January 31, 2008

Frazzled Fatherhood

Sometimes I feel as if I've completely run out of things to say. Run out of ideas. Like all the ideas have been siphoned out of my head in the middle of the night by some street thug who needed a quick fix, to mainline some ideas of his own but couldn't be bothered to come up with them the old fashioned way. On days like those, I'll sit in front of my laptop, screen blank, cursor blinking, mocking me.

This is not one of those times.

Today, I have lots of ideas. I had something I was working on entitled The Most Boring Books Ever which was destined to be a classic until my laptop decided for no apparent reason to turn off and take the post with it. If you're curious, the front runner was, at the time of spontaneous laptop shutdown, the 700 page 2007-2012 Outlook for Paper Towels in the United States. I shit you not. That's a real book. Or, in my world, kindling. Anyway, despite all this stuff floating around inside my head I can focus on one thing. And one thing only. I will be a father, again, anytime now. How freaky is that?

I thought I would be less nervous this time around. I thought I'd mastered this thing. Turns out, I'm vaguely terrified. Doubts, fears, elation and excitement are all swirling around my head making it extremely difficult for me to focus. So instead of focusing, I'm doing crazy shit like getting completely lost on the way to work - someplace I've been going for the last six years. Or getting off the elevator on the wrong floor. Or walking into the ladies' restroom. Luckily for me, that last one happened very early in the morning and there was no one to offend. The lack of urinals was an immediate tip-off.

So forgive me, my friends, if I'm a bit frazzled today. I'm a little nervous. Make me feel better - what's the most nervous you've ever been, and why?

Posted by Chris at 7:01 AM | Comments (40)

January 30, 2008

Follow Me, Don't Follow Me (I've Got My Spine, I've Got My...)

I've written about this several times. Forgive me if I repeat myself. I know, however that at least the last time I mentioned this, I got a fact wrong. Which one is not important.

When I was a kid, my parents and I took road trips. Epic road trips.

We'd log 3,000 to 3,500 in a summer and blow through towns like Denton, Texas; Raton, New Mexico; Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming. There were deviations, of course. We'd break way from the standard route to hit the Grand Canyon, swing through Vegas, stop in Santa Fe or see Mount Rushmore. Once, we even drove from Wyoming to San Diego then back to Houston. We'd spend three nights on the road before reaching our destination. The first stop would inevitably be in Texas - unless you've lived there and have driven through it, you have no appreciation for how big it is. It's hard to escape the gravitational pull of the state in a single day. The next night might be spent in New Mexico or Colorado or Arizona. The third closer to our destination in southern Wyoming. On the way back, of course, we'd blow through states in an effort to get home, to get back to our beds. We'd spend 14 or 16 hours on the road and conquer the West in two days.

Aside from our destination and key touristy spots along the way, we rarely had reservations. We'd just stumble into any motel off the highway when we were done driving. This was the late seventies and eighties. Interior motel design came in two standard-issue color palates - orange and brown or green and brown, the green being far less common. At least that's how it seemed to me. And most rooms ended up being orange - brown shag carpet, beige and gold wallpaper, orange and white comforters. They all looked like the set of The Match Game and you half expected Charles Nelson Reilly to jump out from behind the curtains that inevitably looked out over the parking lot and, hopefully, your car.

One afternoon, we'd covered the stretch from Houston to Wichita Falls in 120-degree heat. It was miserable. And we'd made the journey in a little Mazda 626, the air-conditioning of which seemed to be powered by two under-fed hamsters both of which refused to run in their little wheels in such extreme heat. When we got into the motel room, we found we could exit only by wrapping bath towels around our hands to open the door. The metal door and doorknob were just as hot as the air outside. My parents and I filled the bathtub with cold water followed by what little ice there was left inside our cooler, jumped into the tub and drank orange Crush.

It's a simple little moment that had no real significance at the time other than the drastically lower temperature and avoidance of heat stroke. But it's a nice little moment. Family, a bathtub, a long drive and orange Crush. No deep meaning. Just kinda nice. And I'll always remember it. I guess that's actually the significance - you never know what moment will linger forever so make all of them count. That sounds to much like a greeting card. But you know what I mean.

What are your favorite little moments? Or tales from the road?

Posted by Chris at 6:24 AM | Comments (43)

January 29, 2008

No Country For Asshats (Of Any Age)

Dear theater-goer who sat behind us at a Saturday night showing of No Country For Old Men,

I loved No Country For Old Men, didn't you? It was riveting. It was tough to watch - it was violent and the body count was high and there was an extreme bleak creepiness to it that painted an unsettling undertone throughout. But all of those things made it impossible not to watch. Especially helpful, though, was your narration. Your concise summarization of both major and minor plot points was right-on. I'm honestly not sure I would have gotten through the movie without them. Sure, I'd read the book and I pretty much knew what was going to happen but, still, I'd have been lost without you, my oddly talkative friend.

Your sprinkling of witty one-liners was also inspired. Like, when Josh Brolin was done having a relatively frustrating conversation on a pay phone and he began slamming the receiver onto the phone's hook? Your perfectly timed delivery of "that's off the hook, yo" was comedy gold.

I commend you for not letting the fact that you were alone stop you from commenting and cracking wise out loud. To hell with societal mores and respect for others! You had something to say and you said it. Loudly. That's passion. That's bravery. Yet all these things paled in comparison to the ultimate display of movie-going prowess you made about an hour into the film. Yes, in spite of the growing on-screen tension you answered your phone...and had a nice long conversation.

Yeah. Thanks for getting back.
I'm just at a movie. Something about old men.
Buncha dudes getting fucked up.
By myself, yeah.
Wanted to know if I was going to see you tonight.
Oh, shit, man, dude just got whacked. Got his shit all fucked up.
Yeah, later babe.

There should really be an Oscar for Best Watching of A Movie. Or something. You'd win. There should also be a Most Self-Absorbed Fucker category. For you would take that category hands down. No one likes an asshat, mister. And you are an asshat.

Yours in Christ,
Chris Cactus

Posted by Chris at 7:14 AM | Comments (46)

January 28, 2008

What Did and Didn't Happen This Weekend

I start off each weekend lately with a list of things I need to get done. And invariably I accomplish precisely none of them. Or at the very least the things that take the least effort. This weekend was no exception.

Things I Didn't Get Done:
- install the ceiling fan in the nursery;
- process and edit the 2,103 pictures as yet unprocessed and unedited;
- fix basement shelves;
- develop a cheap, efficient alternative fuel source based off dirty diapers;
- write my great American novel;
- drop my 649 shirts off at the dry cleaners;
- find Jimmy Hoffa; and
- fix the gaping hole in our basement stairway caused by the movers trying to break the laws of physics with our couch when we moved into this joint five months ago.

Admittedly some of these are more important than others given the fact that we're going to have a new kid in the family sometime in the very near future. What we did manage to accomplish, though, was much needed for our sanity. We went on a date.

On Saturday night, Beth and I headed to the local Burmese place (I say that like there's a Burmese place on every corner like Starbucks) and had a wonderful meal. Burmese food is a combination of Thai and Indian due to, well, geography. Good stuff. Lots of noodles and curry. And how can you go wrong with noodles and curry? Then we saw No Country For Old Men. The verdict? It was fantastic. And insanely bleak. Beth and I had both read the novel but I don't think anything prepares you for the sheer amount of bloodshed in the movie. The performances were wonderful and I recommend the movie. And the book.

On Sunday, the 3.9 of us headed to a brunch celebrating my brother-in-law and his wife's birthdays. A good time was had by all. Mia especially. She got to play with a baby and a dog. What's not to love?

If my life was a movie - or even a tell-all novel or poorly cast Lifetime Original Movie - there would exist a richly painted story arc comprising the past two days woven through the plot of my life. And this sub-plot would be about poop. Not mine. Mia's. Or, rather, Mia's lack of poop. Or, more specifically, Mia's lack of willingness to poop. She arrived at the conclusion that pooping is evil and refused to do so even though it was obvious she needed to do nothing more than poop. She kept her butt cheeks firmly clenched as if Satan himself would have sprung forth in her diaper. She eventually relented at the 11th hour. But it was a long road getting there.

The rest of the weekend - those moments not spent at birthday brunches and holding poop - were spent awaiting the new member of the family. And although there was a bit of a scare on Sunday evening, he hasn't made any headway towards putting in an appearance. That brings me to my next order of business. Beth is due on February 10th but nature being somewhat unpredictable, we can have a little fun with this. Let me know the date and time you think the latest member of the Cactus-Fish Clan will make his debut and, if you're right, I'll put together a CD for you. I can't guarantee it'll be good, what with me being all sleep deprived and stuff. But it should be interesting.

Posted by Chris at 6:10 AM | Comments (63)

Haiku For Monday #203

Think it would speed things
up if I rolled a twenty,
snorted coffee grounds?

Posted by Chris at 6:09 AM | Comments (8)

January 25, 2008

The Weeklies #20

The Funniest Line Of The Week. Mia, after cracking a joke. "Goodnight Washington. I'll be here all week."

The Weekly Odd Factoid. The longest recorded flight of a chicken? 13 seconds.

The Weekly Reads. I read two books this week. The first was a novel from Kevin Wignall - Who Is Conrad Hirst. I felt kinda meh about it. It wasn't bad but as the book progressed I felt like I was reading a much less dramatic Jason Bourne story. It didn't rocket to the top of my list but it certainly wasn't bad. Richard Flanagan's The Unknown Terrorist was a different story. The novel is a very literate thriller that, while entertaining, also asks the reader to face some fairly serious concerns about a nation's reaction to terrorism. Or the threat of terrorism. In this case, the nation is Flanagan's native Australia. It is a very plausible and scary look at what can happen in a scared society. This one is definitely worth picking up.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I'd be crazy if I didn't mention the Heath Ledger media storm, right? It's sad, yes, but the coverage is insane. And Amy Winehouse (aka, Fucking Mess) entered rehab (yes, yes, yes). It's rumored that Eddie Murphy wanted to take his mother on a honeymoon (consider me shocked that marriage didn't work out). And Britney's still a first class trainwreck. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Weekly Worst Thing I'm Planning to do Today. The dentist. I have to get a cavity filled. Fucking teeth, betraying me like this.

The Weekly Band Name I'd Love To Use If It Wasn't Taken. The Atomic Bitchwax.

The Weekly Hypothetical Question. You're forced to make a terrible choice - you must choose to keep either your hearing or your sight. Which do you keep and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:21 AM | Comments (69)

January 24, 2008

Room 100

You might have heard this one before. I've been doing this blog thing for a while. I forget what I've told you and what I haven't. You guys had a lot of comments about yesterday's post. And apparently some of you kids think that hooking up is slang for, you know, bumpin' uglies. It's a bit more innocent than that...

The first half of my freshman year in college sucked donkey balls. My roommate was psychotic. I mean this literally. His mom would call the hall phone in the dorm to ask anyone available if her son had taken his meds. He had four main fascinations in life - pot (as in, the smoking of pot in our room), hardcore pornography (I'll admit that this was one of his more endearing qualities), using his parents' credit card to trick out the room (the big-screen TV kinda rocked), and weaponry of the bladed variety (I actually called the campus cops to raid my own room because of the prevalence of knives). And honestly what's better than living with a horny, high, armed to the teeth guy with severe mental problems? (Don't answer - that was rhetorical and blatantly sarcastic.) To escape, I landed in Room 100. Several of us did. Particularly those who smoked because the college I attended had a pretty liberal smoking policy - if the two people who lived in the room were cool with it you were free to light up. The occupants of Room 100 had declared it a smoking room. Beth found her way out of an equally depressing living environment (seven women sharing one bathroom) to Room 100 too.

On top of the issues I had with my roommate, I was in a long-distance relationship with a high-school girlfriend which was going the way of most long-distance relationships (i.e., the toilet). And I ended up with a pretty substantial case of mono. That was fun. After the first semester, I came back, healthy but still attached and still living with a headcase. On January 23, 1993, Beth cornered my in the bathroom of Room 100 and we made a pact to change all that. She picked me up. I strenuously didn't object. I did massively romantic things like quote Mother Love Bone lyrics, talk about hot air balloons and the progressive rock band Yes. Inexplicably it seemed to work. This was my first glimpse into Beth's high tolerance to come. The next day we broke up with our significant others. The next weekend, I moved out of the dorm and into a new apartment. Beth helped me move. We've lived together ever since.

That's our story. It might not be overly juicy or the stuff of Lifetime Original Movies but its ours. And we're sticking with it. And each other.

How about you? What's your greatest hookup?

Posted by Chris at 7:02 AM | Comments (52)

January 23, 2008

The Choreography Of Living (Or, Fifteen Years On)

Every night, Beth and I sneak into Mia's room on a clandestine mission to stand and stare at our daughter.

By 10:00, she's given up fighting sleep, if there was much of a fight to begin with. Beth and I approach her door, careful to hold the wooden sign on her door that says "Mia Bean" and slowly turn the knob. We step over that one spot under which the floorboards creak. We've been in the house only a few months but have already learned to negotiate the potential landmines hiding in little spaces. When we open the door, we open it just a little at first, pausing to see if we've interrupted her sleep. Then we move in quietly.

We're like a stealthy team of parental Navy Seals. We swoop in, choreographed, each carrying out our roles. Beth turns off the CD player, stopping the music Mia loves and can't sleep without; it has been stuck in an endless loop for hours. I turn off the Christmas tree she won't allow us to take down. I move in, hover over her for a moment, smell her hair and gently kiss her on the head while Beth spreads a purple fleece blanket over her. Then it's her turn for a kiss.

And then we stare. We stare at this little girl who isn't so little anymore. We stare while she licks her lips or rolls over or clutches her purple blanket, an Amelia Bedelia book or a stuffed monkey, pulling them in to her tighter the way we always want to hold her. We stare, awestruck, like we're watching a master magician perform the most amazing illusion possible. We stare because there in front of us is this little person we created, breathed life into who is very much her own person these days, telling jokes and leading us on parades through our house. We stare at this little beautiful girl who understands few of life's many complexities but one day will. This girl who we made a person but who has made us into better people.

Fifteen years ago today, Beth and I hooked up in a bathroom. It's been an unusual, wonderful ride ever since. Never would we have imagined then what life would be like now. Not because it wasn't what we wanted but because not even the wildest, most imaginative dreamer has the power to dream in such rich detail. Fifteen years on, here we are. Still in love. With our 1.9 kids and comfortable house.

Posted by Chris at 6:54 AM | Comments (60)

January 22, 2008

Room With A View

While I spent the weekend doing whatever the heck it was I did, a moving company was employed to move my office (and many others) to a new building. So, while many of you were enjoying your Mondays off, I was not just working. I was working and unpacking. Don't be jealous. My six boxes of assorted crap arrived and I found myself safely ensconced in a nice, new larger office with multiple windows and a view of something other than a parking garage. A view that includes an adult video store.

I am sincerely hopeful that this gives me a pornucopia of blog fodder. For instance, it would be cool if, one day, they hosted an outdoor pole-dancing clinic. Or, perhaps, the building itself exploded and an unholy rain of dildos showered the local office parks. That would sure be something to see. Perhaps my expectations are a bit high. Nevertheless, I begin what is hopefully a regular installment. I'm calling it Crap I Learned While Watching The Local Porn Shop. I think that's fairly self-explanatory.

  • The average stay for a patron is surprisingly long. Mr. 1987 Nissan Stanza was in there for about an hour. Mr. Ford Explorer clocked in at around two hours.
  • Porn - it's what's for lunch. The lunch hour was pretty busy.
  • Second busiest time of day? The evening rush hour.
  • No surprise, it's a sausage-fest in there. All guys, no women.
  • Be careful when you walk into a porn shop. Some asshat like me is probably watching in the hopes that it yields something interesting for his blog.
  • I refuse to contemplate the possible explanations for a hearse parked in front of the place. That can't be good, right?
  • I need binoculars.

On a totally unrelated side-note, do you realize that just yesterday we broke the 365 day barrier between us and the end of Dubya's presidency? Now there's some light at the end of the tunnel. Never let it be said I don't try to inspire. Today alone I've brought you both political hope and porn.

Posted by Chris at 6:19 AM | Comments (43)

January 21, 2008

The Weekend Recap: Depressed Snowmen and Shoeless Pimps

When I left you on Friday, we had an upright snowman gracing our backyard. Sometime on Friday night, he went on a bender and ended up face down in the snow.

There are a myriad of potential causes - gravity, the brief warm spell or a desperate cry for help. Assuming the worst, we've removed sharp objects from the backyard and stripped him of anything with which he could do himself harm. Especially the grill. There were, of course, other things involved in the weekend aside from the snowman suicide watch.

We did nothing on Friday night. Except vegged out and plowed into the home-stretch of the last season of 24. On Saturday, we hung around the house and did some hardcore playing. Mia and I went for a long walk during which she insisted on making and throwing snowballs at everything. Unfortunately for her, the making of snowballs is helped by mittens. The throwing of snowballs? Not so much. Then we (or, rather, Beth) baked some ziti. Really. That's not a euphamism for anything dirty (hey baby, would you like to bake my ziti?). We had a potluck work party to head to...which we did with Mia in tow. It was a nice night. Mia played with all the other kids and we managed to get her out the door just before she completely and utterly lost her shit. We got her home, calmed her down and insisted that the glitter on her red sparkle-shoes could in fact be glued back on. Yep. That was the trigger. Shoes. Great. Another woman in the house obsessed with shoes. I'm so screwed.

Speaking of shoes, on Sunday we ate waffles, watched Backyardigans and, eventually, went shopping. It was during this shopping extravaganza that Mia found the shoes she couldn't in any way live without. And for a whopping $5 we were completely willing to oblige. If you see a midget pimp missing his boots, steer him my way. I think I might know where they are.

Posted by Chris at 7:11 AM | Comments (43)

Haiku For Monday #202

Sleep. Sleep tonight and
may your dreams be realized.
U2. MLK.

Posted by Chris at 7:06 AM | Comments (5)

January 18, 2008

The Weeklies #19

Hey, guess what? It's Friday. Do the obligatory happy dance. Here are The Weeklies.

The Weekly "Damn The Internet Is Cool" Factoid. The Library of Congress has a flickr site where they're posting thousands of archival shots. How cool is that? (Thanks Leah!)

The Weekly Reads. I only managed to power through one book this week, Harlan Coben's One False Move. I love Coben's Myron Bolitar series. They're funny yet remain good, solid mysteries. This one is no different, although One False Move is perhaps a little darker than the novels that came before it. If you want a quick, entertaining read, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning (Deal Breaker) and enjoy the ride.

The Weekly Music. Did you see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou? If not, you simply must. If so, you might recall the member of Team Zissou who did nothing but play his acoustic guitar and sing. That would be Seu Jorge. Lucky for us, he released The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions. Here are all of Jorge's greatest hits from the movie. Why should you care? They're all David Bowie covers. Still not intrigued? They're sung in Portuguese. The album is absolutely fantastic. Give it a whirl. Also give a whirl to This Is Somewhere by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Seriously. Potter and her band turn out churning rock and roll in the true sense of the term. Think of what Sheryl Crow would sound like if she didn't care about radio airplay and stopped catering to the adult-contemporary markets.

The Weekly Clarifying Comment. Per my post about preschool, I can't say that, when push comes to shove, I'd actually attend church just to get my kid into a school. It made for a nice hypothetical but I feel as though I would be misrepresenting my own beliefs while, at the same time, marginalizing the beliefs of those who were there because they had the faith that I didn't.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. O.J. was back in court, Britney can't visit her kids and is, as a result, trying to get knocked up (and may suffer from a multiple personality disorder), Tom Cruise continued to be a wacky scientologist all over the damn place and Paula Abdul is preparing to perform at the Superbowl half-time show (seriously). Yep, just a normal week.

The Weekly Weather Event (and Accompanying Picture). Snow!

Posted by Chris at 5:59 AM | Comments (34)

January 17, 2008

Wardrobe Malfunctions and Other Realizations

Yesterday morning when I got dressed, something didn't feel quite right. I shifted around uncomfortably on the way to work and it wasn't until I was drowning my early morning sorrows in a grande coffee and a cranberry-orange muffin from Starbucks that I realized just what the problem was. Me. Or, more specifically, an over-abundance of me. Turns out that the belt I chose to wear - the belt I've worn for years - was implementing a comprehensive strategy to drive my kidneys out of my body by way of my ears. This was not surprising but I've been living for a while in a state of denial. I've always been the skinny kid. For thirty years, I had a metabolism that allowed me to eat whatever the hell I wanted. I'm thirty-five. The math is obvious - I'm about five years late surrendering to this knowledge.

So yesterday, I acknowledged reality and made an emergency wardrobe stop. I bought a new belt. It's pretty much the best belt ever. The American Idol champion of belts, the triple threat - it fits, my pants stay up and it's not threatening to burst my spleen.

Realization #1. As I was in my retail outlet of choice looking for the aforementioned belt, I heard a voice exclaim, "you better walk dammit because I'm not carrying your ass all over this fucking store." I rounded the corner and was horrified to find that this beast of a woman was addressing her five year old daughter. Realization? You should never judge a book by its cover but you can always judge a person by the way they talk to their kids (certain exceptions apply, of course) and this woman was a quintessential asshat.

Realization #2
Me: You know who my favorite person in the whole world is?
Mia: No.
Me: Do you want to guess?
Mia: I don't know. You tell me.
Me: You! You're my favorite person in the whole wide world.
Mia: I'm not a person. I used to be a person but now I'm a little girl.
Me: My mistake. You know who my favorite little girl in the whole wide world is?
Mia: Me! Mia!
Realization? My daughter is hilarious. And growing up way too fast.

Realization #3
. Over the past several weeks I've done some crazy shit totally uncharacteristic of me. I've driven around for god knows how long with a burned out headlight and brake light. I left the gas cap off when I filled up the other day. I've actually forgotten about a meeting or two despite the fact that my calendar has told me about them repeatedly. And I can't seem to remember simple conversations I have with people on a daily basis. Realization? I'm kinda freaked out about having this second kid.

And you? Whether profound or silly, what have you come to realize recently?

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (50)

January 16, 2008

The Preschool Conundrum

There's a preschool I'd really like Mia to get into in the fall. It's not some fancy school with a snooty name like The My-Farts-Don't Stink School. It's just a preschool that's got a good reputation for taking kids and turning them into, well, kids. Not budding brain surgeons. Not astrophysicists. Just kids. Because who the hell knows what they want to be at that age. I'm 35 and I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up. But I digress.

The preschool is run by a local church. They give priority to kids who have attended the school before (which, for this level of preschool isn't really much of an issue), siblings of kids who've attended the school and, finally, members of the church. Then they use a lottery system to pick the rest of the kids. When Beth explained this to me last night, I had a brilliant idea that I am surely going to hell for.

Me: Can't we just show up at church one Sunday, sign a book and, boom, we're members.
Beth: They want you to sign up and give them money.
Me: Okay. So, can't we show up at church one Sunday, sign a book, drop 'em a hunsky* and see what happens?
Beth: I'm not sure it works like that.
Me: What, they issue membership cards or something? And I promise not to stand up in the middle of a sermon and shout stuff at the minister.
Beth: I'm not sure I believe you on that one.

Yet, while I was in the throes of this ethical dilemma, I started thinking that church didn't really sound like a bad idea. I have no love of religion nor have I suddenly found faith in god. My baptist elementary school education left me spiritually stunted and crushed the part of my brain reserved for simple math. I can't, however, escape the feeling that there's something out there bigger than I. Maybe it's just my hopeless optimism. Strip away the whole god thing - which admittedly is a vital component the lack of which does undermine the point of church to begin with - and you're left with some really good stuff. Like belief, faith, goodness and community. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to expose my daughter to. Or myself.

Will I go to church for these purely noble reasons? Probably not. I prefer spending my Sunday mornings eating waffles with my daughter at the altar of the Backyardigans. But back to my question. Should I join a church just to get my daughter into preschool? Or would that make me a morally reprehensible person? Inquiring minds want to know.

* one-hundred dollars

Posted by Chris at 6:51 AM | Comments (62)

January 15, 2008

Proof It Was Monday

It's been a while since I've had one of my patented Rude Cactus Bathroom Encounters. That streak obviously had to end sometime. And end it did in a big way.

Yesterday morning I walked into the bathroom of the gigantic office building in which I was working for the day. I was immediately scared for both my sanity and my life. What did I spy jutting out from under a stall door? Clown shoes. Yes, you read that correctly. Clown shoes. The shoes themselves were multi-colored. They were adorned with buckles and were so long they terminated outside the stall.

This is the stuff of nightmares. The stuff that triggers sinister theme music in one's head. The stuff that makes you think this is how I will die, killed by a homicidal clown in a men's room and I didn't even get to pee first. Upon seeing the horror in front of me I inadvertently let out a hushed fuck. It wasn't hushed enough. I got a reply. It's a long story came a soft voice from the stall. And I bet it was. But I wasn't going to find out first hand. I turned around and left the way I'd come.

Yesterday after work, I hit a local bookstore before coming home. The first book I saw upon entering was entitled Cooking Diabetic which made me think that cooking an individual suffering from that particular malady was a disturbing and somewhat disproportionate response to what is in many cases a treatable condition. I was looking at a particular book when a well-dressed woman in her 50s who'd obviously paid to have a great deal of work done to encourage casual observers such as myself to conclude that she was in her 30s walked up next to me. She picked up a book then ripped a fart of startling ferocity. Then she left.

It was then that I realized the world was letting me know that it was, in fact, Monday. But I still wonder about that clown. What circumstances would lead to one wearing clown shoes in an office building? That's not a rhetorical question - let your imagination run wild.

Posted by Chris at 6:40 AM | Comments (44)

January 14, 2008

The "Oh Crap We're Having A Kid Soon" Honey-Do Weekend

The weekend, she was a busy one. In any given weekend, there's a lot of full-contact playing that must be done. This weekend was no exception. We played, we read, we sang silly songs. We danced and told stories and even stayed up late and had a pajama party complete with strawberry milkshakes. But we also discovered something - we have less than a month before Wally is born. And there's a crapload of stuff to do. To make a long story short, this is how I ended up with my very own "honey do" list.

(Aside: I've always thought the term "honey do" was stupid and vaguely condescending. When I was young, naive and decidedly not married, I always idiotically wondered why people were making lists of melons. To say that my IQ increased exponentially with my Beth's arrival would be an understatement.)

Here's how the list now stands:

- balance washing machine
- install ceiling fan in nursery
- get car fixed
- fix Mia's sink
- replace basement light
- replace garage light
- clean car
- bolt shelves in basement to wall
- repair basement vent
- tighten toilet seats
- install car seats
- load old ipod full of kid songs
- fix master bath sink drain
- pack stuff for the hospital
- hang Mia's sign

It should be apparent from this list that we've got a bunch of new-home-ownership-related tasks we've been putting off. Or, in some cases, things we fixed that later caused other things to become, uh, unfixed. Not all of them are directly Wally-related either. But we would like to have a relatively stable environment in which to care for our infant. Mia has become quite adept at fending for herself.

Of particular note is the car repair. The trip to the dealer was originally intended to be innocent - get a headlight replaced, the oil changed and the state inspection performed. The innocence was quickly lost with a rather passionate phone call from the dealer who implored me to fix various critical things then forced me to grab my ankles and empty my bank account to the tune of $1600. I didn't even get a reach-around. But I guess that's what happens when you choose to drive a neat little German car.

So, I'm tired but it's all terribly worth it. Because, while toiling away, I also got to spend some wonderful time with Mia. We even made it out of the house, taking advantage of the nice weather and walking around the neighborhood. The neighbors really got a good idea of her fashion sense too.

The outfit was all her doing. And, yes, I know what you're thinking - she kinda looks like Strawberry Shortcake crossed with a pimp.

What did you do with your weekends?

Posted by Chris at 6:07 AM | Comments (53)

Haiku For Monday #201

Do you think there's such
a thing as a coffee bong?
I could use one now.

Posted by Chris at 6:04 AM | Comments (12)

January 11, 2008

The Weeklies #18

The Weekly Best Moment. Last night Mia ran to me and said "I'm going to give you a wedgie! Let me pull your underwear!" And she did. Then she said, "Give me a wedgie! Give me a wedgie!" It was awesome.

The Weekly Worst Moment. I'm going to go with the Bed Post Head Crash Trauma of '08 I mentioned on Wednesday. That was uncool.

The Weekly Confounding Mystery. Every morning this week my alarm clock has gone off but instead of the obnoxious buzzing it usually serenades me with in the mornings, it's taken to blaring country music instead. I've checked every button and switch on the thing to no avail. What's even more bizarre is the selection of music this phantom radio station plays. It's primarily country music interspersed with rock. Like, this morning? Toby Keith and Carrie Underwood (I'm guessing here - I know as much about country music as Britney knows about underwear or sanity) poured out of the clock-radio the first and third times it went off (it's Friday, I didn't want to get up) but Synchronicity II by The Police filled the number two slot.

The Weekly Best IM Conversation. This conversation went down while Beth and I were in the kitchen together, facing each other, on different computers, checking our email and cooking dinner.

Chris: hi :)
Beth: hi hotty
Chris: are you naked?
Beth: totally
Chris: so am i except for the leather chaps
Beth: Ditch the chaps. They chafe.
Chris: but they look so damn good and accentuate my ass

The Weekly Reads. Two books this week - Elliot Perlman's Three Dollars and Charlie Huston's Half The Blood in Brooklyn. Three Dollars was interesting. I mean that in mostly a good way. At first I thought Perlman had what I call Rachel Cusk Syndrome. Cusk wrote a book a few years ago that I unfortunately bought. It seemed like Cusk tried to use every fancy word she found in a dictionary. I felt kind of stupid reading it. And the opening chapters of Three Dollars made me feel like the author was showboating a little bit. It turns out, he wasn't. Perlman can write. Is it worth reading? Yes. Are there better books out there? Again, yes. Like Huston's Half The Blood In Brooklyn. Huston's Hank Thompson Trilogy are three of the most excellent crime fiction novels ever written. I made my vow after reading them that I'd read anything else Huston wrote. Even if it was a series of books based on a vampire detective. The idea sounds kinda terrible, honestly. And I don't really dig vampire stuff. But this - the third of this particular series - is great. And a hell of a lot of fun. Huston is a fantastic writer, spare, merciless. Start with the Hank Thompson Trilogy (Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, Dangerous Man) and then check out the rest of Huston's work.

The Weekly Thank You. Thanks to all who delurked yesterday as well as all those who played along and helped keep the tradition alive!

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Did you see that Amy Winehouse went blond and actually looks worse? Who'd have thought it was possible? Oh, and Britney's little sister - you know the sweet, innocent and knocked up one - got dumped by her boyfriend who now wants a paternity test. Rumor has it that the father is actually an older television producer.

The Weekly Question. I promise you there will be absolutely no judgment about this whatsoever but...who should be our next president and why?

Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (59)

January 10, 2008

The Official Delurking Day!

Two items of business to attend to this morning

First, I owe you the verdict on Tuesday's contest. Items 4, 13 and 15 were totally 100% fabricated. Sadly, the rest are true. While Christina, Jessie, Maribeth, Jen, and Stephanie got two out of the three answers correct, it was Regina (blogless) who got all three. Congratulations Regina!

Second, it's Delurking Day! Yep, that's right. The Official Delurking Day is back. Read the site? Comment. Comment all the time? Cool, do it again. A little shy? Come on, comment - you know you wanna. Take it to the streets - go comment all willy-nilly all over the blogosphere. You'll be glad you did. And so will all the bloggers already hard at work on tomorrow's posts.

Posted by Chris at 6:50 AM | Comments (196)

January 9, 2008

Time Stand Still

You have all seen The Matrix, right? I'm not going to lose anyone like I did when I started spouting off about Say Anything? Right. Do you remember the rooftop scene in which
Neo was getting shot at and he looked like he was doing just about the slowest break dancing ever but what the dude was actually doing was, like, dodging bullets? Like time had slowed down and he was able to defy the laws of physics that kept the bullets moving towards him? Or, as we later learned, speed himself up but you know with time it's all relative. Time is elastic. It's a tricky fucker.

Over the weekend, Mia fell. She was running around the corner into our bedroom, beating a swift path between my open arms. At just the wrong moment, she tripped. Her head met a bedpost with a horrifying thud and she was down. After only a few short moments, the crying turned to laughter and all was right with the world. Unfortunately, I have relived that moment - cringing - over and over as only a parent can. Which is completely unnecessary because the actual event seemed to last for an hour. Every Neo-like ass-over-teakettle second stretched into infinity and there was not a damn thing I could do about it.

Before the fall, Mia and I went shopping together. She had four dollars in her piggy bank and I'd told her earlier in the week we could go spend it. We went to the bookstore and found new Biscuit, Amelia Bedelia and Backyardigans books. We visited the dogs and cats at the local pet store. And then we headed to Target where Mia found new shoes and informed me that she wanted to spend her four dollars on a toy for the baby. I think my heart actually exploded a little.

So tell me, why couldn't that heart exploding moment been the one that lasted forever? Why couldn't the seconds during which it took Mia to tell me yesterday that I was "a man, a strange man" become infinite? Why can't I still be giving her last night's goodnight hug?

Like I said, time's a tricky fucker.

What specific moments in your life do you wish had lasted forever? And what are the most impossibly-long moments you wish time would compress?

(P.S. Voting for yesterday's contest is still open since I've been way too slammed with work to tally the votes. I'll let you guys know tomorrow.)

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (42)

January 8, 2008

The Media Is Stupid

Most everyone reading this has something in common - you live in countries in which ideas, regardless of their popularity, are shared and freely discussed. With that goes a media free to report on the events of the day. What we've ended up with, however, is nothing more than a celebrity-obsessed, sensationalized mess. Over the past few months, I've noticed a trend towards the ridiculous. Over the past week, I've been taking notes.

The list below is composed of headlines taken from the homepages of major news outlets such as CNN, Fox, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times. I didn't comb "oddly enough" or "funny news" sections. I'm talking homepages. Take a gander. I think you'll be as mystified as I was.

Just to keep it interesting, of the 25 headlines below, 3 are completely fabricated by me. Guess the correct ones and you win a Genuine Rude Cactus Mix CD, suitable for listening to, framing, or impressing your neighbors. So, give these a read and tell me which are fake. (By the way, sorry for the editorializing. I couldn't help myself.)

  1. What is a caucus anyway? (Everyone knows its a group of white people.)
  2. Letterman's Top 10 for striking writers. (He's back. With a beard. So what. Move on.)
  3. Boyfriend Catches Fish That Ate Fiancee's Lost Jewelry
  4. Boy, monkey bond after daring hot air balloon ride. (Didn't Disney make that movie?)
  5. Exonerated man finally enjoys freedom. (Ya think?)
  6. Snake mistakes golf balls for eggs, eats 'em. (You're kidding me - snakes aren't the geniuses of the reptile world?)
  7. 911 call: 'I had my arm cut off'. (How do you think he held the phone and dialed?)
  8. XL underwear smothers fire. (Of course, they overlooked the story XXXL underwear provides shelter for small African fishing village.)
  9. Wealthy dogs love spaghetti dinners.
  10. How to save clothes after they're stained. (Is this news or Hints From Heloise?)
  11. Orphaned bear cub goes back to wild. (Breaking news Bear Shits In Woods, Pope Also Rumored to be Catholic.)
  12. Man gets heater for pig -- pig starts fire.
  13. Woman, 87, considered oldest active American prostitute. (Ummm...that just ain't right.)
  14. Las Vegas Casino Hosts World Series of Beer Pong
  15. Stripes or solids - the latest in prison fashion. (Proving you can dress 'em up but you can't take 'em out...literally.)
  16. Warrant: Cop Allegedly Paid Hooker With Wife's Shoes. (Those were either nice shoes or a bad hooker.)
  17. India Trains Unemployed Youths to Sterilize Wild Monkeys. (Better than learning to sterilize India's unemployed youths.)
  18. Exploding Dog Corpse Causes Scare at Crematorium
  19. Young women choosing careers over love.
  20. Five ways to calm the jitters. (Booze, pills, sex, food and soothing music. There. Now you don't need a damn article.)
  21. Mayor to town: Lose 1 million pounds. (The only way this is news is if the town has a population of 20.)
  22. Boy, 6, limbo-skates under 57 cars a minute.
  23. What couch potato champ did to win. (Sat on his ass, I'd expect.)
  24. Demand for Human Hair Grows, Used in Wigs, Pizza. (Never. Ordering. Pizza. Again.)
  25. Jesus image appears in potato. (The father, the spud and the holy ghost.)
Oh, and no fair searching for these headlines. That's cheating. And cheaters suck.
Posted by Chris at 6:43 AM | Comments (45)

January 7, 2008

Haiku For Monday #200

Today marks the two-
hundredth 'ku on Rude Cactus.
Time for a smackdown.

Yes, to celebrate
this poetic 'ku milestone,
'ku with abandon.

Picture 'Ku Gone Wild -
poetry drunk and topless
on an eastern beach.

Yeah, I want that kind
of wild 'ku action today.
Old-school 'ku smackdown.

Topics? Those are yours
to choose. But might I suggest
your weekend, to start.

Or maybe Britney,
politics, or the greatness
of certain cacti?

Just give it a shot.
Don't let me down. 'Ku, friends, 'ku.
Or incur my wrath.

(Okay, so there's no
wrath. But it would suck if you
didn't play along.)

Posted by Chris at 6:11 AM | Comments (51)

January 4, 2008

The Weeklies #17

Baby, it's cold outside. So, while I'm thawing my ass, I give you the seventeenth entry in The Weeklies series. Stay warm.

The Weekly Worst Moment. Waking up on Wednesday morning at oh-dark-thirty with an alarm blaring in my ear stunned by the revelation that, after eleven days off, I did indeed have to return to work.

The Weekly Sugar-Filled Treat. Marshmallows. Damn do I love marshmallows.

The Weekly Reads. During my extended Christmas break (the remixed dance version clocking in at the aforementioned eleven days), I made it through four books. I've long loved the 70's classic movie Logan's Run so I decided to get my hands on the long-out-of-print novel that preceded it. It wasn't bad. It's a little silly and I'll always love the movie but the book was decent. Also good was Don Winslow's California Fire and Life. I could devote an entire post dedicated to the way Winslow writes but that would be pretty boring to anyone but me. His style is distinct, very terse, clipped, straightforward. But he has an incredible way of packing a book with detail and backstory. While I don't exactly care for poetry, I'll read anything Billy Collins writes. Beth gave me a copy of The Trouble With Poetry and it was wonderful. I guess what I like is the fact that Collins doesn't take himself too seriously. That leads me to...

The Weekly Best Read In The All-Too-Brief History of Best Reads. When Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius came out, I picked it up and devoured it. And while I thought the book lost steam in its final third, I loved it. I've read a couple of other things Eggers has written in the intervening years but I was not prepared for What Is The What. Eggers presents us with a largely true but occasionally-fictionalized autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese "Lost Boy" who eventually found his way to the United States after fleeing his war-torn country. The story is told in the first person as if narrated by Achak himself. And in fact it was...kinda. Eggers worked with him for several years, interviewing him and gathering up the many pieces of Achak's story and assembling them. The result is one of the single most powerful novels I've ever had the pleasure to read. This is Egger's heartbreaking work of staggering genius. I urge you to go out and pick up a copy. Read it. Your world will be a little better for knowing Achak.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Us. The primary season got underway yesterday in Iowa. We'll hear about nothing but politics for the next 11 months. Now, I'm a political junkie but even I'm not looking forward to it this time around. But yay Obama, who seems to be the least bad candidate out there.

The Weekly Technical Glitch. As you who sometimes use Bloglines might have noticed, feeds from Beth and I aren't showing up. Not sure why but it ain't us. If you want to get a notification when I post, just let me know and I'll add you to my notification list.

The Weekly Question. Would you rather sell anything bought or processed, buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or - as a fourth option - repair anything sold, bought, or processed? (Dead horse, beaten.)

Posted by Chris at 6:53 AM | Comments (28)

January 3, 2008

An Appeal To Generation Y

I am a proud member of Generation X, though I understand that this can be a dubious distinction. If we want to take credit for Pearl Jam, Cameron Crowe, Chuck Klosterman, Dave Eggers and The Breakfast Club, we also have to be willing to swallow our pride and admit to Howard The Duck, Celine Dion, political apathy and Zima. As a wise person once said, "you take the good, you take the bad, you take it all and there you have the facts of life." Or something. I do, however, remain an ardent believer in the power of Generation X and all it offered and continues to offer. But the simple fact is that Generation Y (those born between 1976 and 1982 which I suspect includes a sizable chunk of you, dear readers) and those in generations that follow Y just aren't properly embracing many of the pop-culture.

Before the holidays, I took a couple of people who report to me out for lunch. They're a few years younger than myself, falling squarely, I believe, at the beginning of Generation Y. We were talking about quite a few non-work things and ventured into tales of dating and relationships. I'm the only one of us who is married or even involved with someone. During this conversation, I made a Lloyd Dobler reference. I was greeted with two very blank stares.

"I can't believe it," I exclaimed. "You have no idea what I'm talking about do you? Lloyd Dobler...Say Anything...John Cusak. Bueller? Bueller? Oh crap, you never saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off either? Who are you people?"

I couldn't believe it. Here were two intelligent members of Generation Y who had not a clue about one of the seminal movies of my generation. They'd never basked in the glory of Cameron Crowe's insanely well-written movie, never seen the overcoated Lloyd Dobler lift a ginormous boombox over his head blasting Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes to the world and, more specifically, Ione Skye's Diane Court.

I guess I should be somewhat thankful. I mean, the men of Generation X have a love-hate relationship with John Cusak. He's a great actor but he pretty much fucked up any chance we ever had making the grade in a relationship. How can you compete with boomboxes, Peter Gabriel, and an enthusiastic avoidance of selling anything bought or processed, or buying anything sold or processed, or processing anything sold, bought, or processed, or repairing anything sold, bought, or processed?

Generation Y, we Generation Xers have entrusted you with some of pop culture's greatest treasures. Learn them. And don't fuck them up. Avoid Celine Dion concerts like the plague (we're all collectively sorry about that one), bring about a grunge revival and never ever remake Say Anything or any John Hughes films. That would amount to declaring a cultural war. And we're not afraid to drain the Social Security accounts on your asses.

Posted by Chris at 7:28 AM | Comments (78)

January 2, 2008

Eleven Days

Well, fuck me sideways*, would you look where I am? Work! For eleven wonderful days I was home. Home, meaning no work, a breathtakingly wonderful lack of responsibility (aside from those responsibilities that come with being a husband and a father which are, in fact, quite significant) which I realized had to end sometime but wasn't especially ready for them to draw to a close. But welcome to Wednesday, January 2nd - The Reckoning.

Aside from the obvious activities mandated by days like Christmas (the opening of and subsequent playing with presents, obscenely large dinner) and New Year's (cheese fondue and managing to make it to midnight which makes you feel old because you realize around 10:00 PM that it will be something of a struggle), I'm not entirely sure I can account for the way I spent those eleven days. It's all somewhat dreamlike in my head this morning. Although maybe that's due to the fact that it's early and I haven't yet consumed enough coffee. Hard to tell.

I know for sure that Christmas was a huge success. There was no vomiting. So, right there, big advantage over last year. And we nailed the bumblebee toy Mia had requested starting in, oh, October. Playing with the horde of Little People and the accompanying Little People Civilization took much of the remainder of my time off. We took a break to build several robots made out of the blocks we gave Mia for Christmas. All of them were named Hat. You get to guess who we gave the naming duties to. Hat 1.0 was tall but ultimately unstable. Hat 2.0 was perhaps my finest block-robot work; he was disassembled to build a castle. Hat 3.0 was small and portable yet ultimately that portability did him in. Hat 4.0 was again tall in stature and had the added bonus of wearing Mia's shoes; while cool, he was taken apart to make a spider. Hat 5.0 is currently sitting in his own chair at our breakfast table.

We did manage to get out of the house. We went to D.C. (which Mia still calls Monkeytown) and strolled through the natural history museum and took a gander at the animals and dinosaurs. Then we rode the carousel which, despite it being about 37 degrees below zero (or really, like, 40 above but windy), was the hit of the day. New Year's Eve brought cheese fondue - which Mia claimed she loved yet never actually consumed - an extra-late bedtime and - gasp - television.

The pictures from these wonderful yet all-too-brief eleven days are up (finally!) at my flickr site. Go take a look then clue me in about what you've been up to. I'll be here...doing that work thing.

* an expression, not a request.

Posted by Chris at 6:49 AM | Comments (29)