Stop Being Nice to Me. Please.


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

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Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part I


“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


“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 . . . .


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!


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.


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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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