- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2008

For nearly 20 years, I have been fighting single-handedly on the losing side of a continual, life-and-death battle for dominance.

In my kitchen.

Ever since my children started eating solid foods, I have schemed, strategized and struggled to find and secure food just for myself.

You see, they eat more and faster than I can. They eat more and faster than most wild animals can. And now that MY favorite foods have become THEIR favorite foods, I hardly get a taste anymore.

They will eat through an order of seafood lo mein and leave only the broccoli.

They will eat through a rack of beef ribs and leave only the gristle.

They will eat through a bucket of chicken and leave only the grease spot.

They are like a plague of locusts. Cap’n Crunch, lemon cake, molasses cookies - all of my favorites vanish before I can get the grocery bags into the house.

It was so much easier when they were babies. They had their own solid foods, stuff that I would never eat, like smashed peas, liquefied spinach and carrot paste.

When they got a little older and bigger, they were suspicious of new foods. And I feasted.

“Oh, you don’t think you’ll like lamb chops. That’s OK. You can have a hot dog.”

“Spaghetti with meat sauce looks icky? That’s OK. You can have a hot dog.”

“You know, bratwurst DOES sound gross. Here’s a hot dog.” (Hot dogs were the default meal in my house.)

But my wife would encourage them - ENCOURAGE THEM - to try different stuff.

“They need to broaden their palates,” she’d say. “They need a wide range of experiences.”

“Why?!” I’d say. “I need experiences, too! I’d like to experience that shrimp scampi!”

“They’re our children. We have to feed them,” she’d say.

“Really? Where does it say that?” I’d say.

Of course, I’d always lose those “discussions.” And my kids have continued to eat all my food before I can get a fork.

Trying to take food from them is like putting your hand in a wood chipper.

They’ve grown cocky about it. They readily admit that they will eat anything if they know I like it.

So I’ve begun to outsmart them. Now I eat stuff I KNOW they will hate.

Right now, it’s prunes and tonic water. It’s not a savory meal, I know, but at least it’s MINE.

And if I get really hungry, I can have a hot dog.

n n n

Karl Marx. Karl Marx?

Wasn’t he the quiet one with the trench coat and the horn? You know, the guy who wrote “Das Kapital” and “Das Boot?” Didn’t he hang out with Richard Marx?

n n n

Rich and famous. Rich and famous.

Everybody wants to be rich AND famous, as if those two adjectives were somehow interchangeable and irrevocably linked.

It is quite possible to be rich OR famous; and in my estimation, it would be much better to be rich than to be famous.

(Busboy1: “Who was that masked man?” Busboy2: “I don’t know, but he left a $100 tip.”)

It would be quite easy to be rich and anonymous because you could buy your anonymity. (Did you know you have to pay the phone company NOT to list your number in the book? Did you know you have to pay a crooked bank executive NOT to reveal your money-laundering operation to federal authorities?)

Dummy corporations, shell companies, confidential representatives, fake passports - it’s simple to be rich and anonymous. In fact, it’s probably advantageous because you don’t have random people asking you for money 24/7. (“Brother, can you spare a thousand-dollar share of Coca Cola? C’mon! It’s for the children.”)

But to be famous and poor would be a drag, I think. (“Hey, aren’t you that guy who did that thing and was on TV and lost everything you had? Yeah? This is a stickup.”)

It would be irritating, if not maddening, to have everybody and their mother knowing all about you and not have the resources to make them keep their distance. (“You take one more step in my direction and I swear I’ll spit at you.”)

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about such things. I am neither rich nor famous.

So leave me alone.

•••

I was walking home from the gym the other day feeling pumped up and proud. As I neared my house I saw a neighbor lady out walking her cocker spaniel.

“Oh, don’t worry about him,” she said to me. “He barks, but he doesn’t bite.”

I cast a cocky smile her way.

“Lady,” I said, “I’m a black man from the South. I’ve been chased, bitten and mauled by dogs bigger and tougher than that little thing.”

It was pure braggadocio, but, remember, I was feeling strong and confident from my workout.

So when her cocker spaniel barked at me, I just laughed it off.

When it bit my ankle, I smiled - a painful smile that could have easily been mistaken for a wince, but a smile nonetheless.

But when it threw me to the ground, I began to get worried.

And when it dragged me kicking and screaming into its doghouse, I was honestly scared.

The cocker spaniel balled up its front paws into doggie fists of fury and began pummeling me with jabs, uppercuts and right crosses.

He rose up on his hind legs and did a doggie kung fu move - a jumping spinning back kick with a tail whip. Then he leapt from the ceiling and landed a doggie elbow in my solar plexus.

He grabbed me by my hair and held my face right in front of his. “Tough enough for ya?” the cocker said to me.

I was embarrassed, but I learned a lesson: Never diss a cocker. It might have issues. It might kick your butt.

• Read Carleton Bryant’s daily humor blog at http://washingtontimes.com/weblogs/out-context/

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