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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Confessions of a Shoppaphobic

"You're going to Target today, right? I wrote a list of some things I need."

"Good. Yeah, I have some things I need to get too."

I added my items to the list on the partly-crumpled page of notepad paper. Hers were Health & Beauty items and some cat litter; mine were "I don't want to go to the grocery store today so I'll stretch out our pantry for one more day with a little supplementation" items. I wanted milk, bread, and maybe something to drink.

I pocketed the list, dressed Erin, and took off with her while Emily went to work. On the way to an unfamiliar Target (I had some other errands in that area) I was distracted by racks of clothes outside a Sears to which I'd never been. I remembered that both of my pairs of jeans, more accurately both of the pairs that were comfortable and stamped with measurements that did not make me feel guilty about that resolution to cancel my gym membership, had holes in the right knee and in the crotch.

"A-ha!" says I, "I should finally explore this Sears and see if I can buy a pair of jeans for less than $40," the exorbitant price of jeans being the main reason I wore two pairs into holey oblivion.

The only shopping I really like to do involves either ill-lit bookstores in the countryside, or grocery aisles under radioactive lights. I go to the mall at Christmas because I like Christmas-y things, but I don't like the shopping aspect. I don't like the mall at all, really. I don't like shoe shopping, preferring to wear a pair down to muddy latticework before going to the store to find, hopefully, a pair that looks almost exactly like the pair I was sending to a haz-mat disposal site.

I especially don't like clothes shopping.

And thanks to Abercrombie and Fitch I really hate jeans shopping.


(Begin Long Aside About Abercrombie and Fitch)

Once, on a trip to Portland, I spilled something on the one pair of jeans I brought with me. I decided to add to my wardrobe, so I went wandering around looking for clothing stores. I walked into that sensory date-rape, Abercrombie and Fitch, drawn along by the mannequins modeling denim in the window.

"A-ha!" says I, "here is where I will find jeans. And I will, apparently, have to wear them until I am dead because holy-mother-of-god-on-a-skateboard these are expensive."

My optimism was matched in its vastness only by my waistline. I haven't been a skinny rail since high school graduation, but by the time of this Portland trip I had been steadily accumulating girth, a process accelerated drastically when I stupidly quit smoking (for, what? Health? Bah. All of those years smoking takes off your life come at the end anyway). I was hefty. Solid. I think the clinical description was "obese", although I don't think it's fair to just throw that label around if there are no cranes involved in getting oneself into and out of bed. But I wasn't thin, although I didn't view myself as particularly large.

Abercrombie held me down while Fitch punched me in the (over-hanging) gut over and over again. As I was looking for a pair of jeans that would encircle my waist in anything approaching comfort it struck me that there were no numbers in sight that I recognized.

"Who are these men with 32-inch waists?" I wondered. "Where are the real pants?"

"You. Are. Too. Fat. To. Shop. Here," the labels taunted as I grew more frantic in my search for pants.

Fuck you, Abercrombie. Fuck you, Fitch.

After Erin was born I dropped about 40 lbs. For the hell of it. I felt like riding my bike all the time and I didn't have any classes and Emily was on maternity leave, so I had all of this time to just exercise and think about food and cooking. Every few months I would go to the mall to buy a new pair of jeans. And my first stop would be Abercrombie, where I'd try on a pair, note the new reduction in my waistline, and then walk over to The Gap to buy my jeans there instead.

Fuck you, Abercrombie. Fuck you, Fitch. You weren't there when I needed you.

(End Long Aside About Abercrombie and Fitch)


I was wearing a pair of those Gap jeans as I spotted the Sears. I needed jeans badly enough that I was willing to overcome my intense dislike of clothes shopping to actually enter the Sears, browse the aisles, and try on about six pairs, all with Erin in tow in a cart.

Erin was less and less excited about her predicament as each new pair made an appearance, so eventually I rushed the decision a bit (but not before noting that no matter what the labels say, two "identical" pairs of jeans can fit remarkably differently) and brought three pairs to the counter to buy. With sale prices in effect I spent, for those three pairs, what you might spend on one pair at (fuck you)Abercrombie and (fuck you)Fitch. They fit fine. Maybe a little more loosely after wear than I'd like, but they aren't going to fall off of me.

Then I took Erin to our actual destination, Target, that magical land where $200 always seems to disappear out of my wallet, stolen by the Target elves.

Looking down at the list I read that Emily's first entry was some kind of facial cleanser, explicitly named for ease of locating. But I couldn't find the bottle she appeared to want. To use a car analogy, if she wanted a Toyota Camry XLE, then all I could find were Toyota Camry LE's, or Toyota Highlander XLE's. Not knowing which alternative she'd have preferred had she been there herself I bought both. (It is likely I would have been inclined to do the same thing with the cars.)

This took a while (since I was pretty damned thorough in this search for the mystery car, er, cleanser), and Erin, already unhappy about being in her second shopping cart in as many hours, was making her dissatisfaction known. A box of diapers on an end-cap display caught my eye and I thought "A-ha! I remember noting that we are out of diapers at home, but I didn't write it down on the list. I will purchase these diapers now and be ahead of the game!" So I added them to the cart. The same thing happened with the toothpaste I saw while walking along. Not on the list, but added to the cart.

There didn't seem to be a pet care area, nor a grocery section at this strange Target, but I was a little distracted by screeching coming from the mite in the cart. I rushed through checkout, and unloaded the cart into the trunk where the diapers I bought joined a completely full box of diapers that had been in my trunk the entire time.

After leaving Target with the exhausted, annoyed Erin I took the list out of my pocket and it occurred to me that the reason I hate shopping is that I'm just not good at it.

Do you know what it means to not be good at shopping?

It means being capable of going out in the morning, spending $150, and buying not one damned thing on a list you are carrying with you and ALSO buying things you already have.

"A-ha!" says I, "I am terrible at shopping."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Emily says "I have faith that we can do it. I think I understand faith a little bit better now."

How do you explain how radically life changes when you become a parent without making it sound like a cautionary tale? Without confirming all of the worries your childless friends have about parenthood?

Weekends in Napa, time spent in smokey bars making contributions to the atmosphere, spontaneous date nights, entire days spent out of the house together, flights longer than two hours, road trips, putting off grocery shopping for one, two, or five more days while the supply of frozen french fries dwindles and the size of that orange cheese block shrinks.

Waking up every morning three or four hours earlier than ever before, and even that much sleep is a luxury compared to the constant interruptions of the first few months. Piles of diapers. Worrying about nuts. Buying kegs of milk. Knowing that the intro/theme to Sesame Street has changed. Hitting all the "Kids eat free" restaurants. Planning days around naps, weekends around cribs, and weeks around daycare.

Those changes loom. They impend. They are an exchange of radical freedom for shackled duty. They are the reason for the doubt. "Can we do this? How can we do this? How can anyone do this?"

I would look to the future from our moment and I was incapable of seeing the long staircase or the magic switch that would make those changes something other than soul-crushing. But I'd say things like "ah, we'll figure it out."

But it always sounded like a lie. It sounded like a lie because I had heard something in a similar tone, in a fake Irish accent, years before: "Aw, kids are easy. You just put them in your pocket." That was the line Dana Carvey jokes his Irish mother, a parental conspirator, would feed him. It's such an obvious lie, but backed by so much convincing confidence, that you can be lulled by it.

Can I just put them in my pocket? Everyone seems capable of making this change; why do I doubt myself so much?

Because the change is drastic. It is the most drastic. Imagine being told that tomorrow you need to be able to run 100 meters in ten seconds. Imagine being told you need to figure out how to flap your arms and fly. And that the consequences of not being able to do so will not only be terrible for you, but terrible for a stranger you have a a sudden duty toward.

Somehow we figured it out. Somehow the change was only drastic in retrospect. Somehow Erin turned out to be easy; I just put her in my pocket. It feels like I've always known how to do this. And I smugly assure my childless friends that kids are easy, that their doubts and worries are, not baseless, but irrelevant. Because they won't care.

That's what's happened. The world we knew before, the one with the things like lazy Sunday naps and lazy Wednesday naps and hip Saturday scenes (there were fewer of these than I'd prefer to admit) was stunningly, horrifically incinerated. And I fiddled and danced while it burned. Because I didn't care. I don't care.

The world of my twenties wasn't bad, or sad, or innocent, or deplorable. It just was. There is no loss, there is just was. It was and now it isn't. The future stretches out, uncertain, terrifyingly uncertain. And I don't care.

Except that I do care. I have another child on the way. Another! And although I feel easy enough about being a father I have those same panicked doubts about being a father to two, to a son. How can people do this? What is the magic switch that will be thrown to make it seem normal? We've been good at parenting in our infancy, when we were overwhelmed by the wonder of it all. But it's inconceivable that we can be good at it in our adolescence, when we are selfishly enamoured with our own interests and brook no interference with our agenda. How will our son not bear the brunt of those growing pains?

But, myself tells my self, kids are easy. You just put them in your pocket. And although I rightly doubt the truthfulness of this, it is backed by so much convincing confidence that I am lulled by it. I don't know what the magic switch looks like, I just know what the nursery looks like when the light is on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I hate this craptop

I tried blogging with the Blackberry. That lasted for, I think, two posts.

I tried blogging with this old laptop (purchased in 2003) that can handle neither the infinite nature of the internet nor the infinite nature of this guy right here.

And finally I tried not blogging at all.

It's not that I have writer's/writers' block. It's not that I have nothing to say or that I no longer wish to participate or that I don't want to post cute pictures of my daughter or video of her at Disneyland or tell, finally, the Erin Goes to Seattle story that I've had on the backburner since September.

It's that I can't stand writing on this...thing...and I don't have any of my pictures or videos easily accessible.

I hate it so much that I haven't even replied to comments in what I feel is a month.

All of this pales in comparison to world hunger and Darfour etc...but I actually don't hate world hunger or the "situation" in Darfour. I'm too distanced from them to hate. I don't hate politicians, or serial killers, or white supremacists or arms dealers. I don't hate homophobes or religious zealots. I don't hate apathists (although they, obviously, couldn't care less). I don't hate pundits (although there are some areas that don't require pundits: sports punditry? What difference does having an opinion about the performance of a sports franchise or player actually have on the performance of that franchise or player? Political punditry I at least understand, because it sways opinions leading up to an actual process where opinions get counted and impact policy. But sports pundits? Although I do participate on some hockey blogs. But hockey is different. It really matters what hockey fans have to say about hockey, and what hockey pundits have to say about hockey. I swear.). I don't hate homelessness. I don't hate petty crime.

I do hate bad drivers who cut me off when they are Twittering on their iPhones, but I have no self-loathing about Tweeting on my Blackberry. Because objectively I'm a good driver and this does not distract me at all, but in their case they are abominations. Plus they use iPhones. They're probaby Mac people too. I'll leave it an open question whether or not I hate Mac people. I think I hate those Mac commercials, and I'm sure I hate those "You're stupid for thinking corn syrup is less healthy than sugar" commercials. But I don't hate childhood obesity or diabetes.

And I hate this craptop.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Decade Ago in Short Conversations

“Shawn, what the hell are you thinking? It’s 2 in the afternoon. Emily is still getting her hair done. Are you going to pace around in your tux for three hours before we go? Idiot.”


“If you don’t shave that goatee off for today all of the guys are going to hold you down and we’ll shave it off for you.”


“Hey Denise, can you do me a favour and go to my car and get my Star Wars Soundtrack cd and give it to the DJ?”


“Hey Shannon, can you do me a favour and help arrange a table for the eight extra family members who just showed up after traveling across the entire country to be here today but who also didn’t RSVP?”


“I do.”

“I do.”


“What the hell?? I thought you said we weren’t going to do the cake-in-the-face thing.”


I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day….”


“I don’t want to leave yet. Let’s pay the limo driver to stick around for another hour.”


And so we did.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jurassic Love Triangle

The Dinosaur Boy loves dinosaurs. During playtime outside he will carry at least two plastic dinosaurs with him at all times. On Wednesday it was a stegosaurus and a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur), one in each hand.

Erin took a little interest in the dinosaurs, and when Dinosaur Boy put the hadrosaur down for a moment to play with a shovel Erin picked it up. When Dinosaur Boy noticed someone else playing with one of the toys he forgot all about the neat shovel he had discovered and went off in pursuit. Erin had no desire to surrender her trophy, and she eluded him by hiding behind my legs while screeching at the top of her lungs. Dinosaur Boy also screeched, brandishing his stegosaurus and pointing at his betrayer. As he pursued her around my legs she evaded by dashing behind the wooden fence separating the lawn from the ramp up to the door to the daycare room.

Dinosaur Boy charged up to the fence, having noted her location on the opposite side, determined to retrieve his reptile, arms outstretched. But he was unprepared for Erin's defensive acumen, and she fought him off easily and simply.

"Hi!" she unleashed, as she poked her face through the fence. "Hi. Hi. Hi," she repeated, and with a big smile at him he was undone. A trade was proposed, and he gave up the stegosaurus for the much smaller hadrosaur and the hope of more shared glances. As he looked down at his diminished bounty a smile lit up his face, and he sought out her grin again. But she was already gone.

She ran up behind one of the boys whose names she had been reciting at home for two weeks and she enveloped him in a big hug from behind. He resisted a little, but eventually turned around and returned her innocent embrace. But I still felt like I had to interject, and probably not for the last time, "No tongue."

Dinosaur Boy laughed when he saw this happening, and ran off in pursuit, hoping to participate in the hugging and kissing. But Erin and her crush were oblivious to everyone else. Eventually the moment ended and Erin wandered back toward me, a happy grin on her face. As she came down a low rise from the scene, Dinosaur Boy stopped in his following tracks and stared at her departing back, still holding the hadrosaur he had traded for his heart.

"Erin," I said, "I think Dinosaur Boy wants a hug too."

And that daughter of mine spun around and ran up the hill to deliver a bone-crushing hug and to plant a kiss on his face. Then she dropped the stegosaurus she was carrying and ran back over to me.

My doom hid behind my legs again, and I surveyed the carnage.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Have I ever told you about the old cavalry saber my father had hanging in the living room?

I invaded two countries with that sword.

After my parents separated and my father left, my mother and sister and I moved off the rez into the the smelly little industrial town across the river. I was thirteen and I stopped cutting my hair and I skateboarded and I smoked and I had an earring and I wore a jean jacket with buttons on it that said stupid things. I still had the cavalry saber. It was a token, protection, symbolic. It was my father's. It was mine.

One night I drew the saber and walked into the living room of our basement apartment. The tip of the blade went against the throat of the sleeping sack of shit on the couch, the drunk piece of white trash who had somehow entered our lives.

I stood there over his body and faced my eternities. Some choices are weightless. Other choices are endless.

"You breathe now because I permit it." And I went back to my room.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Note on Pronunciation

Dear Erin,

This will matter further on up the road. Pronunciation, correct pronunciation, is the hallmark of an educated person. In all of your future endeavours you will be judged firstly and most harshly on your ability to communicate the ideas in your head. No matter how brilliant you are and become, if you can't communicate your ideas then you are mute: you will contribute little to society. One of the easiest ways to communicate is through the spoken word, and it is of supreme importance that you be able to say exactly what you mean when you mean it to whom you mean it.

There is an "r" in both "shirt" and "fork". Make a note.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I never thought I could crave a snot-filled kiss
or a sugar-sticky finger in my eye.

Just think, kid, if you were a stranger
I'd punch you in the balls for that.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Not cool, Willy

At some overpriced barbecue joint with horrible customer service in Monterey next to the IMax theater. Willy Something-or-Other.

Friday, January 2, 2009

O Hai Eight Is

I went on a self-imposed vacation from the internet: stopped blogging, commenting (though I was still reading....shhh) and Tweeting, and answering e-mails sporadically or not at all. Because I don't care. I'm cool; you can tell because I say that I don't care when I really do and then act like I don't and sabotage my own integrity and self by not doing things I like just to confirm how much I don't like them.

I actually "owe" a couple of posts. Not to you. You can go to hell. But I owe a video post/review of a little camera I was given and took with me to Disneyland. Corporate-sellout blogging comes before sappy posts about my daughter handing my wife a candy cane and saying "Open candy pease." I also owe a guest post to Sarcastic Mom. And I owe a guest post to Sarah Morgan (from I think 2007).

But they'll just have to wait. Screw the corporate Man! And the non-corporate Women.

Actually, see how I didn't link to them? That's not out of shame. I can't. I'm writing this on my Blackberry because at the end of my vacation from the internet I broke my laptop and now it has to be sent off to be fixed and although all of that is free because I bought a kickass warranty two years ago I don't get a loaner so I will be computer-less for another week-and-a-half to two weeks.

If you need me I'll be over here. Send me an e-mail so I don't get bored.

Geeky Twitter Aside:

I love my Blackberry, and Twitterberry is a neat application but I follow over a thousand people and I can only do that with any success at all by using Tweetdeck. Without my laptop I'm limited to "@" replies and DMs, and if I pull the DMs with Twitterberry I can't reply directly unless I type "d whateveryournameis" and that's enough of a pain in the ass that I don't reply to DMs on my Blackberry that often. "@" replies yes.

So, if you really want to send me a message in the next couple of weeks (and I encourage you to do so, because I get lonely if I don't have a thousand people wondering what I'm doing) and you actually want a reply, then send me an e-mail. My Blackberry kicks ass at e-mail.

My daughter also asks for "mo' candy", "mo' cooookie", "mo' cake" and "mo' joooce". She has all of her teeth and they're all sweet.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T