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Friday, November 28, 2008

Double Vision

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Over the last few weeks I have started to question my eyesight.

I'm not sure if the need to squint is a sign of age or the fact that I know have a full-time job that requires gratuitous amounts of computer time.

Mostly, these blurred encounters happen in the early morning or late at night, especially during sports when I sometimes have trouble reading the scoreboard from my armchair. But then again, I don't really watch sports that much because my Redskins rarely get the TV time around here. But Heels basketball has started up and I am eager to see if the team can pull off the almost impossible task of an undefeated season.

I probably will make an appointment to get the eyes check once my health insurance kicks in but that won't be until after January so for the moment I just get to hypothesize on the subject and squint a lot.

Yesterday I spent a nice, quiet Thanksgiving with the family.

While I am usually a big fan of the massive get-together it was nice just to enjoy the company of my family this year.

We got up early, put on some Loretta Lynn and started making pie. Loretta segued into side one of The Outlaws, that became Mars Hotel which then led to a big, long Neil Young jag. I could see this was going to be a day where the vinyl was going to stack up at an alarming rate and that's exactly what it did.

After the morning was lost to food prep, we ducked out of the house and took a walk around the neighborhood. Upon returning we noshed a bit and then retreated to the back yard to toss the football around. I came inside to watch the Lions/Titans game (squinting) but that was a total blowout and not the slightest bit entertaining so I channel surfed on over to VH1 Classic only to find a Pink Floyd marathon going on.

I stumbled for a moment trying to find a connection between Pink Floyd and Thanksgiving and then a light bulb went off in my head: tryptophan.

Pleasantly bored, we made another trek around the neighborhood only this time we decided to explore some of the woods nearby as well as crossing over the street to the lake to skip some stones.

Words like bucolic and idyllic came to mind.

Back home we readied for the feast and destroyed the table full of goods in less time that it took to pronounce the day's name.

Stuffed, we al showered and then sat down to watch a post-dinner family movie... Journey to the Center of The Earth.

In 3D.

It pretty much sucked.

The kids loved it of course.

So after 90 minutes wearing those glassed my eyes were toast. After we put the kids to bed and tucked them in, we did the same of ourselves. I turned the Tv on more as a source of light; it is easier to use the remote to turn off the TV than it is to reach over and hit the switch on the light.

I fluffed my pillows and then heard a familiar sound,"So ya thought ya might like ta go to the show...

Nothing like ending your day with tryptophan, Floyd and technicolored dreams seen through your third eye.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Do Work


My 8-year-old asked me if there was any work to be done around the house.

He's got a book fair at his school coming up and is looking for ways to earn some dough.

I told him that we needed to rake the leaves in the backyard and he agreed to do it for a fee: six dollars and hour.

So after sleeping in, watching TV and then playing some video games, the boys got dressed.

Without me telling them to.

I knew something was up.

I heard the back door slam shut and then creak back open again.

"What time is it dad?" he asked.

"Quarter to twelve," I said.

"I'm gonna earn some money!" he said.

My younger son heard all the commotion and asked what was going and within moments was hooded and hatted and out the back door himself.

I sat there and watched in delight at the thought of these boys getting old enough to do the shit I always do like rake, mow the lawn or shovel snow. Before I could finish my daydream the rakes had been dropped... and I noticed the slide of the treehouse was now covered in leaves and pines needles.

You want to teach your kids the value of money and the hard work it takes to get it but then again you also want your kids not to have to grow up too fast, you want your kids to have kid fun. So I raked around the yard while they entertained themselves.

"What time is it?" my 8-year-old asked.

"Has it been an hour?"

"Probably," I said.

"But you don't get six bucks because you stopped working," I explained.

"Aw man," he groaned.

"I'll give you two bucks, a dollar for each pile you raked."

He seemed content at that.

I raked about a half dozen piles of leaves but left the biggest for last. As I dragged the tarp over to scoop up the pile they both screamed.

"Wait! Wait! Not yet..." said my 8-year-old.

So I sat and watched these two brothers run football plays with their K2, each one ending in a dive into the pile of leaves.

The 8-year-old was trying to finish off the game with a Hail Mary pass to his little brother. He kept razzing his little brother about not catching the ball until I pointed out the quarterback was throwing weak passes to him.

"Don't you be talking about my quarterback!" said my 5-year-old as he ran towards me holding the ball up above his head like he was going to throw it at me.

One more pass turned into two. Then three. And four. Five. Six. Seven...

Then my 5-year-old caught the ball as he fell into the pile. They both screamed as the quarterback came running over and picked him up then dumped the two of them into the leaves.

By the time I raked the mess back up into a managable pile, they were already inside.

Then I heard the door open.

"Dad, how about three dollars?" said my 8-year-old.
"For teamwork, because we worked like a team."

"Okay," I said. "Three dollars."

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shoe Shine Man And Other Stories

I knew there was a full moon coming just by the bus.

Three weeks into commuting and not much had happened.

Sure there was your average bus fare: a drunk guy here, a homeless woman there, wayward teens whittling away their time as best they know how. And there was the simple fact that I was the lone white guy ninety nine percent of the time.

I'm sure some of them think I'm a narc.

But for the most part, it was basically about people getting on, and people getting on the bus with as little interaction as possible.

A few days ago that all changed.

I had caught the 5:30 downtown and boarded the bus to go home. I noticed two white guys in suits and recognized them as the Mormons I saw a few days earlier when it occurred to me after I saw them that I don't see white people riding the bus.

The bus seemed unusually crowded with a handful of folks grabbing the overhead.

And that's when I heard someone yelling out from the back.

"ShhhhuuuuShhhhinnnnnee!" he said. It almost sounded like a yodel.

Just then an older man, one with grey hair and cane, took off his hat and squinted his eyes toward the back of the bus.

""ShhhhuuuuShhhhinnnnnee!" said someone again from the back.

"I hear you but I can't see you!" said Shoe Shine Man.

I caught a reflection in the window behind me of the Caller and the person next to him in conversation but it was inaudible.

The Mormons began to chant a psalm or hum of hymn or whatever reading from prayer books in sing songy unison is called these days. Maybe I have finally put my ingrained Catholicism aside by now because I can't remember.

Shoe Shine looked at them and said something to the Caller; his mouth was nothing but gums.

The Caller called back, "They on a mission ShuShine!"

"So am I!" said Shoe Shine punctuating it with a "ha ha."

"To find the Holy Ghost!" he said

"Yeah, Holy Ghost..." said the Caller.

"Or maybe some wine," said Shoe Shine with a laugh.

That was weird I thought.

And then I recalled how when I was waiting for the bus at the depot I could see in the outside window of the information center.

I saw a woman looking at lingerie on her computer.


The other day a fight broke out at the depot. It started off like most altercations with people calling each other names in an increasingly louder cadence until it was clear there was going to be some "commotion." I came to the assumption that two teenage [??] boys had tried to lift something out of another guy's backpack and he called them out on it. Then the threesome sat in the middle of the road mouthing off to each other but it seemed like things we far from getting heated. I wasn't close enough to hear nor did I want to be.

A cluster of two others joined me as spectators.

The older guy said he'd kicked both their asses but one at a time, that two on one is cowardly. Then he came at them hard in the middle of the street, stomping and puffed up like a peacock: " You niggers are a bunch of bitches!!"

Then he said something about guns not making you a man and how fucked up the kids today are because they can't even step up and fight.

The kids then back off and walk away.

"He's ri-aight, tho he's ri-aight," said a fellow standing next to me.

"Dressin' like a gang banger don't make you a gang banger," he explained.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading Versus Writing

I'm been spending entirely too much time reading over at places like Beerinator and Facebook, the latter a modern day version of crack.

My fascination with Facebook is the sheer fact that almost everybody in the world has a profile - from the kids in my neighborhood to kids from my old neighborhood. You type in a name of someone you know and chances are they are going to have a Facebook page. Unlike MySpace where my band has had a page for years and seems to be the domain of musicians, Facebook seems to be all about personal social networking unlike LinkedIn which seems to be for the most part about business.

I digress.

What this post really is about is the simple fact of how one can go forward yet look back at the same time.

One month into working a full-time job again after seven years and I feel I can finally start to digest those years; the waves no longer crash on my mental shores everyday.

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day which means there is no school. Normally this would just been another blip on my radar screen noticed only by a closed bank here or a trip to the doctor's office there. But now there's the scramble to see who will watch the kids, the drawing of straws between my wife and I over who is going to take off work.

I remember the many trips to the doctor's office - there's nothing like going when your kids have tattooed themselves.

Two years ago this November, I went to an At-Home Dad Convention which was one of the most eye-opening and spiritually uplifting things I have done in my life. To meet guys who shared my way of life, who had been through the trauma and the trite stares; endured the bullshit and the banal existence that can come when your life swings completely in the opposite direction was good for the soul. I may have moved on but I have not and will not forget my brothers who still walk the walk and talk the talk in the fight for gender equality when it comes to raising children.

Whether you are forced into it or chose to do it, never let anybody make you feel like you can't or shouldn't be raising your own children.

It wasn't until I embraced the fact that I was a stay-at-home-dad that I was fully able to relish the role. It was shortly after the convention that I started to put being a dad, and an involved one at that, first and foremost. Although I had kept a blog for a year leading up to it, it wasn't until after going to Kansas City that I actually "came out" as a dad blogger to my friends and family. It 2005, it was weird just to say you were a blogger much less a dad blogger.

I'll admit it, sometimes being the parent at home was hell.

But sometimes, Hell ain't a bad place to be...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Best Day Ever

I finally wised up the other day.

For the past week, I kept telling myself that I needed to grab one of my kids' mp3 players before I left for work. It would give me something to do while I stood there waiting for the No. 10 bus and drowned out some of the chatter I overhear during my commute.

The sound of cars and squawking birds gave way to the Cars, Cheap Trick, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ramones.

A little back story is in store here: The only reason we bought some cheap ass mp3 player for our 5-year-old son was because we had gotten an mp3 player for his older brother when he turned seven and that became an obsession for him in so much that he carried it everywhere (so we went with the placating bribe with my younger son to avoid them fighting over it).

I downloaded about 60 songs on it for him.

Then I figured out I could download a shitload of songs (some not age appropriate) and put them in another folder slash playlist. But this summer when we took the great family road trip we ran into a problem where his player would only play my songs but this wasn't discovered until well into the trip.

So there I was trying to remedy the problem while driving through some tunnel on the verge of getting light-headed and ill so that my two kids could listen to their own music in the back seat even though several of their musical choices were housed in the family car's multi-disc changer.

Suddenly the sound of rubber tires on asphalt didn't sound so bad.

Fast forward to the other day: I'm standing at the bus top and groovin' to some tunes. About four stops later on the inbound bus, I deduct that the contraption is running through the playlist in alphabetical order.

Soundgarden came on and I had an epiphany about Kim Thayil and how despite that rhythm section and Cornell's yelp, the band would have been nothing without Thayil's guitar.

I guess that Powerbar I ate ahd kicked in.

The song ended and suddenly Spongebob came on.

I fumbled through my jacket to find the player to try and make sense of the settings but once again looking at it made me light-headed; I'm not one who can read in the car obviously.

The next day I switched out players.

Avail came on at the bus stop.

I mouthed the words to two songs as I watched my shadow bounced in front of me.

The bus came and I climbed on.

Song crazy song that reminded me of the label came on but I for the life of me had no idea who it was; once again I was forced to dig into my jacket to see who the artist was only to be shut out as the player listed song titles only.

I forwarded to the next song.

As I suspected this too was going through the playlist in alphabetical order.

Must have been Clockcleaner I thought.

Next song was some dub reggae.

I tried to check the title, got light-headed and decided to turn the mp3 player off.

So now it's back to car horns, bus stop alerts and random chatter.

But that beats feeling light-headed...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008 - Obama vs. McCain

It's election day 2008 folks.

I'll spare you any political rants because you will get enough of them throughout the day.

But also because I need not reveal what a nut job I am when it comes to my political beliefs.

What I will give you is a little dose of punk rock courtesy of my band the Chest Pains.

Right around the time of the last election, I got into a debate about the value of your vote and whether or not John Kerry had the heart.

We all know how that all turned out.

Anyway, I penned this ditty during the weeks approaching the election in 2004, inspired by large doses of D.O.A. and the Dead Kennedys.

And because you may not be able to understand a word I'm saying in the following clip, I've included the lyrics.

Kerry The Torch

Kerry... the torch?
I think not
With idle [idol?] minds
We sit and watch our country rot

Sticks and Stones
Skull & Bones
Stick and Stones
Same face, different name

So you're feeling Bush-whacked
and spiritless
The politik of our country
Is a fucking mess

Four more years?
Four more years?
Four more years!
God No...

Four more years?
Four more years!
Four more years!
Fuck you!!

Jump ship and move away
Amsterdam sounds good today
Maybe I'll move to Mexico?
C'mon everybody! Vamos a playo!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Is That Like Being Recruited?


Although the 7/8 Chapel Hill Titans lost their game to defending champs Bethesda over the weekend, my son had two touchdowns.

The first one his team was backed inside their own 20 yard line and on fourth and long he broke around the corner on a sweep and ran 80 plus yards for a touchdown with opponents nipping at his heels the entire time.

After half time, I had to retreat to the hill above the stands to get a better look and to get away from the home team fans - we all shared the small section of bleachers at the field. This game was played at an elementary school unlike the other games which were played on high school football fields and as such had proper bleachers for the home and away teams.

The Titans had started to drive so I moved up to the fence by other parents cheering for Chapel Hill.

There was a bunch-up at the line of scrimmage and then a little head popped up on the far sidelines and started a bee line down the field.

"Is that your son?" said one dad.

"I think so," I said, unable to see the number on the jersey.

After he past midfield I could tell by the cleats and the gallop of his stride that it was my son.

"Go Spence! Go!" I hollered with all of my dad pride.

At about the 20 yard line he turned and looked back, saw they we closing in and kicked into another gear, pulling away towards the end zone for another score.

After the game I was talking to his coach when a father from the other team came over and asked who was the kid that scored the touchdowns.

"He's right here," said his coach as he pointed to my son.

"What's your name son?" asked the dad as he reached out to shake his hand.

"Spencer," he said as they shook hands.

"Nice job boy," he said. "I hope you keep at it. You are the future of Carolina football."

Then he said he'd keep an eye out for his name because he knew he was going to hear more of it in the future.

As we left the field, Spencer turned to me and said, "Was that sorta like being recruited?"

[Photo: Spencer in foreground with little bro Cole in background]

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Mr. Jack O. Lantern


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Goblins And Ghouls


Somebody asked me what me kids were for Halloween on Saturday during one of their football games.

"I don't know," I said.

"You don't know what your kid was for Halloween?" one mom chimed in incredulously.

I laughed.

"They had masks and capes on, but what they called themselves I do not know..."

So how would you describe the boys in this picture?
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