Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Number 4 and 8 Happy Meals, Please.

You know how when you reconnect with folks in January after you haven't seen them for a week or two and you ask them how their holidays were? You know how they almost always say something like, Nice, I guess. Kind of a blur? Wanna know why they can't parse it with sufficient clarity to relate that time to you? Because almost without fail shit like this (^) happens.
This photo, expertly snapped with my cheap-ass cell phone camera, shows Ethan and Thomas dressed in their pajamas talking to Santa Claus in McDonald's.
In their pajamas. Talking to Santa. In McDonald's.
Pajamas. Santa. McDonald's.
Those three words have no god damn business being in the same sentence, EVER.
If this had happened in June, I guarantee you some good citizen would have called the cops thinking that either a) my kids had escaped from some weird hostage situation in the middle of the night, b) they were about to be abducted by this Santa dude, c) Santa was indeed packing a semi-automatic and was gonna jack the place, or d) all of the above.
But during Christmastime? Pfft, you'd have to bring it a lot Cirque du Soleil-er to raise an eyebrow around here, bub. For starters, nobody noticed or cared that my kids were wearing pajamas. In fact, there were 6 other little kids there with their pajamas on. (Luckily, none of them wore the same flannel penguin prints as our kids. Can you imagine the embarrassment?) Only the patrons with kids even noticed Santa, and it took most of them a good 10 minutes to register. None of the childless patrons even glanced his way. In their defense, his beard and mustache were real. But our neighborhood is not exactly overrun by fat, white pimps, so the outfit alone warranted at least a glance. Fuck sake, people. This is how the terrorists will win. I'm not asking for Bourne-Identity-know-the-room-at-a-glance awareness, but there is NO REASON this scene should go unnoticed. Just put down the eggnog and pay the fuck attention!
Anyway, this particular McDonald's has an indoor playground so we hung around a while after eating. As the boys chased each other around, I had a chance to overhear this Santa chat with a few of the other kids who found their way to him, eager to get those last-minute gift requests in. I gotta hand it to him, he was good. In addition to the real beard, he seemed like a sincere cat, telling several of the kids that it was up to them to decide whether they were going to have a great Christmas. Zen master meets Determinist in itchy red pimp gear. The kids really seemed to take it all to heart. Except for Thomas and Ethan who were obviously just in it for the candy canes. In their defense, they were probably a little put off when McSanta asked them, "What's with the pajamas?" Cha, "Hello, kettle? This is pot. You're black."

"I have often depended on the blindness of strangers." -- Adrienne E. Gusoff

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Four minutes, 10 seconds of your life that you'll never get back. But you can totally see Thomas' weewee at 2:08.
That's my boy!

Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 14, 2009


Anyone interested in observing evolution need only look at the scant few rungs on the evolutionary ladder separating my kids from beasts that throw shit at each other. Not the neatest bunch in the bunch, I must say, and it's only an onionskin of development that classifies them as kids and not monkeys. And speaking of throwing shit, if I had to put a number to it I'd guess that only about 30% of the floorspace in our house is currently walkable, and the percentage is that high only because I have learned to bulldoze while I walk.
Being the opportunist I am, I thought maybe I'd use Santa's impending visit to motivate the kids to clean up a bit. You know, "We don't want Santa to break an ankle, do we?" I thought I had them, too. Thought it was working. Then I realized that every time I threw out the Santa threat and they jumped to attention -- a motion I assumed meant they had heard, understood, acknowledged (HUA!) -- they were actually scrambling to find something new to play with/add to the floor.
So last night, in a fit of pissedoffedness, I actually fell back to a universal parental admonition: "Jesus, Ethan! How many times have I told you to pick this crap up? I swear it's like in one ear and out ... well, ... out the same ear I guess because you only have one. But while it's in there it's ... while it's in your head, there ... you're obviously ignoring it. Squeak."
I turn to Sandi, looking for help. She is purple, quaking in silent laughter and covering her mouth and nose to catch any dinner she has not yet swallowed. I don't want to say that her reaction and the subsequent weakening of the lesson is the reason the floor's always so damn dirty, so I'll just change the subject.


The holidays are a special time; an annoying time. Often punctuated by flourishes of absolute vein-opening stimuli. To whit, I present Aunt Mary's 2007 "gift" to our family. Quid pro quo, Aunt Mary. Hope those rabid badgers are working out for you.


When I was a kid we used to visit my aunt and uncle and their family in Frenchtown, NJ. They were so, SO different from us that I found it hard to believe we were related at all. For instance, they all seemed happy and well adjusted. They were genuine, caring people who truly enjoyed each others' company and whose home often served as the hub for bigger family reunions. To this day I count them among the most amazing folks I've ever met.
I was a really shy kid back then and I spent most of my time at these get-togethers watching the older kids, marveling at what it must be like to get all the grownup jokes. To be so god damn cool. I studied them like a fanatic would study a world-class athlete. And the coolest of them all by far was Chrissy. She with embroidered denim jacket and Joni Mitchell smile. Floppy, over-sized hats and sunglasses. Peace sign necklaces and leather chokers. Total hippie. I watched her with fascination, having never before seen anyone so comfortable in their own skin. Her energy was massive yet controlled, as if she ran on some Star Trek-age propulsion technology. It was as if she moved space silently and effortlessly around her while the rest of us bulled our way through it. I was insanely intimidated by her/in awe of her, as she represented a league of human being that was way beyond my ability to fathom.
So we didn't talk much, although it's not like she ignored me. Far from it, she always went out of her way to say hi and she never talked to me like I was a little kid. Which I was. Still, she made me feel part of it all. She was just cool.
A few years ago the now-grownup me had the chance to sit and talk with her at yet another family reunion. For the first time ever we really talked. Like peers from the same generation, not relatives from polar opposite backgrounds separated by a decade. And you know what? She was even cooler than I'd built her up to be. We talked for what seemed like hours about I have no idea what, and it was the most comfortable I'd been with anyone for a long time. I met her son that day and remember thinking how they seemed more like a team than a mother and son. Tight. No secrets. I was jealous. And watching the two of them interact helped me consider how I'd like to raise my sons. To this day I measure my relationship with Thomas and Ethan by the watermark she set.
Chrissy died this past Saturday. Cancer. She leaves behind so very many strong and lasting impressions -- many she probably wouldn't expect. Like the impact she made on me. A toast to the cool girl. Bravest hopes for all who remain.

"Silence knows, can't drown a heart."
-- Jay Farrar

Monday, December 7, 2009

Swimming Pools, Movie Stars, Flaming Ears.

Just got off the phone with Nicole, the surgery scheduling person for Cedars-Sinai. As in we just scheduled Ethan's Medpor reconstruction (the physical outer ear) surgery. As in we get to spend June 21 - 30 in beautiful southern California. As in it's another Christmas miracle and don't you wish you were me -- well, except for that one-eared kid thing?
Our pre-surgery consultation is 6/21, surgery 6/22 (in at 6 a.m., kicked out of the hospital by 4 p.m. -- does that sound rushed to anybody else?), drain removal 6/25, post-op evaluation/dressing change/ceremonial first hair washing/flight home 6/30. Nicole says that after the drain is removed we're pretty much free to move about the area, so maybe we'll see if we can score some free sympathy passes for Disneyland. I mean it's not like Ethan and Thomas haven't EARNED a few free tix by virtue of their obsession with your movies, Uncle Walt. Hell, most of what they asked for for Christmas this year had to do with Wall-E (Not. Cheap.) (Bitches.). And have I mentioned that we own nearly every single character and/or toy from the movie Cars, including the characters that sat up in the stands during the races but didn't have any lines or contribute to the story line in any way, you cheating bastards? ("I've never seen that character before. What do they call him?" "Seat 49, Row R, Section Q." "Don't we already have Seat 49, Row R, Section Q at home?" "That's Seat 49, Row R, Section Q, PISTON CUP race. This is Seat 49, Row R, Section Q, California Tie-Breaker Edition. Dumbass.")
And have I mentioned that between them, Thomas and Ethan can reenact the entire film Finding Nemo? And Toy Story? And Toy Story II? And A Bug's Life? And Monsters, Inc.? And The Incredibles? And Up!? And even Ratatouille? Do you have any idea how many hours (and dollars) our family has invested in your company? And need I remind you that when I had the BEST JOB I'VE EVER HAD, you bought the company and sold us all to the publishing equivalent of slave owners. And then you had the nerve to include free park passes as part of the severance package, but only 2 because apparently our breakup was just too painful for you to endure for a third day.
Meh, maybe we'll go to Universal Studios.
Anyhoo, I'm as happy as a little girl *pulls shirt out to simulate erect nipples* at the thought of E-train with ear. Something to twist when I'm angry at him. And I'm excited because we just bought a handheld video camera from (if you've never been, check them out. My dream job is to write product descriptions for them or at least hang out with the people who do). The camera? Coolest. Thing. Ever. Shoots HD video, has a built-in USB plug, fits in a shirt pocket and much, much more. And what's that mean to you, the consumer? Well, a shit-load of video blogs from the road is all! I figure I owe you a break from my crappy writing just because you've hung in there with us for so long. I'll try to spare you the really gory videos -- or at least post prominent warnings. And because I love you, if I happen to vomit during filming, I'll try to edit out the sound.
And if a film of Disneyland burning down happens to find its way onto teh internets at around the time we're in California? And if during that video you hear someone shouting, "We don't need your ears, we've got our own, mother fucker!" and that someone sounds just like me? Coincidence. Pure coincidence.

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." -- Walt Disney

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Season of Miracles

"We" spent the better part of this past Sunday putting up our holiday decorations. "I" oppose this practice for so many reasons that it would be impossible to list them all in the finite space that is the internet. And yet, last year while shopping at Target, Thomas offered such an indefensible argument that I had to cave in: "Daddy, these lights are 70% off!" Me: "You can read? When the fuck did that happen? It's a Christmas miracle!"
So even with 70% off, we spent a few hundred dollars on lights and light-up snowmen and the like, which gives me chest pains when I think about it -- even more so when you consider that we live in the middle of NOWHERE, and that the only people who will ever see our decorations are the 6 neighbors who have to pass our house to get out of our development, their collective 2 visitors per year, the pizza dudes who deliver to them and the lucky folks aboard the space station. But the end result is magnificent if I do say so myself. The lights are even timed to turn on just before we pull up to the house -- a thought that I confess makes my sphincter pucker a bit from excitement.
And if you look really closely you'll see a piece of my burnt flesh among the lights, too. About 4 hours into hanging them (3 hours longer than I imagined the entire decorating process would take) I noticed one section of bulbs wasn't lighting up. Upon inspection I discovered a bulb that must have been smashed during packing last year -- just a few wires poking out from where the glass should have been. Without thinking, I reached to pull the broken bulb out and in one smooth motion sliced a half-inch gash in my finger while simultaneously cauterizing the wound with the voltage that now flowed freely through my skin as it completed the circuit. A smoking, non-bleeding half-inch gash? Another Christmas miracle!
Later that evening, back aching, finger throbbing, head pounding from the kids who were now screaming along with that goddamned musical statue that Aunt Mary gave us last year -- the one with the bell-toting snowman and barking dog that perform the world's worst duet of "Jingle Bells" -- two things hit me: 1) I should drink more and 2) whoever designed the holiday season got it all wrong.
I get that spreading out a few pivotal holidays over the course of a few months is at least a little effective in distracting one from the fact that winter = death, and hopefully lives are spared by such trivialities. But seriously, why not do it right? How about one gigantic holiday that runs from mid-November until mid-March. Let's call it Thanksmasnewentineuary. Or Edsmastime since I thought of it. On the first day of Edsmastime, you give everyone you know a thousand dollars and a card. Because Edsmastime is meant to celebrate all the sentiments of the collective holiday season, it would be reasonable to assume that each card would be about 80 - 100 pages long.* On the second day of Edsmastime, the entire country shuts down until mid-March. Celebrants are free to travel anywhere they choose (If you're looking for me, I'll be here). That's it. That's the sum total of all the rules that govern it. $1,000, a gigantic freakin' card, and a three-month vacation. No shopping, no lines, no freezing my McNuggets off, no pretending to like her family. I really don't see a flaw in it, but that's just me.
Of course, I realize that it's too late to alter our plans this year, so we're just going to have to stick to a more traditional holiday. And to that end, this year we're giving at least one kid a new ear. Hey, "HAPPY NEW EAR!" I wonder whether they make a card for that or if I'll have to try to either erase or cut off the 'y' from a standard card. Either way ...

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love." -- Hamilton Wright Mabie

*Speaking of cards, please check out
this site. These are absolutely the coolest greeting cards I've ever seen and are easily my choice to become the official greeting card of Edsmastime.