Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In-Law Breakers

We are currently visiting the boys’ grandma in beautiful Morro Bay, California. (Town motto: Come for the clam chowder, stay for the prohibitively excessive real estate prices!)

Our three boys have grown up visiting their grandparents here, playing at the beach and spending time with their cousins and their Uncle Jay. It has been almost four years since their Grandpa Dick passed away, and we recently traveled with grandma and Uncle Jay up to Alaska, where we spread the remainder of his ashes in the ocean where he loved to fish. (Don’t tell anyone we did that, though, because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal, and we didn’t have any permits.)

With both families back in Morro Bay visiting and reminiscing about the good times with Grandpa Dick, one of my favorite stories surfaced.

Six years ago, we were visiting here and had just finished up lunch at our favorite wharf-side restaurant. We were heading back to the car and my wife had Son Number One’s hand, who was seven years old at the time.

She saw an opening in the traffic, so she hurried him across the street in the middle of the block. He was resistant to go with her, tugging backward, and in the middle of the street, voiced his concern.

Son Number One: Mom, we’re dick walking!

[record scratch. Mom comes to a complete stop in the middle of the street]

Mom: Excuse me?? What did you say?

Number One: We’re dick walking. Why are we dick walking? We’re not supposed to.

Mom: ……

Number One: Shouldn’t we get out of the street?

Mom: ……

Number One: What?

Mom: …… Oh!!!! Do you mean jay walking?

Number One: Oh, yeah, sorry. Jay walking. That’s what I meant. We shouldn’t do that.

[sound of mom laughing so hard she very nearly pees her pants in the middle of the street]

I’m not sure what it says about his opinion of his mom’s family’s moral character, but our oldest son had been told the term for a pedestrian traffic violation and assumed it was named after his uncle. Then somewhere along the way, his unruly little seven-year-old brain mixed up father and son, and attributed the offense to his grandpa instead.

The result was pretty darn humorous, and something Son Number One will never live down. He probably wishes he’d mixed it up with his other grandpa instead, then he wouldn’t still be hearing about it. Dave walking isn’t nearly as funny. 

We miss you, Grandpa Dick! Glad you got to make it back to Alaska one last time, even if we had to bend or ignore a few rules to do it.

Why our sons would associate us with law-breaking activities continues to be a mystery.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

High Pressure Shopping

Yesterday was Prime Day on Amazon. At this point, I would assume that every person in the entire civilized world is an Amazon Prime member, so you no doubt knew that.

The first item that caught my attention was a 9” tall, 5” diameter white metal cylinder with the title “Furbo Dog Camera.”

At first I thought it was like a dog toy, where you could teach your dog to carry it around and take pictures of interesting stuff, like other dogs’ butts and holes in the lawn. But on further investigation, it turns out it’s supposed to just sit on the shelf or counter and act as a canine baby monitor.

All the features and other reasons why I should buy it were very confusing, but there was a handy video to explain everything.

The video featured Cha Cha, a Husky-looking dog, approximately 40-60 pounds, who lives in an apartment with a single woman who leaves him at home to head off to work for the day.

When he’s barking at the door in the middle of the day, she receives a “Cha Cha is barking” alert on her Furbo smartphone app, and she is able to talk to him to calm him down via the two-way microphone and speaker communication system. Her office mates look at her with the appropriate amount of distain.

Later in the day, after an important meeting where she is no doubt ridiculed behind her back by her coworkers for talking to her dog on her phone, she is able to check in on Cha Cha, even though the sun has gone down and the apartment is dark, because Furbo’s camera has night vision.

But my favorite part of the video was when she gives Cha Cha a treat in the middle of the day, via the Furbo’s treat-tossing hole. You heard me. The Furbo has a hole in the middle of it from which it can toss a treat to the dog. Along with a camera and a microphone, this little 9” x 5” cylinder has a bamboo wood cover and is filled with delicious dog treats.

This is how I know this is a fake product. And Cha Cha is obviously a fake dog, because after the first treat launched out, every dog, no matter what size or how well trained, would immediately remove the pint-sized Furbo from the shelf, gnaw the bamboo cover off, and snarf down every single treat contained inside.

Furbo claims to have 1900 reviews with a 4-star average rating, which is obviously a complete fabrication, or else every positive review is about how white it kept their dog’s teeth from chewing all that bamboo.

More Prime Day Deals were coming fast and furious, in what appeared to be a random order, but as we know, Amazon is owned by an astronaut, and astronauts never do things randomly. You don’t just fly your rocket to wherever. There is always some rhyme or reason to the products Amazon presents you with. For instance, I have a dog, so the Furbo ad made sense, even if the product itself is patently ridiculous. I was, however, a little confused by two other deals I saw back to back.

The first was Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray. If you haven’t heard of this product, it’s something you spray on top of the toilet water before you poop. I am not making that up. It apparently helps trap odors under the water, sort of like a flower-scented layer of Saran wrap. (Note: Saran wrap of any scent does NOT work for this application.)

Again, if you are unfamiliar, I implore you to look up the Poo-Pourri ad campaign with the nice British lady who speaks very frankly about her poop. The ads are solid. (Pun intended)

The original 2-oz bottle was available for only $6.51, dropped from the original price of $9.95, but I had to move on the deal and plop it into my cart in the next 3 hours and 10 minutes before the offer was flushed out of the system. I passed. (Again, all puns intended, however, completely unnecessary and juvenile)

Floating there, right next to the Poo-Pourri, was the next Prime Day Deal. For a limited time, I could score a Generac SpeedWash Model 6882 2900-PSI Gas-Powered Pressure Washer for only $349.00. I don’t know what the original price was, but that sounds like a smokin’ deal to me. I mean, that’s only $0.12 per PSI. Where else are you going to find PSI’s that cheap? Nowhere, man!

Amazon has obviously figured out that I like power tools, probably using the ingenious algorithm of, “He’s a dude. Sell him power tools.” But what I can’t figure out is what a 2900-PSI pressure washer has in common with an anti-stink toilet spray. They have to be connected to each other in one of Amazon’s internal algorithms, because I have never shopped for anything even remotely connected to poo spray on the internet.

I have purchased Saran wrap before, but that can’t be it. The only possible explanation is there must be a strange sector of power tool-loving men out there who have inexplicably rejected toilet paper in favor of pressure washers. A mobile, gas-powered, 2900-PSI bidet, if you will. I will not. These men are probably from Alaska, or Montana, or Detroit, and I have no idea how I became associated with them.

Either that, or the Poo-Pourri and the pressure washer are related to my dog somehow, but she very rarely uses the toilet, and I think she’d bite me if I hit her with 2900 PSI. It’s all very confusing.

I’ll tell you what, though. Speaking of toilets and pressure washers, what the hell have we been doing all these years with that silly little toilet brush? When it comes time to clean the bathroom, the Generac SpeedWash 6882 would put the hurt on that job in a hurry! Why didn’t I think of that before?

Excuse me, I need to get back to Amazon and see if that deal is still available.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 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 11, 2018

The Bud Light Blob

“There are no salmon. This is the worst fishing we have had in twenty-eight years.”

When you travel thousands of miles via plane, rental car, bus, train, smaller plane, Uber, foot, cab, ferry, and finally, tiny float plane, to get to a remote five-star floating Alaskan fishing lodge, there are a lot of things you want to hear when you step out of the float plane onto the dock. That is not one of them.

We were fortunate enough to have been guests at this same great place, the Sea Otter Sound Lodge, four years ago, and apparently, we became spoiled then, fishing-wise. Four years ago, we almost couldn’t keep the salmon out of the boat. And since they are the premier Alaskan fish, we spent almost all our time targeting the salmon, never fishing very seriously for any other species.

That being said, let’s not forget my masterful helmsmanship on the last trip, the day I guided my wife to her monster seventeen-pound halibut. Halibut boat captaining requires that you are able to keep your boat positioned over the same spot on the ocean floor, some two to four hundred feet below.

I was so skillful at this maneuver, my wife could be heard for miles singing my praises with encouraging phrases like, “What the hell are you doing?” and, “Why are we spinning like a drunken ballerina?” She could be heard for miles across the ocean not because sound carries well across water, but because we traveled for miles across the ocean as I fearlessly attempted to keep us in one place.

I tried to explain to her about tidal friction, wave current, ballast displacement, navigational knots, etc. – all the nautical factors that I had to take into account as captain – but I don’t think she understood it all. At one point, she even grabbed the VHS radio mic off my bulkhead helm near the port aft, and called the lodge, saying something I didn’t quite catch about “another boat driver.” I assume she was letting them know that the other guests couldn’t compare to me. I heard Tim, the owner of the lodge, say something about sympathizing with her concerns, but the conversation was interrupted when the fishing line started zinging off her reel.

I had maneuvered the boat directly over the top of the waiting beast, and my wife was in for the fight of her life. Two and a half minutes later, we hauled our catch over the side of the boat (known as the stern whale), after I had harpooned and gaffed it extensively, because that’s what you do with the big game.

Fortunately, I had not forgotten any of those halibut boat captaining skills, because we needed them this past week.

As Tim explained to us upon our arrival, the entire state of Alaska is currently being visited by the least amount of salmon they have seen since the Paleozoic era. Apparently, in 2014, there was a situation in the Pacific Ocean that somehow caused this issue.

This all had something to do with El Nino, which is Alaskan Inuit for “no salmon.” El Nino is an ocean current, or a storm, or a small baby whale. Details are sketchy. What they do know for sure is that a series of “perfect storm” events lined up to create what scientists have very scientifically named, “The Blob.”   

The Blob is a vast pocket of warm water, floating in the cold water. It formed in 2014 as a small blob, and then El Nino combined forces with other unnamed forces and transformed the baby blob into a massive blob, about one thousand square miles in size on the surface, and a significant number of fathoms deep. (Unfortunately, no one knows how much a fathom is, so we’ll never really know how deep it goes.)

The Blob prevented the salmon that would normally be in the waters of Alaska now from getting there on time. Think of The Blob as a giant oceanic TSA security station, or the DMV of the deep.

As he explained this to the group, I shrunk silently to the back of the room, hoping not to draw attention to myself. I crossed my fingers and prayed Tim and his wife Murtie would not make the connection, but it was obvious to me. We were there, fishing in the Alaskan Pacific in 2014.

Between the eight of us, we consumed an inordinate amount of beer over the five-day fishing trip. Since we were on the boats all day, the vast majority of that beer was recycled directly into the ocean.

Could we have been responsible for the blob? Well, I think it’s a real possibility. I’m no oceanographer, but I can tell you I’m probably responsible for at least two to three hundred square miles of ocean being converted to 98.6 degrees..

Further fueling my suspicions of culpability is the fact that the blob is gone now. It slowly dissipated over the last four years. And where were we the last four years? Not peeing in the Alaskan ocean, that’s where. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Sorry about that, Alaska. We toned it down on the beer this time, so fingers crossed for four years from now. I’m looking forward to getting home and grilling up our halibut from this trip. I think I have enough for a pretty decent appetizer.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 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 4, 2018

The Fourth in the Forty-Ninth

We are currently on vacation up north, spending the Fourth of July in the great state of Alaska, which we are told is actually part of the United States. Go America! We are having a great time and learning all sorts of interesting things in the 49th state. We started in Fairbanks, where we learned that despite what Santa might have you believe, reindeer are just a slower, dumber version of caribou.

We also learned that Alaska’s state bird is not the eagle or the goose, as you might expect. It’s the mosquito, which sucks.

We then learned all about the Alaska highway system as we drove down to Denali National Park. It turns out, unfortunately, the state has not had an actively working road maintenance crew since 1911. Some of the potholes are pretty bad, but thankfully the larger ones are filled with unlucky cars and pickup trucks, so you just rattle right over the top of them.

Once we made it to Denali we learned about all the majestic animals that live in the park, and what a suckfest it is to be a caribou. The winters are bad enough, with forty-below temperatures and having to dig through snow drifts to chew lichen off rocks, all the while being pursued by wolves, but the summer and spring for the caribou are worse. That’s because in the summer, there is something called a nostril fly, and it does exactly what it sounds like. It flies up the caribou’s nose.

But wait, it gets worse.

They fly up the caribou’s nose to lay their eggs. The fly larvae winter in the caribou’s throat, and then the caribou coughs them out in the spring. There is simply no way around it - it just sucks to be a caribou.

There was nothing we could do for the poor beasts, so we jumped on a train and headed for Anchorage.

We learned that Anchorage has about 300,000 people, which is almost half of the population of the entire state. And all 300,000 residents have fireworks that they shoot off, beginning around 11:59 P.M. on July 3rd and going well into the morning of the 4th. I’m not sure why, though. You can’t see them.

That’s because, from a sunlight perspective, there seems to be very little discernable difference between midnight and noon here. Alaska is the weirdest place on earth in the summer. On our first night in Fairbanks, we accidentally let the kids stay up until midnight, because we all thought it was still five or six in the evening. Around 3 A.M., we realized that the sun had no intention of actually going down. It just sort of made a lazy circling pass near the horizon, then headed back up.

Consequently, we learned that Alaska has some of the crankiest, most sleep-deprived young tourists in the world, and also the best summertime vegetable growing conditions in all of America. No one understands this better than a gardening madman from Palmer, Alaska by the name of Scott Robb. (I mean he understands vegetables. I don’t know if he knows how cranky our kids are.)

We learned that Scott is the Alaska State Fair Giant Vegetable Champion in not one, not two, but nine different types of vegetables and melons, seven of which are world records.

Scott has grown (and somehow transported to the fair, presumably with help) a 138-pound cabbage, a 65-pound cantaloupe, a 63-pound celery stalk, a 106-pound kale plant, a 97-pound kohlrabi, an 83-pound rutabaga, and a 39-pound turnip, all of which are world records.

The amazing enormity of these vegetables leads to so many questions, not the least of which is, what the hell is a kohlrabi?

Scott also holds the state fair records for cauliflower (36 pounds) and watermelon (169 pounds), but those are not world records. That means at some point, somewhere in the world, some super gardener’s poor kids were forced to eat over 37 pounds of cauliflower before they could leave the table. The humanity!

We were not able to meet Scott Robb or his family, which is a shame, because I really wanted to be invited to their house for dinner, just to see if, as I suspect, they serve the salad in the bed of a Ford F-150. They probably have dinner rolls the size of couch cushions.

Oh, well. We’ll just continue to eat regular-sized food and dream.

So, anyway, today, as you thank God that you’re an American, you can also take pride in the fact that the pioneering, adventurous, giant vegetable-growing spirit is alive and well in this great country of ours.

You can also be thankful that you got more sleep than I did last night.

And that you’re not a caribou.

Happy Independence Day!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 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!