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Although Jeff likes to consider himself a "Jack of all Trades," his efforts at work, car repairs, home improvement projects, and relationships with his pets always seem to prove him to be, well...not so much.

How I met my Skyliner

Part I

Denny and the Fairlane in his shop almost 20 years ago.

“I hear you work on old cars,” said Tony.

It was 2005 and my dad was near the end of another day working first shift at Whirlpool Corporation in Amana, Iowa.  He was ready to go home after making refrigerator door panels since early that morning, but the fork truck driver from second shift had caught him before he got out the factory door.  Always eager to talk about old cars, Dad asked, “What do you have?”

“It’s a 1957 Ford Skyliner,” he replied. “Would you be interested in getting it back on the road for me?”

As the conversation went on, Dad learned that Tony had acquired the car in 1964 when he was only fourteen years old.  He managed to buy it cheap because its 292 Y-block was blown.  A previous owner had also installed a manual transmission, which wasn’t correct for the car.  Tony’s solution to these problems was a trip to the local Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Ia.  It was there that he found the 312 engine and automatic transmission that the car still has turning its wheels today.

Tony drove and tinkered with the Skyliner throughout his teenage years until he joined the Navy in 1968.  It was stored inside a garage until he got back in 1972.  At this point in his life, Tony split his driving time three ways between the car, a truck, and his newly acquired Harley Davidson. 

He says, “The top worked reasonably well in those years, but I would have to give it the occasional helpful slap or jiggle to get it to finish its cycle.”  He also said rust from gas tank and the “teakettle carburetor” were always giving him problems.  “I always kept a couple filters installed in the gas line at the same time.” 

Eventually, the old car’s idiosyncrasies caught up with it (and Tony) and it ended up back in long-term storage.  By the time Tony met my dad, the Fairlane had been sitting for over a decade and he felt that he needed assistance getting it roadworthy this time around.  Dad, a former full-time mechanic in the 1970’s, was happy to help.  The two of them worked out a deal and a short time later, I found myself helping my dad haul the car to his home on a borrowed trailer.

Years of storage had not been kind to the car.  To put it mildly, it was ugly. 

A decade of dust had accumulated on the all-white body except for some cat prints going across the wind shield.  The grill and bumpers had plenty of surface rust and the rear bumper sported some interesting dents.  I hypothesized they were made by another vehicle’s front bumper, probably while giving the Fairlane a “helpful nudge” at some point in the distant past.  The rocker panels and the bottoms of the rear quarters were rusted out and had black primer sprayed all over what was left of them. The areas around the front headlights were also rusty and had the same black primer treatment

“The first order of business,” said Dad, as he pulled on the hood release, “is to get it running.” 

I was thirty-five in 2005 and had lots of experience “holding the flashlight” for Dad over the years as he worked his magic bringing dead vehicles back to life– both his and mine.  There was his fully restored 1955 Ford 2-door, which we pulled from a field when I was in High School.  There was my daily driver, a 1951 Ford pickup.  (We had to cut a tree that was growing through one of its running boards before we brought that one home.)  And there were my 1963 Impalas, a number of other vintage pickups, and countless other projects he worked on for other people

Yeah, the ’57 wasn’t much of a challenge for Dad.  After hooking up his home-made temporary fuel tank (a modified tin coffee can), he had it running in less than an hour.     

Too bad it needed a lot more work than that.  The gas tank was shot and the radiator leaked.  We pulled them out and took them to a nearby shop to be cleaned and repaired.  While we waited for those to come back, Dad continued down his trusty list of old-car reanimation tricks. 

That included the requisite carburetor rebuild, replacing the spark plugs, plug wires, distributor cap, and, of course, changing the oil. The brakes were sticky, so off came the wheels and brake drums.  (FYI:  In addition to holding the flashlight, I’m pretty good at pumping the brake pedal while bleeding brake lines.)

Dad did some cosmetic work to the Fairlane too.  Tony had some brand-new red and white door panels and seat covers stashed in the back of the car since probably the 1970’s or 80’s.  I remember helping Dad one weekend “hog ring” those onto the car’s freshly cleaned up seat frames.  There also was a new pair of rocker panels.  A true jack of all trades, Dad was good with sheet metal work too.  He had those installed in no time, giving the car another enhancing color to its beauty repertoire– primer gray. 

I lived nearby and kept track of Dad’s progress, helping him when I could on weekends.  Over the course of a few months, the car was up and running and ready to go back to its owner.   

Tony was thrilled with the improvements.  He said, “The drive home will be the longest trip I’ve taken in the car in over ten years.”

As Dad and I watched the Skyliner pull out of the driveway, I mentioned to him that it looked pretty decent all cleaned up.  “You know, I could see myself in a car like that.”

Dad shook his head and I could tell he was ready for a different project.  “Don’t get any ideas,” he said, “because it still needs a lot of work.  The rear main seal on the engine leaks and so does the transmission.  Trust me, you don’t want to be the one crawling around underneath that oily Ford trying to fix it.”

I shot him a grin, “Yeah, but I hear you work on old cars.”

Did You See This Turd?

“People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.” –Emily Dickenson

“People need an old pet and a lot of paper towels to develop psychic muscles.” –Jeff Brown

As I rubbed my eyes and shuffled towards the kitchen, I noticed something strange on the step leading to my wife’s office.  It looked like a half-melted tootsie roll.   Vickie, who had gotten up a little earlier than me, was already working at her desk.

“Uh, Vick,” I said, “Did you see this cat turd?”

She shot me a puzzled look. 

I continued to the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel, and shuffled back.  “This one,” I said, as I bent over and picked it up.

She shrugged and said, “Nope.”

My dear readers, do you fully understand the serious implications of the situation I am describing for you here?  It seems this completely average, normal, ordinary guy has developed a type of extrasensory perception.  Yes, a brand of ESP that has given me the amazing ability to see things that other people can’t see—well, at least things my wife can’t see.      

I see poop—poop that shouldn’t be there.

I guess you could say I’m a special kind of poop whisperer.  Okay, on second thought… not really—maybe more of a poop psychic. 

Interesting Fact:  Poop Psychics have the extraordinary sense of awareness when something gastronomical has happened in an inappropriate place, like anywhere inside my house.

Stuff happens. 

To put things into better context for you, our furry herd of little critters is entirely comprised of geriatrics.  Lacy, our youngest cat, is twelve.  Arlo, the lone doggy, is thirteen.  Shadow, the patriarch of the group, is twenty.  According to the cat age calculator I found online, this means Shadow is ninety-six in human years.  And he has the ninety-six, err, twenty-year-old colon to prove it.  What this means for poor Shadow is he always seems to be constipated.  Our veterinarian has prescribed a special stool softener for him, which Vickie laces his food with regularly. 

It works pretty well.  These days he always seems about to poop, to be in the process of pooping, or has recently pooped.   If you plan to stop by our house for a visit, keep in mind this urge might strike him anytime, anywhere. 

Another Interesting Fact:  Shadow could give the Easter bunny a run for his money.

I can be minding my own business when he’ll just saunter by, pause for a moment, and poop right in front of me.  Don’t think this upsets me–not at all.  I’m at the point where I’m happy and thrilled whenever Shadow has a bowel movement, no matter when and where it may happen.  Heck, it’s practically reason for celebration in my household, but I sometimes wonder if this is what my elementary school teacher meant when she said, “Show your work.”

Anyhow, if anybody asks, it’s true.  I seem to have spontaneously developed the supernatural ability to see poop where other people can’t.  I don’t have a clue as to how it happened.  To be honest, I stumbled into it.  In fact, that happened earlier today.  As I scraped the bottom of my shoe with a Popsicle stick, I asked my wife,

“Did you see this cat turd?”


Bonus Pics from Jeff’s Phone…

I affectionately refer to Shadow as, “The Big Guy.” (Not to be confused with Joe Biden, although I suspect he has similar issues.)

Lacy using the litter box.

It’s Five O’clock Somewhere, Especially on my Face

81Vebzr0lSL._SL1500_“Winning is like shaving– you do it every day or you wind up looking like a bum.” –Jack Kemp

“Winning is like shaving– you do it every day to look like a bum.” –Jeff Brown

I’m feeling pretty good these days because I’ve got all my ducks in a row. Yep, I’ve been a regular model of middle-aged responsibility.

Eye exam? Check.

Six month dental cleaning? Check.

Yearly physical? Check.

Perfect stubble? You betcha!

If you’re wondering, the perfect stubble is a relatively new item on my list of physical responsibilities. It all started with the electric razor my wife gave me for our anniversary. It boasts itself as, “just the tool for creating and maintaining perfect stubble.”

Interesting fact: My wife has a thing for guys with a permanent case of five o’clock shadow.

I can tell by her celebrity preferences. Some of her favorite leading men include Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles who play the Winchester brothers on the TV show Supernatural. She’s also been a huge fan of Harrison Ford since his days of playing Indiana Jones. As I was writing this column, I asked her if there were any more she wanted to add and Jason Statham, Gerard Butler, and Ben Affleck rolled off her tongue. (She would’ve kept going, but I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up.)

After a careful examination of her list, (she says I’m supposed to add Leonardo DiCaprio) the only thing I think these guys have on me besides, well, great looks, bulging muscles, talent, and buckets of money is their seemingly perfect and perpetual level of scruffiness. I’ll have to admit I’ve sometimes wondered how movie stars maintain the appropriate amount of scruff without letting it grow completely out of control. I know from experience if I go a few days without shaving, I begin to look a little like Tom Hanks from Cast Away.

castawayhairThanks to my wife, I don’t have to wonder anymore because I’m now the proud owner of a brand new Philips Norelco Rechargeable Cordless Shave tool kit! According to the directions, I can set the length setting on the beard styler attachment anywhere from 3/64 to 11/64 inch.

I don’t know about other men, but I have a difficult time visualizing my beard in sixty-fourths of an inch increments. What I needed was a chart of celebrity scruffiness to go by, you know, to help guide me in my stubble length selection. Of course I couldn’t find one, so I created my own…

scale of scruffOn a scale of Jensen Ackles to Grizzly Adams, I feel I rank a solid Jason Statham today.

It’s taken me a few weeks, but I think I’ve finally gotten the knack of maintaining just the right amount of scruff on my face. Yes, after spending a half hour in the bathroom grooming myself this morning, I look like I just rolled out of bed.

IMG_0986Seriously, I look pretty good with perfect stubble, don’t you think? Too bad I can’t say the same for my bathroom sink.

Special Note: My wife wants me to add George Clooney, Justin Timberlake, David Beckham, and Bruce Willis to her list too.

I Had This Crazy Dream…

lipstick shot“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”  –J.K. Rowling

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and blame your husband for what happened in them because he has a hard enough time staying out of trouble for the stuff he does in real life.”  –Jeff Brown

It was a lazy Saturday morning and I was lounging on the couch checking Facebook on my iPhone when my wife’s latest status update popped up on the screen…

I had a nightmare of a dream.  Can I be mad at my husband for something he did in my dream?

I nearly did a coffee fueled spit-take.

One of her friends, Anne, chimed right in.  I have been before, at least for a little while.  LOL.  I am still mad at Jessica Beal.  She better leave my man alone!

I set my cup on the coffee table and pecked out my two-cent response.  That would be a definite “NO.”

You know it’s going to be a bad day when your wife is mad at you for something you did in her dream.

A few minutes later Vickie emerged from our bedroom with her phone and a big grin on her face.  “Would you like to know what you did?”

I shook my head.  “I didn’t do anything.”

Interesting fact:  My wife is crazy.

“I dreamt you had a girlfriend,” she said.  “Do you want to know the worst part?”

“Absolutely not.”  I covered my head with a pillow.

“You let her move in with us!”  Vickie threw her arms up in disgust.  “She was living in our den and I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I helped her pack up her stuff and carry it out of the house.  How could you put me through that?”

I had no idea what to say because I have a hard enough time staying out of trouble for the stuff I really do.  “Well,” I stammered, trying to think, “This girl had some self-esteem issues and I was trying to help her through a tough patch.”  I couldn’t help but grin.  “I thought you’d understand.”

Vick did a little double take and her eyes got bigger.  “Where the heck did that come from?”

Unfortunately for us poor oblivious guys, it seems to be common for women to have dreams like this about their men.  Another one of Vickie’s Facebook friends shared her experience too…

I woke up and yelled at my (ex-now) husband because of a dream.  After I fully woke up we both laughed.  But I was still kind of mad. 

Vickie didn’t really seem angry with me at all (thank God) and we both had a good laugh about her dream.  I love her sense of humor.  It’s one of the main reasons I married her.

This whole situation got me thinking about my wild and imprudent bachelor days.  Well, to be honest, they weren’t very wild or imprudent.  Yep, my wife doesn’t have anything to worry about because I’ve had my fill of the single life.  I like being married and I love my wife very much,

Even if she is a little crazy.

Once More, with Feeling

photo (34)“Oh, well, I love you gal, yes, I love you, Peggy Sue.”  –Buddy Holly

“Oh, well, I love you gal, yes I love you, Hannah Sue.” –Jeff Brown

My three-month-old granddaughter was on my lap facing me and I was doing my best to keep her entertained.  And what’s the best way to delight a baby?  Why, singing made-up show tunes, of course…

Oh Hannah!  Oh Hannah!  Oh Hannah!

We hope you have a very happy day!

I touched the tip of her nose and declared, “You’re the cutest baby I’ve ever seen.”  I reconsidered.  “Well, next to your sister and your mom when they were your age.”

She smiled broadly and replied, “Aga-oooh!”  *Hiccup*

Oh no, I thought, that wasn’t a hiccup, was it?


There was no mistaking it now.  Hannah was going into a state of hiccups, and as everyone who knows Hannah knows: a simple case of hiccups could easily spiral out of control into, well, a more complicated case.  Hannah Sue’s been hiccup prone since birth and they often go on and on and make her very unhappy.  When she’s unhappy, it makes my job of providing wholesome family friendly entertainment all the more difficult.

“Oh my goodness, Hannah, what shall we do?”


Jeff, I thought, how can you make her feel better?  Then it came to me.  Oh, yes, distraction with song, that’s the key…

A hap hap happy Hannah, happy in every way,

Makes a hap hap happy babysitter, and a much less stressful day!

*Hiccup, hiccup*

Hannah frowned and started to cry, clearly distressed by her physical condition and certainly not by my less than stellar singing voice.  Perhaps if I sang oldies instead, maybe that would work…

Hannah Sue, Hannah Sue

Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Hannah Sue

Oh Hannah, my Hannah Sue eeeooooh! 

Conundrum: Is there such a thing as an “oldie” when you’re singing to an infant?

“Her eyes sparkled and she exclaimed, “Eeeaaah.”

“Look at you, Hannah,” I said, holding her up in front of me.  “Is that the beginnings of a smile?”  My ingenious medicine of soothing music seemed to be working, but what should I perform next?  I set her back down, took up her little hands, and swayed them back and forth. 

Ouga chaka ouga ouga ouga chaka ouga ouga

I can’t stop this feeling, deep inside of me

Girl, you just don’t realize what you do to me 

A bit of drool ran down her chin.  Hannah was letting me know what I do to her.  “Don’t worry, Hannah Banana,” I said, grabbing a towel, “I got your back, err, I mean your mouth.”  I dabbed her off and another song came to me…


Hannah, Hannah, bo-bannah,

Banana-fana fo-fannah



Seemingly awestruck, she couldn’t hold back any longer.  “Ahhhgaoooh!”

“Thank you very much,” I said, doing my best Elvis.  “Cheers of admiration will get you everywhere.”  I gave her a quick hug.  That’s when I noticed her hiccups were gone.  Oh, yeah, baby, I cured my granddaughter– time for my big finale… 

Oh, we’re the boys of chorus

We hope you like our show

We know you’re rootin’ for us

But now we have to go! 


I Sure Could Use a Twist Tie Right Now

this or that“Come on let’s twist again like we did last summer.” –Chubby Checker

“Come on let’s twist again like before my wife threw them all out.” –Jeff Brown

They were gone– every single last one of them.  Panicked, I looked inside a couple more drawers.


Where were they?  Somebody must have swiped them, but who would do such a thing?  Then it occurred to me.  When my wife walked into the kitchen I asked, “Do you know where they are?”

“Where what are?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“No I don’t”

“Yes you do.”

She grabbed a container of dog food from the pantry and set in on the table.  “Refresh my memory.”

I gestured towards the empty drawer.  “All of my twist ties are gone.”

“Oh those,” she said, pouring some food into a dish.  “I threw them away.”

I suppose I always knew deep down in my soul that it was only a matter of time before Vickie pitched my stash of twist ties or “twisties” as us enthusiasts commonly refer to them.  She always seemed disapproving of my brightly colored collection cluttering up the silverware drawer.  You see, for years I’ve thrown the occasional wayward twisty in there because, well, you never know when you might need one.

That’s just the way this former Cub Scout is wired.  Call it prudence, call it provident care in the management of resources, but I like to be prepared for life’s little emergencies.

Slogan: Keep calm and carry one.

In my hand I held the bane of my existence.  It was one of those little flat plastic clip thingies you find sealing lots of hamburger bun bags these days.  They’re a pain when it comes to re-sealing and sometimes, depending on my mood, I’ll even tear the bag in the process.

Under normal circumstances, when faced with this adversity, I’d just, well, you know, open my silverware drawer, reach in, and in no time at all be twisting like Chubby Checker.  Sadly, these were no ordinary times.  Yes, it was true, all of my twist ties were gone– every single last one of them!

I threw my hands up and complained, “Now what am I supposed to do?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I sure could use a twist tie right now.”

“Don’t you have some under the sink?”

“Those are trash bag twisties.”    I shook my head and bit my lip, trying not to grin.  “You can’t use them on baked goods bags.  Everyone knows that.”

She rolled her eyes and sighed.  “I’m trying to keep you off of that TV show Hoarders.  Remember, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.”

I crossed my arms.  “Ha-ha.  I’ll admit my problem when you admit yours.”

“My problem?”

I pointed to the gigantic mound of used plastic Wal-Mart bags heaped inside the pantry.

“Those are for the dog when we go for walks.”  She placed his dish on the floor.  “You know that.”

It’s true, but the irony of Vickie’s obsession with plastic bags and my hoarding for the impending twist tie apocalypse was not lost on me.   I suppose it’s proof that we’re the perfect couple.  The Yin of her plastic bags goes superbly with the Yang of my twist ties.

I just hope she doesn’t go nosing around inside the bottom drawer.  This former Cub Scout is saving up for the great Popsicle stick catastrophe too.

Know Your Enemy

cicada killer top“Hey, we all have our fear.  Mine is bugs and lobsters!” –Brooke Burke

“Hey, we all have our fear.  Mine is having to do bug homework for the rest of my life!”  –Jeff Brown

There’s blood on my hands.  Before you call the cops on me, it’s not real blood per se, but the metaphorical kind with a hint of bug spray.   Excuse me for a moment.

Okay, I’m back.  Sorry I took so long.  I usually wash my hands for the duration it takes to hum “Happy Birthday,” but I was unsure of the amount of time it takes to wash Wasp and Hornet Spray off my fingers.  To be safe, I threw in the national anthem too.

I’m not terribly proud of my recent murderous behavior, but it had to be done.  Besides, I feel violence was justified because I’m living in a state of war.  Well, maybe not a real war per se, but more of an out-my-front-door contingency operation.   Believe me when I say I’m usually a peace and love, live and let live, don’t take any wooden nickels kind of guy.  (Okay, that last idiom doesn’t really prove my point, but I’m doing my best to spread the word.)

Definitely not tectonic activity.

Definitely not tectonic activity.

It all started a couple months ago when I noticed several little volcano shaped mounds of earth in the flower garden near my front door.  Before I could check my homeowner’s insurance to see if it covered molten lava, a hideously gigantic wasp emerged from the caldera.  It was black and yellow and apparently really annoyed with me.

It launched itself into the air, looped around with a threatening buzz, and dive-bombed me World War II style.  Yes, I was suddenly and deliberately attacked!  It was like the Battle of Midway between my driveway and front door.  I countered by flailing my arms wildly and bumping my head against the mail box.

I spent the next few days entering and exiting my home cautiously, always being mindful not to make direct eye contact with the hornet, hoping it would leave me alone.  I’ve used this strategy successfully to avoid confrontation ever since childhood, although sometimes I’ve had to change up my tactics, such as running real fast or taking a different route home from school.

This time, however, my strategy wasn’t working and the wasp was getting even bolder.  (I didn’t give him my lunch money, but I did do his homework once.)  It got so bad I mentioned to my wife that we might have to move to a different neighborhood.

That’s when it happened.  That’s the moment when something inside of me snapped and I knew I had to grow a spine.  I had a wife and herd of pets to protect.  But what was a scrawny, middle-aged guy with no military training supposed to do?

The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu once said, “Know your enemy,” so I searched “big scary wasp” online.  I soon found myself experiencing way too much information because staring back at me was a picture of the wasp reaching home base with his girlfriend.

cicada sex

Yes, my nemesis was a Lady Killer.

Oops, Freudian slip.  I mean my assailant was a Cicada Killer.

Cicada killers are large, solitary, ground dwelling, predatory wasps and are so named because they usually hunt cicadas, but get occasional cravings for scrawny middle-aged men.  The highest diversity of them in North America occurs in the region between Jeff Brown’s driveway and front door.  They use their venom mainly to paralyze cicadas, which they take back to their nests to feed their young.

I couldn’t believe my eyes– the wasps were breeding an enemy army– right outside my front door!  To make matters worse, I found a dead cicada laying on my front step one morning.  I took this as a message clearly stating:  “Jeff, you’re next.”

dead cicada

Dead Cicada: it’s what’s for dinner.

Interesting fact:  According to a recent government study, holding a gun makes you look bigger and stronger.

I wondered if it would work with a can of bug spray.

“Know your enemy.”  I repeated the phrase as I drove to the hardware store.  When I explained my situation to the woman behind the counter, she suggested I dump gasoline down the holes, but didn’t recommend lighting it.

I smiled politely as I paid for a big can of bug spray.

For best results, spray a safe distance from the nest with the wind at your back using one of the following shooting techniques:

  1. The quick draw
  2. Ten Paces at noon. 
  3. Backwards using a mirror.  (This method should only be attempted by a professional.)

After much experimentation, I invented an ambush technique in which I opened the front door, fired off a squirt, and shut the door real fast before the wasp could get me.  I’ve lost count, perhaps due to the fog of war, or maybe it was all the chemicals drifting in the breeze, but I’ve killed at least fifteen wasps over the past month RIGHT OUTSIDE MY FRONT DOOR.

arm out door

Yes, it’s true.  I am a Cicada Killer Killer, and a have the empty cans of Raid to prove it.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not terribly proud of my murderous behavior, but at least I can rest assured knowing my wife and lunch money are safe.  And perhaps it’s my imagination, but I think the cicadas are singing just a little bit louder tonight.

Drifting Along with Tumbling Tumbleweeds

tumbleweed“Personally, I don’t wear fur” –Karl Lagerfeld

“Personally, I don’t wear fur, except on my sleeve.” –Jeff Brown

I recently saw a bumper sticker that said, “I love my cat.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here was a person who not only proclaimed to have a cat, but also admitted affection for it.  Maybe I should get a bumper sticker too, but one that says, “Yes, two cats and a dog live in my house.  Of course, I love them very much, but THANK GOODNESS FOR DUST BUSTERS.”

It seems no matter how much my wife brushes and bathes our tiny herd of mammals; clumps of fur seem to sprout up all over our carpet like dandelions in the spring.  Then they blow around the house like little feline and canine fur comprised tumbleweeds.

I know what you must be thinking.  Why don’t you help Vickie brush and bathe the pets?  Well, it’s not my job.  Before you go jumping to any conclusions, I do plenty of housework.  It’s just that Vickie and I have a two-pronged approach when it comes to house-keeping.  She wields the brush.  I wield the Dust Buster.

Interesting fact:  I’m pretty good with a Swiffer mop too.

I sometimes wonder if we should replace our conventional cats with the hairless variety.  I think the ancient Egyptians were the first to breed these strange looking creatures.  Apparently they loved their cats, but hated all the fur tumbleweeds blowing around inside their pyramids.

hairless cats

Maybe I could teach our cats how to shave.  Imagine this…

I’m taking a shower.  After a few minutes I notice I’m standing in a puddle.  I look down and see the drain is clogged with cat fur.

Yeah, that’s probably not such a good idea.

Lately, it seems, most of the tumbleweeds are white.  Since one cat is gray and the other is tiger striped, this can mean only one thing: dog fur.   Arlo is an American Eskimo/Papillion mix.  This means he’s 25% Eskie, 25% Papillon, and 50% fur.  Well, probably closer to 40% fur.  (The other 10% is in my vacuum cleaner.)



Arlo is a very affectionate creature and he insists on sleeping in between my wife and me at night.  He usually perches behind me with his head resting on my right shoulder.  When I got up this morning my sleeve was plastered with white fur.

Yeah, that shirt’s in the hamper.

I can tolerate most of the fur I find, but the kitchen tumbleweeds are the ones that irritate me the most.  The Five-Second Rule states that food dropped on the floor will not be significantly contaminated if it’s picked up within five seconds.  I regard this rule the same way I do Bigfoot.  (If he does exist, his shower drain must be a horror show.)

I assert there is no Five Second Rule, at least not at my house.  I swear if you drop some food in my kitchen, the fur will leap up off the floor and cling to the food atoms before they hit the ground.  Particle physicists call this mysterious molecular attraction “entanglement.” And most scientists agree that once Pop Tart atoms become entangled in a feline and canine fur comprised tumbleweed, there’s no way to separate them.

Just give it to the dog.

Arlo, Shadow, Lacy

Arlo, Shadow, and Lacy

I’m all Thumbs

thumbs and phone“Likewise, there is no evidence that texting teaches people to spell badly: rather, research shows that those kids who text frequently are more likely to be the most literate and the best spellers, because you have to know how to manipulate the language” –David Crystal

“There’s no evidence that texting teaches people to spell badly.  It’s gigantic thumbs.” –Jeff Brown

Here’s a text message exchange between my wife and me last evening.  She was in the bedroom and I was lying on the living room couch.

Vickie:  You can watch TV in here.  My show didn’t leave off where it should have.  Now I have to watch it all over again.

Jeff:  Ok.  Way hi g scrubs

You may notice that my wife’s message is clear and coherent while mine isn’t.  This drives me crazy. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m thrilled that my wife is wonderful and bright and can string words together in complete sentences.  What distresses me is the condition of my response.  It’s indecipherable– and I’m the one in the family that likes to think of himself as a writer.

Don’t get me wrong– not a writer in the sense that I’m widely published, paid, or successful in any sort of meaningful way.  Oh no, I mean a writer in the sense that I can usually spell my first name confidently without having to refer to my nametag.  (Hi, my name is JEFF.  If found please call…)

In other words, I value a well-written, properly spelled and punctuated piece of prose.

Perhaps it stems from all those composition classes I endured in college, but whenever I write something, I want it to be AWESOME.  It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a simple e-mail or texting my wife reminding her to buy me the super-sized bottle of Beano.  (Yes NSA officials, I’m sometimes gassy.) 

I always feel like I owe the reader a solid 500-600 words.  You know, complete with an opening hook that grabs attention, an entertaining middle, and a satisfying ending that nobody saw coming, except maybe for the stereotypical nerds in horror movies.  (They’re often very perceptive, insisting that there’s a noise outside).

The heart of my punctuational problems: my shiny new iPhone 4. 

Interesting Fact:  I like to keep up with two-year-old technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smart phone, and for a guy like me who mows lots of yards this time of year, it’s invaluable.  Why, I can literally be out in the field, check the radar on my phone, and verify that, yes indeed, it’s raining.

My real beef is with the touch screen.  The keys are way too small for my thumbs and I’m constantly making mistakes.  This is why I rarely post to Facebook with my phone.  (I’m so embarrassed!  I used a comma when I meant to use a semicolon!)

My wife apparently has no problem typing on her phone because she rarely makes mistakes.  When I complain she’s quick to point this out.  “Perhaps,” she says, “the problem isn’t with the phone.  Maybe it’s you.”


“I mean your thumbs.  They are abnormally gigantic.” 

Of course this makes me feel bad, but you know what they say about guys with big thumbs. 

Vickie says the iPhone 5 has a bigger touch screen and I should buy one.  But, as I mentioned earlier, this probably won’t happen until the iPhone 6 comes out.    

Yeah, us guys with big thumbs are cheap

Move Over Aquaman

“Long, beautiful, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen…I adore hair.” –James Rado and Gerome Ragni, Hair

“Long, beautiful, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen…I adore hair, just not on my arms and back.” –Jeff Brown

When I was a kid, grooming came pretty easy to me.  All I had to do was get out of bed and comb my hair.  If it was a special occasion, I’d brush my teeth.  Then puberty kicked in and my morning routine became infinitely more difficult.

Overnight it seemed I had to worry about a whole host of other annoying and time consuming chores like shaving, dealing with pimples, and deciding if I should wear my white pants to high school or not.

Interesting Fact:  I did wear them once and I was pretty disappointed by the end of the day.  Nobody said I looked like Don Johnson from Miami Vice.

Now I’m in my forties and, boy let me tell you this: grooming isn’t getting any easier.  Specifically, I’m talking about the incredible speed in which my arm hair grows.  If not properly clipped at regular intervals, it grows longer and longer until I look like I have a pair of Aquaman fins sprouting from the tops of my forearms.

Let me take a brief moment to defend my favorite master of the oceans.  Perhaps you’ve heard the jokes that Aquaman is a useless superhero whose only power is the ability to talk to fish.  Here’s all I have to say about that:  Can you breathe underwater?  Do you have superhuman strength?  Have you ever ridden shotgun to Wonder Woman in the invisible jet? 

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Does anybody out there know a good arm barber?  I thank God every day it doesn’t grow that way on my back.  (So does my wife.)

Speaking of freakish forearm attributes, I’ve noticed recently whenever I turn on the TV, I see people with tattoos.  Not just one tasteful tattoo declaring unconditional devotion to Mom, but a potpourri of tattoos.  Yes, a regular mélange, pastiche, hodgepodge, mishmash, or patchwork of tattoos that completely span their arms, legs, necks, chests and backs.  Think the History channel’s Pawn Stars, Danielle from American Pickers, or Adam Levine from NBC’s The Voice

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of these body murals or “sleeves.” (Are neck tattoos called collars?) Their popularity, however, has got me thinking.  Maybe I could start my own fad featuring my flowing, shiny, luxurious forearm hair.  Perhaps I could groom it in the style of an 80’s rock band, color it yellow, and spike it with gel.

Catchphrase:  I pity the fool without a forearm Mohawk.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not getting any younger.  Pretty soon I might start going gray.  I wonder if there’s a coloring product out there called Just for Men’s Arms.   Of course, if I start losing my hair to forearm-male-pattern-baldness, I might miss it.  Is there a Hair Club for Men’s Arms?

All this talk about forearm grooming is wearing me out just thinking about it.  Maybe I could avoid it all by wearing superhero gloves.  You know– the ones that go all the way up to the elbow.  If I wore those every day, nobody would ever notice I’m letting myself go.  Yep, I’d look completely normal. 

Who knows?  Maybe like the mythical Samson, my flowing, shiny, luxurious forearm hair would eventually give me supernatural strength.  If that’s the case, move over Aquaman.

I’m riding shotgun.