Rise of the Planet of the Cows?

Cows and me … we go way back.

When I was a kid, some of my best friends were cows. I’m sure at some points in my young life, the only friends I had were cows.

For nearly all of my formative years, I lived around them. My family’s home was next door to my grandfather’s house and he had a diary farm which, coincidentally, came outfitted with a bunch of cows as standard equipment. My father grew up with them too, since he, coincidentally, happened to live in the same house with my grandfather.

Funny how life works out sometimes, isn’t it.

Evidently what wasn’t funny back then was the first time they brought me into my grandfather’s big, ol’ dairy barn. I was petrified.

It might have had something to do with the decor. A long straight corridor. A narrow raised concrete path running down the middle of it. And framing both sides, lines of cow butt after cow butt after cow butt, some equipped with swinging tails. Which now and then, would rise up to warn you that about 17 pounds of steaming cow flop would be dropping any second now.

Cow House Beautiful, it wasn’t. But it soon would turn out to be for me, I’m told. For at that moment, my father and grandfather left. It was just me … and the cows.

I can only imagine how things went in there, since I don’t remember it. They say I was pretty upset at first, but then things got real quiet.


“Hey kid, what the hell are you screaming for, you’re loud enough to curdle milk.”

“Because all of you are going to whip me with your tails, stomp on me with your hooves and then eat me … and bury what’s left under a pile of steaming cow crap!”

“Bessie, can you believe this kid? Listen, and listen good – we may chew our cuds, but we don’t chew kids, kid.”

“You mean, you aren’t going to eat me?”

“You go to that silo over there and if you find it stuffed full of kids, then me and the rest of the girls here will squirt sarsaparilla soda at milking time. Now, go grab a hunk of that hay, and bring me a snack.”

And that was possibly how it went, how my life-long kinship with cows began. Oh, it might seem like a rather odd parenting method. But it worked. I’ve never been afraid of cows, or almost any animal. But of all of them, I think cows are the coolest.

Of course, had this happened today, my father and grandfather would be doing time and I’d be appearing on the “Today Show,” promoting my new book, “Holstein Horror: How I Faced down the Backside of a Cow and Survived” … soon to be a full-length feature film, starring George Clooney.

But while I’ve never met a cow I didn’t like, I’ve noticed a couple small news items lately that have me a tad worried, to be honest. I know cows to be quiet, gentle creatures, or at least they used to be.

In Boxford, Mass., six bovines came out of the darkness and crashed a backyard party. They didn’t bring potato salad, but they did arrive thirsty. According to the police report, the pack proceeded to push aside party-goers in their way and went “right for the beer.” They even knocked over glasses to spill themselves some more. “They enjoyed it, no doubt about it,” said one police official.

Bessie? Slurping the suds? These aren’t the friendly, cuddling cows that I know and love! But wait, there’s more.

Also in Massachusetts, outside the small Berkshire County town of Richmond, emergency personnel received a call to come to the aid of a man who had been knocked out by a cow along on a rural road. Medical staff arrived at Swamp Road to find the unidentified man unconscious, but breathing. The cow had fled the scene.

What’s happening? Cows make milk, not war!

I’m afraid this could be just the beginning. They could be taking over. If they do, listen carefully to me – I know cows. Don’t scream. Speak quietly. If they ask for it, bring them some hay.

But if their tails suddenly go up, as if reaching up to heaven itself … run.

Give me a beer … now … or I’ll punch your lights out.


It’s me … or the box

The first thing I want to say here is I love my wife very much, nearly every minute of every day.

Now, that said, the second thing I want to say is during some of the other minutes I haven’t got a clue as to why she does some of the things she does. Or how things that happen to her, happen to her. We’ve been together some 20-something (All right, all right, so I can never remember exactly how many, so shoot me. I’m a writer, not a mathematician.) years and still she can, frankly, astound me.

Fortunately, these things have a way of working out, even if I don’t know how they will at the time. And also I’m not the kind of person who likes to lose his cool, much. I tend to go with the flow, figure there has to be a grander plan, a bigger picture, that maybe I just not seeing yet.

Well Lord, I’m still looking. Really, really, really looking.

Most of these occurrences usually have something to do with stray animals. Some people seem to go around in life with a “Kick Me” sign on their backs. My wife has a “Pick Me” sign on hers, scratched out in every stray animal dialect unknown to man.

Let’s just say if she’d been the booking agent for Noah’s ark, the damn thing would have sunk before it ever left the dock.

Like the time she came home from the car wash with a behemoth of a black cat that, in the right light, could be mistaken for a half-grown Labrador Retriever. So I ask her how is it that you, and only you, can go to the car wash and come home with a clean car and a cat. They having some kind of weird special or something?

No, she said. You see, I was walking to the dumpster to throw away the garbage from my car when this guy comes up with this cat and starts to throw it in there. So I say whoa, wait a minute, is that your cat? And he said no and then he said, yeah, you wanna buy it? So I grab the cat and run to the car and take off. Can we go inside now, in case the guy is still following me?

See what I mean.

I’ve let, er, welcomed, into my house, just about every living furry thing there is. Some have stayed, some have left, and most have chewed, mangled, and destroyed just about everything in it. I may not know why they get in, but I do know how they get in.

Never trust anyone like my wife, who comes into your house carrying a box.

Boxes have things in them. Live things. I’ve seen kittens, cats, puppies, everything but rodents come out of the boxes brought into my house. Even ducks. Yes, ducks. Quack-quack-give-my-head-a-whack web-footed water fowl.

“Those are ducks.”

“Yes, they’re little baby ducks, aren’t they cuuuuute?”

“Those are ducks.”

“I’ve always wanted to have them. We can keep them in the spare bedroom and raise them and teach them how to swim in the bathtub.”

“Those are ducks.”

The ducks have moved on, I can say now. However, I’m not so sure about me.

So, you can imagine my delight the other day when my wife walked into the house. With a box in her arms. And a big smile on her face.

“That’s a box.”

“I know, I’m so haaaaaappy.”

“And I’m so scaaaaaaaaared.”

“Oh, it’s not an animal. It’s Winston.”

“What’s a Winston.”

“It’s Winston, my puppet!”

This is a Winston.

And out of the box comes Winston. A neon yellow-and green, happy-faced turtle with a red bowtie and a marked resemblance to a cute little muppet. But this one doesn’t live on Sesame Street. He lives on my street.

A hand-puppet. Just a harmless, non-living, not real turtle hand-puppet. And I don’t even have to teach it how to swim in the bathtub.

All right, I can live with a puppet, I thought to myself. I mean, how bad can a turtle puppet be? He doesn’t eat anything. He doesn’t chew anything. He doesn’t … do anything.

What harm can a little stuffed thing with a hole in it, suitable for hiding an arm, do that hasn’t already been done in my house? That hasn’t already been done to me?

“Winston wants to say hello to you.”

“Hello Winston. Now go away, Winston.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to write, Winston.”

“What are you writing?”

“I’m writing and I … I … can’t believe I’m actually talking to a freakin’ stuffed turtle! With an arm stuck up its butt! Now go away, Winston, and take that arm and the crazed woman attached to it with you.”

“You’re not being very nice. I think you’re trying to hurt my feelings. Are you trying to hurt my feelings?”


A duck! A duck! My kingdom for a duck!

The three Rs: readin’, ‘riting and restraints

Jackson, Mississippi –  A public school district has agreed to end a disciplinary policy of handcuffing students to fixed objects as punishment, in a deal worked out between the district and the Southern Poverty Law Center, representing five of the district’s students.

The policy came to light last year, when a 19-year-old student at Jackson’s Capital City Alternative School spoke out after being handcuffed to a railing for having his shirt untucked.

“When you get uncuffed it’s 5 or 6 in the afternoon. After school. Sometimes you don’t even get to eat lunch,” the student told a reporter for todaynewsgazette.com

The school’s principal, in her deposition, admitted she personally developed the policy nearly 10 years ago, adding that the practice was done in good faith, and for student safety.

Changing classes in the hall at Any High School, Anywhere, U.S.A. …

“That wouldn’t be a loose shoestring I’d be looking at down there, now would it, Master Waterman? Tell me I’m just seeing things, lad.”

The voice was delivered with the lyrical, lilting accent of the Irish and while easy on the ears, it still sliced through the bustling din of the passing students. The young offender heard it, and his name, and knew for whom the question tolled. Looking down, one of the laces of his Converse high-tops had worked loose from the other, dangling and dancing unfettered on the hallway floor.

“You’re seeing things, Mr. O’Grady.”

“Clever, very clever,” O’Grady said, leaving his leaning place across the hall and approaching the boy. “But what have I told you so many times before about being so clever?”

“Uh, it could land me a guest spot on Conan O’Brien’s show?”

“No, no I don’t recall saying that,” the metalshop teacher said with a pained smile. “I believe it was the more clever you are, the more in trouble you’ll be finding yourself. Yes, I believe that was it.”

“So, what do you suppose I’m to do with a student careening down the halls, flaunting the dress code here at Anywhere High, and flapping a shoestring to and fro?”

“Awwwwww c’mon, Mr. O’Grady, not the handcuffs,” the boy pleaded. “Not again. Last time you cuffed me to a water fountain for having my zipper half down and you went on vacation for a week, with the key!”

“An innocent oversight on my part, I assure you, lad.”

“Yeah, well lucky for me you hooked me to a water fountain in the Home Economics wing. But not so lucky for me I had to promise to take Beulah Buckerstaff out on a date so she’d give me the banana bread she made in Baking Basics 101!”

“That was very industrious of you.”

“You’ve obviously never had any of Beulah’s banana bread, or looked very closely at her.”

“Well, that’s all in the past, lad,” O’Grady said. “And you must admit it was a valuable learning experience for you. I haven’t once seen your fly down since then.”

“I glued all of them shut.”

“OK, enough small talk, my boy,” O’Grady continued. “It’s time you learned another lesson in life, provided free of charge for committing such a ghastly act of recklessness.”

“The cuffs, again? Can I at least choose where I go? I’d like to serve my time linked to one of the lockers outside the girl’s locker room. Closer to the door, the better, I mean, the more heinous.”

“Ah, I’m afraid that an untied shoe is a far more dangerous transgression, son. What if you’d tripped, fallen on another student and crushed the person? No, I’m afraid a simple cuffing won’t do this time.”

“So what will do?”

“I’m afraid it’s The Hole for you, this time.”

“The Hole? The Hole? We have a The Hole?”

“One of the finest. Nothing but the best, and the deepest, for you, lad.”

We remember, I remember

You may not believe this, but I’ve not always been the well-adjusted, well-mannered, well-spoken, well-thought out person I appear to be now.

There was a time when I was, shall we say, not well-done.

Oh, in those days I thought I had it all together, figured out. I was every second of 17, a senior in high school and knew where I was going in life. Hell, I’d already been there, seen it all, lived it all.

Right. There are none so ignorant as those who will not think.

It was early 1975 and in my mind, the Vietnam War was still going strong. Actually, it was dying out, would be over for us by April. Too many years, too many dead, too many missing and too many questions had taken all the stuffing out of the nation’s military bluster.

Who am I kidding. The only bluster coming from most Americans in those days was one generation’s distrust of any other. For many in mine, it was disdain for anyone over the age of 30 and disgust for anything and everything about the war.

But there was one shared feeling – for a myriad of reasons, almost everyone not wearing a uniform seemed to revile anyone who was wearing one.

At the beginning of 1975, me, myself and everyone else I was growing up with weren’t sure if by the end of ’75, we’d be over there. We were certain of one thing – we sure as hell didn’t want to go.

At that age, staring into the face of something like that in life can be a really transforming thing – can bring out the stupid in you.

Well, it did for me, at least. I idolized Abbie Hoffman (though I didn’t actually steal his book, “Steal This Book,” I read it cover to cover, over and over, like it was some sort of Newest New Testament), not Richard Nixon. I saw America, like France before it, as the imperialistic aggressor in the war and Ho Chi Minh’s North Vietnamese minions as the valiant defenders of their homeland. And the South Vietnamese? Well, when you’re thinking in those extremes about Vietnam, there was no place left in there for them.

Oh, I didn’t want to bring down the government, destroy the American system. Nothing as drastic or diabolical as that. My most heinous revolutionary thought was wanting to bring down the American flag flying outside my high school, run up North Vietnam’s banner, and cut the pulley ropes.

Had I been a member of the Revolutionary court, I’d have been its jester-in-training.

The target of my self-righteous anti-war snarl wasn’t at any instituition in Washington, D.C, but just one man in my hometown. The father of one of my classmates.

A retired U.S. Marine who hadn’t ever really retired. Looking every bit as disciplined, feisty and fit as he must have been on the first day out of boot camp, he was the living, fire-breathing persona of the Corps. Hell, his big pickup truck was a rolling endorsement of it.

As red as the background of the Marine flag, it had the biggest decal I’d ever seen on its hood. Nearly filled every square inch of it. The emblem of the U.S. Marines.

Nothing reserved about that. Still, I didn’t hate the man, had never met him, but in my mind despised the things he stood for, what he embodied to me.

And then I met the father of another classmate, a strapping, bear-hugging bear of an Irishman, who took a liking to me and decided one night to teach me how to appreciate the fine art of drinking scotch. I turned out to be a disciple of Irish whiskey, my preferred drink to this day.

And in a fit of loose-tonguemanship, I mentioned the Marine. Went off on a dozen eloquent (my thought) verbal attacks, made my fervent feelings known to the first person on Earth other than myself.

Mike listened to it all, said nothing, sipped his drink. When I was done, he thought quietly for a few seconds, no doubt considering his words, and said,

“I know the man, know him well, as a matter of fact.”

He had every right to take my head off with the nearest empty bottle. He didn’t. He just started telling me the Marine’s story. How he’d been a leader of kids not much older than me, how he’d taught them, fought with them, and carried many of them out of harm’s way, over and over, dead or barely alive.

And how he’d re-upped after his first tour, then after his second and then after his third. He’d confessed to Mike that he didn’t love war, hated every damn minute of it. But what he hated more, what he just could not do, was leave those kids behind. By themselves. Without him to help them. To protect them. To fight beside them, and carry them out, if needed. Until they are home, no man left behind – the Marine motto. And his creed.

No man left behind.

So, as Mike told me, he had to go back. Until the Marines wouldn’t allow him to go anymore.

I listened quietly, as Mike had done for me. When he finished, I’d finished my drink. But had only just begun to feel like a damn idiot.

And then I said I think I’d like another drink. And someday, I think I’d like to shake that man’s hand.

I think he’d appreciate that, Mike said. And he went to get another bottle.

A few weeks later, the Marine was walking into a gas station when a long-haired, earring-wearing silly-looking kid wearing ripped jeans and moccasins walked up to him. Told the man he didn’t know him, but that he knew Mike and would it be all right if he could shake his hand, say thank you for all he did over there.

What probably was an instinctive look of wariness faded away from the Marine’s face, replaced by just the hint of a smile. Why yes, yes you can.

And they shook hands. And went their separate ways.

I hadn’t changed my politics, and I can pretty safely guess that neither did he at that moment. But at least one of us had changed his perspective on some things. My hope, in a small way, was actually two of us had done that.

Semper fidelis.

News you can use, right about now

Look at you … will you just take a minute and take a good, hard look at yourself.

There you are, sitting alone at a picnic table in the backyard of a cousin you didn’t know existed until the “Let’s PAHTAY” invite showed up in the mail a few weeks ago. There before you, in lurid tiki-torch technicolor, you watch with dumbstruck awe as your parents and the rest of your family do a very poor, yet very drunken dance that’s best described as a mutant macarena-limbo-polka.

And you, you miserable cuss, are careening, no, make that spiraling, toward sober. You are almost pitiful. Almost.

It’s your own fault. You had to be different. You had to bring that oh-so-classy imported beer with you. The brew with the label of a sacred cow sitting at a bar and the ingredients listed in Gujarati …. but no twist-off cap.

All of the easy-access beer is gone, it’s out there, sloshing around in the bellies of the inebriated near-human mass in front of you.

So, you have your beer, you have your needs, you have your powerful thirst, but you have no … bottle opener.

You had a bottle opener. You brought your own, in fact. It was just there, right there on the table, next to the bowl of nacho-avocado potato chips. One of your best ones too – a work of art that seemed molded just for your hand and your hand alone. Cold, hard, premium aluminum – in shape of a naked woman with breasts big and shiny and strong enough to hook onto the lip of a bottle cap and … rip it off.

A thing of beauty. She, I mean it, was an engineering marvel as well as an artistic one, a true symbol of an advanced civilization. But now she, I mean it, is gone. And you can’t find her, I mean it, anywhere.

How depressing – a man and his beer and ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. It’s at times like this, when faced great and deep loss, that one turns to drink. And you ain’t even got that.

The last time you saw her, your punch-drunk Uncle Louie was holding it up, admiring it and mumbling to himself. At least that’s what you thought at the time. Now you’re worried. Uncle Louie, as he has told you every time he tops his internal 48-ounce alcoholic-beverage fill level, hasn’t been with a woman since before Fiorello LaGuardia had an airport named for him, not since Columbus stopped in the Bahamas to ask for directions to the East Indies, not since the end of the Ice Age.

And then, it comes to you. Your jaw drops; you know that this can mean only one thing. Louie has taken your buxom bottle opener, stolen her, and run off to Vegas. Your only hope is the Elvis Presley Memorial Combination Drive-Thru Chapel of Eternal Wedded Bliss/Electrolysis Clinic/Coin-Op Laundromat is closed for the holidays.

But you know it’s open. And you know Louie has their “Frequent Flyer” platinum membership card. Yes, one desperate man’s hungover cries of woe soon will be heard up and down The Strip in the morning, but what does that matter, your own personal hell is now.

Have you got a belt buckle? Sheesh, you wore draw-string shorts. Good set of teeth? Aha – so that explains why you had the two front teeth capped last year. Lemme think. I’ve got it! Have you got a chain saw?

Don’t look at me that way, of course there’s a chain saw there. No self-respecting American backyard is without one. Look under the picnic table.

See, I told you. Oh, ye of little faith ye. And a Husqvarna, to boot. Nice.

I want you to see something. Prepare yourself for the coming of your mind-numbing salvation. Click below, watch the video and kid, you might learn something:

Behold, the glory of the pre-mix-powered, two-stroke beer bottle opener …


You don’t have to thank me … just a flip of your cap will do.

Holiday food for thought

It is Saturday, May 26, 2012. The first official day of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

That means a lot of things to a lot of people in America. First and foremost, but sadly too often overlooked, is this is a time for us to stop whatever silly or self-indulgent thing we may be doing now and remember how it is that we’re even able to do it. We owe it all to so many Americans who came before us, who fought and died to keep this nation’s beliefs and ideals safe from enemies who, had they won, would have crushed them. No matter how much we’ve screwed up this country lately, it was our freedoms that got us into this mess, and we’ll use the same ones to get us out of it as well. No one should forget that for one moment this weekend. Or on any weekend, or day, or minute, for that matter.

But you can’t overlook the fact this weekend means a few other things as well. Maybe not quite so reverent, but certainly not irrelevant.

It’s the unofficial first weekend of summer, the first opportunity to take our summer clothes out of our closets, hold them up to us, look in the mirror and put them right back where we found them. Looks and the physics of fitting do not deceive – no point in even trying it on. Maybe next Memorial Day.

It’s the first time for many of us to hit the road … to travel and join friends and family to enjoy the long holiday together. This is soon followed by another first, at weekend’s near-end, when many of the same people are snagged in their first highway radar trap of 2012. This, as they just attained Mach 1 speed to race – these sunburned, overindulged, slightly hungover bats-out-of-hell – to get away from those same friends and family. Never met those people before in my entire life, or the two previous ones either.

But for most us, at home or away, Memorial Day weekend is the first chance we have to venture out into our backyards, pull the proverbial manstove out from under its winter wraps, shove out the mouse nests, knock down the spider webs, and scrap off the remnants of last year’s Labor Day holiday weekend.


And with patriotic and enormous pride, we load up our grills with propane or charcoal briquettes, strike a match and in one flip of the wrist, in one single macro-mini-micro-nano-second of an instantaneously combustible moment … we singe off most of our facial and frontal body hair, in one flew swoosh.

But undaunted, and though soon to be under a doctor’s care, we forge ahead, we endeavor to persevere … and we proceed to blow our already semi-bulging waistlines all to bloody, char-broiled hell.

Hey gang, gather ’round! It’s that time again and we’re ready – let’s have ourselves a cookout! Let the dietetic debauchery begin!

There will be flipping and sipping and munching and crunching, forking and knifing and sizzling and wizzling (I know, I know. It just sounded better). Slurping and slathering, belching and burping, chewing and spewing, moaning and groaning, brapping and barfing.

God Bless America.

Loooove is a many splendored thing …

Ain’t love grand? Why sure, it can be. Can make you weak in the knees, have you seeing fireworks, learn first-hand the meaning of the word “swoon”, get you all hot and bothered under the collar and other places.

But love has another side. A hidden chamber of horror. A dark cavern of doom. A sinister alternate reality where good becomes bad, desire becomes disgust and together becomes apart. It has a name.


What the woof.

This is a puggle. Cute little thing, isn’t it. Cross between a pug and a beagle, I’m told. Why, I’m not told. Makes no sense to me.

I mean, really. You got your puggles, your labradoodles, cockapoos, dorkies, chorkies, whatever. I say you want an Irish Wolfhound, you get one. You want a chihuahua, you get one. You want both? You get one of each – you don’t go breed yourself an Irish chihuahuahound. It’s just not the same. It’s just not right. It’s just not possible. Is it? Don’t answer that. Some things I’d rather not know.

Anyway, this isn’t about canine smorgasbords. It’s about a man, a woman and a puggle. Craig Dershowitz is the man. Sarah Brega is the woman. The puggle is Knuckles. “Knux” to those closest to him.

Here’s the 1st-grade primer version of their story:

Chapter One

See Craig. See Sarah. See Craig and Sarah fall in love in New York City. See Craig and Sarah see Knuckles. See Craig and Sarah buy Knuckles. See Craig, Sarah and Knuckles. See them happily ever after.

Chapter Two

See Sarah scowl. See Craig cringe. See Sarah tell Craig to take a flying leap. See Craig say likewise, I’m sure. See the pug half of Knuckles chase his tail, thinking it’s a beagle behind him.

Chapter Three

See Sarah run. See Craig stay. See Sarah move to California with Knuckles. See Craig hire a lawyer to get custody of Knuckles. See Craig spend $60,000 so far to do it. See Craig go on You Tube and beg for money to help him “Free Knux”. See Knuckles snarl at his butt, thinking maybe that will scare off that damn beagle that’s been following him forever.

The end

Not quite. Craig’s suing Sarah with every dime he has to get his Knuckles. Sarah’s in California, saying Craig’s just a vengeful hateful little man who’ll never have Knuckles.

And so the story goes. Maybe all the way to The Supreme Court. Dear God, please let it go all the way to The Supreme Court.

Actually, I say let the dog decide. They say dogs can sense fear in a person. Not much of a stretch to think they also can sense true love. Probably stupidity too.

Let Knuckles settle this case. Hey, it’s his life. Stand these two ex-love birds up in front of the judge, one on each side of the bench. Then open the door to the courtroom and let Knuckles come in.

Let him pick where and with whom he wants to live the rest of his life. Let him decide which of these people he thinks will offer him the best life, the best care, the best food … the best of everything.

I’ll bet he runs right to the lawyers.