Comment

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.

Roger: 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.

Comment

Comment

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.

Comment

Comment

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.

Comment

Comment

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.

Comment

2 Comments

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.

Eliot
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.

2 Comments

Comment

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.

Comment

2 Comments

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.

2 Comments

Comment

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?

Comment

2 Comments

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....

2 Comments

Comment

How I got a vasectomy part 2

Worst massage parlor ever.

Worst massage parlor ever.

Dr. Jeremy Weiss held me in his gaze and stressed the importance of taking the time to heal. I felt something like wisdom, but it turned out it was my teeth. My long-departed wisdom teeth chattered across the gummy chasm an incident that made Dr. Weiss' lecture so painfully necessary. I was young and dumb and, after the dental extraction, galloped home to take out the gauze that they told me to keep in. My girlfriend looked at me with concern. Partly because I hadn't followed doctors orders but mostly because she watched me gently spin to the floor. The room blurred into a Monet as I dropped in elevation. From my passed out mass, blood gushed from my face. The resourceful woman shoved Tampax in my mouth and ran to get more gauze. 

So I nodded, and agreed. I'd have to take it easy. I'd also have to watch a lot of Netflix. It's been wonderful. 

This vasectomy is the first time I've been cracked open. That little stitch in my nethers is the cornerstone of my latest imagined horror. I'm going to be that guy who lifts a credenza and my compromised scrotum shoots a testicle across the room. So I've been very careful and, I kid you not, the frozen peas are amazing. Cliches are often cliches because they're so damned true. And I'm not out to set any new trends here. 

The kids got home and I never realized how many times they hit your groin. I kept the boys at bay but the toddler couldn't stop landing in the wrong spot. It's not what you want your kids to see; their patriarch wheezing and squealing and terrified of a small child. But what really caught me off guard were the questions about finding their father in a compromised position with frozen vegetables. I explained the basics. It was a thing that needed to be done and it was done in a very sensitive area. I gave them the specifics of the locale and it kind of shut them up. Kind of like when a women invokes "girl problems." Everyone just seems OK leaving it at that.

My friends reached out to help.

My friends reached out to help.

I have to recommend Dr. Weiss. He was good (although my spectrum of men who've handled my halfway with a knife is limited to one) and a real Colorado guy even though he's from Houston. And I've noticed that people who aren't from Colorado try to be even more Colorado than those who are from Colorado. He did the surgery with his outdoor vest on, something like a North Face fleece. I was impressed with that. He went about my vas deferens like he was fly tying by a mountain stream.

Anyway, he had to deal with my scrotum which, by the time he got to it, looked like a traumatized bird. I'd taken the liberty of shaving and was pretty proud of my work. That's how the day began: Sarah shouting at me through the shower door, "Have you looked at any tutorials online?" I hadn't but after my battle with Aetna I wasn't going to take any chances. Would the shaving be extra? Would they tack on some kind of salon fee? Sarah did find some informational articles but I'm not sure if any described how weird it is. It's somewhere between diffusing a bomb and shearing a frightened animal. I highly recommend it as a moment of humbling self reflection and/or holding women in high regard/suspicion for the sacrifices they make for their ladyscapes.

Welcome.

Welcome.

In the surgery room it was just me and a doctor. Occasionally a young man and woman would arrive, providing him the necessary pieces. It's awkward. There's this little tiny bed on which you lie bottomless and naked. He rolls a table over with his tools. There's some kind of soldering kit hooked to an electrical box. Torture procedures and the medical community are forever linked. 

He went to work quickly. He had told me, and this is important, that when he puts that clamp on, despite the local anesthetic that's needled into your satchel, you're going to feel some discomfort (pain). He described it perfectly by saying it's going to feel like it's never going to subside, like its just going to keep climbing the pain scale and never come back. However, it stops quickly, and it did. But that little shock hit my berries with the gentle persuasion of a stun gun. Yes, it's going to feel like you've been kicked in the nuts, but this guy was good and fast. We even made conversation while smoke rose from my scrotum. I believe that was the soldering of the tubes. I could have some trouble with camp fires for a while. 

I mean other than that, it was fast. And props to a guy who can weld your balls and still be likable. Yes, my guys are purple. They look like Gonzo post chemo. And, yes, I'm walking like I rode a horse home. But the vasectomy, I feel, is the right thing to do. It's a quick thing that gets my wife off the hook for preventing more population and provides finality to the kid thing in our house. I mean outside of raising the ones we have. Again, thank you children for the inspiration. 

The three most important lessons I've taken from this are that shaving is weird and that the clinic will do it anyway. Secondly, the actual vasectomy is quick and relatively painless (compared to the epidural-inspiring pain of child birth). Finally, and most importantly, take it easy for a couple of days.

If you don't have a wife like mine who's been trained by your neglect and once forced to shove feminine hygiene products in your mouth, then you're going to have to police yourself to take it easy. It's fantastic. I'm going to rest more often even after this heals, which should be much easier to do without the fear of my groin exploding whenever I sneeze. 

Paco wishes I'd done it years ago.

Paco wishes I'd done it years ago.

Comment

Comment

How to get a vasectomy part 1

Tomorrow I'm getting a vasectomy, or so I hope. If America's terrible insurance has done anything, it's made getting the actual procedure a piece of cake. No one really wants an incision on their scrotum, but I've been putting this off too long. But I finally get to the eve of the big day and discover that Aetna's website is misleading and my chosen clinic might be out of pocket. So the $15 copay would balloon into my covering the whole procedure. The only upside I can see about that is that when the kids misbehave I could tell them that they drove me to pay a thousand dollars to get stabbed in the balls. The many downsides include:

1. Paying Aetna's rate for a minor procedure. The clinic says it's $840. Aetna says it's $5000.

I guess that's the big downside. If the insurance thing doesn't work out, well then I need to reschedule somewhere else. Oh, and here is where the confusion comes in and why we need a single-payer system yesterday. I chose this clinic because Aetna's website shows that the doctor is in their network, but Aetna's customer service person, who's a million miles away physically and languagy, says the doctor works for a clinic that's not in the network. SO, if the doctor bills me, I'm covered. If the clinic the doctor works for bills me, I'm not. Yes. Pain in the balls and just as sad as another vasectomy joke (I've got like a dozen ready to go.)

But what I'd like to start here is a tutorial on how to get a vasectomy. I don't know dick yet (boom!) but as I learn I'll share with you. All I've got is my insurance issue, the day-of protocol, and how not to handle the initial phone call to the clinic.

I liked this clinic's dorky ads.

I liked this clinic's dorky ads.

The call to the clinic was tough for me. Yes, I know, my wife had three humans emerge from her groin so this is but a small penance for playing a role in the most horrific thing I've ever seen. But back to my small problem: calling a stranger to talk about my testicles. I know, not a big deal, but I have a crazy imagination. When we first got married respectable elders would ask about children and I wanted to shout STOP ASKING US ABOUT SEX. And I envisioned the act with them there with a clipboard and an instructional projector and those physician forehead lamps. Same thing when someone says they have tummy issues or whatever they ate "didn't sit well." I see everything that implies. I'm like the albino love child of Richard Prior and Dionne Warwick: I have visions and they're dirty.

So, being the 12 year old that I am, I stared at my iPhone for a long time before hitting the green button and realizing there was no turning back. The receptionist answered with a minimal amount of verbiage leaving me to sit in the newly availed silence. "Hello?" she pried the gap with the hope she could hang up and move on with her day.

"Hi...yeah..." I began, trying to sound really chill about the situation. "I'M CALLING ABOUT MY BALLS!" I heard when I explained that I needed to schedule a vasectomy. And then silence again.

"Um...yes?" she inquired and I wondered if I really said the balls thing.

"That's really all I rehearsed," I explained to someone who should know that it's weird, it's all weird. It shouldn't be weird but it is you bastard Puritan ancestors.

After what could be heard as a massive eye roll, she explained the things that I'll explain to you.

  1. Get your insurance right or, as the Denver Urology Clinic website explains, prepare to pay $840.
  2. Arrange a ride to and from the clinic. I had so many people volunteer and I think it's because we're all 12 year olds and want to see someone try to function with damaged junk.
  3. Wash yourself. I was a little indignant about that request. Really? Of course. I want to make sure everything is represented well.
  4. You can shave or the doctor will shave you. Actually can't remember if this doctor shaves so I may be shaving in the morning. My wife has opted out. No friends have volunteered.
  5. Wear a jock strap or snug underwear with loose-fitting sweats or pants.
  6. You're not going to want to get up for a couple of days.
  7. No heavy lifting for 7 days. (Those last two are already lifestyle choices)
  8. You're going to want sacks of cold things you can wrap in a towel and hold to your nethers.
  9. You can't shower for a few days.
  10. You're going to need to ejaculate a bunch.

So, yeah, a lot of this is totally doable. I didn't include the part where they numb your groin and scalpel their way into your baby maker. That's where they detour the thoroughfare (vas deferens) that sperm takes from testicles to your urethra (which reminds me of 1989 and asking this really cool kid who got laid a lot how someone's supposed to know if you're going to ejaculate or pee. He said, "Oh...you'll know." Puberty is terrible.)

But honestly, I don't know that much yet. I may grow up and become a man (in this ironic way) or simply get tripped up and delayed by insurance. Either way, women rock. No, really, just give it up to the stronger of the sexes so if you get weak at the sight of a blade at least you've conceded as much before blacking out.

to be cont'd

My final product makes sure I follow through.

My final product makes sure I follow through.

Comment

Comment

My Wife's Little Mouse Adventure

Like most men, I want a chance to be a household hero. I want to be there to open pickle jars, reach things from top shelves, and I'd at least like another shot at the mouse that got away. Yesterday a mouse ran out from under our trash can. My wife doesn't like mice. There's a whole story about that. When she sees one all decorum is off. Marriage is off. Maternal warmth is off. She shouts orders like we're in the muddy trenches and lives are on the line. I'm not saying it's not effective. The trash can mouse made a bolt and she shot enough verbiage to emotionally scar a deaf child. It moved me to do the impossible and try and, um, tackle it. And it worked. I managed to slam down a tupperware on top of the little bastard. I felt so validated. I could feel all social systems returning to normal. Heroism would be rewarded. But then, in my haste to transfer the rodent outside, the damn thing escaped. It scurried and we all did little scared dances. Me, yelling at life. Sarah yelling at me. Quin in pursuit with a Nerf gun. Otto standing on the couch. Eliot blowing kisses.

Then I had to leave. Somewhere in our house was a rogue mouse and I had to take off for a work trip. Sarah got some traps. I was disappointed in myself but felt she had a handle on it. 

The next day, during a meeting, I got some texts.

This is what I saw when I snuck a peak at what was making my phone blow up. I didn't quite get it. Was she having computer trouble? You know how you read the last text first and then have to scroll up to reveal the mystery? Yeah? Well...revealed:

My coworkers paused. It looked like I was smiling at my pants but I was catching the first glimpse of what my wife was dealing with. While I sipped endless complimentary beverages and talked about the future of tech, my wife was stuck in her own kind of special Hell.

mouse pic.jpg

I excused myself and engaged communication with ground zero. I couldn't share any pleasantries or how I was so tired from the plane ride or anything remotely outside the narrow borders of exactly WTF my wife should do to free her kitchen, her children, her life from her most loathed species.

She had to get Quin to soccer practice and she did not want to come home to a mouse, dead or alive, in the kitchen window. All I could think to do was cut the screen and see if it could figure its way out.

It had seemed like the most practical idea, but we were dealing with some language barriers. I must say that I don't always laugh at my wife's frustrating predicaments, but this was amazing.

It was communication quiet for a while. A growing number of my coworkers waited with me for the next message. Some were grossed out, others critical of the laughter tears running down my face, and others in awe of her determination. 

Finally, we got the news...

By this time I was walking from our corporate office (near Seattle) to the hotel with my traveling peers. I nearly walked into a street sign as I glued my eyes to my phone's unveiling of the dramatic ending. 

She had freed the mouse. There was much relief literally across the nation as my wife wasn't going to have to burn the kitchen. 

Although there has been a change to the landscape. I've come home to mousetraps everywhere. A war zone. Innocence lost.

For whatever laughing I did yesterday, I may have just paid the price by stepping on one. 

See that one on the far right? That was my toe.

See that one on the far right? That was my toe.

Comment

Comment

Five-Star Night Crashes to Earth: A Story of Uber, Vegas and International Relations

It may be the desert and it may only be early October, but Vegas is still pretty cold at 7 in the morning. It didn't help that I was soaking wet and vomiting in a parking lot.

I'm hoarse. My throat is raw from a fight I got into with an Uber driver. And I love the basis for the argument: I'd given him a one star rating and then he gave me a one star rating. 

He dropped me off at the wrong Embassy Suites. I walked into the lobby carrying a martini and the front desk was different, the plants were moved, the entire building seemed to have shifted in another direction. I figured I could at least get centered in my room but I couldn't even find the elevators. 

Fortunately, this is the only known picture from the evening. 

Fortunately, this is the only known picture from the evening. 

I asked the clerk what had happened and you could tell he was filtering so much commentary. I mean when a guy who reeks of terrible decisions is claiming that the entire hotel has physically changed, you've really got to dig deep to keep it professional. He suggested the obvious and that's when the Uber meltdown began. I think my martini glass is still at the other hotel as I needed both hands to get the driver back. Within five minutes I was in a full throttle shouting match with a Ukrainian man about our ratings. It's such a modern online argument. It's either one star or five star in this uber social world, and neither of us could get across our point in the necessary language. I remember my mom would talk loudly to foreigners and I thought of that as I ripped a lung in the back of his Prius. 

I shouted, "I'M NOT A ONE STAR RIDER!" and he replied "NO ONE STAR DRIVER!"

First, I contested that it doesn't seem right that a rider, a good one at that, gets a reciprocal rating for being dropped off in the wrong place. 

He countered that I gave him the wrong address, but I shot back that I didn't even know where in the hell I was. Plus...and I tried to make this abundantly clear, I hadn't wanted to give him a one star rating but Uber's user interface made me rate him to get to the screen I needed to bring him back to the altered Embassy. So I was really rating the moment. Something that didn't translate all that well. I was drunk, I was tired, I wasn't sure where I was and no amount of stabbing at my phone was getting me to the proper menu. 

The one-star system worked in that he turned around and came right back wondering why I'd given him one star. That sounds creepy and stalkerish but he was genuinely hurt because we'd chummed so well in his Toyota. And it was in the carpeted confines of his car where I could not yell loud enough to make him understand my dedication to giving Uber drivers five star ratings. I'd only not rated one driver once and that's when she nearly killed both of us and everyone in oncoming traffic while going the wrong way in her terrifying new Jaguar. I just want people to be able to make a living, and I'm often too nice doing it.

I made it home, emailed Uber and fixed his rating. I'm not sure if he added to my lonely sun, but I hope he did. 

You can't imagine how long this day was at a conference, in a warm, loud place with lots and lots of conversation.

You can't imagine how long this day was at a conference, in a warm, loud place with lots and lots of conversation.

That's what I was thinking about has I grabbled a palm tree and unleashed the free continental breakfast. I was ill, but I had tried the pool to turn things around. It did not work. I bobbed around in pain waiting for a mother and her child to leave the premises. (I'm a scary loud horker and even the distance I'd gain from the pool area would traumatize a child.) They smiled and talked and I tried everything in my power not to blast intestinal regret all over their morning. But when they left...oh thank god. You know when you have to pee really bad and you get to the bathroom and you're all about thanking every deity and friend who made that possible? I've thanked plumbers unions and civilization in general for saving those close calls. Anyway, that's what I was doing between the trampling throngs of exiting morsels. And palm trees are not comforting. If you're going to hug a tree you should find a different species.

I should add that going gluten free changed my life. I know, dramatic, but true. The problem is that while everyone else is enjoying pasta and bread and other things that are good for a night of drinking, I had a salad and a sample of salami. (Which, btw, was 47 dollars.) And not the cheap Oscar Meyer stuff but some outrageously priced appetizer with four slices of fancy meat. So with a tiny Italian garden in my tummy, I went about drinking (gluten free) martinis. Those add up pretty fast. A one-star decision.

So I got a bucket from the janitors closet, filled it with pool water and did my best to clean the rocks. Look at me now Uber man. Look at me now.

Comment

Comment

The Strater Hotel Gave me an Opportunity to Write about Customer Service

In a kind of cooling off period for customer service complaints, I've waited a week to send this.  I didn't want to fire off some kind of irrational screed about something that maybe isn't a big deal. Instead, everyone I ask tells me it's a big deal, probably because it's a broader reminder for the service industry in general. 

This particular incident didn't leave me stranded anywhere, none of my possessions were stolen, and I pretty much have my integrity intact. As a matter of fact, the Strater Hotel doesn't even know what they did. And that's the problem. They don't know because they never cared to listen. 

Exactly.

Exactly.

I had rented a room for my friend's mom at the Strater. I was excited about this. I wasn't excited because I was renting a room, and I wasn't exactly giddy because I was paying 200+ dollars for a place where I wasn't going to stay. I was excited because I was going to do something cool for a woman who was my second mom. She was that mom--you all know this mom--who was the town's mom. Kids streamed through her house, ate her food and trampled her privacy, so I was thrilled to do something nice for her. And I know the Strater because I've used it before as a cool place to send people in lovely downtown Durango. It's usually a great gift.

That's what I told the Strater Hotel when I booked it just after noon on Thursday, September 24, 2015. I gave them my credit card and explained that I was going to pay for the room. I even told them to call me if there were any problems. I stressed, in the way that even kind of annoyed me, the importance of my paying for the room and not the guest. 

Because, again, that's the whole point of doing it. 

A day after the stay my friend texted me to say that she hoped I didn't get double billed because the Strater had charged her mom for everything. I had to pull over to do some emotional grappling before calling the hotel.

Granted, Kevin, who I initially spoke to at the Strater, isn't feeling what I'm feeling. He isn't angry like I am because he has other things going on. He's trying to get through his day and, if Durango wages are the same as when I lived there, I can understand why he might have been drifting into space as I drawled on about my claim. He said it seemed there was a mix up and sent me to Alicia. 

Alicia explained what Kevin had explained in that I had needed a card authorized to pay for the room. I told her that I gave them a card authorized to pay for the room. I even had an email saying that the hotel was authorized to charge my card. And I explained that the whole reason that I bought the room wasn't really about the room, about some single occupancy in the mountains, but about doing something nice for a woman who used to work nights at the Mini Mart after a long day as a social worker so she could keep the heat on for the wayward juveniles of Walden. The very last thing I wanted was for her to be accosted with a bill for a room she would have never rented in the first place. But not only was she asked to pay, she also found out how much the room cost. Those are the only two things I wanted to avoid to make her trip (one she'd made to comfort a friend who'd just lost a relative) as freakin' breezy and enjoyable as possible.

Now to be fair to Alicia, she didn't know all of this. She's not supposed to know. But she needs to know to find out.

I should have noted that there were no special notes.

I should have noted that there were no special notes.

I got to the part where I reminded her that they had my card and they should have charged it because I'd explained that's everything in all of the great universe that I had wanted to happen. That's when she cut me off and told me to give her my credit card number again. That lead to the most painful part about this interaction. After I gave her my card she said--as if she put a band aid on a child-- "There, it's all fixed."

In one tiny declaration she managed to make me the kind of angry that has to be escorted out of the room. I wanted to say something but all of the words jammed to the front of my face, and I knew that whatever was going to fly out first wasn't good. So I said goodbye and wondered if I should be as ticked as I felt.

Things get overlooked. It's the nature of our busy lives, but those things can be remedied if you take time to listen and observe. I wasn't asking for anything in return, except some acknowledgement that they understood my argument and that, despite being the potential nut pulled over on a busy section of urban interstate, I wasn't crazy.

The irony is that I chose the Strater because I wanted a great person to enjoy the customer experience of nice hotel. I'm sure she did. From experience, I know she's able to tolerate all kinds of surprises. I was just hoping this one would be a more positive one.

Comment

2 Comments

Let's Prevent Suicide. Also, Let's Stop Being Ignorant Assholes.

I picked at the grass like if I tortured it enough it might give me an answer. I picked at it hoping and waiting for an earthquake or massive sinkhole to swallow me up. It was only a matter of moments before I'd cave and tell a handsome, middle-aged couple that their son was gay.

Their son wasn't there. He had hung himself from my bunk bed. But three days before, he was alive and cracking jokes. He was funny, he was smart, and he was carrying a burden so heavy it would eventually suffocate him.

Jason was everything a parent would want. He was a great student, he was outgoing and he was handsome.  He had a brilliant mind for math and was a business major. In a world that's still far away from ours, being a homosexual would not be a disclaimer to that list.

It was 1993 and gay was everywhere. I'd just moved from my little hometown where no one was gay--where no one was gay in the same way Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says no one in Iran is gay. There was denial, but perhaps like someone who doesn't want to come out of the closet in a conservative Muslim country, small town America doesn't exactly roll out the purple welcome mat. But I shouldn't blame small towns, or even my town. In 1993 gay was everywhere because of big city politics.

It's ironic. Gay was everywhere not because homosexuals wanted it to be, but because a group of self-declared, non-gay folks in Colorado Springs forced it there. They put an amendment on the fall '92 ballot that would essentially allow discrimination against same-sex couples. It freakin' passed, but was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court as infringing on the rights of gays and lesbians.

For me, all of this was new.  I was so clueless that the first woman I ever hit on in college was the president of the Gay and Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Alliance. She would say "no" with a painful eye roll. I reeled from the rejection until she presented to our class her role with the GLBTA.

So I presumed nothing when I walked into my dorm room, and sitting on a well-made bed with matching pinstripe comforter, sheets and pillows was my new roommate.  He'd organized his desk. It was simple and clean with a designer lamp, calculator and notepad.  He hopped up and introduced himself. He adjusted his tie and apologized for moving my dirty clothes and empty beverage containers to my side of the room.

It was going to be a tough adjustment for me, because prior to school I'd had my own room for the three weeks of Fort Lewis Raider football camp. I'd gotten accustomed to my mess.

Jason and I were the prototypical freshman dorm dwellers. We started out as friends and ended with a bitter falling out. There was something about his stereo. It was broken and he blamed me. I was mad about him borrowing my car. He became messier than I was. I was loud when I was drunk. Those fumes add up and in a space the size of a handicapped bathroom stall.  I can’t remember what sparked it, but I blew up and left a week before school ended. I'd found an apartment and was in the process of moving when I got the call.

A friend of Jason's walked into his room and found him. She was not supposed to go into his room that morning. He'd called the night before and asked that I pick him up so he could take me out for breakfast and we could fix our problems. I was on my way to my car when I noticed the apartment complex payphone ringing. For the heck of it I picked it up. It was a mutual friend desperately trying to find me.

Someone had seen Jason the night before. She said he seemed very comfortable. He was stoned, maybe tripping on acid, she thought. He commented on the stars and how pretty they were. She was out walking her dog and was taken by how calm he was, in bare feet, standing on the lawn outside the dorms. It seemed he had made up his mind, written his letters and made peace with his decision. He was going to die.

Under the same stars where we all live. On this same bit of dust floating through the universe. It's seems that we are insignificant, but in this small space, we are not.  We are the light between the morning and the night. We are the lovers at dusk and the comfort before dawn. We are the scaffold on which we all try to climb and the helping hand that can get us there. We are all we've got. For a moment, imagine a world without heaven or hell. Without Harry Potter or magic or a fifth dimension of gentle, glowing ease. We can only be certain of what we can do for each other.

You can add a god if you want. But time still passes. And on a day in late April of 1993, I walked across campus in a daze. Kids were looking at me, talking. I was the roommate of the kid who had killed himself. Some of the curious asked if it were true that I got an automatic 4.0. I didn't.

In the distance there was a tree on a hill. It stood still as college kids passed by. They would keep on walking, through school, internships, their trip to Europe and into their adult lives. The tree would loom in the background--perspective for perpetual motion. I got a chill knowing that most of us would one day leave campus and move onto other things, but Jason would not.

Screwed down to a microscopic focus so tight you've cracked the lens, there I was on the back lawn of a stranger's home. A friend of the family offered their Durango house for an informal celebration of life. Everyone was inside hugging and sharing the pleasant smiles and laughter that perforate the darkness of death. Jason's parents arrived from Colorado Springs and requested I join them in private. They wanted to know why.

They sat together. They were imposing and beautiful in the sun by the aspen trees. Middle aged but well kept, he had a full head of dignified silver. She was gray, but put together like a Lego person. Sharp angles and sleek.

"Yes. Why?" she repeated. "We want to know anything you know about what Jason was thinking."

She looked at me, piercing. He joined her. They looked like they were posing for a political piece.

"We don't have our son, Jared," he filled. "All we have left are questions."

I looked down between my Indian-style lap and picked at the grass some more. I couldn't dig fast enough.

I like to be quick with answers but this was an answer in lieu of their living son. I thought about the truth, or at least what I knew of it. I figured they should know it.

When "homosexual" rolled out of my mouth it didn't feel like a word. It felt like a sea cucumber or mound of mud. I didn't know if I'd said it correctly. I repeated it louder and simpler: "He was gay."

I paused. His parents squinted like my vertical hold had let go.

I just kept going. I couldn't stop myself.

"I think he died because he was gay. He was gay and had no idea how to explain it to you or the world."

I could have set myself on fire and his parents would not have budged. They were paralyzed.

I went on to tell them about how I believed he'd come out, and then regretted it. Every few days we'd get a call from the GLBTA. A familiar female voice would ask for Jason and ask how he was doing. Often he’d be in the room but would refuse to get on the phone. One day, when he was gone, a professor called and asked for him. I knew the professor so asked if I could help. He'd been crying.

He told me that he'd just read Jason's paper. He said it was the most moving student piece he'd ever read. It was a story about the struggle of an oppressed woman.

I don't remember much after I outed a Jason to his parents. The day smeared into a Monet of self doubt. I don't know how long I sat out there, but I fielded questions about a dead man's sexuality until my face was hot with sun burn. It was a small sacrifice compared to the shattered existence of a mother and father.

Not too long after that I ran into one of Jason's friends at a party. She said she could never forgive him for killing himself. I wasn't sure what to think. He's dead. All the kids he knew are going to grow up chase after their dreams. Jason won't get to do that. And I wondered if it was him who needed the forgiving, or a world that made him think he had no reason to live.

2 Comments

Comment

Denver Gives and gives and gives...

There are two things I really like doing: giving beyond my means and talking to random people. It gets even better when I get to give via a company's corporate card (I mean, hey, if corporations are people than at least they should be human.) So all this week I joined name.com to help sponsor Denver Gives Week with presentations, panels and my beloved trope, MOTSCRAK:

MAN ON THE STREET COMMITTING RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

Comment

2 Comments

A Crockwork Orange: Don't go Ape over EPA

I'm not in Durango anymore, and even though the shimmering ribbon of the Animas river has been turned into a nationally-televised disaster--the color of which is somewhere between Captain Kirk's shirt and John Boehner--I still wish I were there right now. To be honest there's never not a time when I'd rather be in Durango. The Animas River nearly took my life three times (all my fault) and I'll jump right back in again. Seriously, I'll get in now and swim a hundred yards. Then scientists can test me instead of dipping unsuspecting trout into the goo. It's OK, I'm used to it. I live near Denver's stretch of the Platte River. Our ducks have five legs and are powered by combustibles and Red Bull urine. We don't want it to flood not so much because of the damage, but because we might be forced to touch the water. But, dammit, we're talking about the Animas; a recreation hub. Home of bald eagles, cutthroat, browns, rainbows and countless svelte paddlers with awesome nicknames. If a million gallons of something horrible spills into the Platte, we call it Tuesday. Politicians don't get all that eager to stand by it. This jewel called the Animas, however, is something to sweat over. And when you get imagery of people pulling their kids out of the water and it's in the heart of  beautiful tourist country, not Bangladesh or even West Virginia, people get fired up. 

Starbucks has gone too far in promoting their pumpkin latte.                                         Photo by Ian Lucier, a Durangoan featured on CNN

Starbucks has gone too far in promoting their pumpkin latte.                                        Photo by Ian Lucier, a Durangoan featured on CNN

The rap is that the EPA caused this, and as far as the actual physical act that triggered the toxic spew, it looks like they're a pretty clear target. And boy is it going to be fun for Congress to point fingers at big government. They're already queuing up quips and adorable colloquialisms about federal ineptitude to protect industry donors through the election cycle. Last night I saw 3rd District Republican and Fort Lewis Grad Scott Tipton having a grandstand orgasm on his Facebook page. He's going to get those bad guys at the EPA. He had hundreds of 'likes' and people high fiving across the digital expanse. But I'm not so giddy about attacking the EPA. 

Of course they're going to be accountable. They're covered in orange. They're your stoner roommate generously dusted by your missing Cheetos. Accountability isn't the issue. Blame shouldn't be the focus. 

We can't even rip on the dastardly mine. 

The Gold King Mine was a thing before we gave a damn (and realized just how damning that can be.) Colorado's statehood relied on mining and the people who came here to work in terrible conditions (in whatever that orange stuff is) to make a buck. We get that. But to hold the EPA as the only accountable party is egregiously political and misses the point entirely. There are thousands of abandoned extraction sites in Colorado, and when you have that many land mines lying around, someone is going to step on one.

Boom. Here we have the pyroclastic ooze shutting down wells, interrupting lives and poisoning the entire reason people live in the Southwest. If golden rocks brought people to the area in the 1800s, it's the natural splendor we thrashed for those nuggets that convinced people to stay. It's the reason that someone will pay six bucks for a microbrew and why better-than-average professors take pine cones over pay to make FLC the attraction that it is. The EPA was doing its part to inspect the mine; to ensure that the goop that made Colorado a state wouldn't leave Colorado in a state. They screwed up. But it's not a sign to go on the attack. It's an even bigger (like a river of Tang) omen that if we're serious about handing down Colorado's natural beauty to our children, then we should take the steps to avoid more places that the EPA will have to inspect. The Gold King Mine was recognized as killing off a creek in 1876. Since then we can only hope we've learned to engage in methods that don't lead to more bureaucrats in bulldozers. It seems like a win/win to advance to a place where disaster isn't a mistake away.

2 Comments

Comment

Backyard Camping Exposed

I was a brush and flush away from living the weekend dream of lying on the couch and fading in and out of Netflix. I summoned enough energy to announce to the children that it was time for bed. I could see the finish line to the long day. I saw a countdown clock to my freedom...the dreamy darkness at the beginning of my slumber tunnel. And then Quin, who can remember the day he was born, reminded me that I'd said we were going to camp in the backyard. 

I did not tell Quin what I’m about to tell you, but camping in the backyard is dumb. If you’re going to spend a sleepless night rolling around on the ground well it had better be in nature. It had better be after a cathartic day on the river; a lovely stroll through Eden. That’s why you go camping. It’s the tiny sacrifice that city dwellers make to get closer to something wild. Camping in the backyard is choosing not to be comfortable for no reason at all. I mean I get the appeal. I used to look forward to the croup just so I could sleep in a tent. I was in a tent inside a house. It’s the biggest deal. People could save thousands on Disney trips and Chuck E Cheese if they simply assembled a tent in the living room. But when you leave the confines of your cozy home only to end your journey in the backyard, you’re essentially leaving your insulated hive so that you can enjoy the sounds of the city, only louder. And your dog thinks you’re an idiot. 

Paco would perforate the night with attacks at the slightest disturbance. Either that or he was crying out for help.

Here, my wife enjoys some weekend entertainment.

Here, my wife enjoys some weekend entertainment.

There is one silver lining. It’s my dear wife being able to see my little promises explode in my face. It's not so sadistic as acid to the eyes, but the illumination of my expression as I realize my fate. She smiled and pulled her legs criss-cross for more comfortable viewing of my weekend routine train wrecking into reality. Otto is more forgiving. He likes going to bed. But Quin will remind you just because you need to be reminded. He might be tired and long for the comforts of his room, but at some point someone said we'd be sleeping on the lawn so he lawyers up a timeline taking us back to the exact time and place the agreement was made. 

She's warned me before. Sometimes it's with a subtle interrogation: "Jared are you sure you'll have time to take the boys skydiving before work?" Simply because she asks I steel my resolve against any obstacle, no matter its gravity, or gravity specifically. And time? I have time. I can make time for my boys. I might be stressed and ruin the entirety as I try and take them fishing on my lunch break, but it’s not not going to happen

She also offers the more direct, "You shouldn't promise them that," and of course she has no idea of what I can or cannot promise. Until, of course, I'm about to go to bed on a Saturday night and a seven year old swoops out of the nocturne to feast on an old favor.

At first it wasn't cold. It was muggy. Hot day Port-a-potty muggy in the little dome tent. It had been in the 90s all day. And then Quin peppered me with questions about plans for a fire. All he was missing was a tiny room with a solo suspended light bulb and at least one good cop. The sun had yet to set before we had our own orb of flames in our backyard. Branches from June's crazy hailstorms were to be put to rest, taking the surrounding temps into the mid 100s. Soon, however, it was cold. The sun was waking China and my yard debris was subdued as soot. As far as warmth, I settled for watching two tiny men snuggle into their dreams. Paco, my snuggle buddy, had ditched me for sleeping outside the tent. It kind of reminded me of how you want to get the jump on someone doing something dumb. He would be the first to greet any comers with how he had nothing to do with camping in the backyard.

It's funny, because if you’re to lie out on the grass in the college quad or in a park on a hot day, the ground feels kind of good. Yet when you pour yourself down for a night in a tent, your body pools into the slightest depression. Your muscle mass disappears and you're but bone and nerves sucked to the craggy face of a speeding space rock. I had put down a tarp and stacked two thick blankets, and so was certain it was going to be comfortable. Two hours later only my head could move. I blinked but most everything else was broken in a way only a commune with nature can break things. I was a neck tweak away from having no blood to my brain. The boys slept twisted but beautifully, their giant eyelashes bowing to their ruddy cheeks. I did a quick frustration spin to free my now 700 pound leg and contorted my blanket to some new shape that refused to cover my feet. With sleeplessness conquering reason, I made the unfortunate decision to not sleep at all. I'd leave the tent and get a head start on the day. 

An hour of trolling Facebook later, I drifted off on the couch. It was warm. A dozing comfort plowed over me and I was on my way to a softer place where I could feel my fingers. This was the sleep that I needed. It was also a perfect time for Quin to wake up. Well rested, he was excited to see his father in the living room.

And Sarah smiles. Good morning she says with her passing warmth. Something I'll never take for granted.

The boys and Sarah share stories of how well they slept.

The boys and Sarah share stories of how well they slept.


Comment

Comment

The True Story of a Camping Disaster and the Tummy Trumpets

One time I was camping with coworkers near Kelly Lake in North Park, CO when we became so drunk that we ate all of our supplies and got lost. I’ve complained about thirst before, but never felt it so much as when we were forced to drink the river water that would eventually give me giardia. (I did have a glass bottle of Seagrams mixed with 7up but it exploded in my pants. True story.) It was late on the second day that we finally discovered a county road. We were able to get some signal with our walkie talkies and radio to base that we needed some assistance. At the time I was working with the Colorado State Parks and the managerial staff was becoming increasingly concerned as to our whereabouts. This would turn out to be a good thing as it lessened their anger once they found us. Several things happened as a result of this trip. And there was one thing that did not. The thing that didn’t happen was the trail to Kelly Lake was not cleared of debris. Kelly Lake is a body of water in an old volcano that’s home to a type of trout not found anywhere else in the world. It's amazing. It's also long-ass way from anything so the trail doesn’t get a lot of love. When it does not get love, the few people who take the time to trek it get pretty frustrated that the path to their mountain retreat is crappy. It’s significant that that’s the one thing that did not happen because it was the sole reason for the trip. The only tax-funded purpose for the journey was to maintain a trail to mountain magic land.

it's pretty but don't fuck with it. Or drink it.  (This is actually one of the Ranger Lakes because we never made it to Kelly Lake.) Wait, that's actually Michigan Reservoir. Thanks TIM!

it's pretty but don't fuck with it. Or drink it. (This is actually one of the Ranger Lakes because we never made it to Kelly Lake.) Wait, that's actually Michigan Reservoir. Thanks TIM!

The things that did happen include one more tax-funded trip to find wherever in the hell we’d camped and left most of our stuff, including an ATV that, whilst drunk, I’d run into tree. The other thing that happened had longer, more personal repercussions in that I was a 17-year-old high school grad set to enjoy the most amazing summer ever. One thing that giardia enjoys more than anything, is ensuring you’re not enjoying anything. It’s weird. The little parasite has immaculate timing. You’d be fine—albeit slightly scarred from your intestinal undoing—and gather enough confidence to leave your home. Every step you took was another victory until you’d find yourself at a bar or maybe even on a stroll with some lovely paragon of femininity, when everything would change. Giardia have little trumpets. And they are kind enough to blast frightening noises to warn you and the surrounding environment that shit’s about to get real. I once told a woman that what she’d heard was distant thunder and I hated storms and I needed to leave immediately. It was known throughout our small community that at any moment Jared might burst into your home like the Kool Aid Man and it was best if questions were not asked.

Another thing that happened was Kieth. Keith could be the villain in every movie. He’s that guy that, say, Meg Ryan would marry instead of Tom Hanks and the whole movie would be how Keith was an asshole and she should dump him for Tom Hanks. Anyway, Keith was a fresh forestry management graduate who had not endeared himself to the local kids. And for a long time we (the local kids) had the upper hand. We’d abandon him whenever possible and his complaints fell on the weary ears of superiors that knew Keith was an asshole. But botching the Kelly Lake trip made us targets. And Keith, like giardia, was the Dark Side of good times. He jokingly endorsed our crew for more, longer day trips and made sure to let me know it was because I was “spraying through a screen door at thirty paces.” His words, not mine. He gained advantage all over the place even suggesting that I might not be suitable for camper contact, a job that often meant college girls and being regaled by city folk eager for some kind of country advantage. I was reduced to TnT, Toilets and Trash, a modern-day leper of the West…an outcast in my own town. And he didn’t let anyone forget that either me or the rest of my party would be responsible for explaining the condition of the trail to Kelly Lake.

I would add that Kelly Lake is worth it no matter the condition of the trail. Just don’t drink the water, no matter how pristine it may seem.

Comment

Comment

Yes and Yes Yes is #YxYY | A quick thing on simplification JARED

In the past, I have had to practically be held down and reminded to keep it simple, stupid. These are the KISSes I get. And they are necessary as when I think about things, when I pour myself into a project, I invariably over think it. Just a little background about myself. I emcee shows and do comedy when I can. And there is this adage amongst my small following that goes like this: "Where is Jared in the living room?" What that implies is that people came to the show based on the Jared they'd seen in more casual circumstances. It is around these professional turns where they are greeted with elaborate thought-out jokes that leave the room silent. You can hear someone stirring their drink and hoping for a building fire.

You'll note in the video above that at about :30 I fall into some premeditated garbage, and then at about 1:05 the Tourette's guy saves me.

It isn't always that bad, but the point is that it could be better. It always could be better. In my mind that means I must concoct some more humor, but to the overwhelming majority of others it means that I must relax and be myself.

This brings me to #YxYY.

Here's the deal with this festival of Yes (yestival?) at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs: It's not a conference. They call it a nonference and its eclectic mix of startup gurus, futurists and brainy eccentrics in general has garnered it the name "Burning Ted." It's a cross between the wide open desert festivities of Burning Man and the intellectual enlightenment of Ted Talks. All of that might sound complicated, but in fact it's the simplest thing yet. If you can handle it.

It's jarring because most of the events aren't posted until a few days before, many of them created on the fly. Can you handle that? Can you deal not having a schedule? At first, I struggled.

But a most important tenet of #YxYY is that there are no sales or marketing. You're not there to promote your business or sell domain names. You're there to share ideas. Actually, you float around in a pool and talk to people. You get drinks on the patio and meet people from all different places and backgrounds. You get together and carve out little bits of life to highlight and discuss. You go to a special room and play with kittens.

It's true. In one of the most brilliant conference ideas I've seen, the local shelter brought in kittens that needed play time and, ultimately, adopted. Several found new homes.

WHICH IS WHERE I found myself. A new place with no rules. I had a head full of promotional ideas, but this place didn't need or want them. And in a terrible twist, I found that I had no idea how to talk to people at a conference if it wasn't about business. I sat by myself and racked my brain for ideas. I'd drop some small talk and then find myself in a corner. I had nowhere to go. The feral monkeys of my brain tore about my cranial landscape, ripping through old files and shrieking in a panic. I'd often glance at the ground, giving the curious bystanders the resignation they needed to leave.

The problem, it turns out, is that Jared had left the living room. He was in the desert both literally and figuratively; the scorching sun a spotlight on failure. WHICH IS THE PROBLEM. It's not a show. Even shows aren't shows. It's an opportunity to be you. YOU. SWEET MOIST MOSES ON A MOUNTAIN TOP YOU GET TO BE YOU. Even if your 'you' is a person who caves in conversation then, heck, go with it. I once read that to deal with ADD (my wife had suggested I research it) that you can simply tell people you have an attention disorder so they don't think it's them. And, guess what? That's a conversation. That's the beginning of some common thread as everyone struggles to be on their game all the time.

But it's not a game. It's life. And it shouldn't be so difficult. Especially when your by a pool in Palm Springs.

Comment