The Nitamobile

On Saturday, as I was screaming George Carlin’s seven words at the Neon while I worked on the brakes, Nita took AJ to get his license. He passed with flying colors and became a card-carrying slave to the automobile culture. His reward? We gave him Mabel, the 2003 Santa Fe that has served us well for these many years. Of course, now Nita needed a car. So she went to a dealership where a former coworker now sold. What did she get?

This is the Nitamobile, a 2011 Nissan Versa. The thing scoots like mad, though AJ found the accelerator hard to get used to. I like it, though. The brakes are a bit of a shock. Both the Santa Fe’s and the newly rejuvenated Neon’s are a bit of a soft touch. The Nitamobile’s remind me of Ford brakes. If you own a Ford built since 2000 – Well, for starters, good call. Up until about 2010, they were the only American cars worth a damn, and I still have my reservations about Chrysler. Anyway, as I discovered first with the car I inherited from my dad, then with a rented Focus in New York City, Ford brakes are quite capable of stopping the car on a dime, often at risk of sending the driver through the windshield. The Nissan’s are like that. I consider this a good thing, but damn, after four years of Dodge and Hyundai brakes, it’s a bit of a culture shock.

The Nitamobile is also the only car we own that you can plug your iPod into. Mabel, the 2003 Santa Fe, has a cassette deck that you can use with an adapter, but that sounds like crap. The Neon is too new for cassette, too old for an audio jack, and really depressing unless you want radio or CD.

So what’s with the names? Well, I used to name my cars. Some of them, anyway. There was a disposable beater phase I went through where naming the car was an exercise in futility. The car would blow a rod or seize up before the year was out, and it was off to spend another $700-1000 on something equally decrepit. But in the beginning, there was Besse, a 75 Nova that proved in the 1980’s that they didn’t build them like that anymore. There was The Bluesmobile, a rusty 1973 Buick Centurion. There was the Wintermobile, the Ford Taurus my dad drove when he died.

The Neon didn’t have a name, but while Nita was shopping for the Nissan, she dubbed the venerable old Santa Fe “Mabel,” after the old lady who owned the house before Nita bought the place nearly twenty years ago, and, we suspect, still haunts it. Mabel (the car) is old, reliable, and takes care of us. She even took us Tennessee to get married. So Mabel it is.

I decided the Neon also needed a name. The Neon hasn’t given me too much trouble – a cheap battery, brakes, a transmission line that Chrysler took its sweet time sending a replacement for – but it is temperamental. It’s very much a feminine car and has the lines of a diva. I called it Princess because it’s a whiny bitch that knows it’s cute. Never mind that similarly designed cars have more guts under the hood and handle curves better. Princess looks like a sports car and wants to be treated like one. Never mind that it’s a sedan with a spoiler.

So as Nita pulled in, there remained only one name to bestow. I looked at the car, white and cute. It reminded me of Nita’s personal avatar, Marilyn Monroe. I said, “Marilyn.” Nita said no. “Marilyn” should should be sleek and sexy. As if to prove her point, a Corvette rolled by. “That’s Marilyn,” she said. So the car became the Nitamobile. Thus it has been spoken.

It’s a rough time for us to get a car, but I keep pointing out that we have two cars getting up there in miles. Princess is over 86,000 miles and near the end of its loan. Mabel just crested 100,000 miles. AJ will be driving it mostly around here. Otherwise, he’d be driving the Nitamobile to work. We need something long term after AJ takes Mabel away.

It’s a sweet little car. And being a 2011, we’ll have it long after the loan is paid off.

Nita Ritas!

This weekend is Memorial Day, the cultural start of summer in these United States. And it wouldn’t be summer without a proper summer cocktail. So here again is the recipe for Nita Ritas, as invented by my lovely bride, Nita.

(Note: If this looks different from last year, hey, it’s our drink. We’re just letting you make one for yourself.)

Three parts Cuervo Tequila Mix

Two parts Cuervo Gold

One part secret ingredient. What’s the secret ingredient? Depends on the Nita Rita you want:

  • Jamaican Nita Rita: Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • Kentucky Nita Rita: Jim Beam Red Stag
  • Tennessee Nita Rita: Jack Daniels
  • Irish Nita Rita: Jameson
  • Canadian Nita Rita: Crown Royal
  • Russian Nita Rita: Vodka, preferably Gordons or Grey Goose
  • Jaeger Nita Rita: Now that’s just asking for trouble

Drink responsibly. The Nita Rita, created by my wife, the incomparable Nita.


That’s AJ to the left there, looking large and in charge with his percussion group from high school. Who is AJ, you ask? He’s my stepson, and today he turns 18. He’s also the main reason why I was allowed to marry his mother.

When I first found myself single again, I knew most of the women I’d go out with would have children. This was a plus, actually. I’d always wanted to be a parent, so if things worked out with a single mom, I’d be more than happy to be, at the very least, That Dude Mom Married.

I’ve talked a lot of times here about dating Nita and how rapid our romance blossomed. Nita told me on our first date that any man she dated had to meet with AJ’s approval. Since her divorce, when he was ten years old, he had stepped up to be the man of the house. I admired that. So on our second date, she introduced us. She later told me about the lead up to our first date.

AJ would be turning 14 that year, and Nita had just gotten comfortable leaving him by himself for extended periods – never overnight but for an evening or a few hours during the day. As our date approached, she worried AJ might resent her not spending time with him. He told her to go, that he had not seen her that happy in a long time. So we were already getting off to a good start, and I hadn’t even left to meet her yet.

As I started to spend more and more time at Nita’s house, one of my rituals was to spend about half an hour playing on the Wii with AJ. His father wasn’t much of a video game player, so this was new for him. Well, not really. A couple of Nita’s more serious boyfriends would play, and I absolutely sucked at it. I think he enjoyed kicking my ass. The three of us also played Rock Band together a lot. I did vocals most of the time. AJ did drums. One day, I noticed he wasn’t playing to rock band when I walked in. He had music blaring on his computer and was playing to that instead. Little did I know he would soon be playing drums in his high school marching band.

The night I proposed to his mother, it just sort of overtook us in the span of about five minutes, starting with Nita asking me to come to Gatlinburg with her and AJ for an already planned vacation and ending with me dropping to one knee and asking her to marry me. Only, I didn’t ask one person for her hand in marriage.

We called AJ into the room and told him what we planned. He ran into his room, and we were panicking. Did we scare him? Would I have to leave? We followed him into his room to make sure we hadn’t upset him. I pleaded with him to let me marry his mother and was fairly blubbering like an idiot. AJ just looked at me with that thousand-yard stare of his that can be a bit unsettling at times and slowly gave me a double thumbs-up.

AJ is a very smart kid. Like a lot of kids that smart, he knows it, which occasionally gets him into trouble. But isn’t that what being a teen all about? Nonetheless, even though I’ve only been in his life for four years now, I’m still very proud of him. AJ was an object lesson too many people who marry into families never learn: You don’t claim the title of stepparent. You have to earn it.

I’m very pleased AJ has let me be his stepdad instead of just Dude Mom Married. I can’t wait to see what he makes of his life now that he’s reached the starting line.


The first time I ever spent the night with Nita, I stopped at a UDF (where Cincinnatians go instead of 7/11) on the way to her house. UDF used to sell single roses for a dollar. I bought one. The clerk looked at me and said, “Someone’s in a bad mood.”


“What did you do to get in trouble?”

“Why am I in trouble?”

“You’re buying a flower. Why else would you buy a flower?”

By now, the clerk’s female coworker was looking at him like he was stupid. So was I.

“Um…  I’m in love?” I said.

“Oh, so you’re trying to get laid.”

“Wow. You must be a lousy boyfriend.”

The coworker told him, “You might want to quit before you dig yourself deeper.”

I’ll admit, the first time I bought Nita flowers, I wanted to impress her. The day of our first date, I sent a dozen roses to her work. Yes, they had the desired effect. Then I sent her roses at random intervals for no reason, unless it was Mother’s Day, her birthday, or Valentine’s Day. After a while, it got too expensive to order from FTD and have them sent. But Kroger sells a dozen for $10-15 a bunch. And they last for about two weeks. I now buy her flowers two or three times a month. She loves it.

When she had her wisdom teeth out recently, I had to leave her at home doped up so I could run to the grocery store to get her medications. While I was there, I spotted a bouquet of red roses. I brought them home. She was still out from the morphine drip, so I put them in a vase and arranged them. (Um… Let’s keep that part between us. They take your man card away if you can arrange roses without being a trained florist.) When she woke up that evening, the first thing she saw was a dozen roses on the coffee table.

Flowers don’t have to be expensive, but it’s a good way to remind your wife or your girlfriend that you love them. Where most men go wrong is buying flowers when something bad happens or they want something or just on special occasions. They sort of lose their symbolism that way. Because then she sees flowers from you as a sign that you screwed up or you want something or that you were just smart enough not to buy only a Hallmark card.

I buy them at random and for no particular reason. Sometimes when we’re not in a good mood towards each other. Sometimes when we can’t keep our hands off each other. Sometimes just for the helluvit. In this way, they say what they’re supposed to say.

“I love you.”

Ain’t That A Kick In The Teeth?

Nita had her wisdom teeth taken out. Like me, she waited until her 40’s to do it. Like me, she was out of commission for the weekend.

They always say you should get your wisdom teeth or tonsils out while you’re still young. In fact, I told AJ to get his wisdom teeth out before he’s 30, then he won’t have to deal with it when he has kids underfoot and work to do. However, I never really saw the wisdom in waiting until you’re older. You only do it once, and it hurts like hell no matter what.

Nita was lucky. Her surgeon had an elaborate setup where they could move sedated patients in and out on an assembly line basis while taking great pains to make patients comfortable. Since Nita is considerably smaller than me, her anesthesia lasted all day, letting her sleep most of the first day after extraction off. Mine started wearing off about three or four hours after I got home. Had I been more lucid, I’d have swallowed a dose of Vicodin* when I got home. Nita did for hers. I did not on mine. So a couple hours after I got home…


In a panic, I took two. Don’t do that. Don’t take two Vicodin on an empty stomach. It’s no fun being doped up on morphine trying to heave cookies that aren’t there. Nita slept.

The wisdom tooth extraction diet is unappetizing. I subsisted on yogurt and pudding for two days. Nita opted for Spaghetti-O’s and queso dip. I eventually attempted a hamburger during that two-day recovery by chewing with my incisors and mashing it with my tongue. Not fun, but doable.

My doctor was different from Nita’s. He was a depressed-looking neo-hippie who didn’t take well to the humor between me and my wife while I was going under. She made a joke about my life insurance being paid up, and the doc flipped out, saying it was bad karma. My normal response to this would be, “Hey! It’s my jaw getting carved up. I’ll tell you what’s funny.” Since I had an IV of vercet in my arm, all I could manage was an eye roll. Just as Nita had to leave the room, she squeezed my hand and wished me luck. I said, “I’ll see you on the other side.” Once again, the doc got offended. I passed out from the morphine before I could say anything else.

My time as caregiver was more boring than Nita’s. This past weekend was cold and rainy. I spent it shuttling AJ to drum corps, getting groceries, making carry out runs, doing homework, and rereading Holland Bay. During my time on the recliner, Nita bought and assembled a gas grill, mowed the lawn, and re-landscaped the front of the house. I still feel like I’ve got points against me on my man card for that.

But it’s over now. It’s not likely either of us will lose our tonsils at our age, so unless we have a bad appendix between us, this type of surgery is over for us.

Unfortunately, we now have all that stuff that breaks down in old age to look forward to.

*Bill Engvall is correct. Half a Vicodin and a Bahama mama make for a wonderful morning**

** Drugs? Drugs are bad. Don’t do drugs. M’kay?

Four Valentine’s Days In A Row

This is Nita, my wife, my best friend, the love of my life. And it was four years ago today we had our first date. It was on a lark, actually. I was separated. She had just broken up with her boyfriend. I wanted to get together with her for drinks. She had a boy and didn’t want to ditch him for some guy she’d met at a standup comedy show. I understood this. Going back into the dating pool for the first time in almost two decades, I understood this. In fact, I preferred women with kids. They likely would be more responsible.

But we couldn’t meet for drinks. Not until Valentine’s Day. So I suggested she let me take her out for dinner. At worst, I would get to spoil a beautiful woman on Singles Awareness Day.

It worked out better than expected. We had our third date by the end of the week. I was staying over regularly by the end of the month. I moved in by my birthday in May, when I also proposed to her. To call this a whirlwind romance is an understatement. Our first date was in February of 2008. We married in June.

As I said, she is my best friend. Oh, we clash now and then, but it’s usually hashed out rather quickly. But everything we do is about our future. And our boy’s future. It’s a life neither of us really envisioned for ourselves. I assumed I would be a bachelor forever, drifting from city to city with no ties and no responsibilities. On the downside, that also would have meant no real reason for being.

I have never been happier in my life. Nita made me comfortable enough with myself to go back to school. She made me a parent. Or rather her son, AJ, did by accepting me as something more than “Dude mom married.” Because I went back to school, Nita took a chance and also went. It’s fun. This fall, there will be three college students under our roof. All this because we took a chance on a Valentine’s date 4 years ago today.

Nita tells me I came about at the right time in their lives. They certainly came into mine at the right time.

How I Plan To Spend Humanity’s Last Year Of Existence*

It’s that time of year again, the beginning. This is the time we usually set goals for ourselves and make resolutions that will be broken long before Valentine’s Day.

I don’t really do resolutions anymore. I have goals that usually set the tone for the rest of the year. There are things I intend to accomplish this year, things I want to try, and things that I simply need to focus on.

First off, what do I want to accomplish…

  • Finally finish my degree. Of course, I’ll turn right back around and start on my bachelor’s come this fall. In 2011, I came up short on my capstone project. This year, I plan to manage it better.
  • Submit one crime novel and one science fiction novel to a real, honest-to-God publisher. Hey, I’m enjoying the ebook indie revolution as much as the next guy, but let’s be honest. The hype doesn’t live up to the reality. I suppose I could quit going to school and spend all my time shilling books. Unfortunately, more often than not, that means the writing suffers. So I’d be trying to sell shit because all my time would be spent on promotion. So while I plan to continue selling Nick Kepler (the first two are edited. I have a deal to barter for editing on the third) and Road Rules, the fact remains that New York is alive and well, just extremely befuddled. Could be worse. I could be a musician trying to deal with the recording industry. Over a decade after Napster with iTunes propping them up, the RIAA still can’t find its own ass even with a proctologist grabbing its hands, pushing them into place, and screaming “Right here, stupid!”
  • Get a second, maybe a third draft of Holland Bay done. Yes, this will be the novel I worked years on. Shouldn’t every writer have one?
  • Get one short story a month published. Which means I need to take one out of the can and revise it for January.
  • Lose weight. Yes, everyone does this every year. But I have been losing weight. So this is simply carrying on what I started.

The stuff I want to try…

  • Ballroom dancing. Nita and I have wanted to do this separately at various points. This is the first time both of us have wanted to do it.
  • Running. I ran in high school. I think I’ve recovered nicely after a short 27-year break.
  • As always, ride the Little Miami Trail all the way to Xenia. Some years I make it, others I don’t.

The stuff I need to focus on…

  • Me. Or rather my health. My weight dropped nicely in 2011. It needs to go down more in 2012. I take Janumet, an expensive wonder drug that keeps me from shooting insulin. I would like to make my method of managing blood sugar simply not eating a lot of crap. That takes weight loss and exercise.
  • On the same note, mental health. I had a weird bout of depression going into the holidays. I don’t know what caused it, though I suspect it was chemical in origin – That is, eating the usual crap we stuff ourselves with sometimes wreaks havoc with your mood and concentration.
  • Marriage. Nita is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And our marriage is better than either of us could have expected. But we both realize it’s work. It’s work I’ve always been willing to do, but New Year’s Day is as good a day as any to renew my commitment to her. Followed by Valentine’s Day (the anniversary of our first date) and our wedding anniversary.
  • AJ. My stepson turns 18 this year. He graduates high school. AJ has a pretty good head on his shoulders, better than I had at his age. He had a plan going into his senior year. When logistics and finances got in the way, he didn’t give up. He simply changed his timeline and looked for alternatives. When I was dating Nita, I decided that this 13-year-old kid would be closer and closer to adulthood every day that I knew him. So for the most part, I’ve treated him like an adult. Now I need to be there as he becomes finally becomes one. It’s work I’m happy to do. Every parent should be.
  • Faith. If you’ve read this, you know I have an unconventional view of God. It has a refreshing lack of dogma, since humans, by definition, are too stupid for dogma. At the same time, I have questions I need answered and need to rethink my views. I don’t serve my beliefs. They serve me. That’s why you don’t see me picketing soldiers’ funerals or slamming airplanes into buildings. And you never will.

And of course, I resolve to gorge myself on schadenfreude pie on December 22, 2012, at the expense of all these pinheads who haven’t figured out that the Mayans simply couldn’t be bothered rebooting the calendar after December 21. There’s something sick about people obsessing about the end of the world. I keep wanting to tell them, “Well, you go first. We’ll all have to follow you eventually.” They usually act all offended, like the apocalypse that makes them all giddy doesn’t apply to them. It’s enough to make emo kids say, “Dude, chill out.”

And beyond that, I’ll make another list of stuff I won’t get to in 2013. It’s our way.

*Under the old Mayan calendar. Really. On December 22, a new Mayan calendar begins. It’s the Y2K of the 21st century.