* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are constantly reminded of how things change. Even things like NPR. Please say hello to Ryan Max Riley, whose first piece for us combines sports and politics in a way that is both infuriating and enlightening. Pure NPR!

NPR’s First Try At Live Sportscasting: Baseball And Syria

By:
ryanmaxriley@gmail.com

STEVE INSKEEP: If you’re just tuning in, this is NPR’s new Sports Edition with your hosts Annalisa Quinn, recently a Books intern at NPR, and Steve Inskeep, whom many of you know from NPR’s Morning Edition. We’re in game one of this three game series between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. Long-time Nationals sportscaster Charlie Slowes is in the radio broadcast booth at the stadium with Annalisa to give you the play-by-play. I’m in Syria covering the civil war this week, so I’m joining this first broadcast by phone. What’s happening on the field?

CHARLIE SLOWES: It’s top of the eighth and two outs with the Nats leading three to two. The Mets’ cleanup hitter Ike Davis in the box. Cody Ross on deck.

ANNALISA QUINN: Because Steve has built a reputation for his probing questioning of warlords, he will interview the cleanup hitters after each game. They’re the most powerful batters.

CHARLIE SLOWES: The Nats have Gio Gonzalez on the mound. Davis is dangerous with a bat. One ball, two strikes. Here’s the pitch. Ball. The fans are on their feet, angry at the umpire’s call.

STEVE INSKEEP: It’s not unlike the presidential elections in Iran in 2009 when the surprising win of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad resulted in widespread protests.

CHARLIE SLOWES: I wasn’t there, but yeah, they’re very angry. The umpire’s sticking with his bad call. Here’s the pitch. A swing and a hit! Davis rounds first and heads to second. The throw, and he’s safe! The Nats are taking out Gonzalez and putting in Ross Ohlendorf as pitcher. I wouldn’t have left Gonzalez in so long. You’ll probably like the brain on the kid replacing Gonzalez. Sporting News named Ross third smartest athlete in sports.

ANNALISA QUINN: Huh. Interesting.

CHARLIE SLOWES: But he has his work cut out for him with Cody. He’s really fired up to start swinging his bat around. Look at him. He swings the bat like a maniac.

ANNALISA QUINN: Yes, I see. Does a batter keep track of the placement of the pitches in the game on a sort of scatter plot in his mind to better predict the next pitch with regression lines? Or is it more scientific than that?

CHARLIE SLOWES: You just go with your gut. Here comes the pitch, and it’s a high pop-up. The center fielder, Denard Span, coming in to make the catch…and he dropped it! UnbeliEVable! We gotta start producing catches.

ANNALISA QUINN: That outfielder just looked at his glove as if to suggest it had a defect that made him miss the catch, and then he blamed a fan in the stands. Which of those was the actual cause? Was it really both, and does Denard not have any recourse?

CHARLIE SLOWES: He’s just gotta get ‘er done.

ANNALISA QUINN: Charlie, for our listeners, would you please slow down what’s happening on the field at this moment? What are we seeing, and what is its significance, in layman’s terms?

CHARLIE SLOWES: Well, the pitcher’s using his foot to brush dirt off the pitcher’s plate, the white rubber strip on the mound. Preparing to pitch. Just an ordinary, heroic person trying to win a game the best way he knows how.

STEVE INSKEEP: I hear some commotion outside. I may have to…Block the door! Get your guns!

ANNALISA QUINN: (screams)

STEVE INSKEEP: The rebels are here. (gunshots) My guards are dead. (yells when he sees that his own legs are missing, but stops yelling when he realizes he’s just kneeling and still has legs)

ANNALISA QUINN: Oh my God. Oh my God.

STEVE INSKEEP: The rebel commander has just cut open the stomach of one of the dead guards and is eating an organ while looking into a camera, a move that has become the rebels’ trademark. C. J.? C. J. Chivers! Chivers is here!

ANNALISA QUINN: The foreign correspondent for The New York Times?

STEVE INSKEEP: Yes. The ex-Marine. He’s on NPR sometimes as a guest, reporting on Syria. He travels around with the rebels. I think I’ll be all right if C. J.’s here.

C. J. CHIVERS: Steve Inskeep? You’re lucky you’re not already dead. I almost shot you in the face. And don’t look so hopeful. I have no control over the rebels. I’m just along for the ride. They do whatever they want, and I can’t really do anything about it. What are you doing here?

STEVE INSKEEP: I was reporting on the civil war, just as you are. At this moment, though, I’m using this radio to do play-by-play announcing of the Washington Nationals baseball game for NPR’s new Sports Edition.

C. J. CHIVERS: All right. Let me see if I can get you out of this. But it’s very unlikely. You’re probably just going to die. (speaks with rebels in background)

CHARLIE SLOWES: Homerun. Adam LaRoche for the Nats just hit a homer. Sorry. I thought I should announce it.

ANNALISA QUINN: You’re heartless. Steve’s about to die, and you’re still going on about baseball?

CHARLIE SLOWES: It’s my last game as a sportscaster. The Nats are my…I’m sorry. You’re right.

ANNALISA QUINN: Steve? C. J.? Can you hear us? What’s going on over there?

C. J. CHIVERS: Are the Nationals winning the game?

ANNALISA QUINN: What? Yes. Yes, they are.

C. J. CHIVERS: Good. Here’s what I got. Despite U.S. support of rebels against Assad’s regime, these particular rebels are angry, you know, because Obama is stalling with bombing the Syrian government and because Obama wouldn’t send weapons to the Syrian rebels until Assad used chemical weapons. Until now, Obama has only offered non-lethal aid such as night-vision goggles to the rebels. My group of rebels has actually figured out how to kill the enemy with those goggles. But the leader insists they need anti-tank and anti-aircraft arms. And the good news, if you will, is that my rebels have decided not to kill Inskeep if you make it so the Nationals lose this game and make it clear that this little rebel group was responsible. It’d show their might in controlling the outcome of U.S. baseball games. This would help the group take some of the spotlight from the Syrian Electronic Army, which recently hacked into U.S. news websites — NPR, The Washington Post and CNN — to disseminate pro-Assad propaganda. I believe my rebels have their sights set on winning the World Series, by remote control, if you will. Controlling American baseball is better for my rebels than even bombing Washington D.C. because, you know, bombing D.C. might leave Americans with hope.

CHARLIE SLOWES: Okay, I’ll talk with the managers to ask if they’ll throw the game. (runs out of booth)

ANNALISA QUINN: This is wonderful news! Thank you, C. J. We’re trying to arrange the Nationals’ loss right now. The teams should have no problem with this, if it’ll save Steve’s life.

CHARLIE SLOWES: (coming back) All right, bad news. Talked to the managers; they said no way. They’re not even sure that Steve has really been taken hostage. It could be a hoax.

STEVE INSKEEP: Then this is it. I’m going to die.

ANNALISA QUINN: Wait! I just got word from the managers that they will, in fact, let the Nationals lose.

C. J. CHIVERS: The leader is pleased. He says he wants his rebels to have a new name now to make it clear that they deserve credit for all this. He renamed his group the Major League Baseball Syrian Rebels Front.

CHARLIE SLOWES: Okay. The players are stepping out onto the field. It’s uh…top of the ninth, no outs with the Nats leading three to two. The Mets’ cleanup hitter Ike Davis is at bat. Runners on second and third.

ANNALISA QUINN: We of course expect the pitcher for the Nationals, Ross Ohlendorf, to toss the pitch gently at the batter so he can hit a homerun. Yes, in fact, the announcement has just been made on the stadium loudspeakers that the Major League Baseball Syrian Rebels Front has seized control of the baseball game and has decided that the Nationals must lose because Obama has let the Syrian rebels down by not sending them anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and by consulting Congress about bombing the Syrian government. The announcer is now criticizing Obama’s chemical weapons policy.

CHARLIE SLOWES: The pitch. A swing and a hit! Fans have gotten to their feet! High fly ball into left field! It’s outta here!

ANNALISA QUINN: If you’re just tuning in, this is NPR’s Sports Edition with your hosts Annalisa Quinn, recently a Books intern at NPR, and Steve Inskeep, a prisoner of war in Syria. Charlie Slowes is in the booth to help give the play-by-play. Our guest is C. J. Chivers, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and a member of the rebel group that has just captured Steve and is threatening to kill him unless the Mets win.

CHARLIE SLOWES: Well, listeners and rebels, this is most likely the last play of the game. The Mets are up eight to three. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Two strikes, no balls. The Nats have Ian Desmond at the plate. The set. The pitch, and a ground ball up the middle. Omar Quintanilla makes an amazing catch! The throw to first. The game’s over. The rebels beat the United States, eight to three.

C. J. CHIVERS: You have just made the rebels very happy. And they told me just now that they’re going to release Steve immediately, instead of keeping him and shooting for the pennant, because he’s too much of a liability. The rebels and I are going to leave Steve here now, to finish his broadcast. Thank you for having us.

ANNALISA QUINN: Thank you, C. J., and stay safe. (sound of C. J. and rebels leaving)

STEVE INSKEEP: Am I dead?

CHARLIE SLOWES: No…you’re still alive, Steve.

STEVE INSKEEP: What?! Oh my God. I have to get out of here some way, in case the rebels come back. (rushes out) Wait! (coming back) I’ll interview the cleanup hitters in a special segment later tonight when I’m safe again. Do not interview them for me. (leaves)

ANNALISA QUINN: Good luck, Steve! Okay, listeners, nothing we’ve reported about the game since Steve was taken prisoner has been true. The Washington Nationals actually won five to four. It was an excellent game, perhaps their best.

CHARLIE SLOWES: So this is it. The end of my sportscasting career. You’re bad for baseball, Annalisa. NPR is bad for baseball. The most excited you got during this whole game was when you thought a catcher’s hand signals were not only communicating which pitch should be thrown but also inadvertently casting the shadows from Plato’s allegory of the cave. Or when someone walked into our booth wearing a really nice tweed jacket and bowtie, and you correctly identified the obscure clothier. You cheer for all the wrong reasons. You always get so excited when Ross Ohlendorf does anything. He can be walking into position, and you’ll say how great it is.

ANNALISA QUINN: He’s the third smartest athlete in sports.

CHARLIE SLOWES: I shouldn’t have told you that.

ANNALISA QUINN: Anyway, I’m supposed to offer you the job of co-host of NPR’s Sports Edition at the end of this broadcast, if you’ve done well enough, and I think you have. In fact, we need you. I’m not as knowledgeable about baseball as you are, as you can see, and Steve will often have to do broadcasts by phone. Will you join us?

CHARLIE SLOWES: Oh my God. Yes.

ANNALISA QUINN: Excellent. It’s a wrap. This is Sports Edition with NPR News. Thanks for listening.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where you haven't lived until you've lived with an amateur installation artist. If you're not sure how to do that, well, our good friend John Merriman has some pointers.

Living With An Amateur Installation Artist

By:
merriman.john@gmail.com

Hey, you’re back! Never thought two weeks in Bermuda could go by so fast, right? You and Liz must’ve had a fantastic time. I meant to tell you I wanted to make a few changes to our apartment while you were away, but you had already left by then. It was kind of a last-minute thing, so I’m sorry.

Probably the first thing you noticed is that the door to our apartment is gone. Don’t worry, it didn’t get stolen. I just took it off and put it somewhere else. We’ll get to that.

If you turn on the lights… That’s right, the light switch isn’t where it used to be. See that barbed wire hanging from the ceiling, the one with the chunks of raw meat stuck to it? You either grab a meat chunk, or put these metal mesh gloves on so you don’t lacerate your hands, and then pull the wire down. There you go. Yes, the light will always be red and flashing.

So here’s the kitchen — and the living room, too, since I knocked that partition down. We never really liked it there anyway — well, at least I know I didn’t. Oh, and see that pile of sawdust in the corner, surrounded by razors and cow brains? That’s what happened to the door. And your desk and bookcase too. No, your books are ground up in a different pile of razors and cow brains.

Actually, the “horrendous racket” you mentioned earlier is coming from right inside our bathroom! It’s just a recording of an electric guitar being scraped against sharp metal objects mixed with an aural wash of shrieking squirrels. Yes, the neighbors have complained to the landlord about how loud it is, but he’ll have other things on his mind soon. For example, I won’t be able to cover my half of the rent for the foreseeable future — had to pay for all this remodeling somehow! You won’t mind spotting me a couple grand, right?

Now, don’t freak out or anything, but this other change may be a little on the inconvenient side! I was trying to think of where to put a giant screen to project footage of livestock being gutted and maimed, and I think you’ll agree that no place is better suited for this than your bedroom.

Unfortunately, giant screens and projectors are prohibitively expensive for me, so I decided that a cheaper alternative would be to get real livestock and drizzle red paint on them. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t bothered by the paint. They just keep doing their usual animal things. The goats jump on your bed sometimes, but only very early in the morning. The cow usually just stays put. That reminds me, I need to run to the store and buy some more cow feed.

Fresh air? Sure, why not? You were already throwing up in the kitchen, so circulating some oxygen is probably a good idea. Although I had to board up all the windows to set the right mood in here, so you might want to try the apartment downstairs. When you’re depicting modern technology’s violent abuse of animals through an interior space, cheery daylight doesn’t make much sense.

Well, once the art schools I’m applying to see pictures of this in my portfolio, I’ll be out of here in no time. And all the alterations I’ve made should really help narrow down prospective apartment mates for you after I’m gone. But thanks for taking this so well — I knew you’d understand. I don’t know what my friends were thinking when they said an avant-garde artist and a tax accountant couldn’t live in the same apartment without wanting to kill each other!

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we can't tell you about the new Brad Pitt article in Vanity Fair, or the new Matt Damon article in People, or the new Channing Tatum article in Us. But we can do even better than that. We can have Lak Rana tell you about all of those articles simultaneously in his amazing celebrity puff piece archetype.

Every Article (About A Famous Actor) Written In A Prominent Publication

By:
lakrana@yahoo.com

I’m the writer and I’m waiting at a once-trendy hotel rooftop restaurant in Los Angeles that, I will casually mention, is the perfect setting to meet the famous actor that I’m interviewing, because he’s known by Hollywood insiders to be low-key himself. I hope the amiable tone of my opening sentence has drawn you into this article.

Low-key is not how outsiders would imagine this uber-star though — I’ll slip that in here — because of how seriously he takes his craft. For example, this is where I’ll list the popular movies he’s done along with a few lesser-known titles, the most poignant of which I’ll say is my favorite. Who would’ve thought that I’d be taken by this quirky slice-of-life movie, I’ll overemphasize here. The overemphasis from that sentence will add more validity to this sentence in which I’m declaring it’s a privilege for me to be interviewing him.

I look at my watch and notice he’s a tad bit late. I’ll want you to know that right about now. What I won’t want you to know is, that sentence was a selfish setup because when he does show up, I’ll get to relate how genuinely he apologized for being only one minute and forty-five seconds late. (Yes, I will tell you exactly how late he was because the inconsequential amount will serve to over-qualify his apology, making him look even more charming.) I’ll then add that it was a shocker for him to be so humble because he’s one of the most sought-after actors of the moment, and just coincidentally happens to be starring in the huge movie that this article is promoting. But all that subtle manipulation designed to make you more inclined to watch the huge movie that this article is promoting will come later. Right now I have to write a sentence describing something about me so I can use it to contrast with him after he arrives.

This is that sentence: I’m just about to ask for a refill of my ten-ingredient-mojito-style drink (P.S. I ordered this because I want to subliminally suggest “refreshing,” California and effortless wealth, because you’re a “regular movie-going-guy” from middle America and statistics show that your decisions are swayed by these images) when I see him walk into the restaurant. I’ll mention how coolly he walks in so you’ll recall the low-key vibe I’m desperately trying to maintain. To bring that idea home, now I’ll describe his clothes: a well-fitted graphic tee, slim blue jeans and black lace-up ankle boots. This will remind you that he’s all-American and simple, a lie that I’ll ram down your throat at least one more time.

Here’s the payoff to my first setup — the second he sees me, he genuinely apologizes for being late. Because I’ve already done a pretty good job of building up his mystique, I should start revealing some real details about his life. I’ll begin by mentioning that the reason he was late was because he had to pick his daughter up from ballet practice because his wife had an emergency meeting. I’ll then say that his wife, whom he referred to by first name because he’s so empathetic he doesn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable, is a famous actress as well. The wife tidbit will make him seem more elite, so when I describe him later as a down-to-earth family man it’ll have more resonance.

Now he’ll sit down and we’ll talk about him. But before we start, I have to share that he ordered a diet Coca-Cola. That sentence has facilitated this contrast payoff: I’m drinking alcohol and he’s not — how noble it makes him look, right?

Our conversation will begin with where he was born, and of course I’ll falsely paint it as a small town so his journey to Hollywood becomes more meaningful. I’ll mention a childhood story here of something rebellious he once did because, until now, I’ve only narrated fluffy stuff and I need you to see his dangerous side. That sentence will play double duty because it’ll drive male readers to want to be him and female readers to want to be protected by him.

But in this paragraph I’ll go right back into how normal he is and how he just wants to be respected for his work. Then I’ll tell a funny story that I pray will make him even more relatable to you. To do that effectively, the story will have to involve him failing somehow. But what he fails at has to be something performance-related, because then you will be more surprised that he overcame it and was able to star in the huge movie that this article is promoting.

This is where I shall finally touch on the huge movie that this article is promoting. I will detail how he steals the movie from other talented actors, one of whom will be Javier Bardem or Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a villain. I’ll then add how long he trained for the role and how he gained 25 pounds of muscle by adhering to a strict diet and working out twice a day for four hours.

Now I’ll talk about how this interview has gone on for three hours — one hour past the time his agent had allotted. This kind act again shows how gregarious our thespian is. Here I’ll mention I’m glad I got that last hour with him because that’s when he broached sensitive topics (like that now-viral meltdown at that public place) and really revealed his insecurities, fears and regrets. I’ll redirect these inner demons back toward the sudden death of his mother — she passed away last year before seeing him cast in this career-defining role in the huge movie that this article is promoting. Here is where I’ll throw in how she always encouraged him to be the best at everything, and I’ll follow up with a quote from her that he now has tattooed on the inside of his wrist. In case you forgot he was normal, the purpose of this paragraph was to remind you.

Now he has to go. For a little twist, I’ll inform you here that the restaurant closed an hour ago but stayed open late for us. This will hint at the special treatment this star gets without being on the nose about it. It’ll also allow a decent transition into this sentence where I’ll talk about how he wants to continue our conversation, but he must get home and cook dinner for his family because it’s “his night.” By mentioning his dinner habits, I’m highlighting what a down-to-earth family man he is and making my planned call-back to his all-American and simple life.

This last paragraph will include me talking about how he phoned me later that night and asked me not to print a certain section of the interview, a portion that he thought might be too revealing and could be misconstrued. This should undoubtedly prove what a good guy he is because he took the time to personally call me and ask me politely, when a star with his power could have resorted to other tactics. I hope you’ll acknowledge how dissimilar he is to the character he plays in the huge movie that this article is promoting and respect his acting more for it. By now I’ve succeeded and you’ve emotionally committed to go see the huge movie that this article is promoting. (If you haven’t, read his workout routine below so you can feel more connected to him and change your mind.)

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where you can connect with everything that matters to you. Assuming that finding that special someone matters to you. And also assuming that special someone wants to be found. As they say, it's complicated. Jeremy Kniola knows.

Missed Connection

By:
jeremykniola@gmail.com

“L” is for Love
I saw you at the “L” stop, listening to Blondie’s “One Way or Another” on your iPod, bopping your head and lip-syncing along. You were wearing a black and white uniform with a steaming coffee mug stitched on the pocket. Bottle shaped glasses emblazoned your liquid brown eyes.

Perhaps you noticed me? I was sporting a tee-shirt with a before and after picture of a geek using a calculator then upgrading to an iPad. I was pacing the platform in front of you, hoping to catch your attention. You looked right at me, but only briefly.

I wanted to say “Hello,” ask if you had plans. But surely a beautiful girl like you wouldn’t stay home on a Friday night. I imagine you were going out to a club later. Unfortunately, other than cooking some Spaghetti-O’s and watching YouTube videos I had nothing else going on.

Maybe you’d like to hang out some time. If you would, please reply to this ad.

Café Express-Oh!
I saw you at Home Brew Café working behind the counter. I asked about the specialty espressos. You suggested the Brazilian. Wow! Was that a hint of berry, or vanilla I tasted? Whatever it was, it left a tingle on my palate.

You laughed at my shirt: a before and after picture of a geek using a calculator then upgrading to an iPad. I find sarcasm flies over most people’s heads. That’s how I knew you were special — you appreciate intellectual humor. I tried to talk to you, but you were taking the next customer’s order. I understand. You were busy.

If you’d like to grab a cup of coffee sometime, please reply to this ad.

Doggie Treats
I saw you walking your dog in the park near Home Brew Café on Thursday, listening to, I think, Blondie’s “One Way or Another” on your iPod. I asked you if I could pet him. To my embarrassment you said he was a her, but allowed me the courtesy anyway. Your dog was not so forthcoming. She barked and tried to nip me. You excused her actions, saying she didn’t take kindly to strangers. Though minutes later a couple came along and she licked their hands.

Perhaps we could take her to the park and play Frisbee. I’ll bring along a doggie treat. By the way, what’s her name? She may feel less reluctant if I address her properly. I’m certain once she gets to know me we’ll be good friends. I could say the same for you.

So what do you say about next Thursday? You have Thursdays off, right? Come on and throw this old dog a bone and please reply to this ad.

What Light Yonder?
I saw your performance of Romeo and Juliet last night. I overheard you telling a customer at Home Brew about it and purchased a ticket online. I think this could be your breakthrough performance. When you committed suicide at the end of Act Three I found myself shouting, “No, don’t do it!” I don’t know if you heard me.

I’m currently writing a screenplay. You could play the lead love interest. It’s about a boy who falls for a girl he sees on the “L” but she doesn’t know it. He places a missed connection ad on Craigslist hoping she’ll read it. She replies to the ad and…well, I don’t want to ruin it by telling you everything. But it has a happy ending.

If you’re interested in exchanging Shakespearean dialogue, please reply to this ad.

Bird Watching
I saw you through your bedroom window. I know what it looked like: me up in that tree watching you get dressed through a pair of binoculars. But it was all happenstance. I swear I’m not a pervert.

I saw a beautiful cardinal land on your sill. I climbed the tree to get a better view of its vibrant red plumage. After you screamed and your neighbor came running out of the apartment building I got scared. I nearly broke my ankle from the fall. That sonofabitch chased me for five blocks and ripped my favorite tee-shirt. You know — the one with a before and after picture of a geek using a calculator then upgrading to an iPad. I had to visit a doctor the next morning. But don’t worry. I’m not going to sue. That is if you don’t press charges.

Why don’t you reply this ad and we can talk this out over at your place over dinner? Let’s say seven o’clock tonight. I’m sure we can come to an understanding.

Say Anything
I see that you filed a restraining order after I stood outside Home Brew and played Blondie’s “One Way or Another” on my boombox, for which you had me arrested. And now I’m not allowed to have contact or get within a hundred yards of you. There must be some miscommunication.

Please reply to this ad. It would make me very happy to hear from you. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your response.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we know the difference between puppy love and real love. Although real love can sometimes involve puppies. David Martin not only knows about love, he knows about romance. And he knows how to sell books. Click on the link below to purchase his most recent humor collection "Screams & Whispers" on Amazon.

Romance – The Adult Version

By:
david.martin@rogers.com
http://www.amazon.com/Screams-Whispers-pieces-rejected-Yorker/dp/1482395320/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362403948&sr=8-1&keywords=screams+%26+whispers+david+martin

When you’re young and in love, nothing seems too silly or cheesy. No token of affection or sign of commitment goes ungifted or unexpressed.

Yet I would say that I am far more romantic than the smitten teenager who showers his girlfriend with flowers, lockets and perfume. That’s easy. What’s hard is being there for your beloved through all the struggles of life. That, in my view, is true romance.

When she’s suffering from the flu and lying in bed in agony, the true romantic will be there by her side providing her tender loving care. He’ll rub her back, massage her neck and bring her chicken soup. That, my friend, is true love and that is what I call romantic.

Gifts, flowers and wining and dining are fine, I suppose. But, despite what some might say, the most important part of love is being willing to say you’re sorry 24/7. Whether you’re right or wrong is not the point; your job is to say “I’m sorry” whenever your partner accuses you of anything. Even when you have videotaped evidence that she slept with your best friend and emptied the family savings account, it’s up to you to take the high road and the blame. That spells true love.

A ring or a necklace may be a nice romantic present but it pales in comparison to providing support to your beloved. After she’s been on a three-day bender and has just about reached bottom, jewelry simply isn’t going to do the trick. Love means kneeling beside her next to the toilet holding her hair back to avoid the mess. Romance means ignoring her insults and bringing her a little hair of the dog in the morning to help her make it through the next day.

Gifts are easy; life is hard. A stuffed toy or a cute tee-shirt won’t do much good when your loved one is into her second day of heroin withdrawal. She won’t be asking you to whisper sweet nothings in her ear; she’ll be screaming that she needs a fix…NOW! You can pat her hand and tell her that you love her. But if you really care, you’ll track down her dealer, buy her a dime bag and make sure she’s got a clean needle. That, my friend, is true love.

Love isn’t all roses and fluffy white clouds. Love is hard work. After all, when your better half has robbed a bank, killed two innocent bystanders in a shootout with the police and ended up in prison on death row, a Hallmark card is not going to do her a whole lot of good.

That’s when your love will really be tested. Are you man enough to do whatever it takes to help her break out of prison? Do you care enough to smuggle in a file and then round up a van and a few friends to meet her outside the prison wall? If you do, then that’s what I call love.

Maybe you think you’re a loving husband because you help with the household chores and share your feelings. That’s fine, but love means more than that. Love means feeding your special woman ammo for her automatic weapon while she’s barricaded in the White House looking to “pop a cap” in the President’s ass. It also means not crying when she’s shouting that you’re a no-good, stupid sonofabitch for forgetting to bring an extra weapon.

Will you be there by her side when the Secret Service calls in an all-out attack on the East Wing? Can you suck it up and carry on for the sake of the kids even while she’s threatening to “cut you into pieces” and screaming in your face that she was an idiot for marrying you?

No, I didn’t think so. And neither could I. But that still doesn’t mean I’m not romantic.

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