Why I Love Nicole Kidman: Part One

Since this column is rather lengthy, I have opted to divide it into two parts. Tune in on Monday for the thrilling conclusion.

I had to do some calculations the other day, wondering if I was going through a mid-life crisis. I am only 28 years old, but all of the classic symptoms are there. I am fattening up, balding, and feeling like I need to change the direction of my life. I also made a rash and entirely unnecessary purchase in an attempt to quell these feelings. That large purchase turned out to be a new shirt and some socks. Those socks, however, are just comfy enough to change my life perspective. Realizing of course that I am going through my own mid-life crisis at 28, and that in turn means that I will suffer a pre-mature death at 56, only makes me more depressed and heightens the symptoms I am suffering from. It is a vicious circle.

One thing that usually accompanies a diagnosed mid-life crisis is a return to a lifestyle and activities that were enjoyed more in one’s younger years. For many, this can be reckless drinking as when one was in college or buying a new car as one might after college, or futilely trying to find a career as one might have done immediately after buying a new car after college. For me though, college was only a few years ago. I have found myself returning to my pre-teen and early-teen years and getting into many of the habits I enjoyed then.

Of course, as a teen, I actually enjoyed very little. I was, as I still am to some degree, socially awkward. I somehow managed to avoid both being excessively picked on by the bullies and being unilaterally accepted by the popular kids. I was a nerd, but one who kept to themselves. I wrote poetry as lovelorn nerds are prone to do. I let my budding creativity bloom on the thin metal wall of my locker which I usually shared with some other socially inept dweeb. In general, the object of my poetry and my visual creations focused around one person. That person’s name is one Miss Nicole Kidman.

It is hard to describe the level of infatuation that I had with the actress Nicole Kidman. It is obviously different than the freaky stuff that a stalker would do. I didn’t have the courage to sit outside her house on cold winter nights, though it sounded like a wonderful idea. No, mine was an affection that was both pure and unadulterated. And though it makes me sound like a severely disturbed youth, I don’t regret a thing.

I think it all started when I watched the epic movie Far and Away. It may have been the first time that I saw her. I curled up on the couch in my parents’ unusually cold basement and watched as her beauty unfolded before my eyes on the choppy VHS. In later years and after several revisits to the film, I have found Nicole Kidman’s character to be entirely un-relatable and undesirable. She is a mean-spirited brat who never really corrects that character flaw. I sincerely believe that while I was watching Shannon Christie play horrifyingly “modern” piano music or nurse a wooden-bowl donning vigilante, or pluck chickens, or change dresses at such a unique angle as to just avoid seeing any nipplage, I wasn’t falling in love with the character. I was falling for the actress.

I soon did everything I could to learn everything about her. I know that though she lived most of her life in Melbourne, she was actually born in Hawaii. I know that she is 5 feet 10 and a half inches tall, which makes her a good inch and a half taller than me and three and a half inches taller than Tom Cruise, about the size of two Vienna sausages. I know that she is left-handed. I know that she is scared of butterflies. I sat at my family’s computer for hours as I slowly downloaded, bar by bar, images of the actress. I then printed these off and wallpapered my room with Nicole’s pixilated image. I convinced people to give me money for lunch at school and then I saved that money to go to the Movie Buffs up the street and rent any Nicole movies that were available. I watched everything from BMX Bandits to To Die For (Yes, Movie Buffs would let me, a fifteen year-old kid, rent several R-Rated films). Every time I cracked open the clear cover for these videos and popped it into the VCR, I knew that my heart would be held captive for at least another 90 minutes.

I began collecting magazines with Nicole on the cover. It took a lot of courage for me to go through the cashier at Ream’s to buy an issue of Cosmopolitan, but since the cashier was usually a few grades younger than myself, he was too nervous to say anything. I soon had a stack of female interest magazines in my room that would make any parent or religious leader concerned. There was usually only a six-page story regarding the actress, but I poured over every word. The featured photos generally featured Nicole in a slimming single-color dress against a fantastical backdrop either leaning against an oddly placed column or staring upside down at the camera while lying prostrate over a field of poppies. I memorized the words to the columns and each fine detail of the pictures.

The stories in these magazines usually focused on Nicole as an “up-and-coming” actress who was desperately trying to break-free from the bonds of being known as “Mrs. Tom Cruise”. As bizzare as that sounds today, with the couple being estranged and re-wed with an unshaven singer/crocodile-enthusiast and the chick from Muppets in Space, respectively, the Cruise-Kidman Dilemma was very real and very controversial. I had a contempt for Tom Cruise that is rivaled only by my hatred for the avocado and my genuine animosity towards the term “guesstimate”. I plotted ways that I could convince Nicole that I, a fifteen-year-old boy, was better for her than Tom could ever be.

My resolve was to write a book. In said book, which I would appropriately entitle “Why I Love Nicole Kidman” I would proffer my reasons to the reading public which were sure to get the attention of the actress herself. Instead of just creating a list of reasons, I started to write a semi-fictional story about a little boy’s obsession for the starlet of his dreams. I still remember incorporating into this a dream sequence that I had. It had always been my dream to kiss a girl under the Eiffel tower. In my little adolescent mind, there would be nothing so sickeningly romantic than something like that.

Since I was naturally in love with Nicole Kidman at this time, I substituted her into my dream. I took my first trip to Paris in the summer of 1995. Though I would be traveling to Europe when one of the most anticipated movie events of all time, Batman Forever, would be coming to theaters (starring Nicole Kidman as a super-sexy damsel in distress Dr. Chase Meridian), I knew it would be worth it. In my mind I had created an elaborate scenario, which would go straight into the pages of my book once realized. I left for France in the middle of June. Nicole Kidman’s 28th birthday was on June 20th. What better gift could an over-compensating husband like Tom Cruise give his wife than a whirlwind trip to the City of Lights. As I flew to Paris, this was all that I could think about. I kept looking over my shoulder for a 5 foot 10 ½ inch tall Aussie in Charles de Gaulle Airport. As I visited the Opera House, the Arc de Trimophe, and Sacre Coeur, I looked for her red hair poking over the top of the crowd of Japanese tourists. At famed museums, I marveled at the countless paintings and chiseled sculptures adorning the aisles and saw the ancient and timeless beauty in each piece that mirrored what I saw in Nicole. We ended our tour with a night-time visit to the Eiffel Tower. The date was June 20th.

Nicole by Oscar Casares

No, Eight is Not Enough

Everyone’s talking about eight babies. By now, you know the story. Crazy lady has a crazy doctor implant her with eight fetuses. She also receives a surgery to increase the amount of mammary glands on her body and install a convenient escalator in her uterus. I could care less about the controversial decisions made by the mother, who looks like she was also implanted with enough lip Botox for eight people. What I think is fascinating is the actual controversy itself. You could almost hear America’s gasp turn to a grumble as it discovered that the miraculous birth of eight living human babies was really just a genetic experiment wrapped inside a welfare embezzlement scheme. As I left the house for work this morning, Oprah sat down with the father of this extreme version of Angelina Jolie. He mumbled through what I saw of the interview and I became even further disinterested in the whole thing while my wife delved into it even deeper.

Miranda, bless her heart, loves stories like this. She is fascinated with the banal extremes of the human condition. She has wanted to watch every single story, be it an Oprah interview or a National News report about what the new mother ate for breakfast. I ask her why she is so interested in this, and she tells me that she just wants to know more about the big mystery. I personally don’t see much of a mystery. I rather see a crazy woman making a crazy decision. That is the plot that producers crave on every single reality show on television.

Speaking of reality shows and hideously oversized family units, Miranda has become attached to two other shows currently airing entitled “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “17 and Counting”. Both of these shows follow a family which has experienced a regularity of births akin to something reptilian more than mammalian. In Jon & Kate, we follow a husband and wife who bitterly resent every part of the other’s being, as they try to manage a household of a set of screaming twins and screaming and pooping sextuplets. In “17 and Counting” we watch as a fundamentalist-something family continues to exercise God’s will to create their own isolated super race of Aryan children to one day become soldiers of Armageddon. Not only that, but the very title of the show is outdated. The mom managed to have another child, which brings the final total up to 18. The child more just kind of fell out of her while she was sewing a bonnet. She didn’t even notice until Harrison Ford happened to point it out as she stood in a wooden bucket giving herself a sponge bath. But with the birth of Rachel 2 (they ran out of female Biblical names) they have cemented themselves as the type of crazies that a reality-show viewing public loves.

Both of these shows appear on the seminal cable station TLC. I knew TLC back when it stood for The Learning Channel. Coming from a poor home down by the river in Magna, I didn’t enjoy all of the luxuries and amenities such as cable television or barely adequate drinking water. My first exposure to TLC came as I stayed in my sister’s college dorm for a few days after Christmas in order to keep her company after she finished working. During the day, the television was a veritable wonderland of unexplored delights. Somewhere between trying to figure out what was so funny about “Arli$$” and learning about bands I didn’t know existed in Vh1’s “Where Are They Now?” I happened to accidentally turn to TLC. What I saw was a detailed surgical operation. There was lots of blood, gore, and fatty material, and I was a 14-year-old boy, and so I was, naturally, entirely captivated. I moved closer to the T.V. as I watched the skilled surgeons perform their incredible art. I wondered what exact type of surgery they were performing. Was it the brain? An eyeball, perhaps? Enthralled, I watched the telescopic camera pull back and show the stitches threading through the soft pinkish flesh. Then, before I knew it, the cameras were switched and I both heard and saw exactly what the operation was. They moved the patient slightly, adjusted the sheet covering the operative area, and then I heard the words that still haunt me this day;

“And now we will continue the vasectomy on the right testicle.”

I turned the television set off and curled in a fetal position in the corner of the room where my sister found me several hours later.

Disturbing as it may be, I still happened to learn something from the Learning Chanel. They later found out that they could market their programming to those people who tuned in looking for some tender loving care. And so, a new variety of show’s popped up on the schedule. A family full of midgets tries to make it in the world. Two neighbors redesign each other’s bedrooms while looking for the best possible way to turn food scraps into wall décor. An Australian chef goes to the home of the hottest woman in the supermarket and makes her and her less-filmable-of-an-appearance boyfriend a meal they won’t forget. All these shows are popular with the Lifetime TV crowd looking for a break from the based-on-a-true-story movies featuring one of the cast members from either “Growing Pains” or “Who’s the Boss” in some perilous situation at the hands of a disgruntled lover.

My wife willfully subscribes to this way of thinking. I can’t fault her too much. There is a sense of relief in watching other people who are in a much worse situation than ourselves. There is comfort in knowing that the brand of reality that makes it onto the television screen is far from the stark reality that we deal with on a daily basis. We don’t have to worry about asking a stranger to reach the baking powder on the top shelf. We don’t have to worry about the previous owners of the home we are trying to flip coming back to retrieve the black market pandas they were keeping under the floorboards. I hope to never have to appear in front of two vicious fashionistas as they criticize everything I wear in front of a circus mirror until I openly weep. We also, will never have to worry about having cameras follow around our gargantuan-sized family and divulging everything that we do in our home. We have two beautiful children and for now, that is enough. And, as far as the future is concerned, The Discovery Channel has a new program that shows all of the graphic details of various surgical procedures, some of which are, as of recent, much more appealing to a father of two like me.

Oscar the Slouch

I watched uncomfortably as the 81st Annual Academy Awards stumbled across my television screen last night. I have always loved the Oscars because I have always loved movies. Even though many of the greatest movies ever made have never been recognized by the Academy, it feels like it is an official validation of movies as an art form. I love the idea that art can be something as approachable as a 90-minute movie. It is a somewhat less desirable idea that a man best known for playing a superhero with retractable claw-blades can present awards for these films while singing off-key in a top hat. Art.

The 81st edition of this elaborate dress competition started off in an amusing fashion. Tim Gunn lispingly interviewed celebrities as they scuttled their way down the red carpet in dresses that more closely resembled an accessory in a Houdini performance, if Houdini had cleavage. He showered praises on one woman after the other, including telling Marissa Tomei, who appeared gratuitously naked in The Wrestler, that he loved seeing her with her clothes on. Gay or not, that is impossible. Tim was faking it. I also loved how star struck he was with Brad Pitt and Angelina, and only bothered them to tell them how beautiful they were. After they thanked him, he squealed like a 7-year-old girl in pigtails and hopped up and down in one spot until the camera cut away to someone else interviewing Frankie Muniz.

The ceremony was filled with moderately interesting events. Sean Penn scared me almost as much as Mickey Rourke would have if he won. Sophia Loren, bless her heart, looked like a robot made of melting waxy flesh which was originally meant to look like an aged and abused Hungarian prostitute. Christopher Walken and Whoopi Goldberg proved that, to present a major award, one need not be relevant, sober, or non-offensive to look upon. And the host of the show, Hugh Jackman, showed that you do not have to be a comedian to make horrible jokes and display your uncomfortable lack of talent in front of a quickly diminishing worldwide audience.

When I was younger, I looked at these awards as a beacon of what movies were actually good movies. I printed a list off of all of the movies that were nominated since the founding of the Academy. I took this list with me to the library which, just so you pubescent boys out there know, has a wide array of R-rated movies available to you if you are willing to lie about your age to get a library card. I checked out these movies five at a time and watched them between the hours immediately after school and immediately before school started the next day. I suffered from insomnia sometime around my Sophomore and Junior year of High School. Though my grades and my mental stability suffered, I was grateful for that time as it allowed me to see nearly all of the movies on my list, having been granted the opportunity to fill up the time I would usually waste restoring my body’s necessary functions through sleep.

Come to think of it, I am not sure if I watched all of the movies because I wasn’t able to sleep or whether I wasn’t able to sleep because I watched all of the movies. There has been some crazy stuff nominated for best picture in the past. I remember watching The Deer Hunter at the tender age of 16. I sat through the first three hours of the movie which consisted of an elaborate wedding party filmed in real time. The wedding was then rudely interrupted by a scene of Robert DeNiro burning innocent Vietnamese villagers alive with a flame-thrower in their rice paddy. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for you or anything, but a lot of people get shot in the head. That is kind of the leitmotif of the film. And you don’t see that little James Bond-ish black bullet mark in the forehead before they amusingly fall to the floor. No, as the captured soldiers play Russian Roulette in a Vietcong tree-house prison, the eventual loser’s head turns into a water-willy sprinkler full of V8.

If the gratuitous amount of blood wasn’t enough to get me off of the R-rated fare, surely Stanley Kubrick would be able to contribute. I am still not sure what the plot to A Clockwork Orange happened to be. As far as I can recall, a thug with eye-liner in some not-so-distant British future beats a woman to death with a sculptured phallus and is then rehabilitated by having his eyelids peeled back so he can be subjected to videotape of unspeakable acts shown on a continuously looping reel. I think I may have actually vomited somewhere in the course of this movie. Thank you Mr. Kubrick; not only did you destroy my allure for Nicole Kidman (blog entry forthcoming!) and add to my increasing distrust of anyone named Hal, you caused a teenage boy to suffer from insomnia, which, truth be told, was preferable to the incessant nightmares involving Malcolm MacDonald.

These two were not the only Oscar nominees that have haunted my thoughts and skewed my moral compass. I remember how refreshing it was to hear the three lines of dialogue in Platoon that did not include a conjugated form of the F-word. I remember regretting my choice of beef jerky as a movie snack while watching The Silence of the Lambs. It wasn’t much of a game, but I definitely was crying after 72 minutes into The Crying Game. I had to endure watching Gwenyth Paltrow go bare-breasted in Shakespeare in Love while sitting next to both of my parents. I had to watch Chariots of Fire; nothing particularly traumatic about that except for having to endure the movie itself.

Sitting in front of the television Sunday night while my wife and children had already gone to sleep, I thought about these past experiences with the man they call Oscar. Yes, I have seen some horrific fare in my quest to absorb all knowledge concerning film, but I was also able to see some wonderful movies. The point is that even through the trauma of those years of my life, at least I was able to see some movies. I can quickly glance over a timeline of my life and measure the years by how many movies I watched. My peak, of course, was during my insomniac years where I gave Roger Ebert a run for his money—watching nearly ten films a week. During college, I would frequent the theater at least once a week and the guy behind the counter at Blockbuster knew my name. I started dating Miranda and my theater attendance slid a bit as most of our time was spent at restaurants and discussing if we were actually dating (blog forthcoming on this one too). We wed and I rarely went to the theater anymore, but I still befriended the patrons of the local video store. We then had children which has forever doomed me to only watching the first 20 minutes of a random animated film before my son begins to cry in fear and the occasional Redbox film that I end up paying seven dollars for the 15 minute increments in which I view the movie throughout the week. So, as I watched the Oscars now, I realized that I had only seen about three of the 40+ films that were nominated. For someone who used to watch nominated movies religiously, this was a definite low-point in my quest for movie-buffdom.

My head was filled with these thoughts as I slowly slipped into a deep and peaceful sleep right there on the couch just before the Best Picture nominees were announced. I am now insomnia-free and my dreams are no longer filled with cockney futuristic thugs or tortured Vietnamese children or even Gwenyth Paltrow’s breasts. I have come to enjoy the insomnia-free dreams that I now have between the hours of falling asleep in front of the TV and waking up to comfort one of my children crying in the middle of the night. These dreams usually involve talking cartoonish elephants, but they are much better than the mumbling horribly-disfigured Elephant Man.

Choose Your Own Blog-venture

As a way to survey what my vast reading audience would like to see from me, I wanted to send out an invitation. Comment on this posting and let me know what you would like me to talk about. Whether it is a deep dark secret from my past or some annoyingly current event, give me an inclining of what you want to hear. I'll give you 20 seconds to think about it. Go.

Sporty Spice

I have an interesting relationship with sports and sports-centric activities. I love sports, but perhaps not as much as some other men who might happen to have more testosterone coursing through their person. I enjoy watching a game where my favorite team is playing, but I have a very difficult time focusing when there are two teams that I know and care nothing about. I would rather watch Nigella Lawson making bread pudding on the Food Network than subject myself to lame catch-phrases that come out of the sports anchors’ mouths. “He catches the ball and then catches a ride on the greasy ferret all the way to Albuquerque.” “Sweet lipo burgers, he’s good at that, Bob!”

I have a complicated affiliation with the teams that have come to be known as my favorites. On a collegiate level, I grew up as a BYU Cougar fan. It was, after all where my parents and my two sisters attended. It was also where I would eventually graduate, more out of a feeling of familial loyalty then from a love of the ultra-conservative mandate which forced professors to tie every subject, from Anatomy to Modern Film Noir, back to a gospel principle. Though I did enjoy the roughly cut films shown at the International Cinema, I could never stomach going to the football games. I had few (no) friends at college, at the thought of painting my face blue and white and screaming at a referee as if he could hear me while surrounded by strangers questioning my loyalty to the team, and hence to the church, did not sound like fun. I preferred to stay in my closet-sized dorm room playing Unreal Tournament and sobbing in my flannel sheets.

I always loved the Utah Jazz, but only because they are really the only claim on professional sports that we can make as a state. Sometime around fourth grade, I realized that in order to fit in with the other sports enthusiasts, I would have to quickly find some teams to call my own. I chose the Green Bay Packers for two perfectly logical reasons; they were they only NFL team to feature a single letter on their helmets and they came from a town, not a city, with the same population as mine. In baseball, I chose the Detroit Tigers because I had more cards from them in my Topps ’89 deck than any other team. I picked the Chicago Blackhawks in hockey, even though I knew nothing more about hockey than the fact that it was played on ice, apparently to complete the triumvirate of Northern Mid-West towns. I was very logical like that as a child.

I suffer from the same logic today, as a matter of fact, which is exactly what is preventing me from watching any sporting events at all. I still hold on to a few allegiances that I had growing up. I still claim to be a Packer fan, though I cannot for the life of me name more than three players on the entire team. This year, there was a lot of controversy surrounding my beloved Pack. Brett Favre, the hero of the town and the man once nominated for the most influential person of the last 100 years (placed just below Nelson Mandela and just above FDR) came out of retirement and cried and stomped his feet until he was traded to New York for a sack of Doritos. The new quarterback, whatever his name is, was primed to prove his mettle. I was so excited to watch as much football as humanly possible this year, that I cleared extra space on my DVR each week to watch it. For me, the logic of the DVR, once thought as a blessing for sports watching, has entirely killed sports for me. I recorded the first game and was able to fast forward the commercials. On week two, I found out that my 30 second commercial fast-forward worked perfectly if I pressed it just after one play so that the action would resume at the start of the next. By week three, I watched the opening drive and then fast-forwarded to the final minute or two. It then occurred to me that I could record Sports Center and just get the final score the next morning. The Sports Center was fueled with far two many spastic “He - Could – Go – All – The – Way!”’s (even though the announcer knew perfectly well that the player on the highlight reel would, in fact, go all the way) for me to handle. I eventually figured that I would see how the Packers did during the season by whether or not they made it into the Super Bowl.

The fun and fandom of sporting events does not hold the same weight as it once did in my youth. I remember watching basketball when the legends played. I remember Michael Jordan’s trailing tongue and Larry Bird’s sky hook. I remember when Magic Johnson used his magic on the court instead of to stay alive warding off AIDS. I remember when the latest basketball game for Nintendo featured two unnamed players on a total of four teams. In that age, you didn’t need any more than four teams. Those were the only ones that mattered. As I aged and my Wheaties box heroes retired, I lost interest in the string of players that would follow in their footsteps. They seemed far too flashy, what with their corn-rows and fancy shiny sneakers. When Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic broke a backboard while playing a game against the Phoenix Suns, I knew it was symbolic of the age of legends being destroyed and the ushering in of a new age of hype.

Having nothing else on television to watch, I happened to TiVo the NBA All-Star Game on TNT Sunday night. I knew that I would end up fast forwarding to the end of it all, but I thought it would be interesting to see how many of the players I could actually recognize after so many years of casual viewership. The line-ups were brought out and I recognized a few names. Then, they introduced the backboard-breaking man himself; Shaq. All of the other players managed to step into the spotlight, offer a half-hearted wave to the crowd, and then slap the hands of the players on their team, ever so gently so as not to sustain an injury. Shaq, on the other hand, emerged with a white mask on and began to perform… well, I am not sure just what it was exactly. It seemed like a disturbing re-enactment of a scene from Eyes Wide Shut. The… um, let’s just call it a “dance”, was performed in the midst of a group of masked individuals who call themselves the JabbaWockeeZ. You may recognize them from Gatorade commercials or from your recent dabbling with the occult. The “dance” continued, with lots of mime-esque hand gestures, until it got painfully uncomfortable, not just awkwardly disturbing. The cameras had to cut away and the starting lineups were introduced- all of whom had looks on their faces as if they had just seen an illegal act between a costumed man and a colony of lemurs.

The game continued and somebody won. My recording stopped about half an hour before the end of the game and I didn’t bother to look up the score elsewhere. I did find out that Shaquille O’Neal shared the MVP award with Kobe Bryant, mostly because people were nervous as to what he would do if he didn’t get it. Through it all, I realized what I have missed in my sojourn from professional sports. It’s not the thrill of competition or the frantic prayers that your favorite team would crush the opponent, or even the hours spent on a couch eating various parts of a pig It's the spice that sports bring; you never know what will happen. It took a Super Bowl for millions of adolescent teen boys to see a nipple on live, free TV. Aside from "perks" like these, I have missed the sensationalism that comes from watching outright celebrities perform athletic feats in front of a national audience. After all these years, I can still remember the shock of the announcers as Shaq landed on the court with shattered glass raining over his head. I can remember Michael Jordan performing maneuvers with the ball in mid-flight as if he were a floating astronaut performing anti-gravity experimentation. I can still see Brett Favre throwing touchdowns to win the Super Bowl after battling his addiction to pain killers. This was, and still is, entertainment in its purest form. But then again, so is Nigella Lawson licking the spoon while preparing crumpets. That could be a sport.

Get Down with the Sickness

You turn off the music at the bottom of the page, if you feel the need.

On Sunday night, I settled myself in on the living room couch that had been hastily converted into a sickbed for the evening. I nursed the sliver that remained from the Sucrets I had been sucking on for half an hour and I labored with every swallow of its cherry-numbing goodness. The joints in my knees ached as I brought them in closer to my torso, trying to preserve the warmth that I knew would seem lost if my 103 degree fever were to return in the middle of the night. I flipped on the television and squinted my eyes as its ever-glowing aura lit the room. I was too tired and probably too drugged-up to watch anything that required more brain activity than keeping my eyelids a third of the way open.

I turned through the stations until I unwittingly fell upon one of Spike TV's testosterone fueled and male-enhancement sponsored programs. This one was called "1000 Ways To Die". It essentially re-enacted real-life events that ended up in the most bizarre and horrific real-death events. I watched with bemused fascination as the cavalcade of atrocities unfolded before my eyes and the show proved to me that death was lurking around every simple daily routine. A woman removing her heels while walking down the sidewalk happened to step into a puddle which happened to also be host to a downed power line. A lizard and insect lover is bitten by his pet Black Widow and manages to free his lovelies just before he passes out and eventually dies. "When the paramedics arrived weeks later, they found his final act of love was offering his own flesh to be devoured by the pets he cared for. His body was nearly completely devoured." Putting the oxymoron aside, I found myself wondering what kind of segment they would do on me when I finally died of the wretched disease I was battling. The question was no longer when the illness would pass, it was what the paramedics would say in the re-enactment.

It all began on Thursday. The day was off to its normal start. I took my haphazardly sleeping infant downstairs at 3:30 in the morning and watched some television as I held him in my arms. At about 5:45, I heard my wife rustling out of bed. I was faced with a number of extremely important deadlines at work, and we had talked about how the earlier that I could leave for work, the better. I figured she was generously going to relieve me of my baby-holding duties so I could be off to work. I heard her scamper down the stairs and then heard the moans coming from her darkened silhouette.

"Honey, I don't feel good."

"Well, go up and lay down then Miranda."

"No, I feel sick"

"Then go and lay down in bed." (I labored at keeping my voice somewhat whispered as my son was still, gratefully, sleeping.)

"I think I am going to throw-up"

Now, I could write an entire article alone about how I have had to deal with Miranda's vomiting in the past. Suffice it to say that I wanted to keep our carpet for at least another few months.

"Then GO to the BATHroom, MirANda!"

"Um, I think I am going to pass out."

At this, I rushed over to her at the stairs and tried with my free arm to support her and give her more encouragement to return to her bed. With one single groan, I felt the weight of her body collapse into my arm (yes, arm) as I stood four stairs below her and with a still sleeping child. I yelled to try to wake her, but only succeeded in waking the baby. With the surge of adrenaline that firefighters and heroin addicts know, I managed to pick up my wife's limp body and haul it over to the couch. I placed her there tentatively so that I could put the baby down on the loveseat. Little Isaac promptly awoke and stared over at the scene as if to say, “What the eff is going on here.” Meanwhile, Miranda managed to slouch off the couch and bang her forehead against the armrest. I hoisted her back up and slapped her cheek, somewhat gently, until she woke up and uttered the line I hear like a Gregorian chant every time she has fallen ill during our life together. “I don’t feeeeeel good.”

Miranda rested and I spent the day trying to care for our two children and Miranda in her sickened stupor, which equates to a total of about five children. As I ran up and down the stairs to attend to any and all needs, I eventually began to feel the light-headed uneasiness that accompanies a forthcoming illness in myself. By that evening, I was hauling the car seat with a sleeping child upstairs, trying to convince Zachary that sleeping is a necessary human function he should try out sometime, and alternating between placing the strata of 14 blankets on top of my feverish wife and removing them. I went to bed that night next to the radiated heat coming from Miranda and felt my body slowly fall into the oncoming sickness and my mind spinning about how I was going to recover so I could make those deadlines at work.

Friday came and the sickness continued. I took my wife to the doctor where they shoved a stick down her throat and determined it was, in fact, the dreaded Strep. We returned home and suffered through the day. I managed to leave my kids with family and come to work so I could frantically perform eight hours of crucial editing work in about 45 feverish minutes. That night, our home was something out of a movie about Russian gulags or an after-school anti-drug special. With both my wife and I contracting fevers of 103 degrees, we took turns getting out of bed to comfort a crying baby, all while haplessly careening into the walls and sometimes collapsing to the floor with moans of agony and pleas to whatever deities would listen to us to just take the pain away.

The next day, I summoned the strength to take my children to the doctor. We had been worried about them since they had a cough and congestion respectively. Though their symptoms were fairly minor, living in the veritable leaper colony that our home was swiftly becoming increased our concern in their behalf. The doctor told us that Zachary had nothing more than a mild cold and a penchant for eating wooden tongue-depressors (as he slobberingly attempted doing just that). Isaac, on the other hand, was diagnosed with RSV, a disease that I had equated with instant baby petrifaction. The doctor informed me that it was actually a mild case and that a humidifier and some Pedyalite should clear things up.
I took the children home while alternating the car’s air-conditioning between frigid and scorching.

On Sunday, after waking up with the feeling that a small gerbil was unsuccessfully trying to dislodge itself from my larynx, I decided to go to the doctor myself. I waited in the lobby with the refuse of the ill and ill-tempered of society for about 45 minutes. The nurse took me in and, with her cheery, chubby smile, attempted to scrape the flesh from the interior of my throat to check for Strep. I don’t know if it was the gerbil feeling that his territory was being threatened, but the nurse nearly had my gag-reflex vomit all over her scrubs as opposed to the suspiciously out-of-season pattern of pumpkins and fall leaves.

I left the InstaCare, curiously pondering the merits of either part of the institution’s name, with a prescription for antibiotics. As the day progressed. my wife began rising, like Lazarus, from her bed still covered in various scraps and dressings. My children laughed and cried as they were regularly wont to do. I even started to feel slightly better, though I was still uncomfortably weak. My work did not get done, but the weight of the burden of writing stories to hock nutritional supplements seemed lighter than that of caring for myself and my ailing kin. That night, I lay down on the couch in order for my infected sinuses to drain properly and turned on the television to whatever I could find. “1000 Ways to Die”. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched the animated representation of how snake venom can cause instant paralysis in the human body, if there were any more impressive ways to die than with a sinus infection. There were definitely plenty, and many were even more desirable, but for that moment, I was content to wait for my recovery under a heap of blankets, listening to the din of my infected child crying and my bemoaning wife attending to him in the night.

After all, the next program on Spike TV was “MANswers”, which would finally answer the age-old question of how many farts it would take to fill up a zeppelin. This was something me and Mr. Squiggles, my newfound pet gerbil, had to stick around and see.

Grabbing Bawls

Things have been a little busy for the past few days, and though I have quite a few columns in the works, I thought I would post a classic for your reading pleasure today. This was written in July 2006. I was at a job where I delivered bread at 2 in the morning and it was composed only about a month after my first son was born. So, I ask you to have pity for my situation. Enjoy and check back for a new entry soon.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I don't know who it was that ever said that, but we must share some sort of kinship borne of a surplus of those drastic times. These words came into my head as I stood in front of the beverage section at the local grocery store and tried to make my choice of over 67 different kinds of energy drinks. The 67 is an actual number, not one of my usual gross exaggerations. I looked ahead of me at the wide array of 67 ways to get jacked up in a hurry. I chose Bawls.

I don't know why I chose Bawls. Perhaps it was the fact that it seemed to be the least covert with its sexual undertones. The various and sundry labels of its peers read like a veritable letter to Penthouse Forum: Full Throttle, Max Velocity, Von Dutch, Blox, MDX, Vault. "I never thought I would tell anyone this, but one day, my girlfriend came over, completely unexpected, and we had Socko." Bawls, in its simple blue glass bottle with a delicate ribbed design (for my drinking pleasure, of course) was today's phallus of choice. After getting very little to no sleep the previous night and having the added stress of controlling what is being referred to as a mouse "epidemic" in our house, I knew what I needed for this rough morning at work was Bawls.

After the embarrassment of having to buy my Bawls at the checkout counter, I took it back to my work truck. Just before opening it, I wondered to myself just what exactly Bawls would taste like. It claims to be a beverage of guarana, a fruit, vegetable, herb, or animal that is yet to be discovered by the general populous. As I turned the Bawls over in my hand, the back label mentioned something about how it could potentially kill me. Any beverage that has to have a warning label on it is the exact beverage that I need at 4 in the morning.

The surge in popularity of energy drinks over the past few years has been less staggering as it has been frighteningly alert and jittery. Many of these products advertise their comparison to coffee, as per the caffeine level. I find it quite brazen that a beverage that costs $2.79 a can and tastes like the fermented urine of a spider monkey would advertise against a beverage that costs a nickel and tastes decidedly less like animal waste. Why would people just not drink coffee. Here in Utah, a large percentage of the population adhere to the Word of Wisdom, issued by a prophet, which expressly prohibits drinking coffee. These adherents, however, not finding the word Bawls anywhere in the list of don'ts are a prime audience for this caffeinated pleasure. And I am among their ranks.

I heard the gentle fizzing sound rising up from my Bawls as I took the first sip. Essentially, what I got was soda water with a double shot of caffeine and a hint of what can safely be assumed is pineapple, not guarana (indigenous Brazilian for "Sucka!"). But it seemed exotic enough and did the trick, allowing me to stay awake through the rest of my hellish work day. I took the Bawls from my mouth and thought about the Betel nuts I had read about in National Geographic a few weeks earlier. The Betel nut is a popularly vended item in the streets of Thailand and a favorite amongst businessmen and students. The fleshy inside of these nuts contains a strong stimulant and its users love the long-lasting energizing effects. I honestly felt excited about this wonderful, natural product and wondered how I could get my hands on a bushel or two. Reading on, I found that they were highly carcinogenic, ten times worse then nicotine. They are one of the most highly addictive products known and their trademark side-effect is to increase dramatically the discharge of the users saliva and stain the issuing flow a bright red color. Disturbing, yes, and understandably somewhat undesirable. But how could we figure out how to get the nut into some type of beverage and sell it here in the states. There would have to be a great demand for it. We could place it on the shelf directly between the Jolt and the Volt. Maybe we could call it Pelvic Thrust.

Actually, no, I've got it. We just call it "Nuts."