Month: January 2014

Fly the Friendly Skies (Part II)

Good morning, fine fine people.  I’m going to break from years and years of tradition with this morning’s post.  OK, maybe it’s really just ten blog entries’ worth of tradition.  But tradition is tradition, and rules are made to be broken.  In this case, my and Everett’s epic trip yesterday from San Francisco to Syracuse merits a “Part II.”  And so this is it, and may the Airline Gods spare us from a “Part III.”

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Fly the Friendly Skies, the day started off before morning’s first light full of promise.  I had managed to coast along feeding on Everett’s enthusiasm for the early wake up and a cup of SFO’s Dogpatch Bakehouse & Caffe.  I stocked up on a number of key bribery items, chief of which was an entire pack of tropical fruit-flavored Dentyne gum.  Things were still looking good at “wheels up” from SFO, as can be seen in this pic (featuring Ev clutching said Dentyne gum, with every intention of devouring all 357 pieces in that pack, whether I liked it or not) —


Things got dicey after we touched down in Chicago.  Our planned 50-minute layover dragged on for nearly 4 extra hours, and came within a terrifying mlimeter of stretching into 24 hours.  And Cleveland.  Airline gate agents apparently have a name for this phenomenon.  They called it “Delay Creep.”  I was so relieved five seconds after I heard that nice gate agent woman utter this phrase the first time.  In the midst of my interrogation of her (again, the litigation stuff comes in handy), I thought she said, “delay, creep.”  I felt my face flush hot, then glanced over at Everett across the waiting area to confirm he wasn’t watching me as I feared I was about to turn into Bill Bixby’s alter ego.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.  As I was forming my lips to make the “w” of an angry “What did you just call me?,” the gate agent saved me.  “Gate Creep. That’s what we call it.”  What a relief.  (And what a difference a comma makes, by the way.)  That could have been disastrous, Everett looking up from his iPod to see me carted off in ziptied cuffs by some aggravated Air Marshals in crisp blue blazers and moustaches.

Disaster averted.

The weather started to worsen outside our United terminal at O’Hare, and the gate agents began to spin a narrative about “mechanical trouble with equipment involved with de-icing.”  Now as anyone who has grown up on the east coast or midwest, or otherwise suffered through icy winter flying, don’t nobody mess around with the “de-icing.”  So this was a brilliant stroke on the part of the gate agents to quell the murmuring, imminent passenger uprising.  It’s like invoking “He whose name shall not be spoken.”  Queued up grandmas in handknit sweaters and hoodie-wearing college students, all of us, immediately “de-queued” at the gate counter, casting our eyes downward as the only appropriate response to the “de-icing” invocation.  Don’t nobody mess with “de-icing.”  And it was pretty outside, what with fat snowflakes falling on the tarmac, unlike anything Ev had seen for at least a couple years.  His “Oh, Wow!” exuberance responding to the scene captured below bought me roughly, oh, 112 seconds of calm.


That’s OK, I figured at this point I could placate my 8 year-old with some really high-quality father-son time.  In other words, I sheepishly handed over his iPod so he could play an hour of anti-brain development video games while I took to the Twittersphere.  Fortunately, I was able to document how our O’Hare visit devolved from “My Three Sons” to something dangerously close to “Dexter.”


At this point, I’d like to think that I was still being pretty sweet, a good passenger, a good citizen.  Look at me, I’m so cute and stuff.  What an amazing Dad.

Welp, I got a little antsy since we had to find an open electrical outlet to charge Everett’s iPod and my iPhone.  The “Delay Creep” tethered us to our Gate, and we were told not to wander far.  With Everett’s attention fully-charged for at least awhile going forward now, my thoughts wandered to how far behind I had fallen on my Fitbit Leaderboard.  People I had grown accustomed to “taunting” for their weaksauce “step counts” (including my wife), had managed to wrack up ten thousand steps more than I, and counting.  I could just picture them all, cranking out steps like boot camp soldiers, while I stagnated at our gate.  My fragile ego strained under the weight of having to see them look down on me from the top of the Fitbit “Totem Pole.”  I got itchy, but couldn’t manufacture any steps in this predicament, stuck as I was right next to my plugged-in son.  My frustration began to bubble over a bit —


Still, at this point, I was managing to keep up a good front.  Right? Witty, learned, and still a model father, by any reasonable measure.  Nothing too terribly shameful, or beyond the bounds of Grandma’s Lemonade, right? Right?

Then lunch at the terminal’s Chili’s mini-restaurant.


It is possible that the libation in the foreground played a causative role in my worsening mood and the degraded tweeting that followed….

By this point, that “extra large sounds like a great idea, thanks!” Sam Adams had worn me down, and Everett graciously allowed me to conserve my energy a bit.


What looked like cute father-son horseplay was really me manufacturing a 30-minute power nap.  But in my increasingly frustrated state, I couldn’t resist the urge to lash out once more at United.  Besides, no one would ever even see these tweets, right?


And…there we have it.  Any semblance of “good dad,” observing social mores, being a good role model and an upstanding digital citizen went completely. Out. The. Window.  I had only a small little asterisk to cover myself, naked and profane, from being revealed as a stark raving madman.  Cue the mustached, blue-blazered Marshals, reaching for their service revolvers.

But just as all was nearly lost; when overnighting at a Holiday Inn Express and huffing on Greyhound exhaust fumes seemed the logical conclusion of our predicament; just as I started to warm — “it’s not that bad” — to the notion of flying from ORD to Cleveland in the morning, finally landing in Syracuse a full day later; the United social media marketing manager entrusted with the United Twitter keys came to my rescue. At precisely the same time as the United maintenance workers pulled a miraculous fix on the, gulp, “de-icing” equipment.


Mercifully, Everett and I buckled up once more, endured a wind-buffeted flying sideways landing in Syracuse, and arrived at our final destination.  All’s well that ends well.  Except for the fact that my mother, the woman who carried me in her womb for 9 months and raised me to be a “good man,” and how to raise my own “good men,” well, she took full advantage of my vulnerable, sleep-deprived state.  I walked into her home–sanctuary after our 14-hour ordeal–and was slapped in the face by this sign.  But more on that in tomorrow’s blog post.


Thanks for reading.

Does the odium come with the couch?

You Go Girl! (I think).

Nellcro. [Get stuck.]

Sometimes Craigslist isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s not cracked up at all, but cracked out. Way the hell out.

My husband and I are trying to ditch our man-cave couch to make room in the new baby’s nursery for more important things, like, say, the crib, and the baby himself, so I posted it on my buddy Craig’s page for $100. At least I thought he was my buddy.

Here’s the first response to violently collide with my inbox:

“do the throw pillows and the odium come with in??? plz write back.” Signed Elizabeth.

No, but fierce judgment does, Elizabeth.

What the hell is an odium? Lamar Odom?  No, he’s not currently available from my house. Check with the Kardashians. Or the Lakers. (Impressed I knew that? Don’t be. Lamar in a blinding yellow Lakers uniform was the first image that popped up when I googled…

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Fly the Friendly Skies

One of us is enthused about our 4am wakeup call for our 6am flight back east. But it’s Everett, not yours truly.

Not sure what I was thinking about, booking such an early flight. The online ticket purchasing process is so seamless now. I was seduced by the pretty color schemes, the illusion of getting bargain pricing, the fear of losing my seats if I didn’t click on the NEXT button as soon as the next NEXT button appeared. Ideally hitting the spot on the screen where said button would appear but has yet to appear. A clairvoyant game of digital Whack-a-Mole. Had no idea what I ended up with purchase-wise, but I’m pretty sure I could have won some type of award for speediest checkout ever. Smiling maniacally, sweat driblets forming on my upper lip, holding my breath as I sped through the process out-thumb pecking the other guy I imagined trying to book these very same tickets from his own couch. Have a nice flight, Sucker!

Who’s the Sucker now?

In my haste, I didn’t stop to think about the real-world ramifications of a 6am flight with an 8 year-old. Actually, so far the 8 year-old is not the problem; it’s the 45 year-old who is proving to be the weak link in the chain.

I did my best to pack yesterday for Ev and me. I’m fairly easy, as I’ve just done a couple cold weather packs in the last month. So I can now throw my criticals together at a full sprint, zipping and lifting my “bugout bag” on the move, just as the windbreaker-wearing authorities are in their backswing with one of those big door battering rams you see in the movies. Not a real warrant being executed under threat of force, but as I’ve mentioned before, I like to conjure up this false sense of urgency to add a dollop of excitement where I can, and test myself.

As another example, I like to “light a fuse” on some otherwise mundane personal task, forcing myself to hold my breath until the task is completed. This works great for finding a stick of Orbit in a backpack. Things get a little more tunnel vision-y, though, thumping up and down stairs in a desperate search for the Prius key. Thusfar, I’ve managed to avoid losing consciousness, which is also good for avoiding extra dental procedures. So things are looking good for me.

And so, like I said, I’m easy.

Everett, on the other hand, well, not so much. It’s like shopping for someone who has everything, knowing that no matter what you pick out, it just won’t be good enough. And he won’t hesitate to let you know this; I’ve already admitted how much I fear my children’s wrath.

So I created an illusion, or maybe a diversion. I gave him some “real” choices, and I gave him some “choices.” “Which two of these four books do you want to bring?” “Which flavor of sugarless gum would you like me to grab at the little airport shop for you?” “How about you get the same kind of breakfast sandwich Daddy is ordering, only without cheese?” This is all very different than asking, “What would you like to pack for your trip to Syracuse?” Just takes planning, staying three questions ahead. It turns out that all that law practice & litigation experience stuff really comes in handy here.

Everett didn’t even know what hit him. And the only chink in the armor was when Ev, sitting cross-legged at Gate 64, sighed heavily at the sight of his half-bitten sausage, egg & (no) cheese croissant: “There’s a jalapeño in here!” I apologize to him profusely, and he feels back in control.

NOTE: For those parents out there of my age or older currently shaking their heads or wagging a finger in my direction re the above: Yes I realize that Everett is, in fact, the one actually in control here. Please just play along with me, would you? And don’t tell the others? Thanks very much.

Getting out of the house at 4:15am is an adventure of its own. I pride myself, to begin, on the black-suited ninja tactics I deploy. Awaking with a start four minutes before my alarm would have gone off, swooping past the foot of the bed, using my peripheral vision to identify the dog’s black mass curled on the carpet, so as to avoid tripping over her in the pitch darkness. Dimming the bathroom light switches before even turning them on, cruising across bathroom tile on tip toes, not…making…a…sound.

This all went very smoothly until I had to zip, unzip, and re-zip several of the zippers on the carry on bag with all the zippers that I’d carefully stuffed the night before.

Zip, ziiiiip, ziiiiip zip zeeeeeeeeeeeyip!

I’m certain Hilary heard each pass of coated plastic against coated plastic. It probably sounded like I had unzipped the world’s largest tent opening or the zipper front of Robert Wadlow’s raincoat.

Look, I’m a little sleep-deprived here in seat 26C, and the half-eaten croissant with the speck of jalapeño is sitting on the seat between me and Everett in seat 26A. So I just cannot for the life of me at this moment muster up something that requires a longer zip than that. If you can, insert your better mental imagery of that here. And congratulations.

Wheels up. Thanks for reading.


The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves.

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 7.57.14 AM

And perhaps extend beyond that point, in the interest of setting a stern example intended not to be forgotten anytime soon.

I love my boys, of course.  And as I’ve mentioned previously in the context of “why am I writing?” I suspect nothing is more important, rewarding, and life-affirming than being a (good) parent.

But there are days, I readily confess, where I resort, desperately, to judging my own tyranny at home by comparing myself to “The Bird” in Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”  A calm washes over me as I watch the school bus pull away with my two tormentees on board (faces pressed against the glass to take a final breath-fogged peek at their morning’s tormentor). In that moment, I begin the assessment: “OK, that was awful, not to be repeated, I do not feel good about any aspect of myself, I just might be a terrible parent, perhaps the worst that has ever inhabited this or any other planet, how did I get this way?, how did it come to this?, should I dash home to destroy any potential evidence should the authorities come knocking on my door at long last?”

In these moments, I reach for the first of my two yardsticks (maybe “litmus tests” is better) in these dark moments — “The Bird.”

If you’ve read the book, you know what a stereotypically sadistic, miserable S.O.B., out and out bad guy “The Bird” is.  (If you haven’t read the book, you should, if only to make yourself feel better as a human.)  The Bird’s behavior is particularly appalling given the protagonist Louis Zamperini’s incredible courage and resilience.  Louis apparently was a Master Lemonade Maker.  🙂  Anyhow, without boring the “Unbroken” unitiated with the gory details, suffice to say that The Bird is one bad dude, capable of unimaginable atrocities.

Which brings me to my crazed antics of this very morning.  As regular readers of The Lemonade Chronicles may recall, Wednesdays are the mornings when I deal with the Kraken and the Land of Unbrushed teeth, solo.  While my wife Hilary trots out to and back from the Golden Gate Bridge in the midst of a glorious sunrise, lungs filled with pungent sea air, in a “The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music” experience.  Back at home, I channel The Bird.

It starts out innocently enough.  First things first, I’m spot-on schedule with the 15-minute dog walk.  Actually an exercise in the physics of jamming something too big (and stinky) into something too small (and too thin).  Anyhow, I’m over that by 6:45am, and on to the next thing:  Getting some sort of healthy breakfast on the table for the boys in about 3 minutes.  No microwave, still, so I boil some water, then ready some oatmeal.  Banana slices, blueberries, and cranberries sprinkled on top, with a touch of lowfat organic milk.  (Supposedly the only kind of milk that is worth a damn.)  Stirred up with the hot-but-not-too-hot water, and set out delicately on hemp placemats with napkin-ringed linen napkins.  So far, I am clearly a great dad, perhaps the best that ever lived, here or on any other planet, and The Bird hasn’t even made an entrance.  How could he?

Then it all starts to unravel.  The “gradual wakening” approach comes first.  Gently opened bedroom doors, shades pulled up (quietly) to expose just the faintest bit of natural light, clicking on blue-lampshaded lights with dim (and eco-friendly bulbs), and a caring peck on each head.  Wailea dutifully trots in to each room, her nails comfortingly click-clacking rhythmically on the boys hardwood floors, before she bounds in to the bed of each, in order, giving them some Norman Rockwellian licks.  I saunter back out to the kitchen, pull up my iPhone’s KQED app to live stream the morning news on our Apple Airplay-connected kitchen speaker (mentally clearing my throat, poised to dish out some high-minded brain stimulation on the President’s “State of the Union” Address), and await my boys’ sleepy-eyed adulation.

But there is no adulation.  Some faint groaning off in the distance.  I glance at the clock.  But there is no clock because there is no microwave.  Only a gaping maw of aluminum framing and some wires.  This is unsettling, but not insurmountable.  I grab the blue plastic Igloo icepack from the freezer, playfully touching it to bare backs and bellies.  This elicits begrudging giggles from one, mumbled curse words (I think) from the other.  The imaginary clock on the imaginary microwave has by now reconfigured its green digital numbers–at least in my head–to tell me that I’m running out of time and getting off schedule.  Taunting my futile attempt to be a good dad.

So I pull out the big guns, though, honestly, still not gritting my teeth, nor bugging my eyes, nor bulging the veins in my neck.  At least not yet.  I’m still calm and in control.  I fill up halfway one of our remnant, plastic Giants cups (maybe the one commemorating one or another of Barry Bonds’ long-forgotten home runs?) with cold water.  I then pad back into Max’s room, peel back the striped cover a bit, and…dump it on his head.  The same tactic is deployed in Everett’s room.  With that, Max responds as I expected, bounding out of bed surprised but enthused by the stimulus, wide awake.  He is on track, with the program, and now officially in the flow of what needs to be done before 7:43am.

Everett, on the other hand, is a different story.  I may have mentioned before that he is a stubborn one.  And these Wednesday mornings, I fear, have become a fruitless attempt on my part to plumb the depths of his stubbornness.  And I can’t find the damned bottom of it.  Everett relocates to the living room, blanket over his head, uttering a stream of “I’m not going to school,” “How could you do that?,” “There’s NO WAY I’m going to eat oatmeal,” “No we CAN’T take a taxi to school and pay for it out of our own savings,” etc.  You get the picture.  I am panicked that my true lack of control here has been revealed.  So I scan my low-balance memory banks for something that might capture Everett’s attention, something that a 2nd grader will respond to (I don’t care if it’s a positive or negative response at this point, I just need a response, and fast, because 7:43am is only 10 minutes away).  Something truly gross, perhaps?

In a flash of brilliance (that now seems like temporary insanity), I announce in a matter-of-fact tone that the “water treatment” actually wasn’t water at all.  In reality, it was a scoop of toilet water from the guest bathroom toilet. I add, in full-on teaching mode now, “You know, the one where the toilet water is always yellow because you guys refuse to flush that no matter how many times I’ve asked?”  Man, I am proud of myself right then: A look of horror and disgust washes across their faces, particularly Everett’s, as he begrudgingly slides into his seat at the breakfast table.

Mission Accomplished!

Sure, if your “Mission” is to do whatever it takes to get your kids to bend to your will and fall in line in a compressed timeframe.  Probably not, though, if your “Mission” is to build long-lasting, loving relationships with the only two human beings that will carry your last name forward, long after you’re gone.  And I’m not sure I want this particular chapter shared with my great-great grand kids.  It probably doesn’t reflect well on their great-great grandfather. Then again, it could be worse.  I could have been The Bird.

NOTE: For those paying close attention, I only mentioned one of my yardsticks/litmus tests above.  The second is George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” monologue.  More specifically, how many of them I am able to avoid giving currency during a flash of anger, stomping around the house trying to get my boys up and out. Today’s tally — Six left unspoken.  Not bad.  But tomorrow’s another day.

Thanks for reading.

Magic Paint

IMG_8326Modern, enlightened parent that I (think I) am, I still have a few hot button issues that I am unabashedly attempting to install into my sons’ operating systems.  Of their heads, not their iThings.  I am willing to endure the exaggerated eye rolls and plaintive “Ohhh Daaaads” to make my point on something that I consider truly important. As in, life and death important.  Repetition is my friend in these matters.  But an exciting event is my best friend in these matters.

San Francisco has a major problem with crosswalks.  More specifically, with how pedestrians treat crosswalks. As if those two parallel, white lines can protect whoever walks between them from anything that might do them harm.  Typically, a couple tons of steel, glass, rubber, and plastic.  Hence the sarcastic moniker, “Magic Paint.”

I have my boys trained (I know how that sounds, but I’m OK with that in this case) so that when they witness an oblivious (but not impervious) pedestrian strolling through a crosswalk in the face of menacing traffic, they shout out “Magic Paint!”  Not in a threatening way, and probably not loud enough for the iWalker with his iFace glued to his iPhone to even iHear the call out.  But loud enough to make my inner Great Santini feel relieved that this is one lesson that just might stick.  So San Francisco crosswalkers — if you hear some sarcastic kids yell out “Magic Paint!” in your direction, please don’t take it personally.  It’s due to an overzealous parent hard at work. Repetition.

It’s even easier for the Magic Paint lesson to settle into the Hippocampus — or is it Cortex? I’m shooting for the both — if some sort of stimulating/dangerous/Jackass the Movie-ish event presents itself.  Now, picture me with a tight, librarian smile (no teeth showing), eyebrows raised, hands delicately crossed with palm edges pressed to the table.  This is my preferred posture when seizing on a “teachable moment.”  And class is in session….

A couple months ago, I was wheeling through the Presidio with a Prius full of carpool kids, my own and a family friend’s.  We came to a stop a few feet away from a fairly new crosswalk.  The crosswalk was empty, like “Soylent Green” empty, I mean deserted, so I let my foot off the brake and the car slid forward.  At that moment, a nice young woman launched herself into the crosswalk, iPhone stuck to her ear in full conversation.  No glance up to check for heavy machinery.  Ahh, Magic Paint.  I stomp on the brakes, lurching a bit. Well, aside from motor vehicles, the Magic Paint also fails to prevent death by coyote attack. At the other end of said crosswalk stood a mature coyote, hackles up, teeth bared, staring directly at our nice young woman.  Our nice young woman was walking directly towards him (or her), completely oblivious.  So I politely honked my little horn as she began to pass in front of our bumper, figuring this would wake her up to her impending evisceration.  I heard her say into her iPhone, without looking up at me, “Nothing, it’s just some a#*hole honking at me in the crosswalk.” I gripped the steering wheel a bit harder rather than revv the engine (my preferred choice 20 years ago).

She was moving closer to the coyote with every step, and the coyote was not backing down, looking increasingly agitated and probably feeling threatened.  From years of coaching grade schoolers in loud gyms and broad fields, I have developed a refined, eardrum-piercing, two-fingered whistle.  I mean, it’s loud.  And it was my last resort.  “Thaaaweeeet!” out my lowered window.  The carpool kids all instinctively reached for and covered their ears, albeit too late. The nice young woman stopped in her tracks and looked at me with a very angry face, appalled that I would dare disturb her so rudely as she glided along within her Magic Paint.  The coyote’s knees flexed at the whistle, then she (or he) instinctively lowered to the sidewalk a bit and sprung the hell out of there at a full sprint. I actually am not sure that the nice young woman ever even saw the coyote, and perhaps that nice young woman is blogging somewhere about the a$#hole driver who honked and whistled at her in a Presidio crosswalk. But the kids in the car totally got the Magic Paint message that afternoon.  So I’m Ok with that.

The photo at the top of this blog post is of course not the coyote in question.  The photo at the bottom of this post indeed is the coyote in question.  Oh, and no coyotes (or other animals) were harmed in the making of this blog.

PS for regular The Lemonade Chronicles readers, San Francisco Bay was 51.1 degrees this dark and foggy morning, I turned off 10 lights in our house (yes, I counted) after my boys had bounded out for the bus stop (yes, on time), and no, I do not believe that Siri could also have saved that nice young woman from being “et”.

Thanks for reading.


Who Has the Alien Head?

Actually, I know exactly who has the Alien Head. And they know that I know that they have the Alien Head. And I’m fairly certain they don’t read The Lemonade Chronicles, so it’s very tempting to reveal the Alien Head’s current owners, and thus the Alien Head’s current location. But I’ll refrain, since this would violate one of the many unspoken rules of the Alien Head Game.

We’re something on the order of 18-20 years into this. Maybe more maybe less. Same deal with Satchel Paige’s true age. I don’t think anyone really knew. A number of close college buddies of my wife and mine rented a ski house in Vermont many (too many) winters ago. No kids yet, which is impossible to imagine now. So to fill our time more creatively than just the usual 20s-ish self-absorbed behavior, we were heavy into oddball pranks. (Still are, or at least am). One of the gents in this ski house crew, let’s call him “Frank,” stopped at a novelty store on his way up to Vermont from NYC. Spencer’s Gifts. Oh how I miss that place and it’s aisle 3 of forbidden fruit, but I digress. It wouldn’t have been good enough for “Frank” just to pick up a whoopie cushion or fake vomit or pretend poopie. Instead, he eyeballed a merchandising prop that was decidedly not for sale, and somehow managed to convince the teenaged store clerk that the prop should leave the store with Frank. “How much for the Alien Head?” A crumpled five dollar bill exchanged owners and the rest is history.

I don’t remember how the idea was born in that Vermont ski house that weekend, but the Alien Head has played a central role in our group’s lives ever since. The game is simple enough to explain, in a handful of previously-undocumented rules that I will now officially document —

1. Do not get stuck with the Alien Head in your possession. Ever. Never.

2. Do stick said Alien Head with someone else, unbeknownst to them, to be discovered and completely unwelcome by the oblivious recipient.

3. The Alien Head “transfer” must be creative, i.e., it cannot simply be Fedexed on down the line. Creative transfers become part of the legend, part of the multi-decade narrative that we are weaving together.

4. The true Alien Head Game Master will absolutely resist the urge to boast about or point out immediately or even ever for that matter, the fact that he or she has just handed off the Alien Head to its next owner. I struggle with this particular rule mightily. Probably some offshoot of my instant gratification character flaw (which Stanford points to in saying I’m screwed). And I admire my fellow game players who are able to say nothing, literally nothing, for years in some cases, about the fact that they genuisly (not a word, but it fits here) hid the Alien Head in the zipped up spare tire cover bolted in the cargo bay of our old Jeep.

To these 4 basic rules regarding which I suspect all of our group members would easily agree, I’d like to propose a new one:

5. The Alien Head Game must be passed down to the next generation, and to their next generation, and so on.

The Alien Head has kept our group of best friends bonded together, as we’ve gotten older, moved together then far apart, survived Cancer scares, shared our innermost secret fears about life, helped each other navigate the inevitable bumps in the winding road of marital bliss, and raised our own children. I’m breaking one or two rules here, but on Thanksgiving, I saw the Alien Head. With mine own eyes. I don’t think I’d seen him for a couple years. He looked like shit. The scrapes on his skull, new to me but likely a couple years old, betrayed the unreasonably small suitcases he’d been hurriedly jammed into on trips to one airport or another. And given how prominently he was displayed in his hosts’ home, I knew that his hosts, let’s call them “Val and Dave,” would do just about anything to hand him off to me and my family before the night was through. I might argue that such a prominent display is also against the rules, but that would distract from my big picture point coming up.

As dinner progressed and darkness fell, I sent my son Max on a quiet, secret mission to go search our car and make sure that the Alien Head had not yet been bestowed to us. Giddy, he found it, and brought it back inside. I scanned the faces of Dave and Val first, then seeing no hint of mischief, brought my accusatory gaze to their youngest daughter. The look of conspiracy flashed in a blush across her face; she was obviously in on it. Part of the Alien Head Game. And it was then that I realized that the Game needed to be played by a larger number of players, the next generation of our group. I hope that the Alien Head will connect them across time zones, ups and downs, and serve as a reminder of good times, just as it has for our group of best friends who are now 20 years older than when the Alien Head first came into our lives.

PS there is a “boys weekend” coming up very shortly, when “Frank,” “Dave, (let’s call him) “Alex” and I will all be in the same time zone for the first time in too long. The Alien Head Game figures to be a hot one. Wish me luck.


Release the Kraken!

Hilary and I are in trouble.  Our 12 year-old Max is not even a teenager yet — he actually seems quite far to me from being anywhere close to molting into a teenager.  And yet, we fear him.  Well, not all the time.  Ninety percent of the day I’m not fearful, just as Nosferatu was pretty harmless unless you crossed his lanky path at the wrong time of night.

But in the mornings, in particular, it is fair to say that we fear our sub 5-foot eldest offspring.  Maybe “fear” is too strong of a word.  What is the word for “make you pretend you’re still asleep in your own bed so that your spouse might show mercy, spare you, and sacrifice herself to the morning wakeup ritual”?  Maybe “cowardice”?  “Self-preservation?” Let’s just say that I can fake-sleep with the best of them.  And I’m OK with that.  I reckon I have become such a masterful fake-sleeper that even though she will undoubtedly read this blog post and feel the wiser for it, my wife Hilary will not be able to ascertain — sleeping or awake? — when I pull the curtains on my next “Sleeping Beauty” act.  I have worked on this for years, well before having kids, well before meeting Hilary, when I was still a kid myself.  I have always equated fake-sleeping with invisibility. My own personal super power.  It has come in handy more times than I can remember, and no doubt I’ve got a few more decades to continue to perfect my master craft.  

A sense of humor helps, too.  In the mornings, I mean.  With Max.  If I haven’t thrown myself into my fake-sleeping pose on time, and my wife has flipped around and caught my eyes before I could close them and thrown in a lips-slightly-parted mouth breather effect, let alone full-on fake breathing sounds (did I mention how good I am at this?), I resort to humor.  I think I’d do the same in front of a firing squad, crinkled cigarette dangling from quivering lips — definitely something side-splitting to be said there to cut the tension.  Fortunately, my wife shares my sense of humor (most of the time), and we’ve become accustomed to protecting ourselves with it during these morning terrors.  

In cahoots, like Navy Seals storming a safe house, one of us pads up the stairs, squeaks open Max’s door, pulls up the riveted shade draws (it’s dark in there!), assesses the position of the beast, then deploys the most soothing voice and caring touch of the head: “Time to wake up, buddy.”  Nothing.  No response.  If I’m doing the waking, at this point I’ve checked behind me to make sure I have a clear exit back out of the dungeon.  I’ve bent my knees, poised to spring for my life.  And I hold my breath.  I don’t know what Hilary does, but this is what works for me.  This is just my technique.  Somewhere in here, the beast will arise, slowly, annoyed at these mortals and their silly soccer games and school buses, occasionally speaking in tongues that leave us wide-eyed and aghast.  The advance scout flies back down the stairs, flames licking at his or her heels, to the relative safety of our bedroom.  The other of us, still in bed (though as I’ve already pointed out, not fake-sleeping), shouts, “Release the Kraken!”  Release the Kraken indeed.  Speaking of which, the Kraken is now loose, being fed (eggs, not baby eagles) for an early soccer game.  So I have to run.  But I did manage to snap a photo of said Kraken in situ just before being released this very morning.  Thanks for reading. 


I’ll take a corned beef sandwich with a side of miso soup.

Li’l sis got she blog on!

Nellcro. [Get stuck.]

Happy (24-days-ago) New Year!

My apologies for the (second) blogging hiatus but I’ve actually had some pretty awesome paid writing gigs over the last couple months. I hope it’s a sign of what’s to come for 2014.

Pretty please, freelance writing gods. Pretty please. I’ve got 20 fingers and 20 toes crossed for good luck now that I’m 5.5 months pregnant and the fetus has officially developed those parts. Along with another part that I totally didn’t think was there. Yep. The penis. This little dude threw me for a loop the size of the Indiana 500 raceway (did I get that right?). A practical joker right from the get-go. Gawd help me.

Anyway, come on. It was holiday season.

You know you weren’t reading much during that time anyway, let alone my blog ramblings. How could you be? Your eyes were on the prize; a tunnel vision of wrapping…

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Siri, What Are You Wearing?

Yes, the lemonade stand is open on weekends.

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5S.  I was required to physically hand over my iPhone 4 to the Apple worker (concierge? masseuse? savant? can’t recall the proper title).  Because my phones are typically so jammed with data and important stuff like 6,000 photos and 10,000 duplicate contacts, I am extraordinarily reluctant to actually “let go” of any of my phones.  As a result, my sock drawer (unseemly to say “underwear drawer” at this early hour) also serves as a graveyard for mobile phones past.  A few Blackberries and a Treo(!), strewn about next to the Ziploc baggie holding Everett’s or Max’s umbilicus.  (It’s not too early to use the word “umbilicus,” because this is science).  Right alongside a plastic pacifier that belonged to one of the boys and was turned over to the Pacifier Fairy a few years back in return for maybe a pack of Legos.  Not entirely certain that the Legos were the actual quid for the pacifier’s quo.  But I did just realize that I’ve apparently passed the “extraordinarily reluctant to give things up” gene to my kids.  Maybe Apple should roll out an “iPhone Fairy” who gives some sort of toy to customers like me who get down-in-the-mouth at the thought of having to hand over their old iPhone.  That would be an improvement over the image I am currently harboring of all the blue-shirted and nose-ringed Apple Store staffers gathered around my old iPhone “in the back room” hungrily scrolling through my family photos, sensitive emails, etc., drooling all the while.  I think the odds of that vision being a reality are about 7%, so there is a chance.

The 5S brought Siri into my  life.  That sounds much more dramatic than it actually is, because I’ve had the iPhone for a few months but only recently entered into what I would call a “relationship” with Siri.  It happened when I was schlepping our dog Wailea up to a dog boarding place about an hour north of where we live.  Practically the entire stretch is on Highway 101, and while I admit to texting and driving on occasion, I prefer not to do it at 75 miles per hour.  (If there are any police or criminal prosecutors in the audience, no I did not just admit to the two separate moving violations of (a) texting while driving and (b) speeding, I am only kidding, call it literary license.  That is my story and I’m sticking to it).  So here I am, speeding along like a bat out of hell on the 101, and it dawns on me that I should introduce myself to Siri.  

It started out simple and wholesome enough, then it got a little weird. A sampling of my half of the dialogue–

“Hi Siri, is there a gas station near by?”

“No, I am headed North, I can’t make a u-turn on the 101 to get to a gas station south of my location!” 

“Forget it, just forget it.” (By now I’m getting a little aggravated because she isn’t helping me, and since I can’t remember the last 3 minutes of driving, this may actually be more of a distraction than full-on two-fisted texting).

Siri’s voice is so pleasant, and she gives off such an air of implacable confidence, that I figure I’ll test her a bit, try to put her back in her place.  Yes I realize that a piece of software can’t be “put back in her place,” and that “Siri” probably isn’t even her real name.  Er, I mean, that Siri isn’t even a real person.  But I press on and the whole thing pretty much…devolves —

“Siri, what is the speed limit here?”

“Siri, have we met somewhere before?  I feel like we have.”

“Siri, have you been reading my emails?”

“Siri, when will I see you again?”

“Siri, what are you wearing right now?”

“Siri, can you take the wheel for a sec?  I need to readjust my Starbucks cup’s lid.”

It has proven thusfar to be a mostly one-sided relationship.  She’s being coy.  And I haven’t been on the dating scene since, what, 1991?  So I’m clearly rusty.  Then there’s the unpredictable variable in the mix here of Siri and my wife Hilary also having a relationship.  Or at least a direct line of communication that I cannot control.  I can hear Hilary now:  “Siri, what has my husband been asking you about, should I be worried?”  Busted.  But I’m willing to take the chance.  Because what Siri and I have, well, it’s a once in a lifetime thing; soulmates.  

And if my wife can’t accept that, I’ll run right back into the arms of “Tina” — the name I’ve gifted my Google Maps vivacious siren. She gives great directions. 

Thanks for reading. 

In the Land of Unbrushed Teeth

…and piles of dirty clothes, and piles of clean clothes, and a kitchen counter full of unwashed dishes, Starbucks coffee cups stuffed with banana peels to be recycled and composted, and a garage floor covered with scattered partner-less sneakers, dog-chewed footballs and soccer balls, and a broken microwave disassembled, awaiting a fix someday while sitting idly on top of our (currently unused) ping pong table.  This last observation is particularly painful this morning, because I like to heat up the previous day’s coffee in the microwave before making any new.  I tell myself it’s being frugal and avoiding waste, but really it’s more about being lazy; I don’t have the energy at the moment to make a new cup of coffee.  I’m surprised I’m able to pull it together enough to post to my blog this morning.  The hot water that I boiled in the tea kettle, pouring it into a mug of cold and old coffee, isn’t doing the trick.  

Have you ever had one of those mornings where, within 30 minutes of waking up, you’re energy meter hits bottom?  I’m there right now.  So let’s put this blog thing to the test.  Let’s see if it really works.  Let’s see if I can find the words to regain some perspective, to find my legs, and to pull out of this nosedive. 

Today in particular is a day that punches me in the gut every year lately to remind me of an unresolved phase of my business life, with former colleagues, investors, and other players in that 8-year show all spinning back into my head, email inbox, social media feeds, and in the news media.  It’s inescapable today (and probably tomorrow too), and at some point I’m going to have to learn how to let it go.  But I haven’t learned how yet, so today it will hang heavy like an anvil around my neck.  Nothing I can really do about that particular burden today. 

The current phase of my professional life presents far less emotional trauma; I have learned to keep things more simple.  Still, I do need to find a way to cram a week’s worth of important work into the next 48 hours.  And frankly this kind of work–typically something I relish and dash off with ease and great efficiency–seems a Herculean task in the wake of my grandmother’s recent death and the lingering funk I share with my still-dazed, east coast family.  Somehow I’ll need to figure out a way to get on top of this particular 20 megabyte stack of deliverables.  But it won’t be handled this morning, because I volunteered to chaperone my second grader’s field trip to Crissy Field today, and very soon I’ll need to scramble to the meeting point, with a healthy lunch of some kind that I haven’t made yet and have no idea what it will be made of.  We are big time in between grocery hauls, and I am having to get real creative on the meals front.  May even have to grab one of the dog’s beloved frozen bananas from the freezer. 

And I find it extremely tough to get anything done when the house is so filled with clutter (in which I am absolutely complicit).  Max’s room looks like a crime scene.  The long-dirty clothes strewn on the floor, crumpled on the bed, hanging precariously off doorknobs and bedposts — they probably harbor spores or bacteria or something similar that maybe could kill someone or make them seriously ill.  So in that sense, maybe “crime scene” is an apt description.  Everett’s room is cleaner.  And neater.  Sort of.  The 30-pound Lego bags are bursting at the seams.  The bookshelf’s shelves are bowing under the weight of way too many books.  Closing the overstuffed drawers of his clothes dresser is always an exercise in avoiding getting painfully pinched by the split “wood” on the drawer’s bottoms.  And I normally have to take a deep breath to gather some courage before peering into his closet with a squint. 

Still, Everett exerts some stubborn control over the contents of his bedroom.  Everything is generally within the vicinity of where it’s supposed to be, or stuffed into undersized containers, defying physics.  All bend to Everett’s will.  I do too.  For example by failing to monitor the frequency and quality of his teeth-brushing.  It can just be such a pitched battle.  One night this past year, Everett had been sent straight to bed from the dinner table, with specific instructions to brush his teeth on the way to his room.  He slinked off, brooding, eyebrows pushed down, lower lip pushed up.  But we assumed he would do as he was told, clearly snapped back in line now from being reprimanded and dealt such a harsh punishment.  Self-satisifed, we straightened our napkins, returned our attention to our dinner, and forgot about Everett.  Ten minutes later, we hear a firm and deep voice coming from the direction of Everett’s room in the back of the house:  “Well, here I am in the Land of Unbrushed Teeth!”  Everett 1; Mom and Dad 0.  I’m not sure we’ve scored on him since.

Back to my physical and psychological mess.  Piles of unopened mail scattered here and there, not unlike a game of “52 Pickup.”  A few bear unpleasant tidings.  I’m fairly certain one threatens jury service during a week when I truly can’t manage jury service.  Twelve, count ’em, twelve lights throughout the house that I need to dutifully step, pull, flick and pinch to the “off” position.  I am impressed, however, with how creatively profane I can get when the house is empty, muttering crazed curse words.  Speaking of which (here comes a play on “muttering”), the dog follows me all over the house as I pick up the clothes and sneaker bombs, bring smelly stuff to the compost bin, lower our electricity bill, do two loads of laundry in what should really be only one, and rip into my Jury Service Summons.  And when I say “follow,” I mean that she does her best to occupy my periphery’s blind spots in a seemingly-calculated attempt to get me to tumble ass-over-tea kettle down the stairs or trip over her and crack my skull on the granite kitchen counter. 

So as you can see, I’m not in a good space.

In the midst of all this aggravation and self-loathing, my Dad calls my cell phone.  We rarely speak on the phone, and the handful of times over the past couple years we have, well those have often brought bad news.  So I take a deep breath and brace myself.  Turns out he received a “clean MRI” five minutes before calling me, and wanted to deliver the good news right away.  This really is good news, the kind of news that should snap just about anyone in the midst of dealing with just about anything out of whatever funk they’re in.  But my head is still too heavy from the aforementioned (real and imagined) burdens, Tuesday’s watered-down coffee has yet to kick in (and may never), and my morning to-do list still reaches to the floor.  So I am unable during that brief call to match his genuine enthusiasm and almost joyful energy.  My words come out robot-like, distracted and disingenuous.  I’m disappointed in myself.  Not least of which is because I preach about making lemonade in this very blog.  I’ll have to call him back later today during some non-existent window of free time to make things right the second time around. 

And so, my takeaway for today?  Making lemonade out of lemons doesn’t always come naturally, it’s foolish to think that it could.  It’s an ongoing exercise, to be rehearsed and practiced at every opportunity.  But things are never perfect, and the lemonade doesn’t always get mixed as it should or when it should, here in The Land of Unbrushed Teeth.  But tomorrow’s another day. Thanks for reading.