Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Links For You, Because I Like You So Much

Baachan does this...and it's the second best thing ever, right behind opposable thumbs.

I'm totally building this for Zo.

Project for Baachan and Granddad's house!

Totally going here someday.

June doesn't want just any dog, she wants this one...or strangely, this one. The first has no name, the second is Tayshaun??? I want this one, and his name will be Berkeley. Interestingly enough, while searching for these photos I stumbled upon this gem. Holy mother of lobotomy, I know!

This would be a nice way to spend a summer.

Don't wait 'til her wedding day.

I think I've linked this before but my God I want a slide in my house.


I love my Mom, and if I had any money at all I'd buy her this house in this place.

Einstein was one smart dude.


I'm not so craft challenged that I can't manage this.

Who wants to go to Charleston with me?

Feigning Gay...a ridiculous story of quick goat thinking.

I couldn't resist. I was partly angry, partly astonished, and at least three quarters interested in teaching someone a lesson. Getting treated like some sort of expert these days has freed me from my usual temperament of win over and then work over, and has allowed me my opinion with very few questions to follow it. I can be a bit of an anchor when I'm offended, certain of something, or eager to achieve a certain this or that. Today I was all three.

When the counselor stepped from her meeting with the young man that she squirmed her way into interviewing, a young man with a issue or two saved up in his pocket, she made several bold assertions based on a 45 minute conversation with a wildly smart young man, but the boldest may have been her departing comment about, "...wanting to explore some issues of sexuality," with him when she returned. What? Needless to say I sat up with my seatbelt fastened and my chair in the full upright position, and we exchanged "opinions" in a back and forth volley that left the Principal dizzy. If she could have rushed home and grabbed her two degrees off of the wall she certainly would have, but instead she simply did her best to bully me into accepting her ubiquitous knowledge about youth, and apparently gender identity. When it was all said and done she was insisting that the young man was gay and not owning it and I had goaded her into subtly acknowledging my apparently obvious and hilariously defining masculine qualities (???) and then sucker punched her with the news that her gaydar was sh!t because I was gay.

That's right, I said that I was gay and she fell speechless. She stumbled to regroup but I kept the punches coming. There was no way that she was talking to that young man about such things unless he himself brought them up, and that the damage that she might inflict on this kid's trust in someone at his school would be irreparable etc... glorious-flurry-of-blurred-punches-etc... When it was all over she slinked out the door. I had spoken with her supervisor, suddenly and strangely a peer of mine now, and explained what had happened. She was fairly furious that such a leap had nearly been made and had intentions of meeting her pseudo-genius counselor at her office door. I was a little worried about revealing my tactics but after a moment of quiet processing, in which I felt some pretty weighty panic rising, she laughed out loud.

"You told her that you were gay!?" She was floored at the audacity but wildly amused. Frankly, I was too.

"Yup," I flubbed, "but it totally worked. She won't be talking to him again," I added.

"Oh my, she laughed. "You realize that you're now going to have to remain a gay man as far as she's concerned."

"Yeah," I responded. "I thought about that."

So now there's at least one arrogant lady out there who thinks that I'm gay, but there's one struggling kid who's never going to have to talk to her again. Win.

Happy Day After Our Anniversary


Yesterday was our fourth anniversary. We did nothing. We ate tuna melts, watched the Tigers last regular season game of 2011, and played with Zo. We promised one another that we'd do something later, you know, make amends for our collective ambivalence about Wednesday. Shrug...

No gift or evening out would do the trick in terms of celebrating how desperately entwined I am with my wife's every day and night. I go to work, and make my daily decisions by wondering what might make her proud, and although it sounds overly sentimental it's entirely much so that I don't much care what others think, provided she can close her eyes and smile her way into sleep each night. We've been married four years, together over ten years, and friends for sixteen years. That's a long time to be so smitten with someone that you lose track of which way is up sometimes.

Happy Day After Our Anniversary Kaede June love you long time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lesson #671 of Parenting...Armani Suits and Tube Socks

Tonight I put my daughter to sleep, and although I've done it literally a hundred times...two hundred times...more, certainly more, tonight felt different. Tonight we laid blankets on the floor and camped out before bed. We hunkered down with a small camping lantern, some books, and a few pillows. We read and we talked. We hatched plans to lay in bed backwards...heads where our feet would normally rest, feet where our heads might typically be...or wait, maybe that's upside down? Whatever it is, we talked about looking at her room differently, at everything differently. It wasn't long before we were twisted back around, back in our usual position, head near the window, feet near the door. We talked more. I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of fun and surprising answers. She asked me to rub her back and then to write letters on her belly. I did, and then we both fell asleep. When I woke her hand was gripping mine, and her face was nestled into my neck. It was nearly 9:30 pm when I stumbled out of her room, and on so many other nights I might have considered a night slipping away as such a loss of valuable "me" time, on this occasion I was just happy...blissfully so. It's the little trick of parenting that I'm slowly learning. It's so typically all or nothing. Commit and follow'll be happier. Halfway is no way to do this thing, regardless of circumstance. It's her first, and me last, and as difficult as that sounds in rhetoric, it's manifest in smiles and satisfaction when you finally embrace it. Her first... me last. I'm happy that way. How come no one told me that an Armani suit just ain't the same with white tube socks? That would have been good advice to tuck away.

You can't go most of the way. It's all or nothing, at least, as far as commitment is concerned, which translates directly into happiness, which is exactly what I felt stumbling groggily out of Zed's room tonight. Happiness because I wasn't concerned with my own as much as I was someone else's. Armani suits and tube socks. Write that down.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Proudest of Proud Multiplied By Ten

I can't really sneak a photo and post it here, but I can live link it as fast as you can say flabberghasted.

Our uber-beloved camp girl, Lindz, has a wedding album online and it's a numbing stunner. I've posted a little somethin'- somethin' about her before, but here I am again. Why? Because we love her very much, and also because she could have fallen out of a magazine in these photos. Not kidding. Summer camp was a long, long time ago.

Best wishes and mucho, mucho, enormous, endless love to you Lindz. The photos are fantastic. We hope your life is the same.

An Overly Sentimental Story of Unsolicited Sincerity etc...

Jace Sophia Zoey
Airing out the dirty laundry...Jace, Sophia, and Zoey - Sept. 2011

There was a time when I didn't know who Kaylen was. She was younger than me, and I wasn't as socially assiduous as I could have been. I knew Jason well, however. I knew Jason very well. I don't remember the details of their meeting, not a single story, or perhaps I'd never heard it told. I only know that the two bore the weight of criticism from the minute they started being spotted together. It was never very specific, and I'm sure they have stories, more tales I've never heard, about those first few weeks, and even months. It's a strange kickback that the ignition of love and loss leaves. It can hurt your head. If you're not ready for it I know that it can cause some serious pain.

There's a lot about Jason and Kaylen that I didn't know. I only knew that Jason was my friend, and that Kaylen was always kind to me, and that was enough. They were fun, and obviously happy. It's always ugly the separation of man or woman from their family, and his family was his friends, and they took his leaving hard. Of course they did, he was as comfortable as a favorite shirt as far as friends go, so of course it was hard watching him walk away. It was harder because he was a grown man and didn't need to ask. He just went. Of the things that I do know about Jason and Kaylen I know that he never thought twice about his choice. I know that he never should have had to make it.

Now, two children in a basket later (that third little curious looking bit of dirty laundry being our own) and they are what everyone should have known they would be all those years ago...a happy, loving couple with a lifetime of making new stories ahead of them. They've got no less than two new stories staggering around their house in various states of toddlerdom already. If watching Jason leave to follow his heart was hard for his family of friends in the very first place, it must be doubly so to see him so happy and know that you've missed so much of it. Family dynamics aren't easy to figure out, and this unique relationship he nourished over the years with his friends was no different. In equal portions he was upset with them, and they with him, and in the end here he sits, two kids in a basket (the third, he appropriately takes no credit for), a happy wife, and a lot of stories waiting to be told and even more eager to be recalled.

For me theirs is a story about becoming the people that you're supposed to become, and waiting for no one's approval or permission. It's about finding that place where giving up what you've had is less important than embracing all that you've got. I don't know much about the very beginnings of Jason and Kaylen, but I'm happy to know a lot about this middle part. These are good stories that I don't want to miss, and so I won't. It's really that simple.

At each one of my good friends weddings I stood with microphone in hand and stumbled into that place that so few of us ever go. I told them all that I loved them and that I hoped the stories kept getting better and better, and that I hoped that I might be lucky enough to be in some of them. Now we've got three little kids sitting in the same little laundry basket and I can't help but laugh out loud. Like I said, I don't know much about the very beginnings of Jason and Kaylen, but that's not the part that I ever really thought about. This is the part I think about. Three kids in a basket, when at one point we were just three kids ourselves. This is the good part. The beginning is called just that for a reason, because there's a lot more to follow, and it's just the start. I don't know much about the beginning, only that June and I heard many of the same rumblings. She's younger, and where did Brian go, etc...ridiculous etc...but fifteen years later and all I really know is that it's the here and now that matters, and to be completely honest. I'd much rather be there in the middle and at the end than just the beginning. Ten years ago we weren't able to snap a photo this #$%ing cute. I know that.

All a guy can do is try...and that's not always so easy

Okay...I'm finding it next to impossible not to post these photos...


And this one...


I tried to just link them in a previous post, I really did, but it's been practically impossible to leave these just sitting there in a quiet little Flickr account. I have no urge control. Apologies.

An Office With a View.

I knew that there was a reason I stayed home this morning. I have no real place to go. It is a PD Day and I was unassigned to any specific task so I made my own. I have meetings arranged with people who might be able to help me and these kids in acute moments of need, but none between 8 and 9 AM, and none sitting at my kitchen table watching it rain. The windows are open, the rain is falling straight down in giant drops and the sky is not entirely grey and rain soaked. There is some blue...some sunshine way over the trees and somewhere I'm not. Zoey is waking up at Baachan's house. June is working. I am waiting for my day to unfold, and despite the prefect sense of calm and contentedness that the rain has brought, I kinda miss the chaos. And to be truthful, it's not all that chaotic. It's just busy, but a nice kind of busy. The kind of busy that makes you not want to do anything else. The rain is nice, but the little blond wonder that typically runs around here is nicer.

This morning I'll find purpose, and this afternoon I have to report to a school to find even more purpose, but for now I'll just sit here and miss my daughter, sip coffee, and wait for my day to fall together. I should probably remember this moment because there might not be one again for awhile. That's the trickery of this parenting deal, it trains you to be on the ready rather than encourage you to enjoy the moment.

I'm going to enjoy this one.

I hear the clock ticking, and the sound of wind whispering through the leaves outside is a heavier, thicker sound...weighed down by the heavy rain, and the last few weeks of green. It won't be long before the rain rips leaves from the branches, and the windows are no longer open. I think my coffee has gotten cold while I've typed and the rain has stopped. I keep waiting for a noise from Zo's room but none are coming, not for a few more hours and by then this day will be nearing done.

This is the best office I've ever kept. I can type away at work and then take breaks with Zoey's ukelele and a fresh cup of warm coffee. This day can't stay this good, can it?

Maybe the best answer to a child's question ever....

Q: How strong is Superman?

A: As strong as the story needs him to be.

There's a lot of lessons that we can teach our children, and ourselves, for that matter, but none any better than helping them to understand the significance of hope.

The Saddest Disappearing Act on Earth


With children, our own world gets a little more complicated, okay, a lot more complicated...but with the right sunglasses on, and with the proper angle, all that complex confusion and chaos can be made terribly whimsical and mysterious again with just a little effort. Camp Zed was a fine example of finding the lowest common denominator between adulthood and childhood fancy. If you don't peek at the answers in the back of the book, and if you're smart enough to show all of your work so that you can see how you got to the answer you'll discover that you've got a lot more in common with your child than you don't. You were once exactly like them. No cares...It's one of the wonders of becoming a parent. You get to be reminded of all that's good, and in the words of James Earl Jones (Michigan '55), and that can be again. All you need to do is accept it and run wildly with it before you stumble headlong into what equates to an unmarked expiration date.

Zo spins me back to reality so frequently that it often seems as though it is she that is teaching the life lessons. I suppose very often it is. Ladybugs should be looked at with a curious and contented smile or not at all. Sand is supposed to get in your shoes. Why have a button on your coat if you can't play with it? Who says a shovel can't be a pretend hot dog cooker? Why is it that spelling your name has to involve putting all the letters in the right order, and why is it strange to want to wear wool gloves with your pajamas?

From this day forward I'm going to make it a point to not ask why as say yes a little surprise take every opportunity to giggle at take advantage of every day's not let growing up get in the way of living. Soon enough Zoey will experience the slow leak of magic that deflates even the best of children. With luck she'll at least still believe in the magic as she grows, and find moments to tap into it. It all happens so fast, and I never hear one parent talk about giving their children the tools to hold tight to that magic. There's lots of talk about education, and discipline, manners and respect, but almost no talk of magic...of seeing hills that need sliding down and waves that need crashing, and fires that need sticks poked into them. Now that I think about it, it's alarming really. The best part of ourselves and our children we let slip away without so much as a fight. Not this family, not in this house. There will be mystery and magic and ridiculousness in this place for as long as live. Trust me on that.

What To Do With a Dusty Infestation


Apparently there are these things that live in Zoey's walls called Dustys. Neither June nor I have any idea what they look like 'cause Zo keeps changing their appearance for either her own entertainment value, or ours. She has dreams about them, she occasionally plays with them, and they think that she's cute.

Dustys are little things that look like spiders, but they only have two legs...they're black, never any other color, just black...they like like to crawl on your head, and the baby ones are nice. The bigger ones aren't so nice. They mostly come out at night, but sometimes during the day. Zoey thinks the baby ones are cute.

Oh, and sometimes they look like a hockey puck.


Whatever you do, don't squish them. Just be nice to the baby ones and the big ones will leave you alone...we think.

Family Photos in Ten Minutes or Less...


Our idea to take a few family photos for the first time in a long time took all of ten minutes... well, maybe fifteen. We packed up, hit the beach, snapped a few pics using the timer, and a few more that June just kinda clicked away at. BLAM...done. We're embarrassingly quick.

We didn't take many, but we didn't need to. Ten minutes, tops...tripod, timer, Mom hustling to get back into the shot. Probably pretty funny to watch, certainly not all that fun to shoot, but easier than waking up in the morning.


I think we took maybe twenty-five pictures, that's it. No ridiculous prep, no matching outfits, no two hour fake-fest of posed awfulness. Just the three of us at the beach with the super good fortune of June having stellar equipment to use. Kinda lke making pizza at home and you've got your own wood fired brick pizza oven...except, you know, that wood burning pizza oven is a Canon camera.

Here's some of the other pics.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Elusive Eddie Arnold Soundtrack of Our Lives

There's Sunday Night Football, or Football Night in America, or whatever the Frank they call it these days, and I don't care. I really couldn't care any less, and you know what...I typically don't. I've changed a lot over the past six or seven years, and that might be perhaps one of the more noticeable changes. I don't need to know the score anymore, with a few exceptions. Instead, I read, I write, I let music shape my curiosities, and I daydream a lot. I've always daydreamed a lot. I have a dozen report cards jammed in a desk drawer somewhere that each have notes about my daydreaming. It's always been a bit of a problem, in the best possibly way, I'd suggest.

I haven't filled my head exclusively with sporting interests for what seems like years now. These days I barely make the Michigan - Notre Dame game because I'm talking script writing with a good friend, and I missed all ten of the Tiger games I bought tickets for this year because I was doing school work, or playing with my daughter. The truth is that I care less and less, with notable exceptions, and I feel healthier and healthier. It used to be entirely about experiences, and now it feels entirely about relationships.

It was only good sense that pulled me from the stellar pre-game conversation I was enjoying with my friend, Jason...had the wind blown from a different direction I might have very well stayed and talked into the darkness, missed kick off and the first half, and quite possibly only managed the last minute and twelve seconds...turns out that was the only part anyone really remembers anyway.

The truth is we change, all of us, and if you're not, then you're slowly decaying. For many of us the things we change aren't the things that we're most closely associated with, or that we seem to enjoy the most, but for me, and for Jason as well it seems, we're busy attacking everything that isn't what we want it to be, and everything that we never leaned into hard enough in our past. Call it a mid life crisis, call it whatever you like. I call it living. Root up some ideas, ridiculous as they might seem to others, and chase 'em down. No worries about catching them, it's the chase that we're after.

Over the course of thirty-nine years there have been a number of Brians, and you could probably hear a different story about a different guy from each and every decade. That's fine. Each version gets better as far as I'm concerned, and that's the whole point. I'm proud of my friend Jason for chasing down some daydreams and paying some attention to the nagging ideas that rattle around his head and heart. I'll skip a kick off, or Sunday Night Football, or any of that nonsense for whispy dream talk anyday.

Sunday night football...hmmf. I'm listening to a sweet, sweet voice, typing bold missives about ever boldening friends and ideas, and life is good. It doesn't feel old and familiar, or stagnant and feels, I dunno...good.

Take us into the dark, quiet night Eddie.

The Unbearable Awkwardness of Shared Bathroom Time

Maybe the most perplexing change in my world since becoming a parent has been the natural loss of solitary bathroom time. It has been replaced by the ever awkward occurrence most parents will recognize as shared bathroom time. Ask me me if I could, would, or wanted to sit on the toilet to do my business and be busted in on mid-business to put it lightly. I'm not sure if as a species we were made to poop in groups, you know, in the company of other creatures of our same species. Oh, I can poo with a cat around, and a dog doesn't change the urgency of any of my bathroom habits, but a child busting in because they have to poo too...well, that's a little different. Strangely, I can handle that. It's the Oh...Hi Mom. I'm just sitting here know, with my pants around my ankles feeling very much like a fool part that takes some getting used to. It's not a habit that June has of interrupting my waste disposal time. It's typically a moment that occurs when she's escorting a little girl, who we are presently toilet training, to the facilities that I am occupying. It's at that moment that I get to look my best in front of my wife.

I'm convinced that the ubiquitous intimacy of marriage also contributes to the dulling of our collective senses. What a magical world we might live in were we not to get regular glimpses of one another's every-day-nuthin'-fancy-about-this gitch, or be present while we go pee. It's like how people who live in Florida think nothing of humidity while people from San Francisco melt in it. Well, it's sorta like that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Holy Distant Daughter of Nina Simone...except, you know, white


The first review I found said, "get it or feel lonely this weekend." That was enough for me to make the purchase. Add to the urge that my friend John digs on Jill hard, and John has the kind of taste that film producers and Starbucks atmosphere makers melt over. It all adds up to buying Jill Barber's latest release Mischievous Moon or getting your head checked. It's that good.

I'd never listened much to Jill's work. Embarrassingly, I've never much listened to any Canadian artists. No less than four or five of my friends are shuddering at that admission, and at least two are considering ending our friendship. No more worries, Jill has just ushered me in through the front door.

Buy this... invite your best chances for lovin' over, and get busy paying a physical tribute to Canadian artistic ingenuity. This is sexy sexy time music. Or, of course, just buy it and chill with Jill. That's cool too.

It's not often that I recommend an entire album...artists sure, but not an entire album. This one I'm completely smitten with. It is that good.

Tomorrow is Family Photo Day

It's not like we need an actual photo day, like we were in elementary school, but if you don't set a day aside, you just never get around to it. We've got plenty of pics of Zed, and lots of pics of Daddy and Zed, or of Mom and Zed, but very few of all of us together, so...

Tomorrow we grab the camera, hit the beach, set the timer, and SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! Family photo day! Come along if you want. That's right. I'm inviting every single person that reads this damn blog. Bring your own sunscreen. Freezies will be complimentary.

You think I'm kidding don't you. I'm not. If you want to take some pictures, come with!

Libraries instead of bedrooms...


We're not freaks about our child's room. Of course, we'd prefer it look nice rather than offensive, but we're certainly not dumping heaping buckets of our hard earned money into it's cuteness, but books....yes books, we'll spend money on books. And, of course, books need shelves, so...

We want this.

Everyone Named Taco Raise Your Hand...Now Let's Play Football

Just read that Michigan has offered a scholarship to Ohio DE Taco Charleton. What? Taco? Let me be the first to say it here. If Michigan lands Taco Charleton I will have his jersey in my closet. Taco!? That's awesome...just awesome.

I know that it has absolutely nothing to do with Zoey, or with our family, but Taco...seriously? Your name is Taco. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I can't wait!

The Uncomfortable Influence of Seventh Grade Music Teachers


Paul Newman played the trombone. In the seventh grade I played the trombone. I'm just saying that it's probably not a coincidence. The universe was obviously trying to tell us something.

I was trying to remember the seventh grade the other day and I was coming up pretty empty. No surprise there, since the seventh grade is pretty much one of the more forgettable grades on the entire flow chart of grades. Grade eight...good. Grade seven...what? Was I in Grade seven? Probably.

I went to W.T. Laing Public School and I was scared s#!%&@$$. I had just switched schools and was itching for a new experience. So when I stepped from the bus I was bursting with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Then I got punched in the face literally five steps from the gaping bus door, and as all of my peers pulled back in horror, I got in a fight, for no apparent reason, on my first day. The boy eventually became my friend, well half-friend, and I survived that first week. The rest of the seventh grade is a blur. I remember the trombone part only because I hated it. Paul Newman Schmooman. Playing the trombone sucked the mustard.

I've spent the rest of my life perfectly happy to have never touched another trombone again. In fact, I've barely gripped the gentle curvings of any instrument since then. The trombone traumatized me. In hindsight, there wasn't going to be much use for a trombone in my life anyway. In fact, I don't know one adult man who doesn't do so professionally, who regularly holds a trombone in their hands. It's just not that popular a thing, you know. Go figure.

The whole enterprise got me to thinking how much of our collective coolness can be set in stone by someone else, and early on. I didn't pick the trombone. I wanted to play the saxophone, or maybe the trumpet...nope, Mr. Almost-ruined-my-life pointed at me and then directed his scrawny finger towards the French Horns, Trombones, and other assorted instruments of geekdom, and my heart sank. From that day forward I was to be f#$%ed. No coolness for me unless I earned it elsewhere. Such damning power in such careless hands. Music teachers are busy planting the seeds of cool long before we can even manage it ourselves. Tyrants.

It's a good thing that I dumped that music business flat the first chance I got, or I would have been doomed to a lifetime of spit valves and band practice. Ugh. Instead, I got busy carving out my own unique brand of loserdom. Road hockey is a much better way to sink social hopes than brass instruments. It's funny now, but the whole enterprise gets you to thinking. How much of your child's future depends on the whims of strangers in the present? A lot I'd wager. It's not like your music teacher can stop you from becoming a CEO someday, but there's a broader influence on your life than we might typically suspect. That's not to say that trombone players are screwed, I mean, look at Paul Newman, but it does suggest that getting stuffed into a remedial reading group, getting cut from the basketball team, or playing the wrong instrument just might push us in a direction that will require awareness, effort and good fortune to swing free of. My destiny could have been picked for me by Mr. future ruiner when he assigned me the trombone. It wasn't, and only because I fought back and declared music class something of a police state that forced me into actions not consistent with my desires to avoid getting beat up after school. If I didn't have hockey and lacrosse counterbalance the overwhelming loserness of trombonification, well, this would be an entirely different blog. It certainly wouldn't be about my family 'cause I wouldn't have one. No self-respecting girl would have gone near me and my spit valve.

Friday, September 23, 2011

End of The Week...


I hear the sound of two girls are giggling in the kitchen, The Goonies are on television, and a long, long week is over. There's gotta be a direct correlation between talking about kids shooting other kids, and how slowly time passes. So I got home tonight, laid on Zo's floor and read Grant Lawrence's "Adventures in Solitude," and waited for the funster to wake up from her nap. Flash forward an hour or two and I was sitting in front of a tasty Muskoka Woods Mad Tom IPA and laughing at Corey Feldman's Purple Rain t-shirt.. Our Friday nights have grown terribly tame.

Here's the sweetly pathetic thing...I mostly just want to hear these girls giggle. It's true. I don't want to miss Zoey hurling her hugless self at me post-bath. I don't want to miss my goodnight kiss, or the smell of Johnson & Johnson shampoo in Zoey's hair. I want to wake up early Saturday morning, grab some coffee, read, write, and wait for Zed and her Mom to wake up. I want to re-charge after a week of wearing down. I want to listen to Norah Jones and pour a cold IPA down my throat. I want to fully absorb the here and now, this house, my family, this quiet, simple moment in what will amount to not enough time in the end.

Right now I can hear the girls singing in unison, "what's gonna work, teeeamwork," as Zoey squiggles around the tub, and I think that it'd take some serious hydraulics to haul me out of here. This is my life on this second last Friday of September, 2011. It's pretty phenomenal.

Lately I have a hard time keeping the smiles to a manageable minimum.

Lately, I feel like this...

Lone Fan

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Science Schmience...Gimme a Blog

You can learn how to be a better parent in the oddest places. Here's what I learned after spending a few days with Canada's leading violence risk assessment and trauma response expert (such is my life these days).

If you don't know anything about Human Systems Theory, it's stellar stuff, it's a big chunk of what I do everyday but don't talk about because who wants to hear about human systems theory? No one, that's who. It can get stupid complicated, and most times I loath discussing it because frankly, I then have to listen to other people tell me their theories, but let me toss you a few curious cookies that I got to drink deeply from this week...

Someone has to rise up and lead a group of people, in your own family, it had better be one of the parents. It isn't always.

If a child isn't connected to a positive force that is filling them up with good information (uhmm, that's you, or it better be) then they'll fill up with other stuff...maybe bad stuff...probably bad stuff.

Almost everything occurs along a path of evolutionary development. Things don't "just happen"'s next to impossible for things to simply "happen." So saying that you never saw something coming is probably true, but that's a lot different from there not being any signs.

The more positive connections and relationships a child has, the more people they have to disappoint. That's kind of a big deal.

There's something called parallel process and it sounds more complex than what it goes something like this...Talk to your kids, I mean really talk, and they'll talk to you. Pretty simple. It's kinda like being attracted to people who are attracted to you.

Naturally open systems (families) have great leadership, great communication, great understanding, and great filters around them. Naturally open systems don't necessarily care what other people think, they do what's best for the system, and they do so genuinely. If you don't think that your family is a system then you're drunk off your a#$.

Most people don't fully understand everything that they're doing, but they do it anyway. Seriously...most people.

Since we're talking about "most people"...most people imitate behaviour, very few innovate. What's that mean? It means that whatever your son or daughter is doing, they've very likely seen it somewhere else.

When someone really wants to do something, when they're 100% committed...they do it. Most people aren't 100% committed to ideas, which means that there's room to influence and change.

If you don't deal with something, don't talk about it, and you let it fester it will begin to rot. You can't leave things unsaid and unacknowledged or you lose control and awareness of what they turn into, and they WILL turn into something.

Did you ever think that you could become a better parent by talking about Columbine and Taber etc...awful etc...? Well, you can, and part of our collective problem is that those aren't the things that we use to help us become better parents. We read blogs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All the rusted signs we ignore all our lives...

I remember that I was 22 years old, living with roommates in the city. My room was downstairs while the rest of my housemates were living above me. My brother would lock himself in my room with the lights out, a bottle of bourbon and my copy of Pearl Jam's Ten. He wouldn't resurface until the bottle was nearly all gone, the album had played itself over and over and over again, and we could hardly understand the jibberish falling out of his young, drunken mouth. He was enraptured...and to think, I liked Pearl Jam more.

Some things are ideal markers on whatever timeline your memories keep. Pearl Jam marks the minutia of my years, and as much as the film we watched last night was a documentary about a band, it was equally a photo album of my life. It reminded me about friendship, and youth, and passion and originality. It struck me how very often we all come from the same youthful place and then lose ourselves in adulthood. It can be a tragic transition, and not for the reasons you might assume. Maybe we were all better then, just a little more sincere, a little more desperate and hopeful. The film reminded me about how lucky I am to live and work in a world where the feelings that I felt in 1993 are never very far away from the surface.

I'm excited to see the teenage Zoey. I want to see what she falls in love with, and obsesses over, and finds joy in. I want to watch her find herself. She'll find her own Pearl Jam which will allow me to litter our conversations with indiscriminate Eddie Vedder wisdom without her even knowing it. Makes parenting a teen seem not so bad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This wasn't just a film about a band. It was a film about youth, and about change, and friendship, and the last eighteen years of my life flashed by in the span of two hours. It was unbelievable that I haven't the words just yet.

Cameron Crowe...I think I love you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekly Words of Wisdom

I'm going to try to start posting a quote on Mondays, something I'd like to pull my week into and live by if I can...just one more thing to add to the whole shower, shave, brush my chompers deal.

“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.”
- Alan Keightley

Take that and make your week look a little different. I'm kinda cheating 'cause there's a little bit of that in my every day, but being conscious of it is what I'm after. I'm really starting to believe that seeing and interpreting the world in any way other than your own unique manner is the biggest mistake you can make. It's the source of approximately three-fifths of our individual unhappiness. It's true. That's a real statistic that my phony research came up with. Don't underestimate your own responsibility for seeing things more clearly. It's probably the biggest factor, well, that and cool sunglasses. You need cool sunglasses.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Church of Zed...a Non-Denominational Gastrointestinal Thing

Zed breakfast
The usual at John's Restaurant...Bacon and Eggs X two, and some chocolate chip pancakes.

Sunday mornings might just have to evolve into breakfast out mornings. Zed's got a window of comfort in the restaurant scene now, especially if you throw her a booth nearest the window. She's a pro.

The waitress comes over and asks for our order, June and I are barely through when a little voice pipes up.

"I want pancakes," she says quietly. "Chocolate chip pancakes please."

June and I feign shock and awe, and then we hear a tiny, "Thank you," and now it's full blown pride. Nice work kid. Don't mind picking up the tab for this little, polite customer. We're both in agreement, we'd be pretty happy if at the very least we raised a kind and appreciative restaurant goer. Looks like we've just founded the Church of Zed, and if you want to worship here, you'll need a knife and fork, and piles of politeness.

Building Sand Castles With Uncle Denard


What Johnny Danbury says about Denard Robinson is, in his own words, "like trying to draw a sound..." but it's worth the read.

"We get a walking emoticon, someone who looks at all times like he is riding a Slip ‘n Slide down the neck of a brontosaurus. Who has turned the implausible into pure farce. He is so immune to self-doubt that it is almost literally unbelievable. Where did you come from, man? He pats Manti Te’o on the helmet twice after being tackled by him and then on third-and-two runs straight into his chest for a first down. He is tiny and he is fragile but he will not run around you. He is not bound by the conventions of football. He politely acknowledges them and then he sets them on fire and builds castles with the ash." When do I get to have someone say something like that about me? Oh, right...never. You have to actually be a tsunami of continent shifting talent to have someone talk that way about you. The funny part is that even that's not entirely articulate enough to describe Denard Robinson. He genuinely is a one of a kind type of player and person. He's almost single handedly saved my sporting life.

This is the kind of thing that turns me back into a sports geek each and every time I turn my head away from the horror of it all. I'd read something somewhere that called us all losers, sports fans, it was something that acknowledged that the part we're overlooking in this whole raw sporting deal is the pseudo-masochistic nature of it. Only one team can win on any given night, and in the end all but one team goes home befuddled and emotionally abused. We're all losers at the very end. The idea took root in my head and as I applied it to my life it made greater sense. I was happiest when my teams were winning, and near miserable when they weren't. I was angry when the players I liked found themselves traded or tripped up by scandal and headlines. It ruined my day, weekend, year. Sports were making me miserable, but I loved them. I didn't want to be miserable anymore...and then there was Denard.

Like a baseball diamond cut into the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, there was Denard. After the Red Wings lose the Stanley Cup to the Penguins, and the Tigers lose a one game post-season play-in gutting to the Twins, and Tate Forcier gets dumber by the day, there is Denard. I'd build him an alter if it just didn't sound so weird. Denard brought me back from the abyss...of jumping off of that precarious ledge of fandom. And it was Denard that reminded me that I just want to have fun. I just want to win games and have fun on Saturdays, and at Tiger home games, and whenever the puck drops. I just want to be excited and happy to be in the presence of something cool. Denard urged me to be a sports fan again, after I was dangerously close to needing an intervention of sorts. He changed my perspective. Call me a fairweather fan if you like but you'd be wrong. I had season tickets to Michigan football when we were losing. We enjoyed season tickets with the Tigers when they were ripping our hearts out. We drove through snow and ice to watch Michigan basketball miss the tournament every year. We went to the NIT for God's sake, and drove to Kansas City. We watched when everyone else wasn't, and perhaps that was what did it...what sent me nearly over the edge? All I know is that it feels good to feel good again. Michigan is winning, despite being as flawed as they've ever been. The Tigers are playoff hunting with Yankees and Red Sox and Rays and Rangers jockeying for first victim status. The sun is shining and coolness has found the air. Denard looks like Denard and even Zoey knows a good thing when she sees it.

"Who's that guy," she asks.

"That's Denard," I answer. "He's fun."

"He's smiling," she responds eagerly.

"Yep," I quip, "Me too."

"Me too," she mimics, as we settle in to build sand castles with Denard every Saturday. It feels good to feel good.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daniel LaRuuso and Me

Karate Kid 2

Now that the Tigers have clinched, and Zoey has gone to bed, that leaves Daniel LaRusso and me to face this quiet Saturday evening. June will almost certainly fall asleep in Zo's room. Daniel LaRusso and me? Why not? Sure, it's Karate Kid II, but there is that cool Peter Cetera song to consider, and of course, Tamlyn Tomita looked like a billion and a half dollars in 1986 (still does), so why wouldn't I settle in for a night of Okinawan scenery and some serious Pat Morita wisdom?

The film is going to be nearly forty years old by the time Zoey is 13 or 14. It's prequel, The Karate Kid, will be two years closer to 40, an astonishing 39 years old. How embarrassingly out of date will it be by then? Whatever sophomoric sweetness that resided inside those 113 minutes for the past twenty-five years will have long since faded into cheese, it may have even morphed into some sort of incomprehensible laugh track to her parents ancient childhood. Whatever it turns into, I'd hope that whatever it was that made movies like this mean something to us, helps them find a fraction of importance to her. There's nothing wrong about growing up with Daniel LaRusso. There are certainly worse ways to waste a Saturday night, and a childhood.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Once Was and Shall Never Be Again...

I had a Ronnie James Dio patch on the sleeve of my denim jacket. I was secretly in love with Belinda Carlisle, and would have sold my brother for a for real, authentic Vladislav Tretiak hockey jersey. I was a towering, slippery pile of contradictions, but I was also 15 years old and so that's allowed. My good friend Johnny was cool with it. He was a hundred contradictions all at once too, although somewhat more committed to his metal affiliations than I was. I would shamefully listen to Cars records through headphones in my room at night so no one would know that I was digging so hard on new wave and only faking the metal appreciation. I doodled Led Zeppelin on my binders just because Bic blue Elvis Costello etched into my pencil case would have gotten me laughed right out of the 10th grade. I liked Miller High Life King Cans, when I could get my gangly fingers on them on party nights. Two was all it took. I still had friends from elementary school although I was quickly shedding them. Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles was my hero, but I probably had way more in common with Farmer Ted. Actually, if there was any connection that made any sense at all, it was that I might have found a greater affinity with Lloyd Dobler than the rest. I never held a Peter Gabriel blaring ghetto blaster above my head in an effort to woo a woman though...not once.

In the ninth grade I wore high tops with the tongues hanging out and by the tenth grade I was fully committed to wearing out my deck shoes to an acceptable level of decrepitness. I may have even popped a collar no less than twelve months after owning a studded belt. I was a walking, talking deep, dark, empty well of poorly defined adolescent and I was awfully good at it.

I'm beyond curious as to who and what and how Zoey will be at 15. She certainly won't be quite so eager to play catch with her Dad, but maybe. I wonder what she'll be listening to, and how awkward she'll feel reading about her Dad crushing on Belinda Carlisle. I hope we have a daughter that we can talk to, that likes us, and that finds what we are and who we were once to be interesting. I hope she forgives me for the Dio patch on my jean jacket, and discovers Zeppelin a lot earlier than I did. I hope she likes the Beatles. I hope she steers clear of Miller High Life King Cans for a least a couple years into her adolescence, but I won't crucify her if she doesn't. There such a thing as the pot calling the kettle black. Under no circumstance though will I be driving out to Port Lambton to pick her and her friends up after a party and find myself giving Ron McNally a ride home. It's a disturbingly real possibility and I don't even want to think about it. He's probably still in the twelfth grade.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cry If You Want To...


It's the comprehension that gets me...her understanding of this moment or that. Tonight, watching Lady and The Tramp II she started to cry when Scamp was dragged away by the dog catcher. Yup...cue sad uber-timely music, watch the eyes fill up with quiet tears, barely manage the glance at Dad to see if everything is going to be okay, and turn back to the film as the tears stream down her cheeks. This is a sensitive little girl.

She didn't make a big fuss, she wasn't inconsolable, she just recognized the moment as being worthy of emotion, of tears even, and let 'em fall. She's cried before, of course, but this was different. It wasn't fear, or an abrupt or unexpected was sadness, and some tiny little two and a half year old version of compassion, and it tugged at every heartstring ever dangled from my heart.

I told her that everything was going to be okay, and of course it was, but she knew that, she just couldn't keep the tears from falling.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flowers From Alex Lopez

She showed me her flowers, plastic roses in a waterless vase, sent by a student that was moving away. She was justifiably smitten with the gift and, of course, the gesture's undeniable sweetness and sincerity took a back seat to very few other gestures that she'd enjoyed. It made for a sweet story -- flowers from Alex Lopez -- I'd have to remember that. It sounded like the title of a book, or an after-school special.

The conversation soon steered toward how I endured long days without flowers, even fake ones, but I enjoyed my own moments of subdued sincerity, occasionally even sweetness, many moments, in fact. They just occurred in a different space than the ones that involved waterless vases. I got shaky hands and eyes half filled with tears, and faces that somehow managed small smiles as things fell apart around them. I got the sincerest of conversations, in fact they got no more sincere than that, and I got to watch the space between me and literal strangers fill with the most sublime emotional energy. I didn't need flowers, or any such gesture. I had trust, and that's how I endured those long days. I had value and meaning packed in tight alongside every conversation.

How often do you measure your relationships, or interactions, or perhaps your conversations, in terms of meaning? How frequently is the space between you and others filled with value? I'd venture to say that, depending on your definition of meaningful, that we are most frequently surrounded by thoughtless, subconscious driven interactions, not unlike forgetting how you got home from across the city, through ten sets of lights, countless stops, and dozens of turns. Many of our relationships, conversations, and daily connections with others fall under the category of forgettable...mine don't. She can have her artificial flowers. I'll keep the very real space between me and all those strangers. We don't stay strangers for very long

Flowers from Alex Lopez are nice, but I wouldn't trade my flowerless days for anything.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Days Like This...

Today I shook hands with a Hell's Angel...and sat with a struggling Afghanistan veteran unexpectedly raising his little brother...and I met one of the most disturbingly brilliant people I've ever talked to in my life. Then when my day was nearly done I sat down with two Everest climbers and talked about dragging 18 kids up a mountain in Africa.

I did all of that and then came home to play Jenga with my daughter, but what I really wanted to do was tell her all about it. I wonder when I'll be able to that, and then I wonder when she'll stop being interested in that. And, of course, I wonder what she'll think of all of it.

Jenga's cool though.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Who Invited Nick Nolte to My House?

Zed Nolte

This is a rather bedraggled (that really should be a word if it isn't) looking Zed pouring over her new weather book at the kitchen table. She's kinda sorta really into weather. She digs hard on tornados, volcanos...she asks where rain comes from and can be a little ridiculous at times. She likes checking out youtube clips of storms. It's crazy. I think the craziest part, however, is her uncanny resemblance to Nick Nolte when she really gets down on a weather binge.

Zoey Nick Nolte

She's got a much better complexion, and of course, her fashion sense far exceeds the Nolter, but she gets a little pre-occupied with looking all this weather stuff up, and kinda forgets to look in a mirror. The curse of the two year olds, I suppose, but regardless, it's funny as hell. I guess we're the awful parents who take pictures of it and plaster them all over the internet. Someday when her genius is more widely recognized we'll apologize, but for now she's just a weather obsessed kid with occasionally bad hair and parents that take advantage of her innocent pre-occupations.

The First Fifteen...

The whole house is quiet. June left for work just 30 minutes ago. Somehow I managed to drag myself from bed at an appropriate time this morning, with enough time to shower, dress, make coffee, and eat something, before I have to run out the door...and I mean run out the door. I suppose there's a reason why I connect so well to these kids I work with, 'cause I'm kinda one of 'em.

Zed's still sleeping. It's nearly 7:30 am and Zed is still sleeping because that's just what she does. I'm trying to savor the silence, working hard to enjoy this moment of kitchen table tranquility before it's all shattered by a beautiful, eye rubbing little girl wandering down the stairs, or by the seemingly harmless hands of a clock.

June keeps texting me this morning. Did you know that Roger Daltry is playing on Oct. 1st?...Hey, Stephen Wright is on the radio....Did you know that there was a giant inflatable penis being tossed around at the Michigan - Notre Dame game on Saturday? It's funny because the only thing shattering the silence right now is the cymbal smash sound of June's texts. Oops, and there's the back gate. Grandma is here...Coop Nanny, as her email suggests. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of absolute solitary silence. I haven't even taken a sip of my coffee yet.

Laughing, I think, it's no big thing. Such is this life, and steady myself for what will surely be a hectic morning and afternoon. It almost always is. Back to school isn't just about falling leaves, football, school supplies, and new clothes. This year it was about an attempted murder charge, failed rehab, jail, and an endless array of etc...more than I can sometimes process.

How'd I end up here? Doing this? When did this all happen?

Fifteen minutes, and I'm still laughing, this time shaking my head to accompany the stifled giggles. If I were a drag car I'd get zero-to-too-damn-fast in no time. I guess I'd better stop typing and drink my coffee. You know, anyone that tells you they're doing exactly what they meant to do with their life, that everything worked out exactly as they had envisioned, is full of $#!t. You can get close, but there's almost no accounting for these fifteen minutes. No one tells you that. My guidance counselor told me a lot of crap, and none of it mentioned this.

It's funny. It's why I don't tell kids what to do. I tell them what they can do...what's out there...maybe try to inspire them or plant a few seeds, but I don't tell them what to do. Nobody can explain an attempted murder charge, failed rehab, jail...or these fifteen minutes...nobody.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is it possible to have a Jimmy Stewart imprint on your DNA?

Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around The Corner was made in 1940. It's black and white, of course, and full of the rigid formality that was the social norm in that time. It's predictable, and not at all that well written, in fact, fifty-something years later another interpretation of the same story, You've Got Mail, finds itself so much more charming, and infinitely better written...but Jimmy Stewart, well, Jimmy Stewart makes anything good.

Sunday Night Football is the television, the Jets no less, and I couldn't care much less than I do. I'm watching Jimmy Stewart because I f#%&ing love Jimmy Stewart, and you know what? I don't particularly love every minute of football season, nor every game, nor every awful, obsessive football conversation I have to endure on Monday morning. I do, however, love almost every minute of every Jimmy Stewart film I've ever watched. My point...

There's a lot more to explore and enjoy out there in the universe than all that we're so thoughtlessly battered with as boys. I like football, but I also like standing around with a good friend and talking about the script he wants to write but hasn't. You know why he hasn't? Figuratively speaking, Sunday Night Football...etc...manly etc...

Write that script my friend, and I'll keep watching Jimmy Stewart movies, and someday we'll carry on the same conversation where we don't recognize another soul but see ourselves more clearly than ever.

Do what you want to do people. Be who you want to be. Life's too short, and in some cases, there are some very little eyes watching. Be original. Take whatever chances you feel you need to take. Think for yourself. Do what makes you happy. Put the football game on mute and get busy creating the kind of you that little eyes might be proud of. That may or may not include The Shop Around The Corner, but it does for me.

Two days in September...

Sep 11 2001
September 10, 2001 - Paul, Brian, Lee - Preparing to leave Tobermory Harbor

June snapped this photo on September 10th, 2001, just a few hours before her Uncle Lee, his friend, Paul, and her future husband sputtered out of Tobermory Harbor headed for Sarnia. We were trying to get out ahead of an oncoming storm and thought that, perhaps, we could manage Kincardine before things got bad. We never made it to Kincardine. Instead we struggled through the night in the worst storm any of us had ever been out in.

Sails down, engine laboring, the waves piled high ahead of us like rushing walls of water. I remember everything and then in a moment I remember nothing. Lee grabbed me and shook me back into a hazy memory. Blue lipped and completely soaked he feared I was approaching hypothermia and sent me below where Paul helped me strip and crammed me into several sleeping bags, and then jammed me warmly, securely, and oh-so sickly in the V berth. I only remember bracing my arms between bench and the ceiling to keep myself from slamming into a concussive tangle of cold, wet limbs and confusion. I could barely make out the shape of Lee squinting through the sideways rain out the cabin door. He was manning the rutter and bracing himself for every wave that washed over him, staring up intently at the masthead and keeping us right with the wind and water.

Somewhere in the night, between urgent bouts of seasickness and the dizzy fits of what Lee surely guessed correctly was setting in on his niece's cold and soaked boyfriend, I passed out. I was naked and desperate for something sturdy, unmoving, and still all those hours later, for warmth. When I woke, Lee was fighting sleep at the helm, Paul was fresh from his own sickness, and the sun was bright and shining. The water was flat, and the hum of our engine was the only sound. We were miles off course, blown that way by the storm and Lee's struggle to survive it. We limped into Harbor Beach in need of gas for the long trip home, and solid ground to take stock in our health and that of the boat. When we stepped from the boat to the comfort of the dock, we had barely tied off when the Harbormaster approached looking frazzled, near desperate in his urgency to reach us.

"We've just been attacked," he barked, "We're at war. They've just attacked New York City."

Who attacked New York City? War?

"They've bombed the World Trade Centers. We've been attacked," he urged again. "Get your fuel boys, and get out of here before they close off the marina and your stuck."

What? What's going on? Attacked? War?

"Get your fuel fellas and get back out there. Take down that Canadian flag too, until you're out of the harbor and out into the lake."

Lee paid him and endured more of the frantic exchange. We pushed off and chugged out into the quiet lake. It was shortly after 9am on September 11th.

During the storm our radio had died. We were still processing the news and still pulling ourselves together from the struggle of the previous twelve hours when the Bombers and Fighter Jets began passing overhead. War? What the hell is happening, we wondered. There was no communication to suss out the facts, no conversation between us weary, battered and confused friends, just silence and the sounds of what we imagined were the makings of war flying overhead. Where was this war? What had happened? What was waiting for us when we got back to port? It was longest day of my life. No one spoke. Everyone was alone with their thoughts and imagination, taking care of the little things that we needed to do to get home, while airplanes buzzed overhead. Lee cooked some food, we ate, we exchanged frighteningly inarticulate words that conveyed nothing of what we were feeling. We'd seen nothing yet of the devastation at Ground Zero. We knew nothing yet of planes hijacked by terrorists, or of the collapse of the towers. We were three men floating home with the notion of a world at war when we arrived. I wanted to talk to June, but couldn't. I was frightened to step from the boat onto land that previously had never known a foreign invader until what my imagination told me was now. I felt sick, and unsure if it was from the night before or the news still bouncing around our frazzled heads.

I've rarely prayed in my life. It's just not something that I ever found myself doing, but that afternoon I remember looking up into a near cloudless blue sky and that's exactly what I did.

It was September 11th, 2001, and I'll never forget those two days in September.

Hold The Rope...

Michigan - Notre Dame 2011

I almost missed the kickoff of the first night game in Michigan Football history because I was having a golden conversation with a good friend. We must have talked for hour with seemingly the rest of the universe quiet save for a passing flock of geese flying overhead. I spend a lot of time wishing I got the real guys behind the curtains with most of my male friendships, but I rarely do. I did tonight. I would have missed a dozen kick offs for a conversation that easy and that open. It was encouraging and revealing, and probably overdue. It was a sigh of fresh, bright blue air and sky, and it doesn't happen enough.

Sure, it might have been the best game in Michigan Stadium history, but I got all caught up with someone I miss talking to and in hindsight the game didn't matter much. Really getting a chance to hear a friend tell you what's in their head, and offering some back, or first night game at Michigan Stadium? Easy trade.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Maybe Just What I Needed...

rat rod cat

I can't believe how embarrassingly smitten I've gotten with Rat Rods...that's right, Rat Rods, and yep, me. They're incredible, and exactly the kind of scene and vibe I've been trampin' around in search of for about a hundred and a half years. They're an upturned nose at classic car culture, a nod to our past, and a brilliant no-rules mash up of creativity and fun. I want one.

So here's the almost impossible deal...I wanna find something worth working on, learn as much as I can with as much help as I can, have a whole lot of fun, put some sweat and scraped knuckles into whatever it is we find, and hit the road with it by next summer. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Kinda, but that's part of the fun.

Sure it'll cost money, and yeah, I hardly know the first thing about the working end of a grinder, let alone the difference between a chassis and a leaf spring, but the end result is so amazing that I'll walk through all of my ignorance barefoot wearing a sign that reads idiot to manage the feat. Yeah, I'll very likely have to spend ten months listening to other people tell me what to do (not my strongest skill set), and naturally, I'm going to have to fight off the haters and naysayers. There's no question that I'll be needing a lot of help with this.

I'll need to find a place to work. I'll need to invest in a lot of gear...either that or I'll have to steal or borrow it...and I'll very likely need to amp up my patience. I've never made a single thing in my life, but I grew up with stories of my Dad, my Uncles Larry, and Marvin and Murray, building and ruining cars. I watched my father do custom work when I was a kid and I remember weekends filled with pinstriping and slicks so thick they looked more like lawn rollers than tires. I remember the story of my Uncle Murray and his buddies finishing up school, loading up in the car and heading out for Pomona in California for the drag races. They watched the freeway turn from one to two and then three and four lanes wide, shot through a few LA clover leafs, and said screw it and never made the track. In a time where no one under 40 is making a goddamned thing (or learning how to), I want to.

Like I said, I've never made a thing in my life, except maybe empty promises. I'd like to put an end to all that with one bad mother of a creation...something that I can step back from, look at with wonder, and erase nearly forty years of helpless consumerism with ten months of using my own two hands to put something into the world that didn't exist before I helped it to.

Sounds crazy, but maybe we all need a little bit of crazy every now and again.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The King Got Awfully Large Near the End but...

"Is that a whale in your bath tub Zoey? I asked.

"Yup, it is," Zed responded.

"What's his name?" I posed.

"Elvis," Zoey answered deadpan.


The Importance of Being Earnest...About Poop

laughing poo

Lately I've gotten so pre-occupied with poop that I've forgotten that ridding yourself of waste in the established and accepted manner that society has taught us isn't really all that high of a priority for a two and a half year old. In fact, despite it's relatively high ranking in our adult world of priorities and basic life skills, it really isn't such a big deal. We all poop. We all pee. We all figure it out eventually. The brilliance in watching Zoey navigate the enterprise is that she reminds you that pooping and peeing really mean Jack crap in the big picture.

We've taken to the lab partner approach to "dropping the kids off at the pool", in which if we have to go use the bathroom, we talk Zed into coming along. We read, we pretend to paint things with her wide selection of paintless paint brushes, and she asks me why my bum looks so funny, and by my bum she means that whole frontal area place. I do my best to explain it, and of course, I also do my best to discretely do my business with heaping amounts of modesty and humility, but there are boys and there are girls and she's gonna kinda figure it all out eventually, so...shrug...she poops, I poop, and I get kinda bashful about the whole thing. She stares, I pull my t-shirt down a little more when I'm sitting in that awkward position, and of course she asks big, bold questions which I answer, and then she shrugs and asks if I want to sing a song. Pooping is just the thing that happens while we do all that other important stuff, like coloring, and reading, and getting penises mixed up with bums, and contemplating the whole "girls and boys are different" concept.

"Daddy, your bum looks funny," she says, when of course it's not my bum at all.

"Bums are around behind us Zo. It looks funny in the front 'cause that's not my bum," I respond. Weird look back at me.

"Wanna color?" She flips.


She likes using the poddy when Dad or Mom come along for the excrement flushing ride, but the whole pooping deal is only part of this great adventure. Coloring, confusing body parts, and making Dad feel awkward is just as important. This is serious business, but the pooping is just a small part of this business. She doesn't remember the poops, but she remembers that Daddy's bum looks weird.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I Double Dog Dare You Not to Reach For a Kleenex...


Dahlia Jimenez and her little sister, Emma, got a paralyzing surprise today when their scheduled school assembly turned into a family homecoming. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mario Jimenez had returned from Afghanistan unbeknownst to the girls, and was hiding behind the stage curtain when they were called to the stage.

"Dahlia was one of a few students called to the front of the cafeteria to speak about having a military family member during an assembly of about 180 first- and fifth-graders. Emma, 6, was too shy to go on stage with her sister, but ran forward within seconds to hug her father after he appeared from behind a curtain." (From The Detroit News)

Homecoming 2

The Detroit News photo gallery that coincides with this heartwarming story is enough to make you have to step away from your desk and find a tissue. The absolute joy and relief on the faces of Mario's daughter's is enough to shatter even the sturdiest stoicism of any parent. The possibility loomed large that they might never hug their father again, until today when he stepped out from behind the stage curtain and gave them a tearful opportunity to do just that. Tonight there are two girls who, I'm guessing, had a difficult time allowing the lights to be switched off, and their bedroom doors closed. Daddy's home, and I'd bet everything I owned that they'll never let him out of their sight again.

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie...

Oh my, I love this song. I love this band. I love Venice. I love Chad Smith. I love the subtle hint of weight that an aging Anthony Kiedis is sporting along with that super bad 'stache. I love the neighbors and street freaks rising to the occasion. I love that I can just post this and then walk away smiling.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fatherly Sacrifices...

Your kids come first...period. My life and my job have done nothing but reinforce that inescapable notion. Your children always come first...and that is why I am no longer a Michigan Basketball Season Ticket Holder...or why I didn't go to a single Tigers game this summer...or why I didn't buy a single Michigan football ticket this Fall...and why Pearl Jam is doing three shows three hours from my house and I'm not going to any of them. It's why I didn't go see Paul McCartney this summer, or why I skipped My Morning Jacket too. It's why we didn't go back to Brooklyn this summer, and it's why we just barely managed a four day getaway from all of life's little wearysomes (good word) last week. I'll take a backseat to my responsibilities as a Dad anyday, but especially right now in these first few years that are oh-so important...that build a foundation and set some serious standards. It's what I believe in, and what I'm doing.

That's not to say that if a ticket to this weekend's Notre Dame game doesn't fall into my lap that I won't crawl on my hands and knees to Ann Arbor. I will. What it is saying is that for the most part I've been there and done that ad nauseam and this was the plan. I'm good with that. Sometimes it's hard, but mostly it feels proper, and right, and those are the kind of people that I always wanted to be.

Now, if the Tigers roar their way into the post-season, the American League Championship, or the World Series, well...Zo doesn't have to go to college. The world needs tomato planters too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

E's First Day of School...

Emelia's First Day of School

See this little girl sandwiched in between two beaming parents? She's the indirect by-product of me thinking, "I really like this girl, and I bloody well know my good best friend Johnny would really like this girl, and I'm pretty sure that someday they will do what you do to wind up with a paralyzingly cute little kid (that's the PG rated version of what I thought)."

Now, all these years later, the by-product of what was an immediate and all-consuming attraction is starting school...and she's cuter than cupid ever imagined. Like I said, before, pretty astonished that the people I've cared about at odd intervals throughout my life have all managed to create unimaginably beautiful families. They say that the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's ass everyday but I could use some sunscreen...Johnny too it seems.

My Girls...My Friends

Mummy Zed slidin

These are my girls, the ladies I come home to every day...the beautiful girls I miss all day...the two people on the planet who give me the most perspective...period.

There were a lot of people that I care about with big days today...Beth had to leave Avery to return to teaching...Aimee and Kev had a son start school this morning...John and Danielle watched their little girl wander into her own first day of school...big day all around.

When I come home to these two girls I immediately think of the people I care about and their super beautiful families, and kinda can't believe that somehow I've managed to surround myself at different points of my life with people who have been ridiculously blessed with absolute tons of good fortune and fine families. Add that to the perspective that these girls give me and sometimes I can't keep myself from smiling.

I know some pretty awesome people, and today was a big day for a lot of them, so I'm tipping my cap Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell style to each and every one of you. We done good, didn't we? Yeah we did.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ahem, Excuse Me Ladies...

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and returned is the conundrum of what to wear, you know, that I find comfortable...that whispers professional, but also sticks it's nose up at the same notion...that is weather and season appropriate...that looks good...

I need some help. I need links...links to looks...links to looks that I could pull off. C'mon, this is fun. You've read the blog forever...some of you know me very well...some of you are dying to dress a man. Here's your chance.

It's always a difficult thing, and when I get it wrong I'm miserable all day. On most occasions I feel a little (or a lot) like I'm living in the wrong place to wear the kinds of things I most want to, that I most feel comfortable with...and I've only just recently made the promise to myself to begin staying true to the clothing that best suits me and who I am or who I want to be...We even went as far as to slap together a little "look book" of what I would wear if I was given an empty Visa and a week in my favorite place to spend my loot, California...Orange County to be specific. All that sunshine and sand and blue sky and kinda sets a smell into the clothing, whispers a sigh onto the fabrics, that I could pack up in ten hefty suitcases and haul home. Have a look...

The Semi-Professional Man-Boy Look - I could pull this off at work easy. It wouldn't surprise anyone, and aside from the kickers, I've already got the exact combo of awesomeness hanging in my closet, and sitting on my shelves.
Fall Look Book 1

The Oh-So Casual and I Wish I Wear What He's Wearing Look - Again, aside from those kicks, I've got this collection of comfort and cool already in my humble arsenal of "trust me" clothes. Teachers hate me when I walk into their school flying these flags of freedom ( watch ever. I'd grab it in a fire).
Fall Look Book 2

The San Clemente September Special - Yeah, I can't wear this to work except for maybe the odd sneak in when I'm feeling super frisky. Oddly, I own this stuff, in great part, already. That thing ever, maybe second only to the Rainbow slippers.
Fall Look Book 3

The Weekender that was - Nope. This combo I affectionately call "the heavyweight champion of the closet" gets strip searched and fingerprinted if worn to work. Sigh.
Fall Look Book 4

The Are You Sure You're My Counselor and Not a Stussy Rep From Outer Sunset Look - This is 100% work and if you say it isn't then we can't be friends. I don't do golf shirts. I couldn't possibly fathom tucking in any more than 5% of my years worth of shirts into my pants, and old, brown leather is good for your soul. This could be the first day of school right here, and then every other day would be downhill.
Fall Look Book 5

The It's a Friday and You Can't Make Me Wear a Shirt With Buttons and/or a Collar Look - Just try to stop me from wearing this lovely little mansemble on any given Friday from October 1st thru November. I'd punch you in the face and hold you down 'til you said "I give"...bully tactic, I know, but the clothes are oh-so anti-bully, aren't they?
Fall Look Book 6

So, as you can see...not exactly your speaking to a room full of superintendents kind of closet but it's what I'm generally drawn to. Suggestions...input...?

June might fight you on anything other than the above, but she's got a really short reach and is pretty non-confrontational generally. C'mon ladies walking down the streets of the working world...Netta, Aim, Betz, Mel, Ally, Beth, etc... your two cents is being shamelessly solicited here. Dress a dude or forever give up the dream.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Goin' to the Zoo...

Zed Tiger Statue

It's Labour Day weekend, so it's our moral obligation to go to the we did. We heard tigers roar, walked all damn day, and ate crumby food. It was practically perfect. What did you do?

What the Expletive...Part Deux

What the #%&! does it take for this to be the backdrop to my life?

What the #%&! is this awesomeness!? Would this be a bad breakfast?

Whoa...what the #%&! is this!? Just one more reason to poop more regularly, I guess. You know, in case you needed one.

Seriously...what the #%&! is this incredibleness and why haven't I experienced it yet?

Okay...just what the #%&! is this gastrointestinal awesome bomb? I'd nuke half the planet for a lunch date with these dastardly buggers.

Holy #%&! What the #%&! is this fairly awesome but painstaking craziness?!

What the #%&! is this thatched perfection? I can't even imagine. I really can't.

Are you kidding me? What the #%&! is this beautiful creation?

How many times can you say "someday" with out eventually just screaming what the #%&!

Ahahaha...what the #%&! is this!? Credit card, order, bedroom wall.

I'm seriously asking what the #%&! is this? You know, besides hilarious and awesome etc...

Oh my. What the #%&! is this nonsense? I want one.

Just You & Me....the Parents Version

B&W June Bri Bellagio

Five days in the desert, just June and I...and about a million and a half other tourists. We ate too much, drank when we really shouldn't have been drinking, spent money on stupid things, and generally wore ourselves out. Somewhere in the middle of all that we got a tan and missed our daughter. We also saw Elvis and Michael Jackson on the same street corner and thought we had died and gone to overdose heaven. Five days in the desert doesn't sound all that appealing until you mention that it's Las Vegas and that it's the first chance you've had to just soak in each other for over over two years...then it sounds awfully nice. Still the best travel partner I've ever had, that Partridge looking too. It's hard to get homesick when home sleeps next to you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Summer Reading


I don’t mourn summers. I don’t. Maybe when I was a kid, but not since then have I ever felt the sweet pangs of watching one summer fade into another Fall, not until now. Every day the sun fades into the water earlier than it did yesterday, much earlier than it did last week, I feel an almost anguish over the loss of this first summer with Zed. It’s not our first summer together. We spent a portion of her first year in Waikiki, and then another chunk of that second year in Brooklyn, but this is the first summer, in so many ways, of just us. It slips from her own tiny lips at times, “you and me Daddy. It’s just you and me,” and I love it more than summer itself. This summer, out of all my summers, I’ll miss.

It started fairly inauspiciously and ended the same way, but in between…oh, in between there was soft and easy magic, not the abrupt and memory stamping kind, but rather the whispy, gentle breezy kind…the kind that plants the seeds of memories in your head and heart and lets them grow slowly, and by September, or perhaps even October, the smells and smiles have erupted into daydreams and full blown laughter. You’re reminded how important daydreams and laughter are, and how sunshine waters both.

It was Camp Zed for eight incredible weeks, “just you and me”, just like she said. I don’t think I’ve ever donated an entire summer to the pursuit of someone else’s happiness, and the memories will last far longer than the tan lines. This was the first summer of Camp Zed, a busy romp through this first summer of just us, just Daddy and daughter. It was filled with beaches and little girl squeals and little red wagons with homemade pirate flags. It was every day blue skies, swimming pools, and not a single sunburn, not one. It was eating lunch out, which almost always meant at the grocery store, and it was sandy bikinis and showers with Dad. He was already too conscious of how big his daughter was growing and made note that he couldn’t bring himself to wash the sand out of his own shorts at the same time. She was already so big and asking so many questions about her parents nakedness. How had she gotten so big? She was just a wobbly toddler stumbling up Court Street in Brooklyn just yesterday, and wasn’t she just a wide eyed little girl cooing her way down Kuhio towards the beach in Waikiki just a week ago? We were so proud that she knew that she needed to take the F train home to Carroll Gardens, and how the salt water and waves didn’t bother her a bit, now we’re astonished by what she says, and the things that come out of her head. She’s getting articulate where once she was just adorable. Now she’s both and nearly three years have slipped by.

For the past two months it’s been little more than a Daddy-Daughter summer camp filled with the kind of sweet, fleeting summer fun that most Dad’s don’t get. With only an scarce number of years to cultivate these summers with her, each day was a reminder that Waikiki and Brooklyn are a long way off, that each sneaking summer week comes and goes without event the faintest concern for my desperation to hang onto them. In a flash as fast and fleeting as the sun splashing into the watery horizon, seven or eight summers will disappear into the darkness of brand new days beginning somewhere else and I’ll have no more summers with her…not exclusively at least…not so gloriously selfish as these. I’ve never pained the passing of summer until now, and it aches more than most of the things that I’ve lost in my life. One quick year down, and then how many more to go? Not enough. She’s getting big. She’ll turn three in January, and six short weeks before that I’ll have turned the dial on forty, but it isn’t the winter birthdays that will mark our time together on this earth, it will be these summers.

I had often said that losing our summer vacations was what aged us so quickly from adolescence into adulthood. It was losing what reminded us each year of the value of our youth that left us forgetful of the recipe for hanging onto it. It’s equal parts forgetfulness and emotional crescendo, and it’s sun kissed and fleeting. It’s knowing that September will come and take it all away and so the clock ticks, but much differently than it does at your desk, or on your commute. The clocks count years in those crowded places, but the wide open space of summer slips by in mere months. It demands that you pay attention. I have, and this one is nearly gone and I’d give a year of my life to have it back, to have each of the last three back, but they’re gone, and so it’s my chore to remember them, and to set each one on a shelf with an empty space right next to it. With luck and warm clothes next summer will come soon enough, and she’ll be one year older but still my little girl, and Camp Zed will still fly it’s flag at the beach, and we’ll still eat lunch out and sleep in and go to the pool. “Just you and me,” she’ll say, until one day she doesn’t…and in that one day I’ll grow old and surely cry the tears that sixteen summers stole away.