October 31, 2007

The Clickening

Back in high school, I had a friend named Adam. I've talked about Adam at great lengths here. In fact, I think I had a whole Adam-themed week a couple of years ago. It's not that Adam was such a great guy - although he was a good friend - that forced me to write about him. Instead, Adam was - how to put it delicately - about as bright as a lobotomized pigeon. As such, he did really stupid things which made him very interesting to be around.

One fall day, around this time of year, Adam and I decided to head out on an overnight camping trip. We packed our backpacks, rolled our sleeping bags and headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We'd picked what looked like a good camping spot about five miles away from the closest parking spot. We heaved our gear onto our backs and headed out around mid-morning.

During the first mile, we talked bout girls and the summer job we were going to get painting houses. During the second mile, Adam reverted to his normal daredevil self - bet you don't think I'll eat that bug, bet you don't think I'll climb that tree, bet you don't think I'll catch a live beaver and put it in my pants. That kind of thing. During mile three, everything went wrong.

We rounded the corner on what could barely be called a trail and came face to face with a black bear and her cubs. Both of us had spent some time outdoors. Both of us knew exactly what to do - back away slowly and don't ever run. So we backed away slowly until instinct took over and we ran like a pair of twin bats out of hell. I ran faster than I ever thought possible for longer than I thought possible. Eventually, we figured we were clear. We stopped, took stock. Neither of us had any idea where we were.

We'd left the trail with the bears and blazed one of our own. The undergrowth hid our own paths and there was no indication at all of where we were or where we'd come from. We stared at the sun until we realized that we really had no idea of what to do with that information. Then we started walking.

Two miles passed in virtual silence. We'd passed absolutely nothing of consequence, nothing that reminded us of civilization or indicate that any of its members had ever walked over that same ground. Mile three was different. Lewis and Clark-like, we picked up a trail. It started off as a scratch in the earth but quickly became more substantial. Eventually, there was a break in the trees and we made out a structure - the shell of an old motel.

It looked just like every other roadside motel. One building - an A-frame monstrosity that could never have been architecturally cool - stood along side a two story structure lined with doors. The motel itself stood in a parking lot, cracked, now half grass and weeds, half concrete. It was eerie yet we approached the A-frame building.

Silhouettes of people moved in the shadows. Before we could retreat, one of the shadows ran towards the opaque glass door. "Hello!" it shouted as the door was flung open to reveal a scruffy-looking hiker about five years older than us. There were others inside, each armed with sleeping blankets and backpacks.

We were immediately welcomed in and told that the "De-Luxe Coach Motor Inn" was one of the best kept secrets around. It had gone out of business nearly thirty years earlier but had never been torn down. Officially condemned, it was occupied throughout most of the year by hikers passing through. No one took especially good care of it but no one burned it down either. The beds had long since rotted away, the electricity and water long shut off. But it was shelter, and heavily occupied when it rained or snowed. We were offered a room and promised directions the next morning. We all pooled food, ran for wood to fuel the bonfire in what was once the swimming pool, and, eventually, turned in.

Around 1:00 in the morning, I awoke. The absolute quiet was more startling than waking up to find myself staring at a slightly moldy popcorn ceiling surrounded by decor popular before I was born. But the silence grated on me. The door to the room was open, odd since we'd shut it or tried on what was left of its hinges. And the things we'd left scattered throughout the room had been moved. And in the back of the room, where the bathroom was, there was a clicking noise. Click...click...click...like fingernails on bathroom tiles yet it was impossible since there was no one there. Adam was right beside me.

Instead of charging the bathroom, I crept along the string of rooms, walking from door to door. Each should have been inhabited. None were. The campers' belongings had been left behind - canteens of water, unrolled sleeping blankets, and, most disturbingly, their hiking boots. Coming from the rear of each room, I could hear that same clicking...the clicking of fingernails on bathroom tiles. And the longer I stayed, the louder the clicking became.

I retreated to what I assumed was the safety of our room. A wind filled the room, odd since it was still outside. Adam was gone. The clicking gained in its intensity and, between each click, I began to hear Adam's voice saying "Chris" quietly, echoing off the porcelain of the bathroom. Without warning or preparation, I kicked the door to the bathroom, the old door and lock giving way easily. There, amongst the clicking and quiet, strained cries for help, I saw, written in what could only be blood...

"Happy Halloween"

Posted by Chris at 7:12 AM | Comments (49)

October 30, 2007

Boo! (Sorry If I Scared You)

Tomorrow is Halloween. It will be Mia's first Halloween out on the town, trick-or-treating. Last year, she hid behind me as I doled out candy to the scary kids. And in her mind, they were all scary kids - from the little girl dressed up as R2D2 to the Lazy Ass Teenage Trick Or Treater who just barely bothered dressing up at all. He was wearing a hat made from the morning paper. Anyway, this year, we've been practicing. Mia's totally got the routine down from the knock on the door to the "trick or treat" to bringing it home with the "thank you." Only, whenever she tries to express her gratitude, she says "thank you for trick-or-treating" which is somewhat bass-ackwards but we've still got a little time to rehearse.

Growing up, I loved Halloween. My parents did too. I've run across pictures of my parents in the mid-seventies dressed up as two giant pumpkins and Adam and Eve - costumes I think we're obligatory for every couple in the seventies. And probably caused some of the therapy I needed in my twenties - no one needs to see their parents clothed only in leaves even if they're fake leaves stitched onto a body stocking. My old neighbors got into it too. There were always a few duds who turned off their lights and hid in the bedroom, cheating kids out of candy. And there were some on the opposite end of the spectrum who went out of their way to scare the shit out of kids, sending them screaming from their front yards.

We're in a new neighborhood, with neighbors we don't yet know and traditions we haven't yet soaked in. And Mia is an as-yet-untested trick-or-treater. She could love it or hate it. Tomorrow we'll know. And we'll start yet another round of traditions she will, one day, hopefully, recount when she has her own blog or whatever the futuristic equivalent of a blog is. Whatever it is, I'm sure it'll be filled with meditations on what a dork her dad is. But hopefully, at the very least, it will reflect happy Halloweens.

What are your favorite Halloween memories or traditions?

Posted by Chris at 6:30 AM | Comments (42)

October 29, 2007

The Great Lazy Weekend of '07

There are weekends during which you come up with a list of 3,309 things you want to do and get every single one of them done. You paint the house, landscape your yard, teach your kid to use the toilet, carve pumpkins, perfect a rare brain transplant surgery, solve the whole issue of hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, read the latest translation of War And Peace, and, to top it all off, catch up on some of the sleep you missed during the previous week.

This was not one of those weekends.

After days and days and days of rain, the clouds miraculously parted and there was sun. And it was good. And the people - namely us - rejoiced. But other than all the rejoicing action, they did very little. And that was double-plus good. I'd like to tell you that the weekend was more involved than that, but it wasn't. We were lazy. And this weekend I needed lazy like Britney needs panties and a good driver's ed course. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure the only time I left the house was on Sunday, when we took Mia to a local farm to check out the animals. For some strange reason she was afraid of each of them. Apparently she's heard about the outbreak of baby pig attacks and the ambushes by carnivorous sheep. We didn't really understand it either.

Other than that, we read, we caught up on all the wonderful things TiVo's been keeping track of for us (Bionic Woman rocks, Private Practice does not, and on Grey's Anatomy it finally seems as if the writers have stopped taking large hits of meth), and we ordered a lot of takeout.

The upcoming week isn't going to be a lot of fun. I'm not at all looking forward to it. Hopefully I banked enough laziness to keep my sanity. Wish me lots of luck.

What did you guys do this weekend?

Posted by Chris at 6:25 AM | Comments (31)

Haiku For Monday #190

Monday, dammit, how
did that happen again. It
was just Friday. Swear!

Posted by Chris at 6:23 AM | Comments (2)

October 26, 2007

The Weeklies #8

The Weekly Answer: Those of you who guessed numbers 1, 3 and 4, were correct. Freaky, huh?

The Weekly Worst/Best Moment. Last night I put Mia to bed. Beth and I had a good alternating bedtime lineup thing working for a long time. But it fell apart several months ago and we're just now getting back on track. See, Mia would much rather Beth put her to bed. It was an epic struggle last night. Over the course of a half hour I went from hearing I don't like you...at all to I love you very much daddy. I rubbed her head, she rubbed mine. We kissed, made up, and, eventually, one of us fell asleep.

The Weekly Reads. I started the week by tackling Humphrey Hawksley's (god, how he must have been teased in elementary school) The History Book. It was decent. It reminded me a little too much of John Twelve Hawks' The Traveler - a dystopian near future with an all-seeing government - without the mysticism. I'd wait until it's available in paperback. It's worth $7.99, not $25. Then came the book I've been waiting for - Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!). You want the short review? Eh. When Colbert started his nightly run on Comedy Central, I was concerned that it would be nothing but schtick. And while it is schtick, it's so much more - Colbert proves himself to be a gifted and extremely bright satirist. The book, however, is nothing but the two-dimensional schtick I'd worried he'd deliver on his show. It's not bad - it's genuinely funny. But Colbert is so much better than this book would lead you to believe. Compare the bulk of the book with his address to the White House Correspondent's Dinner (the transcript appears in the back of the book) a few years ago and you'll see what I mean. It's good...but it could have been much better.

The Weekly Music. Last year, Say Anything's ...Is A Real Boy was one of my top picks. It was an album that did almost everything right - it was catchy, unique and incredibly smart. This year, Say Anything is back with In Defense of the Genre, a sprawling 27-track 2-CD sophomore album. Like it's predecessor, it's smart and unique but creative mastermind Max Bemis might have bitten off more than the band can collectively chew. There's almost too much here. Bemis and company hop from style to style. The music roams from deep introspection to angry lashing-out. Say Anything could have taken these 27 tracks and turned out one brilliant single CD but what's here is good. Just not as good as their debut. Sometimes less is more. The surprise of the fall has to be Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant's collaboration with bluegrass songstress Alison Krauss. The resulting album - Raising Sand produced by T Bone Burnett and featuring covers of songs by artists such as Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits - is hauntingly brilliant. It is timeless. And I mean that in the true sense of the word - one moment it sounds like something easily recorded in the rural south fifty years ago while another it sounds perfectly modern. It's a strange beast. But a wonderful one.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Poof! Look, David Copperfield just made his career disappear!

The Weekly Picture. I can't post it. Seriously. It involves a tiny bare bottom and two strategically placed star stickers. You'll just have to take my word for it. Priceless.

The Weekly Question. You can spend a day with any one author, musician or actor - living or dead. Who do you choose and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:59 AM | Comments (31)

October 25, 2007

Dream A Little Dream

Here's a little game I like to call Guess How Long It Will Be Until Chris Has A Psychotic Break With Reality. Come on, give it a shot. It'll be fun. Over the past couple of nights, I've had three of the following dreams. You guess which ones and determine my sanity.

  • I was on the trail of a serial killer, a serial killer who looked exactly like Chad Lowe only, in the dream, I knew him as Chad Penn. Apparently my subconscious was a little sketchy on the names of celebrities' brothers who happened to be actors. It was unusual in that Chad killed people with arrows. I nabbed him, eventually, in a convenience store about the size of the average home's bathroom.
  • My hair was long. I went to my normal place to get it cut but instead of finding the skanky hairdressers I normally see, the place was full of haircutting strippers. Not much of a difference really, except these stylists were showing some ass. Each of them had two-digit numbers tattooed in various places. When I finally got up the nerve to ask, I was informed that the numbers represented the cost of a haircut and lapdance. I didn't ask what the back room was all about.
  • I found myself in a thirteen story bookstore. It was being invaded by people who I would call zombies except they hadn't really died first. Instead they'd been infected with some madness-inducing plague. I was trapped in some sort of wing of the store near the top floor with a few dozen other people. We kept fighting them off and they kept invading. Eventually, the army cleared them out and isolated them all. The streets and buildings outside were destroyed.
  • I was a contestant on The Price is Right. The new version with Drew Carey. I learned that they actually told all the contestants they'd be contestants ahead of time. They'd act surprised because there was a magic spell on the game show that would render all participants immediately excited. Sure enough, it worked. And Plinko rocked.
  • Drumsticks in my hand surrounded by a drum set that makes Eddie Van Halen's kit look tiny, I was playing the skins for a rock supergroup comprised of Whitesnake's David Coverdale, guitarists Joe Satriani and Eric Clapton, bassist Tony Levin and keyboardist Brian Williams. And by keyboardist Brian Williams I am indeed referring the host of the NBC Nightly News. And he sucked. The man had no rhythm and he clearly wasn't classically trained.

So, which three are the real dreams? And what do they mean other than holy crap, Chris needs a day off?

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (29)

October 24, 2007

Liberation and Humiliation

Yesterday afternoon, I found a break in my busy meeting schedule to jump in my car and head to a different building for, yes, more meetings. This is how I wound up inside a parking garage buried deep in the heart of the District at 2:00 in the afternoon. I learned that parking garages are dead at 2:00. People have either come or gone but they're rarely in between. The fans that suck the exhaust out into the skies were off. Cars were silent. It was absolutely and astoundingly quiet except for the sounds my shoes made on the pavement. They echoed, bouncing off the concrete walls and pillars, striking the cars and heading back at me. I was inspired, compelled, to break the silence and claim the moment as my own.

I looked around and, seeing nothing, yelled at the top of my lungs. "FUCK!" It was liberating as hell. "FUCK!" I screamed with my suit jacket slung over one arm, laptop over the other. "FUCK!" I felt free as my voice filled the silence around me.

That changed when a little old man got out of a car about 20 feet from where I was standing. "You okay?" he asked.

When I began shouting, I could have sworn I was alone. But I wasn't. I turned to reply, my face red, and did the only think any self-respecting person could possibly do in a situation such as this.

"Sorry. FUCK! Tourettes. FUCK! Chicken. Penis! EGGROLL!" I replied.

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM | Comments (51)

October 23, 2007

Out Of The Blogosphere

Before I delve into today's topic of choice, a few definitions.

Blog (from Wikipedia): A blog (a portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are written in chronological order and commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.

Blog (from Webster's): An online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page; also called Weblog, Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author.

Blog (from whatis.com): A blog (short for weblog) is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs are defined by their format: a series of entries posted to a single page in reverse-chronological order. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or reflect the purpose of the Web site that hosts the blog.

Everyone has a blog - celebrities (especially those who shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard), politicians, everyday Joes (and Janes) like me (although I'm not a Jane - you haven't missed some major detail or operation), and even people's pets. It should come as no surprise that a lucrative industry has grown up around the blogosphere and its inhabitants, chief among them - wait for it - advice about blogging.

Last week, I started a blog crawl (my own term - please feel free to spread it around and credit my brilliance) and ran across more sites than I could shake a stick at (I tried; this would be any number over 657) all dedicated to making you a better blogger. I searched Amazon and found book after book all focused on the same. All these publications seem to say the same things. Write better. Attract more readers. Grow a profitable site. Be the coolest kid in the virtual sandbox.

Now, this may piss off some of you who go for this kinda stuff (and for that I'm sorry) but I call bullshit on this whole genre of blogging advice and the blogging know-it-alls behind it.

When I searched around for some good definitions of blogging - the ones you see up at the top of this entry - I noticed one common denominator. Use of the word personal.

Blogging is an inherently personal activity. I share with you. You read. You comment. I reply. And many of you do the same. I pick who I read (and all too infrequently comment) because, well, you're you. You've each led different lives which have made you different people with different thoughts, ideas, dreams, goals, hopes and fears. That's what makes blogging cool. So why would you want to learn to blog just like everyone else and become another faceless member of the blogosphere?

Please please please resist the urge to better your blogging selves at the expense of your personalities. Don't become one of the nameless, faceless, cookie-cutter masses. You're one of the last bastions of individualism. You're perfect the way you are.

Posted by Chris at 6:22 AM | Comments (48)

October 22, 2007

Hold Your Horses

So, what happened this weekend...

Friday: Work (gah); a flu shot; dinner with the parents and in-laws; TiVo catch-up.
Saturday: $300 visit to Lowes; lunch and a nap; dinner out on the town for the three of us (four if you count The Fetus); silly house-flipping shows and more TiVo catch-up.
Sunday: The petting zoo; more lunch, more nap; ceiling fan installation; blog catch-up.

And while all this proves that we had a nice, busy weekend with no shortage of excitement, the most impressive thing this weekend were the incredible feats of bravery turned in by both Mia and Beth.

See, late last week, Mia requested a pony ride. Yesterday, we obliged. However, when we got to the local petting zoo, Mia turned shy and slightly scared. The only way she'd go was accompanied by Beth. And the thing Beth is most afraid of on this great earth are horses. I don't really understand it but, put in terms that I'd understand, I guess it would be like me riding a spider. Or a liberal like myself riding George Bush. And really, I don't want to do either of those things.

Nevertheless, as the picture proves, the ride went down, Mia had a good time, and Beth survived. Only, as she later admitted, it was a near thing.

So, what are you most scared of?

Posted by Chris at 6:18 AM | Comments (49)

Haiku For Monday #190

For the love of god.
Another weekend gone - poof!
Like Britney's panties.

Posted by Chris at 6:17 AM | Comments (2)

October 19, 2007

The Weeklies #7

How has another week passed already? Don't get me wrong - thank god its over because I couldn't do this for another day. But still, time flies...when you're working your ass off.

The Weekly Best Moment. When I regained my hearing. Honestly, that was bugging the shit out of me. You should have heard me chewing from inside my head. Not pretty.

The Weekly Worst Moment. Each of the 847,301 times I had to blow my nose this week.

The Weekly Annoyance. Mia has this CD that was given to her as part of a music class she attends. She loves it. Like, must have it on 24 hours a day. It is honestly one of the most god awful pieces of music I've ever heard. And I can't get it out of my head. I'll be sitting in my office or driving to work and I'll start humming a little tune and after a few minutes I'll realize it came from THAT DAMN CD! If I ever find the musicians who recorded this thing, I'm going to beat the hell out of them with an electric guitar and force them to listen to a non-stop AC/DC music marathon.

The Weekly Reads. This week, like last, I only managed to plow though one book - The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland. Coupland coined the term Generation X. Then he followed that generation through his novels. Generation X, in 2007, is a little older, either happy where they ended up or mourning lost opportunities. Coupland's latest novels are peopled with flawed, quirky and somewhat sad folks who are genuine yet entertaining. The Gum Thief is no different. It's a novel-within-a-novel, a series of correspondence between two (sometimes three) very different individuals, and a look at what happiness is. It's not Coupland's best but it is wonderful.

The Weekly Music. For the past couple of weeks, I've been grooving heavily to Porcupine Tree. They are one of my favorite bands playing today. The band, led by guitar mastermind Steven Wilson, is equal parts Pink Floyd and Tool with enough other elements to keep it interesting. Their latest - Fear of a Blank Planet is exceptional although their previous outings such as In Absentia and Deadwing are quite possibly their best. Steven Wilson is an insanely talented guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. And drummer Gavin Harrison is a monster.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Ellen DeGeneres goes to an animal rescue shelter, gets a dog and gives it to her hair stylist. When the rescue group finds this out, what do they do? Well, of course they barge into the hair stylist's house and, in front of her young daughter, remove the dog from the home and storm off. What. The. Fuck. Some of these animal people are nuts. Give Ellen the damn dog back and shut up already.

The Weekly Question. One day you find a magic charm. If you activate it, everyone will have to tell you the truth all day long. Do you use it? Or leave it alone? Why, or why not?

Posted by Chris at 7:15 AM | Comments (43)

October 18, 2007

Losing My Religion

I went to a private Baptist elementary school. Ironically, it was the most hellish educational experience I've had in my entire life. Why? God was the curriculum and deviation was not tolerated. We attended chapel services at least twice a week as a class. Once a week the entire elementary school (there was also a secondary and high school) headed towards something referred to as sanctuary. Logan's Run (one of my favorite movies ever) fans among you will be disappointed to learn that this trek to sanctuary didn't involve breaking out of a domed city in which all of humanity lived in order to escape into the wilds of a post-apocalyptic earth. Instead we were marched into a church of unbelievable size and forced to listen to a millionaire minister spew random thoughts from his god-addled brain in an attempt to try his Sunday sermon out on us. Just about as bad. Instead of licensed teachers, we were taught by bible college graduates. Instead of learning math, we memorized bible verses. Instead of social diversity, we learned in a world populated by rich white people.

To say I didn't like it is like saying that George Dubya is a flawed president or Jenna Jameson dabbled in a little adult entertainment. I hated it. I couldn't really fault my parents - they sent me there not out of religious fervor but because they'd heard that I'd get a good education. They were wrong. I told them so. They pulled me out.

One day in the fourth grade, I was sitting at my desk half-listening to a lecture about god from my crappy teacher. Without warning, she called on me.

Teacher: Chris, do you and your family go to church on Sundays?
Me: Um, no.
Teacher: Why not?
Me: Um, well, we have better things to do on Sundays.

Without another word, my teacher headed to her desk and hastily scrawled something on a piece of paper, folded it, and handed it to me. It was a note for my parents. It asked them to explain the statement I'd made. My parents did. They backed me up. And I became an outcast. Obviously, this is when we pulled the plug on my private school career. I transferred to public school where I quickly realized I'd learned approximately nothing.

The side-effect of all this is a deep skepticism of religion and ambivalence about my own faith. Yet I do, somehow, have an abiding respect for those with that faith, regardless how or in whom it manifests itself. The reason I've bored you with this long, drawn out tale is that I'm now trying to think of how we should talk to Mia about religion. It is, no doubt, going to come up sooner rather than later.

So, for those of you with kids, those of you who plan on having kids, or those of you who are kids, I ask you this - how do you deal with the topic of religion? How do you view religion?

Posted by Chris at 7:04 AM | Comments (79)

October 17, 2007

A Hump Day Question (Or Two)

I hate to admit this. I have exactly one semi-coherent thought rattling around in my head and it goes something like this. Coffee, for the love of all that is good and holy in the name of the baby Elvis, coffee get into my belly now!. Because of my one-track mind and the fact that the first two days of this week have been way rough, I've almost literally got nothing. But on the plus side, I seem to have regained hearing so rejoice for I can hear out of the left side of my head and, as an extra added bonus, the right. I was about one day shy trying some of your suggestions. I was going to take pictures so your loss, really.

This brings me to my point, my question actually. A deep, metaphysical question I came up with while reading books to my daughter last night. Is it me or does the character in this book totally look like Donald Trump?

I've got another for you based on yesterday's post - if you could revisit any point in your life, what would it be and why?

Posted by Chris at 7:01 AM | Comments (36)

October 16, 2007

When I Wasn't Looking

When I was sixteen years old, sitting in the cold metal bleachers of my high-school stadium watching a Friday night football game, it would have been next to impossible for me to envision myself as I am today. If I'd had the opportunity to look up in the stands and see my thirty-four year old self - a sippy cup in one hand and a two year old on my knee - I doubt I would have recognized myself. Yet, on Saturday, that's exactly what happened.

You know - because I've said it a thousand times since we moved a couple months back - that we live very close to my old high school. Since moving in, we've been subjected to several football games and countless marching band practices. Instead of finding the shouts of crowds or the booming bass of the drums annoying, I find a strange comfort in it. And Mia, a lover of drums and all things percussion, has been captivated. She hears the band then heads into the backyard and marches around in the grass while shouting "I hear the marching band!"

This weekend provided a rare, Saturday afternoon game. So we went.

Until Saturday, I hadn't been back at the school in fifteen years. The experience was nothing short of surreal (and this was after being at a pumpkin patch and seeing a goat pee on it's own face so the surreal threshold was pretty darn high).

At one point, during half-time when virtually all the attention was directed towards the marching band and their lame half-time show, I had a metaphorical out of body experience (metaphorical because I didn't lose my mind and it didn't actually happen but I imagined how the scene would play out in my head). I looked down to the base of the bleachers and there the high-school me stood - long hair, flannel shirt, earring, cigarette. "What the fuck happened to you?" he asked.

"I know," I replied. "But then again, when I was you I'm not sure I knew what I'd be doing next week, much less when I doubled in age. The truth is, you don't really know much about life. You've got some ideas, not all of them wrong, and you're far from clueless, but you just don't get it. Not yet. And look around. Have you seen these people you go to school with? The cheerleaders, the jocks, the band geeks, the stoners and the nameless, label-less ones who look like they're just trying to fit in somewhere, anywhere? You're kids. I didn't see that when I was you. I doubt you do now. But one day, you'll see. So, to answer your question, I graduated then went off to school where I got somewhat educated but, more importantly, met a hot chick and fell in love with her. We lived together, got jobs, got married, bought houses and learned about life. Then we had a kid and another's on the way. To you, sitting in the bleachers with a sippy cup and a two year old probably doesn't seem cool. But in fifteen years, you're going to think differently. It's not opening for Guns N Roses or writing the great American novel. It's better. And you're going to love the fact that this is your life."

I'm no longer a child. It happened to me when I wasn't looking
- Douglas Coupland, The Gum Thief

Posted by Chris at 6:17 AM | Comments (42)

October 15, 2007

Fall, Well, Fell

I'm tired. And with good reason. Since we last talked on Friday morning, we've done a lot.

This weekend we...

...finally broke down and went to the doctor. I was informed I had a massive sinus infection. I've been popping pills like Anna Nicole this weekend. And I feel better. Except for some bizarre reason, I can't hear out of my left ear. I'm kinda hoping that goes away soon.

...went to the local pumpkin patch. At Mia's insistence, we headed to the local pumpkin patch on Saturday morning. In Mia's universe, three words provide the key to happiness - moonbounce, slide, pumpkins. She was pleased, very pleased. We came away with ten pumpkins (she couldn't stop picking pumpkins and we didn't have the heart to stop her) and had a fabulous morning.

...saw a goat pee on its face. No shit. There were goats at the pumpkin patch. One actually peed on its own face. We decided then and there that there wouldn't be any more goat petting. Because, ew.

...watched football! But not any old football game. No, we went to my high-school's homecoming game. Why? We live very close to the school and Mia's been fascinated with the marching band. So we caught them in action. It was a great experience for Mia and a surreal one for me.

...caught up on TiVo. Grey's Anatomy, House, CSI and Ace Of Cakes, in case you're interested.

...played with grandma. Well, not really played because the woman has an evil case of arthritis and she's 90 years old. But my grandmother came into town yesterday. On Sunday, Mia was able to spend some quality time with her. Granted, it mainly involved staring fearfully at her cane and handing her pumpkins, but still, everyone had a good time.

Now, I have two questions for you.

Question 1: What did you guys do this weekend?

Question 2: How in the name of the baby jesus can I restore the hearing to the left hand side of my head? It's annoying the ever-loving shit out of me.

Posted by Chris at 6:07 AM | Comments (64)

Haiku For Monday #189

Evil force, thy name
is Monday. Take leave of us!
Fucketh off forthwith!

Posted by Chris at 6:06 AM | Comments (8)

October 12, 2007

The Weeklies #6

It's Friday. At last. And once again, I find myself working from the sanctity of the Cactus Home Office. It's been an interesting week. Let's review.

The Weekly Best Moment. This week's best moment was actually a string of moments lasting 24 hours - our anniversary. Eight years ago, Beth and I got hitched. Pretty damn good eight years.

The Weekly Worst Moment. What, the bathroom concussion wasn't bad enough? You people want blood and tears? Sheesh, you're demanding.

The Weekly Annoyance. The ads for Outback Steakhouse. You really think authentic Australians sing with bizarre, exaggerated accents and idolize Crocodile Dundee? God I hope not.

The Weekly Reads. Amidst all the work and play this week, I managed to make it through only one book - When One Man Dies by Dave White. If the back of the book was to be believed, this thriller would turn the mystery genre on its ear. It didn't. It wasn't bad but it wasn't all that. If you're after a mystery, check out anything by Charlie Huston or go old school and find some Raymond Chandler. You can do better than this.

The Weekly Music. The past two weeks have seen the release of two near-flawless albums - Echoes Silence Patience & Grace (Foo Fighters) and Magic (Bruce Springsteen). Seriously. Flawless. Unless you're a raging gangsta rap fan, I can almost guarantee you'll dig these. Try them. You'll like them.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Did you hear about Pam Anderson's wedding? She took a break between the magic show she's an assistant for in Vegas, and got hitched to Rick Salomon - the costar of the infamous Paris Hilton sex tape. She wore a denim skirt, continually referred to Rick as "scum" (which is probably not inaccurate), and dined on pigs-in-blankets after the ceremony. They couldn't eat the cake because it was made of cardboard - it was a last-minute thing. Why did Pam get hitched so fast? "I paid off a poker debt with sexual favors, and I fell in love. It's so romantic!"

The Weekly Picture. I took none of these. Well, okay, one which I bet you can spot. The rest are the product of a two year old with a cheap old digital camera.

The Weekly Picture. What was the single best thing - major or minor - that happened to you this week?

Posted by Chris at 6:05 AM | Comments (47)

October 11, 2007

How Al Gore Gave Me A Concussion

Why is it that one-third of my posts start out "So, I was in the bathroom when..."?

I applaud environmentalism. Let me get that out of the way up front. I occasionally start thinking about the horrible things we've done to this planet and get absolutely disgusted. So disgusted that I am compelled to go buy something made of plastic or forget about turning lights off or club a baby seal. Obviously, it takes vigilance. A vigilance I don't always have. But I try, and I applaud environmentalism. To a point.

Yesterday morning, I found myself with the need to visit the little cowboy's room. When I opened the door, the room was completely and totally dark. Then, seconds later, the lights sprang to life and I was bathed in the fluorescent wash of light and ever-present hum you get so accustomed to whilst in gigantic, planet-sized office buildings. The facilities folks, in their quest to conserve energy, had, apparently, installed light-triggering motion detectors. Neat. Still had to poop.

Just for background, I'd like you to know that I'm not an epic pooper, one of those guys who finds themselves a stall and settles in for a long morning ridin' the old bowl. I tend to be expedient. Why linger? Git 'er done.

So, mere minutes later, I was about to stand up and zip when the lights went out. Darkness. No, beyond dark. I couldn't see shit, literally or figuratively. I had no frame of reference to guide movement, no muscle memory. As I zipped, the toilet automatically flushed behind me, tearing through the dark silence. This unnerved me enough that I jumped forward. And tripped. And ran straight into the metal stall door. And finally saw light, in the form of stars dancing around my skull.

This is the danger of rampant environmentalism, people. The earth, I thought as I flung open the stall door which activated the motion detector which triggered the lights, is worth saving but not at the expense of brain trauma. Even the most ardent environmentalists among you must admit that the earth can spare more than three minutes to let a guy poop.

I'm pretty sure this is Al Gore's fault.

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (41)

October 10, 2007

The Hump Day Challenge

You know how sometimes I get all deep and reflect on life or fatherhood or something? Or I break out some deeply intellectual and introspective question for you to ponder over coffee? Yeah, that ain't happening today. Instead, I challenge you all to something silly (because, who doesn't like some good hump day fun?) - caption this or, at the very least, explain how I came to be like this:


The person who makes me shoot stuff out of my nose the farthest wins, uh, something. So, internets - bring it!

Posted by Chris at 6:46 AM | Comments (50)

October 9, 2007

Simple Equation

Dear Beth,

Can you believe we've been married for eight years (and together almost 15) and no one's been seriously injured (other than the ice cream incident which was really just a freak accident and my own damn fault)? We'll just have to dance in the kitchen more and tempt fate.

I love you Sparky. Happy anniversary.

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (54)

October 8, 2007

You Can Dress Us Up, But...

While the rest of the country gets a holiday, I get work. And I could have used the day off to recover from the weekend.

My niece's christening went down this weekend. Yesterday, we got all dressed up, headed to the church in which Beth and I tied the knot (and haven't been since - sorry baby jesus), and watched Payton get sprinkled with a little shower of eau de god.

...from left - Mia giving a shout-out to god; Mia cracking Beth, my mom and dad up; and Mia with
"Baby Payton"...

The metaphorical train started to derail when Mia sang the Happy Birthday song while everyone else sang some sort of hymn. The problem really arose when everyone stopped singing and Mia shifted into a rousing rendition of the ABC song. Though that paled in comparison to what really made the ceremony special - Mia's running commentary about the christening proceedings themselves. We are partially to blame because of the explanation we provided prior to the ceremony. Still, not everyone had the benefit of this knowledge as Mia exclaimed to a silent congregation, Baby Payton get clean! and Put Baby Payton in the bathtub! Of course I'm no better. When the minister began discussing the concepts of Liturgical East and Liturgical West, I might have mentioned, a little too loudly, that I'd heard Liturgical North By Northwest was Hitchcock's finest film. The people sitting around me didn't really appreciate that despite the fact that I still think it's comedy gold.

The rest of the afternoon passed wonderfully. We attended a brunch where we could be much more inappropriate, Mia passed out in the car on the way home, and I did several hours of yard maintenance in the abnormally hot October heat.

Lightening didn't strike so I'm guessing god's not overly pissed. Certainly he can take a joke, right? Cos, come on, the Hitchcock thing was funny.

Posted by Chris at 7:16 AM | Comments (46)

Haiku For Monday #188

Holiday? Not quite.
I'm headed for some training.
Bite me, Columbus.

Posted by Chris at 7:13 AM | Comments (4)

October 5, 2007

The Weeklies #5

The Weekly Reads. I conquered two books this week - Alan Weisman's The World Without Us and After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Both were excellent. Weisman starts with an interesting premise - what would happen to the earth if all us humans just disappeared? Pulling together studies and experts in many fields, he presents a very interesting idea of a post-human world. Rarely do I read non-fiction but this idea intrigued me. Both the idea and the book itself were wonderfully executed. Weisman managed to avoid being dry or boring and handled the ideas and explanations with a deft sense of humor that made this entirely readable. The polar opposite of science-driven non-fiction is Murakami. I have always enjoyed his books. He's like a whimsical Kafka who writes fairy tales for adults. After Dark, a brief novel, focuses on the lives of two sisters and plays out over a seven hour time period. It might sound boring but it's not. Murakami is masterful and he manages to cram more into 275 pages than most authors could in twice that.

The Weekly Music. I'll admit, I haven't listened to much this week. I did start my day, however, with the entire catalog by The Format. At first listen, this post-punk pop-rock band might seem to target a different demographic than mine. But check the insanely witty, brilliantly written lyrics and they tell another tale. Dog Problems might be their most mature, well-developed album but their debut, Interventions and Lullabies gives it a run for its money in the catchy department. I also gave Ken Andrews' Secrets of the Lost Satellite a spin. Think of a more mellow Nine Inch Nails and you'll get a good idea what the album sounds like. Darn good stuff. Very finally, I'll put in one last plug for the Pearl Jam live collection I mentioned last week. Not only is it darn good, it's fucking good too. It is one long 78-minute singalong with a massive audience. In my opinion, one of the better live albums released ever. Ever.

The Weekly Worst Moment. Last night I said goodbye to a coworker who resigned to take a new job elsewhere. She and I worked together every day for the last four and a half years. It sucked.

The Weekly Best Moment. On Monday, I came home sick. I could barely pry Mia off of me (not that I wanted to). It was an afternoon of non-stop kissing and hugging. It was, quite simply, wonderful.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. The record industry must be shitting their collective pants. Not only are record sales down (like, way down) but a record label-less Radiohead have decided to release their album online. That, in and of itself, is not newsworthy. What is is the fact that they're letting buyers name their own price. Let me say that again - you, the people, can name your own price. And the site is overrun with people signing up to download the album. According to estimates, folks are paying around $0.89 cents a track. The price of an average download. People doing the right thing? Take that, record execs.

The Weekly Picture. From a composition standpoint, this is far from the best picture I've ever taken. But the smile is among the best I've ever captured.

Posted by Chris at 6:42 AM | Comments (16)

October 4, 2007

Three Conversations

Last night, I had several strange conversations. I thought three of them could stand repeating.

Conversation One: Members Only
At some point yesterday, Beth and Mia had a conversation about the main anatomical difference between boys and girls. She informed me of this, in a way that sounded more warning than conversation, when I walked though the door yesterday evening. It took me a while to process the implications of this statement and I ended up with a few more questions. But instead of tipping off the kid, who was right there in the kitchen unloading and reloading the spice rack, I used code. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how I named a part of my body after a famed African-American comedian with a flair for zany poetry.

Me: To what extent, exactly, did you discuss my, uh, Nipsy Russell?
Her: Your what?
Me: Nipsy Russell. It's code. Come one. You'd never have been able to communicate in the Cold War.
Her: You went with Nipsy Russell?
Me: Yeah. He's really incredibly overlooked.

Conversation Two: Super Bad
Then, later in the evening, when James Brown's Super Bad shuffled its way though my iPod, I noticed that Mia was doing that eyes-closed head-bobbing dancing that I so appreciate.

Me: Are you funky?
Her: Mia dancing!
Me: But is Mia funky?
Her: Yes! Mia is monkey!
Me: You're super bad!
Her: I'm super monkey!

Conversation Three: Christening Gifts
Mere minutes later, the following conversation was had.

Her: What should we get our niece as a christening gift?
Me: I'm thinking dirt bike. But that's just my gut reaction.
Her: That's cool. But what if her parents object?
Me: A kilo of blow is always a good backup gift.

I think you've probably learned something today. For instance, I have a penchant for obscure comedians, I have a varied musical taste that includes the Godfather of Soul, and that you should neer invite us to a christening.

Posted by Chris at 7:30 AM | Comments (33)

October 3, 2007

Housekeeping and Marching Orders

On occasion, I've been known to turn to you guys to help me out a bit. I usually do this for one of two reasons:

A) I value and respect your readership, participation, feedback and all around hotness; or
B) I can't come up with anything good to write about to save my life.

I'm happy to report that battling traffic on the way home last night allowed me to come up with a handful of ideas that will keep me going for a while. So...it's your hotness, of course (really, there was never any doubt - your ass looks fabulous today).

Step 1: Check out my blogroll (I updated it just a while ago).
Step 2: If you're not on it, open up the comments and tell me!
Step 3: If you are on it, say hi anyway and let me know who else I should be checking out.
Step 4: If you're a lurker, or don't have a site, say hi anyway!

There you have it, your marching orders. Make me proud, Internets!

Posted by Chris at 7:38 AM | Comments (145)

October 2, 2007

Time Warps and Big Girl Beds

I came home sick yesterday. I never do that. Although, truth be told, my health and the prospects of making it through the day were both questionable when I woke up. Beth and Mia were out when I got home. I called in to a few meetings, uploaded a few pictures and tried my best to relax just a tad. They eventually came home, Mia asleep in the back of Beth's car. Beth carried her upstairs then came and found me. "Do you have time for a parenting moment?" she asked. I did, of course. We ascended the stairs and entered Mia's room. She was asleep, under a purple blanket, in the big girl bed that arrived for her yesterday.

I am, once again, amazed at and humbled by the speed with which time flies.

When Mia awoke, she got out of her new bed, opened the door to her room and appeared shocked by the sudden autonomy. I was too. I'm astounded by her development, from a cute little drooly thing with jet-black sticky-up hair into this little curly-haired blond person with whom I have long conversations about the moon, squirrels and trains. This little girl who asks me if I'm okay, tells me that she's a better singer than I (it's true and it was my own admission that started this everlasting conversation), and has imaginary clown friends that kinda scare me a little bit.

Parenting is hard. It's a demanding job that's filled with hazards of all types - from heartbreak to the sheer volume of bodily fluids you'll get covered in. You don't get a break, it's not terribly glamorous and rarely do you get thanked. I know that I, for one, still take my parents for granted, even though I'm now armed with the knowledge that each of these little discoveries I've made with Mia they made with me. But I bet the payoff I get is similar to that of any parents', including, I hope, my own - I got to give life to a kid and watch her grow into the most amazing, coolest person imaginable.

But damn, a big girl bed...

Posted by Chris at 6:39 AM | Comments (34)

October 1, 2007

How I Came to Eat An Invisible Circus Clown

The weekend - about which there are plenty of good stories and pictures which will, no doubt, be shared at a later date - was wonderful, except for the fact that I was sick throughout the entire weekend, and it ended with a bang. A bang in the form of a circus. Yes. We took Mia to the circus.

When we bought tickets two weeks ago, we figured it would play out in one of two ways - she'd either be insanely freaked out and we'd have to leave immediately or she'd love it and refuse to leave the big top until she'd hugged every last tiger and circus freak. We started preparing her immediately. We told her about the noise, that it would be loud with lots of loud music and clapping and yelling. We told her about the animals and the tricks and the fact that it would, at some points, seem like a very scary thing but it was, actually, all under control. And we told her about the clowns, the silly clowns, to use her words. We told her about the makeup and how there were real people under the makeup. We told her about the physical, slapstick comedy, the falling down that didn't actually hurt. And the big red noses.

Mia loved the circus. It was a complete and utter hit, like donuts on the Oprah set. She got a little scared a couple of times but spent the majority of the time laughing and clapping. Apparently, we prepared her well. Perhaps a little too well. After the circus, we ended up with a few uninvited guests. Three invisible clowns came home with us.

They hitched a ride in the backseat next to Mia. Invisible clowns are, for the record, tiny enough to fit three in the palm of your hand. They shared her water, told a few funny jokes and even had dinner with us. They cried, Mia hugged them and made them feel better. At one point during dinner, Mia held a hand out to me. I mistook this invisible thing for something I was supposed to eat. So I ate it and, in the ensuing commotion, learned a very important lesson - never eat your daughter's invisible clowns.

Now, from my point of view, invisible clowns are the stuff of nightmares. Like, if you run a red light, spank a puppy or pee in your neighbor's yard by booze-fueled accident, invisible clowns invade your house and bury you alive in your backyard. Apparently the world view of a 2 year old is a little different. I'm trying to embrace this and exist in a universe in which invisible clowns are extremely small powers for good with tiny red noses.

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (23)

Haiku For Monday #187

Cough cough sniffle cough.
Okay, I'll admit it. I
caught the ick. Send soup.

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (3)