other places make it into the news.  So in all likelihood you have seen this.

South Africa's Nelson Mandela dies in Johannesburg.

Being that this IS something that happened somewhere else, and that I likely have readers who have no idea of the history of the man, I'd encourage you to check something the BBC put together here, about Mandela's life.

Now when someone like Mandela dies, it has an impact, and in the world of politics this is just the kind of event one can hitch a name to and gain some exposure from.

Whether it's appropriate or not.

So I wasn't at all surprised to see things like this….

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 11.49.41 AM

….popping up on my Facebook wall today.  

This is just one example, and I've seen variations on a theme, usually aimed at right wing politicos, both here in the U.S. and back in the U.K.

That kind of political hay-making is tacky.  It is hypocritical.  It's even out right obnoxious.

But I would suggest that anyone who feels the urge to lay down some righteous fury at those who are exploiting this situation; aiming hate and vitriol where it might well be deserved.  I'd suggest those people consider the example of Mandela himself.  Are you behaving in a manner that personifies the person you're attempting to honor?

I'm not defending the political hacks who will doubtlessly say whatever they feel portrays them in the best light to achieve their personal ambitions, merely trying to value a better example.

Just a thought.


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Book in a Year #215

My parents arrive for an extended visit today.

Yes, they're traveling the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest day to travel in the U.S. all year.

So work has been put on the back burner while I try to make sure the house is somewhere in the neighborhood of presentable.

Honestly, most days I'll take habitable, with three boys living here.

I'll be heading down to the airport to pick them up later, all things being equal and there are no delays, but this morning I had a couple of errands to run (we were out of coffee beans, which with my caffeine addicted spouse, is a major disaster) and I set off in the car.  The same car I'll be using later to pick up my folks.

I set off and it's all fine.

Then I hit the gas as I get some clear road and the speedometer starts to creep up. And with that, there's a steady WHUM WHUM WHUM sound.

At first I think it's the radio. The bass line on the track that's playing.

Then the DJ starts talking and I still have the WHUM WHUM WHUM.

This is not good.

Fortunately the car is pretty new and has some fancy things, like allowing me to check the tire pressure on a screen in the dashboard.  And everything looks OK.

But the WHUM WHUM WHUM is getting louder.

I ease off the gas and that seems to make it louder still.

I hit the breaks and it's just as loud.

Dropping below 20 mph and it finally drops in volume to the way it was when I first noticed.

But this is not safe, so I turn around and head home.

My speedy return is obviously a surprise to my wife and she asks what the problem is.  So I tell her.

"Oh," sez she. "Yeah, I noticed that this morning when I took No.3 Son to school."

"When did it start?"

"After I hit that thing."

Now I'm no mechanic, but I'm immediately leaning towards the idea that these two events might well be connected.

"What exactly did you hit?  A horse?  Small elephant?"

"Well," she explains. "I was driving along, and there was this leaf in the road, and I thought with the roads being wet, it was probably dangerous to swerve. So I didn't."

"I'm pretty sure that wasn't a leaf."

"I can see that now."

"And you couldn't see it THEN!?"

I admit, I was a tad cranky at that point.

So I hop in the minivan and I run the errands.

Clearly the need for coffee is significantly more pressing than I had previously thought.

Once home again, my wife offers to just take the car down to local tire shop and get them to have a look.  Now we'd loosely talked about going down together, so if the car needed to be there a while, we could use the other vehicle to get home, so I was immediately suspicious as to why she was willing to go without me.

What HAD she hit?

Would there be a law suit?

And should I start thinking about the best place to bury a body?

The boys all had early release from school today, and suddenly they realize Mom is missing.

"Where's Mom?" asks No.3 Son.

So I tell the boys what's happened.  

I'm paraphrasing now, but it was something along the lines of, "Mom hit a hobo on the school run this morning, and she must have got the body still wedged under the car. When I was driving after, it was making a WHUM WHUM WHUM sound, which I assume is like a broken arm, wedged in the wheelarch or something.  Anyway, she took it to the shop and they will lift the car and unjam the body with a couple of broom handles."

And with that, I return to work.

When my wife returns, she is immediately surrounded by boys.

"MOM!  MOM!  Was there REALLY a dead hobo under the car!?"

My work there was done.

If you're playing along at home, it turns out that a wheel weight (the thing they put on the actual wheel itself to balance the thing and keep it true) was INSIDE the tire.  No idea how it got there, but the guy at the tire shop started to recount the many varied and wonderous things he had found inside other tires.  I think it was the mechanic version of that box of things every emergency room has, filled with items that have been removed from human bum-holes.  Though the mechanics probably didn't need to wash quite so vigorously afterwards.

Now, as soon as I post this update, I'm going down to look at that road.  Because if a leaf can do that kinda damage, it is clearly from a giant beanstalk, and at the top of that baby, there's gold.

Or at the very least more leaves I can sell to the army to reinforce tanks.


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Book in a Year #214

I've been busy juggling projects, a comic con, a field trip with No.2 Son to Washington DC and the general lead-up to the holiday season.

So today, as I'm working, we get a call from school.


My wife answers the phone, I don't hear the conversation, but it's fairly short and after hanging up, she comes to me in my office.

"I don't want to know, do I?"

"No," sez she. "It's not one of those calls."

So I learn that today, at school, they're having a Thanksgiving Special Lunch where parents are also invited.  Additionally, No.2 Son wants me there.

I drop what I'm doing, grab my keys and rush over to school.  

I wouldn't have been quite so accommodating normally.  Sure, I try to be a good parent, supportive and involved whenever I can be… but seriously?  A call on his way to the lunchroom, asking me to come over to school is a little much. 

But it seems I'd already agreed to this.  

More on that shortly.

Rushing from the house, I tear through the streets, into school, stand in line to get my visitors' pass (lots of parents were there for lunch it seemed), then I have to make my way through the school corridors…. not running, because you don't run in the school corridors ….and get to the lunchroom.

Scanning the room, I'm worried I've missed him.  I've already passed kids I know from his class in the corridors, all heading back to lessons.  But a teacher recognizes me and points to the lunch counter…. there he is.

So I head over and he's at the front of the line, about to pay for his special Thanksgiving Lunch.  

He turns and sees me, a flash of relieved joy lights up his face.  And inside, I have one of those parental moments where you know you've done something good.  Where you've been a parent.  Not in the generic sense, but in the best way possible.  Your kid needed you and you were there.  And it's great.

For a moment.

Because his first words to me are, "I don't have any money, can you pay?"

And the moment is past.

Replaced by a normal moment of being a parent.  The day-to-day kind.

Fortunately I have a couple of dollars, so I hand them over, making a mental note to swing by the ATM afterwards, because the kid has left with a lone dollar in my pocket.

This is followed by a second mental note to skip this place myself…. the price is a little steep for the meal you get.

We then head to find a seat where I standout just a tad.  There IS one kid who looks a little older than the rest of the Fifth Graders…. like he's been around the End of Grade Exams once before…. maybe twice.  But there's still a big difference between everyone else at the table and the 6'3" guy with the whiskers.

So as No.2 Son stuffs his face with food, I field questions from the other kids.

"Yes, I write comics."

"No I didn't work on the cartoon, I just did the comic version of Johnny Test."

"Actually I had other jobs."

"Yes, there are copies of my books in the library."

"Same last name as No.2 Son here."

And then they're gone.  No.2 Son gets a little extra time because I'm there, so I ask him why he didn't mention this earlier?

"I did."


"This morning."

I stop and think.  Admittedly I'm not at my best first thing in the morning.  

OK, pretty much through until 9am.
FINE !  ALL morning…. probably around 1-30…. 1-45pm I'm making sense and can hold down a conversation.  Happy now ?

But this is drawing a complete blank.

"When this morning?"

No.2 Son ponders this for a moment.  "I told you while you were aslee…. IN BED!"

"So you told me while I was asleep!?"

"NO!" he protests, still shoveling food in his mouth. "You answered!"

"What kind of answer?"

"You grunted."

And with that, he picks up his tray and says, "I have to go to class.  See ya!" ….and he's gone.

I did thank him for inviting me to come pay for his lunch then allowing me to watch him inhale it.  And I did get a passing hug as he left the lunchroom.

So not a complete loss.


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