Is your head in the right place?

If I could miniaturize I’d go into my middle child’s mind. I’d see what’s in there. I know it’s good. There are dragons, robots, robot dragons on this racing space treadmill of the weird and undiscovered. It’s a thoroughfare of thought that runs right across the front of his brain. Occasionally this Dr. Seuss smorgasbord of new and wonderful creatures goes out of focus. Gradually emerging in the distant fog is the rest of his family at the dinner table looking at him.

“Welcome back, Otto!”

That could be the name of a TV show but it’s also a household catchphrase. Where did he go? What fantastic beast was he riding into a sunset cloud?

I took the kids to a business meeting the other day. It was spring break. School was out and the family was in. But I needed to finish up some work. The kids joined me in Boulder for a few meetings. The first was at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. I logged that adventure. The second was at a hip little coffee shop. I outfitted the kids with hot chocolate and cupcakes while Adam Mayer of Boulder Startup Week and I figured out details of their big event in May.

Boulder can vex like a Brillo codpiece but startup week is the very best mix of big brains and neo-hippie flower showers of good vibes. I wish I didn’t cringe when someone said something about good vibes or glowing chakras or some such. Those are things I should respect and care about. I don’t wince a bit when we’re all eating chocolate on the day dead Jesus is supposed to punch his way out the casket. I mean that’s truly disturbing. But you get someone too enthusiastic about your aura and I get nervous and look around to make sure no one else is listening. For the painfully self aware like me, Boulder Startup Week mixes in enough business to balance the Buddha.

But it also makes me think that I shouldn’t care what people think. I’m thinking about that very thing as I discuss money with Adam. I’m wondering, am I pulling off this business talk? Am I believable? And I go on this inner dialogue. Part of me working very hard to follow his explanation of sponsorship levels, and another part of me really worried that I might have early onset of some brain-eating disease. Not only do I have attention issues, but whatever is left is being cannibalized by doubt. I’m getting closer to pulling out of the dive and cobbling together some cognition when Otto starts saying “dad.”

Dad. Dad…dad. He goes a few times before I tell him to hold on because I’m talking business. For a moment I imagine jumping onto the table and ripping off my normal clothes to reveal an sparkly Uncle Sam outfit. “See kids…business!” I shout.

“Dad. Dad…dad..” I finally break down.

“Excuse me, Adam,” I say to my patient counterpart.

“Otto,” I begin. The most business I’ve sounded all day. “Do you have something about Boulder Startup Week because that’s what we’re talking about?”

Otto has this thing where he’s slow to get to the actual words. He builds up. Little head gnomes rushing around piecing together this fantastic thing that just rushed by on rollers. He starts with little vocal fragments. Flecks of words flying out. I’m usually not patient enough to pick them up. So I push.

“Otto, what?”

He’s getting there. He takes great care to get the thought just right; even has Adam watching, eyebrows raise. The garage door to the brain. They’re up. Open to whatever. The woman at the table next to us turns from her book and is trying not to look too interested. What is this excited kid stuttering about? It’s going to be big. When all of it comes together in his head, it’s going to Kool-Aid Man into the room.

Older brother Quin mutters something about Otto. It throws off his game. He turns to glare but his thoughts are still streaming across the room, dangling excitement.

“Otto, don’t let him get to you.” And I’m way beyond hippie chakra conversation uncomfortable. I just want him to get on with it.

And he let’s it out.

“Dad…dad…do you think we could build a dragon out of other animal parts?”

Rarely do long-awaited releases live up to the hype.

We were sidetracked for the next few minutes. I mean, you could do something with genetics. I explained to Otto you’d have some decomposition issues and a raft of problems with getting the guts to work again. He calms my concerns with some backup ideas about animatronics and skin made out of gold. Adam, a successful tech entrepreneur, isn’t entirely confident something like that could be done. The woman with her book smiles and turns back to her book.

We’ll talk about that when we’re heading home, I tell him. He held me to it. And while we’re talking I imagine a gilded dragon bursting out of a quaint little coffee shop and spiraling into the Colorado sky.



Day 2 of Spring Break: Breaking up the Monopoly

One big pride point I have with my kids is that they love board games. With as much LED illumination that bathes their baby skin in blue, it's so nice finally get back my phone and see them wanting to kill each other instead of something on Minecraft.

Even though I've warned them about Monopoly, they love the game and last weekend we took one into it's fourth hour before I begged them to stop. I was shocked at how reluctantly they folded and put away the cardboard square that was going to have us traipse around it's borders until we ran out of food. But I remember those games with my brother (either Monopoly, Risk or this homemade version of Sorry) and I going at it. It was as if Parker Brothers had come up with a cerebral way for children to get out their physical aggression.

It would all start so innocently. The clearing of the table. Making space for the mental challenge-- our mom so proud that we were inside and doing congenial things. And then, like twenty minutes later, some tiny grievance steamrolled the civility. It is small. It always starts small. It's a jagged marble rolling through your blood stream. Tiny barbs of perturbance bring up other things that you hadn't thought about until you're certain that your brother has collected twice for Passing Go. And you remember things, all those things that he's done wrong to you. "I didn't cheat!" he swears but that one time in July when he ditched you in the woods, and that other instance when he sat on you and dangled spit, well they rip right into you. It wasn't but a flesh wound then but now it's deep. All of these indiscretions add up to evidence of a cheat. They pile up at the front of your brain, pushing your pendulum from peace to war.

This happened yesterday. Otto had traded Reading Railroad to his buddy Max and, at some point, Max moved it to Quin. Paying rent to Max is one thing, but to haveto pay the maximum railroad rent to his brother, well that was a breaking point. At the time of the conflagration, I was playing this kid's game Cariboo with Eliot. The fake money hit the fan and Quin and Otto tangled in the far corner of the basement. I rose from the floor hoping my grunting father ascension would send a message. Quin saw it as a chance to be saved.

"Otto's tearing up the game because he doesn't want to pay rent!"

Quin wore his Nitro Circus baseball cap. It's way too big for him but it's got that big-brimmed look that's hot right now. It's a relic from happier times when I took the boys to the Nitro World Games last summer. There was sunshine and bicycle tricks. Today there was rain and way too much shade. We'd tried some outside games but the wind nearly took Eliot's beach ball and the emotions were too much to bear. We retreated to the basement. To togetherness. In a small space. For too long.

I asked Otto what he though he was doing. Fire poured out of him. He raged that he'd had the railroad and that Quin was cheating. Quin, who was probably innocent this time but comes with much guilt from previous gaming swindles, denied the allegations. I pulled his little brother off of him and did a welfare check on their friend, Max, who'd gotten up from the game and would have retreated further had not the concrete wall gotten in the way.

Moments before the melee. 

Moments before the melee. 

From what I could tell, the transactions had been legit. Max gave Otto St. James place and Tennessee Ave and twenty dollars (In two tens! Quin would stress) for the railroad, and then Quin traded Park Place for the railroad and some other undisclosed properties. Of course sibling crimes aren't always clear. They're not black and white. They're a genetic rainbow that leads to a pot of roiling similarities. They're an inhumane social science anchoring you to anger, grudging a decent afternoon into the murky depths of unforgettable deeds. Quin might not be guilty of insider trading, but he was one hundred percent unfit as anything but the appropriate target for Otto's frustration.

Before I get to the part where Otto lunged out of my arms and went for the kill, I'll tell you about this one time my parents woke me up and I was on top of my brother and trying to choke the life out of him. I don't know what happened. Well, I do know in some larger sense. Years of physical and psychological warfare altered me into a sleepwalking monster. I don't remember anything except for my parents, for once, actually worried about my older brother. It wasn't that they weren't concerned for him in general, as parents do, but as far as the battles between us, they were fairly certain he could handle his own. And then, for the first time in my recorded history (aside from the time I had an older kid help me tie him up in Devil's cabin--remind me to tell that one), my mother and father burst into our room concerned for the fate of their oldest son. My dad grabbed me and I came to. My hands around Peter's neck, his face bluish pale. He'd been listening to Ronnie James Dio before I burst out of the darkness and locked onto his airway.

I looked down at him and he was more shocked than frightened. His huge 80s headphones jostled into poorly placed Princess Leia buns. His teenage moment of solitude ripped open by an eleven year old in tightie whities. I was going to kill him.

It was an odd mix of bewilderment and satisfaction discovering that my dad had to save my brother from me. Even he gave me some space as I dismounted my sibling and made my way back to bed. I believe there was some post-carnage lecturing by my mother but she was like a Peanuts adult as I tried to figure out what had happened. How did I do that?

And then, yesterday, I saw it. Quin, about the physical equal of his brother, but with by far the better grasp on the mental game, showed true terror at his oncoming sibling. Otto escaped from me and dove at Quin. His extreme sports hat stark to his pale visage. Otto shrieked. A shrill warning that told the story of seven years of oppression. His battle cry propelled him into Quin's torso. And from there Otto made an odd choice for a coup de grâce. He grabbed Quin's shirt and began reeling him in. Otto, it seemed, thought of himself as a wood chipper, and he was going to swallow this board game tyrant and spit him out the other side. Quin felt the appropriate level of fear and barked at me with his desperate eyes. "Dad!" he shouted and I...well I wish could have been of more help. But I was laughing so hard. Inexplicably an insane amount of laughter boiled out of me. I held on to Otto as much as the giggle fatigue would let me. Max, still backed away from the game and stuck to the basement wall, worked on a smile as he wondered exactly what was so funny. One adult among four kids and that one adult was losing, helplessly tickle struck in the melee between his own sons.

I really don't know what happened. Otto turned into a wood chipper right after I gave him an ultimatum: either get back in the game and play it through, or cut your losses and go find a book to read. As our middle child went full-on Taz, I was emptied of any cerebral solution. Goddamn siblings. All too often they fly so low that their isn't much an evolved mind can do for them. And that's when I started laughing. I could barely contain the 50 pounds of second-grader that tore into Quin. Quin kind of started laughing, too. But more in the way when you want something not to be true, like really bad news and you hope the bearer is just kidding. "You're laughing at this, dad?" he seemed to ask with his own reticent chuckles. I laughed so hard I was functionless, other than to repeatedly giggle shout "Otto...Otto...Otto...really? Otto?"

I managed to wrestle him to the floor. A demon enraged. Lava everywhere. The older brother freed himself from his little brother's grasp on his shirt--from his little brother's hands around his neck. Fifty years of junior frustration rolled onto the floor as I pulled Otto away from his panic-stricken elder. Fifty years our combined age, we middle children bruised by so many injustices. Often self-assailed in our own unwillingness to let go. But I'm pretty sure one day he'll get to laugh about it.

Earlier that day we'd take this janky pano, yet it eerily predicts what Otto wanted Quin to look like (2nd from right.)

Earlier that day we'd take this janky pano, yet it eerily predicts what Otto wanted Quin to look like (2nd from right.)



Another spring break, Day 1: What is art?

Eliot and Otto examine Das Eismeer. Which is German for Oh Crap all we Have is Coors Light.   Actually, it's Sea of Ice and it's on display at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

Eliot and Otto examine Das Eismeer. Which is German for Oh Crap all we Have is Coors Light. 

Actually, it's Sea of Ice and it's on display at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

What is art? I asked the kids on the way to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA). Eliot was pretty quiet about it, but from either side came her brothers' responses. Otto went after the sarcasm. "It's what you look at on the wall!" He was quick with his response. Trying to dismiss me, he was. Or draw my ire. Just a bit of vexation; pull me into a battle of words that would turn into imaginary lasers and shields. It's my fault. I talk trash to him all of the time because I know it will take me where I'm most comfortable: at approximately seven years old and shooting fake lasers. My shields are awesome, btw.

Quin leaned into my rear view and said art might be things you make so other people will look at them. His statement started heavy and then floated away on the intonation of a question. The way we do when answering a question about art.

As far as I know they're both right. Maybe Eliot nailed it with the silence. But who really knows what will move you until you're moved? Until you're fresh on the other side of something you never expected. Of course there are things that you know will move you. 

Nicole Dial-Kay, a sparkling blend of snark and sophistication, goes criss-cross applesauce with the kids and Dylan Gebbia-Richards’  Eclipse .

Nicole Dial-Kay, a sparkling blend of snark and sophistication, goes criss-cross applesauce with the kids and Dylan Gebbia-Richards’ Eclipse.

--I'd like to pause here to say that this part might become annoying--

I like playing football. It feels amazing. A throw, a catch, and usually a much faster person tackling me, but I lie on the ground mesmerized by all that had to go right to make that happen. Somewhere someone had to be bored enough with round balls to make an egg one, and somehow an infinite number of scenarios were weeded out until a billion years of spatial relations had me reach out for that ball. A butterfly fart's difference and who knows for what my arms or paws or tentacles would be outstretched.

So, anyway, here's my thought: take that quick appreciation of actually catching the ball for once, and have that happen to you when you least expect it. A few brushstrokes or some bended steel, and you're holy shitting at the experience of the connection. The emotional touchdown.

That's why I've never been an art sceptic. Art makes people talk--that goddamned blue horse, for example. Growing up I was in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by art. Modest, crafty attempts to turn a little something into even more. Blank paper folded and water colored into a Christmas card. Birthday greetings dotted into folk art with a few markers and some quiet time at the table. That's the basic stuff. It's the little bit of expression done mostly out of practicality. Who wants to buy a greeting card anyways? The satisfaction of getting something done on the cheap.

--I think we're probably good with my prying and positing--

This guy was alive when I started talking about art.

This guy was alive when I started talking about art.

That's where I was at with the kids speculating on art. I was meeting BMoCA for work and the kids, availed to me by spring break, were going to get A) a day with dad and B) have their horizons broadened C) for free.

Free stuff for kids. For a parent that's a masterpiece.

I'd asked the kids about art because I wanted to broach the subject about A) What they see might not make sense B) they needed to be polite no matter what it was.

Luckily, one of the first pieces that greeted them was a human skull. It was in a fish tank and had coral reef growing off of it. The boys were enamored. I'm pretty sure they want me to obtain a human head now. Human remains, according to Nicole, the marketing director for the museum, are hard to come by unless you know the right people in Europe. But one day, boys, you can have my enlarged cranium bone for whatever piece you choose to tie the room together. If you don't go with the aquarium, my second choice would be dining room centerpiece. Or garden. Hide a key in it.

The point of the skull in the aquarium? There was some commentary about how humans are killing coral reefs but coral reefs can eat us. I like that. I just read that, if they wanted to, spiders could eat all of humanity in a year. We need these reminders of our fragility. These perspective-inducing trips down reality lane. Instead of burials we may consider human remnants to keep rising seas at bay. I guess that may happen anyway, but it makes so much more sense to protect our coasts with bones instead of having our corpses consuming up more than they need. Jesus, think of that. Even after we're dead we're taking up space. A water buffalo, for example, lies down and feeds a dozen vultures and a pack of wolves. Humans cordon off a chunk of land and hide in a box. (Christ, the art is working. I'm Philip K. Dicking into darkness.)

And then we shuffled around, taking pictures and seeing into the eyes of artists with their molds and paintings and protrusions spread out before us. The artist reaching out of the wall with paint-sticky hands wanting to leave a mark. Or many marks. "Hey, mofo! Look at this pain/inspiration/inheritance!" They shout like beverage vendors pacing the halls, plying you with something to enhance the same old game. Or maybe just a stimulant or depressant.

We enjoyed the space; you could feel what could be in place of whatever wasn't there--like, you know, the big empty offers a lot of opportunity to create. The kids answered. They filtered in and were drawn to the installment. But where they weren't directed they found their own distraction. A particularly large vestibule found them swinging from a railing. Christ, I thought, cut that out--like, yeah, stop doing it, but also with a big pair of scissors cut it out of this early spring day and put it on display. "Space Destroyed. Time Surrendered." 

The whole time I had to reel in the daddy commentary about how the kids could be artists if they work at it. Shut up, old man. You could be something if you work at it, too, and it's the worst kind of person to shellac that over the raw experience of being there.



Ghosts are a good thing

My arms are sore. My chest is heavy. I'm pretty sure I'm about to get a cold and my eyes are drinking fire. It's the time of year when I'm awake all of the time. It's when mid-stride I stop on the sidewalk and try and think how much of her I remember. Do I recall how she moved? What she cooked? How did she look at me long before she was sick?

It's March which means it's also the march to her birthday. I couldn't figure it out for a few years, but there's a ghost that haunts me every spring. I don't sleep for about a month. I mean, sure, I close my eyes and sink deep into a tired place but before long I'm up again. In 2007 I didn't know what was wrong. It took another few years after that to fully realize what was happening. I'm being haunted.

Every once and a while I'll pause and look around. Is she really here? My dog comes around the corner and I jump. "Holy shit, Paco!" I berate animal that I've often wondered is the reincarnation of my mother. Wait. Maybe that's it. Maybe she did just come around the corner. And she'd love that she's the one lying on the floor and farting in my tiny studio. She'd really love that.

I'm not going to kid you. I'm tired. You get enough whining on your Facebook, I'm sure, so I'll get out of this little slump in about fifty words. But up until April tenth, it's like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I get up at the same time with the same song. It's really shit music, but it goes something like this: "What are you doing? I know you should be sleeping, but there are some things that need to be done." Terrible lyrics. And it dances out like a miserable musical. The same actions. The rolling around until I give in and get up.

Get up. Let's talk about that. About how getting up is easier when you do it on a regular basis. Because I slumber all too often. Waking hours zombied into the dirt. Like the undead crawling back into their grave just because it's less than they thought it would be. Where's the carnage? The screaming? Terrified people pounding boards over their windows? There's nothing. It's bloodless. Apathetic. A coup without a battle and not one single person perturbed about the change of power. I'm just lying here, man. I'm not interested in your anarchy.

That last paragraph was a metaphor for being stuck in your own way. Imagine tiny legs trying to bound over a log. I've got regular legs. But sometimes I feel I should donate them to someone who could use them.

So rise, I say. I say now because I have no choice. Goddamn ghosts. And I say, Remember now. I ask, with eyelids dragging across hot pavement, what is it that you remember?

I know what I know--at least as far as what I can conjure. I'm making this up, but it's in my head so maybe that's just as real. But my mom is coming around the corner. It's a sunny day. The sky is blue because of the oceans or whatever makes them blue, but on this day it's a courtesy to the green trees and everything else that needed contrast. Thank you. You all accessorize nicely together.

Winnie the Pooh, I've imagined, would be the perfect host for what I'm painting. He's helpful to paint you this scene. Pleasant Pooh made us all feel comfortable with each other. My mom reading and me lying on her bed, in the sun spread across our memories.

So no actual Pooh, but his idyllic setting: Sarah, the kids and me on a classic picnic blanket. The kind used to sell Coke in the fifties. And we're where our house used to be. I guess I should mention that. Everything is gone. The home, the things, the new-ish diswasher and the fifteen LED screens that turned our kids blue like cheerful choking victims downing another few gigs of Internet entertainment. I can't blame them. I taught them that. But that's all gone. The doubt over everything--that undying self-spewed aspersion of everything you're not sure what you're doing--has dissipated. I'm not sure if it's because my mom has just turned off Oxford onto our street, but I get the feeling that it's part of it.

I get the feeling that it's nice to know what's important.

I hope this is just the beginning. I'll call it part 1.



Is Donald Trump the worst human alive?

I popped up at 3am with one question: Is Donald Trump the worst human alive? I can't say for sure if he is, as I don't know all of the humans. But of the sampling I have, he's definitely topping the charts. It's terrifying that he's President, yes, but then again comforting to know that we all know with whom to take warning.

How did the cellar ascend the stairs? When did the mud become the clouds? Where is the sunshine? How come all I want is moonshine? 

I don't know.

And I do know.

I don't know how an actual freedom-loving nation of hard working people would elect a guy who's propelled purely by his own fascination with himself. It's like promoting a toddler to the top office because he's driven to scream whenever he needs attention. He tells it like it is!

This is called the Trump Face. Ironically, it renders you as dumb and dangerous as he appears to be.

This is called the Trump Face. Ironically, it renders you as dumb and dangerous as he appears to be.

I do know that we're a rather entitled bunch. No matter what we have we want more. And if we aren't of those who have, we're easily manipulated by those who promise that they can get it. The trouble is, we're pretty freaking distracted. So instead of focusing on what we should want, whatever that may be--a way to make the car payment and pair of adult footie pajamas--we'll get suckered in by a guy playing on our anxieties. You and I both know the highest office in the land can't land you a better gig, but they can move you to resent your neighbors. And suddenly we're OK with not making our car payment as long as there's someone worse off than us.

You know it. You've heard it. Benjamin Franklin getting OG on some wealthy landowners with his cold, hard, paraphrased ultimatum: If you give up liberty for security you deserve neither. Well eff you Benji! We've given up both! We now have a president who's not only growing terrorists abroad, but those pasty confederates at home. We have a president who's ripping out the infrastructure that keeps us safe from ourselves, while ensuring that people overseas have a shot at us as well.

I know there are people out there who still defend him. Which blows my mind. From a cultural perspective, we've never cheered on the spoiled rich kid. Troy from Goonies. Spoiled rich kid. That Jonny guy who was part of the Cobra Kai. Terrible human. Draco freakin' Malfoy. We never cheer for that guy. Throughout history, in real life or on paper, we loathe the spoiled rich kid. So why? Why? Why would we think that the most overtly self-obsessed sociopath should be in the Oval Office making decisions based on his dick size? And if you think that's just a crass metaphor, then you might have missed that his very first action as leader of the free world was lying about the magnitude of his inauguration crowd.

Oh, I know, you're conjuring a comment right now. Googling phrases and perusing your favorite like-minded sites. I appreciate that. If anything, this douche kazoo that's spouted enough verbal garbage to bury America in an early grave has created some vibrant discussion. We're all agog in either admiration or terror. Here we're led by this guy who is so many mindless contradictions. He wants to #MAGA but he has nothing but contempt for the checks and balances that made us great in the first place. He's the poor man's rich guy. He's dim but Day-Glo. He's scattered but piled right in front of us. In one afternoon he said we need to work on big things and then Tweeted that a department store treated his daughter poorly. All of his mad meanderings lead back to one common source: how did it make him feel? Did it stir in him the smug vengeance of a man who fires his poorly thought-out executive orders at all of those who perturb him? Or did it further swell his pride like the praise he received for a wildly inaccurate but actually lucid address to Congress?

Did it make him respond like an executive leader at all? Any kind of leader?  Like even a shift manager of a TJ Maxx? Was one tiny iota of measured reason detected? Or did he boomerang out of his pants and streak across our once promising vistas of hope and good will?

You don't need to answer that interrogation. I have a lot of question marks lately and this seems like as good a place as any to put them. I'll just end with one final query and then go to bed. Do you think, in a country as comfortable as this one, that so many people would be speaking out if there weren't a serious problem? Even the normally quiet National Park Service is popping off. Christ, Budweiser is chiming in. A lumber company. LinkedIn, Lyft, Uber, Nike. England. My typically quiet neighbors are talking. People are coming out into light, blinking at the empire rising, and commenting on its unusual glare. What is that we say about red skies in the morning?


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About a girl who's nearly three

Eliot came out of the bathroom and announced that she doesn't eat toilet paper. "It's for babies" she reassured me. I don't know if she'd just tried the toilet paper and, upon finding it's not all that good to eat, wanted me to know it's something she's not going to do anymore. Or if she simply thought it would be good for me to know. I appreciate it. The list of parental worries grows every day, from will my family be injured by an election-empowered emotional idget, to if my son will wander into the path of danger pursuing a Pokemon. I mean that phone is brand new.

JUST KIDDING! The phone isn't new at all. But I joke because having a family is terrifying. I thought I had worries when I was twenty. Which begs the question: Why? Why do we breed? Why do we stretch our rather immalleable heart muscle across the lives of children scattered everywhere? But then Eliot emerges from a blanket fort and tells me she loves me. And she means it. And I'm reassured by the multiplying. 

I only have to worry about you for the rest of my life.

I only have to worry about you for the rest of my life.

This is where Eliot is now: lots of announcements. She knows things and she wants us to know the things she knows. Not so much in an arrogant, know-it-all way, but in a genuine The-More-You-Know public service way. For example, she points out that I'm a boy and she's a girl...a lot. Also, on the regular she introduces me to her mom. Turns out she's in the same house. 

Eliot's declarations come at a steady pace. Like I'd say between three and thirty per minute, and right now they're all pretty adorable. I'll say the same for the boys--in that their statements are sweet testaments to clarity and youth--except when they start talking about Pokemon and then they're the worst Tinder date ever, running sentences into a stifling word smog of Japanese monster jargon. That said, the observational comments are ruling the house. The biggest news being that Eliot's birthday is in two weeks and she can feel it. Nay, she can taste it. It's the cake she's excited about. She loves cake, especially cupcakes, and sings about them and praises them and when she gets one takes two bites of frosting before leaving it partially naked and left to dry. Still, she's been singing happy birthday to herself and pressing others to join in. I would feel pressure to exceed her expectations, but this is a kid who lives for the smiley face on the back of a warehouse receipt. And if there's anything that I could impress upon new parents, it's to enjoy the kids while they're cheap. Instead of a clown or a magician, I may just have the guy from Costco come over.

My favorite Eliot proclamation is her love for the family. I mean she really adores us. She hugs all of us, even the cat that scratches her. She'll grab on to your head or neck or whatever she can circumference and cling like a baby koala. They are the best hugs ever. Yet I'm that jaded adult who tries to back out early. And by early I mean five minutes in. I've found myself apologizing to god and my dead mother and to unloved people everywhere when I pull away thinking that the embrace has come to a conclusion, only to find that we're still midway grasp. And then she drops her head back on my shoulder and I'm transported. Transported to the manliest man that I'll ever be. Go ahead, send out your best. I'll take them. I'll take them down with my one free arm and the leg that hasn't gone numb. You get a little kid crawling into your neck nook for comfort and you're a goddamn oak tree. You're not just the Lion King, you're the rock on which that wise monkey guy introduced Simba to the world. Goddamn someone say an Amen. Say it. It's beautiful.





And hold.

And hold.


And then I try and lie her in her bed. Because it's bedtime and it seems like a natural transition.

And then we're back. Standing and hugging. And I imagine a statue made out of us. Actually, there would be no making anything as we are the statue. Just this old dude and this little girl clamped onto him like the cutest goiter ever. How does she get it? How does she know? Surely there's some innate drive for love and warmth and comfort, but what's being transferred in this twelve minute squeeze? Trust. That's good. Warmth. Yep. A surefire message about the power of a tiny person to manipulate the largest person in the house. Seems possible.

I know, it's love. She's a lover. A hugger. An outright adorable brand ambassador for the human race. My getting to hold her is an honor. And she knows it.

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Coming up for air | A Recollection of an Election

On an election’s eve 14 years ago, I was sitting on the floor in a worker’s union building. I can’t remember which union it was, but they’d lent their space to the 2002 Democratic Coordinated Campaign. 

There were many reasons why I was on the floor. I hadn’t slept in two days. I was working three jobs. My wife and I had quit our careers, gotten married, moved to a different city and bought a house. That all took place in a month. 

And our guy for US Senate was down in the polls. He’s what they call in the biz “a good candidate.” He’s tall, handsome in an 80s Magnum PI sort of way, and he belongs to a major law firm. But the week prior he’d talked himself into a hole on national TV. I remember watching and believing he could pull it off, but every word that spilled out of him fell deeper into a well of confusion. It was as if he’d lost control of his mouth. He was stuck trying to explain the three legs of America’s financial stability. He’d gotten out two, but struggled to convey the third. With is hands he gestured what looked to be the shape of a leg, maybe one that belonged to a short stool. Accompanying the pantomime was a smattering of adjectives, none of them really wanting to be together. It was hard to watch.

2002 was a bad year to not want to engaged in a really bad idea.

2002 was a bad year to not want to engaged in a really bad idea.

A few days later I would be talking to voters and one guy would say, “You’ve got balls. Didn’t you see him on Meet the Press?” I tried to focus on the compliment part of it. 

It was tough. Aside from the 80-hour-a-week campaign, I was writing radio copy for four stations and deejaying weekend evenings for another. My working hours sometimes reached into the 120-hour range. My new wife spent a lot of evenings at home, alone, and revisiting that “or worse” part of the wedding conversation. 

But I wasn’t sitting on the floor of the union building because of my little mortgage problem. I was on the floor because I could no longer physically stand. It would have been the best time in my life to be drunk, but I didn’t have time for it. I was high on something else, if you can call it that. What I didn’t know was that I was being killed by carbon monoxide. 

You always hear how people go to sleep and simply slip away. They have a headache but it’s been a stressful day so they do what anyone would want to do: they crash. I had the benefit of being a “Volunteer Coordinator” for hundreds of people who in a few hours were going to fill the very hall in which I sat alone. This meant there was no sleeping until all the preparations were done. Elections don’t leave time for dying.

And let me just say this about working for a campaign. It starts as just a job, or as something you’ll just dabble in a bit. But soon you’ve forsaken sex and food for knocking on a stranger’s door. You start to believe the rhetoric and, despite two hundred-plus years proving the opposite, believe that one person can feed the poor and conjure whipped cream dreams. You really have no choice. If for one second you doubt the momentum, you’ll fall off the treadmill and get trampled by five hundred people with Blackberries. Every third day or so, just when you think you can’t tolerate another drop of coffee, someone you barely know tells you if you stick it out there will “be a spot on his staff.” Rarely is that positive, but in politics staff spots are offered in lieu of money, and reality. Because he has to be elected first, and that’s why you must work harder. And you’re off again, swilling caffeine and surrounded by doers and shakers and suspicious, fat men who buy you beers and swear one day you’ll go somewhere. Plus there’s media involved, and a spitting, blowing maelstrom of rumors and mud. When you’re in the middle, in the huddle of camaraderie and like-minded hugs, you don’t want to get out. So on some Saturday, when a boatload of hot, wealthy yoga moms are taking three hours to help you litter the town with your candidate’s picture, and you’re the frontman for a bevy of beautiful college kids all fresh faced and ready to devour your carcass, you soldier on. 

On this day, my college kids weren’t so hungry anymore. Four young go-getters helped stuff fliers into bags and call potential voters. We were a good team until I found two of the three females lying on the floor. 

“What’s the matter?” I growled in a funny bear voice, trying to make my disappointment sound more like friendly sarcasm. 

They had headaches. They were dizzy. 

I told them to eat something and drink some water. They said they had. I was about to implore the third woman to motivate her friends, until I found her slumped over a desk. 

“Are you sick?” I delivered with ice. 

She nodded and got up. She and her friends were going to go home she said. I couldn’t believe it. They helped each other up and walked out. I turned and rolled my eyes at Brian, the one other guy. He tried to match my incredulity, but was busy crying. 

To be fair, he wasn’t Steel Magnolias weeping, but his eyes were watery and red. He worked a little bit longer, but things weren’t going his way. He’d roll up an informational piece and, while reaching for a rubber band, would let it unroll. Then he’d drop the rubber band while trying to roll up the sheet again. Finally, he gave up and approached me. He kept walking until all the personal space was gone. A few inches from my face he blinked some tears and talked in slow motion about needing to leave. 

And here's an image of our brains shutting down.

And here's an image of our brains shutting down.

I took on kind of a martyr role. I told him it was fine. I’d manage to get everything done. I stormed around the office, drinking bottle after bottle of water. I’m usually a thirsty guy, but now I was going to wash away my pain. And then, at some point, I sat down and started thinking about everybody going home. The two girls who were the first to get sick were petite. And the third was just as thin but taller. Brian was bigger, but at least eighty pounds lighter than me. I wondered if we all had the same thing, but because I was the thickest of the group, it was taking me longer to succumb. At some point my being dense would be an advantage. And then I crawled outside. 

In kind of an industrial rainbow, the bright florescent of the union hall streaked into the dim yellow of the street. I would have a hard time dialing 911. I got to my knees and took a deep breath of outside air. I closed one eye, and focused on the numbers. I wobbled. If I were to die, my final act would be drunk dialing emergency services. 

Other than growing up in a wood-heated home where breathing smoke at least meant you were warm, I had never had any experience with carbon monoxide poisoning. It wasn’t until the firefighters hoisted me into the truck that I realized how lucky I was to be alive. It helped that one of them actually said, “You’re lucky to be alive.” 

One of the guys walked around the room with a CO2 detector. It beeped rapidly and he agreed. It was off the charts. I spent the rest of the early morning leading an ambulance around the Denver metro area to find the other four. Turns out they all were OK, but Brian and I had to spend a few hours in the hospital for oxygenating. 

One of the firefighters said that the building’s exhaust had been blocked with a mound of old clothes. It was intentional, but no one wanted to follow up with an investigation. However, I thought of our candidate baffling Tim Russert and the world by trying to finger draw furniture in the air, and I wondered if someone had done the same thing to his house.

That night, at the big election party, I got a little recognition. It was Tuesday and I hadn’t slept since Sunday. My wife was getting to spend some quality time with a sleepless prick at a depressing event for a losing candidate. On his way to his concession speech, our Senatorial hope stopped and pointed at me. He leaned my way and shouted against the noise, “I lost but you’re still alive.”

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t spite. Like “oh god, not both!” I didn’t want to ask him to try and explain. It was simple, it was true, and it was as right as any politician had ever been.



9 years ago to the day, this is what we were doing

Current Score: Little Baby 187, Parents 0

A kid can make you feel really stupid. If anything, a child highlights the dumb in things you once thought to be fairly harmless.  For example, just a few days ago I could have excitedly announced a lopsided football score and the exuberant exhale would have lived just long enough to die of neglect, perishing at my wife's feigned look of interest. Raising a manchild can take its toll. 

And since I did not experience the total man-ization that one is supposed to undergo after watching his child come into this world (I was kind of expecting something instant. I'd hear a Disney chime and immediately yearn for Wall Street Journal), today I gleefully declared that Oklahoma had beaten North Texas 79 - 10. This while my wife tried to get our screaming child to latch on.  It turns out that at that very moment the success of the Sooner football squad was the least necessary information in the universe. 

The raw power of a new father's uselessness is very motivating. I sprung into action.  

I joined Sarah in one of those bungling rookie parent moments. We needed to apply Vaseline to our son's newly circumcised doodad. If you've ever tried to spread cold peanut butter on moist bread than you've only begun to experience the difficulty. In all our gentle attempts to help Quin we did more damage to his psyche than we could have ever done to his delicate and brightly irritated little manhood.  Years later he'll explain to a therapist that he screams whenever he sees a red Christmas bulb. 

I know I will.

I'd be suspicious too, bud.

I'd be suspicious too, bud.

But today he was unable to articulate complaints about his screwed up childhood.  Sarah and my four adult hands tangled with little, flailing legs and diaper small enough to fit a squirrel. Our incompetence was en fuego. Tomorrow we're going to practice parenthood by wearing mittens and counting change. 

So Quin is screaming and wondering why he's being punished when he hasn't even had a chance to taunt Karma, and we're on the verge of biting each other, when suddenly Sarah gets this real quizzical look on her face. She's all puzzled and curious when she says, "what's that?" She's almost smiling, like whatever is sprinkling her, while mysterious, is a pleasant break from the chaos. A neat little mystery. That's when I looked down to see The Mighty Q shooting a magnificent inaugural piss. It arched over his head and at least two more baby-lengths beyond to mist my wife's foot. As his load decreased and the stream receded, our boy left a golden trail up the bed, across his binky, his chest and it bubbled to a stop on his freshly peeled penis. 

He turned up his squelch and let it be known that, for no fault of his own, his innocence had been bruised.  His clean record quite literally soiled. Or he could have been screaming for competent help.  I'm not sure. We're having some communication issues. His evil parents laughed.  We might even have fell a little deeper for each other.

But Quin could give a damn about our little love story. To him we're large and lumbering, and he never once cried until he met us.   He let us have it until Sarah and I swaddled him tight and discontinued our fervent attempts to get him to breastfeed. 

Aside from planting the seeds of deep mistrust in our child, the tribulation resulted in a pitiful diaper application.  It could very well be on backwards. We were so desperate to get him dressed for all I know we wrapped Sarah's hairbrush up in it. But now he's quiet, some guy in a neighboring ward is out of a coma and mom and baby are ogling each other. 

But turn up your TV.  Stuff your earpods. Team Suckle is about to try again. 

And North Texas limps back onto the field...


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Otto and Soccer | A Tribute to Awesome

So if it's possible--and I shouldn't doubt myself as that (I think) will be part of the message here--I'd like to capture one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen in my life. I know, you're preparing yourself to hear another parent piling on superlatives about one of their children's achievements, but I promise you that this is the stuff Rocky is made of. It's the shared DNA that has every human stepping out of their own meager expectations and rocking the mantle to its core. I don't have video of the event, and I have only a few eye witnesses who will vouch for the action I will describe. All of them, however, will most likely lack the conviction with which I'm about Hallelujah into your heavens.

I coached Otto's soccer team. I've never played soccer or even watched much on TV. I even grew up with a distrust for soccer-centered suburban communities. Who did they think they were kidding? That's not football. Also, I assumed they were rich, which in itself is not a bad thing, but you bundle it with my background of small town suspicions and you get ungrateful elitists playing a mystery sport in the swank comfort of carpeted homes and anti-lock brakes. I had to overcome a lot to accept my coaching position. Mostly, though, it was to watch a lot of YouTube videos to figure out the rules of the game. Sarah gave me a quick tutorial (herself being a Baltimore County All Star) and, with her help, took a battery of YMCA coaching tests to become official. I was nervous, but ready. And then on the first day I spent an hour watching a clump of children chase a ball. Other coaching detail included getting them to stop picking flowers and focus on the game, as well as making sure they got to the bathroom on time.

He's got this.

He's got this.

It was cute and fun until our first game. We played a team that started two six year olds with pituitary problems. They brutalized us. Some people complain that nowadays we don't keep score anymore. I'm no longer one of them. Our rival was mostly boys, competitive little retches, as compared to mine, all girls and Otto, who are some of the sweetest people I've ever met. But maybe they could have held off on hugging one another until they actually scored a goal. And maybe don't braid each other's hair in the middle of the game. One of them brought me a ladybug as a present while I watched our opponents high five another open net. 

With the undying lovefest, I thought Otto would be a standout. I figured he was going to run out there and crush some spirits with his buzz-cut intensity and little brother angst. He didn't. He ran and hustled, but fell down a lot. Often he fell down just to fall down. Sometimes he'd stare into space and, in what I have to admit were disappointing moments for his father, my middle-boy beast with the six-chambered heart would ask to sit on the sidelines. I let it go. I wasn't about to be the Great Santini to a five year old in a game I barely understood.

The Ewy boys, Otto (l) and Quin (in his rec center basketball jersey), worked well together against the wall of blue.

The Ewy boys, Otto (l) and Quin (in his rec center basketball jersey), worked well together against the wall of blue.

The season wore on, painfully. The parents asked if we could switch kids from the other team. Every game we played the same opponent, and every game we were crushed. So I recruited. I got Otto's big brother Quin to play a couple of quarters before he left for his 1st/2nd grade contest. Other kids had their six-year-old siblings show up. We  got more competitive, but every game I wanted to make sure our original six got to play together. I was bent on seeing them improve. I had a gut-tangling pang to see them actually score.

It would happen, and it would come in the storm of confidence and childhood awakenings that would have the trash-talking spawn on the other team (the Cheetahs) complain that the game was unfair. For once we were competing. The score we didn't keep was tied. My Silver Surfers were on the verge of victory.

Here's the thing, I had seen Otto improve throughout the summer season. Games one and two he fell down a lot; by game four he was starting to show some interest in competing. This was game seven; our final game of weary parents and waning hope. One father wondered if the experience would discourage his daughter from the game for life (he could thank me later for time, gas and equipment savings.) With the help of Quin and two other six year olds, we were on the verge of dominating, but when one of the better Cheetahs went down with an injury, I pulled the big kids and let my original team have a shot. I wanted the unit--the flower pickers and the sky gazers, the potty breakers, the hair twisters, and the mid-action entomologists--to prove that they could play. I'm happy to report what I'm about to report.

I've not before seen the heart that I saw in these kids. One was so small that she could barely get enough leverage to move a soccer ball. We're talking hip height here. But they all lined up for the final quarter kickoff. My three six-year-old stars watched from the sideline. My Surfers were back in their accustomed position of having the much larger Cheetahs swarm towards their goal. I'd see this first hand not just as a coach, but as a referee. I did both, and I didn't mind it, as my team could use all the help they could get...and you know how hometown refs work. So it was from the center field where I saw it go down. Where I saw the reason my youngest son would bust out dance moves I didn't even know he knew. Dance moves that would paralyze an older soul.

The Cheetahs kicked off. Their big kid, the one with the mohawk (there's always one,) blasted the ball right into Otto. He kept his feet, gathered the ball and kicked it back. In what was really more of a retribution kick instead of well-planned pass to a teammate, the ball launched right back at the mohawk. But this is where Otto woke up. This is that moment you remember as a kid; that time you realized that your aunt was your mom's sister. It's the first time you snap your fingers, or whistle or, as I remember so clearly, discover that yesterday wasn't an actual day of the week, but a generic term for the day before today.

I'm not sure who needed who more.

I'm not sure who needed who more.

Luckily, Otto's awakening was more exciting. His was a hammer. A reckoning. A guy realizing on the run that he had as much right to that ball as any other kid. Otto pursued the ball. He followed up. Something that you don't hear referees shouting at players, "follow the ball...follow the ball!" And he did. He followed pert near through the bigger kid, pushing him aside and kicking the ball out ahead. It was here where we all realized what could happen. I stopped to get clear visual. Sarah stood up. Chloe's parents perked up as did Hallie's and Kiana's. Otto had a one-on-one break to the goal. We rarely had the ball on their side of the field. We rarely had the ball, period. With Mohawk stunned, his teammate was left to defend alone. Typically, even this was more formidable than my Surfers could contend. But not today. The defender stepped in and Otto kicked the ball round him. And then...sweet god I wish I had a camera. I wish I could loop this moment over and over--pull it down on the big screen whenever Otto is feeling down or reeling from a beating by his big brother. The whole field stopped in a modern movie special effect. It was the Matrix and my son had dodged bullets. It's weird when you see your kid do something so cool. I'm a doubting jerk for feeling surprised, but this is a kid I thought had given up. I thought he'd rather be in the shade playing with his baby sister. That, however, was before he knew how good he could be.

With all of the parents, both those of the Surfers and the Cheetahs rapt and wrapped in the silence of a vacuum venue, we paused. I might presume that we weren't so much watching a kid with a ball, but all of us as giant kids with our own proverbial scoring opportunity.

With an unlikely juke glancing the bigger boy to the side, Otto was free to the goal. In a flash I reminded myself not to get cocky. Kindergartners are liabilities with dull scissors. "Could this really happen?" I asked myself. And it did. With his left foot he kicked it in. Otto scored a goal. The underdogs pulled the tarp off their talents. The little guys, the nice kids, those who got to appreciate bugs and flowers for much of the season could still go out on top. The crowd went wild. I mean somewhere around twenty parents shrieked life into the suburbs. Otto went nuts. It was weird and awesome. He flexed and walked like a tiny Hulk. His dark eyes some other place. And then he danced something like an Irish folk dance and an end zone celebration before wriggling into the skip walk of a happy deer. He finished with some wild agreeing with no one in particular. "YES!" he shouted. If yesterday's Otto had fallen down, today's Otto was standing over him and giving a glimpse of his alpha future. The crowd continued to cheer and his teammates relished a valid reason to hug.

Sarah and I can't stop talking about it. Otto is proud but understated. Maybe it is because I was the ref and had to suppress my excitement that I find you here in this space trying to bring my son's achievement to life. On this website of tiny plankton pixels swallowed by the whale of the web. Maybe it's because kids hear enough about how great they are, but it's us who need a reminder. The writer in me wants to capture it in words because the parent in me didn't get it on camera. Or maybe it's that it was awesome. It was so damn awesome.

And now kindergarten should be a breeze.

And now kindergarten should be a breeze.

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Dragging Einstein into this

We all can soar.

We all can soar.

Einstein once said a thing about his difficulties with math. In his typical endearing genius way, he comforted those frightened of numbers by saying if you thought you had issues with arithmetic, then just imagine his. Which, for people like me, is impossible. I can’t even figure out my son’s number lines let alone the rapid expansion of the universe.

This quote always appealed to me because, first of all, I got a D in Algebra. It was my only D ever and one of the most stressful times of my young life. (My mom asked me how school was going and, lacking the lexicon to properly explain, I smashed a wooden bowl.) Secondly, I felt some distant connection. Some 99-cent version of Einstein’s billion dollar bean. My screeching, self-aggrandizing version of that quote would be: if you think you have social anxieties, then just imagine mine.

Here’s my deal. I’m an extrovert for a living. All the money that I’ve ever made had something to do with my being a gregarious (or some might say impetuous) fellow who takes hold of any opportunity to entertain. The rub is that I’m not much of an extrovert at all. I really, really like to be at home. I would pay a thousand dollars not to have to do a gig that pays $500. But I can’t not do it. It’s been a semi-lucrative habit, but every step towards the stage is a terrifying ordeal. I often hope for a lightning strike or a seizure or maybe a mild heart attack. Something that very visibly demonstrates to the organizer that I wanted to do it but, because of a million volts of sky fire soldering me to the floor, I need to postpone.

But I must. Persevere. And. do. it.

It kills me hearing echoes of professors and college friends who encouraged me to try Saturday Night Live or go on tour. It sounded amazing but I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone, which is chopping firewood and thinking. Goddamn thinking. It is the most overrated evolutionary allowance yet. Maybe unless your Einstein and your brain delivers shiny gifts of brilliance (that may take years to unwrap but still.)

I guess I shouldn’t drag Einstein into this. But I will pull you in. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you just crafted fusion out of a coke bottle and a pancake. Regardless, I have discovered, through years of arduous efforts in avoidance, that there’s nothing more painful and annoying and all-out aggravating than not doing what you really want to do. It’s weird, but doing nothing is far more work than doing something.

I will pause for a moment — and I’m about done here — to say that I don’t believe everyone has the same fair shake. I don’t believe that bootstraps come standard on every pair of shoes. Or that shoes even come standard at all. Over the years I have seen how better-adjusted upper crust kids get much better shots at everything, while the kid born in the ‘hood or in a violent family can never leave either no matter how many places they go. At the same time, there’s a chance that your shitty upbringing has made you stronger. Don’t let the cockroaches crawl over the crumbs of your resolve. Pull what you can together, no matter how trembly and tenuous. And despite hoping with all of your banging heart that you get run over by a car on your way to that terrifying epicenter of accomplishment, do it.

Do the fuck out of it. And I’m sorry for cussing but let’s dig deep and speak primal. Because no matter who you are or where you came from, we’re all descendants of same primordial ooze. We’re all linked by hopes and fears and this upright thing that leaves your head like a periscope in whatever murk you still wade. There are despots everywhere. There are obstacles that some of us can’t even imagine. I know I’m on the winning end of elevated opportunity and I grew up with an outhouse for god’s sake. Compared to 99% of the world, I’m privileged little prick. And you can’t believe the kind of comedy you get when you had to walk through three feet of snow to go poo.

So, in the vein of the throbbing, pulsating people who mire themselves in a sewer of dreams, all you can do is crawl out and do it. Hate it. Curse it. Burden your loved ones with it. But stop thinking. Stop thinking you have trouble with math. Or life. And do it.


So this was last night. It's fun. 



Musings from the loneliest species.

Sunny day. First Sunday of summer break. Sarah corralled the kids and took off to the park. They were waiting their chance to cross the street when they saw the neighbor's cat get hit by a car. She dragged everyone back inside and summoned me from the top of the kid’s fort (I was shingling.) “We need your help with something,” she lobbed with the last part of a running breath.

To hear this — to be needed when I’ve spent the afternoon on a fort that’s taken weeks longer than it should to build — was glorious. I mean if I were a contractor my clients would be suing me by now. But my kids don’t yet have that wherewithal. Sarah, however, is keenly aware of the time I’ve spent cobbling leftover wood together to create something like a chicken coop for the children. So to have her want my help while I’m smashing shingles onto an otherwise superfluous structure — or at least unnecessary compared to the things I should be doing to our actual house — is pretty exciting. This sensation would subside.

Kids, get in.

Kids, get in.

The neighbor’s cat, an animal that had found them and, using it’s beguiling kitty ways would convince them to adopt her, was hiding under a bush. A gaggle, which is at least ten teenage girls, stood in a semicircle around the animal. The man who’d hit the animal had a single tear on his left cheek. Eliot had been quarantined to the house and the boys were bounding around the yard trying to figure out what to do.

The driver was clearly disturbed by the incident. He apologized to no one in particular while he clutched the leash of his dog. Just five minutes prior he’d been on a routine trip to the dog park across from our house. Now he was responsible for the terrible suffering of a neighborhood pet. Right now I know he’s thinking about it. It’s going to be a while before he can shake it. Because the cat didn’t die immediately. I’d have to shoot it, which is kind of why they needed my help. I never thought I’d be the gun guy; the suburban sniper, but I’ve been in the position of numbing injured animals before. This, however, was a pet. And I wasn’t sure my BB gun was going to do the trick. And by trick I really mean magic, because this beautiful tabby was in agony. It had dragged itself by it’s forepaws off of the street — the gaggle screeching and wailing. The guy in the car stumbling back to the scene. My wife swooping the kids to some other place than sadness.

It screamed with its meow. I pet it and talked to it and I wondered what it was saying. I mean there’s some pretty obvious verbiage here — “oh shit this hurts” — but I thought I heard anger. I thought I heard disappointment. I don’t know, it was deep long meow and it seemed to be pretty damn mad that we could love and feed a cat, but we were too damn dumb to end the pain. Like there’s been a rumor about us, about humans, but this particular cat had ignored it. Passed it off as heresy. She’d found a home and loving hands scratching her ears on cold winter nights, but when it came down to it we were as helpless as she’d once only heard. She shrieked at her own disavowal. Her being sucked in by our material world. The convenience of being a house cat diluted her senses. She’d once caught a squirrel and didn’t know what to do with it. That sort of thing. And now she was at the bottom of a half circle of these goddamned lies. Lies about safety and shelter if only she relinquished her savagery. If only she pooped in a tiny box of chemical sand and ate whatever in the hell was in that bowl, she’d be OK. She did all that. She loved. She made the absolute loneliest species feel connected to something other than themselves and computer devices, yet here she lay dying on the side of the road with weeping idiots more involved with their own issues than her fiery battle with the night.

I pumped my childhood BB gun until I could barely engage the compression lever back to the stock. It clicked into place and the girls gasped at the little pop of the pellet. I really don’t like shooting things. I grew up with the venerable threat that whatever we shot we had to eat. This came with the story of my father’s father making him prepare and eat a backyard bird he’d gunned down for fun. I don’t even like generously seasoned game animals so that was a very effective parable. Today, however, I was hoping the cat thought, “Holy shit, finally,” as I sent a tiny metal ball through its neck and into its brain. That was the hope. In real life it sent the animal into a series of slow tremors, almost like it was reanimating. And then it stopped. It’s right front leg gently setting down to the ground. It looked like a needle dropping on a record. This time the classic hit of remorse. Of wondering if we’re doing it right this human thing. The B side: Are we the shittiest creature on the planet?

Before I shot. Before the BB could deliver it’s shiny message about death. There was much clamoring on of the whereabouts of the cat’s owners. The gaggle spoke all at once about how they’d pounded on the doors of the house but no one answered. Sarah had tried as well. No one was home. We know these people. They’re nice. They like the Grateful Dead.

Allie (l) and Paco (r) have remained strong.

Allie (l) and Paco (r) have remained strong.

I was petting the cat, and the man with his dog was telling me how it happened. The cat ran right under his car and into the wheel. He was mortified. It was then when our neighbors came walking back from the park with their dog. They couldn’t make out what was happening in front of their house, but they didn’t need long. The excited gaggle and my two sons ran to meet them with the news. Giddy suburban doings whirling around the body of a broken and frustrated and dying tabby. The apex of millions of years of physical and social evolution dying under a plant we’d trimmed earlier that day. It had been unwieldily and leaning into the sidewalk. Now it was square and tame and hopefully made more appealing the greeting that our neighbors were about to receive. The woman broke down immediately and ran into the house. Her boyfriend kneeled with me and talked to the animal.

“Fucking Christ just shut up and do it,” I imagined the cat saying. “Fix me or ditch me. Or…OR…use the same minds that came up with the infernal automobile to make me better.” And we didn’t.

“We only know how to use the cars,” I might one day add to an afterlife panel of murdered animals. The squirrel I hit in Farmington and the little dog that ran into our car on south Broadway. “We don’t know the consequences. We sometimes don’t know how to channel our perceived mental superiority into positive or constructive fixes.”

And it would be strange for the animals seeing the top of the food chain plead ignorance. On varying levels they all know how to hunt and to smell the air. Dogs and cats, for example, all seem to speak the same language. The birds in our backyard talk trash to each other all day.

Humans, on the other hand, are kind of scattered, I’d explain. “These tools for which we’re renowned. Maybe we don’t understand them as much as other species would think.”

It would be one of those moments where I’d want to stop talking but couldn’t. Like the job interview going terribly wrong as I dwelled too long on my list of weaknesses.

“I’m sorry, but it’s a lot I’m realizing right now,” I’d look down after addressing directly the little dog from South Broadway. He’d been mortally wounded under our Camry. And then, to the floor, I’d utter, “I have a feeling that maybe we’ve lost sight as to certain important responsibilities in being top dog.”

I’d later apologize to the non canines. By then they’d already acknowledged that the whole conversation had not gone well. I would be doomed.

And so this little metal ball — one that I’ve since researched to find is steel coated with zinc — made it’s way somewhere into the mind of the doting creature. The breakers gradually turned off. Thousands, millions of electric circuits went dark, a city as infinite as all the stars shot black across the body and the paw of a curious kitten flexed, froze and dropped. The gaggle turned and left. My kids had taken off to the park with their mom. The tabby’s human mother stayed inside. In the street, three grown men were left to fight back tears and consider our task as pallbearers.



Spring Break Day 2: The Darkness before Dawn

There’s been a lot written about how counterintuitive it is to have children. Or maybe I’ve just thought it during times of paternal crisis. But I witnessed it today. I saw two grown humans collapse like the Greek economy. They were cornered — they cornered themselves. Let me attempt to paint a picture.

You grow up trying to gain control. At first it’s your bladder and then it’s a bicycle and pretty soon you’re driving and even buying your own booze.

You get an apartment over which you preside, a dog you train, and into a relationship that works within your capacity for love and understanding. And then, with one romantic night or hasty kitchen countertop love scuffle, you breach it all with bowling ball-sized life bomb that explodes into a thing that you cannot, for the life of you, properly control. It’s weird, the pinnacle of mammalian purpose becomes a shot to your fragile ecosystem that takes you out with a tantrum in the candy aisle.

I’ll transcribe for you the conversation I heard from the chairlift. Two people, who were pieced together for the proper pageantry of fashionable snowsuits and the latest skis, shouted down a tiny child who would not perform to their expectations. As I passed over — with my own photocopy in Otto next to me who steadfastly prefers crashing every twenty yards over ski school — I looked down at two handsome people who looked like they were named Karen and Roger. Karen and Roger appeared to be successful people. I sensed entrepreneurship or some accomplishment in management motivating teams of grown people towards a common goal. I saw expensive professional dinners and exotic personal vacations. In short, I saw success in controlling the world in which they live. But as they negotiated their skis and their wills against gravity, a little girl adorned in swirls and polka dots, sat down and refused to move. Now normally you can throw this child over your shoulder and use brute strength to manipulate her whereabouts. But here they were stuck on a slippery slope, quite literally, and it’s really hard to be dominant when you’re wearing shin shackles and ten feet of waxed plastic. With all of their acumen drained by circumstance, they surrounded and shouted crazy street person inanities at thirty pounds of insubordination.

Karen: You know, the bathroom is in the lodge. You have to get up and ski to the bathroom.


Karen: Your father and I are going to leave you.

Roger: Fine just pee your pants then.

There aren’t many circumstances where in a crowded public place you’d command someone else to pee their pants. But that is parenthood on ice. Your fantastic, lifetime accrual of interpersonal stamina pissed away on the side of a mountain on a Saturday afternoon.

Her faith shaken.

Her faith shaken.

It gave me such great insight. Thank you Karen and Roger! You’re still great leaders to me. As your example helped me cope with my own emotional terrorist in pastel. A little girl who sensed in me great weakness, as well as noticeable drop in my physical ability to move from one place to another. Skiing is the great equalizer. With an 1812 Overture of otherwise upstanding citizens smacking themselves against a mountain, your chances against well-honed manipulative minds are slim to none.

Ski resorts should price accordingly for families with young kids. Your first day is free. If your dumb ass is actually going to suit up a toddler so they can be even more dangerous than they already are, well then the experience is on the house.

The most exhausting part of skiing is getting ready to ski. We’re not so avid to have our own gear, so we must endure the ski rental process. Now I first visited Granby Ranch (then called Silver Creek) in 1986. Still today it has the same cramped, poorly ventilated rental shop. With strained faces, parents step over protesting children. Christmas card facades fade under duress. Smiles are a forced greeting to worried bystanders. But we’re all well-behaved in a rigid ballet of foreboding glares and stifled epithets. There have been families hauled away to their deaths in cramped cattle cars I remind myself as I coral a precocious two year old in the dense underbrush of clearance racks. May I only be tested by the snail’s pace of preparation for ski resort entertainment, I also tell myself as I carry the squirreling, boneless body of a small human back to our family mound of winter clothing. This is where we waited while parents hammer the feet of their fussy progeny into plastic pylons called ski boots. Why in the hell aren’t we sledding?

It is during these times, when I’m hungry, sweaty, and perturbed, when I turn to the darkness. Perhaps from a youth where we were an hour from Colorado’s ski lifestyle but light years from appreciating it. Because, after all, downhill skiing is an elitist pastime. It’s symbolism is reality, lifting those with the means out of the teeming masses. An ascension to the elevations of the economic elite.

As a kid, in our little Colorado town, no one downhill skied. We’d have visitors stop through on their way to Steamboat, and I simultaneously admired and loathed them. I loved their new Subarus, liberated minds, and scientific breakthroughs in mountain apparel, but hated their own self approval. Their patronizing pats on the head fermented somewhere in the shallow depths of a personality puddle shimmering with the petroleum spill of hypocrisy. They criticized the right wing, the rednecks and, of all things, the rich, yet pursued a sport with a yachting-level barrier of entry that takes 15,000 acres of trodden environment to successfully endeavor.

So those are the dark places you go when you’re hoping your children will stop their sit-in at the lodge. You seek evidence that justifies social, emotional and geopolitical reasons to retreat to iPad games, televised sports and the beautiful malaise of a lazy shut-in vacation that you can actually afford.

But then you breathe in and realize that you need to raise your kids with a breadth of experience. They can’t grow to loathe shiny veneers. You want them to be able to fake it like a true American. You want them to rise without the intense dread of people in fuzzy boots and SUVs with “Save the Planet” stickers. We’re all hypocritical assholes when it comes to the chairlift of personal happiness. My kids need to know how to get on that thing and have a freakin ball while giving gravity and vacation budgets the goddamn finger. I want them to be free of the mental ball and chain of judgement. I want them to see that parking lots with way too many Subarus or pick up trucks or Panzer tanks doesn’t mean a wall of frustrating like-mindedness, but individuals who each have their own hopes and dreams, and can be at any moment forcefully removed from their hard-earned adulthood by a tiny person in lollipop snow pants.

I want them to see that their parents will struggle and be grumpy but still pull through and figure out a way to make the day work. Even if it is via alcohol and legal weed. It’s a time to persevere in America — a pretty, if not pubescent, country stumbling around on the bridge to maturity — and goddammit a credit-straining visit to a mountain extravaganza is going to be the way we’re going to do it.

Now to get my angry little girl out from under a shelf of discount hats.

Light on the horizon.

Light on the horizon.



The Poop Car

"When I fart it's like a little dinosaur rawr. When dad farts it's like RAWWWWR." -Quin, age 3

The other day we pulled up to the house and I did my Sherpa duties of emptying the car and tracking down the children. When we got inside, I settled into some surfing before realizing I had no idea where Otto was. I asked Quin and he shrugged. I started to panic a little bit because my imagination is horrible. Had I left him alone to suffer on some street corner? Is he still at Target? Did I leave him on the roof like I did the bagels and then later the boys' hot chocolates? Why in the hell would I have put him on the roof of the car? All of these questions pounded my conscience as I burst out of the house and ran towards our 1998 Subaru Forester. Muttering to myself about being an idiot, I orbited the outside of the boxy wagon to find my middle child perched in the doorway of the car. He wasn't entirely in and he wasn't entirely out. He leaned against the open door as if he were about to make a parachute jump.

A little thing about our Subaru Forester. To our boys it's better known as the black car, yet to me it's affectionately titled the poop car. You see, the Forester is the one place where the boys can use potty talk. In the poop car they can flex their foulness and giggle like demented comic book villains over flatulence, diapers and other excretory appreciations. It was our last ditch effort to curb their emissions, and we think it's worked.

The impetus for the poop car came when, like a time-lapse flower, our boys blossomed from mostly innocent vessels of adorability, to biological waste dumps. It happened fast and our parental ordinance was but a baby sneeze amongst their fecal mushroom cloud.

We got our poop car for about two grand off of Craigslist.

We got our poop car for about two grand off of Craigslist.

We offered all of our gentle admonishment; finger snapping, distractions and occasional all-out shut-your-mouth shouting, but it seemed like aside from going Adrian Peterson on our beloved boys, we needed to conjure something creative.

So, we compromised. We offered them a place to get it all out, and sometimes that means we get a quiet reprieve as they go out and sit in a parked car. A small refuge for the literal shit talkers in our life.

That's where I found Otto. He set silently on the edge of the car's exit, gazing up, down and around like he was trying to remember what he'd forgotten. And then it came to him; just the right youthful expletive before giving up his raunch rights for dook-talk downtime. "Poopy!" he shouted, before jumping to the ground and running inside. I was left to close the door on the poop car, but happy to leave their inanities outside in the driveway.



Why the NFL scripting games is a good thing

It starts and ends with Peyton Manning. At least this time around. Any player or team who merits it would get their shot at being the star of the story, but this year it's the man affectionately titled PFM. Ask a Bronco fan friend what that stands for. Right now we have the perfect narrative to wrap up the season and get everyone watching, and that's why you script some games.

I first realized the potential for this during Super Bowl 40 between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks. It was a terrible game. I was there, having bought cheaper accommodations before my Broncos and their home field advantage were dispatched by the Steelers in the AFC Championship. Hey, at least I was at the Super Bowl, even if it was in Detroit.

Being a fan of neither team, or at least not passionate about any one side, I watched in this weird, sad way that I never want to watch a game again. It seemed as if there were forces beyond the performance on the field that were shaping the outcome of the contest. A Pittsburgh fan asked no one in particular, "What is going on?" and it was the Seahawks who were getting the short end of it.

I'm not crying foul. I've been through it. The sadness of feeling betrayed by a game; the constant wondering if a Bronco victory really was a Bronco victory. Would the Patriots really fold like that in the 2014 AFC Championship? Did Brady have the flu or had Rumba with Giselle worn him out? It's been a decade of suspicion. Ever since that Motor City fiasco where everything seemed so broken. Now, however, I've come full circle and recommend that if the NFL isn't scripting games, then they probably should.

Why? I should discuss that. Well, first, the NFL needs the ratings not only for billions in immediate financial returns, but also to keep us inspired by the game. They need to soothe us with public service announcements about safety. They need to construct a family environment so parents will keep signing up their kids. They need us to keep Sunday a day of football worship. One entertaining way for us to overlook the scandals, the head injuries, and the domestic violence, is a narrative. To create that narrative, that perfect story, you need some help with the details.

It's not all games and it's not every play, but just enough curated moments to help manage the action and keep people interested. You do it with your coordinators--the endlessly shuffled inventory of the same offensive and defensive coaches who already understand what's at stake--who have their hands on the controls of the game. Is your passing team taking too much advantage of a weak defense? Well run a few ill-advised running plays up the gut. And then one more just for good measure.

You can use the litany of gray areas added to the game, too. For example, the new roughing, targeting and celebration penalties can help curb one team's momentum and stoke the others. The referees could get more control of the game with questionable pass interference and reception calls. Instant replay is a helpful tool as well.

The biggest part of scripting games--for even with the slightest swing to one side or the other--is getting some of the players on your side. Initially, this might sound impossible if not downright unethical, but think about how doable this could be. You have at your disposal the greatest athletes in the world and all of the ego that comes with them. These men have conquered every physical challenge thrown at them, but are they so good that they can win it for an entire league? Are they so good that they can manipulate the outcome of an entire game? Let these players and coaches be the gods who pull the strings and see what happens. Maybe even pay them millions of dollars.

I'm sharing this now because I get to be in Denver and part of one of the greatest football narratives to have ever lived. It's the story of the conflicted and sometimes confident Peyton Manning. The NFL should run with it. Wrap it up with the perfect ending.

Manning and the Broncos have stumbled into home field advantage and have a clear shot to the Super Bowl. That's the same situation that lead to disappointment in 2006, but that wasn't their year. It wasn't their story. Back then it was the retiring Jerome Bettis heading back to his Motown hometown. Seattle never had a chance. At that time and place, the Steelers were America's team.

This year I believe is Peyton's year to get his due. Besides, it's time for Manning to be rewarded for being a great quarterback. For being an incredible paid spokesperson for the league and aloof jocks everywhere. This is Peyton's year and now I'm going to kick back and see how they do it.

Because when you have a good story, it's hard to pay attention to anything else.



CraigsList and the Never Ending Car Seat

So we have about 15 car seats and three kids and I'm thrilled that Sarah green-lighted a garage-gobbling beast of an infant carrier to set sail on Craigslist. My wife is never hotter than when she gives me that little nod that something can go and, with our kids growing, as they do at a rate of a new car seat every three months, we have a lot of things to let go. The hope, however, is that these released items can be put to good use. I honestly don't know who buys new baby clothes. And if you are that person, please remember that somebody's just going to vomit on them. Most everything that cycles through this house has been worn for generations. I just took a pile of pelts to Goodwill.

Car seats, as you may know, cost somewhere between $150 and the GDP of Brazil, so it's no small victory to get a good used one. And that's the glow that flowed through me as I imagined the uproar of enthusiasm about this highly advanced LATCH system with two bases and lightweight kid carrier on sale for fifty bucks.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat. A freakin' steal!

The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat. A freakin' steal!

Not so. All I got--and I mean a lot--were questions about its expiration date. Car seats have expiration dates. People called me and emailed me and texted me with a battery of questions, and all of them included a query about the shelf life. I understand. Kind of. I mean I understand that you should invest in the child safety industry now. They know how to make a buck. But if we know of anything that doesn't destroy plastic, it's time.

I'm not here to complain about advancements in child safety technology and associated legislation, or that we have to have them in the first place. They're life savers no doubt, and that's because car seats are going to be with us forever.

Your child will expire before that car seat does. Three generations of dolphins will gag on the packaging alone. An entire species of birds will perish in a pool of their own plastic piss before that car seat even has an impression from ten years of chubby dumpling butts. It's a hunk of molded plastic that fighter pilots squeeze into in bombers older than your uncle. It's a rigid homage to chemistry that, in my own tribute to child labor, nearly crushed my knee as I pushed down from the car ceiling to marry our son's first throne to the very soul of our Corolla.

Hey, I know, why don't you troll Craigslist for cheap stuff and then get indignant when your shiny, new desires don't come true!

Hey, I know, why don't you troll Craigslist for cheap stuff and then get indignant when your shiny, new desires don't come true!

Let's say something does crack a seat. A horrific car accident followed by a bolt of lightning and a herd of frightened elephants. That could happen three days after it was made and years before its expiration date.

Is it bad that people are concerned about expiration dates on plastic? No. It's what we know. We're hounded by never-ending innovations in vehicular entanglements. But please know that our planet will expire long before your car seat.

The story does have a happy ending. Our seat doesn't lapse until January of 2017. With a full arbitrary year for it being the same invincible hunk of plastic that it was five years ago, a handsome middle-aged couple came and bought it for their newborn grandson. They didn't seem to mind that it could self destruct in mere months. Still, I sold it to them for $20, thirty cheaper than the pre-expiration interrogation price. Two minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was the new grandfather. He'd come back with ten more dollars. He insisted I take it because the seat was way nicer than twenty bucks.



Fun tips for the new year

Making a Living

Sweet god it's January 2016. Like middle January. I've never been much of a New Year Resolution guy because I'm making resolutions all of the time. Now to keep them. And not let a subtle build up of discouragement tip it all down the chute of postponed plans. Life, being finite as it is, can only be postponed for so long.

It's not as if I'm not living in with #blessed Facebook posts of happy children, but it's about making a living. What a strange phrase. You need to make a living. It can be riddled with stress when you're broke and looking for a gig. Damn, just need to make a living. And there will be annoying people like myself who want to try and spin it, make it more positive. Dude, you get to make your own living! That's exciting, right? (Of course right now I'm imagining the duress of having some mofo force a life on you which, during frequent flights of indecision, I've had fantasies about brutal dictatorship.) Listen, I'd want to stab me too if I burst in like the Kool-Aid man and shouted 'YOU GET MAKE A LIVING!' while you're circling shitty jobs in the want ads, but it's just something to think about.

New Year Workout Tip!

I'm sad when I don't workout. Or exercise in the least. But I often don't, and then I'm distracted and grumpy and imagining an entire french fry lodged sideways in my aorta ending all of this beautiful time with my family. My heart explodes, I die, Paco gets depressed and kills the neighbor's cat. The lawsuit drains my wonderful wife of funds and she's forced to desert our house with three weary children in tow. And then the car breaks down while they're somewhere in Utah and have to be taken in my some kind of extreme cult and Sarah isn't that fond of dresses and hats but does it for the children and ten years from now my kids, intelligence compromised, are tucked in like tiny religious hit men pitching some misguided fervor on the porch of the very house where we had once lived so comfortably. So be sure to exercise in 2016!

Baby girl. Insane baby girl.

Baby girl. Insane baby girl.

I'm on Facetime from San Francisco and Eliot is looking less than her usual exuberant self and Quin shouts off camera "At Costco Eliot went in a playhouse and then jumped out of the window." She did. She split her lip and turned the toy section into a crime scene. Mother...dear mother...my now composted best friend, you've had your revenge.



The Year of the Hustle - Day 8 of 365

I have a good problem. I write too much. Or at least I've written so much that now it's time to simmer down and organize. Simmer down. And don't get distracted by the Internet. It's a tool, you know. I think I mean that positively.

And so here I am writing, but not writing. Writing without trying. Writing the way people say I should write. I have this issue where I'll get something good down and then I kill it with a thousand paper cuts. Tiny slices here and there, trimming and tightening until it's a locked jaw that once could sing. And then I wrap it up with a pithy little ending. "My son said 'daddy' and I looked into the night sky and smiled." I know. You vomited a little bit. It might be a radio-induced thing. A career field that requires you never leave without something memorable. Still today I'll keep a conversation going well past it's shelf life just so I can exit with the perfect quip. Well those days are done--well, I'm sure not entirely. I'm good at failing. I do it in puny little ways all of the time, but now it's time to go big. Go for a bigger fail. Put the sweet little thoughts on the blog, and in the background work on the big piece that tumors ever outward.

This periodic table is very unstable.

This periodic table is very unstable.

Whatever. Let's just talk. It is said (and was tirelessly repeated in someone's thesis on blogging) that the Internet is simply a conversation. Hell, life is just a conversation, so just sit down and chat. Get to know someone. Teach a kid a new word. Find yourself lost in laughter with a loved one. Life, at it's best, is just a conversation. And if you happen to negate that theory with wistful thoughts of sitting alone by a stream, then I'd argue you're engaged in the greatest dialogue of all. It's so nice hearing all the chatter roll away with the river.

So...enough quibbling. That's actually a word. I think it's time to share with you some details of what's next.

First off, it is the Year of the Hustle. That's not a Chinese thing (not that it can't be) but it's what my wife brought into our house. She's always finding little ways to encourage me. Little journals, computer tricks and online repositories to get me to get it all down and out so I'm not all clammed up on the couch angry that I'm not doing enough with my life. Poor woman. Her best defense is offense, and she brought the onslaught with the Hustle. Practically, it's a big calendar with all the days exposed. There's no hiding behind a month or waiting for your planner to reveal the next week. The entire year is laid out in its cruel, fleeting simplicity and you've got to face it with the determination to do something before it all slides off the page.

Secondly, I have millions of goddamn words that I need to put into a thing. A book, I guess. I hate saying that loud, but I need to get over that. I'M GOING TO WRITE A GODDAMNED BOOK I say. Oh shit that was scary. I have a real psycho thing about discussing it out loud. Like if I bring it up then I'll actually have to do it.

Sometimes I want all the days to fall off the calendar so I don't have to do any more of this. A solar supernova sounds like an easy escape BUT I KNOW that my final thought would be, "Crap, I totally could have done that." So no more death porn. That would be the third thing.

Four: Exercise. yeah. do it. I think they call it working out because that's what you're doing with your issues. Your head is all like, "Hey, you're giving me blood instead of grief!" and it returns the favor with positive thoughts instead of the same old bad ones.

The Fifth. It's OK. Nothing specific here, but it's OK.

Sixth. Time.

And then his dog put his paw on his knee and he knew he wasn't alone.



giving thanks for the moonshine

Because I never don't suck at taking pictures of the moon.

Because I never don't suck at taking pictures of the moon.

I took the kids to the park tonight. They'd been in the house most of the day on their Thanksgiving break (they get the whole damn week) and had slouched into a marriage with the pale, blue glow of an iPad. It's what I do all day, too. Just bonding with the electronic ether. Have we decided if that's a cancer risk yet? Anyway, we rolled out to the park in the dark. I invited the boys but as soon as Eliot heard park she was on it. She charged at me shouting "outside!" before jamming her bare feet into her pink boots. Her fireman pjs handed down from her brothers made for a welcome contrast. The boys wrestled with reality and its determination to rarely reveal the whereabouts of their shoes. Sarah did her best to guide them, sometimes with a bit of a biting edge. There is no sadder time devoid of hope for the future than watching your children not find the shoes they were just wearing.

Outside is so much better. It doesn't help that I don't love our house. I get the value of having a roof over our head but this one and me have been together too long. We've remodeled twice and had more work done than Johnny Depp. I'm over it. I just want to get outside. It bugs Sarah that I rush to leave and don't wait for her and the painstaking preparation that goes into going anywhere with children. Granted, I never don't appreciate her foresight, it's just that I need to get out. And that was the five of us (Paco included) still zipping coats as we crossed the street to the park. The bright moon did wonders to share the nightscape, but without all the glaring imperfections of our dying yard and overgrown maple tree. Chores looks so much better after dusk.

I won't say that for Eliot. She's in her adorable prime...the cuteness a Darwinian gift to the otherwise distressing and defenseless. She's already rolling her eyes at me. Well, it's not quite an eye roll. It's more of a side glance that seems to Etch-a-sketch away her smile and return a fat-lip frown. I have no idea where or how she learned that. Where does a two-year-old pick up how to be an indignant princess? Other than a doting father. Dammit. I just realized that as I was typing. I'm sharing my pride that my two year old can already manifest frustrations with teenage facial contortions. Of course it's me. I'm screwed.

Another damn moon picture.

Another damn moon picture.

So she's in the moonlight. The boys have decided to play hide and seek and Eliot and I are on a team. We end up being 'it' a lot and it seems the boys' rules are flexible to their favor. We're counting to 30 and I'm looking at this girl in the moonshine (too bad that word went to the rednecks because it says as much as its solar sister but in a more soulful way, if you ask me) and her dark eyes are huge and deep. She's happy and so excited to be a part of the game that I'm not at risk for the mood altering eye sweep. She's just glowing in the dark and I get this deja vu. I get this sense that I've been here but could have never imagined it. As if deja vu isn't even possible because these kids in the dark in a park have defied my own expectations; all my priors combined. I pause and try to feel if it is some kind of dream. Is it simply deja vu--whatever the Hell that actually is--or is it just a sweet second doubled up on itself in a rare thumbtack to the brain. I'm always moving and thinking and plotting and here there's none of that.

We find the boys pretty quickly. The big moon is unforgiving. Their silhouettes cut stark figures against the radiant dark blue. We spot them and I ask what I'm supposed to do next. I remember having to tag kids before they got to base, but in this version all you do is find them. There's no chase or battling over who was actually on base or not. My boys still manage to find a point to bicker on. They're quarreling geniuses who could, at any moment in any setting, find something to battle about, so this provided no challenge at all. Apparently, in this lighter version of hide n' seek, the first kid found is the next to be 'it'.  I saw them at the same time so there's no easy answer.

 One of these is the moon. I think.

 One of these is the moon. I think.

Eliot smiles and laughs her crazy cackle. She's a part of something with the big kids and she loves it. The boys break up their battle and decide that I'll be 'it' again. I'm cool with that. I'm just glad to be there.



How Not to do Ireland

The Atlantic Ocean is pretty big.

The Atlantic Ocean is pretty big.

I was just barely holding everything together, rocking back and forth on the worn seat of an older model Skoda. It's a kind of Volkswagon I'd learned on a prior cab ride. Just the word "Skoda" kind of made me nauseous. The car smelled like beef bouillon and humanity. The cabbie kept making me laugh, but I couldn't. I was so afraid.

A thing you shouldn't do is go to a foreign airport with the spins. I really had no idea what was going on. The lights are so bright and there's movement everywhere. In Ireland, the people speak in the loveliest accents but they're melodic and lyrical and simply listening made me feel like I was bobbing on an ocean wave.

I was trained by a rugby player in a local pub.

I was trained by a rugby player in a local pub.

Plus, sometimes I had a hard time understanding them. Earlier in the week I was walking to get lunch and a friendly Irish volunteer asked, "Are you going to Food Summit?" the dining brethren of Web Summit (the conference we were attending). I thought he asked, "Were you on the field, sonny?" I looked at my feet. I was on asphalt, but very near me was a rugby field and I know how much the Irish adore their rugby and so I made a defensive declaration, "No sir, I was never on the field!"

And he asked "ay?"

To set him straight I replied, "I'm going to Food Summit."

He nodded and watched me walk by, probably realizing why Donald Trump had a shot at being the leader of the free world.  

The hotel was nice. I couldn't figure out the light switches. I'd stand in my underwear by the bathroom flicking them on and off trying to trace and remember what each one does. And then I'd scurry over to the switches by the bed and see if any combination of the two panels made a difference. I had to have the bathroom light on to have the bedside light on. But not always. And then there's the shower. I didn't know how to do it. It's got extra knobs and I was like a desperate ship’s captain trying to figure out where the water's coming from.

Before you judge, stay at the DoubleTree Hilton in Dublin and you figure it out.

Before you judge, stay at the DoubleTree Hilton in Dublin and you figure it out.

I'll take a step back and say my wife is usually correct in calling me an idiot, and that's not just because I had to settle for quick baths over the more effective shower. The foremost reason I was given the Idiot Badge is my inability to seize the day. Now I have my moments, and on many occasions have been lauded for milking a moment until only dried flakes breeze away from the teat of experience, but there’s this paranoia I have about leaving Sarah and kids. I know they’re in good care and I know that Sarah must enjoy quiet evenings without me pacing around and listing off things I need to do so I’m not pacing around listing things I need to do. So when I get an opportunity to get away, I shouldn't screw it up. Dublin was an all-expense paid work trip but instead of getting the most out of the opportunity, I truncated my stay so I could be back sooner with the family. And that’s when she called me an idiot, smacking me with the verbal spatula of a frustrated mom.

So, yes, idiot because Ireland is amazing. The people are so nice that they make Canadians, CANADIANS, look gruff. Americans are pretty much ISIL. The Irish are the most pleasant and inquisitive people you’ll ever meet. Go ahead, start a riot in Dublin. Here’s how: ask for directions on the street. You’ll be trampled by people trying to help you. As one cabbie told me, “Ireland is the only place where people will give you money and then thank you.”

There are some things to think about with international travel. One: the plugs. Thanks to Sarah, who’s never not looking out for me, I bought an international power adapter. I needed it for everything in the hotel. Secondly, since the Irish looking for a reason to help someone, you may want to take advantage and get help figuring out the light switches and shower.

This thing. Get it.

This thing. Get it.

I should back up a bit and cover jet lag. Do not stay up all night on your all-night flight. I got giddy and couldn’t stop working. And when I wasn’t working I was watching movies or taking yet another stab and connecting to Lufthansa’s nonexistent WiFi. If Einstein really did define insanity as people indulging in futility, then you should spend more time with me because I make even Ben Carson look brilliant. Over and over and I fiddled with my computer’s network to get a signal that was clearly never there. That entire time I could have drugged myself and slept like before we had kids, but instead I set myself up for sadness. I woke up about 8am Sunday, November 1, and would not sleep again until 1am November 3. Confused and disturbed by the 7-hour time difference, I drank more than I slept until finishing with a promotional stunt that involved buying out an Irish pub. We bought all the drinks that night and that's how I found myself in the back of a cab swerving and bouncing like Enya on a toboggan.

Einstein, I fancy, would grab my hand and suggest I see Darwin about my role in society.

I was able to make my way through the airport fairly quickly, if not desperately. I have to thank a man named Ultan. A lovely Irish fellow who'd told me the first thing I should do is go online and buy this six dollar expedited screening pass for the airport. Because of that, I was treated a bit more special. And perhaps it was because I was hanging onto things and muttering little prayers that they made an extra effort to whisk me out of the country.

Eventually, I settled into Burger King seating. You can get beer at the Burger King in the Dublin airport. I did not partake. I whispered to myself, "That's enough Ireland. That's enough."

But we had good times, didn't we deary?

But we had good times, didn't we deary?



My car was stolen. For reals.

Today marks two weeks since I went outside and noticed my car was missing. Several things happen when you can't find your car where you left it. You have to sift through the ashes of the previous evening. Did you do something dumb? Was it parked behind some bar somewhere? Do I have a drinking problem? Wait, I didn't even drink. Had a I ridden my bike? Did I sleep drive? Do I even have a car?

Was it towed?

The Twitter community was on it.

The Twitter community was on it.

That's the only other time I thought I'd had a car stolen. The San Francisco parking mafia drug away my Dodge Neon rental in the time it took to pee. Sarah and I had celebrated that we'd gotten the rental for $89 for an entire week, yet it took me $300 to get it out of impound. And I'll just add one more thing, San Francisco: you have homeless guys defecating on your sidewalks, but you're hauling off cars so you can sweep your streets. I think you're missing the real mess.

I'm kinda still pissed about that. And that only clouded my judgement. I must have been towed, I thought, as I surveyed the Western mountain scenery availed by the absence of my Subaru. But everyone else was still on the street and I'd parked there for 13 years. Thirteen years and only one broken window and one hit and run. The hit and run was just last month and I'll share how it's made the insurance investigation more interesting. But I hadn't gotten to the insurance yet. Sarah and I sat on the front porch and wondered what had happened to my car.

I eventually called the police. Officer Disner of the Englewood patrol arrived and strolled through a list of required questions. Had it been repossessed? he asked. And I laughed at first but then realized the legitimacy of his query. Not only because I'm sure a lot of people fall behind on their payments, but also it seems like theft is the last thing you assume with a 1999 Subaru Forester. I was flattered that somebody actually wanted it, and the officer's tone seemed to reflect that. "Are you sure it wasn't any other thing than theft?" He seemed to know that a car that thunders with the sexiness of a port-a-john on it's side is usually it's own theft deterrent. And this particular Forester was plain white, had a dented rear panel, and looked like the fleet car for broken dreams.

The Internet   was quick to Photoshop a Lamborghini in front of my house.

The Internet was quick to Photoshop a Lamborghini in front of my house.

I've found that there's a thing that police say by not actually saying it. Once I called in that my bike was stolen. The brazen thief had even left a half-empty 40oz beer on our porch. "I have fingerprints!" I'd shout at them. However, the cops were very nice in how they conveyed that there wasn't a chance in Hell that they'd find my 1984 Specialized Rockhopper. They were like the very friendly Officer Disner. He floated some gentle pleasantries about "seeing what they could do." Not "we're going to track down every last criminal until we've returned this cheap used car you found on Craig's List." Everything said after he'd determined that it wasn't a repo, a bunch of errant parking tickets, or a drunken mistake, was a tender push towards a future without my Forester.

I proceeded down that path with my call to Geico. As you know, you can't have a dream without first seeing a Geico commercial, and for years I've resisted the marketing deluge of the Government Employee Insurance COmpany. I finally cracked after doing the math on the savings. I'd been with State Farm for 25 years and they'd been good to me, but Geico would be about $600 bucks cheaper per year (that's before State Farm raised my homeowners $500 for breaking the multi-line discount.) The first month I was with the new company, I woke up to find my car had been smacked by someone or something. The rear taillight was shattered and there was a gouge in the back left panel. I wasn't all that upset because with Geico I'd been able to step up from my State Farm liability and get "Comprehensive" coverage on my old Subaru.

Now "comprehensive" is in quotes because it's not actually comprehensive. My kind of comprehensive means full or all-encompassing. To Geico, "comprehensive" only covers fire, flood and vandalism. It wouldn't cover collision or, in this case, the gouge in the back of my Subaru. And when, a month earlier, I'd squealed with glee to the Geico representative about getting "comprehensive" for that little, I thought he'd at least comprehend that I wasn't comprehending what their "comprehensive" actually meant.

The definition even includes an insurance reference!!

The definition even includes an insurance reference!!

When I discovered the truth about their lie, I squealed again. Something damning like, "So if my car's stolen you'd cover that, but not this little dent?" I repeated that a lot to a many people. I even tried their tact: "How about, in this case, the word "dent" no longer means damaged, but instead "stolen and set on fire." I shared my frustration in so many different ways that it eventually became less about communicating and more about therapy.

Cut to a month later, and I'm calling Geico to say my car was stolen. There seems to be some suspicion. I've had a some recorded interviews and have fielded some doubt that my car was stolen at all. Or maybe it's just because it's a 1999 Subaru Forester and someone wanting it seems unlikely.

And this will likely be continued....