Hello, Officer


We were at a party last night; a surprise party for Linda-Next-Door, so of course it could not take place at HER house.  It took place at her daughters’ house; a two-bedroom home not far away that Mark-Next-Door had purchased for the girls and then Fixed Up.

When I say Fixed Up, I do mean Fixed Up.  My neighbor Mark is possibly the Manliest Man I personally know. Sure, I play with flamethrowers and blow things up, but Mark was an actual cop; a Sergeant in the elite LAPD Metro Division and a SWAT team member until he decided – at an age when most men are thinking about retirement – that he wanted to fly helicopters. So he learned to fly helicopters. And since he also fixes cars as a hobby, he learned to fix helicopters.  He was so good at fixing helicopters that he basically became not only the LAPD’s top pilot but also their top helicopter mechanic. And when he finally did retire (with a huge party and siren-whooping police helicopters flying overhead in formation) he promptly built himself a huge garage to restore classic cars in, and permitted himself to have the spinal fusion surgery that he had been putting off for years via the Manly Method of simply gritting his teeth through the near-constant agony.

This surgery has a recovery period of weeks in bed for most people, with Vicodin.  Mark got out of bed the next day and skipped the painkillers altogether so he could have a clear head for Fixing Up the girl’s house.  They were showing me the elegant kitchen, with an obviously new stove.  I politely asked if they’d replaced the stove. “Oh yes, actually the original stove was over there,” (pointing at a long bare section of counter) “and this was a doorway, but it was silly to have a doorway there so we ripped it out, extended the wall, replaced the counters, tiled the backsplash and put in a new stove.”

Now, when Mark says “We did this” he does not mean the same things as when Sharon and I say “We did this,” which generally means “We paid some guys who knew what they were doing to do this.”  No, when Mark says “We ripped out the wall, replaced the counters, and installed a stove” he means “Me and my buddy Terry got actual tools and did things to a house that you would have no concept of ever attempting.”

I have tried to imagine this, and I can’t.  Even if my life had been different and I had some inkling of how to install a stove, the only thing my mind would allow me to picture is taking out the old stove and putting a new stove in its place.  I could not look at a freaking doorway and see that that, right there where no stove had ever existed, is where the new stove needed to be.  And all the various stove appurtenances including the gas plumbing and vent hood needed to be moved over to accommodate.  I simply don’t work that way.

It was a marvelous party, but by the time I left I felt as though my testicles has shriveled to the size of raisins.  This generally happens whenever I am around Mark for any period of time.  What makes it worse is that he is an incredibly nice guy and has been a good and tolerant neighbor for many years, so I can’t even resent the fact that he is effortlessly more badass than I am.  He never even mentions what he’s been doing unless I ask.  I have to find out by accident, which of course makes him even More Manly.

Sigh.  I think I’ll go set fire to a plastic toy.

— Bob out.