Open Letter to Michael Symon:

Last Friday was date night. I don’t know how old whoever will be responding on Michael Symon’s behalf will be, but when you’re in your mid-thirties with a young son, that’s a big deal. You’re still young enough to pretend you didn’t get all old and lame, but old enough to appreciate the sanctity of a few glorious hours without a single mention of poop, butts, or Skylanders. Nope, you don’t get many date nights. And when the metabolism of your twenties betrays you, you certainly don’t get many legitimate burgers either. I mean sure, my wife, Kerry, makes a solid turkey burger, but let’s not kid ourselves, the charlatan who convinced people that turkey and beef should be interchangeable in patty form should have his taste buds systematically cauterized with a soldering iron. But I digress. My point is that convincing my pretty little wife to stuff her face with actual cow meat on a rare childless evening is about as common as a solar eclipse. And since we’re being so honest, let’s go ahead and also admit that while I was indeed excited about the choice of venue, I acknowledge we were letting the overall success of the night ride on dinner–after a 7,000 calorie meal composed of primarily beef and grease, not too many people feel randy, so the dining experience had better be worth the opportunity cost.

Anyway, we dropped our spawn off at Halloween Ninja Night at his karate studio and made our way over to Eaton to gorge ourselves on your delicious burgers. We were informed we had a twenty minute wait and that I’d be texted when our table was ready. The table text really is the best advancement in the restaurant industry since free refills, but again, I digress. Kerry and I used the time to walk around Barnes and Noble and discuss classic literature. Okay, that was a lie–I looked at Harry Potter wands as she questioned her life decisions, but regardless, the night was going well up to that point, and continued on smoothly when I was texted right on schedule.

As we approached the hostess stand, I noticed two clear tables and no one else waiting to be seated ahead of us. The available accommodations were distinctly different. The first table was a two-person high top in the portion of the restaurant that sticks out into the mall-like shopping area of Eaton. Now this isn’t our first B Spot rodeo, so there are practical reasons we don’t like it out there: (1) the chairs are tall, and we’re short, so my Napoleon complex kicks in almost immediately (2) the chairs have rounded backs and the ground is dirty and far away, so there is no reasonable place for a classy lady to put her purse during the meal (I suggest putting in a hook under the table. . .you’re welcome) (3) the surface area of the tabletop hardly accommodates the ketchup selection, let alone the actual meal, and (4) every person larger than about 185 pounds knocks into you when they squeeze by the waitresses tending to nearby tables. You sell fatty burgers. . .this represents the majority of your male clientele, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, a not-insignificant percentage of the female patronage too. But the worst part is that it just doesn’t feel like date night out there in the overflow lot. It feels like where the old, lame 30+ people get seated because their ears are too sensitive to noise.

Now in contrast, the second table was the booth where we sat the first time we ever enjoyed your delicious burgers together. That was a magical date night long since past, filled with burgers and bacon milkshakes and laughter and loving companionship. I’m a big romantic sap, so that made it immediately desirable in its own right, not to mention that it’s everything the first table isn’t. You can hear the music, see the pickle bar, and feel like part of the action while sitting comfortably with your feet on the ground. It’s the antithesis of all things old and lame.

To my horror, before I comprehended quite what was happening, the hostess began leading us out towards the high top and its Alice in Wonderland freakishly high chairs. This would not stand. As the assertive gentleman I am, I stopped her and politely explained that we’d prefer the booth inside the restaurant because we’re clearly still young and hip. To my surprise she sympathetically denied my request, explaining that you’re so busy on Friday nights that you reserve the booths for parties of three or four. I was crestfallen, but it was a reasonable explanation, so I made my peace with it. To her credit, Kerry was a good sport about the whole thing, as is consistent with her personality, and even made some sweet comment about “just enjoying being with me”. I don’t understand it either. . .

Anyway, we ordered and did our best to ignore that we had been banished to a mall food court. But about the same time my elbow was bumped by a plus-sized patron, spilling my beer, I noticed that another couple had been seated at the booth I had initially requested. A couple. Two people. The same number of patrons in our party. They looked so cool and in love over there, laughing their date night away without a care in the world, totally oblivious to the fact that they should be the ones dealing with purse storage limitations and pickle bar routing issues. I bet they probably have date nights all the time and always get the good table. Is there no justice in this world? I felt so old and lame and inadequate.

We snapped out of it when our waitress came with two burgers, two orders of fries, and two salads, and we somehow managed to find the lone tessellation that allowed it all to fit on our 2×2 tabletop along with our beverages. My wife said something to the effect of, “oh wow everything at once, I’m overwhelmed.” Not sure how well that translates to the written word, but I promise that based on her inflection, she was being cute, like “I can’t wait to eat all of this”, and not snotty, like “why didn’t you bring my salad first, bitch?” The waitress replied, “umm yeah, we don’t do appetizers here” and walked away, clearly assuming Ker meant the latter. Now she had a ton of tables, so we gave her the benefit of the doubt on both her misinterpretation of inflection and for referring to salads as appetizers, which they’re clearly not, but it didn’t improve our experience or make us feel any less old and lame. And that’s pretty much the end of my story. No bug in my burger. No overtly bad service. No unforgivable issue–I’m sure the hostess realized she had only one table left when the next couple arrived and decided what she felt was a hard rule a few minutes earlier was really more of a suggested seating guideline when there were no other options. It was even a fine date night in the end. It just could have been so much more.

I feel compelled to take a quick moment to point out that the food was delicious and satisfyingly greasy. We were both in elastic pants within four minutes of putting our son to bed, so mission accomplished by the kitchen crew. Now I’ve already conceded that there was no significant problem that demands attention, so what is this horribly meandering note asking you for anyway? Good question, B Spot Webmaster. I’m asking you for a date night do-over. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not asking for a free app. . .oh wait, you don’t do those. . .I’m not asking for a free anything actually. I’m happy to pay for the right to stuff my gullet with your delicacies. I ask only that you break your rules and let me call ahead for the booth in the corner. The one where the hip, cool couples get seated. Give us a chance at feeling that B Spot magic we felt that first time again. I promise we’ll be early and that we’ll mock the poor shmucks sitting outside quietly enough that they won’t be able to hear us.

Not to threaten you into doing the right thing, but all seven of my loyal readers over at notoriousdad.com anxiously await your reply.


“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil”–C.S. Lewis

Those forsaken souls unlucky enough to enter my office at work can’t help but notice my obsession with super villain action figures. Their malicious gazes strike panic and discord into the hearts of all who cross the threshold into my dominion. Magneto and Ultron laugh maniacally as The Green Goblin prepares to launch a pumpkin bomb at his unsuspecting victim, for no reason other than he’s insane. Thanos, drunk on the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, plots the extermination of a planet to impress Lady Death, while Juggernaut threatens to build up a head of steam. And if that’s not enough to haunt your dreams, the Predator silently hunts you from the top of my bookshelf, just for the sport of it. Voldemort is currently out on loan, but you can still sense a nearby horcrux creating a pit in the stomachs of those brave enough to speak his name in hushed conspiratorial voices. The Joker and Harley Quinn waltz together, sharing a moment of heated passion just before trying to slice out each others’ throats.

I know what you’re thinking: what’s wrong with Iron Man? Sure, he’s brilliant, and admittedly, he made a pretty badass suit. I’ll even give you that his movies are fantastic, but what is there to learn from a narcissistic drunk? And don’t get me started on Superman–the boy scout with daddy issues. Don’t get me wrong, a well written hero has character flaws and finds the strength to overcome them–there’s a life lesson there, but I’ve always found fear to be a much more effective self-motivator.

When I look in the mirror at my powerful jaw line and dark, delicious chocolate eyes I remind myself of Dr. Doom to remain humble. What’s that, faithful readers? You don’t know the story of Dr. Doom?!? Well let me enlighten you. He became so consumed with a scar on his otherwise perfect face that he heated a hideous steel mask and painfully applied it to permanently disfigure himself and hide his physical flaw from the world forever. Simple vanity was his downfall. That’s so wonderfully and terrifyingly human.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you can identify with these guys. I mean, Thanos committed genocide to impress a girl. I went to go see The Birdcage to impress Sarah Hummer in 9th grade. I even went so far as to tell her I enjoyed it. True, I was a long way off from exterminating a universe, but it was clearly a step down a dark path that dead-ends into self-loathing.

Charismatic, brilliant people, certainly much greater than I, fall to such simple vices. Jealousy, revenge, feelings of inferiority, lust, pride, and the perennial favorite, power, are all well documented comic book downfalls, but even love can lead to the path of bitterness. If you don’t believe me, read about poor Mr. Freeze and the frozen apple of his eye, Nora.

We’re all adults here, so let’s be honest with ourselves. the high road is often exhausting. I’m dangerously close to ripping off a Dane Cook joke here, but who isn’t occasionally tempted by the low road? Sure you’ll eventually become a monster, but in the moment it feels amazing. In the moment, ‘goodness’ often requires that you do the exact opposite of what you’re feeling. I’ve held my tongue plenty of times (probably hard to believe for those who know me), and rarely have I regretted it in hindsight. However, I can admit that on one or two occasions when I’ve been pushed, I’ve chosen instead to unleash the full, unadulterated fury of my tongue and detail an explicitly accurate and exhaustive list of my nemesis’ physical imperfections. In the moment the adrenaline rush feels worth it, but looking back I’ve always felt remorse. Don’t misunderstand me–on at least one occasion the dude totally deserved it–the remorse is primarily selfish. Sure I know it’s wrong, but mostly I just don’t want to have to think of myself as a ‘bad guy’. Before you judge me too harshly, think back on all of the ‘that’s what I should have said’ debates you’ve wrestled with internally after a confrontation. Even when we choose the noble path, we often second guess it.

But take heed, faithful readers, and learn from my beloved villains. They allow us to safely acknowledge the duality of our human nature. When stress weighs us down, the Joker’s insanity can seem like a blissfully simple and valid option. When we’re wronged, Magneto’s penchant for revenge feels vindicated. When love is not returned we lash out at the universe like Thanos. But one only needs to examine their stories to realize that there are no happy endings here. Follow their example at your own peril.



Dom, Kerry, and I attended a lovely dinner party on Sunday night with two other families. Along with the six adults, there were a combined eight children present: a 13-year-old, three 9-year-olds, a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a pair of 4-year-olds. For those keeping track at home, Kerry and I contributed only one to that impressive brood. I’m pretty sure that means we’re losing at life, at least by evolutionary standards.

Anyway, the large age range allowed for an interesting case study in the development of humor. After establishing myself as the alpha male of comedy, I allowed each child to submit a joke for my amusement. As expected, all of the girls immediately bailed. The following jokes are a sample of what I heard from the remaining male cohort of future comedians:

Four-Year Submission:
The 4-year-old twins giggled impishly and ran away, disqualifying themselves from the competition and losing my favor in the process.

Five-Year Submission:
5-year-old: Knock Knock
Me: Who’s there?
5-year-old (looking frantically around the room): Table
Me: Table who?
5-year-old (erupting into uncontrollable laughter): Table chair window

Final Verdict: Total Stinker. The only thing that sucks worse than a knock-knock joke is a 5-year-old’s hacky attempt at knock-knock improvisation. If you don’t have anything new, stick to the tried-and-true ‘Interrupting Cow’, kid. At least that would have proven you developed some comedic timing during your first five years of existence. I mean, what have you been wasting your time on all these years?

Nine-Year Submission #1:
9-year-old #1: Okay there are three guys: a smart one, an average one, and an idiot and they all find a magical cliff that grants them one wish when they jump off.
Me: The smart guy didn’t see anything wrong with this scenario?
9-year-old #1 (ignoring me): The smart guy jumps off the cliff and wishes to be an eagle and flies away. The average guy jumps off the cliff and wishes to be a shark and swims away in the river.
Me: There’s a river?
9-year-old #1: Yes, at the bottom. Let me finish. The idiot goes to jump off the cliff, sprains his ankle, and says, “oh crap”!
Me: They all kind of seem like idiots to me. . .
9-year-old #1: Don’t you get it? He turned into poop!
Me: Oh, I get it. Poop is funny.

Final Verdict: The joke had an acceptable payoff, but I found the information in the premise to be a bit lacking. Where these men actively seeking the magical cliff? Why wasn’t the allegedly “smart” guy intelligent enough to wish for all-encompassing shape-shifting powers instead of just turning into a plain old, stupid eagle? For that matter, even a man of average intelligence would have almost certainly realized that he had enough time to wish for unlimited wishes before wishing for the ability to breath under water and plunging into the icy river below.

Nine-Year Submission #2:
9-year-old #2: Penis!
9-year-old #2’s Mom: Just saying “penis” isn’t funny
Me (hysterical with laughter): your mom is right.

Final Verdict: I totally lied to that kid. Just saying “penis” is hilarious.

Thirteen-Year Submission:
The 13-year old absolutely told the most technically sound joke, but who am I kidding? The “penis” kid totally won. I mean, where does he come up with this stuff?!?

When you first find out you’re having a baby, everyone on the planet with a kid feels that it’s their duty to give you some advice:

“It’s going to be hard, but share responsibilities so you can both get some sleep.”

“You’ve got to use XYZ, I used it with my kid and they turned out AMAZING!”

“If the baby starts crying, make sure to swaddle them tight.”

But there’s one thing no one ever mentions:

All the fucking worrying.

It’s incredible how much you worry once you have kids.

I am the kind of person that doesn’t worry about a damn thing. Especially before having kids, I didn’t worry about shit. Now though, if I’m not actively doing something that’s consuming my brain, I’m worrying about my kids. Their health and development is on my mind constantly.

I’m going to be real honest here, while unfortunate, most of the time I worry about my kids dying. It’s sick. I know. But also, I know way too many people who’ve lost their children and it obsesses me that something awful might happen to one of my children.

At night, over the monitor, I listen for hours making sure I hear breathing. Even a slightly long pause causes me to stop breathing long enough to be 100% sure I hear them breath again.

When they are sick, I fear that they will cough themselves to death in the middle of the night and I’ll be too tired to wake up and help them.

My mind wanders and plays out terrible situations in my head where one of them does something stupid and accidentally hurts themselves. There are times when it’s exhausting to have my mind burdened with it.

It’s terrible. I really hope it’s one of those parenting things that no one talks about.

written by:     stored in: Dad Rant

My wife is empirically pretty. The Attractiveness Scale is fairly subjective, but I think we’d all agree that she’s at least a California 8.0–almost impossible to achieve on the west coast without cosmetic enhancements–which is really perfect when you stop and think about it. Sure, you might be giving up a cup size or so when measured against the impossible standards of Maxim Magazine, but in general you get all the trappings that come along with marrying a 10 without having to worry she’ll leave you for her personal trainer.

Unfortunately, we live in Cleveland, Ohio. In frumpy Cleveland town, my wife easily tips the scale at 9.5, and that when she’s a little gassy. Seriously, other men look at me like I bridled a Pegasus when we’re out in public. I’ve never calculated the exact exchange rate, but I’m fairly confident that in Wisconsin she’d be so far off the scale that men would compete in mortal kombat just for the chance to awkwardly stare at her from across the room. When you add in the fact that she possesses the kindness, compassion, intelligence, and sense of humor of a much less attractive women, you can plainly see that I hit the mother load.

Yep, my wife is way too hot for me. Now, don’t misinterpret that as low self-esteem. Seriously, I have enough confidence and charisma to spare. In fact, when considered along with my delightful boyish charm, unmatched thoughtfulness, and future earning potential, I’m at least in her ballpark. But unlike her natural beauty, my defining characteristics require a certain amount of maintenance.

This is why Valentine’s Day is so crucial–it’s my chance to remind my wife of all the intangible qualities that convinced her to let me see her naked that first time so many years ago. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s my chance to show all the men she works with that they’re bush-league romantic hacks and to prove to all her female co-workers that I was, in fact, worthy to father her child.

Listed among my wife’s wonderful qualities is the fact that she likes cheap flowers–daisies to be more precise. 51 weeks out of the year this is amazing. I can pick up a bunch of daisies on my way home from work and have enough change left over from my twomper for a six-pack. But on Valentine’s Day this presents a unique conundrum. Using only the humble daisy, how do I avoid looking cheap while simultaneously proving to her male coworkers that I’m the virile man they’ll never be? The answer came in a moment of inspiration: I would send an assload of freaking daisies. Perfect! But where does one acquire an entire ass full of daisies?

The interwebs! Right! I logged onto proflowers.com, entered the promo code from my favorite podcast (Robert Kelly’s You Know What Dude), and promptly ordered 100 Blooms of Affection for my special lady. Here’s the picture from the site:


Fast forward to Valentine’s Day. I sat back at my desk and waited for the emoticon-heavy text that signaled I’d be running the bases later that night. To my horror, here’s how it went down:


Sure, it might seem like she was happy, but did you notice how she only used two exclamation points? It’s a universally accepted rule that true female happiness is expressed through no less than three exclamation points and at least one smiley face–and that’s the minimum. To make matters worse, I got flustered during my righteous rage, and instead of telling her I love her, I promised heads would roll. I never break a promise to my wife–I’m pretty sure it was in our vows or something. But since the logistics and legal ramifications of literally making Pro Flowers’ heads roll are far too much trouble, I decided to settle for metaphorical decapitation and set out to write a scathing complaint letter.

Unfortunately, you’ll never get to read it because I failed to pay attention to the fine print. Turns out 100 blooms does not equal 100 flowers. When it comes to daisies, each stem can have five or six blooms, so you actually get about 20 flowers. Maybe you knew that, ladies, but my testosterone prevented me from putting the pieces together. And while I think Pro Flowers is guilty of using some pretty douchey/deceptive marketing, Kerry technically received 103 blooms if you count the teeny mutant runt buds that were shoved into the bottom of the vase.

Luckily I prepare for all situations and had an amazingly thoughtful supplemental gift awaiting Kerry at home, but learn from my mistake, gentlemen. Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and the only thing worse than a disappointed wife is a disappointed mother.


Kerry, Dom, and I just read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It was much more depressing than I remember. What a difference 28 years of perspective can make. When I was little, I remember loving that book. Naturally at the age of five, I identified with the little boy. What a lucky little brat, I thought. His entitled life was full of talking trees, free apples, and tree branch houses–nothing like my life. My life was full of homework and rules and life lessons. The fact that the boy turns into a miserable old man by the end of the story was totally lost on me. I longed to find a magic tree of my own so I could strip her of both her delicious apples and her dignity before cutting down her stupid trunk to make a boat.

Obviously 28 years later, I now see the metaphor with a bit more clarity. Kerry and I are officially the trees, and Dom is the Captain Planet-esque Eco-villian hellbent on deforestation. But that’s not the direction in which my mind wandered as I listened to Dom read the familiar story. No, my mind was focused on my own trees and the apples I have selfishly devoured over the years.

Now, I like to think my parents have escaped with their trunks, but I have this sneaking suspicion I’ve been sitting on their stumps for some time now. Simply put, I have amazing parents. They have quite literally given me everything they have, and I’m pretty sure they’d tell you they loved every minute of it. My trees have always been happy. . .

Well, now that I think about it, that may not be technically 100% true. My dad probably doesn’t fondly reminisce about the night he told me that my first engagement was a mistake and that, even though he knew I’d probably resent him, he loved me too much to remain silent. I, of course, promptly rewarded his honesty by resenting him and violently tearing off all of his leaves. As it turns out my dad knew some stuff, but I don’t remember giving him his foliage back when I realized he was right. Yeah, in retrospect my parents probably had plenty of “the tree was happy, but not really” moments. (I feel compelled to add that my first fiancĂ©e and I harbor no ill-will towards each, but I digress)

The Giving Tree is about unconditional love–the same kind of love I took for granted growing up. It’s the only kind of love I knew because, as it turns out, there is no other kind. As my uncle so aptly said, conditional love isn’t love at all, it’s barter. As a kid, hell, even into my twenties, I had nothing to trade, but my parents just went on loving me anyway because their love was unconditional. And now that I have a son of my own, I finally understand that there is true happiness in that tree stump. When you attain stump-status, you can look back at your life and say you held back nothing from the ones you love. I’ll likely never be able to properly thank my parents for what they’ve instilled in me, but I will promise them to love Dominic the same way they love me: unconditionally, without limits.

And Dominic, when you’re finally old enough to read this blog, I want you to know that you can have my trunk for your boat, but you still won’t be allowed to make fart noises at the dinner table.


Tonight’s story takes place in 2004, in the CD section of a Borders bookstore (remember those?). I was perusing a Mindless Self Indulgence album, Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy (don’t judge, I was in a phase. . .a phase that has continued into my 30s), when I felt somebody’s eyes indulging in all five feet, eight inches of my unadulterated masculinity.

I looked up to find a young man, roughly my own age, dressed in all black and wearing a choker. As our eyes locked, I suspect he sensed my displeasure with his gothy gaze, but he was determined to engage me in conversation. His opening line was an unexpected diversion from the standard salutations with which I’ve grown accustom over the years. “Dude,” he asked dead seriously, “do you like vampires?”

The earnestness of his delivery juxtaposed with the absurdity of the question momentarily scrambled my brain. After an uncomfortable pause, I replied, “Ummmm. Sure”. Now before you judge me, remember this is 2004, so vampires didn’t sparkle in the sunshine yet–they slaughtered lycans and looked like Kate Beckinsale.

Anyway, based on his snaggle-toothed smile, I had passed the first test, and my suitor was ready to get down to brass tacks. “Look, do you want to be in a movie? You’re literally perfect for one of the roles.”

Another curveball! I mean, obviously I had no desire to be in this freak’s independent vampire film, but I was literally perfect for one of the roles?!? That’s flattering right there, folks. Did this guy seriously pick up on my charisma from observing only some body language and a single spoken word? Or maybe it was simply my rugged good looks that screamed ‘immortal underworld sex god’ to my would-be director. I couldn’t turn him down without knowing what part was developed specifically with me in mind–it would eat away at me forever. I had to know.

“Which role?” I asked casually.

“Clerk,” he responded.

Sensing my disappointment with the unnamed character, he started talking faster, “dude, the vampires go into the store quite a few times and your death scene is really cool.”

I wish I could bring down the house with my hilarious retort. But the truth is, that on the fateful day of my missed big break, I responded only with an uncomfortable “no thanks” and a sarcastic “good luck,” before hightailing it to find Kerry to tell her about the alternate universe I had just entered over in the CD section.

Turns out this guy went on to direct. . .nothing. He directed nothing. Ever. But I hope he got to at least 2nd base with the goth chick he invariably picked for the female lead. He deserves that much for initiating one of my favorite all-time random conversations.


Hark, faithful readers, and allow me to spin yet another tragic yarn from my early days of fatherhood. Our story takes place roughly five years ago right around the holidays. Our little guy was six months old, and he was as excited as someone with no sense of time or self could be to celebrate his first Christmas with Kerry’s dad and his wife.

I was feeling a bit queasy most of the day, but waited to mention it to Kerry until about seven minutes before it was time to make the long journey through the snow to her father’s condo on the west side of Cleveland. Kerry asked “do you want to stay home?” with just the right amount of passive aggressiveness to guilt me into the car without being 100% certain I was interpreting her tone correctly–to this day she swears she wouldn’t have been angry had I decided to stay home.

As the car jostled over I90’s pothole gauntlet, I began feeling greener, but was helpless to stop the wheels of fate that had been set in motion. Right about the time we hit the Avon Lake exit, I could no longer contain the evil that was growing inside of my digestive system. Luckily, I found a plastic bag under the seat just prior to yarfing up a portion of my small intestines.

After purging, I actually felt better than I had all day, and we proceeded to Kerry’s dad’s house. But once inside, my stomach quickly took a turn for the worse, and I began a downward decent into the depths of digestive discomfort only imagined in my darkest dreams. I immediately made a bee-line for the bathroom. Like most residential bathrooms, there was only one toilet, forcing me to make a grisly decision. I began an awful cycle of sitting on, then kneeling in front of the toilet, that ended with me lying face down on the bathroom tile with my pants around my ankles, shivering from a cold sweat and moaning inaudibly.

Eventually Kerry came to check on me. It could have been minutes or hours, I had lost any semblance of time or sanity. However, I somehow lifted my 50 pound head and looked at Kerry through the haze. I remember the fleeting thought that she too looked awful. As we both began to weep, she choked out “I have it too” through her sobs.

We tried to compose ourselves and consider our options. You see, her dad has a cat and I have asthma, so staying the night risked an allergy-induced asthma attack. Further, Kerry’s dad owned none of the necessary equipment to care for a six-month old human. Kerry thought we could make it home, but I told her it was impossible. As she wiped her perspiring, yellow forehead, she focused her piercing marbled-blue eyes into my soul. “I can do this,” Kerry whispered with the steel-resolve that I fell in love with so many years ago.

After several more trips to the bathroom to purge our digestive systems, we put baby Dominic into his carrier and set off on the epic journey back home. Besides a quick call to my parents imploring them to meet us at our house to save our precious little son from the horrors of the merciless virus infecting his guardians, we spoke not a word. We took shallow breaths and sat in silence as Kerry weaved around the potholes. We were both freezing cold, but perspiring so much that the windows kept fogging up, reducing Kerry’s visibility to a dangerous level. However, by the grace of God, and only by the grace of God, we made it safely into our garage without a single violent vomiting episode.

As soon as the car stopped, whatever divine intervention had safeguarded our stomachs was prompty removed. I grabbed Dominic’s carrier as Kerry sprinted into the house. As I entered through the kitchen, I heard sobs intermingled with violent retching, but my bride’s battle was now her own. I set Dominic’s carrier by the Christmas tree, unlocked the front door for my parents, and sprinted to the other bathroom to begin my own purge/sob cycle. I chose the Christmas tree for two reasons: (1) I had hoped that the lights might hypnotize Dom into forgetting he was still strapped into his car seat and (2) it was closer to Kerry’s bathroom, and I banked on her maternal instinct kicking in if Dom pooped his pants and started crying.

Time stood still as my orifices took turns exploding. About the time I was making my fifth sacrifice of bile to the merciless porcelain god, I became briefly aware of my father’s voice calling to me from the abyss. He said something to the effect of “you two are a lost cause, we’re saving your heir,” and then the front door slammed with an eery finality. At that moment, I remember thinking that I didn’t necessarily want to die, but that if it meant the agony would cease I’d make my peace with it.

I woke up hours later, sprawled uncomfortably on the bathroom floor like the chalk outline of a murder victim. I slowly got to my feet and stumbled into the kitchen to find something to mask the vile taste in my mouth. My parents had thoughtfully left two 8-packs of Gatorade on the counter. After using my last ounce of strength to open the cap, I took a timid sip of lemon-lime sugar water, counted to three, and decided my stomach was going to accept it. I delivered a Gatorade to Kerry’s bathroom where I found her still doubled-over the toilet panting weakly. I muttered some half-hearted words of encouragement and crawled into bed, not sure she was going to make it through the night.

I awoke at 4:00PM the next day with a throbbing headache and flammable breath. Kerry was sleeping soundly next to me, and I remember being proud of her. Thankfully, the evil that possessed our stomachs was purged during the previous nights atrocities. After some dry toast, we remembered we had a son and called my parents to check on Dom. My mom answered the phone wearily. “We both have it, sweetie,” she whimpered. In a surprise twist befitting M. Night Shyamalan (pre-The Village), it turns out Dominic was patient zero, even though he never presented a single symptom.

Ah, the joys of fatherhood.


After two emails, three posts, and at least ten notes sent by you, my loyal acolytes, The Orlando Baking Company has responded to my product issue. I think they realized that, much like Andy Dufresne writing weekly letters requesting more books for the Shawshank Prison Library, I literally have nothing better to do in my free time.

Hysterically enough, first contact actually went to a D.A.D. faithful named Dwayne, in response to the form letter he copied and sent from a previous post. An unwitting customer service rep, who clearly had not connected the dots to my previous letters, responded sounding a bit confused, but polite enough. The best part: the good-intentioned rep asked Dwayne for his address so they could send him a coupon. The delicious bread for which I had sacrificed so much was offered to someone else after simply copying a form letter I wrote. I had no words. Well, that’s technically not true. In reality, I had so many words that I couldn’t decide where to begin my next scathing letter to the Orlando Bread Company.

Then it happened. The next afternoon I received an email from John C. Orlando Jr, Esq., and based on his title, he’s a pretty big deal in the Ohio bread-baking scene (their conferences must smell AMAZING). I’ll be honest, the ‘esq.’, kind of terrified me, along with the fact that the General Counsel/Director of Operations took the time to respond to my complaint personally. Let’s be honest, folks, there is a fine line between being a smart-ass and being an asshole, and I was pretty sure I had officially crossed it with the wrong man.

Luckily, he pretty clearly loves his family business and was somehow able to see through my snark to the actual product issue. He apologized for the delayed response, assured me that Orlando Bread conducts routine maintenance to prevent this type of issue, and offered to send someone out to collect the fragment I found so he could try to identify the source. He closed our correspondence with his hope that Orlando could earn my business again. Frankly, I would have been happy to be rid of me.

I decided not to post his letters in the name of brevity, and because I didn’t feel like dissecting them as I have with other responses I’ve received. He is the Director of Operations after all, and he seemed like an honest guy to me. I’ll even give him a pass on his assertion that my complaint was categorized incorrectly. Someone at his level certainly wouldn’t have been involved immediately.

Orlando sent me five coupons good for any one free product. If we assume they’re worth $4 a piece, Orlando sent me roughly $20. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, turns out it’s not really. . .

See, I decided to send the fragment back instead of having someone from Orlando Bread come to me. It was still with my dad because I never retrieved it after he took the pictures included in my first letter. I gave him a call and asked that he mail it on my behalf. My dad decided that the US government couldn’t be trusted with such an important task, so he used FedEx’s overnight service. Total cost of shipping: $21.

That’s right, faithful readers, I actually lost a dollar in this process. Remember, Mr. Orlando was going to send out a minion to collect the fragment, so I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself and maybe my dad. Still, I feel like this experience was a win–if not for me, certainly for America.


Generally I only post the first response received after a complaint letter because they tend to get a bit dry after initial contact is made. However, seeing as many of you seem to have an unhealthy obsession with the Propel Zero saga and my girl, Crystal, over at Gatorade customer service keeps bringing the heat, I’ll break tradition just this once and share the note that will sadly, in all likelihood, be the end of my relationship with Crystal. Please don’t cry for us. Crystal and I are both adults and we knew when we started this torrid affair that it wouldn’t last forever. Relationship that ignite as passionately as ours are destined to burn out quickly. Still, I think we’re parting as friends. I say think because frankly I’m not 100% sure. Here’s her last email in its entirety. Take a read and then I’ll tell you what’s stuck in my craw:


Thank you so much for your wonderful reply, and for reaching out to us again. Your blog post has been passed around these hallowed Propel Zero halls, and has made me very popular. I was touched and thrilled to be nominated for Notorious D.A.D. Complaint Response of the Year Award!

I wanted to let you know that I have received your mailing address, as well as the information from your bottle, and am sending your coupons out at once. They’ll arrive in about a week.

Again, thank you for writing, Andy, the great and powerful. Have a great day!

Gatorade Consumer Relations
A Division of PepsiCo

She loves me, right? I mean, I have clearly made her famous beyond her wildest dreams and likely served as the catalyst that will raise her shining star up through the Gatorade organization’s ranks. I was happy to do it and she truly deserves the spoils that come with my highest endorsement.

So what’s eating at my psyche, you ask? It’s the title she gave me in the last paragraph. I mean, the unique mix of awesomeness in my genetic makeup gave her so many monickers from which to choose: Andy the Wise and Charismatic, Andy the Noble and Bold (and Charismatic), Andy the Charismatic Conquerer, the list goes on. But Crystal chose to go with a title most closely associated with The Wizard of Oz. And while it’s true that I admire The Wizard for holding dominion over an entire fantasy realm using only a hot air balloon and some parlor tricks, the man was a fraud, Crystal. . .A FRAUD! What are you implying? Andy the Bold and Nobly Wise, Charismatic Conqueror hides behind no curtain!

(Deep breath)

Forgive me, Crystal. maybe that outburst wasn’t warranted. Upon some reflection, perhaps I have misinterpreted your intentions. Perhaps you truly can see all the way into my virtuous core. Perhaps, you chastised me for my own good, like John Lithgow at the end of Harry and the Hendersons. I couldn’t see it myself, but you, dearest Crystal, believed that I could squeeze just a little more “funny” out of this exchange.

That’s what love is, faithful readers: doing what’s necessary even when it hurts. Maybe Crystal believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I choose to cling to this version of Crystal–Crystal the Bright Shining Beacon of Compassion and Mercy. The world is a better place because she’s in it. . . as long as those coupons arrive on time. If they don’t, I’m totally trashing her to all of my friends.