Stay At Home, Dad.

Stay At Home, Dad!

Last week, I taught my son Antonio how to shave. He’s 15 years old now and sporting that little peach fuzz, caterpillar ‘stache that you can only be proud of when you’re that age. But, alas, as a member of his school’s JROTC program, he’s angling for some personal hygiene inspection points by breaking out the razor for his inaugural shave.

Wow. Shaving. Where did the years go? Has it really been that long since we took him home from the hospital? Yesterday, he’s chewing on his toes in a highchair and today, he’s shaving?!? How can that much time have elapsed since I took on the greatest challenge of my life? I’m talking, of course, about my Stay-At-Home Dad Period…

My wife, Carol, and I got the news that we were expecting in December 1996. It was soon after that when she first broached the subject of our possible role reversal, and it looked to me as if she expected a quick and emphatic “NO!” She nervously beat around the bush for a while, trying to set up the most compelling narrative possible in the hopes of convincing me to stay at home with my son while she went to work full-time. I had to stop her in her tracks, though. A look of defeat spread across her once-hopeful face as she braced for my rejection. That is, until she heard, instead, this fateful sentence from her dearly beloved:

“Stay at home? With the baby? At home, right? Meaning, at home and not at a job??!? I’LL DO IT!!! I will SO do it!!!”

She looked more than taken aback by my instant embracing of this idea, and she wrapped me up in a tight hug that said ‘I love you for understanding and letting me do this!’ And I was truly happy for her. Carol was the brightest woman I’d ever met, so to watch her toil for so many years at a long string of crappy temp positions that represented only a paycheck to us was heartbreaking. She was so qualified, but like many recent college graduates, she just couldn’t find a job that challenged her in the least. That changed, though, when she interviewed at a videogame company in Long Island in 1992.

As an origin story, her tale challenges the Apple Garage Myth for moxie. Interviewing for a lowly administrative position at first, she took a tour of the facility with the interviewer after the initial sit-down, and eventually ended up destroying him in a popular arcade fighting game made by the company. Thinking her chances were now shot, having over-competed her way out of the job, she was dumbstruck to find out that they now wanted her to supervise the company’s brand new Testing Department. At a videogame company. Did you hear what I said?? She would be playing videogames, all day, for a living!! What kind of job was that??? Who was I to stand in the way of that kind of nirvana?

So with the positive pregnancy test still in hand in late 1996, Carol must have been ruing her woeful timing just a little bit. She had climbed the mountain after a near-lifetime in the valley, only to be toppled by… a beautiful life-changing event like having a baby. Would her husband understand her need to follow through on this journey, to prove to herself that she was destined for and finally rewarded with a more satisfying work experience than just menial, secretarial tasks?

Oh yeah, her husband was cool with it. In fact, I was positively ecstatic about the whole turn of events. Just the thought of staying at home, Monday to Friday, while other people rushed off to work was enough to seal the deal for me. Who hasn’t dreamed of that very situation? I had. Often. The only difference was there would be a baby in the frame with me as well. No biggie, I thought.

I pictured myself sprawled out shirtless on the couch, eating potato chips off my bare chest, rocking the baby’s cradle with my foot as I watched NFL Films reruns from 9 am to 5 pm. In this scenario, the baby sleeps for probably 6 to 7 hours, waking only to smile and coo at me while I spoon-feed him his Gerber baby food, not leaving a single spot on his ‘Who Farted?’ bib. When Wifey arrived home with the bacon, I would happily fry it up in a pan, sated as I was by my blissful day of blazing new paths in the Dad Domain.

Ahhh, the dreams of a parenting rookie. They make me laugh now, and I mean a spit-your-drink-across-the-cafeteria laugh, not a grizzled-old-veteran chortle.

Another gem of mine, to cement the notion of how absolutely clueless I was in regard to the bee’s nest I was about to climb into: the first night with the baby, I asked my mother-in-law if I should set the alarm clock. When she asked, “What for?” I looked at her in disbelief before blurting out, “So I’ll know what time to feed him!” My mother-in-law is a stoic type, but she erupted with laughter after I’d finished with that corker of parental ignorance. “Oh, you’ll know when he wants to eat. Believe me, you’ll know.” She left the room laughing, and I still didn’t know.

Anyway, back to the Before-Baby Bliss. It was with visions of laborless freedom that I approached my new gig as SAHD. That’s what parenting websites and other Stay-At-Home Dads called us back then. That acronym didn’t catch on in a big way, did it? That’s probably for the best, as I came to discover that we SAHDs were not looked upon very fondly by the other parents at the local playgrounds, parks, and other child-friendly haunts that I frequented. And when I say ‘other parents,’ I mean mothers.

The mothers I encountered were pretty sure that something as biologically imperative as motherhood shouldn’t be left to someone without ovaries. Upon entering the playground, I was eyed with suspicion by packs of know-it-all moms. God forbid I tried to add to a discussion on parenting issues. The hairy eyeball was in copious supply on those days where I bravely offered any pearls of my very limited parental wisdom within earshot of the members of this Mommy Mafia. This freeze-out eventually convinced me to keep to myself at the park more often than not, causing me to miss a ton of virtual think-tank conversations on various childrearing topics, all beginning with the line, “Well, you know what Oprah says…”

The early going was fraught with a lot of rejection, much more rejection than I’d ever encountered in any other pursuit in my life. The ways that you could be wrong while caring for a new baby were manifold, and I sought out every one of those ways like a dying man crossing items off his bucket list.

“Bottle? You want a bottle??”

Bottle smacked to the floor.

“Wrong. Okay, no bottle. You need some Cheerios? Want some O’s? You love—”

Cheerios everywhere, thanks to a pudgy right hook to the cloyingly bright orange Cheerio container.

“Wrong. Wow, it’s not even 8:10 in the morning, my eyes are still half-closed, and I’m failing to keep a two-month-old happy at a land speed record pace. I should call my Mom. She’ll know what to do.”

I pondered getting a Batphone-type connection to my mother’s phone number—you know, the kind where Commissioner Gordon picks up the red phone and instantly reaches the Caped Crusader. Who had time to punch in seven numbers, or even one speed-dial key, with a shirt full of baby puke and a mind full of baby-induced mush? I needed advice, and I needed it now, dammit! My mom almost always answered on the first ring, and never betrayed any kind of ‘What does he want NOW?’ feelings during our many therapy sessions phone calls. She was an oracle, a guru, my Yoda. Sometimes I called just to say thanks, to tell her that I had just finished cleaning up a mess so gross, so putridly inhuman, that I had to call and thank her because, more than likely, she had done the same for me when I was making those gross messes. I’d have built her a shrine…if I’d had a minute.

Underestimating the time crunch that parenting presented was a critical error on my part early on in the game. Veteran parents counseled me (very wisely, it would turn out, but it was utterly lost on me) to ‘sleep when they sleep, you’ll be much fresher for it when you both wake up.’ Huh? Nap? In the middle of the day? What was I, a baby???

Besides, if I did that, I might miss The Jerry Springer Show, and that was not happening. Jerry and his inbred guests, not to mention the slavering audience members, would become some of my closest companions during my son’s late morning or early afternoon naptimes. I would vegetate on the couch, getting intimately involved with America’s hillbillies, a demographic that I had little interaction with during my childless heyday. I was obviously missing out on a lot of schadenfreude-cum-entertainment, and I ate it up. Prone as I was on the couch, I also ate up my share of junk food, although not off my bare chest, as previously fantasized about in my early, pre-SAHD reveries. Jerry vs. Napping? A blowout win for Jerry. Sorry, 2,000 years of civilization and human evolution. One giant step backward for mankind, thanks to me.

But after a few trying months of stumbling through the day-to-day caring for my son, a funny thing happened: I got better at it. I don’t know when, how, or why, but I just know it happened. Diaper disasters were anticipated. Bottles were ready when wailed for. Tantrums were quickly nullified by pressing the right button. It got to the point where I felt like I was one step ahead of everything, like the way athletes say the game slows down for them in crunch time. Things fell into a rhythm and it made the whole experience much easier to handle, and the rewards became as euphoric as the rejections had been soul-crushing. It was still the hardest job I’d ever had, but I no longer felt like I was on probation and one more written warning away from being let go.

When we were expecting our second son, Thomas, in 2001, Carol didn’t have to ask twice if she could stay home this time. As great a ride as it had been, I knew that a 9-to-5 day job would be many times easier than what I had just been through, and so we switched roles yet again. It was bittersweet, but I knew that Carol would get just as much joy out of the experience as I had. Now it would become my lot to be met by the miniature cheering section when I came through the front door at the end of the day, and that was its own separate but equal slice of heaven. Having done both sides of the Dad role, I would urge any young father to leap at the chance to stay at home, if only to get more of an appreciation for how hard a job raising kids on a day-to-day basis really is.

And so it was with a lump in my throat that I schooled my now-15-year-old Antonio in the mysteries of the clean-shaven face. It’s a long way from swabbing his butt with Desitin all those years ago, but it’s a beautiful journey that continues with each passing day. My early worries about him have been mostly assuaged as I’ve watched him evolve into quite a responsible young man. I remember his pediatrician counseling me during the toughest part of potty-training, saying “Don’t worry. He won’t walk down the aisle at his wedding wearing a diaper.” Good call, Doc.

And he won’t have 5 o’clock shadow at the altar, either, if I can help it.


Do You Hear What I Hear? A Christmas Tale (of the Tape)


I received a portable tape recorder from my parents as a 12th birthday gift, and it was an absolute game-changer for me.

See, up to that point, I’d only ever used the primitive tabletop recorder that my parents had owned for years, compete with its tiny hand-held microphone that plugged into the side of the bulky unit. As clunky as that dinosaur was, the thrill of hearing your own voice played back for the first time through that cheap, tinny speaker was close to magical, especially for anyone who can remember a time before smartphones and iPods.

My siblings and I would usually record everyday conversations, songs or just general goofiness, but most of the time we were limited to doing so at the dining room table, as we needed to be near an electrical outlet for the power. Batteries were an option, of course, but my parents weren’t going to allow us to burn through boxes of pricy ‘D’ cells so we could save our crappy rendition of the Brady Bunch theme song for posterity.

To be liberated from the old recorder’s tabletop tyranny was exhilarating. The portable unit’s very portability was by far its sexiest feature, and even though I still struggled to have anything remotely interesting enough to record, that didn’t stop me from wearing out the Record button over those first few months. I carried it everywhere I went, clutching it tightly, cub reporter-style, or swinging it by its flimsy plastic strap, which may still be the nerdiest tech accessory I’ve ever seen.

To say that my early recordings were eclectic is a gross understatement. I recorded everything. Nay, anything; I recorded anything. I taped TV reruns by sitting in of front of the television speaker with the recorder pressed right up against it. I taped spats between squabbling neighbors. I captured cats purring, dogs barking, doorbells ringing, cars revving. By far, though, the weirdest thing I recorded was the sloshy sounds my belly made after I’d guzzled a large glass of Coke. Playing one of those early cassettes front-to-back was as avant-grade as experimental sound could get, even for the 1970s. I’d like to think I was ahead of my time, but I think my parents were starting to worry that their gift to me was warping my young impressionable mind. That tends to happen when you spy your son with a tape recorder jammed up against his stomach at the dinner table.

And so it was that my parents came up with a plan to curb my wayward audio fetish. They were sensible adults, and, as such, they had come up with the very sensible idea to give me an honest-to-goodness recording job. They must have thought the machine’s utility would blow me away, once I used it for their Establishment purposes. It’s clear to me now why their plan failed: they couldn’t have known that their son was the Bertolt Brecht of the portable tape recorder scene! I was Kerouac with a built-in condenser mic! I couldn’t be tamed by a couple of squares like them. Even if the job involved Christmas Carols…

Yup. The job involved Christmas Carols.

Christmas Eve was, for as long as I could remember, the night that my mother’s side of the family came to our house to celebrate the holiday with us, every single year. They were an extremely musical clan, and they used to ring in Christmas at the stroke of midnight by singing a capella versions of carols starting at 11:45pm on the 24th. When midnight came, the youngest child in attendance would dramatically place the miniature figurine of the Baby Jesus into the Nativity scene. Beautiful, right? Enter my parents and their plan…

“Charles,” my Mom began, “we think it would be a nice idea if you could put some Christmas songs on your tape recorder for everybody to sing along with on Christmas Eve. What do you think? Wouldn’t Grandma love that?”

Hello? A chance for me to stand in the spotlight with my tape recorder held high (one-handed at that! Portable!) on the biggest holiday of the year?!? Yeah, I definitely wanted some of that glory, for sure. But with cassette tapes at a premium, I wondered what treasured piece of my collection would have to bite the dust to make way for “Silent Night” and the like. I wasn’t ready to erase any “Odd Couple” or “Honeymooners” episodes just yet; my arm had gone numb getting those half-hour shows on tape, and besides, I had to stifle way too many laughs to get clean recordings. Those were keepers, there was no way I was wiping those out, even for Grandma.

As the 25th closed in, it looked like a toss-up between some episodes of “The Gong Show” or the moody, atmospheric aural masterpieces culled from my digestive and intestinal canals. It was a tough choice, but eventually I decided that “Hey, it’s not like they’re gonna cancel ‘The Gong Show’ any time soon, right? I’ll get some new tapes after Christmas and beef the collection back up.” Sorry, Chuck Barris.

So I recorded 8 Christmas classics over Side 2 of my favorite “Gong Show” tape. I mastered that side like I was George Martin putting the finishing touches on a Beatles opus. No extraneous noise. No volume dips. Clean fades in and out. Nothing but pure sonic Christmasness. Perfect. Cue the spotlight, here came my big moment.

My relatives arrived with the usual Christmas Eve chaos at around 9 pm, and I could feel the very first flop sweat of my life trickling down my spine as I rewound the tape again and again to rehearse my cues for the “show,” as I had eventually come to call it. My 2 brothers laughed at me and warned me not to screw it up, but I knew they were just jealous that I was the one who had been chosen for this most important of positions on the grandest night of the whole year. In a few hours, I would have the room in the palm of my hand. I could hardly wait.

Many theories have been posited over the years to explain how the proceedings went so horribly wrong, but myself, I suspect sibling chicanery as the culprit. I envision somebody thinking it would be funny to flip the cassette over in the player while I was on a bathroom break to mop my sweaty brow before getting my ‘Roll Tape’ cue. However it went down, down is surely where it went.

As the room lights were lowered and candles were then lit, my mother proudly gave me the thumbs up to start us down the road to “Christmas Sing-Along, Mach 2: Like No Other Christmas Caroling You’ve Ever Heard Before.” She had printed out and distributed all the lyrics to the carols so that it would be an absolutely symphonic treat for the ears when music and voice became one in this most festive air. I pressed Play.

To my horror, what I heard next WAS NOT  the first plaintive strains of Perry Como’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” as painstakingly and very responsibly planned. No, instead it was the manic Duke Ellington riff that they played on the now-forever-accursed “Gong Show” to indicate that it was time for Gene! Gene! The DANCING MACHINE! to make his way out to the middle of the floor and do his boogie best.

Oh no. No. Just a big heaping bowl of No.

Needless to say, the room was split, quite unevenly, between hysterical guffawing from a very few areas, and apoplectic sputtering in most others. The only faces I was interested in seeing at that moment were those of my parents, if only to gauge how long the imminent grounding would last. Where was Dad? There he was. Uh-oh. The veins in my father’s head and neck had popped out so far that I thought they might knock his glasses off his face. He was a tightly-wound, Type-A teeth-gritter on his best day, but this… this, on Christmas Eve, of all nights… with the Baby Jesus waiting for his closeup… with a near-perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas Tableau now gone hopelessly awry… and my mother’s family almost certain to lay this at my father’s feet… No. As it happened, I lip-read for the very first time that fateful night, and it was not a pleasant read. What graced my father’s lips was what the newspapers called an “expletive deleted.” I finally understood that phrase, and why those expletives so sorely required deleting.

My mom, on the other hand, looked more than mad; she looked disappointed, which is so much worse. Mad blew over after a while, it was too stressful to try and keep that up for too long. But disappointed? Mothers can do that standing on their slowly-shaken heads for weeks on end. She tried to lighten the mood by making light of my gaffe as I frantically tried to flip the tape over to the correct side and get it to play some Christmas tunes, pronto. My sweaty hands fumbled the tape several times before righting it in its proper place and rolling the never-sweeter sounds of the late, great Perry Como. I will never be as happy to hear his voice ever again as I was on that night.

The singalong gathered a sad little head of steam once it finally got underway, but it never approached the euphoric levels that my mom had originally dreamed of. When we were done, my brothers clapped me on the back and congratulated me for what they thought was a most hilarious and memorable prank. My irate father also believed that I had done the ol’ switcheroo on purpose, in order to garner some cheap laughs from the big crowd.

Only my mother had anything resembling sympathy for my boneheaded move, and after all these years, I think I have finally figured out the reason why. At the very least, the Gong Show music was upbeat, happy, tuneful. She probably imagined what nether depths the room would have descended into had I instead mistakenly rolled the disgusting sounds of my stomach’s roiling digestive juices. How festive might that have left a crowd awaiting the Baby Jesus’ curtain call in the manger?

Thanks, Mom, for seeing how much worse it could really have been. Merry Christmas.

It’s OK, He Doesn’t Bite…

dog on leash

My family had pets growing up, we had all kinds. Dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, fish, guinea pigs… Some were held closer to our familial heart than others (sorry, gerbils, that’s not you), and like so many American families, it was dogs who occupied the #1 spot in the Pet Popularity Poll. Cats were a distant second, but if that fact bothered them at all, you would never know it from their demeanor. Even at a young age, I saw through the phony baloney of a dog’s talent for sucking up to its owner. All that drooling and humping and barking. OK, we get it, Rex. You like us. Great.

But cats? You have to love that ‘blow-it-out-your-ass’ feline attitude, the absolute ‘oh-it’s-you-again?’ indifference when you enter a room, all this as you’re busy fending off the dog’s obsequious fawning. As far as cats were concerned, if it was a soulless robot that filled the food dish and cleaned the litter box, that was just fine by them. Who needed to be stroked or cuddled? That was for those mindless, favor-currying mutts. The palpable whiff of disdain that I sensed from cats was powerful, so I gave very little thought to joining the cult of the dog as Pet Poobah. That is, until I did.

Of course, caving into that impulse would come back to haunt me later in life, so much so that I have even gotten to the point where I can honestly say that…

No, I can’t. I can’t say it. I don’t quite know how to put this without sounding like a serial killer… or a Nazi… or worst of all, an NFL quarterback. Ahhh, screw it, here it is: I don’t love dogs. Boom.

If that sounds like a hedge, it’s because it is. I got tired of the reaction to the statement “I hate dogs,” which often elicited horrified gasps of shock from people. I may as well have said I hate children or that I ATE children, even. I found myself on the defensive so often with the Hate position that my heels were rounded permanently after a while. I knew in my heart that somewhere, in a back alley on a dark side street, the entire membership of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Cats meeting was having a good hearty laugh at my expense. Couldn’t stick your neck out with us cats, eh?, they mocked. Had to go with the populars, right?, they taunted. And they were right. They were.

I hear the murmuring bubbling up through my keyboard, so let’s tackle straight away the question you’re all asking: how is it that I came to hate dogs? Good question. But it has a good answer, too. Nay, that’s not strong enough; it has a GREAT answer, which is that dog OWNERS sucked worse than dogs did.

In the same way that bullets aren’t bad until they meet up with a gun and its owner, so it goes with pooches. And that’s precisely the situation I found myself in some years back. The people who lived next door to me at that time seemed absolutely hellbent on putting together a Hall of Fame roster of annoying dogs, a real Dream Team this was. Listen to this lineup: a Doberman, a yippy little lapdog, and a mutt, just for good measure. These bitches ticked every box of neighbor nightmares imaginable: they barked too loud, too long, and too early. They stank up the yard constantly and scared my young kids every time we tried to play in the yard.

The Doberman was especially scary to me, thanks to a crappy old TV-movie I saw when I was 8 years old called “The Doberman Gang,” about dogs that robbed banks. Apparently, I must have thought the film was a documentary because I never shook this wariness of that breed, even into adulthood. The early morning barking, though, would eventually become the first straw, the last straw, and the 800 straws in-between. When I confronted my neighbors after one of the many unscheduled 4:30 am wakeup encounters, they couldn’t fathom why I was upset. “He only barked once,” said the defensive owner. “That’s all it takes, though,” I replied, as the owner brazenly stroked the guilty barker’s head right in front of me. I think I saw the dog smile at me. He also may have mouthed a swear word at me, but I can’t be sure. (I’m totally sure he did).

Welcome to the World of Amazing But True Dog Owner Logic. It’s the same thing I hear when I’m in a NYC park and I see a dog off the leash, marauding his way around wherever he wants to go, and often frightening many people along the way. When I remind the owners that it’s against the law to have an unleashed dog in the park, they look like they might spit on me. “He doesn’t bite, he’s very friendly. What’s YOUR problem?” is the typical riposte I hear.

He doesn’t bite? Oh. Sorry, I didn’t know that. That probably means he’ll NEVER bite, right? Wrong. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that sounds a lot like when a guy shoots up his office and then all his neighbors say, “Cain’t believe it, he was a quiet guy, real friendly, he never hurt a soul.”

The moral: Dogs never bite… right up until the moment that they do. I’d rather not be their first victim. But dog owners don’t wanna know. You’re just the old man buzzkill that hates dogs, so piss off. I know it’s not all dog owners, but it’s a lot. All I’m asking for is a little inter-species agreement: stop barking so early and we’re good. (Cue the hate mail. Commencing Hate Mail Sequence).

PS – I now love my mother’s dog, Bailey. And also my friend Susan’s dog, Floppy.

One Dog At A Time.

The 3 (with apologies to the late Donald Kaufman)


The great Benjamin Franklin, in all his bald-yet-ponytailed glory, reminded us once upon a time that there was nothing as certain as birth, death and taxes. Well, based on that quip, I think it’s a safe assumption that this guy never had a social networking account. Otherwise, he’d know about the other absolute bankable lead-pipe lock of our time: that one Facebook Friend that everyone has who revels in posting the latest obituaries of the famous and not-so-famous.

Nothing gets by these Obituarians, as I like to call them. They are diligent and dogged in their pursuit of the scoop, so that you’ll be the first to know that the back-up bass player for Iron Butterfly has met his Maker. For no discernible reason, they’ve taken it upon themselves to be the Watchers, scanning the web for the last write-up of that marginal 50s sitcom actor or the long-forgotten utility infielder, and then slapping it up on their Wall for all to see. If your Obituarian has a literary bent, he might even tap out his own little maudlin tribute to the dearly departed.

But no matter who your Obituarian is, it is the accompanying Comments section that yields the secret prize of this morbid endeavor. For it is here that we encounter one of the strongest testaments to the depths of human stupidity; that’s right, I’m talking about the widely-held belief that death always seems to come in threes.

I’d love to know the genesis of this myth, if only so the culprit could be identified for posterity’s sake. I’ve heard some of the most educated people I know perpetuating the Myth of Three, so I know for sure it’s not just dummies to blame here, which was my first guess. I wondered if maybe three was as high as the grief-stricken could count, crushed as they were by the weight of their burden. Whatever the reason, it is a conundrum wrapped in a puzzle enveloped in a mystery. (You see what I did there? That’s 3 different — oh, never mind).

My heart always goes out to those poor celebs who may not be in the best of health after a second recent death is noted in the media. In this run-up to the completion of yet another troika, the typical Obituarian can smell blood. At this point, any cold body will do. Were you an extra on “Gilligan’s Island”? Boom! You’re the 3. An ex-member of the entourage of a B-list songstress? Trifecta, baby. The Libertarian presidential nominee from 1956? Tres bien, mon ami.

Of course, simple mathematical absolutes become unimportant when trying to plumb the depths of this curious phenomenon. “Why isn’t the next person who dies the fourth?” I’ve asked a true believer on more than one occasion. “Why does the tally start up all over again at one?”

Silence. Dead, uncomprehending, stupified silence.

The bewildered stares I’ve received in response to these simple questions more than confirmed to me just how enduring this myth is. Had these people misheard or misunderstood my queries? It seemed as if I might be suggesting that the earth was flat, so bizarre were the doglike head tiltings that I witnessed. It was very rare that I got a verbal response, but on the off chance when I did, it usually went something like, “Well, that’s just how it happens… ya know… in threes.” Like it was an indisputable fact of life, like Franklin’s triplets.

Eventually, it struck me that the power of small-talk was the clandestine culprit here. So desperate are people at times to fill an uncomfortable conversational void that it is entirely possible for something as foolish and baseless as this trope to get a foothold in reality. The amount of look-away it takes for such a large amount of people to buy into The Magic Myth of 3 can only be explained by the crippling fear of an uncomfortable social moment with a stranger. It probably dates as far back as the Jesus times. “Hey, d’ya hear? St. Peter died.” “No shit? Wow. First, John the Baptist, then Jesus, now Peter.” “Weird, right? Three deaths together like that?” “Yeah, that must be a thing, I guess.”

Oh yeah. It’s DEFINITELY a thing. It’s 3.