Having Thanksgiving For Christmas

Dawn writes over at Tales From The Motherland.  She decided to list 50 things she’s thankful for in ten minutes or less.  I wouldn’t have known about it, but Darla at She’s A Maineiac and Susie at Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride both decided to do it too.  I foolishly got sucked into the feel-good blog party of the holiday season.  If you have any idea as to the writing prowess and massive followings that Susie and Darla have, you’ll understand why I’m second guessing myself.

I wrote the list in ten minutes, but then took the liberty of going back to clarify what the hell I was talking about.  If you’re in a rush, you can skip the why’s and wherefores and just read the underlined, numbered answers.

1. Family – they’ve tolerated me this long….they’re stuck with me now.  Many of them have figured out that you can’t run away from DNA.
2. Friends – I have a few old ones and a few new ones.  I try to keep the good ones and dump the fair weather variety, but sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s who until you get some crappy weather.

No fair weather friends in this shot, all legit.
No fair weather friends in this shot, all legit.

3.Potential – things can always change.  Any life situation has potential to morph into a better or worse version, so I’ll hope and work for the better and try to avoid the worse.  Feel free to post that on your Facebook page with a picture of a sunset.
4. Health – I’m not exactly the spry stud I used to be, but I’m still on the right side of the dirt.
5. Humor – I like to believe that I have a good sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself.  I know for a fact that I have the ability to laugh at others.
6. The chance to make a difference – I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not Mother Teresa, but I like to believe that I’m able to make a little difference in peoples’ lives, and that means an awful lot.
7. Perspective – Hey, it’s in the name of my blog, I’m not passing up free advertising.  Perspective gives me the ability to see things for what they are, and given enough time and clarity, to move beyond the fertilizer and appreciate the flowers.

Lucy insisted I use this shot, as the newer ones show too much of her white muzzle. She's very sensitive about looking so elderly.
Lucy insisted I use this shot, as the newer ones show too much of her white muzzle. She’s very sensitive about looking so elderly.

8. Lucy the dog – She keeps me company when I’m raking leaves and shoveling snow.  She protects my house from skunks and squirrels.  Lucy has left me in the dust in the going gray competition, but I still reign supreme in the baldness category.
9. Time to fix things – Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I feel like I still have the time to fix things.  I can still talk, and listen, and with enough humility, figure out where I’ve gone wrong and do something about it.
10. A chance to savor things – I’m learning to see the value in things.  To take the time to accept the impermanence of perfection.
11. Food, glorious food – My love affair with delicious, wonderful food continues barreling forward despite my growing waistline and skyrocketing cholesterol levels.  Be that as it may, food is best washed down with….
12. Beer – Frosties, tall cold ones, pints, growlers, kegs, brews, suds, ales, lagers, porters, stouts, imperial India Pale Ales, sessions, the list goes on and on.  I’ve finally entered the world of brewing my own.  My abilities as a brewer still lag miles behind my oh-so-refined palate, but I’m working on it.

I'm not thankful fir Kim Kardashian, but she's got her fanny perched on the rim of a glass of an incredible beer, and I'm too much of a gentleman to ask her to move.
I’m not thankful for Kim Kardashian, but she’s got her fanny perched on the rim of a glass of an incredible beer, and I’m too much of a gentleman to ask her to move.

13. Vodka – Yes, I drink vodka too.  I’ll let you know if I start working on distilling.
14. Tequila – Give me a short, neat glass of reposado and let me enjoy the peppery aromas, the sweetness of the first sip, the smooth warmth across my chest as I swallow.  I’m not sure if I need an intervention or a cold shower.

Some might see this bottle as half full, while others would see it as half empty. I choose to see it as all mine.
Some might see this bottle as half full, while others would see it as half empty. I choose to see it as all mine.

15. Blogging – The readers, the writers, the commenters, the strange, dynamic community of people I’ve never met in real life, but care for just the same.  Actually, I did meet one of you, and that’s part of the reason she gets to be called “Darling”.
16. Donald Trump – He keeps me on my toes.  He reminds me of everything that’s wrong with the country.  He helps me to understand how “The Love Boat” was ever the top rated show ion TV.  He also keeps me guessing about that orange fiberglass comb-over.
17. Internet access – Like many things I’m thankful for, I don’t truly value it until it’s gone.  Luckily for me, my home internet service is sporadically provided for a fee by the good folks at Comcast, so I get to appreciate it several times a week.
18. The off switches on my TV, computer and cell phone – These switches are wonderful, yet often over-looked in their functionality.
19. The hope that someday I learn how to use them – Just because I know the whereabouts of those may power switches, doesn’t man I know how to use them – but I’m hopeful I’ll learn someday.
20. The chance that there’s an off switch on my brain – I’ve been dabbling with meditation and trying to sleep at night without the use of prescription meds or excessive amounts of beer, vodka or tequila.  If I can shut my brain off, I think I could really gain clarity (or at least stop dreaming about people in donkey masks).
21. Scrapple– I just realized that if I think about certain processed pork products, my brain actually does shut off for a minute.  Mmmm…scrapple.

I snagged her when I was young and charming. She didn't stand a chance.
I snagged her when I was young and charming. She didn’t stand a chance.

22. My Lovely, Long-Suffering Wife –  I know I already covered friends and family, but my wife is in a category all her own.  If she actually reads this post, she’ll likely appreciate getting the props she deserves, (but she’ll also likely have a problem with coming after scrapple).  It’s not a ranking, Sweetie!23. My memory – I forgot why I wrote this one.  I had something really funny or beautiful or deep to write about my memory, but I’ll be damned if I can think of what it was.
24. Podcasts – I love me some podcasts.  I’m sick and tired of the massive library of music available to me in my car, but the podcasts rarely disappoint.  I started with Serial, and I’ve become a loyal follower of Joe Rogan and a few others.
25. Sarcasm – It’s in my veins, and without it, I’d be even more shriveled up and sad looking.
26. Beauty – I don’t really possess much of it, but I’m surrounded by it.  You should see my wife – Yowza!

There she is, relaxing in a tub.
There she is, relaxing in a tub.

27. People with bad taste – Bad taste is critical for those of us with impeccable taste.  Without bad taste, we’d all be the same, and that would make it tough for me to feel superior to others.

Smooth as a baby's ass, but nowhere nearly as fragrant.
Smooth as a baby’s ass, but nowhere near as fragrant.

28. Male pattern baldness – Without male pattern baldness, I’d have to struggle for hours teasing, combing and applying any number of expensive, potentially carcinogenic products to my luxurious mane before leaving the house every morning.  My lack of hair also exposes my glorious, smooth scalp to the world.  It’s okay to stare.
29. Disc Golf – My son, who I’m already thankful for in both the family and friend categories, has turned me on to the game.  Unlike traditional golf, the courses are largely free, the equipment is inexpensive and there is no use of little electric carts.  Even if you suck, and I do, it’s still a nice walk in the woods.
30. John Lee Hooker – I’m not always as thankful for John Lee as I should be, but I had some blues on while I typed that, and it seemed like a tip of the hat was in order.
31. Seat warmers – My car has seat warmers.  I once thought it was the silliest, most frivolous option one could get in a car, but as winter looms, my tender cheeks look forward to that warm embrace.

32. Grandkids – These things are great!  Mine are fun and come in handy, like when I need a smile or someone to bring me another beer.

Listen to me, child! Drop that stinky sandal and fetch Pappy another IPA. Chop Chop!
Listen to me, child! Drop that stinky sandal and fetch Pappy another IPA. Chop Chop!

33. Coworkers who see what I see – Sometimes work can provide you with such surreal things that you cannot believe your eyes.  Were it not for my colleagues, I might just chalk some of this stuff up to hallucinations.
34. Coworkers who don’t see what I see – This crew is important to me too.  I need to realize how clueless some folks can be while still leading productive, normal lives.
35. Cell phone cameras – Without cell phone cameras, we’d all be at the Fotomat booth down in the Shop N Save parking lot waiting for our prints so we could go to the post office and mail them to Instagram.
36. Ice makers – This one might be a little bit of a reach.  To be honest, I’m pretty good at pouring water into ice trays then popping the cubes out just 12 hours later.
37. Comingled recycling – When I was a kid, we just threw everything away.  Then we started recycling and trash got complicated.  The were bundles of newspaper in one spot, cans over there and bottles in yet another location.  Thanks to advances in sorting technology, we can just about throw all our crap in one place again!
38. “Fargo” – I’m so very thankful for this “place”.  The movie and TV shows have showcased actors who transcended everything else I’ve ever seen them in.  It’s the best show on TV and I cannot get enough of it.  I’m supremely bummed that it just ended, but I’m confident that there’s more coming.
39. The magic of self-editing special memories – This may or may not be the memory thought I had back on number 23.  I’m truly thankful that my memory is able to save precious points in my life while smoothly leaving out icky little details which could take away from the poignancy of the moment.
40. This is harder than it looks – That’s not really something I’m thankful for, but it’s the truth.

Soft Serve 365 days a year.
Soft Serve 365 days a year.

41. The Garden State – I’m thankful for Jersey.  You got a problem with that?

42. New family – I’m getting new family all the time.  A kid gets married – Boom!  Instant crew of aunts and uncles and one or two funny looking nephews.  Unlike old family members, I get a grace period in which to learn names.

Technically, this pic includes family friends and even a couple of grandkids.
Technically, this pic includes new family, old family, friends and even a couple of grandkids.

43. Cat-like reflexes – Were it not for my cat-like reflexes, I might not be here today.  Just the other day I fell over a log while disc golfing and nearly brained myself.  Sadly, the reflexes did me little good, since I was unable to rotate my body one way and my tail in the other, since, you know, I have no tail.

Don't be a hater.
Don’t be a hater.

44. Incredible good looks – I realize that I noted earlier that I possess no beauty, but many people will testify that I am ruggedly handsome.  While my good looks are not of much value in and of themselves, they do occasionally provide me with a few extra seconds to come up with an answer, while the person asking the question is mesmerized by my chiseled cheek bones and dreamy eyes.
45. Delusional thoughts – See number 44 above.
46. 10 fingers, 10 toes – Not only was I born with a full complement of digits, I still have all of them left, ever after more than a century of slamming car doors, operating power tools and flipping people off.
47. Boxer briefs – A man of my years can truly appreciate the winning combination of support, fashionable appearance and upper thigh coverage
48. The clearance section – Not only does the clearance section give me the best value for my shopping dollar, it also provides me with the best place to look for my wife when I’m lost in the store.
50. Shitty counting skills – …and we’re done.


Back in the days of semi-adulthood, after college but before having kids of our own, quite a few of my peers went to “therapy”.  Maybe it was a New York or an L.A. thing, or perhaps it was a rite of passage.  For whatever reasons, I never partook.

From what I heard about it, the big breakthrough that these people got from the therapists’ couches wasn’t particularly shocking.  The young women learned that the seeds of all their “issues” were sown by their mothers.  The men found out that all of their baggage came from dear old Dad.

I’m sure that my naive synopsis shortchanged the practitioners of psycho-therapy by quite a few doubloons.  At the time though, it seemed silly to hire some therapist to give me a pearl of wisdom which my friends had already paid for and leaked to me for free.  Besides, even without the second-hand head-shrinking, I would have likely named my father as the prime suspect. He’d been there from the start, after all, and I’d watched his every move.  Regardless, I didn’t need therapy, because I was certain that I was a well adjusted, sane person – or so I thought.

You could dress us up, but...
You could dress us up, but…

When he’d wrestle on the floor with my three brothers and me, Dad was hopelessly outnumbered but still tried to trap us as we squealed and screamed.  My mother would stand to the side wringing her hands, frightened and mystified by these displays of male rough housing.  No matter how hard he seemed to try to hold onto us, we’d wriggle loose.  After a moment of relishing our freedom, we’d jump back into the fray, hoping he’d grab us again.

Dad was there somewhere on the crowded sidelines in the seasons of the games we played.  He might not have been the loudest parent, but we’d often find out after the game how closely he’d watched.  He was never the parent who badgered coaches or campaigned for more playing time.  He let us find our roles on the field without interfering.

Our family was different then others.  My parents have always been “theater folk”.  While other Moms and Dads listened to Sinatra or The New Christy Minstrels, my parents preferred original cast recordings of “Brigadoon” or “Man of La Mancha”.  I don’t recall any efforts on their parts to be like other parents, no matter how much we might have wished they would.  My mother was prone to belting out a show tune a’ la Ethel Merman, at the drop of a hat.  This isn’t a Mothers Day post however, so I’ll put that topic on a back burner.

It’s difficult to write about my father without including my mother. To this day, they are so intertwined in my mind that they seem to be a single entity.  As I type these words, they’re likely finishing up their sleep and ready to start another day together – caring for their latest dog and communicating telepathically from one recliner to the other.  For some reason, I just recalled a period when they used to kiss every night as we all sat down to dinner.   My brothers and I would recoil in revulsion at this icky display of affection, but they did it anyway.

He taught in the high school we attended, and my brothers and I got to experience him at work.  I didn’t appreciate at the time how few children get to see their fathers in their work environments.  For many of my peers, the occasional company picnic was about the extent of seeing Dad at work.

Rose colored recollections are all well and good on Fathers Day, but as I noted earlier, I am not without my issues.

As a father myself for nearly three decades, I have no shortage of things which gnaw at me.  Did I love my children outwardlyly enough for them to know?  Did I do everything I could for them?  Did I put too much effort into providing for them at the cost of being present?  Did I set bad examples or no example at all?  Did I do a good job?

I can’t say for certain what the answers are.  If I’ve failed in some regard as a parent, I don’t suppose there’s much I can do to rewrite any chapters of ancient history.

I think again of my own Dad, and I wonder if he ever had questions and doubts like mine.  I don’t see any shortcomings in him.  I was lucky enough to have been one of his sons, and blessed to be able to tell him so as I wish him a happy Fathers Day.

I guess that’s therapy enough for me.

lovetts - Copy

The Permanent Quarterback of Stanford Place

Photo by the author

I recently learned of the unexpected passing of a childhood friend.  As a man in my 50’s, I suppose I’ve come to accept that this sort of thing is not exactly front-page news.  Still, there is a sense of loss and a lingering nostalgia which hovers nearby.

My friendship with him existed in its purest state when he and I were kids.  We both lived on Stanford Place, a few houses from one another from the time I entered 1st grade until we all went off to our respective colleges.  We’d drifted apart long before the college years, but up until high school, he was a prominent member of my social circle.  That circle in those carefree childhood days spanned no more than a block or two in any given direction beyond my house, but the epicenter was Stanford Place.

To say that we lived on that street is not entirely accurate, it was more like our world.

We undertook adventures in yards, sidewalks and in the street itself.  One particularly snowy winter, we built an igloo in the far reaches of his backyard.  It wasn’t an igloo in the technical sense of the word, but with the use of some borrowed wood-framed screens from behind an unsuspecting neighbor’s garage, at the very least it was a snow fort.  Our parents, who in those innocent times did not fear being charged with endangerment, actually let us have a sleep-over in the frozen fort in the dead of the North Jersey winter.  To the best of my recollection, no one lost any digits to frostbite.

He had brothers like we all did.  His parents were from another part of the world and were at once exotic and yet as familiar as any other families.  His mother remains the barometer against whom every other nice person I’ve ever met has been measured.

His family had a tree behind their garage.  I think it was an apple tree.  It had the misfortune of being low and climbable and was the site of many tree forts.  The tree forts all started with grand intentions and gradually turned into much more modest affairs.  The best fort of all wasn’t in a tree at all.  It was a large wooden crate which sat on its side on the ground beneath the tree.  I don’t know if it was the fruit of the tree or just bad luck, but there were always pincher bugs around.  As a sensitive child, I was petrified of most bugs and certainly of pincher bugs as they had those conspicuous pinchers hanging off their tail ends.  I’ve since discovered that the bugs are actually called “earwigs”; had I known that name as a child, I might have never left my house.  Say what you will about kids sleeping in a snow fort, but at least there weren’t any pincher bugs.

As we got older, the lure of tree forts and sleep-overs gave way to playing football.  Far and away the best lawn for football was in front of the home of one of the only girls in the neighborhood.  We’d play kill-the-guy-with-the-ball there whenever we suspected that she and her family were out.  Far more common were the games of touch football in the street.  The line-ups of which kids were on which teams varied widely, but never his position; he was always quarterback.  In the best of all possible scenarios for him, we’d have an odd number of players, and he’d get to play “permanent QB”, switching teams to always be on the offense.

We all had professional football players who we emulated.  Those were the days long before the marketing geniuses of the NFL made it possible for just anyone to have tons of pro jerseys and such.  The best way to show your loyalty to a player was to actually announce play-by-play as you scrambled around the street looking for an open receiver.  He was a big fan of the Los Angeles Rams quarterback named Roman Gabriel.  Gabriel was clearly well ahead of his time.  With a name like that, he should be playing now, not 40 years ago.  When I saw a Facebook photo of my childhood friend a few years back, he was dressed like a Rams fan.   I couldn’t help but smile.

The years ticked by, and, as I wrote earlier, we drifted apart.  It turned out that our town was much bigger than we had once realized.  We made friends in new circles.  We later found out that the world was even bigger than our town.  We moved on and never looked back.

Well, “never” may not quite be accurate.

I had occasion to visit my hometown a few weeks back.  No trip there is complete without a trip down Stanford Place.  Everything seemed out of scale, as if the whole long street of houses were replaced by smaller replicas on a shorter, narrower lane.  A house which had always been red was a different color now.  The people who lived in those homes seemed to be interlopers, despite the fact that they might have been there for decades.

If I had taken the time to stand in the street and close my eyes, I’m convinced that I could have heard the screams and breathless play-by-play narration of boys playing football and the melodic strains of their mothers calling them in for dinner on a warm spring night.  In my rush to visit the street and move on, I took no such pause.

In truth, there’s no reason to travel to the actual Stanford Place when I have it right here in my mind.  I could hear the voices as I typed those very words just now.  I could smell the fresh cut grass and find the laces on the ball to throw my best spiral.

My losing contact with him so many years ago was as inevitable as the changing of the seasons.  I just wanted to take a moment to savor the ability I still have to look back, no matter how much has changed, to recall how things were.

Rest in peace my old friend.

Excuses Excuses Excuses

No one, including me, likes to hear an excuse.  I’m fairly sure that reading them isn’t much more enjoyable.  Yet, here I sit, poised to write a post which is absolutely littered with them.

After a string of several weeks putting up 4 or 5 posts, I’ve fallen off the radar.

In truth, it’s not for lack of effort.  I’ve actually got a few things in the works, but none of them are quite ready yet.  The last thing anyone out there needs is an under-cooked blog.  They don’t digest well and will leave you readers with a funny taste in your mouths – bad funny, like getting hit in the privates, not good funny, like someone else getting hit in the privates.

Here are a few of the excuses I’ve been kicking around, followed by the reasons they suck:

Excuse  #1 – I’ve been really busy with work.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone gets busy at work, or worse yet, some readers may be among the scores of unemployed or under-employed and resent the hell out of me for having a job (actually, I have 3 jobs, but bringing that up won’t likely endear me to the unemployed)

Would it help if I mentioned that one of my jobs is working at a soup kitchen handing out croutons and extra napkins? (Image from untoldentertainment.com)

Excuse #2 – I’ve been saddled with family obligations.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone gets saddled with family obligations.  Feeling put-upon by the responsibilities of family life is one of the main reasons many of us write in the first place!  Writers in dry spells will envy my having family issues and obligations.  To be honest, my big family obligation was driving my daughter to Pittsburgh to help her move from one college dwelling to another. That’s not exactly like having a painful, dramatic intervention to get Aunt Tilly off the booze and pills.  Sorry Aunt Tilly, but making light of your addictions was for your own good (and it filled a void in my post)

Excuse #3 – I had to drive to Pittsburgh and back.

This excuse sucks because: Pittsburgh is a happening city filled with a delicious mix of culture and kitsch.  Driving there and back actually got me out of New Jersey for 3 days.  By the way, if you ever want to kill your liver and gain 10 pounds all in one weekend, let me know, I have some Pittsburgh attractions you won’t want to miss.

Excuse #4 – I was busy begging people to vote for me to win the “Gluttony” chapter of k8edid’s 7 Deadly Sins Challenge

This excuse sucks because: Even though I was busy begging, and I actually succeeded at winning, I now have 6 more deadly sins to write about and I have to make a good showing or I’ll look like a one-post wonder.  (By the way – Thanks for voting everybody, I’ll try not to let you down)

Excuse #5 – I was busy watching the NCAA men’s lacrosse playoffs.

This excuse sucks because: It’s not entirely true.  While Pittsburgh has no shortage of trendy bars and restaurants, I couldn’t find any bartenders who wanted to change the channel from tractor pulls or the replay of the Penguins most recent Stanley Cup Championship.  Though its popularity is growing by leaps and bounds across all demographics, many people still consider lacrosse the bastion of affluent, snotty rich kids.  With that in mind, maybe you’d enjoy watching the guy who will eventually receive a 7 figure bonus for moving your job to Sri Lanka get cross checked into the turf.

When the dude in the red shorts reorganizes your company and you end up on the soupline, you can look back fondly on this humiliating hit. (Image copyright – Hung Tran Photography)

Excuse #6 – I was expending all my creative efforts writing my rant for the people in my Survivor pool at work.

This excuse sucks because: Writing this blog is the excuse I gave to my work friends for doing such a lackluster job on the Survivor rant!  Let’s be honest, this season pretty much went down the toilet once Colton had to quit with menstrual cramps.

Excuse #7 – The sun was in my eyes.

This excuse sucks because: Everyone knows I do the bulk of  my blogging under cover of darkness.

Excuse #8 – I’m a perfectionist – you just can’t rush true art.

This excuse sucks because: Have you read my blogs?  Perfectionist?  Seriously?!

My Anti-Social Networking

I’ll admit it.  It took me a while to get around to joining Facebook.  By the time I got on there, I was inundated with friend requests from long lost “friends”.  True enough, some really were long lost friends, but I have to be honest, some were just long lost people who happened to sit a few seats away from me in 7th grade math.  Back then, they had braces, acne and limited insight of what living with male pattern baldness would be like.

I did manage to connect with a few actual friends, and it was truly nice to hear how they were doing and generally catch up.  An hour later, that part was pretty much over.

I soldiered on, hoping to uncover more true long lost friends, to capture that reconnection I had so enjoyed initially.  While waiting for old chums to materialize, I started getting invitations to play Mafia Wars.  I live in the land of the Sopranos and Atlantic City; do I really need to go online to play Mafia Wars?  That seems like trying to get kids in Afghanistan to play Medal of Honor.  I was also inundated with congratulations for people who had found lost baby llamas on their virtual farms in a magical place called “Farmville”.  By this point in my life, I know an online time-vampire when I see one, so I stayed away from the games, and didn’t join anyone in trying to find virtual livestock.  I can’t quite wrap my head around why anyone would want to spend hours and hours tending to a farm with no real crops or critters.  I’m happy enough that there are people out there who spend their lives doing that stuff on actual farms!

There are plenty of things people can do and read online.  Many of the topics will only appeal to a small demographic.  The nice thing about computers is that if you do want to look at an article on the how people wear donkey masks for certain ceremonial sex acts in parts of New Guinea, you can do so in relative privacy (Insert your rants about how “they know what you’re doing…every keystroke!….don’t be fooled, mannn!“).  Facebook, on the other hand, overtly lets every one of your friends know exactly what you’re doing.

One person tending to his virtual herds appeared to be my brother Mike.  He was one of the long lost friends to whom I’d referred earlier.  Some families stay close knit, but others unravel like a poorly made sweater in the company of kittens.  Anyway, every time I went on Facebook, he had posted some inane request to help him find his lost Rhode Island Red hen or he was bragging uncharacteristically about his record-breaking virtual alfalfa harvest.  I admit that Mike and I had drifted apart.  We’ve been busy living our complicated adult lives; raising kids, changing jobs, getting divorced (him, not me), etc.  Still, I didn’t think my oldest brother would give a crap about imaginary agriculture.  Weeks turned into months, and Mike kept on posting his Farmville stuff.  I would’ve thought that he would have a big enough spread by then to stop virtual farming and just exist on virtual government subsidies NOT to grow any more virtual corn, yet he was still there, harvesting and fertilizing with the occasional request for midwifery help delivering a make-believe calf.

Despite our shared childhoods, Facebook hadn’t really helped to bring us together.  I shunned Mike, in fear that if I reached out, he would have put a make-believe pitchfork in my hands and put me to work.  Before long I’d have virtual calluses on my hands and let’s not even consider my allergies.  I’d be so tired from all the chores that I’d collapse onto my virtual bunk at the end of the day and we’d never get the chance to reconnect.  He’d drive me hard, tilling the land and milking the cows.  I’d end up resenting him for it.  Bitter and confused, I’d pack my few possessions in my trusty bug-out bag and steal away in the middle of the night, heading for the digital big city and the promise of a glamorous life, leaving the smell of virtual manure and the risk of crop failure behind.

I wondered how he could have become this person.  Was it the divorce?  The remarriage?  He’d left the discomfort and insanity of the East Coast decades back, and was now living in the Midwest.  Perhaps our geographic differences over the years had changed him into someone I wouldn’t recognize were it not for our shared last name.  As I continued to enrich myself intellectually and spiritually, my thoughts increasingly returned to him.   It got to the point where I couldn’t even focus on my articles on donkey masks without my mind drifting back to Mike.  We were nearly strangers now, but dammit it all, he was still my brother and if he needed an intervention, then I would try to help him!

This being a Facebook problem, I realized that the standard “friends and family in semi-circle telling him we loved him” strategy would not work.  I considered enlisting the help of my other two brothers.  Steve is a very successful lawyer who does not waste his time on things like Facebook.  He is involved with his church and advises the board of the school his children attend.  I couldn’t begin to imagine how I’d even start to describe Mike’s addiction to him.   The very thought of that conversation made me cringe in embarrassment for both Mike and myself.  My other brother Chris was on Facebook.  Just like in real life, Chris’ Facebook existence was several degrees cooler than mine would ever be.   As the youngest and hippest, he appeared to be using Facebook like my own children do.  A happening, up-to-date guy who has things like “relationship status” to worry about and cryptic, insider links to sites which someone like me would be lost in.  I doubted Chris had even heard of Farmville.  In all likelihood, he and his Facebook posse were running virtual Formula One racing teams and not wasting their hip-people time trying to find a suitable stud for their prized virtual sow.  It was clear that neither of my other siblings would be much help with Mike’s intervention.  My parents, retirees living the good life, were busy frittering away my inheritance on another cruise at the time and were incommunicado.  I knew what I had to do.  With my teeth gritted and a knot in my stomach, I logged onto Facebook yet again.

I saw that Mike was on.  He was probably filling the silo with feed corn or something.  I messaged him the following:

“Hey big guy!”

I waited and stared at my screen.   The seconds dragged on into minutes with no chime notifying me of a response.  While I waited for Mike’s reply, two old classmates from junior high and an ex-neighbor took the opportunity to invite me to play Mafia Wars.  A work colleague sent me a survey asking if I was a “folder or a buncher”.  I tried to ignored them all, but the thought of someone I worked alongside every day knowing how I prepared my pre-wipe Charmin disturbed me deeply – I struggled desperately to put it out of my mind, though in truth, I had begun to wonder how she prepped her toilet paper .  Still, no response from Mike.  Good God! This may have been worse than I thought!

I logged off as my mind raced.  I pictured Mike hunkered down in a dark room, the bluish light from his computer reflected his face in a vision of flickering horror.   A scraggly beard hanging down to the top of his tattered overalls.  Cob-web covered farm tools lined the walls, the tasteful, neutral pile carpet beneath his feet covered in hay.  His eyes like dark holes in his skull as he looked all over his virtual acres for the latest lost piglet.  Maybe I was too late.  Maybe he had had some grisly farm mishap and was tangled up in the blades of the combine in a field of make-believe wheat as the virtual blood seeped into his boots.  Maybe he had just totally abandoned his real life for the bucolic agrarian existence.

I took a new direction on addressing things.  Perhaps the answer lay within Facebook itself.  I logged back on and started looking for a Facebook Intervention app.*  Despite the obvious need, I couldn’t find it anywhere on the site or online.  My search was complicated by the intrusive mental image of my coworker, still sitting on the bowl, fastidiously folding her T.P. like some obsessed origami practitioner.  How was I going to face this woman on Monday?  Why did I ever accept her friend request?  Put it out of your mind, man!  This is about saving Mike!!

I was about to lose all hope when the little message icon blinked on my screen accompanied by a dainty chime.  It was Mike!  He was alive!  I sprung to the keyboard and opened the message box.

“Hey bro!” it said.

I wiped away the tears of joy as I read and re-read those beautiful words, overjoyed to know my brother was still here among us in the real world.

“Can I ask you a question?” I wrote, not wanting to lose the chance to take the issue on headfirst.

“Sure” he responded.

“OK” I wrote, “I was just wondering, do you think that maybe you might be over-doing this whole Farmville thing a little? I mean, every time I log onto this site you’re posting all kinds of stuff about it”

“Oh” he replied, “That’s not me, my wife is into that farm stuff.  She’s just logged onto my Facebook account.”

The relief flooded over me.  While my brother’s wife is technically part of the family, I have to admit that I just don’t have the same visceral response about mental illness and obsessive behavior among in-laws (Insert wise crack here – I like to think I’m a little classier than that).  I knew in my heart that Mike was alright, that there was a logical explanation.  I was so happy to know that my brother was still among the sane, among the real, that my mind didn’t process his next words at first:

“I’m more of a Mafia Wars guy”

*I write a blog, and not particularly well.  I’m certainly no app developer.  While I lack the technical savvy to write a Facebook Intervention App, it is my idea.  I can only hope that if some technically proficient reader takes this idea forward and makes buckets of cold hard cash, that they remember who told them about it.  I’m not asking for much, just a little land, maybe a few cows and some chickens.