Friday, October 29, 2010

Change IS Happening!

Well, my newspaper may be officially endorsing Bobby Schilling... and politics deserves little place in my novelty/humor column...

But make NO mistake about it:

The Complacency Chronicles fully endorses PHIL HARE to retain his seat in Illinois' 17th District.

Phil's commitment to bringing jobs to the area is commendable. Under his tenure: the Arsenal has grown, rail service is a-comin' to town, the Triumph plant will be starting up shop, and a full-blown movie production company is coming to Rock Island. In addition, Phil's commitment to an overhaul of our national health care system will help the uninsured and poverty-stricken for YEARS to come.

Bobby Schilling doesn't support a woman's right to choose.
Bobby Schilling doesn't support stem cell research to cure disease.
Bobby Schilling doesn't care enough about gay rights or the environment to even post a platform on his web site.

Phil Hare is the right choice to continue leading our District. Please take the time to vote on Tuesday. The sanity of our country is hanging by a thread.

Monday, October 11, 2010

COLUMN: Parenting 101

Four nights a week, my girlfriend earns extra cash looking after two precocious siblings, ages 6 and 7. It's gotta be easy, right? Just put them to bed, and once those girls are asleep, you could parade a marching band through the house performing Concerto for Air Horn and Jackhammer #2 and they still wouldn't blink an eye. So my version of "come help babysit" usually involves watching a movie while listening to wee snores from the bedroom.

Not so much last week.

The 7 year old -- I'll out her because I don't really think her classmates are big fans of the Arts and Living section -- has a bit of a bladder control problem. That's why Nana always sends them with pull-up diapers for the latest in fashionable moisture-absorbing eveningwear.

On this particular night, my girlfriend had already put the 6-year-old to bed when the other one came sheepishly out of the bathroom with a big UH-OH plastered all over her face.

"Amy?" she said in her most timid voice. "I don't have a pull-up in my bag. Don't worry, I won't pee, I promise!" Uh huh. It's probably not best to trust a new mattress and sheet set to the positive thinking of a seven-year-old.

"Are you sure you don't have one?" asked Amy. "Hand me your backpack." When I heard my girlfriend gasp, I knew it couldn't be good.

"WHAT... IS... THIS?!?!"

Amy was holding a pull-up in her hands that she'd fished out of the backpack. Huzzah! Problem solved! That's when I realized that the pull-up was -- how to put this delicately -- not un-used?

I've come to learn exactly what the family dynamic will be should Amy and I ever procreate. She will be the authoritarian, disciplinarian, teacher, and mother. I will be the guy who it's fun to play video games with. This is not to say that I'm entirely incapable of parenting, but Amy is a zen master at the craft.


"I didn't put it there!"



"So you need to be honest with me. Did you put this in your bag?"




"GROSS! We're running to the store to buy pull-ups BECAUSE ONE OF US IS GROSS. Can you stay here and watch the other one? Don't let her come out of the bedroom. You'll be fine. I'll be right back."

And before I could even gulp, I was Shane Brown, Temporary Child Care Provider. Amy wasn't even out of the driveway when the crying started.

Crud! I'm already lousy at this. "Don't let her come out of the bedroom." But it's not cool to just ignore a crying child, is it? Maybe I should just be quiet and she'll fall asleep... drat.

"What's wrong, kiddo? Come out and talk to me."

"I... (sniffle)... can't... Amy would be mad!" Wow, that girlfriend of mine IS good. She can lay down the law without even being here.

"Well, umm, Amy's not here and I'm the adult, so what I say goes. And I say you can come out for a minute and tell me what's wrong."

No dice. I got up and headed into the bedroom. I'm an adult and I'm smart and I can handle a sad kid. And there she was, all puppy-eyed and sobbing.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Amy and your sister will be right back."

"I wanna go home and my sister hates me and she punches me and kicks me and pinches me and she won't play with me and I tell her I want to play and she says NO! and she has all the Barbies and she even has the new Barbie and I said can I play with the new Barbie and she says NO! and I don't know why she hates me and I hate myself."

Urgh. Think, Shane, think. You've seen pretty much every bad family sitcom. You've witnessed the Keatons, Seavers, Huxtables and Bradys handle worse messes. There has to BE some kind of sagely advice you could offer right now. Let's see...

"Well, I know that big sisters can be mean sometimes, but how would you like it if you didn't have a sister? I bet it'd be lonely, huh? I didn't have a brother OR a sister when I grew up and I was lonely all the time."

Huge lie. I LOVED being an only child. I got all the presents, all the attention, and didn't have to worry about being punched or kicked or pinched or having my Barbies stolen.

"But why does she h-h-h-hate me? I like her and I just want to play and she's always so m-m-m-mean!"

Oh man, kid, can't you cut a newbie some slack? Okay, I can do this.

"You know why some people are mean? Because they're scared that people won't like them for who they really are. Just be yourself and be proud of the girl you are, because you're really cool. If your sister's mean to you, just walk away and don't be her friend and see how she likes it when she gets lonely."

Wow. That was, like, Mr. Miyagi good, right? This parenting stuff is EASY. Any second now, she's gonna look up at me and say, "Shane, you're the best babysitter ever, and when I grow up to win the Nobel Prize, I shall thank you for being my inspiration!"

"Shane?" See, told ya. "I just wanna come out there and watch a movie."


This was pretty much the time that Amy got back. with a couple stern words, she had the girls in bed like magic.

"Let me guess," she said, "she did the crying?" Yep. "And the everyone's-mean-to-me?" Umm, yep. "I-hate-myself?" Yeah. "So-let-me-get-up- and-watch-TV?" Gulp.

"Congratulations," said Amy, "you just got played by a six-year-old con artist. Welcome to parenting."

Okay, so maybe I'm not Mr. Miyagi. And maybe I learned some newfound respect for Amy's skills and learned that 6-year-olds will say just about anything to stay up late and watch TV. But I bet with some practice, I'd be good at the dad thing. The weird thing is, I kinda wanna try.


When you're in love, sometimes it really IS just like a fairy tale. It's those moments when you catch a little look, share a crooked smile, and hear that laugh that it really hits home. Alone, you're half a person. When you're together, it just clicks and Air Supply songs start playing in your brain out of the sheer ether of love.

What follows is the story of a weekend. Not just any old weekend, mind you -- a VERY SPECIAL weekend for yours truly. Why? Because it's the first weekend in recent history that I haven't had a single thing to do. In the past decade, I can count on one hand the number of weekends I haven't had a work-related gig.

But last weekend, no gig. No family functions to attend, no friends coming in from out of town, no THING whatsoever. This, I had convinced myself, would be a weekend for the ages.

In the many, many free weekends I used to have Once Upon A Shane, I had one distinct weekend pastime. I would call up Friend Jason and together we would hit the open road. Sometimes it would start with little more than, "Hey, wanna go grab lunch?" and the next thing you knew, it was 2 a.m. and we'd be in St. Louis. Or Nebraska. Or a state park in Minnesota. Or -- in one especially botched trip -- Beloit, Wisconsin.

And oh the trouble we would get into. There was that one time when we, umm, saw a dog. Annnd, uhh, once the car got stuck in mud. And then one time we passed this guy and he totally waved at us, and, and... okay, so usually nothing at all happened on our epic roadtrips. But they WERE epic and among my favorite memories of the 20-something years.

And it was high time Amy learned. I was gonna grab her, grab Friend Jason, and kick it old school. Maybe it sounds weird to invite your best friend on a daytrip with your girlfriend, but I'd talked up our past adventures so highly that it wouldn't have been the same without him along. This was my plan. It would work. It would be epic.

"Baby?" Amy asked. Uh oh. It's only taken 1.6 years of dating to discover that "baby" is the reddest of red flags. "Baby" is never followed by "I sure do love you." No, "baby" is reserved for one purpose only: "Baby? Can we go do something you absolutely abhor for an extended amount of time?"

And this one was a doozy.

"Baby? Can we swing by the shoe store real quick? They're having a sale!"

Never fall for this again. Shoe stores are always having sales. And girls + shoe stores = nothing but trouble. But I gave in and sat there while the Parade o' Shoes came trapsing by. Shoes that, as far as I could tell, were identical and black but with varying little baubles on top of them.

"Which do you like better?" Well, shoes is shoes is shoes as far as I'm concerned. They keep your feet dry and your toes comfy. I have NEVER looked down at a girl's feet and admired their choice in shoes (except maybe Lady Gaga.)

"That's because you're not a girl, silly," Amy explained. Happily, we made it out with plenty of time to aimlessly get our drive on.

"Baby? Can we stop by my house real quick? I forgot something." Sigh. Sure, honey.

"Baby? Aren't you hungry? Can we go somewhere to eat?" Grr, but I suppose food IS a human necessity. When it comes to eating out, Amy and I have NEVER been on the same page. I prefer fast, American, and simple. She, on the other hand, goes to places like Bob's House Of Exotic Panda Curry Tofu Spicy Diarrhea Nightmare. Places where you look at your food and can't exactly ascertain what it is. She even eats (shudder) spinach.

So we compromised and I treated her to an exotic meal of worldly international cuisine. Namely, the International House of Pancakes. It would be my only victory of the weekend.

"Baby? Can we stop by the book sale at the library real quick?"

"Baby? Look! A second-hand store selling kid's clothes [despite us having no children]! Let's go look at the cute Halloween outfits!"

"Baby? Can we run over to my work real quick? I need to drop something off!"

"Baby? Can we hang out with my friend So-And-So for awhile? She's only in town for the day!"

Before I knew it, Saturday's aimless driving opportunity evaporated in a puff of Baby's. It's okay, though, I thought to myself, there's always Sunday.

"Baby?" said the voice on my phone Sunday morning. "Can we go to lunch with my mom?"

Little did I know that on Sunday, the WORLD would be my Baby. To say that the service at lunch was a little slow is like saying that Lindsay Lohan is a little crazy. I won't say where we went, but it might be a while before I take my babybackbabybackbabyback there.

Then my dad called. "Hey, ace [baby], if you're out and about, could you pick me up a tube of silicone caulk?"

Finally I had the time and opportunity to call Friend Jason and inform him as to my epic plan.

"Oh, sorry man [baby], didn't I tell you I was painting my house this weekend?" D'oh. He did. I forgot. Et tu, Amy?

"Baby? Can we just hang out here? The season premiere of "Dexter" starts soon!"

I surrendered to the gods of a sucky weekend. No aimless drive, no epic plan, I just wanted to make it through the rest of the night without one more --


Teeth clenched, blood pressure elevated. This was it, I was going to stroke out right here on my couch.

"Baby, you know what's a weird word? 'Among.' Among, among, among..."

Before I knew it, I was laughing so hard I was crying. THIS was why I fell in love with the girl. Because among IS a weird word. And because I'm dating someone who knew the EXACT moment to point it out. Suddenly it all made sense. I didn't need an epic plan or an aimless drive to have a great weekend. I just had it. I loved buying silicone - with her. I loved going to lunch - with her (and her mom!) I even loved shoe shopping - with her.

Do I hear Air Supply?

COLUMN: Lisfranc

Over the past week, I've received a ton of e-mails inquiring as to the status of My Left Foot. To this, I reply: It's a touching movie of inspiration and courage starring Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning performance. Then I realized they meant MY left foot.

A couple weeks back, I wrote about my exciting night that started with a casual stroll to the gas station and ended in a less-than-casual drive to the emergency room.

I stubbed my toe in a crack on my sidewalk and performed a rousing 360 inverted hardflip ollie into a faceplant. Except instead of a skateboard, it was my left foot that inverted and flipped hard.

Within minutes, things were turning purple and it looked like a softball was sticking out the side of my foot. At the emergency room, they immediately put my poor foot through an extensive modeling session with Mr. X-Ray and the results came back inconclusive but scary enough to cast it up and send me to yonder orthopedist in the morning.

The ortho doc took several more scantily-clad photos of my camera-shy foot and came back with a definitive conclusion of: inconclusivity. That's when I wrote my original "ow-I-hurted-my-poor-foot" column, while getting referred to the ortho FOOT specialist guy. And that's where we join the story already in progress.

The foot specialist appointment basically went like this, in a paraphras-y sorta way:

(1) "Well, it doesn't look like anything's broken."
(2) "But I'd like to do one more set of x-rays to make sure."
(3) X-Ray Modeling Session #3
(4) "Well, you're going to need surgery on this within 48 hours."

This is not at ALL what you want your friendly neighborhood orthopedic foot specialist to say. I reacted in my usual calm, cool, and collected manner of hyperventilating and nearly passing out while the doc rattled off the details of my condition. Only one thing stuck: "You have a LIZ FRANK injury."

Greeeat. Liz Frank was probably some girl who pioneered the art of walking along a sidewalk and falling on her face, and now I'm going to spend my life as Frankenfoot because of her. My mind whirled in short gasps of sanity, while the doctor by this point had pulled out a marker and was drawing on the disposable paper bedsheet exactly how he would insert any number of metal pins and doo-dads into my foot. And just for the record, there wasn't even a mention of achieving any kind of metallic superpowers.

That's when I asked what the repercussions of NOT following doctor's orders would be, and it's basically this: my foot heals on its own, albeit in a not-altogether-correct way, and this could lead to arthritis and future problems down the road. You have 48 hours to decide. Here's your parting gift of Liz Frank: The Home Game, don't let the door hit your crippled foot on the way out. Bada bing.

So I went home and did the thing they tell you absolutely never to do: Google your injury. With the power of Google, you can self-diagnose a runny nose as terminal brain-slug disease if you try hard enough. Still, I wanted to know more, so I Googled "LIZ FRANK" to see exactly what was going on underneath my swollen skin. But alas, no results other than, I kid you not, an unanswered posting in a forum from someone going, "I've just been diagnosed with a Liz Frank injury. What does this mean?"

It took me awhile to figure it out. I didn't have a Liz Frank injury. I had a Lisfranc injury, named after one Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin, the official surgeon of the Napoleonic Army. The injury occurs along something called the Lisfranc Point, which is the point where Lisfranc used to AMPUTATE the feet of people suffering from said injury. It turns out that it's a common injury for folks doing battle on horseback, who might then fall off their horse and get dragged along with their feet caught in the stirrups. For this same reason, it's a common windsurfing injury as well.

So that's my official new story: I was wind-surfing... on horseback... in combat.

As for my decision, I opted for what I'll probably one day call "the stupid route." I've elected NOT to become the owner of Robo-Foot and am instead rolling the dice of letting it heal on its own. For the next 6-8 weeks, I'll be sporting the latest in walking boot fashion and the sound of rubbing Velcro will follow me wherever I go.

I know that arthritis isn't a laughing matter - my mom's afflicted horribly and I'm sure many of you are, too. The doc said that it could pose a problem 30 years down the road, but in MY condition, I'm bound to be arthritic in 30 years time and I don't know if there's any escaping that. There were honestly many reasons why I opted out of surgery:

(1) I am a HUGE chicken.

(2) All I need to buy is a hunchback and I'm set for Halloween because I've got the Igor limp down pat now.

(3) I think it would be different if I was worried about maintaining my jogging form or making plans to conquer Everest. Let's be honest, the only mountain I plan on conquering is a Magic one next time I'm at Ross', and I don't need much in the way of fancy footwork to pull that off.

(4) Did I mention the HUGE chicken part?

But really, there was one central reason I opted out of the surgery: my weekend DJ gig. As you guys know, I've been spinning records every weekend down in the Rock Island District for the past 10 years. Over the past decade, I can count on one hand the number of weekends I've had off work. This surgery would have been required me to be out for six weeks. I couldn't do that to the club (or my pocketbook) if I didn't absolutely have to.

So last weekend I went into the club in full-on chutzpah martyr mode, hobbling all the way while my inner voice proclaimed, BEHOLD! YES, BEHOLD THE GREAT SACRIFICE I HAVE MADE FOR YOU ALL! MY FOOT MAY BE HOBBLED, BUT DANCE YOU MUST AND DANCE YOU SHALL, FOR I AM THE GREATEST DJ TO EVER LIVE! WORSHIP ME NOW!

Two days later, I got a phone call firing me from my DJ job. The owner wants to try "another direction," and apparantly it's not one directly involving a chubby hipster who may or may not be permanently crippled. A lot of my friends were goading me into turning this column into a giant attack on my former employer, but that's petty -- almost as petty as firing someone over the phone who's worked for you tirelessly for ten years, but I digress. Suffice to say, if you know the place I worked at, you will no longer find me there, and if you as an unbiased newspaper reader choose to no longer attend said establishment, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

Sooo... anybody know of any dance clubs looking to hire the toughest, meanest, most experienced and award winning DJ-slash-combat-windsurfer in town? Wheelchair ramps MIGHT one day be required.

COLUMN: Serial Killer

I was channel-flipping the other day and stumbled upon a gem from yesteryear: the under-watched Mike Myers comedy, "So I Married An Axe Murderer." In the movie, Myers plays a sad-sack type of character who finally gets lucky in love... until the evidence around him begins to suggest that his new bride may, in fact, be the axe murderer he's been reading about in the tabloids. It's a pretty fun movie, but this time, it rang a little bit close to home.

I say this because I'm pretty sure my girlfriend is a serial killer.

For the past seveighineteentwenty (cough) months now, I've been writing drippy columns about what a wonderful person Amy is and what a blessing she's been in my life yada yada. But it's becoming pretty clear to me now that my mild-mannered girlfriend is a cold-blooded killing machine heck-bent on anarchy and destruction.

I know it's hard to believe, especially since no-one's turned up missing lately -- what can I say? She must hide it pretty well. She's the most good-hearted Christian grade school teacher I've ever met. It's almost like dating Mr. Rogers, provided that Mr. Rogers was super cute and a she.

In ways, Amy is the Anti-Shane. I prefer to go the awkward hermit route when faced with the prospect of small talk with strangers. She, meanwhile, has befriended the entire block surrounding my new house, despite not actually living there. We both love our extended families dearly, but I tend to love the fact that most of mine are many, many miles away.

I can't heat up a frozen pizza without botching the whole thing up. She bakes cupcakes on almost a daily basis -- and if I try to eat one, I'll be told something like, "No! Those are for my mom's neighbor's cousin's podiatrist's daughter's friend's third-grade teacher's twice-removed cousin's niece who just had a baby!"

I write a weekly newspaper column and spend the rest of the week trying to do as little work as humanly possible. She's an educator slash child care provider slash homemaker slash house cleaner slash church teacher and she's woefully underpaid at all of them. If I'm in the middle of something, I let my calls go to voicemail. She'll spend the whole night talking any number of her friends through any number of crises.

She is the sun on a gloomy day. She is the silver lining in every cloud, the half-full glass, and the light at the end of the tunnel. Let's face it -- I'm basically dating Rainbow Brite.

At least I thought I was. That's before I learned that my namby-pamby goody-two-shoes girlfriend has a jones for the creepiest TV series out there: "Dexter." In case you haven't caught the Showtime original series, it follows the misadventures of one Dexter Morgan, crime scene investigator, forensic blood-spatter analyst... and part time serial killer. But Dexter is presented as the HERO of the show, because he only gruesomely murders baddies who skirt the law and deserve it. When it comes to truly disturbing television, "Dexter" ranks pretty high.

And the fact that Amy loves it is groovy by me. She normally shies away from any violent, risque, or off-color entertainment. My favorite shows, meanwhile, include such moralistic family fare as "True Blood," "Family Guy," and "South Park." Whereas I soak up trashy television with willful abandon and glee, normally the only thing Amy watches with glee is, well, "Glee." So it's taken me aback lately to go over to her place and, thanks to the miracle of Netflix, walk in on Dexter knee-deep in a pile of entrails.

The only simple answer is that my innocent and wide-eyed girlfriend must secretly harbor a taste for murder. I mean, Dexter comes off mild-mannered and mouse-y when he's not off being sociopathic, so it would explain Amy's normal demeanor perfectly, no? Let's review the evidence at hand:

• Serial killers often go to extremes to hide evidence of their crimes. And the more I think about it, as soon as I injured my foot, Amy was a little quick to offer to do all of my laundry. Some might think TOO quick. Could she be bleaching all of the blood off her clothes? Hiding dismembered body parts in my half-finished basement? The next time my dad asks me to lend a hand in the remodel, maybe I should just throw him a shovel and tell him there's probably LOTS of hands down there.

• Serial killers often disappear and are secretive as to their whereabouts. Many nights I'm told I can't hang out because she's "babysitting," whatever that means. Mmm hmm.

• Serial killers often torment animals. Just last night, I witnessed her threaten the life of one of my cats when she got hissed at after attempting to extricate the cat's favorite blanket to the wash.

• Serial killers are prone to sudden outbursts of aggression and hostility... and anyone who's ever ridden in a car with Little Miss Sunshine knows this to be true. Yes, that's the REAL secret o' the day: my virtuous girlfriend has horrible road rage. When I get behind the wheel, I just assume that people are dumb and are going to pull out in front of me and cut me off and generally be jerks. I know this because I'm usually one of the mindless jerks cutting people off. But if somebody cuts HER off, it's nothing less than an evil and unjust personal attack upon her freedom, and often she lets the jerk know about it. Remember earlier when I said that she's friends with ALL my neighbors? I lied. Something tells me that the woman down the street who almost accidentally backed into us the other day will not be our friend for a loooooooong time.

No worries, though. I'm sure Amy will be baking cupcakes for her soon enough... if my neighbor survives until sunrise, that is. And if my girlfriend IS a serial killer, she's still cute and she's still mine and dating a murderer is cake compared to some of my other exes. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some serious snuggling to attend to. I've only got a week 'til the new season of "Dexter" starts up...


Well, two months in and I think I'm finally getting the hang of being a homeowner. I know this because I've finally stopped driving to my old apartment complex, smacking myself in the head, and realizing that I don't live there any longer.

Otherwise, it still seems surreal. It's almost like I'm on some kind of crazy long-term vacation... and stranger still, it appears that I've invited my father along. Don't get me wrong, I am BEYOND blessed to have a dad who's willing to drive up and help finish my basement for free (and by "help," I pretty much mean "do everything while crippled Shane nurses a broken foot upstairs." His help has been awesome, and the basement is starting to look AMAZING. Man-cave, here I come.

There's just one thing that officially weirds me out about owning my own home: the bizarre silence.

My house is quiet. Like, drop-a-pin-and-you'd-hear-it kinda quiet. Some people might love this. Me? Not so much.

I always thought that my old apartment complex was rather quiet. That said, I could always count on the downstairs neighbor turning his TV up so loud that I could tell what he was watching, or the guys next door deciding that 1 a.m. on a Tuesday morning was ideal throw-a-party time, or the triple-X amorous adventures of my upstairs neighbor and The Squeakiest Bedsprings Of All Time. But I was never really bothered by any of this -- it just kind of congealed together into a pleasing little urban lullaby.

But there's no lullaby at the new house. I used to make fun of my dad for owning one of those white-noise machines that just goes "Kshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" all night long. Now I kinda get it. I'd rather hear a night's worth of kshhhhhhhing than the sound of atoms bouncing around in my brain, which is about all the new house provides.

The house is, in fact, SO quiet that when it's NOT quiet, it's heart-attack inducing. There's a walnut tree out back, and occasionally the wind and/or burgeoning squirrel populace will drop one of those puppies onto the roof with a polite little BOOMP! But that BOOMP! is enough for me to shoot out of bed in a cold sweat ready to do battle with the Bogeyman.

But there's one resident of Castle Shane who hates the quiet even worse than me: Bez, my cat.

There's no question that Bez has always been the alpha resident of our abode no matter where I live. My other cat is skittish and jumpy, but not Bez. She's the one who runs out and sizes up visitors. She's the one who determines when, where, and for how long we're privileged to pet her. She's the one who tells us when she needs food (the usual answer? NOW.) It's been made clear since Day One that she is the primary resident of the household and the rest of us are just lucky that she's agreed somewhat begrudgingly to our co-habitation.

cdklsjhf bDGHb sjjj

SEE? That was Bez, who decided that right NOW was the opportune time to hike across my laptop keyboard with absolutely NO attention to me trying to type. I'm pretty sure that's cat for "I OWN YOU, BUBBA."

But whaddaya know... it turns out my alpha cat is afraid of boom noises from the sky.

My old apartment was on the middle floor of the complex, tucked in a corner and shielded fairly well from the elements. You'd hear thunder, sure, but in a polite little "say-I-think-it-might-be-storming-out" kinda way. At my new place, between the vaulted ceilings and skylights, you don't just hear thunder -- you experience the whole storm in 3D Dolby Sensurround. The thunder doesn't go boom at my house -- it goes bbbBBOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMmmmm.

I'll admit it -- the first time a storm rolled through after I moved, it even scared ME a little bit. Instead of just having one westward-facing window, I've got windows all over the joint, and the wind rattles every one of 'em while lightning makes the skylights come to life. I was a little creeped out. Bez, on the other hand, was a few stages past that.

I discovered this when I discovered her... shivering in fear behind the toilet, going "Mroooooooooooooow! Mrooooooooooooooow! Mroooooooooooooow!" This was not a normal cat meow by any measure. No, this was an I-am-DEEPLY-concerned-about-the-happenings-outside kinda meow. My other cat, meanwhile -- whose primary role in life is to dash under the bed at the first sign of, well, anything -- sat curled up on the couch, looking at me like, "What? I like rain."

I went to the bathroom to try and calm things down. (I always wanted to say that sentence.) I tried talking to her in my best aww-wookit-da-pretty-kitty voice (and yes, all men have this voice. They just don't use it if any not-cat is around.) No dice. I tried picking her up. "Mroooooooooooooooooooow!" Nope, I still bear the claw marks to this day. I tried moving her to another room, but she just jumped down and army-crawled on her belly right back to the toilet. It was a good 4-5 hours after the storm when she finally poked her head out of the bathroom, looking for the all-clear signal.

So for the time being, NONE of us are getting sleep - me OR the cats. And I don't know any solution, other than to (a) build a machine that controls the weather (I know it's possible - I saw them do it on "General Hospital" once,) while I (b) hire people to move in and play loud TV in my basement while making babies in my loft. Maybe then I can get a decent night's sleep.


Well, it's official -- being healthy is hazardous to your health.

Let's start at the beginning. Despite my long-standing personal belief that the world revolves entirely and completely around yours truly, it turns out that my column strangely isn't considered to be one of the more newsworthy bits of your Sunday paper. Ergo, my weekly deadline to submit each column is considerably earlier than, say, reporters who get to throw around phrases like "shots fired" or "details have not yet been released." In fact, on an average week, I turn in my column some five days prior to publication.

Which brings us to last Monday. I was about halfway through one of my usual being-a-homeowner-is-wacky-fun columns when I realized my throat was dry and my fridge empty. Since the consumption of Rock Island tap water is actually considered a form of torture in many Western cultures, I decided my best bet would be to take a break and head over to the gas station.

My new house is located exactly one block away from a convenience store. I stepped outside and literally had this conversation with myself:

"Should I drive or walk over there?"
"Dunno. It's getting late."
"Ya, but it's only one block, you wuss. You need the exercise, tubby. Let's walk the thing."

Bad move.

I mean, FORTUITOUS mood. For had I not set out for the gas station on foot, I wouldn't have seen the nearby house full of innocent children and wide-eyed newborn kitties. You know, the house that was ON FIRE!

"Pleathe, mithter," screamed one innocent child and/or newborn kitty. "Pleathe help us!"

"Sure thing, kids and kitties," I replied. "Shane's here to save you all!"

For the next hour, I worked tirelessly rescuing child after kitty after child from a raging inferno, a blaze which I then put out by kicking the nozzle off a nearby fire hydrant. Sure, I may have broken a foot in the process, but that's a small price to pay for knowing that a family of children and kittens can bear witness to another sunrise thanks to me. Just don't call me a hero. My satisfaction is in a job... well... done...

You're not buying any of this, are you? Dang.

Okay, you wanna know the truth? The REAL truth? It's shocking, people. Gritty, hard news kinda stuff. You ready?


All I know is this: I was walking, and then I wasn't walking. And since I'm a perfectly coordinated muscular brute of a specimen, the ONLY rational explanation is that the sidewalk has a mind of its own and that the mind in question is clearly psychotic. It clearly tripped me on purpose.

That's when human instinct takes over -- the instinct that commands you to cover a stupid sidewalk trip by Suddenly Pretending Like You're Running And Totally Meant To Do That. So I stuck my other leg out to begin my fake-jog shuffle-step, but that just complicated matters. My legs tied up like a pretzel and I went down HARD, rolling my left foot in ways that feet don't particularly go. It was a spectacular pratfall -- had someone been filming the thing for Youtube, I would right now be as famous as Justin Bieber.

I stood up and got two steps before the pain hit. "Oww, I might have hurt my foot a little," which immediately progressed to, "OWW! OKAY, I DEFINITELY HURT MY FOOT," "OMG-A-MILLION-KNIVES-ARE-PIERCING-MY-FOOT," and, finally, "PAIN LIKE THIS HAS NEVER BEEN FELT BY HUMAN FLESH. MY FOOT MUST BE SEVERED AND DANGLING BY A MERE TENDON."

Or at least bruised really, really bad. One emergency room visit + an orthopedic follow-up and I still as of press time don't know if it's broken. It was too swollen to check for hairline fractures last week, so I've got an appointment later today for follow-up x-ray's to survey the damage.

For sure, though, it hurts. And I'm now confined to crutches and something inexplicably called a "walking boot" despite my inability to walk anywhere or boot anything. My poor foot is swelled up like a pumpkin -- if pumpkins came in a gross shade of purple. I guess it's more like an eggplant. A painful, painful eggplant. Still, it hasn't stopped me from learning a couple important things:

(1) Crutches are HARD. I'd never used them before, but they seem pretty simple -- crutch, hop, crutch, hop, right? Well, that's fine and dandy if you're crutching along a flat parking lot. But the first time I got home and faced the six steps to get to my front door? I had to stand there for five minutes and hold a quick physics refresher in my brain. Crutch first? Step with the good foot first? Hop? Cry? Eventually I gave up, sat down, and gracefully scooted on my butt up all six steps. Happily I've since figured out the mechanics of it all and can ascend and descend the stairs without pain -- not that it matters because you forget all about the foot pain when you've got two crutches digging permanent canyons into your armpits.

(2) I would make a lousy drug addict. Many of my literary heroes -- Kerouac, Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson -- wrote some of their best stuff while whacked out of their minds. I, meanwhile, take two Vicodin and can't even turn on my laptop without falling asleep. My girlfriend can attest, though, that upon leaving the emergency room, I did apparently compose a piercing and soul-searching original song entitled, as I"m told, "I've Got My Very Own Crutches And They're Neat-O." William S. Burroughs wrote "Naked Lunch" on heroin. I take a Vicodin and all I can muster is THIS column. No thanks, drugs.

But my foot will mend, and as my mom pointed out when I called her at my lowest for love and support, "You know, other people have it WAY worse! Be thankful you even HAVE feet!" Next time, I'm taking the car.