Friday, July 31, 2009

Three guys, two salads.

I went for lunch today with a couple of male co-workers, and two of us chose the salad bar. We sat down and discussed our salads with each other—what dressing we chose, the nice looking cherry tomatoes, the deliciously large croutons, etc. We talked about other types of salad we enjoyed, including a Caesar with very small pieces of pineapple, or how feta cheese really gussies up anything.
"Wow, I'm a guy," I thought, "and he's a guy, and we're not talking about sports or babes or power tools...we're talking about salad."
Then I thought, "That's really cool. We're evolved. We're elevated. To hell with these stereotypes projected onto us by corporate advertising machines, with their moronic, beer-swilling, overweight, pizza-ordering man buffoons. We are so much better than that and it feels really liberating."
Then a totally hot chick walked by.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It wasn't the summer of love for everyone.

Over the weekend, my family and I embarked on a hot, sticky journey to the Tri-Cities. The kids behaved fine, as long as they didn't look at each other or talk to each other. The trip took about four hours, and during that time I was able to reminisce about a far larger odyssey which occurred back in the summer of 1967. I was four years old, and our family of five drove in our 1965 Chevrolet Bel-Air station wagon from Auburn, Washington to Syracuse, New York, where my dad was working toward his Masters Degree.

It was definitely a simpler time. No child car seats or seat belts. No air conditioning. Certainly no electronic entertainment devices. With the back seat folded down, my brother, sister and I slid around on a plane of comic books, toys and dried up Handy Wipes. One of the big advantages of this set-up was that my dad couldn't simply reach back to spank us while maintaining control of the wheel. All we had to do was a quick crab walk to the back window and we were out of harm's way. Sometimes this made him so mad that he'd pull the car over on the freeway, walk around to the back of the car and give us the best spanking possible without hitting his hand on the inside ceiling.

Eventually, all three of us kids had begun torturing each other so much that my mom devised a system of rewards every 100 miles or so if we could behave ourselves. It worked out pretty well; we'd get a kaleidoscope or a yo-yo or my brother would get a mini can of hairspray because that's what he was into at the time. And sometimes, it was just a lot more satisfying to drive your heel into someone's shin and forgo that Archie comic book.

After about a week, we reached our upstate New York destination. At this point, undoubtedly my parents were questioning both their decision to make this trip and their decision to have children. My mom's thermos, by now, probably held an adult beverage, and I'm sure if my dad could have purchased a home vasectomy kit at the local Syracuse Walgreen's, he would have.

But alas, our family unit persevered, through four time zones, a war protest in Detroit and the ozone depleting cloud caused by my brother Tom's hairspray.

It would only take another 42 years to experience the "car-ma" I had so deservedly brought upon myself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My teenager

I call her my woman-child. She's fourteen-going-on-twenty-five-going-on-three. She's fun and infuriating. She's hilarious, spaced out, engaging and completely disengaged. She's my first-born.
When I watch her interact with her peers, it's like watching a nature show on the Discovery Channel. They roam around in a pack like a group of oversized puppies, constantly bumping into each other and giggling maniacally.
Her sense of humor has evolved to the point where she understands subtle inferences and can dish it out as well as take it. On the other hand, she's often incapable of filtering the path between thought and verbalization. As an example, one morning I was talking directly to her about, something, at which time she cut me off mid-sentence. Her eyes glazed over as she interrupted me, saying, "I really love my new haircut." I just looked at her and pretended I hadn't been talking to her mere seconds ago.
This morning, she was highly distracted by a bruised cuticle.
Her world view can be fairly straightforward; she believes that whenever she's circulating in the general public, the general public is watching her, judging her and ridiculing her should she breach her coolness. The other day, we were outside as she left for a friend's house. I attempted to hug her. "Dad, please. It's not like I'm leaving for the army." Oops, sorry for subjecting you to such morbid humiliation.
I've done a little bit of reading on the subject of teenage brains, and I understand that they are, in fact, offline right now. There's so much going on inside her mind and body that she's like a blender filled with the basic ingredients, and everything is still in clumps. I'm hoping by sometime in high school, she'll become that smoothie.
I'm trying to cherish my time with her as much as possible, since in a mere four years, she'll basically be on her own. You always hear people say how fast it all goes, which is hard to fathom as you feed your newborn at three in the morning. But it's true. Sometimes, I can't help but stare at her and remember the tea parties and the T-ball, the timeouts and the million pushes on the swing. And of course, those great haircuts.

Monday, July 20, 2009

As long as there's cheese on it.

Phrases I don't like as an adult:
1) You should have that looked at.
2) How's your workload?
3) Dad, you're just a little bit fat.
4) You need to call home right away.
5) Smell this, it's definitely rotten.
6) I'll set the alarm for four.

Phrases I didn't like as a kid:
1) Put on that shirt grandma bought you.
2) Just try some. It's got cheese on it.
3) Tim, you should run along now. Jeff has a friend coming over.
4) Change the channel to the
5) I know her house smells like split pea soup all the time, but she's a nice old lady and it's only three days.
6) I'll set the alarm for four.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crazy like a frog

My family and I try to do an outing to Pike Place Market a couple of times a year. We always go on Christmas Eve, and usually again sometime during the summer. Well, today was the summer installment. The four of us loaded into the old Kia minivan, which, I must admit, I look super cool driving.
Today, as we walked along the streets of Seattle, I pointed something out to Zoe. She quickly grabbed my pointing arm and put it back at my side. "What are you doing?" I asked her. She told me that we look like tourists when we point. "So what?" I replied. "Well," she continued. "I don't want to look like a tourist. I want to look like I live here."
"How can you look like you live here?"
"By not pointing." Huh, that makes sense. So, we proceeded on our way, not pointing, ever.
Of course, the first thing we had to do was eat, because Zoe, being fourteen, hadn't eaten anything for about 15 minutes, and she was extremely weak with hunger. Fortunately, we were able to locate a meatloaf sandwich with cheddar, onions, pickles and ketchup sauce (no, not ketchup) mere seconds before Zoe resolved to eat part of her arm.
With that disaster averted, it was time for the girls to spend their hard-earned allowances. Lauryn previously had established a tradition of visiting one of the booths in the market which sold huge bean bag frogs. On our last trip she bought one that weighed about ten pounds, which she named "Fatty." Makes sense. This time she was on a quest to find "Mrs. Fatty." And there she was, a fabulous orange color to compliment the vibrant blue of the original Fatty. Lauryn picked her up and cradled her. Naturally, since my job as father is to be the eternal buzz-kill, I asked Lauryn if she was willing to tote a ten-pound bean bag frog around the market for another hour or so. She pondered this issue for about ten seconds, put Mrs. Fatty back, and picked up a much smaller Frog.
"This is junior, " she announced. "Junior is Fatty's adopted son. He was found by Fatty in the pouring rain after his mother abandoned him because she was crazy." Wow. Another frog made a statistic by mental illness.
We traipsed about for a while longer, weaving through the sweaty masses of Pike Place, and finally decided we looked a little too much like tourists. Time to get out fast.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aging at warp factor seven

Is that a mole? A liver spot? It could be some kind of crusty chocolate stain from dessert last night, but that how would it get on my shoulder blade?
Those are just a few of the inquiries I make upon looking at myself at the dawn of a new day. I'm forty-six now, and I used to just give myself a perfunctory glance every morning. Now it's a full-on exam. In my twenties, I would just stand facing the mirror head-on. Now it's more of a William Shatner type of pose, with the stomach sucked in at a profile angle, and the shoulders jutting out to a middle-aged silty delta.
After assessing each skin discoloration, it's time to evaluate actual fat deposits. My weight typically fluctuates about 15 pounds, depending on El Nino weather patterns, but the fat location is consistent. It's like the government strategic oil reserve; there's always a nice little reservoir in case my body needs to feed off itself for the winter. Well, so much for the gut. It doesn't look too bad as long as I'm still doing the Captain Kirk suck-up.
Unfortunately, I've yet to develop a technique for retracting, for lack of a better term, the "mreasts" (short for mister breasts). I try to think pragmatically; we have quite a few sports bras around the house. Surely, no one would notice just one missing. No, I can't risk the chance that someone may pat me on the back and feel the straps. We'll leave the mammary conundrum for another day.
I continue north, with the renegade eyebrow hairs that are twice the length and thickness of the others, much like antennae. They stick out so far, I look like one of the Bugaloos. Or the receding hairline, which isn't even a line, it's a tuft of ocean grass. I actually feel another smattering of empathy for Shatner, who probably had one too many mornings just like this one, and thought, "Hair.......piece." (You know—the way he might say it).
Well, enough of this self-criticism. Time to get in the Camaro and go to work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tell her to change her clothes before she leaves

I was in the restroom when Lauryn called me. It would have been bad form to pick up my phone in the stall, and I wasn't anxious to expose the cellular unit to E-Coli. It was usually smeared with my facial oil, anyway, so I didn't want to add to the bacterial casserole.
I left the restroom, ducked into a conference room and called her back. "Dad, tell mom to change her clothes. She listens to you."
Terri was on her way to a doctor's appointment. "Dad, the doctors and nurses are going to be really embarrassed to see her in her brown sweater with huge buttons," Lauryn added. "She looks super ugly."
This is when I launched into my "Mike Brady" mode. "Well, Lauryn, people in our family are allowed to dress any way they want, including you." I thought this tack had a good chance of getting her to give up the fight.
"Yeah, but I always wear really pretty things."
"That's true," I replied, "but everyone has their own taste in how they like to look."
"Just tell her to change her sweater, then. She can leave her pants on." That was big of her.
"Lauryn, I have to go back to work. Just let it go."
"Okay, but you have a really unattractive wife going out in public."
It's great to have such an accepting daughter.