Saturday, September 30, 2006
We will be returning to our regularly scheduled satire soon.
Friday, September 29, 2006
I use jokes to deflect further Questions About Kids (QAK). Because in our case, the QAK is not a happy tale. It’s a long, sad, frustrating story. And today, after our last-second buzzer beater seemed improbably headed toward the hoop, we watched the last ball swirl in and out of the basket. It appears we will not be having kids of our own.
We started about nine years ago. We left our swinging (in the figurative sense) New York lifestyle to return to the Chicago area, primarily to start a family. New York was amazing and, despite our impoverished time there, it treated us well. But as a couple of suburban Chicago kids, we doubted our ability to raise kids in the Big Apple (worrying that ours would turn out like Harmony Korine’s very unharmonious Kids). Plus, with so much family around Chicago, we’d have instant babysitting. We packed, we moved, and we were ready to start begetting.
My Catholic education led me to believe that getting pregnant was very, very easy, so easy that if my thingy was even in the same zip code as her whatsit, I’d have a you-know-what on my hands. So I was surprised when our initial trips to the orchard didn’t bear any fruit.
We entered the first phase of infertility, the Planned Interlude, or Reverse Rhythm Method. There are measurements taken, charts consulted, briefs discarded, boxers purchased, and readings analyzed. You enter a realm where the need to have sex right fucking now is greater than any 15-year-old boy could ever imagine. Even if I was in the middle of scarfing some mac and cheese during the Bears game, the minute I saw three lanterns in the tower, I dropped what I was doing and rushed in to announce that the British were indeed coming (and going and going and coming and always too soon!).
That phase lasted for about a year and half with nary second blue line in sight. We reached the point where we had to Diagnose the Problem.
That meant diagnosing me first, because all the man has to do is an activity he’s been doing since he first noticed Mary Jane was cootie free. At the hospital, I was handed a cup by a small, goateed Russian Doctor, who seemed slightly too eager to examine my sample. He ushered me into a small white room which had a black faux leather chair, a TV/VCR unit, one adult video, and a few periodicals of varying degrees of smutitude. “Take as much time as you need,” the Russian Doctor told me, “and try not to spill any.”
My lab results delivered one of the first of many shocks and disappointments. I had azoospermia—a complete lack of troops to launch an invasion. The thought of being infertile hadn’t even crossed my mind. I figured my boys were just like me, lazy and not very good swimmers. This was much more serious.
All hope was not lost. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, the doctors could go in and search for any isolated swimmers doing the male reproductive version of Castaway. If they found any takers, they could inject them right into an egg and get things going through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). In order to find this out, they would have to break into my vault and take a long, hard look at the family jewels. Thank God for anesthetic.
When I came to in the recovery room, TLB was standing beside me. I muttered a groggy hello. She looked sad, and I asked how it went. Surprised, she asked if I remembered talking to the doctor. Apparently he and I had an involved chat where we discussed the results of my testicular foray.
“No,” I said.
“They didn’t find anything,” TLB said. “You don’t have any sperm.”
The diagnosis was Sertoli-cell only syndrome, kind of the straight flush of male infertility. I had no ability to make sperm. This condition isn’t always hopeless, but according to the doctor, they searched for a long time and found nothing to work with.
The news took a long time to sink in. I remember being disappointed but also matter-of-fact about it. Okay, Monty, I’ll take what’s in the box—is it a sperm donor? While I thought, pre-biopsy, that I’d be fine, I still had considered the possibility of infertility and had made up my mind to green light a donor. The real disappointment was more of a slow burn, one of those things that hangs around like fog that won’t melt away. It was sad, but at the same time, I figured if this was the cross I had to carry, it wasn’t as bad as what many people had to bear. TLB and I would have our kids, we’d just have them a little differently.
We shopped around for a donor. This was definitely the most entertaining part of the whole infertility treatment. We logged on to sperm bank Web sites and read profiles of potential pops. We read medical histories, educational backgrounds, physical descriptions, and in some cases could even hear voice samples. We’d play Gay or Straight? as we reviewed our potential donors (loves travel, good food, and musical theater...helllooo!). I joked with TLB that I knew more about these guys than I knew about myself.
We settled on a man of Swedish background, whom I called “The Swede Seed.” By this time, we were in Iowa, so we headed to the UI Hospital for an Inter-Uterine Injection (IUI) — AKA the turkey baster. We went to a hospital room, and a nurse injected our future Big Daddy into my wife. Then, in a fit of jealous rage, I beat the shit out of the catheter.
The first try worked.
We couldn’t believe our luck. Yes, we’d had a bumpy road, and my condition sucked, but we were going to have a baby and at this point, I didn’t care how. Everything was great, and we waltzed into our first ultrasound ready to see the little chef. I imagined baby's first words would be bort-bort-bort.
The nurse fiddled around with the ultrasound and found him or her. We could see the embryo. It was beautiful. It didn’t last long. Almost immediately, the nurse told us the heartbeat and size were low. The pregnancy was likely to end. A couple weeks later, it did.
What the fuck? I asked the cosmos. Why? I could accept my lot in life, but why put TLB through this? What had we done?
After we went through the wailing and gnashing of teeth, we settled down. So the first didn’t take. That was common. At least it had worked. We tried again. And again. And again. We used up all the Swede Seed, and got not so much as a blue line. We made a call to the bullpen for a fresh, er, arm. That didn’t help. Years went by, and we eventually went through 15 IUIs. It was time for an IVF.
The IVF is the fertility cocktail. The mixing is done outside, stirred and not shaken, and then placed back. With IVF, you get actual pictures of the blastocysts, which would allow us to have the earliest baby pictures ever of our future children.
I was lucky that my insurance would pay for four procedures. IVFs run about $15,000, and while you can’t put a price on having kids, you can put a price on bankruptcy. The good news: IVF has a much higher success rate than IUI. Certainly after one or two, we’d be in business.
The game was different but the results the same. Our first attempt went bust. We tried a second attempt. It, too, went bust. Getting a little nervous, we tried a third attempt. That burned down, fell over, sank into the swamp, and then went bust. We were down to the last one insurance would pay for.
And it worked.
A couple weeks ago, TLB got a faint positive on her home test. Then she tested positive at the hospital. Her betas more than doubled. Even when she had some spotting and went in for a panicked test this past Monday, her beta levels were great. We were scheduled to go in for our first ultrasound in five years on Friday. We kept using the phrase cautiously optimistic, because we both remembered all too well what happened last time. But fuck it, I knew this was it. Of course it would be a dramatic Tin Cup kind of moment, where we hit a dozen balls before the last one in our bag goes in. After all, we’re writers, it’s what we would have come up with!
Alas, it was not to be. TLB started bleeding today, enough that we know what tomorrow’s news will be. We couldn't even make it to the fucking ultrasound without disappointment.
I feel terrible for my wife. I’ve had six years to get used to the idea that the children I have will not be mine biologically. As depressing as that is, I’ve made my peace with it. At least she could have a baby and we could share that experience.
Now, though, she has to deal with that, because it looks like another IVF will not be in the cards. We still have options: embryo adoption, which is more affordable and still lets us go through the process of having a baby. Regular adoption, which while expensive, is more or less guaranteed to produce a child. Either way, we’ll have our kids, and we’ll be happy. I know that.
I just wish, for once, that the nuns at school had been right, that it had been as easy as they said it would be.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
11) Classified President’s Daily Brief entitled, “Shit Determined to Strike Fan”
10) Original Star Wars movies that haven’t been fucked with by the guy who thought Jar-Jar was a good idea.
9) Paris Hilton’s health records (please hurry, it really burns!)
8) Spine of Democrats.
7) Government geophysical survey revealing increase in global warming caused by Bush’s excessive flatulence.
6) Genitals (guys in raincoats only).
5) Bloopers and outtakes from Abu Ghraib (with narration by Dick Cheney)
4) K-Fed (into space).
3) George Allen’s novel manuscript, The Bigot’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing.
2) The Tribulation (Christians only).
1) Common sense.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Stinky is the opposite. He's the feline version of Murdock from The A-Team -- crazy but charismatic, always getting himself into scrapes without ever getting scraped up. He doesn't worry about anything except getting yelled at when he's on the goddamned dining room table again. His baptismal name is Bugsy, and he was called that because he loved to chase bugs or any spec of material that resembled bugs. That says everything you need to know about him.
Stinky entered our marriage in 1996. We were living in Brooklyn (New York, not Iowa) and had just moved into a two-bedroom place that gave us the most precious commodity in NYC: space. I told TLB after we moved that she could get another kitty since we had a second bedroom.
At the same time, I had my mind on a pet of my own. It was gray and plastic and played all kinds of cool games. It didn't barf or poop in a box or scratch the furniture. TLB, however, was reluctant to bring it into our house for fear I would love it too much.
One day, while I was at work on a Saturday, TLB called me. I don't remember the exact conversation but it went something like this:
I know I give off the cool, manly, stoic exterior of a Delta Force commando, but deep down inside, I am a softie. I was moved by my lovely wife's desire for another animal that would enjoy leaping on my crotch while I slept at night. I was about to say yes, when a little voice went off in my head: quid pro quo, Clarise.
"If I say yes, can I get a PlayStation?"
Check and mate. She got Stinky, and I got a tool that began my long, slow road toward not finishing a novel.
Flash forward to the present. TLB and her sister were at the mall and saw a cat at the pet store, a cat who was also a rescue. History repeated itself. Again, I was moved. Initially, there was quid pro quo. But I realized, this is the woman who puts up with my jokes, my neuroses, and who gave me my Holy Grail after she sold her novel. She deserved another kitty. So we brought home Jonesy. Currently he has only two settings:
Now we just need to get Bubba and Stinky to stop doing their Heathers routine with him.
I have talked about this for years. I really hate Mickey D's food, but I am a Sausage McMuffin Gimp, powerless to disobey my eggy, porky master. The idea that I could stroll into a Golden Arches and get a McMuffin with a McGriddle chaser at 11 p.m. makes me warm and fuzzy inside.
Would you like a side of pancakes with that burger? Could be an option, some day. McDonald's has an eye on selling the likes of Egg McMuffins and McGriddle pancake-flavored sandwiches morning to night.
Now it really may happen...and I'm scared to death that I'll be dead of heart disease by the time I'm 40. It reminds me of this classic example of getting what you wish for:
GEORGE: So what happened?On a side note, TLB and I saw this report while watching the Today show. At the end of this electrifying news, they ended the segment by mentioning that it may be two years before this happens.
JERRY: She's into it.
JERRY: The ménage. And not only that. She just called me and
said she talked to the roommate and the roomate's into the ménage too.
GEORGE: That's unbelievable.
JERRY: Oh, it's a scene, man.
GEORGE: Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?
JERRY: What are you talking about? I'm not going to do it.
GEORGE: You're not goin to do it? What do you mean, You're not going to do it?
JERRY: I can't. I'm not an orgy guy.
GEORGE: Are you crazy? This is like discovering Plutonium ... by accident.
JERRY: Don't you know what it means to become an orgy guy? It changes everything. I'd have to dress different. I'd have to act different. I'd have to grow a mustache and get all kinds of robes and lotions and I'd need a new bedspread and new curtains I'd have to get thick carpeting and weirdo lighting. I'd have to get new friends. I'd have to get orgy friends...Naw, I'm not ready for it.
Me: Two years? (transforming into Lewis Black) What the...why the...why are they telling us this now?! Why?! Why on earth would they fucking tease me like that?!!
TLB: I know, what a joke.
Me: I'm going to go to one of their counters and start playing with myself for two years until they serve me breakfast.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
9) Replaced Joementum with less electorally-efficient Blowmentum.
8) Got photographed reading The Origin of Species while on campaign stop in Kansas.
7) Remarked that inflation had hurt purchasing power of illegal campaign contributions.
6) Failed to convince voters that alleged infidelity was simply a case of slipping on a banana peel and falling penis-first into intern.
5) Tried to reach out to Hispanics with “Vote for me and receive a free trip to Mexico” platform.
4) Offered to compromise on detainee rights by allowing them to be tortured 3/5 of the time.
3) Attended ethnic voter rally in white sheet and hood.
2) Lost key soccer mom and gay votes after coming up short in Playgirl campaign pictorial.
1) Ran while wearing a very large lame duck around neck.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
A CJSD Special Report
The common belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ rejected worldly possessions and eschewed wealth. After all, Christ warned that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.
But, as other media sources have recently reported, a growing number of American Christian leaders say that just isn’t true, and that while Christians do need to take up their crosses, there is no reason those crosses cannot be made of gold.
Reverend Austin Tayshus, chairman and CEO of In the Black Ministries and author of the runaway bestseller, The Devil Bears Nada: How to Get More R-O-I Out of G-O-D, claims that God is neither the angry, vengeful God of Evangelical preachers nor the benevolent watchmaker of the deist Founding Fathers. Instead, he is rather like an omnipotent hedge fund manager.
“Look at the world around us,” says Tayshus as he drives his golden Hosea Hummer, a custom-built SUV complete with holy water wiper fluid and rear seat kneelers. “What do you notice? Diversification. God didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. He spread life around, building on each investment over seven days, until man emerged to offer the best returns. That’s the exact advice I offer my clients...I mean flock.
“Plus, think about it: who are His chosen people?” Tayshus asks. “People who can be trusted with money.”
Reverend Tayshus is not alone. Other ministries—such as Wealth Is God’s Welfare International, The Church of the Heavenly Interest, and the Catholic 401 Kyrie Club—preach a gospel where the greatest command is to treat one’s brother as you would treat yourself.
The “Gospel of Wealth” movement, as it is called, received a tremendous infusion of intellectual capital with the remarkable discovery of the Spread Sheet Scrolls. Unearthed from an ancient board room, these works offer a rare look into the financial dealings of early Christians, and expand on many of Christ’s teachings about wealth. For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells one young man, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.” The traditional Gospel says that the man goes away disappointed because he has many possessions. But the Spread Sheet Scrolls continue the story:
“Some weeks later, the young man returned to Jesus. ‘Master, master, you were so right,’ the young man exclaimed. ‘By giving away my possessions, I was able to take so many tax write-offs, I made more money than earned last year! Now I have enough to buy that new chariot I have had my eye upon.’
The Spread Sheet Scrolls also offer the controversial Ninth Beatitude from Jesus, stricken from earlier editions of The New Testament: “Blessed are the rich, beyotch!”
Other texts show early Christians carrying out incredible acts of frugality. Archeologists recently uncovered two sequels to “The Acts of the Apostles”: “More Acts of the Apostles,” and “Even More Acts of the Apostles.”
“What we’re learning is that original Acts was just volume one of a three-volume system,” says Professor Mercedes Beamer, a Biblical and international finance scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “In volume one, we see the apostles taking Jesus’s message to the unconverted. It talks about giving things to the needy. The last two volumes then show what the needy should be doing with those donations—sheltering them from Caesar’s renderings, purchasing real estate built on solid rock instead of sand, investing in commodities like fatted calves and mustard seeds. Really, it’s a system for putting God’s word to work for us.”
But the latest scriptural discovery that Gospel of Wealth advocates cite the most is a newly discovered epistle, “Paul’s First Letter to the Shareholders”:
My Dear Brothers and Their Profit-Sharing Administrative Assistants in Christ,
The day of accounting is near! Woe to those with unbillable expenses, for they shall be awash in the red ink of Satan. Beware those who submerge their debt and inflate their profits, for the Holy Spirit shall conduct an audit. But for those who follow the Lord, they shall be paid a hefty dividend. Now is not the time to merely hold your faith, my brothers and assistants, for Christianity is increasing in productivity and poised to outperform all expectations. So I say unto you, buy, buy, buy!
“The beauty of these discoveries, of God’s desire for us to have wealth,” says Reverend Tayshus, “is that God doesn’t care whether you’re white or black, male or female, Protestant or Catholic. He just wants you to be solvent.”
Such a radical reinterpretation of the Bible has some Christians up in arms. “This whole idea that God doesn’t care who you are as long as you’re wealthy can be summed up in one word: hogwash,” says Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose-Driven Life. “Wealth is not nearly as important as being white, male, and Protestant. And I should know, because that message has resonated with the millions upon millions of people who have bought my book.”
But in the end, proponents of the Gospel of Wealth see no contradictions. “Look at the life of Jesus,” says Pastor Richard Pfund, host of the popular religioeconomic television program Hour of Powerful Finances. “He starts out getting gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He goes to work at an early age preaching in the temple. He insists on drinking wine instead of water at parties. He shows tax collectors the errors of their ways. And he has a group of twelve vice presidents, if you will.
“Let's face it: Jesus is our CEO, and if we don't imitate him, he's going to give us our pink slips.”
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
15) Locked kids in basement with four-month supply of food, water, and homework.
14) Locked wife in bedroom with four-month supply of food, water, and batteries.
13) Reached under the table for big envelope from booster.
12) Had other thumb broken by bookie.
11) Put Hank Williams, Jr., in stress position and blared “Are You Ready for Some Football” song over and over until he confessed to being member of Al Qaeda.
10) Left divorce papers under the remote control before leaving with Jacques.
9) Called agent to arrange bond.
8) Removed draw string from sweats so we could finish off the nachos.
7) Bought Arizona Cardinals season tickets. Seriously. No, really, they're going to be good this year. Stop laughing.
6) Slaughtered our fattest calf and fed it to John Madden.
5) Placed spoon by coffee table in case 10 straight hours of football produced a seizure again.
4) Told the quarterback he better quit wiggling his goddamned fingers before the snap.
3) Found out when we had to take midterms for the starting defense.
2) Lamented how football has undermined the academic aspirations of youth and debased the intellect of the masses and...hey, where is everyone going?
1) Peed into a cup and prayed.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
NFL Sunday Ticket package...check
Wife who accepts primal urge to watch giant, sweaty men collide with each other...check
Whipped Cheeseheads...checkity check check check
Today, da Bears deprived the people of Green Bay of their only reason to live with a 26-0 mauling of the Packers. While Bill Swerski and the boys would have liked a score in the triple digits, that's about as good of a season opening as it gets for Chicago fans. And it calls for a little celebration:
On a side note, Brett Favre should have retired. He looks terrible:
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
9) Staying in Washington no matter how much brush needs to be cleared.
8) Requiring gas prices to be displayed in red, white, and blue.
7) Reading the top-secret President’s Daily Brief aloud on every Today show.
6) Mandating a Project Runway challenge to design outfit made entirely out of yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbons.
5) Pointing to the one hair on Rumsfeld head that always sticks up when there’s a war going on.
4) Sending all registered Democrats to special camps...for their own protection.
3) Implementing such a strict zero-tolerance terror policy that Fear Factor had to be cancelled.
2) Donning flight suit and landing on aircraft carrier with large “Mission Ongoing” banner.
1) Mailing out the draft notices.
This doesn't really give anything away, but in one scene, a couple get into the bathroom to join the mile high club. They disable the smoke detector and fire up a joint before going at it. I leaned over to TLB and said, "Lawbreaking, drug taking, and fornicating. They're definitely in the high risk group for movies like these."
It's not Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (so bad it's like a religious experience) or Desperado (completely ridiculous but still damn good). I was entertained and got my money's worth, and there is one really funny scene involving, shall we say, a wiener snake.
I did see the trailer for this and almost wet myself with excitement as I had no idea this film was in production. I know it's probably going to be terrible, but they showed a quick cut of the Devil playing the drums. I can't resist that.
Monday, September 04, 2006
A book that changed my life
How to Get in Touch With Your Inner Lesbian. No, no, of course I'm kidding. I would have to go with The Great Gatsby. I read it the summer before my junior year of high school and it has been my favorite ever since. Being a Navy brat attending a pretty well-to-do high school, the story really resonated with me.
A book I've read more than once
The Elric series by Michael Moorcock. I read this back in my D&D days in junior high and loved it -- the anti-hero protagonist and excessive violence were right up my alley. Then, in my 20s, I decided to re-read the series again. I was floored...by my own gullability. Was this even the same series I dug so much? The plot was still interesting, but the writing was the fantasy equivelent of Spinal Tap lyrics. Lots of "thees" and "thous" and ridiculous declarations, including the very last line of Stormbringer, which my friend Tom and I still mock. I blame my original raves solely on being brainwashed by Gary Gygax and his role playing cult.
A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island
The Onion's Our Dumb Century. It's not great literature, but I need something I can read over and over and will make me forget that I'm stuck on a desert island. You can never have enough of "Holy Shit! Man Walks on the Fucking Moon!"
A book that made me laugh
Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe. Funniest book I've ever read and a huge influence on my sense of humor. It starts over the top and never lets up.
A book that made me cry
A toss up between Of Mice and Men and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The sharp writing and powerful characters make you feel like you are there in both books, which makes the tradic endings so personal.
A book I wish I had written
Pastoralia by George Saunders. The greatest literary satirist alive right now. This is the kind of dark, clever, utterly original satire I wish I could write.
A book I wish had never been written
The Ayn Rand canon. How writing so dull, so pretentious, and so unfeeling influenced generation after generation of readers is beyond me. I'll even sacrfice the existence of Rush's 2112 if it could make Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead disappear.
A book I've been meaning to read
I have a lot on this list, but Lolita was the first that came to mind. Let's just say that I hope there are libraries in heaven or a reading room in hell, because I'll never catch up.
I'm currently reading
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. She pulls off a neat trick -- making a high school character both interesting and annoying.
Time to tag...
and of course, AG
Friday, September 01, 2006
At the concession stand, I ordered two hot dogs and two beers. "That will be four dollars," the counter clerk said.
"I'm sorry, did you get the beers?"
"Yes, sir. Two hot dogs and two beers. That's four dollars. Beers are one dollar tonight."
I almost kissed him.
The last time I ran into dollar beer was 1996, the night after I defended my master's thesis at the University of Missouri and proceeded to destroy nearly every brain cell that went into said thesis with dollar pints of Natty Light. I thought dollar beer was like two-dollar gas, a story I would pass onto my grandkids like our grandparents telling us how, back in the Depression, a nickel could buy you a drifter.
Even better, the dollar beer didn't apply to hoppy pisswater like Natty Light. You could pick from any of the standard brands -- Bud, Miller, Micheloeb. Lighter than the kind of suds I reach for normally, but for a buck, they were more than satisfactory. I even double-fisted some Budweiser Select, which was surprisingly decent.
Normally, teams don't like to mix cheap booze and sports, as things like riots tend to break out. I joked with Bob that this place would be ablaze and cars overturned by the sixth inning. Yet there was nary a fist thrown or an SUV flipped. I didn't even hear any swearing when our second baseman made an error that allowed the visitors to tie the game in the ninth. If that happened at a Cubs game these days, even the eight-year olds would be dropping a "c---sucker."
I really think if God had provided dollar beer and a polite sporting experience along with the free bread, the Hebrews would never have left the desert. And at least stuff grows in Iowa.
I managed to eat for the cycle. Here was my box score.
4 for 4
single (regular dog)
triple (jumbo dog)
double (giant pretzel with cheese)
home run (a dish of Blue Bunny ice cream that was the size of a toddler's head)
So much for putting my waistline on notice.