Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Tortfeezor is Back - Kinda

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

One Last Item of Great Importance

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Fitting End

In one of my first year law school classes, we learned a legal concept called in rem jurisdiction. I still have no idea what that means, but I do know that it has something to do with a lawsuit involving specific pieces of property. The example from the civil procedure casebook involved turtles as the named party in the lawsuit.
Out of total coincidence, we happened to be studying that case on the day before Thanksgiving. Jenkins, my pet turtle, was my only roommate that year, so I had to take him with me when I went home for the holiday. I was leaving straight from school and couldn't leave him in my car, so I gingerly placed Jenkins in his blue plastic travel container and carried him around in my backpack.
When the time came to discuss the in rem turtle case, I nudged the guy next to me and opened my backpack to reveal little Jenk, swimming around in his vented container. Shocked, the guy nearly fell out of his chair as he realized what he was looking at.
I love to tell the story of my little object lesson.
Mr. Jenkins died today.
Jenkins was my first real pet (he added the 'Mr.' when he turned five). He was eight years old this month.
I bought him at a mall pet shop in Ft. Myers in 2001. He was about the size of a quarter when I brought him home and I'm pretty sure that was a violation of several state and federal FDA laws.
But he was a good turtle - a red-eared slider who liked basking in the sun and eating turtle food pellets. And that's about all he did. Turtles aren't very exciting pets.
His longevity should probably be attributed to his heartiness as a turtle rather than my turtle-owning skills. Truth be told, I was a pretty rotten reptile keeper. I changed his water less than I should have and wasn't very vigilant about his diet.
I would say that I loved Mr. Jenkins, but that wouldn't be entirely true. I loved the idea of Mr. Jenkins. I loved that there was a living testament to all the places I'd lived and things I'd experienced - even before my wife came along. He was my last connection to all those lousy dorms and basement bedrooms and Detroit slums. He was there when we had to live with my folks for six months when we moved back to Indy and he held a place in the dogs' room next to their crates. In fact, he outlived two of those dogs.
In his quiet turtle way, he kept me company throughout my twenties.
But now I'm almost thirty. And I don't think a 30-year old should have a pet turtle. At twenty, it felt good to be responsible for another living thing. Jenkins gave me a sense of caring for something other than myself.
But I've grown up.
Now I have much greater responsibilities than just tending to a reptile. Being a good son, a good husband, a good brother. All those things weren't as important to me eight years ago as they are now. Jenkins bore witness to that. Even as I outgrew him and stopped taking as good of care for him as I should have.
And so it is with this blog. I think I've kinda outgrown it and stopped taking as good of care it as I should have.
So I buried Jenkins today. For the last time, I placed him in his blue vented travel container - the same one he rode in for that law school class all those years ago. I buried him and placed his sun-basking rocks on top. And just so he wouldn't be forgotten, a glass paperweight in the shape a turtle.
I think everyone should have a Mr. Jenkins at some point in their life - if only for a short while - just something to look back on with fondness in remembrance of memories past.
And with Jenkins' passing, so too will this blog be put to rest. On to bigger and better things, I suppose. Maybe I'll start a novel. Or maybe I'll finish that novel I've been putting off. In any case, I think it's time for something new.
Anything that's not Twitter.
But I do hope that some of you have enjoyed reading these stories. Know that I greatly appreciate your feedback and kind words. It would be great if The Tortfeezor, like Mr. Jenkins, will be something to look back on with fondness in remembrance of memories past.
Thank you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

There's a Opossum at the End of this Blog

There's a opossum at the end of this blog.

You have been warned.

Whatever you do, do NOT scroll to the bottom of this blog.

Are you still reading? Why, oh why, are you still scrolling?

Turn off your computer monitor. Run away. Or at least hit ctrl-alt-del.

Because there's a opossum at the end of this blog. It is hideous.

It's an ugly, long-tailed opossum with a wiggling pink nose and white matted fur.

It currently lives in my garage, but it has also found it's way to the end of this blog.

Between the lawnmower and the recycling bin; right beside the cabinet where I keep the paint - there's a oppossum.

Staring out from a wire mesh cage with its beady eyes, listening with it's pointy ears, and sniffing with it's disgusting snout, my garage has become it's home.

And it's also at the end of this blog.

It's not sure whether I'll pet it or cook it. And I like that's it's just as scared of me as I am of it.

But it's still there. In my garage and at the end of this blog.

Continue at your own risk.

Because there's a opossum at the end of this blog.


Likely to end up under the wheels of an SUV, the opossum is a deady creature that will steal your soul. Or at least wake you up at 3:00 a.m., skittering about the garage and clattering around with its opossum toys.

And it is at the end of this blog.

Listen...I have an idea: If we both stop reading now, we won't get to the end of this post and have to confront this horrendous opossum .

Because there's a opossum at the end of this blog!

Definitely a mammal, possibly a marsupial, it is surely nocturnal, as it has kept me up the last two nights with its screeching vermin wails.

Well, look at that.

This is the end of this blog post, and it's nothing but my sister's terribly ugly opossum-looking dog that she failed to make arrangments for so I had to go to her house and take it so it wouldn't starve to death and die when she left it and took off to Florida so now I have to take care of this foul furry gremlin while she's opossum free in the Sunshine State and I'm stuck here writing a run-on sentence about her smelly, mal-nutritioned, neglected canine that she shouldn't have gotten in the first place.

I told you there was nothing to be afraid of.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fuzzy Math

We finally got around to doing our taxes a.k.a. funding the bank rescue/bankrolling poor people with six kids/bailing out GM/saving McMansions from foreclosure/plunging ourselves into an existential quandry over our dwindling value as contributors to the financial marketplace/I'll stop there.
If that comment sounds snarky or bitter, that's because it was meant to be exactly that. After scrutinizing the numbers and squeezing every last credit and deduction legally possible, we came to one inevitable conclusion:
I am worth more unemployed.
That's preposterous, you say. Well, consider the numbers. In the microeconomy of our household my wife is clearly the breadwinner. She makes substantially more than I do.
And that's great. Don't get me wrong; I'm not one of these dudes who feels emasculated because my wife makes more than me. No, I feel emasculated because she's constantly reminding me of it.
But seriously, girl power - yay! I'm actually all about female empowerment. They can do anything that men can do. Except real push-ups. But it's great if they have careers and break through the glass ceiling and breastfeed in public (as long as they still do the dishes and don't speak unless spoken to).
So this isn't a commentary on women's lib. No, it's a backhanded reproach of my employer: The government.
As a public servant, I earn about a third of a what a factory line worker in Detroit makes. I have no pension or benefits, I'm not protected by a union, and I can't work overtime. I'm kinda proud of that. I'm pretty good at what I do and I do it for the greater good, so my paycheck really doesn't get me down. That's not the point I'm trying to make.
But consider this: By fully satsifying our tax liability to the government, my wife and I are essentially paying the amount of my annual salary. So in a hideously depressing way, I'm basically self-employed.
But what's more - by earning the little income that I do, I am pushing us over the limit for being able to claim some key deductions. For example, because I'm employed, we make just a little too much to write off the out-of-pocket medical expenses for the treatment of my wife's cancer (by the way, in the future, St. Obama's health care reform won't even begin to solve this problem because it's only aimed toward the poor and currently uninsured). However, we could claim this deduction if I didn't work.
More infuriatingly, we fall just outside the threshold for writing off our student loan interest. About a quarter of my take-home pay goes to pay off the ridiculously expensive and ineffective law degree I have. This, of course, was my own fault. I chose to go to law school. But only because I was promised an average immediate post-graduation salary about twenty thousand dollars more than what I currently make. Those loans made sense considering that. But of all the attorneys I know, only a handful make that average promised salary or more. Again, if I didn't work, we could claim that interest.
So if I didn't work, she could claim me as a dependent. We could deduct the student loan interest, the medical expenses and have no liability on my income. We'd save on my commute, my lunch expenses and my wardrobe. If she would pop out a kid or two, we'd be living high on the hog. I could be a stay-at-home dad. My lazy side loves this idea. My intellectual, quasi-ambitious side is crying inside.
Of course, technically, I'm worth more dead. But as my wife was writing out the check to the IRS she downplayed the idea. Half-heartedly.
If all this sounds silly and you think I'm taking my employment for granted in this time of economic turmoil, you'd probably be right. I mean, we live comfortably and have nice things, so I'd be wise not to complain.
But then I think, 12.5 million Americans are struggling to find jobs right now. If you're one of them, and reading this, you're probably cursing me for having a secure job.
Well, it's all yours if you want it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My February

Hey folks. Good to be back.
If you look around the Web, normally when bloggers are away for some time and they return to writing they say something like "I was sooooo busy. My life is so very exciting that I couldn't find time to blog".
The opposite is true for me. Last month was so very soul-crushingly boring that I honestly couldn't think of anything to write about. At least nothing that could sustain an entire blog post. I tried. Everytime I started an essay, I would get about two paragraphs in and fall asleep. It gets so very tiring writing about myself. Even I get sick of me. And I know you do too.

So here is a recap of my month of February:

1. My sister scored me sixth-row, corporate suite tickets to an Indiana Pacers basketball game. The Indiana Pacers are my favorite sports team in the world. They've been pretty down the last few years, and even though I'm the only Pacer fan left anywhere, I've been an ardent supporter. I got Larry Bird's autograph and met Sam 'Big Smooth' Perkins. This was the ultimate highlight of my sports fandom. I take back all the things I've ever said about my sister (not really).

2. I took Friday the 13th off. Not because of superstition, but because if I had gone into work that day, I would have committed some kind of mass murder. Work's been rough. And I hate complaining about work all the time, so I chose to sleep in. Then for breakfast I went to my local diner where I got scrambled eggs, grits, pancakes and massive diarrhea. Then I installed a ceiling fan and did some concrete work. Which were not easy tasks given the crippling diarrhea issues.

3. I went with a friend to an Indiana Hoosiers basketball game. They are my second favorite sports team in the world. They are down this year as well so the game on the court wasn't much to look at, but Bloomington always has some lovely co-eds in the stands, so it was totally worth the trip.

4. I celebrated the four-year anniversary of the time I got mugged in Detroit. I haven't really been in any life-threatening situations since, so that's saying something for a dude like me who's pretty much oblivious to his surroundings. For example, this month I will celebrate the six-year anniversary of the time I accidentally bought crack at gunpoint in Baltimore.

These were the only four things I did during the month of February. The other twenty-four days were spent in a semi-conscious malaise. Good thing it wasn't a leap year.
But this month has started off considerably better.
At least compared to last March that is.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

not fade away

As my wife's hair grows back from the chemo treatments, she's become extremely insecure about her appearance. She wears hats or a wig, but her actual hair isn't much longer than mine. She refuses to have it styled or trimmed as she's trying to grow it out to pre-cancer lengths. And I think it's really getting her down.
This was exacerbated the other day when I told her that she looked like Michael Richards.

That's pretty mean. Even for me. So I softened the blow by telling her instead that she looked more like a young Bob Dylan. That didn't go over well idea either. So we settled on "Teenaged Jewish Boy Preparing for his Bah Mitzvah". Which is just about right.

So although she's goyim, she keeps kvetching about her hairstyle, which I keep telling her I don't mind because I'm strangely attracted to teenaged Jewish boys (not true). But that doesn't keep her from calling me a schmuck and a nudnik and we end up getting into a big shemozzle over it.
Oy vey.
Call me meshuggah, but I seem to remember vowing to love her through sickness and health. Now I take that also to mean through looking-like-a-Jewish-teen and health, but no amount of convincing will do. We joke about it, but I know how important it is for a woman to take pride in her appearance.
I apologize if this comes across as schmaltz, but it's not bubkes, I promise.
I come home every night and I see my beautiful wife. I see her regardless if she's wearing a bandana or a wig or a ballcap or sporting her Kramer haircut. She's still my wife.
I don't care if she puts on her glasses and looks just like Buddy Holly.

I see my wife and am attracted to her as much as if she had hair down to her knees.
Soon enough - maybe it'll be a few months or another year - her hair will grow back and she'll be back to looking like the girl I married. But that doesn't matter to me though.
One day we'll both lose our looks for good. One day she'll be shriveled and old and saggy. She'll shuffle around with rheumy eyes and false teeth. Her hair will be thin or gone and liver spots will mark her hands.
And I'll still see my beautiful wife.
Appearance is fleeting.
In time, looks fade away.
But in the words of Buddy Holly - who died 50 years ago today - my love will not.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I've Discovered Craigslist. My House Will Soon Be Empty

Do you know about Craigslist? If you don't, you are woefully lost. I was like you until last week. But now I am found. Because it was last week that I discovered Craigslist.
For those who are still stumbling around in the darkness, Craigslist is like an online garage sale. You post listings of all the junk you want to sell and, through some glorious Internet magic, emails start to pop into your inbox asking about your used Foreman grill. It's amazing.
I woke up this morning and checked my account. Some Asian woman wants my dishwasher. I don't know her, but she digs my Kenmore Ultra Wash. Some fella named Neil likes it too. Willing to pay asking price, even. Score.*
Craigslist almost makes a dude wanna become a used widget entrepeneur. If there's anything I have in spades, it's used widgets. Matchbox cars, baseball cards, underwear - I have tons of used junk to sell. And until now, I haven't found a willing buyer. So yes,, you can have my popcorn popper.
And now it is time to say goodbye to my wife, my dog and my vintage action figures. They will all be sold. I will keep my turtle Mr. Jenkins, however, because he is an indespensible lifelong companion.
These are tough economic times. One cannot afford to have useless stuff just lying around. I don't know why I kept all that Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, but I did and it fills up several boxes (I am NOT making this up).
Nor can one turn to a site like Ebay where bidding wars force prices up, up, up. No, these tough times call for cheap wares. From an online consignment shop.
President Obama has pledged to shore up the economy with a far-reaching stimulus package. Chances are, because I don't have seven children, didn't make bad fiscal choices and I don't live way beyond my means via credit cards, it will never actually reach me, per se.
However, if your house is in foreclosure, there's more money to be found in your couch cushions than in your 401(k), and Uncle Sam has his hands deep in your pockets, you can rest easy that there is a website out there where you can sell your antique glass harmonica.
So thank you Craig.
For your generosity. And for your eponymous list.
You sir, are a true American hero.

*UPDATE: Neil got the dishwasher.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Tortfeezor will return shortly

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Triple Word Score

If you're like me, you like to party.
By playing Scrabble.
Ain't no party like a Scrabble party, cause a Scrabble party don't stop. Until you run out of letters to play. Then it stops. But you can always shuffle the tiles and play again. All night long.
And tonight, on New Year's Eve - the biggest party night of the year - you'll know where I'll be: Sitting on the living room rug, Scrabble board on the coffee table, and Dick Clark on the telly. And there will be some snacks.
Oh yes, there will be snacks.
There was a time - not so long ago - when New Year's Eve meant dancing and drinking, music and celebrating. But my wife's 30 now. That's like 108 in cool people years. So despite my pleas to the contrary, she wants to stay in. And play board games. Like senior citizens in a long term care facility.
But that's okay. Because I am the world's greatest Scrabble player. And I love to beat my wife (at Scrabble; don't take that out of context).
I am unbeatable at Scrabble. She takes me to task at remedial games like Sorry or Connect Four, but when it comes to an alphagramized rack of jumbled letters, I'm a savant.
I'm like the Bobby Fisher of Scrabble. Except I'm not an dead ex-pat anti-American recluse who hates Jews. Other than that, I'm just like Bobby Fisher. That is, if Bobby Fisher played Scrabble instead of chess. But he didn't. So I guess we'll just leave Bobby Fisher out of this. But you get the point. Maybe.
And because I am a sore loser, I cheat mercilessly. I use proper names, acronyms, Spanish obscenities, abbreviations, slang, words with no vowels, I'll hide tiles or flip them over and use them as blanks - I'm ruthless in my no-holds-barred Scrabble play. If I'm challenged, I pout and quit. It's an effective strategy. If I find myself losing, I spill Diet Coke on the playing board or "accidentally" sweep all the tiles off with my sleeve. Fistfights are not uncommon.
It's Contact Scrabble, really.
So tonight, while you're ringing in 2009 with noisemakers and merriment, clinking champagne glasses and singing Auld Lang Syne, we'll be recalling the list of words which have a Q but no U and racing for the dictionary.
But either way, we'll all be bidding adieu to 2008 and hoping for a glorious 2009. And that's a good thing.
Because 2008 has - to use a 58-point word - SUCKED.