Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Think I've Been Blessed

Leaving the Greater Stadium Area after working football, even though my legs and feet were sore and tired, I was in a particularly good mood for a couple of reasons. First, at the height of load-in, at the busiest moment when all the folks were coming in my gate, one of my bosses stood beside me and asked, "Does it always go this smoothly?" Why yes. Yes it does. Second, we were out of there with daylight still left instead of at 10 or 11 at night like the last two games, and I knew that both of my loves would still be awake when I got home.

As I approached my car, feeling beneficent toward the world, a presumably Crazy Homeless Man stood on the corner. He pointed with vehemence, with his entire arm, his entire body, at each car and pedestrian passerby. Then he put his palms together in front of his face and bowed. The he pointed with vehemence at the next passerby, and bowed again. He was roundly ignored.

When he pointed and bowed at me, though, I put my palms together in front of my face and bowed in return. He looked at me for a moment, then nodded with vehemence several times, as if a deeply held conviction had been confirmed. Yes, that nod said. Yes. Fucking-A. That's what I'm talking about. Yes! Then he waved at me, then pointed with vehemence at the next passerby.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Fleet Foxes "White Winter Hymnal"

I was following the pack
All swallowed in their coats
With scarves of red tied 'round their throats
To keep their little heads from falling in the snow
And I turned 'round and there you go
And Michael you would fall
And turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime.

Why I Don't Talk About the Bailout

Here's another 100-Word Challenge from Velvet Verbosity. These are fun. I'd kind of forgotten about them, so I added VV to my blog roll to help me remember.


In 1992, Bruce Springsteen sang that there were fifty-seven channels and nothin' on. Now, only fifty-seven channels seems quaint. Provincial. Like how many you're allowed in England. Or France. Here, in America, the Greatest Nation on Earth, we're into the hundreds by now. At least. Maybe more. The cutting edge. 24-hour news channels. Passels of passionate pundits yelling at each other for their due while the crawl contradicts. The moral of the story is no moral, is passivity: we can do nothing because we can know nothing, because everybody knows something different. We are crushed beneath an avalanche of information.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Living Up to His Old Man's Athletic Legacy

I'm trying to teach my son to kick a ball. I say, "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it!" Then I kick it across the room. He looks at me blankly. I go get the ball. I say, "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it with your foot!" I wave my foot at him. "Foot! Kick it with your foot!" He squats down, grabs my toes, and says, "Toesh!"

"Yes," I say. "Toes. Kick it! Kick the ball with your toes!" I kick the ball across the room. "Toesh!" he says, and runs to retrieve it. He carries it back, holding it up. "Kick key!" he says and hands me the ball. I put it down. "Kick!" I say. "Kick it! Kick the ball! Kick it!" I grab his ankle and swing his foot into the ball. "Yay!" I cheer. "Good kick!" He runs after it. I think he has to get it now. He'll at least poke at it with his toe. No, he picks it up. He runs back to me, holding it up. "Kick key!" he says. "Kick key!"

Apparently I have taught my son that the name of that particular ball is "Kick It." Maybe he's more the musician type.

Tasha's Tail

Aerie made a scrapbook a couple of years ago of all our cats. Along with the pictures, she wrote each of their stories. There was "Sampson's Story," "Harley's Hisstory," "Tasha's Tail," and "Puck's Profile." Tasha's Tail ended this morning, probably from damage to her organs caused by the Metacam she was prescribed for pain from her torn knee ligament. The emergency vet on Sunday hypothesized that her lethargy and refusal to eat were due to ulcerations in her G.I. track from the Metacam. Yesterday, we gave her the medicines prescribed and force-fed her a soft meat paste with a syringe. By last night, she still hadn't perked up, so we planned on taking her to our regular vet again this morning. But she didn't make it that long.

So rather than dwell on all that, here's Tasha's Tail. I'm sorry in the end you knew hunger again, little girl.

Tasha's Tail

Gender: Female

Breed: Domestic Short Hair

Markings: Torti

DOB: 02/01/1999

Weight: 12 pounds

Likes: Kit-n-Kaboodle (aka PIECES!), being told how pretty I am, bread and butter, being told how pretty I am, back scratches and being brushed, being told how pretty I am, people, kitty greens, sitting on laps

Dislikes: The ironing board, having my toenails clipped, my brother Puck, being disrespected (it happens all the time, I swear!)

Hobbies: Keeping an eye on Puck to make sure he doesn't have any fun, grooming, playing with Ducky, stealing things off the table, tripping Momma and Daddy

Momma and Daddy took me home from the Town Lake Animal Shelter. I was happy that the shelter took me in because it was tough on the street. I’d recently given birth to a litter of kittens and I don’t remember what happened to them. I was malnourished and weighed barely 6 pounds (I’ve since been able to reach a beautiful, shapely 12 pounds and plan to never know hunger again).

At the shelter, they were calling me Pompei, which sounds like some foreign city. I quickly informed my new staff that my name was Natasha. They call me Tasha, which is fine. Some of the other nick-names are not so okay (like Tubby), but it’s so hard to find good, respectful staff these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love Momma and Daddy, but I just don’t always get the respect I deserve. Don’t they realize that cats were once worshipped? Momma tries to tell me that she is the queen in the house, which is why I have trouble respecting her. I love her a lot, but she’s not that bright. She brought that Puck into our lives and refuses to get rid of him! Now, Daddy has more sense than that. I have to respect him, so I won’t swat at him or hiss when he makes me mad.

I like people better than other cats because I’m clearly superior to other cats and much more beautiful. Harley was an okay brother and I do miss him. We got along pretty well and I had to respect him because he was already living with Momma and Daddy when I moved in. Puck is a different story, though. I’ll never understand why Momma invited him in. He’s such a brat! He doesn’t respect my authority.

Being this beautiful is a difficult and stressful life. There’s the constant grooming and unladylike hairballs. But, it’s all worth it. It’s not easy managing this household. I have to keep a constant watch on Puck and am always having to remind the staff when it’s time to be fed. They are sometimes late returning from their day of frolicking and you can almost see the bottom of the food bowls! Humans. *sigh*

I’m Tasha. Admire me.

Farewell, Miss Thang

Goodbye, Tasha. We'll miss you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tales from the Playground: The Dirty Rat

A little boy of Thumper's age (almost exactly, in fact) climbed up the single step and stood on the slightly raised platform with two older kids. The girl, probably between two and three, put her hand on his chest, straightened her arm, and launched him right back off the step he just climbed and flat onto his back. He cried; his mother came running. Her mother, who was bottle-feeding a near-newborn, hadn't seen the incident and said, "Oh, he fell!" I said, "Actually, she pushed him."

The next thing I know, the girl's mother hands the tiny baby to her friend and pulls a wooden spoon out of her purse! She carries around a wooden spoon! She yanked the girl over by the arm, and whacked her a good one on the bare back of her leg. I couldn't believe it! Is it me, or does that strike you as an incredibly ballsy thing to do in a public place in this day and age?

I feel horrible. I ratted her out, and she got whacked. I mean, she was an aggressive little snot, but now I think I understand from whom she's learning that aggression.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I keep telling myself to stop writing about how wonderful Thumper is, but I just can't help it. I am so proud of him, I'm surely going to hell.

Today we went to Jungle Java. It's sort of Radijazz-ish, but smaller and cleaner, and only $3 for Thumper, instead of $8. They also sell food. More importantly, they sell coffee. To be fair, Radijazz has free coffee, but it comes in annoying, tiny, top-heavy styrofoam cups that get on my nerves. I suppose Radijazz is cooler, funkier, more in keeping with that "Keep Austin Weird" spirit, and I should eschew the spirit of sanitized suburbia that Jungle Java exudes, but frankly, for less than half the cost, I don't have a problem with sanitized suburbia. I like that the place is clean and well-lit, and that I could drop-kick Thumper into the play areas and he'd be hard-pressed to hurt himself. Not that Radijazz is dangerous, particularly for kids at least a little older than Thumper, but without direct supervision, there are a lot of ways Thumper could get into bad situations there. The cleanliness at Jungle Java probably comes from the fact that it's apparently new, though, with a "Now Open!" sign still hanging in the front window. We'll see how clean it is in a year or two.

Uh, I think I digressed. What was I talking about? Oh, bursting. Right. Thumper doesn't usually stray too far from me. It's probably because I don't stray too far from him, but he doesn't play very long without checking in. But because the set-up at Jungle Java is such that parents are architecturally if not explicitly discouraged from entering the play areas, I wound him up, set him down, and let him run while I sat at a table with my coffee. He started in the toddler area, revelling in the toys that he's never played with before and following the older kids as they ran around the joint. He climbed back and forth over the one-foot foam barrier at the entrance to the toddler area, and when the older kids ran over to the larger two-story play area that's recommended for kids "4 and up," he tagged right along with barely a glance in my direction.

One of the access points to the play area's second floor is an incline with foam half-cylinders spaced along it that act sort of as stair risers and sort of as ladder rungs. Without so much as looking for me or asking for a boost ("boosh," he says) he climbed all the way to the top. He ran around up there, squatted down and peered at me at the bottom of the slide, decided he wasn't quite ready for that, and climbed all the way back down again, without tumbling, slipping, or asking for help. He didn't even get flustered when a swarm of older kids climbing up engulfed him as he was climbing down.

He pretty much ran around the place like he'd been going there for years. He went back and forth from the toddler to the big kids' area. He didn't get upset when the aggressive two-year-old girl pushed him down or yanked a toy right out of his hands. I drew the line when she smacked him in the face, but he didn't hold it against her. He was gentle and kind with the younger girl who wasn't so steady on her feet and even handed her the toy he was holding. And when I said it was time to go, he waved and yelled "Bye bye!" to everybody, then sang his own sweet version of "Patty Cake" in the car, complete with clapping.

There are some days that I just can't believe how lucky I am.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Justice, No Piece

The most important sexual equality movement of the 21st century got under way just over a week ago when a stay-at-home dad from Austin stepped into a pizza-and-play joint and noticed that Monday's special was "Moms Eat Free." At the cashier, his meal wasn't comped, so he casually mentioned that he thought it was "Parents Eat Free" night.

"No," the cashier replied, "that special is only for moms."

"So when do dads eat free?"

"We don't have that special. We're working on it."

He worked up enough outrage to get his kid's meal comped, and then reported the incident to his SAHD brethren. It was clear that the first salvo had been fired in a critical battle for social justice.

Next came a SAHD to a playdate at the same pizza-and-play joint. He was filling in for his wife with her Moms' Group, and was the only dad there. The Moms' had reserved a room. When he was charged, he asked about the Monday special and was also told, this time by the manager, that it was only for moms.

Half an hour later, sitting in the room with 20 moms and 27 kids, he tells his story. The manager who charged him happened to be in the corner of the room when he told his tale, and all eyes turned to him.

"Did you ask him?" one of the moms inquired.

"Yes," came the reply. "That's the guy who told me it was only for moms."

20 moms, 7 of them pregnant, bored their eyes into the manager's skull until he could do nothing but sheepishly mumble "I'm sorry, that's the way my boss told me..." and skitter away.

To exact some measure of justice from the situation, the dad ate as much pizza as he could. He was sick for a couple of days, but he was proud to take that hit for his fellow SAHDs.

From here, a course of action was discussed. Some suggested a polite email campaign. Some suggested a picket line, with the singing of "Cum Bay Yah" and "Alice's Restaurant." Some took the opportunity to go off-topic and complain again about people asking "Do you have babysitting duty today?" or "Giving Mom a break, huh?" The rancor increased. The bitterness flowed.

Within days, the email campaign netted results. The Vice President of Marketing, it was reported, wanted to reach out and was going to call one of the leaders of the pack group. A cheer of victory was heard across the internet!

In the end, of course, victory was not to be had. The VP explained the original intention of the promotion, and it was never meant to give free meals to walk-in customers; it was intended to encourage regularly scheduled outings of groups, like the Moms' Group playdate. In practice, it comes down to the interpretation of the policy by the person working the register, which regrettably leads to inequitable application. The VP was not in a position to change policy company-wide, and was not inclined to do so anyway. He was, however, willing to schedule outings with the Austin SAHDs and make them dads-eat-free.

Which of course means spending money, which was entirely against the spirit of the original movement. So the dream of free pizza was born into the minds of a Manly Group of Men, and then the dream was cruelly ended. But keep on fighting the good fight, men, and some day, some where, the Pepperoni Shall Be Freed!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Justin Roberts Must Die

While I liked my previous header:

I have this little problem: I have had "Willy Was a Whale" and "Pop Fly" stuck in my head on a nearly constant basis, both awake and asleep, for something like a month now. No joke. No exaggeration. I can't stop it, and it may lead to madness. So I had to get rid of my Willy header because if I did happen to get, say, a Modest Mouse song in there for a few minutes, if I looked at my blog it was gone and Willy was back. Madness! Madness! I can't take it anymore!

The new one was done with the ED02 brush set by KaliJean on, another brush set by the same person who made the parking sign. I'm much more satisfied with my photoshopping "I, Rodius" into this one than I was that one.

Hee hee! Fun!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tales from the Playground

Sign o' the Times
A gaggle of girls are playing house during recess at the elementary school while Thumper and I wait for the cousins. The mom puts the two kids to bed, then hugs them goodnight. A few moments later, she storms back into their room and sternly declares, "You kids are supposed to be sleeping, not staying up all night watching Space Ghost videos on You Tube!"

Tough Guy Clears the Playground
On our walks around the neighborhood in the mornings, Thumper and I pass by a small playground and a big playground. There's never anyone on the small playground, and almost never anyone on the big playground. He's sadly destined to be a poor, lonely waif stuck with only his old man for company. But this morning, there were people! On the little playground! They were two moms and five kids, and the toddlery one looked very much like Thumper's age. So we made a sharp left turn, squealed our brakes, and put Thumper's Crocs on. I think Crocs on toddlers are adorable. And he was wearing his onesie with a bulldog puppy on it with the caption "Tough Guy," also adorable. And the humidity had made his hair curly and standing out from his head in adorable angles. How, I wondered, could he possibly fail to charm them into submission? But no sooner had his Crocked feet touched the ground than the whole gang of them beat a hasty retreat. I'm still trying not to take it personally.

I'm sorry, little guy. I'm trying to find you some friends, I really am. You gotta stop sleeping through the Austin SAHD playdates, though.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Just Universe, But a Little Petty

I installed a shut-off valve on our shower so that we could righteously conserve water and the natural gas we use to heat it. It's a small cylinder that installs between the water pipe coming out of the wall and the shower head. But the barrel of the thing is so short that the button that allows or restricts the flow of water prevents the shower head from screwing on all the way. That prevents the washer inside from compressing all the way and keeping it from leaking, or whatever. I don't know the mechanics of the thing exactly. What am I, a plumber?

Anyway, I can't tighten the shower head all the way and so it leaks. Consequently, every morning when I turn on the shower, I get a spray of cold mist to the face. For weeks, I would forget from day to day that this was going to happen, and I would be surprised daily by the cold jolt. Then I started trying to sneak up on it. I tried turning on the water while standing behind the shower door, but I couldn't reach. I'd stand on the edge of the tub and lean way over. Still, that cold shot to the face. Then I figured out that if I rotated the shower head, the spray shot of harmlessly into the wall. Ha ha! Success! But Aerie, being fifteen inches shorter than I, rotated the shower head back to what is apparently the optimal angle for her showering needs, and the next morning, Pow! Surprise!

So instead of doing something effective, like removing the valve or searching for one with a longer barrel that won't impede the proper level of torque on the shower head, I spend several minutes each day standing in the shower and brooding about the injustice of a universe that punishes good intentions.

Of course, the universe may instead be punishing me for the fact that, while I installed the shut-off valve, I never actually use the shut-off valve. Hey, I enjoy the soothing sensation of warm water cascading down my body. Is that so wrong?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The doctor gave me a clean bill of health, but wants another chest x-ray in 4 weeks. He offered to write me a note so that I could go back to work; as I dragged Thumper away from the trash can marked "Biohazard," I said that I was already back to work. In fact, I'm working right now!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Football Season

Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
And it's goodbye to A&M.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
And we'll put over one more win.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
For it's Texas that we love best.
Hail, Hail, The gang's all here,
Give 'em hell, Give 'em hell, Make 'em eat shit!
And it's good-bye to all the rest!
Yea Orange! Yea White!
Yea Longhorns! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Texas Fight! Texas Fight,
Yea Texas Fight!
Texas Fight! Texas Fight,
Yea Texas Fight!
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
For it's Texas that we love best.
Hail, Hail, The gang's all here,
Give 'em hell, give 'em hell, OU SUCKS!
And it's good-bye to all the rest!

OK, now we're ready for football season!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I made a follow-up appointment with my regular doctor for Tuesday. He's requested the records from the Emergency Room, because he was unsatisfied with my report on their diagnosis. He said that if they thought it was contagious, and they did suggest masks and limiting contact with little Thumper, that indicates that they thought it was viral and antibiotics would be ineffective. Yet they prescribed antibiotics, which indicates that they thought it was bacterial, which would not be contagious. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the treatment provided by that particular ER in previous cases, too. So I don't know. Is it pneumonia? Is it not? I'm on my fourth day of antibiotics, and I don't feel much different. Not that I felt particularly bad to begin with. With apologies for being gross, I am still coughing up globs of blood, but they're much darker, not the cheerfully bright red they used to be. Is that a good sign? A bad sign? I don't know. I'll wait and see. I'm thinking it would be a good thing to take myself off of the usher roster for the football game on the 13th, though, since after 5 o'clock Monday, I'll be committed to working it. And Aerie's got Crimefightin' to do tomorrow, so the boy will be back in my hands. Guess I'll keep wearing the masks and taking the antibiotics, just to cover my bases.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This will be a boring post, but I feel like I should write about my adventure yesterday, and mitchellkt wanted a history:

When I was two, I had pneumonia. I believe I spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, some portion of that in an oxygen tent. According to my mother, that experience left me with scar tissue in my lungs that has apparently been the root of a lifetime of minor respiratory difficulties ever since. After passing out while running laps in 7th grade off-season football training, I was diagnosed with "activity-induced asthma," but the medication did nothing for me, and I am currently and have periodically since demonstrated my ability to engage in activities like jogging without inducing asthma. I've at least twice since then been told by doctors that I have asthma, but the prescribed asthma medication has virtually no effect. My lungs, to me, do not feel constricted or inflamed, as TV commercials for various asthma medications describe the symptoms of asthma; they instead feel obstructed, or partially flooded.

When I was a teen, my mother told me that I should never smoke, because my childhood pneumonia experience had left my lungs in such a state that smoking would be very dangerous for me. So of course I eventually took up smoking. I was usually a 1/2 to one pack-a-day smoker. I quit for 4 years in my 20's, then let a single stressful day start me up again. I've now not smoked for two years and have no intention of falling back into it.

I've had occasional bouts of bronchitis in the intervening years, usually accompanied with pleuresy, the inflammation of the lining of my lungs causing them to press into various pointy parts of my skeletal structure and causing pain. That's what I thought was happening again on Sunday night. But while driving young Thumper to the playground Monday after lunch, I coughed up 4 or 5 bright red chunks of blood, so I turned around, took the boy back to his Mama, and drove myself to the hospital.

Ever since I started smoking, my mother's admonition has whispered in the back of my head, making me sometimes certain that I will end up with lung cancer. It was never enough to make me straighten up and fly right, but it was enough to make me now and again sure that I would get my just come-uppance for acting the fool. So for a few minutes, I thought the time had finally come. Of course! I'm finally a father. I'm working on improving my health and my weight. I'm trying to be a better person. Of course now I've got cancer! But then I told myself to stop being dramatic, and I told my wife that it was probably pneumonia.

So when the doctor talked about a chest x-ray and a blood test and a CAT scan and tuberculosis (probably not) and a blood clot (let's rule it out) and probably pneumonia, I actually chuckled. My mood improved dramatically. I smiled. I joked with the lady who came to take my insurance information. I suppressed the urge to make a joke of an inappropriate sexual nature when the nurse, looking for a vein from which to draw blood, exclaimed, "Wow! It's huge!" I chatted amicably with the x-ray tech and the CAT scan tech. I showed my nurse photos of Thumper and made her tell me how adorable he is.

So I dodged a bullet again, this time. But that little voice is still there, telling me I screwed myself through all those years of self-indulgent self-destruction. It's coming eventually, it says, and I'll deserve it.


I thought that I would really dig Don Delillo's Cosmopolis. I read White Noise in a Contemporary Fiction class in college and loved it. And here is the blurb on the inside cover of Cosmopolis that somehow made me think I'd love it too: it describes a "billionaire asset manager" on a day-long odyssey in his custom limo, an odyssey to "get a haircut across town." It describes his obstacles: a presidential motorcade, the funeral of an iconic rapper, a "violent political demonstration." It describes the book as "funny and fast-moving," and mentions that "[s]ometimes he leaves the car for sexual encounters and sometimes he doesn't have to." Sounds like an engaging read.

In the end, though, I don't think this book was for me. It's too edgy. It's too artistic. The main character is inscrutable and unapproachable. The dialog is hard to follow because it's largely unattributed. The characters understand each other's inexplicable actions with barely a word passing between them, and I am left on the outside wondering if it's all pretentious or if I'm obtuse.

I think another me would have loved this book just as I loved White Noise. The me that I thought I would be by now when I was 19 would have taken notes as he read, would have drawn lines and connections, would have identified large themes and small incidents that contributed to them. The me that didn't drop out of Emerson College after a year because the money ran out. The me that got a graduate degree and a teaching position and eventually a doctorate. The me that published witty and intricate novels and became tenured. That guy would have loved this book.
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