We went to the Clark in Williamstown to see the big Renoir exhibit. It was fantastic — and fun.

As we walked through the gallery, I whispered to my lovely companion — in a terrible faux French accent –  things I imagined Renoir and his models may have said to one another. She made me feel good by laughing at my stupid jokes, which is one of the reasons I love her so much.

“Ah, OK — put your hand in your hair.”  She resists. “But, Auguste, again? My arm gets so tired!”

We were reading about Renoir’s wife, Aline Charigot, who was the model in many of his most famous paintings. I commented on how Aline was 14 years younger than her husband, and an older man standing nearby said, “Just the opposite of me and my wife.”

Excuse me?

“My wife, she was 14 years older.” He launched right in, telling us about the woman to whom he was married for more than 50 years. They met when he was a 22-year-old student in Paris, and she was a painter. He took out a wallet and showed a picture of the two kissing. He had an eccentric air to him and it was a mildly strange encounter — but his story was so romantic.

I’ve had experiences like this before, brief encounters with strangers that feel like something more. They drop in at certain moments in unlikely ways, bearing what might be some sort of message. In the hospital just after my father died, a nurse appeared from nowhere and said she was, “here to take care of him.” To me, during that time of such intense emotion, it was like an angel descended on the dim room and I’d interrupted her work.

Because I’m always curious about this, I asked how the man in the gallery met his wife. He paused. “Destiny.”

Destiny, indeed. How else can you explain some things?

Hallmark Moment

The new Coen brothers movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs certainly takes some grim turns. It’s a collection of old west stories, and five of the six chapters in the anthology end in doom or tragedy. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

And that’s a problem in my house.

I enjoy movies with unhappy endings, terrible twists, and plans gone bad. When you serve me humor, the darker the better. Things going wrong is more entertaining than things going right.

My wife’s tastes in film and TV are the polar opposite, and because Christmas is coming, that means the Hallmark Channel. By this time of year, they’ve gone 24/7 with their stock in trade holiday romance movies.

These Hallmark films are all very much the same: an outsider comes to town and there is a push and pull over the future of the local ranch/resort/nature preserve/inn or a conflict over some other cultural or business concern. By the end, the opposing parties fall in love and it all ends well.

You’d think that this makes for a complicated time when deciding what to watch, but it doesn’t. Because I’m a great husband, I sit and keep her company and dutifully keep my mouth shut.

It’s not always easy.

Now some advice if you’re thinking of getting married. If you’re the sort of person who will argue over what’s on the goddamn TV, do us all a favor and don’t get hitched. Spare yourself, your family, and your friends all the trouble you will cause by tying the knot. In fact, if you’re going to be unyielding and hardheaded about anything, maybe the marriage thing ain’t for you. It’s OK. But just think about it now before you waste your time — and ours.

A Dog’s Age

There are a world of people out there that you’d never talk to, but put a
leash in their hand and you’ve got something to chat about, And it’s not just
trivial banter, like about the weather, but something that’s
interesting and personal. Caring about someone’s dog, is caring about them.

But I’ve noticed something interesting about dog dialogue. Without
fail, one of the first questions is this:

“How old are they?”

I’m not sure if people are genuinely curious about how old ours dogs are, or if it’s just something to get the conversation going. Is it going to provide them with some insight into behavior or temperament? I don’t know if it would mean anything to me, unless we’re considering a very young or very old dog.

Sometime I give the answer in people years, which really throws folks off. One time, I said “This one’s 63 and that one’s 56.” Then I gestured to my wife. “And she’s 57.”

Some of us had a pretty good laugh about that one.

Screen Time

We decided years ago that our household would have one TV.

This was supposed to bring us closer together, but in recent years it usually meant bitter confrontations over who would control the remote. Evenings were the worst, especially when my wife wanted to see something and the kids wanted to play video games. Watching somebody steal cars in Vice City or kill terrorists? Not her idea of a good time.

Well, now that kids are out of the house things are easier — except on nights like Sunday when ABC’s Galavant was going head-to-head against the Patriots – Colts game. I don’t have to tell you what I wanted to see — but since I’m the world’s greatest husband, I watched the game in another room on my iPad.

So, it’s not a one TV house anymore — and the temptation to retreat into the solitude of a personal screen feels like a risk. This brings me to my advice for newlyweds: treat your house like the one with a single TV; your time together is too precious to be spent separated by your tastes in television. Marriage is not Netflix,  and you didn’t sign up for whatever you want, whenever you want it.

And hey, since we’re on the subject, a word about Galavant. I really tried to like the show, but the one episode I saw was hideous. If you need an example, watch the number “Oy! What a Knight,”  whose tired schtick was as stale as week-old challah. The jokes are about as good as that one.

Water, Water Everywhere

MiaEverybody’s concerned about Hurricane Sandy and you can’t go five seconds without being reminded on how to prepare — but one thing in particular has stuck in my craw: stocking up on water.

It’s true that having water on hand is a good idea, but it largely depends on where your water comes from. If you rely on a well that uses electricity then you could have a problem if the juice goes out. But many people with a municipal water supply — like in the town where I live — are unlikely to have any trouble.

Without getting into the nitty gritty, my water does not move around by electricity, but by the pressure created by a water tower. As long as they keep the tower filled we’ll have water pressure. They don’t need to pump it all over, just up the tower — and there are generators in case of power failure.

Unless we have a gravity failure, we’ll probably have water.

Are there things that can go wrong? Of course — but losing water is very unlikely. Just try explaining this at home. My wife kept asking over the weekend if we should buy water and I kept saying no — until I finally gave in and went to Price Chopper at 5:30 this morning.

In the parking lot I met a man with a cart full of water. Did you leave a few bottles for me?

“Yeah, there’s a little left. You know, I’m only here because my wife is driving me nuts about having bottled water in the house. She doesn’t understand where our water comes from!”

I relieved him of his shopping cart — most of the carts in the corral were tied up so they wouldn’t scoot off in the wind — and hit the water aisle.

I went up to the night cashier, a Russian man who’s always the cashier when I go in there at odd hours. He looked into my cart.  “You have a lot of water.” He pronounced it “vawter.”

“Yes. My wife. We won’t need it, but this will make her happy. And I won’t have to listen to her go on about the water.”

He thought about that for a second. “Then that is a small price you are paying.”


25 Years Ago Today

Fat man in a tuxedo with a broken zipper.

Of course my wedding day is memorable — especially the incident with the pants. About an hour before the ceremony the zipper on my tuxedo pants failed.

Please insert your joke here.

Anyway, I rushed out of the church and across the street to the florist shop with my best man and obtained a large safety pin to hold everything together. Just imagine if that pin had unsnapped during the service.

But as memorable as October 3, 1987 was, October 4, 1987 was even more notable. When we woke up in Saratoga the morning after the reception it was snowing. Ha! Snow in October? That can’t last long, can it?

But it did keep snowing and snowing — and later that day we were stranded on Route 20 in Rensselaer County listening to trees snap all around us in the woods. It ended up taking took six hours to get to the entrance of the Mass Pike in Lee.

It was a slippery beginning, and like in most marriages there have been a few crazy moments, but the same way we made it through the freak snowstorm we made it to twenty-five years. And these days that’s really saying something.

Hell Hath No Fury

We occasionally like to remind our male readers that they should watch their step. (Keyboard Krumbs does not endorse violence as a remedy to domestic disputes)

No Smoking Means No Smoking
ROANOKE RAPIDS, VA — A Roanoke Rapids woman is in jail with no bond after authorities say she beat her husband with a broom stick and stabbed him with scissors for smoking in the house.
According to reports, Sandy Johnson Garner, 28, Dayshon Garner’s wife had a rule of “no smoking” in the house. He, however went to the bathroom and smoked. At first his wife was suspicious, but then she became infuriated, authorities said.
Temple said she first threatened her husband through the door. Armed with a broom and a pair of scissors, she kicked the door down and began to beat and stab Dayshon Garner. (Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald)

Paging Moe Howard
STROUDSBURG, PA — A 61-year-old woman upset with her husband struck him in the crotch with a crowbar and then hit him in the head with it, Stroud Area Regional police said.
Police said Dale Morris got angry over a note her husband left her and when he came home, she confronted him and then struck him in the crotch with a crowbar. When he bent over, she struck him in the head with the crowbar. Police and court records did not indicate what was written in the note. (The Morning Call, Allentown)

Just Say No to Sarcasm
HOLLAND, MA — A 42-year-old woman, fed up with her ex-husband’s sarcasm, allegedly shot him in the hand with a pellet gun, police said.
Ruth Foley, 42, of 6 Williams Lane, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, police said. Ms. Foley allegedly told police she armed herself with the victim’s pellet gun because two cats were fighting in the yard while the victim worked on a vehicle.
“She said he began speaking to her sarcastically and they began to argue, prompting her to shoot on the ground in front of him.” She struck him with a second shot, the acting chief said. Ms. Foley said she didn’t mean to hit him, but “in a way I wanted to hurt him,” the acting chief said. (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

Sneaking Around on My Wife

I’d been spinning a web of lies for weeks.

Clandestine meetings. Setting up secret email accounts. Hiding money. The funny thing is a lot of her friends were in on it, too. When your friends keep something like this from you, you’ve really gotta wonder.

You say I have no conscience? Not true. There were many nights when my scheming cost me sleep.

Party FavorI’m talking about her surprise birthday party, of course

Because a gentleman doesn’t discuss a lady’s age, let’s just say it was a significant milestone. I will say this, though: if you’ve ever thrown a surprise party it helps if you’ve read some spy novels, because it involves considerable tradecraft.

The story was that we were going away for the weekend –but first we had to make a quick stop at the American Legion for a pre-Super Bowl party. Yes, a pre-Super Bowl Party. I even mailed a postcard to my house announcing the imaginary event.

“It’s supposed to be for the Giants fans. They’re showing a video of Super Bowl XLII.”

That sounds sort of ridiculous, but she was like, whatever. Her bags were packed for our weekend away so why not?

She bought the story hook, line, and sinker.  It reminded me of the way they used to scam people on Mission Impossible. If anyone from The Company is reading this you know where to find me.

Here are a few tips:

  • Develop some talking points so you don’t start contradicting yourself.
  • Get everyone on the same page with your story.
  • Don’t volunteer unnecessary details.

The whole thing was great, but it raises a question: will she still trust me after all that sneaking around?

Fly United —At Your Own Risk

Big companies often make their top execs fly separately. This is done to prevent a plane crash from wiping out a firm’s key managers in an instant. So shouldn’t the same logic apply to your family?

I brought this up to my wife Ann before a family vacation. Look, I said: we should take different flights -each of us with one child- in case of a plane crash. She asked, “Why would you want to go on without me?”

“Well… of course I wouldn’t want to go on without you but if something happened I wouldn’t want all of us to be gone.”

She looked hurt. “If the plane was going down I’d want you there with me.”

Careful here, Rob. “This isn’t about me I explained —it’s about the kids. And if it were my plane that crashed you could carry on.”

“What about trips without the kids?”

I jumped out of my chair. “Jeez! That’s even more a reason to fly apart! You want the kids to end up orphans?”

Now before you say I’m crazy, let me offer into evidence this tragic tale of family travel that unfolded after last June’s Air France crash over the Atlantic:

Fernando Schnabl flew home from Brazil with his daughter Celine, three, hours before Christine Schnabl boarded Flight 447 with their five-year-old son , Philipe. The family always fly separately, as the parents feared that they would all die if their plane crashed. Now their worst nightmare has been realised.
Mr Schnabl and their daughter caught an earlier flight and landed safely in Paris, where they were informed that the second plane – which had taken off only a few hours later – was missing.

See! You’d think I was asking her to fly in coach while I sat up in first class. I think next time this comes up I’ll appeal to a much stronger motivation, an emotional trigger that she will find unable to resist: what would happen to the dogs if we were both gone.