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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

I Want You to Get Me… But Please Don’t Get Me Wrong

Because if I tried to keep all this in my head, it’d leak out my ears

Our next door neighbor is having some work done on his house. Which is unfortunate, because what our neighbor really needs is a lot of work done on his house. Or preferably, a new house.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I want the guy to move away or anything. He’s a nice old guy, Armenian and named Marti. He ambles around the neighborhood with his dusty shoes and his remaining teeth, saying hello to everyone and handing out ‘Happy Birthday’ pens with his name and cute slogans on them. It’s, um, ‘just his way’, as the old folks would say. He must’ve seen the questioning look on my face when he gave me the third or fourth pen — roughly eight months from my birthday — and said, as though it explained everything:

It’s okay, Chahlie. Take it. I order fifty of them at a time and get fifty free. It’s my gift to you. Enjoy it!

Which doesn’t explain much of anything, of course, like why he’s ordering pens by the multi-dozen in the first place, or why they have sayings like ‘Enjoy Your Life to the Fullest‘ or ‘May All Your Days Be Filled With Peace and Love‘, or why he’s giving them out to people four months from their birthday. (Yeah, I know I said ‘eight months’ in the last paragraph. You can never be eight months from a birthday — pay attention, dude.)

So the old guy is cool, and friendly, if a little out there sometimes. It’s his house that I take umbrage with, and a fair amount of umbrage at that. (Oodles of umbrage? Maybe that’s a bit strong, but close. Certainly armloads of umbrage.) Anyway, Marti moved into the house next door with his two brothers. In 1948. After they returned from WWII. That’s 1948, folks. The year my father was born. Marti’s now the last of the three young lads, as his older brother passed away seven years or so ago. Unfortunately, with his brother went all of the skills required to maintain a house. Each brother had a floor when they were sharing the house, and now Marti’s is the only floor approaching habitability. There’s a deck on the back that looks like something from a Jackson Pollack painting, the plot behind the house is more ‘rock quarry meets jungle meadow’ than yard, and it’s pretty clear that the house hasn’t been painted since the Kennedy administration.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not much of a painter myself, and I’ve got nothing against the Kennedys. Look, I live in Massachusetts; I have to deal with Kennedys every day of the week. I think one of the nephews delivers our mail, in fact. So certainly, I wouldn’t go around bad-mouthing the Kennedys here, lest we start mysteriously missing our mail, and our packages, and our, ahem ‘nature’ magazines. Like ‘National Geographic‘, or ‘Hustler‘. Okay, I’m kidding. We don’t get National Geographic.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s nothing bad about National Geographic. It informs, it educates, and millions upon millions of small boys see their first bare not-belonging-to-a-relative breasticles in that fair journal every year. Floppy, sunburned breasticles, granted, but boobies is boobies, right? It ain’t Penthouse, but it’s a start. Of course, with the smut huts and money shots waiting at the end of every damned Google search, I wonder how many kiddies are getting their first sweaty peeps via print any more. Fer chissakes, people — does every search have to include ‘Hot Ass!‘ or ‘Asian Schoolgirls‘ in the top ten results? Sure, I understand if you enter terms like ‘horny‘ or ‘fetish‘ or ‘zucchini‘. Or ‘Catholic church‘, of course. But it’s taken over the whole ‘net. Try searching for ‘cucumber facials‘ sometime. Or ‘tasty melons‘. Or baseball coach ‘Dick Pole‘. Okay, I understand that last one. (*snicker* He said, ‘Pole’!)

But don’t get me wrong, folks. I’ve got nothing against Web filth. It’s just that in those rare cases when I’m not looking for it, I’d like it to stay out of the way, and heave its melons and wield its cucumbers on its own for a while. You know, come to think of it, what’s up with all the fruit and veggy innuendo going on with sex, anyway? Sure, a lot of people have the same sorts of, um, enthusiasms about sex and food — exactly the same in some cases, a laAmerican Pie‘ — but are vegetables really the height of sexual fantasy? Nobody wants to touch the things in the dining room or the kitchen; what makes them so mouth- (and other parts-) watering in the bedroom, anyway? How does a carrot go from ‘tasteless boring snack’ to ‘spine-shivering sex toy’? And why and how did melons get singled out as the de facto foodstuff representative for the female bosom? Why not lettuce, or cabbage? Or for the wee little ones, Brussels sprouts? Or for that matter, coconuts. Oh, wait… okay, coconuts made the list of boobie words. Never mind. I didn’t mean to pick on coconuts.

Really. Don’t get me wrong — I like coconuts, and I’m really talking about coconuts now. You know, the kind that grow on trees and have hard shells and don’t have any nipples. (Obviously, or they’d never make it off the islands.) But coconuts are odd beasts, at least for me. I really don’t dig coconut flavoring, or even shaved coconut. (Which is odd in itself, as most things become much more exciting when they’re shaved.) But I’m a big fan of fresh coconut, still in its hairy shell, that you have to hack open to get at (with a screwdriver at my house, though I would hope to hell that most of you have more sense — and tools — than I do). That stuff is spectacular, and not just because I can use it when I role-play Tarzan. Okay, I’m bluffing. I don’t role-play Tarzan. I don’t own anything tiger-striped, or leopard-spotted, or even zebra-printed. I don’t own a single piece of clothing that looks anything like an animal, in fact. Well, unless you count my Spiderman Underoos. But Spidey’s more man than spider, so I don’t think they qualify as resembling an animal. On the other hand, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man was more something than man, so maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think it was ‘spider’, though. ‘Weenie’, maybe. Or ‘wet blanket’. But not spider. Spiders have more balls than that.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t really mind Tobey. He serves a purpose, after all. He’s the latest in a long line of clean-cut, nice-boy, shit-eating-grin-wearing teeny-bopper heartthrobs. He took over from Brendan Fraser, who grabbed the torch from Kevin Bacon, who emerged from the ashes of Mark Harmon, and so on and so forth. It’s a rite of passage. Sure, some of these folks go on to more serious, meaty roles. And some don’t. It’s all good. The point is that until they hit thirty, they’ll be cast as good guys or heroes or impish college kids; anything where they can flash their charms — and the occasional ass-cheek — for their adoring, shrieking, swooning groupies. After that, they’re on their own, and they have to live off their talents, or lack thereof, like most other actors.

And anyway, Tobey’s not all that bad, I suppose. He did a pretty good job in Pleasantville, which is about the only movie I’ve been able to stomach with Reece Witherspoon in it. Don’t get me started on her, though. She’s the new Alicia Silverstone, with a grating Southern accent, and — amazingly — six months younger than our pouty, forgotten Alicia. Now who could’ve possibly thunk that a career started as a teenage nympho in an Aerosmith video would have crapped out so soon? Shocking. Really.

Don’t get me wrong, of course. I’m a big fan of music video floozies. Hell, it worked out for Stevie Tyler’s daughter, who’s likely to parlay frolicking around with Frodo and the gang into quite a nice little career for herself. And look at the wonders that the music video industry did for Tawny Kitaen. Sure, her career never really took off — the best she ever did was a spot on the New WKRP and a Seinfeld episode, but she did marry a rock star, and then a baseball player. Not bad, eh, girls? Sure, she went psycho and hacked at her hubby with a high-heeled pump, but hey, who wouldn’t want to end up like Tawny, hmmm? Bravo, TK. Brav-o.

But hey, don’t get me wrong. Being a Seinfeld guest isn’t so bad. They paraded a truckload of talent through that show over the years, and it’s fun to watch the reruns and remember when we first met Christa Miller, or when Teri Hatcher was still hot. Actually, I probably watch more reruns than anything these days. I’m not sure whether it’s from a sense of nostalgia, or whether that’s all that’s frickin’ on television now. We get, what, six weeks of ‘sweeps’ in the fall, and then we’re back to last years’ shit? I think there’s more recycled hash on simply because more of it exists, and the stack o’ already-aired crap is growing every day. It’s like laundry, piling higher and higher until the ‘new’ (meaning ‘clean’) stuff is gone, and you have to either give in and wash the damned clothes or start re-wearing and walking around in your own filth for a few days. Neither option is appetizing, but I suppose only one attracts flies, so you know what you have to do.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really mind doing laundry. I don’t like it, but it’s a necessary evil. Or so my wife tells me. Personally, I don’t think it’s actually ‘necessary‘ until I’ve used everything up, inside-outed each pair of undies and used the other side, and then get down to my last emergency pair of silk cow-print boxers I got as a gag gift in college. (Hey, I do have animal clothing after all! Go, me!) But that’s not how my wife sees it. She’s always had a lower tolerance for filth than I do, which is certainly as it should be. I’ve known houseflies with a lower tolerance for filth than me, so it’s no surprise that my wife is the ‘clean one’ in the family. Still, I try to do my share around the house, tidying and washing and sweeping up. There’s a limit, of course. I’m not much of a mopper — but who is these days? — and I don’t do windows.

But don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against windows. They certainly come in handy for looking through, and gazing through, and occasionally peeping through. (Word of warning, though — the ‘woman’ a couple of doors down actually has a few surprises up ‘her’ sleeve. Or rather, one big surprise under ‘her’ robe. So I wouldn’t peep there, unless you’re into that sort of thing. There’s no easy way to sandblast your eyeballs. Trust me, I tried.) But in general, windows rarely do anything bad to me, and we generally have a pretty friendly relationship. For example, through the window in my office, where I’m sitting now, I can see Marti’s house. His helpers are gone for the day now, having patched up his leaky shingles. (And no, for you sickos out there, Marti doesn’t have ‘leaky shingles’. It’s his roof, okay? The roof. I get little enough sleep at night as it is without thinking of these two guys in their painters’ overalls trying to patch up Marti’s ‘leaky shingles‘, all right? Just let it go.)

Anyway, don’t get me wrong about the repair guys. They’ve been here for hours the past couple of days — they’re making shit happen over at Casa de Marti. I just wish they’d done a bit more, like paint his damned house, or fix up the lawn a little. It’s quite the eyesore as it is, which is a shame. Marti’s a nice fellow, and he deserves better than that, as far as I can tell. Apparently he threatens to look for a smaller place every year, but then he dips his toes into the foul, putrid waters of New England real estate prices, and scurries back to his dilapidated crapshack to hibernate for another year. He’s paying nothing on the monstrosity he’s in, of course. Christ, he bought the thing in ’48 — he could’ve almost paid off two thirty year mortgages in the time he’s lived there. You’d think by now he’d be ready for a change. Or at least indoor plumbing.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying Marti should move out. Oh, wait. I said that already. Well, you know what? Two don’ts make a do, how about that? I’ll miss the old guy, but I’ve changed my mind. I think he should get outta there — maybe out in the ‘burbs, where he can have a much larger lawn to ignore into disrepair. Or to Florida, where he can find a nice condo and grope the old ladies. Go on, Marti — get some of that wrinkly nook, dude! Live a little. Maybe then we’ll get someone next door who can fix the place up, and decide that peeling purple and faded yellow are not the chic color combination for house facades in the new century. (In Marti’s defense, that scheme may have been all the rage when it was originally painted. You know, before I was frickin’ born.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Marti’s a pip and all, but he’s not going to die in his sleep in that house. He’ll fall through the floor, or the deck will collapse, or he’ll wander into the weed patch and starve in his own back yard. That’s no way to die. Having a heart attack while you’re scoring with some hot octagenarian in Palm Beach; now that’s the way to go! I don’t know what kind of afterlife there is, but those last moments will certainly get you in good with whoever’s got the keys to the playground up there. Hey, I’ve even got an icebreaker Marti can use — he just has to order a new batch of pens, with ‘The Lord Sayeth, Go Forth and Multiply‘ on one side, and ‘Happy Birthday Suit‘ on the other. What toothless mama could resist that? He’ll be in their Depends and ‘storming the beaches of Normandy’ in no time!

So don’t get me wrong, Marti. I love ya, dude, but there’s a whole world out there for you to conquer. We’ll miss you, but I believe it’s time for you to fly. Don’t worry; we’ll keep an eye on your place, and tell you all about what’s happening with your house. (We sure as hell have enough pens lying around now to write to you with.) So get out there, dude, and live it up! Now every day is your birthday!

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