Issue #73 – “Blood Counts” – August 8th, 2005

-It was a brisk day in 1996 when my father, a veteran toy company executive, was transporting the very first Tickle Me Elmo prototype through Hong Kong International Airport.  Because the toy’s internal mechanism looked like a bomb in the X-Ray machine, my mom and dad were quickly hustled into a small room filled with armed guards and asked to dismantle the device.  My dad tried, but instead inadvertently tickled Elmo, who first began to shake uncontrollably and then burst into his trademark high-pitched giggle.  The guards actually began to giggle too, as did my mom, who was so amused by the scene she cried with laughter for a good 48 hours straight.  But my dad remembers one very serious-looking guard in the back who never took his hand off his gun or his eye off of Elmo.  Thankfully, my parents were eventually released and the rest is red, furry history.  I recount this story because I’ve always tried to figure out how I got the way I am today – eccentric, prone to cause a scene, and, well, just a little off.  The answer, of course, is my family.  Because in the equation of what creates us, blood counts.

-My mom, like me, is a worrier.  If I tell my mom offhand that something is bothering me, she consoles me.  Then later she starts to think about my problem, and then she worries about me.  About a week later, when I don’t even care anymore, she calls me up offering advice she found on the Internet, reference books she took out from the public library, and the phone number of a cousin I don’t even know who suffered from a similar problem in the late ‘80s.  My mom tries to solve all of my problems, yet, strangely enough, she can’t figure out how to email pictures from her digital camera that aren’t each three megs big and crash my hard drive every single time.

-My dad has a different way of tackling my problems: by spouting one-line dad-isms.  When I lament the Yankees’ current second-place status, my dad comfortingly grunts, “That’s why they play all the games.”  When I told him I was planning on driving home through the night after a stand-up gig, he simply warned, “Don’t be a hero.”  I’m not even sure what that means…but I checked right into a hotel anyway.

-My rhyming-name sister Caryn is the only person who gets to see my columns before I send them out because she proofreads them.  You ever have someone edit something you wrote with “track changes” turned on in Word?  It inserts these jagged red lines wherever there’s an edit.  Except Caryn’s edits aren’t limited to grammar and punctuation.  She also likes to insert little comments like “This is stupid,” or “You’re an idiot.”  Caryn just got her Master’s from UCLA.  Yet she still found it necessary to insert “You smell” right after this joke.

-Well, I’ve reached the age of twenty-six and it’s official: I now sound exactly like my father.  The deal was sealed a few weeks ago when Girlfriend accidentally called my parent’s house and had a five-minute conversation with my dad without realizing it wasn’t me on the phone.  She finally figured it out when she told “me” that she was switching to a new birth control and my dad responded, “Don’t be a hero.”

-In the end, blood is thicker than water…but that doesn’t stop us twentysomethings from going ballistic on our families.  For instance, my mom actually called me the other day and said, “I spoke to Uncle Larry before, he thinks you should try to get on Leno.”  Really mom?  Really??  Uncle Larry thinks I should get on Leno?  Well, I never thought of that before but if Uncle Larry thinks so why don’t I just call Jay’s direct line right now?  I’m sure he can bump Jessica Simpson and squeeze me right in, especially if Uncle Larry says so!  Of course, I know mom was only trying to help.  So if I ever do get on Leno, I’ll make sure to tell him Uncle Larry says hello.  It might take a while, but hey, that’s why they play all the games.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-I recently flew United, and they make a big deal about how if you tune to channel nine on your armrest, you can actually hear the chatter between the pilots and air traffic control.  So about halfway through the flight, I decided to check it out.  I scrolled past about four country western stations before getting to channel nine.  And what did I hear?  Nothing.  The channel was out of service.  I immediately thought, now what was I supposed to use as a flotation device again?

-Last week I was served gazpacho, or cold soup, at a wedding.  Every time I eat gazpacho I think the same thing: this is pretty good, but it’d be better if it wasn’t cold.

-What’s worse than falling down the stairs?  Thinking there’s one more step but there really isn’t.  You end up doing that awkward lunge where your foot hits the floor unexpectedly and your kidneys fly up into your brain – which clearly wasn’t being used in the first place.

-You know you’re wasted when you’re standing in the elevator for ten minutes, wondering why nothing’s happening, before you realize you never pressed any buttons.

-I keep all the jokes I’ve written (nearly 4,000 of them) in a giant Excel spreadsheet organized by category.  The other day, for the first time in years, I added a new category: Weddings.  I lost yet another soldier last month when my buddy Triplet #3 got engaged.  I’m not too excited about the impending avalanche of friends’ weddings, though.  Because you know what more weddings means – more gazpacho.

-I’m going to be the Best Man at my old roommate Brian’s wedding next year.  And that’s pretty cool because when we start arguing about who had the better SAT II scores, I can always interrupt and say, “Wait, wait…what kind of man am I?  What kind of man?  That’s right, the Best Man.  You said it yourself, the Best!”  Come to think of it, I better look into whether you can be fired from the wedding party…

-And, finally, my grandmother has always told me that, as the last male Karo, it’s up to me to have four boys to carry on the family name.  (This was an especially daunting task to be given when I was six and very much a virgin and, ironically, is even more daunting now that I’m twenty-six and very much not one).  But then, fate intervened.  I got an email a few weeks ago from one Zac Karo, a fellow twentysomething who graduated from Oklahoma State the same year I graduated from Penn.  A little research ensued and, what do you know, it turns out our great-grandfathers were brothers.  There are more male Karos after all!  Sure it’s distant, but blood counts.  It was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders (and my groin).  I told my dad the news but added that, even though I should be absolved from Grandma’s request, I’d do my best to have four boys anyway.  His response?  “Don’t be a hero.”  Fuck me.