- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

anykey & genesee

I roached my computer keyboard

with a Genesee cream ale.

Killed it dead.

The "L" key and everything in

its vicinity stuck down tight

like an eyelid glued together

in the morning with a raging

case of conjunctivitis.

I suppose I wish I had done it

with a Samuel Adams "Old Fezziwig"

ale or a Great Lakes Brewing Company

"Edmund Fitzgerald" porter, or even

a Miller Genuine Draft. But no.

Just a cheapo brew, just a smidge,

was enough to fritz it.

It wasn't a Johnstown spillage thing,

or a Danny Thomas Uncle Tunoose

spit-take, it was a simple little

sippie that went "bloop!" right out

my old dadly mouth and seeped on

down into Gateway 2000 microcircuitry

land. With a dribble of barley-pop the

size of a quarter, I was

effectively nuked back into the stone age.

Now, when you're a dad who spends a

goodly amount of yell-time on a harangue

about not drinking pop by the computer

and not drinking a juice box by the

computer and not eating

any candy by the computer, and

oh yes, make sure to wash your hands

before using the computer, it's kinda hard

to fess up to the kids that you,

the family's primary proponent of

the digital age, catalyst to the

kiddies' entree to the online world,

have just blurped a

Genny Screamer onto the old Anykey.

So I did the only thing a dad can do

when his back is up against the wall.

I freaked.

Gratefully, instinct told me to flip

the sodden sucker over. I did just

that, and nearing hyperventilation,

grabbed a jam-rag to sop up the suds

and hopefully rejuvenate my

ale-soaked keyboard comrade.

I went into heavy ritualistic triage.

Blot, blot, boot. Blot, blot, boot.

I bit down hard on my lip and like

a toity-mouthed ventriloquist found

a number of muffly obscenities making

their way up the gullet and through clenched teeth.

This sort of dadly behavior generally

means it's Tipper-time for my wife,

who I hear scramble upstairs to:

A. Slam the door to my basement "office,"


B. Turn up the v's on that revolting

"Little Rascals" remake movie the kids

are watching for the umpteenth time.

(What a totally crappy flick, by the way.

The Darla toddler can barely

spit out two understandable words in a

row, and none of 'em have that poverty-savvy

swagger the Real Rascals had.

But this is clearly another "dads").

Done with the Dice-Clay soliloquy,

I receive my third "you moron, there's

a stuck key" boot message as the computer

bleats a sickly beep like my

dearly-departed grandmother's

sputtering EKG machine, and blinks

out to black.

Dads out there know the place I was at.

It is the same place you're at when

your kid tells you the brakes on his

bike are shot. I summon all the genetically

programmed u-can-fix-it bravado that is part

and parcel to us dads (the same behavior

exhibited by Stanley Kubrick's

club-wielding apes, I think), bought

replacement brake cable, and voila,

within minutes rendered my son's

partially-functional bicycle completely useless.

I rode it into the bike shop in fits

and starts that day, using the

Fred Flintstone method of braking,

and was met with a paroxysm of sarcastic

jeers and sniggers from the

testosterone-charged yet

hygienically-challenged teen Huffy-heads

who charged me half again the original

cost of the bike to fix it. I smiled and

thanked them as I emptied my wallet,

and wished them all hairless.

Over these many sobering years I've met

with varying negative degrees of fix-'em-up

success. My wife can provide a laundry list

of these nightmarish projects, and will

testify that on average, unless a project

has emergency status (child steps on toilet

water supply tube sending geyser down through

kitchen ceiling below requiring its removal

and a year's studied contemplation before

the project's completion), three full years

will on average pass before I finally leap

into my own peculiar form

of operational action.

I rationalize ultimately, that any given

project really is "simple" after all,

in that I have observed Bob Vila do it,

and have even stomached a "This Old House"

episode with that nancy-Steve guy doing it.

I finally jump headlong into the project

with limitless zeal and as many beers.

As the clock ticks, I will make an average

of four trips to the hardware store,

each more urgent than the last, and of course

always wind up calling my father-in-law who

sizes up my feeb-work, shakes his head

in silence, produces a brilliant array

of tools from his traveling trunk collection

and bails me out, buttoning up the job in

two or three shakes.

My role: hand him tools and clean up.

His role: pray to Almighty God for my

early death resulting in his widow-daughter's

subsequent betrothal to J. Gotrocks or

Richie Rich or the Trumpy likes of them.

I knew I was doomed as a Tim the Toolman-wannabee,

dear dads, from the tender age of ten.

Placed in some cockamamie enrichment program

for budding little Poindexters, we were

given the charge of constructing log cabin

dioramas for our Colonial American studies.

These Stone Age days not enjoying the

sublime enlightenment of the 1990's,

the girls made quilts, candles, maple sugar

candies and corn bread. The pre-dads were

charged with lugging in their own dads' tools,

and gathering tree-branches as diorama

framing members.

In this pre-litigious time, our teacher

actually allowed us to work with a hatchet

in the classroom. With the tool half-buried

in a small log, my classmate, stymied as to

how to finish splitting it, sat back

scratching his noggin'.

"Why, I'LL show you how to do it," I proclaimed,

and bracing myself against the terrazzo

floor with my left hand, brought down the

log and the half-buried hatchet with all my

pre-adolescent strength, effortlessly

bifurcating the wood and neatly slicing

through all but a hopeful little dangly

tendon of the index finger on my left hand.

The newspaper covered our ambitious class

project. We all had to dress up in tri-corner

hats and period stuff from Simplicity patterns

foisted on our moms. The photographer made me

stand behind the blood-stained diorama so

you couldn't see the thigh-sized dressing on my

re-attached fingie.

At least I got out of guitar lessons for awhile.

Now, nearly thirty years later, I was out

of the freelance writing biz for awhile,

fans blazing away on my seized-up keyboard,

its condition critical but stable and with

George Clooney nowhere in site.

Summoning my long history of fix-it acumen,

I unscrewed the keyboard housing, nearly

busting it as well, as unbeknownst to me,

a final screw lay hidden under an

inspection sticker. My wife found it as

I put in a frantic call to my friend the

computer guy. We worked together at NBC and

he was known for raising computers, Lazarus-like,

with magic and some sort of hard-drive

Heimlich Manuever that to this day is

a mystery to all.

"Unplug it, fill your bath tub with cold water,

and dunk it for five minutes," he advised,

dead serious.

"Dunk it??"

"Uh-huh. Then blow dry it. That's what

the guys who recondition keyboards do. Swear to God"

And so we baptized the Anykey in our Owens Corning

fiberglass tub, the one my father-in-law

installed while I handed him the tools.

Tiny Don Ho bubbles emitted from the

alpha-numeric pad as I pushed the Anykey

to the skid-resistant bottom-o-the-tub.

For a moment, I though about Janet Leigh

and those curtain rings snap-snap-snapping.

I recoiled.

My wife read my horror, but always the

pragmatist, simply plugged in the hairdryer and

asked with characteristic nonchalance,

"Should we use the diffuser?"

Like my bicycle brake job,

my run-ins with rustbucket cars,

and so many fix-it projects before,

this remedy was just not curing the patient.

Despite our full-throttle shock-trauma tactics,

the Anykey had flatlined and

joined the Choir Invisible.

Once again forced to run up the white

flag, I started dialing the phone.

When you're a dad and you're dropped

into another situation where you are rendered

completely helpless, there's just not

a lot of recourse.

There's never much sympathy, either.

But nobody tells you about this stuff.

You just get to gut it out along the way,

and sometimes you win and you're the family hero,

and sometimes you're the wiener the world awaited.

Back when I was ten, at least I could

lock myself in the upstairs closet,

(a walk-in if you were a kid or a troll),

and take solace in painstakingly copying

the cartooning of Thurber and of Schulz for

hours and hours and hours, thankful that I was a

rightie as my hatcheted left hand

throbbed in its antiseptic mummy wrap.

Back when I was ten, at least,

I could look out that diamond-shaped

attic window at the eternal stars

decorating another suburban night full

of endless dreams and whispered

prayers, and for that all-too-brief

time in every young man's life, come

to believe in my own invulnerability,

and to squeeze my eyes shut tight as I could

and hope beyond hope that one day

I would awaken to find myself transformed

into a real-life superhero,

a true master of the universe around me.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

2003 Arhythmiacs
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