Stop Touching Jon Hamm’s Penis!

jon_hamm001There comes a time in every man’s life when he is called upon to defend the integrity and honor of another man’s penis.  I guess this mine.  There has been a considerable amount of attention on the Internet and in the media lately, focused on Jon Hamm, star of the successful and critically acclaimed television series Mad Men, specifically concerning a certain part of his anatomy.  Without rehashing the particulars, we have been made to understand that Jon Hamm has an enormous wang.  The secret is out.  Now, it’s time for everyone to stop talking about it.

For the record, I admit to having some serious dude love for Jon Hamm.  As an actor, he consistently gives an outstanding performance, and his portrayal of Don Draper in Mad Men is no exception.  Don Draper is a psychologically and morally complex character, capable of acts of apathy, cruelty, and sweeping generosity, seeking both redemption and self-destruction in the equal measure–in other words, a human being–and Hamm never shrinks away from playing the character at his best and his worst.  My wife and I, after much anticipation, were watching the premiere of season six last week.  The problem was that I had trouble enjoying the show with the same unadulterated pleasure as before.  I was distracted by something, an insinuation, a bad joke, a quickly suppressed giggle–I was distracted by a penis.  I realized that the man’s penis had become a subtext in his entire body of work.  All across the country, the eyes of viewers were flickering towards Don Draper’s groin, looking for the tell-tale silhouette.

Like Waldo, the search for Jon Hamm’s penis is an elusive one.

I will never understand the obsession with celebrities–or in this case, celebrity man-cannons–but Jon Hamm’s penis has inspired a fascination that goes well beyond ridiculous.  I know that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are websites dedicated to the subject of Jon Hamm’s penis.  Or that Jon Hamm, in an interview with Rolling Stone, was quoted as saying, “They’re called ‘privates’ for a reason.  I’m wearing pants, for fuck’s sake.  Lay off.”  While I’m no expert on social niceties, I’d say that when a guy is forced to go on record in the venerable pages of Rolling Stone magazine as saying hey guys, lay off my junk, a line has been crossed somewhere.

To put a little perspective on this, if I started a blog dedicated to the subject of my neighbor’s dick, that would make me creepy and, well,  kind of a tool (Sorry, Brandon).  But, if my neighbor was Jon Hamm, suddenly I’m a freaking journalist in the league of Perez Hilton, the bleeding rectum of the blogosphere.  What I’m getting at is that just because the penis is attached to Jon Hamm, we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that it is a special penis, certainly not any more special than the penis belonging to any other man.  And though it is apparently bigger than most, this is evidence only that God likes Jon Hamm more than most men, and so decided to give him astonishing good looks and charm, talent, wealth, and a tallywacker that could choke a giraffe.

God bless me, PLEASE!

Oh, God bless me, PLEASE!

We need to leave Jon Hamm’s penis alone, or, if you prefer, at least treat it with the respect it deserves: don’t fuck with it.  After all, if the legends are true, then we have to assume that this is one trouser snake that is capable of defending itself; you don’t want to piss it off.  I won’t pretend that, just to please me, the entire Internet as a whole will suddenly acquiesce and I’ll no longer have to suffer the indignity of seeing Don Draper dick tales posted on CNN alongside the latest news of the global clusterfuck of a nuclear-armed North Korea.  It’s human nature, probably at its worst; we’re curious.  How much money does he make?  What’s she like in bed?  How big is that guy’s dick?  For some stupid reason, we’re dying to know.  It doesn’t necessarily make us bad people, just a bunch of complete wankers.  So, I’m going to defuse this situation right now.  Brought to you by Blank Universe, here is an exclusive photo of Jon Hamm’s penis.  The mystery is gone.  You’re welcome.  Now let’s get on with our lives.


My Apologies to a Cat, God Rest His Soul

First of all, I never meant this story to be a blog post.  I’ve been trying for a few years–to no avail–to write a serious literary essay about this.  The trouble is that the odd mixture of hilarity, sadness, and just plain weird has made this difficult.  Now the time has come to admit that I’ve failed.  I’ve never particularly liked people who write about their cats or talk too much about their cats or–God help us all–carry around pictures of their cats.  It’s always struck me as somehow sad, as though this person has so little human interaction in their life that every time their cat licks its ass, it becomes a noteworthy occasion.  That said, I have trekked deep into the terrain of hypocrisy.  This is a cat story.

I wasn’t aware until one o’clock in the morning, on a summer night after the Animal Emergency Room veterinarian diagnosed Chang with terminal feline leukemia that there was such a thing as “kitty coffin.”  It’s not as cute as you would think.  Imagine a heavy, corrugated cardboard box, sporting the caption KITTY COFFIN, but also having a noticeable lack of pictures on it.  It was even shaped like a coffin, sort of.  For this, you pay an extra seventy bucks, plus the cost of euthanizing your pet, and, of course, the mandatory forty dollar fee per office visit.  I know this because while my stepfather stood in the parking lot of the clinic, smoking a cigarette and comforting my mother, I paid the veterinarian an amount of money that probably could’ve fed the cat for a year.

I did not want the kitty coffin.  Though I don’t consider myself to be especially miserly, there seemed something wasteful about it–not to mention tacky and unnecessarily morbid.  To me, the proper way to commit Chang’s body to the earth was wrapped in a burlap sack and buried in a section of the backyard where I planned to plant some nice perennials the following year.  My mother, however,  was heartbroken over the lost of this cat, and so I relented.  I even held the thing in my lap on the car ride back home.

Like dogs, all cats go to Heaven–except this guy, he’s fucking evil

Chang was a Siamese-Himalayan mix of which my mother was particularly fond; she’d had him since he was a kitten, and it was not uncommon for her to refer to this cat as her fifth child–possibly her favorite child.  After all, she never had to worry about the cat bringing home bad grades from school or getting caught smoking pot behind the neighbor’s garage.  If the cat killed a bird, it wasn’t that he was a bad cat–it was his nature.  Chang passed away the better part of a decade ago, but I still think about him from time to time, not because of the life he led, but because of the events that transpired after his death.

To some degree, I will always hold my aunt responsible for the idea of taking Chang’s paw prints before burying him.  It was her suggestion that by pressing the Chang’s paws into wet clay and letting the clay harden, my mother would have  a momento by which to remember him always.  As my mother was both artsy and sentimental, I suppose it appealed to her imagination to have a pressing of the cat’s paws hanging on the wall in the living room, somewhere between my baby pictures and the wedding photos.  You have to understand that in my family, it is still common–even in the 21st Century–for family members to take photographs of dead relatives in their funeral caskets.  These photographs are kept in the family photo albums and have, on more than one occasion, traumatized a child, who, sitting on a parent’s knee, found themselves unexpectedly face-to-face with a deceased grandmother.  “Her makeup turned out really nice, didn’t it?” the parent might say, and the child would feel a lingering ache in their chest as, inside, they died a little.  The practice, which I find  both morbid and distasteful, has led to my admonition that I intend to be buried naked from the waist down.

Remember: Grandma will always be watching over you–especially when she comes back as a vampire!

The problem with taking Chang’s paw print was that, in doing so, there was an unspoken finality in the act.  My mother would be admitting that her beloved pet was truly gone.  After purchasing the clay from a craft supply store, this was something that my mother was unable to accept.  Wrapped in a blanket, Chang’s body laid on a workbench in our basement, waiting to be printed like a common criminal, and my mother hesitated.  She procrastinated for a day, trying to gain her nerve.  And then another day.  And another.  Three weeks later, Chang’s body still resided on the workbench, a deformed and bloated state of his former self.  Fluids had begun to seep from the body.  My family begged my mother to make her peace and to allow us to finally put Chang’s body to rest.

On the day that we finally buried him, my mother went into the basement with block of clay.  She was the only one of us who did not gag from the smell, as though her love for the cat shielded her from such things.  She took his paw, which was curled to his chest, and gently pulled, but to no avail.  In the three weeks that he laid in our basement, Chang had stiffened into a furry mannequin.  The body had cooled to touch, and it was impossible to tell that he’d ever be alive.  My mother pulled harder at his paw, desperate for a single print.  There was an audible snap as the leg broke, and my mother recoiled.  Sickened, she dropped the clay and asked us to please hurry up and bury the damn thing.

My stepfather and I buried Chang on a hill in the backyard, in a spot right outside the kitchen window–unfortunately nowhere near where I had had any intention of planting a garden.  I tried to hold the Kitty Coffin in a seemingly dignified manner as my stepfather dug the hole.  With a bad back and a cigarette habit, he was ill-equipped for the occupation of grave digging, and was soon struggling and out of breath.  I offered to dig for a while, but he persisted stubbornly.  Finally, he snatched the Kitty Coffin from my hands and stuffed it into the hole, but the grave was too small to accomodate the casket.  Unfazed, my stepfather, a heavy man, stepped on the coffin, pushing it into the ground with his foot.  The box collapsed and we could hear the crunch of the cat within.  I nearly laughed and vomited at the same time and, from the kitchen window, my mother called out, asking if all was well.  My stepfather didn’t respond.

In addition to the clay with which to take Chang’s paw prints, my mother had purchased a sheet metal cut-out of a cat to use as a grave marker.  For the rest of the time that I lived in that house, when looking out through kitchen window at night, the silhouette of the grave marker in the moonlight created the illusion of the cat digging its way out of its grave, intent on seeking some horrible revenge.  My stepfather stabbed the marker into the ground and began feverishly shoveling dirt into the grave.  Again, my mother called from the window, asking if everything was alright.  For reasons that I never understood, I began to sing.  I had a pleasant tenor then, and in that moment I sang out the words to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for all I was worth.

“You’ve always had such a pretty voice, Douglas,” my mother called from the open window, and she listened and hummed along to that gospel tune, secure in knowing that all things work out in their appointed time.

Nine-Year-Olds Should NOT Be Pole Dancers, Dammit!

OK, the first thing you should know is that my co-worker has the cutest little girl ever invented.  Like scary cute.  The kind of cute that compels grown-ups for no good reason to write down their checking account numbers for her and to take out second mortgages on their homes to ensure that this kid has an adequate supply of barbie dolls and ice cream (not to mention the iPad 2 that her mother bought her for Christmas).  I tell you this not because I think that she is any more spoiled than your average nine-year-old or to illustrate my weakness for little people with big brown eyes and outrageous demands–I should be thankful that my fiance and I have not yet had children or we would probably be homeless and our kid would have a totally kickass home theatre system.  I tell you this because something happened a while back that made me realize that not only has this kid acknowledged that her cuteness has made the world her proverbial oyster, but that she is already plotting on how to take it to the next level.

Things had just slowed down at the restaurant that I manage and my co-worker’s daughter was sitting in a booth, supposedly working on her homework, but in reality she had just conned me into bringing her a free piece of chocolate cake.  My co-worker was sitting at the table with her daughter and, as I was turning to walk back into the kitchen, she happened to say to the girl, “Hey, tell Doug what you wanted me to buy you this weekend.”

The girl shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and I thought for a moment that she had perhaps made some ridiculously expensive request, you know, something extravagant like the Large Hadron Collider.  Or Lithuania.  The country, I mean.

The girl said nothing, so her mother, in the same voice that she might announce that her daughter wanted a new pair of flip-flops, said, “She wants me to buy her some thongs.”

At this point, I turned to walk outside, lest my blushing cause me to spontaneously combust and result in my restaurant burning to the ground.  It probably would’ve looked something like this:

What you have to understand is that I, along with virtually every other man on Earth, have a short, but highly specific list of topics of which we will never, even under threat of death, discuss with our girl children or with any girl of an age that they could be our children.  Should my fiance and I have a daughter of our own, I will gladly be there for the fevers and the vomiting and the skinned knees.  Every bedtime, I will check the closets and under the bed for monsters and I will be there in the middle of the night to chase away the lingering dread of nightmares.  I will be there for her basketball games and I will personally kill every little boy who ever breaks her heart.  But when it comes to certain topics–love and dating, her first training bra and her underwear, the wonders of puberty, of menarche and sex and masturbation–I believe that it is my right, God help me, to remain blissfully ignorant.  This is her mother’s domain.

Sadly, my co-worker was unaware of the no-touch topics of all men everywhere–either that, or she is truly a cruel and hateful woman.  As I walked away, she said, “She also wants to be a pole dancer when she grows up.”  I stopped.  What?  The little girl–the same girl who was embarrassed by her mother speaking publicly about her underwear–was smiling now.  “Yeah, I wanna be a pole dancer,” she confirmed.  “They make lots of money.”

If there is any topic that belongs on a man’s no-touch topics list, this surely had to be a big one.  Yet, I still had this godawful paternal need–from where I had no frigging idea–to explain to her that girls her age shouldn’t want to be pole dancers.  Girls her age should dream of being doctors and lawyers and the first female President of the United States of America.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being a pole dancer.  It’s honest work, and I’m sure that some pole dancers love what they do.  But there was something intrinsically wrong here.  This girl was no longer satisfied with the status quo, no longer satisfied with adequate nutrition and a roof over her head and a virtually unlimited supply of Wii games.  At an age when she should still be sporting pig tails and reading her way through the Nancy Drew series, this girl had already been seduced by the prospect of easy money and fast living.  If I had a daughter, I’d always imagined that she’d be older–at least seventeen–before she considered morally compromising herself for money.  The kids are growing up too fast.  I can only hope that at home that night, my co-worker took her daughter aside, hugged her tight, and said, “Baby, you’re much too young to strip for money, and you’ll always be too young to strip for money.  When you’re my age and you have a daughter of your own and she’s driving you crazy and you love her more than anything in the world, you, I, all of us, we’ll all be too young…And yes, of course you can have a new iPhone.”

I Hate You, Jared Padalecki

OK listen up: just to be clear, I do not know Jared Padalecki, nor has he ever personally done anything to me to earn my unadulterated hatred or even mild dislike.  I’m sure that Jared Padalecki is a swell guy.  He probably adopts kittens from animal shelters and gives them to dying orphans with  twenty-dollar bills tied around their necks (the kittens, not the orphans).  That said, I think the guy still deserves to be punched in the junk.

It would probably be best at this point to clarify. For those who don’t know, Jared Padalecki is one of the stars of the popular television show Supernatural.  My fiance is a huge fan of the show and, being a good boyfriend, for Christmas this past year, I bought her Season Six on DVD.  As far as decisions go, this was slightly better than playing Russian Roulette with a machine gun.  Buying Supernatural for a woman is spiritually akin to buying her pornography–but with better looking actors.

Jared Padalecki plays the role of Sam, a smart, sensitive Joe who, along with his brother, battles monsters and demons and other meanies from Hell–all while questioning the moral and ethical implications of demon slaying.  Basically, the guy is a saint.  And if that’s not enough, he also happens to speak a number of archaic languages; is an expert with guns, knives, and hand-to-hand combat; and was accepted to law school at Stanford, but gave it all up to save the world.  Strength and sensitivity, brains and badassery, the guy is portrayed as the essentially perfect male specimen.  Women see this and it sets a standard that no man could possibly live up to.  Dammit, it’s not fair!  And it gets worse!

Lest you think that I succumb to hyperbole, let’s compare the average man to Jared Padalecki.

Average Man

Ok, this is probably not what the average man looks like, but doesn’t it make you feel so much better about yourself?

Jared Padalecki

That’s right.  Gaze upon the rock-hard, chiseled form and despair.  This guy’s groin has its own six-pack!

While I have no doubt of my fiance’s faithfulness, I fully acknowledge that a woman can only take so much temptation.  Under the right circumstances, I could probably be convinced to sleep with the guy.  I can only be thankful that my fiance has not called off the wedding in light of an illicit affair with our DVD player.  That said, I would just like to say that I hate you, Jared Padalecki.  Your godlike physique and breathtaking good looks are an affront to the natural evolution of mankind, and it will only lead to the extinction of our species.  After being exposed to your anatomical perfection, how can a woman ever be satisfied with the rest of us?  You’ve doomed us all.  Shame on you, Jared Padalecki.  Shame.

Blind Man

So, there I was in Walmart…which sounds like the start of some horrific joke about Southerners, but lets face it: I live in Cullowhee, North Carolina.  This is what you do when you’re looking for a wild night out on the town.  Browsing the aisles, I was trying to decide if I really needed a giant martini glass.  Surely, this was more of an impulse buy, but the sticker on the glass claimed that it was virtually unbreakable, as though it were made of adamantium instead of the finest plastic available in Chinese manufacturing.  You have to wonder just how many martinis a person has to drink on a regular basis before it becomes necessary to consider indestructible barware.

Given that I rarely drink anything more than the occasional Yuengling, I took a pass on the martini glass and was, instead, eyeing a Ginsu knife–guaranteed to survive the fall of Middle Earth before it needed sharpening–when I saw a blind kid.  By saw, I mean I tripped over the end of his cane as I was walking around the corner.  The blind kid did not apologize, just kept walking, his cane tapping against the tiles.  Being partially deaf, I have the greatest sympathy for the physically disabled, but I admit that I was appalled by his rudeness.  What does one yell at a rude blind person?  Dammit, watch where you’re going?  And then I realized that he was not actually blind.

I knew he was not blind because at that moment, the other boy walking with him, whom I assumed to be his brother, said something that caused the kid to turn on him and strike him viciously across the shoulder with the cane.  The blow was perfect.  This was no mere blind kid.  This was someone with a thirst for violence and the trained hand-eye coordination to see it through.  This kid was posing with a blind man’s cane, and using it to commit acts of aggravated assault!

I might’ve simply laughed it off or said to myself, Where are this kid’s parents, a thought that even now, as a grown man, makes me want to go out and break curfew,but, a terrible thought occurred to me.  What happened to the blind man?  Was it possible that somewhere in Walmart, there was a blind man that’d suddenly found himself without a cane?  Perhaps, even then, he was holding precariously to the shelves, wondering just how in the hell he was supposed to get out of this mess.  The world must’ve seemed so unfathomably immense for him that day, his tether to the earth broken, each step like a chasm opening up before him.  I wondered what it must’ve been like for him when finally, stripped of his pride, he had to call out for someone, anyone, to help him.

To the kid in Walmart, walking around with the stolen cane, I just want you to know that you are such a little shit…and you’ve got to check out those automatic juice machines!  They’ll blow your fucking mind!

Through the Bathroom Door: A Love Story

A few weeks ago, my fiance was out with her mother, shopping for a wedding dress, and, in accordance to long-standing tradition, I stayed home to dog-sit.   The tenet of not seeing the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding apparently applies not only to THE wedding dress, but also rejected dresses and theoretical dresses that have yet to be purchased.  What nobody ever tells you is that the man, once having acquired a ring and proposed, is basically useless.  There is no use kidding ourselves on this point.  Weddings are the domain of the bride.

Having been relegated to the role of support personnel, I find myself with a lot of time these days to reflect upon my relationship.  As is the case with all men everywhere, now that I am engaged, I’ve wondered what makes me so sure that this relationship is *trumpets blaring* THE ONE.  Why am I getting married now?  Why this girl?  I don’t mean to suggest that I am having doubts about getting married.  My fiance is an amazing woman.  Just the fact that she is willing to put up with my overabundance of bullshit is damn near evidence of divine providence.  But it seems that, despite the 50% divorce rate in this country, marriage really should be “until death do us part.”  The problem is that, provided I don’t piss her off enough to justify homicide, that’s a long damn time.

It occurred to me today–although there are no sure signs or insider trading tips on the matrimonial stock market–that I can pinpoint the precise moment at which I came to believe that this really is “until death due us part.”  I was on the toilet on the time.  I’d rather not go into detail what I was doing there, but, honestly, the choices are limited.

As I was sitting there, well, doing my thing, the single most horrible thing that can happen to someone in those particular circumstances happened: the door knob began to turn and the door slipped treacherously open.  For those of you who don’t understand my agitation, I have always firmly believed that bathroom functions, like death, are something meant to be experienced alone.  A very select few people on the face of this planet have witnessed me in a moment of indispose, and as soon as I stopped wearing diapers and learned how to use the toilet by myself, they learned to stay the hell out of the bathroom.  Statistically speaking, all of these people will eventually die of old age.

Suddenly facing my worst fear, it took me a moment to realize that the figure standing in the doorway was that of my fiance and not some axe-wielding invader who had somehow chosen this moment to wreak bloody carnage about my apartment.  “We’re going to be late for the movie, thought you’d like to know,” she said, and paused.  “Are you taking a shit?”

Again, I would like to point out that the choices are limited.

To my further dismay, at this point, the dog, seeing the need to investigate, appeared in the doorway.  I cannot be sure, but it seemed that he wore a smug expression on his furry face, as though to say, “How does it feel, asshole?”  I don’t recall the remainder of the conversation.  I can only remember thinking at the time: “I will not wipe my ass with people watching me!”  You have to draw the line somewhere.

After my fiance closed the door, leaving me in peace, and I was able to breathe a little easier, I had an epiphany–or, at least, as much of an epiphany as you can have on the toilet.  This was what marriage is all about.  Not invasions of bathroom privacy, of course, but the moments of vulnerability.  It’s about standing naked in front of another human being, for better or worse, and saying, Yes, I am a human being.  I’m not perfect.  Sometimes I can be truly flawed and petty and ugly and, yes, sometimes I even have to take a shit!  And it’s about learning to trust your partner, trusting that they can accept and love you in spite of–or maybe even because of–all your imperfections.

This is a hell of a realization to have.  Even now, as my wedding date looms on the horizon, this is both something that I am still getting used to and perhaps the single greatest thing in my life.  There is someone in this world with whom I can be entirely myself, without shame or apology.  Now I just have to remember to lock the fucking door.