adjective (privy to) sharing in the knowledge of (something secret).
noun (pl. privies) a toilet in a small shed outside a house.


This past August I went for my annual pilgrimage to Somewhere, Kentucky, with some of my best friends on the planet (I wrote about the impending trip here.) What I did not mention was the amount of food consumed over a course of 3 days (snack cakes, trail mix, hobo pies, oh my). And what I don't need to mention is that food, once eaten, has to go somewhere; and that somewhere is the bottom of a ditch with a cathedral and throne straddling it.

After a day or more of eating our weight in campfire fried potatoes and downing a few cups of french-pressed coffee we were collectively, well, creating something.

I liked it. I was proud of it. I did what I could to make sure I wasn't going to be like the jerk that yanks the Jenga® peg out carelessly and makes the tower collapse. Carefully, I would adjust my position so I might leave our creation taller, stronger, than I found it. During this adjustment period, I noticed I wasn't the only one in awe of this work in progress.

A giant mosquito! It was like one of those mosquitoes you'd see along the Amazon. (Okay, I've never been to the Amazon and am not altogether sure they have giant mosquitos. But, it's a good bet. Let's just say the Amazon has mammoth mosquitos so I can finish my story.) Where was I? Oh yeah — A giant mosquito!

You won't believe this, but that little bugger wasn't even flapping his wings. He was just hovering on the updraft like a pterodactyl on the coastline. It's true.

While I was impressed by his gliding acumen, I've never liked mosquitoes, for all the obvious reasons. And I certainly wasn't going to risk him biting me in the only spots I've managed to keep mosquito-bite free my entire life. In that moment I thought, "Ryan, how cool would it be to make a meaningful addition to the tower and give this mosquito a proper burial." What's that old saying? Oh yeah. That would be like killing two mosquitoes with one bomb.

I made one final adjustment. Bombs away!



I'm really sorry about the puns. I'm a dad, though. It's my right.


Smiling through tears

My friend, Rod, said to me, "when you're expecting a child, people warn you about the wrong things." I agree. 

Don't get me wrong, people generally have good intentions when it comes to helping you prepare for parenthood. But, what they're usually preparing you for is lack of sleep, hundreds of dirty diapers, whether to pacify or not, etc.

What people should warn expectant parents about is the inexplicably large love you'll have for that child, and the reward and challenge that come courtesy of this love. 

In the moment Simeon was passed from Dr. Hurry to Sarah, I could instantly see the power I had as a child to bring unspeakable joy and heartbreak to my parents. Suddenly, the familiar parental refrain, "when you're a parent, you'll understand...,"  didn't seem so trite. This week has been illuminating in that regard. 

When I get emotional, my cheeks tighten up, like I've got Gobstoppers stuffed between my upper gums and cheek bones. I feel like I've had a mouth full of Gobstoppers since Tuesday. 

Tuesday was Sarah's first day back to work, which coincides (not coincidentally) to Simeon's first day of daycare. I knew the day was coming, but I didn't know what was coming. I didn't know how difficult it would be to turn over the child, whom we've been life and love support for three solid months, to strangers. Sarah says they're really sweet strangers, but still — strangers.

The emotions inherent to this event have tested me and the civility of our marriage for a couple of days. It has not been easy. In the midst of such tumult, it's difficult to understand how a coo or a half-smile can light me up, but it does.

This morning, on the heels of a very difficult week, Simeon beamed as I changed his diaper. It was a great gift he gave me. He showed me that I can still smile — even with a mouth full of Gobstoppers.


Stories beget stories

I have spent two of the past four weekends at storytelling festivals. First, was the Cave Run Storytelling Festival, then came the Hoosier Storytelling Festival. Describing a storytelling festival, for some reason, is every bit as difficult to describe as getting someone to understand what I do for a living (my friends say, "... so you sit around and draw pictures all day?" My reply is, "close enough.") But, I'll do my best.

A storytelling festival — think big tent revival. There's a big tent plus a revival of our almost lost oral tradition.

In most cases, skilled speakers and writers tell tales, some tall, some true, some mostly true, some folksy, some familial, some historical, all to an audience ready to listen and imagine. But, my favorite thing about a storytelling festival is that it almost always blows the dust off of stories of my own that I have nearly forgotten.

A couple weeks back, at Cave Run,  Bil Lepp was telling tales. Lepp, a teller of tall tales, explained that male fascination with how far he can pee is the real reason for hunting from a tree stand. If you put your tree stand 80 feet in the air, guess what — you can pee 80 feet! Well, I have no interest in hunting, but Bil's point prompted me to check eBay for the cheapest tree stand that could still support my 210 pounds plus a gallon jug of drinking water or two.

I've long thought that urination is a competitive sport waiting to happen (so has my friend Art, who made this great TV spot).

As a kindergartner, I remember lining up with my friends Stephen and Darryl Mangus at the urinal and carefully backing away as far as we could until our stream began to weaken; then we'd just as carefully, but more urgently, move back toward the urinal. We tried really hard not to make a complete mess. As you might have guessed the boy who peed furthest won bragging rights until the next Piss Off.

Our game wasn't called a Piss Off at the time, my mom wouldn't let me say "piss off", although that's exactly what our game did to the janitor.*

*I'd like to use this footnote to apologize to the janitor at King's Academy, Oklahoma City, 1981.


The first SPAM-ME Awards

I have spent most of my e-mailing existence getting frustrated with the amount of spam I receive. As a member of the advertising community, I know that most ads are directed at a particular demographic or target audience. So hypothetically, if you're a male enhancement company, it would be in your company's interest to target your communications to men with small ... well, you can see why spam irritates me.

I've spent far too much time being irritated by spam, so I'm embracing it. I want to make spam better. I've decided to start the SPAM-ME Awards, which celebrate the best email subject lines that get captured by my spam filter.

My goal in creating this award is that it will encourage creativity in spam writers who too often rely on disgusting and overt subject lines like, "Get a ma$$ive **** to pleaze all naked Russians of the Univers3." I mean, Simeon is, like, 12 months away from his first e-mail account. I don't want him subjected to this smut. Be more discreet, creative, and grammatically correct, Mr. and Ms. Spamwriter. You can do better than that.

So, let's find out who our lucky SPAM-ME award winners are (please hold your applause and boos until the end of the awards ceremony):

The "Could Be For The Do-it Yourself Pumpkin Farmer" SPAM-ME goes to:
Grow fat ones yourself

The "Maybe It's An Omaha Steaks Promo" SPAM-ME goes to:
More meat is never excessive

The SPAM-ME in the "Anatomical Public Service" category goes to:
Penile Health Publication

The "Entrepreneurial Amish" SPAM-ME goes to:
Horses for loan

The "Bob the Builder" SPAM-ME goes to:
Give your new tool some practice

The "Luis Vuitton" SPAM-ME goes to:
Surprise her with the nicest bag in town

{I just want to reiterate, all of the winners were subject lines of emails I actually received}


Nolte + X = Busey

It occurred to me the other day, that there are only two degrees of separation between Nick Nolte and Gary Busey. You can take a dash of Nolte, add a smidge of just about anything, and you get Busey. Allow me to illustrate my point.

First, let's get our Nolte, stir in a little cocaine – voila! A-busey!

You need more evidence? Okay. Happy to oblige. This time, let's take a Mugshot Nolte, throw in some Mr. Ed...

Woah, buddy! Gotta keep the reins tight on this Busey.

You're starting to come around, I think. But, you need a bit more convincing. Let's try one more experiment.

Okay, this time we're going for the standard Nolte (I love the versatility of this Nolte), add a litte MJ — Ow! I think Billy Jean was Busey's lover. It's easy to see how "the girl" might have mistaken Michael Jackson for his father. I was skeptical before I saw this Busey, but I guess the kid wasn't Michael's son.