Sidewalk surfin’… and sidewalk fallin’

Spring has sprung (and I’ve got the allergies to prove it) and thus commences the daily struggle to get the kids off the couch, off the phones and out in the “fresh air” (achoo!).

Leah went out in the fresh air yesterday. She was grabbing a skateboard from the garage as I left to go pick up her younger brother from soccer. When I got home, she mentioned that she had fallen on the driveway and that her elbow hurt. Time for a trip to urgent care…. where time stands still, and the only “urgent” is your urgent desire to get a nurse, then X-ray tech, then doc to show up without an interminable wait in-between.

Four hours later, we finally got a diagnosis: incomplete radial head fracture. Time for a splint, and soon a cast. It’s her left elbow… and yes, she’s a lefty.

Poor thing is gonna have to learn how to text righty. While sitting on the couch.

Image result for the best laid plans of mice and men
Robert Burns knows the score.

If I had a boat…

And if I had a boat
I’d go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I’d ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

“If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett

I don’t have a boat. Instead, we have four cars. Which means four tickets in the car repair lottery. About five weeks ago, my 17-year-old’s ancient Honda got a crack all the way across the windshield. It just magically appeared. A week after I got the windshield replaced, aforementioned 17-year-old managed to scrape the rear passenger door on one of those two-foot high poles that are put in public parking lots to… create more business for repair shops and replacement parts dealers, apparently.

I still miss The Far Side…

He did that on a Friday night, and never mentioned anything to me, even on the Saturday morning after, when I woke him up for bowling. The trim piece by the door was loose… and when he drove Saturday, it flapped in the wind and wound up breaking a taillight housing. If you’re keeping score at home, a replacement trim piece is $20… and a taillight housing is $100. Actually the taillight housing is $100 on Amazon or eBay, but I found it at a local auto salvage yard for $80… a penny saved is a penny earned!

Two weeks later, on a Monday morning, he was driving to school and skidded on a thin layer of ice that had formed… right into the back of the car in front of him. Everyone’s OK, it was just a fender bender… but in addition to paying the deductible, I’ll be paying for that for the next several years via higher insurance premiums.

Ah, the joys of old cars and teen drivers, and the magical combination of both.

After all those incidents, I was looking forward to a repair-free week. Walking into the house the other day, I saw this on my wife’s car:

Is it any wonder why I take the bus to work most days?

My son’s car should be ready tomorrow. I don’t know if I’m ready. Where’s that boat?

Going to the dogs… and cats

Many moons ago, we fostered a puppy named Bibo for 4 Paws for Ability, local non-profit that provides service dogs for children and disabled veterans.

My wife: “Such a pwetty widdle pupper-dupper…”

Our job was to cover the basics with bouncing baby Bibo: the usual sit/stay/come commands, potty training, and “socializing” him to get him used to public spaces. Meaning my wife took him everywhere – stores, schools, sporting events, restaurants, parades… any place where he’d be exposed to new sights, sounds and smells.

At age one, Bibo needed to go back to the non-profit (much to my wife’s dismay) for hardcore “boot camp.” The training runs the gamut, as the dogs could be put into service in a variety of roles: mobility assistance, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. It’s like Navy Seal training for dogs, and only the very best make it through to graduation.

Bibo was a dropout. There’s no shame in that. But he needed a forever home. I’ll give you three guesses as to where he wound up (and your first two guesses don’t count).

Now that those silly “obedience” lessons are over, can I sleep on your bed?

Bibo is back (we should change his name to “Boomerang”). He joins Hope, our seven-year-old mutt (adopted from a local shelter)…

So good at hogging the couch.

…and Coco and Lily, our two cats (also adopted) in our house turned menagerie.

I should buy stock in pet companies… and lint roller manufacturers.

When it’s time to change…

Our youngest child is 13 and a half… and his voice is starting to crack. Of course, the first thought that springs to mind for someone my age is the Brady Bunch episode where Peter’s voice was changing.

But then when I clear the TV Land cobwebs from my puny brain (it takes roughly three hours to lose that stupid little Sha-na-na-n-na-na-n-na-na… sha-na-na-na-na! riff), I realize that our youngest child… our baby boy!… is leaving childhood behind.

That makes me sad, because if he’s moving to another phase, that means I am too. The phase where parents aren’t needed as much. We’re becoming accessories rather than necessities. Heck, we already have a kid in college (and another who will be there by August), two teenage drivers and another with her temps… They can fend for themselves. They’ve been off school for the past three days thanks to frigid temperatures and snow — and they probably didn’t even notice their old man was gone.

I’m not ready to be an empty nester just yet. In fact, the “failure to launch” concept is starting to sound appealing.

I know change is inevitable.

But that doesn’t make it enjoyable. At least not for parents.

The cost of convenience

Earlier this week, we were running low on bath tissue.

(OK, OK, let’s just call it toilet paper because that’s what it is. “Bath tissue” is just a marketing ploy. Much like “Chilean sea bass” was invented to put a more palatable spin on the real name of that species: Patagonian toothfish.)

We’re always running low on peanut butter, too, thanks to our teenagers and their protein shakes.

So instead of driving the three measly blocks to the grocery store, I ordered a four large packages of both TP and PB online. Sounds great in theory – who really wants to go to the store to hand pick their TP? (Other than bogus 70s housewives and Mr. Whipple, of course.)

But then the packaging showed up on our doorstep. Two different shipments, on two different days, in giant cardboard boxes, and for some reason the packers felt it necessary to “cushion” the TP with a mile of those plastic air bubbles. Seriously, I thought it was a costume for a Chinese New Year parade:

Each giant plastic jar of peanut butter was also hermetically sealed in a plastic bag. I guess to prevent “leakage”… or “oozing” in the case of peanut butter. It seemed completely unnecessary. I’m sure anyone who orders online has also experienced the “giant box for one tiny item” phenomenon. That’s a lot of cardboard wasted. Delivery is usually by diesel trucks, which pollute more than passenger cars. My order came from a warehouse, which is certainly farther away than the three-block distance to my store. And the truck probably wasn’t completely full because of the haste required to meet the arbitrary two-day shipping deadline. Not to mention the fact that my home delivery won’t replace a trip to the store… it’s just in addition to those jaunts. That means more vehicles on the road spewing pollution.

Here’s a nice article that sums up the environmental challenges of home shipping. Here’s a video too:

Then there’s this article about how all this shipping can wreak havoc on the labor market and infrastructure.

So I’m going to choose “no hurry” shipping when I have to order online, and go back to the old-school way as much as possible – it feels more earth-friendly. Especially if I ride my bicycle.

Be who you want to be

My 17-year-old son is a workout fanatic. He’s also a funny kid in his own unique — and typically stealthy — way. Recently, when he ordered a new dip belt online, he had some fun with the mailing label name. (BTW, don’t ask me what a “dip belt” is… I thought it meant loosening your pants by a couple of notches after you’ve had too much guacamole.)

Peter has already figured out what his pro wrestling name would be, and he often refers to himself in the third person of that imaginary person. It’s especially funny because in many ways he’s quite shy.

Yep, Jackson Steelflex. Sounds like he could be a future WWE Heavyweight Champ, brother!

The name has a lot of flair.

Peter will be going off to college in a few months. I remember a faculty member who spoke at my freshman orientation (back in the Jurassic Period) and told us that in college, we could be free of the the boxes that high school put us into, and become who we want to be. Here’s hoping that Peter leaves Shy Guy behind, and becomes a bit more Steelflex.

Playing the hand that’s dealt you… or thrown at you

Ain’t it funny how time slips away. And ain’t it funny how some isolated, seemingly trivial incidents from your childhood get lodged in your brain for decades?

25+ Best Memes About Memories | Memories Memes

In December of 1976, I was a wee lad of 11. And even in the three-network universe of my youth, pretty much anyone with a pulse could get a TV special or even a summer replacement series (looking at you, Shields & Yarnell). In that fateful winter month of our country’s bicentennial year (remember the red, white and blue fire hydrants?), skinny, buck-toothed magician Doug Henning appeared in his second TV special, the appropriately titled “Doug Henning’s World of Magic II.”

Most Famous Magicians - List of Famous Magicians in History

Michael “Little House on the Prairie” Landon was the guest host (Doug wasn’t much of an emcee.) And one of the guests was fellow magician/illusionist Ricky Jay, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. It’s been 42 years since that show aired, but I vividly remember the segment with Ricky throwing playing cards into the audience.

My siblings and I were so enamored with that trick (and Ricky’s showmanship) that we tried to replicate it… with absolutely zero success. But the concept of throwing playing cards seemed so weird that it became a running gag for us. In the ensuing weeks and months, we’d pick up a playing card, shout “Ricky Jay!” and throw it to the four winds… or at each other.

Image result for peanuts playing cards

(It goes without saying that in the ensuing weeks and months, we could no longer play traditional card games because we managed to lose several cards from every deck we owned thanks to our Ricky Jay impersonations.)

Yes, we were easily amused… and maybe that’s the point. Throwing cards seems so tame (or, to use the current parlance “lame”) in a post-Jackass, Red Bull Stunt Team, Call of Duty, VR goggles world. But making your own fun can be the most fun of all. It’s the most memorable too… I guarantee you that if I picked up a playing card in front of my siblings and shouted “Ricky Jay!” it would still coax a smile out of them, four decades later. And that’s pure magic in my book.

 

P.S. Ricky Jay was quite the Renaissance man – in addition to being a master magician, he was also an accomplished author, actor and businessman (he and his business partner created the wheelchair that made Gary Sinise look like a double amputee in Forrest Gump). Check out his obit from the New York Times and the trailer of his documentary below.

Young and… let’s just call it restless, shall we?

As far as I know, there’s only one official “Olan Mills” portrait style photography image of my siblings and me.

Wait, that’s not the right photo. That’s one from the Awkward Family Photos website. I’ll wait right here while you spend the next 20 minutes looking through all those awesome shots….

Aaand, we’re back. As I was saying, there’s only one official family portrait photo of my siblings and me. And the only remaining print of said shot is in the possession of my older sister. (Don’t start looking for any birth order subtext or issues… I’m fine with this arrangement.)

I recently asked my older sister to text me a photo of the photo, if that makes any sense. Here it is in all its late 60s black and white glory:

That’s me in the lower right.

They say “every picture tells a story” (and by “they” I mean “Rod Stewart”), but you have to be careful with that today, because anyone and everyone can be a photo editor. You may look at that shot and say “what a lovely bunch of kids.” (You’d better, because it’s true!)

However, you’re not getting the full picture with the picture above. Why? Well, because when we four wee tykes posed for this photo, one of them clearly had to go wee-wee. Please note the placement of my hands in the full shot:

Nature was calling, but I couldn’t answer because the photographer charged by the hour.

I could be sad about the fact that in the one and only official siblings photo we have, I’m a bit too “hands on.” But I’m an optimist, and I’m going to look at the bladder as half-full instead of half-empty. Because this is really a photo of a trendsetter. Yes, it’s true, decades before Michael Jackson made the crotch grab part of our visual vernacular, I was doing it.

MJ was the King of Pop, but I was the King of Having to Pee. Long may I rain.

 

My life is a comic strip

Now that our oldest son is a college freshman, this Pearls Before Swine strip from Sunday perfectly sums up our relationship:

And since we’re already talking about slang, how about some Beach Slang:

 

Remember, remember, the 9th of November

Yes, I know Guy Fawkes Day is November 5th, commemorating the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. There’s even a nursery rhyme about it:

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match
Holler boys, holler boys, let the bells ring
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the King!

But November 9th, 1968 is the day that blew our family to smithereens. It’s the day my mom passed away. It’s been half a century… and nearly all of my lifetime. I was 3 years old. My siblings were 6, 5 and 2.

My mom was 33. My dad was 37. He was never the same. Nothing was ever the same.  

I’d like to light a match and blow up leukemia. Instead I’ll light a candle and pray for a cure.

Well, I’ve cried me a river, I’ve cried me a lake
I’ve cried till the past nearly drowned me
Tears for sad consequences
Tears for mistakes
But never these tears that surround me

Alone in this place with a lifetime to trace
And a heartbeat that tells me it’s so
I’ve got these tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
And I need to cry 30 years or so
These are tears from a long time ago
These are tears from a long time ago
I’ve got these tears from a long time ago