Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part VI

Dad’s Version  of the Events:

Day Five:  The Final Frontier.

These have been the Voyages of the Crew Cab Pickup, Frontier.

It’s five-day mission:  To explore strange, new roads; to seek out new family members and their new idiosyncracies; to boldly go where Daughter and I have never gone before . . . .  Whooooosh!!!

That “whoosh” was not the sound of the warp drive engaging.  Rather, it was the Mistral-like trade winds that buffeted us in the face every mile of the way since we left Dallas early Sunday morning.

And today was different, in that the hot, humid Texas heat was replaced by the searing, dry New Mexico and Arizona heat.  Why do people live in such places?  I’ll never know.

All I can say is Thank God for modern air conditioning and cruise control, which meant for us that our daily distance was more a function of our bladders and bleary-eyed fatigue than any sort of truck-dependent mechanical factors.  For the past couple of days, I reminisced to myself about the long-distance drives of my youth, in a Chevy Vega, no less.  You see, I had plenty of time to think to myself, since Daughter was usually good for one solid driving stint per day, with the balance of her other time spent napping, staring at her iPhone, and standing Tarp Watch.

But back to the Days of Yore, it was no air conditioning, no cruise control, no problem.  In my foolish, youthful long-distance driving zeal, I even used to roll up the passenger window during those incredibly hot and long summer journeys, thinking what I lost in perspiration was more than made up by improved aerodynamics.

What a bunch of crap that notion was!  No way, man.  It would have been better to have driven naked with all the windows down compared to what I actually put myself through otherwise.  However, I find those past experiences a useful context to judge how easy it is for me now.  Instead of worrying if I’ll blow an engine or have a flat, I’m more concerned about how far off the Interstate the next Starbucks happens to be.

It’s really sickening, when I think about it, but I will leave the pain and denial in my life to my gardening adventures (that damn clover!), while I prefer my driving to be comfortable and relatively stress free.

Never one to leave well enough alone, though, I induced stress on this latest trip by initiating a series of questions (historical) and transportational (practical) to gauge both Daughter’s general level of awareness and as well as her basic competencies in both areas.  Of course, best of all, it also offered me the chance to impart generational wisdom.

The results were mixed.  On the one hand, Daughter is a very intelligent and sensitive young woman, who has much to offer to the world which, one day, will award her a Pulitzer Prize.  On the other hand, she has a hard time figuring out miles per gallon and doesn’t react very well to the question/phrases, “Well, what would you do if I weren’t here?” and “That’s just an observation; not a criticism.”

In the end, we made it home safely today; we’re still talking to each other, though I don’t understand a lot of what she says; we still enjoy each other’s company (most of the time); and we both have an inherent dislike for Left Lane Bandits and Other Morons of the Open Road (of which there are plenty, and increasing daily, it seems).

Years from now, when my great, great grandchildren ask me about this trip and the most important lesson learned, I will slowly wipe away the spittle from my lower lip, adjust my diaper, and look deeply into the eyes of whichever kid I can focus on and grumble, “Never use yarn to tie down a tarp in a pickup truck bed.  It really sucks and doesn’t work for shi very well.”

Thanks, Daughter.  Now I have something to look forward to!

- Dad

——–

Daughter’s Version of Events: 

We made great time today because Dad fell asleep for a long stretch of the trip and after a quick risk assessment, I took liberties with the speed limit. The speed limit on a two-lane interstate is mostly a guide anyway, n’est-ce pas? As usual, semi-truck drivers and people who must have been in and out of R.E.M. sleep behind the wheel were great dangers on the road. But, to be fair, I’m also a hazard to myself because I get very competitive with semi-trucks who try to pass. They put on that blinker and it signals me to speed up while waggling my finger angrily at the driver. Usually, this is enough to discourage the driver from careening into my lane. It gives me a sick sense of pleasure depriving trucks the ability to cross into my lane in front of me. Maybe this is because I inherited the jerk gene. I hear it gets passed down through the Y chromosome only…

Today, other drivers were not a huge issue. I had bigger problems to worry about, like the giant dust devils that appeared out of nowhere and swept across the road without warning. Dad was asleep when one decided to cross the road right into the truck and I was temporarily thrown around a bit. Luckily, the truck was weighed down my pounds and pounds of my belongings so there was no way I was going anywhere. I was briefly terrified which helped to keep me awake. Maybe I should just watch horror films while I drive. I would be distracted, sure, but I’d be awake!

We also passed a lot of border patrol stops today and my father tested out some new material he must have been working on:

“Okay, Daughter, try not to look too Mexican. Think about being white.”

“PUT DOWN THE BURRITO.”

Graci- I mean, thank you!!”

When we finally got home (the last hour was torture), I immediately forced my younger sister into indentured servitude and had her carry boxes from the truck. It turns out she is stronger than me. She’s only 11 but she has the bicep strength of an adult Slovakian wrestler.

My room is currently full of unpacked boxes and I am full of the promise of new tomorrows!! No, wait, I’m just full from dinner.

- Daughter

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Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part V

Dad’s Version of Events:

Dante’s Inferno had nothing on us today.

I have seen The Apocalypse, and its name is Southwestern Texas. We awoke this morning to a cool breeze in Dallas, which lulled me into thinking the heat and humidity we drove into yesterday had broken.

Cruelly, that was not the case.

Not only did it turn out to be as miserably hot again today as it was on Saturday, a gale force wind worthy of The Perfect Storm reared its ugly head – in our faces. All day.

It was intimidating.

But let me return to the heat. How hot was it? I noticed several cars driving in the opposite direction (with the wind) with those heat-reflecting shields partially deployed in their windshields.

I imagined the associated conversation thusly:

“Good, God, the sun is burning my eyes through the windshield. Dear, please grab that aluminum foil heat reflector thing and pop it up on your side, would you?”

“Isn’t that going to affect your view? I mean, don’t you need to see out the front of the car?”

“Nah, it’s the passenger side. Not much happens over there and, besides, you’ll warn me if something’s about to explode or run into us.”

Yep. Something like that.

And I’ve never, ever seen people deploy their shield while driving. Parked; of course. Driving? Come on.

I am happy to reveal that I did not witness such behavior on our side of the Interstate but, then again, Daughter’s crap sh belongings pretty much obscured my vision anywhere to the back or side of us.

And the wind. My God, the wind!

Big rigs were weaving all over the place. Dust devils danced through the landscape around us. And occasionally a gust threatened to blow open one of our doors.

Well, not really on that last point, but it sure seemed like it, at times.

Prior to this leg of the journey, my trusty pickup was averaging almost 22 mpg. But today it plummeted to 17.5 mpg. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s a head wind.

Out in the middle of nowhere, between the garden spots of Odessa and El Paso, there were actually two bicyclists laboring along the shoulder of the Interstate. They were clearly in the middle of some masochistic bike “adventure,” since they were festooned with sleeping bags and panniers. As we sped by them, I estimated they were tootling along at about 1.73 mph, with 24 miles to the next town of any significance. I thought it was illegal to bicycle on an Interstate Highway, so if there are any law enforcement officials reading this post, please note the location of these two cyclists.

Even though it’s been about six hours since we passed them, I figure they are still out there and have maybe managed to cover all of two miles in that time.

I’m telling you it was windy.

There were two essential highlights today. The first involved passing through an immigration checkpoint. When we realized what lay ahead of us on the road, it sparked a flurry of inappropriate comments from me to Daughter, such as:

“Be sure to turn the Spanish language radio station off when we roll the window down.”

“Remember to say ‘thank you’ instead of ‘gracias’ to the Border Patrol officer.”

Things like that.

The second highlight and, perhaps, the Tenth Festivus Miracle of the year was that Daughter was almost bright-eyed and bushy tailed for much of the drive, until she “hit the wall” later in the day and asked me why I wasn’t tired.

(Note to self: When traveling with Daughter, plan on a minimum of three coffee breaks before noon if there is any expectation of consciousness from her after 3:00 p.m.)

And tomorrow? If Allah and the Dust Devils are willing, we should roll up in front of our Home Sweet Home at some point in the afternoon, assuming:

1) We leave the hotel before 9:30 a.m.

2) The Tarpaulin Gods accept our sacrifice of Hampton Inn Shampoo and Conditioner.

3) We don’t get pulled over for an expired State of California license plate.

4) There are enough foo-foo coffee joints between New Mexico and California to keep us both focused and jazzed.

If all those things come true, we have a chance. If not, well, Hope Springs Eternal and Tomorrow is Another Day.

Or is that Tomorrow Never Dies?

I get it confused sometimes if I haven’t had any coffee.

- Dad

———–

Daughter’s Version of Events:

Miles and miles of.. nothing.

Miles and miles of… nothing.

I got up early for reeealsies today: 7am. Essentially the crack of dawn in my world. But I got up. My dad was probably pleasantly surprised that he didn’t have to drag me out of bed. Oh wait, nevermind. That’s never happened because I am the one always awake first on this road trip.

We made our way to Starbucks in the morning before hitting the road as per usual. I prefer local coffee places but my father has developed a taste for large corporate coffee with no personality. He loves to make fun of me for getting a soy latte which he terms “foo-foo” but I’m not the one who is constantly asking, “So, where’s the nearest Starbucks?” He is an addict.

I don’t love the coffee there but it’s drinkable and sometimes delicious if I use the powers of my imaaaagination. I like to call it Starbutts because it’s just immature enough to annoy my father. I don’t think I’ve actually said it out loud to him and to be honest, he probably wouldn’t notice if I did because he can’t hear most of the things I say.

Anyway, today I may or may not have angered the barista at Starbutts by asking if my drink was coming because it took longer than usual. I mentally berated myself because I was being the customer I always hated when I was working there. Sorry, hapless barista! I was just grumpy because the sun was waaaaay too close to the horizon for my liking.

After successfully acquiring coffee (I pray it was free of spit), we got back on the road and I fell asleep almost immediately. But then my turn behind the wheel came all too soon. It was incredibly windy so my usual multi-tasking was a no-no. I put my DJing, Starbucks-finding, and e-mail-checking to the side in order to keep the truck from blowing off the road. My Dad doesn’t know how to use my iPhone so I had to find Starbucks on my phone only at stoplights or slower portions of the road. Safety first!!!

Speaking of safety, my dad has avoided sleeping when I’ve driven the past four days because he doesn’t trust me or something. However, I happen to be a fantastic driver. I am the Danica Patrick of this road trip. And my dad is… he’s like the Ricky Bobby.

Well, anyway, today he stole my FaceTent(tm) and actually slept. Because of this, I had to rely on myself for two hours’ of entertainment. I sang songs with questionable content and  used the opportunity of him sleeping to push the speed limit a bit. Not a lot but enough to feel like I was James Bond or something. Going three miles over the speed limit is definitely equivalent to how James Bond feels.

Dad, stealing my idea.

Dad, stealing my idea.

As the day wore on, I got more and more tired. My eyes started to dry up and when I went to rub them, I accidentally got sunscreen in them. So, they ended up being dry and also burned with the intensity of one thousand suns (ironic considering it was, you know, sunscreen that caused this). I decided the best way to resolve my temporary blindness was to pour bottled water directly into my eyes while in the car. Surprisingly, it sort of worked and I was able to both see and blink without excruciating pain – success!!!

Not that there was much to see...

Not that there was much to see…

Tomorrow is hopefully the last day of driving. 9 or 10 hours of driving left! My dad is already asking if there’s a Starbutts around here.

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part IV

Dad’s Version of the Events:

Fab Fam Time in Dallas today — the southernmost tip of the Great Plains, which has been converted into an endless landscape of concrete, heat, humidity, and cookie cutter McMansions.  We declared a Unilateral Pajama Day, which seemed relevant, since I have been beset by restless slumber since the onset of the trip, and it really would be more appropriate for me to wear bed clothes since I’m half asleep most of the time.

The first attack of the Sleepless Nights occurred at Daughter’s apartment before we left.  In her admirable zeal to pack and be ready to rock and roll down the road, Daughter’s remaining unpacked bed linen was seemingly sourced from a local Salvation Army Drop Box.  That is to say, the pillow case on which I rested was made of near-burlap, and the covers had seen better days in the 1950s, from whence they came.

Subliminally or no, they put me in a restless stupor, which led to a funk, which led to an almost sleepless night — broken only by short naps where I dreamed I was in a concentration camp.

Fast forward to the wonderful abode of my lovely Spouse’s Sister, where we parked last night.  We all love spending time together, but there are hidden secrets which lurk throughout her picture perfect home.  For my part, I was looking forward to a quiet night catching up on some zzzz’s so that I could face the balance of the journey relatively refreshed and in sound state of mind.

Unfortunately, my attempts at slumber were interrupted on a continual basis after the lights went out.  The culprits?  A family of squirrels that was busy setting up a wi-fi transponder in the walls of my bedroom.  They were running cables and wires for most of the night, and I swear they took a smoke break around 3:00 a.m.

Clearly they were Union Squirrels.

Still, we all had a great time together there, when not bothered by rodents (Are squirrels rodents?), while Daughter napped and ate and napped.  For me, I managed to play some golf with Granddad  — well, he really played, while I rode in the cart, hit some balls, and gave the appearance of playing.  I did find four golf balls during the round, however, so I consider it a success.

We ended the day at Family Stop Number Two — my Bro’s house — with a Texas-size cookout and a house full of people I didn’t know, but who smiled a lot and reminded me, again, how dismal and sarcastic I really am.

We have truly been treated like royalty by our family here.  Well, the kind of faux-royalty present in some minor dukedoms and municipalities, but royalty nonetheless, and we are very appreciative and thankful.

Almost thankful enough to extend our stay, but, no.  We must attend and depart for our own Home.

So, kind of refreshed and somewhat rested (not really), we have committed to an early start in the morning on Sunday, and we are going to try to make San Diego in two days’ time, Allah Willing and if foo-foo coffee is available.

Time will tell if we can manage to stay on schedule, but the road beckons.  And don’t forget the Tarp Zombie Wars.  Sis-in-Law made a major Bungie Cord Investment, and we will put the new apparatus to the test in Southwestern Texas.

Yee-haw!  I have high hopes!

- Dad

————

Daughter’s Version of the Events: 

It felt good to stay off the roads today again for the sake of spending time with family. Well, I actually don’t know what I spent more time with today, my family or my pillow. I slept a lot. That reminds me, I should really look into Narcoleptics Anonymous. But then again, maybe not. I should probably just use that time to sleep some more.

Not the car.

Not the car.

What I realized seeing my cousins and other family today is that I’m really, really white compared to everyone else. (But also that I love my family! Of course.) You would never know that I’m second generation Persian. I look like any standard-issue European something-or-other. Spending all of winter inside because of East Coast Weather didn’t help matters; I have turned mostly transparent. It would be funny except I have realized the make-up powder brand I use does not make a “snow” color so I have had to make do. I now just rub flour into my face and call it a day. (And if I add a little yeast: PRESTO, bread.(?) I am not a baker, I don’t know.)

Also not the car.

Also not the car.

Anyway, I woke up today at ten and then lazed around. I made some toast and “researched” classes for next fall. Looks like I’m going to be taking art classes! I guess my school is only going to give me my degree after I complete the college requirement of finger painting. Only then am I educated.

After such hard work, I was naturally tired. So I napped to rest up before we took a thirty minute trip down to Southlake, TX. (I didn’t drive, but believe me, navigating for my father is an energy-expending task.)

We left in the evening and  as much as I wanted to withhold information while I navigated the roads, I knew that would be disastrous for both of us. (When I say ‘navigating’ you should know that I mean ‘reading MapQuest directions’). You would think that printing out directions instead of relying on my undependable phone and blindly following the print map would help cut down on arguing but we found a way to work in a disagreement nonetheless:

“YES DAD, STAY ON THIS ROAD”

“YES, THIS ONE”

“NO, NOT THAT ONE.”

“THAT ONE WE PASSED BACK THERE WAS ACTUALLY THE TURN.”

I was smug about being right about directions. Until we missed a turn. Even so, we got to my aunt and uncle’s house and I got to catch up with family I hadn’t seen and some family I hadn’t even met. The most entertaining family member is probably my aunt who is very Southern; the South seeps into just about everything she says*:

“Bless her heart, she is never going to find a man with that hair.”

“Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

“Y’all, it’s time for a hoedown! Grab the pitchforks and dancing partners!”

- Daughter

* My aunt didn’t actually say any of these things. I just like to think she did.

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part III

Daughter’s Version of the Events (and the only version because Dad has gone to bed):

How being in the car makes me feel.

This morning, I got up before my Dad who seems to have absorbed the Southern pace of living: slow as molasses. Slower than Paula Deen trying to finish a marathon. Slower than a Southerner “driving.” Slower than a Southerner saying anything. I’m technically originally from the South so I’m allowed to make fun of it. When you are born in a Southern state, you get a set of rules along with your birth certificate that grants you permission to make fun of the South. And then, the barn hands hospital workers hand you a stick of butter and you deep fry the stork that brought you into the world.

But I digress.

Today, we left Little Rock, Arkansas behind. Of course, the trip started with trouble. The tarp covering all of my belongings was flapping around like an angry goose so we had to stop and adjust. The first time, I insisted that my Dad tie the tarp down tighter but he said, “No, let’s just go.” Well, lo and behold, not more than thirty seconds later on the interstate we were on the verge of losing the tarp again. Part of the problem is that the string my dad picked up is approximately the same thickness as dental floss. It turns out that dental floss is a less than perfect tie-down material.

My dad added another string, screwed around with the tarp, and then decided that his efforts were good enough. I was not convinced and took matters into my own hands, tying knots to secure more things as my dad sat inside the cab, leisurely sipping coffee.

After a shorter length of driving (5 hours) we made it to my aunt’s house in Texas. However, my father tested my patience by withholding navigational information purely to irritate me. I think he thinks he is somehow preparing me for the “real world” by refusing to communicate directions.

Me: “Did we miss the turn?”

Dad: “I don’t know, what would you do if I weren’t here?”

Me: “Well, that isn’t the case, so did we?”

Dad: “Yeah, and now we have to turn around.”

Me: “What? Are you serious?”

Dad: “No, you’re fine. The turn is not for a while.”

Despite the arguments about directions, we got to Texas in one piece. How I leave Texas, however, is another matter.

I went Razor scootering with my cousin who enjoyed the fact that he could bike a million times faster than I could scooter. Unfortunately, I did not wear shoes and when I went careening downhill and applied the brakes with my foot, the metal immediately heated to a molten lava level temperature and burned my foot. And then, after I realized I would be unable to use the brakes with my bare feet, I settled for using my foot to periodically hit the ground while I rolled downhill. So then I got road burn in addition to a metal-induced burn.

My grandparents came to join us for a home-cooked dinner of Chipotle and we spent time catching up while shoveling vaguely Mexican food into our gaping maws. My grandmother’s first words to me were, “Oh, you’ve gained weight!” Ah, yes. Grandparents.

After dinner, I played badminton with my grandpa and cousin until I messed up one too many times and sat myself down. At which point, my dad picked up a dead snake and chased me around with it while I screamed. Naturally.

Can’t choose your family.

- Daughter

 

Stop Being Nice to Me. Please.

sad

I exchanged emails with an old friend of mine earlier this week.  We spent a few lines catching up.  He asked how I was doing, and then  he interjected he thought that I had been “bitter” about a couple of things that I have had to deal with in my life over the last decade. 

I had to think about his verbiage a bit before responding. 

Bitter?  Had I really been bitter?  I wasn’t so sure that captured how I felt.  In fact, I could think of a number of other ways to describe my feelings:  disappointed, realistic, not excited, resigned.  I suppose the list could go on, but the point in my mind is that there is a fairly large chasm between how I view my perspective and how others do. 

I promised him a follow-up email of longer length explaining my thoughts in more detail, but I haven’t actually gotten around to doing that yet.  My life has gotten in the way this week. 

However, I’m not so arrogant that I dismissed out of hand his observation about my demeanor.  I simply filed it away, and I figured I would either revisit myself later, or it would revisit me in some way, shape, or form, as these things often do. 

Not a day later, I was shopping at an auto parts store, and at the checkout counter I asked the cashier for my customary retiree discount.  Upon seeing my identification card, the parts person thanked me for my Service and asked me if I was a member of any local organizations. 

“That’s a new one,” I thought.  A little personal, but he was a Veteran and seemed genuinely interested in talking to me.  It turned out he was the president of a club nearby, and he said I was eligible to join and he welcomed me to.  He even promised to buy me a beer.

“It would have to be non-alcoholic,” I replied.  “Can’t do the real stuff anymore.”

“Same here,” he said. 

Glad to know I’m not the only one stuck in this rabbit hole. 

I then went on my merry way and had a few other errands to run.  Next stop:  Home Depot Big Box Hardware Store.  If you have been following my latest chronicles, I am still in the midst of a major servicing and cleaning of the Car Daughter Left Behind.  Though she is fond of referencing Hoarders regarding the state of our garage, I can make a similar case for the interior (and exterior) of her car.  Somehow the promise she made to clean it up before heading back to her Lesbian Cult College was overlooked in the drama of packing, repacking, and packing again. 

Yet she had plenty of time to download countless kitten photos, it seems.  That’s another story, I fear. 

Since I almost 100% successfully installed a new convertible top, I needed to finish up a few of the details I somehow screwed up overlooked.  I specifically required some black silicone adhesive/sealant, and I knew fairly accurately what I needed to buy.

I soon found myself planted in front of a wide selection of products at said Big Box Store.

“Too many choices,” I thought.  I could easily go wrong here.

After staring at the various tubes and containers for about a minute, I was joined by an older dude who immediately struck up a conversation.

“Whatcha looking for?” he asked.

Normally, I mumble something and walk away, shunning this kind of “helpful” advice from strangers.  But for some reason, I launched into great detail regarding exactly what I was searching for. 

Maybe my newfound openness was buoyed by the bonhomie of the previous counter clerk.  Maybe this new guy could help me.  Maybe the World was a Kind Place after all. 

Maybe not. 

“Well, I’ll tell you what you need,” he replied.  “You need some specialized stuff.  I know.  I used to do this kind of thing for a living.  And the place I used was Sunshine Supplies, and it’s near downtown.”

What a goldmine this guy was.  As a matter of fact, the business he mentioned was located about five minutes from where I work. 

This was going to be perfect.

“Don’t you want to write the address down?” he offered.

“Nope.  I’ll remember it,” and I thanked him, looking forward to visiting the place in the morning. 

What had I done to deserve this Niceness from the World?  Was is karma?  Did I look pathetic and in need of help? 

Something was certainly going on here, and I was determined to ride the wave.

The next morning I duly drove downtown to search out Sunshine Supplies.  This was going to be easy and rewarding.  For once, I was going to have the right materials to go with the right tools to finish the job I started. 

But after reaching the supposed destination, there was nothing there that even t resembled the store I was looking for. 

Maybe I had the directions wrong, or the wrong street, or the wrong portion of the street? 

I spent the next twenty minutes in a fruitless search for the supplier in question.  I knew I had the correct road, but I began to question myself about the exact name of the place.  I’m finding this phenomenon happens more and more these days. 

Well, I eventually gave up looking, and became resigned to going back to Big Box and buying something there.  The shine on my good karma was beginning to tarnish a bit. 

And after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion the dude was fairly old, and he was retired, and who knows when the last time was he actually visited this place.  Maybe it was now a lamp store or something.

I just chalked up the entire experience to “no good deed goes unpunished,” and I decided to get a couple of fish tacos and an unauthorized Vanilla Coke to ensure the morning wasn’t a total loss.  After all, it was lunchtime.

I guess by afternoon’s end I wasn’t really all that disappointed, as all things seem to even out in the end. 

I certainly wasn’t bitter, and I wasn’t even a tiny bit upset for having gone on something of a wild goose chase for a good amount of time earlier. 

After all, it had been a beautiful day, I had a nice meal, and I didn’t have to go to work.

It could always be worse.

Of course, it was.

Later, I had a severely upset stomach from the tacos (or the soda), so I was reminded, yet again, to take things as they come, to try not to get too animated one way or the other about anything, and never, ever be bitter, if at all possible. 

But if you see me in a random retail establishment, just don’t offer me any free advice and, for crying out loud, Daughter, if you just kept your car clean I wouldn’t be so bitter in the first place.   

- Dad

Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part I

cabrio2

“Yeah, I think I can fix that.”

Let’s face it.  I’m cheap.  Really cheap, but not as cheap as I used to be.  After all, the women in this household have gotten me hooked on a variation of the foo-foo coffee they seem to consume in ever-increasing quantities.  I’m sure there was some cunning master plan involved there, but maybe not.  To be honest, I can’t even understand what they order most of the time (double-pump soy what?), so I just let it go. 

Just let it go.  However, I digress.

Anyway, since I mentioned being frugal, when it comes to Do-It-Yourself projects around the house, I usually step up to the plate if I have any time at all to spare.

I look at it as therapy.  And saving money, of course. 

But I’ve also been known to get in over my head with a few of these deals over the years.  The kitchen remodel comes to mind.  The head gasket replacement on the old pick up –things of that sort.  It’s not that I don’t have the intellectual ability to complete the projects; it’s either the real-world know how or the particular tools necessary that I usually lack. 

While Zen-me’s War Cry is “No Professionals!”, I’ve learned enough over the years to apply what I euphemistically call “The Rule of My Father” to any potential project I contemplate tackling.  That particular benchmark was developed as I was growing up, and it roughly equates into whatever time span I think is going to be required for project completion, I simply multiply by three to achieve an estimate much closer to reality. 

By now you’ve probably guessed it came from my Dad and his inability (planned or otherwise) to provide a best guess for knocking things out around the house. 

“Go ahead and clean the garage, son.  It’ll take about an hour,” (I knew that meant three minimum, and so on).

Well, I’ve made mention previously of Daughter’s prime time ride — a VW Cabrio, which she has orphaned this semester since she kidnapped my truck and brought it to school instead.  To be fair, I wouldn’t allow her to take the convertible cross county because:  a)  I didn’t think it would make it out of California, and b)  See a). 

The convertible top on her car, no doubt, helped give rise to the phrase “rag top,” because it is, indeed, very raggy.  Very raggy, and holey, and ripped. 

Rather than spending seven hundred bucks for someone to replace it, I bought a decent used one a few months ago for one-third the price, and I’m now just getting around to trying, yes, trying to install it. 

Today was the day — at least part of the day.  To prepare myself mentally, I watched some show on the Discovery Channel last night about excavating tombs around the final resting place of King Tut.  When the Dog Archaeologists finally opened the main sarcophagus, it did not contain a mummy.  Rather, it held a cornucopia of trinkets, jewelry, and eleven herbs and spices.  Far from being disappointed, the Diggers were overjoyed, because it provided important historical context for the entire complex. 

Removing the top off of Daughter’s car today was something like that.  Applying the aforementioned RoMF, I figured this job was going to take two, multiplied by three, so six hours. 

I’ll know more in 24 hours, but I think that estimate is fairly accurate.  I’m about half-way done today. 

I jumped into the thing head first, and as I peeled back layers of carpet and unhooked seats and panels, various objects of wonder came to light.  In no particular order, I found a complete set of blue earrings, a remote control for a solar system mobile, eleven cents, three pens, two bags of clothes in the trunk that were supposed to be given away several months ago, one pencil, one Nintendo DS2 stylus, a cassette tape iPod adapter, one pair of sandals, and one pair of shoes. 

Sure, the objects provide a somewhat sad commentary on Daughter’s transportation life, but the main lesson I took away is the entire automobile exuded a slightly musty, filmy vibe.  Maybe not as bad as Hoarders, but getting there, I think. 

After much wrangling and gnashing of teeth, I did finally manage to remove what was left of the old convertible top.  And because I had a few hours of sunlight left, I launched Plan C, which was to get a head start on tomorrow’s work by at least nominally installing the frame for the new (used) top.

At this point, my Significant Other wandered by, looked and the expanse of tools and bits and pieces scattered about and commented, “Don’t you need a book or something for help?  Do you know what you’re doing?  Wouldn’t you rather pay someone to do that?”

Great encouragement around here, I tell you.

My reply was simple:  “The book is on my shoulders.”

However, that doesn’t take into account the 2,359 nuts, bolts, and fasteners that are now strewn around the driveway and car. 

I think I remember where most of them go.  Maybe not.  But time will tell.  Stay tuned. 

After all, tomorrow is another day. 

- Dad

The Storm Troopers Among Us

drainclog

“Well, I’m no Rocket Scientist, but that looks like a Hair Clog to me. Be sure to wash your hands when you’re done!”

I live in a house full of females. 

Ever since Son abandoned us moved out, those on my side are me (most of the time – there are occasions when I’m not on my own side), apparently two of the three finches, and two cats.  I refuse to include Dandy Dog in that tally because he’s a bit of a dandy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and he’s so devoted to my Wife that I cannot count him as a male ally. 

Every other inhabitant roommate family member is very female, and includes one finch (apparently), one elderly cat (very dominant, even among us Muggles), Daughter (when she’s not away at college), Daughter Number Two (aka The Golden Only Child), traitor Dandy Dog, and Mom. 

It’s simply not a fair fight most of the time.  In no particular order, I have become familiar with and responsible for addressing the following household scenarios:

1)  The computer doesn’t work or, the more popular version, the printer doesn’t work.  The interaction usually unfolds thusly.  I sit down at the “family computer” (ain’t no “family” about it, BTW).  I try to print a one-paragraph document.  Nothing happens. 

I naively ask, “How long has the printer not been working?”

If I receive an answer (which I normally don’t), it’s something like, “Oh, about a week now.  Didn’t we tell you?”

I then open up the printer queue, and I discover there are twenty documents waiting to print from three days ago totaling over 120MB.  It takes me the next two hours to figure out how to clear the queue, reset the printer, and eventually print my document.

Only to discover we’re also out of ink.  Very typical. 

2)  A random bathroom sink drain / shower drain / bathtub drain does not, in fact, drain.  This type of drama usually unfolds a bit differently.

“Oh, when you have a moment, would you look at the sink in the girls’ bathroom?  It doesn’t seem to be working properly.”

Troubleshooting same involves the following procedures –

a)  Begin by confirming the sink is clogged.  Takes about two nanoseconds.    

b)  Determine it’s been this way for about four weeks.  Takes about one nanosecond.

c)  Spend a half hour to clear out the crap under the sink to gain access to the plumbing, and discover my missing shaving kit, five vintage bottles of shampoo from the late 80’s, and a bunch of girl things I’d rather not comment on, even if I knew what half of it was.

d)  Spend another half hour finding a wire coat hanger (the Plumber’s Best Friend) because even the most innocent bystander could tell there’s at least four months’ worth of hair in the drain.

e)  Spend five nanoseconds wondering how either of my Daughters has any hair left on their collective heads.

f)  Push, pull, yank, grab Said Hair, thereby clearing Said Clog.

g)  The Best Part – going around the house showing the guilty females the disgusting hair bolus, in a lame and futile attempt to shame them into I don’t know what.  But it makes me feel better, and I imagine the girls feel bad for a few fleeting moments, but they probably don’t.  I’d rather not know.

h)  Take ten minutes to put everything back together (I’m getting pretty good at this now).

i)  Return two hours later to tighten everything up because now the pipes are leaking. 

At this point, basically half my day is gone. 

And so it goes. 

I have many more examples that detail the Daily Trip substance of my life around the house with all these females, but I have now become used to stepping on bobby pins, sitting on hair bands, finding female articles of clothing (not my own) scattered about in the crevices of my bed (it is the main laundry-folding medium, after all), removing melted lipstick holders from the car, throwing away days-old foo-foo coffee cups from the fridge, van, and Daughter’s VW (when I fill it up with gas for her – don’t even think I borrow it), clearing a workspace around the “family computer” (removing plates, candy wrappers, half-full cups of varying liquids, multiple failed origami shapes, seven pairs of CVS-Pharmacy brand reading glasses, etc.); and the list goes on and on and on. 

On those days when I have the temerity to ask why I am saddled with doing all these things on a regular basis, the answer I receive in return is a simple one:

“Because you’re the man.”

I guess that explains everything. 

The truth is that I have become very used to living in this environment, and it becomes even more plain to me when I’m away from home, like I am now.  I have had so much free time this weekend, that I almost (almost) don’t know what to do with myself. 

But lest anyone worry, in about another five days or so I will return to the West Coast, and I will then experience the cumulative effect (in terms of household problems) that being away causes.  I almost (almost) look forward to it. 

And to think, this blog entry was supposed to be about boots.  I’ll save that for another time.  I have to save up my energy for going home.  Wish me luck. 

- Dad

 

Yep. I’m on the Road Again, without Willie Nelson, of course . . . .

airport

Jeepers. I love living in California.

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m on yet another stinking crappy waste of time business trip.  These evolutions make the Father/Daughter (or is it Daughter/Father?) road trip from just two weeks ago seem like skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  Except that Daughter in no way resembles Judy Garland, and I feel like the (rusty) Tin Man, look like the Scarecrow, and kind of talk like the Cowardly Lion (only when conversing with my wife, that is).

Right now, I could really, really use a FaceTent ™.  It would not only insulate me from the daily challenges I’m facing, it might also bring about World Peace — if everyone wore one, then we couldn’t see each other and hurt anyone.  Of course, I realize a number of other issues are involved, but still.

Having said that, I have been reading Daughter’s recent posts with mild amusement, some bemusement, and a growing sense that I have somehow contributed to the creation of a New Millennial Ne’er-Do-Well who is destined to thumb her nose at the world in perpetuity until she:  finds a no-kidding real paying job, finishes college, and figures out that, although the world can be viewed through the prism of Comedy Central, it is far better to do so through old episodes of The Office.

Maybe I’m the one with the problem.

I guess my greatest fear is three months from now the Epic Father/Daughter journey will be re-traced in reverse, because if any other family member drives home with her, it will cost me three times as much in gas money (I know first hand how my family drives), five times the amount in hotel bills (“This looks like a really great place to stop, even though we’ve only been driving for two hours.”), and an untold amount in roadside trinkets and foo-foo coffee drinks that I shudder to even begin to tally.

Yeah.  I think I’m headed back to the East Coast in May.

But before I go, I have to remind myself from whence I came:  California.

We love it in California, even though we aren’t natives.  If nothing else, living on the West Coast is a constant source of amusement; almost like Daughter.

Take, for instance, the photo above of a sign posted prominently in the baggage area of one of our major airports.  You would think the bald heads, incense, and tambourines would tip people off that the “information booth” is not municipally sanctioned.

Nope.  We all need a sign.

I have a wonderful photo of Baby Daughter in her Mother’s arms at a desert rest stop somewhere in California from about twenty years ago.  That would make it “pre-bad haircut Daughter” if you’re maintaining a scorecard.  I can remember a very similar sign posted at that stop and, at the time, just thought it was funny.

Big mistake.

I laughingly mentioned it to a friend of mine a few weeks later — he was a SoCal native — and he took great offense that I pointed it out as something funny.  “Only in California,” I said.

I was a lot more insensitive in those days.  Just ask Daughter.  No.  Even better.  Just ask my wife.  To be frank, I used to be so bad I’m not quite sure how I managed any sort of human interaction, much less getting married and helping to create what we call “a family,” but that’s a story for another day.

I guess the only problem I have with the airport sign, and it’s not a big deal, is that, from my own experience, I would never classify anything that’s been thrust in my face/hand provided as “literature.” Poorly written — yes.  Badly worded — yes.  Irrational — usually.  Drafted in a dope smoking, alcohol-induced haze — maybe not.  But never literature.

I am firmly in favor of our ability to exercise our Constitutionally protected rights; especially free speech.  It can be rather humorous, after all.

But if we’re going to pass out literature, let’s really pass out literature.  Rather than avoiding these tables (doesn’t everyone, or is it just me?), airport passers-by would be ten deep if those First Amendment handouts included Jane Eyre, or Moby Dick (well, maybe not that one), Heart of Darkness, Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, and The Sun Also Rises.

Wouldn’t that be great?  I think so, but I’m an English Major, so it really doesn’t count for much.

Alternatively, if the point was to increase the general angst that permeates most airports these days, the Table Folks could hand out Sudoku puzzles, or copies of The TSA Miracle Weight Loss Diet.  Dealing with either would probably not be ideal, but would pass the time, up until the point I got a massive Frustration Headache — from giving up on Sudoku or trying to figure out how a 4,000 calorie/day food intake qualified as a diet (joking here, people — I love Sudoku and the TSA).

So, in one version of a better world, I can envision a table handing out classics, and close by another is selling FaceTents ™ — thereby making Daughter a millionaire, and a third, somewhat more distant table devoid of anything specific.  It’s just a table, and stenciled in spray paint is the phrase “Serenity Now.”

Or, maybe it’s got a sign on it that says, “FaceTents ™ are for sale on that other table over there.”

Either way, it seems to me a better world.

- Dad

Good God, Man, Don’t Sit There!

economy

Not me, but a very good representation of me. And, yes, that seat is occupied. Go away.

While it seems as if Daughter’s back-to-school life rivals that of Rodney Dangerfield (when he was still alive and acting, of course), I feel somewhat disadvantaged if I don’t write a post about bars, drinking, insulting random strangers, or figuring out how I can slip into my post an obscure “hip” reference to something no one knows anything about. 

Then I realized that Daughter’s posts essentially fill me in (and you, too) about all the gory details associated with clubbing in the New Millenium. 

I’m sorry.  I’m perfectly happy with my cup of tea watching Downton Freaking Abbey on Sunday nights. 

The allure of the conditions Daughter describes escapes me but, then again, many things my kids do escape me.  I seem to remember an awkward conversation with my own mother decades ago now, trying to explain why there was a (frozen) can of Generic Beer (does anyone remember that?) in the freezer.  The funny thing was, it was my Mom’s beer (although she never touched the stuff), which she used for a secret recipe beer bread.  God knows how old it was, but on a thirsty, late Saturday night watching Saturday Night Live by myself (you know, with John Belushi — that crowd), a cold Generic Beer synchronized almost too perfectly with what was on the television. 

So I’m hoping that I remain amused (as opposed to judgmental) regarding the club scene in whatever college town Daughter frequents on weekends. 

Been there.  Done that.  Got the t-shirt (somewhere). 

Alas, I have no witty account of my latest social encounter.  Rather, I find myself tonight on yet another business trip, to a destination I would rather not visit, in the company of individuals to whom I would prefer not talk.  And as seems to happen more often than not, I experienced weather delays en route yesterday, and what should have been a five-hour ordeal was more than double that.   

My social interaction during the Denver airport delay included sharing newspapers with strangers, pretending that my bottled water wasn’t filled up at the drinking fountain, and deciding whether I could risk drinking a different brand of foo-foo coffee rather than the standard one the women in my family have used to water board me (I didn’t). 

I did chat with a security guard briefly, since she had to explain to me why she was guarding the vending machine area (she wasn’t) and why I couldn’t use it (I couldn’t).  In a clever bit of post-modern capitalism, it seems the electricity for these machines only clicks on after all the restaurants close.  So I guess the “true eateries” feel threatened by the machines. 

Can you say “Terminator Three“?

But that wasn’t the real highlight of the journey.  That came later, and it truly caught me by surprise because it was so counterintuitive. 

The story goes like this.  I usually try to fly the same airline on most of my trips (issues with delays, notwithstanding).  Though I don’t think I need to mention the name, this particular airline has open seating.  I believe the strategy for most Muggles is to grab either a window or aisle seat, thereby leaving the less fortunate masses to deal with squeezing in the middle. 

If you have flown lately, no doubt you’ve noticed that the cabins are darn full these days, and open seats have become quite a commodity.  As fate would have it, our delayed flight last night was not full.  Not full.  Therefore, the possibility was very real that a middle seat might remain unoccupied for the entire three-hour leg. 

Though I fought temptation, I allowed my over-fatigued mind the faintest hope that I might be afforded the luxury of stretching out just for a bit, not clanging elbows with anyone, and generally lording my spatial superiority over the lesser mortals crammed into the rest of the plane.

Well, that last thought was my undoing, probably.  Simply stated, I did not possess the Most Sincere Pumpkin Patch.  Consequently, the Great Pumpkin passed me over.

In a big way.

Picture this.  I giddily (really, that’s how I felt) grabbed a window seat near the front of the aircraft.  Both the middle (of course) and aisle seats were still open as the Muggle refugee line morosely filed in.  So, my expectation would be that a Soccer Mom would perch on the aisle seat, and if she piled enough crap in between us (something I would never do), I would be home free.

Nope.

Not only does a Soccer Mom not join my row (that never happens anyway), a guy with a laptop plops down — AND TAKES THE MIDDLE SEAT NEXT TO ME.  Mind you, the aisle seat was still open.

I’ve never, ever had this happen to me, and if I hadn’t been so tired already, my mind would have begun racing.  As it was, it merely jogged, or maybe walked at a fast clip. 

My fellow traveler was a younger guy, seemed pretty normal (whatever that means), and settled in to read a book (perfect).  Eventually, someone took the aisle seat (that makes perfect sense), so we were left in full sardine can mode. 

But think if that hadn’t happened.  Other than those crazy couples that still have the kinds of feelings for each other that necessitate sitting next to each other on airplanes, there we would have been, this book-reading guy and me.  Loving life and our plane ride together. 

Just a little strange, but not a big deal.  While I was still conscious, I snuck a peek at what he was reading.  It was a story of some dude going through SEAL training.  Maybe he thought I could give him pointers.  Maybe he thought I was a former SEAL.  Maybe he thought I was just a seal.  Who knows?  He seemed nice enough, never said a word, but still. . . .  Sitting in that middle seat.  I don’t know.

Let’s just leave it at that.  Zen-me lives on. 

Daughter, let’s go grab a beer-o!

- Dad

O Tannenbaum, Be Gone!

tree

I feel so naked. Is it February yet? Nope.

Well, it’s January 26th, and we’ve just about wrapped up the Christmas Season in our house.  It truly won’t be complete until the last poinsettia dies, but that could take months.  Although by the looks of some of the sad flora remnants scattered about, it may be just a matter of days.  I don’t think they have been watered properly, but I could be mistaken. 

poinsettia

Geez, seeing that I’m perched above the kitchen sink, you’d think these Muggles would think to water me occasionally. Will I see March or April? Who am I fooling? I’m headed for recycling. . . .

One year, despite our best efforts, we were blessed with a particularly hardy poinsettia that absolutely, positively refused to wither and expire.  So after our traditional post-holiday period of benign plant neglect, I slowly began to take an active interest in this survivor.  It became something of a reclamation project, to the extent it was replanted and nurtured, lovingly pruned and fertilized.  It then made something of a remarkable recovery, so much so, in fact, that we transplanted it outside since it grew so big.

Of course, that killed it. 

It is probably a remarkable artifact of family history that we are all still alive, given our propensity to delay the actual “striking of Christmas paraphernalia.” By that I mean we have harbored some really desiccated Christmas trees over the years, well past their prime.  Well past.  I mean, some of these things were so dry we had to stop plugging in the string lights for fear of spontaneous combustion. 

And then we reach the decision point of, well, if we drag the thing out into the backyard now, it’s going to dispense about 60 million needles all over the house on the way there.  Of course that logic is counterbalanced by the “leave it in place” mentality, whereby we can simply sweep up the offending offal as it rains down in ever greater quantities. 

So we frequently do nothing, until common decency dictates we must act.  I am then compelled to wrestle the remnants of our once green tree out the back door into the yard where, you guessed it, it languishes for several more weeks/months until I have to start mowing the grass again in the late spring. 

But our Christmas tree keeps on giving all year round, because I usually try to re-purpose whatever is left to use in our fire pit in the summer.  That may sound like a good idea, but a seven-month-old tree is akin to a large match, and when it goes off in the fire, it’s like a grenade. 

“Yep.  That was a good tree,” I think to myself as I look for what’s left of my singed eyebrows. 

That was before we went Pure Platinum with our Christmas trees.  Now, the biggest challenge with our very realistic artificial tree is trying to remember where we stored it last year (“Didn’t we give that one away to Goodwill — I can’t find it.”) and figuring out if it still looks reasonable unrealistic to be able to pass for a decent fake tree. 

I find nothing joyous about assembling a Christmas tree.  The very phrase “assembling a Christmas tree” is annoying and somehow not sympathetic with the Spirit of the Season we all associate with the TV and print ads we see for Black Friday. 

No doubt about it, putting the thing together is a bit of a chore.  Sure, sometimes I throw on an appropriate CD to provide seasonal background music, but there are only so many times you can listen to Pink Martini in one afternoon, after all, before throwing up. 

Thankfully, my duties have been reduced over the years to erecting, assembling, and hooking up the lights.  Others in the family now step in to decorate, Praise the Lord.  If they didn’t, no telling how long that would take or what the end result might be — it wouldn’t be pretty. 

And I could write an entire blog about finding three strings of lights that:  a)  were manufactured in the same decade; b)  look reasonably similar to one another, and c)  work. 

Today I am at the other end of the process:  disassembly.  Based on last year’s results, the challenge is to pack the tree in the Christmas Tree Box so it doesn’t look like I’ve stuffed a family member’s body in there.  The process should be deliberate and orderly, with the lettered limbs stacked neatly together to facilitate their removal and assembly next year. 

It just never works out that way, except today. 

Whether by accident or design, I managed not only to re-pack the tree neatly, there was also room to stow three strings of lights inside, as well.  Of course next year I will not remember where I put the lights, but I’ll deal with that later. 

And lest anyone think Christmas is truly over in our house, a tangled pile of solar holiday lights has languished on the hose storage container out front for several weeks now. 

No telling how long they’ll be there.

Merry Christmas, Daughter!  We miss you. 

- Dad 

 

 

 

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part VI – Conclusion

I didn’t know that your collar bones could hurt, but apparently, they can when you’re really tired. I feel like a sumo wrestler is sitting on my collar bones and slowly crushing them into a fine powder which will then be sold on the black market to a traditional Chinese medicine man. (Is that racist? Sorry.) It may have been a short driving day but it was a long day nonetheless.

We woke up in a wintry ice palace and I was the grumpy ice princess (HEAVY IS THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN). Even though I was in bad mood because I was tired, it was hard to be disgruntled when the outside world looked like a pre-teen has just bedazzled the crap out of everything. It was so beautiful; I just wanted to run around in the snow, being one with nature. But nature was too cold for that type of hippie nonsense.

It's cold outside.

Cold.

Dad took the first shift of driving and I stared outside the window, absorbed by the cows dotting the countryside. I decided that one day, I  would like to have a pet cow. And I’d like to name it Big Mac. Not because I’d eat it, but because I think it would be hilarious. But maybe that’s just because I’m tired. Time to eat, Big Mac! Big Mac, come here, you silly old cow. Big Mac, you’re going to be a mother!!!! We shall name him: Happy Meal. 

Anyway, once again, we got lost on our trek to find coffee which resulted in tense tones and loud sighs of annoyance. Coffee seems to be driving a wedge between us. Once coffee was acquired, we sipped in silence. My father occasionally quizzed me on US history and then shook his head in utter dismay at my many wrong answers. When I asked him to quiz me more, he said, “No, it’s depressing.” Or something along those lines. Whatever, Dad. I know that there were 31 colonies, a Silverware War, and this guy, Jefferson Airplane, who sewed the first American flag together with shoelaces. Those are the only important facts you need to know.

Hi, trees.

Hi, trees.

We got to my apartment up at school in the early afternoon and then I spent a long time unpacking which was horrifically stressful. Unpacking/packing is playing Tetris with your belongings but it lacks any incentive. I spent a long time flopping around like a dying fish before I gave up and pulled a Scarlett O’Hara: “There’s always… tomorrow.”

A trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on groceries almost resulted in a panic attack. It was some combination of the lack of sleep, grumpiness, and anxiety for school to start that resulted in me hyper-shopping to get it over with. It was so crowded that people were essentially tackling me to get to the kumquats first. Very overwhelming. So much so, my Fight-or-Flight response kicked in under this duress and I had to physically restrain myself from assaulting people by hugging my Organic Fair-Trade Ethiopian Medium Roast Trader Joe’s Brand Coffee to my chest (obviously, the ‘Fight’ response won out). I made my dad stand with the cart so I wouldn’t have to maneuver around the crowds and embraced my hunter-gatherer roots. I probably resembled a meerkat in the way I burrowed through the crowds unnoticed and then popped up briefly for air to observe my surroundings, scanning the landscape for danger.

I iz a mountain.

I iz a mountain.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I actually preferred driving over flying. And even though I was grumpy and my dad never did learn the appropriate angle at which to text so as not to blind me, I had the best time with Pops. Sorry, I was grumpy today, Dad! You’re the best. Even though you want me to be blind. Maybe because you’re losing your hearing you want me to lose my sight so that, together, we can be a mutant Helen Keller. Good job if that’s the case, you win.

- Daughter

 

————————————————————————————————————————-

 

Well, all’s well that ends well.

But I failed to mention that in yesterday’s severely snow-shortened drive, strange things started happening inside our truck on the penultimate day of our monster journey.

As may not be too obvious, I do occasionally try to be a law-abiding citizen while behind the wheel.  And that includes using a Bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone.  At some point, however, the hook device that holds the stupid thing to my ear became detached and walked away.

Not to worry, I thought.  I just crammed the thing in my ear canal, and that worked just fine – until it popped out after about six minutes and disappeared somewhere in the crevices between the front seat and our Hoarders pile in the back.  And to compound matters, while I was desperately scrounging under my seat for the bud, my new watch became entangled in part of the metal framework there and the band broke apart.

Okay.  Blinding snowstorm.  Manic semi truck drivers.  A growing list of missing personal items.  Unconscious Daughter.

Yep.  Let’s pull off and re-group.

What I couldn’t figure out was why, apparently, hundreds of other motorists did not follow us off the Interstate.  Things were that bad.

But we made the right call.  After taking an early exit, we unloaded and watched the snow pile up all around us in the hotel parking lot.  The only issue was my high-tech weather insulation device (black garbage bag from the Hampton Inn hotel) did not remain intact and my rolling suitcase became a little damp.  Did I fail to mention that we had so much crap junk personal belongings in the cab that we had to throw some stuff in the pickup bed?  That’s what poor planning will do for you.  Fortunately, every article of clothing I own is fully weather-proofed (in other words, my wife is constantly trying to get rid of most of the stuff I wear), so a little moisture doesn’t really matter.

So, after a nice dinner, and six hours of the Weather Channel, we went to bed early dreaming of Sugar Plums (Daughter) and not another episode of Ice Road Truckers (me).

It became very clear to me this morning that Daughter’s selfless cuticle sacrifice along the way appeased the Highway Gods, and we were blessed with sunny (cold) skies and clear roads when we arose.

Hallelujah.  I didn’t really say or even think that, but it seemed appropriate.

We proceeded to celebrate our good fortune with not just one, but two foo-foo coffee stops.  And I even let Daughter drive.

“Dad.  I can drive now.  Okay?  Okay?  You need to wear the hearing aid in the ear closest to me.”

“But then I can’t wear my Bluetooth,” I replied.  Very cunning.

As luck or good fortune or Weather Channel channeling would have it, the day was anticlimactic.  It was an easy, short day (just a few hours), and we arrived at our destination 2981 miles and six days after we started.

The good news is that Daughter and I are still talking to each other.  She is still napping religiously.  And we carried about 500 extra pounds of unmelted snow in the bed of the truck for extra traction on perfectly clear roads.

Truth is, I began to realize a couple of days ago that this trip with Daughter was unique, and I tried to do a better job of focusing on the moment(s), just so I could remember for when I get old (say, toward the end of next week).  For reference, Zen-me has just about finished reading the Dalai Lama’s Cat, and I have taken to heart that I cannot change those external forces beyond my control, but I can change that which I do control – how I think and react.

So, where does that leave me at journey’s end?

I’ve got a few more chapters to get through before I come to peace with the sh da assh semi-professional Truck Drivers of this world.  That much is clear.

Sorry.

And finally, though I am concerned about Daughter (her errant driving patterns, some of her music, her fingernails), I think she’s going to be okay and I’m proud of her.

The question is, will she be able to get up early enough on Sunday to take me to the airport?

As if I didn’t already know, I think tomorrow will be a Pajama Day.

Shotgun!

- Dad

 

Road Trip Diaries: A Daughter-Father Epic, Part V

Welllll. We were going to try for Pennsylvania today but the weather replied, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS,” and snowed us right off the road. Not literally, luckily. My dad tapped out when the snow started to get serious – no more Mr. Nice Snow, as they say (?). My dad had been driving the whole day anyway, it was “too dangerous” for me to drive apparently, so he was glad to get off the road. I was glad to get off the road because I was sitting in abject terror for 3/4 of the drive today; semis were flying around the roads like they were in the Ice Capades. The remaining quarter of the time, I was asleep. Not driving is exhausting! I can only be in a state of pure, unadulterated fear for so long before my body poops out and resorts to its only defense: sleep.

Sneeeew.

Sneeeew.

We stopped driving early in the day and spent most of the afternoon lounging around the hotel room like we owned the place (we sorta do, right? Maybe it’s considered more of a timeshare). I was supposed to be picking my classes for next semester during the extra time I had today but sitting and looking at funny pictures on the internet won out instead. Clearly, I have my priorities straight. I’m definitely ready to be a Serious Academic again.

Trying to get an artsy angle… aaaand failing.

The Weather Channel was on for a good five hours straight because it turns out weather is an important factor for travel. (WHAT?!) Unfortunately, the main weather lady was making really inane comments and saying things like, “We’ll have Bob Whatshisface, the resident meteorologist, make sense of all of these pretty colors on the Doppler radar in a second!” First of all, I understand there is a limited amount of information and fluff you can work into Weather Channel programming, but those ‘pretty colors’? Yeah, no. That’s like looking at a tornado and saying that you like that little turny-twisty dance it does. Iago is no joke. Except for that name. That’s a joke. It reminds me of an iguana. And iguanas are not that scary. They need to start giving these storms more threatening names. THOR IS COMING, EXPECT ROAD DELAYS. ZEUS IS COMING, 400 FEET OF SNOW EXPECTED. ACHILLES IS COMING, STOCK UP ON EMERGENCY SUPPLIES. Nope. “Iago is coming, expect a shortage of flies and other insects.”

I want to go swimming.

I want to go swimming.

Dad and I spend a good amount of time prancing around taking photos of the snow. In the midst of prancing, however, I discovered one of my boots had a hole in it because water began to seep into my boots and was immediately absorbed by my fuzzy socks – it was straight of a scene from a paper towel commercial, you guys. I might as well have been wearing sponges in my boots. My actual snow boots are buried in the Hoarders-style mountain of things stuffed into the cab of the truck, unreachable by any mortal. This means I’ll be in my holey boots until I get to PA. Such is life.

FOOD.

FOOD.

But to end things on a positive note, we did eat a delicious meal at a “fancy” restaurant. I say “fancy” with quotation marks because my dad had to put real pants on instead of wearing his shorts. They also had those baby forks and little plates – obviously upscale for us plebes. In my fog of exhaustion, I forgot to put my napkin on my lap and Dad decided to point this out to the waitress in order to embarrass/shame me. Cute, Dad.

- Daughter

————————————————————————————————————————-

Not only did we drive thirteen hours and lose yet another hour to time zone changes yesterday (what’s the deal with time zones?), I evidently failed to reserve a hotel room correctly while simultaneously texting, driving, and emailing.  How could I screw up something so simple?

So, there I was at the front desk last night, without a confirmation number, but with lots of credit cards.  Thinking fast (or as fast as my mileage-addled brain would allow), I winked at the front desk clerk, and she he magically discovered an available room.

Old School Tactic, Daughter.

But it was almost 11:00 p.m. by then, anyway.

And I already knew we could kiss today’s Early Start goodbye.  And to add further insult, I was asleep before Daughter.

Yep.  It was a long day.

As I anticipated, the Highway Gods exacted their revenge today, even while Daughter “mailed it in” from the passenger seat, the beneficiary of a modified (multi-layer) FaceTent (trademarked).  That’s right, when the first driving shift (mine) was over, the second (mine) then started.  And Daughter started her second nap stint.

To be absolutely fair, I felt the most prudent course of action was for me to handle the load.  The weather absolutely sucked, and got worse from there.  No more desolate landscapes with 80 mph-posted speed limits.  We’re talking 60 mph max, heavy rain turning to snow, and semi tractor-trailer rigs as far as the eye could see (which wasn’t far).

Quite frankly, I don’t like experiencing life in the slow lane, off cruise control, staring at the butt-end of yet another freaking hideously large truck.

And to continue my rant from my last entry, many of these semi guys simply have no shame.  At least that’s the way it appears to me.

Cut in front of a fast-closing vehicle (me) – no problem.  Stay in the left lane forever – no problem.  Unconsciously annoy Daughter – no problem.

You see, they’ve got it all covered.

But I was more worried about the deteriorating weather and becoming stranded, without access to foo-foo coffee and a semi-warm bed.  The sum total of the food stuffs on board was two bananas, an apple, some hotel mints, and half a loaf of gluten-free bread (essentially a bag of cardboard scraps).

After assessing the situation and the possibility would could potentially be somewhat hungry by nightfall (not thirsty – I figured we could melt snow to drink), we pulled off the interstate early (only six hours today) and watched Winter Storm Iago on the Weather Channel, instead of through the front windshield.

Was it the right decision?  I’ll know tomorrow if —  we finally reach our destination (at least a day late) in one piece, before darkness falls, and Daughter spends more time driving than sleeping.

Hope springs eternal.

-  Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part IV

Before I start this blog post, I want to have a moment of silence to show respect for those we lost during this road trip. They have been with me for many years, close friends I’d even call them. But they have been wounded and killed in this great battle fought on the interstates of America. Rest in peace, we will always remember you, dear cuticles. Seriously, though. My cuticles are dead and dying. This is the winter of their discontent… literally. They are terrible and bleedy. Lotion does not assuage them nor kind words. I have given up trying to heal them and instead, I try not to look at them. Or I sit on my hands.

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

We actually got back on the road today  and palled around with some semi truck drivers! If “palled around” means playing a game of tag with huge tons of metal and the semi is always “it”. STOP TRYING TO TAG US, TRUCK DRIVERS.  There was one semi in particular that really, really irritated me. So much so that I changed nationalities and transformed into an Italian. I did a lot of exasperated hand gesturing. I could be wrong, but I think this means I’m fluent in Italian.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

After a successfully-completed quest to get coffee (bad things always happen when we try and find coffee, maybe we should consider switching to tea?), I hit a curb while turning because I can’t see out the right side of the truck and some coffee splashed out of my dad’s cup. No Big Deal, right? WRONG. Obviously, my dad has NEVER EVER so much as run over an errant piece of rubber on the road because he was so disgusted with me. How dare I accidentally run over a curb? HOW DARE I WASTE HIS TIME OFF-ROADING FOR MY OWN AMUSEMENT. He actually asked me: “Have you ever driven a car before?”  And then, later, a semi was drifting into my lane so I moved over and went on the rumble strip for three seconds. Not long, but long enough for my dad to yell at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” And I said, “THIS SEMI IS ON TOP OF ME, BRO.” Except I didn’t call him ‘bro’ because that’s weird. Good times. This is what father-daughter bonding is all about.

America.

America.

The most exciting thing that happened today is when we got lost in Tennessee. Despite having a GPS, an iPhone, Google Maps, and old-fashioned paper maps, we got lost because there was an unexpected detour. We apparently drove on a road that didn’t exist in our world, it existed in some other dimension. The same dimension where all your missing socks go  and where I have friends. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of roads. I’m pretty sure I saw a chupacabra out there. My poor iPhone was heating up from its attempt to locate us, but its efforts were in vain. We weren’t in this world, or if we were, we had ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime because… physics.

We made it back to our dimension, all parts intact but I have a feeling of deju vu… nope, wait, it was just a burp.

- Daughter

————————————————————————————————————————-

And on the fourth day, God created semi-tractor truck drivers.  But I digress.

Yesterday was an unscheduled rest day, which presupposes one actually rests when given the opportunity.  When I awoke and took stock of the thick blanket of snow outside, it wasn’t hard to quickly make the decision to hang tight for a day with our wonderful relatives in their immaculate mansion.  Please note that, in comparison to our house, most other homes seem like castles to us – but theirs really is.  It is wonderful.

One quick check on Daughter simply confirmed my decision – she was dead to the world.  Two days in cramped confinement with a parent sucks the life out of children, evidently.

So, Daughter made an unconscious, slumbering assessment to replicate what is known back in our household as a “Pajama Day.”

It goes like this.  In the spirit of calling “shotgun,” declaring “Pajama Day” is governed by approximately the same rules.  Yep, all you have to do is say, “Pajama Day,” and, thereby, you eliminate the requirement to become fully attired and fully humanly functional for however long you want.  Technically, Pajama Day could become “days” or even a week, in extreme circumstances.

Also, male members are not allowed to play, even though we completely and thoroughly understand the rules.  Though hurtful, I am all right with the exception.

I knew we were in trouble this morning, however, because Daughter did not sleep well and was more tired than she had been before our rest day.  Makes no sense, I know, but it’s nothing a foo-foo coffee usually can’t set right.

Unfortunately, Daughter’s fatigue manifested itself in many uncharacteristic ways.  During her first driving stint, she inexplicably had no idea how she turned on the windshield wipers, but also couldn’t figure how to turn them off, as well.  Not long after she ran over a curb exiting a gas station.

Her defense?

“I can’t see anything out of the right side of the truck, and stop yelling at me.”

Only one of us had her voice raised by the way, and it sure would have been nice to know you’ve been blind on the right side of the vehicle the past two days, Daughter.

And even though she deployed her now trademarked FaceTent early on, she had little to no patience for the truck drivers hogging the interstate highways.

Daughter using FaceTent (tm)

Daughter using FaceTent ™

I have to admit, a little warning sign went off in my own pea brain when the landscape northeast of Dallas became littered with hundreds of the following road signs:  “Left Lane is for Passing Only.

Let’s think about that, shall we?  If you have to post directions to the multitudes about staying out of the left lane, there clearly must be a problem somewhere.

There was.  And is.

We were blocked, hindered, slowed, and just plain annoyed by the numerous Left Lane Truck Bandits today.  I’m sure they are all really nice people, but, geez, folks, let’s get with the program.

As you might have suspected, Zen-me wrestled with the situation for a few miles, but I eventually made my peace and counted my blessings.

For Daughter, however, it was a continuing struggle, no doubt fueled by her lack of rest during our “Rest Day.”

If we consider the eleven stages of Driving Consciousness, she never made it by Number Four:  Annoyance.

Even if she had, we always have tomorrow.  And if we don’t have tomorrow, there’s still me.

- Dad

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Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part II

001

I did not want to be awake for this sunrise, but here I am.

Morale was low today.  I woke up to complete darkness and weather in the 20’s. The only positive take-away from the morning was  my hair – which is usually hay-like in texture – suddenly transformed into a blanket of velvet. Thanks, soft water!  This new softness was kind of a big deal and I sat for a while petting my hair (first sign of insanity?).

Knowing that I would have to have something other than the softness of my hair to sustain me, I made my way to the lobby where food was rumored to be kept.  The continental breakfast area was only an island and a counter but it seemed a great labyrinth to me. I finally understand how that one ancient Greek guy felt in the labyrinth with the Minotaur guy… I, too, know that fear of being lost and not knowing whether to expect a pancake or a half-bull, half-man creature around the corner. It might be because I’m an idiot but I’m pretty sure it was because I was still asleep and my eyes just happened to be open. I was conscious enough to know that food was in the vicinity but exact locations and things like “choosing what to eat” eluded me. After stumbling around for a while, we left with coffee from a small, environmentally-friendly, and independent coffee shop Starbucks in hand and got back on the road.

Once in the confines of the car, I wrapped my head in a to-go blanket burrito of sadness. Having no actual blankets in the car, I improvised with jackets and created a small tent-like structure around my head to block out the light so I could sleep. Unfortunately, we were driving toward the sunrise so my blanket burrito acted as a lamp shade instead of a blackout shade. My attempt to be the Benjamin Franklin of sleeping-pod inventions was valiant but futile. I’m sure SkyMall has a  portable, one-person FaceTent ™, and if not, I’m going to work on the patent right when I get to school (and then drop out of school because FaceTent ™ is a million dollar idea). Anyway, sleeping was a no-go beyond ten minutes of drifting off and then waking up when a limb fell asleep faster than my brain could. I settled for staring out the window and naming the cows we passed.

Into the void we go!

Into the void we go!

Yesterday, my dad and I were optimistic and bursting with enthusiasm for the Southwestern American landscape. Today, we are hardened road warriors. The scenery has been abysmal with pockets of that weird, dilapidated beauty, like Steve Buscemi’s face (?). We drove through a lot of oil fields and I really, really wanted to say to my dad, “Wow, this sure is no country for old men…” but 1 ) I don’t know if he’d get the reference, 2) he probably wouldn’t hear it until I repeated it 4 times and then it wouldn’t be funny, and 3) I haven’t even seen that movie so I don’t know if it’s part of the Fair Use Policy for jokes.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

We did have our first tense driving moment on our quest to find coffee today. My dad is completely useless when it comes to doing anything on my iPhone so he forced me to search for directions on my phone while I was driving on the interstate. He became impatient when I couldn’t find the right address and I said, “It’s a little hard to get directions when I’m also driving, Dad.” And he just nodded in agreement… or he didn’t hear me. Or he was just pretending not to hear me, you never know with this guy.

My dad ignoring me.

My dad ignoring me.

Directions to coffee were successfully procured after several “hold the wheel”s, but I was still confused and attempted to get off on two incorrect exits  and corrected at the last moment. Then, Dad passive-aggressively grabbed the hand-hold insinuating that he needed the extra stability to not go flying around the cab because I’m behind the wheel. It didn’t help matters when I completely missed the right exit. Eventually, we ended the wild goose chase in the middle of Abilene, TX and got the stupid coffee. Twenty minutes of arguing and yelling at, “Make a right, no, A RI- YES, NOW,” I’m sipping a latte and treasuring it for all the trouble it took to get it. Mmmmm, the taste of frustration. My favorite. 

047

The police, putting on a nice light show!

Also, my dad did not learn how to text without blinding me. STILL. It took at least 50 times of asking him to stop reflecting the sun into my corneal region, AND THIS IS THE SECOND DAY. I wanted to take his phone and throw it out the window but I restrained myself and instead said, “Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. DAD. DAD. YOU’RE BLINDING ME AGAIN.”

- Daughter

 

————————————————————————————————————————-

 

When Daughter isn’t mumbling to me about directions, the southwestern part of the United States speaks to me.  I have always loved driving through this part of the country, because it is so wide open and sparsely populated.  I imagine, even today, I could load up my horse and head ninety degrees off the highway in any direction, and never see another human for weeks.

 

But then I figure the satellite reception is pretty crappy in the foothills, so I never really act on this notion.  Probably the closest I will come will be a week at a dude ranch a decade from now, where I will pretend to drive cattle and will practice taking down bad guys with my Red Rider bb gun.

 

Yes.  I’m looking forward to that.

 

But back to reality and today’s drive segment.

 

The exoticars of Southern California gave way many miles ago to a multitude of Border Patrol Suburbans and Jeeps.  We were stopped at one checkpoint today and asked if we were American Citizens.

 

“Yes!” We chimed and drove merrilly away.  It was all the agent could do to stay warm behind his barrier, with a light snow falling and thte wind chill in the teens.  It’s a thankless job, made worse by those green uniforms they wear.  I think a little touch of Downton Abbey might make a difference and raise spirits.

 

Probably not.

 

Though Daughter made a game of it yesterday and pulled her share of the driving duties, she bailed a bit today and took the first sleeping shift out of El Paso — which turned into the second sleeping shift a couple hours later.

 

Then she started complaining about her butt hurting.  And then it went downhill further with the release of effluent gases.

 

For context, the girls in our family are incapable of doing anything untoward, including admitting to the existence of bodily functions that every other human has to deal with.  To make matters worse, their first course of defense regarding same is to deny they did anything at all.

 

When that fails, and it always does, they start to laugh and then blame the whole thing on me.

 

It’s a pattern that’s repeated over and over again, with anything that’s even marginally amiss in our household.

 

Basically, anything and everything that goes wrong, is slightly suspicious, or doesn’t smell right (literally or figuratively), is all my fault.

 

Zen-me accepts that.

 

Moving on, then, I did come up with two really great ideas on the trip today.

 

The first was borne out of annoying Daughter.  Apparently every time I texted someone, I inadvertantly aimmed the blackberry screen reflection in Daughter’s eyes (while she was driving — I didn’t have the problem while I was texting and driving).  I thought I had the problem licked (I simply tilted it at a different angle – duh!), and sometime in the afternoon I said something that I believed Daughter found witty and wanted to high-five me about.

 

As I was trying to reverse high-five (or high-five a thousand angels guiding our way), I heard:

 

“Dad.  You’re shining that thing in my eyes again.”

 

No wonder I was having a hard time hitting her hand.  She was blocking the sun again.

 

So, Idea Number One:  Non-reflective blackberry screen filter.  I’m thinking that one has already been done, but I can’t confirm and certainly don’t use it.

 

The second (and better) idea originated with the number of miles we’ve been driving.  I’ve always wondered how the travel times would compare in historical context.

 

Idea Number Two:  iPhone app that converts miles travelled into time necessary to traverse same in a selected epoch of interest.  For example, we drove seven hundred and fifty miles yesterday.  How long would that same trip have taken in 1850, or 1450?

 

I thought it was pretty cool, and had merit.  Daughter dismissed it out of hand.

 

Well, I know one thing.  I’ve got an awful lot of texting to do tomorrow, while I’m not driving.

 

- Dad

At What Point Should I Become Upset?

Playskool

This is what’s going on in my tiny little Zen-me head. Not really. Let’s put it on Craigslist.

 

So, it’s the first day back at work today, after what felt like a very, very abbreviated holiday.  And I would tell you that my Wednesday seemed an awful lot like Monday, which made it even worse.

Getting the feeling I’m not a very happy Muggle at the moment? 

Well, Zen-me immediately recognized that true happiness originates from somewhere within, but after several rounds of counting my blessings, appreciating my health, and trying to be thankful for the little things in life, I just decided to give up and admit it all sucked was just a little too daunting for quiet contemplation.

I managed to zone out answering an endless string of emails, and as I drifted along on this call and that, I eventually found myself squarely in the middle of the afternoon just barely beginning to see the light at the end of my work day tunnel. 

“Maybe I wouldn’t have to stay late tonight.  Maybe I would find a quarter in the parking lot.  Maybe that MegaMillions ticket tucked in my sun visor was a winner.”

Yes.  I did, in fact, think these thoughts, verbatim

It’s sad, I know, but sometimes it’s the small tidbits that get you through the storm (or something like that).  What I’m afraid of happening to me, however, is reminiscent of that scene in The Perfect Storm, where the Andrea Gail crests one of the biggest, baddest computer-animated waves in cinema history, and just for a moment, George Clooney glimpses the sun and thinks they just might survive this monster after all.

Nah. 

Just as quickly the clouds close back in, and they are all headed to Davy Jones’ Locker, accompanied by a bunch of headless, animatronic swordfish on ice. 

Now I’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty bad day compared to mine. 

To continue, as I was wrapping up my last mindless phone discussion at work, one of the vendors on the line made an interesting observation regarding a technical debate that had occurred earlier in the afternoon among some of the Dog Scientists that work for us. 

He said, “They were arguing louder than a couple of Persian Rug Salesmen.”

It was an interesting twist of a phrase that I honestly had never heard before.  

But then I thought, “Wait a minute.  I’m second generation Persian-American. (Full Disclosure Alert:  I’ve never, ever referred to myself as such, but it works for this particular blog.) 

“Shouldn’t I be at least a little bit offended?” I wondered.  Again, verbatim.

As it turns out, the reality of my Persian ancestry is more along the lines of peasant goat herders rather than ancient caravan merchants, but still. . . .  I felt — nothing.  Really. 

Truth of the matter is, it wasn’t a big deal to me. 

Why wasn’t I upset?  What’s wrong with me? 

And then (Danger, Will Robinson!) I started to think about other potentially insulting phrases hurled in my direction relatively recently  — and just for general illumination, it’s not like I:  a)  am the target of frequent epithets, and, b)  keep a running ledger of same. 

There was the “incident” a couple of years ago some dude thought I cut him off in traffic.  I was in my old Alfa convertible (top down, of course):  “Hey, Old Man, go fu get yourself some driving lessons,” or words to that effect. 

Didn’t bother me.  After all, I was late for a lunch of Vietnamese pho.  It was, in fact, actually something of a miracle I even heard what he said.  Maybe it was because his voice was just a tad raised. 

Or the parking lot incident last week.  For the record, that guy had all the earmarks of a moron. 

Or out on the soccer pitch (multiple times last season):  “Hey, ref!  Call it both ways!  That’s pathetic.” 

Like I’m going to call it one way or the other.  And what does that mean?  And what exactly is it that’s pathetic?  No matter.  I already was paid before the game started, brother.  Put some dope that in your pipe and smoke it. 

And that’s when it hit me.  Most of the folks that seem to possess something of a hair index finger regarding pushing their “I’m Losin’ It Button” are probably just “smoking dope.” 

I don’t mean literally, of course, though some may, indeed, be really smoking it.  It’s just a phrase I use (more and more these days) to describe those individuals who have simply lost their sense of reality and, more importantly, an ability to decipher what’s important and what’s not. 

Uh, oh.  Zen-me is rearing his head, and that’s okay. 

But there is a downside, if you can call it that.

Most things simply don’t upset me at all anymore.  I still haven’t decided what that really means, and whether it’s even good or bad. 

I do know one thing, however.  I will put this disposition to the acid test in a couple of weeks when Daughter and I drive cross-country, spending twenty-four hours a day together for six straight days.

Will Zen-me become a dope smoker?  Stay tuned. 

- Dad

 

 

What I Didn’t Accomplish in 2012 and Other Random Thoughts. . . .

Leaves

Raking leaves is a chore. Raking wet leaves really sucks!

In keeping with the counter-culture, Zen-me theme that has roughly characterized my existence in 2012, I thought it fitting to list all the things I had parked in some remote corner of mind with an eye toward actually making progress toward completing same this past year.

What an awful run-on sentence to begin this meandering diatribe, but it’s suitable to the overall theme, so work with me if you’re still reading at this point.

You see, I find it difficult to create a fanciful utopian list of resolutions on New Year’s Eve, because it simply becomes a very organized, detailed game plan to chronicle how quickly I can fall off the Best Intentions Wagon in the coming months.

As we all know, that Wagon is on a one-way trip to Hell Hades a Place Where the Angels Pinch Your Butt instead of high-fiving you. 

I’m not a defeatist.  Just a realist.  So, let’s take a look at what I didn’t accomplish in 2012:

1)  Learn to surf – Evidently, requires a board.  I do have a wetsuit, however.

2)  Complete a triathlon – I hear you have to practice quite a bit for this one. 

3)  Paint the house – Partial success here.  I did manage to repaint exactly three slats on the fence by the side yard.

4)  Attend Christmas Eve church service – See my explanation here.  It’s sad. 

5)  Wax Mom’s van – Have you seen how much sheet metal these things have?

6)  Re-Learn to play the guitar and/or trumpet – Both instruments are still patiently ensconced in their storage cases.

7)  Clean the garage – My God.  The horror.  The horror.   

8)  Start yoga – Daughter promised me we would attend together.  Never happened.  Instead, I ate a lot of yogurt.  It sounds close. 

9)  Placeholder – Something will come to me later.

10)  See Number 9 above.

My accomplishments?

1)  Gave up Sudoku – About time.  It was giving me headaches.

2)  Mowed the grass, semi-regularly.

3)  Paid most bills on time. 

4)  Visited DisneyWorld – Being around terminally happy people is very challenging.  Lesson learned.

5)  Bought one new pair of athletic shoes – Adidas.  Red. 

6)  I found lots of change on the ground – Probably a life lesson here, but I’m not really sure what it is.  

7)  Mindlessly agreed to share blog writing chores with Daughter – “Sure, I can help out.  What?  How often?” 

I think that covers 2012.  Not much there, but I frequently thought about doing much more, if that makes a difference.

And 2013?  I honestly do have two goals, and they are pretty easy ones:

1)  Refinance the house – Been there, done that about five times already in the last ten years.  If we’re headed off a fiscal cliff, I am running there full-speed, baby!  But in terms of a real fiscal cliff, all you have to do is look in my (shared) bedroom clothes closet at the crap there.  I have a tiny corner for my stuff, of course, but I’m okay with it because I wear essentially the same three shirts over and over again.    

2)  Drive with Daughter back to college in January – Can you say “Road trip?”  iPod arguments!  For reference, I present, “Dad, I figured (insert “trustworthy” friend name here) and I could drive my car back to Philadelphia together.  I have AAA.”

Yeah, right.   

Well, that’s about all I can think of for now that’s even remotely germane.  

I should probably close with the following thought:  Instead of a box of chocolates, Life is kind of like the moldering carpet of leaves I have to rake up every year about this time.  On the one hand, we love the shade that old, diseased tree provides during the hot summer months here, but I know that, come Winter, I’ll spend the better part of a good eight weeks picking up the decaying remnants of that umbrella. 

“OMG, have you seen the amount of leaves on the ground?  I think I’m going to clean out the garage first!” 

In the end, you have to take the good with the bad, appreciate whatever it is that you have, and be absolutely sure that Daughter Number Two attends a Public University on the West Coast. 

Yes.  This I believe. 

Happy New Year, Daughter!

- Dad 

 

Christmas Shopping with an Eleven-Year-Old and Other Lessons in New Age Economics

fiveanddime

Yep. I think we have enough for a shiny new pencil.

When I was just a tike many years ago, my Mom would take me to Woolworth’s so I could do my Christmas shopping.  For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Woolworth’s is now situated nicely in that big Heavenly Mall in the sky, kept company by Montgomery Ward, Mervyn’s, and many other large American retailers that have shuttered over the past few decades.  But in its heyday, it filled a special niche for the adolescent shopping crowd with $1.67 burning in their pockets with which to buy gifts.

As an aside, Mom used to take me for lunch at the S&W Cafeteria in the same shopping center as Woolworth’s, where my entire meal consisted of a dinner roll and a pat of butter.  On really special occasions, we would stop at a proto-fast food joint called the Golden Point.  I don’t remember a single thing about the fare.  I do recollect, however, that the neatest thing about the whole experience was riding in our old Studebaker because the glove compartment door had two indentations molded in where you could place a soda! 

How cool were these ur-cup holders?  Not very.  They were only useful when stationary.  Developing real cup holders would take many years of effort by the dog scientists to perfect.  Thank God we beat the Russians to it. 

Well, back to our story.  Woolworth’s was also known as the “Five and Dime,” and it was quite possible for the “young me” to purchase Christmas presents for the entire family on my limited budget of meager allowance savings. 

Of course, back then I had to boil it down to the basics.  I could easily convince myself that one of my siblings would truly appreciate a new Bic pen, or some bobby pins, or some such.  My focus areas in the store were solely in the (cheap) stationery and beauty aids sections.  I even tried to leave myself at least a nickel left over so that I could buy a pack of baseball or, I guess, football cards at that time of year.  We then went home, where I completed the process with my crappy adolescent gift wrapping efforts. 

Ah, God Bless Us, Every One.

Today, I spent a couple of hours (otherwise known as “Quality Time”) shopping with Daughter’s Little Sister.  She possessed a grand total of ten dollars to spend on Christmas presents, and she waved the wad of rolled up cash in her hand like a magic scepter, until I made her give it to me for safe keeping. 

I figure, with inflation, her ten bucks was roughly equivalent to my $1.67 back in the day, so I was curious about how far it would go, secure in knowing that I was the financial back-up should our mathematics go wildly awry.

After making an initial sweep through the store, we roughly calculated where we needed to spend our time looking — in the Clearance Section.  That meant almost 97.6% of the store was too rich for her budget.  But even the Close-Out aisle wasn’t exactly affordable, so we made another round to look for specials. 

It’s an interesting way to buy presents — it’s completely driven by price and not necessarily by what someone wants.  In fact, the attendant reasoning goes something like this:  “Wow.  That’s only $1.99.  I think (fill in the sibling name here) might like it.”

The goal is to buy something first, and then mentally convince yourself it will work somehow with the intended family member. 

My typical response:  “I haven’t seen your Mom wear a nose ring for quite some time now, but it’s probably worth a shot.”

And so it went.  With a little imagination and a couple of BOGO’s, Daughter’s Little Sister managed to secure gifts for everyone and had about two dollars left over for good measure.  She tried to spend it later on a toy for the dog’s stocking, but the “squeekies” were too expensive at the pet supply store.  However, Dad came to the rescue later with the purchase of a bag of dried lamb lungs. 

I don’t know about you, but I start salivating when I’m looking at Christmas stockings over the fireplace filled with slaughterhouse extras. 

Somehow in the midst of the shopping drama, Daughter’s Little Sister managed to pick something out for Dad, as well.  She hid it in her purse until we reached the check-out register, and I thought I’d save the talk about potential shoplifting charges for another day.  In terms of total time spent, we tallied approximately 13 minutes of shopping, and almost 25 minutes standing in line to pay.

Never make someone wait to give you money, but that’s another blog. 

So, after our big outing, we stopped for a Frosty at Wendy’s, where we congratulated ourselves on a successful expedition. 

It doesn’t seem so long ago to me now, but I suppose it was, when Daughter and I made a similar trip when she was at a slightly younger age.  The destination was Wal-Mart, and even as a little girl Daughter was always fairly good about not asking for toys or candy.  (Nowadays it’s a different story, of course.) 

On the way out of the store, Younger Daughter and I took a short-cut through the Toy Section.  Prominently featured was a large Batman display, surrounded by shelves and shelves of accessories.  I didn’t think much of it as we passed by, but I did ask Daughter what she thought of it later while we sat outside in the car. 

Her reply was a classic that will remain a Christmas memory in our family forever:  “I don’t like Mean Things.  I only like Pretty Things.” 

Well said, Daughter.  Well said. 

Have another pat of butter with that gluten-free roll. 

- Dad

I Have Met My Match, and He is 15 Years Old

gtv

I am a money pig. Feed me!

I dabble in project cars.

Much like “gardening” (in our yard it’s pulling weeds, actually), this hobby provides great therapy for me, as it takes my mind off the stress of work and paying bills — and it’s usually cheaper than what I imagine a shrink psychiatrist probably costs.  Of the thirty or forty some odd vehicles that have passed through my hands over the years, I generally break even or even make a bit (usually a pittance) after the final tally.

And I’m still sane, sort of.

I prefer using the term “investment” when I speak of this automotive pursuit — that lends it an air of legitimacy within the household and generally prevents closer financial scrutiny.  Actually, we have something of a compromise going in our home — I won’t scrutinize the Target bill or squawk about whatever “Real Housewives of  . . . .” episode is airing, if you don’t mind me parking a derelict in the driveway now and again.

It seems to work for the most part.

However, the latest installment of my own “Monster Garage” concerns itself with the relatively recent purchase of an older Alfa Romeo GTV.  Understand that I have owned a succession of Alfa convertibles, but I have always desired a coupe.  In the parlance of cardom, its condition is known as a “driver” — runs okay and looks okay, but needs about $10K to get to the next level.  Probably more, to be honest.  This point becomes important later.

Even better for me, no one currently living at home is capable of driving a manual transmission, and the Alfa has an old school five-speed.

Sidebar driving story:  Daughter, like Son, learned to drive in my old Ford Ranger pick-up, with an automatic transmission.  She then graduated at some point in high school to the consummate SoCal young girl ride of choice — a VW Cabrio.  Of Daughter’s two or three non-childhood meltdown crying episodes I can remember, one was specifically associated with a learner’s permit driving incident during which she almost killed both of us (not really, but it was nearly a wreck).  Of course, I made her stay behind the wheel and get us back to the house afterwards.  After all, developing the ability to see through tears when on the road is an important skill to develop.  Yes, Dad can wield the cruelest cut.

Anyway, before my last business trip, I answered an electronic bulletin board ad for someone looking for exactly the type of Alfa I have sitting in front of the house.  You see, since Daughter has been readmitted back into her Lesbian Cult College, I have been trying to figure out how I can have my cake (cars) and eat it, too (take care of children, shelter family, buy food, fund college tuition, etc.).  My Plan B is to sell the Alfa, and buy another piece of less expensive cake in the future, once Daughter has degree firmly in hand.

Plan A is to have my cake and eat it, too.

So, almost immediately after sending an email to the potentially interested party, I was bombarded with electronic inquiries about the condition of the car, where it was located, how much I wanted, etc.  I was a bit unprepared for the sheer volume of responses, but did my best to accommodate.

All the emails I received were sent from an iPhone.  The prospective buyer seemed somewhat sophisticated.

Since I was dealing with this while on the road, I finally just told the guy where the car was parked so that he could go by himself and check it out.  I didn’t think much more about it until a couple of days later when my wife called and said some kid knocked at the front door and said he was there to look at the Alfa.  The whole time I never mentioned anything to her about any of this, because many of these car folks are Kooks and rarely show up, much less with actual legal tender in hand.

But when my wife said “kid,” she really meant it.  She said the tyke she talked to looked like he was about ten years old.  I just figured he was there with his father and, again, kind of dismissed it.  Further emails followed, asking about a test drive, when I would return from my travels, if I could leave the key with someone — that kind of thing.  I just told him to swing by on Sunday, when I would be back in town.

As luck would have it, I was able to return a day early.

While I was on the phone in the front yard early Saturday afternoon, a little kid walked up the sidewalk and approached me.  He was there to see the Alfa, he said.  He’d been emailing me, he said.  He was very interested, he said.

“How old are you?” I said.

“Fifteen.  My Mom’s parked up the street a ways.”

Really?  Shouldn’t you be riding around on a Razor or something, I thought.

This was, indeed, weird.  But I figured, what the he heck, I’ll roll with it.

His mother was standing by the car, and I wasn’t quite sure if I should be talking to her or to Junior.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to discourage a young man (term used very loosely here) who clearly was somewhat knowledgeable about classic cars.  On the other we were talking about laying out about $7K for this particular example.

I asked him how old he was.

Fifteen.  Yep.  That made me feel better.

Whatever.  I explained to Mom that the Alfa wasn’t really a suitable teen car, that it would be finicky and difficult, and in the end would definitely not be trustworthy or reliable.

Turns out, it was just what they were looking for.

I told them I hadn’t actually decided to sell, and they said they would tally everything up and get back to me in a few days.  But they were definitely looking for a project car, and they definitely wanted an Alfa.

You see, “back in the day” when I was fifteen, I could afford any type of “work in progress” car, as long as it was around $100.  That was the reality of my financial world back then.  Heck, if you factor in inflation over thirty years, it’s probably not all that much different now.  So, I contextually I was kind of incredulous I was even having this conversation with a ninth grader.

That was yesterday.

Today, I received an offer.

From the kid.

He wrote he was prepared to give me $6700 cash today, and could come by this afternoon to pick up the car.  Then came the kicker:  “You yourself said you didn’t have the time, energy, or funds to bring it back to its former glory.”

Snap!  And he does.

I replied back that I would let him know something by Tuesday, as I hadn’t yet made up my mind to sell.

Not too long ago this entire affair would have made me somewhat melancholy.  Now, I am merely bemused — at my own circumstances, at the kid’s, and at the reality that, in the end, he’s probably right.

I’m thinking I’ll probably just hold onto the GTV for awhile, since Plan C for Daughter’s tuition is to write a best-selling book on Lesbian Christmas Bingo Dancing.  The world needs something like that, I feel, just like it needs old cars which will never regain their youth.

Like the GTV, I’m a “driver.”  And I’m okay with that.

- Dad

Jane Goodall and the Rabbit on my Shoulder

jacket

That’s leather, right? BTW, Disco is dead. Has been for a long time — like that jacket.

My second favorite coat is a leather jacket that took four hours to buy, over Coca-Cola and tea, at a shop in the Grand Bazaar in Izmir, Turkey.  The purchase was an adventure, as was getting in and out of the shop itself.  I seem to remember spending most of the time hopelessly saying I didn’t want to buy anything, obviously to no avail.  I’m pretty sure the year was 1987, but it may have been 1988.  As it turned out, it was one of the best $75 I ever spent on anything, clothing or otherwise.  It’s simply a tough, great jacket, if there is such a thing. 

Well, the Numero Uno coat in my very limited wardrobe is a brown, cheap fleece job I picked up at a local tourist attraction White Sale maybe six or seven years ago for $30.  It’s soft and comfy (to use a “Daughter Term”), and is quite utilitarian, as well.  It’s my outer garment of choice when the temperatures turn nippy, but it has one glaring drawback:  it is a dog hair magnet.  It is typically covered fairly heavily with white fibers from our dandified pooch, and I have to either simply ignore the layer or spend every waking moment picking off the strands in truly Sisyphean fashion (go look up that reference – I think I used it correctly).  It is a well-known fact (at least now it is) that strands from our dog litter various exhibits in most major art museums on the east coast (from a trip years ago), and can be found to this day on many commercial airliners still in service.   

The bottom line is I love (not in a “man-love” sort of way — not that there’s anything wrong with that) both these jackets, but for different reasons. 

I recently returned from an east coast business trip that required I utilize the more formal “Izmir Non-Dog Hair Look” for my outer wear.  One of my co-workers accompanying me the past few days is just a couple of years older than Daughter.  Two nights ago, she rather haltingly asked about the age of my jacket.  I then regaled her with an embellished bazaar adventure story, to which she replied something along the lines of, “Yep.  I thought it was from the 80’s.  It just has that look.”

I wasn’t exactly crushed or anything, but I guess the coolness factor I always assumed was there really wasn’t.  Sh  Da  Darn. 

“No.  It’s still a neat looking jacket, but I was just wondering where it came from.”  Hers was a pretty crappy recovery attempt, but I was okay with it.  Not a big deal.

However, over dinner that followed, I began to think of those things and objects in my life I’ve held onto all these years, and the reality that’s changed over time.  For context, during our meal we started talking about best concerts attended.  Hers was ColdPlay; mine was Emmylou Harris.  Our other co-worker couldn’t remember even going to one.  We kind of stopped talking about concerts after that (though I’m big fan of ColdPlay and, yes, I do own an iPod). 

I then mentioned that one of the great regrets in my life was foregoing the opportunity to hear Jane Goodall speak in person in 1986 because of a school commitment I had the same evening.  Dr. Goodall is someone I have always admired, and I was almost immediately sorry I didn’t attend. 

My co-workers didn’t have any regrets yet, apparently.  Just give it time, I thought.  

Almost inevitably after this nostalgic discourse, I began to think of things I haven’t done that I wished I had, and how things have changed since my Izmir jacket still smelled of fresh leather. 

Basically, I quickly came to the conclusion that, although I still function well in most important areas (you choose what those are), it’s a basic fact that it’s annoying getting old.  Annoying and perplexing because shi stuff just starts happening that you have no way to get in front of, and you wonder where the heck it’s coming from, as well. 

For instance, I was in a business meeting last year with a guy just a couple of years older than me.  I don’t remember a single thing we talked about.  All I could focus on was this dude had a living forest of hair growing all over his nose.  I thought to myself, “Come on, dude.  Are you blind?  You seem to be married.  Is your wife blind, as well, or have you both just given up?” 

You know, crap like that. 

Of course, that experience made me look closer in the mirror.  The first problem I encountered was that I couldn’t focus well enough to see if I had the same issue.  Mom solved that for me, as she has hundreds of pairs of CVS Pharmacy reading glasses littering the house.  So, newly focused, I peered, and, alas, a smaller, less obvious forest had begun to take root, but it was a forest nonetheless.

The second problem then became locating appropriately precise tweezers.  The story continues to go downhill from there, and it extends to the ears, and other body parts.  In the end it’s pretty sickening, but, ultimately, I found I could handle everything with the appropriate vigor and attention to detail. 

Most of it anyway. 

For what came next, I was not prepared.  Again, for reasons completely outside my ken of knowledge in this area, I am plagued by the appearance of what can only be described as rabbit fur on my right shoulder. 

Not both shoulders, mind you.  Just one. 

Short of a full-body peel, that pelt isn’t going anywhere any time soon, I figure.  It has become a phenomenon of some fairly low-brow humor in the house, but I have become accustomed to that sort of treatment around here, so it’s not a big deal to me. 

There is no moral to this story, except that we all need to be prepared for the unexpected — like Cool Things becoming UnCool (or worse, a historical artifact), and maybe realizing that the Universal Oneness of Creation has a master plan for excess body hair. 

I hope so, because it sure as hell shi isn’t obvious to me, at this point, what it is. 

Good luck with that. 

- Dad

CatChildren and Revisionist Childhood History

catchild

This bed is lumpy. I will spray later to express my displeasure.

To badly rip off Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Blood, Blood every where, nor any drop to drink.”

Though it might be inferred by the misquote, we’re not actively trying to raise vampire children in our house.

However, a colleague emailed me today to inquire if I really pushed Daughter off a tire swing when she was two and, by the way, what was wrong with me.  I calmly explained that Daughter was sublimely sitting on said swing when, for some unknown waifish bad haircut two-year-old reason, she simply decided to let go of the grabchains attached to the stupid tire and fell straight through to the ground, face first, with resulting massive blood loss, screaming, parental panic and shouting, etc.

Somehow over the years this experience has morphed into the dreaded FFS (Father Failure Syndrome) — donations to find a cure gladly accepted through this blog, by the way.

Please.  Cut me some slack.  Get real.  Give me a break. 

Yes, I’ve been accused of mis-remembering most of my life, but I swear it doesn’t extend to that day.

Rather, I clearly remember the brief look of astonishment on Daughter’s (still-unmarred) face before she took the plunge — much like Jodie Foster in Contact (note dated cinema reference) when the orb dropped through the Wayback Machine.  I clearly remember grabbing hysterical Daughter, grabbing quizzical Son and attendant Big Wheel, and running with all three in my arms to the car, where we proceeded to speed home and pick up Confused Mother before nearly killing all of us on the way to the ER and being made to pay for Daughter’s pain.

Oh, I paid not with money.  That would have been far too little punishment.  I paid with RN-directed banishment from the ER (for “hovering” and getting in the way of the attendants), and I paid while nervously pacing outside, still clearly hearing Daughter’s cries of pain inside.

But as most fathers know, no one ever truly forgets or forgives.  One pays forever.  Every incident, however great, horrific, or marginal, is carefully tucked away in the revisionist gray matter bowels of the family collective, ready to reappear, depending on need and whimsy, to ridicule, shame, or engender regret, in order to exact revenge, more shame, or (most typically) a short-term financial loan or grant. (How do you like that sentence structure, English majors?  Get over it.)

It’s a pretty slick system, really.  Clever, insightful, insidious, effective.

But I’m not so much concerned with what Daughter actually seems to remember of her childhood or even fancifully re-constructs.  I’m a lot more worried these days with her heretofore unknown mental problem Cat Thing.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve always loved cats, and am not ashamed to say so.  But it’s a healthy relationship, I think.  Respectful, even stand-offish, much like most of the remote, distant felines that seem to live with us.  Having said that, I don’t have a stash of funky cat photos handy, or bad haircut timeline photos which document both my life as well as a cat’s.

Seems just a little bit strange to me.

But even weirder more disconcerting is that this trait is being passed down to the next generation to Little Sister or, more appropriately, Daughter Number Two.

I don’t know what to make of it, I suppose.  On the one hand, I suppose it’s better than focused interest in Naked Lesbian Bingo Dancing.  On the other, I’m not at all sure that 38,000 variations of the “Kitten Hang in There, Baby” posters are that much healthier.  Not that Naked Lesbian Bingo Dancing is unhealthy, but, you know. . . .

Well, the kitten pics are probably better.  But I do realize that, no matter what, I will somehow take the blame:  now, twenty years ago, or twenty years hence.  It’s the primary symptom of FFS.  Remember about that donations thing I mentioned earlier.  Thanks for your support!

- Dad

Talismans, Stress, Downton Freaking Abbey, and Power Kittens

Badness, Be Gawwn!!

Badness, Be Gawwn!!

So I’ve been working my a really, really hard lately.  So much so that most of the routines and thoughts that define my regular life have completely gone out the window the past few weeks.  It su is challenging.  But not as challenging as lesbian break dancing and Christmas bingo (Note important blog tags, Daughter).

It’s a known psychological phenomenon that everyone handles stress differently; violently, meekly, and otherwise.  I fall squarely into the “otherwise” slash “let’s buy more lottery tickets tonight” category.  Though I haven’t actually studied psychology, long years of reading (and badly pronouncing)  Sturm und Drang poetry has prepared me well for this time in my life.  (Another note to Daughter – I understand obscure German references do nothing to increase blog readership, but what the he heck.)

In the meantime, I’m trying to get through everything the best I can while simultaneously making plans for ultimately escaping the drama and settling into my dream job — spending mornings on the beach with a coffee, and playing basketball at lunch.  I do realize, however, that most of these employment situations were spoken for long ago, but it doesn’t stop me from continuing my search.

Anyway, my holistic, spiritual spouse has been somewhat concerned with my state, and has begun a stringent course of therapeutic talisman treatments.  Maybe years ago I simply tolerated her placement of the odd crystal under my pillow or mug of the mulberry root extract tea, but I managed to turn the corner in the believability quotient at some point and began to think all these things actually might help — they certainly didn’t hurt, unless I stepped on one of them.  I now “religiously” carry in separate pockets an angel and some kind of black rock; one watches over me, and the other sucks away all the bad energy.  I think.  I also wear a necklace, strung with apparently stolen stones from Easter Island, for positive energy and good vibrations.  Go figure.

The thing is, on this trip I’ve come close to losing two of the big three.  Each time I thought one was gone, it magically reappeared.  I’ve been that frazzled.  But I also go through a similar routine when these of near misses happen, in which I reason through the idea that the talisman had essentially completed its work with me and was needed more urgently somewhere else.  Or I’m just losing my mind and getting older.  It’s one of the two.

Tonight, for the first time in weeks, I was able to not work for a few hours, and after becoming thoroughly depressed watching a piece on SportsCenter detailing how easily millionaire athletes go broke, I channel-surfed my way to PBS and landed on a Season Two episode of Downton Abbey.  While the girls in my house clog the DVR with various Housewives of . . . crap, I find solace in the banality of Edwardian England, and the elegant evening wear, quite frankly.  It just felt good escaping there, at least momentarily.

But the absolute highlight of the week was last night when Daughter texted me the photo of her, bottle feeding MamaCat (see my earlier blog post, for Sandy reference) from many years ago.  While I take a lot of grief for what’s known alternately as “The Tire Swing Incident” or “The You Two Will Have to Leave the Emergency Room While I Stitch Up Her Lip Incident” in my family (you guess which one applies to whom), what Daughter may not remember is that she was frequently the son I never had (but really do) when she was small.  In those days, I used to take her everywhere with me.

Sure, I liked her company, but there were certain advantages, too.  “Hey, why don’t you cut ahead of us in line since your little girl looks tired” — that kind of thing.

Yep.  A few things frighten me about Daughter.  The trove of kitten and puppy photos, for instance.  What’s that about?  The weird haircut thing started early, too, it seems, and there are still some issues regarding her understanding of the exact definition of, “if you get this, I will take care of it.

But in the end, she reminded me of a special time in both our lives, and lifted my spirits for a moment while I flailed in the emotional maelstrom.  I guess the only other thing that would have made me feel better would have been a lesbian break dancing Christmas bingo TV special, but we’ll hope that happens during next year’s Festivus celebration.

Thank you, Daughter.

- Dad

Reason Why I’m Uncool #6198458

In addition to this and this, I will never, ever be that aloof, mysteriously cool girl who can lure unaware victims into my web of secrets. I’m the opposite: way too open, always inappropriate, and perpetually outspoken. I tend to be offended if people are not on my level of friendliness (sidenote: nobody is ever on my level).

In an official summary of comments said to me regarding my sparkling personality during my lifespan, the general opinion is that I am somewhere between too mean and irritatingly in-your-face. In fact, yesterday, someone told me that I am “too bubbly” and I drive her “crazy” with my “over-the-top” personality. I was slightly disheartened for a brief two seconds that this person could possibly dislike me. It’s not easy to hear someone say, “Well, I don’t hate you but you are a lot to handle and actually, yeah, I hate you.” Which, to be fair, is completely true; I can be am ridiculous. I’m usually hyped up on caffeine and bouncing around like that little happy blob on the Zoloft commercials (you know, after the blob takes the anti-depressant). I’m Kanye West and the world is my Taylor Swift. But the world doesn’t always want to be Taylor Swift. (sidenote: Wouldn’t that be a great Taylor Swift song?)

On the other hand, there are people who think I’m excessively mean. And I can be. I use sarcasm to weed out the weak from the witty. My sense of humor is definitely caustic and wry at times but generally, it’s light-hearted, well-meaning, and broad. Practically anything can provoke my annoying, tittering laugh these days.

If I don’t know you, I will force my humor on you, starting with Insults Lite*. This creates problems because people don’t always understand that making fun of them is my way of saying, “Hey, I like you kinda sorta. Wanna be friends?” In fact, sometimes, people start to hate me. Clearly, I am a well-socialized individual.

You’d think as a writer and generally open person, I’d be immune to people’s opinions. But no, I am like a golden retriever. Instead of barking, I run around yelling, “LOVE ME!!!!!!”

Please love me.

Please love me.

*Insults Lite is Phase 1 of getting to know a new person. I will jovially make fun of the acquaintance until I get either a laugh or other positive reaction. Phase 2 is when I tear you down until you are in your most basic, raw form. In Phase 3, I invite you to make fun of me. In Phase 4, I try and entertain you with my many talents. Phase 5? We adopt cats and get married.

Pearl of wisdom for the day: sometimes, people are not going to like you, even though you a magnificent, veritable smorgasbord of all that is good in the universe.

- Daughter

Public Service Announcement: My Blog is Now a Father-Daughter Project of Hilarity

I inherited my penchant for the LOLs from my senile dear father. Out of respect for his feeble mind, I have allowed him to publish posts here. I’m also a shameless, greedy blogger who wants more traffic and hope that my dad will rake in the coveted older reader demographic. However, his rights as author can and will be revoked at any time if he is not the funny court jester that I expect.

- Daughter

My dad and I. Well, that's a little boy but just pretend it's a girl.

My dad and I. Well, that’s a little boy but just pretend it’s a girl.

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