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Thursday, February 26, 2009


"Was that a goat?"

Was it? The car hit something, and Patrick Warburton wants to know. Because it is just so outrageous that you can be driving down the road on your way to a Florida airport with something to do, like save a planeload of Gator fans from being incinerated by a bomb in a trunk, when all of a sudden this goddamned goat comes out of nowhere. You strike it, or it strikes you. You aren't quite sure. But you see in the rearview that the goat is fine; your car is less so; your equilibrium remains, but only as a facade now. And instead of being able to scream at the top of your lungs "I don't like the fact that I am so very nervous and anxious about the world and that we've just hit a goat! I'm barely holding it together!" all you can do is utter: "Was that a goat?"

Come on, Puddy. You know it was a goat. Just admit that you are suddenly very aware of how little control over your environment you have. The goat is a message.


Sometimes Emily just wants to sing Ace of Base at the top of her lungs. When we were in New York she karaoke'd the hell out of "The Sign". She's a Capricorn. Capricorns are "independent" (read: stubborn). They accomplish what they want to accomplish and sometimes you are in the way.

The Universe is a Capricorn. And you, Patrick Warburton? Sometimes you are in the way.


I was up too late one night last week. I was up too late because I had to listen to music I had just downloaded from iTunes. I have never spent so much money on music before. Some people spend a lot on music, regularly; I am not one of them. But I couldn't stop listening and buying. I had been thinking about the music all day, ever since Sweetney had offered up a couple of songs on Blip. One was called "No Children", from an album called Tallahassee that is about a couple who move to Florida and they are so very nervous and anxious about the world and are barely holding it all together.

The other song she offered, by the same group, was a cover of "The Sign"."

Over and over and over and over. I listened to the music over and over.

The Universe is a Capricorn; the band is The Mountain Goats.


The music was like a gift. Well, yes, I paid for it, but still it was like flowers on Valentine's Day when you never get flowers on Valentine's Day. The Universe is a Capricorn, but just because she hits your car and leaves you a bit bewildered doesn't mean that you aren't better off for it. You are aware of things.


I saw this Tweet from Heather Spohr while I was listening to the music: "They changed the diagnosis from pneumonia to RSV. So her illness is more serious, but she is stable. Phew." Tracking back through Twitter I found this one: "If my sad little hospitalized baby doesn't make you want to donate to my March of Dimes team you are made of" and then it abruptly cut off. Clicking through to the picture I was punched in the face, my car was hit, and I was enlightened. "stone. Or poo." That's what I would be made of.

Was that a goat?

Suddenly my Dionysian gluttony, my musical insomnia, was put into a little bit of perspective. I was so happy to have this music. I had no regrets about spending the money on it.

But if I could do that much just because it made me happy, could I not do a little bit more, to help someone? To help someone I know?

I'm not suggesting that I applied some rule of charity to my conduct. I don't give programmatically. Sometimes I am inspired to charity, or to gifts, or to whatever. Sometimes I am not. I have no rule about it.

Was that a goat?

It was a goat. The Universe is a Capricorn. "The Sign" playing over and over again; another song about a couple self-destructing in Florida, where, Puddy will tell you, goats just hit your car while you are on your way to the airport to be about your business of saving Gator fans, a couple with no children and the consequences of that fact on their relationship, alternating with "The Sign" in my ears.

My wallet was still next to my laptop. It was easy to click through to Heather's March of Dimes Team Page and offer up just a little bit more than I had spent on myself.


Heather is raising money for a walk on April 25th (although you'd think they'd call it a "march", right?) She is just over $300 shy of her goal. You don't have to donate money to her, to the March of Dimes, to anyone at all.

But if the Universe hits your car while you are driving to a Florida airport to save some Gator fans maybe you can do more than just ask: "Was that a goat?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Connection Comedy

I'm sitting in a Starbucks. (Is there an apostrophe anywhere in the name? I don't see one on any of the signage. But I've always thought of it as "the coffee shop that belongs to Starbuck", so it's strange for me to think of there being no apostrophe. It makes it look like they offer starbucks, some pluralization of "starbuck", for sale. "Gitchyor starbucks yere! Frish starbucks! Straight off the starbucks boat!")

I'm sitting in a Starbucks despite my aversion to coffee in general and Starbucks in particular because I felt like sitting somewhere that wasn't my office for a little while. I wanted to be able to open my laptop and finally use that T-Mobile pre-paid card I've had in my wallet since the BlogHer conference in July of last year (that should show you how uninterested I am in entering Starbucks'. Starbuckses?)

I entered the fine establishment on California Avenue in Palo Alto about 15 minutes ago to mingle with the moms from the running club, people writing in their spiral notebooks, other laptop folks, and the dilapidated old hooker who has been fascinating me for 10 minutes. She's really amazing to see.

I purchased a Vitamin Water, because I don't drink coffee. I paid $1.85 for it. I prefer to buy them by the case for less than a dollar each, but I suppose the other eighty-five cents is for atmosphere. See "dilapidated old hooker" above.

I sat down on one of the available cushy chairs. The only one. It's right by the front door. I think the dilapidated old hooker is coming over now and she's going to be able to see what I'm writing about her. Wait for it....


Nope. She went out the side door. She has places to go, trailing a small carry-on bag on wheels behind her. I think she had some boxes earlier. I don't know where they went. But wherever they are, the getting of them to that destination inspired in her a need for a coffee. I don't understand coffee.

Anyway, I sat down, pulled out my wallet with my T-Mobile card in it, removed the card, and opened my laptop. I looked for a T-Mobile network on the list of wireless servers and I didn't see one.

But there was AT&T, shining full at me in green bar glory. I looked around, at the decals on the door to the Starbucks, and I saw that there was no T-Mobile decal anywhere. Just AT&T. What the hell, Starbuck's? When did that happen? Not that I've been paying close attention, but my pre-paid T-Mobile card from July of 2008 clearly lists Starbuckses as locations where I might find wi-fi sustenance.

Well. I was here. I had an open laptop. I thought I might want to try to write a story about the shoe-mania affecting the little girls at Erin's daycare: Erin knows who belongs to every shoe in the place, and if someone abandons his or her shoes somewhere Erin announces "Erin turn!!" and slips them on her feet. This behavior got her ribs gnawed on by a "mine mine mine" girl yesterday, while I was standing two feet away. I'll call her "Tara." Erin's pathetic, betrayed sobs broke my heart and had me wondering, a little, what I'd have done if it were a dog, and not Tara, that had done that to her. I think this just proves that I really do think children are different from dogs, in many important and significant ways. Last night, as we were driving home from dinner at the Olive Garden (I love the Olive Garden), Erin offered, softly, from the backseat: "I no like it Tara." Word, kid. You have TBC ribs: Tara Been Chewed.

Wanting to tell a story I connected to the AT&T network, and opened up a browser to go through the connection/signup/pay money rigmarole. It was $3. Three dollars to write a story? Was it worth it? Ah, but look up in the top right corner of the webpage: "If you have a roaming account with another carrier, please select from the drop-down menu." T-Mobile was on the list. I didn't know if I had a roaming account. Actually, I was pretty sure I didn't have an account at all. So, I plotted, I'd set up an account with T-Mobile, then connect to AT&T here in this Starbucks using my new T-Mobile account.

I opened a new browser page to carry out my plan and went looking for T-Mobile's web page. I located it, navigated to the "new account" page, opened an account, entered my pre-paid card number, and then closed the window. I went back to the AT&T page, selected T-Mobile from the drop-down menu of roaming carriers, and entered my account information. Voila! Internet at Starbucks.I could now navigate to pages other than this silly AT&T page and explore the internet a little.

I'd like you to re-read that last paragraph again.

Then I'd like you wonder, along with me, why I am so stupid. The old, dilapidated hooker with her boxes and her carry-on has it all figured out: deliver boxes, get coffee, go do something else that isn't completely, utterly, and totally redundant.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Erin Goes to Seattle

"Let's go away for the weekend. Let's just go."

"Where? Ugh, it's such a pain in the ass to pack up all of Erin's crap. Just for a weekend? Seems like a waste."

"So let's not bring any of it."

"How do we go on a trip without bringing the car seat? The stroller? The pack n' play? Especially anywhere interesting that isn't just a place we've driven to twenty times already? We can't rent a car if we don't have the car seat, and I don't trust rental car company car seats."

"You are Backpacking Dad. Let's take the backpack for her, and a small carry-on for us, and go somewhere we won't need a car to get around."



And that's how we found ourselves on a plane out of San Jose International on a September morning, holding Erin on our laps as we sat just a little bit stunned at the freedom we felt traveling in the fashion we were. A few diapers were in the backpack, along with a cup, a plastic fork, some wipes, and a couple of changes of clothes for Erin. We'd need more diapers, and food, and milk, and probably countless other things, but most things could be purchased in discrete quantities in a city like Seattle. The flight wasn't so long that we needed to load up with distractions for the kid.

We left the car, and the car seat, in the airport parking lot, having found that the downtown hotel shuttle was a large bus, not a van, making a car seat unnecessary. We booked a room at a fancy downtown hotel, splurging on a room close to the center of the city in order to both cut down on distance travel and to ensure that the quality of crib offered would be superior enough for us to feel comfortable letting Erin sleep in it. It was a two-room suite, expensive, but worth it if it meant Erin could sleep in her own room.

As it turned out whoever designed the two-room suites at the fancy hotel never thought guests would actually want the rooms to be, well, separated. French doors divided the bedroom from the living room, but instead of anything remotely sound-damping like glass, or even wood, the doors were just frames draped with linen. Translucent linen at that. So not only were they not sound-proof, but they weren't even opaque enough for genuine privacy. They might as well have just drawn a line on the carpet and labeled it "door".

The weird two-but-really-one-room suite setup was a detraction, but the crib set up was fantastic. The crib came with a full set of baby bath products and powders and soaps, all the things we didn't bring with us but thought we'd buy at a local store then have to leave behind because they were liquid and we flew on an airplane with only carry-ons and the TSA would have a fit if we tried to bring shampoo on an airplane. What's more, there was a stuffed animal in the crib and also the cutest baby robe I've ever seen.


You can't tell from the picture, but that sucker was monogrammed. Of course we stole it. Or I think we did. I mean, I'm sure it ended up coming home with us but they never billed us so I'm not sure that it wasn't just a free baby robe to begin with.

Outside of the room we wandered...

Down to Pike's Place Market and Victor Steinbrueck Park, where Erin strutted about and Emily mom'd it up.




Backpacking around the Market we stopped at the world's first Starbucks.


I dad'd it up by sticking things on Erin's face and taking pictures of it:


We ate at small cafes and at a family seafood restaurant, at the mall and at a food court next to the Space Needle with tiny chairs for tiny people.


We traveled by backpack, by monorail, and by Duck Boat.


We went to the aquarium:


And to the Children's Museum, where painting happened:


And to a video arcade with its own carousel:


And to the tiny amusement park at the base of the Space Needle...


....where Erin joined an old busker's act and tried to steal his stuffed lion:


At the end of the trip my back was sore, and we were exhausted, but in a very happy way. We saw a lot of the touristy parts of the city, all without a car or taking a taxi anywhere. Dreading the trip home, scheduled as it was for a nap time that might never happen, we returned to SeaTac not knowing if the trip was going to be capped by a massive spaz-out on the flight home. We were pleasantly surprised by the huge playroom at the airport: Seattle is not populated by dummies. If you want a kid to sleep on an airplane you need to tire her out first.


Wouldn't you know it? Erin slept for nearly the entire flight home. She whispered "happy" as she lay in Emily's arms, and then I took her and sang a made up song as we took off, and by the time the seat belt light was turned off she was asleep.


It was after we arrived home that night, tired and relaxed, that we opened a bottle of wine to cap our long weekend together before Emily went back to work for the week and I prepared to return to school full-time, my days of being an at-home dad behind me. It was a bittersweet evening, as I realized my time with Erin was going to be severely reduced. I had known nothing but fatherhood for a year, and I was nervous about going back to school, and about putting Erin in daycare.

After I poured the wine Emily looked over at me as I sat pondering the changes the future was going to bring. "You know, it's been a while since my last period," she commented.

"Maybe you're pregnant," I joked back, thinking about class schedules and students and daycare teachers who were going to screw it all up.


"Wait, how long is 'a while'?"

It was long enough. That night, September 15th, 2008, we found out about this one, my son, due May 15th, 2009:

Baby #2 Ultrasound

Bittersweet indeed. We had enjoyed our free-wheeling trip to Seattle so much, just we three, that it was a bit of a shock to be faced with the reality of a second child, a sibling, when all we'd known was life with Erin.

I drank Emily's wine and life went on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Redneck Shower

Redneck Shower:  A coffee mug's worth of Sanka residue and cold water thrown in your face as you sleep on the couch.

Redneck Baby: A five year old that you just now realize is your kid.

Redneck Baby Shower: (1) A watering can emptied over the kid's head after he's played with the pigs for an hour. (2) A party for a new mom that involves lots of old flannel and cowboy boots.

Tanis, The Redneck Mommy, has had a Redneck Baby. That is, she's had a five year old. I know. She's hasn't had any of the long lead time that someone who has a baby the old fashioned way, after getting knocked up at the drive-in, would have. It's happened so quickly: the idea was conceived, the thought gestated and developed, soundings taken and the first introduction made, laborious, sweating effort through bureaucratic contractions was endured, but suddenly, there's a little dude sitting there at her ranch.

I can claim some small knowledge of matters redneck: I've had the coffee mug of Sanka and cold water thrown in my face as I slept on the couch. I've milked cows. I attended an elementary school you had to pass a pig farm to get to. I read Playboy magazines in a hayloft and swam in a sand quarry. No matter how suburban my existence now, I'll always be a bit of a redneck.

But I've got nothing on Tanis. Her kids are doomed, and this new one, her son, a son she didn't even know for five years but who is so obviously her son no matter that the government calls it an adoption, well, he is doomed thrice over. Because not only will Tanis be raising yet another redneck, but her already rednecked brood can help destroy this kid's dentition and fashion sense. Lookout dude, they're coming for your sophistication and they're bringing you some overalls.

Congratulations Tanis. I'm awed and proud.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Daniel Webster

We went to Disneyland for Christmas. If you know us at all well, you would know that you could probably insert just about any X for "Christmas" and you would still have a true statement:

"We went to Disneyland for a birthday."

"We went to Disneyland for dinner."

"We went to Disneyland for a slumber party."


In early December I was asked by Jane, co-founder of the Hot Blogger Calendar and co-founder of MomGenerations, if I wanted a camera.


"You told me during the calendar photo shoot that you thought the little RCA video camera I was using was cool. They want to give you a camera. Do you want it?"

"You are a strange person. No. Well, hang on. Do I have to sell my soul to RCA if I accept their camera?"

"What's a soul?"


Is this a post about Disneyland or a camera review?

I don't know. The camera, I suppose. It is kind of cool. It has some pretty basic functionality, shooting either low-quality clips for fast upload to YouTube (it's co-produced by YouTube or something) or higher quality clips for really really really slow upload to YouTube, where you don't notice the quality difference at all because it all looks grainy anyway so you might as well shoot everything low res. It has a flip-out viewscreen so you can film yourself and watch yourself at the same time, which you can't do with point-and-shoot cameras with built in video recorders.

Is it a camera for me? Maybe. Probably not though, because I'm an insane father and I bought an insane camcorder right before Erin was born because I didn't care about going into debt for life I was going to be a father and I needed to document every detail in high quality clips!!!!!

I also already have a point-and-shoot pocket camera that has a decent video recorder built in. We have a bad track record with these little cameras though, so it's nice to have a more durable feeling one that I can take out somewhere the more delicate point-and-shoot wouldn't like very much.

It probably wouldn't be my default for grabbing quick video. In fact, I shot some video last night and I pulled out the insane camcorder rather than the RCA, because, as I mentioned, I'm an insane father and I record for personal saving, mostly, not for quick public broadcast. I like ultra-high-quality video.

But you can plug the RCA straight into a USB port for downloading video to the computer, so there's no fidgeting with memory cards or cords. And hell, the thing is small. It's a pocket camcorder.


I guess its real advantage is the integration with, and optimization of video for, YouTube. I'm just not that much of a YouTuber, so it doesn't occur to me to take video for the purpose of uploading quickly. I don't even post video here on the blog that often, so I miss out on what is the main benefit to using the RCA Small Wonder. I don't know that having it will change my habits. It's probably perfect for a teenager with limited funds to buy and bring to a party so he can catch Michael Phelps smoking a bowl.



Here is a long-ish video of Erin wandering around the park, interfering with the flow of traffic, and inspiring people to give her things.

Some footage of Erin having potatoes and playing peek-a-boo:

And here is my favourite video from the trip. It's just so full of dad-ness and relationship-ness, even though it's only forty seconds or so.

And although you can't tell from the footage unless you have already been, we really were at Disneyland.


To sum up, although RCA didn't sponsor our trip to Disneyland they sure as hell gave me a camera, and I used that sucker. So thanks RCA!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Economics and Guilt

As Emily and I chased Erin around the grocery store during a quick stop to buy milk I was addressed by someone I had never expected to see again. I'm certain I'll never see her again now.


I turned to face this inquisitrix, a brunette with long curly hair, and although I could not immediately place her I offered a pleased "Hi!" in return.

Dammit. Who are you?

I experienced some really deep feelings of guilt when I met her gaze.

But why? Who is this person?

"Is this the little one?" she asked, indicating Erin.

Emily was walking along with me and Erin was dashing away toward the blue hyper-entertainment-center-shopping-carts parked at the edge of the store. "Blue! Cart!"

"Yeah," I replied. But knowing the rest of the conversation was going to require introductions, and having a terrible history involving the introduction of women to each other, I sought an escape, or at least a delay so I could remember who this person was and why I should feel so guilty about seeing her.

Nodding toward my daughter as she took off in a "I'm sorry, I can't stay to chat" kind of way, I followed Erin to the blue carts and caught my reflection in a mirror.

Ok, dude. Dude. You're blushing. What the hell is wrong with you? Why is it bothering you so much that you ran into this person? Although it's good that you ran into her today, clean-shaven and with your hair actually brushed and in place and nicely cut instead of on one of your scruffy days.

Nicely cut...

And then it crashed down upon me, who this woman was and why I had hoped to never see her out in public. She was my hair stylist from The Man Spa, and I had canceled on her to go to my old barber. I had cheated on her, and all for the sake of saving some money in the new economy; not caring that she would miss me; not caring that she also could use some extra cash during hard times.

That's the problem with the natural instinct to save during recession; it's completely reinforcing of the recession. Confidence is low because the chances of the money continuing to flow to consumers look reduced; but since confidence is low consumers save rather than spend, which guarantees that money will not flow to other consumers, who then are uncertain about the economy and do their own best to save, spiting everyone's faces and flinging severed noses everywhere.

Thankfully, by the time I had returned to the spot whence Erin and I had made our exeunt she was gone, and I confessed to Emily who the strange woman had been.

"Ah," she said, "she might as well have caught you with your tongue down some other woman's throat."

I'm sorry, Stylist. My barber may be blind, but he's cheap and doesn't force me to reflect on myself too much. He doesn't make me ask hard questions about the image I want to portray to the world. When I sit in his chair he just says one thing:

"So, looks like you need a 'medium'."

And that's the kind of relationship I need right now, in these uncertain times.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Jeremy Is Here": A Nightmare from 1983

My six-year-old astral projection wandered a zoo in the early morning. Because it was a dream there was fog everywhere. Because I was six there were monkeys everywhere. Sound bounced around in a stratus igloo and I was surrounded by a wall of simian screeching, a primate a capella Spinal Tap cover band barraging me with their greatest hits, "Lick My Feces" and "StoneFeces."

I was alone for a long time. But soon a shape suggested itself in the fog, impossibly tall. It didn't make any sense until it entered my clearing. It was a man, in slacks and a short-sleeved polo shirt, with dark sunglasses, holding a wooden, spoke-backed chair high above his head. A little boy sat in the chair, looking either calm or resigned.

"Jeremy is here," said the man in the short-sleeved polo shirt. Then he turned and walked back into the fog.

I didn't recognize him, but I felt as though I didn't ever want to meet him again.

Later I was in the yard of the farmhouse we lived in, just outside of Carp, Ontario, across from the police station. The tall hedgerow shielding our yard from the country highway just beyond rustled, responding to a transient wind. The wind died and the rustling continued. I looked up and a man emerged from the hedgerow. He was in slacks and a short-sleeved polo shirt, with dark sunglasses, holding a wooden, spoke-backed chair high above his head. He was not the same man as the stranger at the zoo. But the same little boy sat in the chair, looking either concerned or desperate.

"Jeremy is here!" shouted the man in the short-sleeved polo shirt. I couldn't tell if he was angry, accusing, or territorial. But I felt as though I didn't ever want to meet him again.

Even later I was in my neighbour's living room, in the house to the left of mine along that same stretch of highway. The living room looked out on the front lawn through a large bay window, and the entry hall was blocked from view by a short wall. I sat on the couch watching wrestling while my neighbour entertained George and Weezie Jefferson, all finished movin' on up and preferring to live in the country. Weezie sat to my immediate left on the couch, and George on hers, while my neighbour sat across from us in an old chair, her back to the bay window.

"Well, back then George was a policeman," Weezie was saying as I began to pay attention to the conversation, "and do you know where we lived? At the police station!" For some reason this was the funniest thing Weezie had ever heard herself say, and she laughed her deep raspy laugh while George smiled at my neighbour.

Weezie's laughter was startled to an end by a pounding at the obscured front door. The pounding repeated, then ceased. I could hear the creak of the door, and then solid footsteps in the entry hall. A man turned the corner. He was in slacks and a short-sleeved polo shirt, with dark sunglasses. He was the first man, from the fog-swamped zoo. He was holding a wooden, broken, spoke-backed chair high above his head. The boy was gone, and the man was furious.

"Jeremy is not here!!" he growled. Then he hurled the broken chair at my head as I sat on the couch next to Weezie Jefferson.

But I wasn't on the couch. I was sitting in the chair as it flew threw the air at an empty spot on the couch. As I landed face-first I felt the broken spokes slam against my head. I heard the man stomp back toward the door, open it, and then close it, while the Jeffersons and my neighbour screamed.

From my position on the couch I could still see the bay window and the front lawn, and the man came into view from the right, walking in front of the window and staring in. I closed my eyes to slits like any child feigning sleep and willed him not to see me there in the wreckage of the chair. Somehow I knew that if he saw my eyes he would see me, and he would come back for me.

He criss-crossed the lawn, growing ever more distant, getting closer to the country highway as he strode back and forth in front of the bay window. And the lawn began to turn to red brick beneath his feet. When the lawn was fully transformed his entire body slowly turned to red brick from the bottom up. And just before his face changed, as he reached the edge of the lawn and the far left edge of the view from the bay window he was joined by the second man in the short-sleeved polo shirt. They turned and walked along the road, crossing back in front of the bay window, turning into red brick until only the sunglasses directed at the window gave any indication that they were still intelligent, directed beings.

Searching for Jeremy.