I need to say right up front…this story about Herkimer, Aloysius, and the Surf Bathroom is true. I know after reading about Sam the Rutabaga (not his real name), you might have been concerned that our refrigerator was actually empty. No. It wasn’t. For effect, and with great speed while Amelia was at a meeting, I pulled everything out of the fridge, wiped down the shelves, put Sam in, shot the pictures, pulled him out, and restocked the refrigerator, all nice, clean, and fresh. Anything for a story. Learned that In Journalism School at IU. Sort of.
And after all, I do kid a lot. That’s one of the guiding principles of Grandadhood. Yes, I admit I authored those principles after years of practicing them during Dadhood. It’s not at all an insurmountable problem, though, and I have recognized there are grandkiddo age differences to consider when choosing to josh or not josh. For example, I conducted a scientific experiment while with some of my grandkids at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. I simply determined to call every animal we saw a chicken. Laughs and agreement from the oldest, flummoxed looks from the middle ones, and downright anger from the littlest…”Those are giraffes, Grandad, not chickens!” Indeed.
This re-naming is a grandadding skill I use often. Zoo animals, objects, and the kids themselves. Once again, age comes into play. Calling little Jared “Stinky Face” from the book of the same name elicits a direct, enthusiastic and somewhat defiant exclamation, “I not Stinky Face, I Jared Adam Boggs!” So he is.
But, after spending a week at our house, going to Great America and movies, older Brayden and Austin became, yes, Herkimer and Aloysius. They embraced their new names, giggling and calling each other by them. Then later, when Brayden was at home, his dad called him “Aloysius” (evidently this reassigning of names is somewhat hereditary). Brayden replied, “No Dad. I’m Herkimer. Austin is Aloysius!” Perfect!
This story is not about my dear re-named grandsons though. In fact, I have borrowed their re-names for the two new members of the family. Where did I get those names? I have no recollection.
So. I am not kidding here. This story is absolutely on the level. Oh. If you ever begin to doubt the veracity of my words, my grandson Bryce and I have worked out a fail-safe nonverbal signal. Whenever he wants a straight, direct, on-the-level answer from me, he uses a hand motion about shoulder high which resembles a moving horizontal karate chop. He does that, and I shoot straight. Works every time. Now you know. Let’s go on and walk in truth.
Once upon a time, two teenagers got married. They had a nice honeymoon in lovely Portage, Indiana for a full three days. Then, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps, this young couple moved to Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii to live for their first year of marriage. Love in the Land of Aloha with roadblocks courtesy of Mother Green. Backwards? Yes. The first of many things we’ve done backwards, upside down, in the dark, wrong, and by the seat of our pants.
Now, almost 37 years later, things aren’t all that different, though it is harder to hang upside down. Yep, arthritis. We’ve been back to Hawaii several times since that first year. And this summer, we visited Amelia Island in Florida. Both of us like the palm trees, sunny warmth, and the water.
While wandering through an antique shop in Fernandina Beach, Florida, one of us, not sure which, said, “Hey! Let’s decorate the downstairs family room bathroom with a beach theme!” Somehow, I latched onto the project. “Latching on” is a phenomenon that occurs in me from time to time. A button gets pushed in my brain. An iron door creaks open, and suddenly, out whirrs the Tasmanian Devil of my creativity and it takes over. This happened recently with the Green Hornet, in fact.
Amelia then notes a Code 7E has occurred: Bill has become Energized, Engaged, Elusive, Excited, Enthusiastic, Expensive, and Expressed about something. Code 7Es have happened with some frequency over our 36+ years. It’s sort of like a tsunami warning and accompanying wave. Batten down the hatches and all.
That bathroom was no longer merely the nice but boring extra potty and shower in our house. It became my quest, my grail, a three-dimensional target of my heat-seeking creativity missiles. I was unleashed. My canvas beckoned, drew, and mesmerized me. I responded.
First up was my surfboard vision. I have never been on a surfboard (which of course makes me a hodad in beach lingo). My sons Jon and Brad have. I did learn to body surf, which at certain times in Hawaii was sort of like placing myself in a large washing machine, getting spewed out, and then slammed into the sand in a twisted bundle with powerful force. But then there were times of the incredible rush zooming through the water. Great fun!
I decided the first thing the bathroom needed was a surfboard. Not the fake kind with the fake shark bites. Nope. It had to be real and it had to have seen action. I searched high and low for just the right board. After all, I wanted to be able to pull it down and use it should the opportunity arise….you never know. I found a 6-ft. long surfboard in Michigan, it having caught waves along the Lake Michigan coast. Not kidding. Well broken in and the right size. Done! Took off the fin and mounted it on the wall.
Now, this is my first real interior decorating experience. Just like the principles of Grandadhood I mentioned earlier, I learned there are serious axioms here. Like when I brazenly attempted to hang just two items in a grouping on the wall. Penalty! A 15-yarder for EOD (Even Object Disgustingness). Groupings must feature an odd number of objects. I didn’t know. I am sorry. And I also violated PHM (Picture Height Mandate). I admit I don’t fully grasp this one other than I know to put the picture where I think it should be, and then lower it six inches as a workaround. Ignorance is no excuse of the law.
After the surfboard, things moved quickly. I added a Hawaiian surf shower curtain, real fish netting around the window, a Polynesian hulie hulie Barbie, surf woody towel hooks, a surfboard rug, real swim fins, a little VW surf buggy, and photos of Jon and Brad surfing in Hawaii. I have to confess that Jon, with his then shoulder-length hair, looked just like the Big Kahuna himself. I miss that hair. I miss my hair. Sorry—pardon me. I’m having a moment. Okay.
Still, the room needed something. Ah! I found a place that painted custom designed toilet lids…welcome to “Joe’s Crab Shack.” I needed a Joe, so I found Joe the Parrot who has the important job of serving up the toilet paper. Yes, that means he stares right at the seat occupant, but it’s conquerable. I discovered and built a fun 60’s era “Silly Surfers” model kit of “Hot Dogger Hangin’ Ten” and found a place for him, too.
Almost there. Then, I got an idea that gave me chicken bumps! We needed residents for this new locale. Who better than Herkimer and Aloysius, live and in-person hermit crabs? I built a little barn wood table to hold their tank and added a bamboo lamp. These two guys moved into their new crabitat just a few days ago. They’re getting settled as our Surf Bathroom Beach Bums. Interesting little fellows, of the Caribbean species know as “PP.” Though that is appropriate for the room in which they now live, it actually means “Purple Pincher.” Yes, I did indeed put two live hermit crabs right smack in our bathroom. No, they cannot get out. I am almost sure of that.
With the crab boys in place, I took a step back. It looked good, but something still was lacking (I’m giving you a glimpse into my creative process here). Hmmm. Yes! Of course! This part was just finished today. What else does a surf bathroom need? Yep…you got it… the Beach Boys! I rigged a clip from “Surfin’ USA” to play every time the toilet lid is raised. Yes, I did. I just feel warm all over.
Though this aspect of the Surf Bathroom has been the subject of some discussion between Amelia and me, I believe my strong academic reasoning has won her over or will soon. Music in the bathroom is certainly a wise idea for at least two reasons. First, as everyone knows, hearing music while in a certain position in the bathroom relaxes the sphincter, boosting efficiency and creating relief. And once that happens, the music will also help prevent embarrassment by disguising any audible evidence of your success.
On the other foot, I admit, to the infrequent Surf Bathroom guest, the surprise of hearing “Surfin’ USA” while merely lifting the lid may cause a fright, and could possibly lead to incontinence in older visitors. Plus, though not unnecessarily loud, the music could be seen by some as an unwelcome announcement to the household that one was now preparing to use the toilet. While I have no problem with the second possibility personally and I believe my scientific evidence outlined above more than compensates, these are scenarios I would like to avoid. With that in mind, I have designed a sound system that plays just 10 seconds of the song and can be easily deactivated for certain guests. An artist hates to compromise. But sometimes things are necessary in the interest of world peace (at least my world).
Herkimer and Aloysius had their first outside visitors yesterday. One of Amelia’s piano students, Michael and his mom wanted to see them. The crab boys were hiding as they do, but after seeing the Surf Bathroom, Michael’s mom wanted to know if I did interior decorating for a living. Said she was looking for someone. I howled with laughter. So, always the opportunist, I’m forming “Chez Guillaume” which means “House of William.” Either that or “Bathrooms by Billy.” My style is what I call “Haphazard Realism.” You have my email. Blog readers get a 5% discount.
Should you be planning to drop by, and I hope you do, I will introduce you to Herkimer and Aloysius. If you want them to like you, just bring them a small fish head. And be sure to let me know your favorite song so I can re-program the Surf Bathroom throne to make you feel right at home.
For now, I’m waxin’ down my surfboard. Can’t wait for June.