Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Few Questions About That Terrible Day.

It was a beautiful late summer morning, a lot like today. 

Here on the west coast, it had already all gone down by the time most of us found out. The news slowly infected us, one human at a time. A nation that began the day flush with post-Cold-War hubris, slowly blanketed itself in a murk of fear and grief. It was a black cloud as undeniable as the one unleashed on the canyons of lower Manhattan when the towers finally collapsed. 

Where were you? I learned about it as I switched on the car radio after dropping off my six-year-old daughter at school. That’s ridiculous, I remember thinking. Planes don’t get hijacked anymore, not since, like, D.B. Cooper in the Seventies. Both towers collapsed? From two planes? Is this some kind of Orson Welles-type radio bullshit? 

Doesn’t seem like it. And how does a plane fly into the Pentagon? How could a lumbering jetliner strike the nerve center of our military? I must be getting bad information.

To wit, some of it was bad. Remember the rumors of mysterious packages outside Camp David, terrorist activity at the Brooklyn Bridge, our streets jammed with celebrating Arab Americans?

Who was the first person you called? Did you have a spouse at the time? Kids? Were you stuck somewhere distant, unable to find a flight or rental car to get back home?

Then there were the substantiated peripheral events. On September 18, when the first anthrax-laced envelopes arrived at the offices of media and congressional members, the scales really seemed to tip. All factors pointed to the most effectively planned and executed conspiracy against America in our history. 

What else do the terrorists have in store? How deep does this go? I can vividly recall my wife and I being about one exploded Amtrack from whisking the family away and getting all Green Acres-like as a gentleman farmer and bead maker in the Idaho panhandle. Did you have similar thoughts?

Were you glued to your TV? Were you suspicious of strangers? How did you sleep?

So much happened on that horrible day—My Pet Goat, Cheney hightailing it to his bunker—loaded-down firefighters scurrying into the inferno as soot-soaked New Yorkers ran from harm’s way.

I’d really like to hear your story. What happened with you that horrible day and how has September 11 affected your life’s trajectory these past thirteen years?

As brutal a place as the world can be, I’m glad we’re all still around to talk about it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Sweat Life.

I glance down at myself as I walk out the door into the crisp morning. It’s been forty minutes since I climbed off the elliptical, yet irregular swatches of perspiration speckle my t-shirt where skin touches fabric, mostly through the midriff. Obviously, the shower didn’t take—again—so I think dry thoughts to stop my carcass from steaming like a doughy hum bow.

I’m a sweater; always have been. I love fall for so many reasons—football, the beautiful local foliage, shopping early for the best deals on Halloween produce and razor blades—but when you’re as prolific a perspirer as I am, the frosty weather soothes those prickly pores like Mother Nature’s Speedstick. 

But whether it’s due to an unusually hot summer or the deepening tick head of manopause, I fear my exterior hydration issue is getting worse. 

Last Thursday was my birthday, so the family and I planned to meet up at our favorite Italian place in downtown Seattle. Coincidentally, earlier that afternoon my employer threw a nice little summer bash down at the waterfront aquarium. Having cake and eating it too was the order of the day, so, after enjoying the company of my co-workers and a few refreshing beverages, I took my leave to climb the hill toward the restaurant on Second Avenue. 

I was first to arrive, and while not having reached the dew point, I was a bit frothy around the dorsal fins. The only available outdoor table sat directly across from the accordion player but what the hell, I thought. I knew a certain family member didn’t enjoy dining al fresco among the traffic, but hey, someone had turned fifty-two years old that day and it wasn’t her.

I won’t rat her out, but when she arrived with the other two, she immediately voiced her contempt for my seat selection. Always one to keep the peace, I acquiesced and agreed to go inside. We followed the host to a pleasant corner table.

Less than thirty seconds after immersing myself in this sweltering, garlic-infused, I had already transformed into a human Yellowstone National Park, geysers of murky saline dripping down my neck and filling my ear hoops with appealing liquid color prisms. 

My robust napkin served as my only ally as the people who most loved me glared like I’d just eaten their phones. “Why don’t you go to the bathroom and freshen up?” one of them quipped. “We’ll wait to order.”

I splashed water on my face and neck and returned to the table. By the time the waiter arrived, I was again basting in my own yields. As the young man took our orders, his eyes darted in my direction while my napkin inched one dab at a time toward terminal saturation. “Excuse me. I’ll be right back,” said the waiter. He disappeared around the corner.

The rest of the family, tugged between embarrassment and empathy, stayed cool and dry, as if they’d just emerged from baby powder showers. Bastards. Just as I feared the final life-affirming electrolytes had soaked into my t-shirt, the waiter returned. He carried a very large fan.

Erupting in laughter, my beloved wife and offspring watched as the guy stood it up about three feet away and pointed right at my face. “I always get really hot working back here. This should help both of us,” he offered. For all I cared, he could have told me that I was making the other customers vomit their bruschetta, as long as that fan stayed blowing on my sweaty noggin. “Bless you,” was all I could think of to say in my weakened state.

My birthday dinner progressed nicely from that moment forward. The looks of humor and disgust gradually evaporated from my family’s faces, and by the time the tiramisu arrived, I was dry enough to open presents safely. The accordion player shuffled over to accompany the waiters in an Italian-accented rendition of “Happy Birthday” and the evening ended on a pleasant note.

As I rose from the table and peeled the sticky denim from my hamstrings, my younger daughter put her arm on my shoulder. “Happy birthday, Dad. Eew, you’re still sweaty.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Let Them Eat Crab.

It’s been a great summer; best in a long time. I can think of a few reasons why, but number one on the list is an unprecedented preponderance of household harmony. The home and hearth, while fully occupied, has emanated the aromatic bouquet of tranquility.

Why? Because the kids have gotten along.

Why? Because they haven’t been around each other much.

And for the last time, why? Because the older kid’s been working! 

Gives me goosebumps to say it. All summer she’s been whacking the alarm clock and punching the time clock, packing a lunch and coming home spent like a two-for-one Applebee’s Groupon. To a skeptical parent, how soothing flow the foamy waters of the Protestant work ethic. 

By the same token, for a college sophomore who typically brims with the boundless energy of a seven-year-old, what more serendipitous summer vocation exists than an opportunity to professionally frolic with genuine seven-year-olds? None that I can think of, so let’s see how things went.

I caught up with our YMCA-camp-counselor-in-residence, codename Zebra, last weekend during a ninety-minute car ride down to Olympia. Able to nap at a moment’s notice, I felt compelled to engage her prior to her succumbing to the taunting luxury of our ’06 Hyundai. 

They call you Zebra. Why is that?

All the counselors have nicknames. It’s to keep the kids from finding us on social media. Like a little kid would actually do that.

Hey, you never know. Did you name yourself?

We all name ourselves. There’s T-Rex, Sharkzilla, Scooby, Snickerdoodle…let’s see… Razzle, Flounder, Puppy…

Sounds like a mushroom-inspired Barney episode.

Good one, Dad.

So what was it like having to wake up at 6:30? 

Really hard. I haven’t gotten up that early since eighth grade. It made naps even more crucial than they were before. I still managed to get in eight hours a night.

Yeah, that’s not true. But moving along, was there anything that surprised you about this job? 

It’s fairly unstructured. Each counselor gets a group of ten kids, and it’s up to us to find things for them to do. We go on field trips a few times a week, but the rest of the time is sort of our choice. 

How do they behave?

Overall, they’re pretty good. The worst time is when we’re lined up for the bathroom. It takes a full 25 minutes to get everyone through, so they start messing with each other. They throw rocks and pine cones at each other. They use acorns like currency. 

Sounds like a prison yard.

I still can't figure out how their faces get so dirty. Did my face get dirty?

Filthy. Just disgusting. Yes.

The other day a kid came up to me holding a little crab he found on the beach. It was still alive. He said “Zebra, can I eat this crab?” I said “Absolutely not.” He said “Well, how come Tristan gets to?” I went down to the beach and Tristan had already eaten a couple of the legs off a live crab. I said “Tristan, why are you doing that?” He said “Because people eat crabs all the time.” I said “Tristan, you have to kill the crab before you eat it.” He said “I didn’t know that, Zebra.”

What part of your job did you enjoy the most?

I always liked it when we ate our lunches. The kids were always content and liked to talk about stuff.

What kind of stuff?

This one kid, whose name is Joseph, is so cute. When he makes the “s” sound it sounds more like “sh.” The other day, he said “Zhebra, I have to tell you shomething. Well, remember when I told you one of my momsh ish dead? Well, I feel bad. That wash a lie. She’sh alive. I jusht wanted to shee what you would shay.”

They don’t care about hanging out with the opposite sex. A couple of kids even became boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re so adorable, you can tell by the looks on their faces that they really like each other. They give each other acorns.

Sounds like quite a learning experience. Do you think working with kids may be something you’d like to do for a career?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Dad.

Thanks for your hard work with the little ones, Zebra. Relating to them is easy. Taking care of them isn’t.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fanny Diaries

The following account of my colonoscopy is intended for both mature and immature audiences. In documenting this experience, I'll try not to get too brown. Butt I'd also like to encourage you, my friends, many of whom are 50ish, to consider getting screened, because I love you and so do a handful of other people.

My friend calls me a verbal flasher. So be it. At least I'm not jotting this down while sitting in my car next to a playground.

Monday, 7:21 AM—Hopped up on two hollow-gutted coffees, I board Metro, T minus twenty-four hours, nine minutes until the glovin' starts and the lights go up.

I nestle into my favorite seat, the one in the back corner with a little extra elbow room for either writing or etching a sick tag on the window. I pull out my colonoscopy prep sheet. "No solid foods all day, only broth, coffee, soda or Popsicles. Beginning at 5:30, drink eight ounces of Golytely every ten minutes."

Golytely? Awesome name. I've heard the company has a friendly but competitive relationship with the three other giants in the power laxative market: I Shit You Lot, Fecease, and Jell-O Instant Pudding.

Monday, 7:54 AM,—When the pharmacist slides the jug onto the counter, I almost sh.. (too easy). Seriously, this is a gallon jug with the "fill line" almost to the cap. After water and a refreshing lemon flavor packet, it makes a gallon of Poolytely.

Wonder if Bartell's has beer bong materials? Probably not. 

Monday, 5:26 PM—After fantasizing about New York style pizza all day, I bid goodnight to the family and hop in the minivan for the twenty-minute ride to Motel 6.

Our house has one bathroom. Staying there tonight wouldn't go well for anyone.

I arrive to see families playing in the inner courtyard swimming pool. Not quite the clientele I was expecting being so close to the airport, but hey, that and my ten-percent AARP discount have me feeling weak with excitement.

Monday, 5:53 PM—I enter Room 238 overlooking the pool, and slide the curtains closed. I feel like I'm hiding out after robbing a Fotomat. Might as well get comfortable. I change clothes and throw off the DNA-encrusted bedspread.

Monday, 6:01 PM—I decant the first cup of Lemon Crush. Barely makes a dent in the top of the jug. Bottoms up. "Argh," says Mr. Uvula the dangling pirate. Tastes like chilled poodle saliva. 

Only fifteen more cups to go. I set my phone alarm for ten minutes and turn on the TV. It's Wolf Blitzer with an image of Robin Williams in the corner of the screen—Robin Williams, 1951-2014.

What? No. The guy was a genius. The World According to Garp, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, his stream-of-consciousness stand-up routines, and now he's gone. Sometimes it seemed like he couldn't get it all out fast enough. Only 63. What a loss.

Monday, 7:15 PM—Seven doses in. I'm feeling the first gurgles of a new lifestyle, so I'll sign off for a bit.

Monday, 10:47 PM—Feeling stable. Goodnight.

Tuesday, 5:15 AM—Ever the Pavlovian, upon hearing the familiar folksy refrain of my phone alarm, my brain reacts. Shit. Time to drink more of the shit.

Seeing the empty jug on the counter snaps me to reality. I feel sleepily satisfied as I stuff the plastic container into the garbage, take a shower and throw my stuff together. Farewell Motel 6. May our most intimate secrets pass silently into Puget Sound.

Tuesday, 6:01 AM—My wife is up when I arrive home. During the school year, she puts in about eighty hours a week, so she tends to enjoy sleeping in during the summer. Little is said as we climb into the Hyundai under dark dawn skies.

Tuesday, 6:44 AM—I check in at the endoscopy clinic and get a wrist band. Two other dudes come in right after me, also accompanied by female partners. Occasionally we glance at each other, sharing the bond of our impending initiation into the Brotherhood of the Bottom.

Tuesday, 6:57 AM—The nurse greets my wife and me. She's very friendly and pretty. Glad she can see me at my best. I'm led through a door and into a small bay. "Go ahead and have a seat on the bed," she says. "It's going to be your home for the whole procedure; we'll just wheel you around."

"Am I getting a general anesthetic?" I ask.

"It's not general, it's called 'conscious sedation,' a combination of drugs that help you relax and block pain. You may be awake but you won't remember anything. A lot of people just go to sleep."

She starts an I.V. and asks me a list of questions. "Okay, that's it for me. The doctor should be in shortly. Nice to meet you and I'll see you afterwards."

Tuesday, 7:10 AM—The doctor enters through the curtain, introduces himself and explains the procedure: "We wind the scope through the colon and look around. Sometimes we'll see a polyp, which is a lump in the lining caused by abnormal cell growth. If that's the case we insert instruments to clip it off and suture it."

"Are polyps common?' I say.

"They occur in about twenty-five percent of people over fifty. Okay, ready to go?"

"Sure." I watch him deftly perform multiple tasks while chatting with me. Interesting how doctors and nurses are so good at doing that. "How many of these do you do in a day?" I ask him.

"Today, fourteen."

Tuesday, 7:17 AM—The nurse rolls me into the brightly lit colonoscopy room. She asks me to lie sideways, facing the monitors and TVscreen. I always wondered how my grizzled mug would come across in HD, but today the paparazzi aren't interested in my face.

"Okay," says the doctor, "we're starting the anesthetic."

I feel my heart race and watch the digits rise on the monitor: 76, 82, 84. I still don't feel anythi...."

Tuesday, 8:09 AM—I'm sitting in a chair. My clothes are back on and my wife and doctor are standing next to me.

"We found a couple of small polyps," he says, "one was three millimeters and the other was seven millimeters. We cut them out and we'll let you know as soon as we get the results from pathology." He hands me a packet of literature.

I lose track of reality again and didn't permanently revive until I found myself riding over the West Seattle Bridge.

"Are you hungry?" asks my wife.

Hunger doesn't describe the feeling, dear bride. I could eat Little Caesar himself. "Yeah."

"Want to have breakfast at Easy Street?"

I've just gone thirty-six hours without lard. I want breakfast, lunch and dinner at Easy Street. "Yeah."

Tuesday, 9:22 AM—After washing down a club sandwich and fries with some of the best coffee I've ever tasted, we return home. I fall on the couch, turn on Dexter and sleep deeply through two episodes.

Tuesday, 11:11 AM—Feeling great.

Wednesday, 1:47 PM—Back at work. I open an email from the clinic which tell me my biopsy results are in. For the past day I've tried not to obsess over it, but Mr. OCD despises uncertainty even more than he hates Howard Schultz. I can't imagine the anxiety cancer patients must feel. Here I am, ruminating over a couple of little colon lumps for twenty-four hours, and these poor people must dance to this number over and over again.

Wednesday, 2:19 PM—I call the clinic and the nurse reads me the doctor's letter:

"Dear Mr. Haywood,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. While the polyps we removed were not found to be cancerous, we would consider them pre-cancerous and thus rightly removed.

"We would like to see you for another screening in five years. Take care."

Relief.

Please do this. It's really not a big deal in the end...so to speak. Do it for yourself and do it for everyone who cares about you.

Get your ass in there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Abby, Dear.

Today I’d like to again tap into your ample reserves of wisdom. 

A few months ago, I asked your advice about how to handle a delicate situation regarding a near-collision with an acquaintance. You convinced me to traverse the well-paved route of least resistance; you counseled me to do nothing.

I did nothing. Thank you for recognizing my skill set. 

Since you’ve proven yourselves such worthy mentors, I’ve come up with some additional queries, a few issues for which I’d love to get some resolution. I guess you could call this a reverse advice column, because rather than posing as an Ann-Landers-type wellspring of motherly wheedling, I’m going to ply you, the reader, with a few burning inquires of my own. We’ll just call it “Abby Dear.”   

I won’t enjoy the benefit of anonymity, like “Backed up in Baltimore.” I’m also forfeiting the pleasure of exacting judgment on others, but as the Dalai Lama once said, “Do you have any idea how much you yammer, son? Put a lid on it for once and slurp some of the compote drizzling from someone else’s pie hole.”

So here goes. Please feel free to answer any- or everything.

A) Every summer, our 60-year-old apple tree drops so much fruit, we could sign on as exclusive sauce providers to the Seattle Hempfest pork chop tent. What are my options other than pressing a swimming pool full of cider? Open a fruit thrift store featuring gently used apples? Sell fruit leather vaporizers at the farmers’ market?

B) Is it possible to love tomatoes too much? I can eat them like apples, and it makes me feel slightly like a cat lady.

C) Should I feel self-conscious about not owning a smart phone? I definitely do. It’s not easy keeping it stuffed into my front pocket while punching digits, and stretching for the pound sign can be slightly pleasurable yet alarming to fellow bus riders.

D) I’m not asking your advice on this one, but I’m curious—when’s the last time you took off your shirt in a public place? I did it this summer in San Diego, but it was in a beach setting with a large buffer between people. I’m talking about cruising the Taste of Tukwila, your muffin top drooping from the waist band of your Dockers cut-offs. 

I never would have considered it, had it not been for an elderly man I’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Every morning as I ride past a retirement home, I see the same ancient dude ambling down the sidewalk. He’s shirtless, his grey gym shorts pairing pleasantly with a bristly beard and fuzzy mop of hair. 

This man doesn’t give a shit and I love him for it. He’s probably been hot all night, so he just rolls out of bed and into the crisp dawn air. Screw the staring people at the bus stop. After another morning experiencing his boundless freedom, I inched a step closer to a life of carefree toplessness.

E) What should I ask for for my birthday at the end of the month? After racking my brain for the past two weeks, it's a toss-up between a Safeway gift card and a colonoscopy. 

F) Lastly, are the Seattle Seahawks going to repeat as World Champions? I’ve got to tell you I had a dream, like last Thursday, that the Seahawks did win their second consecutive Superbowl. I woke up happier than any time since around the age of fourteen.

That’s everything for now. The nourishment of your guidance is immeasurable.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Such Sweet, Sometimes Sickening, Summer Songs.

As of today, we’re forty-two percent into our summer. And in my opinion, until August 3 when we step onto the sun splashed summit, plant a couple of prayer flags and begin the darkening descent toward autumn, it's an opportune time to soak it all in. 

It's the sights, it's the smells—nothing permeates our senses like summer:

Jumping through the sprinkler and skidding along the soaked brown grass. 

Blowing the wrapper off a popsicle, your anxious tongue gluing itself to the icy crust.

The aromas of coconut sun screen and salty air filling the car as you troll for a parking spot at the beach.

But more than anything else, it’s the music. Nothing yanks me by the scruff and hurls me into the Dr. Emmett’s DeLorean faster than an old summer tune. 

The other day I popped on the old classic rock station while piloting our gangrenous Kia through West Seattle’s narrow thoroughfares. The song playing was “Beautiful Girls” by Van Halen, and for the next three minutes, only muscle memory and an urgent bladder navigated the car homeward, since my mind had taken a sharp left at 1978.

I found myself on the shores of Lake Tapps, a man-made reservoir in the shadow of Mount Rainier, fed by its silty glacier water. Go ahead and hold up your thumb and forefinger. Yep, I'd say it was about that cold. 

On one of my many lazy days spent there during that summer of Van Halen, my friend Corey and I found ourselves living an actual beer commercial. As we floated on inner tubes out in the middle of the lake, two girls slowly approached, paddling a raft. Gesturing to a cooler, on of them asked if we wanted to share a twelve-pack of Rainier and drift around a little. 

Why, yes. As a matter of fact, we would. 

Corey always had a way about him. How can I put it? Let’s just say the pizza guy tended to show up on the porch even when Corey didn’t order anything.

Even though summer pop songs elicit powerful nostalgia, not all of these emotions are positive. One night during 1976 while playing Kick the Can with the neighbor kids, I felt the urge to relieve myself. Knowing that my parents wouldn't let me go back out if I went in the house, I opted to use an alternate organic source. 

Okay, I peed into a shrub. The song I remember pulsing through my head, just before a kid named Howard shoved me into my own filth midstream, was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” by Elton John and Kiki Dee.

I retreated to my house, ashamed and itchy, forever tying the essence of juniper berries and urine to two smartly dressed Brits.


“Shout,” a 1985 summer release by Tears for Fears, also dredges up some early-Twenties angst. I know I’ve droned on a lot about my ex-girlfriend, but dating her during college was like registering for  an extra twelve-credit class in “I-can’t-believe-how-much-I-hate-you-but-sure-I’ll-be-right-over-with-some-wine-and-cheese-nips-ociology.

If you remember the Tears for Fears video, the guy is standing on the edge of a cliff, singing and looking pissed. Okay, that was exactly how I felt, except I don't remember singing or having the other three guys in the band lip syncing at my ten-o’clock. 

Speaking of old MTV videos, they always seemed to have a hard time figuring out what to do with the drummer. The three other guys could stand out in the field with their acoustic guitars, but the drummer had to either bob his head and look cool or play a saw or something. Poor guy.

Anyway, that’s enough of my long-winded stories. Here are a few other summer pop tunes that have throttled a pressure point or two in my central nervous system since I started listening to the radio around 1973.  Is there some cheesiness? Absolutely, but we can’t always control when songs and events become permanently intertwined, right? The list goes until 1992, when CDs and digital music usurped a lot of my FM radio listening:

1973—“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”—Elton John
1974—“Seasons in the Sun”—Terry Jacks
1975—“Fame”—David Bowie
1976—“Afternoon Delight”—Starland Vocal Band
1977—“Telephone Line”—Electric Light Orchestra
1978—“Just What I Needed”—The Cars
1979—“My Sharona”—The Knack
1980—“Sailing”—Christopher Cross
1981—“Tom Sawyer”—Rush
1982—“Stone in Love”—Journey
1983—“Safety Dance”—Men Without Hats
1984—“Sister Christian”—Night Ranger
1985—“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”—Simple Minds
1986—“Your Wildest Dreams”—Moody Blues
1987—“Alone”—Heart
1988—“Sweet Child o’ Mine”—Guns-n-Roses
1989—“Angel Eyes”—Jeff Healy
1990—“Janie’s Got a Gun”—Aerosmith
1991—“More Than Words”—Extreme
1992—“Hunger Strike”—Temple of the Dog

I’d love to hear your choices and maybe a few words to describe the back story.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Oreos for Breakfast.

Summer Vacation Blitz 2014 is in the books, and all that’s left are a bug-streaked windshield, one bottle of warm IPA and a lazy attitude.

After our four-day junket to San Diego, we joined seven other family members down in Manzanita Oregon. It’s about twenty minutes south of Cannon Beach, that legendary hamlet where a buck will still buy a scoop of ice cream, but if you want a dish or cone with it, you’ll need to toss in a five spot.

Just to give you an idea of the situation in our rental house, picture the setting of Dan in Real Life, where a large extended family gathers in a picturesque locale. That’s exactly how this was, except we didn’t have a talent show or morning aerobics and my brother didn’t punch me in the face this time.

But other than that it was crazily similar. 

Oh, yeah, and I’m not a widower and my teenage daughter didn’t accuse me of being a murderer of love, but everything else was exactly the same.

I don’t want to give you the verbal equivalent of your Aunt Melba’s Little Big Horn slide show, so I just thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve gleaned from shacking up with family for a whole calendar week. In the workplace these are known as “learnings, “takeaways” or “knowledge soak,” if you happen to work at Microsoft. Maybe you’ve gathered some of the same findings:

1) I eat too much. For God’s sake, when else but vacation do I slither out of bed and grab a couple of Oreos on the way to the cinnamon rolls? Throughout the week, I singlehandedly transformed a five-pound jar of Red Vines into a smudgy husk coated in Red Dust Number Forty.

2) I sleep a lot, but not well. You know how it is—the bed feels a little off and the covers have a slight skeeviness, like that coating your fingers accumulate while browsing through the jeans rack at Goodwill. The room was painted a shade of blue made famous by cadaver genitals, and smelled slightly of kelp and pork roast.

3) I drink too much. Beer-Thirty arrived early most days, and on others, even earlier. Consequently, please see Takeaway #2.

4) Hiking is fun—but I’m not good at it. A 1400-foot vertical climb means there’s a good chance I’ll be tripping over up to thirty exposed tree roots. Not to disappoint, on the way back down, I rolled my ankle and ate trail. I currently have a bruise on my outer butt that resembles a chubby Mother Mary with one eye.

5) Family vacations keep improving as the kids get older. Let’s face it—it kind of sucks to travel with little children, especially when your idea of a vacation doesn’t include getting up at 6:30 to play Candyland, a game you could despise just as much without the nice ocean view. Nowadays, those girls of mine sleep more than house cats on Ambien.

6) It’s great to hang out with my dad, brother, sister and all the in-laws I know my older brother was disappointed that I didn’t want to share a bunk bed like the old days, but the dude’s bladder isn’t exactly the elastic parcel of youth it once was. I told him I’d be willing to try if he’s willing to invite a thousand daily Kegels into his life.

7) Nothing beats laughing so much that your gut aches for seven straight days. There’s a washboard stomach somewhere under there from nonstop guffawing. 

Trust me, because after last week, I’m not lifting my shirt in public for a while.