Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Relationships of Blogging

The other week when I was home—and screaming obscenities in my parents’ house about all the crap they had to move—my mother cornered me after the hellacious day of packing the pod. “You may think this was rough on you, but it’s worse for me. I’m leaving my house after 31 years.

I sighed, “Woman, we are not moving you to a home. You are choosing to downsize to house that is 900 square feet bigger.”

I don't care.” she responded. “And by the way, I don’t want you to write about this to all those strangers on the Internet.

Mom it’s called a blog.”

She looked back, “I don’t care what it’s called. There are murderers, pedophiles and predators online.” (That fucking dateline guy ruins everything, doesn’t he?)

They’re not strangers, mom. They’re real people. They’re my …well, friends.

(Shit… I said it out loud.) Friends.

In a way, I guess they are. Well, you are.

Confidants. Critics. Sounding Boards. How do you explain to people outside of this blogging world, the relationships that are created in this world? How is it that it’s sometimes easier to be more intimate with people you don’t know. They laugh with you; they cry with you. And yet, they’d most likely pass you in the street without knowing you.

Almost none of my friends nor family have blogs. Most will read and then drop me an email to respond. Not one person I know shares in this world of blogging relationships.

So how do you explain to someone how exciting it is to have someone link to you? Who else appreciates the thrill of increasing the number of subscribers on bloglines. Or the validation when other bloggers invite you to become part of their blog.

These are my friends. These are people
• Who I’ve met
Who parent like I do
• Who I correspond with every few days
• Who share mutual friends
• Who live in my home town
• Who have the same afflictions I do
• Who I’ve talked on the phone with

I love getting up in the morning and seeing what my friends have created in the last 24 hours. Each person has a very different style that moves me in different ways. And each has made me feel important as they read and comment on my creations.

So yes mom, in some strange way, these are my friends. As weird as it (or they) may be, I've grown to enjoy and cherish them.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Saving a Buck or Two

One of the blogs on my Bloglines is Want Not. The writer keeps tracks of deals on the Internet and passes them along. Many are really great, but I finally took advantage of one and wanted to pass it along if you're interested.

Directly from her web site:
This is one of the coolest freebies I’ve seen in a while. Everyone go tell Tori how pretty she is for finding it! Go to Canvas On Demand to get a $59 voucher, good for a free 8″ x 10″ photo canvas or to be applied towards another item. Browse around their site and be amazed; it’s pricey, what they do, but what gorgeous stuff!

After submitting your email, they send you a promo code. You upload a digital photo and pay only $14.95 for shipping. Still waiting for mine, but I uploaded a nice picture of Corey with his Grandparents and will use it for a nice Christmas gift.

Offer Expires Sept 15, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Switch Hitter

I was out with a friend of mine and she commented how much she enjoyed my last posts. I asked her if she was referring to the one Hygiene Chronicles or on BlogFathers. She looked puzzled and asked what the “BlogFathers” were. (The horror!)

So for those that don’t know, I also write with about 10 other dads over at BlogFathers. Originally, another dad and I were going to be ‘on staff’ for a few months, but the ‘family has taken us in on a more permanent basis.’ I usually post there once a week or so, but it’s been a little further in between for the month of August.

However that got me thinking… do you all read me over there or only here? Should I post a reference on this site every time I post there? I hate posting the same story in both locations because that defeats the purpose, but frankly, you all should be reading that site on the regular basis since many of those guys are even funnier than I am.

Here’s a quick link to catch up on what I’ve written there, but let me know how I should handle this in the future.

BTW, friends and family, this is where you should be finally commenting on the site. Don’t write me an email; use the comment link below. The comment section even lets you post anonymously (not that I couldn’t have the family hunt you down if I wanted to).


Monday, August 28, 2006

The Bad Dad

I wasn’t the best dad this weekend.

There are days that just don’t click, but its amazing how 20 minutes of bad parenting weighs on you for days. We’ve all been there I know, but it still just grates on me because it’s not the dad I want to be.

We went up to the town center this Saturday. It was “movie in the park” night so we thought it would be a great night to be outdoors and run around. The movie wasn't a good fit, given that it was Harry Potter IV, but we thought we’d swing by Ben & Jerry’s and settle into a great evening of ice cream and fathers/son time.

Corey’s in a big stage of testing his independence. We all support this, but it certainly does come with some drawbacks.

We got in line for the ice cream and when asked his choice he said “cacapoopoo.” “We don’t use those words,” I said. “The man wants know what kind of ice cream you want.”

“Coconuts,” he responded. (That’s a word he uses to mean silly or crazy.) “We don’t have coconut,” the poor server replied, not realizing the kid wasn’t being serious.

“We’ll just take chocolate.”

“I want a kiddie cone,” Corey asked. I immediately looked down at his clothes and brand new shoes. “Really? Are you going to make a mess?” (Let me just translate that into parenting speak…brown ice cream, 90 degree day and clean clothes…duh, of course dad.)

I gave in.

First, the kiddie cone has two scoops. Are you guys high? The kid is totally going to knock the top scoop off with his tongue, spiraling into a complete scream fest once it hits the pavement. I volunteered to hold the cone as we navigated the steps. The cone tipped precariously and I corrected him several times until I finally grabbed it and walked outside. We sat on the curb to eat our desserts.

One minute later, he was screeching because the ice cream was dripping on his hands. (Not sure where all this OCD stuff comes from.) He’s licking from the top, nearly pushing the top scoop over. I’m licking from the bottom trying to save my hand from absorbing anymore chocolate.

“Try to lick from bottom,” I asked. With that he stood up, directly into the cone and nailed his shirt and shorts perfectly. The new shoes caught the remainder.

I gave up and lost it. I ordered Larry into the store to get a cup for the remainder and more napkins. I ordered the kid to sit still until we could clean him up and rectify the situation.

The cup and napkins arrived. We cleaned up and got the ice cream organized. As you can imagine, no one was in the mood to eat. The partner was mad, the kid was pouting and I had won at the expense of all. With that a little girl emerged from the ice cream store, covered in chocolate, with her parents just smiling.

My chocolate covered son disciplined at the thought of clean clothes. Not exactly the image that I expected to portray four years ago when I held a two week old.

Sometimes it’s the smaller things that teach you the biggest lessons. I promise, little man, I’ll do better next time.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My First Product

In the footsteps of MetroDad, I am proud to say I have received my first product. Last week, I was contacted by a publicist for Sourcebooks Inc. to review a new book on Little League and how it's becoming a professionalized industry.

The publicist indicated that he thought it was would be nice to have the dads of sons review it. Aw shucks--hard to believe that age is just around the corner for us; Saturday mornings devoted to finding where the closest coffeehouses are to each of the practice fields.

The book arrived today and it's next on my list to read and review. Who says (Little League, Big) Dreams don't come true. All that advertising finally paid off!


Monday, August 21, 2006

Road Kill

So we had a murder on our street the other day. Well, technically around the corner but for the sake of argument and real estate values, I'll say it's on my street. It sounds more dramatic that way... CSI: Washington, DC. We were the murder capital for years, but I think we've been beat now. What happened to the days of sticking to a legacy, huh?

My mother was stunned when I told her. "You shouldn't go out," she says. "Well maybe for milk, but that's it." (Dairy products it seems are worth risking one's life.)

The cops found some guy shot to death in an SUV. Everyone always says it's drugs, but I always think that's an easy excuse. Be more creative I say. I'm telling the neighbors that it was due to walking on someone's lawn when it was clear from the Chemlawn signs, that no one was supposed to be on the grass for at least 24 hours.

Speaking of neighbors, they are insane with our neighborhood list serve. Every day there is more useless information flowing through cyberspace due to these folks. The murder day was no exception.

"There's a police barricade at 12th street."
"Really? Do you think it's crime?" (morons live here too, btw.)
"I heard it was murder... or a suicide."
"Who ever thought something could happen in a neighborhood like this?"
"I'm shocked as well. By the way, did anyone else not have their recycling picked up on Thursday?"
"Those people are the worst. I need to write the mayor."
Yep, welcome to our list serve.

A set of neighbors, Tony & Tina (well, his name is like Terry or Tracy, but we can never remember so we call him Tina) called to see if we knew anything. Tony (or maybe it was Tina) asked what we knew. "Nothing," I said, though the Chemlawn idea was starting to brew. Too early to solve the crimes, I thought. Jessica Fletcher I'm not, but that is only due to age, gender and not living in Maine.

So the cops eventually made it to my door. Their questions were brief and didn't allow for much imagine or speculation on my part. "I didn't see anything," I said. "But I did take this correspondence class about reading the past in tea leaves." The water was already brewing for the Cozy Chamomile. Watch your ass, Dionne Warwick.

When Larry got home, I went through a belaboring desription of the murder. "It's on page 12 of the Post... at the bottom," I said. But he wanted more details.

I sighed and began the disertation I had prepared; Powerpoint slides complimented the show but the costumes weren't ready so I can't be certain the full experience came through.

"Where did they find him?" he asked.
"In the SUV. He drove an Escapade," I said.
(Long pause)
"Babe, Janet Jackson went on an Escapade, but Cadillac makes the Escalade!"

"Oh.... whatever." See, I'm totally keen on the details.

Mama Cass Lives

I now have fat clothes and skinny clothes.

Unlike my daddy counterparts, I am not losing weight this summer. I’m putting it on. Did I look Ally McBeal-like to begin with? No, not really. But I’m not really spending a great deal of time keeping myself in shape.

We started swimming this winter. Three evenings a week we were at the pool, gradually increasing from 20 laps to 50. I felt great and actually was building up the faintest sign of muscle in my arms. Well, if you looked at the correct angle in the best light.

But I haven’t been swimming since July 5. It’s beginning to show.

On Friday, I had 17 pairs of pants in my closet. Two fit well and one was fine if I sucked my gut in and didn’t mind a red colored indentation along my gut. My coworkers had been successfully predicting what pants I’d wear for the past two weeks the licking had become that slim.

So I made the decision to upsize on Saturday. I certainly am not in ToughSkins ‘husky level’ but let me tell you how wonderful it is to breathe again. After three minutes of shopping I now was armed with 33” Dockers in the standard navy and olive to join the very lonely kackie that hung in the closet at home.

To the basement went the all the 32s”. I felt a little like Kirstie Alley in her battle to sound coherent in a commercial keep the pounds off long enough to make it to the next weekend. Poor Larry will have to become a chub-chaser if this keeps up.

A friend asked me when I’d be moving up to 34”.

We don’t speak any longer.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Life Returns to Normal

Tomorrow Larry comes home. He's been gone for 10 days at the Senior PGA Championships. While he is neither senior nor a golf star, he freelances for a company that runs the transportation for the corporate clients. It sounds impressive and he does get 50% off the merchandise on the last day, so it's safe to say he's a high ranking official, falling just shot of Tiger.

It's weird to have him gone so long. Sure, I eat better. Burger and Velveeta & cheese every day. This is what I imagine heaven to be. No vegetables, no worry about cholesterol. Dessert each night.

Everything is where I leave it as well. The next morning the TV is on the station I left it and I don't have to go rummaging through the couch cushions to find the remote. Coffee cups don't mysteriously appear in the linen closet and shoes stay right in the closets.

Sure, I have to find my own way to work which sucks. And there is no one to give me fashion tips.

OK truthfully, I hate being alone for this long. A weekend is great, but 10 days is a long time to fly solo. I would glad give up my Velveeta... um no, the remote... to have him back a few days earlier.

Welcome Home babe! (What did you bring me?)

Editors Note: It seems that this is the PGA and not the Senior PGA. Tiger wouldn't be playing in the Senior PGA. Whatever!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sweet Child of Mine

Suzie P, shut your trap about not wanting to be a mom and grab your black eyeliner. Do I have something you need to make your motherhood dreams come true?

Mr. Big Dubya, one of my favorite reads and a guy who has an incredible taste in music, posted a winner over at Dadcentric. Lullabys for kids that are actually hard rock songs. Who thinks up these amazing products?

Fuck the Wheels on the Bus or Itsy Bitsy Spider; put your kid to sleep with Enter Sandman, Communication Breakdown or Smells Like Teen Spirit. Fifteen groups from Metallica to Coldplay to Led Zepplin can grace your child's nursery.

The marketing copy is just as brilliant; "This evening, your child’s journey consists of a delicate dreamscape woven by the heavens and forged by the hammer of the gods." I know one mother who'd have been first in line to buy these when her twins were born.

So that's my plug todayfor someone else's column. Nice find!

Maybe next year, they can rock out to GnR and AC/DC.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just when you think your cool...

This week, Larry is out of town. Sure I miss him, but I totally miss not being driven to work just as much. I have to get up earlier and haul my ass to metro. The commute is an hour door to door, instead of my normal 20 minutes.

So between breakfast, walking the dogs, and getting showered and dressed, I rush through my morning so I don't have to get up at 5 AM. This morning was no exception and I was out the door at 6:45.

I listen to music the whole way in. On the train platform, I have a tendency to rock to the music; Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, Midnight Oil and Queensryche all pump through the earphones to get me energized as my day begins.

This morning, the mix on the iPod was particularly great. My feet were tapping; my hands keeping time to the music. As I walked, I'm sure everyone could see how great the music was that played in my ears. My walk had an air of confidence. Damn, I felt good.

As I arrived at my building, three others were simultaneously entering. Being in my zone, I kept the iPod going. They knew I was cool enough to be listening to music and wouldn’t want to interrupt. They would totally respect that. The elevator doors shut.

I looked up at my reflection in the mirrored panels. My hair was standing straight up, like a 2nd grader’s class picture. My shirt must have rubbed the top of my head as I dressed and my hair now looked like some static electricity project.

Of course, I was the last the exit the elevator. I left dejected and headed straight to the bathroom to wet down my hair.

Do I just give up looking cool? Or do I invest in more gel?


Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Pinewood Derby

I was 8 years old.

My dad and I were staring at a block of wood on his tool bench. There was a bag of accessories lying next to it; nails, wheels and instructions that were no bigger than a matchbook. The paper had basic measurements, which in the end, could not be exceeded.

They say that artists can look at something in its raw form and see the finished product inside. Standing before this block of wood, it was clear were no artists.

Every boy who goes through Cub Scouts, and every father of said boy, has a rite of passage known as the Pinewood Derby. A contest where the boy wants the fastest car. And a contest where the dad wants the most impressive piece of 9 inch wood to emerge from his basement. (errrr, that sounds really awkard)

I’ll cut right to the chase: we were neither that boy nor dad.

As I packed up my parents last week, we came across many things that marked my past—my beer can collection, a GI Joe with Kung Fu Grip, our first baseball mitts. Lots of memories.

But for me, the items I treasure the most are my three Pinewood Derby cars. I didn’t have the closest the relationship with my father back in those days, but having these cars seems to make that disappear. These were a creation of both of us… a time when we had to work as one.

Looking back, the making of these cars was 100 times greater than even coming in 27th place. (Don’t tell that to the 2nd grader who went to the corner of the room and cried when he was eliminated in the first round.) These represent a time when life was simple and a dad & son really could work together on things.

derbyWe meticulously drew out plans. I learned the difference between a jigsaw & a coping saw as well as a screwdriver & an awl. I learned how to hollow out the bottom of wood and melt lead to give it extra weight. We learned that by using the produce scales at the grocery stores, we could weight it to the ounce. (Yeah kids, produce departments had scales back then.) We took a plain piece of wood and created something beautiful from it.

I totally want my son to experience that first form of male bonding; where campfires lit with a red light bulb and farting are the coolest things ever. I want to help him move from being a bobcat to a bear. And I want to build a pinewood derby car with him.

This is just one more thing that childhood memories are made of. At 39, I can look back and see what a simple boy and his dad can create when they work together. And in 35 years, I’d like my son to be able to be able to the same.


Friday, August 11, 2006

A Banner Day

A few weeks ago, my friend Peter at the Tutu Boutique asked me to help him spruce up his site a bit. We worked to create a look that both he & I were quite happy with.

You know what they say about idle hands... well, I decided to make some banners for some of you folks that didn't really have any. I hope you don't mind, but Turtle, Green Dads, Darth Daddy, Championable and Two Black Sheep, you all have new looks here.

I'll get around to the remaining ones eventually.

(See what happens when you eat sushi... you get all creative-like.)


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hmm, That Tastes Like Tuna

Minds out of the gutter! (and way.)

I am happy to report that I am now one of the sushi loving public. For years I bitched about how gross it was and the other night at dinner, I broke out of my 'chicken fried rice' mold and tried sushi. Now it was the "rolls" type of sushi, not the shushimi raw shit, but let me just say, it was delicious.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?


Saturday, August 05, 2006

From iPod to Moving Pod

As most of you know (because you read my moving post over at Blogfathers), my folks bought a new house. I'm here in Chicago, moving the shit they should have throw out years ago things that have sentimental value into a POD to help clear out the house for it show better. To say this is going smoothly...ah fuck it, it's not. Plain and simple

True, I am one of the most critical people that inhabits the Northern Hemisphere, but I'm dying here. Item thus far that have moved from their original dusty caverns (but not necessarily into the pod):

‡24 Christmas cassettes
‡My father's 8mm movie projector
‡My grandfather's 8mm movie projector
‡A box of pantyhose (seems they've been discontinued)
‡My old beer can collection
‡Income taxes files since 1960
‡The Neil Diamond album collection
‡My old snow sled
‡Six kitchen cabinets (from when we renovated our kitchen... in 1979)
‡My grandfather's tackle box (we don't fish, btw)
‡Two bowling balls from 1968
‡65 purses (ladies, what is it with you and your handbags?)
‡Over 100 empty Cool-whip containers (did you know you can freeze spaghetti sauce in them?)

The winner:
‡ 24 cans of condensed milk (They were on sale.) Seriously at that point it was good my folks didn't own a firearm.

As of Noon today, the 8x12 pod is packed. We are now moving forward with packing other boxes of crap.

The realization that woke me up last night was that I will have to fly back and upack all this shit. God help me.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Home Sweet Home

On Thursday, I am flying to Chicago. That is where I grew up. And this weekend, I will help my parents pack up my boyhood home.

Two weeks ago, they found a house in my brother’s neighborhood, put an offer in and it was accepted. In just four weeks, they will pack up 31 years worth of stuff and move it an hour away.

I loved my town. To say it was your typical John Hughes neighborhood would be an understatement. It is John Hughes’s neighborhood. (Well, it was back when I lived in it.) He grew up and lived in our town when I was boy. We both have since moved to opposite coasts, but our roots are there; in memories and film.

ferrisNorthbrook, IL 60062. Commonly referred to as Shermer or Shermerville in his movies. Where Ferris Bueller had his name painted on a water tower. Where a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a criminal, and a princess all spent the day together. Where couple who were having their first child bought food at the grocery store I used to work at. And where a girl spent her birthday with Long Duk Dong.

My hometown.

I’m not a very sentimental person if you can believe it. Clutter drives me crazy, so I have a tendency not to stay attached to things and discard them quickly. Memories and photos are the basic minimum I usually require. It’s a weird dichotomy to be emotional with my writings, but not so much about things.

For all intents and purposes, I won’t be coming back to Northbrook after this weekend. There is no reason since I don’t know anyone here any longer. It hit me that I’ll be saying good-bye.

This house–my house–was the common thread of my existence. I celebrated achievements and losses in this house. My relatives who’ve passed on, all took part in holidays here. Pets came and went. I graduated 8th grade, high school and college from this location. And we were a family in this house.

Sadly, my son has never seen where I grew up. Since our situation took a while to be accepted, combined with the horrifying thought of flying on a plane with a youngster, we always believed there would be another time. Sometimes it’s best not to wait, huh?

True, the house no longer is the same it was back then. It accommodates two aging baby boomers instead of young children. The back yard is pristine and void of swing sets and sandboxes. But I can close my eyes and see the laughter and tears. That was the only time I shared a bedroom with someone other than my partner.

I entered that house a little boy and left a grown man.

We play many roles in our houses…or should I say our parent’s houses, whether we’re 8 or 39. From 1975 – 2006, I played them all: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a criminal, and yeah let’s face it, even a princess … “in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions.”

The end of an era in a way. During the midst of the packing, I’ll stay in my old room. For the last time, I’ll look out into the backyard where I looked for years… and I’ll say goodbye.

You were a good house.