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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Barry Dave

«Bad Habits», Dave Barry


To Mom and Dad, who never forced me to go see Santa Claus.


When people come to my home for the first time, they often ask me, “Dave, where’s the bathroom?” To which I always answer, “Down the hall there, on the left.” And from that point on we are usually close friends.

I bring this up because people often wonder what I’m really like. “Dave,” they often ask, when they get out of the bathroom, “are you really as witty, insightful, articulate, and handsome as your writing suggests?” I would have to say that yes, I am, although I am not as tall as you might think. I’m maybe five nine. But then a lot of truly great writers were of average height or less. William Shakespeare was only fifteen inches tall!

Which leads us to accuracy. When Doubleday & Company decided, after days of heavy drinking, to publish this book, they hired a panel of extremely brilliant nuclear physicists, who combed through these essays and marked, with a red pencil, every sentence that might conceivably be accurate, and these sentences were all removed with pruning shears. So I freely admit, right up front, that there are no facts left in this book, and I don’t want you Little League coaches out there to send me a lot of cretin letters informing me that a ten-year-old can’t really throw a baseball six hundred miles an hour. Okay?

So there you have it, except for my philosophy of life. My mother used to say to me: “Son, it’s better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick.” I think that still makes a heck of a lot of sense, even in these troubled times.

Household Perils

It’s In The Genes

My wife and I were both born without whatever brain part it is that enables people to decorate their homes. If we had lived in the Neanderthal era, ours would be the only cave without little drawings of elk on the walls.

When we moved into our house eight years ago, there was this lighting fixture in the dining room that obviously had been installed by vandals. Simply removing this fixture would be too good for it; this is the kind of fixture that needs to be taken out in the backyard and shot. When people came over to visit, back when we first moved in, we’d gesture toward the fixture derisively and say “Of course that’s got to go.”

Of course we still have it. We have no way of deciding what to replace it with. What we have done is get an electrician to come in and move the fixture to another part of the dining room, because, after years of thinking about it with our defective brains, we thought this might be a good decorative idea. To move the fixture, the electrician had to punch holes, some of them big enough to put your fist through, in the wall and ceiling. I have taped plastic sandwich bags over these holes, to keep the air from rushing in and out.

So now, after eight years, we have the original vandal fixture, plus we have holes with plastic bags over them. We eat in the kitchen. We will always eat in the kitchen, and our dining room will always look like the South Bronx. We have learned that anything we try to do to improve it will just make it worse, because of these missing brain parts.

We do a lot of work with plastic bags. We made curtains for several rooms by taping up dark plastic garbage bags. My wife feels guilty about this, because she believes women are supposed to have this Betty Crocker gland somewhere that secretes a hormone that enables them to sew curtains. God knows she has tried. She reads articles, she takes measurements, she even goes to the fabric store, but because of what she perceives to be a deficiency of her Betty Crocker gland, she never actually produces any curtains. Which is fine, because I have a deficiency of my Mr. Goodwrench gland and would never put them up.

So we use plastic garbage bags. They work fine, but I have noticed that most of our friends, now that we’re all grown-ups, have switched over to actual cloth curtains. Also they have tasteful Danish furniture. They just went out and got it somehow, as if it were no big deal, and now everything matches, like those photographs in snotty interior design magazines featuring homes owned by wealthy people who eat out and keep their children in Switzerland. We have this green armchair we got at an auction for twenty-five cents. This is not one of those chairs that are sold for a song but turn out to be tasteful antiques worth thousands of dollars. This chair, at twenty-five cents, was clearly overpriced. It looks, from a distance, like a wad of mucus, and it could not possibly match any other furniture because any furniture that looked like it would have been burned years ago.

Accompanying this chair is a sofa that some people we know tried to throw away six years ago, which we have covered with a blanket to prevent guests from looking directly at it and being blinded or driven insane. Such is the tastelessness of this sofa. And these are two of our better pieces. The only really nice furniture we own is manufactured by the Fisher-Price toy company for my son’s little Fisher-Price people, although I certainly don’t begrudge them that, inasmuch as they have no arms or legs.

I imagine you’re going to suggest that we go out and buy a nice piece of furniture, and then, when we can afford it, another one, and so on until we have a regular grown-up neat and tasteful home. This would never work. If we were to put a nice piece of furniture in our living room, all the other furniture would wait until we’d gone to bed, then ridicule and deride the new furniture, and emit all kinds of shabbiness germs into the living room atmosphere, and by morning the new furniture would be old and stained and hideous. I also firmly believe that if we were to leave our chair in one of our friends’ tasteful living rooms for several days, it would become sleek and Danish.

This interior decorating problem extends to cars. None of my friends, for example, have plaster models of their teeth in their cars. I have two in my car. My dentist gives them to me from time to time, sort of like a treat, and I’m afraid to throw them away for fear he’ll get angry and make me come in for an appointment. I keep them in my car because God knows the house is already bad enough, but I know they are not tasteful. I can’t put them under the seat, because my car, like all the cars we’ve ever owned, has developed Car Leprosy, which causes all the nonessential parts such as window cranks to gradually fall off and collect under the seat and merge with French fries from the drive-thru window at the Burger King. I’m not about to put my teeth down there. So they sit in plain view, grinning at me as I drive and snickering at my lack of taste.

My wife and I are learning to accept all this. We realize that if the present trends continue, we will not be able to admit people into our house without blindfolds. I can live with that. What I worry about is that we will get in trouble with the bank or the government or something. One day there will be a violent pounding on the door, and we will be subjected to a surprise inspection by the Committee of Normal Grown-ups, headed by my wife’s home economics teacher and my shop teacher. They’ll take one look at our curtains, and they’ll take away our house and cars and put us in a special institution where the inmates are roused at 4:30 A.M., chained together, and forced to install wallpaper all day. Nancy Reagan would be the warden.

Barbecuing Is The Pits

What could be more fun than an outdoor barbecue? I can think of several things offhand, such as watching the secretary of state fall into a vat of untreated sewage. But that would probably cause us to go to war in Nicaragua or somewhere, so I guess we’ll have to settle for a barbecue.

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