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McHookups 1 (of 2)

This story is difficult to tell, so it may take a couple of days. Not because I’m ashamed of it or anything, just because it’s long and involved.

In July of 1999, my dad drove my mom, Kendra, Kenny and me in their RV from Oklahoma up through New England, our Geo Prizm in tow. Kenny was two years old. So many memorable moments: Crossing 6 lanes at breakneck speed in Philadelphia, arriving in Boston during 5:00 PM rush hour, Niagara Falls at the Fourth of July. But Connecticut offered us our greatest awakening.

Before our trip, Dad had given me a crash course in RV dynamics so I could spell him sometimes at driving. But this scenario was not optimal in his mind. RV-ing is a serious commitment to him. To me it was a big car that, in no particular order, allows you to make sandwiches in it, nap, and relieve yourself at your leisure—all without ever having to pull over.

Because Dad had to drive so much, when in the middle of the night we found ourselves on the turnpike in Darien, Connecticut (outside Greenwich), his faculties fading, we had to stop. Number 17 of his “119 Rules for Brannon Driving My RV” was “Brannon can’t drive the RV at night.” His eyelids heavy, his forearms twitchy, all of us road-weary—every sign pointed to “Park.”

That 24-hour McDonald’s seemed a Godsend, a shimmering red and gold archy oasis in the darkness. Dad pulled in, chose a spot way out in the expansive lot, and parked. He methodically selected optimum placement: Easy pull out, away from the traffic, yet close enough to the restaurant and its lights to assure our “safety.” Dad shut everything down, skillfully flipping switches like he was bringing the Millennium Falcon down from light speed. He adjusted the thermostat to his liking and crashed on his bed in the back.

I helped Kendra square Kenny away in the middle section (away from Dad’s snoring). Mom was already in the passenger’s seat. We were both too exhausted to sleep, so I climbed up into the driver’s seat and drew the curtains closed behind me. Unfortunately, the thermostat was in the back with Dad, and he had it locked on “Siberian Winter.” Mom and I whispered conversation, shivering, trying to wind down enough to sleep.

While I had been fussing with Kendra and Kenny, evidently Mom had been conducting reconnaissance from her perch. Once I was situated in the driver’s chair, she said, “Watch for a few minutes. Something weird’s going on out there. See if you can tell me what’s going on.”

“Now Mom, what could possibly be going down at a Connecticut Turnpike McDonald’s in the middle of a summer weeknight?” A lot, as it turns out.

What she had already observed was an odd social phenomenon—odd to us, anyway. I don’t know how they roll up there in Connecticut; I suppose what we saw might seem completely normal to them:

A car would pull into a nearby parking space. The driver would park, turning off his headlights and engine. Then he’d just sit there. He wouldn’t get out. He wouldn’t go into the restaurant. He’d just sit there in his car for a while. Then another car would pull up and park in the same way. Then a couple more. Then another. Every so often, one car would start, turn on its headlights, and move to another space nearby and repeat the ritual. Then suddenly—abruptly, even—two of the cars near each other would start up, turn their headlights on, and leave, one car kind of following the other.

I say “he” when I refer to the driver, because in every case, each car had only one occupant: a man.

In my addled state, my normally Sherlock Holmesian mind was a little slow catching up. But it became apparent: We had stumbled smack into the ever-elusive homosexual hookup hoedown. You pull in and park, check out some of the guys parked around you, and if one suits your fancy, you give him your call sign, and the two of you retreat to—???

You know what? None of my business. Like they say in Jersey (or so I’ve heard), “Fugghedaboudit.”

What do you think is gonna happen? (Lots of fun, I can assure you.) Why do you think my dad has to have it so cold when he sleeps? And have you ever observed a hook-up ritual that you had never seen before? Tell us about it.

Be sure to tune in Friday for our conclusion…

Vasectomy Sweatpants

I put off having a vasectomy for too long. It’s hard to explain why. It’s not like I didn’t want to do it. Kendra and I had decided long ago that three children was our limit. We had two boys, and she was pregnant with our third child. If we had a girl, we would stop because then we’d have at least one of each. And if we had a boy, we would stop because no way was I willing to risk trying again and then ending up with four boys. That much testosterone under one roof is the sort of thing that starts wars. Or at least unsanctioned, unnecessary indoor fires. Besides, I came from a family with three children, and I’m perfect. No, we were done.

But we knew conclusively that this third one was a girl. I scheduled my “procedure” for sometime after our delivery date. I’ll tell you that story another time, so I won’t go into the details here. This is more about philosophical concerns than about a specific story, I guess. To me, a vasectomy represented a line in the sand, so to speak. It was a firm declaration: “This is my forever family, once and for all.” Kendra said she thought of it more like it was a liberation for me, giving me free reign to be promiscuous and immoral without consequences. Laughable, of course. As though I was some sort of international man of intrigue. I’ve never even been a regional man of interest. At most perhaps a local curiosity.

In preparation for the blessed event—the vasectomy, not the birth—I interviewed as many friends as I could. It’s surprising how candidly people can talk about something so private. “Dude, have you been snipped? Shut down the baby factory? Had your member severed? Displaced the dong people? What was it like? Did it hurt? For how long? What did you do after? How long till you ‘recovered’?”

I received all sorts of tips from well-meaning friends: Athletic supporters, tight sausage wrap underwear, sling-style underwear (banana hammocks), marble bag underwear, loose pants, sweatpants, and frozen peas. I wore a jock strap at first because my urologist specifically told me to. My recovery was coming along really well the first few days, and feeling particularly ballsy one morning that first week, I decided to try heading off to work one day without it. Turns out that was a mistake. I ended up wearing it 24/7 for six months after that, just to be safe.

The frozen peas actually made sense, so I went with that. The theory is that a bag of frozen peas is better than an ice pack because it’s fairly malleable, so you can wrap it around where you need it. Honestly, they didn’t help a lot, but they were nevertheless delicious later in the week. Hard to say which was greater: the actual taste, or serving that chicken pot pie Kendra made to our friends without telling them where the veggies had been. (I kid, I kid…or do I?)

The best thing by far, though, was a pair of track pants. They’re better than sweatpants because they actually look nice enough to wear out of the house. And not just to Wal-mart, but even to Kohl’s. Maybe even to Target! They’re just as soft as sweatpants, and every bit as comfy. They zip open a little at the ankles to facilitate fast-action dressing. Their stretchy drawstring waist band accommodates jai alai or Thanksgiving dinner equally well.

They would represent flawless perfection, had I not accidentally tainted them with an oil spot while checking my mower’s vitals a couple of years ago. For the cost of all the chemicals I used to try to eradicate that spot, I probably could have bought ten more pairs. But why would I? This pair is special to me. In fact, I’m wearing them as I write this. And they’re just as cozy and soothing as ever.

What’s your favorite clothing item and why? Does it have reminiscence value, tied to a specific time or event in your life? What is your favorite garment that your spouse or significant other threw out without consulting you? What are some other slang names for men’s undergarments that I missed?

Dad’s No Bully

My dad is a plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, engineer, carpenter, endocrinologist.

Actually, that last one’s made up, but it doesn’t matter. An endocrinologist has
useless skills when held up to the brilliant light of the others. I guarantee you no
one on Survivor gets excited when they find out on the flight out to the island that
one of their tribe members is an endocrinologist. It’s a crapshoot whether an
endocrinologist can make a fire. My dad can make a fire using an plastic water bottle
and some of his chest hair that he’s spun together like wire. I crap you not. MacGyver
WISHES he was based on my dad. If my dad and MacGyver were in a competition, it would
be like that episode of Star Trek where Kirk faces off against the lizard captain in
the death match. My dad IS Captain Kirk. He is that good. Honestly, my dad probably
couldn’t beat your dad in a fight. But if your dad beat my dad in a fight, that same
night your dad’s house would collapse on him and kill him in his bed, because my dad
knows exactly which brick he can twist out of a corner of your dad’s house that’s the
critical linchpin holding the whole thing together. Or he could open up your dad’s air
conditioning unit with the screwdriver on his pocketknife and with a few simple twists
make sure your dad passes peacefully in his sleep as noxious freon and carbon
monoxide, the twin shapeless ninja killers, gently overtake him and carry him off to
his well-deserved bully hell. What the heck is your dad still doing beating people up
at his age, anyway? What kind of sick bully dementia complex is your dad draggin
But my dad can’t spell, so I have it over him there. I can Thalso type

To be honest, my dad probably couldn’t beat your dad in a fight. (Which begs the question: Why is your dad still picking fights at his age?) My dad doesn’t need to beat up your dad. My dad’s infinitely secure in his manhood. He’d never waste his time with such silliness. My dad’s a plumber, electrician, bricklayer, drywaller, landscaper, tile man, auto mechanic, engineer, carpenter, and endocrinologist.

Actually, I made up that last one. Although I’m pretty sure endocrinologists are real, I just mean that I think their skills would be exposed as useless in the brilliant light of all the things my dad can do. I suspect no one on Survivor goes all giddy and light-headed when they discover there’s an endocrinologist in their tribe. “Twelve years of college? Really? Can you spear a fish? How are you at giant rope puzzles? How long can you hang upside down without passing out?” My dad’s answers would be:

“College is for lazy punks who don’t want to work.”

“I’ll swallow the ocean, and you can pick up whatever fish you want off dry ground.”

“I make my own rope—you can’t trust that store-bought junk,” and

“I’m not sure—time me.”

It’s 50:50 whether an endocrinologist could make a fire. Not only can my dad can make a fire using only the sun, a plastic water bottle, and banana leaves, but he’d go you one better. He’d add some sand and make nice glass bottles for everybody. My dad is not a man to be trifled with.

MacGyver WISHES he was based on my dad. If MacGyver ever challenged my dad, I picture it playing out like that Star Trek episode “Arena,” where Kirk goes mano-a-mano against the Gorn lizard captain. My dad would be playing the role of Captain Kirk, of course. My dad IS Captain Kirk. He’s that good. Now, I like MacGyver, but he’s no Gorn lizard captain.

My dad bought his first RV several years ago (that’s recreational vehicle, by the way, and not reticent velociraptor). It was a fifth wheel—a big, really sweet pull-behind job. It was nice, but not nice enough to suit him. He re-did the entire interior. Why not the outside? “Nobody cares what the outside looks like, son. It’s the inside that you enjoy once you’re at the site.” When he was done, my mom liked staying in it more than she liked staying in their house. He kept that one for two years and then sold it for more than he had invested in it. He’s done that four more times (so far).

My dad probably couldn’t beat up your dad. And I absolutely couldn’t care less.

Tell me about your dad. What makes him awesome? What can your dad do that other dads can’t? What can he do that YOU can’t?

Hunting Dumb

I know just enough about guns to be dangerous, perhaps even lethal, provided you’re a small, defenseless animal. But the hunter’s mystique has always escaped me. Remember in Red Dawn when C. Thomas Howell killed his first deer, and Patrick Swayze had him drink the blood? “Once you drink that, you’ll never be the same.” (Turns out Swayze was right. C. Thomas Howell’s character ended badly.)

When I was about 11, I killed a toad, more or less with my so-called BB gun. My BB “gun” wasn’t even a Daisy. It was an off-brand from Sears, something like Daizee.

“Sears makes Craftsman. They know what they’re doing,” my dad insisted.

Evidently, skills with tool manufacturing don’t carry over to firearms. It was such a weak little thing, I could actually see the BB as it left the barrel, my naked eye tracking its pathetic downward arc. I could have done more damage shovel-throwing a handful of BBs like an orangutan. (As a father of two boys now myself, certainly I can see the wisdom in providing these wild, smelly heathens with a neutered “weapon alternative.”)

Anyway, after emptying my entire firearm into this toad’s back (to pretty much zero effect), I ended up mercy-killing him with a hoe and burying him in the backyard, sobbing the entire time. I could have written an opera about the experience. (I may yet.)

Another time, when I was a teenager, my dad sent me out to kill a skunk just behind our backyard. We had this mulberry tree in our yard whose branches hung over the chain link fence, and this skunk was just hanging out under it outside the fence, eating berries all afternoon, aloofly ignoring our dog—who was inside the fence losing his mind.

I had to wrestle the dog, dragging him into the garage to lock him up. (Not that that was hard. He was a 16-lb poodle.) Then I sneaked stealthily along the outside of the fence, a sniper on a special ops mission. I raised our 12-gauge, channeled my inner seasoned marksman, and BLAM! The skunk found itself startled, standing suddenly before God’s Throne of Judgment.

(Random aside: Don’t you just HATE that gauge is spelled like that? Every time I read it, I can’t help pronouncing it “gouge.” I  have to write it out to remember how to spell it. I always type it as guage first, then fix it when that doesn’t look right.)

Meanwhile, back here on earth, I went for a shovel to carry off the carcass for proper burial. When I flipped the skunk’s body over, I couldn’t find any blood—not a single drop. Turns out I had hit it with precisely one piece of shot, directly in the temple. (Evidently wasting the other 13,999 pieces of shot.)

Unfortunately, I was also unnerved to discover that she was (or rather, had been) a mama skunk. Covered with swollen nipples, she clearly had babies somewhere who had tasted the last of her milk. No doubt she was so ravenously hungry she’d risk a crazed dog because she had little mouths to feed back at the hole. So not only had I committed skunk matricide, but I had also unwittingly offed an entire litter of helpless infant skunks. Behold the mighty hunter!

I pictured her patiently taking a seat in one of the lovely mahogany chairs in the waiting area outside God’s courtroom, insisting she be allowed to wait for me to show up before she would tell her side. (Just one more thing I’m gonna have to answer for.)

What about you? Do you LOVE killing things? Tasting their blood? Dancing around the empty shell that once housed a living soul? What’s your great hunting (or vermin) story?

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