Wednesday, April 25, 2007

glad handing in the windy city

Tomorrow morning my wife and I are flying to Chicago. My company is headquartered there and will hold its annual conference tomorrow and Friday. We have opted to stay in Chicago for the weekend to kick it with friends and celebrate our 6 year anniversary. My mother is flying into DC today to stay with the Jackal while we're away.

This all adds up to several things, in no particular order:

  • For three days I will sleep past 6:30am.
  • I will fail miserably at glad handing and networking with colleagues from other offices.
  • Accepting said failure, I will saturate myself at the closest bar.
  • My mother will spoil the Jackal (it's a grandmother's job).
  • A minor exorcism will be performed Sunday night to un-spoil him.
  • My wife and I will remember and embrace our husband/wife roles.
  • I will expend sympathy laughter on 39 bad jokes told by colleagues.
  • Suited for two days, I will be pining every second for my Citizens of Humanity jeans.
  • No restaurant on the weekend slate will frown upon said jeans.
  • Shoe shopping with my wife will completely turn me on.
  • Weather that Chicago tries to pass off as "spring" will be constantly cursed.
  • I will miss the Jackal and buy him some piece(s) of designer clothing.

neighborhood watch

Chalk up another rite of passage for me -- I bought a lawn mower yesterday. I had no choice really. The back yard verged on the brink of becoming a safe harbor for disenchanted and delinquent rats. The Jackal is a big fan of animals, but I don't think he's quite ready to share his yard with filthy rodents. For that matter, he's not really into sharing anything these days. In fact, his whole concept of sharing is not sharing. "No share!" has become a mantra of sorts, which is irritating when you hear it the 87th time in a given day. Come to think of it, maybe I will let the rats make a nest out of the back yard. The pure hilarity of Jack screaming "No share!" to a parade of rats might be too good to pass up. Regardless of what goes down in the back yard -- rats or no rats -- it's just so great to be outside again.

We moved to the new hood in January when all inhabitants were basically hibernating. Now that Mother Nature is back on her meds and cooperating, the neighbors are starting to air themselves out. This has produced some decent fodder for me. For one, we have come to realize that not one neighbor in our general vicinity is what you might call "eye candy." Okay, that's completely vain to say, but I'm not here to offer smoke and mirrors. I do enough of that at work. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. I should add that my wife couldn't care less about whether any of the neighbors are nice on the eyes. I guess I'm more into such aesthetics. At any rate, the neighbors have revealed themselves, for better or worse.

For the sake of accuracy, we've only met two sets of neighbors so far -- one on each side of our house. It has not taken long for me to ascertain that these neighbors don't care for each other. I find it remarkable when people give negative preconceived notions about others before an objective party (me, in this case) has the chance to draw his own conclusions. For example, one day I was in the back yard checking out work being done on a new privacy fence and John, a sort of family guy neighbor, stopped by. One piece of the conversation that stands out went like this:

John: So have you met Allen?

Me: No. Who is Allen?

John: He's the creep that lives on the other side of you.

Me: Great, can't wait to meet him.

John: Yeah, he's a piece of work.

I met Allen last weekend when we were grilling on the back deck. Again, the warm weather brought him out to make shit dance on his own grill. Obviously you don't get the full picture during a first conversation, but I wasn't picking up any "creep" or "piece of work" vibes. I will say that John is a very nice guy and that I have more in common with him - working wife, kids, etc. Allen is an architectural photographer who seems to travel 80% of the time. I have little in common with that.

At the end of the day though, these neighbor dynamics don't concern me too much. It's too early to draw lines in the sand or go out of my way to be friends. During both interfaces, the idea of gathering for drinks was broached, so I expect to gather more information on each party in the next month or so. And now that Old Man Winter has taken a hike, we'll run into them here and there. In the meantime, as long as they report shady character sightings in the neighborhood and ignore the fact that we still have not purchased shades for our bedroom windows, they are alright by me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

adventures in basement sitting

When we moved from our Capitol Hill row house into larger Chevy Chase digs, we were nothing but thrilled to finally have a basement. It's not what you might call a "finished" basement (yet), but it's more than a concrete storage hangar. It's your grandparents' basement -- the asbestos tiled play land where, as kids, you, your siblings and cousins kicked it, secretly said curse words like "shit" or "damn," and exchanged common colds and other bacteria during family gatherings while the grownups did boring grownup stuff upstairs. You always felt safe and secure down there and believed that even a nuclear war, like the one in The Day After that made you piss your pants and gave you night terrors, couldn't touch the place.

You never wanted to leave that basement, but there were certain reasons for ascending the stairs and mixing with the parents:

1 - hydration, usually in the form of kool-aid
2 - tattle tale
3 - defend yourself as the victim of a tattle tale

As all good things come to an end, the symphony of childhood laughter, bouncing balls, squeaky shoes, and belching contests would eventually wind down, and you'd find yourself in deep REM sleep in the back seat of the car on the way home. How much do you miss the simplicity of those days?

I think the Jackal has designs on sabotaging our basement, if two recent incidents are any indication.

Sunday morning before church I walked into the basement's back laundry area in search of clean socks and found a sea of standing water greeting me. It had rained the entire previous night, so we were experiencing our first flood. I'm so not handy, so my mind was reeling over this. I mean, hanging a picture on a wall is a major event and often, as my wife calls out, turns into a side show. Still, I had to pretend to be a man about this, so I went outside to take a look. That's when I saw the Jackal's Tonka dump truck parked next to a disconnected gutter drainage tube. The result was hell and high water. Since we were headed to church anyway, I went ahead and unleashed a tirade of expletives, figuring I'd cleanse my soul in half an hour.

Monday night the flood was a memory, yesterday's news, so the Jackal and I hit the basement to kill some time while mommy worked late. Remembering what my mother drilled into my young head about never passing up a life maintenance opportunity on the fly (often phrased, "make yourself useful"), I took a minute to to throw a load of laundry into the washing machine. Well, I should have remembered a more immediate lesson -- a minute is waaaay more than enough time for a 2 year old to find trouble. The fact that no crying followed that initial burst of breaking glass gave me a shred of solace.

Behind the bar the the Jackal wielded a fluorescent light tube back and forth like a light saber over a puddle of port wine littered with broken bottle shards. I approached gingerly, not wanting to alarm him.

"Hey, buddy, can Daddy have that?"




By then I was right next to him, so I got a front row seat on how the rest played out. In slow motion, the tube slipped from his hand and fell to the floor, creating an explosion of glass that enveloped us in a cloud of shrapnel. Immediately I grabbed him and ran ran upstairs as he buried his face in my shoulder and shrieked.

While he soaked in the tub, I Googled the shit out of key words like fluorescent, light, break, health risk, child, mercury, poisoning and learned that our basement had become a temporary toxic waste zone. Silly me for expecting a run-of-the-mill Monday night.

When mommy got home, daddy spent an hour in "throw-away" clothes with a t-shirt tied around his face cleaning up the mess. Needless to say, we had some wine later that night to decompress.

Also needless to say, while he survived without a scratch, the Jackal is indefinitely grounded from the basement.

Just last night he parked the Tonka truck near the basement door and said, "No basement."

To which I replied, "That's right. And next time you try to take yourself out, maybe try not to take daddy with you, okay?"

"Okay, daddy."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

raymond carver's junk drawer

The dust never settles. You find yourself saying you'll get around to the seemingly endless list of things you want or need to do "when the dust settles." You might not use the exact phrase. Maybe you say "when things slow down" or even "this weekend." Let's face it -- most of us live in a virtual dust storm. We work our asses off Monday through Friday then try to fit errands, social life, and down time into Saturday and Sunday. It's nearly impossible to accomplish the trifecta in a single weekend, so things inevitably get pushed to the next weekend, and by then the list has snowballed to the point where you might decide to bag the whole lot of it. Usually when that happens, I find myself drinking and smoking to forget about it, which leads to a guilty hangover during which I shuffle downstairs and remember that I still have not gotten around to organizing that kitchen junk drawer.

The bane of my existence, that junk drawer, in all of its cluttered glory, is laughing at me this very moment. It has transcended the basic essence of clutter to become a symbol of so much chaos and madness in my life. Also this very moment, the Jackal is upstairs napping while mommy is out shopping. (If he wakes up, I will lose my train of thought, and this post will become another incomplete fragment in my so called life.) So this is the perfect opportunity for me to tackle that mess, to give it the boot and move on to the next thing. Instead I sit here blogging about it.

Raymond Carver was a brilliant writer. Pick up a copy of Where I'm Calling From if you want evidence. You won't be disappointed. He was also good at alcoholism. Shocker, huh? A profound author drinks too much. It's almost cliche', isn't it? Aware and accepting of his parameters, consisting of kids and the regular responsibilities of adult life, he stuck with short stories -- he did not have much time for novels or lengthy works -- and painted some of the most accessible slices of life I've ever read. I think about that aspect of Carver constantly, and today I find myself wondering if junk drawers ever haunted him. Maybe that's part of the reason he hit the bottle so hard -- life maintenance getting in the way of living life. Okay, probably not, but you have to assume day-to-day matters fell into the landscape of his existence. I mean, writers do not live Hollywood celebrity lifestyles by any stretch. The craft doesn't tend to pay much, so it's not like they have butlers buying their groceries or wiping their asses.

Let me make one thing clear -- I am not comparing myself to Carver. His literary accomplishments dwarf anything I could hope for, and his vices mixed with the likes of John Cheever. I have not published anything worth a warm cup of piss or hit the bottle with any literary icons. Still, I can relate to his need to employ brevity due to life circumstances.

My hot list for the weekend looks something like this:

-back up all music and picture files
-unpack 20 boxes and finish moving into new house
-hang pictures so the new house looks "lived in"
-construct Jack's toy box
-buy groceries
-measure windows for blinds
-clean Cholo's fish bowl (Jack named him that,fyi)
-pay bills
-pick up dry cleaning

Okay, I won't bore you further with that or pretend it's interesting. The truth is that making the list might be the most productive thing I do this weekend. I fully expect life to get in the way of most of it. Actually, I don't want to tackle any of it, so I hope for a detour or seven.

Speaking of which, I hear the Jackal calling out to me now. Sorry, junk drawer, it's not going to happen today. I feel a Muppet Movie viewing coming on...

Friday, April 13, 2007

working on networking

After work yesterday I found myself at a networking event at the Georgetown Club surrounded by many filthy-rich cats. Most of them were really tall, which seemed fitting to me. My boss is the president of the club, and he's also made of money (though not tall), but it doesn't go to his head. In fact, he has referred to himself as a fuck-up a number of times. If a fuck-up is defined as someone whose job requires more personality than specific skill and pays in the $2-3 million range annually, then I am pining to be one. Obviously that self-deprecating comment is his way of recognizing that he fell into the right situation at the right time and appreciates the hell out of it. He's down to earth, human, and real, but I didn't get the impression those surrounding him have a clue. Watching him work the room, telling jokes to the president of PNC Bank or offering advice to a Carlyle Group managing director, I took some good mental notes.

I had a few vodkas there, so those mental notes looked more like mental chicken scratch when I went back to them later on my couch in front of my blog. The next thing I remember is my wife waking me up and helping me upstairs to bed. So much for drunk blogging.

This morning some of it is coming back to me, so I'll try to pour it out here. Thankfully a close friend and co-worker was with me at this thing, so we served as mutual wing-men throughout the night, bailing each other out of some bland conversations. As you can imagine, as is usually the case at these things, most interactions were forced. My supply of sympathy laughter dried up almost immediately, and no matter how much vodka I threw down it, my throat was a desert. Don't get me wrong -- I felt honored to be invited and there were some memorable chats marked by sincere laughter and electricity.

For example, a psychiatrist rocking a white suit and the worst panty line I have ever seen gobbled us up for at least half an hour. I saw no ring on her finger, and it didn't really take long to understand why one would be absent. Honestly, I can't get over that panty line. The. Worst. Ever. Our conversation became so slippery and liberal that I almost mentioned it. At one point she claimed to be 45 but didn't really keep a straight face after dropping that information. She was clearly 10 years older than that, but who can blame a woman for lying about her age? It's not the first or last time.

Despite all of her quirks, she was a welcome distraction (even bummed a cigarette from the bartender for us) from the rest of the exchanges there, most of which seemed to go like this:

Big Wig: (firm handshake, squinting to read my name tag) Hi, RG, I'm BW.

Me: Hi, BW, nice to meet you.

Big Wig: What do you do?

Me: Executive search. And you?

Big Wig: President and co-founder of XYZ Corporation.

Me: Great, where's the bathroom?

Okay, that's rather exaggerated, but the point is most of these cats were out of my league, and the truth is that I suck at networking. Maybe one day I'll be better at it, but that's not exactly near the top of my to-do list. Besides, I am suspicious of people who love to network and attend networking events. I can't pinpoint why exactly, but I am.

That said, it probably comes as no surprise that I bypassed goodbyes by slipping out a back door and disappearing into the side streets of G-town, not a single business card weighing me down.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

a chip off the old mud ball?

My brother emailed me yesterday in reaction to my previous post about the Jackal's Easter adventure and pulled a gem from the archives of our childhood:

You're doing fine with your boy, and his rash won't be the last thing that brings you that lump in your throat. Remember how we all barely made it through childhood, and Jack is clearly at least slightly smarter that we were.

After the blog about Jack's b-day party, I'm glad the next one wasn't the same story of hitting on your friends' wives and drinking at 10 a.m. with "Easter" substituted for "birthday" and ending with having to explain to your son why it's better to throw eggs at buses because they can't stop and turn around.

I can always count on him to remind me of some of the ridiculous shit we pulled as kids. That last piece refers to how we killed time one summer (okay, three, maybe four) throwing various blunt objects at commuter buses. Why, you might ask, would you do that? The obvious answer, which he provides, is that they couldn't really do shit about it while automobiles and their passengers could easily give chase. Oh, you meant why would you engage in that kind of activity? Boredom, need for adventure, idle hands -- the basic reason most juveniles would offer in any vacuum.

Eventually we gathered the balls to target cars. I still remember the first time. Three of us were crouched behind a bush at the corner of 39th Street and Flora Avenue. My best friend Bryon, a hearing-impaired mulatto who ironically loathed African-Americans, had the best aim and arm. My role was to shape the mud balls and hand them off to him. Wamser played the part of fretting and trying to talk us out of the whole mission. The cover of darkness gave us the perfect vantage point on the busy 39th Street. Packing a rock into the center of that first mud ball was no mistake, though later I would insist it was an accident. A beat-up station wagon approached, and Bryon nodded to me, loaded mud ball in hand. Wamser shook his head and asked, "What if we break a window?" Literally seconds after I assured him, "Don't worry, we never break a window," the glass splashed from the passenger window all over the street. Catching our breath between cackles, we sprinted to Wamser's house half a block away, ignored his mother's questions on our way in the front door, and stashed ourselves in his basement where we panted and looked at each other and giggled.

Looking back on that and poring over the mental list of other objectionable things I did growing up, the obvious question comes to mind: how will I react when the Jackal is escorted home for vandalism? Okay, I know that I will deny that I ever broke any rules and punish him. I guess a better question is: how will I keep a straight face as I sentence him?

I know that sounds sort of despicable since a respectable adult should find nothing funny about the trouble his kid gets into. Maybe I am despicable. Or maybe I just can't help but laugh at human nature, which sensibly makes little sense and is therefore mostly comedy. Looking back, can I honestly say I would not have packed a rock into the core of that mud ball? No way. That was a piece of childhood that shaped me, so if you take that away, maybe I don't take risks and I walk the line more than not. Boring.

To close, I should offer some follow-up on the last post. I'm glad to report that Jack's rash appears to retreating. He'll be back in the game soon and maybe one day hiding in a bush, waiting for a bus.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

my easter bunny

I had designs on my next post touting Thursday to be the new Saturday for those of us on the "growing up" fence. Instead I spent Friday licking Thursday night's wounds, considering that it might be time to bring myself back to earth. Easter Sunday morning found me in the ER realizing that the grounding had already begun, regardless of my conscious and hollow promise to tone it down.

For the sake of consistency, I wondered if this post should flow with the same satirical and self-effacing undertones as all posts up to this point. Given the subject matter and my general mood right now, there's no fucking way I can make light of this.

Friday night we noticed a few random red bumps on the back of Jack's neck and didn't make too much of it, given the fact that he's a boy and gets into everything under the sun. By late Saturday morning, we realized those bumps were just the scout team, for hundreds of the little welts had arrived and set up camp on his torso and legs. Naturally we called the pediatrician, who suggested that some kids exhibit hives on the back end of a viral infection, which Jack seemed to experience earlier in the week. We were instructed to keep an eye on it, as if I was not hawking him nonstop already, and to call her if the condition worsened. Saturday night, my wife went out and I stayed home with Jack. When he went to bed I watched a horror flick called High Tension. Under normal circumstances, a gore-infested thriller like this would make me lock the doors and blow on my sweaty palms until it finished, but that rash consumed my thoughts to the point where a rather creative decapitation hardly phased me.

This morning I clutched the doorknob and muttered a quick "please, God" before going in to retrieve him for the day. When I drew back the curtains and light poured in, I lost my breath. It was no longer a campsite but a complete enemy invasion. His face was one enormous red splotch, yet he obliviously smiled at me and delivered the sweetest "Hiiiiiiiii, Daddy!" This, of course, made me wince and smile at the same time. Thankfully he is too young to distinguish the variations in tone of voice because my reply of "Hey there, monster trucker" smacked of worry. Immediately I took him to our bed and woke up mommy, informing her that "we're so ER bound today, it's not even funny" before she even had a chance to know what day it was.

A quick call to the pediatrician to confirm my prediction, and we were on the road. By 8:30am Jack was rocking a tiny gown, watching Madagascar on a 13-inch television in an exam room. When the doctor rolled in, I immediately accepted the fact that I am old, since he looked to be about my age. Of course I paid him the highest level of respect with my questions and tone, but it was weird not feeling intimidated by him, as I have with all the older doctors up to that point in my life. In any case, he asked us to remove Jack's gown so he could have a look. It's hard to find words to do justice in conveying the contrast between the color of Jack's skin and the white sheet beneath him. As odd as this sounds, the pink and white, when perceived through the blur of tears in my eyes made me think of the Easter Bunny. After all, I guess those are common color combinations this time of year, so why not?

A couple of hours later, we learned that Jack has landed a case of erythema multiforme, some enigmatic rash of "bulls-eye-like red patches on the skin" caused by "an allergic reaction, an infection, a bite or sting, pregnancy, or other medical conditions." I pulled that from the medical report they gave us before we left. It sounds sort of like a fancy way of saying, your kid has this horrific rash that could be caused by anything and everything. On top of that, "it usually lasts about 1-3 weeks with gradual recovery..." Finally, it's a condition for which there is no treatment. In other words, we get front row seats to watch him deal with what looks like leprosy for a few weeks.

Some perspective: it could be much, much, much worse. I fully recognize this and have complete sympathy for those parents out there whose lives detour to the ER where they learn that their precious kid has some deadly disease.

I guess some of my sadness and worry stems from how close I felt to getting that kind of news. Much of it also comes from seeing Jack stroll around the house throwing paper airplanes and laughing while he wears this suit of sores. The juxtaposition of his pure joy and cheer against the sight of his condition breaks my heart. Later in the day I retreated to basement to "do laundry" so I could tend to the lump in my throat and unleash the tears. It felt good, and I suspect it's not the last time I'll do it.

Tomorrow we're headed to the pediatrician to continue this adventure. Right now he's out cold, wrapped up in his "banky," blissfully ignorant of the hand wringing his dad is doing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

grande skim angst

Someone please spike my latte with Drano, or at the very least a strong single malt. It's come down to this - I'm sitting in a cafe on the Hill on a rainy Wednesday morning, pecking away at the Macbook keyboard, casting dirty looks at the somber and unattractive patrons surrounding me. I might have experienced a Kafka metamorphosis in my sleep and woke up a tragically hip, wanna-be. Is that my skin crawling or are those actual bugs? One thing is for certain - I'm a zombie today. In fact I'm half tempted to ask this crusty guy reading the Post obits on the couch next to me if I can have a bite of his brain. After all, he doesn't look like he uses it much and I haven't had any protein today. That's mostly because I need to save room for beer and hot dogs at the Nationals game this afternoon, assuming the weather clears up. If it doesn't, I don't really care. At least I'm not at the office today. After the Jackal's tummy problems last night, I would have zero game for office dynamics.

Around 1am the gagging cough followed by the most pathetic moans down the hall, jolted me from the bed. I knew this was not Baci, our chocolate lab, because his retching comes with heavy bass tones. This noise was all treble, so my heart sank into the acidic sea of my stomach. To borrow a line from one of my favorite Richard Prior stand-up pieces, I "opened the door, man, and the funk rushed out the room, knocked me to my goddamn knees." Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but there was a funk, and my knees did shake for a second. Then instinct took over and everything flowed rather smoothly, the only exception being Jack's angst over his "banky" being tossed down the steps with the rest of the puke-saturated refuse. I dabbed his hot body with a washcloth as he rested his weary head on my shoulder, and his mom brushed his hair with her fingers. I have to say, part of me enjoys it when he's under the weather because it's the only time his fierce independence takes a break and he actually cuddles with us. After a couple hours of him cat napping, tossing, turning in our bed, he decided he wanted to go it alone again, so we dispatched him back to his room and tried to salvage some sleep for ourselves. 

Before I passed out, I reflected for a few moments on the minor event and how it was handled and made a connection to something that has been nagging me about the recent sprouting of "alternadad" memoirs in books, mags, and blogs. While I really dig all of that stuff and admittedly find myself reading it on a fairly consistent basis, I can't help but wonder if it's merely a bunch of dads (some moms too - dooce, etc.) patting themselves too much on the backs for exercising their basic paternal instincts. I mean, the Jackal puked in his bed and I reacted to it with not much window dressing. Yes, I am sitting here blogging about it, and in some ways I am putting myself on trial with this debate. Is it pure enjoyment and journaling the parental experience or is it so much over-glorification (I'm too tired to check if that is a word)? More to come on this topic, but it's a seed worth planting here. At the end of the day, whether I'm a fan or not, this movement affects me. It's akin to a movie you walk away from with strong feelings of hatred - you might not have liked it, but it affected you in that it elicited a heavy emotional response, making it a successful piece of art.

Okay, back to life and my growling stomach. I wonder if any bars around here are open this early...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

in like a lion, out like a jackal

True to my word, here I am planted on the couch, one eye on the television, the other on the Jackal. Right now he is smashing two cell phones together like a pair of those inflatable thunder sticks you get at games, screaming "Yaaaaay!" In the wake of this display, Wifey asked me to put him to bed. But he needs to see the first inning. (Okay, he could care less, but that's the lame excuse I offered so I can put off getting up.) Beltran just hit into a close call of a ground out. Before the play, the announcer reminded viewers of how Beltran watched strike 3 blow by him to end 2006 for the Mets. For a second I swore I heard him say something under his breath to the effect of "while your degenerate ass wallowed on the cold bathroom floor..."

Obviously this game means nothing in the big picture of the season. There are too many games in the season for game one to matter. Not to mention, no one is giving the Cards much of a chance this year. As for my own expectations, I see them playing with heart and pride and making something of the season. But at the end of the day, I can go five or so years without the Cards doing much since they took it all last year. After all, if I went around barking about this season's win-loss record, I'd be no different from the entitled East Coast sports fans I like to shit on.

I shit on bloggers then became one. I refuse to do the same when it comes to East Coast sports views. My hypocrisy only goes so far.

Earlier my wife mentioned wanting to catch the Jose Andres vs. Bobby Flay match up on Iron Chef America. These days we have only one television hooked up to the cable, which happens to be free. One of these days I will pay someone to route the free cable to other rooms in the house. It's not at the top of the "new house project" list at the moment. Since the Cards are suddenly in a 5-0 hole, we're flipping between ESPN2 and the Food Network.

While Chef Andres sweats profusely over his skillet, I'll take a minute to rehash the weekend.

Just as March was going out like a lamb, the Jackal was roaring into year 2 of his life. To mark the occasion, we threw a birthday party. Things kicked off at 10am. For obvious reasons the invite list only included friends with kids. By 10am most parents are 3-4 hours into their day, so it made sense.

We love hosting parties and try to do it as often as we can. My wife takes no prisoners when it comes to cooking and entertaining. As for my part, well, I can glad hand with the best of them and have a certain knack for setting the mood. The only real drawback to hosting is the general inability to stick with one conversation for more than 5 minutes. Entertaining tends to keep you on your toes. In the case of this party, which entailed a dozen sugar-fueled rug rats buzzing about, I was lucky to engage in grownup chit chat for 60 seconds at a time.

Here are a few noteworthy interfaces I absorbed amidst chores like managing the camcorder, scolding Jack for throwing rocks at kids, bagging dog shit, dispensing juice boxes, taking out trash, etc.

  • Spiking the hell out of our bloodies at the bar (aka the kitchen), my friend Charles and I discussed, as we often do, the nuances of balancing a healthy (or gluttonous) social life with healthy parenting. We decided it makes the most sense to party on weeknights since a Thursday hangover at work is much more manageable than a Saturday hangover with kids in your face.
  • During one peaceful moment, when the kids swarmed around the sand box, I spotted two hot moms on the lawn and decided I would saunter into their conversation. The topic of said conversation was breasts, which initially elevated my eyebrows until I picked up the angle on this topic -- what happens to them when a woman stops breast feeding. One commented, "The party parts are the first to go." As I not-so-subtly shuffled away, I heard some comparison to "tube socks."
  • Since this was a morning party, the menu consisted of the usual suspects: bagels, lox, cream cheese, fruit. A one year old sat on a booster chair at the table as her parents (one Christian, the other Jewish, neither hard core about it) stood nearby. I pointed at the smoked salmon on her plate and commented on her adventurous palate. The mother explained, "she's getting in touch with her inner Jew."

When nap time rolled around, the house was still and my head was spinning, in a good way. On the back deck my wife and I had a smoke and shared party stories. I caught a bit of hell for saying "shit" while filming the cupcake decorating piece of the party, but I think she also liked it. After all, she has come to expect that kind of behavior from me, and eventually she will come to expect it from our son. You know, the sins of the father and all of that...

Happy Birthday, Jack! Here's to another year of keeping it real.