Twee Commerce

Drop and Give Me 20

One of the least nifty things about quitting smoking is that you find you have this insatiable appetite for anything and everything just about all the time. It is as if your whole life is filled up suddenly with awkward silences. You're on a first date with the rest of your life and your just not sure what to say that isn't going to embarrass you later.

So you chew some gum.

You chew a lot of gum.

And a few weeks later you start to resume something a little like normalcy. You don't need seven meals a day and you're not watching 14 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer back to back. I still catch myself standing up and moving to a different part of the room with little or no intention of going there, and I do have the habit of staring off into space and I have to be very cautious that my gaze doesn't land on a pair of boobs that don't belong to my wife, but other than that, alls good.

Until I put on a pair of my pants.

And then things get a little weird.

Cause they really don't fit.

And I'm not talking the kind of don't fit where you know they shrank just a little bit in the wash, I'm talking were you're glad to have a belt to cover the fact that you're not actually buttoning the top button.

Grateful for the fact that my career requires me to wear an apron.

Grateful that my wife likes me a little meaty.

Cause, boy am I.

Like 20 pounds of extra marbly bacon fat meaty.

Like wanting to wear a T-Shirt in the pool meaty.

Like faded sweat shirts in the summer kind of meaty.

Like instead of Eric Northman walking out of the shower, my reflection says I'm more Andy Sipowicz walking in. And that's a naked ass even the censors won't lose sleep over, for who in their right mind would want to look?

The worst part?

I sorta planned for this.

I knew quitting smoking was gonna suck (although, how little it sucked was kind of gratifying), and I knew that I was going to put on a couple of unwanted double cheese burgers on my frame (Although 36 double quarter pounders worth was a little surprising.) So I knew this day would come when I was going to say to my stout reflection "Mmm Kay. Nuff's enough. Time to clean out the carburetor and lean out the mixture."

Calvin starts soccer this fall and I don't want to be the guy in the stands finishing off everyone's hotdogs, I want to be the guy on the sidelines, 6'4" with arms crossed but with the hint of explosive speed and a dangerous intention to do harm. I want to intimidate the crowd a little bit, for I will have no idea what's going on and I don't want anyone to ask.

So all right then.

Time to man up.

For being Dad is being Hero.

Don't deny it. If you have a Dad you know he's your hero. His life is the life of myth and legend, be the tales heroic, funny, or inappropriate for young viewers.

Hero Dad gets pushed up against the wall and comes out fighting.

And even though losing a couple of vanity pounds isn't quite the same as rescuing Gotham from total annihilation, Hero Dad at least has to look like he can kick a little ass.

Cause he's all out of bubble gum.

Friday Five: Gelatto and Yellow Jackets

Five things I learned today on my walk to Whole Foods to pick up bread cause my wife can't have pasta with red sauce without the bread and I needed to get myself and Calvin out into the fresh air. 

Number 1: Yellow Jackets 
There are a frightening amount of yellow jackets buzzing about my neighborhood. I don't mind bees so much cause they make honey and every sting is a suicide mission, but yellow jackets are useless jerks. [please insert Jersey Shore jokes here]

Number 2: The word "No" 
It requires thirteen different uses of the word "No" before Calvin understands that he will not be going on a train ride.

Number 3: Gelatto 
Madagascar Vanilla is not the same as French Vanilla and if there is no French Vanilla he will have milk chocolate instead.

Number 4: Every bite 
Calvin closes his eyes with every spoonful of Gelatto as if each bite was a delicate experience. This makes walking and eating a very slow experience.

Number 5: Crossing the street 
If you have a child that closes his eyes with every bite of quickly melting Gelatto, then it is of the utmost importance that you explain to him that he is not eat his gelato while crossing the street because you may in fact find him in the middle of the road, eyes closed, yellow jackets everywhere, and cars quickly approaching. If you find yourself in this position, do not panic, just race back and gently ease him along. Do not drop the bread or your wife will be unable to eat her meal.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Bicyclists

Stephen Covey died last week from complications following a bicycle accident.

Yes, he was wearing a helmet. But the dude was almost 80, and he held on for months.

If you don't know who Stephen Covey, its most likely that you are aware of the work for which he is most famous. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989 and sold tens of millions of copies and ushered in an entire era of self-help practices for the upwardly mobile. It proposes to deliver powerful lessons in personal change.  It gave us the indelible buzz words like Synergy and Paradigm Shift, and got a lot of people thinking outside the box.

The reason it took off with the kind of force it did was because it filled a vacuum. The vacuum lies within each of us. It lives in that hole that was previously filled with luck and magic, with intuition and acceptance. The hole now tells us it's our fault for not being rich, healthy, beautiful, successful, rich, effective.

Stephen told us that if we just synergized our little paradigms out of the box, we could align ourselves to the "True North" character ethic.

Sounds so totally rad.

Which is how I would have said that in 1989.

I totally want to align myself with a timeless and universal character ethic.

And then I had kids.

And I've narrowed my expectation of effectiveness.

Let's say I've got a son. At first I want that son to eat nothing but organically grown food, home cooked and with no preservatives and hormone free. That will clearly make me an effective parent. But he won't eat any of that shit, so I settle for home cooked. Sure, sometimes, but fuck you if the peas touch the mash potatoes. Then its "I don't like steak," "I don't like broccoli" "Chicken again". I won't subject my own meals to his whim so I start making something different. And eventually he doesn't even eat that. He won't eat at the table, he won't eat when its dinner time. He won't eat when he's been complaining about how hungry he is.

Now the only measure of my effectiveness as a parent is if he goes to bed early enough for me to have sex with my wife.

That would be Habit 4: Win-Win.

Actually that would be the culmination of all the habits. Be Proactive, Begin with the end in mind, Put First Things First, Win-Win, Seek first to understand, Then to be understood, Synergize, and finally Sharpen the Saw.

Well, maybe that last part would be more like torture porn, but you get the idea.

So in essence, Stephen Covey wasn't talking about the corporate ladder, he was really giving us a manual to get laid.

But all joking aside, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People never made the world a better place. It just made us sad about all the things we never achieved and blamed us for our lack of fortitude.

And here's why I find this type of self help as disposable as a daily horoscope. It never mentions the best part of the human experience.

It never mentions failure.

It never mentions falling flat on your face, or having your heart ripped from your chest, or getting too drunk at a party, or getting lost three blocks from you own house. It never mentions discovery when you hit the wrong chord or the inspiration that comes from a waiter's off hand remark. It doesn't teach you how to bandage that wound, clean out the blood, or even how to walk it off.

The first thing every motorcyclist learns, is how to crash. But Stephen Covey could never teach you how to crash.

All he could tell you, was that there are people in this world who are better than you, and why.

But I piss on that. So here's a counter argument if you want to be an effective person:

There's is no one better than you.

Show up on time.

Show up with a reasonable amount of enthusiasm.

Learn how to crash.

Set his bed time nice and early.

Stick to that bed time.


Friday Five: Things I don't know enough about.

Five things I don't know enough about in order to explain in simple words to a six year old while driving a car on the freeway.

How heavy is a Katana?
It might surprise you to find out I studied sword play in college, fencing and saber fighting, but there wasn't any Samurai or Ninja classes at that particular JC. At least not for 10 PE credits. I held a broad sword once at a renaissance faire, and that was pretty heavy, but when asked how heavy a katana is, I have to approximate.

Will you go to prison if you run a red light?
Now I'm sure if there was a red light run while Calvin was in the car it had to happen while my wife was driving. Suffice it to say, I do know that running a red light will only result in a ticket, but there is a secondary question about running a red light at 100 miles per hour, which by the transitive property of an earlier interrogation, could land you in jail, but not prison. Which of course leads to the question of what's the difference between jail and prison. What if you kill a person running a red light? Probably jail. What if you mean to kill that person? Probably prison. What if that person you meant to kill was a bad guy? Still probably prison. If you kill a bad guy, you go to prison? Yes, unless you live in a state that allows the death penalty, then you can kill as many bad guys as you can convict. etc. etc.

What is easier, a stick shift or automatic?
I have answered this question a thousand times and I'll never have a good answer, so I'll just turn up the radio.

How come the moon is following me?
Because it wants to hit you in the eye. Why would it want to hit me in the eye? I don't know, that's a moray.

What does that button do?
This button? No . . . that button. This button? NO . . . that button! The green one? No. The red one? NO! Which button? That One!

Give Me the Bat, Wendy

The first thing you notice when you walk into the house isn't the quiet. On the whole, Calvin's a relatively quiet kid. Sure there is the thumping of his feet on the hardwood floor, and the background ambiance of whatever video game is left going long after he has lost interest, but he's nothing like his brother who can be heard texting from different parts of the county.

No, with Calvin gone, the first thing you notice is the lack of tension in the room. The calm is palpable. Because there are whole minutes when nothing is vying for your attention, your mind starts to wonder, and it's not long before your head gets heavy and your breathing becomes deep and you catch yourself drifting off to sleep.

When we dropped him off at my mother's she asked if we had been planning to go to a movie. And in fact the answer was far less interesting. All we wanted to do is go for a nice bike ride.

That's it.

We just wanted to get out into the open air and tool around for a bit. We would have liked to take our little darling prince with us.

But no.

It's a tale of woe trying to get Calvin to do anything he has set his mind against. Only yesterday I had a little buddy and that little buddy has been replaced by a myopic teenage girl who can't be left alone in the house.

The crying , the whining, the complaining, the shopping list of things that are wanted and not readily available. He's hungry all the time except for breakfast, lunch and dinner and hasn't used the word "Please" since 2010.

So after our first attempt at a bike ride, I called my mom, for I was one obnoxious whine shy of setting fire to all of his toys, and begged her to take him for the rest of the day and night.

And thank god for that solace. Because, and this may not be true of all men, but for me there is a fine line between easy going cool dude, and "I will fucking kill you with a hammer!" and I had been inching toward that line all morning.

I don't think Jack Torrance was really all that crazy. In fact, Stephen King didn't need to bring in the ghosts. A few sit down dinners with my children is all it would take for me to chase them through a hedge maze with an axe.

And I can only blame the not smoking for so long. I just have to remind myself that an early and painful death is less statistically likely.

My mom, did however, label me spoiled for having the resources to drop him off somewhere on a moments notice. What would I do if she wasn't readily available, huh?

Suck it up and get through the day like every other parent in the world. But lets just agree that a mid-life crisis happens for a reason. No one gets up one day and just decides to tear apart their family unit, distribute all of their belongings in half, and throw the dice in hopes that some one else will consider them pretty enough to have sex with.

But she's right. I am spoiled. Is there anything that I have ever wanted that I wasn't able to get? Within reason of course?

Not really.

If I can't get it for the price that I want to get it at, I figure I don't really want it that bad.

A customer of mine drove up today in a shiny new Jaguar. All the regular folks went out to ooh and aah and I gave him a nice compliment on his choice of color (black), and wondered how much money I would have to have before I considered spending $75,000 on a car. Or for that matter, anything that isn't build on a foundation and has a roof.

And that's what drives me crazy about this new little leech monster that is occupying my third bedroom. Its "want" at all cost, all day and a few hours after sunset. There's no reasoning, just bargaining and acquiescing. Or the converse, yelling and punishing. There's no ignoring (you learn that one quick) and I've even gone the opposite where I've opened myself to full attention mode, which was like throwing kerosene on a grass fire.

So today I will just hide away in my room and write. Maybe later I'll go for a bike ride by myself.

Because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Friday Shuffle

Friday iTunes Shuffle
(A quick jaunt through my library on shuffle, with musical commentary and sweet reminiscence.)

Nine Inch Nails
Now I'm sure we've all heard the Johnny Cash version of the song, but this one well worth a re-look if you're not familiar with the original. Actually if you're not intimately familiar with this recording then you seriously need to go out and buy the whole album. Of course it won't appeal to everyone, but there is no mistaking that Trent Reznor reached the height of both sound scape creation and industrial metal with enough splattering of pop melodies to make it infinitely listenable. Downward Spiral came out the year I graduated high school and was first played for me by this super sexy bat shit crazy blonde in a 1974 Lincoln, driving through Lake Berryessa, and lip syncing all the lyrics. I think I wet myself when she got to track five. Those were times. Times.

We Used To: 
Dolly Parton
I gave this disc out as a joke one xmas, but had to burn it cause I'm a musical pack rat and I never knew when it might come in handy. I didn't, however, think our miss Dolly would so blatantly rip off "Stairway To Heaven" it's a little creepy and I'm not sure if I still want this one sitting in my library. Next . . .

Hey Tonight: 
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Jody's gonna get religion all night long.
Good for Jody.

In the Drink:
Bare Naked Ladies
Not the great hit makers of let's say "Hootie and the Blowfish" but you can only imagine what it must be like in the writing studio when the dirty jokes start flying and they have to pair them down into something that's a little more radio friendly, or hidden enough to get past the suits at the record label. But then there's not much production value, so maybe the suits go bother someone else that is eating up more of the engineer's time.

Christmas Won't Be The Same This Year
Jackson Five
The only true tradition we have in my household is decorating the tree with the Jackson Five Christmas Album playing at medium volume. I implore you to take this into your heart and make this your tradition too.

Tools of the Man Chef

Critical Trivia

A literary critic born in 1809.

A crossword clue that caught me a little sideways

A Sunday Crossword is a religious experience. A great unsolved mystery. Page after page, hour after hour, you chip away at it's blankness until you rage with despair over a wasted afternoon or you come to know the mind of the creator. Through failure we learn patience, for we can try again in seven days. Success brings enlightenment and peace.

And success means that the culmination of all that we have learned throughout our lives has been invested for a greater purpose, and when we fail, we only fail if we fail to learn something new.

Life is a constant puzzle, and its good to spend a little time looking for right answers rather than less wrong ones.

So I didn't know the answer, but I did find it odd that the name of a 203 year old critic would be considered a knowable or interesting piece of information.

As far as I'm concerned there are only two critics worthy of pop culture iconography and both of them are muppets. (Ten points to the first person who can name them both)

It would be easy to spend the little time we have together critic bashing, because what art form is less beloved among other artists than the critic? They're like hall monitors. Nerdy little demons hell bent on stopping you from getting away with something.

That's not really true.

They serve a very unique function, and just like all art, there is good . . . and not.

And the good can be extremely good. A critic with a fine palate can inspire an audience to see things in some work that might have been hidden to the naked eyed audience. They could introduce us to something new, something bold, they can give voice to the shy, and bring a crowd to an empty hall.

An insightful critic can hold artists accountable for uninspired work. I can't tell you how many times I've walked out of a movie theater wishing not only that I had my $20 back, but that I had trusted the review I had read. And critics can lead us to try things we might normally never try. It would take a whole lotta critical gushing to get me to buy a Justin Beiber album, but I might just if someone ever gave me a decent argument to do so.

But there are all kinds of critics. The good, the bad, the self. But the iconic? The historically relevant?

Cultural, political, religious criticism. That's the kind of work where a strong pen and sharp whit can gain entrance into the cool kids club.

But who cares at this point what someone thought of Huckleberry Finn a century ago? History has spoken. It's a good book.

And sure my best friend hates everything Jane Austin and will write about it till his death, all I can say is that Faulkner isn't selling tickets anymore, so, by all means, keep that candle lit as long as you can.

So why talk critics on a Daddy Blog?

Cause even though he doesn't know it yet, he's going to grow up to be an artist. I won't presume to declare what kind, that's his job, but as an artist myself, its my job to give the little guy as much of a leg up as I can. And that means a well rounded education.

He needs to look at the world with a critical eye while not missing the dirty joke. He needs to know fine dining and home cooked comfort food. He needs a little Lady Gaga sprinkled into his jazz like sugar on his shredded wheat.

He's gonna need to learn how to fix things, how to tune things, and how to solve a ridiculous amount of puzzles.

And he's gonna need a thick skin and a soft heart and he's gonna need to know that criticism is part of the process for good or for ill in both directions.

What he doesn't need to know is Lionel Trilling.

Unless he wants to solve this particular puzzle.

Friday Shuffle

Five Random Songs on Shuffle

1. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (The Police)
One listen and you can tell right away exactly where Goyt got every idea for "Somebody that I Used to Know" Another neat little note is that it is impossible to recreate the drums live because Stuart Copeland recorded several of the drums separately so there are moments when a drummer would need six hands and three feet to recreate.

2. Don't Give Up (Peter Gabriel)
This song always reminds me of the first act of Jesus Chris Superstar when Mary is trying to convince a melancholy Jesus to stop throwing a little temper tantrum because his bromance with Judas isn't going so well.

3. You're the Best (Song from the Karate Kid)
I purchased this song for a mix tape I was doing for a competition years ago and I was incensed that in order to get the original version I would have to buy the entire album. So I ended up getting a cover version. It wasn't as good, but we did laugh.

4. Between the Bars (Elliott Smith)
I love the opening lyrics of this song. "Drink up baby, stay up all night." and the versus flow so finely in the chorus that you can hardly tell you're being hit on.

5. Teenage Lobotomy (Ramones)
Mania is still the best compilation album ever.


Lazy Thursday.

You're Not My Dad

Frittering around on Facebook, like one does, I came across a post from my step-son, which I won't repeat word for word, but the gist of it was how tired he is of being home and how sick he is of parental control.

Which I thought funny, cause he's only been home for three weeks, and trust me, his parents are far more sick of him then he is of them. But it was interesting the thought of parental control. I can only assume he's talking about how we won't let him use the car whenever he likes and we tease him about getting up at 2:00pm. We do however ask him over and over to take all the things he has strewn about the house and put them away, so I guess there is a level a freedom to be missed.

And I did have to yell at him once. An incident that I don't even want to get into because it annoys me just thinking about it. So although the post was a little bit over the top with the woe is me silliness, it gave me pause to wonder, as I often do, what exactly my role is.

My own Dad asked me not too long ago when was it that I sorta gave up being anything of any real consequence to Taylor.

My answer suprised me because I knew exactly when I sorta gave up.

It was the moment I discovered he had friends.

For the first seven years of our relationship I thought of Taylor as this skinny little piece of clay and it was my job to mold that clay into something passably interesting, or at least get it to chew with it's mouth closed. So of course I watched in horror as Taylor rejected my reality and inserted his own.

And then, one day, out of the blue, he asked if a friend could stay for dinner.


 And the friend showed up. And it was a girl. And the girl was both smart and pretty. And the truth hit me like a cartoon piano. If Taylor can be who he is and still connect with smart and pretty girls, then maybe not only have I been wrong all these years, but my annoyance with him has been way over the top.

 Hello Josh, I'd like to introduce you to some perspective.

 So I gave up.

 And by giving up, I mean I backed the fuck off. Via con dios, my boy.

 Which is not to say there wasn't any further conflict. No parent gets a child through highschool without going ape shit from time to time. Be quiet! Clean Your Room! Stop Fighting with your Brother! Please get your shit off the table. Eat your dinner. And sometimes that's all in the first twenty minutes after little debbie gets home.

The bigger things I just had to let go of.

But the piano crashed down again not too long ago. He had called and said that his bike was broken and that we were going to have to pick him up and take his bike to the shop. Since his bike wasn't really of the best quality to begin with, and being at UC Davis without a bike is like being in church without a soul, we decided that we would get him a new bike and I would take his old beat up one and see if I could get it riding again and keep it for myself. Easy.

So as we were walking his new bike through campus up to his dorm, we stopped to pick up his old bike and he looked at me with slumped shoulders and a slacked jawed expression.

 "See?" he said. "The bike's broken. I keep putting air in the tire and it keeps going flat."

 "Its just a flat tire, Taylor." I said.

 He eyed me with a glazed over look as if I had been speaking Russian just then.

 Shit really?

 How is it even remotely possible that in 13 years I didn't teach him how to change a bike tire? A job so fundamental it can conceivably be done with your teeth and the flat edge of a butter knife. The story has become legend around the water cooler.

 And I must admit that it is not entirely the fault of either of us. He just didn't ride his bike much. Or at all. Ever. Not to school, not to his friends house. Not to the mall. If any of his journeys required crossing the threshhold of the front doorway, he was driven. There was no opportunity to teach him how to change flat tire. This moment was inevitable and beyond our control.

 So today we're out on our bikes (which is becoming a new and fabulous little ritual) my back tire goes flat about a mile or two from home. After getting home and having some lunch, I take the little guy out to the bike shop and we pick up a new tube and head home.

 Yet now I'm at an impasse. Do I rectify a 13 year old father failure by waiting for Taylor to come home and show him how to change the tire tube. Or do I embrace the reality of this alien who is stinking up my guest room and commit to this new understanding that he is not the kind of clay that fixes bicycle tires.

 So I went ahead and fixed the tire without him. If he gets another flat tire somewhere down the line, he'll either ask me to teach him, or find a pretty girl to give him a ride instead (and no one will blame him for picking the pretty girl)

 Either way it's out of my parental control.