Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Going Blond

When my daughter was an infant, she had flaming red hair. Gradually it has become blonder and blonder. I think I see why.

She likes to scroll through the phonebook on my cell phone looking for names she recognizes. Sometimes when she sees a name she doesn't know, she'll ask me about it. We do this periodically. She doesn't have great memorization skills. We had this little back-and-forth in the van the other day:

"Daddy, who is Becky M.?"

"I told you sweetie. That's Claire's mom. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah."

Click, click, click.

"Daddy…who is Sam Evans?"

"For the fourth time baby, he's Daddy's friend from The Citadel. He's the funniest guy I know."

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

Then she had an "aha" moment. I knew so because she said, "Aha!" I looked in her direction. She must have thought I'd been holding out, keeping her from the grandparent she never knew. Her gaze and her tone were accusatory.

"So Daddy…who is this Papa Johns?"

My son's eyes rolled so hard, I thought he would do a back flip in his seat. He had to be thinking "Damn!" because that's what Daddy was thinking and came close to saying out loud.

"It's the pizza place, Nikki! What are you thinking?"

"Oh," she said. And it wasn't even an I'm-so-silly "Oh," either. It was a That-explains-it "Oh."

Then it dawns on me that perhaps she's the smarter between us. Perhaps she's doing this on purpose. Hmm…

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dance Dance Revoluton

Last night my kids’ school held its annual Father/Daughter dance. Nik and I have been going since she was three, and from the very first one, these things have reminded me of every Kappa Kappa Gamma mixer I ever went to with my wife when we were in college. It goes a little something like this:

  • Walk in and register

  • Stand in line (FOREVER) for a photo that you have to buy

  • Girls see each other

  • Girls scream

  • Girls hug

  • Girl (in this case my daughter) hands me her shoes and runs off to the dance floor to dance the Electric Slide with her girlfriends

  • I sit down at the abandoned boyfriends’ (in this case, fathers’) table, eat mildly warm chicken fingers and cubed Swiss cheese, and talk sports with two people I don’t know.

At a certain point, generally when the screaming hits a pitch that sends dogs howling for 20 miles in either direction, the DJ will play something slow, usually Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers or Unforgettable by Natalie and Nat King Cole, and instruct the girls to dance with their dads. It’s fun and cute.

After that song, the DJ usually cranks out some rock ‘n roll from the 70s, and not disco either; it’s something like Lynard Skynard or 38 Special, something that has no regular beat and no natural rhythm. You can’t dance to it unless you’ve been smoking dope. I noticed last night that when the DJ puts on 70s rock, that’s apparently the universal signal to go get something to eat. The dance floor gets more deserted than an AA meeting at a beer festival.

Thankfully, my kids’ school ends at 8th grade, so up to this point I’ve been spared the drama of my date (in this case, my daughter) leaving me for two hours while she consoles one of her drunk girlfriends in the bathroom because that girl’s date also got tanked and called her something less than virtuous. I always hated that because the girl usually cries until she pukes, and even though you’re not the one who called her a name, you’re insensitive because you want to leave…or maybe it’s just because you have a penis. Who knows? But…I digress…

I bought photo package D. It comes with an 8X10, two 5X7s, and about 8,000 wallet-sized photos. Let me know if you want one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Caca Del Toro. Confessions of a Copy Boy

I write for several magazines, most of them local, but to keep my style fresh, I read a lot of national publications and try to mimic the writers’ styles, pacing, rhythms, etc. I figure if these guys are good enough to be in Newsweek, Real Simple, or even People, then they’re worth studying. What I’ve noticed (and I mean years ago, not just recently) is the amount of crap (editors call it filler or fluff) in these publications.

I started to call this particular blog post Mythbusters, but since that name is already copyrighted for the TV show, let’s just call it the Bullshit-o-meter. Here we go:

The Helpful Hints articles: You know the ones I’m talking about… “Red or black paint bottle caps make dandy replacements for lost checkers;” or “You can use a worn out ironing board cover to make pot holders, mitts, or hot pads…” One even suggested covering wire hangers with fabric or wood to make a nice gift. Yeah…try that giving me that one for Christmas. You’ll need a butt surgeon. Bullshit rating: 10

The best helpful hint I’ve ever heard comes from my friend Tom Poland, another magazine writer. Tom saves all his junk mail that comes with postage paid return envelopes. At the end of the month, he takes the flyer from one piece of junk mail, stuffs it in the envelope that came with another piece, and mails the junk to the people who keep uselessly filling his mailbox. It’s a genius idea and a lot of fun, too!

This one is from Women’s Day and it’s for businesswomen who are on the road a lot, but who also miss their families terribly. The writer suggests to take along a framed picture of your kids and place it on your hotel room nightstand. Also to “maintain normalcy and a sense of stability” for the kids, set aside a certain, specified point each night that you will call your kids and have family time.

You can always tell when a writer has never worked in a business. Has this guy never heard of business dinners or late night meetings when you’re trying to bring a project into production? What happens when mommy is too busy cajoling the IT guys to make her 8:00 o’clock call? Are her kids going to dive headlong into drug abuse or prostitution? Maybe join a gang?

This rates up there with all the articles for people who are so busy that they actually have to schedule time for their spouses and kids—I mean literally key it into their PDA. By the time you get to the point where you feel it necessary to have your administrative assistant schedule family time, your kids and spouse hate you already. If you’re that damn busy, get a divorce and buy a cot so you never have to leave the office. Bullshit rating: 25 (on a scale of one to 10).

I was in a doctor’s office years ago and read a People magazine whose cover said “Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston: Hollywood’s Perfect Couple” Bullshit rating: Do I even need to say it?

I waited so long so see the doctor, that I found an issue of Us that was published about a year after the People. It said “Friends Say Brad and Jen’s Breakup Longtime in the Making.” (I’m not kidding…this is true). The same issue said that masturbation helps boost your immune system. This one’s isn’t bullshit. I haven’t had a cold in 12 years, but I got a pretty mean case of tennis elbow and rotator cuff tendonitis. Anybody got any helpful hints?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Spelling Lesson

In one of the Star Trek movies (the second one, I think) Spock called them “colorful metaphors.” Nikki, my seven-year-old, calls them,”Ooooo…bad words.” Not just “bad words;” you have to add the “Ooooo” in for effect. My son Alexey can’t stop laughing long enough to call them anything.

I spent four years as a Citadel cadet and 12 years right after that as a cop. As I usually tell people that in those settings, if you weren’t using “colorful metaphors” about every third sentence, you just weren’t having a conversation. I mean, it rather loses something in translation when you try to get a confession from someone by threatening to throw his “patooty” in jail. To quote the great modern philosopher Weird Al Yankovic, it sounds just a bit too “White and Nerdy.”

So I suppose it’s no great surprise that at ages 10 and 7, my son and daughter have heard their fair share of the seven words you can’t say on radio. It does become a sad state of affairs, however, when you get to use one as a spelling lesson.

Picture this: The four of us are trying to pull out of a Toys R Us in a very traffic-dense shopping area. We’re packed in the Ford Windstar. Mommy is driving, and somebody cuts her off.

“Idiot!” she yells slapping her palm on the steering wheel.
“Well, at least you didn’t use the ‘S’ word,” comes the accusatory, less than angelic voice of my daughter from the back seat.

Realizing I’m about to get busted, I dive in full force. “Um…which word is that, Nikki?”
“You know…” She glares at me.
“Sandwich?” I ask.

“No,” she says, shaking her head and making her reply a two-syllable word.
“Stupid?” I say, venturing into deeper waters.
“No, Daddy. You know…’s-u-n-b-i-c-h!”

Ta-da! The winner of today’s spelling bee is…not Daddy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Venus...Goddess of Love That You Are

Yesterday, I discovered I’m not even smarter than a second grader. The school my kids go to is excellent. The teachers, some of the most caring professionals I have ever had the privilege to meet, immerse themselves in educating their students. What’s more, they are as demanding of us as parents as they are of the children. I like that. I believe it results in just the right emphasis on and investment in education. And they come up with some creative ways to teach.

My daughter has been studying our solar system. She had to read a book about Venus, but her book report was not of the written kind. She had to make a model of her planet and note cards with facts she learned from her reading.

Teachers aren’t the only relentless professionals. My wife is one, too. Consequently, I often get to be “Project Dad.” I remember when I was in elementary school, we blew up a balloon, encased it in papier-mâché, let it dry, and then painted it blue and white to create “Earth.” I learned early on that crafts weren’t really my thing. Suffice it to say had I been the creator of the universe, we would not have to worry about global warming because there would be no globe to begin with. So why, 40 years later, should Venus be any different?

None of that nasty, wet plaster of Paris crap for me. No… Hobby Lobby sells floral forms and Styrofoam balls in various sizes, one of which would make for a very nice Venus. A little matte gold colored spray paint (because, according to the book, Venus is tan or perhaps a nice taupe—see I told you I watch Bravo TV!), and we should be rockin’ and rollin’, right?

So who knew spray paint freakin’ dissolves Styrofoam?

Did God know this when he created the real deal? Is that why it took Him seven days? Because SIX hours later Venus still wasn’t dry and it was crumbling in places?

Note to self: spray paint, Styrofoam—bad

“Project Dad” has learned a few other things along the way:

1) When CVS is out of poster board, Staples has it and in the color you need, but the single sheets will be out and you’ll have to buy the 12 pack with no conceivable use for the 11 other pieces in your lifetime, until of course you tire of them curling up next to the piano and you throw them out. THEN, you’ll need a purple poster.

2) Poster board and foam core are NOT the same thing!

3) It is indeed foam core and not foam cord, and if you ask the pimply-faced kid at Staples for the latter, you will receive the most condescending zit face stare down of your meager existence.

4) The term “washable markers” doesn’t necessarily mean the color disappears from your heirloom lace dining room tablecloth, “WHICH WAS A PRESENT FROM MY GRANDMOTHER!” It means the stray marks get wet in the washer and baked on in the dryer. (Does yelling something make it more factual? Perhaps that’s another blog).

5) “What’s wrong with regular paper and thumbtacks?” is not the proper response to the teacher’s requirement that the science project be presented on the three-panel presentation board available at your local office supply store.

Venus made it to school this morning, though with a few more paint-induced craters than the real thing. Mercury wasn’t so lucky. I saw it skittering across the parking lot as the kid who made it tripped on the sidewalk. The planet now has a flat side. Perhaps now we stand a chance at a decent grade!