This story will eventually involve a rubber ducky.
Island Packet — The phone buzzed, and it was the school’s number. “Mr. Vrabel?” said the slightly too-calm voice on the other end. “First of all, your son is fine …”
Now, there are multiple thoughts that fireball through your brain whenever someone in a position of authority says “Your son is fine,” and the first one is almost always “AAAAAAAUGH HE’S OBVIOUSLY BEEN CARRIED OFF INTO THE WOODS BY A MANIC WILD BOAR,” which is odd, because I actually don’t think wild boars do that, or even get manic.
But whenever the phone rings and those are the first words you hear, it almost always means that someone is bleeding and that person is probably related to you. It’s gratifying, of course, to hear that everyone’s OK, but though the “logic hemisphere” tells you that the outcome is decided and the danger has passed, the “illogical storytelling chaos hemisphere” likes to sprint through the many colorful scenarios that could end in that sentence — most of which, if you’re me, involve dinosaur attacks.
Island Packet — Some artists spend their whole careers deflecting explanations about what they’ve written, preferring to leave such details up to the adaptable whims of the listener or the perpetual appeal of mystery. In announcing his new record — the sterling, stop-reading-this-and-go-buy-it-already “The Beast In Its Tracks” — Josh Ritter dragged the explanation on stage and threw a spotlight on it.
“I wrote and recorded this record in the 18 months after my marriage had fallen apart,” he said in the album announcement/message to fans. “All heartbreak is awful — my broken heart wasn’t unique. But writing these songs was helping me get through the night, and I didn’t have the strength to care or question.” And thus was born what the media/Internet christened Josh Ritter’s Divorce Record.
But if you’ve been following Ritter’s career — if you haven’t, you should immediately seek out his 2002 debut “The Golden Age of Radio” and listen onward through 2007′s “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter” — you know that the Idaho-born singer is not one for self-immolation, or even allowing himself too much time on the dark side of town.
Island Packet — Generally speaking, we don’t order or display school pictures very often, for one simple reason: I have seen mine.
My mom has hanging in her house the complete and unabridged collection of Godawful Jeff School Photos, everything from a mint 1980 Floppy-Haired Kindergartener to a 1986 Inconceivable Geek With Monstrous Plastic Brown Glasses to the 1991 Moody Teen Who Is Scowling Because His Parents Made Him Get Braces in the 11th Grade. The pictures are arranged in chronological order in an oval, ostensibly to simulate a clock and the passage of time. It’s a treasured and invaluable part of my mom’s home decor, and I want to smash it with a hammer and light it on fire, then smash the smashed pieces with a hammer and feed them to a moose, or any kind of animal that eats hopelessly nerdlinger school photos, I’ll have to look it up.
I bring this up because we got our school pictures from my younger son’s day care last week. Read more.
Island Packet — I casually mentioned to a friend last week that I’d made my son waffles and bacon for breakfast that morning. I also casually mentioned that I’d done it a few days before, and a few days before that, and probably a few times the previous week as well. My older son does not have an adventuresome palate, so when his dad finds something the boy will eat that doesn’t originate from exhaust-belching factory machinery with the words “VAT OF NUGGETS” on it, he sticks relentlessly with what works. So, sure, I said, waffles and bacon. Get some OJ, throw some fruit out there, breakfast of champions. Let’s get this kid to third grade.
But my news seemed to come as a solid surprise, like, wait, you make him waffles and bacon? Every day? Sure, I replied, feeling really pretty jaunty about myself and my breakfast-related fathering, given all this sudden affirmation and everything.
Well, obviously, this was a bit of a communication breakdown. It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about actual waffles and actual bacon, while I was talking about something different — namely waffles that can be waffled in a toaster and come from Sam’s Club in a box of 35,000, and precooked bacon that can be re-cooked in a microwave and come from Sam’s Club in a box of 47,000.
Island Packet — First, the good news: The 9-year-old loves books. Always with the books. He’s a big reader — at bedtime, in the backseat and at the breakfast table, which is why many of his favorites are frequently drenched in syrup. There are certainly worse things to be into, such as firecrackers or the Disney Channel or almost literally anything else, so I understand that complaining that your kid reads too much is a little like whining how you can’t get him to put the carrots down long enough to shovel a Baconator in there.
But the problem isn’t that he’s reading too much, it’s that his current favorites — a series of adventures starring a mouse in some sort of mystical dragonworld — are, to borrow a phrase from the world of literary criticism, rhinoceros poop.
These are such terrible books. They have terrible titles and terrible art, and they use terrible words. They have no discernible storyline, characters arrive and vanish for no reason (one turtle just up and leaves, which is odd, as turtles aren’t known for their speedy departures) and each chapter is about two pages long. Read more.
This thrilling-looking excitementfest is what it’s keeping my son up late at night.
Island Packet — For going on nine years, the video game situation in our house has been happily deplorable.
By “deplorable,” I mean we don’t have video games. We are sans Wii. There is no Xbox here, no PlayStation. One time a friend brought over some device that you control by hopping around your living room like a hysterical lunatic, which wasn’t something I could see doing regularly. Somewhere in the attic there’s an ancient blow-on-the-cartridge-era Nintendo, which essentially represents the precise moment my video game evolution came to an end. And that’s it for video games. Somewhere, we are being pitied by the Amish.
Yet it’s hard for me to stand atop Hippie Mountain and say, “The scourge of video games shall not touch this castle!,” because in place of the Xbox, we’ve become obsessed with something called Minecraft. And apparently if you are the parent of a boy between the ages of 3 and 18, there’s a solid chance you just went, “Oh my God yeah, Minecraft!” — especially if you’re the kind of person who talks to your computer a lot. Read more.
This image contains coded patterns which mystically herald the coming of the Apocalypse or some crap.
Island Packet (Stolen Hastily From November 2009) — ‘What do you think about this 2012 madness?” Paul Mitchell asks me via the newsroom’s instant-message system earlier this week. Paul Mitchell is a line of high-end hair care products, but he also is an actual human person who works in the newsroom. At one time Paul, being of a considerably younger vintage, failed to correctly identify Bruce Springsteen on the television. Illogically, we’re friends anyway.
The movie looks like silliness, I reply, but on the other hand, “Independence Day” was a pretty great movie in which many objects were indiscriminately exploded, such as the White House and Lone Star from “Spaceballs,” so it might be fun.
“Not the movie,” Paul says, an icy fear creeping noticeably into his online voice. “All I gotta say is I’m panicking if that mess comes my way in three years.”
Paul was, I surmised, referring to the Mayan prophecy that says the end of times will take place in the year 2012. It’s also the hook of “2012,” a new movie by destroyed-landmark fetishist and director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) that stars John Cusack, both of whom, it turns out, appear in a strong percentage of Mayan prophecies. In their lore, Cusack is actually immortal.
McClatchy/Tribune – I am not a very good-looking woman, which I think is the primary reason I’m having trouble coming up with a decent Halloween costume this year. (It’s also the main reason I kept getting turned down for sororities, not that I’m still bitter about that, stupid Zeta Tau Alpha, I hate you so much.)
Indeed, if you have visited any costume stores lately, you might have noticed that they look less like costume stores and more like places that Britney Spears might shop, if she could stay sober long enough to park the car. Costume stores these days feature an irrationally large percentage of rack space devoted entirely to Sexy versions of average things: Sexy Nurse, Sexy Doctor, Sexy Soccer Player, Naughty Navigator, Sexy Mountie, Support Our Troops Sexy Adult (really), Sexy Wilma Flintstone (I can send you the link to these if you want). One newsroom staffer reported stumbling across a costume for a Sexy Cab Driver, which is, of course, something that has never happened in the history of the human experience. (However, if it does happen, I suggest immediately that we cancel Halloween and institute National I Found A Sexy Cab Driver Day, which we could commemorate by briefly increasing the national speed limit to 200 mph and growing splendid beards.)
Probably don’t so much want to play the Grand Prize Game with these people
Island Packet- Everybody loves a clown, except me, because I hate them, hate them with an intractable hate, an icy and all-consuming hate, a hate that’s so hateful it’s gorgeous, because all clowns are bone-chilling, spine-curdling, bone-curdling, fake flower-squirting, red-nosed, be-wigged messengers of hideous demon-terror. And I’m not just saying that because of the recurring nightmares I’ve been having since what years of therapy have determined to be around the age of 4, but then again, I probably am. For when they would haunt my sleep, the clowns would mostly chase me across a desolate, bone-dry landscape, one filled with brush and tumbleweeds and Sergio Leone camera crews; I tried in vain to run away, but they were relentless, cackling horrifically on their unicycles and popping up from behind cactus after cactus after cactus. This went on for years, pretty much until the nightmares with the Incredible Hulk began, but this is probably oversharing now, as well as a startlingly long intro paragraph.
For the most part, I don’t like to overgeneralize about things I disapprove of, except Fox News anchors and country music, but I feel comfortable saying that clowns should be avoided at all costs; in fact I have endeavored to keep my young son, for instance, away from them for as long as possible. Seriously, if he came up to me right now and said, “Dad, can I have a clown birthday party?” or “Dad, can you buy me a carton of cigarettes?” my only question would involve his preferred level of filtering.
Multiple campaign signs make this average lawn shine with class and charm.
Island Packet — Just throwing this out there, just spitballing, just doing a little brainstorming — because that’s what I do when it gets humid and heavy enough to make the birds literally bang on my window with their beaks and plead for death — but if we here in Beaufort County have rules, guidelines, codes, covenants, unspoken laws, unbreakable vows and sternly worded press releases regarding things that can and cannot besmirch our greenosphere, is there some reason we allow official-sounding political types to acne up our landscape with cheap-looking red-and-white-block-lettering campaigny signs?
I realize that the balance of this column will result in my sounding the very oldest I have in my life, except for that one time I handwrote a complaint letter to Andy Rooney because he made fun of Gene Krupa, but to that I say: “Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!” Because it stands to reason that if I cannot successfully locate a grocery mart after nightfall without knowing my precise longitude — which, thanks to my iPhone is no longer a problem but I’m still sniffly about this — if I can’t enjoy the calming glow of the average American streetlight, if I can’t go for a lousy evening run around my stately, verdant neighborhood without wearing a coal miner-style headlamp because of the constant threat of stepping on, around, or into an alligator in the pitch-blackness, I should not have to be reminded, upon venturing out for coffee, who is running for governor. (Incidentally, it’s blogger-affair lady and some other people.)
I've written for the nice people at GQ, Time, Men's Health, Billboard, Paste, Nickelodeon's NickMom, brucespringsteen.net and The South Magazine. I'm also a syndicated humor columnist in "newspapers" and a father of two (the younger of whom has been personally approved by Bruce Springsteen) on the coast of South Carolina. Even longer bio/clips.