23 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Our family celebrations begin on the evening of the 23rd, so as things prepare to get rolling here in the Great Midwest, I bid the warmest of Christmas wishes to any and all who stumble upon this. Joy to the World, and all that.

The Ballad of Dr. Biff McSparkland

‘Twas the night before Christmas and on Santa’s sleigh

Was a jolly old man who had lost his way.

In the skies over New York there had been a great flash

Then into Rudolph’s side, a meteorite did crash.

The collision knocked out his nose of red light

Leaving him helpless to navigate this flight.

The sleigh then began to tumble and pitch

Leaving Santa to mumble “Son of a …Kringle!”

“Rudolph is hurt, he’s ruptured his spleen

Gotta find a place to land this thing!”

Far below Santa, a man drove alone;

Dr. Biff McSparkland, on his way home.

With no family or friends, he’d no plans the next day.

So after a night of sleep, he’d work Christmas away

At the hospital ER, tending to sickness and wounds,

And griping endlessly about cheesy Christmas tunes.

(Biff was unhappy and needed a change

But that’s a story for a time less strange.)

So on the road he drove, when he heard a great roar.

Great, he thought, another accident, no more!

Santa had landed his sleigh in a field.

(Remarkably without losing any of his great yield.)

Poor Rudolph lay on his side in great pain

For the space rock had caused much more than a sprain.

Santa, grief stricken, yelled “Now what do I do?

I can’t possibly treat such a large boo-boo!

Christmas is ruined! Oh those poor girls and boys!

And what will I do with all these toys?”

It was at this time that Dr. McSparkland arrived

And looking at Santa, said “what’s all this jive?

I heard your crash, is everyone all right?

And why are you wearing that? Your coat is too tight!”

Santa replied “We hit trouble over Schenectady!

And I fear poor Rudolph needs a spleenectomy!”

It hit Biff then, just how much he was needed.

“I’m a doctor,” he said. “Then help him!” Santa pleaded.

Biff did his thing, and Rudolph recovered.

(Minus one organ, but no less discovered.)

Next morning the toys were under the tree

While Santa, back home, remembered with glee

His pal, Dr. Biff, who had saved the day.

Next year he’d reward him in some special way.

Meanwhile Biff had gone home and rested,

then rose a little early, gone to the kitchen and tested

A new recipe that he had thought of last night

When he placed a small package in the fridge by the light.

So at work Christmas Day, Biff shared with his team

A new holiday tradition, the Roast Christmas Deer Spleen!

22 December 2009

Happy Birthday, Desmond James

(Warning: corny, yet touching video at the end of this entry!)

Yesterday (12/21) was Desmond's 2nd birthday. I was warned that as a parent time would just fly by, but it does seem like it has been two years. He's been around long enough that I struggle sometimes to remember what life was like before him. It was certainly much less active, and much less interesting.

I had been around enough children before he was born to form an idea of what parenthood would most probably be like. For the most part, it has been as I thought, with the exception of sleep. Kristen and I spent the better part of Desmond's first year in major sleep deprivation, and although we are not "in demand" at night as much as we used to be, neither of us has adjusted back to pre-parenting sleeping habits. She's had it rougher than I have, no doubt, but we would also both say that the change has been worth it.

Obviously, Desmond has changed a lot in two years. He looked exactly like me when he was born, and now he looks exactly like his mother. He used to fit into the crook of my arm like a sack of potatoes. Now I can barely lift his 35-pound body without feeling it everywhere. I miss the baby Desmond with all of my heart, but the little-boy Desmond is amazing, and I can't believe that I get to spend every day with this kid.

Desmond's personality exploded about two months ago. He hugs, he kisses, he gets excited whenever and wherever he sees his mother, and he expresses his individuality hundreds of times per day. It has been astonishing seeing the transition from a baby who relied on us for everything to a toddler who feels more confident about his place in the world with every passing day. Our life is not without obstacles; Des can be stubborn and resistant, and he has definitely discovered the emotion of anger recently, but it is all part of learning to live--I wouldn't trade the moments of impatience for anything--and we have to remember that a lot of life is facing challenges.

I still find it hard to believe at times that I am a parent, and I know that it is because I never thought about it growing up. Later, when I was an adult and living on my own, it just seemed like something that wasn't for me. Up until I met my wife in the spring of 2003 (when I was 36) I still didn't think I would ever get married, much less ever be a father.

Obviously, I am grateful to have been wrong about that.

I guess I would say that being a parent is hard, simply because at times the knowledge of being responsible for another life can be a little overwhelming. I've never regretted doing this, and I never will, yet I think of some of the challenges being a parent will bring in the future--normal things that will occur "down the road"--and I don't look forward to dealing with them.

Right now, Desmond thinks that I am the second-coolest person on Earth, but I'm willing to bet that in about ten years or so, his opinion might change. One day, maybe he'll think I'm too old to understand what it is like to be him. When I was a teenager, I didn't understand that the adage "with age, comes wisdom" was about the truest thing that has ever been said.

I'm a realist. Life isn't fair. People suffer, some through no fault of their own. You cannot create a world without angst. I want the best for my children, but know that there are forces at work that may keep it from them.

Right now? All I want for Desmond is to be healthy and happy, and to learn about the world around him. I want him to explore to his limit and develop a desire to learn, so that when he goes to school he really gets into it. I want him to create and imagine, and most of all, I want him to stay innocent.

Down the road, I want him to develop strategies for dealing with "the world." I'd love to be able to tell him that he will always be happy, that the sun will always shine, but life isn't like that, and I feel that I'd be doing him a tremendous disservice by not acknowledging it.

A good friend said to me recently that a parent "prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child." I agree wholeheartedly. Right now, I can control somewhat what life has in store for Desmond, but those days are waning fast.

I check on Desmond every night before I go to bed. Last night, I went upstairs after one, so it was already his birthday. He sleeps with a few of his blankets, and I noticed yesterday that he had wrapped two of them around his face. I moved them, and in his sleep, he tugged them back, wrapping them again around his face. After I moved the blankets for the third time, he woke up and gave me a look that said "What in God's name are you doing?" And then he smiled that smile, the one that says "Oh yeah, I recognize you. You're my Dad, and I love you." He reached out to me, and I thought, what the heck, it's his birthday, so I picked him up and we sat in the rocking chair in his room for twenty minutes.

Times where Desmond will sit still with me are few now, so I cherish any chance I get. He was half-asleep, and while sitting with me he rotated between yawns, rubbing his eyes, and smiling, the entire time holding on to my right index finger with his right hand.

Right after Desmond was born, I stood by him in the room while the nurses washed him and checked his signs. It lasted about ten minutes, and the entire time, he held onto one of my fingers just like he did last night. I remember feeling his grip then and thinking "I am in, for life. When you want to let go, let go. But it will always be there for you."

And I thought the same thing last night.

I love my son in such a way that I cannot describe, so I won't even bother. I feel like I was destined to be here at this time. Life has never had a greater purpose, and I've never understood it more. I only hope that it stays like this forever.

To my son: I love you unconditionally. I will do my best to prepare you for this world, but at times you will hurt, you feel anger, you will feel disappointment. It's normal. Hopefully those times are far outweighed by the joy that life can bring. Whatever path you find yourself on, I will always be there for you.

14 December 2009

The Season of the Knuckle

My father was not one to complain about something unless it bothered him incessantly. He had a certain way of ignoring annoyances until they either went away or stopped being annoying. It is a trait that I don't have.

So it is not difficult for me to remember something that he complained about: the knuckle on his right index finger. Every so often, it would swell up to almost twice its normal size with arthritis, and the slightest movement would cause him pain. His flare-ups would last less than a week, but when he was in the middle of one I'd hear him wince over and over throughout the day.

This is a trait that I do have. In the exact same finger. Three or four times per year it shows up on my digital doorstep and hangs out for a few days. Just last week I happened to realize that it had been a long time, more than a year, since the knuckle on my right index finger swelled up, looking like a pale pickle and stiff as three fingers of scotch.

I woke up this morning, went to scratch my head, and saw more stars than the Hubble Telescope. Sometime while I was asleep, my overdue visitor arrived.

My right index finger looks like an albino sausage.

It's literally impossible for me to move the finger without feeling like it is on fire, and simple tasks are rendered, well, not simple. Today (and for the next two or three most likely) I opened the refrigerator, dialed my cell phone, and did one hundred other menial, everyday tasks with my left hand.

Typing this is taking much longer without the use of my primary finger, and every time a different finger on my right hand hits the keyboard, the spike digging through my index finger plunges deeper and deeper.

It's a nuisance, but I'll live. Every time I feel stiffness or pain I am reminded of my father. I never experienced arthritis in the knuckle until a year or so after he died, and I've come to the point that I believe that maybe that wasn't just a coincidence, that a swollen, painful knuckle is a two-to-four day visit from my father.

Just trying to wiggle my finger now, the pain is excruciating.

I hate it and I love it. I want it to go away and I want it to last forever.

04 December 2009

There's irony, and there's IRONY

I got a rejection letter in the mail today from a literary journal to which I submitted a piece of writing.

The literary journal in question is published by the university where I received my MFA in 2008.

I was an editor of the literary journal's 2006 issue.

The rejection was a form letter, though written very warmly, and it's easy to see that the person who wrote it understands what it is like to be a writer. I think it is one of the best rejection form letters I've ever seen.

Of course, I'm biased.

I wrote the damn thing back in November 2005.

12 September 2009


It's the finest Saturday of the year.

Why, you ask?

Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34.

I always enjoy the first ND loss of the season, so that we no longer have to suffer talk of ND winning it all.

(Sorry, Beth. It's nothing personal. And I'm even 100% Irish!)

07 September 2009

Swing batter, batter! Swing, batter!

I've been told more than a few times that there must be something wrong with me because I'm not particularly fond of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. What can I say? It just never appealed to me. It's not a bad film. I just don't think it's the classic that everyone else seems to think that it is. Why? I can't get past the whole idea that there is no way that Ferris, Cameron and Sloane can get everything accomplished in the time that they have before Ferris has to get back home to keep his ruse going.

Yes, I know, it's only a movie, but I have always had issues with movies that don't assume the person watching it can figure out when something is complete BS. More on that later.

Next week, a reporter from Chicago is going to try to re-create the events of the film, as the movie lines up with reality in a nice tidy row. He won't be the first to try this, either.

Given that it's 23 years later than the time of the movie, there's no way he's even going to come close to pulling this off. The Wrigley Field situation alone will ruin any chance.

I've thought about this a few times since the death of John Hughes (especially about this move, because I'll just say that I seem to be the only person who ever existed who doesn't fawn over it), and really, I just can't get over the fact that the viewer is supposed to believe that all this is possible. It's not, not even in 1986, and there are clues in the movie that let you know this. The Cubs game alone is enough to break it into a million pieces. A vendor mentions that it is the third inning, and in '86 Wrigley Field still didn't have lights, so every game started at 1:20. It'd be a stretch to say that it would be 2 PM by the time the game is in the third inning; it would be more like 2:30 at the earliest.

But the premise gets blown further to bits when the game is on TV (as is Ferris) and you clearly hear Harry Caray say that Lee Smith is pitching. Smith was the Cubs closer, so it would be the 8th inning at the earliest that he'd be on the mound, and quite possibly the ninth inning. That puts Ferris and the gang at Wrigley Field around 4 at the earliest. You think they're driving back to the North Shore, going through the stuff with Cameron wrecking the corvette, etc. in 90 minutes? No way.

I remember feeling this way the first time I saw the movie. And it's petty, sure, but it bothers me that someone didn't catch the infeasibility of all this.

I just hate when movies do this. Yes, I can accept the story of ET crawling out of the garage because you know it's a fairy tale going in, but I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't find Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the sci-fi section of your local video store.

You know what other "classic" movie drives me crazy with this stuff? Jerry Maguire. Decent movie until the last half hour, and then it just loses me. It starts when Rod Tidwell gets injured in the end zone and lays there for a while while Maguire is on the phoen with his wife, detailing how badly he is hurt. I can fathom that, I suppose. But then Tidwell recovers, hears the fans cheering for him, and proceeds to dance and strut all around the end zone. If someone tried that in actual game, someone from the opposing team would clobber him in about five seconds. And then when he got back to the sidelines, his coaching stuff would clobber him for doing it too.

And let's not forget the big revelatory moment when Rod is on a talk show and the host divulges the huge new contract the player has been offered. It's complete bull. No team, no agent, would ever allow something like that to happen.

That kind of stuff drives me crazy yes, can ruin a film for me. My brother is a pilot. You should hear him go on about the dozens of aviation moments in movie involving airplanes that are complete BS. The 747 blowing up at the end of the second Die Hard? Phooey. The rescue of the president in Air Force One? Bunk. I always say he should host the "Oh That Could NEVER Happen" Film Festival. He could have day one, I'd take day two.

Last night I was getting ready to go to bed when I got sucked into a movie called
The Final Season. It's about a high school in Norway, Iowa that built a baseball dynasty, winning 20 championships before the school was closed due to enrollment issues. The film is about that last season, which was spring of 1991, which also happened to be my last semester before graduating from the University of Iowa. I remember hearing about the situation in Norway.

The film seemed true to the story, with some embellishments in it, of course. I doubt that the team really had an angry Chicagoan who happened to excel at the game move to the town just before the season started, among other things, but all in all, it was an adequate baseball movie that told a true story that also happened to be heartwarming: here was a school with a rich tradition of winning about to be gone forever. Could the team win one last title?

Norway does (and did) win, of course, but the recreation of the game is what killed the movie for me (again). I really, really, really doubt that in the last inning that a Norway player went up and over the wall to take a go-ahead home run away from the other team. I doubt that the stud pitcher on the other team was a prick who yelled at his players on the field "do I have to do everything myself?" I doubt that with the bases loaded and the winning run on third that a manager would have his batter bunt.

Wait, unless maybe the manager was...Ferris Bueller!

What's wrong with a little realism? Why make this movie and then turn it into a complete fantasy at the end? Does the average film maker think everyone in his potential audience is a complete moron?

I can hear the collective voice of the movie-watching public telling me to get over it. A movie is a movie, much like a novel is a novel. Which reminds me: what they did to The Time Traveler's Wife was CRIMINAL...ah, don't get me started.

08 August 2009

Time for a Random 11

(This is a complete, total ripoff from here)

I haven't done one of these in a while. It was finally, finally hot here today (which means over 90-it's been a depressing summer) and I celebrated by overdoing it outside. Tomorrow it might be over 95, and I'm playing golf. Let's hear it for sweat.

1. "A Certain Girl"-Warren Zevon. Look! He's linking to videos! Yes, this is another way I am ripping off from another blog. On to Warren: I miss this man. This is the first song of his I remember hearing, around 1979, on WEFM, the first classic rock station I ever got into. Within a year of discovering the station, it changed formats to country. I started listening to another station, WMET, and they switched to jazz within a year as well. When I was a pre-teen, apparently I was the Typhoid Mary of FM classic rock. As someone who used to practice lots of unrequited love, this song speaks to me. Ah, those were the days.

2. "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down"-Elvis Costello. Truth be told, I am not much of a dancer. I tend to only dance at weddings, and then only if I have had a few beverages. This song makes me want to dance no matter the circumstance, and if I were to jump up on the coffee table in front of me, and there was not another awake person in the house, I'd find myself rocking back and forth while swinging my arms in the opposite motion. Take a look at the three dudes in the background while EC sings the refrain: they are doing it all wrong.

3. "I'll Fly Away"-Allison Krause. Someone else named "Gillian W" sings this as well, but the screen on my 'pod is too small to display here entire name. I'm sure it's here somewhere...Welch! It's Welch! This is from O Brother Where Art Thou, a severely underrated movie (Do not seek the treasure!). I love it. When I first met Kristen she told me that she was a big George Clooney fan, and I told her that this was one of my favorite movies (We thought you was a toad!). She had never seen it-really? I mean how can you be a Clooney fan and not have seen this? I forgave her, and we moved on. No, not really. I still hold a grudge. Hi Honey! She's seen it several times since (I've counted to three!). This song gives me a bit of comfort when I think about those who have gone before me. Imagine how I'd feel if I took religion a tad more seriously.

4. "Departure"-REM. From the vastly underrated CD "New Adventures in Hi-Fi." The video is a little, um, weird. I'm not sure why Michael Stipe thinks he is a purple raccoon. Anyway, any song I hear from this CD makes me think of a road trip I took out west in the summer of 2003, and I recall hearing this song as I passed the Salt Lake City airport heading towards Nevada early on a Sunday morning (the song talks about heading out over the Salt Flats). The rest of Utah after Salt Lake on Interstate 80 is a little, shall we say, barren, but yet fantastic, if you are into looking at things that you've never seen before. We don't have salt flats in the Midwest. I ended up in Sacramento that night, and saw more from less in fourteen hours behind the wheel (there's nothing in Nevada either) than I could have possibly imagined. I don't think I'd make it through an hour of the same drive without falling asleep though.

5. "Waiting on a Friend"-Rolling Stones. It'd be hard to a favorite Stones song, but this is in the top five. We got cable television for the first time when I was a freshman in high school, and there was a public access channel that ran community bulletin boards for every city on the system. They'd play the best music on it though, and I recall sneaking into my parents' room to turn this channel on just for the music. My father busted me frequently, and it drove him nuts that I'd turn on a television for music. One time he busted me as this song was on, and I said "Dad, come on it's the Stones." He replied: "I don't care if it's a meteor. Get out of here."

6. "Yellow"-Coldplay. Ah yes, before Chris Martin got all Gwenyth on us. I like this band, but they haven't been the same for me ever since "Fix You", which is the worst song ever. My niece Erin was a baby back when this song was popular, and she loved it, kicking her feet like crazy whenever it came on. Three years later I played "Fix You" for her and she cried. Really.

7. "Follow Your Bliss"-B52s. OK, there are times when the Internet freaks me out completely, and this is definitely one of them. I didn't think that there'd be a video for this song, and there isn't. Stick with me here: I remember being in Iowa City in the summer of 1990 (just before my senior year) and turning on the Weather Channel before I walked to class to see if it was going to rain, and was a little put off by the fact that this song was being played during the local forecast. It seemed (then, and still does now) a little depressing that someone at the Weather Channel would coordinate music for local forecasts, and that someone would have to contact the B52s and get permission to include this. And I thought this would be an interesting anecdote, but as it turns out, you can see it for yourself at the link, because someone has posted on YouTube a local forecast for Jackson, Mississippi from July 9, 1990 featuring "Follow Your Bliss." Of course, that means the use of the song was national. Unbelievable. What did we do before the Interent again?

8. "Save Me"-kd lang. Whatever happened to her? My very first apartment was in Oak Park, Illinois and had one of those big old fashioned basin bath tubs. The first time I used it I put 6 CDs into the player, hit random, and stayed in the tub for two hours. This is the first song that played. I bet no one else anywhere in the universe hears this song and thinks about a bath tub.

9. "Daughter"-Pearl Jam. As with dancing, I am not much of a singer, but there are a few songs that for some reason I can just nail. This is one of them. I sing it better than Eddie Vetter, and no, I won't sing it for you. Another song that was written for me is James' "Born of Frustration" though I refuse to do the "woo woo wooo woooooo" part at the beginning. Those might be the only two.

10. "Just Like Heaven"-The Cure. Winner of the "Let's Turn a Great Song Into a Crappy Movie" award, which is different from the "Let's Turn a Crappy Song Into a Crappy Movie" award. What the hell is Reese Witherspoon's problem? I digress. Remember the annoying guy in college who played his guitar on the roof of his rental house across from the dormitory where you lived, the one who annoyed the hell out of you and made you wish you had a catapult and several small sheep? The only time I found him mildly entertaining was on a very foggy night in the spring of 1990 when he was playing "Just Like Heaven" and I couldn't see a damn thing. I wonder if Reese Witherspoon was over there.

11. "Romeo and Juliet"-Dire Straits. We started with unrequited love, we finish with unrequited love. Back in my pathetic 20s, when I was blindly carrying a torch, I used to listen to this song and think of how cool it would be when she finally came around. Then a few years later it was featured in Can't Hardly Wait (which is a great song and wasn't a bad movie, so it doesn't win any awards from above) and seemed completely pathetic. It makes me laugh now, especially since I am married and all that pathetic 20s shit is behind me (Thank you, Kristen; when I met you, you made me 56000% cooler. God love you). I do admit that there are times of my life that I could scrub out of my brain with a Brillo Pad, but experience makes us who we are today, doesn't it?

Stay thirsty my friends.

04 August 2009

Surely, this one was the King of all Muppets

I have acquaintances who, when they found out that I was going to be a father, said to themselves "HA!" These were people who heard me say that if I ever had kids, there would be certain things that I would never do; things that I saw other people do with their kids, like wait for an hour just to see a Disney parade pass by.

I wasn't being judgmental. People are free to do what they want. And I'm free to not to do what I want, regardless what any child of mine may think.

So far, no Disney parades, and I don't see that changing. Call me Grumpus. I don't care.

I did do something last week that I thought I might never do though: I bought my son an Elmo.

Yes, Elmo. Some love him. Some hate him. Some of us hear his voice 24/7. Desmond has discovered Sesame Street, and he loves Elmo. He completely freaks out whenever he comes on. So last week, when we in Target, I saw a small stuffed Elmo that spoke when shook (and if that isn't an apt metaphor...unfortunately it does not say "stop, my brain hurts.") and I showed it to Desmond. He squealed. Windows five miles away shattered. I put it in the cart.

And this is how cool my son is: he didn't freak because I didn't give him the toy. He just kept his eye on it for the rest of the time we were in the store. I let him hold it in the car, still in its package, and he squealed the entire way home.

So we hear Elmo now, 24/7. I will never get used to it, but I know that it is not forever.

Shake-Me-Like-a-British-Nanny Elmo (and if you have issues with that name, address your complaints here) is packaged quite tightly. He comes sitting up in a cardboard container, his arms and legs fastened to it with plastic. I needed a scissors to free him of these restraints.

It struck me as I was doing this that Elmo is packaged in a most peculiar way: his arms were outstretched, the plastic attached around his wrists. His feet were crossed over, and the plastic wrapped around them as well.

I not only unpackaged Elmo, I de-crucified him.

I feel so noble.

22 July 2009

A Man in Full

I found it quite distressing to hear that Frank McCourt died a few days ago. Unlike most of his readers, my first book of his was not Angela's Ashes. I read 'Tis first, his memoir of returning to America from Ireland and establishing a life in New York City.

I loved the book, and have read it multiple times. His last book, Teacher Man, seemed a bit forced, but was worth the effort. Frank McCourt was a great story teller.

I will remember McCourt as the author of 'Tis above all else. The book fits into my memory nicely, of the many times that I listened to my father tell me about his father, who came to America in the early 1920s from the Irish county of Kerry. My grandfather died when I was eight months old and has lived forever in the words of my father and the images they created in my mind. Dad was incredible at bringing Grandpa to life. In my world, I can hear him speaking; if he were to suddenly appear behind me, I would recognize him by the voice.

My father was first generation Irish-American, and he dove into the history of the land where his parents came from and some of his family still remained. He sang songs of rebellion when he was bored, sometimes to the entertainment of my friends in another room. My father died without ever having visited Ireland, and it wasn't until after his death that I understood why he never went: he had a vision of Ireland in his own mind from his father (my father's mother died when he was ten), and had he actually gone to Ireland he would have found things very different. I used to think it a shame that Dad never went to Ireland, but I have since realized that a part of him always lived there.

Back to McCourt: he became a version of my grandfather. I read his words and pictured my grandfather talking to me about his journey to America and the struggles he found here as he made a new life for himself. It was comforting. I have always been a little angry that I never got to know my grandfather, despite the wonderful job my father did of personifying him. I have compensated for this in a small way by identifying with certain Irish authors, none more influential than Frank McCourt.

I've been to Ireland five times, each trip better than the last, and the Ireland that I have experienced is nothing like the Ireland that McCourt wrote about nor the Ireland that my grandfather left behind. I have romanticized Ireland, which is ironic since the Ireland I have read and heard about was about as unromantic a place as could be.

We paint our lives in the colors that we see fit.

McCourt only wrote three books, and I can't believe that I will not be reading anything else of his. I went through this a few years ago when I discovered Pete McCarthy, who had the temerity to die shortly after I finished his two books about the joys of being named "McCarthy" (note to contemporary Irish authors: you should consider writing stuff that I don't like if you crave longevity). It's an ending, though not written, and not expected. I saw McCourt about two years ago at a local bookstore, and I asked him if he was working on another memoir. He said that he was not, that he "was tired of talking about himself", and he said it in a way that made everyone laugh.

On the dedication page of Teacher Man, McCourt lists the next generation of McCourts, and tells them to "Sing your song, dance your dance, tell your tale." It's bittersweet to read this now, knowing that McCourt will tell no more tales, and I feel like I am saying goodbye to my grandfather again, to my father again, and to every Irish tale that I have been told.

There is a new story teller out there somewhere. My search has already begun.

11 July 2009

Today's game: Rock Band or Woman's Problem?

(Please fill in your answers in the space provided)

1. Alice in Chains

2. Suzy Under Water

3. Jane's Addiction

4. Betty's Hammer Toe


21 June 2009

Getting a head start

I got a two hour head start on Father's Day this year: Desmond decided that it was party time Saturday at ten pm, just as Mom was falling asleep. We played with some blocks, watched a little "Wow Wow Wubzy" and shared some philosophies about life before he finally cashed it all in just before midnight. I am amazed that he was still up. We went to a cousin's birthday party Saturday afternoon and Desmond ran himself silly for about three hours. Desmond in public is a lot like a shark in the water: neither remains still, ever.

My boy turns one-and-a-half today. Eighteen months. He is everything that I could have ever imagined him to be, even if he moves at half the speed if light. He's changed so much in just the last month or so, as he has become assured of his upward mobility (read: he can run without stumbling all over the joint); new bits and pieces of his personality erupt from him by the minute it seems (the latest innovation? The TEMPER); he babbles endlessly, but we can definitely start to hear him forming his words (we are sure that we are days away from the point where he will not stay silent for the next several years). Every day is something new, something we have never experienced before. I can only imagine what it must be like for him.

I've never been much of a Father's Day kind of guy. My father was not the type of person to celebrate any kind of "special" day, whether holidays, birthdays or anniversaries. He was quite content to spend most of his free time with his family no matter what time of the year it was, and never expected gifts for anything. As a result, he was impossible to shop for. He had two set responses when asked for suggestions: "I have more than I could ever possibly need" and "If you don't know by now what I like, then you haven't been paying much attention, have you?" He saved the latter response for when he knew that we were frustrated in coming up with ideas for him, for he was quite sinister when he chose to be.

From the time of my mid-teens, I never had a problem finding a present for Father's Day: I bought him a round of golf. I think Dad and I played golf together on father's Day morning for fifteen or so straight years, up until a few years before he died, when he stopped playing altogether due to his arthritic shoulder.

I can't recall what I bought him for those last few years.

My most vivid Father's Day recollection? Easily 2002, though it wasn't the day itself. Dad passed away on June 8th, eight days before Sunday the 16th. The night before his wake, I went to buy a dress shirt, and I'll never forget the spectacle of the signs in the men's department, banners that hung from the ceiling imploring shoppers not to "forget Dad this Father's Day."

I remember having this feeling of wanting to light each and every one of those banners on fire, and watch them burn into charred strips of blackened paper until they blew away into the air. I've never felt more ominous in the presence of any kind of advertising, even though I was well aware that we had never made a big deal of Father's Day. It was simply a reminder of what had been taking away from me about forty-eight hours prior.

Or what I thought had been taking from me. The hindsight of seven years (seven years!) has given me the knowledge that death does nothing to the status of a relationship other than force it into a place where it exists solely in the heart and in memory. There are certain things that we can no longer touch, feel or hear, but these things do not go away; they are just re-appropriated to long-term storage.

In 2007, when I was a first-time expectant father, I got quite tired of people telling me that that particular Father's Day "counted" for me. There were still many questions left about what we were headed for: we didn't know the sex of our child, and ultimately there was still a chance that the pregnancy would never make it to term. I didn't feel like a father yet. I recall that it was a nice day that year, and I spent a good deal of time sitting outside on our deck. I couldn't help but think about my father because in six months I would be joining him in fatherhood-it was one of the last life experiences that he had that I had yet to-and I also couldn't help but think of what it had been like to have been without him for the past five years. Sadness over his death had gone away a long time ago, replaced by a comforting knowledge of knowing that for as long as I was alive, I would be keeping him alive with me. I also felt a burden, because he was gone, and if my child was going to know him, it would be entirely up to me to give him that knowledge. How could I possibly do such a thing? How could I describe thirty-five years of a relationship in such a way as to assure that my child would not feel that his late grandfather was a stranger?

Throughout this initial pregnancy, I experienced an existential crisis that in some ways is still around: I became obsessed with the idea that I could die before my child was born. The irony of such a fate! I had spent most of my adult years convinced that marriage and parenthood was not for me, yet when the opportunity presented itself I went for it as hard as anything ever in my life prior. How cruel would it be to be taken away from this life just before bringing a new one into it?

This was a daily (irrational) battle. And because of my state on Father's Day 2007 it manifested into me trying to understand how my child might feel on that first Father's Day, be it in a year or in fifty, when I was no longer alive. How quickly would he forget me, if he ever knew me at all? The only word I can think of to describe Father's Day 2007 is probably a bit exaggerated: "tortuous."

I am like my father in that I don't particularly care to celebrate certain days over others. I'm 42, and my birthday has just been another day now for more than half of my life; I enjoy certain holidays, of course, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but they pass so quickly now that I feel like I never quite experience them. I love being a father, and my gut tells me that I don't need a certain day to celebrate the miracle of being a Dad. I live it every day, no matter what the calendar says.

My two favorite days of the year are August 2nd and December 21st. Those are the birthdays of my wife and son, the two people who bring me an amount of joy and contentment that I never really understood was possible.

I think about my father every single day, and I think about being a father to my son every moment of every day. Always, I am smack dab in the middle of a generational seesaw: a son of a father, a father of a son.

It has taken me a while to reach this state of balance, but now that I am here, it is where I will always be.

15 June 2009

Paging Dr. Freud

My sleep is normally full of dreams, and I have had plenty of crazy, out-there moments, but nothing quite like a short one from last night:

I took Hitler to McDonald's for lunch. He ordered a Happy Meal.

11 June 2009

Inspirational, muppetational...

This is brilliant. Every time I've seen 30 Rock I've had this nagging feeling that I've seen this before, and now I have my answer.

10 June 2009

Apparently, we've moved to Iceland

I have no real way of explaining my absence from these parts for the last month, so I will just blame it on the weather. It's been completely ridiculous here in Reykjavik (wait, I'm still in Chicago?) since April. It has rained over and over and over. It has rained while raining. I've been on a first-name basis with clouds since Easter.

The temperature? Let me put it this way: it's 11:15 in the evening on June 10th, and I'm drinking tea to stay warm. I can't keep track of the number of times I have had to resist the urge to put the furnace on. There was a frost advisory on the night of my birthday which is in mid-May. That put a crimp in the ol' birthday crocus, believe me.

Last Thursday, I believe, the high temperature was sixty-one. In Reykjavik, Iceland. In Chicago, the high was sixty. That same day, it was sixty-one in Seattle.

(That was the
low temperature that day in Seattle)

It's incredibly depressing to wake up on a June morning and think that it is still February. But we move on...Desmond is thriving. He'll be eighteen months old in eleven days and has turned into a little man. He's quicker than I am now, which makes for some interesting early mornings around here. And Lord Almighty, is he determined. When Desmond decides that he wants something, or wants to do something, he is hell-bent on getting his way. This makes for some interesting mornings, afternoons, and evenings. His favorite thing to do is pound: he pounds on tables, the television, appliances, the sides of his crib, and my face. And he cackles with glee whenever he does it.

Desmond snuck up on me a few days ago when I was reading the newspaper and snatched it out of my hand. After I peeled myself off of the ceiling I tried to tell him not to do things like that and he laughed. I vividly recall seeing this written on the wall in front of me: it's all over.

I'm watching David Letterman at the moment. He radiates cool. Dave got himself into a little controversy earlier this week at the expense of everyone's favorite governor, Sarah Palin. The Alaskan Queen was in New York and attended a Yankees game with Rudy Giuliani (AKA St. 9/11), giving Letterman the opportunity to make the following joke:

"One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez."

Now given what we know about the Palin family, who do you think Dave was referring to? The daughter in question was Bristol, the eighteen-year old Alaska unmarried mother of the year. You have to be an idiot (or an opportunistic politician) to not see that.

The problem with Letterman's joke is that Bristol wasn't at the game. The Palin daughter with Sarah in NY was fourteen-year old Willow.


Predictably, the Palin family expressed "outrage" over Letterman's suggestion that a fourteen year old girl be subjected to the carnal urges of a steroid-using Yankee third baseman.

Tonight, Letterman made it clear that he was obviously referring to Bristol, and owned up to the fact that the joke was in poor taste regardless of its target. And that was it. I love the fact that he never apologized. He shouldn't have. The idea that he'd joke about the sexual abuse of an underage girl is absurd.

Isn't it lovely to see Palin using her family in another "us vs. them" moment? She was so eager to parade everyone on stage at the convention in Minneapolis, especially Bristol's now-ex, Levi, to show they are an "American" family. How very convenient then, and how convenient now. Leave my family alone, she says, until it bodes well for my political aspirations.

God, she makes me ill. She's found her niche up in Alaska (where it is no doubt warmer than it is here), where she can spew her BS endlessly and they buy it, but why must she subject the rest of the nation to it?

At the end of his explanation tonight, Letterman invited Palin to appear on his show. She'll never do it, of course, but I can dream about it, under fifteen blankets.

10 May 2009

I discovered this growing up, and I've been reminded of it every single day since Desmond was born:

There is nothing quite like a Mom.

30 April 2009

Seems a simple question

Should it keep raining here, I may change my answer.

27 April 2009

A long distance call to arms. And legs.

We live in a house that is over fifty years old now, with a partially unfinished basement that has lots of nooks and crannies, and some damp areas. I knew it when we bought it, but since it was winter I was able to put it out of my mind:

We're going to be battling bugs.

In my previous homeowner adventure I found that having a cat helps keep things in the basement, and we have two now, so I'm hopeful that they do their job. But as we found out tonight, visitors can make it up to the second floor.

I was in the living room (our bedroom is directly above) when I heard Kristen hightail it out of there and come down the stairs like her feet were bowling balls. She's actually pretty good about dealing with bugs-she's eliminated many a spider for me (I hate spiders; it's a long story, but man, do I hate them)-but apparently when she went into her closet to pick out clothes to wear tomorrow she was greeted by something with many, many legs staring back at her from a hanger.

I never saw it, but judging from her description I'm pretty sure it was a centipede. While harmless, they are freakin' ugly. I give her credit for making it down the stairs. I would have hit the floor right there, as I am one not much for surprises.

I never found the offending menace, which no doubt descended back into the darkness of the baseboards, and it's been a few hours. I haven't heard any cries for help from my sleeping wife so I assume all is well. For now, at least. I really am not looking forward to what we come upon when the humidity edges up to rain forest quality in summer.

If it gets really bad, I might give this guy a call. He seems to do very well with roaches, so I'm sure he could handle the rest. I'm not digging his dance moves though.

26 April 2009

Subterranean Second Ammendment Homesick Blues

Saturday, in the Roseland neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, a memorial to children murdered by gang violence-built in a vacant lot-was dedicated.

Mayor Richard Daley was there, expressing his disbelief over the "acceptance" of gun violence not only in his city, but in all of America.

I wasn't there. I haven't seen the memorial, but I'd wager that each and every child memorialized is of a minority representation.

And it makes me angry that none of the people who spoke at the event will cross the line that needs to be crossed: a majority of the citizens in the US who are being slaughtered by guns are from urban, minority neighborhoods.

Daley complains about the assault weapons ban being overturned but he is missing the point. Sadly, he knows what the point is. He just can't acknowledge it, because it wouldn't be politically savvy.

What he should have said today was this:

"Look around you. Look at the faces on this memorial. Look at the faces of the people here who mourn their children. Realize that in our society, violence is skewed towards urban minorities. Now get angry. Use your anger positively: ask your leaders, your elected officials, why they find it acceptable for this to happen. Ask them why they are OK with this slaughter, because we all know that if this level of death and violence occurred suddenly in affluent areas, there would be steps taken to ensure that it stopped. Tell them that you will not tolerate this any longer, that attention must be paid to those less fortunate."

Can you imagine this? I'm not one to believe that race should be injected into societal debates as often as it is, and am loathe to see the usual suspects jump in front of the cameras at the very hint of injustice, but this is different. The facts are clear: if one is going to die at the hands of a bullet in this country, the odds are overwhelming as to where it will be.

Why is it tolerated?

3000 people died on September 11, 2001. Ten times that amount died from gunshot wounds that same year in the US.

Number of people killed in America by terrorism since 9/11: zero (fact).

Number of people killed in America by guns since 9/11: 210,000 (estimate).

We have abandoned the principle that all men are created equal in this country.

19 April 2009

From the Fir Tree State

"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle
And the hills the greenest green, in Seattle
Like a beautiful child, growing up, free an' wild
Full of hopes an' full of fears, full of laughter, full of tears
Full of dreams to last the years, in Seattle"

Any guess where I might be writing this from?

When I was a kid I vaguely remember a dude named Bobby Sherman and a show he was on called "Here Come the Brides." I don't recall ever watching it, but the guy seemed like a big deal.

Years later, I became a huge fan of "The Critic." If you've never watched it, you can see an entire episode here. I'm a sucker for animated shows with self-loathing main characters, and this is the Mt. Everest of such shows.

I can't find a clip of the scene that I really want here: the critic's name is Jay Sherman. In one show he finds himself trying to use his public persona to get a date, and a woman squeals with delight at meeting him. I don't remember what she does, but his teenage son immediately says "Dad, she thinks you're Bobby Sherman." Not to miss out on his chance, Jay grabs a microphone and starts singing "Seattle" (where the above lyrics are from), which apparently was the theme song to "Here Come the Brides."

Welcome to my world, where obscure references are ready to pop out without warning. My brother-in-law lives in Seattle (in the quite lovely Magnolia district) so we are in the midst of a four day weekend trip here. I've been to Seattle once before, in the summer of 2003, but Kristen has not.

And yes, this means that we put Desmond on a plane. For four and a half hours. For the first forty-five minutes he earned a solid D-, not wanting to sit still, shrieking and thinking he could throw whatever he got his hands on. Once we got into the air he mellowed considerably, and though he barely slept he improved to a B+. Thank God for flirtatious flight attendants and the couple sitting behind us who miss the heck out of their own grandchildren. Hopefully our return flight tomorrow is as smooth.

I like it here. They are actually having a spring here, and there are flowers blooming all over the place. I'm wondering if Seattle translates to "place of giant tulips" in some other language. We've explored a lot of the neighborhoods along with the downtown pier (I find the market to be a bit underwhelming). I was hoping to get to a Mariners game but it looks as if driving by Safeco Field is the closest I'll get to Ichiro and Junior on this trip.

I don't want to go back to Chicago unless it is perpetually 75, and it isn't. By the time we land tomorrow it will be 40. I went to last Thursday's Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley (bite me, St. Louis) and froze my extremities off. I expect to see glaciers coming in off Lake Michigan any day now, and the experience at the game was an adventure in pure obnoxiousness (which is another entry all its own) and made me feel like I was sixty years old.

I've been typing this with one hand while Desmond sleeps in my other (actually on it, since he is atop my entire left arm, which I can feel nothing of) and it makes me appreciate the slower pace of life here. As soon as he wakes we will head down to the Space Needle and the area around there. Lots of hills in Seattle.

It was clear enough here yesterday to see Mt. Rainier off in the distance. I want that view in my backyard, or on the expressway, somewhere, anywhere in Chicago. All I've got now are billboards.

15 April 2009

To so easily prove a point

Think all that "teabagging" today wasn't directly about Obama?

I beg to differ.


Is that a tea bag in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

So, um, were you aware that today is, um, a big day for, um, teabagging?

Yes, today, April 15th, is not only Tax Day, it is Teabag Day. Dozens upon dozens of people who are mad as hell are gathering all over the country to...well, I'm not quite sure what they are doing. Whatever it is they are trying to say, they are saying it with tea.

A little history: The Boston Tea Party was an act of civil disobedience in 1773. Cue Schoolhouse Rock:

He taxed their property,
He didn't give them any choice,
And back in England,
He didn't give them any voice.
(That's called taxation without representation,
and it's not fair!
But when the Colonies complained
The king said: "I don't care!"

He even has the nerve
To tax our cup of tea.
To put it kindly, King,
We really don't agree.

Gonna show you how we feel.
We're gonna dump this tea
And turn this harbor into
The biggest cup of tea in history!

OK, enough history. Today's protest is all about...well, again, I'm not sure. I do know that I first heard about a tea uprising in the aftermath of the economic stimulus bill that passed shortly after President Obama took office. A popular buzz was that one could spend one million dollars per day since the birth of Christ and still not have spent the $787 billion in that bill. Quick math: 2000 years, 365 days per, that's 730,000 days, and $730 billion. Clearly, Obama's spending is out of control, and he must be stopped. Why, if any American president attempted to spend that much money, there's be protests all over the place, right?

Wait a tic. Go back to the birth of Christ, and spend FOUR million dollars per day (go ahead, I'll wait, you deserve the Lamborghini). Done? Great. You still haven't spent the amount of money President Bush did on his two wars, his medicare prescription drug benefit package, and the TARP bailout of last fall.

So, teabaggers, you've done this before, right? There were"uprisings" aplenty when Bush was spending like, well King George, yes? No? Really? Must be something else.

Oh yes, how silly of me! Taxes! Taxes, taxes, taxes! Why, that scoundrel Obama has slammed the American people since he got into office with a tax break for ninety-five percent of us. Who the hell does he think he is?

And the rich are getting soaked, I tell you. Soaked like a baseball glove left out in the rain! Do you realize that the top five percent of wage earners in the country are paying ten percent less in taxes then they were under that bastion of tax relief, President Reagan? That's completely unacceptable!

In reality, the only taxes that have gone up under President Obama are those on tobacco. If the teabaggers are protesting taxes, they must be mighty confused. Obama is doing exactly what he said he would on the campaign trail, reduce taxes for a great majority of people, yet that is an alternate reality for those Lipton and Tetley screamers today.

An aside here: protesting against taxes is pretty much a libertarian passion, but you'll be shocked to know that this tea movement has been hijacked by the GOP, and promoted like hell on FOX, the fair and balanced network. HA! They have anchors hosting shows from protest locations today. Can you imagine the aneurysms they would be having if the folks at MSNBC we running ads for war protests and hosting from them back in 2004?

But here is what cracks me up the most about the Republicans: every time they think they are being "hip" (see "Steele, Michael"), they instead demonstrate that they are completely out of touch. I don't know how many times I have heard someone on TV saying that they were going "teabagging" today. Excuse me for releasing my inner thirteen year old, but do they have any idea what that means? How am I not supposed to have my lunch come through my nose when they interview Ethel from Oklahoma, who proudly proclaims that she has "never teabagged before" and is "looking forward to it"?

(OK, it occurs to me that there might be a person or two out there who has no idea what I am talking about, so in the interest of being informative, go here-but be warned that it's not rated PG-if you need to know why I cringe every time I hear Glenn Beck talk about going out to teabag.)

So where was I? We've determined so far that: if you protested today because of outrageous spending, and you didn't do it when George W. Bush was out of control, you're full of it. If you protested today because you're outraged over your skyrocketing taxes, you're full of it.

What else is left?

How about you're protesting because the candidate you voted for lost in November, and it drives you absolutely bonkers that Obama is president now. How about you're protesting because it drives you crazy that the Democrats are in control, and you will do anything to express the contempt that you have for them, even though that when your Republican president and Republican-controlled US Congress were doing worse, you sat on your ass and did nothing, because Armageddon under the GOP is better than anything under the Democrats, at least in your view.

Admit your partisanship, and I'll at least give you credit for being honest. Otherwise, where the fuck have you been for the last seven years?

I leave with this video. Watch the first two minutes, forty-one seconds (actually, just listen to it-that's the key). It's fookin' brilliant.

Oh, those eyebrows

Maybe it's because it's really late and I'm really tired, so tired that I can barely remember how to spell "remember."

Or maybe it's the whole Desmond thing. I'm definitely much more sentimental now then I was fifteen months ago. I can hear him snoring over the baby monitor, and it sounds like Beethoven.

Whatever. I strongly recommend spending the next seven minutes and thirty-four seconds watching Susan Boyle. I abhor shows like this, yet I could watch this particular clip over and over again.

(I'd embed the video, but that function has been disabled by YouTube for some reason)

12 April 2009

Useful shot, that

I know a lot of people find it quite boring, but I've always enjoyed watching golf on television. When I was a kid and trying to learn the game, it was helpful to remember what I had seen so I could try to copy the form of the professionals.

That was the idea, anyway. I'm a better-than-average golfer, probably. By the time I was 16 (I started playing when I was 14) it was pretty much a guarantee that I'd break 100, and by 21 I was a good bet to break 90. By the time I was 30 my handicap was single-digits; the lowest I ever got it down to was 6.

Things have changed mightily. I don't play enough now to have a handicap, but if I did I'd guess it would be around 15. Breaking 90 would a big deal (I haven't busted 80 in a long, long time), and I'm just as likely to shoot 100 instead.

I'm sure if I played more, as much as I used to, things would be different, but I'm OK with the things in my life that have led me to play less golf (***cough-DESMOND-cough***). And I have some physical issues that have started to affect the way I play-my knees are twenty-five years older than the rest of my body, and my back hates me.

I've been playing golf for 28 years, and I never once thought I'd ever be in a position to make some money off of it. That fact makes me even more impressed when I watch the game on TV now, how some of these players can drill shot after shot with millions of dollars on the line.

I think the golf world is just a tad over-saturated on Tiger Woods these days, but there is an ample reason-the guy is the best player in the world. He does things on the course that amaze everyone, like winning the US Open last year with what was essentially a torn ACL and a fractured leg.

When I watch a sporting event I tend to drift away from the favorites-I root against teams like the Cowboys, Lakers, Celtics, Yankees, etc (no doubt my lifelong allegiance to the Cubs plays a part in this)-and golf is the same way. I'm kind of tired of seeing Woods win everything. So this afternoon, as the final round was winding down, I was gritting my teeth at the idea of Woods coming back from seven shots down to win at Augusta for the fifth time.

And then came 18.

Yowsa. How many times have we seen Woods pull a shot out of his backside and turn a troublesome hole into one of glory? (maybe that's not the best way to say that...) Woods was under the pine trees on eighteen, needing a shot only he can make, to have any hope of winning.

He gripped it, ripped it...and watched the ball ricochet right off a tree and ninety degrees away. Game over.

And I am quite sure that is the only time I have ever watched Woods hit a shot and said "big deal-I do that all of the time."

So a dude named Angel wins on Easter. Seems OK to me.

06 April 2009

I will not be sucked in

I caught most of the Cubs' opening day 4-2 win over Houston, and they looked really good. I know it's just one game of 162, but it's always a pleasure to watch a well-played game of baseball.

They are stacked again this year, and might even be better than they were last year, when they won 97 games.

And I will not be sucked in!

I mean it. I had an epiphany last October, when the Cubs fall flat on their collective butts and didn't even win a freakin' playoff game.

For me, the Cubs might as well be playing English Premier League Soccer.

The EPL plays a full regular season, and nothing else. The champion is whoever does the best during the season-there are no playoffs.

It's a perfect setup.

The Cubs play in the National League Central along with Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, and they are demonstrably better than those five other teams. There's no reason why they shouldn't win the division by a wide margin.


Playoffs? What playoffs?

(*I reserve the right to come back here in October and delete this post if...ah, never mind)

Sins of the father

For as long as he has been able to, Desmond gets the hiccups when he laughs. Sometimes I feel bad about this, when I make him laugh because I get such a kick out of listening to him giggle, and he spends the next fifteen minutes hiccuping.

I made Desmond laugh about six hours ago. He did not get the hiccups.

I, however, have had them pretty much ever since.

30 March 2009

Things that are good to know

The "solution" to global warming is in the Bible.

Apparently, "Shimkus" is evangelical for "I'm smart and you're not." My sister lives on the cusp of this guy's district, so fortunately, when things get too hot for her, she will have just a short drive to relief.

25 March 2009

It's a long, long way down

I have had a Grade AAAA rant building in me for the last few days, and I am not quite ready to unload. I intended to blow off some writer's block steam here with a random eleven (which I will in a moment), but a visit today to the same store that led to this lesson demands that I make the following proclamation:

I declare open hostilities towards those who think that they are better than everyone else.

Des and I went to Target today (normally I wouldn't bother to identify the store, but I think it lends to the idiocy that I am about to describe) around 2:30, and the parking lot was not crowded. There were plenty of spots available within twenty-thirty yards of the store entrance.

I got out of the car and as I walked to the other side to spring my son, I noticed a black Mercedes enter from the north-actually I heard the gunning of the engine first, as the car accelerated from the turn-and proceed closer towards the entrance. I got Desmond out of the car, and as I walked with him towards the store, I noticed the car had pulled up onto the sidewalk, maybe five yards from the entrance to the store. The tires squealed slightly when she braked. A middle aged woman got out and went inside, her stride confident and quick. She was dressed well, wearing a leather coat, carrying a large purse, and had wrap around sunglasses covering what looked like a well-made up face. Her hair was impeccable.

I knew what she was doing. She was going in to pick up a prescription-the pharmacy was adjacent to the entrance. I put Des in a cart and decided that if I saw the woman when I passed the pharmacy, I was going to say something.

Sure enough, she was at the pick-up window of the pharmacy. As I approached I heard her complain to another customer that she was in a hurry.

Since Desmond was with me, I politely excused myself and then asked her why she felt it necessary to park on the sidewalk (had I not had Desmond with me, I would have been a tad more direct).

"Oh," she said, "I'm not feeling well."

I didn't break stride as I said that I felt it wasn't her right to drive in such a manner, and that there were plenty of parking spaces close to the store. I distinctly heard her say "I don't care what you think" as I went away.

I was pleasant in the ten seconds that our encounter lasted. She was full of shit, and she's fortunate that I didn't say that to her.

I've been around long enough to know that ignorant people like that shouldn't bother me, that I should let other people's ignorance bounce of me as long as it does not directly affect me. Perhaps I've changed somewhat since Desmond was born. I don't know. I do know that I was quite happy to interject my opinion into this woman's day.

You're getting a prescription at Target, lady. Maybe spend a few more bucks and go to the Walgreens drive-thru next time.

Obviously this is just the tip of something building up in me for a while. Today was the tipping point. I am completely fed up with those who have this sense of entitlement, that they are above doing things like regular people when out in public.

And I am not going to have any problem pointing it out to the in a dignified manner from this point forward.

OK, on to the eleven. Again, this bit is 100% ripped-off from this guy. Go spend some time over there. He's much funnier than I am.

1. "Kiss Them for Me"-Siouxsie and the Banshees. "Banshee" is one of my favorite all-time words. I've had days when I've used it a thousand times. I'm quite thankful they didn't go with "Siouxsie and the Hags of the Mist." Anyhoo, I have a very specific memory of this song: August 1995, a train traveling overnight from Paris to Berlin, and I was having an impossible time getting to sleep so I put on my Walkman (remember it was '95) and stared out the window into the dark. I recall having a dream but felt as if I was still awake, and in the dream my grandmother, who had died the previous month, was telling me about all the things I was going to enjoy on my first-ever trip to Europe. This song grew louder and louder as she talked, and at the end I couldn't hear her anymore. I opened my eyes and realized this song was playing on my headphones. It was so odd. Ergo, I think about my grandmother every time I hear this song. Clunky, yet oh-so sentimental.

2. "Put Your Records On"-Corinne Bailey. This songs plays over the end credits of Venus, which is the only movie that has made me cry in the theater. I absolutely lost it at the end of this movie, partly I'm sure because it was a Saturday matinee and there were perhaps six people in the place. Long story: I love Peter O'Toole, for many reasons, one of which is that he reminds me of my father (the two men could not have been further unalike, so go figure; must be the Irish). The end of this movie was like saying goodbye to an old friend. I got hooked on O'Toole in 1981 when I saw My Favorite Year, and when I mentioned to Dad how much I liked him he introduced me to his earlier roles. Wow. I go into a coma every time I try to watch Lawrence of Arabia. And how is it possible that O'Toole has been nominated eight freakin' times for an Oscar and has never won? Blows my mind. He lost for this role to Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, which brings to mind my primary beef of acting awards: which is harder-playing an actual person or a fictional character? Whitaker was great as Idi Amin, but O'Toole was brilliant. Acting should be different from imitation. I haven't seen either Milk or The Wrestler, but I bet Mickey Rourke deserved an Oscar over Sean Penn. I'm not taking away the achievements of actors who can portray actual people (Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles come to mind) but it seems to me that if you have the ability to watch hours and hours of a person in public, you can eventually nail their mannerisms perfectly. Oh well.

3. "Seven Veils"-Peter Murphy. Finally! I just now figured out what bugs me about Peter Murphy's voice-it's exactly what I would expect Hugh Laurie ("House") to sound like if he sang. This has vexed me for a while, the "there's something I'm not catching" feeling I get every time I hear Peter Murphy. I like it, don't get me wrong, but for ever more I shall always hear him and think "House sings!!!"

4. "New York"-U2. I'm a little perturbed at how U2 has adopted New York City as its own since 9/11, which would lead me to think that this song was written after. Nope. It came out almost a full year before. Maybe Bono and the boys wanted to avoid the whole Irish-Boston stereotype. Don't know. I've never seen the allure of New York myself, though I definitely love Boston.

5. "White Room"-Cream. Quick! What Scorsese movie is this from? I'm sure he used it somewhere, sometime. Can't find anything. It was used for white I-macs in 2000. Apparently Scorsese used the same Rolling Stone's song in every single one of his movies, but I'm not telling what it is.

6. "Binky the Doormat"-REM. I wasn't much of a fan of New Adventures in Hi-Fi (the CD on which this song appears) for the first seven years it was available (except for the song "Electrolite", which reminds me of wandering alone in Galway, Ireland in 1996, but that's another list...); however in June 2003 I got hooked while driving up the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Seattle. I think of the redwoods; I think of the mountains in Oregon (I detoured a bit east around Eugene); and I think of things I saw that I find hard to describe. I spent the better part of three days listening to this CD while driving, driving, driving. This is also the only song I've ever heard that talks about Astroglide, but then I don't get out much.

7. "Lady Madonna"-the Beatles. Did you know that the Beatles have approximately eighty-seven songs with a woman's name in the title? I can thank Sporcle for that. Warning: do not follow that link unless you have a ton of time to waste and L-O-V-E useless information. Like how many songs the Beatles have with a woman's name in the title...

8. "Our Love"-Rhett Miller. "He still found time to write to her/His heart exploding words." I discovered Miller around the time that I met my wife (a long story chronicled here-as if I haven't given someone enough to read yet) and it's uncanny how much this song has nothing to do with it. Almost every other selection of the CD does though, including one that I simply will not go into detail about. Ever. Don't ask.

9. "River"-Enya. Enya's songs are impossible to describe because 1) I don't speak Gaelic; 2) her titles have nothing to do with the music itself. Am I supposed to think of her floating on a tube down the Liffey as I listen to this? I have no idea.

10. "Buffalo River Home"-John Hiatt. There is a radio station in Santa Fe, KABC, that I stumbled upon in 2004. It reminded me of a station that went bust in Chicago in the late 1970s-WEFM. As far as I can recall, WEFM never played a song I didn't like (oh to be twelve and discovering rock n' roll), and in the 2 days that I spent in Santa Fe listening to KABC, it never played a song I didn't like. This happened to be one of them. I was never so happy to discover upon returning home that KABC streamed live over the Internet. I was in radio heaven for the better part of the next year. And then one day the stream disappeared. POOF! Gone. It's never come back. Every once in a while I write the station BEGGING them to start streaming live again but I never got a response. Anyone who has connection in Santa Fe and can phone in a favor will have my enduring gratitude.

11. "Tokyo Storm Warning"-Elvis Costello. This is the song I imagine playing in the background as I drive around busting a few heads in an effort to crack the case that has been vexing me for most of my career.

Anyone make it this far? Martin Scorsese has put "Gimmee Shelter" in every one of his movies.

09 March 2009

Saying adieu to the land of the quadrupeds

Desmond is a walker.

Late to the party, my boy finally decided over the weekend that enough was enough. He teased us for several weeks, standing up on his own and taking the occasional clunky step, but resorting to plopping back onto his butt and shuffling off to Crawl Town.

Now he's a pro. Less than twenty-four hours after stringing together multiple steps, he's discovered that he is so much quicker when he stays upright. Clomp clomp clomp. When I'm in the basement and he's on the first floor, it sounds like he is riding a horse. Clomp clomp clomp. Overnight, his feet have transformed from sponges to anvils.

I can't help but laugh at the moments when he takes one step too many and hits the deck. Down goes Desmond! It's just so funny to see him inching along on his own one second, and sitting on his keister the next with a "what the heck just happened?" look on his face. He hasn't hurt himself-yet. I know it's coming. Boom!

(OK, in the course of writing this I've seen the Subway commercial where the "Five dollar foot-long" musical breaks out when the guy can't decide what to order. This is the most obnoxious thing I've seen on TV in a long, long time. Please stop it.)

03 March 2009


Let's go over this again, shall we?

The Fundamental Rule of Parking Lots clearly states that once a car has pulled into a parking space, that car owns said space until the driver pulls out of it. For example, when someone returns to their vehicle after, say, spending thirty minutes in Target, they do not have to move their car until they damn well want to.

The rule also states that any driver that pulls next to a parked car, intent on taking the parking space when it opens, and expresses impatience at the pace at which the car already parked is leaving, shall be referred to as an Asshat. Additionally, if multiple open parking spaces exist within fifty feet, he/she/they shall be elevated to the title of Festering Asshat.

(Side note: although not encouraged, if the driver of the parked car is in the process of putting their fourteen month old son into his car seat when the Asshat makes its presence known, it is acceptable to fling a dozen rotten tomatoes against their windshield.)

So let's review: a car in a parking spot is entitled to that spot until it leaves. The driver is not required to acknowledge anyone interested in said spot, nor give a rat's ass about them. If the driver of the parked car wants to have a pizza delivered and eat it in the car, they may do so.

Any driver skulking in a parking lot looking for a space should assume that any and all parked cars are empty, and will be remaining there for an undetermined amount of time. Move along.

Don't be an Asshat. At least not while I am around.

02 March 2009

Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

I want to write about the Republicans and their weekend hoedown, but I am still laughing too hard. My. Sides. I haven't been this entertained since the Christmas where I got my first chemistry set.

So I default to a random eleven. As always, these are actual songs on my i-pod, and this idea is a blatant rip-off from here. He's much more prolific and funny, so I'm going to pay any royalties.

1. "Crystal Wrists"-Peter Murphy. I'm watching David Letterman at the moment, and they just showed a woman in the audience who is wearing the exact same scarf that my wife has. For the first five years that I knew Kristen, I never saw anyone else in that scarf, but in the last year it's been all over the place. If you saw the video of Sarah Palin pardoning a turkey before Thanksgiving while another is being drained of it's blood in the background, then you've seen the scarf. I saw file video of Paul Harvey attending an honorary street-naming in his honor over the weekend, and he's wearing the scarf. I've seen it one hundred times since October. I can't find a video of this song anywhere on the web, but if one exists, I bet Peter Murphy is wearing the scarf.

2. "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville"-REM. None of the members of this band strike me as scarf-wearing types (and we have an official theme!). I used to live in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park in the mid-90s, and every time I left my parents house after a visit my nephew would sing "Don't go back to Oak Park" over and over again, not because he didn't want me to leave, just because he liked to try to drive me crazy every single moment.

3. "Rebel Rebel"-David Bowie. Love this song. "You got your mother in a whirl/She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl." I once tried to write a parody of this called "Rubble Rubble" (about the Flinstones-Rubble is Barney's last name), but it didn't go well. This was waaaayyyy back in college and someone else suggested "Rubble Rubble" be about The Hamburglar, and proceeded to sing it, with every word being "Rubble", since that is all the Hamburglar ever said. It was hysterical. You had to be there.

4. "Intervention"-The Arcade Fire. This song has been waning on me for a while. Too much organ. Takes itself way too seriously.

5. "Is It Any Wonder"-Keane. As much as I like this song, I couldn't tell you another one by this group to save my life. And wouldn't that be interesting? I was walking in a dark alley when all of the sudden a thug popped out from behind a dumpster, stuck a gun in my back and said "Tell me two songs by Keane or your toast." There's a point in this song about an empty spire in an old cathedral, which has always made me think of the Sagrada Familia, which is the strangest building I've ever seen in person.

6. "Black"-Pearl Jam. How much more popular would Pearl Jam be if Nirvana never came along? Both groups have (had?) the annoying habit of giving songs titles that appear nowhere in the lyrics (um, but not this one...), which no one should have been allowed to do once Led Zeppelin broke up.

7. "Penny Lane"-The Beatles. If I had to pick a street in my hometown to try to write a song about, it would probably be "West", and it would be pretty boring. I grew up in a really boring place.

8. "Chicago"-Sufjan Stevens. The ultimate road-trip song, I think (and I thought that well before Little Miss Sunshine). The first time I heard this song while on the road I was driving out of Joshua Tree National Park in the middle of an August afternoon. It was 110 degrees, I had been in the park for a couple of hours, getting out of the car every once in a while at points of interest. In the time I was there I never saw another human being. I did, however, see five scorpions.

9. "Heroes"-David Bowie. I remember this song from the concert for Freddie Mercury in the spring of 1992 at Wembley Stadium. Bowie had just finished singing "Under Pressure" with Annie Lennox (who had painted a mask over her eyes and looked likean over-sized performing raccoon) and launched into this as soon as she sauntered off the stage. I don't know who played guitar on the studio version, but Brian May played it like it was a siren at the concert. He's probably the most under-rated guitarist in the history of rock-and-roll.

10. "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us"-Robert Plant and Allison Krause. I have long ignored the Grammy Awards but was pleased mightily to see the album this song appears on (Raising Sand) win mutiple big awards. It was the best album of last year, hands down, and I've read that they are in the studio recording a follow up. Hard to believe when I was discovering Led Zeppelin in the early 80s that my favorite Robert Plant performances would come almost thirty years later.

11. "The Unforgettable Fire"-U2. I was wondering if they were going to pop up, since I am watching Letterman mostly to see them. The band is appearing on the show every night this week, and as pretentious as they can seem at times, they are still probably my favorite. I haven't heard anything off their new album (well, at least for another two minutes, I think) but I have to assume that it will be worth being up this late for. I have to see them live one more time-saw them in '93 on the Achtung Baby tour and in '97 on the Pop tour (the giant lemon? Not a good thing; the '93 show blew the other one away)-but have missed them the last few times they have been on the road.

I completely forgot about the scarf after number two!