Monday, April 27, 2009

What's Old is New Again

15 clever quips
As the man retrieved the year-old deck furniture I had just lugged into the container marked "Metal Only," I figured he deserved an explanation. I pointed out the split down one leg of the bench and the chunk of aluminum that the winter freeze had popped out of another.

"No problem," he said. "I have a spot in my yard where this will look good but no one will ever sit on it."

We talked about where I had bought the furniture, cheap foreign imports and the decades we had each lived in this city.

"I'm sure this isn't the best treasure you've ever dug out of one of these bins," I said, hoping for tales of the local recycling center burping up a shrink-wrapped "butcher cover" of The Beatles' Yesterday and Today album or a grease-stained paper bearing Col. Sanders' 11 secret herbs and spices.

Instead, he said much of the stuff that made its way into the facility deserved to be there. It was mostly junk. Disposable. Valueless.

"I prefer antiques," he said. "And those pretty much dried up around here 10 years ago or more when they finished tearing down all the old houses for apartments and offices. Everything we get here tends to be new. Stamford is a new city."

I've heard debates about whether Stamford is part of New England or New York, but never a statement that it was just plain "new."

This place where Indians once roamed, or so claimed the Stamford Museum staff that annually filled my brain with such tales during elementary school.

This place with a Revolutionary War-era earthen fort where a classmate once found a musket ball as we roamed the grounds during a field trip. (I wasn't suspicious then, but now I am convinced it was a plant by hippie preservationists.)

This place with public beach bathhouses that look like they doubled as bomb shelters during the Eisenhower administration.

For a while, I lived in a newly minted suburb of Dallas. It was a sea of Spielbergian tract housing punctuated by sparkly warehouse-sized supermarkets and freshly bleached concrete strip malls that regularly sprung up like dandelions. Depending on my route and choice of clothes, on most days the underwear I wore was older than the structures I drove past.

That was a new city. Bland, but new.

Then, the more I thought about what the current owner of my old furniture said, the more I realized he was right. Progress creeps here, bit by bit, until even the new seems old. You become immune to it because the change is usually so slow. You just accept what has become as what has always been.

I thought about the places where I worked here in my teens. The supermarket where I sorted returnable bottles is now a mega-bookstore. The bookstore where I once stripped magazine covers for return is now a dress store. The supermarket that then became a dress store where I helped my sister do inventory is now a health-food grocery.

However, I rarely think of those childhood stores anymore; their replacements have become, to me, old, too.

Circle of life. So on, so forth.

"Sometimes new is good," I said to him. I pointed to a shopping cart, its plastic yellow seat bearing the one store name my wife can't say without a grimace of pain -- Caldor. "You have to admit the Target downtown is quite an improvement from that dank old place."

"Meh," he said. "As a discount store, Caldor was ahead of its time."

We introduced ourselves, shook hands and went our separate ways.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"You never let down ... say you do it for fun"

17 clever quips
My Love never does things half-heartedly which is why she kicks ass at her job, her charity work and as a human being in general.

Of course, that has its downside. My Love regularly refutes my advances for fear she is too tired or too distracted or too stressed or too bloated with dried apricots. In any of these conditions, she claims, she would be unable to give me the 100 percent effort she says I deserve.

In that way, she's thoughtful.

Well, full of something.

But that is why when she takes on the redecorating of Thing 1's bedroom, she transforms this:


Into this:
While me of the "but the Greeks purposely put mistakes into their great works of art because perfection is reserved only for the gods" school of junior-high philosophy, turns Thing 2's room from this:


Into this:
(Look closely. See. Pasted a new wallpaper border over the old one.)

For more misadventures in home makeover projects, please click over to HotDads and look for my guest post: D.U.I. - Decorating Under the Influence.

Or, you can just stay here and enjoy one-time stud rocker Billy Squier dueting with a puppet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesdays with the Dads

9 clever quips
dadcentric logoTuesday is now my regularly scheduled posting day over at the newly redesigned DadCentric.com.

Huh? Regular? Scheduled?

Sure, we used to be a freewheelin' lot at DadCentric.

A post-when-the-hell-you-want, about-what-the-fluck-you-want kinda blog.

Then our leader got belatedly am-Bushed from his job, started lining the pantry with shelf paper and making "to do" lists and -- long story short -- freaked out that DadCentric could be the pathetic legacy he'd leave behind to his kids.

So, now he says we need to be more professional.

Not that he's paying us or anything.

Or that we're now above showing photos of Peeps in strip clubs.

Or writing about our kids' views of the "dumb f--cks" of the world.

Or creating cartoons about the taste of breast milk.

Or embedding videos of perverted playground equipment.

Or occasionally posting intensely personal thoughts, fears and hopes regarding our little ones.

Nah, we just need to be more regular.

DadCentric -- the Ex-Lax of the Blogosphere.

Seriously, they're good guys. Even when they're trying to pants you in public settings.

Look for my post: "In a Bar with Women Who Toss T-Shirts for Paychecks."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Could You Use It in a Sentence for Me?

16 clever quips
For an hour or so once a week, I volunteer in my son's first-grade class. I'm supposed to be helping these 5- and 6-year-olds become better readers, but often it's about me escaping with my sanity intact and without the virus du jour.

Sometimes, though, the assignment just clicks. Like the other week, my task was to have the kiddies cut out letters printed on a piece of paper, scramble them up on the table and put them together so they made words ending with long vowel sounds.

Words like "grow."

And "day."

"How about this?" asked one of my prodigies. "Is this a good word?"

"Hmm," I said. "Let me get a ruling on that one from your teacher. … Mrs. S, is this acceptable?"

She looked at it and smiled.

"Yes. That's fine. Like Santa says, 'Ho, ho, ho!'"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Soccer Suck-sess

17 clever quips
soccer ref red card My daughter's indoor soccer team recently reached the league finals, in all modesty, because of my superior communication skills.

I apparently was the only coach to e-mail his players' parents every week to remind them what time the game started.

This paid off in three of our five victories coming from the other team not having enough players show up.

"I think they fear your pink uniforms," the opposing coach said right after his team forfeited to us for the second time this season. To salt his wounds, it was the first round of the playoffs. He's also the league commissioner.

The downside of our persistence was a rematch against the one team we hadn't beaten in two seasons. We hadn't even scored on this team, not even when it inserted a goalie that would fail the minimum height requirement to be a member of the Lollipop Guild in a pygmy colony production of The Wizard of Oz.

Some of this dominance had to do with their coach. He is a former professional player from one of those European countries where parents think 9-and-under soccer is more than just a way to burn off their kid's week's worth of high frutose corn syrup consumption under some other sucker's watch. I, on the other hand, honed my coaching technique by thrice watching a shaky 17-minute VHS tape that I borrowed from my neighbor who kept said tape in a shoebox in his basement next to his beer. (And yes, I too was disappointed -- no, shocked! -- that it wasn't a mislabeled porno.)

The day of the big game arrived and I was ready with a clipboard full of player alignment diagrams and ball movement strategies. These, I thought, would perfectly complement my tried-and-true mantras of "kick the frickin' ball" (offense), "get up in their grill" (defense)" and "ARRRRR" (general purpose, used mostly when the first two mantras are not adhered to). Since these were girls, I unfortunately had to shelve use of the soccer version of the ball-into-your opponent's-groin move I learned in childhood from the Burt Reynolds' football classic The Longest Yard.

The adrenaline coursed through my being. My blood pressure raced several ticks past the red zone. I grabbed my bag of secondhand soccer balls from the minivan and barked at Thing 1 to stop playing Dancing with the Stars on her Nintendo and get her gad-dang gameface on!

"ARRRRR!!!" she roared.

"ARRRRR!!!" I roared ... shortly thereafter when I was told the championship game was canceled.

Apparently, the league never intended to have playoffs for our division, and they gave our gym time to another league.

"The weather is nice," said the opposing coach. "If your players want, we can have a scrimmage on the fields in back. The goals are still up back there."

We took our players down to the fields. While his gathered around in a quiet circle at his feet, mine spastically flayed their arms and scattered when they saw the carpet of Canada goose poop they were going to play upon.

The game lasted about half an hour in the open air, which seemed to make my players forget the few basics they knew, such as what color jerseys their teammates wore. We were down 3-0 in the last minute when I heard the other team's assistant (the pro coach, BTW, had left early presumably to scout potential recruits at a "Mommy and Me" playgroup) tell his players to ease up.

Our team responded quickly with a shot on goal!

It went wide by 10 yards.

"We tried to let them score but they wouldn't!" I heard one of the other team's players complain.

Not "couldn't."

But "wouldn't."

That's my team.

Unwilling to surrender to the slatternly beckon of on-field charity!

Or, more likely, just oblivious to the situation.

ARRRRR!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lesser Milestones

25 clever quips
kathy b head shotThe blog finally snared Feedburner Subscriber No. 400 and Blogger Follower No. 100 simultaneously one day last week. Both turned out to be this woman -- Kathy B! from The World According to Me.

Then, the next day, my subscriber numbers swiftly fell 75 percent to 104.

What the Feedburner?

I've determined this happened because Kathy B! is just far too smoking for my blog. She must have short-circuited the counter system. What do you expect?

Admire the spunky "Zac and Cody" mom 'do.

Tremble at the arched eyebrow.

Most of all, fear the exclamation point.

I envision her talking to customer service reps on the phone -- you know the ones who repeatedly ask for your name and account number because $1.89 an hour in rupees doesn't pay for an attention span -- balling her pristine French tips into a fist and roaring:

"Damn you! I am Kathy B! With a 'K'! And a flippin' exclamation point! Now unscramble my goddamn Cinemax!"

Oh, Kathy B! You rock my little bloggy world.

She further endeared herself to me by e-mailing that I'd be perfect to participate in a future video "Chick Chat" she and some of her other equally tasty Mom mates organize. Yet more evidence that, despite what dangles between my legs (wait ... yep, it's there), I'm one of the girls in the blogosphere.

Can't wait until our first lingerie party, ladies. I'll bring the J├Ąger and cigars.

friends awardAs such, Kathy B!, I'm honoring you -- Subscriber No. 400/Follower No. 100 -- with this totally girly yet oddly nameless award that Lea of the steely eyes and feathered hair (and a blog called From the Whispers of Her Soul) sent me. It denotes that:

  • my blog is found "exceedingly charming" by the one dentist who failed to recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.
  • I'm the kind of blogger who "aim(s) to find and be friends" with people online because they are far less likely to file charges.
  • that I'm "not interested in self-aggrandizement" but not above accepting a long, lingering leer from a perfect stranger while I browse the antihistamines at CVS.
Kids, when it comes to goofy blog awards, you can't chose a goofier recipient than me.
Thank you, Lea, Kathy B! and the other 398 (or possibly 102) of you, but in particular the following seven other bloggers I want to hit on, uh ... present with this precious honor (note -- I'm only selecting people I haven't awarded something to in the past, otherwise you know you are always my first pick, faDkog):
Winners -- please pick up your marching orders. The rest of you, go check out the people listed above because they deserve your attention.

You'll note no men on my award list. I mean, no self-respecting man would put that frilly thing on his blog, right? Nor would they post this '80s synth-pop parody featuring a singing and dancing Hugh Grant.

But then again, I'm not a man. I'm just a guy.
PS: I totally suck. I thought I had previously recognized my fair-weather drinking buddy Diana, aka CTMom. She definitely deserves an award for, if nothing else, all the Energy Packs she sends me during Mob Wars on Facebook. I always got your back Big Bad Spanish Mama.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Milestones

34 clever quips
This is a Sharps box.

sharps box
Into it goes used, biohazardous medical supplies. This one contains a few hundred needles and syringes, several dozen near-empty vials of chemo medication, a few odd lengths of medical tubing and two years of unpleasant memories.

syringes and needles
This is the same Sharps box packed up and ready for mailing to a facility where it will be burned then properly disposed.

sharps box packaged upWe took this box to the post office the other day because Thing 1 finished with her weekly shots of methotrexate, the vile yellow drug that has helped keep her juvenile myositis in check after it hit full-force when she was not yet 3. Her ritual Sunday night panic pukes in anticipation of those shots have been replaced by her simply swallowing two little orange-red pills once a week for the next two months.

methotrexate pillsThen, we hope, it will be just one little orange-red pill for another two months.
methotrexate pillAnd when there are no more little orange-red pills to take, we will wait another month or so. If all remains quiet, we will slowly ween her off the next drug, cyclosporine.

cyclosporine capsulesThen, if things continue to go right, we'll be able to start tapering her off CellCept.
cellcept pillsThen maybe -- just maybe -- 18 months or two years from now, she will have taken her final dose of medication to stave off juvenile myositis.
*
It's nearing six years for you on this long, awful journey, my precious little girl. Each day you crawl closer to your goal.
A life free of medications.
A life free of blood draws.
A life free of those clunky night braces to help stretch your rigid ankle muscles.
A life free of any sign or symptom of this stupid autoimmune disease that tried to overtake your body before you had even gotten out of diapers.

You will not be like little Mikey, who never got to go to kindergarten let alone be a firefighter.

You will not be like Brandi, whose funeral your Mom wept at last year.

You will be one of the lucky ones to make it, my precious little girl.
I can feel it deep, deep down inside.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spirits and the Material Girl

31 clever quips
At the end of the kitchen island sat Thing 1, waiting for her two lightly toasted slices of bread to decrust, butter and bury under a blizzard of cinnamon and sugar as she does most mornings.

Suddenly, she burst into tears.

"Mommy," she cried, "did I do something wrong?"

On Friday night, Thing 1 had won a weeks-long battle with a wiggly eyetooth, a hard bite into a Red Delicious delivering the final blow to pry it from her gum. She dutifully put her vanquished enemy into a plastic sandwich bag, left it on her bedside table and went to sleep, dreaming the dreams 9-year-old girls do.

She awoke Saturday to find the bag and its contents untouched.

Our little girl had been dissed by the Tooth Fairy.

I don't recall when I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or any of the other mythical figures of childhood, save Santa Claus. I gave up on him around age 7 when peer pressure and his failure to deliver a puppy and several other items I had clearly marked in the Sears catalog did him in.

My faith in St. Nick was briefly restored two years later. The nun teaching my catechism class convinced me to believe again by talking to us endlessly about faith and giving us a few examples of magical things that had happened to some of her past students, such as the one who found a cigar stubbed out in an ashtray Christmas morning when no one in the child's family smoked.

I came home possessed by The Holy Spirit and announced at the dinner table my being born again in all things Santa.

A few days later, my older sister hustled me away from my collection of "Peanuts" paperbacks, yanking me down the stairs to the living room. Underneath the sofa lay a stash of unwrapped toys, games and clothes, including the Star Trek Colorforms set I had been eyeing at a local store.

The Catholic Church and me haven't been on good terms since. I mean, when a nun flat out lies to you about Santa Claus, how are you honestly supposed to then square yourself with the Resurrection, transubstantiation or just the miracle of the fish and the loaves?

"Oh, that tooth came out pretty late last night. She must not have known about it," My Love said as she consoled Thing 1. "And aren't you supposed to put it under your pillow? You just had it in the wrong place, I bet. You try again tonight. Sometimes you just need to give things a second chance."

Sunday morning, I found Thing 1 in her usual spot, waiting for toast.

"Morning, sunshine," I said. "How's it going?"

She grunted, which is a relatively normal breakfast table response for her but still I wasn't sure if the extra dollar left in exchange for her tooth the night before had sufficiently restored her childhood belief system or not.

The day and night passed. This morning, I again found myself at the kitchen island, eating my oatmeal next to Thing 1. She bit into her toast and a puff of cinnamon dust rose from the bread.

As I went to pour myself another cup of coffee, I asked her to check the school lunch calendar. After declaring she would buy today's offering of oven-baked chicken nuggets, she asked why she and her little brother had a day off later this week.

"It's Good Friday," I said. "That's the day people who follow Christian religions believe Jesus, their Savior, died for their sins to save the world."

Without a pause, she asked, "When's Easter?"

"This Sunday."

"Ooo!" she said. "I wonder what the Easter Bunny will bring me this year?"

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