Friday, October 17, 2008

to whom it may concern

A typed letter found stuffed in my mail slot last night said this:

To whom it may concern:

This is Danny. I am the kid from Friday night. I would like to start off by thanking you for not involving the police and apologizing for what I did. I had been drinking pretty heavily and only remember bits and pieces of what happened. My dad says I took a few things but I cannot even remember what was in my pockets aside from the iPod. I always do stupid things, however usually to smaller scale, when I drink and then have to clean up my mess in the morning. For what it is worth I do believe that when I woke up the next morning I would have seen your things and tried to return them to your car discreetly as possible, but there is no excuse for what I did. I have a habit of doing things without thinking them through all the way just for an adrenaline rush and that night was one of those times. I consider it a good thing that you caught me because I may have wound up making the same mistake on another night of drinking to another person who is less forgiving. I cannot begin to tell you how bad I feel for being so belligerent that night. I wrote this letter because I was not sure if you wanted to hear this from me face to face or not. If you would like to meet with me or if there is anything else I can do to make up for what I did, my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please call me anytime. Again, I cannot tell you how stupid and terrible I feel and I appreciate the way you handled it.


Now, somehow, I feel for this kid, despite the fact that he was trying to rip me off. I think I will call and invite him over for a chat to let him know I certainly made and make my share of mistakes on the road of life and that there are no real hard feelings. I might even burn him the Arcade Fire collection to come off as an even cooler cat. Then I just might float the idea of him raking the leaves that are already starting to take over my yard. After all, my back is killing me (yes, I'm decrepit), so why not? It would beat the hell out of chain gang work. Will post later on how it goes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

play dating other people

It has begun, and my social anxiety disorder can't stop it. Our 3 year old, Jack, with his sass, charm, and wit is building bridges in the neighborhood that we will cross, for better or worse. As it's my nature, I am being dramatic. I don't have social anxiety disorder, at least not a clinical case, and I recognize the bright horizons of getting to know other families in the neighborhood. Still, I can't deny, and hope I'm not the only one, that it stirs butterflies in my stomach now and then. Worlds colliding and all that...

The emails and calls began to trickle in a few weeks ago, once Jack had entrenched himself in the preschool scene and began spending alternate days at a DC Parks day program for kids - mothers suggesting play dates with Jack. It's terribly cute on one hand, sure. On the other, it means meshing and placating to a certain degree. Not to mention, now that we're bound to be crossing paths with other parent/friends, I need to pay a lot more attention to how I carry myself around the neighborhood. After all, there are eyes everywhere now.

Just the other day some guy rolled through a stop sign at an intersection blocks away from us and nearly side swiped me. Of course, I raised my arms to say WTF and moved on. Now suppose I bump into that guy at the preschool pot luck dinner in a few weeks. It's completely possible. So, do you see what I mean?

This reminds me of something that has been nagging me - the concept that everyone has multiple personality disorder. I mean, when you are in your car alone, aren't there certain behaviors you execute that you would likely never do in front of anyone? Once my wife received a voice message at work from a client who failed to end the call from her car after she finished her message. Here's how it went without her knowing she had an audience:



Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!


So that's a racist side of someone, but it's likely her friends and family don't know her to be a racist at all. It makes me wonder, is our true self what we act on when we are alone? I really don't know. But I completely digress.

Like I said, worlds are colliding. I am ready for the unsolicited parenting advice, the pot luck, and, even better, the terrific bonds I will develop with other parents in the same trenches. It's no cake walk, despite the shiny fulfillment, so there has to be strength in numbers. Here's to hoping so.

See you at the tunnel slide.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

i went out into the night

There was no question as to the presence of ants in my pants last Friday as I watched the clock tick away the minutes of the afternoon. Guys night does not exactly come every week, or every month for that matter. Usually when it does, it's on a Thursday, which requires a certain degree of clenching the reigns to have some semblance of game for work the next day. In this case, we owned the night. The District would be our oyster.

As it happened, for better or worse, our oyster turned out to be the upper Northwest quadrant of the District and consisted of three stops, in descending order of quality: Buck's Fishing & Camping, Chevy Chase Lounge, and my basement.

I know, off the chain, right? Allow me to explain - when you're happily married with kids, the concept of grazing sceney clubs, bothering with velvet ropes, and scouting ass is not a paramount objective. "It's not like I'm trying to get laid," was a direct line I dispensed to Rebecca, my friend and amazing bartender at Buck's who was rightfully giving me shit when I told her the next venue would be Chevy Chase Lounge. So after strong drinks and warm conversation at Buck's we headed further uptown to the aforementioned Lounge.

Locals might know that the scene at Chevy Chase Lounge is extremely inconsistent with any coolness the name might imply. The typical patron brings to mind that dusty, old, hide-a-bed sofa relegated to a forgotten spare bedroom in your grandparents' home. You've never seen so many sets of crows feet in your life. In fact, the sole reason for going was that one of the guys wanted to see game one of the ALCS. The Lounge was a stone's throw away and has televisions, so it worked out.

After the game, for some reason my friend Ethan and I decided it would be a good idea to roll over to my place, mere blocks away from the Lounge, to continue with the drinking and smoking. Extending the night always sounds like a great call in the vacuum. The next morning, of course, regret finds you.

However, in this instance, our irresponsible behavior paid off. At 2AM, after a couple of vodkas, we decided to call it a night. I told Ethan I would walk him over to Connecticut Avenue where he could catch a cab. The walk, I figured, would do me some good. When we tiptoed out the front door so as not to alert my wife of our stupidity, I immediately noticed that the driver side door of my car was wide open. A few eye squints confirmed that some large person was in the car rifling through the console. Ethan said something like, "Does that guy think he-"

In a blurr, I was at the car door with a grip on this guy's collar, very impolitely asking, "WTF?" As you might imagine, he was completely shocked, and for that I don't blame him. I mean, in my neighborhood, hilariously referred to recently by the Washington City Paper as Upper Caucasia, what grown-up homeowner would be on the street at 2AM? Well, this one apparently. Naturally he flailed his arms in an attempt to break loose, which prompted me to do what I have done less than a handful of times in my life - I fed him a knuckle sandwich. This caused him to stumble out of the car, at which point I realized he dwarfed me in stature. It didn't matter, according to my fueled brain, so I literally high-jumped to get my arms around his neck and we both hit the street hard. Fortunately I ended up in a better position and managed to head-lock him on the ground where he hollered and begged to be released.

Immediately, based on his voice, I deduced he was a teenager, which quelled concerns that this could get uglier. No longer was I inclined to do damage. Why bother when a verbal assault would suffice. The dialogue from there was of this flavor:

Ethan: Wrong. Car. Mother. Fucker.

Me: Empty your pockets now.

Thief: I'm so sorry, please, please, please!

Ethan: Let's call the cops.

Thief: Please don't!

Me: Empty your fucking pockets!

From his pockets came my iPod, blackberry, iPod adapter, and at least $10 in quarters along with his phone and wallet. I scooped it all up with one hand while I held his neck in the cradle of my other arm. Soon I realized he was going nowhere, so I plucked the driver's license and tossed the wallet onto the ground next to him.

Thief: Please let me explain.

Me: It's pretty clear.

Thief: I just wanted your Arcade Fire!

Ethan: You can get lost or we can call the cops. Or...we can beat you down.

Eventually he got the picture and receded into the shadows, still muttering about Arcade Fire. I suppose a normal person would have called the cops. And by normal I mean not drunk on the Chevy Chase streets in the early hours of the morning. The last thing I wanted was to interface with police, and I suspect the last thing this kid's parents wanted was a cop on their front porch at that hour.

Instead they got me on their porch at 9AM after I'd slept and showered. The Jackal was coming with me on errands, so we dropped by the house, only half a block away from mine. As I conveyed to the dad that his 19 year-old son was caught with a pocket full of my electronic devices at 2AM, I experienced very mixed emotions. I couldn't really make eye contact with the guy, as if I was guilty of something.

Looking back, I think it was internal wrestling match with hypocrisy on my part. My wife and I often laugh about what it will be like to punish our kids for the same dirty deeds that litter our very own records. I guess this was my first confrontation with that sort of thing. I mean, I've done worse than what this kid tried and did not get caught, so naturally it felt strange ratting him out to his dad. When on occasion I did get caught, I faced the music. These days I guess the music they want to face is Arcade Fire, which reminds me of a rather appropriate lyric from "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)":

I went out into the night.
I went out to pick a fight with anyone.
Light a candle for the kids,
Jesus Christ don't keep it hid!