Friday, December 15, 2017

A Fond Farewell to our Loyal and Beloved Friend, Zak

On Tuesday, we lost our beloved dog, Zak. He gave us ten joyous years of love, loyalty, and play, while the eleventh year was fraught with emotion, and at times harrowing as we saw him go through four major surgeries, one amputation, rehabilitation, and finally, loss.

Zak was an absolutely unworldly ball of energy finally done in by the limitations of his physical body. He simply couldn't be contained within his aging body. His high-level play did in his back legs.

He will be sorely missed. He is missed. This is the hardest blog post I've ever written.

But I don't want to mourn, but rather celebrate Zak's wonderful life.
Zak was a rescue dog. At six months old, we found him rummaging through trash cans, love at first sight! The first night we brought him home on a trial-basis, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, laughing hysterically as he licked me with wild abandon.

I said to my wife, "I really, really like him."

"Yeah," she answered, "we're keeping him."

And we were off! What an adventure we had...

Alas, because of Zak's breed--half pit-bull terrier (the other half never determined and it didn't matter to us one bit)--he faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom, brother, a good friend, even strangers on the street when I walked Zak, were terrified of our dog. We had to be extra careful with him.

Not that we needed to. Zak was the best-natured dog we'd ever met. The only threat from him came from loving you to death, smothering you in kisses. Everywhere Zak went--doggie daycare, the vet, the nail clipper gals at Petco, physical therapy--he received lots of compliments and made fans. Everyone fell in love with him, his good nature, his loyalty, his temperament. Even my mom finally came around (and she NEVER comes around on anything), proclaiming him, "such a sweet, good dog."

In his years of life, Zak only bit two people (not bad odds for any dog): one, a mower in the next yard, who definitely deserved it for taunting Zak; and two, a cable guy who I wanted to bite. Hey, Zak was just doing his job. Loyalty like his couldn't be bought. He took his protection duties very seriously. Just ask the mailman. Dunno what it was about the mailman, but it was pretty much the only person Zak never liked. Even on our walks, Zak could spot the blue uniform several blocks away and wanted to assure the postman stayed far away from invading our turf.
Zak shared with everyone a universal desire to be loved. And we did; we loved him so much that this has been a very painful farewell. Clearly Zak returned that love in bunches. Once, while I sat on the deck, he ran up to me, something draping from his mouth...two rabbit legs. He dropped the half-carcass at my feet. Wiggled his tail, golden eyes full of hope for kudos at his gift to me. A gift presented out of love. Unfortunately, I responded with girlish shrieks. But I understood the intent. It was the kind of dog Zak was. Very giving in many ways. Whenever my wife screamed at seeing a spider, Zak beat me to her rescue.

Oddly enough, Zak was never very food-oriented. Playing was his bag. And play he did, hard and fast and furious. When he was younger, he ran whip-fast, crazy-eights in the backyard. He'd actually pounce--pounce!--on his hind legs like a kangaroo. The first time I ever saw him "play" with another dog, I was horrified; it looked as if he wanted to tear the other dog apart, all growls, nips, rough and tumble worse than a no-holds barred Black Friday shopping spree. But I also noticed Zak never bit the other dogs. Even in the unrestrained passion of play, he withheld himself. When the other dog would take a bite, Zak would just back-off, tail wagging. He loved dogs, never met a dog he didn't like. Except for maybe my daughter's brat of a beagle. Which is weird, because they started as friends (my daughter insists it stems from an unseen backyard bone incident).
In his older age, Zak still maintained his energy and that's what ultimately did his back legs in. Both of them, one by one. We tried to repay Zak's unflagging loyalty. We did everything we could to save him. But my wife saw he was hurting. And the remaining back leg had developed another bone infection, one that antibiotics couldn't stop.
 Seeing that wonderful, loving, playful, force of great-natured energy stilled on the vet's table was hard. So very heart-rending.

Over the last six years, I'd spent nearly every minute of my life with my friend, Zak. As a full-time writer, I wrote 18 novels with him at my feet. 

I'll miss him greatly. My friend. My companion. My dear loyal, furry love.

Here's to you, Zak. *Tink* I hope you're happily chasing stupid angelic rabbits and mailmen with wings.

Friday, December 8, 2017

So long to the funniest show on TV...The Inhumans

I grew up as a comic-book geek kid (oh, NOW they're cool). So when I first heard there was an upcoming TV series based on the "Inhumans," a strange Marvel comics superhero group, I frothed. Fairly foamed at the mouth, I tell you. It takes a lot to make me froth. Frothing is hard-earned in the Stuart household.

Eight painful episodes in (I'm a television masochist!) and I'm stabbing a stake in the show's bone-headed heart. (Pretty sure ABC agrees; after the eighth episode--and 13 were contracted--that sultry, smoky-voiced, ABC promo guy called it the "season finale.")

Where did the show go wrong? Let me count the ways...

The best actor on the show was a 2,000 pound, teleporting, CGI bulldog. I loved that guy. The rest of the cast? Not so much. The hero, the mute king Black Bolt, comes off as a drunken, constipated mime, prone to bouts of horrific mugging that would kick Jerry Lewis out of France.

Look, the show had a really cool built-in concept of a bunch of neato mutants living on the moon. Boom! Instant awesome! But the TV Gods chose to do the dumbest thing possible: the Inhuman gang is separated and tossed onto earth. Instead of political intrigue, we get Karnak wedged into a love triangle on a secret weed farm. Medusa? The strong first lady married to Black Bolt with the wiggly tendrils of hair? In the first episode, her hair's chopped off. Triton, the green-skinned amphibious guy, my long-time fave of the Inhumans? They "kill" him off in the first three minutes of the first episode. I knew he wasn't dead, not really, just comic-book dead. So I suffered through seven awful episodes to see him come back. He did. And, lo, he was as boring as my dad's socks.

There were many problems with the show. For some odd reason, earth car traffic befuddles the Inhumans. Yet, they take to skinny jeans like a second skin.

Maybe the problem was the bad guy, Maximus. Stolen from Game of Thrones, the actor pretty much reprises his "Ramsay Snow" role with a trendier haircut. Call it method acting. 

Here's the deal, though: Once the Inhumans go through a complex, mandatory process of metamorphosing ("terragenesis"), they're expected to gain special powers. If they don't, they become "human" and are sent straight to the working mines. (President Trump fully endorses this show). Maximus is supposed to be villainous because he wants to free the "normal humans" from the hellish working conditions of the mines on the moon. Black Bolt and his royal family want to keep things status quo. And they're the heroes? I'm already endorsing a Maximus-Dwayne Johnson presidential run in 2020.

There's another villain, Mordis, who is described as "death itself." Guess what? Death is like an irritating child on a long car trip. "Are we there yet?" "I'm tired." "My feet hurt." "How much longer do we have to walk through this jungle?" Yep, a truly terrifying villain.

I could go on about the wise, talking wall and other fun stuff, but let's not.

ABC had huge hopes for the show. So much so that they put the first couple episodes out in theaters to launch it. No one went. No one cared. Except for hell-raising critics which is probably why it ended up on Friday nights, the dead zone for loser TV shows.

It's been said we're living in a golden age of television. Maybe we are if you watch FX, AMC, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and all the other outliers.  It's just no one's bothered to tell the networks. The network heads still insist on serving up the same horrible crap they've been shoving at us for years. If they keep it up, they're bound to become as extinct as the Inhumans.

I don't like to celebrate failure. As a contributor of entertainment content, I mourn creative failure. So here's to the late, great "Inhumans!" I hoist a terragenesis cocktail toward you, ladies and inhumans!

Not quite as funny as The Inhumans, but I tried:
One click away from pants-wetting ha-ha's.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Donald's Diary

For your perusal this week, I present something very special: a page torn from President Trump's diary. (The cover displays unicorns caught in bear-traps).
I know what you're in the world does our President have time to maintain a diary when he's busy tweeting 24-7? Good question. But the facts don't lie.

Here we go...

"Dear Diary:

It's me, Donald. You know, it's really, really, really hard making America great again, but I'm up to the challenge. I'm pretty much super-human, after all. And there are a lot of white, privileged, angry, rich men counting on me.

Stupid checks and balances, bah. Congress keeps trying to stop my rise to greatness. Aided, of course, by liberals, CNN, and the evil vampires from Twilight. Not the good ones, like Robert Pattinson. They're firmly on my side.

Melania says I need to do something fun to cheer up. Maybe I'll declare it open hunting season on baby seals. Or maybe I'll make a reporter cry, that's always good for a couple of laughs.

No, wait, I got it! I'll start World War III, my very own war! That'll be really, really neat. Where's my phone?

Got it! Okay... I need to come up with some new names to call Kim Jong Un... I've already used short, fat, childish, terrorist, and rocket man. I really, really like that last one. How 'bout "Tweedledumbest?" No, wait, got it! "A human egg." Even better, a "Chinese weeble!"

Done. Tweeted and got my finger on the Big, Red Button as I write.

Whew! It's three in the morning and I've had a highly presidential day! Good night, world."

Before President Trump pushes that button, how about a little laughter in your life?
One click away from loads of laughs and action!

Friday, November 24, 2017


You know what I found out recently? 

My mom won't pay for a can of pumpkin because it costs more than the price of tea in China. 
I know, I don't get it, either. The statement's kinda nonsensical, and I'm pretty sure racist because that's the way Mom rolls.

This doesn't matter.

What matters is I take my mom grocery shopping every week. God love her, Mom has macular degeneration, so she can't see and can't drive. Since it's Thanksgiving, we should all be thankful she's off the streets. Last time she drove, she nearly clipped a crossing guard.

"Well, he shouldn't have been standing in the streets," she said, applying a true Perry Mason defense.

I digress!

So, the holiday season's upon us, and Mom and I go shopping. Fun!

Mom demands pumpkin. That's all she says.

"Mom, I don't even know what that means. You want a pumpkin?"

"Yes!" She vacantly stares at me like I'm the crazy one. "Pumpkin in a can!" Very irritable, she can't believe how pumpkin dumb ("dumbkin?") I am.

"Okay," I say. "Where do I find pumpkin in a can?" Between Mom's outrage at my pumpkin stupidity and my exasperation, people are drawn to the building dust-up in aisle three.

"In the pumpkin aisle," she answers, just short of adding a "duh."

I set off on the great pumpkin quest. I find a can of pumpkin pie filling, bring it back to her.

"No! I need pumpkin!"

Off I go again--too prideful and dumb male to ask for assistance--and finally stumble upon a can of pumpkin. (Until now, I never knew pumpkin came in a can. Some things just shouldn't. Besides you can't carve a can.) 

"Here, Mom. Here's your blood pumpkin." I thrust the can toward her like a badge of honor.

"Huh," she says, her "tell" when things are about to get worse. "How much is it?"

"$2.55," I answer.

She sways her head, disgusted. "Forget it. I'm not gonna pay that for pumpkin. It's more than the price of tea in China."

We've been playing out the pumpkin game for three weeks now, leading up to the holidays.

"Mom! A can of pumpkin's not gonna get any cheaper," I rant.

"Huh. Well, maybe it's cheaper at Price Chopper."

I bite my tongue. Wonder how much gas I'm gonna burn driving twenty-three miles away to the Price Chopper to save Mom three cents on a can of pumpkin. But rest assured, it'll be cheaper than the price of tea in China.

But, lo, on Thanksgiving day, a miracle happened! (Actually, there were two Thanksgiving miracles; instead of pardoning two turkeys, I was absolutely certain President Trump was going to slaughter them on live TV.) Mom's pumpkin pie magically materialized and it was good.

This book's cheaper than the price of tea in China, for sure:
Click here and help sponsor Mom's pumpkin in a can quest!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Physical Therapy Has Gone to the Dogs!

For those of you who've been reading my blog, you know of our travails with our beloved, recently three-legged dog, Zak. 

Four weeks ago, the worst scenario happened. Zak had blown out the ligaments on his remaining back leg, completely unable to walk. Until our appointment with Zak's surgeon to verify what we knew to be the truth, I spent a long, torturous five days saying goodbye to our pet. We didn't--couldn't--put him (or us) through another "iffy" operation. But...sigh...things change and Zak's now going through the long, hard, nerve-wracking road to recovery and rehabilitation again after yet another operation.

Which is why we took him to a doggy physical therapist. I know, right? Physical therapy for dogs, who'd 'a thunk it? But, hey, why not? We've already taken Zak to a doggy dentist and a doggy ophthalmologist. I imagine it's just a matter of time before he finds himself on the doggy psychiatrist couch (if he doesn't chew it up first). the therapist's waiting room, an assistant drags Zak away. We wait. Finally, the head therapist comes out, grills us, and leads us to our dog. 

We walk around the offices and through this frightening room full of cages. Busy people in all manner of blue and green and white lab coats are toying with the most sinister looking scientific equipment to be found anywhere this side of a Frankenstein film.

I thought, What kinda fresh Hell is this?

As if to answer my question, the therapist invites us into a utilitarian elevator, a grey box, something out of Hellraiser. Old-fashioned and cranky, the elevator drops us down into the bowels of a torturous Hell. I imagine I hear Zak's cries as he's subjected to needles and torches.

The elevator doors crunch open. Again, we weave through a maze of hallways, and finally enter a swinging door depositing us unto the final ring of doggy Hell.

And there lay Zak. Spread out on a mattress as four young women hugged, patted, and cooed at him like concubines attending to their three-legged harem king. The only thing missing were peeled grapes being hand-fed him.
Zak thumped his tail in approval. Stopped when he finally noticed us.

What the...?

This is physical therapy? Sign me up!

After the "Love-In" portion of therapy was completed, the women lowered Zak into an underwater treadmill.  We watched as they enclosed Zak inside a plastic tomb and water started to slowly fill up. Immediately, I thought of Harry Houdini or one of Batman's villain's traps. Then the treadmill started. Aquadog!
Zak's harem of therapists kept reassuring us that our dog would be so tired from his workout, he'd sleep for 24 hours. Hardly. Even with only two good legs, he had more energy than ever that night, ready to chase those damn rabbits outta our yard.

Our dog year continues...

Hey! For the best kind of therapy--laughter!--check out the newest book in my Zach and Zora comic mystery series, Nightmare of Nannies. (See what I did there?)
Clickie to purchase!

Friday, November 10, 2017

"If the cabdriver kills me, goodbye and I love you!"

My wife's final words that fateful day, delivered via an ominous email.
Here...let me run the message by you again...

"If the cabdriver kills me, goodbye and I love you!"

Exclamation point was all hers, too.

What was I to make of this? Had Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver picked her up on a one-way ride to oblivion? 

Immediately I fired back a phone call. Zip. Zilch. Dead zone.

So my wife was dead, slaughtered by a Kamikaze cabdriver on her way home from a medicinal marijuana ("Do they give out samples?" I'd asked her) summit in Denver, Colorado. 

I don't know if my wife is (was?) kidding, if she's alive, if I need to go unpeel her outta a cab in Denver or what.

I mean, what else could I assume?
I really, really hate electronic messaging.
It's nearly as bad as my daughter's text to me earlier this year: My mom just had a heart attack, can you watch my dog?

Wait...what? In a panic, I tried calling her back. I texted (and I loathe texting as I'm still on the ol' flip phone, tap, tap, tapping each button painstakingly three times just to get one letter and that's if I don't screw it up). No reply. Once again, I'm abandoned to the dead zone of drama with no recourse but to FREAK OUT.

Phone calls are good, people. Remember them? There's no mistaking a person's tone whether it's screamed in blood-curdling shrieks or spoken with mild amusement. Either way I'd get the message.

Which is just one of the many reasons I still haven't gone Smart Phonesque. I like hearing peoples' voices. I like the lost art of phone calling. And I don't want to end up like those restaurant people who don't communicate with the person they're eating with but instead teppity-tap away on their phones while slurping soup.

Ain't no smart phones in Peculiar County. Lots of other weird stuff, though. Click here to discover.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Let's hold up on the senior discount a bit longer...

Just like Winter on Game of Thrones, old age is coming.
Writing's on the wall and, man, I'd sure like to scrub it off.

The other day I took my mom to get her hair cut. In front of Great Clips, I kicked her out of my car, parked the vehicle, then ran inside to make sure she hadn't started some sorta race riot or something. Everything seemed relatively peaceful, so I took off to run an errand.

When I came back, one of the hair stylists (are they "stylists" if they work at Great Clips?), mumbled, "Welcome to Great Clips, can I help you?"

Well. One look at my shaved pate clearly supplied the answer. But things got worse. MUCH worse.

One of the other "stylists" said, "He's here to pick up his wife."

A great big A-OOH-GA horn blasted my skull to bits. A firing squad unleashed a torrent of bullets into my heart. My chest clenched up like a mean, coiled fist.

"Um...she's my mother," I squeaked, very much a cartoon mouse voice.

The offending stylist took a long, gawping look at me, then my mother, highly amused with herself. Doubtful looking even.

Good Gawd a'mighty! Do I really look like a doddering old man? Have I turned into my mother's peer overnight? Will I ever be able to scrape the horrific ramifications of what the anti-stylist said from my brain?

Mom, of course, was oblivious to the entire exchange. Just sitting in her Great Clips chair, with her Great Clips bib tucked beneath her Great Clips chin. When I later told her about the nightmare, she hooted. Loved it. Went on to brag about how someone couldn't believe how old she was the other day. She missed the sheer terror of it all completely.
  Several nights prior, I went to a movie with a buddy of mine. The ticket girl asked my friend if he wanted a senior ticket. He took offense, corrected her. As it didn't pertain to me (at the time), I laughed it off, chucked him in the shoulder, said, "Does that really bother you?"

He said, "Not really, but let's not rush things along."


Apparently Karma decided to rush my comeuppance for teasing my pal. At Great Clips, of all places. Stupid Karma. Karma probably even gets her haircut at Great Clips, too.

Kids today think anyone over say, 30, is ancient. And they can't be bothered to try and make an accurate age assessment. Just too much darn work.

Great Caesar's ghost! I didn't realize how late in the day it's getting on. I'm gonna miss the early bird supper down at the Shady Ache's home if I don't get my electric scooter in gear!

Nothing old about my newest book, the third in the Zach and Zora comic mystery series:

Do an old man's heart some good and click to buy.