Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rubik's Rubes

I just boxed up a broken Pyraminx Speed Cube to return it to Amazon. How many times have you said that, huh? If you’re like me, never.

I have a feeling it won’t be the last time. The problem is my kids are smarter than me. Don’t ever tell them I said that.

What is a Pyraminx Speed Cube, you ask? It’s obviously a four-sided pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube. Why are they calling a pyramid a ‘Cube,’ you ask? Good question. I have no idea. Why would anyone need a pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube, you ask? Obviously for when the regular square one gets too boring.

When Son Number Two first asked for a Rubik’s Cube, I had an immediate flashback to my childhood. I was there when the Rubik’s Cube became an overnight sensation, and I remember my first encounter with the cube like it was yesterday.

My sister handed me a Rubik’s Cube that was all scrambled up, and told me that I needed to switch all the squares around so each side was a solid color. I twisted and turned the colorful plastic cube for at least an entire minute. Then I threw it at her head and went outside and played freeze tag.

The only other time I ever touched it was when I needed to kick the infernal little Hungarian torture device across the room on my way to get my comic books. I hated that thing. It was impossible. Whatever part of the brain is responsible for being able to even begin to figure out a way to start possibly coming up with the beginning of a partial idea for how to solve a Rubik’s Cube – I was born without that part.

I looked at Son Number Two with rightful suspicion. Should I bother to spend the ten bucks to get you a Rubik’s Cube that history shows you will probably abandon within three days? Do I need to get out the box of abandoned fads?

Let’s see what’s in here. Ah, the five thousand dollars-worth of Rainbow Loom stuff. I remember this. Do you want to make me another multicolored rubber band bracelet, or are we done with this for good? If you need any of the little rubber bands, they’re all still tangled in the vacuum’s beater bar. All the little plastic clips are in the vacuum’s bag.

Oh, look, here’s the big stack of cups from that worldwide sensation you couldn’t bear to miss out on – cup stacking. Yes, stacking cups and then unstacking them really fast. With special expensive plastic cups. I remember the six minutes that lasted. Good times.

Hey! Here’s the three Kendamas we have, because each of you needed your own. Remember? It was dubbed “The Japanese yo-yo.” I never understood that. It’s a stick shaped like a hammer with a wooden ball tied to it. It’s nothing like a yo-yo. What it is is a great way to hit yourself in the face with a wooden ball. Do you remember playing with these for hours? No? That’s probably because you only played with them for three minutes.

What’s that there? Oh, the little spiky tray that the fuse beads go on. You remember the fuse beads, right? You used to store them in the carpet for safe keeping. Those microscopic colorful cylinders that melt together when you iron them to make a plastic drink coaster in the shape of a Christmas tree or a turtle. Those were useful. You could make something with them now, but all the fuse beads are in the vacuum bag with the Rainbow Loom hooks. Sorry.

So why should I believe this Rubik’s Cube you want isn’t going to end up in this box? Oh, well. I guess we’ll give it a shot. What do we have to lose except ten bucks?

It’s been a few weeks now and I’m happy to report that having a Rubik’s Cube has drastically increased the requests for screen time, since there is now a treasure trove of videos and step-by-step instructions on how to solve the cube out there on the internet. There’s even a site where you can input exactly what your cube looks like and it will give you the exact turn sequence to solve it.

Just one more thing this spoiled, entitled generation will take for granted. Back in my day, we didn’t have the internet. We had to peel off the stickers and rearrange them to solve the Rubik’s Cube. That was the only way.

In just a few short days of total Rubik’s Cube immersion, Son Number Two was already looking for a new challenge. Enter the Pyraminx. A pyramid-shaped Rubik’s Cube. As soon as I saw it I had the overwhelming urge to throw it at my sister’s head and run. But Son Number Two jumped right in and spun the pieces around so many times in the span of a week that he wore it out. In the process, he got pretty fast at solving it.

It appears that the Rubik’s Cube might escape the box of abandoned fads for at least another week or two. My children amaze me. At one point or another all three of them have complained loudly about how hard the Rubik’s Cube is, but not one of them has thrown it at the other’s head and gone to play freeze tag. They just keep trying. Go figure.

The Rubik's Cube part of the brain must skip a generation. Or come from the mother's side.

At least I gave them freeze tag.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Eighth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Just wanted to shoot you another quick letter and let you know that I’m super excited you and I are back together again for Fall Picture Day tomorrow. Getting those picture packets is like opening a box of Cracker Jack every year – I just can’t wait to see what we get.

In my fifth letter to you, I very helpfully detailed how much your website sucks. I assumed you would use that information to improve the website up to at least an level of user-friendliness. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

I wanted to take a minute this year and let you know what a total suckfest your website still is. To focus on the positive for a minute – When ordering my picture packets, there were only six annoying options to click ‘no thanks’ on this year, instead of the forty or fifty I had to wade through last year, so I take that as evidence that you actually have an IT guy. Although, based on everything else, I’m assuming it’s still that fourth-grader. Actually, I guess he or she would be in fifth grade this year. Tell them congratulations for me.

Back to the suckfest - I already had an account with a username and password from years prior, so I logged in and was happy to see my information on the screen, but the momentary hopefulness dissolved quickly as I noticed the system had not saved my sons’ info. Why? Why would you not save that? They’re the ones getting their pictures taken.

On the front page you invited me to ‘add students,’ so I did. It went OK, but I’d like to point out that once I tell you what state and city our oldest boy lives in, and what school he attends, it might be nice if you were to auto-fill that info in for the other two boys instead of having me have to start completely fresh every time. We don’t have one of our elementary school children in California and another in Idaho like I guess you assume most people do? We all live in the same house.

Once I was done with the longer-than-it-needed-to-be process of typing in the exact same information for three kids I was absolutely thrilled to see that when I actually tried to order pictures, I had to type in all that information again. Separately. Three times.

Apparently I was only ‘adding students’ to my new Lifetouch ‘My Rewards’ program that I thought was the start of the order process, but is actually not related to anything helpful about ordering pictures. You did offer me a ‘FREE Hi-Res Digital Image’ through my new My Rewards account that now remembers my boys’ names (but again, I feel I need to point out, does not transfer them through to the actual order process, which would be the only reason anyone would want your website to remember their kids’ names). I didn’t get the news about the amazing free Hi-Res image deal until after my purchase, and there does not seem to be any way to add it to my order now, so thanks for nothing, really. It’s OK, though. We’re really a Lo-Res family anyway. We get too Hi-Res and we might start to notice the mustard stains on their faces and shirts.

I also see that you have completely done away with that annoying family plan, where I got to pay less because I had more than two kids at the school. Thanks. I hated saving that money.

A half-hour later I clicked ‘complete order’ and logged off in disgust again this year. You have one of the only websites that makes people wish they were on the DMV’s website instead. Congratulations for that, I guess.

Then, moments later in my inbox, you made up for everything with your order summary email. I was thrilled to see that you thought enough of our relationship to include the following inspirational statement and handy link:

We're excited for your student's Picture Day! Click here for advice from kids on how to prepare for Picture Day!

I clicked here, and there was apparently supposed to be a video at the top of the page, and I’m sure it was adorable – probably super-cute kids giving hilariously precious advice to parents, like, “Make sure you feed your kids doughnuts on picture day, because doughnuts make you smile,” and stuff like that. I wouldn’t know, because the video failed to play. You can go ahead and make another note for your fifth grade IT guy.

Then came the five pearls of wisdom:

Use these tips to help your child get ready for a great-looking school portrait that you’ll treasure forever.

1) Help your child pick out clothes and colors that look good on them. After all, your child is the star of the photo—not their shirt, so avoid slogans, logos, and big patterns. Small jewelry and accessories are fine but nothing too big or distracting. Make sure to check your flyer to see sample poses for your Picture Day. Some poses may show pants or skirts, so plan the complete outfit.

Look, it’s either pick out the clothes for them, or get what you get. They can’t be involved in the decision making. Case in point would be that time you took a picture of Son Number Three wearing a T-shirt featuring a bear in full road leathers and gloves, riding a green motorcycle in front of a U.S. flag shaped like an outline of the United States. That ‘no logo’ advice would have been handy then.

And thanks for the pose advice. Where was this nugget a few years back when you had my kids sitting on a plastic “rock” that looked like a giant cow pie? I sent them to school in soccer shorts and your pictures ended up just showcasing all their knee injuries.

2) Glasses are okay! Lifetouch photographers know all the tricks to reduce glare.

So we should let Son Number Two wear his glasses on picture day? Thanks for the heads up. Now I feel like a jerk. A lot of those knee injuries were from trying to bike to school without his glasses that day.

3) Any hairstyle works for Picture Day. Schedule haircuts a few weeks ahead of time to allow hair to grow back a little, or you can go for a fresh-cut look.

I like how you give me so many options. One question, though. By ‘any hairstyle’ do you also mean bed head? Because bed head is by far our most common hair style for our boys on any given school day.

4) Keep kids relaxed and ready to be themselves. Smiles can look fake if they’re practiced ahead of time. Remember, smiles are like french fries—they’re better when they’re fresh.

I guess this sort of applies to Son Number Two. Son Number Three however, has never relaxed. Unless you want to take a picture of him sleeping, you’re going to have to deal with wild and crazy. And as far as Number One goes, no amount of relaxation or French fry jokes are going to help with his Chronic Forced Smile Disorder. The struggle with CFSD is real and we’re still looking for a treatment center.

5) Don’t worry about “perfect”! That hair that always sticks up or a missing tooth shows your child just as they are right now—and you’ll enjoy looking back on that for years to come. On Picture Day, teachers and volunteers will help straighten collars and check posture. And, if you like, we have retouching options for scrapes and blemishes.

Really? We’ll enjoy looking at bed head for years to come? Tell that to my wife. I’m not sure she’s buying it.

And teachers and volunteers will help straighten collars and check posture, huh? Hmm... I guess that might be true, but I think sometimes they might get sidetracked dealing with little Johnny making fart noises in line and blaming it on Suzy. Either way, could you do me a huge favor? When you look through the lens and see something other than collars or posture out of place – oh, I don’t know, like maybe food stuck to my son’s face - in two different places, I might add – could you maybe grab a wet wipe and help clean him up a tad. We’re not worrying about “perfect” over here, but we’re not going to send the grandparents a picture of our boy with an entire noodle from his macaroni and cheese stuck to his cheek.

And yes, I know all about the retouching options. I spent ten minutes clicking ‘no thanks’ to all of them before you’d let me order. I’m not willing to give you money to digitally edit out the mac ‘n cheese noodle. Napkins cost less. Let’s use them.

That’s it! Our experienced photographers are pros at making a fun and worry-free Picture Day.

OK, if you say so. Thanks for all the good advice. We’re excited about Picture Day, too.

I’m over here just giddy with anticipation. Good luck tomorrow.

All my best,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door yesterday, and since I was in the midst of a living hell, having been without internet service all day, I actually talked to them for a few minutes instead of throwing water on them like I normally do.

I left the short conversation with my amazing copy of the latest edition of Watchtower magazine, and a sudden flashback memory of the awesomeness that was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

In case you don’t know the story, a very corrupt and devious man, who was also a total genius, came from India in the 1980s and bought an eighty-four thousand-acre ranch in central Oregon. All he needed next were some followers. Two thousand of them, to be exact.

In exchange for the low price of working for free seven days a week, along with giving him all their money, two thousand total idiots got the sweet combo deal of getting to dance naked, and also wave at him every day at two o’clock when he drove by in one of his ninety-three Rolls Royces that they paid for.


Sure, he had tear gas guns hidden in the fenders of his cars. And he tried to rig an election by attempting to poison an entire town’s voters. And he was actively trying to kill quite a few government officials while running the largest illegal wiretapping operation ever seen. But hey, who among us hasn’t done that kinda stuff? Am I right?

So it got me thinking. I’m pretty sure I’m going to start a cult. It seems easier and more lucrative than a real job. Plus, I have first-hand experience in cult operations, so I have a leg up on the competition. I never made it up to Rajneeshpuram in Oregon to see the operation, but I have been to Ratna Ling.

Ratna Ling is supposedly a “spiritual Buddhist retreat” on the coast of California. What it really is is a mid-sized industrial book printing operation that is in no way zoned properly. They have millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech printing and conveying equipment operating daily, with all the deliveries and shipments associated with an industrial operation, tucked back in the woods on small county roads never designed for the traffic or the load.

The only thing keeping them from being shut down is that their workforce isn’t paid. The guru at Ratna Ling has himself some followers. Cult followers, you ask? Hmm... You be the judge. The whole very modern and expensive print line is operated entirely by skinny, smelly, barefoot hippies living in yurts. In exchange for their tireless printing efforts that are no doubt swelling the guru’s bank account, they receive enlightenment and rice with fruit.

I installed a piece of industrial equipment when I was there. I was paid, so in turn, I received no enlightenment whatsoever. I did get an education, though. What I learned is that there will always be lost and misguided people out there in search of whatever kind of “spiritual enlightenment” they think will be the answer to their problems, and they are willing to work for free to get it, and in many cases, pay you for it.

I want to help those people. I want to help them join my new cult... uh, Spiritual Guidance and Enlightenment Center. PorkTown, we’ll call it. Enlightenment through Bacon. That’s our motto.

You see, the major bugaboo with cults seems to be land-use issues. That’s what fouled up the Bhagwan’s sweet gig, and that’s what has Ratna Ling’s neighbors up in arms. PorkTown will operate out of a warehouse in the business district, so there won’t be any zoning problems.

Now, your traditional dirty shoeless cult-goers seem to be drawn to fresh air and trees, which always leads to that pesky land-use issue, but I’m looking for a different demographic. My draw will be a giant sports bar that offers free food and beer. Bacon will be the path to true oneness with the universe. Everything will be wrapped in bacon. Even the bacon will be bacon-wrapped.

In exchange for their daily chores (known as the Participations in Greatness) and/or generous donations to the cause, the Porkers will receive spiritual and galactic healing and tranquility through swine and beer. Only true and compete understanding of the universe can be achieved from the life-altering shock of the Defibrillator of Truth. Much bacon must be consumed to be worthy.

Careful not to omit the major draw to any cult, the Porkers will be allowed to dance naked whenever they want. Of course, this will be allowed only in the special Dance Naked Room that will have no windows, because let’s face it - these people are going to be eating a lot of bacon. There will need to be a Defibrillator of Truth in the Dance Naked Room also. Maybe more than one.

Participations in Greatness at PorkTown will include cleaning my house, making my kids’ lunches every morning, buying me stuff, pool maintenance, giving me money, landscaping and yard work, paying me, interior and exterior painting, paying all my bills, various home improvement projects, buying expensive things for my wife, auto repair and maintenance, family meal preparation, and giving me more money.

Come be a Porker. Your enlightenment is waiting, and it’s wrapped in bacon!

I’ll see you around town. I’ll be the one in a Rolls Royce with a pig as the hood ornament.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Screen your Kids for Drugs

Our kids are getting addicted to screen time. No, not like, “Yeah, we should cut back on that a little.” Like you might as well be giving your kids crack.

A guy named Dr. Nicholas Kardaras just wrote a book called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids – and How to Break the Trance. I recently read his article on the subject, and although I have never heard of the man before, my usual exhaustive two-minute Google search confirmed that despite the similarity in last names, he is in no way related to or associated with the Kardashians, so he’s OK in my book.

It was a short article, but filled with references to studies by other smart-sounding people from places like UCLA and the Pentagon, all saying the same thing: Screens are REALLY bad for kids!

Here’s the scary upshot - screens affect the brain’s frontal cortex - which is presumably in the front, and apparently in control executive functions including impulse control – exactly the same way cocaine does. In other words, a brain on Minecraft looks the same as a brain on drugs. They also said technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels as much as sex.

So apparently, instead of more screen time, you might as well be encouraging your kids to have sex, smoke crack, or, depending on how much screen time they get every day, both.

In fact, as the article points out, besides the obvious negative health effects of drugs, they might actually be a better thing for a human to become addicted to, because quitting is easier. It’s much simpler to get into a drug-free environment than a screen-free one, unless you happen to be someplace like Tijuana, Columbia, or Detroit.

That’s it for Casa de Smidge. No more screens.

I have always had a natural inclination to limit our boys’ screen time. My only real reasoning when I started was, “I didn’t have them as a kid, so you don’t need them.” That logic is good enough for me, and I also apply it to things like GoPro cameras, hoverboard scooters, five hundred-dollar baseball bats, and name-brand breakfast cereals. It saves us quite a bit of money every year.

We don’t have any game consoles, and they don’t have any handheld devices other than our old smartphones. Well, after this article, those are officially gone now, too.

Now that our kids will have no home screen time at all except for the occasional TV show or movie, I have come up with a list of alternate activities since I know we’ll need to be ready for the pushback from our crack-addicted children as they detox from the glow.

A short list of things to do when you feel the need to stare at a screen:

- Go swim in our pool. Or sit next to the pool and stare at the water. It sorta glows like a screen. Or wait until I’m not paying attention and get the ladder, climb up onto the patio roof and see if you can jump all the way into the deep end. Even if you miss and break your legs, that hospital visit will be better than checking into a rehab clinic. Plus, you will have learned a far more valuable lesson about velocity, trajectory, and gravity than you could have ever gleaned from Angry Birds.

- Burn ants with a magnifying glass. It’s far more useful to me than you killing zombies on a screen, because we will have less ants. Plus, at some point, your feeble little mind will put your finger under the glass to see just how hot it is, and you’ll learn a real-life lesson about focal point energy than simply cannot be taught with a Play Station.

- Make a mud pie. It’s messy. There is no life lesson to be learned. It’s just fun and squishy. Plus, it will give us a great excuse to make you take a shower.

- Run. It’s handy, because the more you run, the faster you get. Remember – you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the video game kid you were standing next to when you saw the bear.

- Do some pull-ups. They are handy for when you need to climb up, over, or out of something. You’ll be back up on the right side of the zoo fence while the video game kid is still stuck in the gorilla’s enclosure.

- Read a book. Your dad is an author, for goodness sake. Let’s keep up appearances.

- Learn to make cocktails. It’s a skill you’re going to want later in life, and it would be great if I could just order stuff instead of having to make it myself.

- Learn to cook. See above.

- Play with your Legos. They’re like Minecraft, but you can touch them. You have no idea how jealous I am of your fancy curved Legos, your Star Wars Legos, and your Legos that actually shoot projectiles. You are spoiled beyond belief when it comes to Legos. Earn it!

- Open a lemonade stand. We used to be OK with the computer games where you ran a restaurant or ran a hotel, thinking at least they were educational, but no more. Run an actual business that makes actual products to sell to actual people. You will learn so much more, and you will make actual money. I will then teach you about something the video games never did: expenses. You will pay me rent, you will pay me for the supplies, and I will tax your profits. Welcome to reality.

- Wander around the neighborhood. It’ll be just like Pokemon Go, but without the screen. You’ll actually notice actual physical things around you, and you’ll be forced to figure out which way to go to get home, without the help of Google Maps. That’s an important skill that almost no one your age will grow up with.

- Play an instrument. It will get you girls later. Video games will not.

- Ride your bike off a jump. It’s fun in a way that video games can never be. You might get hurt. That’s good. You can’t get hurt playing video games. Not being able to get hurt is bad. Nothing good in life comes without risk.

- Make nachos. Share them with your father. Nachos are delicious.

- When all else fails and you can’t think of anything else to do, take a nap. You will get nothing accomplished at all and it will still be better for you than screen time. Plus, you’ll be less grumpy.

In the meantime, you will hate me because I am unfair and all your friends get to play video games and I am unfair and mean and unfair. I’m perfectly OK with that, because when you are not busy resenting me you will be able to concentrate on solving a problem. You will be able to create a story in your mind and then communicate it to another person coherently. You will be able to have a conversation with another human being that involves eye contact and active listening. You will stand up straight. You will be able to survive outdoors. You will be strong and tanned and tough.

And I don’t want you to worry for a second about “falling behind” when it comes to technology. You’ll be just fine. You are smart and resourceful. When you grow up there will be people your age who will know far more about the inner workings of the devices you all use. There will be people your age who will be far better able to create the “code” to make things work. That’s just fine. In fact, it’s great.

You’ll hire those people.

I love you,

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lochte'd and Loaded

Through our almost unbelievably extensive worldwide network of undercover reporters here at Just a Smidge, we were able to secure an exclusive transcript of the impromptu meeting in Ryan Lochte’s Olympic village dorm room, just minutes after the story broke about the harrowing robbery he and his fellow party-goers were involved in. You’re welcome, America.

Ryan Lochte: Hey, why are you dudes in my room?

Jimmy Feigan: Did you seriously tell your mom we were robbed at gunpoint?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. When we got back this morning she asked me for some money. I didn’t have any because of last night, so I told her we got robbed. Pretty smart, huh?

Jack Conger: Smart? Are you kidding, dude? She told a reporter. It’s on the news!

Lochte: No way, bro. For reals?

Gunnar Bentz: Yes, for reals. Look at my phone!

Lochte: Dude. I’d better tweet about this right now.

Feigan: That’s a bad idea.

Conger and Bentz: Yes, very bad idea.

Lochte: Dudes, shut up. I’m the oldest. Plus, I’m rich. I totally know how to handle the media, bro.

Feigan: Why did you tell your mom we were robbed? Why not just say you spent all your money?

Lochte: I dunno, bro. I didn’t think of that. The booze at that France House was flowin’, yo! Plus, being robbed could be cool. Check it out, I’m sayin’ the dude had a gun to my forehead but I was all like, ‘whatever, bro.’

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: Do not tweet that!

Lochte: Just did, bros! This is going to light up my Tinder account! Oh, man! I shoulda said I ninja kicked him. Dang. Maybe I’ll add that.

Feigan: You’re an idiot!

Lochte: Whatever, bro. I got a gold medal here.

Conger: We all got gold medals, you moron. We were in the same relay.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. You and Gunnar were only prelimers. I won the final.

Feigan: (coughs) Phelps

Lochte: Oh, whatevers, bro. I have twelve Olympic medals. That’s second most.

Feigan: Dude, you’re like thirteenth on the overall list.

Lochte: Second most for swimmers, bro.

Feigan: Dude, you’re tied with Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres, and Natalie Coughlin. And Jenny Thompson has two more golds than you.

Lochte: Second most for dudes, dude!

Conger: Yeah, behind Phelps.

Lochte: Whatever, dude. If it wasn’t for Phelps, I’d be Phelps.

Feigan, Conger, and Bentz: What?

Lochte: He’d be Ryan Lochte. You know what I mean. Whatever. I’m awesome.

Feigan: Which do you think is higher? Your IQ, or the pool temperature?

Lochte: Huh?

Feigan: You’re an imbecile. What happens when they get the video from the gas station?

Lochte: They’re not gonna have video.

Bentz: Every place has video.

Lochte: No way, bros. This country is totally bogus, man. My Tinder account wasn’t even working at that lame-o gas station.

Feigan: What?

Lochte: Jeah. It said there were no hot babes who wanted to date me within a mile of that place. That never happens.

Conger: We were at a gas station at six in the morning on a Sunday, dude. Why would there be any chicks around!?

Lochte: There’s always chicks around, bro. Always.

Feigan: Oh my God! Shut up! They’re going to get that video and you’re going to cause an international incident with Twitter because you lied to your mom! Are you kidding me right now? Why did you destroy that dude’s sign anyway?

Lochte: I don’t want to talk about it.

Feigan: I don’t care! You screwed all of us and probably the whole U.S. team. Why did you go berserk on that guy?

Lochte: Because I told him we were famous American swimmers, and he asked if Phelps was with us. He wanted his autograph. I hate that. Besides, you were the ones kicking the bathroom door.

Bentz: Because you locked it, dude!

Lochte: No, bro, I Lochte’d it. Get it?

Bentz: No.

Lochte: Hang on, let me take a quick selfie. *click* Oh, yeah, I’m SnapChatting that one. Look how good my hair looks. Hashtag woke up like this, hashtag ice blue goes good with gold. I’d better Instagram it, too. Hashtag no filter needed.

Feigan: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! We need to tell coach that we weren’t robbed. He’ll know what to do.

Lochte: No can do, bro. We’re already blowin’ up on Twitter. Check it. Four hundred re-tweets already. Boom! Robbery it is. Let’s get our story straight.

Feigan: What story? We busted up a gas station and then paid the guy for the damage. That’s the only story! They’re gonna have us on video coming home at the metal detectors with our cell phones and our watches.

Lochte: We’ll just say the bad guys only took our cash. Besides, they probably don’t have cameras either. I’m telling you, this country is bogus, dude.

Feigan: Armed street thieves in Rio de Janeiro only took our cash, and let you keep your nine bazillion-dollar Ralph Lauren watch? Do you even have any idea what country we’re in?

Lochte: Jeah, bro. Rio. Duh. 2016 Rio Olympics. Hello? Oh, man, Tinder is blowin’ up. There’s honeys everywhere wanting to make sure I’m OK!

Feigan: Oh my God!

Conger: We can’t do this. They’re going to know we’re lying.

Lochte: Relax, bro. I’ll handle the media. I’ll go talk to Matt Lauer and Billy Bush again. They love me. Billy’s got a serious man crush on me, bro.

Feigan: Oh, great! That should go well. Aren’t you even the slightest bit worried about losing your endorsement deals?

Lochte: No way, bro. Speedo? Ralph Lauren? Those dudes need me. I’ll totally handle this.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Gold Medal Wiener

In my opinion, when measuring the most dominate Olympic athlete of all time, we must consider the wiener.

If you are dutifully keeping up with your Rio Olympics YouTube fail videos, you might immediately assume that I’m referring to Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita, and his unfortunate, yet anatomically impressive disqualification at the hands of his man parts.

I am not.

And you gymnastics fans might be thinking that I’m referring to a three-time Olympic medalist in the men’s trampoline event - high-flying Chinese silver medalist, Dong Dong. Again, you would be wrong.

South African rugby phenom Werner Kok? American synchronized diver Steele Johnson?

What’s the matter with you people? Get your minds out of the sewage-infested gutters of Rio. I’m obviously talking about hot dogs. Now get your minds into the sewage-infested pools of Rio and think swimming, people! Swimming and hot dogs. What do they have to do with each other, you ask? Well, a lot, as a matter of fact, when discussing total swimming dominance.

Michael Phelps has once again turned in one of the most amazing sports careers of all time. He left the sport of swimming the first time in 2012, at the end of the London Olympic Games, but decided on a comeback and added six more medals to his neck in Rio this year. He retires (we think) with twenty-eight Olympic medals, a staggering twenty-three of them gold.

Let’s put that into perspective with some handy bullet points:
- No other single Olympian in history even has double digits in gold. Not even Dong Dong.
- Phelps has two more total career Olympic medals than Egypt, and the country of Ireland is only beating him by one in the overall medal count. Don't even get me started on Kyrgyzstan. He beat them before he could legally buy beer.
- Brazil, this year’s host country, has the same amount of career gold medals as Michael Phelps now has at home, assuming Phelps gets out of the crime-infested host country with all of his medals.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phelps made history by winning eight gold medals in eight straight events. He broke the long-standing record of fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, who went seven golds for seven events in Munich in 1972. When Phelps broke Spitz’ medal record, the world crowned him as the new “Greatest Olympian,” and there was very little public debate about it. Now, as Phelps finishes up with his astonishing career medal count, crushing former Soviet female gymnast Larisa Last-name-ina for all-time individual medals won, and ending up with close to three times as many career medals as Spitz, he will be written into the history books as the greatest, bar none.

I am here today to dispute that. I am here today to tell you that Spitz was better, and my argument lies with the wiener.

My case for Spitz being a more dominant swimmer doesn’t even take into account that he won most of his 1972 Olympic races by body lengths, or that he set new world record times in all seven swims. I’m not even focusing on the fact that he swam without goggles, that he swam without a cap, or that he swam with an afro, all of his rather prodigious underarm hair, and a Tom Selleck mustache. My argument even ignores his 1970’s red, white, and blue Speedo, which is hard to ignore.

My argument has to do with eating. A lot of fuss is always made during the Olympic coverage about how much Michael Phelps and the other swimmers eat every day. While it is certainly a lot, in the world of competitive swimming, it’s pretty standard. World-class swimmers do two things - swim and eat. I was by no stretch of the imagination a world-class swimmer, or even a county- or city-class swimmer, but when I was swimming in high school, I would come home from practice and eat the entire right side of the fridge. That’s just par for the course, swimming-wise.

The amount of food that Spitz and Phelps put away during their swimming days is not where my argument lies. My case for Spitz’ athletic superiority comes from the amount of food he could put away during a race.

When I was in high school, our swim coach told us a story about Mark Spitz. Back when Spitz was in high school in Santa Clara, California, Coach Pete had seen him race at a nationals meet. Spitz already held national high school records in every stroke, and he was heavily favored in every one of his races, but when the swimmers took the blocks for one of his events, he was absent.

His name was called over the loudspeaker, and everyone at the pool and in the grandstands began looking around for him. When the race officials called his name again, telling him to report to his lane to start the race, he was seen jogging toward the starting blocks from the snack bar. He had three hot dogs in one hand, and he was eating another while he was running toward the pool.

He reached his starting block at one of the middle lanes of the pool, chewing the last of the hot dog he had been eating while he ran. He handed two of the three remaining dogs to the timer behind his block, asking the man to please save them for him. He then joined his opponents, stepping up onto his starting block, still holding a hot dog.

Now, let’s be clear for a minute. We’re talking about an Oscar Mayer wiener, in a bun, with the condiments of Spitz’ choice. In his hand. On the starting blocks. Of a nationals race. He had just Joey Chestnut’ed one of them while running. He was now standing over the end of his lane holding another.

As the crowd looked on in gastro-intestinal awe, Mark Spitz proceeded to stuff the entire hot dog into his mouth, reach down to touch the block at the “take your marks” command, and dive into the pool with seven other swimmers, starting his race while chewing and swallowing a whole hot dog on lap number one.

He beat the nearest finisher by almost two body lengths.

Michael Phelps is undoubtedly awesome, but all he ever did was swim. What about the wiener? It probably never even occurred to him to combine competitive eating with competitive swimming. Mark Spitz was a trailblazing, groundbreaking, lightning-fast, “I can eat a hot dog during this race and still whip your ass” kind of an athlete. Wait thirty minutes after eating before getting in the pool? No thanks. I’ll eat while I’m swimming.

Phelps says he did everything he set out to do, and the world seems to be in agreement on his status as the Greatest Olympian.

That may be true, but when measured against the wiener factor, Spitz still has my vote.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Curls for the Core

Son Number One said the funniest thing he's ever said the other day. He asked his mom if we had any weights.

“Weights?” she asked, while trying not to laugh directly into his face. “Like dumbbells to lift?” *partially stifled snort*
“Uhh... Yes we do. Why do you ask?”
“I want to start working out. I need to work on my core. I can't even do a sit-up.”
*red-faced, snorting cough and quick turn away* “That’s great, honey.”

Please don't misunderstand. We are not normally in the habit of laughing at and mocking our children. I mean, not unless they do something incredibly stupid. Then, they’re just bringing it on themselves.

Anyway, this wasn't one of those times, so we were fighting very hard to keep straight faces. You see, the request for free weights and a workout routine would have seemed completely normal coming from Son Number Two, and would have been odd but believable from Number Three, but Son Number One? He doesn't like to move.

If you want to get him to groan, moan, whine, and complain all in one sentence, just wait for him to be sitting and then tell him he needs to get up. Want to hear him howl? Ask him to come upstairs to talk to you. He’s only eleven years old and he already sounds like he’s ninety.

Very early on in his first season, he asked his soccer coach if he could just go ahead and be goalie all the time, because as he put it, "I don't really like to run much."

Years later in his athletic career, Son Number One was told by his mean parents that he would be on his elementary school's cross country running team. After an intense period of whining we answered his main recurring question of “Whyyyyyyy????????”
“Because we participate on school sports teams and cross country is the only sport at your school.”

The other obvious reason was that his parents are all about any school-sponsored way to keep their kids out of the house for as long as possible, but we didn’t mention that part.

Son Number Two was told that he would be on the cross country team as well, and his response to the news was different than Son Number One’s, although it did involve him.
“I’m going to beat him!” was all he said.

We had very little doubt. Number One’s love of running had not yet blossomed at that point. Still hasn’t as a matter of fact.

At their first cross country meet, Son Number Two’s goal was to place in the top twenty runners. He met his goal. Son Number One's goal was, and I quote, "to not come in last." He also met his goal. By one runner. He was second to last. I think he beat a kid who was walking the course while playing Minecraft on his iPod.

It’s not a lack of ability. He can run really fast. I’ve seen him chase his brother when he’s angry. The boy’s got some jump. It’s just a lack of drive. That’s what makes baseball the perfect sport for him. The running is very short and far between episodes.

So given his eleven-year-and-counting streak of not wanting to give too much effort, we were more than a little surprised when he asked us for workout equipment. To his credit, we’re on day three of workout mania, and he hasn’t abandoned the five-pound weights yet. But I will maintain a cautious level of optimism, based on this conversation this morning:

“I just did a hundred curls on each arm.”
“Hmm... really feeling the burn, huh?”
“Well, A) maybe we need to get you bigger dumbbells, and B) I’m pretty sure that didn’t help your core. You should do sit-ups.”
“That’s the problem, I can’t do sit-ups very well.”
“What do you mean? I don’t get it.”
“I know you don’t son. I love you.”
“Whatever. You’re weird. Can I go watch TV now?”
“Sure. Find something really funny. It’ll help your core.”
“Never mind.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sesame Street Blues - Repost

‘A’ is for Axe. In light of the news that HBO just fired lifelong Sesame Street regulars Bob, Luis, and Gordon, I thought a repost of my column from a year ago on the subject was in order. Who could've seen this coming? Enjoy.

As if Legos that now actually fire projectiles and the intolerable addition of swamp-idiot Jar Jar Binks to Star Wars weren’t enough of a slap in the face to my generation, yet another thing from our childhood has changed forever. Sesame Street is leaving PBS and moving to HBO.

The PBS press release was disconcerting at best.

“We here at the formerly nonprofit PBS are sad to see our friends from Sesame Street go, but we are greatly comforted by the giant mountain of money we now have in the middle of the office. We will spend the next few days climbing up to the top and rolling down into the champagne moat we have constructed, and then we plan to take a year or three off and travel the world. As we search the globe for new programming inspiration and expensive shoes, have no fear about a lack of quality content on your local PBS station. For the near term we are rolling out a brand new format of 24/7 live-broadcast fundraisers. Enjoy!”

HBO’s press release was troublesome for the Sesame Street purists, but it met with guarded approval from many industry insiders.

“Since 1969, the Sesame Street franchise on PBS has been an amazing success. Now, in 2015, we here at HBO are thrilled to announce that we are ready to take Sesame Street to even greater heights. All great sums are a function of their parts, and that’s why we have decided to launch the iconic show into several exciting spin-offs.

As always, Big Bird leads the pack, and his new show is no exception. Our giant yellow friend will star in “Big Daddy,” a gritty New Jersey crime drama about one bird’s rise from the mean streets of Sesame Hill through the drug gangs and organized crime rings of the big city. He’s in for the fight of his life to stay on top and keep his massive empire from crumbling when his top lieutenants start to believe that someone else might really be calling the shots. Is the mysterious Mr. Snuffleupagus just a drug-induced hallucination of the giant feathered crime boss, or is he the power player who’s really pulling the strings?

Oscar the Grouch reveals his dark side in the new bone-chilling murder-mystery, “Trash Day.” A mysterious year-long rash of pet disappearances on Sesame Street ends abruptly one cold week in January. Hardened SPCA detective Elmo Van Buren’s gut tells him it’s the work of a serial killer, and he can’t ignore that the last report coincides with the disappearance of one of Sesame Street’s most notorious figures. Oscar “The Grouch” Plovich, the trash can-dwelling derelict from the wrong side of the street, has vanished. With his marriage on the rocks, the fuzzy red detective follows Oscar’s trail all the way to the Louisiana bayou, where Oscar’s trash can has been found in an abandoned shrimp processing plant. Tensions mount when Elmo learns the truth about Oscar’s past. Could the dirty green hobo be his long-lost father from a loveless Dumpster encounter thirty years before? Reports of missing pets have spiked in Cajun country since Oscar’s arrival, and now Elmo must unravel the mystery. Coincidence or murder? What will the squeaky-voiced detective find when he lifts the lid?

The neighborhood grocery store is the setting for our new paranormal thriller, “Hooper’s Revenge.” Since Mr. Hooper’s mysterious death in the ‘80s, Hooper’s Store has had unsteady management at best. David was left the store in Mr. Hooper’s will, but soon he couldn’t wait to sell it. Mr. Hanford took over the reins, but quickly sold out to good-natured and unsuspecting Alan, the current proprietor. None of the owners could ever manage to get any of the Sesame Street regulars to work in the store for any length of time, or even help out on weekends. What are the puppets from the street hiding? What do they know? Alan soon finds out what many have suspected for years. Mr. Hooper may have died, but he never left the store. Alan struggles to maintain his sanity as the ghost of Mr. Hooper wreaks havoc on his life and his business. Will Alan uncover the truth behind how David really acquired Hooper’s Store? And will Alan find a buyer before he buys the farm?

Bert and Ernie team up again, this time as detectives on the San Francisco police narcotics squad in “Partners in Crime.” The City by the Bay has a major new player in town, and he’s brought in the highest grade heroin anyone has ever seen. Overdoses are rampant, and the mayor is breathing down the police chief’s neck to put a lid on the new smack, quickly. Bert is forced to go deep undercover into the seedy world of underground nightclubs and motel room drug deals, while Ernie can only watch helplessly from the sidelines. Tempers flare on the job and at home as Ernie confronts Bert about his reckless behavior. Bert knows that to bring down this kingpin, backup is not an option. As Bert seems to spiral out of control into his undercover role as a high-priced male escort, will Ernie be his lifeline, or will the duo finally be forced to split, permanently?

And last, but certainly not least, comes the new original series, “Crank Street.” Fun-loving, mild-mannered, and mustachioed science teacher Gordon has lived an ideal existence at 123 Sesame Street for years. His perfect life is suddenly turned upside down when he’s diagnosed with Bubonic plague. Hit with the realization that he only has twenty-seven cents to leave to his family, he levels his sights on a grim future. Gordon’s knowledge of chemistry is the one thing he has to work with, and as his health rapidly deteriorates, he lures Grover, the neighborhood meth tweaker, into his web of despair. The brownstone at 123 Sesame Street soon becomes one of the most productive meth labs in the tri-state area. More innocent victims soon fall prey to Gordon’s insidious plan to leave his family millions instead of pennies. Count von Count can hardly keep up with the influx of drug money in need of laundering. The Cookie Monster regrets his decision to join the crew as the enforcer, but the steady supply of Chips Ahoy from Gordon keeps him reluctantly on the payroll. As rival gangs move in on the crew and Grover becomes more and more self-destructive with guilt, Gordon struggles to keep his meth empire intact. Will he cash out before the plague - or his own enterprise - does him in?

We here at HBO are excited about the acquisition of Sesame Street, and confident that the resulting new lineup of shows will blow you away!”

Sesame Street was brought to you today by the letters H, B, and O, and the number $.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Have you been wondering how to get your aunt to gag over the kitchen sink while you and the rest of your extended family howl with laughter from the dining room? Of course you have, and you’re in luck. Just like at AA, it’s a simple twelve-step process.

Step One: Start a summer tradition of having strawberries at nearly every meal. Make sure that Son Number Two learns the recipe for the best strawberry dip ever, which consists of one 8-oz package of Kraft Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese (Since 1872!), and one 7-oz jar of Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme. (America’s Favorite!).

(This column is in no way sponsored by Kraft Foods, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Don’t be afraid to call me, Kraft Foods executives! Let’s talk.)

Step Two: Tell Son Number Two to make the dip, which for some reason he gets very excited about – maybe because he likes to cook, or maybe because the Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip is simply one of the best things in the whole wide world, thanks to the delicious, wholesome ingredients and quality craftsmanship of the good people at Kraft Foods. Thanks, Kraft Foods!

Step Three: While making a sandwich for lunch, accidentally drop the 30-oz jar of Kraft Real Mayo (with no artificial flavors!) mayonnaise off the top shelf of the fridge. Have it land upside down on the tile kitchen floor and break the lid. Marvel at the quality - not only of the entire Kraft Foods line of delicious products, but also the quality of their packaging - since the jar itself of Kraft Real Mayo did not break.

Step Four: Further marvel at what must be some sort of ingenious witchcraft mayonnaise containment technology developed by the obviously rocket-scientist-grade engineers at Kraft Foods, since none of the all-natural and delicious mayo escaped the jar, requiring absolutely no clean-up. Thanks again, Kraft Foods!

Step Five: Transfer the creamy and pleasantly ever-so-slightly-tangy Kraft Real Mayo to a GladWare Big Bowl 48-oz sealable food storage container and place back into the refrigerator. Rest easy knowing the quality microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe Glad container will keep your mayonnaise fresh indefinitely, thanks to their innovative and foolproof air-tight sealing technology.

(This column is in no way sponsored by Glad, or its joint parent companies, The Clorox Company and Proctor & Gamble, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Don’t be afraid to call me, Glad, Clorox, and P&G executives! Let’s talk.)

Step Six: Have dinner. After dinner, have your aunt retrieve the strawberries and Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip from the refrigerator.

Step Seven: Make sure your aunt has a life-long and vehement opposition to mayonnaise, but loves Kraft Foods fruit and berry dip, both of which are very similar in color and consistency, thanks to the rigorous quality control measures at America’s favorite food manufacturer, Kraft Foods.

Step Eight: Pay no attention to your aunt as she helps herself to the first dipped strawberry.

Step Nine: Notice the slightly quizzical look on her face at the same time you recognize the high-quality GladWare Big Bowl 48-oz container on the table that you filled with Kraft Real Mayo earlier in the day.  

Step Ten: Break the news to her that she just ate a spoonful of mayonnaise on her strawberry,

Step Eleven: Watch her set a new land-speed record to the sink.

Step Twelve: Let the hilarity ensue.

(Special thanks to the wonderful folks over at Kraft Foods and Glad et al. for making this all possible.)

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pokemon Stop

By now I’m sure you’ve seen them. They have always been staring at their phones, but now because of something called Pokemon Go, they are walking around while staring at their phones. I had a few of them wander in front of my car at a gas station the other day - while my car was still moving. For a split second I debated putting them out of their misery, but I had a bad feeling if I had hit them, their friends would have descended on them like the walking dead, and stolen their phones. I didn’t want to see that.

I’m sorry to report that it seems the end is near. Our current presidential candidates are obviously the first sign of an impending apocalypse, and now Pokemon Go has provided us with zombies. I have actually heard people trying to put a positive spin on the galactic time and energy waster that is Pokemon by saying it’s getting our youth up off the couch and moving around. Well, isn’t that just fantastic. Our generation of slack-jawed, so-pale-they’re-almost-see-through youth have finally found an app that has health benefits. Healthy and fun right up until you walk in front of a bus or into an open man-hole. Best of luck to you, millennials.

We have turned a huge electronic corner. We’re so addicted to our electronics that the only way to get any exercise now is to get an app for it. You think I’m only talking about humans? Then you’re in denial about how close the end really is. No, my friends, you can get an app for your tablet to prevent obesity in your feline pals. Yes, a cat app. To help cats lose weight. I am not making this up. Apparently it has fast-moving objects that cats will try to hit with their paws, thus being active. Holy cr-app.

Didn’t the standard anti-cat obesity tool used to be called a mouse? I can just hear the phone conversation between millennial and parent.

M: “Fluffers is getting fat.”
P: “She needs to chase a mouse.”
M: “You are so ancient. I don’t own a mouse. We have tablets now.”
P: “No, an actual mouse, sweetheart.”
M: “Yeah, I know. And I actually don’t own one. I don’t even have a laptop.”
P: “You make me sad.”
M: “Whatever. I’m just going to get the new cat app.”
P: “I’m hanging up now.”
M: “Why do you say ‘hanging up?’ What are you hanging?”
P: “Goodbye.”
M: “Send me money.”

And if you think Trump vs. Clinton, zombies, and the cat app are the most telling signs of our fast-approaching doomsday, you’re still not paying close enough attention. I heard a news story the other day that really seals the deal. There is an organization that is ready to accept your donation of that old fur coat that Aunt Mildred left you in her will. Will they clean it and sell it and use the money to donate to a homeless shelter or an orphanage? Well… not exactly. There’s an orphanage involved, but not one with actual children.

This dedicated group of individuals wants to cut up your old fur coat and use it to make nests for orphaned squirrels. The goal? To reduce orphaned squirrel anxiety. Again, I am not making this up. Now, while “Orphaned Squirrel Anxiety” would obviously be a great name for a rock band, I’m not sure that safeguarding the mental health of rodents with luxurious outerwear is really a great use of anyone’s time and energy.

But that’s where we are folks. We’ve allowed enough distractions that we now have a choice between Hell No! and Are You Joking? for president, our kids are wandering in the streets staring at a small screen and mumbling incoherent names, our cats are playing on our iPads, and the most pressing issue we can come up with is squirrel psychology. Actually, now that I’ve said it, “Squirrel Psychology” is a better name for a rock band. Wait… “The Orphaned Rodents.” No wait… “Psycho Squirrel Fur.” Yes!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to download that cat app. I’m obviously not going to let my boys play Pokemon Go, but they’re starting to get a little too sedentary. Maybe that cat thing can help keep them active.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Let's Pool our Natural Resources

Our grass in the back yard died a few years ago because of the drought, so we decided to do the only drought-friendly thing that made any sense. We put in a pool. Droughts are caused by not having enough water, so we put in a twenty thousand-gallon water reservoir in our yard. We’re doing our part, California. You’re welcome.

Our front yard grass died at the same time, so I wanted to help even more by putting in a bass pond, but my wife insists there are some zoning issues with that, or something. I think she just doesn’t want an eighteen-foot MasterCraft floating in her front yard. Women, huh?

Getting a pool is not for the faint of heart. Besides choosing which two of the three kids won’t go to college, you also have to endure an eight-week demolition experience, and be prepared to deal with the aftermath.

All pool builders follow the same simple three step process:
Step 1: Remove fence
Step 2: Completely destroy everything between the street and the far corner of the back yard.
Step 3: Fill new pool with water

It looks like an atomic bomb went off in the middle of our back yard, leaving a beautiful pool in the blast crater, and total destruction everywhere else. Our front yard looks like a bad day in Afghanistan.

Once the pool was complete and it was time to deal with the utter destruction of our property, we did the first thing anyone would do. We ignored it and threw a pool party. And then another one. And another. I don’t know how the rich and famous do it. I have been at a never-ending pool party for two and a half weeks now, and I’m exhausted. We filled the new pool with water on June 24th, and since then the only time I have left the house was to get more beer, wine, and juice boxes.

Do I care that everything in my back yard besides the pool looks like the aftermath of a Vegas strip hotel demolition? Of course I don’t. I have a pool. Please ignore the rubble and enjoy yourselves, folks. Actually, it makes party cleanup quite a bit easier. Instead of picking things up, you can just sweep everything into the rubble pile the next morning and start over.

And it turns out the pool is convenient, also. Not only have none of us had to shower in the last two weeks (again, you’re welcome, California), but the boys have no more arguments for why staying home in the summer is boring. Every time one of them says anything about being bored, I just throw them in the pool. Many times while they’re still in their pajamas. Boredom problem solved, plus as a bonus, laundry done. The drought-friendliness of a pool never seems to end.

The pool can help in emergencies, too. Our Fourth of July party, for example, had a happy ending that could have easily been the other way around if not for the pool. When you accidentally light yourself on fire with an El Diablo fountain firework, a quick dip in the deep end is not only refreshing, but also eliminates a visit to the ER. California’s tax payers can thank me again in that situation, since we had to give up health insurance to afford the pool.

The bottom line is, I would highly recommend getting a pool, especially if you live in a dry area like we do. If we all do our part, we can not only eliminate our kids’ boredom complaints and prevent holiday-related injuries, but we might just be able to end this drought.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to ignore the annihilation of my landscaping some more and get ready for the pool party today.


See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Shotgun Wedding? - Repost

Today is our fourteenth wedding anniversary, and while out at dinner last night, my wife and I realized that we are only days away from our relationship tipping point. In just about a week we will have known each other longer than we haven’t. That’s a pretty big deal, but our waiter didn’t think it was a cool enough story to comp us any drinks or anything. Maybe we didn’t explain the math well enough? Oh, well.

Even though David the waiter didn’t care, I still think it’s pretty cool, so in honor of our upcoming tipping point, I thought I would once again regale you with the heartwarming tale about the night after the night I met my wife. Unfortunately, the night I met my wife was pretty un-eventful, besides the fact that I met the love of my life. So instead, I will regale you with the shocking, explosive, frightening, and downright weird tale about the following night. It’s a tale of a dive bar, a truck, a barefoot man, a policeman, a bathrobe, and a shotgun.

A guy walks into a bar. It was me. I met my wife in a bar.

That’s not the whole story. It gets better.

It was only my first or second time at this particular bar, but she had been there for thirty-two nights in a row. She and her best friend were going for a combined personal record. It was her initiative and dedication to the endeavor that drew me to her. We were both college students in San Luis Obispo, CA, and she was working at a pizza place that summer. She would get off work at midnight and meet her friend at Bull’s Tavern to shut the place down. We met one evening, talked until closing, and said goodnight.

I thought she was really neat-o, so having heard about their record-breaking attendance goal, I had a good idea of where I might find her again the next evening. After missing her a few times, between the bar and the pizza place, we finally connected, and had another delightful evening of bar-booth conversation. This was the kind of bar where “delightful conversation” means you sat in a red Naugahyde booth, taking turns shouting into each other’s ears, in an attempt to carry on a conversation over the AC/DC blaring out of the jukebox.

After the last-call light came on at two A.M. – this was back when we could stay up until two A.M. – we walked back to the pizza place where my truck was parked, and carried on our conversation in the cab of my Ford F150. By about three A.M. I had convinced her that kissing me wouldn’t be so bad, and just when I was about to plant one on her, a sonic boom came rolling down the street. It would have been much cooler if we had heard the explosion as we kissed, but you just can’t plan for these kinds of things.

She said, and I quote, “That sounded like a twelve-gauge!”
I replied, scoffing-ly, “There is no way that was a twelve-gauge shotgun. It was probably just a car backfiring.” In my head I was thinking, Cool. She knows her shotguns. But that couldn’t have been a shotgun.

Roughly four minutes later a barefoot man in a bathrobe came walking down the street carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun.

Now, if I can paint the scene for you - It is past three o’clock in the morning, and the town has completely shut down. We are the only car parked on the street, directly across from the pizza parlor. The only other car that we can see belongs to a police officer who is parked in a parking lot across the intersection from the pizza place. The police officer is standing outside of his car, chatting with a man on a bicycle. They have apparently not heard the big bang, and seem very relaxed. The pizza place is located on the corner of the intersection, and the man in the bathrobe with the heavy artillery is walking past the pizza place, toward the cop, but neither one of them can see the other yet. We are parked across the street and have a clear view of both of them, and a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. Between the five of us, we are the only people still awake in the whole town, and two of us are a whole lot more awake than we were a minute ago.

The bathrobe-clad gentlemen rounded the corner and came into view of the police officer, and they saw each other at about the same time. We were positioned at just the wrong angle, so when the cop drew his weapon, he was pointing it right at us. We both did that thing where you slide down below the dashboard in case the bullets start flying, but foolishly keep your head up high enough to see, because you don’t want to miss the action.

The policeman immediately started asking the nice man to kindly set his shotgun down. By “kindly asking,” I mean he instantly began shouting, “Drop the #$*%&@ gun right now! Drop it, #$@*&%!!!” I thought he was handling himself very well given the surprising circumstance he had just found himself in. The bicyclist he had been talking to before the rude interruption did something that still to this day I cannot believe, even though I saw it with my own two barely-visible-above-the-dashboard eyes. He dropped his bike to the ground and fit himself completely underneath the front bumper of the police cruiser. Next time you see a police cruiser, take a look at the ground clearance. I think it might have been Houdini himself in that bike helmet.

Well, the nice man with the twelve-gauge didn’t drop his gun right away. He just sort of stood there, trying to have a conversation with the cop. He was holding the gun at a forty-five-degree angle toward the ground, not exactly pointing it at the cop, but not exactly pointing it away from him, either. As the police officer walked closer and closer to the man, yelling commands louder and louder, I was sure we were about to witness something very unpleasant on what had, otherwise, been a really nice night.

Thankfully, for everyone involved, the man finally decided to set his shotgun gently on the ground, and seconds later, the police officer set his knee not-so-gently on the man’s neck, and the stand-off was over. As Captain Bathrobe was led to the police car and Harry Houdini extricated himself from underneath the Caprice Classic, I started the truck and drove my date home in stunned silence.

Fortunately, she didn’t hold the incident against me, and we continued to see each other. We searched the local paper for two weeks straight after that night for some mention of the incident, partially to prove to people that we weren’t making it up, but mostly to find out for ourselves what we had seen. Why was there a man firing a shotgun in sleepy, downtown San Luis Obispo, and why was he then walking the streets with that shotgun, barefoot, in a bathrobe? We never found a single mention of it, and to this day, have no idea what happened.

We graduated, parted ways, and met again six years later at a mutual college friend’s housewarming party. We have been together ever since. After meeting her father, I finally understood her knowledge of shotguns. And after getting to know my father-in-law, I had a strong suspicion that he and my wife might have known more about that night than they were letting on. I know he owned a twelve-gauge, and I’m pretty sure he owned a bathrobe.

Where exactly was he that night? Out looking for her, perhaps? Who knows?

Happy anniversary, baby. And happy tipping point!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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