February 28, 2007
The world has gone mad. Mad I tell you. I was surfing around, minding my own business until I came face to face with evil...in the form of a Google ad.
I'd rather have a poster of G-Dubs, our fearless leader. Hell, I'd rather have a poster showing Karl Rove blowing a donkey while John Ashcroft gives Rick Santorum the reach-around while performing a stunning rendition of America The Beautiful with a background choir comprised of all nine scantily-clad Supreme Court justices being serviced by evil clowns and midgets with mullets dressed in polyester leisure suits.
That's how much I do not want that poster.
February 27, 2007
Bird...Plane...Crazy Slingshot Guy
I had a shitty day yesterday. It started off fine but quickly degenerated into a fine, steaming pile of crap. It's not that anything bad happened. It was just painful, the way work days sometimes are. And I was inarticulate as fuck. This would have been fine had I not had to spend the afternoon in client meetings. Three things altered my outlook yesterday evening, repaired some of the damage:
- I ate half a box of Girl Scout cookies.
- On my way home, I temporarily ditched the traffic, pulled over, got out of my car and looked at the Potomac River in front of me. I looked to the right, and there, rising above the trees, was the tip of the Washington Monument in the distance. To my left, across the river, was the castle-like structure of Georgetown University looming over the snowy river below. For just a second, the traffic disappeared as did the work day I'd just put behind me. Of course, then my cell phone rang and I was ushered into an unplanned conference call.
- As we were putting Mia to bed, she did what she often does when bed is involved - shun my kisses. Instead, I taught her about eskimo kisses, rubbing noses together. She loved it, turning her head - and, of course, her nose - back and forth as I left the room. Kids can be draining but they can also magically replace all the spirit you've lost during the day.
I'd be shocked if I found out that any of society's great spree killers had kids. From my own experience thus far, staying centered is unavoidable. A child can so easily and quickly replace all the sarcasm and dread picked up during the average day and turn it into something good again.
Of course, there's a statute of limitations on that. I mean, I'm probably not going to be saying the same thing when Mia's 15 and some zit-faced asshat with a pierced head (or whatever the thing will be then) comes knocking on my door in a meager attempt to take my daughter out on a date. No, then, I'm going to be reaching for the shotgun. Or I would if Beth let me own one. I bet I can get away with a slingshot though. I'll be Crazy Slingshot Guy. Mr. Cactus, The Crazy Slingshot Guy. It will be my Deranged Parent Superhero Alter-Ego. Legends will be told about me.
Hypothetical Suitor One: Hey, have you heard about Mia's dad?
Hypothetical Suitor Two: No, I haven't.
Hypothetical Suitor One: He's got this slingshot that he uses on guys Mia's interested in. Dude's lethal up to 200 feet.
Hypothetical Suitor Two: You've gotta be shitting me.
Hypothetical Suitor One: No! And? This one guy I know? Had a friend who tried to take Mia out. Crazy Slingshot Guy took aim and leveled his ass before he'd even made it off the yard. And he was never heard from again. Although I've heard that, if you stand on the sidewalk around midnight you can still hear his tortured moans.
Hypothetical Suitor Two: Dude.
Hypothetical Suitor One: Dude.
Those of you who are parents - even those who will one day become parents - I encourage you to start thinking about your Deranged Parent Superhero Alter-Ego quickly. For those of you who were gunning for Crazy Slingshot Guy, I'm sorry. That one's taken.
February 26, 2007
Weekend Recap: Snow, Bad Hair and Teeth
The theory of relativity is nice and all but why didn't Einstein labor to discover the scientific principle explaining why weeks seem to take forever but weekends fly? Enough of that "E=MC2" shit; give me something I can use.
check them all out at my flickr site...
Last week was tough. Mia decided she wouldn't sleep, work was hectic (the polite way to say "batshit crazy") and, overall, it just seemed as though life was trying to go much faster than my own legs would carry me. Luckily, the weekend treated us well...mostly.
On Friday afternoon, I came home early to bail out a very tired Beth who'd cried on my shoulder that morning, out of a heady combination of frustration and sleep deprivation. Mia and I, therefore, spent some wonderful quality time together while Beth napped. Lucky for us, Mia slept well on Friday night and into Saturday morning. Saturday brought a guest appearance by my brother-in-law and his wife, who are expecting their own daughter on June. They dropped by to babysit while Beth and I hit a local Japanese place for dinner. Apparently Mia behaved wonderfully. They, therefore, still have no realistic clue what they're in for. A nice frosty combination of snow, ice and rain moved in on Saturday night and Sunday leading to a nice quiet day at home. Not such a bad thing either, since we realized in the afternoon that Mia was running a little fever. More teeth, apparently. Joy of joys.
Now it's back to work and I'm pretty sure I could use a break. And there's a break in sight. Remember when I won that award? Well, we've booked the trip. Instead of taking a long hike to a far-off destination, we managed to book a nice, fancy hotel for five nights on a nice warm beach. The three of us will be headed to the boardwalk in the very early summer.
By the way, fair warning to you all. This is what can happen if you let your sleep-deprived spouse play with your hair.
Haiku For Monday #158
Neither snow nor rain
nor sleet can keep me from my
appointed rounds. Fuck.
February 23, 2007
Schadenfreude Friday: The Self-Examination Edition
This week, the world has been coated in a nice, sweet, sticky layer of schadenfreude. Hence the humidity. Turn left, schandefreude. Turn right, more schadenfreude. Turn left again, same schadenfreude but a little bit more than there was when you looked there last. You get my point. There's no room at the Schadenfreude Inn. But - and this might come as a shock - I've never been conventional nor have I ever chosen the obvious. That's why, this week, I unleash my Schadenfreude Pointy Finger and turn it right back on myself. Well, all of us actually.
See, aside from all the schadenfreudey goodness, there's a lot of stuff that is truly important going down, here and across the globe. There's this pesky little thing called Iraq in which American soldiers and innocent civilians are dying. The political landscape leading up to the next election year keeps shifting. People are dying of AIDS, violent crime is taking the lives of innocent men, women and children, the school systems flounder, the systems in place to maintain a modicum of health and education for our nation's poor remain woefully understaffed and underfunded, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and Michael Jackson is recording a new album and must be stopped. Yet, despite all this craziness, what's grabbing headlines are two of the most tragically flawed, deeply fucked up trainwrecks of our century - Branna. Antney. Brinna. Oh, fuck it - Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears.
Last evening I did a little surfing and noticed something that made my butt clench - the media doesn't give a shit about actual news. (I realize this is old news. It's honestly something I noticed quite a few years ago. This is a device I'm using called sarcasm.) I checked out eight sources of online news - CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Yahoo, BBC, Washington Post and USA Today. Instead of reporting on actual news - you know, the shit that matters - there were 32 mentions (headlines, blurbs, polls and links) about Anna on the homepages of these sites. Britney got eight nods. So, it's clear - the media is obsessed with society's dysfunction and Britney needs new PR people.
I'll be the first one to admit that I dig the gossip, that I think it's entertaining as hell to follow the cliche and see how that other half lives. I lurves me a trainwreck; it's the very essence of schadenfreude! But we, as a society, are corralled and fed from the heaping vats of starstruck, celebrity-fueled fast food served by idiots with press passes at the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet of Media Mediocrity to the point at which the media feels validated and, worse, thinks this is what we need more of.
So Britney checked into rehab, checked out, shaved her head, checked into rehab, checked out, then checked in again this time, hopefully for good. So Anna Nicole Smith, who, incidentally has generated almost as much press since she died as she ever did while she was alive, never rewrote her will, probably overdosed, screwed almost any guy who could walk (and, considering her ex-husband, even that qualification is debatable), got knocked up and lost a son. While they were dancing on the edge of sanity, tiptoeing around the tipping point, both of these women were fun to watch. But once they crossed that threshold, they merely became two tragic figures, one dead beyond any help, the other very much alive, who should be left alone to sort out her demons while her hair grows back.
February 22, 2007
Inquiring Ears. And Minds, Too
When I was putting Monday's post together about music, I got decided to take a look at some of the really tragic additions I've made to my music collection over the years. You know, the kinds of things about which Mia, one day when she's made her way to my music room and browsed the CDs, will say what the hell were you thinking when you bought this, dad? For many of those things, I won't have a very good answer.
I mean, how, exactly, do you explain Nelson, blond twins with no appreciable talent? Or the presence of a band named It Bites (and, quite honestly, it does despite the talent of lead singer and guitarist Francis Dunnery who went on to record many brilliant and under-appreciated albums). I can explain Iron Butterfly - it's not a great album but everyone should own the epic track In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida but I'm afraid I'll never quite be able to fully convince anyone that I really did buy the 1960's William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy albums so I could laugh at them.
I'm a sucker for 80's tunage so I will defend owning music by Huey Lewis, The Thompson Twins, Tears for Fears, Men both Without Hats and At Work, to the death. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to own up to the fact that I have some pretty bad b-list hair metal you've probably never heard of - Banglore Choir, Tuff, Arcade and, my favorite, Rhino Bucket, anyone?
Then there are some I should have known were bad based on the name alone (like It Bites). Take Spade Ghetto Destruction, Melting Euphoria, Elephant Ride, Bad 4 Good or Moist, for instance. Do any of those scream buy me, I really don't suck? Nope.
Anyway, if you're at all curious what I own, I've taken a little time to list all the artists in my collection. Check them out for yourself. All 1,372 of them.
Now, on with answers to your questions...
(Brad) I'd like to know how long you've played guitar, what songs you have mastered (I dont care if it's mary had a little lamb, I'm just curious), and how often you get to play these days.
I started playing the guitar when I was around twelve. I've been playing almost two-thirds of my life. You'd think I'd be better ;-) I tend not to be a good rhythm player and I remember about five chords. Therefore, I can probably count the number of songs I can play all the way through on one hand. Most of them are Pink Floyd. I'm more of a soloist, I guess.
(Lori) I still want to know what was in the "brown paper wrapped package" that Beth brought home for Valentine's Day. ;-)
Peeps. Strawberry heart Peeps. Porn or marshmallowey goodness? It's a tossup.
(Judy) Keeping with yesterday's music theme, is there one song that you associate with Mia? What about Beth, do you two have an "our song"?
Most likely Man of Golden Words by Mother Love Bone. Seriously, I used a couple lines to pick her up one night. They seem to have worked.
(Judy) Keeping with yesterday's music theme, is there one song that you associate with Mia? What about Beth, do you two have an "our song"?
We danced to Louis Armstrong at our wedding and grooved to many songs before and since. But I'm not sure I'd be able to nail down one single "our song". As for Mia, well, I'm not sure about that either. We listen to lots of music. If I had to choose one song, I'd say >o>Wind At My Back" by Spock's Beard. I used it when I posted pictures of her soon after she was born. It has some beautiful words that very much fit with what I felt then and still feel now, as her father.
(smoness) If Mia's very life depended on you permanently giving up one of two things: your books or your CDs/MP3s, which would you toss? Por Que?
You are evil. Pure evil. I can make arguments for or against either. I think I just better stop thinking about it before my head explodes. I'll have to get back to you on that.
(ProudMary) What is your favorite book series of all time?
As a kid, either the Narnia or Oz series. As an older kid, young adult, Asimov's Foundation series...except the entire cycle from I Robot through Foundation and Earth.
(Linda) Do you still have the bottlecap that Beth told you to keep forever?
No. Shhh, I lost it. One sad day, everything fell out of my pocket and became lost forever. If you see an old, shiny Foster's bottle cap with a hole through the middle, let me knwo.
(Kate the Shrew) If money were no object, what job would you most want? Would you be a rock star, or is there something else you'd like to do?
I wouldn't want to be a rock star. All that touring and high expectations and playing the same thing night after night. As I mentioned yesterday, I think I'd just own a bookstore, hang out with my family and be a professional dad.
(Trix) Do you have a favorite word? If so, what is it?
Fuck. It's a fucking great word and you can fucking use it in so many great fucking ways.
(Issa) Who's your favorite Muppet and why? Did you know that Disney bought the Muppets when Jim Henson died?
I did know that. Disney is perpetually after anything it can absorb. I'm pretty sure they'll make an offer on my spleen when I die. I hate to sound cliche but I'm a Kermit fan, myself.
(wordgirl) If you could bring back a toy/book/item/game from your distant childhood/adolescence that is no longer around, what would it be?
What's old is new, as they say. There's not a whole lot from my childhood that doesn't exist now. Can I have my sense of childlike wonder back? Or maybe the innocence of childhood or the view of the world that was limited to neighborhood fences? No? Then I have no idea. I was a big fan of Legos, Lincoln Logs, Lite Brite, and ViewMasters. I loved, as I mentioned, the things that came out of the minds of Frank Baum and C.S. Lewis. Luckily for all of us, those things are still around.
(Jodi) Can you find me a place to live? Must take cats. And be in canada.
I'm afraid I'm not going to be of much help. I don't even speak Canadian.
(Jaycie) Do you have any Lucinda Williams in your vast CD collection?
I do not. Her latest just got great reviews. I might have to check it out.
(Beth in STL) If you were trapped on a desert island, what 5 things would you bring with you, and why?
Is it a cop-out if I say something like a boat, an endless supply of water and a transport device like they had in Star Trek? Throw in a guitar and the contents of any local library and I'm set. Hell, at that point, I might not even use the transporter ;-)
(Sunshine) Hilary Clinton or Barrack Obama?
Honestly? Neither. I'm not a Hillary fan and I don't think Obama has the experience. I don't believe either are electable. Personally, I want Gore to run again. I think he could win and I think he's a good guy who'd make a good president.
(Jeff A) What the heck is on your hat in your about photo?
It's a big "W" but it stands for the Washington Nationals. Not the president.
(Dee) So, why did you start blogging?
I stumbled on a few blogs over three years ago and was intrigued. I decided to give it a shot. With my self-discipline, I figured it would last about two weeks. Surprise! I was wrong!
(Sarah) What is the worst movie you have ever seen in it's entirety?
Oh dear lord, there are so many. I love crappy old sci-fi movies - Plan 9 From Outer Space, Teenagers from Space, The Headless Mutant from Planet Gorgonzola (okay, so, that last one isn't real) - so I've sat through some real crap. I'm also one of the few people on the planet who actually sat through and enjoyed both Ishtar and Eyes Wide Shut. Both horrible yet amusing. Then there's Dangerous Liaisons which was a total piece of crap that everyone else seems to love, including my wife, who will punch me for saying this.
(Heather) What's a deep dark secret that you have yet to share with us, your devoted readers?
The thing with which I've had to wrestle the most is the fact that I consider myself a slacker yet I'm insanely tough on myself and have standards almost impossible to meet. I realize that's not quite what you were going for but it's probably the single-most insightful thing I've come to realize in a long, long time.
(MadMom) why are there never enough red Skittles in a bag of Skittles?
It's those damn social conservatives on the other side of the aisle who don't want to let anyone have any fun.
(mamatulip) What's the best live concert you've ever been to?
(Kimblahg) What is a haberdasher? Is it something to do with hats? Were you really one?
A haberdasher is someone who makes and fits hats. And yes, I really was one.
(Diane) What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
Probably that I'm pretty much a shy, introverted kinda guy in spite of the way I act tough here. Maybe that's not a huge revelation but I think it's often in stark contrast to the way I'm probably perceived.
(Stephanie) Ever been to Seattle? If not, do you ever want to go?
I've never been...and I've always felt like I'm a Seattle kinda guy. I would definitely like to go sometime.
(Haley-O) when are you and Beth and Mia going to get a cat again? You're cat people! you need a cat!
Yes! We have a couple trips to make in the near future and, after that, I think we'll seriously consider it.
(Averil) I like ham. Do you like ham too?
Being a vegetarian, I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan.
February 21, 2007
Inquiring Minds: The Results Show
Good morning, world! Why is it such a fine morning?
- It's actually above freezing for the first time in a
billion yearscouple of weeks.
- I have a hot cup of coffee and The Shins singing to me.
- I'm not actually awake yet so I am, perhaps, seeing more promise in the day than is actually there. Shut up. Don't burst my bubble.
- You have supplied me with wonderful fodder for a post and, therefore, I only have to use the small part of my brain actually designed to answer questions.
Without further ado, here's the first round of answers.
(Debbie) Since I know you love music - what would you want to have played at your funeral?
Sadness. Expired Cactus. I've actually given this a bit of thought but never come up with anything good. Basically, it's got to be a party. But if there needs to be an obligatory sad song, I'd go with Genesis' Open Door. Then, honestly, I think it's Guns N Roses the rest of the evening.
(Nanette) If you had to choose, would you rather be blind or deaf? elaborate, please :D
I think I'd rather be deaf. Sure, I'd sacrifice music and that would suck but honestly, I'd rather see my daughter grow up than hear her do it. And I'd still be able to read. And I'd also probably get out of the seventy gajillion conference calls I have this week.
(Edge) When you and Beth are having sex, what's one thing she does you really like?
Recite epic poems in the original Greek.
(Contrary) What is the average windspeed at the top of Mt. Washington (in New Hampshire) in a year? Also, what makes clouds look so fluffy and white? Also, how do you get coffee stains out of linen? Also, what time is it?
32 miles per hour. No shit. I looked it up. As for the clouds, every day angels descend from their celestial kingdom on high and fart into the clouds giving them that white puffy look. As for the white linen, try the following: Wrap the linen into a tight ball. Put the linen ball into a regular size kitchen garbage bag. Throw said bag into the trash, take to corner and allow kind garbage men to relocate linen to the local landfill. Sure, you've gotten rid of the linen but you've also gotten rid of the coffee stain. Oh, and it's around 7:00 here.
(Alissa) Have you ever colored your hair?
No, but that's not to say I haven't bleached it. I'm not going to lie - not hot.
(Ross) What's your favorite brand of brew-it-yourself coffee (beans or grinds)? Do you have a preference on which shoe you put on first?
When I'm at home, I brew coffee in my Senseo pod thingy (technical coffee-brewing term). The coffee is pretty darn good. At work or on the go, I tend to be a Starbucks kinda guy...especially now that I've completely abandoned Dunkin Donuts.
(Sharri) Since Beth has a celebrity boyfriend, do you have a celebrity girlfriend? If so, who is it?
I'm going to go with Kiera Knightley. She's neat.
(William) Don't you miss meat?
Sometimes. What I miss most is bacon. Yep. Pig ass. Every morning when I'm walking into my building, the bastards in the deli downstairs start frying up bacon. Fuckers.
(Phoenix) What kind of camera do you use? Is there one that you dream of owning?
I mostly use a Nikon D50. I caved last year and bought it. Before that I used a couple point-and-shoot Sony Cybershots. The Nikon is pretty much the camera I dreamed of owning. Now it's the camera I dream of knowing how to use to its full potential.
(Tulip) What is a book you remember from childhood that helped to shape your, obvious, love of reading?
I remember lots of them. My dad hooked me up with sci-fi books when I was a kid. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein are probably the three guys, besides my dad, I should thank. I don't get back to those dudes or even that genre much anymore but I look fondly upon them.
(Steff) If you had to buy a house, would you buy a new house or an older house? The new house would have everything imaginable except a yard - that would have to be put in. The older house has a huge yard, pool, but needs new flooring and a kitchen update. Ok, give me your take, wise one! :=)
I'd go with the old place. I'd really like more of a yard now, a little land to do something cool with, to have Mia run around in. And the home improvement, while a pain, can also be a lot of fun. There's something nice about taking something old and making it truly yours.
(Fraulein N) And I don't remember if you've ever told us your middle name. Have you? Maybe you did and I just missed it.
My middle name is Mathew. Yes. With one "t". Why? I was born in a foreign land and my name had to be translatable into Spanish. My dad was pretty freaked out when I was born so he never added the second "t" in the translation from Mateo to Matthew. I still bug him about that.
(Maria) Was there one book you read many times as a child?
My parents and I had a grand tradition of reading to each other. We hit all the big ones - the Narnia books and the Wizard of Oz series. I think it was the many, many books that comprise Frank Baum's Oz that I still love the most and asked to re-read so often.
(Maria) If money wasn't an issue, what would you do for a living?
I'd probably teach, history or English. No, scratch that. There's this great little bookstore in the Outer Banks we visit once a year that I'd buy and run in an instant. Yeah. That's it.
(Maria) What is the most embarrassing question you've been asked? How did you respond?
You saw Edge's up there right?
(Maria) Have you ever been present when someone was asked a rude question and you thought their response was priceless? Question and response, please.
You know, I'm absolutely 100% sure that I have but I'll be damned if I can come up with an example. I'll be on the lookout though. Wherever rude questions are asked, I shall be there reporting from the front.
(Maria) Tell us about something you said or did as a child that your family won't let you forget.
There was this one time that, instead of finding the correct instrument with which to scoop ice cream, I used a table knife and ended up in the hospital with a severed tendon in one of my fingers. I wish I could tell you I was a dumb kid but I think I was probably 25. I got so damn many ice cream scoops from people...
(Maria) What is your secret, comfort food that you are embarrassed to admit because some may find it disgusting?
The ultimate comfort food for me is pasta. I doubt anyone would find that disgusting. I also love green olives and can eat an entire jar in one sitting, which my wife does indeed find somewhat gross.
(b.) Do you wish you traveled more? And where would you most like to go, in the US? (i mean, everyone wants to go abroad so that's a no-brainer.)
As a kid, I traveled all over the place, within the US and overseas. And most of the time when we were staying in the country, we drove. There's a handful of places in the US I haven't seen including the Pacific Northwest. I'd also like to travel more throughout the South.
(Dawnie) Ummmm.... if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
See the aforementioned pasta. Remember that shrimp dude in Forrest Gump? I could be that guy only with pasta. Although I have nothing against shrimp...shrimp scampi...shrimp cocktail...barbecued shrimp...
(Carrster) What's your favorite movie? Ever thought of checking out the flick made by a fellow blogger in Duluth? Just curious....:) I'd be very interested in your comments.
I have two answers. If I wanted to sound all cultured and crap, I'd say Avalon directed by Barry Levinson. It is, perhaps, one of the single best movies ever made (and stars a very young Elijah Wood). There are scenes in that movie that single-handedly show the brilliance of cinema in this country. Of course, I'd also have to admit that I can't turn off The Three Amigos when it's on and that, despite seeing it hundreds of times, I still can't keep my shit together through a screening. Apparently, I'm a very complex, mysterious person.
(Ali) Biggest pet peeve?
People who don't know the difference between your and you're.
(Sparkle Pants) Congrats! You have discovered an easy, non-particle screwing-uppy way to time travel. But before you share this new-found wisdom with the general public, you want to try it out for yourself. What historic (or not historic) event(s) would you want to witness first-hand? Why?
I really want to see what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. Think of the bets I could win. Seriously? I have no idea. I studied history when I was in college and there's nothing I learned about that I wouldn't want to see. From the building of the Great Wall of China to the true stories that are unfolding in Iraq now, I'd be truly humbled to see it all laid out before me.
(ktjrdn) IF you decide to have more kids, would you want a boy (to experience both raising a girl and boy/pass on your name, etc) or another girl (familiarity, playmate for Mia, etc). Yeah, yeah, I know you just want the kid to be healthy, but all that aside, boy or girl?
You're right - I really don't care. But if I was forced to voice a preference, I'd be forced to admit I'd hope for another girl. I'm not sure why. I've so enjoyed my experience with Mia thus far.
(Phil) Do you like movies about Gladiators?
How many do you suppose there are? I only recall one.
(Laura) Why haven't you gone to see Butch Walker yet?
He never calls me to let me know he's going to be in town!
(Zandria) If you won a huge jackpot tomorrow, big enough that you could quit your job and never have to worry about working again, what would you do? Would you continue working at your job anyway? Would you pack up your family and move somewhere else, or stay in this area?
I'd probably keep working. At least for now. You shouldn't make any immediate decisions, you know? Plus, I like what I do. I'd also prefer to stay around here. Of course, I'd also dig buying a few hundred acres out in the country and letting the world go on without me. With Beth and Mia, of course.
(Sandra) You work at a job which you find satisfying, and for which you're compensated accordingly. One day, there's a management change. The new big cheese gives everyone a 10% raise. NOTHING about your job will change except for the fact that there's a new dress code. From now on, women have to work in formal wear -- either ball gowns or prom-ish dresses -- and men have to wear tuxedos (with tails), although three-piece suits are permitted on casual Fridays. Would you look for a new job?
You have to love Chuck Klosterman. I wear suits a lot. A tie everyday. The whole formal thing wouldn't be that much of a change. Of course, we'd look pretty funky to the clients but if they're good with it, I'd be fine too.
(Donna) Not that you don't love and adore Mia, but what do you miss most about being a double income, no kids (DINK) couple?
I miss the bling, yo. I need some spinners for my ride and some new threads.
(MommaLoves) I see you're a Nats fan from your hat in the pictures. Do you REALLY love baseball or is it a fun pastime? Along the same line, how do you feel about the Yankees?
I hate to admit this - yeah, I do dig the fact that Washington DC has a nice shiny new baseball team. But I don't care that much about baseball. I just dig the hat. As for the Yankees, I have no feelings one way or the other.
(Anna) Have you ever had to have any stitches? If so, how many and where?
Yes! Several. In addition to the ice cream incident described earlier, I decided it would be a neat idea to crack my chin on the side of a swimming pool when I was 10. It hurt. You can still see where the stitches were.
(Anna) Which characteristic of Mia's do you look at and say, "Oh man, that's me"?
She cracks up when she burps or farts. That just screams me.
February 20, 2007
Inquiring Minds Want To Know...
So, the post I was planning for today is taking way too long. And frankly, it's early and I need another cup of coffee. It's actually a minor miracle that I'm typing much less forming reasonably coherent sentences to begin with. Yet, I'm only on the fourth such sentence so there's still time for things to go horribly wrong. Flehs, jkke-jadplyy belpwkf...kidding.
Today, in the grand spirit of improvisation and passing the buck, I'm turning it over to you. Yes, it's that time again - audience participation time! Since I copped out and left you doing all the heavy lifting the last time, I'm sure you've come up with many fine questions for me. If not, make something up. Anything goes. Ask and ye shall receive. A penny saved is a penny earned...okay, that didn't make any sense but you get my point. Open up the comments and let me have it. All of you. And while you're at it, answer a question for me - why do you keep reading? I just looked over my posts for the last month and a half and, wow, snoozefest, people.
There you have it - your marching orders for the day. Make me proud.
February 19, 2007
I grew up in a house in which music was always playing. I spent my youngest formative years in the seventies and, while my parents were relatively hip, they weren't exactly metal fans. I don't quite remember what was playing but I doubt it was Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy or Deep Purple's Machine Head . More likely, it was Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, Carly Simon's Another Passenger or Seals & Croft's Summer Breeze. My parents favored light country and yacht-rock. But it didn't matter. It was music. And it fostered a love that would come to a head around 1982, the year in which I became singularly obsessed with the stuff. Music, that is.
One day, my dad came home armed with two pieces of black vinyl he'd ordered through some Columbia House-like record club. While I completely understand how insanely uncool it is to admit that your first albums were by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, if you want me to continue in the spirit of honesty, I'm afraid that's what I'm going to have to tell you. I'll admit, I loved them. These first additions were joined by more. I acquired a stack of singles - 45s, if you're old enough to remember such things - that I'd play over and over again until the covers showing Tears For Fears, The Police, Genesis, Till Tuesday, The Thompson Twins or Yes were worn and the records' grooves had grooves of their own. The singles and records were replaces by cassette tapes which were, in turn, rendered irrelevant by CDs. The rest, as they say, is history. Which brings us to the present.
Yesterday, as we prepared dinner, colored, put puzzles together and danced around the living room, we listened to music. Selections ranged from The Shins' Wincing The Night Away to Snow Patrol's Eyes Open and The Decemberists' Crane Wife. We took the memories we were authoring right there with the musical file folders in which they will rest for a lifetime. And one day, I hope, Mia will recall growing up in a house full of music and will be able to construct a soundtrack to her life that recalls the happy memories we've made...and will continue to make.
It's like I'm pressed on the handle bars,
Of a blind man's bike,
No straws to grab, just the rushing wind,
On the rolling mind
What are the key tracks on your life's soundtrack?
Haiku For Monday #157
Holiday? My ass.
I'm at work. With coffee. Tired.
Up yours, presidents.
February 16, 2007
Schadenfreude Friday: Airball
From the NBA to the weather, it's been a stupid week. Just really idiotic. Allow me to illustrate.
Retired Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway said on a radio show Wednesday that he hates gay people, then later apologized for his remarks.
"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people," Hardaway said while a guest on Sports Talk 790 The Ticket in Miami. "I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
The host asked Hardaway how he would interact with a gay teammate.
"First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room."
I wish I had a more sophisticated, educated response for this other than yelling douchebag at the top of my lungs. But I don't. It's hard for me to imagine how someone who played a game for a living, who made a career salary somewhere north of $46 million, can be so disdainful of the world around him...or any slice of it. Look, I'm not going to dictate what people should think. I don't in any way advocate hatred of anyone based on ethnicity, sexual preference or belief. But if you're a professional athlete to whom thousands of kids look up, you might want to learn how to keep some of that shit bottled up inside.
Will Lost Get Found? Reports indicate that ABC's Lost has hit new ratings lows. I love the show but I'll freely admit that it jumped the shark in a major way. How bout some answers? Sawyer? Locke? Answer me, dammit!
Transportation Versus Weather: Guess Which One Won. Some really unfortunate Pennsylvania drivers were stuck on the road for over 24 hours while certain unlucky air travelers were trapped in planes for 11 hours. At least if you're stuck on the road, you can pee in the snow.
Schadenippy: Our heat went the way of R&B legend James Brown yesterday. It was a chilly night.
February 15, 2007
Ice And The End Of Times
What is it about snowfall - actual or impending - that makes people go completely, utterly batshit crazy, lose the ability to drive, and stock up on toilet paper, bread and milk? What's the thought process?
Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Water...frozen water...falling from the sky...landing on the ground. Doom! Doom! The snowpacalypse is here! We're all going to die! And, crap, I'm going to miss my recommended daily allowance of calcium, whole grains and vitamin D! I'm so scared, I might just soil myself. Must. Get. Supplies. Quickly. Taking up several lanes of traffic with my hazard lights on.
I guess the joke was on me. I was a little convinced that it was the End Of Times when I tried to order a pizza last night. Two places, both closed. No pizza. Sadness. Then, this morning as I was making my way on foot through the glacier that now resides in my front yard, I fell. Flat on my ass. Wildly out of control. Yet I still managed to hold on to the bagel I was carrying. Still...ouch.
On a different night, and lest you think I forgot, I give you the participants of Stick Stuff On Your Head Day 2007. You all rock. Hard.
February 14, 2007
Ahhh, Valentine's Day. The weather, unlike my heart, is blustery and icy. To catch you up to speed on the final installment of Sunday's Valentine's conversation...
Her: Well, now I have to run out.
Me: What, because I bought a card? It's crappy out and the roads are icy.
Her: But now I need a card for you. Since you didn't buy one for yourself.
Me: I could sign the one I've got from both of us.
Her: So, Hustler, huh?
Her: Where do you find Hustler around here?
Me: I have no clue. A bookstore, I suppose.
Her: They should really carry them at the grocery store.
Me: I agree.
Her: What if they don't have Hustler? Like, all they have is Juggs or something?
Me: I'm not really a Juggs kinda guy.
Her: You don't have another specialty tome?
Me: Specialty tome? I think if you use the phrase specialty tome in a discussion about porn, you might be just outside the target porn demographic.
A while later, she came home clutching a flat, magazine-like bundle wrapped in plain brown paper. I'm a little scared.
On another front, they say that timing is everything. Last night, I was on the verge of finishing the book I've been reading when I ran across a few paragraphs I very much liked. Author Barry Eisler provides the conversation between two men, one old, a father three times over, the other young. The young man, the narrator, has just been told he has a son.
"It's a strange thing, having a child," he said. "It completely alters your most fundamental priorities. When my eldest daughter was born, I realized that I would do anything - anything - to protect her. If I had to set myself on fire to save her from something, I would do it with the utmost relief and gratitude. It's quite a thing, quite a privilege, to care about someone so much that the measure of the worth of your own life is changed by it."
"I don't know if I'm ready for all that," I said. I felt like I was outside my body, that someone else was talking.
"Of course you're not. No one ever is. Because there's a responsibility that comes with the privilege...You see? For your whole life, you've believed the sun revolved around the earth. You are about to discover otherwise. With everything that implies."
There's no better way to describe fatherhood. With that, I wish my two valentines - one with whom I've spent 14 years, the other one and a half - a happy Valentine's Day. I hope all of you have a wonderful one.
February 13, 2007
The Missing Ku
something funky around here?
Huh? Bueller? Bueller?
Yep, I'm soooo busted.
I forgot yesterday's ku.
Plenty of reasons:
The Man bent me over from
morning 'till night. Ouch.
derailed my train of thought. I
think I can...I think...
I arrived at home
and colored ducks with Mia
and moons, stars and cows.
Coloring is a
much better way to spend the
day than busting hump.
Anyway, I was
busy but that's hardly an
excuse. Bad Cactus.
My penance today
is blogging in ku fashion.
And this ain't easy.
It's early and my
head might just burst into flames
all this counting stuff.
Now that I have sent
Ancient Japanese poets
spinning in their graves
I must get coffee,
settle in for a long day.
Today? Ku Smackdown
Day. Like Iron Chef but with
words, not beets. Or squid.
Open the comments
and unleash the ku power.
Word to your ginsu.
February 12, 2007
Weekend Recap: Drawing And Romance Are In The Air
This weekend was a wonderful thing. 48 hours, and I got to spend most of them with my two favorite people. That's Mia and Beth in case you were just sitting there staring blankly at your monitors. We had no particular places to go but we managed to have a great time together.
There was a great deal of coloring and drawing. Mia digs finding colored pencils and crayons and going to town on an unsuspecting piece of paper. The funniest development has got to be the narration. As she colors, she now tells us exactly what she's drawing. Which is particularly hilarious because pretty much everything she draws looks exactly the same. For instance...
We also went to the bookstore...one of my favorite places. One of our local bookstores has a giant train set for kids to play with.
Mia is not immune to the attraction of the rails. We knew we were going to run into problems, though, when Mia spied a collection of Sesame Street-related toys. I really didn't give it much thought. I headed off to pay for some books and find a new book light (nocturnal reader that I am) but when I returned, I realized the true scale of Mia's love for the monsters of Sesame Street. Somehow, we managed to make it out of the place without a) buying 37 stuffed animals and b) a screaming child.
There was plenty of other stuff - kisses, dancing, jumping, telling us when she pooped - that came together to make a wonderful, yet short, weekend.
The weekend concluded with a discussion of our plans for Valentine's Day.
Me: So, are we going to exchange Valentine's Day gifts this year?
Her: No. We talked about that right?
Me: Yeah, but I just wanted to be sure.
Her: I'll, you know, get you a card or something if I manage to make it to the store.
Me: I could just pick up one for myself when I go to get you one.
Her: That would be cool. And pick up something neat for yourself while you're there. Like a copy of Playboy.
Me: Nah. Playboy's no good. I vote Hustler
Her: Yeah? Why?
Me: Yeah. Otherwise, it's like imagination? Hello? Are you there? and then my imagination's all Yeah? What in tarnation do you want now??
Her: What in tarnation?
Me: My inner voice is strangely southern.
Aren't we romantic?
February 10, 2007
February 9, 2007
Schadenfreude Friday: Brought To You By The Letter "A"
Adios Anna Nicole
Anna Nicole Smith died Thursday at a South Florida hospital after being discovered unconscious in her hotel room. The reality TV star, Playboy Playmate and former Guess model was 39. She checked into the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, on Monday with her lawyer and boyfriend Howard K. Stern. Smith's private nurse called hotel workers at 1:38 p.m. and security officials went to the room, Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said. Before rescue workers arrived, Smith's bodyguard performed CPR on her, he said. She was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood at 2:10 p.m. where she died, Tiger said.
Know what? This isn't funny. For all the shit you can talk about Anna Nicole - she was all kinds of fucked up and this isn't anything we shouldn't have seen coming - she struck me as sad. And she's left behind a kid. Sure, perhaps there's a chance that kid won't grow up all fucked up like mom, but she won't know her mom.
Asshole Actor O'Neal's Aggravated Assault
(from the good-old Associated Press...)
O'Neal, 65, was arrested at his Malibu home Feb. 3 for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon and negligent discharge of a firearm. He was freed on a $50,000 bond. The actor has said he fired a warning shot to scare his 42-year-old son, Griffin, who had attacked him with a fireplace poker. He said his son lashed out at him during a fight but he ducked and the poker struck Griffin's pregnant girlfriend. Joanna Berry needed stitches for a facial cut, her attorney said at a Wednesday news conference that Griffin O'Neal also attended. Attorney Gloria Allred said her clients rejected the assertion that Ryan O'Neal acted in self-defense.
Maybe this Joanna Berry person was one of those mysterious pregnant assassins that can be resisted only with the use of ancient fireplace pokers. Seriously, have you read about these people? They're fucked up. It's quite possible that they should be banned from the gene pool altogether. They seem to be peeing in it.
Amorous Astronaut: Assassin?
(from the pages of USA Today...)
Police in Orlando say Nowak drove 900 miles from Houston, where the astronaut corps is based, to Orlando to confront Colleen Shipman, a 30-year-old Air Force officer. Disguised in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak pepper-sprayed Shipman early Monday morning and tried to enter her car, according to court documents. Shipman fled and called police.
Nowak had a bag containing a mallet, a BB gun and a folding knife, documents said. Prosecutors cited the array of weapons and Nowak's meticulous planning in charging her with attempted murder in addition to assault and attempted kidnapping.
Nowak, 43, has a son in high school and 5-year-old twin girls. She and her husband separated two weeks ago after 19 years of marriage, according to a statement from her family. Oefelein and his wife had two children before divorcing in 2005.
The nature of the two astronauts' relationship is unclear. In Nowak's car, police found a letter declaring her love for Oefelein. She told police they had "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship." Shipman filed a request for a restraining order on Nowak in which she called Oefelein her boyfriend.
Look, there are just so many things wrong with this story I don't know where to begin. Diapers...BB gun...knife...wig...trench coat? If I'm not mistaken those were all objects
February 8, 2007
The Score, According to The Universe
Some days, I feel as though the Universe is conspiring against me. And these perils are presented in the guise of fatherly challenges. Take yesterday, as an example.
The Bed: The past couple of nights have been rough. Mia's canine teeth are coming in and we're all paying for it. She's pretty uncomfortable so she's been ending up in bed with us most evenings. And for such a little person, she's got a bizarre ability to take up the bed.
Universe 1, Dad 0.
The Toilet: I nearly lost a finger and felt pretty stupid to boot. See, I had to go to the bathroom and I found a strange contraption keeping me from opening the toilet. Five minutes later (I shit you not, neither figuratively nor literally) I noodled it through not after obtaining a slight flesh wound in the process. Childproof. Cactusproof. Universe 2, Dad 0.
The QTip: We had some fun with QTips last night. Mia cleaned her ears, shoved one up her nose then came after me. My left ear, as a matter of fact. She was very enthusiastic. So enthusiastic that I ended up with one inserted several inches into my head. Now, I'm having trouble with words that begin with A I can't remember 1983. Universe 3, Dad 0.
(By the way, if you participated in the Stick Stuff on Your Head Day 2007, make sure you send me your pictures!)
February 7, 2007
Stick Stuff On Your Head Day 2007
We here in the Cactus-Fish abode like putting stuff on our heads. The tradition is rich and strong. Why? Well, let me see if I can explain. Stick with me here, okay?
When I was a kid growing up, my parents, and therefore I, had some great friends - two couples (Vivian and Steve, Hugh and Sara) who, with their kids, we hung out with every chance we got. We went out to dinner almost every weekend - I distinctly recall one night smashing plates while dancing through a parking lot around a Greek restaurant. We headed to Vivian and Steve's lake house for long stretches at a time most summers. We spent five days and nights rafting down the Rio Grande through the deserts and canyons of west Texas.
Vivian and Steve had two sons, one of whom was learning disabled, the other autistic. Hugh and Sara had two daughters. Hot daughters. They were a couple of years older than I which turned out to be a really pleasant surprise when I hit 12 (Sexual awakening, party of one? Your table is ready.) Oh, where was I?
One December day, Vivian and Steve's autistic son, Stephen, decided, for some unknown reason, that it was time to depart this world. He ended his life. The rest of ours lurched to a screeching halt.
The funeral was terrible. They were Catholic and we were essentially told during the service that hey, he was a nice guy and what happened really sucked but he's going to hell anyway. The reception afterward was the exact opposite. It was hysterical. After the excess hams, official food for funerals everywhere, had been packed into every conceivable space in the refrigerator, someone had the bright idea to head to the closest bookstore and find the filthiest joke books ever written. Then they were read aloud. The gut-busting laughter filled by such base crassness lasted, literally, all night long. It was cathartic. It was perfect. You see, Stephen reached out through his autism to tell jokes. It was the only way he communicated. Just jokes. What we were doing that night was celebrating his life but, perhaps more importantly, we were shooting our collective middle finger at Life, capital F. The life that goes on in spite of the good or the bad that happens, often with little or no sense of humor.
I've never forgotten that and to me sticking stuff on your head is the easiest, silliest way to thumb your nose at Life, to put it in it's place when you've had a shitty day. So I urge all of you to take a minute today and stick something - anything - on your heads. Let life know you're not its bitch. And if you've got a camera or cameraphone handy, snap a shot and sent it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post them on your own site and send me the link. If I get enough, I'll work a little Photoshop magic and see what we all, collectively, come up with. Come on...you know you wanna! Make February 7th Stick Stuff On Your Head Day!
February 6, 2007
Facts! Get Your Fresh Hot Facts!
My brain is firing random neurons through my synapses and, as such, I figured I'd fire some random odd facts your way this Tuesday morning. Never let it be said that I can't be educational.
- The largest island in the world is Greenland. 81% of this parliamentary democracy is covered by ice. This explains why only 57,000 people live there. But it doesn't explain the name. At one point in its rich and cold history, Greenland was once a warmer place.
- A 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl cost advertisers around $2.5 million. Each player on the Colts earned an estimated $73,000. Players on the Bears hauled in a measly $38,000. The Super Bowl trophy, by the way, costs a cool $25k and the rings run about $5,000 a piece.
- The ball-point pen was reportedly designed by Galileo, although the first patent was issued to the unfortunately-named inventor John J. Loud (ironic, considering that he made his name developing a writing implement) in October of 1888. The pen is commonly referred to as a "biro" after Laszlo Biro who, with his brother, largely reinvented the pen after Loud's design proved, well, crappy.
- 72% of women report having faked orgasms at some point in their lives (hopefully during or immediately after having sex). 55% of men say they can tell. 24% of men - according to the same survey - reported faking their orgasms. While the statistic isn't specifically reported, I'm guessing 100% of women were somehow clued in.
- Actor/director Orson Welles founded the Mercury Theater, famous for radio productions of famous literary dramas as well as The Shadow and War Of The Worlds, not to mention eventual involvement in Citizen Kane. One of the acting troupe's regulars was Agnes Moorehead. Despite receiving an Oscar nomination in 1942, Moorehead was most notable for acting opposite two Dicks - York and Sergeant. Yep, she played Endora, the meddling mother-in-law on Bewitched.
- Bill O'Reilly is a dumbass. Okay, that's not exactly a stretch. But during the recent lawsuit in which he was accused of sexual harassment, it came to light that he's in dire need of a dictionary. At one point he expressed to his victim that he wanted to get her in the shower and rub her down with a falafel. He meant loofah.
- Some celebrities have really strange real names. Did you know, for instance, that Cary Grant's real name is Archibald Leach? The first B in B.B. King's name stands for Riley (I can't say I really understand that) and Kirk Douglas was originally known as Issur Danielovitch. Snoop Dog? His real name is Cordazer Calvin Broadus, bitches. Lady-killer Tony Curtis was dubbed Bernard Schwartz at birth. And how Whoopi Goldberg made the transition from Caryn Johnson, we'll never know.
- 10cc, the band known for such hits as I'm Not In Love and The Things We Do For Love (you'd know them if you heard them) was named for the average amount of, um, number three produced by the average man.
- Last Thursday, I attended a conference during which I met a female, Africa-American midget. And I forgot to tell you until now. What's up with that?
Consider yourselves edumacated.
February 5, 2007
Weekend Recap: Now With Extra Pictures
Last week sucked. Well, okay, it didn't exactly suck but it was a bitch on a number of different levels, the most annoying of which was the level on which all kinds of shit has to get done pretty much yesterday and you, being the only one available to bend over and service the world are the one who gets stuck doing everything. But no, I'm not bitter - really. All-in-all, I think I wrote, conservatively, 500 pages worth of stuff while attending 19 meetings or conference calls (really, I just counted). Long story short - I'm hoping this week isn't a case of more of the same. The weekend, meanwhile, wasn't plagued with writing, reviewing, calling into conference calls or meetings. No, it was filled with noodles, circus fun and craftiness.
On Saturday, we were invited to a circus. Okay, not a real circus but a circus-like family thing put on by volunteers at a local university. There was a real visiting circus doing performances there so they figured it would be cool to get kids involved. And it was perfect. Just Mia's pace. She was able to make a hat, have her face painted (although, in the end, she decided on getting some balloons painted on her hand so she could actually see them), eat ice cream (which, by the way, was not a hit...her face contorted into an expression that spoke of betrayal and fear) and generally hang out with other kids. Oh, and ride the elevator. See, she caught site of some dude riding the elevator in the building and wanted in. First, Beth and Mia rode the elevator. Then they were joined by some others. Then I took over and found myself riding up and down with five other kids and two thrill-seeking adults.
You might recall that Mia is obsessed with the moon. She also has a thing for stars. But the moon? Hard to beat. I had a great idea (at least it sounded great to me) that involved me getting crafty. When I mentioned this to Beth, she laughed. I insisted I could be crafty. Again, she laughed. Yesterday, I was finally able to tell Beth to kiss my crafty white ass. Behold, the moon and stars I collected for Mia.
Later in the day, my parents stopped by with a new rug for our living room. I've never felt so intimidated by a rug in my life. See, we kinda inherited it, although no one died. It's a long story. Suffice it to say, the estimated value of this rug is more than three times that amount I paid for my last car. I shit you not. So, the second someone spills something on it, it's going on eBay.
And that, my friends, is the weekend recap. I wish you all very fine weeks indeed. If you have a chance, let me know what you did with the last two days.
Haiku For Monday #156
Three degrees outside
and my nipples could cut glass.
February 2, 2007
Schadenfreude Friday: Clean Getaway
Sen. Joe Biden planned to spend Wednesday focusing on his official announcement that he was running for president, but the Delaware Democrat instead found himself defending remarks he made to the New York Observer about his Democratic opponents.
In the article published Wednesday, Biden is quoted evaluating presidential rivals Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. His remarks about Obama, the only African-American serving in the Senate, drew the most scrutiny.
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."
Oh my god people - a clean black man! Keee-rist! That's a first in American politics. Apparently that Jesse Jackson? Peeeee-ewwww! In all seriousness, Biden's done. Bye Joe.
Honestly, I think it's sad that one slip of the tongue can end a presidential run. Biden's an okay guy. At least he's willing to stick up for the stuff he believes in. Unless he actually believes that African-Americans have hygiene problems. In which case, well, he's just a dumbass.
Suspension of Disbelief Schadenfreude: Sienna Miller's sex scenes in her upcoming Factory Girl aren't simulated, some say. The real story? What's up with the director's name - George Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper?
Steamy McPotter and the Order of the Nekkid: So, it's not technically schadenfreude but there's an awful lot of furor over Daniel Radcliffe showing off his magic wand this week.
Aqua Teen Hunger Schadenfreude of the Week: Blinking signs promoting Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force sparked mass hysteria. Justice League of America called, Wonder Twins save the day.
February 1, 2007
When I was a kid, growing up in Texas, our neighbor was a guy named Harold. He lived in the corner house with the insanely well-manicured wrap-around lawn. Harold was an older guy, probably around 65 when we moved away, but when you're a kid, anything older than 50 seems ancient.
Looking back on him now, Harold was a funny little man. He was short, a little pudgy and quite bald. He wore little glasses, khaki pants - rarely shorts despite Houston's famous climatological duo, heat and humidity - and short-sleeved button-down shirt. His appearance was neat, in the true sense of the word, and slightly quirky. Perhaps eccentric. He was quiet, diminutive, but was a large presence. Case in point - Harold was married yet, despite living next door to them for fifteen years, I can't remember her at all. Their children, a daughter and a son, were both grown and lived elsewhere in Texas. I rarely saw them.
Harold had some mad skills, chief among them growing things and fixing things. Harold's lawn was golf-course quality, green and immaculate. He was rarely inside. On sunny days and evenings, he tended to his lawn. Or his roses. Harold, like my family, was the first owner of his house. When he moved in, he quickly divided his backyard into two distinct sections. The first, closest to the house, was a normal, everyday lawn. The second section, the furthest back, was entered through a small gate and was lined with rose bushes. Harold crafted a maze of flowerbeds that wrapped around the back yard. It was a relatively small space but the quantity of roses it held was vast. The raised flower beds were, like his yard, pristine, each section containing a hand-built sprinkler system. To say he was enthusiastic about his roses would be an understatement.
Harold could fix anything with a motor. Or, rather, I suspect he could actually fix anything at all. Almost all the equipment he used to maintain his yard was at least 20 years old. His lawnmower was ancient as was the giant vacuum device he had to pick up lawn clippings. Perhaps that helps explain why he drove a 1964 Volkswagen Bug from the time we first met him until the time we moved.
I've suspected for quite a while that Harold was the father my dad never had. Sure, my grandfather existed but my grandparents didn't live close nor was my grandfather a warm guy. Had he been around the corner or down the street, he never would have been one of those people you could just have a beer with in the backyard. My parents were younger than I am now when they moved into that house. They latched on to Harold and he latched on to them. He helped my dad fix stuff and gave him plenty of lawn advice. My parents? Well, maybe they reminded Harold of his kids. I don't know.
It's funny. The most definitive event that took place during my formative years was moving. It seems like a different life. Much like Harold's backyard, there exist two sections. The first is happy, ordinary, wonderful but level. When I entered the second phase, after the move, it seemed as if I opened some imaginary gate and found myself in a whole new world. And as the days continue to play out ahead of me and I wonder what might have happened to Harold in the intervening years, I continue to find new blooms in an ever-increasing maze of roses.