Rash Talking Fool

I was slammed last week and didn’t have any time to write. So today I’m posting a slightly modified version of my first post ever. I had zero readers at the time, so you probably haven’t seen it. Hope you enjoy.

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I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. I won’t bore you with the details, but it boils down to having way too much on my plate. The last time I felt this amount of pressure was back in July. Whenever I get stressed, my body reacts in strange ways. So when I noticed a series of small red bumps near my right armpit during that trying time, I didn’t think too much of it. I should have, though. Within a week, the bumps had spread to both sides of my body, covering a significant area of my torso. They had also begun to itch. Badly.

Lovie begged me to see a dermatologist, but I was so slammed at work, I refused to take the time, choosing, instead, to throw every type of over-the-counter ointment imaginable at my red enemy. Sadly, the only thing these various salves seemed to do was make the damn thing spread. My regular inspections revealed drastic growth that conjured up images of kudzu.

Eventually, the itching reached the point to where I could no longer tolerate the sensation of anything brushing against any portion of the sensitive areas, which by then was virtually every area—the tops of my feet, my ankles, my calves, behind my knees, the inside of my thighs, my waistband, up and down both sides of my torso, under each of my arms, on the backs of my triceps, in the folds of my elbows, and even on the tops of my fingers.

So at night I resorted to sleeping completely nude and on top of the covers. During the day I turned to baggy clothes, like loose-fitting shorts and knit shirts that were a size too big. But such garb still brushed against my rash, so I turned up the legs of my shorts to minimize the contact, which exposed most of my thighs and gave me the appearance of a grape smuggler. I also rolled up the sleeves of my shirt, ala Schneider from “One Day at a Time,” only it wasn’t because I needed a place to park my smokes. It was because if I didn’t, I’d scratch my arms until they bled.

I think it's getting better. (and no, this is NOT actually me!)

Once discomfort (and humiliating fashion statements) became my twenty-four-hour-a-day companion, there was no sense in denying it any longer—I was a man with a full-body rash who was in desperate need of medical attention. If I had just gone to the dermatologist when the rash first appeared, it wouldn’t have turned into such a big deal. But it had turned into a big deal, and in so doing, it had also turned me into a walking raspberry–one who finally broke down and called the dermatologist.

“I’m embarrassed,” I said to Lovie on the morning of my appointment.

“Why?” she asked.

“Because these jeans make me look fat. Oh, and this five-and-a-half foot skin lesion I’ve been rocking for the past fortnight isn’t helping either. It’s so disgusting that I don’t even want the doctor to see it.”

“Honey, it’s not that bad.”

“Please, Lovie. You said yourself that you’ve never seen anything so nasty.”

A quick glance in my bathroom mirror that reflected the image of colossal red bumps covering the better part of my entire upper body provided confirmation of Lovie’s original assertation. Soiled Depends thought that thing was gross.

“Honey, relax. I guarantee this guy has seen worse things than that.”

That may have been true, but later that day I still fidgeted nervously as I described the situation to the dermatologist.

“Let’s have a look,” he said with a reassuring smile.

“It’s pretty disgusting,” I warned.

“You don’t have anything to worry about. Trust me—I’ve seen it all.”

“Okay,” I said as I began to peel off my shirt. “I just wanted to give you a heads up because…”

“Good God, that’s horrible!” he interrupted while recoiling in shock. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he abruptly left the room. I fully expected him to return with a photographer to conduct an impromptu, rash-inspired photo shoot that would forever immortalize me as the subject of one of those disturbing, skin-condition brochures that were shamelessly displayed on the shelf to my left. Instead he returned with a two-inch needle which he used to inject me with a double dose of steroids before handing me a prescription for an ointment originally concocted for the Elephant Man.

“By the way, John, the shot I gave you has been known to cause some minor side effects.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Acne, but it’s extremely rare. Less than a one-percent chance. I’m sure you’ll be just fine.”

Guess who went on to get acne on his back, or “bacne” as Lovie insisted on calling it?

It turned out that my rash was an extreme case of eczema, which had likely spread so quickly due to stress. The weird thing is, I am prone to eczema, but I had never once gotten it during the summer–only during the winter when my skin gets dry. As a matter of fact, I have it right now. It’s a little worse than normal, but I’m not too concerned. You see, I’ve had a really tough stretch, and whenever I get stressed, my body reacts in strange ways.

Wait a minute. You don’t suppose… Oh no. I better go see if I have any of that Elephant Man ointment left. On second thought, maybe I’ll just call my dermatologist. I think I’ve got him on speed dial.

One of the Girls

Lovie and I ran into one of her childhood friends at a restaurant this past Sunday–a woman I’ll call Cindy. Though I don’t know her very well, I’m a big fan. So whenever I see her, I always chat her up. The handful of conversations we’ve had have all been pleasant ones, filled with rapid back-and-forths and sprinkled with clever one-liners. Our rapport is excellent.

“You’re a man of mystery,” she said to me, looking lovely in her Sunday best.

“Oh really?” I asked. “How so?”

“My mom is always asking about you. She wants to know what Lovie’s husband is all about. You know what I tell her?”

“What’s that?” I asked, preparing to greet the series of compliments that were sure to follow with the perfect mix of appreciation and modesty.

“I tell her what a girls’ guy you are.”

Record scratch.

“I’m sorry?” I said, wondering if I had misheard, or if she had actually meant ladies man or some other complimentary moniker.

“I tell her how fun you are to talk to,” she explained. “How it’s just like chatting with one of the girls.”

An awkward silence ensued.

“And that you’re, you know, a real girls’ guy.”

Once concerned Cindy’s comments would render me visibly self-smitten, I quickly downshifted into damage control, hoping only that my expression wouldn’t reveal the fact that my engine was revving with disbelief, if not disapproval.

“I would have gone with versatile,” I suggested, wondering if I had come off as rude as I had feared.

But who could have blamed me. Girls’ guy? I wonder if my camping buddies think I’m a girls’ guy. What about my bookie? Or the rough-and-tumble, blue-collar types who work at the countertop shop I co-own? Or how about Chris Chambliss, the close friend I section hike the Appalachian Trail with? During our annual, week-long trips–the ones spent trekking up and down the sides of mountains, carrying forty-pound backpacks eighteen miles a day–I wonder if he ever looks at me and thinks, you know, as much as I love hiking with Osborne, what I’d really like to do is clutch a hot cup of coffee, plop down a fluffy sofa, and watch The View with that son-of-a-bitch.

Cindy's coming over and we're gonna chat!

I have a question. Since when did being unafraid to banter back and forth with one of Lovie’s all-time faves at a cocktail party suddenly turn me into RuPaul? I’m many things. And easy to talk to is one of them. But does that really make me a candidate to tag along on a weekend trip to Atlanta for a two-day Nieman Marcus bender?

As I drove to work on Monday morning, I replayed the conversation in my head. Maybe I was wearing my sensitive panties, I thought. Perhaps I over-reacted. So I asked my co-worker and close friend Shane Rose.

“Now what did she say, again?”

“That I was a real girls’ guy.”

“Was she serious?”

“Yeah, I think.”

“Buddy,” he responded while shaking his head. “That sucks.”

So much for the sensitive-panties theory.

Next time I see Cindy at a party, I’ll remember to stay on the boys’ side of the room and talk about the stock market and auto parts while belching loudly and occasionally readjusting my gigantic package. I’ll only cross over to the girls’ side to inform Lovie that her cowboy needs a drink.

Bourbon, bitch.

Harsh? Maybe, but I have to be careful not to use too many words or else I might come off all chatty. Wouldn’t wanna give anyone the wrong idea.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go. The Bachelor just started.

Father Time Fathering Triplets

Lovie, can you get my dentures for me? I think that B is playing with them again.

Well it happened. This past Tuesday. I turned forty. And while I am totally fine with it, even I have to admit that I’m starting to feel my age, especially when it comes to containing our two-year-old triplets. Simply put, I’m not the man at forty that I was at thirty, or even thirty-five. At least physcially. That said, there are some real benefits to hitting this mile-marker as they relate to my family. Here are my top ten.

10. The trips eat dinner at five and go down by seven leaving me a brief, but effective window for bingo.

9. I’m finally as old as my wife. (Sorry, Lovie)

8. Simultaneous meltdowns by three fussy two-year olds? They’re starting not to bother me. My hearing’s not what it used to be.

7. Even on the rare occasions when such meltdowns do bother me, I can always spit out my dentures. They’re usually good for a laugh. Especially when I chase A, B, and C around the house while chomping them together with my hand.

6. Whenever I hear one of the trips crying through the monitor at three in the morning, it’s not that big of a deal for me to get up and see what the problem is. It’s overwhelmingly likely that I need to pee anyway.

5. If we run out of diapers, I’m happy to let them borrow my Depends.

4. They love to play with my cane.

3. But that’s nothing compared to the joy they get from swinging on the crossbar of my walker.

2. I’m becoming more and more like Pookie. It turns out that I, too, like to watch TV with the volume turned up super-loud.

1. Whenever one of the trips is constipated, no more running to the store. I’m more than happy to share my prune juice with them.

A Very Triplet Thanksgiving: To Host or Not to Host?

Caroline and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year. It didn’t go that well. It turns out that preparing such an all-encompassing meal with three cranky two-year-olds constantly vying for attention isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard, not to mention noisy. To get everything done, we had to (temporarily) blow off our needy trio, which didn’t go over well. At least that’s what we gathered during the ensuing succession of DEFCON 1 temper tantrums.

To say that the constant chaos hampered everyone’s enjoyment would be an understatement. I’m near certain that my brother-in-law and his family will never come over again. And they weren’t the only ones who were put off.

Adam Lambert called. He thought hosting Thanksgiving while shackled with three two-year-olds was a little over the top.

Charlie Weis’s buyout thought it was too much.

New Coke wondered why we did it in the first place.

Richard Heene knew all along that we’d never pull it off.

The mere thought of it made his son Falcon wanna puke.

Fair enough. But I’m a big believer in redemption. And Christmas is right around the corner. What better time to redeem oneself than Christmas? Perhaps Caroline and I could step up to the hosting plate again, you know, as a way of making amends for the noisy Thanksgiving.

Chernobyl is worried about potential meltdowns.

Hmm. Valid. I know! Caroline and I will do a better job of containing the kiddies. A contributing factor to them losing it on Thanksgiving was all the excitement. If we sequestered them in our room and took turns entertaining them, the triplets would be oblivious to all the commotion and would be far less likely to erupt.

Sequestering three family members during a family gathering? Is this thing family oriented or not? Miley Cyrus thinks we’re sending mixed messages.

Tiger Woods says go ahead and separate them. But beware. Eventually, they’ll probably figure it out.

R. Kelly called. He’s got a new gig. He the official chaperone for a prestigious girls’ boarding school. He supervises the young ladies on all outings. He thinks it’ll be hard to watch the kids without thinking about that juicy meat you’re just dying to eat. (Sorry, that was a stretch, but I’m a sucker for a good R. Kelly joke.)

With all the time spent watching the kiddies, there’s always the chance we’ll forget about the turkey. Inappropriate and often crass descriptions immediately followed by far more conventional verbiage Strikethrough text worries the turkey will be overdone—WAY, WAY, WAY OVERDONE.

Michael Vick pointed out that the bedroom is where we keep our dog during large gatherings. He’s on the trips for a dime and thinks others in his possie may be down as well.

Wait, we can’t have people wagering on fights that pit our triplets against our spastic, pink-lipstick-toting dog. MacKenzie Phillips thinks that’s sick.

Enough already! Everyone’s right. Hosting another holiday meal would be a bad call. We’ll let someone else host, thank you very much. Instead of running around in circles trying to concurrently contend with potty training and Spinach Maria, we’ll load up our brood, hit the road, and watch someone else do all the work.

Sure hope the triplets behave better than they did on Thanksgiving. Hang on a sec. I just got a text. It’s from Tareq and Michaele Salahi. Before we pack everyone up, they think it’d be a good idea to make certain that we were still invited.

Solid point.

Thanksgiving, the Jungle, and a Machete

In 2001, I flew over 100,000 miles, visiting places like Vegas, Tahoe, and South Beach for fun and places like Birmingham, Tupelo, and Macon for work. I was a financial services wholesaler; a white-collared gunslinger, clad in a tailored suit—armed and dangerous with my carry-on, the Wall Street Journal, and a frequent flyer card.

After the first full year at my job, I won my company’s highest honor for sales excellence, the Reach the Peak award—an all-expenses-paid vacation for two anywhere in the world. But in spite of my professional success, I was a personal failure. And while this isn’t the forum to explain why that was the case, I will offer the following. I continuously molded myself to become whatever it was I thought people wanted me to be. In so doing, I had morphed from a person into a persona and was dangerously close to losing touch with who I really was.

I cashed in my Reach the Peak award on a two-week South African tour. It was in that foreign land I began the long process of rediscovering myself. It was there I realized how unfulfilled I was, as well as how much more I wanted from my life. I longed to fall in love, settle down, and have children. I also longed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Finding love and writing the perfect novel weren’t exactly the typical topics my metro-sexual buddies and I discussed while clubbing in Midtown Manhattan, yet I was at a point where I needed to give such concepts the attention they warranted. I knew that if I was really serious about trying to find a more fulfilling life, I needed to change my playgrounds as well as my playmates.

So in April of 2002, I quit my job and blew up my world. BOOM. Done.

In the months that followed, I was lost as a bat. Many couldn’t believe I’d thrown it all away, but I didn’t care what such people thought. I was deep in the throws of a spiritual reawakening, thanks, in part, to a few special friends and a couple of books by C.S. Lewis. (Incidentally, if you’ve not read Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, it’s not safe for you to die yet.) I repeatedly pondered God’s will for me, near convinced that it included a wife and little ones, hopeful that it may even contain writing. I constantly prayed for God to show me the way, confident that something would soon reveal itself.

I was wrong.

Eventually, I moved back to my hometown and started a granite countertop business with my sister-in-law. The first two years were sheer hell. I found myself working doctor’s hours at janitor’s pay, much of them in the form of grueling manual labor. My dream of writing? There was simply no time. My dream of finding love? Though I was more true to myself than I had been before, I was still bouncing from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. By 2004, I was officially in a rut, often wondering if blowing up my old world was the right call after all. I grew skeptical that love and family were in the cards for me, but, regardless, I knew that God had something planned and I repeatedly prayed for Him to show me how to find it. Those prayers continued to go unanswered.

Enter Caroline, a girl I had known since 1980, but one I had not seen nor spoken to in over a decade. I was coming off of (yet another) dysfunctional relationship, and she was emerging from the wreckage of an unsuccessful marriage. We formed an immediate bond, and I was incredibly attracted to her. Sadly, however, I knew that our relationship had no future. Thanks to a few different trysts with single moms in my past, there was one thing I was certain of: I was not interested in becoming a step dad. Period.

But in spite of that preconceived notion, I fell madly in love with Caroline. And then something else happened. I fell madly in love with her daughter. Two and a half years later, Caroline and I got married. Thirteen months after that, we welcomed triplets into the world. Once worried that I’d never get married and have children, today I find myself happily married and the father of four. The business that used to suffocate me is now up and running to the point that I’m able to spend more time writing than I ever dreamed possible. Could it be that after all these years, I’m just now on the path that God had intended?

A close friend of mine, Dr. Michael Ruth, recently told me that, to him, God’s will is nothing more than each of us standing on the outside edge of an impossibly thick jungle armed only with a machete and the knowledge that God’s got our back. As I reflect on my journey, I believe my friend is right. God’s will isn’t something that’s magically revealed to you just because you’ve prayed about it. It’s not something that’s laid at your feet. It’s a feeling that’s deep in your soul. And that feeling is what you use to guide the machete as you cut your path through the jungle that lies ahead. That feeling is proof that God does, indeed, have your back. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you’ve got. Other than Him and the machete, it’s all that you need. The path you forge with the tools He provides is His will.

With Thanksgiving just a day away, I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, my four children, the successful small business I co-own, the time I’m able to spend writing, and the indescribable happiness all those things have given me. Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that I’d be in such a spot. But I guess I just kept hacking away until I found them. I’m not naïve enough to think that my work is through, for I know how easy it is to get lost in the jungle. As I continue to forge my way, I’ll continue to uncover countless new challenges and will undoubtedly find myself lost as a bat again and again.

And daunting though that may be, it doesn’t change one simple fact. This Thanksgiving, above all else, I’m most thankful for the One who put me on the outside edge of this impossibly thick jungle. For without Him, the machete, and the feeling He placed deep within my soul, I would never have found any of the other wonderful things for which I’m eternally grateful, nor would I be able to continue making my way through His beautiful jungle.

Happy holidays, everyone. God Bless.

Da’ Swine Intervention

A bunch of my jackass friends and I convene every Thursday night in my buddy’s basement to talk about life and how to live it. Okay, that’s bullshit. It’s really more of an excuse to knock a few back than anything else. But in between all the beer drinking we do discuss a number of interesting topics—it’s just that none of them are very deep. Accordingly, our wives consider these gatherings nothing more than garden-variety family abandonment.

Touché.

BUT, rest assured, lovely wives, our gatherings are not without purpose. Just this past week, for example, I learned something that was interesting, compelling, as well as provocative. It was the first sentence of a story our host was good enough to relate to us, and with its very utterance, I knew I had found the topic for my next post.

“My brother-in-law bought a pig that was born with no anus.”

Family abandonment issues notwithstanding, if it weren’t for these weekly, booze-fueled man-chats, I would have never learned about this mysterious pig nor would I have known about the anus he never had. Absentee fathers? Problematic, no doubt. But waddling to the trough of life with no anus to help you process all the shit that said life subjects you to? Down right criminal!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to just stand by idly for another moment. I’m gonna befriend this anus-less pig. He’ll see. Even if he can’t ever find relief, at least, in me, he’ll always be able to find support. But how will I show him such support?

I know. I could introduce him to some new friends. I can see it now: “Pig with no anus, I’d like you to meet horse with no name.”

Maybe I could help the pig find a nice home. Hmmm. Can a pig with no anus buy a house with no credit? Hang on—phone’s ringing. Oh, it’s Bono, from U2. He wants me to tell the pig with no anus that he could always live where the streets have no name. Solid point, Bono. Thank you for taking a break from your sanctimonious agenda. You can go back to saving the world now. Please keep us informed of your tireless efforts via interviews in which you come off condescending—not that I blame you. If you didn’t talk down to us mere mortals, how could we ever fully appreciate your selfless efforts to fix all the things we’ve managed to mess up?

Wow, sorry about that. I didn’t mean to interrupt my tribute to the pig with no anus by bashing a man with no humility. But our sensational swine, I’m told, has taken no offense. It seems he doesn’t much care for U2, anyhow. His favorite band? C’mon people. You know this. All pigs without anuses like Men Without Hats. That’s what they get down to in the club. And without all that slippery pig shit on the dance floor? Safety Dance? You’re damn straight it is.

And when a pig with no anus meets a beautiful female pig at the club, you know what he does, don’t you? You don’t? Hmmm. I really thought you’d be catching on by now. A pig with no anus takes the sexy sow back to his place, where the streets have no name, so the pig with no anus can engage in sex (with no strings attached, of course).

What happens next is obvious. Our sensational swine and his sultry sow will spawn a new generation of pigs with no anuses, pigs who will go on to walk in their father’s hoofprints. And what’s even better is that they’ll be able to do so without having to worry about stepping in a bunch of pig dung.

Wow. Thinking about all the good that this pig with no anus is doing for the animal kingdom, as well as for mankind? It’s giving me shivers. Just one brave pig, refusing to give up, gritting, gutting, and sometimes (one would have to assume) grunting his way through life with little if any thought given to the fact that he’s gotten the shit end of the stick (so to speak). And just look at how much he is capable of accomplishing.

Do you know what else he is capable of accomplishing? Inspiring folks like me to write a post with no point. Oink, oink, y’all.

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