Happy Potamus Day, Son!

Hippo Birthday final


Now THAT is the cover of the greatest ‘Happy 26th Birthday’ card ever!

And BELOW are the inside pages to said card.


hippo inside this one


Because that’s how we roll in New Zealand.

This is because, when we moved here two decades ago, birthday cards were boring, stupid and outrageously priced.

That led to the creation of Cards by Dad. Motto: we drink and then get cheap and funky (kidding).

I found the Hippo Card while trolling through the Chinese $1, $2, $3 shops.

It made me laugh.  And I know that if it makes me laugh, it will make Junior laugh.

This year, like always, the creative process was:

  • find a funny/weird/terrible/bizarre card or photo for the cover (see hippo)
  • start drinking and get funky (kidding, almost certainly)
  • add a stupid headline
  • search the Internet for “funny hippo photos”
  • print out wonderful things
  • cut them into various shapes
  • glue them into the card
  • glue the card together
  • say grown-up words that in no way resemble ‘Happy Birthday’
  • fix the card, until it is absolutely perfect
  • put it in the envelope
  • seal the envelope
  • take the card out and change something
  • 900 times

This year’s masterpiece took hours and hours to painstakingly make by hand.

OK, it took an hour, tops, including 5 minutes for the actual construction.

Cards By Dad are particularly awesome because they look like they were made by four year olds.

Who had been drinking. (Seriously)

I am just that good with scissors and glue and Liquid Paper.

Thankfully, Junior inherited my sense of humor and his Mother’s artistic talent, and not the other way around.

About a decade or so ago, Cards By Junior began to feature brilliant cartoons and artwork.

Some were hysterically funny.  Some were filled with wisdom.

Junior gave me the card below after I’d left the most hideous corporate job I ever had.

That birthday found me licking my wounds and trying to figure out how to realize my dreams – with me as a successful writer; the Missus designing her own line of clothes; and Junior recording his awesome music; all in our purpose-built studios inside our new home in the mountains.

The cover words on Junior’s card were from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.”

But the artwork on the cover, and inside, as below, was his:

Eli card for Dad

No, those dreams have yet to manifest, but I will never forget how that card lifted my spirits.  It’s still on my window sill.

I have every confidence that the Hippo Card will deeply touch my son in an equally profound and powerful way.

Happy Potamous Day, Son!

And Hippo Birthday.

Love, Dad.



Bazookas and Johnny Reb Cannons — Now THOSE Were Boy Toys

I do not “get” children of today.

And by “children of today”, I mean Junior and his Chinese cousins.

And by “today”, I mean 15 years ago. Because that’s how my mind works.

When Junior and his cousins got together, they invariably started playing with Pokemons or some stupid board game involving 10 billion little figurines, that had to be painted, and came with lots of rules and cards.

And when they played, they were usually quiet.  QUIET!

And there was never bloodshed.  NEVER!

When I was that age, play time involved things that would hurt you. Otherwise, I mean really, what was the point of being a boy?

My personal weapon of choice, when I was maybe 8, was a Johnny Reb Civil War cannon.  It was awesome.

canon 2

Internet photo


I would use it when Steve Madden and I battled in my hallway.  About 10,000 times every day.

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Heh Diddle Diddle … The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

cat and fiddle this oneHeh diddle diddle,

The Cat and the Fiddle,

The Cow jumped over the Moon.

Mr Moon

The little Dog laughed,

To see such sport,

And the Dish ran away with the Spoon.


As you can see, the Cat and the Fiddle are still in good shape. The Moon is a bit like me; worn at both ends.

These wonderful figures adorned my room when I was really little growing up in Norman. I’m not sure where the Fork and the Spoon ran off to. You never know with cutlery.

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10 Ways to Counter a Scary Monday

I am having my morning cup of Joe, and the first headlines I read are:

  • Explosion at Iran Nuke Site
  • Ebola in Spain


So rather than crawl into a ball and hide under the kitchen table, I have decided to do these 10 positive things.

1.  Help someone less fortunate than myself — drop off unwanted clothing at the Salvation Army or Our Lady of Divine Mercy refuge for battered Pacific Island men and women. Here is their story.

2.  Go to the beach — Within half an hour of me, there are some stunningly beautiful beaches which, being way to busy, I forget to enjoy.  Today I will go to one of them and drink in the peace.

Bethells Beach low res

3.  At least 18,000 Aucklanders are still without power, including both sisters-in-law. (A fire knocked out a substation two days ago).  I am going to name things that electricity have “given” me this morning to be grateful for: lights, alarm clock, hot shower, coffee, laptop, printer, heater, radio and telephone.

4. I shall eat a cookie for breakfast because, when in doubt, eat a cookie.

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Cowboys ‘Landry Shift’ Gives Me Goosebumps

I honestly got goosebumps on Sunday thanks to the Dallas Cowboys.

It was like I was transported back in time.

There in front of me, those huge Cowboys’ offensive linemen heard their quarterback yell out “Shift”, and they did it.


Just like back in Tom Landry’s glory days.

It was absolutely the coolest thing I have seen in years and, of course, it brought back so many memories, like …

About 46 years ago, I was a Cleveland Cougar, and I proudly wore No. 30 for a reason.  When our QB handed me the ball, I instantly became Cowboys halfback Dan Reeves, crashing through the defensive line.  I played way bigger than I was, which is why one kid called me a “one-armed tank”.

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There Was — and IS — Nobody Like Betty Pat Gatliff!

betty pat indian coat

Betty Pat and one of her forensic reconstructions.


When I was little, I’d see Betty Pat every Christmas Eve at Aunt Mackie’s.

I have no idea how she fit into our family.

As far as I know, she wasn’t actually kin, but she was like a celebrity or something.

Most Christmas Eves, Betty Pat would arrive fashionably late and create such a stir.

She and I would be the only (cool) people dressed in Cowboy gear.

I’d be decked out in my cowboy shirt, jeans, red boots and Fanner Fifty pistols (below).


cowboy shirt

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10 OkieBoomer Memories: Dip-Tops to Sonic Giraffes

diptop cone

In no particular order…

1.  Dip-Tops  —  Back in 1964, the Tastee-Freeze at Main and Berry Road had some kind of magic that allowed them to violate all known laws of physics.  They could “draw” an ice cream cone, turn it upside down, dip it into molten chocolate, and then hand it to you, without anything melting or exploding.  Don’t ask me how they did it.  I was just thrilled beyond measure that they could do it, because it was the best thing in the whole universe.  Fast forward 50 years.   On the way back from having a tumor the size of a baseball removed from his head, my Buddy’s grown son stopped at a Tastee-Freeze to celebrate.  He told the lady, and I quote, “I want the biggest Dip-Top Cone you have ever made in your whole, entire life, and I don’t care what it costs.”   The lady produced a monster Dip-Top Cone and charged him $10. Tradition is an awesome thing, huh?

2.  Dirt Clods — Whatever happened to dirt clods?  I must have thrown 10 billion of them; at trees, at fire hydrants, at Steve Madden and the occasional girl (yes, that got me in big trouble).  Some of the softer dirt clods would disintegrate because of the force of the throw.  Some were so hard that they might as well have been rocks.  The best dirt clods, held together with Bermuda grass roots, would explode on impact, like a snowball made of dirt.  It was a beautiful thing to see.  Where have the dirt clods gone?

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