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I have pretty much done this anyway, but I should make a more formal proclamation, I suppose, that TGIF encompasses weekends as well as Fridays or simply Friday nights. In fact, I have been fairly shameless about using this space at times for pretty much anything I have felt the need to write about, waiting for someone to tell me I can’t do that. No one has yet said exactly that; but nonetheless I feel I should remind myself at regular intervals that readers might well look to this page for suggestions as to how they might spend their time and money on weekends or, oh yes, Fridays. Here are some:

Friday nights, party like it’s 1999. That may mean partying, I guess, like you’re 11 years younger. In my case that would make me 46 and already beginning to doze by 10 p.m., so, really, don’t ask me. It occurs to me that was my response nine years ago, when asked if I’d like to do this column. I didn’t say so, but I remember thinking: What am I, Mr. Friday Night? If you need counseling on how best to party naked, drunk, stoned, and with pagan abandon far past the break of dawn, I’ll get back to you after my past-life regression session or asking someone better informed. I’m more the guy you would come to and ask, “What should I read over the weekend?” Sorry, it has come to that.

On Saturday, sleep late. Then mow the lawn or do your laundry or something before watching the game. Maybe you’ve got to go to your kid’s soccer thing or ballet recital, whatever. Do it. I had to do that stuff (no ballet, thank God), and today I have a blossoming, nurturing relationship with my grown son who thinks I’m a dangerous idiot. Saturday night, take a bath. For the love of God.

On Sundays, do, for example, what I did last Sunday. Upon waking in my son’s apartment on a weekend sleepover, I decided to get the lad and his friend Curtis up at 8 a.m. No reason. It’s just that I was awake, and I’m old and they’re not. I remember being in my 20s and my father-in-law waking me ungodly early for no apparent reason other than, “The day is half shot! Get up, I’ve a little job for you which I’m going to think of in a few minutes.” It could be 6 a.m. The idea, I learned, was to instill in the young — who are still physically capable of enjoying a full night’s sleep to restore the body and mind — the carved-in-granite, existential reality that sleeping past dawn is moral degeneracy. The earlier you awaken, it follows, the more righteous before the God of Abraham will you stand on the day of judgment.

On Sundays you should probably go to church. I don’t, but that’s me, and I’ll undoubtedly pay for it along with everything else after a lingering, agonizing illness and slow death. After church, or if you don’t go, make French toast like I tried to do Sunday until I was thwarted by my evil offspring, who constantly conspires against me.

You see, I thought I’d snap the kids out of their satanic thoughts of sleeping more than six hours, and indeed their souls were in need of some first aid as the neighbors (next door in the Mayflower Villa Apartments) were making love noisily until three. I know. I stood on the balcony, trying to read Pilgrim’s Progress, despite the girl’s moaning (and the guy’s, “Pipe down!” every few minutes) and making sure the sliding French door was shut against this audio barrage of licentiousness. I knew the boys were feigning sleep, but oh, yes, indeed, I knew, all right, they were also straining to hear every godless cry of pleasure issuing from the undoubtedly full, rubrous, and succulent lips of the young lady next door. My heart went out to the fellows, who must at that very moment, be struggling manfully against the temptation of sullied thoughts much as I did with near success for hours between four and seven that morning.

So, French toast it was to be! I lined up ingredients: whole wheat bread, (a healthy alternative to the more palatable white bread), butter, eggs, milk, “Lite” maple syrup (half the calories of the less desirable but actually tasty, sweeter conventional syrup and with maybe a slight bitter aftertaste); and the single-portion remains of some rather expensive (price tag still on label) blueberry syrup for myself. I sprayed the pan with Pam, a nonfat, food-like polymer petroleum by-product, I believe, and turned on the burner. This is where problems began.

The range in that apartment will tick like an anarchist’s bomb once I rotate the dial even slightly. No matter at what angle I rest the control knob, it will continue to tick alarmingly, which annoys my son no end. I have seen that the stove responds this way only to me; if anyone else cooks, this magically ceases to be a problem. I could see that our night’s wrestling with sin had invited some dark forces into the apartment. I left the burner on high, a position where the thing would no longer tick maddeningly, resolving to keep a close eye on the batter-soaked bread. One side a golden brown, then...flip...and a blaring of some electronic saxophone from hell punctured our ears, rattling the glass on the French doors and windows. Curtis exclaimed (silently that is, you couldn’t hear him over the deafening smoke alarm tone) and covered his ears. “Dad!” my son shouted, “Turn it off! Jeez.”

Instead of immediately turning the burner off or even down, I thought to grab a dish towel from the rack and began fanning the air in front of the alarm sensor, batting smoke and heat away from the thing to silence it. It didn’t silence anything. There was a brief struggle for the towel with, I think, my son. By that time it was growing difficult to see. The towel left my grasp and sailed through the air onto the stovetop where it rapidly caught fire. By this time, the slices of French toast were turning to carbon. Both my son and I raced for the burner knob simultaneously and head-butted each other in front of the refrigerator at enough velocity so that we stood there and blinked at each other stupidly for the better part of a minute. Curtis stepped around us, saying, “Excuse me,” and turned off the burner, flung the towel into the sink and turned on the cold water. My son walked to the French doors and opened them, all the while glaring at me with fury.

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EricBlair April 9, 2008 @ 6:58 p.m.

Brother John, I once lived in a "Junior One Bedroom" apartment (read studio) in La Jolla. I put a french bread pizza in the oven to cook, and dozed on the couch. I was awakened by the blaring of the smoke alarm.

Rather than being smart, like your son's friend, and simply putting the smoking carcass of the pizza on the cookie sheet in the sink, and turn on the water, I triggered the little fire extinguisher I had.

Yellow clouds of gritty nastiness everywhere. But no fire. On the other hand, I could have just dunked the cookie sheet in the sink two feet away.

But you are right about one thing: a weekend like that makes the workweek seem like a holiday!

Thanks for the story, my friend.


JenniferCooke April 18, 2008 @ 2:07 p.m.

Hi John, Ya know, I just read this column last night because I am way behind on my Readers. And I know nobody else cares, obviously, because no one commented on it. But I just have to tell you that the line "...leave the cooking to say, women or some other minority with nothing better to think about" truly knocked me for a loop. I'm a longtime fan, and particularly in the last year or two, have really followed your column with interest and care. I identify with a lot of your struggles, as a parent, as an alcoholic, as a writer--and sometimes a line you write takes my breath away so much that I have to jot it down. The one that springs to mind most readily is: "On the other hand, almost everything I have ever wanted has led down a corridor so dark it not only eclipses light, but, like a black hole, lets none escape." So I guess it's fair to say that I feel included in your audience. Or I did, until I read the above column. See, I'm not only a woman, but a minority woman. So apparently you're not talking to me.

I'm not one to 'cry racism' and I could give a s*** about political correctness. But coming from your column, that line struck me as so incongruous, so out of nowhere. It hurt my feelings, and I just wanted you to know.


EricBlair April 18, 2008 @ 4:54 p.m.

Dear Ms. Cooke:

I am guessing that John Brizzolara has replied to you separately. But I have to tell you that I have known John since 1988, and there is not a single racist or sexist bone in his body. Truth.

It is also true that the written word (or blog entry) lacks all other "cues" we enjoy in conversation or even on the telephone. John doesn't need me or anyone else to defend him, but I wanted to suggest that he was just trying to be ironic.


John Brizzolara April 24, 2008 @ 1:19 p.m.

Ms.Cooke -- I just saw this response today, April 24th. I am so sorry you took offense there. I thought certainly that the comment was so obviously moronic (women a minority?) that it would just provoke a laugh. I over estimate my own humor; Mr. Blair was correct when he said it was my attempt at irony. Please don't give up on me -- at least not on the basis of racism or sexism. There are probably several other good reasons to do so but I'll let you discover them. -- Brizzolara


JenniferCooke April 28, 2008 @ 10:41 a.m.

Hi John (and thank you also EricBlair for your thoughtful response), Thank you for responding. I'm a fairly intelligent person, and I did indeed try interpreting the line with varying degrees of irony, tongue-in-cheek-edness, etc. I just couldn't find any type of alternate reading that explained it. I know that you didn't mean any harm, and I certainly won't give up on you, as I get a lot out of reading your column. Thanks, Jennifer


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