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Thursday, December 8, 2011


I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. This is the brief story of one day when I was. . .

Elaine (name changed to protect the . . . um. . . well, her) worked in our IT department. She was in her late fifties. She had a round figure. By this I don't mean that she was fat, for although she was certainly overweight she was not fat. But she conveyed a sense of sphericity to an observer. I can't describe it. She just looked like a little ball. She was about 5'4" tall with an unruly mass of kinky, iron-grey curls on her head that vaguely resembled a brillo pad. She wore glasses and flannel shirts, and frequently sweated.  I know, we all sweat, but beads of perspiration seemed a fixture on her forehead (maybe all the flannel) . Her glasses slide down her nose when she was sweaty and she frequently had to push them back up to the bridge of her nose. When she spoke to you she repeatedly said "okay" while you talked to her, but you get the distinct impression that she was not really hearing what you were telling her because she said "okay" inappropriately, and too frequently.  I would find myself repeating things to her because she'd say "okay" in the middle of something I was explaining and I feared she missed my point in her eagerness to communicate the fact that she understood my point.  She had toadlike facial features.  If she were wearing an apron she would look grandmotherly.  She told stories and used the names of her friends and relatives without explanation or clarification even though you had no way of knowing who those people were.  She just assumed you knew what everyone who knew her knew.  She was completely harmless and very nice. She did an adequate job.

One day, Elaine came into my office (I was just remembering this recently) and asked me, "What's two in the pink, one in the stink mean?"

I gaped at her. I don't know that I've ever gaped at anyone before. I've heard about gaping, even read about it in books, but until that day, I don't recall actually ever ENGAGING in gaping.  My mouth opened and closed like a fish on dry land trying to breathe the air. I started speaking then stopped abruptly several times mid-word.  No intelligible language emerged for several seconds.  In the end I believe I stammered something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, I can't help you. I'm not even sure what to tell you to do. Why are you even asking me this?" 

Her reply was, in essence, that she had asked Dave (a friend of mine also from the IT department) and HIS response had been, "You need to go ask Jim, he'll tell you." 

Yes. . . THANK YOU, Dave.

I have rarely felt as uncomfortable professionally as I did when Elaine asked me to explain what a shocker was, but I know the idea of calmly telling her that it's when someone puts two fingers in a woman's vagina and drops a pinky in her anus was very very amusing in hindsight. At the time however, I could not have been caught more off guard.

Imagine your grandmother coming to you and asking you what a "Cleveland Steamer" is and maybe you get the picture.

Upon hearing that Dave had put her up to it though, my response was, "You need to go ask Chris, he'll tell you." And sent her on her way. 

Chris kicked her out of his office unceremoniously and ultimately she got the information from. . .  her boss.  I called Dave and congratulated him while cursing his name.  It was funny.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dora Ditty

"Gonna pick some juicy ones!!"
Barney and Dora are staples in my youngest daughter's life. My oldest daughter comes along for the ride despite having outgrown them long ago. She finds something to lose herself in regardless of what's on TV, so it's not a huge stretch despite her whining, because midway through the much-protested Dora episode that her younger sister is DEMANDING, i'll ask her a question and find her completely unresponsive, having devoted all her attention to thwarting that sneaky fox or helping Dora count out the books for the Octopus librarian (1 per tentacle. . . or 8 in all, if you care to know). 

Yesterday we watched Dora as she escorted the grumpy old troll and the giant to the barber to get them (Boots too) all hair cuts. Emma, the oldest, protested, preferring Total Drama, or Phineas and Ferb, but it was Lily's turn. I sang along to D-D-D-D-Dora!

"Don't sing pease," Lily commented, watching the screen.

"I'm an AWESOME singer," I responded, but I stopped. I turned to Emma. "Sometimes I make up my own words to Dora's songs, Emma."

"Like what?" she asked.

"Well, you remember when she goes to pick berries and they have to go to blueberry hill where Swiper lives?"


"You remember the song?"

Her mouth worked itself around as the wheels in her head tried to churn out the answer. "Huh uh," she replied at last.

"Going on a berry hunt, (repeat), Gonna pick some juicy ones! (repeat), We're not scared, (repeat), What a beautiful day!" I sang.

"Don't sing pease," Lily commented again without turning.

"Well I changed it to, 'Going on a booger hunt, (repeat), Gonna pick some juicy ones! (repeat), We're not scared, (repeat), What a beautiful day!"

Emma giggled at this and we sang it together. Lily ignored us. She only tells me to stop singing. Not Emma.

Then I leaned in and told Emma conspiratorially, "best we not sing that song in front of Mommy, 'kay, kiddo?"

"Okay, daddy."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tough Love

Emma does the least amount she can get away with.  I talked to her teacher about it, and she reassured me that every kid in her class shares that same trait.  That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to get her out of the habit of doing the least she can get away with, but at least I don’t feel like she’s “lazy”.  She’s just being a kid.

One morning she finished her breakfast and my wife told her she needed to put her shoes on.  Emma being Emma she’ll find whatever shoes are handy and put them on without regard for whether they match or fit the situation.  If shoes are near. . . THOSE shoes are the shoes her energy level dictates “match”.  We’ve learned to adjust our requests to limit the wiggle room.  For example, my wife’s actual words were not “put your shoes on,” they were, “Emma, you can either wear your black shoes or your black boots.  Neither of them are downstairs, so go get them on, please.”

“I don’t WANT to go upstairs.”

This is where I entered the fray with my unique and masterful parenting skills.

“Emma, what if this is all an elaborate ruse to get you to go upstairs to your closet because inside the closet is a NEW PUPPY!!!?  If you don’t go upstairs to get the boots, you’ll never find out about the new puppy we got for you.  Now, if that was the case, wouldn’t you want to go upstairs and find your new puppy?”

“YEAH!” she said excitedly.

“Well there’s no puppy, but you still need your black boots, so go get ‘em.”

Her mother said it was mean, but I laughed, and so did Emma.  She’s got a good sense of humor.

The Death of a Fairy

Almost a year ago to the day, this happened:

We sat down to dinner with our friends and talked about our children who enjoyed each other's company so much.  We talked about their schooling and their interests and their friendship, and then, because it was the season, we talked about the Great Lies we tell them.  I was surprised and not surprised at how important the Lies were for them.  Surprised because I thought they'd care less then they did, not surprised because i feel the weight of the lies on my shoulders too but am myself also reluctant to shrug it off.  I think because preserving the lies preserves our children's innocence and youth, and allows us to slow the passing of time that every parent agrees 'goes by too quickly'.  

A week later a second set of friends were visiting our house from out of town.  The kids sat at the table and started to chat.  Their oldest boy is in a 'bad' stage.  Everything is "STUPID" and he has forgotten the manners his parents taught him.  He knows how to do everything even if you have to help him do it, and he snatches things out of your hand without a word.  It's irritating.  I'm positive i was EXACTLY like he is at his age.  I'm positive EVERY boy is exactly that way at his age.

"There's no Tooth Fairy," he said, "that's STUPID."  He appeared about to launch into a dissertation about the subject.  He started to talk about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny before his parents jumped in, horror stricken and redirected and began damage control.  Emma sat, unfazed.

The following night as we decorated the Christmas tree, Emma pounced. . . on her mother, because i think she senses weakness.  She was very careful.  She knows we talk in circles.  She's picking it up.  She senses redirection and attacks when we temporize.

"I need you to tell me the TRUTH." (She really emphasized that word).  "I just want to know, once and for all, and I want you to be totally honest with me. . . "

We waited with baited breath, tension in the air.  I was hanging an ornament on the tree as she spoke, trying to "act naturally".  Santa was about to die.  My little girl was killing Santa tonight.

"HONESTLY. . . do you and daddy put money under my pillow when I lose a tooth, or is it a tooth fairy.  And please tell me the truth.  I really want to know."

There was a hush in the room, broken only by Christmas music, the Glee Christmas album, playing softly on my office computer.  Thank god thank god thank god repeated in an endless loop in my head. 

"I promise i won't be sad."

From my vantage point on the other side of the Christmas tree, i could see my wife, a proverbial deer in the headlights of the truck full of dreams my daughter was about to crash into her, but my daughter couldn't see me.  I gave her a head nod.  We'd been expecting something like this ever since the visit.  She floundered.  Though she'd not responded to my nod, I stepped in and said, essentially, this:

The tooth fairy is a secret that only very mature children are allowed to know.  Parents put money under their children's pillows to surprise and delight them, and when they're old enough that they can be trusted to keep the secret from their friends and little brothers and sisters and other children NOT mature enough to know, then they are told.  And the way parents know their children are ready, is when they ask, as Emma had, in no uncertain terms, for the truth.  I also told her, that knowing the truth didn't mean that she wouldn't get money under her pillow after her next tooth, just that she'd know where it came from.

She accepted this truth and promised not to divulge it to her friends/sister.  And we waited for the next hammer blow.  Because what IS Santa, but a wingless magical fairy delivering presents to good little boys and girls?  But it stopped there.  Is it wrong that I was excited she only killed the Tooth Fairy?  I was.

I think i've said this before.  I want her to hold on to the magic as long as she can, but I don't want her to be teased because she's the last one of her friends to know the truth.

To paraphrase a quote from the movie "Dave", "I can kill a fairy.  I can kill a hundred fairies."  Santa though. . . that's tougher.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I finally reached a decision.  I'm not doing it.  I started doing it.  I think I maybe made it 700 words in (or so) before I realized I just don't have time for it.  I'm doing a lot of writing for the other blog, and between that, and the kids, and just general housekeeping.  I'm stretched pretty thin.

I love the idea of writing a novel.  I think the concept of pooping X number of words per night in order to reach an arbitrary total number of words starting no earlier than an arbitrary month is . . . um. . . arbitrary.  And sort of equates to writing badly just for the sake of writing.

What makes Nanowrimo a good concept is that it gives folks a start time, pushing them out of inaction.  It gives them a target word count, getting them into the habit of writing.  And it gives them some support and additional motivation to get started and to keep going. . . twitter, the website, suggestions, ideas, and more.  It's a good concept (like I just said).  And I suppose to someone who has a good idea that he's just dying to get out of his brain and onto "paper" it's a great motivator.

Having said that, I have an idea.  It's an "okay" idea.  But it's not a 50,000 word idea.  At least not right now.  And while I'm sure I could inject it with words in order to ultimately get to 50,000. . . I have enough shit on my plate without adding that particular turd.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Recalling Halloweens long ago. . . 

The only picture I have available at posting (I'm the dude with the orange nose)
We went trick-or-treating.  It was a good time.  My wife and I take turns dressing up and accompanying the kiddos.  It was my turn to trick-or-treat that year.  My sister, dressed as a candy corn, brought a treat bag 'o beer and we walked the neighborhood.  I was the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.  My oldest daughter (then six) was a green grease-painted Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west from the musical Wicked) and my youngest (then almost three) was Dorothy complete with sparkly ruby slippers.  My niece and nephew were dressed as a banana and a rabid bat respectively.  My niece was disappointed because she kept getting called banana boy and Mr. banana.  My nephew was frustrated because everyone referred to him as a wolf.

Before the festivities began, however, we all met at my parents' house for pizza.  My youngest was fascinated by the bat mask, which was an sinister-looking latex and faux fur amalgam. When my nephew removed it, she'd steal it and clutch it to her chest like a teddy bear, toddling away with it.

After pizza we all marched up the hill to the neighborhood Halloween parade for pictures. Dorothy's ruby slippers kept slipping from her stockinged feet.  We later taped them on with clear packing tape.  Staples seemed 'wrong'.

When we left the parade for trick-or-treating it was still light.  My sister credited the Bush administration with his greatest achievement in office, namely not "falling back" an hour until after Halloween.  The majority of our evening out was spent in daylight.

With a beer in your hand you feel less ridiculous dressed as a Scarecrow.  I held that and a flashlight.  After every house I asked Elphaba if she'd said "thank you". Each "yes" became more and more exasperated.  This pleased me. Eventually disgusted "yesses" turned into pre-emptive "don't say it, YES".  I would stop asking for a few houses before dusting it off again later.

When it got dark, i would scribe a path of light on the pavement with flourishes of my maglight brand flashlight, each path punctuated with a sci-fi-esque noise.  Elphaba began giving me dirty looks and shaking her fist at me, promising violence if I didn't stop being "weird".  Eventually I ran out of new sounds to make and my niece said, "you already used that one."  I told her I was recycling for the environment.

Halfway through the evening (trick-or-treating from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.) I offered to carry Elphy's bag.  It was heavy. From within my rope-belted pants, i drew out an empty plastic grocery bag, and she used it for the second half of the evening.  By that point my two beers were gone and stowed safely in my sister's "treat bag".  I carried a bag of candy in one hand and the flashlight in the other.

I don't like giving out candy (when I stay home), and I'm sure I'm not alone.  We stopped at a house.  The lights outside were off, but we could see someone was home.  There were lights on inside, and the TV appeared to be on.  The kids rang the doorbell.  Nothing.  They rang it again.  I don't know how long we stood there, not long, but I was just in the process of telling them nobody was home, when a woman answered the door long enough to tell the kids that the lights weren't on and that meant that they weren't giving out candy.  The kids took it MUCH better than I did.  The lights inside WERE on.  There were several houses just like it along our route and each of them WAS participating.  Later on I threw a rock through her picture window. Cause fuck her.

Not really.  I mean, fuck her, that much i mean, but I didn't really throw a rock through her window.  Anyway, after commenting loudly about egging her house we moved on.

Brief Sidebar - 1) if you're going to hide from kids on Halloween. . . then hide.  Don't come out of the house to tell them they're stupid because you don't have lights on and that means you're not home. It makes you look like a dumbfuck.  2) if you aren't participating for some whacked out religious kook reason, then leave a sign saying "no candy".  I think that's a pretty universally understood sign, and the kids don't have time to waste knocking on your door and annoying the shit out of you.  OR hand out religious nut job toys or candy instead.  You know. . . spread the Word of the Lord instead of candy.  Believe me, word will spread and the following year nobody will bother you.  (end of sidebar)

At the end of the night we trudged up the hill into our familiar cul-de-sac and trick-or-treated the one last house, our own, and went inside to rest our feet and wash off our makeup.

After cleaning up, the kids took their sacks of candy into my family room and dumped them in heaps on the floor.  They organized them according to preference or flavor or whatever category suited their cute little heads.  Then the trading began.  This has since become one of my favorite parts of the holiday.  I needed to help my daughter a little with the concept.  She was giving away all her candy.  She was bartering like an Arab merchant by the end of the evening.  Laffy Taffy for Nerds, Nerds for Hershey bars, Hershey bars for pixie stix.  The kids all had their favorites and for the most part each kid's favorite was unique.  So they all ended up with what they wanted.

There was a brief period of disaster as Dorothy re-entered the house and panicked rebagging of the candy piles ensued. She plowed into the middle of the piles with her ruby red slippers of death and began scattering Clark bars and Butterfings pell-mell before they were recaptured and rebagged by their respective owners and stowed in safer locations, unreachable by Dorothy.

When the bags were stowed, the makeup and costumes removed, jammies donned, children stuffed with candy, and Dorothy asleep in her field of poppies aka crib, we watched E.T.  I Netflixed (in those days it was called Netflix. . . ) it.  We borrowed "a cup of popcorn" from the neighbors, and I pan popped it and soaked it in butter.

We lay in the family room on couches and chairs, or sprawled across the carpet under warm blankets in the dimmed lights and watched E.T.  The words "Penis breath" and "shit" caused me to close my eyes tiredly amidst the laughter of the children, but it's still a great family movie despite that.  My daughter got scared and sad and a little panicked when E.T. "died" and I stayed close to her and whispered, "just wait. . . keep watching. . . " and stroked her hair.  She liked it in the end, except "the scary part".  My niece fell asleep on the couch.  We all got a little misty.

When the movie ended, we bundled up sleepy children and sent them home or to bed and then went to bed ourselves.  It couldn't have been later than 9:45 but it felt like midnight.

It was a happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm an Excellent Driver

So. . . last night I left work early to go to a 5:00 meeting on the Southside.  I left the office at about 4:25 ish. . .plenty of time.  On the way, I missed my turn and ended up in Oakland, trying to turn around and get back to where I came from.  It was a stupid lapse in my brain that I can’t adequately explain except to say I’m getting elderly and instead of taking Grant Street (if you don’t know where these streets are, just let the words wash over you soothingly and enjoy the ride) I took 376W.

There is no convenient way back once you've gone that far except to go through the city of Pittsburgh, which I did.  Did I mention that the meeting was at 5:00?  Don’t answer that, because I know I did.  It was 4:48.  I snaked and through the snarl of roads and exits to find a way to cross the Smithfield Street bridge for the meeting.  I was coming at it from the East (see map).

Yesterday was the Penguins home opener, so traffic downtown (where the Consol Energy Center, home to the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Hockey club, is located) was brutal (but not quite as brutal as that sentence).

My wife, coming from the North (see map), called me to say she was going to be late and to hold them over and discuss Lily's future until she got there. . . except I could see I was going to be late.  We discussed this.  I was stressed out, pissed off, and she offered some helpful suggestions about things I could have done differently in order not to have gotten myself stuck in downtown Pittsburgh traffic, which I reacted less than ideally to.  (I had a minor tantrum that I did my best not to direct at her, but failed moderately before recovering later).

Cars moved at a snail's pace if they moved at all.  I finally oozed my way through Pittsburgh, curling up north as my wife turned and headed east into town.  It was 5:25.  We’d called ahead and the meeting was on hold until we arrived.  But that didn’t make it any less stressful since we were already a half hour late and getting later every minute.

Map of Pittsburgh and our routes. . . "ish"
I turned east onto the street that was going to take me to our meeting. . . and my wife crossed at the light behind me from the other street.  She pulled in directly behind me and waved cheerfully.  It was so absurd that it made my stress disappear.  Our timing couldn't have been any better.  Quite literally there’s almost no way we could have said, “okay, you come from the north, I’ll come from the west and we’ll meet at the intersection at 5:30. . . GO!” and made it work within 10 or 15 minutes of each other.  The odds of her pulling in immediately behind me from another street in the midst of that mare’s nest of roads and traffic are astronomical.  It was sort of cool.  Except that we both arrived at the meeting at 6:00. . . an hour late.  They told us under no circumstances could the meeting go past 6:30.  They had to be out of the building by 6:30.  We left at 7:15.


This morning on my way to work I was impatient with the traffic going through the tunnels and took a short cut to the West End bridge, which sort of parallels the Fort Pitt Bridge, but further down the river. . . then the road joins 376 on the other side of the river, past the tunnel.  (Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the roads, just let the words wash over you, the message amounts to the same thing.  Just insert your own road names.)
It takes slightly longer, but sometimes the traffic on the Fort Pitt Bridge makes it worth it.  A guy in front of me was going so slowly we were barely moving, so I jumped ahead of him and tried to get back in the lane to take the ramp to 376. . . and couldn't.

So I said. . . fuggit, I have a GPS. . . I’ll just drive a little further and then cut across.  Only there's no cut-across, and what I didn't realize is that I was almost heading in the opposite direction from work. . . my short cut was going to end up being longer than the commute itself.

not to scale and stuff
So I turned the GPSs on, and ended up driving through neighborhoods I'd never heard of before, and some that I had heard of but never seen, until eventually stuff started looking familiar.

I had already started the commute a little late.  After I dropped the kiddos off and left the daycare an urgent call of nature forced me to stop at home first before I continued to work.  I got started on my commute about 10 minutes late.  I usually get to work around ten minutes to 8, so, no biggie right?

I got to work at about 10 after 9.  About an hour late.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Learning Against Her Will

Batman riding a rainbow unicorn over a purple dolphin sea.
Emma is reluctant to study anything other than what she knows is going to be on her tests.  She will fight with me, for example, if I attempt to get her to give me the meaning of something that she knows she will not be tested on.  

Last night we were going over definitions for a Social Studies test.  The teacher had placed an asterisk by all the terms on a list that would be on the test but there were maybe fifteen or so additional terms and I forced Emma to review those too.

"Daddy, Mrs. G said that's not going to be on the test."

"I know honey, I still think you should know it."

"But she said we don't have to."

"But I said you do."

"But Daddeeeeeee. . . "

And so on.  She fought me and got all sullen because I made her tell me what a savannah was. . . or a mesa. . . when all she really needed to know for the test was grassland or prairie or plateau.  But ultimately she got them and we moved on with our evening and she went to bed.  I think she might have been a little tired, having just finished a 3 hour softball game the hour before.

So this morning after breakfast, I was giving her a practice spelling test and "rainbow" was on the list of words.  It was number 19 of 20, but before I gave her the last word (scrape) I said "unicorn" instead.  Because really, you can't have rainbows without unicorns.  I think that's pretty much understood.

But it was not on her list of words.  I waited for the protest.  This time I was going to immediately capitulate since i was really only teasing her, but she spelled it out on the paper correctly, quietly concentrating as she wrote it out. . . and then looked up as if I'd just slapped her and did some sort of weird double-take, saying, "Wait, what did you just say?"


She scowled in confusion.  "Was that on the list?"

"No sweetie," I smiled in reply.

She was just on autopilot, too sleepy to notice or too in-the-zone. She got mock angry with me for tricking her into learning something; scowling unconvincingly before smiling and laughing with me when I pointed out that she spelled it right in spite of herself.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy 12th!

for my love. . .
Last week was our (my wife's and mine) 12th anniversary.  So much was happening that we, by almost unspoken mutual agreement, put it off, electing instead to celebrate it this week.  That was a mistake, I think.  There's so much important stuff that's going on in our lives and lives of our family and friends, but I think I probably should have drawn some sort of line in the sand. . . or planted my staff on the rock and roared to the Balrog of impending family business, "You shall not pass!!" and made plans to take my wife out for dinner and exchange cards, etc.  I think the mistake that we made was not so much that we focused on others, but that we failed to prioritize ourselves as well.  At all. 

So this week we'll do our annual "go out to an awesome dinner" anniversary, and hit the reset button to some extent, and have another great talk (we always do our best talking when our brains are slightly addled on wine flight samplers and our stomachs are distended by difficult to pronounce foods).  But last week was Anniversary Card Buying.

And don't get me wrong. . . I don't dislike giving my wife an anniversary card.  I understand the necessity of restating what I consider to be understood (I love you, I'm thankful for you, I need you, etc) but, while I have no problem giving my wife a card, I dislike shopping for that card.

Because anniversary cards suck.  The challenge of the greeting card industry in general is that they are presuming to speak to your loved one on your behalf.  I've made my peace with the concept of expressions of love by proxy, but. . . I have to sift through a lot of greeting cards in order to get to one that sounds like something I would say.

One of the cards I read last week leaps to mind.  It took the greeting card lover-by-proxy mission statement a step too far and actually used the first person narrative.  I didn't so much mind the sentiment itself as much as the fact that it presumed to actually attribute to me things that I'd never expressed or considered.  I'll quote it, though I can't actually remember it word for word, "Happy You and Me day" it said, I opened the card, because so far I was okay with it.  "That's what I always think of it as, you and me day.  Because. . . " etc.  That's actually not what I always think of it as, and I, and maybe this sounds silly, felt vaguely insulted and offended by the greeting card taking that sort of liberty with my feelings/expressions.  I put it back.  It wasn't me talking, but it was saying it was.  It presumed too much, that card.

As I riffled through the cards, I reaffirmed how few cards I found that satisfactorily expressed me as I wished myself to be expressed by proxy.  Here are my rules for greeting card purchase:

1)  Start with the classy/pretty cards.  Not too frilly, not too lacy, not to busy or too loud.  Nice simple colors/patterns on pretty paper. . . start opening these in order from most to least tasteful.
2)  What's the message? 
  • Toss the religious themes. . . nobody reading this message could possibly think that card was read by me prior to purchase.  So, if it says "I thank god every night for the blessing" etc. . . it's gone.
  • Toss the overly mushy and sentimental messages.  "You have captured my heart.
    I put my hand in yours,
    and we began this
    wonderful journey called love.
    Wherever life takes us,
    the light of your smile
    will forever be my morning sun
    and the shelter of your embrace
    my heart's true home." etc.
  • Toss anything but the simplest of poetry.  If the poem is more than a few lines long I can guarantee I'm not on board, specifically if it rhymes.  These cards are often weeded out by the previous bullet point.
  • Toss anything that puts maybe too much emphasis on our love to the exclusion of the rest of the universe, "You are at the heart of all that is good and happy and meaningful in my life."  The next line might just as well say, "and if i ever lost you, your body wouldn't have a chance to get cold before I killed myself out of sorrow". . . pass.
  • Sort through the remaining messages, "The first time I looked into your eyes, I knew it was happily ever after."  That's not bad. . . but it's also not true.  The first time I looked into her eyes I had already had three or four beers and was trying to think of some way to ditch my friend and get a ride home with her.  And while to me (at 24) there was a 'version' of happily ever after involved, that's not what the card meant, and she'd have known it!
3)  Find the simple, honest message on the prettiest card, and purchase it.
4)  Insert mush.  This, above all else, is why I detest the annual card-passing ceremony.  Because my cards don't have proxy mush that doesn't sound like me, but instead have simple messages (by proxy) embellished with my hand-written personal mush. . . I don't want her mother reading them.  I don't want her friends reading them.  They're written for her.  Privately for her.  I'm not particular big on "sharing" emotionally in the first place!  Sorry. . . did I just interject personal baggage into this?  Yeah, I don't like when people pass cards around at a party or gathering.  Your card is for him or her or us, and those intended should read it. . . it's nobody else's business.

So last week I bought my card and embellished it with mush.  This year's mush said essentially (because it's actually nobody's damn business but hers and mine, but I can hand out the essentuals) that she's a higher priority to me and my life than we exhibited over the course of our actual anniversary, and that I'm going to try harder to make sure we reprioritize "us" amidst all the festivities involving "them".  (Where "them" means. . . everyone else in the world, kids going to games, kids going to kindergarten, relatives getting married, relatives moving their houses, relatives putting on charities).  And let me further soften it to say. . . all that stuff I just mentioned in parentheses is EXTREMELY important to not just her, and not just me, but US. . . but not to the EXCLUSION of us. 

Anyway. . . Happy Belated Anniversary to us.  From me!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Little Rain

I guess I've already lounged through whatever guilt equity my new injury may have originally engendered.  Gone already (sheesh, has it even been 48 hours yet) are the offers to carry things for me or perform "boy chores" on my behalf.  She's already making plans for me to carry the loveseat out to the curb tonight for the garbage men to collect tomorrow.

"But what about my foot?" I sputtered indignantly.

"I'll help carry it," she replied.  Fantastic.

This morning I underestimated both the volume of rain that was falling as well as the length of time it would take me to limp from my car to the front of the office.  This underestimation resulted in my election to forgo the umbrella and feel the rain on my face.  But when I got inside, I felt it everywhere else as well.  With any luck it'll be dry by the time I leave the office.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Broke My Toe

Actual toe pictured.  Arrows added for clarity, these do not occur in nature.
  Yeah, I did actually not only feel like I broke my toe but literally broke it also.  See picture.  Now, not only do I have to limp around the office until it heals, but I must do so in some sort of bizarre velcro post-op shoe monstrosity that the doctor said was the modern medical equivalent of strapping a board to the bottom of my foot.

How long must I wear it?  Three weeks, if it heals nicely.  This neatly solves the problem of "who will watch the youngest while we participate in the charity walk".  Me.  I will.  Becuase I cannot walk. . . only thump, drag, thump, drag, thump.  Like a pirate (see previous blog) or Mad-Eye Moody.

"What if I don't wear it?" I asked.  It turns out nothing much.  It may not heal as quickly.  it may not heal as nicely.  It may, opined the doctor, create an extra joint.  I tried to fathom what it would take to create an extra joint, and the mental image, of bone grinding itself smooth over time against another bone, didn't seem awesome to me.  So I'm wearing the stupid shoe. 

How long will it take to to heal?  The doctor indicated that his rule of thumb was 6 weeks to heal any simple break, and that the break should be immobilized for about 50% of that time.  So in an effort avoid creating a new joint utilizing the process I've imagined above, I'll wear the stupid shoe for three weeks and follow up with an orthopedic surgeon next week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ow, My Toe

Dramatization.  My actual toes not pictured above.

I broke my toe last night.  I mean. . . I think I broke my toe last night.  I've never broken anything to know whether what this feels like, and what broken feels like are the same thing.  Here are the major symptoms:  1)  It really hurts, 2)  I can barely move it, 3)  my toe has never hurt this much ever.

That's pretty much it.  Okay, i stubbed it.  I stubbed it and it hurt really really bad, and the only thing medically that leads me to believe it may not be broken is that I never actually swore outloud.  I always assumed loud swearing pretty much meant it was broken.  That's just medically though.

parrot not included

Most of today has been spent limping from point A to point B, alternatively emitting involuntary gasps of pain as I misplace my foot, or wry laughter at my gasps, punctuated by the odd rhythm of my fractured gait. . . thump-thump - pause - thump-thump - pause, and so on, Gasp, laugh, thump-thump-pause-thump-thump, gasp, laugh.  Like a mortally wounded pirate with a good sense of humor. 

Later this afternoon, when I was limping around the grocery store trying to find an Anniversary card for my wife, i realized that if I angled my foot to the left, i could push off the inside of my foot and use my big toe and I didn't have to limp as much.  I'm going to "buddy tape" my pinkie toe to my (what. . . ring toe?) next-to-pinkie-toe tomorrow and see if that helps. 

The Little Things

I struggle sometimes celebrating Lily's small victories or milestones, conflicted by some superstitious dread that I'll somehow jinx it, that a celebration of a week without any potty accidents will inevitably lead to a day with ten. I'm even worse at relaying celebratory stories with friends.  Every story shared about Lily with my peers requires a recap of where she is now and where she's come from in order to lend the listener any kind of context of the enormity of what they might consider the tiniest of milestones without.  

I'm trying to get better at letting myself celebrate.  It's not fair to my daughter if I don't. We celebrated Emma's milestones.  And yeah, they were "typical" milestones, but no more valid or momentous in their relative context.  And it's denying myself a little extra sunshine. And why?  No rational reason that I can determine.

This morning she stood very close to her big sister, just invaded her personal space, blundering happily over and standing uncomfortably close to Emma as she sat eating her morning breakfast.  This is a physical closeness she rarely seeks out with anyone unless thoroughly exhausted.  And her big sister just smiled indulgently and let her hover; suffering the occasional awkward bump of heads or pull of her hair just to be close to her little sister for a little while, joining our amusement, giggling good-naturedly at bonks and swipes. And it was sweet, and wonderful, and I think we all celebrated a little. And I told Emma how Lily never does that with ANYONE and made a big deal of it, and I could sense her swell a little with the pride of being Lily's favorite.  And when Lily started to get a little rougher, reaching up to grab her hair, or pushing her fingers at her face, I reached across Emma to ward her Lily off, and Emma just batted my hand aside reflexively, protectively, and said it was okay, happy to share even this rough rare closeness with her little sister.

It was a win. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Umbrellas and Planes and Buses

It's raining in Pittsburgh.  That shouldn't shock anyone, I suppose, although it doesn't really RAIN that much in Pittsburgh so much as it THREATENS to rain.  Anyway, I have an umbrella to keep the damp off me.  I brought it in the office with me this morning from the car.  It had a cover, like a slip cover over the top of it.  Why?  To keep it dry?  It seems like a stupid design to me. 

Tomorrow Lily goes to Kindergarten for the first time.  To SCHOOL for the first time.  We'll go watch her pile on the bus, and there'll be an aide for her, but I just have such a sick feeling like a knife-twist of dread in my stomach about this whole thing.  Emma goes to HER new school too, and I'm proud and excited and even a little nervous for her, but she'll be fine.  And so will Lily I trust.  But I'm still apprehensive.  She'll ride the bus, she'll have a homeroom, and circle time and eat in the cafeteria, and I'm scared. 

I guess it's just one of those things; like when I fly on a plane.  I get air travel.  I understand the Bernoulli effect.  I'm fully vested in the physics that allow airplane wings to lift the plane off the ground and keep it aloft.  I TOTALLY saw that episode on Discovery Channel where the wings can bend back almost double and still not snap.  I've read the statistics that say air travel is a safer method of transportation than driving, or, at least I know a guy that says he read that article.  I've watched my fellow passengers calmly sip their drinks or laugh at some conversational quip with their traveling companions as the airplane hops and dives and yaws alarmingly underneath my feet and I push the imaginary brake pedal and white knuckle the arm rest, putting away my novel du jour so that I can focus fully on my terror and trust in the physics to keep me alive.

And I know that the supports and protections we've put in place in conjunction with Lily's IEP team will protect her and keep her aloft, and help her succeed . . . but I'm scared for my little girl.  Scared of the bullying.  Scared for her confusion and her struggles.  And like the airplane, there's just a certain amount of trust I have to rely on, and just deal with my terror quietly until there's something that I can actually address.

It's supposed to rain again tomorrow, and I'm having trouble with the bus company.  It seems they don't want to pick Lily up and drop her off again at the curb of the daycare where they picked her up and dropped her off last year.  Because they don't know if it's possible.  I'd have thought the experience of all last year would have proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt to them, but they're citing new resources (a different, longer bus, perhaps) . . . may not fit.  So they agreed last week to contact us and let us know if they'd be able to make it work before school started.  School starts tomorrow and they haven't contacted us.  It's not even the first day of school for my little girl and already the physics and protection and support is failing and the airplane is crashing down and all I can do is call and leave messages for the bus company politely asking them if they've figured out yet whether the bus they're sending tomorrow morning will be able to accomodate my daughter's special needs, or if I have to STOP trusting in the process.

Lily's going to need an umbrella if the bus won't meet her at the curb, and she'll need an aide to hold it for her.  Stupid bus company.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our Morning 'Special K'

Lily met her Kindergarten teachers yesterday at a morning meeting we had to go over this upcoming school year.  She'll go about 50/50 typical Kindergarten (K. . . I'll call it K from here on out) and "special" or "adapted special" or whatever they call it K.  Special K sounds so. . . morning breakfast.

Anyway, she spent most of the time outside on the playground with her grandfather while we discussed what her daily schedule would look like:  where she'd start her day, who would greet her off the bus, would she participate in 'circle' or 'stations', would she have adapted music or attend the typical music class (the only class that I think she probably could participate in without having it specially adapted). 

It was a good meeting.  The K teacher asked if Lily might enjoy working on a laptop, and I had to reply, "She might enjoy working on a laptop, but YOU might not enjoy her working on a laptop."  Later, Leslie thought we might parlay that into a iPad for Lily, since if you get those sorts of things incorporated into an IEP, then the School District is required to buy one for her.  And I had to push down mounting excitement and differentiate between whether I wanted an iPad for Lily or I wanted Lily to have an iPad for me.

Honestly, Lily might benefit from an iPad; something that doesn't require the sort of fine motor skills to hit buttons that a laptop's keyboard requires.  I downloaded a couple apps for her to try:  a program that gives her pictures of three objects and asks her to select one.  When she pushes it correctly, it cheers and the object multiplies and music plays as the object in question cascades across the screen.  If she pushes it incorrectly it says, "uh oh" and she gets to try again.  That one seems alright.  Another one required that she push the item five times as it bounces slowly across the screen.  Honestly, I failed to read the instructions and tried pushing it myself and got frustrated when nothing happened.  I thought I just had to push the (in this case) star and i'd "win.  I feel fairly certain the need to push this star five times will escape Lily's brief focus, so as an app, I'm tempted to judge it useless (for now), but I have to trot it out for Lily.

The iPhone's screen is so much smaller than the iPad's, if she can make the apps work, and is interested in it, she might get more success with the iPad, and we could treat it as "pre-writing" or "pre-typing" sort of training for her.  And honestly, if she DOES have some success, she might be able to satisfy some of her page-turning obsessions graphically, sparing some paper books the ignominy of her less-than-gentle handling.  You can't rip a touch screen.  Although. . . if you CAN rip a touch screen, Lily will find a way to do it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guilt Equity

It’s been three weeks since my wife got her iPhone. The “surprise” was an unqualified success. Not only does she enjoy it for itself, but she’s also able to enjoy it with Emma, who currently uses her iTouch as most kids use their Nintendo DS’s, giving her a little extra play time with her in a venue that was once my exclusive domain. Perhaps most importantly, it has allowed me to build some rare and precious guilt equity.

My wife has directed her disappointed looks, scornful glares, and incredulous brow-raised remonstrances if not for the last time, perhaps at a significantly discounted rate. Because you can’t yell, “I want you two to put down your ‘devices’ and play a game ‘together’” when you’re in the midst of a heated game of Words with Friends yourself, especially when your husband is watching you from the kitchen where he is doing dishes.

I don’t even mind doing the dishes at times like that, because I feel some of the pressure bleed slowly away, like maybe next time I won’t feel QUITE so guilty checking my Zombie CafĂ© a few minutes after I get in the door, when she’s ALMOST cracked the next “Ham ‘Em High” level in Angry Birds and hasn't yet uttered a "hello" from the table where she's sitting, or directed a curious glance in the direction of the sound of the opening door.  Which is not to say that the iPhone has consumed my energetic (at least until 9) and efficient, hardworking wife's attention.  It hasn't.  She still accomplishes all the things she ever accomplished. . . but she finds time to examine the screen, consider her move, submit her word, and THEN move to her next chore.  More like her husband.

And yeah, now we can put all our schedules on one mutual schedule and we’ll be more organized, and yeah, she can download her own music and apps and show Lily a Dora cartoon on her phone if she gets too amped up, and I feel good about myself for getting the phone for her for those reasons. But it’s also nice to watch that ivory tower topple. . . literally within the first day or two of having it. . . and feeling like, okay, maybe I AM being lazy and maybe I AM finishing this one last level of Fragger before I make the kids’ lunches. . . but nobody is hustling behind me, pushing through the evening fatigue and getting them done on HER timeframe, wordlessly ratcheting up my guilt with her responsible efficiency. . . because she’s on the couch, her neck bent, face lit by the pale fire behind the iPhone’s hi-res touch screen, getting one last turn in on Hanging with Friends.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scary Funder

This morning at 4:40 a.m. there was a thunderclap so loud it woke me from my sleep and rattled the windows of our house. I had to go check on Emma to make sure she wasn't all freaked out. It was sort of a preemptive checkup since I felt fairly certain that if I DIDN'T check on her, I could expect to be startled awake, her form almost invisibly silhouetted against the wan light of the storm-dark morning to a gentle nudge and a whispered, "Daddy, I'm scared." fifteen minutes later.

She was awake and scared when I arrived, but not crying, which was a good sign, and I stayed at her bedside until the thunder was less frequent, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder so she could tell that it was moving further and further away. When it got to about 15 seconds I told her I was going back to bed.

A few minutes later I heard Lily quietly stirring over the monitor and went to check on her. Lily does not typically go back to sleep once awakened, at least not once awakened after having several hours of sleep, so I was reluctant to check on her. But because we're still fighting a particularly long battle to get her potty trained, and because when left unattended but awake in her room after an evenings rest we almost always LOSE that battle, I entered her room briskly but silently, preparing for soggy jammies and bedding.

I don't know if it was the thunder, or my sudden appearance at her bedside that startled her, but her eyes were WIDE open and she looked up at me and said quietly, "Funder scary."  This elicited a reflexive "awww" from me as I picked her up and checked her, cradling her as I lifted her to me.  She was dry, bless her little heart, and I draped her over my shoulder and swept her into the bathroom where I put her on the potty, saying quietly "time for Potty, Lily, then back to sleep," before waiting wordlessly in the hall for the tell-tale trickle.  I brought her back to her bed and settled her in as noiselessly and calmly as I could, telling her the thunder was alllllll over and that it was time to go back to sleep, hoping my gentle movements and quiet voice were calm and soothing enough that she would settle back into bed and slumber.

I went back to my own bed and slept until about 5:30, when my wife woke me with a gentle backscratch, and I, at length, made my way on sleep stiffened joints to the bathroom to prepare for my shower. In her bedroom down the hall, Emma had fallen back asleep almost the moment I'd left her, but I found Lily in our bed when I got out of my shower at 5:45. . . apparently she never really made it back to sleep, but my wife buried the monitor so it wouldn't keep me awake (since she was spending the day with her at home).

We're very fortunate that Lily sleeps as well as she does, but her early wakeups always seem to line up with nights where i've elected to stay up a little later taking care of something. (um. . . there was an MMA bout on. . . then I copied a couple DVD's. . . made lunches for the kids. . . important stuff). So my 1 o'clock bedtime, coupled with my 5:30 a.m. wakeup broken by anxious children left me with a scant 4+ hours of sleep. I should know better. I'll wake up at work with the buttons of my keyboard imprinted in the side of my face sometime this afternoon around 2:30, "QWERTY" it will say in mirrored text. Stupid "funder".

Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Ruin a Surprise

I decided my wife needed an iPhone. She dropped a few hints about her next phone being an iPhone and I'd asked a few probing questions. She wasn't dissatisfied with her Blackberry (like I had been with mine) but I sensed a hint of envious longing, too polite to be pained, too practical to be demanding, it was just a hint. And I couldn't figure out why I hadn't already bought her one. I guess because she's never really been drawn to the gadgets like I have. I guess a part of it was just selfish self-centeredness. I hadn't really given it a lot of thought. But I decided to buy her one.

There was no urgency to it, so over the course of a few weeks, I looked at Verizon's webpage to see what options she had. She qualified for an early upgrade, which was great, since Verizon's retail price for an iPhone was $650, and the upgrade price was $199. Black or white. . . black or white. . . I paused in the act of upgrading the phone and closed the website.

Later that night. . .



"If you WERE to get an iPhone, what color do you think you'd want?"

"What do you mean? Like the cover?"

"Nono, I mean, they come in black or white. Do you think you'd want a white one, or would you go with the black?"

She paused only for a moment before saying, "Black."

A week or so went by. I remembered my plans to buy her an iPhone and revisited the website. I hit "upgrade" and selected the black iPhone. My iPhone had 32G of memory in it. It was more than half used up, but I had all manner of songs, images, and apps on it. Would she use 32G? THAT phone was $299. 16G or 32G. . . 16G or 32G . . . I paused in the act of upgrading the phone and closed the website.

Later that night. . .



"If you WERE to get an iPhone, do you think you'd need the 32G version, or would the 16G version work?"

"Oh, I don't know, Jim," she said dismissively, "you'd know more about that than I would."

"Well," I said, "mine is 32G and is a little more than half full, but I have all our music on it. Some of it I haven't listened to for years, some of it I only have on there because I want it in case YOU guys want to listen to something. I think 16G would work, but wouldn't want to short-change you on it."

"I'd trust your judgement on something like that. Why do you keep asking me about iPhones?"

I love surprising, almost to a fault. I'm not saying I do it constantly or anything, but I think spontaneous, unexpected gifts/surprises are better. And sometimes they're just stupid little surprises. . . going to the eye doctor to have my daughter’s glasses adjusted when she already thinks it's something she'll have to do later. . . cleaning the garage even though we haven't really talked about it, because it's hard to get both cars in. And when she calls the house and asks what I'm up to, I'll wipe the sweat from my brow and lie, "just watching TV" so that the garage work, when noticed, seems more glaring, more dramatic. I don't like TELLING her what I'm going to do. . . I like to have her show up and see that it's been done.

That said, it's not like I'm any kind of home-project-surprise-dynamo. . . I do my fair share (maybe even a little more than my fair share) of sitting around the house, captivated by the television, playing Words with Friends, or reading a book when her expectations are that the dishes should have been washed from supper already, or the kids' lunches packed, while she's occupying herself with other things that need to be done.

So it always bums me out a little when I can see she's curious/suspicious I'm up to something. It feels like less of a surprise. Even so, I'd already made my peace with it. She's not a stupid woman. You can't ask repeated questions about a hypothetical iPhone from week to week after she's already dropped hints about wanting one without some suspicion creeping into it. I explained that I thought when it was time to upgrade (not NOW, of course, bills are due, we're not sure how the account will look, iPhone 5 maybe available in September or the end of the year, etc) we'd get her an iPHone and I wanted to know what we were looking for.

A week or so later I again logged into the website. Again I moused over "upgrade" and selected it, picking the 16G iPhone in black. I put everything in the "cart", adding accessories, selecting options, and preparing to check out. The phone was listed as $650. What the. . .

I backtracked, reselecting everything, verifying she was qualified for an upgrade, selecting the upgrade. $650. I paused in the act of upgrading the phone and closed the website.

I called Verizon. I spoke to a customer service assistant. She confirmed the upgrade status, she apologized obsequiously and redundantly for the website and my difficulties on the website on behalf of her company and my order (I found it amusing that she was apologizing on behalf of the order, like the order was sitting there glaring sullenly at me for tattling). She confirmed that it was a problem with the site. I felt relieved. But I didn't return to the website.

A week or so later I resolved to finish the "surprise". I logged in. I selected the phone. Again I felt concern at the price shown on the upgrade, and again I backed out, deciding instead that I'd order it over the phone rather than risk having to play phone tag with someone in the future about the $650 I'd already paid in error, but as I waited for the automatic operator functions to cycle through. . . "Press 1 if you're already a Verizon Wireless Subscriber", "Press 4 for new order and upgrades", etc, I went back through the motions of ordering the upgrade, thinking it would be easier to order over the phone if I had all the details on the screen at the same time. . . and the price was correct. I looked it all over, and before I had a chance to "hold for the next available representative" I'd hung up the phone and was proceeding to checkout.

What made the "surprise" better was that she would be home with our daughter all day. “Working from home”. The website would send my phone Fed Ex overnight to arrive prior to 3pm for the low low price of $12.99. I wanted that. That made it more of a surprise. Bang! Done!

It was all I could do to keep from telling her that the phone was coming the next day. The following morning I got up and went to work, checking the website for the tracking information obsessively like a child looking for presents under the tree on Christmas morning. No status change. No tracking information. "Your order has shipped" the email had told me the previous night. Where was the goddamn tracking information???

I waited another hour before calling Verizon again. It was 11:30. The phone was due to arrive in 3 and a half hours and they had no tracking information? Nobody knew anything. I was transferred. They assured me they'd get the tracking information to me as soon as they had it.

"You're not understanding the problem," I told them. "The whole point of shipping this thing overnight was because someone is at my house to receive it today. Nobody will be there tomorrow and I'll have to drive aawwwwlll the way to Pittsburgh to pick it up if they can't make delivery." I left off the part about it being a surprise. I left out the part about Pittsburgh being aawwwwlll of an 11 minute drive away from my house, and on the way home from work. Many apologies were provided. And then I was disconnected while held for more information.

I fumed. A smoldering ember of frustration slowly blossomed in my chest as I thought about having to call again. . . explain again. . . wait again. . . and the slow realization dawned that there would BE no delivery today. No surprise package.

In the end, after many apologies on behalf of her company, my order, the website, and various other things too numerous to mention even in a blog of this length, Verizon refunded my $12.99 (at least they SAID they did. . . hmmm) and I agreed (after fighting down the panic that warred with my decision) that Fed Ex could drop the order on my doorstep without a signature). All I needed to do was leave a note on the door that indicated no signature was necessary and reference the tracking number that I still did not have. It would deliver the following day. I had to make my peace with that.

I knew I'd never remember to put the note on the door later, so I wrote out the note at work and shoved it in my pocket. When I emptied my pockets for bed, I'd see the note and add it to the door. I recognized in myself the flawed memory that would make putting the note on the door after she left for work the following morning nearly impossible, so that night after I put the garbage out on the curb, I taped the note to the door and went to bed. She'd go out the garage door anyway and wouldn't notice it.

The following morning she left for work and I collected my laptop and coffee, the kids' lunches and backpacks and walked out the door to put them in the car. She had stopped her car's slow descent down the driveway, slowly pulling to a stop and getting out of the van to walk back to the house. What was she doing? Forget something? I put my things in the car and rose up, looking at her, eyebrow arched questioningly as she opened the door to the minivan.

"I saw a note on the door," she said in answer to my unspoken question, "I came back to see what it was." She didn't ask what I was expecting shipment of. She didn't ask about the note at all. She just climbed back into the minivan, waving warmly as she drove away.

"Fuck," I said.

And THAT, is how you ruin a surprise.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


My "little brother", Brian, is in Pittsburgh this week.  He's in quotes because he was my fraternity little brother as opposed to my flesh and blood little brother.  He's consulting for the Pittsburgh Marathon.  I didn't really know what that meant, except that he'd be here all week.

I met him at his hotel.  It's across the street from PNC Park.  Part of our evening was a Pirate game.  He got the hotel parking pass so I was able to park right there.  It had been at least 16 years since I'd seen him.  He still looked more or less the same.  I was surprised.  Some of my friends have let themselves go a little since our college years.  He had less hair, I suppose, but he'd always cut it short.  Shaved bald seemed almost natural, like it had always been that way, or like he'd just decided to try a new look.  He'd always had a bit of a baby face.  I still didn't recognize him right away when I pulled up to the hotel (he was standing outside waiting to give me the parking pass).  I guess I just wasn't expecting HIM to be there yet, though i knew we were going to the game.  I hadn't reconciled the reality in my mind.

I said, "you look pretty much the same as you did the last time I saw you!" and shook his hand.  He. . . thanked me. 

"You fucker," I thought, "This is where you say I look pretty much the same as I did too!  You think i'm old!"  And i wept.  At least in my head.  Actually I was amused by his failure to respond reciprocally.  I'm sure I've aged in 16 years.  There's a picture of 30 year old Jim floating around somewhere, and the difference isn't huge, but i've gained some weight. . . which is actually a good thing.  I was 6' tall and weighed 150 - 160 pounds for a lot of my college years.  185 fills me out a little; takes the edge off.
We met another guy he was working on the marathon with.  He introduced himself as Mike Johnson and I forgot it a minute later.  He was from Boston and worked on the Boston Marathon and was helping Brian with the event.  I told Brian in an aside my short term memory was shot, and after we finished a beer I asked him to remind me his coworker's name.  He did.

We finished our beers, paid the tab, and crossed the street to the Park.  It's a really nice ballpark.  It's tragic that nobody's ever there, because nobody gives a shit about the Pirates in Pittsburgh.    Mike was amazed because he goes to Red Sox games and they're always packed.  He kept repeating how unbelievable he found it that nobody was in the Park, but I think in a way it makes the experience for the couple thousand actually there in attendance better.  No crowds, no lines. . . very relaxed.  A day at the park. 

Unfortunately I was shoe-horned into my seat, sharing an arm rest with a 300-pound Dodger fan who would bend my ear with tales of softball glory past for at least the next two hours.  He was from Pittsburgh, but was a Dodger fan anyway, and i think he was trying to recruit me into his rec softball league between annecdotes about his bad knee and lamentations about how a black woman won't let you play softball and how he wished his christian league was more than just black guys (he was lobbying for more inclusion).  He was black himself.  The man he was 'with' was sitting behind him, presumably because his experience had taught him that two 300-pound men cannot sit comfortably side by side in stadium seats.   He was wall-eyed, and when he participated in the discussion I had to crane my neck to look behind me and then was uncomfortably aware of not knowing which eye I should be looking at.

The game turned painful but the company was nice.  In about the 6th inning I went to the bathroom and then stopped by the proshop and bought a Pirates sweatshirt.  I usually buy myself all of my logo stuff at the games.  Otherwise I don't think of it.  I put the sweatshirt on, though it probably wasn't chilly enough yet to justify it.  I bought three beers and brought them back to the seats with me, handing them down, as I sat.

We were supposed to meet my ex-brother-in-law (who also went to college with Brian and was in the same fraternity) at a bar across the street after the game.  He texted me at the top of the 8th. 

"I'm at Finnegan's"

"We're still at the game"

"Are you kidding?  It's 7-2"

The Dodgers were still batting; pummelling the Pirate's bullpen pitchers.  It was now 8 - 2.  We agreed to pack it in and save Sam from his lonely seat at the bar.  I texted him again.

"Fine, we're leaving now.  Fucker."

"Great.  Jackass."

We got to the bar and talked and had a couple more beers.  The TV was showing the game, now in the 9th inning.  It was 10 - 2.  While we were there two girls with huge boobs in stretchy low-cut tops too tight for the rest of their physiques parked themselves across the bar from us.  A couple guys were talking to them and started aggressively fondling the one.  She was laughing.  The curious/alarmed looks coming from the rest of the bar made her laugh harder.  He was actively jiggling her breasts.  His buddy began motorboating her friend.  She looked up to the bar at large and announced, "it's okay, they're gay."  Gays love boobs.  Or so I've heard.

There ensued some debate about whether or not just SAYING you were gay was enough to allow motorboating priviledges and I opined that you probably had to at least KNOW the girls too.  They're not just boobs for hire, after all. 

We finished our beers.  Sam left and I walked back to the hotel with Brian and Mike.  If I was worried that Mike (he was in his early 60's) wouldn't fit into the discussion or felt uncomfortable being around three guys who went to college together, I needn't have. 

After we left the bar he said to me, "I think you probably could have motorboated that girl."

"Oh yeah?  Why is that?" I asked him as we walked.

"Cause you look gay in that sweatshirt."

I laughed.

Fuckin' Red Sox fans.