Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Strikeout

The other night I got over the sinking feeling that comes when I near the end of a book and finished a good read -- Neal Pollack's Alternadad. To melt my brain before heading to bed I threw on ESPN. During a Sports Center commercial break, ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball kickoff match up was announced:

Cardinals vs. Mets @ 8pm

If you follow baseball, you know this is a rematch of the 2006 NLCS, which turned out to be the most dramatic series of the postseason, making the World Series look like exhibition. In case you don't follow baseball, I'll share (rub in?) that the Cards won everything. East Coast biased reporters kicked and screamed about the Cards not deserving it since they had the worst record of any team in the playoffs and limped into the postseason but that's merely jealous hot air.

Speaking of these talking heads in the sports media, when my wife catches me indulging occasionally in the guilty pleasure of watching them scream at each other over small picture sports topics, she can't help but question two things: 1 - How small is their junk downstairs? 2 - Could any of these losers possibly have wives?

In any case, the announcement immediately burned itself onto my Sunday night slate. I'm all over it like a duck on a june bug, as my rabid Cardinal fan grandfather used to say. It also brought me back to Game 7 of that NLCS --one of the best games I never saw.

Wilco was playing at 930 Club that October night, and my friend Jay hooked me up last minute with a ticket. It's worth noting that Jay and I go back as far as college where the simple gesture of breathing usually spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. That said, I set my expectations appropriately. Little did I know I would surpass them beyond my wildest night terrors.

As I recall there were two openers. Two openers for a weeknight show would usually irritate an old man like me, but in this rare case I relished it because it provided a chance to catch the first few innings of Game 7 at a dive bar. A combination of nerves over the game and the desire to have a good buzz for the show, which we planned to hit around 10ish, led to me consuming a healthy dose of bourbon. And by healthy, I mean way too much. By the time we were in a cab headed for the show, a warm current of electricity coursed through my veins. The latest global news travesty being dissected on some talk radio show didn't stand a chance of busting my groove. It was show time, and I had mad game.

Despite our late arrival, we vultured great spots at 930's upstairs bar. From our envied perch, a slight crane of the neck and a nod of the head was all it took to cue another round of Chimay. "Picture perfect" hardly does justice in describing the scene. Soaking up the clean and true sounds of Wilco, drinking beer brewed by monks -- good karma for all my friends!

About an hour into the show, we decided a shot of tequila would make complete sense. The bartender liked the sound of that, so he poured 3 doubles (one for himself) of some top shelf brand, "on the house." Before we knocked our glasses together, I leaned over to Jay and joked, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight."

Down the hatch and my fate was sealed.

The post-shot cigarette did not help. On the contrary, it was like throwing a match into a roadside fireworks stand.

Suddenly my world felt like a cement mixer -- churning, spinning, heavy. I looked at Jay and told him I needed to roll. He urged me to stay and drink some water. I nodded in agreement and decided to hit the bathroom to pull myself together. No luck whatsoever, so I spilled from the bathroom door and assessed my options: fight the crowd to get back to the bar or get home immediately.

From the cab I texted a litany of drunken apologies to Jay then tried to look out the windows to maintain some shred of equilibrium. As the city light blurred by, I tried to talk myself back from the edge. My phone buzzed, so I assumed it was Jay texting back to give me shit, but I was wrong. It was another friend, Sam, updating me on the game, which had slipped my slippery mind by then:

Top 9. Molina went yard. 3-1 Cards.

"Pull over," I muttered to the driver. He obliged, and I leaned out the door and lost it all over the curb, right in front of a bus stop, which I remember being rather crowded for 11:something on a Thursday night.

As you can imagine, the driver was not thrilled. Three more pit stops of the same flavor led to his suggestion that I get out.

"No, no...I'm 33." Dry heave. "I have a kid" Spit. "Get me home, man. I'll pay double."

After begging him I started pleading with myself to get a grip. Beyond needing a sliver consciousness to tune in to the remains of Game 7, I knew I would be arriving home ahead of my wife, which meant facing and paying the Jack-sitter.

I dropped a $20 tip on the cabbie, then stumbled into the house. Let me tell you, the words oh my god, look at you are never encouraging, but that's what the sitter came with when she saw me. Fortunately she recognized that I had no game for chitchat. I stuffed a wad of cash into her hand and she was out.

My mind drove me toward the television in the kitchen, but my wrecked body took the wheel and detoured me to the cold bathroom floor where the rest of the night would play out in a series of text messages.

Jay: Where are you

Me: My bathroom floor. So sorry man

Sam: Bottom 9. 2 out, 2 on

The last thing I needed, a swarm of butterflies went to town in my weak stomach at this news. Shit, Cardinals, don't blow this.

Jay: Asshole. No worries

Me: Really sorry really

Sam: Bases loaded. Beltran up

A bit of relevant baseball knowledge: Carlos Beltran is absolute murder on the Cardinals. I can recall countless times he has stepped up in the clutch for an opposing team and broken my heart. Add to the drama that the Cardinals have a rookie closer on the mound and it looks like a major letdown in the works. It was too much. I had to see this at-bat. Alas, my arms didn't see it that way, so they refused to push off the floor. My legs were with my arms and couldn't care less about some at-bat. So I was relegated to waiting.

Sam: Strikeout. Cards win!

With a sigh of relief, I pulled a hand towel from the rack, tucked it under my tired head, and called it a night. An hour or so later, I woke up to my proud wife standing over me asking what the hell happened.

Here's what I told her: "The Cardinals are going to the World Series."

I've grown up so much since last October, really. This Sunday night will be my proving ground. When Beltran steps to the plate, I'll be planted soberly on the couch sipping green tea.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

another day

The pit in Ben’s stomach churns at about 5:01 am and reminds him that his life has become a zoo of rattling cages. It’s the same pit as yesterday and the day before, etc. Nerves come next, dry mouth too. He gingerly cranes his neck to glance at her sleeping next to him. No movement, so he guesses her demons are sleeping in this morning. Baby curls up like a shrimp next to her, waiting for the next round of mother’s milk. Gently he kisses the baby’s soft brow and rolls out of bed. He grabs some clothes as he tip-toes out of the room, the dog heavy on his heels.

He stares blankly at the coffee maker while getting dressed in the kitchen. The dog casts the same glazed stare at him. Neither of them knows quite what to do. Coffee sounds like the last thing he needs. A walk, somehow, is the last thing the dog wants so early in the morning. He trailed Ben downstairs out of conditioned loyalty and now wishes he was sprawled on his dog bed upstairs in the cold darkness again. Ben dumps the remnants of yesterday’s coffee and spills the muddy grounds of the cone into the sink before muttering, “Fuck it. Let’s go.”

Pennsylvania Avenue is empty; no surprise there. Panhandlers are fast asleep on park benches and makeshift cots. In the creepy stillness, Ben imagines himself to be on the set of a zombie flick and for a moment swears he sees one of the undead stumbling toward him half a block ahead. The dog sees it too but doesn’t feign much interest. As the zombie draws closer, Ben makes him out to be just another crack head walking off the comedown. He wonders if he would be better off trading places with this outcast. He considers if a broken soul is worse than a broken mind. When he smells the funk on the guy as he passes, he decides he would rather contend with the former today. At least he won’t make himself retch.

On the Capitol steps he sits and takes in the blurred view of the Mall. The first edition of mist lingers on the scene, casting dusty shadows and bending the morning light in a way that stings his eyes. As he pulls the brim of his ball cap lower, the burn in his eyes yields to a sudden stream to sweaty tears. A quick glance around proves he is still alone, so he doesn’t bother to wipe the wet trails from his cheeks. Recently he has become comfortable with the sadness, almost relying on it for some sense of purpose. It allows him to feel like he walks and moves in slow motion, like some tortured soul trailing off into the horizon at the end of a bad music video—his gait broken but determined to keep walking in spite of everything. He stammers and snorts as he breathes. This concerns the dog, who is still trying to decide how to respond to these new human emotions. He applies his wet nose to Ben’s neck and wags his tail, but his face is buried in his hands, hiding any potential glance of approval.

Anger shows up wearing a tattered black cape and 3 days worth of stubble. It backhands sadness in its quivering jaw, calls it a pussy, and sends it along. Ben shudders and gazes ahead, deciding, for the 23rd time, he will kill that son of a bitch.

“Matter of when, not if…”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

crisis du jour

Most mornings, when the wheels in my head start turning, I run a quick internal review of the day's agenda and look for a meaty chunk of drama to get me through it. This is a subconscious query, I should add. That is to say, I don't necessarily want to be a drama queen or wear that costume to survive; it's just what tends to happen. My shrink and I dissected the hell out of this dynamic a couple of years ago and devised a list of coping mechanisms or strategies with which to launch my days -- meditating, breathing, focusing on the good things in my life, etc. They actually work most of the time, when I remember to employ them. The problem is that my mornings are the equivalent of a slingshot that snaps off with a "Daddy, juice! Mama, daddy? Ahwon juice, pease!" from the Jackal's room down the hall. How the hell does one find those 5 prescribed minutes of meditation or reflection in a real life morning?

This morning I sort of stumbled upon an answer to that. I'd already thrown down a cup of coffee and delivered said juice to said Jackal. I believe I dialed up the crisis du jour as I was letting the dog out. That's all it takes -- mere seconds. Today it centered around a work-related mess, the details of which I won't bore you with. Suffice to say, my work is not critical or centered around saving lives, so you understand these are not big picture dramas. In any case, I went about the morning routine and found myself stewing in the shower.

Then perspective showed up in the shape of a naked little rug rat being placed in the shower with me.

Last night we hit Alero for Mexican with a friend in town from NYC, and Jack made quite a mess of himself between the plantains, beans, and fried ice cream. When we got home, it was way past the little guy's bed time, so we bypassed the bath and put him to bed. As she left the bathroom, my wife mumbled something about him smelling like fajitas. Suddenly nothing else in the world mattered or existed outside that shower. My beautiful son in his birthday suit with his enormous smile erased any and all negative vibes and reminded me that I have an amazing life that I should savor. The Jackal giggled as he put his head in the stream, then took a step back, pointed at his junk and yelled, "Pee-pee!"

So as strange as it sounds, when any shit attempts to tangle my soul today my mantra is this: Pee-pee!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Back Door Man

To call myself a slacker lately would be a disservice to slackers. A case of apathy dug its claws into me and transformed me into a shadow for about five days. This blog was a victim of that for sure. I'm already picking up a scent of the coming weekend, which could be a bad thing for my productivity. Hey, at least I can reflect and acknowledge these things, right? I could be in total denial and keep going through these hamster wheel motions toward nowhere. The thing is, I am starting to feel normal again today.

So, welcome to the first installment of spring. I am born again, in more ways than one. For instance, Monday I cashed in a personal day and hit the Apple Store. Like most guys, I don't meander and burn a lot of time when shopping. That said, I walked out of there after about 15 minutes $2k lighter and one Macbook heavier. So now I'm a smug Mac disciple. Actually, that's not entirely true, yet. Introducing the Macbook as the newest (and sexiest) member of the family did not go as smoothly as I expected. To make a long and boring story short, the wireless network seemed to reject it, which means I get to spend hours on the phone with Verizon and/or Linksys tonight trying to hash this out. Hopefully that will conclude my pledge period and get me on board that Mac hipster bandwagon.

(Just a quick note: Someone told me I copped out last week on this blog. I think there's some truth to that. Aside from the prosthetic piece, I am not proud of much last week. I sense this delicate line between too much self-disclosure and what someone would want to hear and worry about going too far to either side. Then sometimes I think who gives a shit, this is my rear view mirror. In any case, I hope to be more faithful and interesting, even if it means sticking with the raunchy material...)

Saturday morning, around 5:45, I found myself on a DC Metro bus completely chewed up from the night before. My last ride on a Metro bus was with Jack about 2 weeks prior. We took the L2 from Chevy Chase down Connecticut Avenue to Woodley Park. He absolutely loves the bus. Every time one rolls by our house, he jumps up and down and screams "Bye-bye, bus! Bye-bye, bus!" The nanny will sometimes take him on bus rides for pure entertainment value. Prior to that ride with Jack, I hadn't been on a bus in 4 years. So there I was, some creep among creeps (okay, maybe these other passengers were fine citizens, but none of them looked any more alive than me), licking my wounds in the back row while the city slept in. The occasional pothole would rock the bus and jar loose certain memories of the previous night, splintering my skull in the process. If I squinted hard enough, those memories would transform back into blurs and allow me to focus on how I intended to gain entry into the house without catching a shower of scorn from my wife. As it happened, that was completely smooth (my wife is nothing but cool), but my dismount from the bus was a different story.

Back when I lived in Adams Morgan I took the 42 bus to and from my downtown office every day for 4 years. Somehow I managed to avoid being that pathetic commuter who was required to holler "Back door!" when the back door failed to kick open at each stop. Of course this all caught up with me Saturday morning when the bus edged up to my stop. I opened my mouth and reached for those dreadful words, but the whole gesture was futile, as a bog of frogs had performed a coup in my throat and held my vocal chords hostage. The half pack of cigarettes I'd consumed the night before certainly had not helped my cause. All I could deliver was a paltry "Ba--ahem--ahem--AHEM--AHEM! Back--ahem--ahhhhem!" The experience was rather strenuous and embarrassing. Truly, it would have been worse if my fellow passengers didn't look like those jury duty peers you see salivating in that Multrie Courthouse ATM line for that $4 stipend. Luckily my throat spasms, which had to sound like some middle-eastern, flem-driven language, caught the attention of the driver, who had enough mercy to unlatch the door and release me into the shivering morning.

On the sidewalk, I cursed the paper-cut wind, cleared my throat, and spit as I watched the vessel roar away. The frogs had dispersed, so I enunciated a crisp and clear "Bye-bye, bus. Bye-bye, bus" then trudged the 10 blocks home to tell Jack all about my (mis)adventure.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Start the Madness

Get those brackets in!

That email from a kid in the office hit my inbox ten thousand times this week, like so much spam. They say employers collectively lose millions each year due to March Madness. This cat definitely got that memo and is committed to playing his part. Every time he sticks his head in my office I tell him to burn rubber before he even opens his mouth. As I type this, he's literally 10 feet outside my door hovering over his peers, riding their nuts, breathing down their necks.

Someone in every office across the land has to carry this flag, and I assume each soldiers through it with a similar level of passion. At noon the conference room television will come to life and suck every productive molecule from this place.

Wait, if I'm blogging on the clock, doesn't that already make me an unproductive slacker? Guess I should get that bracket filled out and get some real work done before noon.

More to come on how this day unfolds around here. I'm kind of askaird really...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Daylight Ravings

Someone (not my shrink) suggested that I venture away from potentially creepy topics like fluffers and prosthetic private parts for at least a day and blog on something more G-rated. Fair enough.

So...on with the red cardigan sweater, blue leisure shoes, and ridiculously wide smile. Yeah, that feels good. Okay, now cue the frail music, and sing along with me:

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor?

Two weeks ago marked the 4 year anniversary of Fred's death. If I had a blog then, I might have mentioned it. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, I hear, is still thriving, especially with daylight savings time rocking.

Apparently we're not the only ones making the most out of an energy crisis. My invite must be on the floor of the USPS dead letter office because I didn't receive it, but apparently King Friday XII and Prince Tuesday hosted a Tuesday night cookout that would have gone all night if the cops hadn't shut it down.

Daylight savings is a breath of fresh air. If you think otherwise, you might be a crotchety farmer who still uses decrepit farm equipment, in which case you're entitled to your bitterness but might want to consider an update.

It's also show season. A friend with tremendous taste in music recently emailed:

Show season is the best, especially when it starts to get warm and it's light at 8pm. I plan on being at St. Ex/DC9 at least 2 nights a week, every week through spring.

She's a rocker. That message gives me a charge of electricity. My plan, at least twice a week, is to live vicariously through her experiences, if she will let me.

Nothing from left field today, just a general appreciation of longer days. Tonight we're grilling, drinking white wine, and smoking cigarettes on the back deck. Tomorrow it's back to the odd topics and pallid attempts at humor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Prosthetically Speaking

There's a "friend of a friend" story in my cache that bears repeating. I recognize and accept that such stories are often written off as folklore due to facts and truths being diluted with each extension. Taking this into account I'll add a deeper human element and disclose that this is not just a friend of a friend but a pot dealer of a friend. Not sure if that makes it more or less legit, but there you have it.

Let's call this guy Moose. He lives in Chicago and loves getting by on his own supply. That might be an understatement. You could also assert that he cherishes it, or it completes him. To support this love affair, he dispenses a heavy share of it to locals and keeps a healthy stash for himself. This scenario is rather common among dealers and not breaking news, I know. The intriguing angle of this story stems from the fact that Moose also needs to obtain a full time position in the rat race. Due to spending most, if not all, of his free time in cloud of pot smoke, he's had a hard time holding down jobs in the past. No surprise there.

But there's a new found jumpstart in the works for Moose -- a third interview for an inside sales gig at some nondescript company in an office park in Schaumburg. If this goes well, which he expects it will, he just needs to pass a urine screening and he's back in the game, watching the clock, counting down the minutes of the work day until he's back on his couch with an overstuffed bowl. Most people you know, at least those with such vices, would put the pipe down for the requisite 4 to 6 weeks, make pounding water a habit, maybe pop some golden seal root, and wait for the moment of truth to come. You should know that Moose is not most people.

No, Moose is either a genius or completely out of his mind. You know, back in the day, genius was synonymous with insanity, so maybe that's what we're dealing with here. (If you want to experience a wonderful piece of supporting evidence, pick up a copy of The Professor and the Madman.) Either way, Moose hatched a hell of a scheme that entailed dropping over $300 on a strap-on, prosthetic penis that stores and insulates a reservoir of clean urine. It gives me pause to know that somewhere out there exists a factory where workers are paid 13 cents per hour with no bathroom breaks to mold and craft such implements. I mean, this is a niche business that somehow survives. It's fascinating and simultaneously disturbing.

Practice makes perfect, so in addition to brushing up on company research and speculating on possible 3rd interview questions, Moose adds several piss test rehearsals to his daily routine. The essence of the drill is pretty basic, akin to the usual business a guy tends to in the Men's room, except his unit is fake. However, Moose picked up on a critical nuance and reached into his bottomless well of ingenuity to address it. There's a small valve on the head of the unit that requires turning in order to unleash the clean sample. When turning it, Moose discovered a squeaking sound, so he puffed for a few hours and came up with the solution -- chewing on a piece of hard candy at the precise moment he turns the valve to cover up any suspicious sounds. Talk about covering the bases...

How's this for an anticlimax: when the day of the 3rd interview arrived, Moose had to cancel because one of his cats perished. He called the HR woman and explained the situation to her, and she was very understanding. She has yet to return any of his follow-up calls about rescheduling, but she was so understanding that day, and he's sure she'll get back to him any day now.

Until then, the prosthetic sits on a shelf, pining for its day in the sun. I, for one, hope that day comes soon...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spraying the News

REM will be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in about 30 minutes so I need to employ brevity tonight. I'm already behind on posts. This weekend I scribbled several ideas on random scraps of paper (oh we get you have a blog so the slices of your life are interesting enough for you to be that tragic character who scratches ideas on the nearest shred of paper towel) but never got around to hashing them out. Having a kid tends to consume spare time, but I can't say I'd trade watching Jack raise hell like the monster trucker that he is in the playground for pecking away at the keyboard when it's 65 degrees outside. The paper scraps remain in my back pocket, so if I can decipher the handwriting and remember where the hell I stashed my muse, they'll come to life this week. From what I can remember they entail, in no particular order, a prosthetic penis, finding Win Butler of Arcade Fire at church, coping with a bog of frogs, and defining myself according to how I prioritize sections of the Sunday Post.

All that said, I offer a meandering (and probably not so interesting) little story here and a promise to pull my shit together this week and get something worth more than a cup of dip spit posted.

Yesterday I ran into my friend and his wife on the Hill. Well, she's a friend too, so I guess I should say I ran into two friends. In any case, her voice was a gravel road and she wore the exhaustion of struggling to speak all over her face. She assured us, though it sounded more like an attempt to convince herself, that she was out of the woods and no longer sick. Despite the strife in her throat, she told a story about the previous night when they were at Belga with two other friends and she caught herself inadvertently spitting on their faces while lunging with her throat to speak. Apparently their wiping their eyes and mouths let her know. Imagine someone so blatantly ill spitting on your mouth. The story was meant to be funny, and I laughed thoroughly at it until the end, when one of her punctuating remarks peppered my eyes, nose, and mouth with speckles of her spit.

Just what a germ freak like myself needs...

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Lately I find myself thinking a lot about fluffers. Frankly I'm worried about them. I wonder how they're managing these days in the broad shadows of Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. The porn industry swears they no longer exist due to the magic of medicine, but that sounds like a corporate cover-up. It's hard to believe some pill can completely eliminate an entire workforce or community. Besides that, if you're a porn star, wouldn't you prefer a fluff, if for nothing else than aesthetics, over a bitter pill?

Maybe I'm wrong and they have been extinguished, but in case there are still a few stragglers out there in this world, I have a few ideas for how we might preserve and even help this species thrive again. To be honest, I'm shocked that no one has come up with the following vision.

Imagine this scene: You're a C-level executive in a multi-billion dollar, multi-national company. That alone is enough to stress and pit out over. In an hour you're slated to present to the shareholders, and the gist of the message is less than mediocre. On top of that, the investor relations team has completely botched the power point presentation and they're starting from scratch with the deadline looming large. Your confidence is shivering in the corner stall of the mens room and your swagger shit the bed in the morning staff meeting. You need to pull it together in a hurry, so you do what anyone in your shoes would do -- send an urgent outlook invite to the fluffer. Problem solved. After your "meeting" you stroll up to the podium, break the news, and the crowd eats the crow right out of your hands. And why wouldn't they? Your firm delivery instills nothing but confidence and enthusiasm. Later you send a Morton's gift card inside a "thank you" note to that fluffer because you are a leader who appreciates the hard work of those under you.

At my wife's work holiday party a few months ago, I bounced this concern off her colleagues. (She was so proud.) You might expect such a topic to be frowned upon by a bunch of professionals in a holiday party setting, but on the contrary it was well received, even by women. In fact, amidst cackles and applause, several of them offered up suggestions. One cat recommended fluffer temp agencies. Granted, if you're a senior partner at a prestigious law firm about to negotiate a major m&a deal, and your full time fluffer calls in sick, you might not be too thrilled when a temp fluffer rolls into your office. Another idea born at this party was the concept of adding the fluffer to an employment contract: $200k base salary, 100% bonus, company car, 401k, on-call fluffer. I've actually suggested this to my clients and they have not all hung up and fired me, yet...

Just writing about this, I'm getting excited. There will certainly be more to come on this. In the meantime, I need to hit Network Solutions to see if i can score a URL for the foundation I plan to launch. After all, any organization that lacks a website will never be taken seriously, right?

Back to the salt mines for now, as I have a night terror of a meeting ahead. Oh, if the future was now...

House Pour

Earlier this week I stocked the bar at my house. I'm almost ashamed to admit that the picture of those top shelf bottles lined up and glistening in the lamp light made my mouth water a bit. In their midst a bottle of 18-year-old Macallan stands out. This was a stunning gift from a good friend who recently visited from NYC. Its price tag dwarfs the price tag of each bottle surrounding it. It calls out to me, but it's a humdrum Tuesday afternoon, which doesn't exactly qualify as a "special occasion." A quick glance at my mental calendar reveals nothing in the near future, so I look at it's cousin, a bottle of 12 year Macallan, and set a date with it for this Friday night. Call me a two timer, I don't care.

Speaking of special occasions, let me veer off the path (as if I really know where this path is headed) for a moment and share a fun story. We hit many vineyards on a Napa Valley trip a few years ago. This was obviously pre-baby days. One of our favorites was (and is) Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards -- a boutique vineyard that produces some of the most enchanting wines in the league, hands down. A gal in our gang had a connection via her father to the winemaker, Gus, so we received VIP treatment that entailed a tour, lunch at Tra Vinge (he brought his own wine of course), and a thorough wine tasting in the warm and fuzzy afternoon. At the right moment, when we were all miles of smiles, Gus and his wife Phyllis pulled from thin air some literature and order forms, which we gobbled up, racking up crazy credit card miles in the process. At the risk of coming off as some sort of wine snob, the many bottles we purchased in that haze fall into the $50 and up range, so they're "special occasion" bottles, as Phyllis reminded us. Then she said something I will never forget: "If you don't have a special occasion at least once every couple of weeks, you need to get a life."

Back to the present. We're sort of house poor these days, having relocated a couple of months ago from our Capitol Hill starter home to a larger place in DC's Chevy Chase neighborhood. The mortgage payment more than doubled. Add to it that we're dropping $2k per month on a nanny, and the financial picture is tight. A considerable but manageable snarl of consumer debt makes things even more interesting. Ordinarily I'd be dialing up my mother, asking her to send me her surplus supply of Xanax, but oddly I feel rather liberated by the whole picture. I mean, it is what it is. I remember being broke in college and still managing to have a great time every night with little worry or hand wringing. Having little-to-no money, or in this case feeling compelled to live within our current means, rather simplifies things. Admittedly, if Jack was not around, we'd probably feel less inclined to be so responsible, but he's here, perhaps to save us from our crazy selves.

All that said, our choice is nothing but vivid and clear: go out drinking less and drink at home more.

Many of our friends also have kids. It's encouraging (though slightly disturbing when I consider how "adult" this makes us) to chat with them and learn that they also pay attention to their lifestyles and financial pictures. In fact, the idea of house parties has circulated and been received with open arms in our circle. Sometimes I wonder who the hell we are kidding though. In theory it sounds terrific. In practice, well, we'll see.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, which brings me back to that stocked bar in all its glory. Maybe this weekend or next we'll get a crew over for drinks, pour a few splashes of that Macallan 18 and see just how special we feel.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What about BoB?

I feel the need to get my Blog on Blogs out of the way before I find myself too deep in this forest. It's not that I feel I owe an explanation or apology, but there's a layer of hypocrisy that needs to be confronted. See, I always disliked blogs (and bloggers) and openly dismissed them as soap boxes for the self-righteous and self-important ever since they sprouted on the social landscape. The Jessica Cutler story didn't do the cause any favors in my mind, but I admit much of my initial disdain relative to that scenario was rooted in jealousy over the girl getting a book deal out of it. I have not read her book but did flip it open one day while perusing the aisles at Borders to check out her prose. Of course the very page I flipped to portrayed a scene where the protagonist is being bent over a desk after work hours. Suddenly I flashed back to the days of my mall rat childhood when my friends and I regularly detoured into Walden books, tucked Playboys into larger Rolling Stones, and feverishly thumbed through the pages. I digress...

Most of my clients are strategic communications and interactive marketing firms. Web 2.0 is sweeping across this space, landing me in meetings with bloggers and social marketing professionals on behalf of said clients. I wish I could frame some charming moral to the story twist here, but the simple fact is I have thoroughly enjoyed these interfaces. My judgements and stereotypes were blind and really based on a fear of something I could not or did not wish to invest time or energy in understanding. Bloggers are real people too, man!

Aside from that epiphany, I truly enjoy writing. That's not entirely true. To put it more accurately, I truly enjoy the romantic concept of calling myself a writer. Writing actually terrifies me because, no matter how much I believe I have to say, the agonizing process of finding the right words to express myself weighs me down like a bag of bricks. Prior to Jack's splash into my life almost 2 years ago, I dedicated more time to that agony. It's safe to say over 50 unfinished pieces litter my hard drive this very moment. So I'm going to look at this avenue as a cathartic way to channel some Raymond Carver and get back into it.

A blogger I recently met (check him out: gave me this piece of advice:

Editorially, just keep going. Once you get a good body of posts under your belt, you'll get a feel for what works for you and what doesn't. It's like working out, man: you have your good days and your bad days, but as long as you keep getting to the gym you're doing pretty good. Just 'cause your ripped abs aren't on the cover of a magazine doesn't mean you're not getting into shape -- metaphorically speaking.

That's good stuff. Many thanks, Jeff.

Okay, so that's off my chest. Now I can move on to more (self) important topics of my own...

Bleary Eyes

So six weeks ago I sat at the office with my eyes glued to the world clock window on my screen. In a separate window my profile stood at the ready, waiting for my finger to give the order to dial up Bright Eyes tickets. Scoring these would be my coup du jour. If I nailed them, I could call it a morning and start thinking about important things, like lunch. When the clock struck 10am I went through the motions and dialed them up without a snag. Okay, there was a minor snag -- my inability to initially decipher the gibberish code -- but I still managed in the end and later had lunch at a sushi spot down the street.

I came clean about launching this blog to some friends while we huddled together and smoked outside a bar at happy hour last week. My maiden blog, I sheepishly announced between shivering puffs, would be a review of the Bright Eyes show. A couple of heads nodded and grunted their approval of this.

The show was 2 nights ago at 9:30 Club. I didn't make it. My reason? I was tired. So completely lame, I know. At the same time, I can't deny the larger picture, much as I try. Certain emblems of youth are slipping from my grasp. The concert circuit may be passing me by. I should add that this was a Monday night show with 2 openers. (Why venues have 2 openers, let alone one, on weeknight shows will always puzzle me.) I'd like to think that prospect would pose some level of intimidation to someone even in their late 20s, assuming that person has a day job and and general scope of responsibility. I've gutted it out for shows like this and found myself ruined for a day or two. The fact that I can't be in the vicinity of a bar without saturating myself should be admitted as evidence here. Okay, I should also admit that the weekend prior to this lazy Monday entailed consecutive nights of gluttony (I'll leave it at that).

At the end of the day, there are undercurrents sloshing beneath me here, and I haven't made the call yet on how to react: splash and fight them or let them toss and turn me inside out?

What to do about this coming of age in the meantime? Embrace a piece of it but run like hell from the rest of it. That's what I felt like after work today when my 2-year-old son Jack and I danced our asses off in the living room to the new Arcade Fire that blared from the ipod dock. He replayed the new and improved "No Cars Go" over and over, and I encouraged him every time. I believe Neal Pollack would smile at this picture.

Between the click of the light and the start of the dream maybe something will come to me...