Sunday, June 25, 2006

This just in: People are bad.

I've spent a lifetime being foolish.

I naively believed in the good of man; I truly believed that we are all born good, and while circumstances can cause some of us turn a little bad, for the most part we remain basically decent. It pains me to admit that I was wrong. People are born evil.

But what a flower-sniffing sap I was. Once, in a college writing course, my professor asked us to pick one of two viewpoints--that people are basically good or basically evil--and write a paper defending that viewpoint. Naturally, being the wide-eyed young idiot that I now realize I was, I ranted on about how of course people are basically good, and only through extreme influence do we sometimes, tragically, take a misguided turn for the bad. What an idealistic little Mary Poppins asshole I was.

Today, cold, hard truth smacked me in the face. I was sitting around minding my own business (probably musing about how the world is one big happy Brady Bunch episode) when I overheard a cherub-faced little boy of about 8 chattering away to his father about a cartoon he had seen on TV recently, featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The distracted father was trying to do some work on his laptop while the kid yammered on, excitedly describing one of the coyote's elaborate anvil-as-weapon attempts on the road runner's life. The father muttered the occasional, "Mmm-hmmm," or "wow," in a flat, monotone voice. The kid was too young to understand that his father wasn't listening to a word he was saying, so he took his time meandering to the end of the story, wherein, as you might imagine, the road runner escapes once again, leaving the frustrated coyote steaming. The kid was the picture of childlike innocence, so excited about this silly cartoon...until! He wrapped the whole thing up by wistfully commenting, "I hope someday the coyote catches the road runner." To which Father Clueless mumbled, "Yeah, that'd be great."

What? This adorable little serial killer in training wants the coyote to catch the road runner?! What kind of parents raise a little monster like this? That'd make for a fun cartoon, wouldn't it?

Scene One: Coyote chases road runner; road runner narrowly escapes, a sweet, innocent smile on his beak.Scene Two: Coyote devises new plan to catch bird; road runner narrowly escapes once again, emitting an exceedingly cheerful, "Meep, meep!" and continuing to look angelic and huggable.

Scene Three: With grim resolve, coyote chases road runner again, this time with a fresh look of wild-eyed determination. At the end of a long, feverish chase, Coyote catches road runner, ripping into the bird's delicate throat with his teeth, amid the bird's tortured screams of agony. Blood-spattered coyote gleefully feasts on road runner's tattered carcass by the side of the highway, while cars whiz by, the occupants indifferent to the carnage.

Scene Four: Crazed from the taste of blood, the coyote goes on a maniacal killing spree, butchering and devouring every animal and man that crosses his path. Eventually, when he has decimated the entire population of the dessert, he begins to infiltrate other cartoons, slaughtering Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, the Powerpuff Girls, the Afflac duck, the Geico gecko and the Energizer Bunny, as well as scores of others. The 8-year-old boy mentioned above sits in front of his TV cackling with demonic glee, rubbing his chubby hands together as he begins to map out his own plan to kills his parents, neighbors and classmates and boil them all together in one massive stew pot.

So there you have it; my rosy view of the world has been shattered. I now admit that yes, the world is a steaming cesspool filled with villains and cads, and when empty-headed hayseeds like myself stubbornly insist that people are innocent and kind, our foolish naivete only makes it easier for the scoundrels to pillage and plunder.

Well, no more. From this moment on, I will no longer bumble through life with a fairy tale notion of the goodness of mankind. I will approach every stranger with the belief that he is not a friend, but a bloodthirsty killer on a rampage, more likely to gut me like a fish than say hello. I will sleep with one eye open. From here on out, it's kill or be killed.

And I'm starting with that little 8-year-old, cartoon-loving murderer-on-training wheels. Next time he looks up, he's going to see an anvil blacking out the sky.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Give from the heart. It'll make you feel better about yourself.

In the span of a week, both Brian and I received letters informing us that our financial/personal/medical records may have been compromised, and are possibly in the hands of an evil villain who will use them to first destroy us, and then topple our government and take over the White House.

Well, the letters didn't exactly go into those specifics, but I can only assume that will be the eventual outcome. I watch TV. I know how these things work.

First came my letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yes, I'm a veteran. Please remember me on those holidays in which you revere all heroes of this country. During my few short years in the Army Reserve, I heroically performed such tasks as bravely typing memos, fearlessly moving things from one corner of a room to another, boldly stuffing a rucksack full of unnecessary items and schlepping it up a hill, valiantly staying awake during classroom instruction, and courageously consuming an incredibly diverse range of beige or grey food items. Now, as it happens, a VA employee has managed to lose track of a laptop computer which contained the records of many thousand current and former servicefolk such as myself. Jack Bauer has been contacted, so there's an excellent chance the country will be saved from total destruction, but who knows how many lives will be lost in the process?

And since Jack's attempt to save the world will be thwarted and stalled at every twist and turn by everyone he knows with the exception of maybe one or two brilliant, clever people who clearly idolize him and/or want to sleep with him, this could take a while. In the meantime, I have to plan for my future.

The missing data contains my medical and financial records, and I've been trying to think of ways to protect myself against the misuse of this sensitive information. First, there's the financial data. I have extremely good credit at this point. (Surprised, asshole? Actually, me too.) But I know that it would take less than a year for an evildoer to wad my lovely credit up in a ball and wipe his villainous backside with it, eventually leaving me bankrupt, starving and homeless, begging on the street for money to buy a nonfat, no-foam latte at Starbucks.

To insure against the possibility of abject poverty, I am hereby setting up a "Friends of Karla" donation program. I'll accept donations from you (yes, you) in any amount, but I think we both agree that it's pretty tacky to donate in anything other than multiples of $100. Because Bank of America, where my modest checking account is kept, is probably not logistically able to handle the thundering avalanche of cash that will surely come crashing in the moment I post this, I have had the foresight to set up several overseas bank accounts, so that I can keep the money spread out across several continents. I am also prepared to invest heavily in tech stocks and Purina dog food, to further distribute the cumbersome pile of money. Some of the cash I will simply bury beneath my house for quicker access. I realize there may very quickly come a time when I need to think of even more options for housing the ever-increasing influx of donations, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I simply ask that you reach deep into your pocketbooks, your friends' pocketbooks, your mother's jewelry box, and your boss's cash register and donate whatever you can, as often as you can, until it hurts, to save this poor veteran from the clutches of impending disaster.

Next, there's the matter of the medical records. While I never wanted it to get out that I had such extensive and repeated STD testing in the 90s, I feel that a little bit of embarrassment is the least of my worries here. I have no idea what evil could be wrought by a criminal in possession of medical records, but I don't have time to sit around and speculate. All I can do now is prepare for the worst, so I'm setting up a "Friends of Karla" Organ Donation program. I ask you to donate whatever bodily organs you can spare, up to and including your heart, lungs, kidney, and skin. Got a friend with a nice, healthy liver? Appropriate it and send it in, ASAP. I'll also be accepting donations of blood, type B Negative. (Nice, huh? My blood type and my attitude toward life are the same! Ho, ho--I tell you, even in the face of disaster I still have a sense of humor. Don't you admire my strength, my courage?)

There's no time to waste, since we have no way of knowing what plans this medical records thief has, or how quickly he will be able to act on them. I have already bought several large, commercial-grade freezers to accommodate the organ and blood donations when they start rolling in, and I have alerted the US mail service, Federal Express and UPS that they will need to increase their staff for the next several months, lest they be buried in a mountain of packages and letters as a result of your unrelenting generosity and humanitarianism.

So please, I hate to seem rude, but there's no time for you to sit around reading this blog today. You've got to mobilize your friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, even total strangers, to get started now collecting and sending donations.

Oh, and Brian got a letter too; this one from the company that handles his student loan. Apparently someone who worked for a records management company that handles the financial data for many thousands of current and former college students has taken a bunch of those records hostage and is willing to trade them for cash, guns, an unlimited supply of Gummy Bears, and safe passage to Brazil. Or hell, maybe they just lost the records, I can't recall, but I do remember the letter saying that the data had been compromised. I'd set up a donation program for Brian, too, but I worry that doing so might decrease donations to my own fund, with some people dividing up their meager life savings between the two funds. Let him figure out his own way out of this mess; I'm looking out for number one. If he starts to look hungry I might flip him a couple bucks, but beyond that, he's going to have to be responsible for himself, and dig his way out of financial ruin on his own. If there's one thing I hate, it's someone who's looking for a handout.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I'd better start saving for bail money.

When you're expecting a child, you sit around and daydream about what that child might one day become. Beautiful? Talented? Successful? Kind? Famous? Generous?

A writer? An architect? A scientist? A doctor? The president?

A lover of animals? A good friend? A sympathetic listener? A devoted spouse? A dedicated parent?

You know it's possible for your unborn child to become any of these things, but you gamely promise yourself that you'll love that child even if he or she becomes none of those things. You hope for the best, naturally, but secretly you also pray you have what it takes to love unconditionally even if your baby grows up to be a bit of a disappointment to you as an adult.

I have reached that crossroad in my life as a mother.

Jake had a lot of promise; he really did. He was cheerful and sweet, a quick learner, a big hugger. He rarely cried. He reached all the baby milestones at the appropriate times: Turning over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking, etc. People told us on a regular basis how charming and adorable he was. And he was fun to be with. Looking back, it's impossible to pinpoint when things started to change, when Jake started to turn bad.

Maybe an outsider could have seen the signs, but I, as his mother, lived with him every day and must have simply missed the subtle changes. Isn't it funny how the closer you are to a situation, the harder it is for you to see it clearly? I wonder now if my friends and acquaintances were talking behind our backs, whispering that Jake was turning into a problem child, that it was a shame we weren't better able to guide him and keep him on track. Why didn't they speak up? What kind of friends are these, to sit back and watch us wander off into peril, rather than reaching out to help yank us back to safety?

But it's silly for me to sit here and place blame. I know that, after all, I'm his mother, and it was my job to guide Jake and help him become the best person he could be. If I'm going to point fingers, I should point at myself, because I'm the one who failed here.

And I know that I should love him unconditionally, but there are things I can't accept. I can't condone drinking and driving, for instance. It's irresponsible, it's dangerous, it's reckless. Yet Jake won't listen to me. In these photos you can clearly see he's behaving like a rabid frat boy, yet he's still in his jammies, barefoot, because it's barely 8 AM. What kind of person is this?

Half an hour later, he's so loaded he barely looks human anymore. And nothing I can say or do will slow him down when he's in this state. He's like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Except that he's wearing jammies with cartoon dump trucks on them.

What would you do? Take his car away? Sounds like a good plan, since he's clearly not inclined to operate it in a responsible manner, and since he's demonstrated that he's not deserving of the privilege. Yet, when I tried that, I discovered it only encouraged him to commit even more heinous crimes, since he's more than willing to steal a car, even willing to hurt the owner of the car in the process.

I never expected motherhood to be easy, and I don't want to turn this blog into a "poor me" rant about how hard my life is. But I'm reaching out to you. What can I do to stop this little monster from ending up on the FBI's "Most Wanted Toddlers" list?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I know funny people.

Spoken by my attractive redneck friend Kenny in Missouri:

Don't leave me in this bar alone! You know I'll get drunk and end up going home with one o' them taterhogs that's been hitting on me all night!

Spoken by my friend Donna in high school algebra class, while discussing possible senior class trip destinations with our teacher:

KANSAS!? No! If we wanted flat, we'd stay here with Karla!

(And might I just say in my own defense that my very average C cups probably only looked flat next to Donna's very impressive D cups. I would have pointed that out at the time if I could have been heard over the shrieking laughter of my entire class and my teacher.)

Spoken by comedian Artie Lange:

Drinking non-alcoholic beer is like f*!#ing a mannequin.

Spoken by me while 3 months pregnant, upon being asked if I planned to find out the sex of the baby from my upcoming sonogram:

Hell, yes! I don't understand people who say they don't want to find out the sex of the baby until it's born. I want to know everything; I don't want any surprises coming out of my hoo-ha.

Spoken by the plumber who came to a rental house we had just moved into a few years ago, when we called him to fix the backed-up plumbing:

It's probably nothing major. Most times I get called out to a house where the sewage is backing up into the bathtub, and people are afraid it's going to require a major overhaul to fix it. But lots of times it's just sewer rats.

My husband (horrified): Sewer rats?! We have sewer rats?!

Plumber: Well, some people call them tampons. I call them sewer rats.