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Every year I got a different shaped cake for my birthday. One year it was Bugs Bunny. The pan gave it away. I saw my mother bring it in with the groceries and stash it with the other cake pans, but the long, metal dish, ears poking from the brown paper shopping bag, was unmistakable. In my room I kept a cigar box filled with things I didn't want my parents to find. They never found it because they never wanted to, I suppose. It was on a bookshelf in my room.

Contained in the yellow cardboard box was a book of matches. Not only was I forbidden to play with matches, but the pack had a topless, busty blonde on the front, and on the back the printing read "The Radiator Doctor" across the top, and in smaller lettering on the bottom it read "Best place in town to take a leak!" Between the two inscriptions was a cartoon radiator with a heating pad on its fill valve and a bubbling thermometer in its mouth and water squirting from all its corners.

Also in the box was a Memorex tape of AC/DC's Highway to Hell . Anything with any possible satanic connotations wasn't allowed in my mother's godly home. I'd traded Ryan Francis a broken pendant necklace and an unopened condom I'd found behind a liquor store for that tape.

There was a pocketknife, a key that didn't fit any lock, and five white candles about the length of my palm. I'd collected the candles over a month during the previous summer when I'd read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . The box also contained a dozen Black Cat firecrackers and an orange plastic lighter to fire them off when I was ready to stop relishing my possession of them and I could appreciate the excitement of destroying them.

And a cigarette.

There was also a red rag with a wet stone and a tiny clinker tin can of 4-in-1 oil. All flammables were to be kept on a shelf in the garage, but I didn't want to ask my dad to bring it down for me every time I wanted to sharpen my knife, and I polished that baby until it gleamed.

Sure enough, I came out of my room to find a Bugs Bunny cake on the table. My family gathered around it later that afternoon. That night, when everyone was asleep, I rode my bike to the creek, dipped my feet in, put on my headphones, looked at the naked lady matchbook by the light of a good white candle, and enjoyed my first smoke.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

Thursday, August 17

Martha

NBC 12:00 p.m. Martha Stewart's mustache once hosted a party of 200. In between the oyster hors d'oeuvres and the cranberry and honey salad, the mustache learned to speak fluent French and tied ribbons around the homemade candles it had prepared as gifts for the guests. Martha was convalescing through a steamer of a Scotch headache in the upstairs bathroom, and the mustache did what it had to do. Not for the press. Not for the Martha empire. For its own dignity.

Sex and the Single Mom (2003)

LIFE 7:00 p.m. There was this girl we called the Coke Machine; you can imagine why. Her kids were out of town, and she was having a little drinking party. A terrible case of the spins got the better of me, and I decided to sleep it off in her room. I cracked an eye open in time to see the bright light beyond the bedroom door being eclipsed by a topless Coke Machine clearing a path; she cussed her kids as she stepped on a fire truck. I shot out of bed, forced my way past her considerable, nude chest, and on the reeling trip to the bathroom, I asked, "Where's Tom and Chris?" -- my buddies, my ride home. In the light from the hallway I saw her drunkenly plop to the bed and slide off the comforter to the toy-scattered floor. "They went home. It's just us here," she called, almost sobbing. I decided to sleep curled up around the toilet.

Friday, August 18

Wolfgang Puck 8th Anniversary

HSN 8:00 p.m. That Spago money must be wearing off. Poor Wolfgang, relegated to shilling kitchen gee gaws on the Home Shopping Network to cover payment on that Porsche and a fresh batch of hair grease. Poor, poor Wolfie.

Saturday, August 19

The Koala Brothers

DISN 11:30 a.m. In an animal sanctuary in Brisbane, you can hold a koala. So, I give 'em my two Australian dollars, whatever the hell those are called, and this outback lady hands me this fat koala. I said, "I don't want to hold this chubby damned marsupial!" She said, "Too bad," and I said, "Well give me another goddamn koala. I don't want no Polaroid of me and this tubby bastard," and she wouldn't. Now I got this picture in my scrapbook of me holding this pudgy little furry damn baby-looking thing with a big black nose and I got a disgruntled look on my face. You hear me, Australia? I want my money back!

MythBusters

DSC 7:00 p.m. Oh, really? Postage stamps and Pepsi can make a rocket? Mentos and robin eggs make stink bombs? How very interesting. And by "very interesting," I mean "blindingly uninteresting and I'd rather perform self-dentistry with a stick and a rusty license plate in my cramped dirty bathroom."

Sunday, August 20

Popular Mechanics for Kids

DCKIDS 10:00 a.m. "Leave Daddy alone for a while. He's having a bourbon and is really interested in who gets crowned Miss Hawaiian Tropic, okay? Yes, you can play in the garage, but don't mix the bleach with the brake fluid because it'll start to smoke and fill the neighborhood with fumes, and the next-door neighbor's mean dog, Thrasher, and Timmy, that kid who knocked you off your bike last week, might get sick. Okay. Be real quiet. The blowtorch? It's in the drawer by the washer, but don't get it near your brother's G.I. Joes because they'll melt. Shhh... it's contest time on TV. Run and get Daddy his white bottle with the brown water in it and some ice, would you? Good girl." The above scenario paid for by the Committee for Ollie's Vasectomy.

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