ThankYouMy first sexual let down came when I was ten years old. My parents and brother were out of the house, and I was alone watching television in the family room. Clicking through the channels with the dial on the face of the TV, I came across a PBS documentary on pregnancy. It was just starting, and the announcer revealed that the show would culminate with the birth of a baby. I was hooked, held in rapture at the promise of seeing vagina for the first time.

It was 1984, well before the days of internet pornography, and none of the boys I knew had gotten their hands on a nudie magazine. A few boys claimed to have seen their female cousin naked or a neighbor girl through a window, but none of them could describe the vagina clearly. One kid said it was a little container girls had between their legs to hold their things. He knew this because his older brother was always talking about his girlfriend’s “box.” Another boy from an Italian family of bakers argued it had something to do with bread because he had seen his mom pointing at her crotch and complaining about a yeast problem. I needed to see a vagina and make sense of all the stories. This show was my chance to do so and become a respected authority on the topic at Bala Cynwyd Middle School.

After an hour of boring documentary crap, the moment came. The camera showed a woman sitting up on a gurney soaked in sweat and screaming. She was surrounded by a doctor and nurses dressed in white. I got off my belly and moved towards the screen on my knees, getting close enough to make out the green, red and blue phosphor dots. The nurses moved about the woman as the doctor barked out orders. The frame cut to between the woman’s legs, and there it was – a massive bush of dark pubic hair encircling the purple crown of a baby’s head. Bloody secretion squirted from her crotch as she howled. The shriveled baby shot out of her before the scene cut to the doctor cutting the umbilical cord and handing the child to the mother. The doctor’s face filled the next frame as he pulled down his surgical mask to reveal a theatrical look of relief.

I turned off the television in shocked disgust, vowing never to touch vagina.

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GreatDaneHank was my first son, a gentle soul that kids loved and animals were attracted to. We were inseparable, spending every moment of our day together except when I went to work. They wouldn’t accept his kind because, well, Hank was a Great Dane.

Hank was what most folks would consider a lemon. He had Addison’s disease and dilated cardiomyopathy, demanding a regimen of shots and pills. His large brown eyes, which when pointed directly at you, were slightly crossed. The top of Hank’s head had ridge that made him look as if he were wearing an ill-fitting yarmulke. His fur was brown with a black mask, which meant he was a fawn like Scooby Doo though unlike Scooby Hank’s ears weren’t cropped and hung like an elephant’s. A dense swath of curly hair ran along his back like a bad toupee. But Hank’s gentle disposition and lumbering playfulness made him a neighborhood superstar. During our walks folks I didn’t know would approach us and stop to swoon over Hank, clearly knowing who he was as I stood to the side, ignored.

My dog had more friends than me.

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As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t written in a while. This will change next week with a series of new stories that will start in a week or two.

Why haven’t I been writing? I am producing and hosting a new television series called What Could Possibly Go Wrong? for the Science Channel. You can check it out here: The entire season – ten, 1-hour episodes – will be simulcast on Science Channel and Discovery Channel. The show premiers Saturday, February 7 at 10pm.

Please watch!

And expect new stories soon!



MW3Smoke rose from the cigarette in my mouth. It burned my eyes, transforming the setting sun before me from orange to a pale brown. I wasn’t a smoker, but the alcohol coursing through my veins drove me to stop and buy a pack. I stood in front of the 7-11, smoking and staring at the sun

The sun dropped below the horizon as I finished the cigarette. I lit another one, then started my motorcycle and headed home with the cigarette dangling from my lips. It bobbed in the wind, periodically releasing ash and sparks over my shoulder.

Elizabeth walked onto the porch as I pulled into the driveway. She watched me get off my bike, then said flatly, “You’re drunk.” I had not stumbled or said a word. I had only made eye contact with her and yet she knew. After fifteen years together, my wife could tell whether I had been drinking from subtle changes in my behavior that others never noticed.

I lied. “I had one beer.” Actually it was true if I ignored the bucket of liquor that accompanied that beer.

She frowned, seeing though my bullshit. “I thought you were gonna lay off?” When she realized I was not going to answer her question, she continued, “Are you coming in for dinner?”

My son Gage ran from the house on the stiff legs of a two-year-old and yelled, “Da!”

I lied again. “Not now. I want to mount that rear fender.”

“OK. It’ll be on the stove when you’re ready. Gage and I are gonna eat now.”

They went inside the house and I headed for my shop. Once inside, I grabbed the bottle of gin tucked among motorcycle parts on the shelf. I filled my mouth then sat on a stool with the bottle between my feet. I lit a new cigarette and stared at the motorcycle with no intention of working on it.

The smell of Loctite came to me. It was an odor intimately tied in my brain to working on machines. Combined with the fresh wave of alcohol from the gin, it was now relaxing me. I stared at the motorcycle on the lift before me, running my eyes over the curves of sheet metal which mirrored the wheels and engine. It was a lovely form that caused my thoughts to drift slowly. They floated here and there, eventually coming to my first motorcycle and how I had cajoled my Old Man into buying it for me.

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My wife lay on the road, her motorcycle in pieces beside her.

A taxi driver stood nearby smoking a cigarette, oblivious to how a sound had saved his life.

Elizabeth might have been pregnant, but we did not know.

I was scared.


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Russian“You’re what?” the bearded man asked with a crumpled forehead.

“A plutonium physicist,” I answered gasping.

A battle had just ended between twenty-four greasy bikers with wiffleball bats in a penis-shaped ring called the “Coctagon.” I was out of shape but won and after being handed five hundred dollars had slipped away amid the chaos. I was standing alone catching my breath under a scraggly Creosote bush when the bearded man had ambled over.

“How the heck did you become a biker?”

“I’m not a biker,” I answered, breathing heavily. “Just love to build and ride motorcycles. Started when…I was fifteen. Long before—” I took a deep breath then spoke through the exhale, “—I started collecting obscure science degrees.”

“And what possessed you to get in there?” The bearded man pointed over his shoulder at the scattered remains of the chalk lines in the dirt.

“I wrestled in college,” I said then took a deep breath. “And I’ve been drinking.”

“So you build motorcycles, have highfalutin papers, and wrestle. That’s quite a combination,” the bearded man said, rubbing his graying chin. “Never heard that one before.”

I stood up, breath returning. “It’s led to crazy stuff.”

“Like what?” the man asked.

“Grab us beers and I’ll tell you over there,” I said gesturing to a picnic table turned pale from years in the Southern California desert.

The man ambled off.

I sat at the picnic bench and felt the evening breeze wash over my skin. Sweat evaporated, leaving a chill on my skin that balanced the burning in my lungs.

The bearded man returned with beer. “Name’s Frank,” he said and shook my hand.

I returned the greeting then took a long pull of beer. Waves of relaxation passed through my chest and into my arms. “Are you sure you want to hear this?” I asked. “It’s about a run-in I had with a KGB agent in Russia. Not motorcycles.”

“There’s enough of them things around here,” Frank said, looking at the sea of bikes around us. “I wanna hear something else.” He took a seat at the picnic bench and waited.

“OK, then,” I said. “It started with a trip to a secret city in Russian called Sarov where they made nuclear weapons.” 

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A text message sat on the screen of my cell phone.

Biker A: Did u hear what Biker B did?

I replied by thumb: No.


Biker A: He took his $ and left. U believe that crap?

I sighed. My conversation with Biker A was going to be long and having it by text message sounded exhausting. So I wrote back: Can you just call me?

Ten seconds later my phone rang, and Biker A, skipping all conversational formality, launched directly into bitching about Biker B. He screamed about how his partner was an idiot and was doing everything to destroy their business building sportbike-cruiser hybrids and café racer motorcycles. I listened, letting Biker A blow off steam. He needed it. But by the twenty-minute mark, I was getting tired and went to the fridge for a beer. As I popped the cap and leaned against the kitchen counter to take that fantastic first pull, my phone dinged through Biker A’s rant. On the screen was a text from Biker B that read: Biker A is destroying my marriage!

It was going to be a long day.

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