End of the (car) line

Our youngest child, Andrew, turned 12 this past Thursday.

Older sister Leah is not impressed.

A week from today, he’ll wrap up 6th grade at Sands Montessori, the same school his three older siblings attended (and the first public Montessori school in the United States!).

We’ve had kids there since 2005, and have made great friends with fellow parents over the years. It’s hard to believe that a week from now, we won’t be “Sands parents” anymore. It’s the end of an era, the closing of another chapter in our lives.

I work from home most Tuesdays, and drop Andrew off at Sands in the morning. I won’t miss the school drop-off line – for some inexplicable reason I fully expect preschoolers and grade schoolers to disgorge from their parents’ cars with the swiftness of WWII GIs leaving their Higgins boat during the D-Day invasion… a sure recipe for frustration.


But I’ll really miss my time with Andrew in the morning – waking him at 8 (I call him “Lieutenant Lazybones”), serving him a nutritious breakfast of… whatever sugar-laden cereal happens to be handy…

… listening to music on our three-minute ride to school, giving color commentary on the other cars in line (“look at this one, stopping only halfway through the circle… c’mon, your snowflake can walk an extra 20 feet!”)…

… sending him on his merry way with a quick “love you!”… and getting back a “love you too” because he’s not a jaded teenager yet.

Come August, he’ll be getting on a bus with two of his older siblings, headed to Walnut Hills. He’ll still be my boy, he’ll still be our baby… but baby boy has left the building. And I really miss him.


If you like Piña Coladas…

Sunday is Senior Discount Day at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop near my house. While I’m not a full-fledged, card-carrying, early-buffet-eating member of AARP just yet, the discount applies for anyone 50 or older. (“Fifty is nifty!”) And I can’t resist a 25% discount, especially when my vinyl crate-digging unearthed this gem:

Yes, the masterpiece of Rupert Holmes oeuvre, the seminal Partners in Crime album, featuring the earworm entitled “Escape” but better known and loved by millions as “The Piña Colada Song.”

Don’t act like you don’t know it. Don’t act like you don’t like it. Don’t pretend that you’re not hearing it in your head right now, and singing along at the top of your inner-voice lungs.

It may not be the best song ever put to acetate, but it has its own unique charm. And it is, hands down, the single most unrealistic song about a relationship ever. Let’s recap it, shall we?

In the days before Tinder, when newspapers were still a thing, folks would use the “personals” section of the classified ads to find love. But wait, our Escape protagonist already has a lady. She’s sleeping right next to him… and he’s perusing the personals. Yet somehow he manages to absolve himself of any guilt or shame in the first couplet:

I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long/Like a worn-out recording, of a favorite song

Ergo, ennui is justification for cheating on your significant other. Who knew? So he sees a personal ad that piques his interest. Perhaps it’s a shared predilection for piña coladas and/or getting caught in the rain and/or intimate encounters in sand dunes. Or a mutual hatred of yoga/health food. So while his current “lady” is sleeping, he channels his inner Robert Browning and writes a reply, suggesting a rendezvous at an Irish bar (because those are the best kind of rendezvous – sidebar, the word “rendezvous” is plural – those wacky French!)

When the woman arrives at the appointed place and time – plot twist ahead – it’s his current paramour (a.k.a. “my own lovely lady”). And both of them laugh off the fact that they were trying to cheat on each other. Yes, that’s correct, in this song, there’s no righteous indignation, no hurt feelings, no screaming/yelling/divorce-attorney-calling. They laugh it off, presumably have a drink or three (when in O’Malleys…) and in all likelihood head to the Cape for an assignation. It’s not really a song so much as it is a fairy tale.

So when I saw the album in the thrift shop, I had to have it. Especially because it had held up rather well considering its 1979 release date. It still had the poly wrapping, it still had the record sleeve with liner notes, it even had the original receipt from the purchase:

Guess it wasn’t Senior Discount Day at Music World back in the summer of 1980. They paid $5.75 but I got the album for 37 cents. Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me (and The Village People) to introduce the world’s favorite non-philanderer, the inimitable Rupert Holmes:


Howdy, Non-Stranger

This blog is usually about as far as I venture into the realm of social media. I have a Facebook account that was created by one of my co-workers years ago — without my knowledge or consent. (We’ll save that story for another blog post.) And I never really have “activated” that account so the only two FB “friends” I have are the dude who created the account (thanks Gopal!) and my co-worker Jason, a great person and fellow Xavier grad (that’s redundant).

Since I rarely visit my own Facebook page, yesterday I stumbled upon a message written by Jason a month prior. But the suggestion he has for all of us still applies:

So that’s our mission for the day: say hello to someone you normally wouldn’t. A simple way to make the world a bit kinder.



I’m your (second) biggest fan

Regular blog readers (all three of you) know about my love for the Boston band called Buffalo Tom. (Yes, they’re from Boston and they have “Buffalo” in their name… might help explain why 99% of America has never heard of them.) BT (that’s what we hardcore fans call them) had their moment in the sun back in the early 90s. (OK, it wasn’t exactly a moment in the sun, maybe more like a moment under mostly sunny skies.) Now they still get together to make music occasionally — a new fan-backed album is due out soon — but also have day jobs. The lead singer is a real estate agent – if you’re looking for a mid-century modern in the Boston ‘burbs, Bill Janovitz is your go-to dude.

Bill Janovitz has also been involved in a Boston sports charity for many years, called Foundation To Be Named Later. It was started by former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (hence the wacky baseball-related name) and his twin brother Paul. Each year they do a “Hot Stove, Cool Music” benefit concert in Boston, and Bill is an organizer of that concert as well as a participant. Now that Theo is the President of the Chicago Cubs, the charity has expanded to Chicago as well.

At this year’s Boston gig a couple of weeks ago, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder played a Buffalo Tom tune called “Taillights Fade,” trading verses with Bill Janovitz. Listen to the first 20 seconds to hear Eddie pay tribute to Buffalo Tom.

“Taillights Fade” is from Buffalo Tom’s 1992 album Let Me Come Over, which is my all-time favorite album.

The cover of Let Me Come Over

They’re putting out a 25th anniversary edition as a double LP/CD with a 1992 concert included.  It’s also worth noting that Bill has a heart of gold – he called out ticket resellers who were marking up tickets to the Boston charity concert.

And a co-worker of mine tipped me to a blog called “One Week/One Band” where:

Every week, one trusted music aficionado showcases a band or artist they feel particularly passionate about. Any artist from any country or decade will do — no rules and no canon. Some of those bands you might know very well; some of them you might have never heard of.

Week #1 was The Replacements, one of my favorite bands. Week #2 was….(drumroll please)…. Buffalo Tom! The writer, Andrew Necci, talks about BT’s song “Birdbrain” which is another favorite of mine. If I were a major league baseball player, “Birdbrain” would be my walk-up song.

Obviously I’m not a MLB player (still working on that knuckleball), just a big fan of Buffalo Tom. It’s nice to know that their music had such a big impact on other folks too. Eddie Vedder and I are practically brothers. OK, at least we’re friends.


166.7% awful

A bank based in Cincinnati — Fifth Third Bank — unveiled their new tagline about a week ago. If you already put your socks on this morning, apologies in advance, because they are going to get blown right off by this gem:

This is banking. A Fifth Third better.

OK, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now. What an amazing, stupendous… piece of garbage.

“You know the saying: ‘He gave 110 percent?’ We give 167 percent,” said chief marketing officer Matt Jauchius.

The ads quickly make a point of explaining that five-thirds equals 166.7 percent, then pledge to serve customers that much better.

Yes, that’s right, while customers are expecting Fifth Third to take care of their money, Fifth Third (aka 5/3) is asking their customers to do fractions. Welcome back to 4th grade.

The Fifth Third name is rather unwieldy, coming from the merger of the Fifth National Bank and the Third National Bank way back in 1908.

So I’ll grade on the curve. But their slogans have gotten progressively worse over the past couple of decades. They used to be “the only bank you’ll ever need.” That morphed into “working hard to be the only bank you’ll ever need.” Then came the decidedly lame “the curious bank”…

Customer: “Where’d my money go?”

Bank Teller: “I’m curious about that myself.”

It would be hard to lower the bar from that curious slogan, but somehow 5/3 found a way. If my math is correct, they lowered it 166.7%.

“Wow, they really make banking seem simple and not at all intimidating!”

Thanks to my contacts in the Cincinnati ad agency community, I was able to find the runner-up slogans:

  • Turning fractions into actions
  • 4 is between 5 and 3, and we are working 4 you
  •  Invert your divisor and multiply your savings
  • Fifth is really Third if you subtract the illegal voters
  • 1.666 – the number of the beastly bank
  • You’re gonna need a Fifth of whiskey when we take a Third of your money

I’m 166.7% sure that I’m not going to be banking at Fifth Third anytime soon.

“You passed the math test…. have a golden lolly!”

Pop goes the… cupcake?

My wife Tina is a registered nurse, and works in a wound care clinic at a local hospital. She actually enjoys the gorier aspects of her job… she is a self-proclaimed “picker and popper”… whereas I get squeamish at even the mention of a blood draw, much less an actual blood draw.

She comes home from work and wants to tell the kids and me all about the latest and greatest (read: grossest) wounds she had to treat that day. I immediately go into full ‘ear muff’ mode.

But then a co-worker of mine sent a link to these cupcakes. They’re inspired by an internet sensation known as “Dr. Pimple Popper” who shows videos of her popping all sorts of zits, cysts and other unsightly blemishes.

I immediately knew that Tina had to make these treats for her co-workers. She did, and they were a big hit.

I’m thankful every day for the people who work in healthcare. And I’m even more thankful that I’m not one of them.


Cinco de Mayo is Quinto maggio to me

I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t feel like celebrating today. Not only is it a dreary day in Cincinnati, but 5/5 was my mom’s birthday. As most of you know, she died when I was quite young. Three years old, to be exact. Leukemia stole her away from her husband and 4 young kids, at the age of 33 (a.k.a. the “Jesus year”).

Let’s get the easy answers out of the way first:

  1. No
  2. No

Sorry, I forgot this isn’t Jeopardy. The questions are:

  1. Do you remember her?
  2. Did your father ever remarry?

Those two questions are usually the ones I get when I tell someone about my mom’s untimely departure from this world. #1 is a lot tougher to wrap my head around. Trust me, I’ve tried my best to remember her, but to no avail. So how do you miss someone that you didn’t really know? It’s a weird feeling, for sure.

I know the time from birth to age three is a crucial period, and so my mom was my first/best teacher. But when I try to conjure up some sort of happy memory, a warm glow from those halcyon days… nothin’.

I’ll tell you what I do know. My mom was a first generation Italian-American.

She too lost her mom young… and a sister as well. She played basketball in high school. (We had her b-ball jersey at our house in Arkansas… long after we moved from Jersey City, where my mom and dad met and married. I studied that jersey like it was the Shroud of Turin.)

When she went into labor with her third child (yours truly), my dad took a route to the hospital that featured a few cobblestone streets… and my mom gave my dad some good-natured grief about that. (The extra bouncing might also help explain why I’m wired differently.) When she was trying to teach me how to tie my shoes, I got mad and kicked off one shoe, and it flew up and cracked one of the window panes in our front door… or at least that’s what my older siblings told me… or something like that. It’s been too long.


There’s a Superchunk song call “Void” that expresses my feelings very well:

I look for you
And all I see, all I say
Is a void
All I see, all I say
Is a void
“Pity? Party of one? You’re table’s ready.”
OK, I’ll stop wallowing now. Cinco de Mayo’s for celebrating, right? So rather than focus on the negative space, I’ll celebrate the fact that my mother laid such a strong foundation in our short time together that I do miss her to this day, even if my “miss” is different from most. Diamonds are forever, but so are DNA and “imprinting.”
I’m far from a masterpiece, but my siblings and I are her masterpieces.  Superchunk, bring it home:
Don’t go wait for me,
No, don’t go Wait for me
Because I don’t believe
I don’t believe everything I see
No, I don’t believe
I don’t believe everything I see

Remember when May 4th was just a regular day?

I miss those times. (Sigh)

May 4 has nothing to do with Star Wars, other than sounding like the start of a famous line from the movie… if Obi-Wan Kenobi and friends had just had some dental work done, perhaps.

Or did I miss the sequel that starred Mike Tyson and/or Sylvester the Cat?

But now “May the Fourth” is a thing, apparently, complete with its very own novelty t-shirt.

I have only seen the first Star Wars (I know, it’s Episode 4, back off nerds) so excuse me while I go to sleep.

But please wake me in time for Cinco de Mayo.






16 years of memories

Our second child, Peter, celebrates his 16th birthday today.  Hard to believe. Seems like only yesterday he looked like this:

Peter on June 15th, 2002

HT to my friend Dale Doyle for the wonderful photo – he took some great shots of Peter and our oldest child Gabriel (yes, “Peter Gabriel” but not in that order, and not for that reason, although Peter Gabriel is a great musical artist).

Now Peter’s getting his driving temps:

Peter refusing to smile… because that’s what teenagers do.

I know, “sunrise, sunset…” – I sound like every other parent ever.

Peter’s got a great sense of humor, and I like to tell him about one of my favorite Dave Barry newspaper columns, where he picked up his teenage son at school in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile just to embarrass him.

It’s a funny column – as all Dave Barry columns are. Check it out here. Love the last paragraph:

Of course I did not expect thanks. My reward is the knowledge that some day, somehow, Rob will be a hideous embarrassment to his son. That’s what makes this country great: An older generation passing along a cherished tradition to a younger one, in very much the same way that a row of people at a baseball game will pass along those tasty Oscar Mayer wieners, which by the way also have been shown in laboratory tests to prevent baldness.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/dave-barry/article1934773.html#storylink=cpy
Although the way Peter is wired, I don’t think he’d be embarrassed if I came to pick him up at school in the Wienermobile. Now that he has his temps, he’d want to take the wheel… after attaching his customized sticker to the rear bumper:

Paging Doctor Byrd…

Doctor Byrd… Doctor Robin Byrd… please report to the I.C.U., stat!

“Thank goodness you’re here, Doctor Byrd. We’ve suddenly been hit with a massive outbreak of avian flu and we’ve got to find the source ASAP!”

(Sorry for the fuzzy photo – needless to say National Geographic won’t be calling me anytime soon.) You’ve gotta admire this bird’s courage and ingenuity. The heck with dozens of trips to collect twigs and straw… if s/he can get this surgical mask back to the tree, the nest is practically built. It’s the avian equivalent of a pre-fab home.