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Friday, Feb. 16, 2007 | Maybe it’s just my tendency towards oversimplification but this hasn’t been a good week for anyone, has it? First Anna Nicole Smith, the Marilyn Monroe of the latchkey generation, tragically dies, leaving her child without a drunken mother to raise her.
It’s been hard for me to adjust. I go through a spiritual crisis nearly every day but, frankly, I have a hard time believing that God is just when he takes Anna Nicole away at 39 but lets Zsa Zsa Gabor live into her ’90s.
Then, Marty Schottenheimer is fired from the Chargers just a month after he was begrudgingly rehired. Seems to me that if two macho guys like Schott and A.J. Smith can’t get along, than there probably isn’t much chance for peace in the Middle East either.
Of course, the guys who allegedly bribed Duke Cunningham can’t be feeling too good either. It seems to me that if you can’t get away with bribing a war hero, there’s no justice in this world.
But I think I had the hardest week of all. Not only did I discover my 10-month-old son, Owen, likes cat food, but I had a scary experience of déj&aaigu; vu.
Let me explain: My son has just reached the (dreaded) crawling stage so he’s been crawling all over the house. I suppose it’s cute to see him sticking his little behind in the air and revving his rear before taking off on a journey, but it’s having drastic consequences.
My wife and I have to keep the bathroom door closed because that’s where the cat food and cat litter is, and Owen is inexplicably attracted to those two substances.
If we allowed it, I think he would eat the cat food all the time. It’s dry stuff and sort of smells like tuna and, although it’s probably harmless, I wouldn’t eat it (and I’m the type of guy who enjoys walking through the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant or watching sausages being made).
He also thinks cat food is for him to play with. I fear that in the not-too-distant future, I’m going to look up from this computer and see him trying to make drip castles with the soggy stuff.
That’s a scary thought, and the realization that my son, my precious beautiful smiling son might actually like cat food depresses me. Unfortunately, he’s too young for me to lie to so I can’t tell him that if he eats it, he’ll sprout whiskers and a tail.
I know experts say you’re not supposed to lie to a kid but, hey, my parents lied to me and their parents lied to them and their parents before them lied and look at how things turned out.
Anyway, I’m dealing with the cat food thing right now, so it’s a pretty traumatic time at the Moye house.
Especially because I’m still reliving a scary moment with my daughter, Alex.
A few days ago, I took Alex and Owen for a walk around my old neighborhood, in part, because I wanted my daughter to see where I grew up, but also so that my old neighbors would see that I am now, almost, a contributing member of society.
The key word is almost.
So we’re walking past my old house and I looked across the street and saw a house that belonged to the mean old man.
Every neighborhood has one. They’re usually a strange crotchety person who is obsessed with the kids not playing on their lawn or getting balls on their property.
My wife had the “Dichondera Lady,” but for me it was “Mr. X.” During the summers, when the kids would play in the street, he or his son, Chaz, would wait out in the driveway, practically daring us to throw balls on their yard.
Then, they would snatch them, take them indoors, and call the cops to negotiate things. Since they were La Mesa Police, they probably just loved being called up on such a petty matter.
Oh, and on the Fourth of July, he used to play albums of bugle calls all night.
Anyway, Mr. X served a few worthy purposes in our neighborhood, mainly teaching kids about mental illness.
As I grew up, I learned not to play with balls, kites or Frisbees in front of my yard, but I never could accept that someone was evil or mean for no reason. If my life had been a Disney movie, there would have been that scene where I find out the mean old man was that way because he wasn’t allowed to have balls as a kid.
The closest I got was when he appeared with one of the local TV stations consumer reporters and complained, “Those kids are throwing balls on my yard.”
I never had closure with the mean old man, but I did use him as a character for some of the ghost stories I’ve told Alex.
So we’re walking near my house and my daughter sees the mean old man’s house in need of a paint job and, therefore, looking as scary as a tract home in La Mesa ever could.
My daughter says, “Is that where the mean old man lived? The one who took your balls?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“Can I see it up close?”
Sure, I think. It’s a free country. There’s no law that says I can’t walk by that house on that side of the street.
So we’re walking by it, when suddenly Alex jumps on the mean old man’s grass.
“No Alex. Get off the grass.”
“It’s not our property.”
“Will the mean old man get mad?”
I start to go into a panic attack.
“It doesn’t matter if he does, Alex. It’s not our property. We weren’t invited. Get off, please.”
Two seconds pass. She’s dawdling, which seems to be her favorite exercise.
She jumps off the grass, but I see a strange solitary figure riding a bike up the street. As it gets closer, I can see that it’s a man with dyed yellow hair who almost looks like the evil albino in “The DaVinci Code” (and I apologize for that description to any non-evil albinos who read my column).
Anyway, the guy rides right into the driveway of the mean old man and he stares at me without turning his head, just his eyes.
That’s when I realized it was Chaz, who once proved to me that evil truly exists in the world. He had a smirk on his face and I had chills and quickly grabbed my daughter lest a hole open us up right there and swallow up my daughter, my son and I.
Chaz — who, for all I know still has all my balls, Frisbees, kites and even a Hot Wheel or two — goes into his house and I rush my daughter away.
“We have to get home.”
“Was that the mean old man?”
“No, that was his son.”
“The one who took your balls?”
“I want to tell him to give the balls back,” and she starts to run back towards the house.
“Nooo! We’re going home.”
There’s silence as we walk back to the car. Oh, except for Owen who is screaming like a banshee. Some might think he was just hungry, but I feel it’s because he had his first touch with evil incarnate.
Alex keeps bugging me to go back to what she calls the Haunted Ball House, but I’m begging off. I seriously still feel a chill and I’ve decided that the only time I want to be scared is when I look at the bill for my adjustable rate mortgage.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer whose wife thinks he has a tendency towards hyperbole. Feel free to call him on it at email@example.com. Or, send a letter to the editor.