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.

I Heart Electricity

A man in a gold Honda civic camped in the corner of the parking lot of the hotel we stayed at in Louisville. I had to return to the car to get shoes and the girls watched me from the window because they assumed he was on crack and that he was going to attack me and steal our shoes. By the time I made it to our car he had all of his doors and the trunk of his Civic open and had changed clothes. He was toweling himself off as he watched me dig around for our shoes. I made it back to the room unscathed.

No one slept in Louisville because the power didn't come back on until about 3:00 a.m. The temperature in the room and my CPAP wasn't operational and the people running around the halls as if they had to forage for supplies to survive the Armageddon. They had dropped light sticks in the hall. I'm guessing that must have attracted the idiots. Later in the day, we were talking about our favorite parts of the day and Deb said it was leaving our electricity-free hotel room. Fortunately she also had plans that provided better memories of Louisville.

The Louisville Slugger factory/museum was more fun for me than anyone else. I'm not that huge of a baseball fan but we do like to go to games when we can. My favorite player was Cal Ripken and because of that the Orioles are my team. So when I had the opportunity to pick up Cal's bat and pose for a pic it was kind of a thrill. The girls enjoyed the Batman and Superman uniforms they had on display and watching them make the custom bats for major league players was a trip. 

It was the glass flaming we did after the bat museum that thrilled the girls. Mark showed the girls how to create works of art. He was engaging and immersed all of us in the experience. Allie made a flower and Julia made a "kiss". They will ship the objet d'art back to Wisconsin (they need to sit in a kiln for 24 hours). Julia says, "FIRE" was the best part of flaming glass. Allie says, "Making the petals," was the highlight for her.

Deb found a wonderful restaurant. I had a pimento/cheese spread sandwich. Allie had a chicken sandwich with apples on it. This place seemed to like to put apples in everything and that wasn't a bad thing. The food was truly memorable - especially the huge slab of strawberry cake we all shared. The guy in the parking lot said he was two dollars short for a twenty dollar bus ticket. We got him half way there with a buck. 

The hotel in Franklin, Kentucky is nice. I almost knocked out my front teeth in the pool but other than that it's good to be in a place that has a constant flow of electricity. 

I don't know what we're going to do when we hit Nashville later this morning but it doesn't matter, we'll have fun spending money here in the south. 

Did I mention the heat index will be 105 degrees today? I'd better wear a white T-Shirt. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Landing in Louisville

As soon as we hit Indiana the rain began. We always plan vacations around monsoon season because we enjoy the thrill of almost dying on the highway because of zero visibility.

David Letterman is the only good thing that came out of Indiana. Is that too harsh? Maybe, but the welcome center didn't have enough pamphlets about sites and activities to fill the literature racks. They fanned out the few that they did have to make the space look full. Those brochures were mostly about underground zip lines and underground bike tours. What makes both activities more exciting because they're underground escapes me. 

Do I sound cranky? I am. I spent hours driving in the dark and impenetrable rain. It was nerve racking.

The girls have been great. So far cheesecake is at the top of the list of what is good. They also enjoy the southern accents. Julia giggled at her first, "y'all" when we checked into the hotel. She'll adopt the second person plural before the end of this trip. I'm sure. 

Now I'm thumb typing this in the dark because the storms we escaped in Indiana have found us and the power is out. 

Power is back on. Oops, now it's off again. No. It's back. . . 

Screw it. Goodnight, y'all.

101 Degrees

We leave for the Smoky Mountains in about an hour. I told Deb that I was going to check out the weather there and she told me not to do it. When I saw three digits instead of just two I understood why.

I can handle the heat. It's the gallons of fluid that runs out of my pores that makes life inconvenient. I'm glad because after this vacation Deb will have no argument about enduring the temperatures of a beach-related getaway. Sun and sand next year - it's sealed.

We scrambled at the office to get projects finished. We worked hard to made things ready so our car will run smoothly and our house will be welcoming when we return. We cleared our phones so there will be space for pics. We packed. We have a house sitter to take care of the cats and the aging fruit in the fridge is headed to a landfill (sad).

We're all being pleasant to one another because we know we're going to share close quarters (there will be plenty of time for meltdowns later).

Of course Deb's itinerary is detailed, color-coded (I sort of wish that was a joke) and incredible. She's a fount of good bananas. Regardless of how things go, it won't be for a lack of serious thought and skilled, inspired planning.

I'm going to try and post from the phone and record this road trip. I did a crappy job last year and I didn't capture as much as I would have/should have. The rate of change in the girls is scary and I'm in a panic to take advantage of any time with them I can get.

We're ready.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


We're watching tennis because, as Allie and Julia say, "Daddy watches tennis like men watch football."

During a break they advertised that you can buy the ball boy outfits. I guessed $50, Allie guessed $75 for a shirt. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Line at the Cafeteria. . .

Man: What is this?

Server: This is Brie-Stuffed Chicken Breast.

Man: This frightens me.

Server: [PAUSES] I’m not sure how to help you with that.

Man: Yes.

Server: It’s nothing to be frightened of.

Man: No?

Server: The brie is creamy and there are dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness.

Man: Yes.

Server: It’s very good.

Man: I will have a sandwich.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Teleconferencing Behavioral Assessment

As part of your “Creating a More Comfortable Workplace Environment” training, please rate the appropriateness of this exchange:

Person 1: Where’s Greg? Is he listening?

Person 2: Is he on vacation?

Me: [LOUDLY] I’m here!

Person 3: I can hear him breathing.

Me: Can you really hear me breathing?

Person 3: Nah!

Me: Okay, hold on a sec. Can you hear this?

Me: It’s kind of like breathing.

Group of 15: Ohhhh! No. No!

Person 2: Well, on that note.

Me: What?!

Group of 15: [CLICK]

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Guy. . .

I remember one summer when I was a teenager I was feeling “out of sorts”. I was freaked out and found myself on our front porch waiting for the feeling to pass.

Dave recognized that I was experiencing some distress so he sat with me. He spoke to me in his very calm voice and he related similar experiences he had in his youth. He just sat quietly with me as we waited for normal to arrive. And despite the fact that I may have been behaving irresponsibly he didn’t judge and in over 30 years he’s never brought the incident up again.

He probably doesn’t know how grateful I was that he helped me in such a wise, temperate and kind way. He was needed then and he showed up.

The best part is, after all this time he still keeps showing up.

That’s what a dad does.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Just Don't

This is a sentence from an email I received today:
Attached is the updated DRF for the immediate needs for the ASF initiative, with updates based on our discussion in the KO. Also attached are the templates for the internal BH electronic display. 
Allie and Julia, please don't fall into this trap. Unless you're working at NASA you'll come off as really pretentious. Spouting acronyms and jargon might make you feel like you're demonstrating how in tune you are with your organization's culture - like you're one of the shinier cogs in the machine. But most times you just appear to be too lazy to type the words, "kick off". 

Plus, there's the simple matter of being an effective communicator. If you're sending an acronym-riddled email to more than four people, you really shouldn't assume that everyone is familiar with, or likes the taste of your alphabet soup.

I know it's my fault that I had to take a significant amount of time to decode this message. I'm not a shiny cog. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to KTS out of people who send me this stuff. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

12.5 MPH

We live on a relatively busy street. One benefit of the traffic is we can place stuff we no longer want on the corner and it’ll disappear in a matter of minutes. Desk chairs, tables, large kids toys – we just put a “FREE” sign on it and the item goes away.

On Saturday I put an exercise bike on the corner. It was a $49 bike I bought from Amazon for Tabata training. The bike’s tension strap broke after about half an hour of use. I did a somewhat effective duct-tape repair on the strap but unfortunately the bike sat, mostly unused, in the basement for over a year. A few nights ago I stubbed my toe on the thing. I’m sure that’s what spurred me to put it up for adoption.

I asked Julia to put the words “FREE” and “WORKS!” on a large piece of paper and then I hung the sign on the handlebars. It sat out for about an hour. A middle-aged woman and man stopped and the lady got on the bike and pedaled for a bit. She got off and shook her head and they left the bike there with its hopes needlessly elevated. Soon after that it started to rain so I put it in the garage for a bit.

When the rain stopped, I put the bike back out on the corner. At this point, we all lost interest in the fate of the exercise bike. We stopped peeking out the windows to see if we had any nibbles. We occupied ourselves with other things. After about an hour, only Allie remembered the bike was outside and she noticed it was gone.

Whenever something disappears off our corner I always imagine what happens to it. I had fairly mundane fantasies about what happened to our table or chairs, but an exercise bike – that’s different. There are so many possibilities. I’m hoping it’s been strapped to a modified flux capacitor and once you pedal to 12.5 MPH you’ll time travel. You’ll be a little winded and maybe sweaty when you make the leap, but it’s a great way to get into shape while you’re changing the course of humanity.

On second thought, that’s a little grandiose for a $49 exercise bike. It would probably generate little leaps. Maybe a day or an hour or two. Enough time to get some lottery numbers or maybe just prevent a dropped casserole from ruining the rug in the McFly’s dining room. 

This is awesome! Next I should set out an old toilet and see what happens. 

Friday, June 05, 2015

IM So Very Dumb

Recent IM at work.

Her: I'm trying to get as many things out of the queue as possible. 

Me: I understand. You have to be free.

Her: FREE!

Me: Free to bind yourself to another human 4EV.

Her: I know it won't be perfect but I'm going to try my darndest! LOL

Me: When's your last day?

Her: Today! omg

Me: Okay. Someone told me this on my wedding day: Appreciate the bad bananas. If you've never had a bad banana, you'd never know what a good banana tastes like. 

Her: Ha ha - that's the best advice ever. 

Me: I hope you have a lot of good bananas!

Me: Actually, you could use any fruit. . . 

Me: In the future I should use apples in case anyone thinks a banana is inappropriate. I hope that wasn't the case here. 

Me: I mean, I think it's better spoken. You know. . . anyway. Every good wish to you and your husband. 

Me: I mean future husband. 

Me: I mean. . . 

Me: Um.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Orchestra Night

I'm in a foul mood.

Tonight I went to Allie's orchestra concert and I expected that to compound my bad attitude.

It didn't.

I'm happy when I get to see her perform. And when she's not onstage, I get to make up stories about all the other kids I watch play. Depending on the length of the song, some of them get pretty elaborate. This evening I had one of the cellist overcoming drug addiction after he invents an ergonomic cello bow and pitches his idea on "Shark Tank". He winds up rich and alone. I see him as he plays his cello in his big, empty house trying to recapture the joy he experienced performing with his high school orchestra.

I'm happy Allie stuck with orchestra.  Despite her aversion to practice, she's good and I think she enjoys playing. I know she enjoys playing for an audience.

I watch her after a show and her face is always beaming. Then she gets home and we pester her to do her homework. The excitement and the adrenaline of being onstage wanes and the beaming becomes a murder face. I know she's thinking, "Would anyone demand that Heifetz take out the trash following a performance? I will make them pay for this."

One of my favorite parts is listening to Julia after Allie has a concert. She's always there for her sister. It's not like she has a choice, but that aside, I think she genuinely wants to  see her sister play. After the show Julia always compliments her sister and lets Allie know how much she rocked it.

It's toward the end of the school year so they're packing in a lot of performances. Last week we watched Julia's orchestra play and later this week we'll see her in choir. I'll be there trying very hard to make eye contact with my kid while she's onstage. I used to do it because I thought she might be nervous and I wanted to reassure her that she was going to be great. Now I just want her to know I'm happy to be there.

Happy to be there taking the crappiest pictures ever. They all look like bigfoot sightings. They're frustrating for everyone.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

300 Seconds

I've set the clock for five minutes and I'm going to write a blog in that amount of time.

I'm looking at the clock and it says 10:27 but I'm having a little trouble with the math. Ah, I have until 10:32 to come up with something delightful.

I was thinking I was going to write about something that we all have in common. You know, like an airline food joke or maybe how Mondays suck. I can't do that to you. I have too much respect for you.

The amount of backspacing I'm doing is alarming. I'm spending more time backspacing than typing. Just an observation.

Holy cow, there's really not a lot you can get done in five minutes. Julia didn't go on her parade today because we all thought it was going to rain. Then it didn't rain and it was sunny. Windy, but sunny.

Deb was traumatized by a Syttende Mai parade in the past when there was a cloudburst and she and Julia got soaked and blown around and had to take refuge in a cafe. She said she wasn't going to let that happen again this year. Plus, Julia didn't want to go. She never really wants to do much of anything. I'm pretty sure if we didn't constantly prod her she'd behave like Lenin lying in state in the Kremlin.

I'm not going to look. . . I'd better look. I have another minute.

I wear the dad uniform a lot these days. A polo shirt with cargo shorts and running shoes. I go to school events and I look at the other dads and it's clear there was some kind of subliminal pulse on Mad Men or House of Cards that caused us all to dress alike.

I'm ok. . . .

10:33. I'm over. I failed. . .

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hey, Marcia. How’s it going?

Do you remember the times when you sat up with me while I was coughing all night or had that really high fever and puked a lot? Yeah, those were long nights, huh? Do you recall all those times when we’d go shopping and you’d pick up a stuffed animal and you’d make it tell me that it wanted to be my best friend? My face would get really red. Was it you who always made sure I had good meals and nice clothes? I’m pretty sure that was you. Remember when you gave me all your money so I could do crazy stuff like take off to the east coast for no reason or get an education? That cost a lot of hard-earned cash. Do you remember offering my kids the same kind advice as you gave me when I didn't know what to do? Those words are always so helpful. 

Remember that stuff?

I do.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

No Cavities

Every six months Allie and Julia show up at their dentist. The role of their dentist has been played by three people (that I’m aware of) – the handsome, young newbie, the beautiful, all-business partner and the patriarch of the entire operation. Most of the time, the old guy is the one who flies in at the end of a cleaning to take a quick glance into my kids’ mouths and then provide Deb or me with a lightning-round consult.

He’s kind of creepy. But we’ll get to that.

His office has a movie theme. At the entrance there’s a ticket booth. It's occupied by what looks like one of those puppets law enforcement uses to convince second graders to stay off meth and avoid men in vans who ask for help looking for lost puppies. There are movie theater seats and a large-screen TV playing the latest Pixar release. Off to the side, there’s a PG-13 waiting area that screens more intense films like “Batman Begins” or “Marathon Man”. . .  Okay, maybe not “Marathon Man”. But I’d love to see a kid walk to his/her exam chair after seeing Laurence Olivier repeatedly ask Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?”

The top dentist has a staff of at least five people working in reception and four hygienists and three other people who seem to help out the hygienists. They all wear matching scrubs. I asked someone behind the reception counter what the color rotation was. He told me, “Tuesday is red, Wednesday is blue, kind of like this pen cap.” He turned to the woman sitting next to him to get confirmation that he properly characterized the color. She gave him an approving nod. “Thursday is black and Friday is true blue which is kind of like the end of this pen.” The woman next to him repeated the nod.

When they’re ready, they lead you back to a row of six exam chairs. Each has its own monitor on the ceiling so patients can watch the same Pixar movie that was playing in the reception area. That’s the part that really makes me jealous when I compare my experience at the dentist. I want to watch “Big Hero 6” while my gums are poked, prodded and scraped.

You hear the hygienists ask the parents the same questions. “Have there been any health changes? Is she on any medications? Has she committed any felonies since her last visit?” When you give them the answers they want to hear they go to work on your kid. This last visit I watched Julia’s feet. She was slowly waving them back and forth while she waited for the first dental tool to make contact. It was clear when things got uncomfortable because the waving would get faster and faster until the hygienist would notice and ask if Julia was okay.

Allie has three years of dental experience on Julia. I listen to her ask the hygienist questions that wouldn't occur to me to ask about her dental health. I’m sure soon I hear Allie ask, “Are you sure you want to use a C-1 scalar for this? I’d go with a G-11.”

Next, from out of nowhere, comes the dentist. He spends around five minutes stirring a mirror and dental probe inside my kids’ mouths while speaking code to the hygienist. The hygienists strike a balance between chit chat and complete reverence during these five minutes. I’m almost surprised when the dentist doesn't pat them on the head when he’s finished. 

It’s never as if I believe he doesn't care about my kids’ teeth, but I can’t help but sense the vibrations of commerce when I’m around him. It’s clear I’m getting a carefully timed two minute follow-up after the exam that maximizes his turn over. I can’t help but see him in a captain’s hat, laughing hysterically behind the wheel of his yacht as he steers it around some crystal-clear Caribbean bay. It’s all just kind of creepy. It’s as if he sticks a straw in my neck and sucks out a little bit of my soul - like I’m a juice box with a dental plan.

I’m not complaining too much. The girls like going to the dentist, or at least they don’t seem to mind it. The free dental gear and a prize at the end of their visit helps. I noticed this time Allie skipped the prize. She used to always get a huge ring or a fake bug.

Julia picked out a parachuting alien.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ode to the Flash

Last night I came home. I ate dinner and didn't clean up afterward. I moved from the kitchen table to the couch and binge-watched five episodes of “The Flash”.

This was my evening.

I did have plans and things that I needed to do. I should have put some shrubs in the ground before we leave for the weekend. I should have gone over Julia’s summer school options. There are bills to pay and some exercise after a day of disease-encouraging sitting might have been beneficial. Instead I watched Barry Allen save Central City while he pined over his crush, Iris (she’s really annoying, by the way).

I got to bed around midnight and woke up a little later. I was dreaming about “The Flash”. Now I’m tired and cranky because, clearly, I’m a waste of skin.

I have a lot of evenings like this. I have entire weekends like this. Often people will ask me, “What did you do over the weekend?” and I won't have an answer. I can’t recall a single thing I did.

The poet, Keats knew he was going to die young. That’s why he worked so furiously to cement his legacy. Unlike him, I made it well past 25 and I still don’t have a single ode to anything. But I do have ten more episodes of “Daredevil” to watch on Netflix. I’d better get busy. . .

Did you know lions usually sleep 20 hours a day?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Then a Bluebird Perched on My Shoulder

Most mornings I expect
to be struck by lightning.

  • Deb bought new toothpaste that doesn't taste like salt.
  • Delores waved and smiled at me.
  • A truck driver flashed a peace sign for me when I let him in my lane.
  • I found a parking spot near my entrance.
  • I didn’t get a static shock when I hung up my jacket.
  • My 11:30 a.m. meeting was canceled.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Big Buckets of Seething

Allie, Julia. . . somebody out there hates you.

I’m sorry. It’s just the way things are. No matter how nice you try to be or how low beneath the radar you think you fly – someone thinks you’re an asshole. The funny thing is, it’s usually not who you think it is.

I realize this seems to contradict the, “People aren't thinking about you as much as you think they are thinking about you because you think about you all the time,” conversation that we've had in the past. Of course people consider you and then some of them decide to hate you.

Hate may be too strong a word. But these people do cringe inside when they see you coming toward them. They discretely roll their eyes when you think you've said something useful. And when they’re getting ready to go out they ask, “Is Greg going to be there?” For the most part, you’ll never know this because they are polite, genuinely nice, worthwhile people who just happen to think you suck.

Who knows how it happens. Maybe you didn't hold the elevator for them. Maybe you said something about how ugly hairless cats are and they grew up breeding them. It could be they think your teeth are too big and they had a cousin with huge teeth who used to poke them with sticks. Or you maybe you actually did do something awful to them and you think they've forgiven you – but they haven’t and they probably never will.

I’ll level with you. I’m not really talking about you. I’m talking about me. There are people out there who hate me for reasons I don’t understand and then there are those who have really good causes to become a little nauseous when I’m around. When I do find out about someone who has a bad day just because they remember I’m still breathing, I try to fix it. But I don’t devote all my energy to improving things. Especially when I’m too busy thinking of ways to make that guy from Human Resources life miserable. If he tells that banjo story one more time I’m going to lose it.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Crossing Guard

I have a relationship with the crossing guard on Main Street. I grin wildly at her to express my  appreciation for what she does. She gets up each morning, sometimes in horrible, winter weather to make sure some of the children in our fair city don’t get squished by cars. In turn, she lets me know I’m her favorite driver. She does this by warming her stern face with a slight smile when I stop well before others who try to skirt the authority of her handheld stop sign.

Delores (I call her that because she reminds me of Delores Landingham from The West Wing) and I have grown close over the years. I can tell when she’s not feeling on top of her game. She handles her stop sign with a little less gusto and she doesn't scoot her charges as quickly across the street. And it’s easy to see when Delores views the steady stream of cars she commands as the enemy. However, I am the exception. I am the one who stops. I am her partner in traffic safety. I provide the buffer between her and the deadly caravan of commuters who are out to flatten all the babies.

There are times when I think she’ll motion for me to pull over to a side street. I’ll find a group of her kids gathered to greet me and give me a huge trophy they made themselves. The trophy will read:


So far that hasn't happened. In fact, now I’m wondering if it will happen at all.

This morning Delores was toting her big orange cone to the center of crosswalk. She was about three feet away from the edge of the sidewalk and I made the decision that it was far enough for me to get by and still get a friendly nod. Instead Delores narrowed her eyes and shook her head. . . AT ME. I'm her partner. I'm the only driver who has her back. Even if she was closer to the curb than I thought I believed our relationship was strong enough to allow for a little wiggle room. But there is no wiggle room. It's obvious all Delores is about is, "What have you done for me lately." This morning she took what we had together and threw it away.

I've calmed down since the incident. I've looked at the situation and while I'm not willing to forgive, I am willing to live and let live. As in, I'm willing to literally allow her to live and not to hit the accelerator and launch Delores into one of the oak trees that lines Main Street.

Stay vigilant, Delores. You broke my heart and that little stop sign doesn't mean crap to me anymore. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yeah, I Need It

I don’t need either of these guitars.

These are actual images of two guitars I’m thinking about buying (you should click on them for a closer look). They’re being sold by a friend of mine who’s not only a gifted musician but he’s also an incredible photographer. That’s why the guitars look like they’re being auctioned by Sotheby’s and not sold to a mook like me.

If I buy one of these guitars it would be a fantastic deal and they look and sound far better than any of my other guitars. But there's the rub - I already have two electrics, a six string acoustic, a twelve string acoustic, a concert ukulele and a guitalele. What's more, I'm a crappy guitarist.

I could understand the size of my collection if I had some modicum of talent or even if I played on a regular basis. But for the most part my guitars wait for months until I pull them out and force them to make noises no creature with ears should be forced to endure.

I started playing in high school. I took some money I earned and ordered a $250 Ovation acoustic from Sam Ash in New York. I still remember the day it arrived. It was pure excitement, until the pain came. Playing guitar is an exercise in forcing your fingers to do things they don't want you to do. I remember the sore hands, the inflamed fingertips and aching forearms. Barre chords? Yeah, right. . .  I sat in my room with my Mel Bay chord book and tried to push past the discomfort so I could figure out how Steve Howe and Pete Townshend made music.

I never really figured it out. I just learned chords and strung them together in progressions that sounded interesting to me. I have never built a catalog of popular songs that I could rely on if there was a campfire or some gorgeous babe who required serenading. Although, when I decided that Mark Knopfler was going to become my spirit guide I abandoned my pick and developed some decent finger picking tricks. But that's all they are, tricks. To this day I only know one blues scale that I can pull out if I want to seem proficient. Unfortunately after about five minutes it's clear my repertoire is limited.

These days I keep a cute little guitalele next to the nightstand. I pick it up and play for the cat before I go to sleep and sometimes Allie will listen to me noodle as we have a chat. My might-as-well-be-my-brother-in-law, Jeff gave me a copy of Rocksmith for the PS3 at Christmas. I plug in one of the electrics and have an enormous amount of fun with the game every now and again. But that's about as much time as I spend with fingers on strings.

Fun. There's the word. For years I've had fun playing guitar. When I play I shut down the business part of my brain and relax. I occasionally accomplish a run or two that provides the delusion that, with some practice, I could at least become a YouTube sensation.  I make crappy (but fun) music. Just me and my cheap guitars.

As much as I love the orange Paul Reed Smith Custom SE and as generous as he is, I'll let Randy know I already have what I need.

Oh yeah, there's this:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Clear Devotion to BBQ Potato Chips

It’s difficult to get myself off the couch to go play squash. My body tells me that squash is going to hurt me. Then my brain chimes in and says I ate too much food and that I’m too sluggish to be competitive. It tells me, “You’d just be wasting someone else’s time if you tried to get a match.”

I often ignore my brain and body and go play. Every time I play I feel good when I've finished. My head is clearer, my body feels energized and maybe a little more agile. I take a shower and splash a little Pinaud Lime Sec on my face. It's one of the best things I do for myself.

I’m not a bad squash player. Tennis helped hone my strokes and I have decent court sense. I win more than I lose, however it’s the goo that keeps me from being truly competitive. Recently I had a locker room conversation with a man who told me that he wished someone had made him understand how important it was that he lose weight while he was younger. He said his extra 20 pounds was keeping him from winning matches and now he finds it extremely difficult to drop weight.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation a lot lately. So much so, that I might be ready to drop the 86 pounds my Fitbit app says I need to shed. But then I remember that I've felt motivated before. I've even lost weight before but it never stays lost. I always find it again. So here I am typing and I’m wondering – what’s it going to take?

I know there will come a time when my body tells me squash is going to hurt me and it will be right. It's apparent that I'm okay with that. Otherwise I'd avoid the post-match binge I always indulge in as reward for playing squash or taking my usual 5K lap around the neighborhood. I'm sure I'll be okay with it until it actually happens. I'll be stuck on the couch and I'll remember the locker room conversation. 

Then I'll wish I could beat the living shit out of myself for not doing something about it. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

One of Probably Four Posts in the Year 2015

“You used to say the cutest crap when you were a baby.”

“Aww. I remember when you were that small. You were so cute.”

I wonder if I've convinced Allie and Julia that I don’t like them now that they've grown up a little. As much as I remind them of how adorable they once were there’s no way they couldn't feel like they've evolved into something less than desirable. I've probably made it clear they lost their new car smell long ago and it’s time to sell them before the transmission fails.

I suppose I should write something about how I love watching them grow and that they've become fascinating and fun. After all, there are actually times when I believe that’s the case. The thing is, I’m in the middle of the worry and bother. There’s no room for nostalgia as I’m confronted by their peccadillos and they’re old enough to recognize mine. I've blocked all the anxiety of days past. The weight of wondering if they’re developing properly or the burden of feeding, bathing, scheduling and whatever the hell else they needed (constantly). 

I’m guessing the day they move on to the next stage (and I’m not sure what that is), I’m going to forget about the violent mood swings, the sloth, the bickering, the badgering. All I’m going to do is yearn to have a conversation about nothing or affectionately annoy them just by being me. 

I don’t really feel that way yet. All I really want is for them to scoop the shit out of the litter boxes, empty the dishwasher and stop treating each other so inhumanely. And clean the bathroom. Oh my god, please, clean the freakin' bathroom. How you leave that room without taking a little piece of pestilence with you each time is a miracle. And stop with the hard looks. What do you think it’s going to get you other than parents who become even more unyielding and then downright vengeful. And. . . 

And I will stop now. 

I was just trying to say that toddlers are cute but they can’t provide me with new perspectives on old issues or even point out the subtleties of Full Metal Alchemist. When you get down to it, they’re kind of useless. At least now my daughters can clean the bathroom. 

They don’t. 

But I'm pretty sure they can.