This is my good friend Ryan a few days ago. As you can see, he's wearing a red union suit (complete with ass-flap) and a hillbilly beard doing a jug dance on top of a pile of rocks, letting me take pictures of him that he can't be sure aren't going to end up on the internet. That is the price of being close to me.
I got an e-mail from someone the other day accusing me of treating my children like dolls, and that's when I first realized my kids have been appearing in costume here quite a bit lately, partly because I'm a little more comfortable sharing images where their identity is obscured but mostly because my kids are almost always wearing costumes. Not long ago when I went into my son's room in the morning I found him in bed, wearing his complete Robocop costume under the covers. His grandfather bought him a Boba Fett helmet for his birthday a few weeks ago and I don't think I've seen his actual face in weeks. He also keeps telling me there's a bounty on my head and there's nowhere for me to hide. If things keep going like this, he's going to end up like his Uncle Ryan. When we were much younger, Ryan let me dress him up as a leprechaun for our St. Patrick's party:
For a college party with a "Life in the Future" theme he arrived wearing nothing but a pair of tin-foil underwear that didn't nearly cover his ass cheeks. When I was visited him in Athens, Georgia in 2003, I found he had grown a porn mustache and was dressing like a gay biker:
Although it doesn't even need to be said, we love Ryan a lot. We've missed him since he moved from Detroit to rejoin his people up north. Fortunately, he still comes by from time to time for a visit, and one of the great things about Ryan is that he never shows up without a gift. Now, ordinarily I hate gifts. They make me feel guilty because there's nothing in the world that I need and very few things that I actually want. But I love Ryan's gifts, possibly because they are always far too inconsequential to inspire much guilt. Ryan might bring you, say, a can of beans he bought in Alabama because he liked the design on the label, an LP he bought at Goodwill because he thought the singer looks like you, or a bottle of Mexican shampoo with a grizzly bear, a unicorn, and a tomato on it. Once he even brought me a stainless-steel beer koozie from Things Remembered with his name engraved on it. Come to think of it, I think he just left that here on accident (there was a half-empty can of Dr. Pepper in it). But recently Ryan brought me his best gift yet. The other day he showed up at my house bearing the gift of a single bar of soap:
Ryan knows well that I am all about anything Old-Timey. We used to go to Old-Timey baseball games at Greenfield Village. We occasionally unscrew a bottle of medicinal wine and put our feet up on the cracker barrel to discuss the good old days. After spending a few days in the woods listening to me bitch about his plastic tubs and extolling the virtues of waxed canvas, he has come around to respect my decision to dress like Ed from those Bartles & Jaymes commercials.
And wouldn't you know it: I fucking love this soap.
In case you're wondering what "pine tar soap" smells like, I think the following quotes from actual Amazon reviews sum it up pretty well:
- "It smells like a lumber yard."
- "Seriously smells like beef jerky."
- "It smells like a burning pile of garbage."
- "This stuff smells like wet railroad ties."
- "Kind of like a tire factory on fire."
- "Imagine submerging your body into a giant vat filled with liquid wood and rubber and you’re pretty close."
- "I'll bet this is what the Brawny paper towel guy smells like."
- "When I used it in the past, before going to work, my coworkers started to tell me that I smell and that I need a shower. Many thought it was BO. Now I theorize that these comments were made because my co-workers are idiots."
- "The soap itself is mild and lathers well, so I can only assume that scale-removing qualities are from the fumes literally searing off layers of flesh. In short, Grandpa started a Fight Club and the soap is its cover. I recommend this to anyone who just wants to feel alive. You'll know when you find other members. Everyone around you will be asking where the fire is, but you'll just wipe the blood away from your nose and keep walking."
- "The smell is too strong for some but I love it. I enjoy nature and this soap acts as a cover scent allowing me to gain close proximity to wildlife without being noticed."
- "I picked up 183 of these Pine Tar Soaps (4.25 Ounces) at a going out of business sale. I thought I was getting a good deal. Turns out the Soap smells horrendous and caused me to gag and itch all over when I used it on my [blank]. I had to toss all of them out."
Before you get all judgey, let's consider the state of contemporary men's soap fragrance, shall we? When I find myself in the soap/body wash aisle of a typical chain drug store I feel very confused about my sexuality. Am I supposed to want to smell like Axe Shower Gel? I take one whiff of that stuff and think, Well, now I know what date rape smells like. Axe Shower Gel really only belongs on the kind of guy whose gaze lingers over his own body a little too long in the mirror before getting in the shower, maybe with pursed lips and a little nod of confidence. You know: chest waxers; the towel-snappers from high school. The guys who don't find out what true love is until they get over all their hangups and finally hit the dance floor on tighty-whitey night at the Manhole. The smell of Axe Shower Gel is all fine and good for those guys, but I feel much more comfortable smelling like a pile of burning tires. I don't know what happened to men to make us think we need to smell like a bunch of perfumed, hairless go-go dancers. Grandpa's Pine Tar Soap makes you smell like George Brett's gym bag. It makes you smell like Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug. The only cologne that can possibly accompany it must be purchased at a Walgreen's right before Father's Day, preferably one with horses or a schooner on the box and a free bottle of aftershave.
The soaps and deoderants marketed to men can't just be ordinary soap anymore. It all has to be "sporty blast!" or "arctic lightning!" whatever that smells like. Don't try to tell me about that creepy castille soap bottled by the scientologists, I am a Grandpa's man now. How can you not trust Grandpa? Look at him, notice how much he resembles Kenny Rogers before all the plastic surgery:
What kind of man doesn't want to smell like The Gambler (before all the plastic surgery)? I never accept free products from companies, but if, say, someone from the Grandpa's Brands Company were to read this and, say, send me a gift basket full of pine tar soap, I'd certainly put up a badge that says, Grandpa makes me smell like wet railroad ties and my wife hasn't left me yet. I'm down to this tiny precious sliver of your smokey amber wonder soap and I can't find it for sale anywhere in Detroit. Don't make me contact that final Amazon reviewer to find out where he dumped all 183 bars of your amazing pine tar soap.
Oooh, I just went to the website and realized they also make shampoo. Now I can smell like I just got home from camping all the time. . .