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.
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
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
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
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
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,
"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.
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.
Special thanks for the bandwidth to the fine folks @ multiverse.com