Sunday, September 17, 2017

These Headlines Just In

I don't think in complete sentences anymore. Short, meaning-charged headlines are the best I can do. If that wasn't bad enough, most of these short bursts seem a little cranky. Here are a few related to kids:
  • Local Teen's Bathroom Draws Fire from Critical Parents
  • Internet Usage Spikes as Teen Detaches from World at Large
  • Growth and Maturity Rob Area Man of Once Cuddly Babies
Here are some related to my well being:
  • Man Attributes Couch Sitting Record to YouTube Video Addiction
  • Area Man's Deadly Fart Traced to Nutritionally Bereft Eating Habits
  • Apple Watch's Inability to Produce Fitness Results Noted by Owner
I try to move beyond thinking in headlines, but it's so dull and exhausting. I never really was very patient and now I've moved beyond no patience at all. Now, I'm in a constant state of feeling like everything is keeping me from something extremely important. I don't want things immediately. I want glimpses into the future that reveal the crap I didn't even anticipate wanting is lined up and ready for me to consume. 

Notice I typed, "wanting". The things I "need" have to be almost autonomic. If anything on Maslow's hierarchy gets delayed or denied my addled, entitled brain can't comprehend the situation. 

I'm exaggerating for the purposes of entertaining myself, but I do feel. . . soft. Sometimes my outlook seems as squishy as my waistline. I'm not quite a passenger on the Axiom but I often feel like I'm just a few cheeseburgers and "8-Bit Guy" videos away from something close to it. 

I've often declared that I'm going to do something about this situation because that's what people recommend. You should make your intentions public and that will help you reach a goal. It's never worked for me and that's certainly not what this post is about. 

This post is about a list I made at work on Thursday. The list had about ten items and among things like "Clean Litter Boxes", "Pay Bills" and "Strength Training" was, "Do Something Creative". 

I'm not sure this post warrants a line through that last one - but I'm going to cross it off anyway. . . right after one more game of Disco Bees.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Weiner Dogs

At what point did I decide that writing about the girls growing up wasn't worth my time? There aren't as many mishaps to report on these days. The girls have learned to speak English fairly well and their motor skills are somewhat developed. "U Nork" for New York and "Port Chucks" for pork chops have disappeared (although mispronouncing minestrone as "mine - strone" was a fairly recent thing).

Truth is, they're just not as cute as they used to be.

Nah. That's not it. They're cute enough. It just seems that I'm not in their faces quite as much. Julia is no longer interested in spending much time outside of her room these days and Allie's reply to just about anything is, "I have homework".

I'm not being maudlin. It's just that the girls are smart now. There's not a lot that they don't know how to do on their own. What's more, reporting conversations about politics or pop culture is dull. A post about someone eating crayons - now that's gold. The problem is, Allie and Julia don't eat crayons very often anymore.

It's almost 2:00 a.m. and I've been considering my digital footprint. I spent most of my time using Deb's Facebook account to look at people from high school. I even pulled my yearbook from the shelf and started typing in names. Most of the people from that time were little more than acquaintances who I may have shared one or two bonding experiences with. But those were formative years. Years when my lizard brain was developing and the proteins etched at that time are indelible.

Everyone I found on Facebook looks healthier and richer than me. I don't have an account anymore. If I did, I'm sure I'd try to make myself look healthy and rich. A lot people seem to pull that off by posing with their families and a cluster of palm trees behind them. I don't have any pictures of the four of us in front of palm trees. I have pictures of us in the living room holding cats in painful positions or recording the massive amounts of ketchup we consume at Five Guys.

That's who I am on the interwebs. Along with those oft-repeated images of cats and ketchup on Flickr, I have this blog. That's my digital footprint. I don't think anyone thinks that palm tree encrusted photos are his/her legacy. But it's clear that one of the first things we all do when someone dies is Google their names. We clamor for any information that tells us who they were. And, apparently, many of my high school classmates were people who spent a lot of time on beaches.

If someone can find me via Google, I suppose I'm willing to share more than a group shot near an ocean. It's almost an obligation - particularly when I consider how it makes me feel better when the information about a dead person's life is somewhat robust. I didn't care enough to make a call when these people were alive, but it's important to me, now that they are dead, I'm aware they bred dachshunds for many years.

I'm serious.

That's why at 2:00 a.m. I'm trying to record something about the family. You see, it won't be long before the girls will be disturbingly more than two flights of stairs away. I want them to be able to read about what life used to be like. Maybe remind them that I secretly bred dachshunds for many years.

Bottom line is, I'm thinking about death. These keystrokes are probably going to outlast me. When someone finds out that I died, probably pulling a huge number of babies out of a burning orphanage, I want them to know that I loved my family just like they continue to love theirs. After all, I'm the one who got caught in the orphanage, they're all still alive. . . breeding dachshunds.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

12:00 a.m. Outside My Window

A man and a woman walking two small dogs. The little dogs are wearing sweaters. The man and woman are wearing long, puffy coats and matching headlamps. It's midnight and 22 degrees. I can see precisely where the man and woman are looking because those areas are illuminated. About every ten steps they stop and watch their little dogs smell and pee on things. It's all brightly lit by the headlamps. 

Walking tiny dogs in the middle of the night isn't all that strange (even in the cold). Dressing alike happens to couples more times than anyone wants to admit. It's the headlamps that have led me to try and work out what I've seen here, in this blog. 

Have I witnessed my future? I can see Deb getting me the latest in headlamp tech for Christmas. I can see me reciprocating and getting her one of her own. Now what? We have the gear and now we need an excuse.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Pack

I can't think of anything to write about but I want to use this new keyboard so badly. 

I went on Craigslist looking for a used IBM Selectric. I learned to type on a Selectric. I was nostalgic about what it felt like to push each key. The sound and the feel was very satisfying. Each stroke would activate the little metal font ball that would strike the ribbon to leave the letter of your choice on a nice, sturdy piece of paper. It wasn't like now, when we're all basically typing into the ether. You were making something, building a document that could potentially outlast you like a painting or a sculpture. 

Yeah, I'm over romanticizing, but I did like that feeling. That's why I was going to buy an old typewriter. Then I remembered that my writing style requires that I erase entire sentences just to correct a lowercase letter I accidentally left at the start of it. The typewriter would never tolerate that kind of frivolity. If you were going to use it you'd better have your shit together, usually in the form of a handwritten outline scrawled on a yellow legal pad. 

I'm not too keen on the idea of doubling my effort when I write so I bought a gaming keyboard instead of a typewriter. The new keyboard features:

Mechanical keys that deliver gaming-grade responsiveness and tactile feedback superior to rubber-domed keys. With an actuation force and distance of 50 g and 2.2 mm, respectively, the keys are optimized for rapid command entry. Plus, the keys have been tested for durability to a 50 million cycle life.

In the biz, I think these type of keys are referred to as "Cherry MX Switches". I'm typing on them and while they do deliver some of the experience I was after, I'm still typing into the ether. I'm not striking and chiseling a flat, paper sculpture that will be found by an archeological dig a few thousands years from now. The clicks and clacks are just leaving marks on some pixels. And, in a few minutes, when I'm done those same pixels will probably be flashing cat videos or items on Amazon that I don't need. 

Later this week Julia is going to have her eyes checked. Glasses betray our weakness. If she has to get them she will be ostracized by the pack. She will be the decoy that is left behind to distract predators from the more viable members of the group. If she wears glasses, eventually she will be eaten. 

Later this month, Allie is going to take her driver's test. She's ready but doesn't know it. I think this is the case for a lot of things. Some things I will try to let her know about, other things I will keep to myself. . . at least for a little while longer. Otherwise she will wander from the pack and eventually she will be eaten. 

I'm wondering what to do with my wife for Mother's Day. I've always maintained that she's not my mother so it's not really my responsibility to remind her that she's a good mom. But that's not how it works, at least no in our house. And if I forget Mother's day I have a feeling that I will put myself in danger. I could, potentially be forced out of the pack and eventually I will be eaten.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Hippy Hobo Baloney

There is no punchline to this story:

When I was seven I was sitting on my front porch. It was a very hot day.

I watched a man walk by our house. He was dressed, from head to toe, in blue denim. This was strange because it was so hot and the outfit looked heavy and ornate with little metal studs. He seemed young. He had long blonde hair and a scruffy beard. It was clear to me, back then, that this person was something special.

His jeans were flared at the bottom. Bell bottoms were the style back then. I wore them, too. They often were chewed up by our bicycle chains. This guy's bell bottoms were enormous (my memory may be embellishing this fact, but in my head - they were big and floppy). 

He was barefoot. I'll always remember he didn't have shoes on because the hot tar on the road had coated the bottom of his feet. He had pink skin on the top of his feet and the bottoms were blackened with oozing, sticky tar. 

This was back when they would spray the roads with tar and then follow up with gravel. Often there was much more tar than gravel. I remember wondering how he could stand to walk on the little stones and whether or not the tar would eat through the soles of his feet.

He was eating baloney as he walked. The yellow, plastic packaging let me know he was eating Oscar Meyer bologna. It was the kind of stuff we had in our fridge. Not the substandard Eckridge Farms pickle loaf that was gross but somehow made its way into our sandwiches every now and again.  

He was eating the entire stack of sliced meat. He didn't take individual slices. He bit through them all, simultaneously. 

This seemed outrageous back then. It still does today.

I know I stared at this person for a very long time because he is seared into my memory. He never noticed me. He just kept walking down the road on his magic, heat-resistant feet. 

I used to think he was a hobo. I thought he was on a journey of thousands of miles and just happened to pass by our house on the way to the other side of the country. Now that I think of it, he was headed east - probably to be a hobo in Manhattan, eventually.

The truth is, he was more than likely living just down the road in his parents' basement. He had probably had the munchies from smoking weed and he was so high the hot tar didn't have much of an impact until he woke up to two bloody stumps at the ends of his legs. 

But I'm going to hold on to the hobo idea. I like it better. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

C is for Cookie$

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season again. This year, if we don’t make our quota (250 boxes), the troop has asked all the families to write a check to make up for the cookies they are unable to sell.

I was at the meeting when they unveiled the new rule. I told them that as long as there were no negative consequences for any scout who refused to write a check I was fine with it. After all, if there are repercussions their plan is tantamount to extortion. I don’t think there’s a badge the girls can earn for extortion. If there is, I’d like to see the design. Maybe I could submit some ideas for the Pyramid Scheme and Racketeering badges, too. 

The more I think about this cash compensation requirement the more resentful I get. I know the Troop Leaders put in a lot of time and effort coordinating these sales. I know the desire to build up the Troop’s coffers comes from a good place. Providing an excellent experience for all the girls can get expensive and I’m sure there’s pressure brought to bear from the Council. But I’m still not on board.

I’ll admit there’s more we could probably do to try to get people to buy cookies. But it’s not as if we don’t try at all. We put the word out in social media, we annoy our relatives and colleagues. We warehouse our 250 boxes of cookies in our kitchens, dining rooms or wherever they’ll fit. We stand outside in -5 degree windchill trying to get people to buy Thin Mints and Thanks Alots (which was really dumb, by the way – holy shit).

It’s not as much as the Troop Leaders do but I maintain that it is enough. Mandating compensation not only pushes boundaries, it alienates. Or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, I won’t be writing a check if we don’t sell all 250 boxes that are sitting in our dining room right now.

In other news:

Julia showed me the cat-collecting app, Neko Atsume a few weeks ago. It’s basically a Tamagotchi for animated cats. You leave food and toys in your yard and cats come visit. In return, they leave you fish, allowing you to buy more toys and cushions and empty boxes and buckets and heaters and whatever you need to attract more cats.

I’m not clear on the goal. Julia has amassed a number of yard extensions and has redecorated her spaces several times. After two weeks I’m still on my first yard. I’m desperately trying to earn enough gold fish to expand it. I check it constantly. I buy the expensive food to attract more cats and get them to like me enough to leave me the fish necessary to achieve the elusive (for me, at least) yard expansion.

Julia tells me that I don’t need to buy the pricey food. Just keep feeding them the basic, unlimited and free “Thrifty Bits”. The sashimi that I provided was probably welcome, but these are animated cats and Julia has assured me that they will settle. There’s no denying her success so I’ll stick with the cheap stuff for the time being.

I pay more attention to this app than our real cats. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Logan's Run

I didn’t go Trick or Treating this year. Julia and her friend went without me and Allie, for the first time, decided not to wander the neighborhood begging for candy.

When I take a moment to think about it, I realize that with each Halloween I stood farther away from each front porch. When the girls were babies, I held them, basically to show the neighbors how cute they were in whatever costume we forced on them. Then, a few years later, I’d stand next to them and coach them on what to say to get a treat. After that, I’d remain within earshot to make sure they said, “Thank you” after a fun-sized Snickers hit the bottom of their plastic pumpkins. In later years, I’d stand in the driveway and eventually I found myself in the street, pretending that I had no affiliation with the kid on the porch.

This year I stayed on my own porch while I waited for Julia to come back. I kept myself busy. We had a giant spider, rear-projected ghoulies on the big window and a masked brother-in-law stationed next to the front walk ready to wave at the little kids and frighten the big ones. At times, there were seven of us watching the parade of costumes go by.

We had fun, but I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. I’m sure the elaborate fright show on the front porch was me overcompensating – trying to fill the gap left by not walking around with my daughters. Unfortunately, for all of my efforts, the kid count was kind of low; around 210. In the past, we easily broke 300 each year. It could be that our pool of Halloweenies is aging out. I picture Allie with one of those hand crystals they had in Logan’s Run. All the kids in the neighborhood looked down and their crystals were red this year. Time to stop trick or treating and get a 401K.

I’m not sad. The end of October is usually cold and wet. Fighting for space on the sidewalk to avoid being trampled is no longer my problem. Time spent avoiding adults who think clown masks are fun and not at all creepy is probably a thing of the past. Plus, I trade the bulk of the candy for dollars these days so Halloween really means more Twix with less effort for me.

None of that means I wouldn’t hit the streets with Julia in a heartbeat if she asked.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Pickle

The lunch lady gave me a pickle with my turkey wrap today. She said, "Greg, your pickle is huge!". Then a woman behind me said, "That's a long pickle you got there." 

We all paused and then giggled like Japanese schoolgirls. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hit & Run

Allie is learning to drive.

Last night Deb took her out for some practice.

That's when Allie killed a little boy's soccer ball. She popped it right in front of the kid and his father.

From what I understand, "I'M SORRY!" is what Allie screamed out the window as she drove away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kudzu Recipes

In close quarters conflict is inevitable. Unless you're Quaker. I hear they do a good job at avoiding arguments. And while I went to a Quaker school for a bit, I am not a Quaker. That's the entire explanation for why I upset my wife today.

On our way up the mountainside I did apologize. The landscape and the moment was too beautiful to waste on feeling anything but grateful to be where we were and who we were with.

It was a mile and a half walk up to the waterfall. Up. Up hill. Up really wasn't all that bad considering the temperature had dropped to about 85 degrees and we weren't sweating like we did after our first hiking experience on this trip. And if we started feeling as if this trek was arduous, the people pushing babies in strollers down the path made us realize we didn't require llamas or a Sherpa.

There were quite a few signs posted that reminded hikers that several people die on the path each season. The shear drop off the side of the path made it clear that the signs were no joke. I'll be honest, I hate heights but it's never stopped me from gliding, skydiving or cleaning the top of the refrigerator. This meant that I went, but my sphincter was clenched for a large portion of our stroll up the mountain. The people balancing children on their shoulders or getting near the edge apparently didn't have sphincters.

Same thing when we made it to the falls. Deb and Julia were leaning over the edges watching the water rush down the jagged rocks. Visions of them writhing in pain from their compound fractures caused by impact made me try to use my eyes to get them away from the edge. My glares are worthless.

No bears. But we did see a scary millipede. Those suckers are creepy as shit.

We had a really good lunch in Cherokee at Sassy Sunflowers. Afterward we became lost so we were able to see more of the reservation than if we had been able to make it straight to our destination. This trip and this area of the country has provoked a number of serious conversations. Maybe those conversations will pop up in another post someday. For now I'll stick to letting you know about things like how our car smells like hot garbage after living in it for six days.

As soon as I close the lid on this laptop (which as been a valuable tool in researching things like kudzu and booking activities) the hotel room will go dark and we'll rest up for another day.

P.S. Go ahead and look up kudzu. Maybe we'll try some recipes when we get back - or not.

Wet Wallet

Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a street clogged with desperation. People desperate to make the next turn so they won't miss the Lumberjack Feud dinner show. People desperate to get back to their hotels and watch cable channel 192 that will tell them they can't miss the Lumberjack Feud dinner show. People desperate to get out of stop and go traffic that only allows twenty minute miles.

But we're having a good time!

Seriously, we are having fun. We own every flavor of Moon Pie that they make and we went down a coaster that speeds down a mountain. That ride was awesome. Julia didn't want to ride it on her own so she went down with her mother. I'm glad because I'm sure if she went with me we'd be torn from the track and flung into a gorge.

I had my first Five Guys burger. They've been hyped for years so I was eager to see what the fuss was about. It was good. But the fries are the remarkable thing. The woman behind the counter asked us if the four of us wanted to share a large order of fries. I assumed the order would be ample so I went ahead with the recommendation. Holy cow did they give us some fries. They were in a huge, brown paper bag and enough to feed thousands (almost).


I'm sure the highlight for everyone on this day was whitewater rafting. The process is long but essentially you get to the place, they put a helmet, life vest and paddle in your hand. They put you on a school bus and drive you up river. You get in a boat and you try to stay in the boat as the guide attempts to knock you out of the boat by steering you toward huge waves of river water.

It rocked. Our guide, Luthor did things with our boat that I don't think he was supposed to do. We did maneuvers reserved for people who paid more for an "extreme" experience. He taught us how to lock our feet into the raft but at a few points it wasn't enough to keep my legs from flying up in the air. Allie and I were at the front of the craft so rowing in sync was our job. She did it well. I have to say, watching the looks of horror cross her face as we hit some of the rougher water was a highlight for me.

Each rapid had a name except for one. Julia recommended that our guide name it "U-Turn". Luthor thought it was a good idea and said, "From this point forward, it will be called, 'U-Turn'!" Julia was pleased to have left her mark.

At one point Luthor told us we could flop out of the raft for a swim. We were shocked when Julia was one of the first to drop into the water. She usually requires a half an hour of coaxing to do anything that seems dangerous but this time she was the adventurer. That meant I had to follow her. I thought I could get back into the raft fairly easily. Nope. Luthor had to grab me and lug my 260 lbs. back into the safety of the boat. I had my wallet in my pocket and it's still damp and it still smells of river water.

When we returned we found a place to do some wash. Deb and I sat and watched our clothes tumble while the girls were alone in the hotel room partying down. They were so drunk by the time we got back to the room. Shameful.

Today, we head through the mountains in search of waterfalls.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It's All Recorded in the Expense Notebook

I sat down to blog and Allie reminded me that if I forgot about anything we did today it's all in her notebook. Handing her receipts after each purchase has become automatic and honestly, I wish I had her to take care of our day-to-day finances.

So let's take a look at her notebook:

-Two Brothers Italian: $42.01 w/$8.00 tip. Deb guided us to this place that had fantastic pizza and a good staff. Allie said, "I really like our waiter's energy." The freakin' garlic knots were freakin' good and our breath could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon after we ate them.

-Foxfire Mountain Adventures: $87.80. This place had some of the highest zip lines we've ever seen. Scary stuff compared to our past zip line experience. Fortunately we were there just to check out their trails and maybe take advantage of the rope course.

We wound up marching up the mountain and crossing what they claim to be the America's largest swinging bridge. Allie was a little hesitant, especially with me and my weight bouncing on the thing. Julia says, "I loved it, even though I hate heights." By the time we made it to the top of the trail we were drenched in sweat. The sights, sounds and smells (maybe even the money) made it all worth it, particularly the waterfall. That said Deb doesn't like to sweat. She prefers to glow. If she claims that she was "glowing" on this hike then I'm sure they could have seen her from space.

-Smoky Mountains Knife Works: $35.00. For some reason it was important to me that the girls get a knife on this trip. I know. I'm scared shitless that they'll wind up opening a vein and bleed out on a remote trail later in the week. But I had a knife when I was even younger than them and it just seems like a rite of passage. I get the strangest impulses sometimes.

This knife store is enormous. A little unsettling, too. There's a portion that seems devoted to stabbing and gouging and dismembering with bright, neon-colored weapons. I'm sure that if you pulled one of these things out to open a package, people would call the authorities. There were also confederate flags available for purchase. This prompted discussions about racism that revealed just how little I can offer to explain why it exists.

The girls wound up with single-bladed Swiss-Army knives with pink and purple handles. They can take solace in the knowledge that the object that will rob them of their index fingers fits in nicely with their sense of fashion.

How Deb knows so much about Dolly Parton I'm not sure. During our drive thought the area, Deb walked us through the significant economic impact that Ms. Parton has had on this area. The kind of growth Dolly has spurred was evident when it took us 45 minutes to travel a mile and a half to get to our hotel.

Now we're here and we've rinsed off the mountain in our room's shower. Deb asked the girls if they were sore from the hike. They gave her a nice, slow blink and assured her that it would take a great deal more to knock the wind out of their sails.

We'll see. . .

Sunday, July 19, 2015

$15 a Pound

Belle Meade Plantation is beautiful. I'm happy the Tennessee Historical Society decided that tourists don't need to have an immersive experience and put AC in the big house. 99 degrees would have meant spending a lot less time staring at portraits of dead horse breeders.

The plantation did reveal that Julia has a better bocce ball game than I expected. 

They wouldn't let us take pictures in the house but if they would have allowed it I would have taken a shot of the fake squab and beef tongue they had on the dining room table. The tongue was grey and garnished with a single mushroom. It wasn't appetizing and I wouldn't be into eating anything that could taste me back.

Fake beef tongue aside, dining in Nashville was a treat. Monell's serves soul food family style. Each table seats about twelve people and you pass each bowl of food to the left. That's not the only rule. No cell phones (they'll take them away from you) and you eat what you take. I'm not sure what the consequences of that last one would be but considering how good the food is I'm sure it's never a problem.

They brought twenty dishes to our table (we counted). Sweet corn pudding and collard green casserole were my favorite. I pointed to the collard greens and told our server that it was incredible. She giggled back at me, "You know, you're about the 55th person to tell me that this weekend."

There was pulled pork, beef in gravy, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, mac and cheese, cheese grits - I know there was much more, but I can't remember.

The family who shared our table with was from Oklahoma on their way to Washington D.C. The dad had an undisclosed project in the area. His little boy whispered in his mom's ear and she told me, "He wants me to tell you that he's six years-old and he likes computers." I asked him, "Do you code?" He got a puzzled look on his face so I asked, "Do you play Minecraft?" His mom smiled and said, "He plays two games on the computer." Then the kid yelled, "SKYLANDERS!"

After lunch we wanted to walk off a portion of the huge amount of food we ate so we headed to the Tennessee State Museum. Cool place. Really - it's air conditioned. The exhibits were incredibly interesting, but not having a collar of dark sweat stain my orange T-Shirt was a big treat.

After the museum, Deb wanted to surprised the girls with a trip to a candy store on Broadway St. in Nashville. We turned on the GPS in the parking garage and discovered it was just three blocks away so we walked. The dark collar around my shirt I mentioned appeared. We found the store on Broadway among tons of other interesting, touristy places to duck into. At the store we loaded a bag full of candy and discovered at the register that it was $15 a pound. The result was the most expensive Zotz I've ever eaten.

Speaking of money, that's an issue that has kind of bowled us over so far. Okay, when I say "us" I mean "me". Our accountant, Allie, let us know our total spend so far on this trip. We've ventured into four figures in just two days. Meals are the expenses that are "eating" the majority of our budget. The plan was to avoid eating anywhere we could eat at home. Now that we've examined our budget we've decided a few trips to Subway this trip wouldn't be an unforgivable offense.

This evening we're in Lenoir City, Tennessee. The pool was refreshing in the 90 degree heat. We horsed around, giggled, splashed and Marco Polo'd under the moon and the few stars we could see. Deb and I were soaking in the warm water and looked at each other when we listened to the girls cackle at the other end of the pool. It was clear that by the second day we had accomplished what the entire trip was about.

Tomorrow we buy some knives.