Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hot Topics

Hot Topics
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/27/2010

A political cauldron of hot-button issues is brewing this summer:  ending tax cuts for the rich, extending unemployment benefits for the jobless, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Tea Party, immigration, race relations and Lindsey Lohan.  Okay, Lindsey is clearly where she needs to be, but the rest of these issues need sorting out. 

Let’s start at the top: should we extend unemployment  insurance and should we let the Bush tax cuts expire? 

Conservatives have been arguing that giving away money only disinclines people to find and perform meaningful work, and I could not agree more… for the rich.  If you’re fat and happy are you going to put up with all the nonsense associated with starting new businesses and creating new jobs?  Judging by recent behavior:  evidently not.

If you want to see a bunch of rich people really get out there and hustle, I say, tax away most of their money.  That kind of “start over” mentality worked for the immigrants and it will work for Kent and Buffy too.  Nothing says “it’s time to produce” quite like the repo man showing up for your Bugatti Veyron. 

But don’t think I’m without sympathy.  While many captains of industry pay themselves salaries and bonuses and that amount to four hundred times the compensation their workers receive, they have some justification.  First, with their access to quality health care, there is some chance that the rich will live four hundred times longer than will you. 

Second, it is almost certain that a tax increase at this delicate time will hurt the economy.  Think of it: If the top tax rate increases from thirty-six to forty percent, some of these folks will have to get by on six million dollars a year instead of six point four million!  How they’ll do it is tough to fathom.  Doubtless, that kind of drop in their net income will cause them to buy fewer iced mochaccinos on their way to the spa, and employ fewer sex workers when they get home.

As for not extending unemployment benefits: maybe not such a good idea.  Yes, the latest extension will cost the US Treasury thirty billion dollars or roughly what we spend in Afghanistan in an afternoon.  And yes, those receiving the aid will have less incentive to find a job, in so far as they can now to afford to eat.  But you’ve got to look at the big picture here:  it can be difficult to job hunt from a box under the interstate. 

What about immigration and race?  The second Bush administration used to argue that it was hard to address illegal immigration because illegal immigrants took the kinds of jobs that most Americans did not want.  Clearly, W’s solution was to wreck the economy, because Americans want those jobs now!

It’s funny how the economy, jobs, taxes, the wars and immigration all come together.  The only topic we haven’t touched on is race.  It is an important topic, but one that is probably best left to thoughtful experts with deep, first-hand experience in racial discrimination: like Andrew Breitbart.

No doubt, it’s a going to be a long, hot summer leading up to the November elections and many questions will have to be answered.  While we’ve tried to shed some light, the big questions remain, such as: Will Lindsey Lohan get out of jail in time to vote?  Only time will tell. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Green Lagoon, Part 4 of 4

The Green Lagoon, Part 4 of 4
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/22/10

A few more weeks passed and Mike, the pool man, stopped coming around.   The last time I saw him was the afternoon he suddenly appeared in our secluded backyard at the very same moment I chose to go sunbathing au naturel.  I’m not sure which horrified him more: the uncontrollable green sludge in the pool or the sight of my white posterior on the chaise lounge.  Either way: the horror, the horror!

The really scary thing is, it could have been worse… 

Fortunately, Mike was alone this time, but the damage was done.  Let this be a lesson to all of you, especially those in the company of women and small children.  We love to see you, but do us all a favor:  call ahead. 

By my reckoning it was now day sixty two of the disaster with still no solution in sight.  On top of that it was unclear who was in charge.  Was it me, Mike, Admiral Thad Allen, Sean Hannity?  And the frustrating thing was, we still had not stopped the growth of the green algae.  An angry family demanded to know when the pool would be cleaned, but stopping the algae was clearly job one.  We had to staunch the growth before we could even consider steps to clean it up. 

Friends continued to chime in with suggestions:  drain and refill the pool.  Too costly.  Shock the crap out of it.  Uh, tried that (see Part 2).  One expert warned that mixing different types of chlorine could form an explosive brew, rendering the entire pool unstable!

Others suggested that the Obama Administration was behind the green sludge.  The reasoning was simple: force us to use our air conditioners, taxing the electrical grid to failure and thus calling into need new energy legislation… or something like that.  It was the kind of logic only a political genius could follow: someone like Glenn Beck. 

Finally, at day eighty eight there was a breakthrough!  A friend of my wife suggested a new “Top Kill” method:  two gallons of Diamond Clear Mega Shock, twelve point five percent sodium hypochlorite. 

The procedure began in the middle of the night and an anxious family awaited the results with bated breath.  In the morning I led a team of experts to the site, comprised of myself, my son, and our dog, whom I do not particularly care for (see Dog). 

The cautious news rang out: the pool was blue!  Cloudy, but blue!  The spread of the evil, green contamination appeared to be stopped!  The cleanup could commence!

But the cleanup soon revealed itself to be as daunting as stopping the algae spread.  The pool filter constantly clogged with green mucous.  When we ventured into the pool, the bottom was slimy and we kicked up great, green plumes as we walked.  It all appeared hopeless once again. 

Worried about neighborhood opinion, I bought advertising in the local paper pledging we would “do what it takes to make this right.”  But I was roundly criticized for using my time and resources in this manner.

 Desperate times call for desperate measures and so a new plan was devised.  The new method, labeled the “Bottom Suck,” would be to vacuum the bottom inch of sludge, not through the filter, but out of the pool entirely.  Recent rains had lifted the water level high enough that the experts (me) concluded that the audacious new attempt might succeed. 

Other experts (my wife) objected that the super-chlorinated water might “kill the lawn.”  This delayed the plan as feverish negotiations and recalculations took place. 

Finally the new plan was approved, but with modifications mandated by the authorities (my wife, again).  The following day my son manned the pump switch and the expulsion hose which would dump hundreds of gallons of contaminated water into a hastily improvised containment unit: our wheel barrow. 

Execution of the plan was loud and messy but gallons of green water began surging into the containment unit.  Each time it filled the procedure had to be stopped as I wheeled the green water to a “safe location,” whose precise whereabouts are known only by myself and certain high-ranking officials of the British Petroleum company. 

As of this writing the pool remains blue but somewhat cloudy.  The bottom is without sludge.  The cleanup effort goes on.  The impact may be felt for years, even decades to come.  No one knows for sure what the full cost may be.  What we do know is that expensive new rules and regulations will have to be put in place: This year, instead of closing the pool myself, I’ll have to pay a professional to do it. 

Maybe I can get Mike to come back?

The End

The Green Lagoon, Part 3

The Green Lagoon, Part 3
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/18/10

Leave it to the professionals: that’s my motto.  If you want a robust economy, elect Republicans.  If you want accurate news reporting, tune in to FOX.  If you want safe, clean energy, turn to BP.  So I awoke heartened Saturday morning by the knowledge that a professional was on the job.  I had hired Mike, from Joe’s Pool Maintenance (not his real name), to eradicate the ugly, green, algae slick that had consumed the waters of our own little gulf, off the coast of our back deck. 

Mike had asked for a down payment on his quote.  I was thinking fifty dollars.  Mike was thinking one hundred.  “You can post-date the check,” he offered.  I was thinking post-date it to the coming Friday.  Mike was thinking Monday.  As Monday was the first day he could cash the check, this wasn’t much of a post date.  But one more glance at the angry, green invader destroying our summer told me this was no time to split hairs. 

Saturday came and went, but no sign of Mike.  Sunday was the same story.  I continued to poor shock into the pool each night, ignoring the possibility that I might accidentally clean the pool and Mike might get the credit and the cash.  This was no time for pettiness.  Like Obama when he first took office, I didn't mind who took the credit.  I wanted to work together.   A good result would be a good result.

When Monday morning turned into Monday afternoon, with still no sign of Mike, I called Joe’s Pool Maintenance.  No one answered, of course, this being one of those types of business that doesn’t need customers and thrives on torturing the pool fools who insist on being one.  I left a message that more or less said the down payment I had given Mike was not to buy chrome polish for his Hummer.  Crazy thought, but I was actually hoping their man might show up and work on the pool.

On Tuesday morning Allah smiled upon me and Mike appeared, this time driving a spanking new Ford Super Duty F-450 King Ranch pickup truck in gleaming burgundy, with a blinding chrome grill and matching, twenty-inch wheels.  Ford’s website says the base price for this truck is sixty-two thousand dollars, making me wonder, yet again, why no one ever told me that the real money isn’t in computers, law or medicine; it’s in dealing with the stuff that doctors, lawyers and programmers can’t handle. 

Happy to see Mike’s newfound practicality, and even happier that he had actually appeared, I ignored the fact that he came in tow with a barefoot, four-year-old girl wearing a stained, pink, party dress.  She had long black hair and soulful eyes and only stared at me when I asked her name.

Still, I was eager to see Mike get to work.  But first, it seemed, we needed to have a little talk... 

Evidently not pleased with the phone message I had left, Mike informed me that he is Joe’s Pool service.  Mike is Joe; got it.  He also told me he is Joe’s Plumbing, Joe’s Electrical, Joe’s Handyman, etc.  For any job, up to and including building a nuclear reactor in my basement, Joe was the man.  Or Mike was.  Good to know. 

Mike set about pouring chemicals into the pool and barking orders at me.  I needed to clean the pool filter.  I needed to vacuum the pool.  If I did all of the manual labor, Mike assured me, he would take care of the rest. 

Mike guaranteed me that we would see a fifty percent improvement in the pool by Wednesday and then mounted the ascent to his pickup truck driver’s seat.  The silent, little girl clambered up the other side like a Sherpa's daughter, and off they rumbled.

Wednesday morning dawned and we opened the blinds to see... pretty much the same, copper green water as the day before.  Over the next few days Mike appeared at odd moments to pour chemicals into the pool and swear about our filter or the water pressure in our garden hose.  He offered to work on our plumbing.  I suggested we focus on the pool.  “If this was easy,” I reminded him, “we wouldn’t need a professional.” 

Mike bit his lip and departed.  But not before insisting the third step of our pool was now visible instead of only the top two.  Well… maybe. 

Apparently the Green Monster was proving too much for our local entrepreneur.  Days went by with no sign of Mike.  A heat wave struck and my son and I swam in the green slime and showered thoroughly thereafter.  My wife refused to go in and only glowered at me as she dabbed at the beads of sweat forming beneath her dark bangs.
To be continued…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Green Lagoon, Part 2

The Green Lagoon, Part 2
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/18/10

As the first installment of this saga closed, our pool was lime green, our local pool store had refused to sell me chemicals and young girls were paying no attention to me, unless they needed directions. 

While my wife was happy with the third development, she was skeptical of the second, and extremely displeased with the first. 

We began soliciting advice: lots and lots of advice.  People may be reticent to discuss sex, politics and religion, but ask them about your pool problem and there is no shutting them up.  Everyone in America—and I mean everyone—is a pool maintenance expert. 

Most of the advice can be distilled to this:  shock the crap out of it.  And so I did, venturing out onto the back deck night after night to wave bag after bag of pool shock into the murky waters.  Each morning I awoke and—like a middle-class American praying for good things from Republican policies—crept to the window and peered out, expecting to see our sparking blue pool again.  Only to see:  coast of Louisiana, summer of 2010. 

My cheapness is legendary, at least around here, and so I began to perform calculations in my head.  Let’s see, dumping forty dollars of shock into the pool, every night, all summer long, versus hiring someone to do this right…  I needed quotes from local pool experts to complete the math.

I started calling and soon discovered that pool maintenance is one of those professions which, like plumbing or politics, requires no response to their customer base.  No one picks up the phone, only answering machines.  Fifty percent of the outfits I contacted never returned my call. 

Of those that did, most did not want to come over.  They preferred to give advice that can be distilled to this:  shock the crap out of it.

One local, eager beaver was ready to jump in, so to speak.  His name was Joe from Mike’s Pool Maintenance, or Mike from Joe’s Pool Maintenance.  Since my name is Quentin, any name less exotic than Winthrop or Dakota really doesn’t register with me.  I apologize. 

Anyway Joe said he would come over after one P.M.  One turned to two, turned to three, and then four.  I was beginning to believe this was yet another sign from God, as I am sure God closely monitors the condition of my swimming pool.  When all of a sudden Joe appeared in a chromed-out, full- sized, glossy, black Hummer. 

“What kind of mileage does that thing get,” I asked.  “Five?”

“Seven,” replied Joe, somewhat defensively.  “Look, if I had to worry about the cost of gas, I wouldn’t drive it.”

Sounded reasonable enough.  It also made me wonder why my high school guidance counselor never mentioned “pool boy” as the ideal occupation for me.  I never even knew it was an option!

It also made me wonder how much Joe might charge me.  One hundred and fifty dollars, plus chemicals, was the answer.  Good enough.  When can we get started?

Joe said I would see him tomorrow, Saturday.  Great, I thought, watching eighty-five thousand dollars worth of gas-guzzling, chromed-out, social irresponsibility disappear down my driveway.  This has to turn out well… doesn’t it?

To be continued…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Green Lagoon, Part 1

The Green Lagoon, Part 1
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/18/10

This summer, while the British Petroleum company has been destroying the Gulf of Mexico, my family and I have been experiencing our own ecological disaster right here in Connecticut: our pool is green. 

For years our pool has been filled with crystal clear, blue water.  That all changed at the end of last summer when we made the mistake of hosting a pool party.  What ten children and a couple of adults did in our pool one can only imagine, but the effects were obvious.  Within days our beautiful, blue pool began to morph into the dreaded Green Lagoon.

Reacting to this development required a trip to the local pool store, only, I won’t go to the store in our town anymore.  My local merchant seems to believe that charging a four hundred percent mark-up on everything, so that he can make his annual income in the space of two weeks’ time, is the perfect business plan.  Not only does he charge prices that would make a Kardashian choke, he serves up his goods with a healthy dose of insolence and a quaint lack of cooperation.  The combination leaves me breathless. 

I once went into his store with a water sample and a box of half-used chemicals.  My plan was simple: show them what I had and buy only what I needed.  Instead I was grilled about where I bought the half-used chemicals.  Accusation followed interrogation.  “Did you buy those here?  You didn’t buy those here!” 

Okay, yes, and?

They told me the chemicals I had were incompatible with the chemicals they sold.  Evidently chlorine is not chlorine.  Bottom line (hold on to your hats):  they could not help me.  They refused to sell me anything!  

Okay, then…  

I drove to a pool store in a neighboring town and spent a week’s salary there.  I guess my local pool store showed me!

So it was off to the neighboring town again to nip the post-party problem in the bud.  There, I was greeted as usual by a single, teenage girl manning an empty store.  These girls, dressed in short-shorts and midriff baring fashion, come in one of two body types:  slightly overfed or absolutely perfect.  No matter.  Either way I have reached the age when I am invisible to women under the age of thirty. 

Within an acceptable time frame she put down her smart phone, tucked her gum into one cheek and ran our sample through the analyzer.  Her manicured nails clicked on the computer keyboard.  A print-out said I needed fifty pounds of this, seventy pounds of that, and maybe another fifty pounds of something else.  Follow the instructions and all would be well. 

The instructions, however, were problematic.  They said to put five pounds of chemical A into the pool, wait eight hours and then put in another five pounds.  They said to follow this procedure for chemical A, then for chemical B, and then for C.  Performing some quick math in my head I realized that, if I never slept, I could complete this procedure by Christmastime.  Assuring my wife that directions are for weenies, I dumped all of the chemicals into the pool at once.    

The pool turned into an ominous, milky-gray sludge.  It looked like the color the sky turns just before the tornado touches down.  It was the end of the season so I decided to batten down the hatches, close it up, and let a good winter freeze make everything right again. 

Over the winter, tragedy struck.  The very expensive cover on the pool, only in its second season of use, ripped.  Perhaps a metric ton of fallen leaves, buds, insects and bird droppings dumped into our own, personal gulf.  When we pulled off the tattered remains in the spring, the ominous gray color was gone.  The pool water was now the color of a lime green Popsicle.  Our long, local nightmare had only just begun…

To be continued…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Believe

I Believe
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation, 7/11/10

I believe the war in Iraq was a terrible mistake, a war of choice, and a diversion from the real mission in Afghanistan.  I also believe it kinda, sorta looks like we won.

I believe that Afghanistan was the real threat.  I also believe no good will come out of fighting a ground war in Afghanistan.

I believe that the Bush Administration stripped away regulation to the point where the BP disaster could occur.  I also believe business should not be hampered by red tape and needless regulation.

I believe that every dollar of income over one million dollars per year should be taxed at eighty percent.  I also believe that the day I make over one million dollars per year, the eighty percent tax rate cut-off should be moved up to three million dollars per year. 

I believe that large corporations are making obscene profits.  I also believe the corporate tax rate in this country should be cut to align with the rest of the world. 

I believe that the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire.  I also believe that the death tax should remain at zero, at least for a few more years, as my parents are getting somewhat elderly.

I believe that the Tea Party supporters are a peculiar cocktail of two parts stupid and one part crazy.  I also believe a world of limited government, personal freedom and no taxes would be ideal. 

I believe that President Obama is a transcendent figure in American politics who has achieved an extraordinary amount against enormous forces weighing against him.  I also believe his presidency has been kind of underwhelming so far. 

I believe Rush Limbaugh is a material threat to our civil society.  I also believe he’s quite entertaining and he frequently makes me smile. 

I believe America does not need tens of thousands of troops in Germany, Korea and Japan.  I also believe it’s pretty cool we can kick ass anywhere in the world when we need to. 

I believe Sarah Palin is a moron.  I also believe I’d like to have her book sales and speaking fees.

I believe Chris Matthews asks his guests some very important questions.  I also believe if he would stop shouting second, third and fourth rephrasings of these same questions at his guests, it might be interesting to hear their answers. 

I believe that the military industrial complex is a dark and sinister force in American politics.  I also believe I would jump at the chance to work for Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin or Raytheon.

I believe AIG executives should have been frog marched off to prison.  I also believe the government should not do anything to impede our global competitiveness in the financial sector. 

I believe Glenn Beck is an embarrassing idiot. 

I believe religion is the opiate of the masses; a silly fairy tale for the weak of mind.  I also believe God will save me if I pray hard enough when I really screw up.  

I believe I am a right-of-center conservative.  I also believe I am a proud liberal.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Opinion Poll

Opinion Poll
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation, 7/8/10

Yesterday a research firm called to conduct an opinion poll.  I love to participate in these surveys because I believe that my views can bend the current “lunacy curve” toward my own brand of nuttiness. 

The very first question the pollster asked was, “Do you write a blog in which you frequently state political views?”  When I answered yes, the interview was over. 

Apparently the opinions of people willing to state their opinions are not opinions of value.  So I’ve decided to conduct my own research poll of myself.

 Do you believe that John McCain is a spineless, pandering weasel? 
Only if you look at his record.

Can you imagine a worse politician than John McCain?
Yes, J.D. Hayworth.

 Do you believe that the way out of the current economic crisis is to cut taxes for the rich?
Oh yes, please, sir, may I have another?

Do you agree with the Tea Party that the role of the federal government should be dramatically reduced?
Absolutely:  Roads, education, social security and healthcare are for weenies. 

Do you believe that the United States should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan?
No!  We need to increase exports, not decrease them, and our number one export these days is war, isn't it?  

Do you think Linda McMahon will make a good senator for Connecticut?
Yes, she wants to cut taxes, eliminate regulations on business and drill, baby, drill: you know; the policies that worked so well for George W. Bush. 

Do you think Attorney General Dick Blumenthal lied when he spoke of serving in Viet Nam?
Man, we were all in Nam!  [cue “All Along the Watchtower” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience]

What is the current, number-one concern facing this nation?
Where Lebron James will play basketball.

If you could make one change to affect the future of the United States for the better, what would it be?
Revert to the original thirteen colonies. 

Do you believe in capital punishment?
Only for Texans.

What recent criticism of President Obama from the right has been most damaging?
That he plays golf. 

What do you think is the single biggest hope the Democrats have for retaining their majorities in the House and Senate?
Michael Steele.

Do you think consideration of skin color has any place in our politics?
Only if you are talking about Representative John Boehner of Ohio. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Suport the Troops

Support the Troops
Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation 7/5/10

Not too long ago I was invited to join a Facebook group called “Support the Troops.”  At the same time there is a homeowner not far from my house who proclaims this same message from his front yard with an enormous, hand-painted sign.   Recently I heard a Fox News "repeater" wonder if Obama will support the troops by increasing the funding for the Afghan war.  And I began to ask myself, do these people realize it is no longer 1973? 

Who, exactly, in this country, does not support the troops?  I’m not aware of any Screw the Troops or Call the Troops Mean Names or Arrest the Troops movements, are you?   Not in this century.

So what exactly are you saying to me when you urge me to support the troops?  First, of course, you are implying that I don’t the support the troops, which is deeply offensive.  Second, you imply that, not just I, but some significant portion of the country, holds this We Don’t Support the Troops position.  Who do you suppose those people could be?  Let me take a wild guess here: progressives, liberals, Democrats? 

But that’s bunk, of course, because the overwhelming majorities of these three, overlapping groups completely, vocally and without reservation, support the troops. 

The group that would not support the troops, not on foreign soil anyway, would be the Tea Party folks.  Their stark, libertarian philosophy calls for a rapid withdrawal of all US troops from around the world, regardless of the situation or cost in loss of security or human misery.  If only the Tea Party folks were well-informed enough to know their own positions… but let’s not go crazy here.  The Tea Party is about freedom and American rights, and first among those is that most deeply cherished American right:  the right to be stupid. 

A tea drinker himself, Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, recently called Afghanistan Obama’s "war of choice" and said anyone who knows anything about history would not fight a ground war in Afghanistan.  Evidently Mr. Steele believes it is clever to reread old criticisms of President Bush, replace "Bush" with "Obama," and then repeat them as new positions.  

Steele's view of Afghanistan was news to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who called Mr. Steele’s comments “unwise, uninformed and untimely.” 

This is not the first time Mr. Steele has repudiated his own party’s position in public, only to quickly perform a one-hundred-and-eighty degree spin and then ask, mystified, what all the fuss is about. 

As for the Fox News repeater who stared zombie-like into the teleprompter and questioned whether Obama’s support for the troops can be gauged by his willingness to give them additional funding, well, where does one begin? 

First, I am completely in favor of cute blondes on television.  But even I am disturbed by the glossy stare in their overly-made-up eyes as they read statements that contradict what they said the day or week or hour before with such regularity Michael Steele must be writing the news for them.   I am beginning to believe that Stepford wives really do exist, manufactured in Roger Ailes's basement.

Second, this might come as quite a surprise to the Fox news repeater, if indeed any contradiction, news, or fact could upset or even penetrate the consciousness of one of these automatons, but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—the guy asking for more funding—is of the Obama Administration.  So Obama is asking for more money for the troops, not deciding whether to approve it.

And finally, must it still be pointed out that being against more funding for the troops is not a lack of support for the troops if it comes with a call to reduce their role?  If you really want to support the troops, join the Tea Party, make Michael Steele happy, and bring them all home immediately. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation, 7/3/10

Psychologists say you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they interact with their dog.  I hate my dog.  She poops and pees all over the place.  She steals our food and destroys our property.  It’s like living with an angry crack addict. 

And I’m confused, because, didn’t we build houses in the first place to keep the animals out?  But now the animal is in the house and the house looks like… well, it looks like a bunch of animals live here.   

Our dog is half Maltese and half Shih Tzu.  My wife calls her a Malshi but I like to refer to her as a Shit-tease. 

For some unknown reason the dog loves carpet.  If it needs to pee or poop, if it needs to destroy a new pair of Birkenstocks, if it needs to chew an entire roll of toilet paper into confetti, it takes care of this business in the carpeted hallway that leads to the master bedroom.  Hardwood floors won’t do for this kind of savagery.  The dog favors plush. 

A great dilemma we face is whether to feed the dog from the table or not.  If we don’t, she whines and jumps up and down on her hind legs and—my personal favorite—she snorts like a whale.  If we do, she takes whatever we give her straight to the carpeted hallway to covet her prize in private.  Once it is gone she comes back for more, repeating her outlandish performance until we give in or not. 

Lately we have given her bones from barbecued ribs and steak.   The result is a hallway strewn with the chewed, cleaned bones of the dead.  The hallway looks like the bone yard from a Stephen King novel.  While our dog may be as cute as the bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, her lair is no less terrifying. 

My wife senses the tension and feels bad about the situation.  She wants me to love the dog and, in an effort to improve relations, she has told me, “But the dog loves you.”

Love?  Really?  Honestly, I don’t think the dog knows me that well.   

Mind you, this is the best dog we have ever had.  The previous dog ate half of the insulation around the sliding door to the rear deck and once tried to escape the house by tunneling through the drywall.  When we put the previous dog on a run outside, he would pull against the rope and bark for forty seven hours without pause, if we left him there that long, digging a half moon trench in the lawn demarcating the limits of his tether.  We never left him there for more than an hour or two.  Still, our lawn showed the semi-circular scars for years afterward. 

We gave that dog to friends who renamed him and loved him and proclaimed him to be the best dog ever—totally without fault or issue.  Talk about things that make you go hmm…

But I am sure they are right.  I am sure our dogs’ behaviors have been nothing more than our own neuroses and family tensions, our own narcissism reflected back upon us with claws and teeth. 

So, in closing, let me give the dog this much: If I was in trouble, if I was trapped in the mountains, say, and we were starving, or maybe a bookcase fell on me, and I was helpless, and I turned to the dog and I said, “Go on girl!  Go get help!  Go on girl!”  Well, I know what the dog would do. 

The dog would eat my face. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Quentin Smeltzer, SmeltzerNation, 7/1/10

The key to staying married for a long period of time is to constantly readjust your expectations.  My wife, for example, has adjusted hers to zero.  This is not to say that she is not still frequently disappointed; it is only to suggest that she is moving her sights in the right direction.

Money is a frequent area of tension in many marriages, particularly the ones where there is no money.  My wife recently bought an entirely new set of dinnerware: plates, bowls, cups; the works.  When asked why she would buy all new plates, bowls and cups when we have plates, bowls and cups, and we currently plan to work into our eighties to keep our home, she was ready with a cogent answer. 

It turns out, she learned recently, that older dinnerware can lose its protective seal.  If your white dinner plates begin to show signs of graying, this is a tell-tale sign that the protective enamel is wearing thin.  It wasn’t clear to either of us what might be in a plate that we would need to be protected from, but whatever it is, she was sure it was getting out. 

And how did she learn about this eminent health hazard requiring a substantial purchase and the tossing away of all of our dinnerware?  From QVC; the very same QVC program selling the plates.  Talk about coincidence!

So now our simple, white plates are in the garbage, replaced with a set sporting a pattern I like to call, “drunken gypsies on holiday.”  Oh, they are festive.  And made in China, where they never take chances adding harsh chemicals or dangerous toxins to their products. 

In fact, it is astonishing how many products QVC has taught my wife that we must have.  There was that set of “Wonder Hangers” that allowed us to save closet space by hanging six coats in the space that used to occupy one.  That the exponential increase in weight ripped a few closet rods from their moorings was an inconvenient side effect, and a clear sign of inadequate home maintenance on my part. 

Then there was the Stainless Steel Professional Pineapple Slicer, which really does an admirable job of slicing an entire pineapple.  What a family of three is supposed to do with an entire, sliced pineapple we have yet to figure out.

Someone recently said of my book, Self Help, Your Complete Book of Bad Advice for Every Situation in Life, “You realize, don’t you, that your book is written entirely from the perspective of a man?”

I replied, “I certainly hope so.”

It is from this perspective that I have come to realize that, if you are the man in the relationship, you are not the point.  You are lucky if you are an afterthought.  At least this is true if you are doing it right. 

Let’s face it: a house that tiptoes around Daddy is an abusive tyranny.  A house that tiptoes around Mommy is a warm and nurturing environment.  This is because Mommies and Daddies want different things.  Very different things.  Daddies want sports cars and beer and reckless women--in our dreams.  Mommies want new dinnerware.