The Answers at the Back of the Book

I was never good at Science.  

I was too impatient for the Scientific Method.  Why ask more questions than you have to?  Why test your theory when you can just guess?  In 7th Grade Earth Science, I answered correctly that the crusty end result of my final Lab Practical, lying there in the ceramic bowl was sodium chloride.  Salt.

"How did you arrive at your conclusion?" asked Mr. A. 

"I followed the first few steps, and then did this," I replied, wetting my index finger with my tongue, digging into the still warm dish, and then tasting it.  "See?  Salt!"

"What do you think your'e doing?!?"  Mr. A. shouted.  "What if that wan't salt?  It could have killed you."

"This is 7th grade," I answered confidently.  "You're not going to let us play with something that's gonna kill us."

Logic.  But the wrong kind.  I got a 50.  Right answer.  Wrong proof.

I wasn't too hot at Algebra, either. 

Again, the "logic" gene that I could apply to situations and debate was tone deaf to facts and figures.  Why trace back the steps of your equation when you could turn to the answers in the back of the book and find out that x=2?

"You can't start with the answer and work your way back from it," Miss F. used to say.  "That's not how Algebra works."

It's not.  It's not how life works, either.

russert_slide9.jpgBut today, I saw the answer that I want to have at the end of my life's book.  It was delivered in a eulogy on national television, about a man of my faith, of my avocation, whom I met once, and whose death affected me not as a child who knows one day he will lose his father... but as a father, tapped on the shoulder for the first time with the notion that someday he will leave his children. 

This answer, it turns out, was delivered in the shortest of all the tributes given today; and by the ONE person amid Brokaw, Cuomo, Barnicle, and Shriver who actually needed an introduction. 

Her name is Betsy Fischer.  And this is what she said.

Almost every morning for the last 10 years, Tim would call at exactly 9:00 a.m. and say, "Hey, Bets, what do you know?"  What I wouldn't give for that phone call tomorrow morning.

I'd happily suspend all talk of news, politics, and Washington gossip and I'd tell [you] some thing that I've
come to know since last Friday afternoon.

I'd say there is a nation mourning the loss of a great man ... and a trusted friend. 

And after you heard my morning rundown, you'd say this is all part of life.  We have to move forward, lean on each other, and cherish all the good times and live every day to its fullest.  But, live it with honor and integrity, and always reach down to help someone else up.  You'd say take these incredible lessons of life that I leave with each of you and live them as you remember me. 

And I'd believe every word because ... you have never once steered me wrong.

That is the answer that I want at the end of my life's book.  And this, too, is a book that you can't work backwards from.

I've got some work to do.


"The best gift of Christmas" Wry-ku

366478-1230621-thumbnail.jpgYears ago, our then 11-year old son, who wanted a bell from Santa's sleigh not more than two years ago, survived the FIRST of his two major revelations this year, [Read:  Santa; not Baby].  This morning, he presented his Mom and me with the best gift we could have ever received:  A book of his poetry from school.

366478-1230625-thumbnail.jpgHis work is amazing, including this Haiku.


The small blue jay sings
A joyful welcoming song
To summon morning


I couldn't have said it better myself--or been more touched--ever.  Merry Christmas.


Mentionitis. Or, "Nick P. would think that's so funny!"

That is the sound, my friends, of a Third-grade crush.

Do you remember when you had a crush, and suddenly everything becomes relevant to that person??  You slip their name into conversation... you think you're being subtle, but it gives you such a rush. 

366478-1204803-thumbnail.jpgWell, that's what my daughter did at the breakfast table Sunday morning.  She came home last week and told my wife that "Nick P." had sent her a note asking if she'd be his girlfriend.  "Well, I think you should tell him you're his special friend," my wife said.  "Yeah," my daughter replied.  "Boyfriends and girlfriends aren't for at least sixth grade."  And so, when she returned from school the next day, her wife asked if she broke the news to Nick P.  "I was gonna say that, but then I thought, he's so funny, it would be cool being his girlfriend.  So I cirled "Yes" and gave him his note back.

Iron willpower, that one.  Just like her father, and she has NO IDEA.  Which is fine, because she wants to make sure that I have NO IDEA about this whole affair.

And so fast-forward to the breakfast table, when her younger brother blurted out something hilarious.

"Oh, Danny," she said.  "Nick P. would think that's so funny!"

And so now, I've taken to using that as a non-sequitir rejoinder in conversation.  I already used it once each at the water cooler, as a reply to an email, and on a conference call.  It's so funny.  NO one said a peep.  Not a question.  

For another day:  Raise your hand if you've ever played that game.  You're given a saying to blurt out and the winner is whoever can pull off the most outrageous statement without breaking stride.  I played with some folks from Michigan once during a drink-fest on Mackinac Island once.  They're hard core up there.  And do you know what??

"Nick P. would think that's so funny!"


"Dad, you gotta check this out."

My 11-year old son took me on a tour of YouTube yesterday.

He knew all the words.

Wonder if he's heard about Dumbledore. Looks like we'll have to have that talk sooner than I'd planned.


A non-anniversary Wryku

Life is linear

From one end to the other

Going with the flow


Anniversaries are thought of by some to be the closing of a circle.  I think they're milestones along one journey.  Life is linear.  That's the observation I made to one of my beloved sisters on the first anniversary of our Mom's passing.  Just because some dude named Greg took some other guy Julian's calendar and changed it, doesn't mean that anniversaries are reruns.  They're not. 

But sometimes you have to stop.  You can't just let the days slip by.  Thursday is such a day for me.  The birth of my oldest child.  And 10 years later, the death of one of my dearest friends. 

Jeff, wherever you are, I'm thankful so often to think about you, remember, and wonder...  What the hell did Abe Lincoln and JFK have to say?!?  Do you guys hang out??

Oh, and I almost forgot:  What's the deal with crop circles... and is Morgan Freeman really God?

Call me.



Santa. Baby. (Memo to my Son in 2007)

Growing pains

I should have seen this coming when my son no longer played with the handful of Tonka and Corgi trucks that I have carried through my 42 years.  There's nothing like good old-fashioned lead-painted toys.  But he's 11 now, and the Batmobile and the Starsky and Hutch Grand Torino have settled to the bottom of the toy box, under layers of Power Rangers and Star Wars toys.  (Boba Fett makes it, but not Huggy Bear???) 

He's 11 now, and Sports Center has replaced Jimmy Neutron, and Daddy's got some 'splainin to do.

Growing pains are on the way.

366478-1154943-thumbnail.jpgAs the eldest of 5 children, with 12 years between my youngest sister and me, I never lived in a house where someone didn't BELIEVE in Santa Claus.  That's very likely to change.  Soon. 

The other day, in a daze of watching "Elf," his younger brother and sister reacted to a line about parents putting out toys instead of Santa, "That's what Brendan thinks."  Since they didn't break their gaze from Will Ferrell, they didn't see me flinch at the blow of that statement.  They weren't testing me, but once Brendan gets the confirmatory "talk," the dominoes will be set to fall.  

And when that happens, however it happens, good Lord.  I'll be living in a house where everyone's the wiser and my kids have outgrown my toys before I have.

Yes, I s'pose it is remarkable that an 11 year-old boy has at least not admitted to his parents that he doesn't believe in Santa anymore.  Maybe he's trying to protect us... or hedge his bets. 

But wait... there's more!  

This is also the year when they will show "The Movie" in school, setting up another interesting chat.  Since I've been told it's my job to handle "The Talk" that will follow, I decided long ago to link the two and go "Tit for Tat," [I know...] something like this:

"No son there's no Santa, at least they way you thought."

"But there is sex."*

"But you can't do it yet."

"But when you can, it will be really great."

"But not for years, 'cause you might by mistake make a baby."

Then this happened

When the bell rang, I hit the "snooze bar" to buy a little time.

"Daddy, did you and Mommy pray to have us kids."

"Yes, we did."

"Well, you must've really prayed fast between Katherine and Danny, because they're only a year apart."

"Well, yes we did, son, but as you'll learn, Mommies and Daddies have something to do with it, too."

[Snooze bar holds for seven seconds.]

"What's 'The Talk,' Daddy."

[Nearly drove off the road.]

"Why do you ask?"

"[Older cousin] asked me if you and Mommy had had 'The Talk' with me yet."

"Did your cousin say what it was about?"

"Nah.  He just asked me.  What's it about, Daddy?"

"Well, remember how you heard that the 5th boys and girls will see 'The Movie' later this year?"

"Yeah.  They're gonna show bodies and stuff."

"Well, that's kind of what the talk is about."

"But what about The Talk?

"Son," I finally intoned. "Remember when you were little and you knew all your ABCs?"


"But even though you knew all your letters,  you still didn't know how to read, did you?  There were some other things you needed to learn first, right?"


"Well, it's the same way with 'The Talk.'  There are some things that you're going to learn this year and when you do, 'The Talk' will be easier to understand."

"Oh.  Okay."

Again.  Maybe he was trying to protect me. 

Or hedge his bets.


It couldn't be in autumn: RIP Robert Goulet

How I'd leave in autumn I never will know

I've seen how you sparkle

When fall nips the air

I know you in autumn

And I must be there.

Farwell to an icon who gave us lots of laughs, and who laughed along with us...

... again and again.


I know, I know, I know, I know...

Now playing the wryPod...

366478-1114880-thumbnail.jpg"Aint no Sunshine"

Bill Withers

Damn, this song is good!

I mean, REALLY good.

Sign it's a good day:  Hitting all the "I knows" and ending on the right one! 

That is all.


Buzz off Fly-ku

"Don't you think that's a little showy??" 

My silent rebuke to a fly that made its way onto the US Airways Shuttle from Washington DC to LaGuardia.

I'm still waiting for scientists to dig into my theory about birds, and how they act around airports.  (Hint: Showoffs.)  

Not this kind
But what about the fly who flies? 

Yes, yes, he had the good sense and manners to fly coach with the rest of us; perched on the overhead bin.  No, he did not shift during takeoff or landing.  And upon landing, I swear I saw him fly straight out the door.

Clearly this DC fly had plans in the Big Apple for the weekend.  Maybe he took in a show.  Possibly he was the guest host on Saturday Night Live, in time to fly back and tape Meet the Press.  Possibly he hung around the terminal, cruising the Mens Rooms for wide-stanced United States Senators. 

Not this kind, either.
Regardless, this little bugger... this FLY... who can FLY... something I can only do in the odd lucid dream... flew... for FREE.

And I think he knew it.  366478-1107787-thumbnail.jpg



Redundant insect
Nobody likes a show-off
Where's your boarding pass?



A Trio Grows in Brooklyn

In honor of the approaching second birthday of Wry Toast, my first (and only) video.