Saturday, June 20, 2009


Which makes me think about the worst Christmas gift I ever got.

I'm not sure why I'm thinking about Christmas now, but I rarely live in the moment and usually spend most of my time looking forward to what's coming instead of what's actually here. I already enjoyed summer in April. It was nice.

Now then…

The worst Christmas gift I ever got came from the wife of one of my father's business associates. Heretofore, her gifts had always been...if not least, passable. Books. Pens. Stuff like that.

That all changed when I was twelve years old. Little did I know that the woman coming up the driveway with a bundle of packages was about to forever alter what I thought a bad gift could be. After her visit, and for the rest of my life, I can honestly say that I will never receive a gift as bad as the bad gift I got on that bad gift-giving day. In fact, you could give me dog poo in a baggy and I would still say it was better than that bad gift I got. Of course, if you were to give me a gift of dog poo in a baggy, I would hope there would at least be some clever card or something to explain why you were giving me a baggy of dog poo. But let's leave that aside because I'm getting queasy thinking about it.

Now then, the worst Christmas gift I was about to be given by that woman on that bad gift-giving day was:


As everyone in my family opened their presents from this woman, I stared blankly at the plastic container of shampoo. I looked at it and read it over and over. Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair. Panteen. Shampoo. For. Damaged. Hair. Did I have damaged hair? I didn't think so. Maybe I did. But if anyone was going to give me Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair, it should be my parents. Quietly. In another room. Preferably in the presence of a doctor or a school counselor. This was not a Christmas gift. Shampoo is not a Christmas gift. It wasn't even Avon shampoo in a cool, racecar dispenser. That I could have lived with. I wouldn’t have liked it. But I wouldn’t have remembered it to this day.

The shampoo I had been given was clinical and scientific and no fun whatsoever. For heaven's sake, it was Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair!

As everyone in my family oogled at their gifts of transistor radios and Almond Roca, I ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I had a fine head of hair. I had a lot of hair. And not one strand was damaged.

I wanted to run back into the living room, thrust the plastic bottle at the woman and say, "What is the meaning of this?! Why have you given me Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair? What did I ever do to you?! This is an outrage! You don't give a 12 year-old boy Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair! You give them Robots and stuff! You give them things that need batteries! You give them footballs! You give them...anything! Anything but Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair!"

However, I was raised to be a polite child. (At least to persons who weren’t in my immediate family.) So, I went back to the living room with my bottle of shampoo and sat down. I tried to smile. Perhaps sensing that I was contemplating suicide, my mother asked to see what my gift was. I stood up, walked over and silently handed her the bottle. She looked at it and read, “Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair.” She looked over at the woman. “Isn’t that thoughtful.”

At first I was embarrassed that other members of my family had heard what I had been given, but then my mood brightened. In hearing my mother say, “Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair”, I knew this had to be a mistake. Who on earth gives Panteen Shampoo For Damaged Hair as a Christmas gift?

Any second now, the woman would say something like, “Oh my heavens! How did that get in there? That’s for my elderly mother with liver disease. Her hair is damaged. No. No. No. Paul’s gift is in the car. It’s a robot that needs batteries.”


That’s not what she said. She said, “Yes. I thought he’d like it. I got it at Broadway. It was very expensive.”

I never opened that bottle. I re-wrapped it and took it to school for the secret Santa gift exchange. I had now made some other 12 year-old miserable. I felt bad about that. But it needed to be done.

I am sure, in the many years since then, that bottle has been rewrapped and re-gifted at least 100 times. It’s still out there, too. Somewhere.

If you happen to ever get it as a gift, would you mind sending it back to me.

I have damaged hair.

Friday, June 12, 2009



Astute readers of this blog may have noticed I've been...busy. (As in..."unable to perform blogging duties in a manner which is consistent with the conventions of the 2007 blogging conference in Helsinki, Finland. 212.43.b1")

Truth is...I've been writing. Not fun, blogging writing. Writing for pay. Writing to keep my family insured and food on the table. Writing...because, as my agent has reminded me, evidently, that's what I do.

So, I figure, this is a good as time as any to talk about my love/hate relationship with this income producing aspect of my life.

I've been writing for quite a while now. In 1991 I was given my first paycheck for writing something. It was the script "Roll Over Beethoven" for a new show called Animaniacs.

John McCann and I had both been given assignments at the same time. His was "Draculee-Draculaa."

Anyway, after nervously working for about a week and a half, we both dropped off our scripts at Warner Brothers. We decided to celebrate this monumental...and, we thought, one-time event in our renting the worst 50's sci-fi movie we could find, go back to my house, and eat a box of powdered donuts. I don't remember the movie, but I'm sure John does.

Anyway, half way through the movie, the phone rang. It was Sherri Stoner, the story editor of Animaniacs. She was looking for John. I handed John the phone. Over the next minute and a half I listened as John said, "Oh. Yes. Yes. That's good. Really? That would be fine. Yes. Oh. Yes, I think I could do that."

I had no idea what was going on. Then John handed the phone to me and said Sherri wanted to talk to me. She basically said the same thing she said to John. They wanted to hire me full time to write for the show. I was stunned.

I hung up the phone. John and I looked at each other and did the happiest dance two men eating powered donuts could do. We had jobs. We could now afford real donuts. (However, I have to say that powdered donuts and coffee are still the best.)

Having been writing for quite a while now, I can confidently say the following things...

Writing is lonely, miserable, satisfying, annoying, enjoyable, painful, nerve-wracking, heinous, intolerable, exciting, exhausting, invigorating and virtually everything else that can possibly end in ING.

You would think that by now I would have a handle on it. But since every script is different, the only thing I know going in is this: It's gonna hurt.

I know there will be hours and hours in which the most I come up with is, "He looked sheepishly at the cabinet."

I know I will constantly use the word your when I really mean you're.

I know I will panic that agreeing to write the script was a mistake.

I know I will wander down the hall in hopes that the dogs can give me a good idea.

I know I will rewrite the 1st page at least 100 times, leaving me little more than a day to write the other 31 pages.

I know I will drink too much tea.

I know I will distract myself from the task at hand by looking for things under the bed. I never have a specific thing I'm looking for, I just want to see what's wound up there.

I will lay on the floor and look at my dogs.

I will lay on the floor and look for faces in the ceiling.

I will lay on the floor and do nothing of particular interest.

I will sit in every chair in the house for a brief moment.

I will say, "I should take a walk. It'll help clear my head." But I never do.

I will finish.

Yep, those are all the things I know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009



Today, I did the thing people say they want to do when they don't want to do the thing they really don't want to do.



Okay. Here.

"I'd rather have root canal!"

You with me?

That's what I did.

Root canal.

Anyway, I've been writing on a project and am now done. I shall blog tomorrow.

Forgive me, Froynlaven readers.

I need more Advil.