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Archive for January, 2010

Missing: One little girl

May 20, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

daddy's little girl

Would the person who stole my little girl and replaced her with the fully developed young lady I recently saw crawl into a limousine and head off to the junior prom please give her back?

The apple juice in her sippy cup is getting warm.

I miss her. And I certainly have issues with the individual claiming to be her.

The little girl I’m talking about is named Kerri (I call her Bear, which is short for Kerr Bear). She’ll probably respond to any of those names.

She stands about this tall, has long blonde hair and loves her daddy unconditionally.

I could have sworn I saw her just the other day. It was either at a t-ball game, or an elementary school play. Maybe it was sitting in front of a birthday cake with very few candles on it.

The child I remember was just learning to talk and getting an incredible amount of practice doing so. No one – besides her brother – could understand a word she said, but that didn’t deter her.

I thought it was just last weekend that I was tooling along the highway – probably headed to her grandmother’s house – singing the Gilligan’s Island song, while she yakkity yakk yakked in the back seat.

Then she’d stop and I’d realize I was supposed to respond. My standard response to everything Kerri used to say was, “What did she say?”

To which her brother would heave a big sigh and say, “She said, she likes going to grandma’s.”

Kerri would confirm this by kicking my seat and gurgling something that sounded like “dee bee dah.”

That is how we communicated. If her brother wasn’t around, I was hosed.

She would ask me a question and punctuate it with the most amazingly huge beautiful eyes and perfect smile – expecting either to find out she could indeed have a cookie or yes I loved her drawing of the flower or some other words of comfort, support, compassion, concern, admiration, advice, wisdom. Something right out of the Handbook of Things Dad’s Supposed to Say.

And I would look right back into those eyes of hers and tell her “Where’s your brother?”

That’s the young lady I’m looking for.

The soon-to-be-17-year-old impostor who has replaced her is much more mature than I remember. And I’m not talking about the physical appearance.

Because I know what courses – at non-stop breakneck speed – through the minds of 17-year-old members of my gender. Discussion of the physical appearance is off limits.

I got your sugar and spice and everything nice right here.

This unbreakably beautiful impostor person in the strapless (gasp) gown was at the house of a friend – with a bunch of other friends – a couple of weekends ago, getting ready for the Albany High School junior prom.

Another process that has changed exponentially in the past couple of decades.

I remember getting ready for my prom. I put on a suit, borrowed the car, stopped to pick up a carnation, grabbed my date, posed for a photo, drove to the Chatham High School gym, watched some of the girls dance with the rest of the girls, went to a friend’s house for a little while afterward, took my date to her house, puked in the street out front, and went home.

We didn’t have limousines, after-prom parties more fancy than the prom itself, and rented hotel suites (yes, rented hotel suites). To ask our parents for such things would be to make them double over in laughter and then hit us.

Today, groups of teen-age couples meet at the predetermined house of the one, apparently, whose family makes the most money. It is here that the girls – oops – young ladies spend days getting dressed, primped, perfumed, painted, coiffed, polished.

It is here that their dates arrive – in quite expensive tuxedos, each carrying a plastic see-through box the size of a double quarter pounder with cheese and filled with an over-priced token of esteem. The obligatory corsage.

(And if any one of them thinks he’s pinning it on her there, he’s got another thing coming. Leave it in the box, Opie. She can carry it.)

It is here that the parents are requested to meet, with cameras, so we can capture for eternity these imposters in this well-choreographed passage of time. It is here that I take the opportunity – because I am, after all, me – to photograph not only the beautiful prom-going couples, but because I know that imposter-daughter is going to want copies of these photos, I capture the entire moment for posterity.

This would include photos of the parents lined up paparazzo-style, the full buffet spread the parents got to enjoy in the kitchen while the prom-goers giggled and gossiped and waited to leave, and, for good measure, a couple of embarrassing photos of ex-wives from behind and their second husbands in Jiffy Pop-gut profile.

I am, after all, me.

It is here that we joke with the limousine driver so we can get him to laugh and determine the level of alcohol on his breath. And then follow those jokes with threats on his life.

It is here that parents hope that in 17 years enough common sense has been instilled in these young adults that sending them off to the prom for the weekend will result in nothing but irreplaceable memories for all involved.

Like the memories I have of the little girl you stole from me.

I know for a fact you haven’t stolen my son. The lump of wrinkles that when it is not asleep on the couch is flipping pizzas in the front window of Sbarro’s and handing his home phone number to every female who enters Crossgates Mall is the same kid he always was. Only taller. And balder. He got his follicle gene from his father.

He’s still around. In fact, take him. You’re guaranteed hours of entertainment. It’s better than having house plants.

Just bring back my Kerr Bear. Please.

Her dinner – the boxed macaroni and cheese with the hot dogs cut up in it – is getting cold.

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Heads, I win; tails, you lose

May 19, 2002

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

After all these years of threatening to do so, I finally did it last week.

I went and had my head examined.

And not because it’s something people (mostly family members, so I use the term loosely) have for years suggested I do.

It’s because the malady, or the various subsequent mutations thereof, with which I was afflicted in the middle of February has yet to subside. That does not make me very happy.

Whether it’s one giant disease stuck in a constant state of mood swing (not unlike a sister) or a collection of consecutive maladies that at my ripe old age has decided to move in with no indication of when it will leave (not unlike in-laws), it’s beginning to affect my charming, ever upbeat, witty and humanitarian personality.

A portion of which could be seen staining the necktie of the alderman who made the mistake of stopping in the office the other morning.

He tiptoed into the newsroom, very quietly knocked on the door frame to draw my attention, very politely asked if I had a minute, and then (and this part I am assuming) wished he had just plain driven by.

All he wanted was to know if we had any questions about the story of the day. What he wound up hearing was how miserable I was feeling, how my life, at that moment, was a living hell, and how the only thing in the world that I wanted more than solitude was to enjoy that solitude in any other location than the one I was presently occupying.

I didn’t phrase it that way, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of my venom landed on his necktie.

That stuff never washes out.

Wow, I thought to myself while watching him run and hide under the carpet with his tail between his legs. My malady, apparently, can make me mean.

Roses are red;

Violets are blue;

I’m schizophrenic

And so am I.

This is the same malady that made me think I was dying of heart disease in March. Pains in my chest and other chestal regions; stomach discomfort, occasional labored breathing.

But I had all those things checked out and I came through with flying colors. (What colors are flying colors?)

Chest X-rays; upper G.I.; blood tests; stress test; sonogram (found out I’m not pregnant, which must mean this gut is permanent); EKG. I’ve done the four-hour blood sugar diabetes test (brought my crossword book so I wouldn’t get bored); been checked for Lyme disease, lupus, Graves disease, arthritis, flippancy, baldness, cholesterol. You name it.

I’m more healthy than I would have ever believed.

Which, if I walk outside tomorrow and get run over by a beer truck, amounts to doodly.

It’s certainly nice to know what’s not wrong with me.

But it gets me no closer to feeling better.

Which is why I got my head examined.

My doctor … oops, sorry.

My “Primary Care Physician” suggested I have a CT scan.

He didn’t explain why it used to be called a CAT scan and why the capital letter A was dropped and why it’s no longer a word but it’s still pronounced the same.

Sidebar: He also didn’t explain why hospital gowns have a slit up the back and none in the front. It might be because it was irrelevant to the conversation we were having, but it still bothers me. I contend we are forced to wear these things at the expense of our own pride – and when we don’t need to (like when we are visiting an ill family member or have simply stopped for directions).

“Hi. Can you tell me where the cafeteria is?”

“Sure. Step into this small room, take off your clothes, put this robe on, and hop up onto this table covered with noisy white paper that is bound to rip and possibly become lodged. Someone will be right in to answer your question.”

I own no articles of clothing in which the entrance and exit are through the back. Except, possibly, for my flip-flops. Buttons and zippers are on the front of our clothes so we can access them.

A hospital gown, I contend, should be the same way. It’s not as if everyone who ever goes to the hospital is there because of a malady that needs to be treated from behind. If it’s for emergency response reasons, the fact that we sit on our backsides or lay on our backs actually makes it more of a pain with a garment that opens from behind. What is the thought process behind this invention?

I’ve heard people comment that the reason the slit is up the back is so hospital employees can watch us as we walk away and giggle at our expense. Sorry, but I don’t buy that one either. If you’re 90 years old or you weigh 600 pounds and you’re shuffling along a hospital corridor in paper slippers and a paper hat, stooped over in agony with one hand on the wheelie cart that holds your intravenous bag and the other hand holding the back of your robe closed, the last thing in the world any human being would want to see is whatever wrinkled part of your wrinkled backside a wrinkled hospital gown is not hiding.

The only thing I can figure with these rear-access fashions is that if we die, they don’t have to roll us over in order to get their “Property of This Hospital” garment back. They can just pull it off us from the front.

I’m over it.

I went for a CT scan because most recently my malady has morphed into a constant headache, accompanied by dizziness, momentary lapses of reason, and a foul attitude. Not that the latter has become too obvious.

The doctor told me I have chronic wife-itis. Ba-da-boom.

But seriously, the neurologist – a.k.a. Dr. du Jour – said there is nothing wrong with me.

“We X-rayed your head, Mr. Mattison, and the X-rays showed nothing.

“Now just slip this gown on and someone will be right with you.”

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Back pocket inventory time

May 13, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

I know it’s time to clean out the wallet when it gets so thick I can feel it back there.

When I stuff it into the back left pocket, and it stretches the trousers ever so slightly, I know it’s become too thick. Time to weed it out.

The reasons are twofold: The trousers really don’t need to be stretched ever so slightly. They are already at a threshold that would impress most physicists.

The other reason is less obvious. If a piece of paper – be it a receipt or a note or a (gasp) list – makes it to the wallet, then I no longer need it. I never go in there.

It’s a graveyard for grocery lists.

The wallet itself is a piece for the Smithsonian. It was dad’s. The one he used for countless years leading up to and including the day he died.

Brown leather, beaten to smithereens. A wonderful advertisement for the cowhide industry. It’s torn at the seams, shredded around the edges, several faded shades of brown, and will be with me for the rest of my days.

“Wallet” will never appear on a Christmas list of mine. When push comes to shove, I’ll break out the needle and thread, the duct tape, wax string, Elmer’s – you name it. We’re pals.

It’s a dad thing.

The coolest thing about an old wallet is the many hiding places it contains.

Tucked in one corner, all the way past the cards and photos, is an empty rifle shell. One end of it has finally worn through the leather ┬ájust the slightest bit. And you can just so make out the cylindrical shape. I picked the shell out of the wet grass next to dad’s coffin with the Ghent VFW’s 21-gun salute still ringing in my ears and the smell of gun powder laying in on a rainy April morning in 1981.

In another hiding spot – the one behind the flap that runs the entire length of the empty bill fold section – is a house key that no longer fits any houses that I know of. The mystery key. I always thought it was for mom’s house until the day I tried it.

The outline of the key – as well as the outline of the two coins hidden in another secret compartment – has been worn into the colors and textures of the outside of the wallet. The coins were dad’s, too.

And no, I’m not obsessing. I stuck them there a long time ago and have had no reason to move them.

I said the bill fold section is empty. There is no money in it. The money is hidden in yet another secret area. It’s a game I play with myself, called Hide Money in the Place You Always Hide it and Try to Forget it’s There So You’ll Be Real Surprised Some Day. That might actually work if I didn’t check each day to make sure it’s still there. Or if I didn’t spend it 8 minutes after “hiding” it.

You beer never beer know beer when beer you’re beer going beer to beer need beer money beer for beer an beer emergency beer beer.

In the bill fold, I keep my alibi. Receipts from Eckerd (the girl’s prom pictures), Lowe’s, Home Depot, Agway, the auto parts store and Hannaford. Mostly for bulbs (the kind you buy to plant in the garden and the kind you buy to replace your dead brake light). The grocery receipt is for beverages of some kind, I think.

I keep receipts until the next payday. It helps explain where the allowance went.

But honey, I needed the beer because I had all those bulbs to plant.

(Which may explain why I planted the brake light.)

Moving on. Gotta keep the $5 coupon for Gillette Mach3 razor blades. Those things are awesome. It’s like shaving with Venetian blinds. The coupon is good only at BJ’s, where the packages are enormous. For $5 off, I’ll probably come home with enough blades to shave the Catskill Game Farm.

Photos. Those are arranged so that when I open the wallet, the girl’s photo is on one side and the boy’s photo is on the other. Of course the last one I have of the boy is 1999 – the year his hair was a blond-ish yellow. It wasn’t combed, mind you, just colored. Behind this is a 1997 photo of the boy, before coloring was in and combing was out. The girl’s photos are perfect. She’s beautiful.

There’s a photo of my sister. I think it’s an engagement photo. I’m not sure how old it is, but she looks real young. And I’d get yelled at for inserting a snide age comment here.

The pain of not doing so right now is excruciating.

There’s a picture of dad he had taken for a license or something in one of those four-for-a-quarter booths at the Five and Dime. Another picture of the kids. A photo of Karen from what looks like several years ago.

A photo of a very rotund, unhappy me laminated on a press pass that expired at the end of last year. Back when I had that horrible moustache, my hair was a little longer, I had different glasses and no chin. One giant, flapping skin loop from the bottom of my mouth all the way down into my shirt somewhere. You know, one of you, at least (excluding mother, sister and wife), could have told me how pitiful that moustache was.

Health plan cards. I swear the only thing health maintenance organizations are good at is making you carry cards in your wallet. I have seven, in various stages of expiration. Some for me, some for Karen, some for the kids, and then several combinations thereof. I don’t know which ones to keep, which ones are any good, which ones to use for which doctor. On the off chance that I actually do go to a doctor’s office, I hand the receptionist all seven cards.

Here. I have insurance. Here are my cards. You figure it out.

I figure that’s what I’m paying for – having someone else determine which card to choose. I also figure it’s the main reason I avoid the doctor’s office like the plague.

As it were.

There is a variety of additional cards I carry for reasons both beknownst and unbeknownst to me.

Something from the bank, a Social Security card, an expired guest card and a plastic swipe-it card both from the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Vegas (can’t let go; might be going back), an expired WMHT membership card that came in the mail with my Bob Cudmore Amsterdam video, a BJ’s card (should I ever need 2,000 razor blades), a plastic gift certificate card for a record store, two Triple A cards (one expired, one still alive), a driver’s license, a major credit card, and a credit card to the Casual Male Big & Tall store (which I affectionately call the Casual Whale).

All of which, upon further review, are getting stuck back into the wallet. They appear to be holding the thing together.

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Sensitivity wouldn’t hurt

May 6, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

Welcome to sensitivity training.

This is going to hurt me as much as it’s going to hurt you.

The word I get is that many of us are not sensitive enough to the feelings of others.

Guilty as charged.

Sarcasm and flippancy are my downfall.

Well, that and a belt that’s almost as tall as I am.

It started a long time ago with me – the insensitive part, I mean. So it kind of comes naturally. I blame my sister, mostly.

When she learned that my topic this week was sensitivity training, she asked me the name of my co-author.

So my problem goes way back.

Every once in a while I need to be slapped back to reality.

Well, here goes.

My name is Kevin Mattison and I used the word “tribe” in the newspaper within the past week and a half.

(An audible gasp rolls through the audience.)

Didn’t I realize that there is a heightened awareness to the use of Native American references?

Didn’t I know that in The American Heritage Dictionary’s second college edition the definition of “tribe” makes no reference whatsoever to either Native Americans or – gasp – Indians?

Have I lost all sensitivity?

Do I kick puppies?

Before you cancel your subscription, let me assure you I don’t kick puppies.

Often.

The April 25 editorial on this page aimed at the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors apparently went waaaaay over the heads of some members of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. One of them even wrote me a letter proving this point.

And that caught me by surprise.

Not because of the letter’s content – I actually enjoyed the letter’s content (once I was able to unjam it from the very uncomfortable place it had been jammed) – but because of its writer.

I expected Bob McMahon, the supervisor from Canajoharie, to get the editorial. I didn’t necessarily think he – or anyone else on the board – would like it. But he’s a real smart guy. I figured he’d get it.

Not so much.

He fired off a letter to “the head scribe of the mob on Venom Road” saying I offended just about everyone in the Mohawk Valley.

I’ve been doing this for 20 years now; I would have sworn that I had offended everyone long before now.

If I have missed any of you, I’m sorry. That was not the intent.

Those of you who have not been offended and think you’re being singled out, drop me a line.

That was me being flippant. That was not me being insensitive.

And that was Bob being hilarious when he called me the head scribe of the mob on Venom Road.

I’m going to put that one on my resume.

Venom Road. That’s excellent.

Bob, the editorial was a satirical interpretation of events. It was based on the monumentally popular TV show Survivor: The Australian Outback. To which I – along with millions upon millions of like-minded, life-seeking, tube-staring, bubble-brained insensitive puppy-kickers – have been addicted for the past several months.

The contestants on the TV show were divided into “tribes.”

There’s that word again.

The Survivor contestants played games – both physically and mentally – in an attempt to win food and to win immunity from being voted off the TV show.

So I put a local twist on it.

If anything, I have offended Native Australians.

I’m not saying the editorial didn’t contain ridicule. I’m saying it contained sensitivity toward Native Americans.

Unless, of course, some members of the board of supervisors are Native Americans.

In that case, oops.

Believe it or not, I have noticed the increased sensitivity to the use of phrases that may be found offensive to Native Americans. In fact, this very page has been home to more than one editorial saying such references are out of place. When Canajoharie dropped the name “Redskins” and long before Fonda-Fultonville realized “Braves” has to go, we circled the wagons.

As it were.

In fact, I am so aware of the Native American sensitivity thing that I was aghast and agog to hear that one member of this very same Montgomery County Board of Supervisors told a reporter he was going to come down here to Venom Road and scalp me for what I wrote.

This is not me being insensitive. This is me being serious.

Scalp me?

First off, that doesn’t sound very sensitive.

Secondly, and more to the point, from all appearances, someone beat you to it.

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Any davenport in a storm

April 29, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

My penance for being the horrible person I am, I have decided, is being in love with a woman whose sole purpose in life is to tell me I have to help her move the couches.

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

For some reason, we have three couches. One’s upstairs, one’s in the living room and the other’s on the porch.

The upstairs one is a sofa bed – a giant uncomfortable metal structure topped with cushions that won’t stay in place that when it is opened becomes a giant uncomfortable slab of foam supported by two inconveniently placed metal bars with cushions piled next to it. This is in a bedroom on the off chance that company might come and actually want to sleep over night.

I’ve tried to explain that we’d need to have friends first before we should assume anyone would want to stay that long, but that gets nowhere.

In the living room is Perfect Couch – the envy of every couch owner in the world. This couch is in the couch hall of fame. It’s very long, incredibly boring, unbelievably comfortable, perfect for sleep, about 60 years old, and, therefore, built like a brick outhouse.

As humans have become more technologically advanced, we have totally not been able to build a decent couch. Too much stuffing, not enough stability. Every part – including the stuffing – is made from balsa.

But not on Perfect Couch. Hitler wishes his bunker was as sturdy as this baby.

It’s only drawback is its appropriately named slip cover – which does indeed slip, and therefore rarely covers, the exposed stuffing on the original item.

Perfect Couch, like the sofa bed upstairs, weighs about 2,300 pounds.

On the porch is the incredibly uncomfortable smaller couch with the pretty flowers on the fabric. This is a more modern beast (see balsa reference, above), rescued from the side of the road from a neighbor who was setting up a yard sale. For the price of this couch, the former owner also threw in one of those teeny tiny color televisions that double as an AM/FM radio and food warmer and beer coaster. Mind you, I don’t get to see this TV ever – it went off to work to adorn the couch lady’s office.

Anyone who spends the entire year planning her next couch moving excursion deserves a TV in her office.

The porch couch pretends it’s capable of seating three people (because it has three seat cushions) but in practice can only seat two. One reason for this is because it’s in the Mattisons’ house. Another reason is because it’s a couch, so, by definition, it has to be buried under every pillow ever made. All sizes, shapes, colors. Are you missing any pillows at your house? I have three couches. I bet your pillow is on one of them.

The main reason you can’t put three people on the porch couch is because the previous owner – whom I’m guessing was a stone or six overweight – always sat in the same spot, which resulted in a butt divot. If you don’t sit in the same divot, you wind up leaning either to starboard or port until your butt finally slides down into this cavern.

Can’t sleep on it; can’t sit on it. The porch couch is pretty much there just to look at.

These three couches are used most often for lying down upon. When the snoring gets out of control, one of us will waddle down the hall in the middle of the night, throw the back cushions on the floor, and sleep on the upstairs sofa bed. It’s not comfortable enough to sleep on as a bed; it stays closed and is slept on as a couch.

The living room couch is perfect for everything – including sleep.

The porch couch is too short for sleeping. My knees wind up in my chin or on the coffee table if I try to recline on it. And the divot is in a wicked bad spot.

I don’t mean to give the impression that there’s a lot of sleeping on the couch going on in the Mattison household. It’s only when the snoring – from both ends – is a bit too much to handle.

Couch lady is under the impression that a couch is a portable item. Like a lunch box.

When the weather turns nice and the porch can be used, she spends every moment she can out there. And because many of those moments include sleepy time, Perfect Couch has to be on the porch as well. Which means porch couch spends the summer in the living room.

Which means the entire process is reversed in autumn.

Recently she’s been spending an extra amount of time in thought mode, because she also hates the porch couch and wants to move it upstairs where the sofa bed is, put the sofa bed in the living room and move Perfect Couch to the porch.

Which means the entire process would be reversed in autumn.

Moving couches is bad enough; adding a flight of stairs to the scenario is just not normal human behavior.

It is, however, normal behavior at our house.

Not too long ago I suggested we get rid of the porch couch because, as a couch, it pretty much fails in its couch responsibilities. And moving it from room to room is, like, a really stupid thing. And we should replace it with a futon because that’s a more logical porch item. Everybody knows that. And Perfect Couch should stay in the living room, I don’t care what you prefer. And the sofa bed is just fine where it is, so there.

Since that outburst, guess where I’ve been sleeping.

I’ve learned that if I put my head at the other end and bend my legs just so, the butt divot is not really all that bad. And the pillows are certainly plentiful.

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With a spring in his step

April 28, 2002

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

The person in charge of the weather can stop toying with my emotions. The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s spring. So let it be spring. The yo-yoing between warm and cold, sun and clouds, rain and snow is not the least bit funny.

Although it is the definition of spring, isn’t it?

I understand that after a winter during which I wasn’t yelled at for never getting the snowblower fixed I should count my lucky stars. This past winter was a snow-hater’s dream.

One year ago, I was the brunt of neighborhood jokes for being the idiot shoveling snow out of his flower gardens and back into his driveway so it would melt faster.

This year, I’m the idiot carrying about a dozen large pots of herbs in and out of the house every day the mercury dips below freezing. Which has pretty much been every day.

(Note to self: Pots of dirt are not popular additions to the kitchen decor. Make sure you thank tolerant wife and apologize for the weather.)

Usually, I have more common sense when it comes to April. Two years ago this very weekend I freed the porch from its winter slumber (which means I took down the plastic that I wrap around it to keep the winter out). I chose that weekend because Karen was away. Nobody around to tell me I was doing it wrong. No one to say it’s too early in the season.

No one to help me get the snow off the porch when we got hit with a late April snowstorm the next day.

So earlier this month when the temperature was 90 degrees, everything in the garden was poking through the mulch, last year’s parsley and chives were several inches tall, the chipmunks and titmouses (titmice?) were chirping gaily, and the ornamental grasses had made their heralded return, I decided summer had officially arrived.

I began the spring ritual. Rake the last few leaves I didn’t get in the fall, take the plastic off the porch, set the lawn furniture out so it can begin to collect pollen from the entire neighborhood, put the broken snow blower away, get out the broken lawn mower with the dull blade. That kind of thing.

I also planted my herbs. I figured if it dipped below freezing once or twice I could carry the pots into the house. Little did I know it would be every day.

A bigger mistake, I figured, would be to listen to the weather reports. When cold fronts are replaced by warm fronts or warm fronts are replaced by cold fronts (whichever way it works), and violent storms accompany this action, I want nothing to do with it.

My childhood love of the gargantuan thunderstorm has been replaced by a child-like fear of my house blowing away in the wind.

I’m not so much concerned about lightning (got stung by it once; that can’t happen again), the sound of thunder doesn’t bother me. And the only thing I don’t like about rain is watching my wife as she mops it off the porch floor while I offer no assistance whatsoever because Mario Batali or Bobby Flay or one of those other Food TV dudes is getting to the important part of the recipe and I can’t unglue myself from the tube.

At my age, wind is what bothers me most now. The kind that comes during violent storms. I’ve seen too much damage firsthand, to my house, my campsite and my neighbors.

It’s why I cut down all the large trees near my house. It’s why, in advance of a storm, I drive home at 1,000 miles per hour to neatly and securely stack all the pollen-covered plastic furniture we had to buy because you never know when an entire high school or country is going to drop in for a visit and if you come up one chair short your wife will never let you live it down, and besides they’re on sale so let’s get a hundred or so more.

It’s why some people I work with and others I live near chuckle when they know a storm is going to blow through. They get to watch the funny looking guy with the round head lose his mind over a weather report.

It doesn’t explain, however, my reaction to last weekend’s “Nature Does the Goofiest Things” highlight.

The earthquake that rattled the region a week ago Saturday had the exact opposite effect on me than I would have expected.

It was 10 minutes to 7 and I was alone in the house (Karen was on another road trip). As soon as the house stopped shaking, I went looking for someone (anyone) to talk to. My ears were perked, my tail was wagging. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

I ran outdoors – no one was around.

After I realized it was not yet 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and everyone else was probably still asleep, I tucked my tail between my legs, slithered back into the house, and turned the radio on.

They were already talking about it – phones were ringing off the hook in the studio – so I put my smile back on my face, brewed a cup of coffee, sat down and listened. Everyone was talking about where they were when it happened.

I knew I couldn’t call and share my story, as it may not have played well on a family radio program. Especially if the quake had been worse. See, I didn’t immediately run outside. I couldn’t.

I got up (the bedroom is upstairs, right above the garage) at 6:45 a.m. last Saturday for a specific reason. And about five minutes into an article in my Sports Illustrated during that specific reason, I heard what sounded like the garbage truck coming down the street.

I don’t normally hear him, and he doesn’t usually come that early in the morning, so I took notice of what I assumed was his arrival.

By the time I completed this thought process, the entire house was shaking. I knew immediately what was going on – we were having an earthquake – and I knew immediately where I was sitting. And what very important ritual I had to complete before I could run out of the house in an attempt to save my life.

Those steps were completed in what I have to believe was record time. In fact, I made a mental note of how impressed I was that my manual dexterity had not crumbled in the face of potential adversity.

I then found myself standing in the bedroom, looking for a doorway to stand in, when the house stopped shaking. In the length of time that passed before running outdoors to find no one to talk to, I began to laugh. That’s the part that stuns me. The house could have shaken to its foundation and I had time to laugh.

“We found your husband in the garage, Mrs. Mattison,” I envisioned a police officer telling Karen as she pulled into the driveway the next day, home from gallivanting – her mouth agape as she stared at the pile of lumber that was once her home. “It doesn’t look good. He was clutching a magazine, his pants were around his ankles, and the shards of porcelain – well, we may never find them all.”

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Making sense of the calendar

April 22, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

Our month structure is all out of whack. And I’m not even talking about the fact that they have different numbers of days, and one of them has an extra day every four years.

I mean April 1 should be the first day of the year. April portends more of a beginning of something than does January.

January’s in the middle of the winter and the end of the holiday season. The only thing January begins is the new calendars we get for Christmas. And the only reason for that is because somebody said January has to go first.

It’s not even alphabetical. Beginning with April at least gets the year off on an alphabetical note.

Those of you who don’t find this important are maybe misplacing your priorities.

April Fool’s Day would be a great day to get the year off on the right foot. Imagine the jokes you could pull during your New Year’s Day parties if they were also April Fool’s Day parties.

Those of us who want to travel to celebrate the New Year might find the weather more accommodating in April.

And First Night – think of it. You might even want to attend one if it’s not scheduled in the dead of winter when the temperature is way below zero.

In April, the snow begins to melt, buds start forming on trees, things start popping out of the ground. See? It’s a pattern.

This is the month of the pastel holidays that herald the arrival of spring – bunnies hopping around with pretty ribbons on their baskets, distributing the colored eggs they stole from the pink and yellow marshmallow chix.

Picture the word “April” – can’t you see the “i” being dotted with a flower? And the letters are all pink and swirly?

We deserve to begin anew in April after suffering through March, the longest month of the year. There may be other months with 31 days, but none of them are as long as March.

In April we await the arrival of spring, reading the harbinger editions of Better Homes & Gardens, being taunted by occasional days early in the month when the temperature outside flirts with the 40-degree line on the thermometer, starting the car on occasional mornings when there is no frost on the windshield.

And, here’s the best part, heading to work at 5 a.m., when daylight begins to creep across the land. Nothing beats getting to and leaving work when it’s daylight both times.

But it doesn’t happen until the end of March – which takes forever to get here.

Probably because we’re spoiled by February, which begins with that stupid groundhog thing that only makes the shortest (by days only) and most useless month all the more intolerable. February is so useless that every four years when we have an extra day, we stick it on the end of February. And it still comes up short.

The only thing January has going for it, besides my birthday, is professional football playoffs. And they are only there to help get us through winter weekends without having to paint something indoors or visit someone we don’t like.

“But I can’t go to your aunt’s house, honey. The NFC divisional wild card playoff selection committee series bracket show pregame analysis awards presentation draft preview special report is on today.”

The shortest month time-wise – meaning the one that goes by the most quickly – is the 61-day month of Novemberdecember. The holidays, the scheduling of which make no sense, are to blame.

The biggest holidays of the year – Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s – occur within a few weeks of each other. We eat the most when we can’t get outside to exercise it off. We shop the most during the worst time of year for weather.

As soon as November begins and everyone’s thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and Christmas plans, the holidays come rushing up at lightning speed and blow by us like a drag racer, leaving our hair all messy and our lips chapped. This feeling hits the wall at the end of the year. Problem is, the accompanying weather sticks around.

On the other hand, the nice weather months are reserved for holidays of a patriotic/America-type theme – except August, which we really don’t need because we have nothing to celebrate.

If Thanksgiving was in August, for example, picnics would become a possibility. Throw everybody outside, I always say. That’s not as easy in November. In August, it’s a possibility.

Secondly, it spreads out the amount of turkey we normally consume in Novemberdecember.

A more reasonable amount of space would be placed between holidays if a few changes were made.

My way, all the seasons would fit in one year in their entirety. No more of this splitting of winter like a pair of bookends. If we’re going to have a season come more than once a year, it sure as heck shouldn’t be the most annoying one.

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