Monday, January 23, 2006

We Don't Have the Toy of Him

The Chartreuse Alcoholic wants to know whether Chartreuse was intelligently designed or whether it evolved. Clearly it was designed, but maliciously so. The 130 herbs that comprise it certainly evolved, but would never have thought to maximize their biological fitness buy jumping into a bottle together and fermenting. And I don't want to hear any debate on this.

And now for something completely different. In sports, Kobe Bryant poured in 81 points in a single game, perhaps the greatest individual sports performance ever, but he is still a prick. I'd take Lebron any day over Kobe. And how solid an actor is Lebron? I love the Nike commercials where he plays himself, his old-school grandad, his older pimp brother (the best character of the lot), and little Lebron junior.

If you can't tell already, there really is no point to this post, other than to push the Hatcher over 10,000 visits on the old site meter. I've actually had more visits, since I didn't put site meter on the template until about 10 months ago. But a light blog will give us all chance to look past the fact that yours truly is a hopelessly homophobic guy who believes the earth is 10,000 years old, at least for a day. (Neither of those is true, by the way).

I'll leave you with a kid's story:

I'm playing in the basement with Jake, when Joe comes trakking down the stairs with the snowboard of a rescue hero.

Joey, holding the snowboard up, announces "I am the evil controller of the whole universe. I have all power. No one can beat me."

I respond "Wait a minute, all powerful evil controller, what about God? God can kick your butt."

Joe: "God's not in this game."

Me: "What do you mean God's not in this game? How can he not be in this game?"

Joey, thinks about it for a second, and then replies: "We don't have the toy of Him."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

PatB writes in a comment to the last post:


BTW, here is something I find much more disturbing than the "success" of Brokeback Mountain:

Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved.

(from CBS News Polls).

Out of curiosity, since you are an educated man, doesn't it bother you that some social conservatives in the Republican party are promoting scientific ignorance? AS a conservative, but educated guy, does the following from the Washington Post bother you:

"President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about "intelligent design," a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity."

In the interest of balance, I'd like to hear your response about this given the number of columns I've read about the misdeeds that take place in academia and other centers of Liberalism (and in fairness, there are some!).

This happens to be a topic of intense interest to the Hatcher, and I've posted on it before, even with an item dredged from the original Ideas Hatched print version circa 1999. Let me first address whether it bothers me or not that some conservatives would like to see intelligent design, or creationism if you prefer, inserted into public school curriculum.

For thousands of years no one was taught evolution, but somehow the West managed to progress significantly in both scientific knowledge and standard of living. That progress has obviously accelerated since Darwin, but outside of the general interest that he might have inspired to study science, there really is no practical economic application of the theory that can account for material progress being tied to evolution. We'd lack some key insight into the natural world, but aside from knowing to finish out you antibiotic, I can't see the specific harm from not studying evolution. And if we posit a material world with no God, it seems to me that the only standard of harm should be whether or not material progress is impeded. If it's not, so what?

On the other hand, survival of the fittest, a concept that came right from the pages of Darwin, has been the favorite mantra of eugenecists from that day forward. Not that it's fair to blame the theory for this. So I think that the harm of not teaching it is likely to be minimal, unless you are of the view that a belief in a divine creator would necessarily fill that void, and that such a view is itself harmful, or on balance harmful. Some people clearly hold that view, but that is a debate for another day.

I do consider myself an educated guy, and I've read multiple books and more articles on the debate over intelligent design (ID) versus evolution. I may suffer from confirmation bias, more out of contempt for the anti-religious bias of guys like Dawkins than any sympathy for the view that the earth is only 10 thousand years old, but I haven't really seen a argument against the scientific points made by the intelligent design guys that sticks. Intelligent design guys are not proponents of literal biblical truth - they accept the scientific consensus about the age of the earth and the reality of evolution as based on the fossil record. They simply argue that the theory is highly unlikely to be the correct explanation of everything it porpurts to explain.

The basic notion behind ID is that some biological living systems are complex, in the sense that they are comprised of many parts that are all required in order for the system to perform its function. Take away one of the parts, and the system would be functionless. They then argue that a system like this is highly unlikely to evolve - i.e. it cannot have built up, one part at a time, with the function improving with each additional part coming on board via genetic mutation. The IDers use the analogy of finding a watch in the woods; you'd come to the obvious conclusion that a working watch was clearly designed, and did not randomly assemble itself from the surrounding woods. They don't dispute that evolution occurs, they just assert that it works its magic on things that are initially inexplicable by evolution.

There a few basic arguments I've seen raised by the evolutionists against this view:

1) Talk about the many examples where evolution does explain changes in a species or the emergence of a new species: there is a little problem of induction here - if evolution explains the change in the color a moth's wings, we're supposed to take it on trust that all life has a similar explanation.

2) Make the claim that ID is not falsifiable - i.e. there is no evidence that can be found to refute it as a theory - therefore it is not a science. I think that is true, but I've never seen it acknowledged that the same is probably true for evolution - it's obviously not a labratory science, and so it is hard to imagine evidence that could be presented that casts doubt on the theory's application in a given instance without the proponents of evolution simply crying that the fossil record is incomplete, followed by the assertion that if it were complete, they'd surely be right.

3) Talk about the imperfection of "design" - the blind spot in the human eye for example - and argue that a perfect creator wouldn't screw up the design. Another variant of this is the idea that the creator has to intervene at multiple points in time, and what self-respecting God would do that? This one always kills me - a prime argument against a challenge to evolution is a conjecture about how a divine creator, who we don't believe in in the first place, would choose to design life, followed by a comparison of that conjecture to what we actually observe. I'm no logician (really, I'm not), but even I can see that is not a scientific argument.

4) Take an example of a complex system put forth by the IDers, and explain how it could have evolved - I've seen this done for only one of many examples offered by the IDers. Of the arguments, this is certainly the best, but even here explaining away one example does not explain away all of them. And still one problem remains - the probability that the evolution explanation makes sense can be exceedingly low.

It seems to me that evolution can do nothing to explain how inanimate matter can suddenly assemble itself into life. Darwin called his book The Origin of Species , not life, probably for good reason. There is another scientific theory - with no real challenge to its accuracy - called the second law of thermodynamics, which asserts that things are always tending to a greater state of entropy (disorder and randomness) in a closed system. The emergence of life through evolution violates that rather severely. So if you'd prefer to keep the argument scientific, please explain to me how the theory of evolution should trump the second law of thermodynamics.

My guess is that the average high school science teacher, and the average person who falls into the 15 percent that believe humans evolved and God did not guide the process, probably also believe: 1) that evolution explains the origin of life, and 2) that the emergence of human life in the timeline, based upon everything we know about rates of genetic mutation, lifespans, etc. (every parameter that would go into a model of evolution), is not an unlikely event. In truth evolution does not explain the origin of life, and the probability of human life developing in the time that it did is infinitesimally small. My guess is that neither of those truths is typically conveyed or understood in a high school biology class - does that promote scientific ignorance? (And speaking more broadly, whether your concern is discouraging the propogation of "scientific ignorance," economic ignorance, or any kind of ignorance, high school is a very thin line of defense for doing so.)

If the Bible said that the moon was definitively made of green cheese, my guess is that we'd be seeing the scientific establishment pushing to teach children in earth science classes the religious theory in order to display the absurdity of such beliefs. The defensiveness of evolutionists in regard to intelligent design is enough to think that it's worth teaching, if only to show that in the end the evolutionist asks the student to take a leap of faith. Maybe their theories are totally true, but it is clear that they will never have evidence as convincing as the rock brought back from the moon, and so they have to suffer the ignorance of us religious yokels. I like to think that God planned it that way.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Not That's There Anything Wrong With That

Professor Vic writes, rather humorously I might add,

"As for the Golden Globes, I'm not really sure what the obvious message is other than that several good movies this year dealt with the topic of homosexuality and gender identity. I'm not sure you would say Hollywood has a "pro-Hobbit" bias just because Lord of the Rings won in 2004, or a "pro-Game Theory" bias because A Beautiful Mind won in 2002, or a "pro-large scale disasters and sappy love stories" bias because Titanic won in 1998. (Ok, that last bias is probably true.)"

Interestingly enough, A Beautiful Mind skipped over dealing with portions of the book that had Nash getting anonymous homosexual sex in park bathrooms, and being arrested for it. I am no psychiatrist (really, I'm not), but perhaps conflicted feelings about his own sexuality contributed to his psychological problems, so they may have been very relevant to the story. But that imagery - anonymous sex in a park bathroom - does not fit the romantic picture that I think Hollywood would like in general to convey with respect to male homosexual behavior in particular; yet I would argue it is far more prevelant than committed monogomous relationships among male homosexuals. Nevertheless, those making a movie have no responsibility to portray the statistically more likely behavior, especially when you can't build much of a story around the more typical behavior - so I don't fault the movie for that.

Now, Hatch is right that Brokeback Mountain wouldn't even have been nominated had it featured a heterosexual relationship. Of course, that is because the taboo nature of the realtionship sets up the dramatic tension of the entire movie. Romeo and Juliet would have been lost to the ages if Juliet had only been a Capulet instead of a Montague. West Side Story would never have swept the Oscars if Maria's brother had only been a Shark instead of a Jet. Cabin Boy would never have become such a classic if... wait, sorry, got carried away there.

Referencing Cabin Boy is never an indication of getting carried away ... if you hadn't abandoned that path, you were more than likely to make a point that would leave your comments unanswerable. Agreed - dramatic tension is required. The assumption of a vast left-wing conspiracy in Hollywood and other portions of the media sets up the dramatic tension for this entire blog, but hopefully the entertainment value of this blog is independent from buying into that assumption. I think the exact manner in which the relationship was taboo in this case is likely to contribute vastly to its critical success and acclaim.

You don't really know what the fued between the Capulets and the Montagues stems from, and it doesn't really matter to the sympathies you feel for the characters. In this case, I think it is likely to make all the difference in the world to those who think it's a great movie: They are not likely to reliably distinguish the strength of the movie from their own great sympathy with the unfairness of the source of dramatic tension. Compare it to Nabokov's Lolita, considered by some a true love story, which also involves a taboo relationship - no one comes away from that book thinking its damned unfair that a fifty year old guy can't be sleeping with a 14 year old girl without taking all kinds of flak over it, nor is it Nabokov's intention that they do so. In this case, my guess is that that exact message - how unfair society was (is?) to gay cowboys in the 1950s - is more important to both those who made the movie and those who critically acclaimed it than the story itself. Of course I haven't seen the movie, because when I want to see a movie I usually just pop Cabin Boy back into the DVD.

So Hollywood is open-minded enough to tell interesting tales about people who happen to be gay and is willing to release films exploring homosexual love stories. Good for them.

A story is a story, and it should be judged on its merits independent of whether or not you agree with the underlying message. But telling any story does not require open-mindedness - I could write a story about two gay cowboys, and my mind is a closed book. Whenever a liberal refers to an "open mind," it is usually applied to someone who agrees with them, and often it can be said that such an open-minded person is not very tolerant of those who disagree with their open-minded view. The zeitgeist today is certainly swinging in favor of the sexual libertarian view that as long as two adults are consenting, eveything's fine. It is possible to hold the opposite view without doing so constituting a hatred of homosexuals, and indeed I think this is true for many. It may be a mistaken view, but it is not by definition one that can only stem from animus. It is no more indicative of a closed mind than adherence to the opposite libertarian view, and to suggest otherwise is itself close minded.

And before you say that Hollywood would never expose the warts of socialist regimes or of Democratic presidents, try watching Oscar nominated films such as Hotel Rwanda, Farewell My Concubine, or The Killing Fields.

Fair point.

Finally, I might add that over the past ten years "pro-gay" Hollywood has nominated more pictures for the Best Picture Oscar that have featured a pig or a ghost as the main character than a homosexual.

If I recall, most of these ghosts and pigs were Commies!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Best Bets are the Ones that Don't Get Made

Some of the best bets I've ever made on sports are the ones I wasn't able to place. I was hellbent early Saturday morning on buying a contract on Tradesports that the Pats would take the AFC championship, but for some reason related to the site I couldn't place it. It is a measure of my power to hex a team that all I have to do is want to bet on them - that discovery could save me a lot of money. I did bet $17.80 to win $100 on the Carolina Panthers taking the NFC; right now I'm up about $20 on that one. Trying to decide whether to let it ride or cash out, take that $20, and put it in the college fund (a mix of funds dedicated to either my kids' education or betting college basketball games, depending upon the likely comparative return to the investments). Or, alternatively, I can take an intriguing bet currently offered on Tradesports: $15 will win you $100 if there is an air strike on Iran in 2006. The Iranians should probably pour a couple billion dollars of oil money into that bet as a hedge.

I haven't really followed this whole Arbamoff scandal - if I am right, the basics are that he extorted money out of Indian casinos to channel it to the campaign coffers of elected officials whose vote in favor of Indian gaming rights was contingent upon such contributions. Scandalous, indeed, but how much less scandalous is it without an explicit quid pro quo? Not all Indian gaming rights have been awarded with Congressional bribes. You may be offended by the methodology in this case, but the result - that a specific group has been given monopoly rights to a lucrative business - whether legally obtained or not, should be troubling to you.

George Will has a great quote to this effect:

"The way to reduce rent-seeking is to reduce the government's role in the allocation of wealth and opportunity. People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money. But those most eager to do the former -- liberals, generally -- are the least eager to do the latter."


Perusing the morning paper - Brokeback Mountain, the story of two gay cowboys, wins Golden Globe, woman playing transvestite wins best actress, man playing gay author wins best actor - ARE YOU GETTING THE MESSAGE? Aside from the obvious one, there are other messages, one of which is the big collective pat on the back people in Hollywood like to give themselves for their vaunted moral sentiments. To the extent that any one of these films actually enjoys some commercial success, they'll view those sentiments as being somewhat less vaunted, and they'll be on to the next cause (don't ever bet on it being Cuban dissidents being tortured by Castro). One review described Brokeback as an "old-fashioned love story." I haven't seen it, but I am pretty sure of one thing - if it was about a heterosexual couple, it wouldn't have even been nominated.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nye's Polonaise Room

Nye’s Polonaise Room is more than a bar – it’s an experience. Across the Mississippi from downtown Minneapolis on Hennepin Avenue, it borders the Northeast section of the city, which is gentrifying in the immediate radius of the bar, but which otherwise remains a working class neighborhood with several bars that betray the European loyalties of the different immigrant classes that settled in the Northeast long ago. Nye’s is a Polish bar, but one that at one time wanted to put on airs with the “Pol
onaise” inserted in the name, which is “Polish” in French. I don’t know if that was supposed to make kielbasa sound more appealing back in the day, but it is what it is. Down the road a couple miles from Nye’s lies Gastov’s, a German bar whose resident analogue to the Superstar was a seventy-something fat old German man who would don a 19th century German military uniform, and a stein of beer hoisted permanently to his thick white handlebar mustache. Significantly, Gastov’s never “acquired” Nye’s back in the 1940s, and both are the better for it.

Nye’s had three separate rooms – two of which could be entered directly. The one that couldn’t was the back part of the restaurant – not much to say about that one. The main entrance came right into the bar portion of the restaurant, and on a Saturday night you barely got in the door before having to fight around Lou Snyder’s crowd, assembled to your left around her piano for a little live karaoke. You squeezed between them and the crowd assembled at the bar to break through to the booths if you were lucky to find one available.

But your best bet, if you got there early enough, was to walk on through to the pure bar section of Nye’s, which also had a separate entrance, where the Saturday night entertainment was the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. If I recall, there were three octogenarians in the band, each looking approximately as close to death as the others. The accordian player was an old Polish woman, Ruth Adams, with layers of fat encased in wrinkled old skin hanging down like sacks from her upper arms. For all I know, she could have incorporated them into here accordian, because that chick could play. She was accompanied by two men who looked like they had constantly arrived to the dinner table five minutes after her, and were thus out of luck. The band’s claim to fame was appearing on Letterman.

I’d like to think that the band had a fourth unofficial member, familiar to all the young ladies who ever set foot in that bar on a Saturday night – a young whippersnapper of a guy in his early 60s – we’ll call him Jean Jean the dancing machine, though I don’t know if he was so nicknamed at the time. His grey hair was crew cut, and he always donned the same extremely dated light blue suit, which he probably wore straight from a night at Nye’s to Church the next day. I never saw him drinking, nor was he ever there with any particular people, and he rarely strayed more than five feet from the 12x12 dance floor. He owned the dance floor, and on a given Saturday night would give a twirl to 20 or 30 young ladies so inspired by the World’s Most Dangerous Polka band.

I find it uplifting to think, when I visit a great historic landmark or cathedral, that the very same air I breathe was inhaled by great historical figures. In the case of Nye’s, the second hand smoke you breathe in nightly was probably exhaled from the lungs of a down on his luck mill worker who’d stop by Nye’s for a bottle of Zywiecz (the Polish beer of choice at Nye’s) on his way home to the northeast section of the city, and that smoke has lingered and re-circulated in the bar for sixty years, with more of the same being pumped into the bar each night.

Nye’s itself is like a living time capsule from a forgotten decade, but it is hard to decide which decade. The décor looked like a mix of the fifties and seventies – I could never do justice by describing it. But beyond the décor, the crowd itself looked like a mix of different casts from period piece movies covering every decade of the 20th century. There were hippies, yuppies, gays, baby boomers, lost generation intellectuals, beat generation hipsters, beat generation gay hippy intellectuals, senior citizens, underage drinkers, and every age in between, not to mention every color of Swede imaginable. And everyone was looking at everyone else and saying to themselves and their immediate group – look at them freaks!

It was impossible not to have a good time at Nye’s, unless you were one of the staff of 80 year old waitresses, who were as a rule miserable. But even that added to the experience of Nye’s. Nothing entertains so much as grandmotherly old ladies trying to weave their way through a thick crowd on a Saturday night with a tray filled with beers. Good times.

Monday, January 09, 2006

2005 Christmas Card - Better Late?

"Sorry Santa, We couldn't risk the coal this year."

That was the Christmas card this year for those of you didn't get one. It's a sequel from last years (go to the December 2004 archives and page down a ways), but can also stand alone. My opinion - overall a poor effort. I compromised my artistic integrity by bowing to the sensitivities of my liberal friends by not arming my kids with automatic weapons. It would have been especially nice to send a card like that to the Children's Defense Fund - one of Hillary's favored causes - with the caption "Now that's what I call Children's Defense!" Nothing like affirming a baby's second amendment rights at Christmas time.

Also, making the decision to be an actor in this year's card left the artistic direction to the Wife of Hatcher - good, but not good enough. At the very least, I should have had the kids hog tie me. Anyway, next year I think I'm going to play it straight with khaki pants, white shirts, and the beach in the background. I'm tired of trying to make it clever. Although, I have been thinking of doing a mock Christmas letter - not to mock those who do - I really do like them, but it might be fun to craft one.

Tomorrow - another walk down bar memory lane to a classic Minneapolis watering hole.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fred's Tavern

We bought several Christmas related cartoons this year to entertain the kids, among them both Santa Claus is Coming to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus. I never noticed this when I was a kid, but it is pretty obvious that the Burgher Meister who bans toys in his little German village in Coming to Town is the same actor as the Heat Miser in the Year Without. No Barney Rubble, that guy, but a great Thespian nonetheless. I wish he was cast in a role less hostile to the season so he could have shown his full range as an actor.


The new year is upon us, and with New Year's eve just behind us, I thought now would be a good time to recount some of the great bars I've had the chance in prior years to frequent. First and foremost among that list would be Fred's Tavern in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, home drinking turf at one time to the Superstar himself. Fred's was the non-meat market meat market, if that makes sense. You were never really out at a bar down the Jersey shore without looking for some companionship, but Fred's was designed in principle to make that fact far less obvious. And for the Hatcher, never very successful in such endeavors, there was a value to striking out in a bar that looked like it was meant only for self-indulgent drinking. A simple square bar in a simple square room; no DJ, no bands, no waitresses, and locals as bartenders. In short, it was a dive.

Across the street physically, and a million miles away metaphorically, was Touche; and it is a credit to the tolerance for diversity of the drinking men I knew that many nights were spent split between Touche and Fred's. But you couldn't claim you were in Touche for any reason other than what was the obvious reason for all who went there, so your defeats were somehow harder to swallow. If you had asked a banker 20 years ago on a Saturday night which bar would continue in posterity, he would have seen a line outside of Touche on a Saturday night with a young and obviously affluent clientele just busting to spend money, and across the street he'd see a mixed crowd trickling in slowly, among them the Superstar in his peculiar outfit and locals with leathered skin who like like they just crawled out of a Jimmy Buffet song. He would have said Touche, and he would have been dead wrong. Today the entire block that Touche and the adjoining motel once occupied is a barren bayfront field, and Fred's lives!

Oddly enough, though I spent many more nights drinking in Fred's with guarding buddies, most of my memories of the place involve high school friends. The giant, Dusty Eggs, and their college friend Bad Richie rented a place in Sea Isle the summer after they graduated from college, but frequented Fred's from their palatial island estate (it was perhaps the lowliest summer rental I've ever seen, and that is saying something) one island north. Toward the end of summer, as these guys were on the eve of leaving the beach for their first real job, I wandered over to Fred's and found them coming out of the package store with a case for the road, heading back to Philly determined to show up hung over for their first day of work.

A year or two later, after the legend of the Superstar had spread, and my high school friends had heard the stories and seen the imitations from me, the giant and Dusty Eggs were in Fred's with me, determined to experience the Superstar. He was a late arrival that night, so much so that these guys were beginning to think I was the Superstar. Finally he came into Fred's, but now he had to live up to the billing. If you know the stress of highly recommending a movie to a friend and then watching for his reaction , I have to tell you this was ten times worse. The giant was especially aggressive, and all too obvious, in trying to draw out the Super. He knew the stories, and he thought all you needed to do as a total stranger was lead the Super to telling each one with a comment obviously designed to solicit them. Example: to get the Super to say "It's a psychological thing with the Superstar - I don't eat shark, and they don't eat me," the giant would walk up to the Super and say, apropos of nothing - "I had mahi mahi for dinner tonight." This approach only scared the Super, and he never took the bait.

I was getting quite desparate, seeing the Superstar experience go up in flames, so much so that I couldn't think of a way to salvage the evening. The giant was also getting frustrated in his efforts, when Senior Senior guard Mike Cantwell, who did not know the giant but could see what he was trying to accomplish, recommended to the giant that he buy the Super a drink. And sure enough this is all it took - before you knew it the Super was flashing the giant his prison ID card, and there was joy in Fred's.

A third trip stands out in my mind, when Dusty Eggs and I made the trip to Fred's from his home closer to Philly. At one point while at Fred's, he flat out disappeared. I went looking for him the next day to no avail. He finally turned up that afternoon - in Fred's of all places. Turns out he had stumbled out of Fred's and down to the beach, where he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. His parents came to bail him out in the middle of the night, and in a testament to the blind love a mother has for her son, her mom immediately suggested that someone must have slipped a micky in one of his drinks. Dusty Eggs grabbed onto that explanation, probably too eagerly for his dad to be convinced, and I am sure to this day his mom believes that the only rational explanation. Since that time, I think there have been at least three other micky incidents he's been tied to. When he reunited with Fred's the next day, he put $10 in the jukebox and programmed in the same Paul Abdul song for 40 straight plays. The bartender unplugged the machine after about the 3rd playing.

So if you are ever in Stone Harbor, have a drink at Fred's and breathe the same air the Superstar used to swallow down with his cheap booze, and see if you can fire up a Paula Abdul song on the box, but keep a careful eye on your drink at all times.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Boy Who Cried Tooth

“Dear Tooth Fairy,

Gee, I know I’m bucking many many years of time-honored tradition here, but you see I just lost my first tooth – a bottom front – and I want to get something for that, but I also really want to keep the tooth itself. What I’m going to do is put the tooth in a plastic Ziploc, and place it under my pillow as proof that I lost it, and you can leave the usual goodies under the pillow. I know this bucks protocol, but really what use could you possibly have for a wee small tooth. As for me, I am what you call a collector, so I’d sure like to keep it.

Your Toothless Friend,


Well, that was the gist of the letter I was going to write on Joe’s behalf on his self-described “lucky day,” when the tooth he’d been progressively wiggling finally came out. The adult tooth was already coming in behind, and quickly repositioned itself once the baby tooth fell out. The letter had to be altered because Joe learned a hard lesson – never play with something of value on the wooden deck if the valued possession is significantly smaller than the space between the deck boards. Just like that the tooth joined whatever it is that lives beneath our deck, evidence to be found later when they investigate allegations of child abuse – “Mosquito, huh Hatcher – do they land on your kids teeth as well, you SOB?”

A lost tooth immediately dashed Joe’s hopes of scoring a toy without having to give up the enamel goods. Now he was looking at an 0-for, unable to produce any proof to the tooth fairy. This is when dad has to step in and lie through his teeth (so to speak) about his own childhood, recalling factually similar circumstances in which the tooth fairy still managed to deliver the goods. Speculation based upon decades of life experience as to the likely actions of the tooth fairy given the specific facts at hand is not sufficient to quell the fears of a kid who has lost his first tooth – he needs rock solid evidence that his pillow will shelter some tiny treasure by morning. So I concocted a story about my losing a tooth back in the day and writing a letter inviting the tooth fairy to pry open my lips to inspect the empty socket as proof.

Now, we are working on tooth number 5, with numbers 3 and 4 coming within 3 days of each other, straddling Chirstmas day itself. And the upper front teeth to boot. For about a week and a half, he was getting long in the tooth for both of them, to the point where we were calling him SpongeJoe. When he lost that fourth, I was visited by a muse that had me up through the night writing the lyrics and the music to a little diddy I call “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” No small feet for a guy who can’t read music or play any instruments. I got the little guy up at 3 in the morning for a recording session; though listless at first, after a couple cups of coffee he was singing like a canary with a slight lisp. Anyway, after shipping it off to the record company I come to find out some thief recorded the same song decades ago. Story of my life.

The third tooth, like the first, was lost before the tooth fairy could even be persuaded to leave it behind. I came home from work, the last before my vacation days prior to Christmas, to find everyone in the basement. Joe beckoned me down to the basement to see, while Bill came running up to show me a ginger bread house he had made at school. Bill, with no lost teeth despite being as many as five minutes older than Joey, was left alone near the counter where lost tooth #3 was allegedly sitting, as I went down to have Joey show me the surprise. Wow Joe! Where is it? We go up to find it, and it has vanished into thin air. I partly suspect Billy, who despite being five minutes older than Joey has lost no teeth, swept that tooth right into the garbage disposal, but I have no proof outside the common sense observations that a kid who is five minutes older than another kid cannot abide being down 3 to 0, and that solid enamel does not tend to sublimate.

So again, some quick thinking was in order as we all hypothesized about what might have happened, while Joe worked himself into an increasing panic. I suggested to Jenelle that we put Billy under some hot lights, deprive him of sleep, and desecrate his Koran until he coughed up the truth, but she ran upstairs, put a couple of bucks under Joey’s pillow, and came down to suggest that maybe the Tooth Fairy had so many lost teeth today that she had to get an early start, so maybe he ought to check under his pillow. And there it was.

Next morning he wrote a letter himself asking for it to be returned. For Christmas he got a box to collect things, and excitedly said that now the tooth fairy wouldn’t be able to “swipe” his tooth. A couple days later he lost the fourth. But in between, Bill lost his first, though the little bugger has yet to confess his crime. And just the other yesterday, while driving with the kids, Billy announced excitedly that he just lost another tooth. He didn’t – he was just trying to get a rise out of us. As soon as he confessed he hadn’t, Joe said in a dry and superior tone: “the boy who cried tooth.”

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