Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tuesdays are Covered

That's the good news. I've secured a fun and interesting place for my kids to go every Tuesday this summer.

Seven days down, thirty-seven more to go.

Well, thirty. I've got a week's vacation planned in July, and the kids have another camp in August, plus Independence day. So that's good.

But most of my summer child-care plans have gone kerbloingy-bloingy, for various reasons, leaving me to scramble as best as I can.

On Tuesdays, they'll be going to the Pastor's house--they have kids about the same age as mine. One thing they'll probably do is go bowling. That wily Reverend scored a whole mittfull of free bowling coupons, given away by local bowling centers.

(That's what they're called, by the way--bowling centers. Not bowling alleys. I made the mistake of using the 'a' word once in a room full of Bowling Center Proprietors when I was producing a local TV bowling show. The temperature dropped about 40 degrees [farenheit] when I used it.

Also, there are no gutters on bowling lanes. No one ever throws a gutter ball. You throw a channel ball.

[As an aside to this aside: I have a standing bet with an associate: I'm betting that if I had a jackhammer, I in fact would be able to jam a toothpick up a Bowling Center Proprietor's ass.])

Anyways, these free coupons aren't just because they want kids to bowl. No. That concept doesn't have enough flash! To really get these kids into the alleys centers these days, you need to speak their lingo. So, those tickets are for the (drumroll, please) Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Bowling campaign!

Wow, those bowling hipsters have really managed to catch a marketing wave here, haven't they? Nancy Reagan's so proud of them, although they might be a little bit leery of using a campaign that's one word removed from a certain group's project.

Screw it. It's something for them to do.

I've also got a two week camp for them at a local park, where all they do is play in the forest all day, and I've got a couple more one week commitments from friends here and there. So I'm reasonably confident that I can get this whole 'kids off this summer' thing covered.

It shouldn't be this way.

Yes, I'm aware that many of us--myself included--have fond memories of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer back when we were kids. But when I was growing up, mom was at home. There was no scrambling to be done. She'd throw us out in the morning, and we'd play until it was time to eat.

Those days are gone forever. Or at least for the forseeable future.

The fact is, for most parents, all summer vacation means is finding a place to put the kids for nine hours until mom and dad (or in my case, just dad) can come home.

Perhaps it's time to change the way we look at this tradition?

If I were the king of the forest, I would make the summer an elective trimester. I would have school districts offer various 'camps' for the students to attend, based upon interests. Like sports? There'd be a sport camp, with different athletics offered. And perhaps a biology camp that would spend most of its time at the local nature center. And a computer camp. Band camp. Theater camp. Video production camp. Admission to the camps would be based on merit--weighted slightly towards the specialty of the camp.

And for those who aren't where they need to be academically, there would still be remedial school, to make sure they continue.

And it would be elective. If there are still moms and dads out there that are home during the summer, the kids can stay home. Or go to a camp, if that's what the parents want. But there would also be something constructive for kids to do as well.

I dunno. Maybe this is a stupid idea, and only sounds good to me because I'm tired, and don't want to scramble for summer care anymore.

Well, that's it. I've still got some open Mondays I need to fill.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


What's your earliest memory?

Mine is sitting outside, in my high chair, on the patio of our house on Sterling Street. My dad loved the outdoors, so when the weather was good we ate outside at the picnic table in the back yard. Even at this early point in my life, it was fairly routine.

But what made this day different happened after dinner. Presents! For me! It was my birthday! The total surprise tells me I didn't have much experience with this kind of day, so it was probably one of my first three. We can pretty much eliminate the first one, since I remember knowing what presents were, and being able to rip open the paper. So it was my second or third birthday. I've got a hunch that it was my second. I'm a fast learner, and expect that I had it figured out by the time I was three. So that means it happened exactly forty-six years ago Monday.

I've always said that June 25 is the best day of the year to have a birthday, because I'm never more than six months away from a present. However, this year will most likely be a bit different, since I dropped my kids off to camp Sunday afternoon. I won't see them again until Saturday.

So, a birthday alone. It's not the worst thing in the world. I think I'll celebrate by cleaning the floor in the dining room. (I mopped the kitchen--twice--as soon as I got home. Do you have any idea how cool it's going to be to have a clean floor stay clean for a whole freaking week!?)

And if you want to give me a present--tell me your earliest memory. Hell, why not make it a meme, and post it on your website? Hell, tag some people too. For me.

My very first meme. Now that's a cool present.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I looked at my watch. 5:00PM. My kids get off the bus at 4:10. They're supposed to call me first thing when they get in the house. It was part of the deal to have them watch themselves in the afternoons. I'd been so busy, I hadn't noticed the time.

I called my house. The friendly recorded voice told me that the call could not be completed at this time.

It used to be that I worked less than a mile away from my house. 18 months ago, my office got moved out to the suburbs. If I drive 10 to 20 mph above the speed limit, I can make it home in about 15 minutes.

Instead of that option, I called my friend Nancy. She works from her home three blocks away. She would be happy to go check on the kids.

It takes about five minutes to get from Nancy's house to our house. Longest five minutes in my life.

The storm that passed through knocked out the power to my street. Since I have a VoIP phone system, when the modem goes down, the phone goes down. They were home but couldn't call. None of the neighbors that they knew had phones that worked either. It wasn't until Nancy got there with her cel phone that they could call me.

I drove home early. They were fine, but I didn't want them to be alone much longer without power, and Nancy had plans. I wasn't there for more than five minutes when STBEW came walking to the door. She had tried to call, and since she's relatively close, she walked over. I took her back to her apartment, and the kids went inside to get some stuff she had for them.

So last night we were without power. Actually, we were without power until just a few hours ago. We had dinner in a cheap restaurant, dawdled all the way home, sat out on the front porch until it got too dark, then went to bed early.

My kids bedroom is the hottest room in the house in the summer. It's the only room with air conditioning, because without it, the room's a sauna. Because of that, the kids slept in my bed with me last night. I kept waking up, because neither of my kids are very passive sleepers, and finally around 5 am I got a blanket and slept on my lumpy couch until 7.

Our morning ritual is pretty well set, and I kept to it as best I could. A very important part of the morning ritual is when Daddy Throws our Clothes on our Head. I nailed my daughter with her shorts and T-shirt, hit my son with his T-Shirt, and then grabbed the shorts he was going to wear. They were yesterdays shorts (he had grabbed a pair of jeans for today, but didn't want to wear them because it would be too hot). Something jingled in his pocket, so I didn't throw it. Sounded like a lot of change. In fact, it was more than three dollars' worth of quarters. Not a lot of money, no, but more than he should have had in his pocket.

Questions led to evasive answers and outright lies. He told me his mother gave it to him to give to a teacher who bought a book for him. That didn't sound right.

I called their mother on my cel phone. Turns out she had given him the money to sneak back into my change jar.

How did she get the money in the first place? She had shown up one day while I was at work and asked to play a video game on my computer because one of her current ex-boyfriends won't let her into his house anymore. While she was there, she sneaked into my room and grabbed some money from my change jar.

So to sum up: the kids, against my wishes, let their mother into my house, who in turn, stole from me again, and then enlisted my son's help in sneaking the money back unnoticed.

Excuse me for a minute while I go emit another strangled cry of frustration. I've been doing that with some regularity today.

Okay, I'm back. Didn't help much. Well, it helped a little.

So now, the task at hand for me is to convince my kids that they did nothing wrong.

Because they didn't.

It's easy to see what STBEW did wrong here. Perhaps it's a bit harder to see my failings. The main thing I did wrong was to tell the kids not to let Mom into the house. What pre-teen can do that? Hell, what adult can? It's Mom, after all. I put them in a situation where they had to go against someone--either Dad, who's not there, or Mom, who's standing right in front of them. They had to disobey someone. What a horrible, horrible decision for a kid to make.

I do not ever want to put them in this situation again.

So tonight, I will sit them down and apologize for doing this. I'll stress that this isn't their fault. None of it is. They got caught in the middle of a sucky situation. I will tell them that the only thing they are required to do is call me and let me know she's there. As far as the change thing, I'll apologize to my son for assuming he did something dishonest.

As for their Mother's behavior--I think I'll stress that what she did was dishonest, and manipulative, and leave it at that. Perhaps I'll tell them how sorry I am that she put them in this situation.

Another issue entirely is their 'home alone' status. It's what they've been doing since February--which was when their Mom stole some checks from me and cleaned out my bank account. For the most part, I think that they do a great job looking after themselves for those two hours after school. It's just a pity that the biggest danger they face is from the woman who bore them.

I've also spoken to their mom about what happened. It's her contention that this is nothing big, that the kids have done other things more dishonest than this, and that the major issue here is that I'm just trying to get revenge because I wasn't able to arrest her for stealing from me.

But the worst part is that they're going to be at her house this afternoon. I had already made arrangements for them to be there when the power went out. I didn't want them to have to go home to a powerless house, and once again, I was sucked in by her faking of sanity when she came to check on the kids.

It's been said that one definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and hoping for different results. A variation of that is knowing which actions will work, and failing to do them.

I think I'm covering both bases here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Brain Dump

  1. My lawyer charges me eighteen bucks for an email. Eighteen bucks. And there wasn't even any good p0rn in it. It will be worth it if the divorce comes through soon.
  2. Apple's offering Safari for Windows. I've used Safari on a Mac for some time and believe me when I say what a horrible idea. If you want to know what Safari is like, look for an old verion of Firefox 1.0.1. I was going to write that this is Apple's worst idea since Newton, or even Lisa, but those were products that were ahead of the curve. This is a real bad piece of catch-up. I hope that this isn't something that's iPhone related, but I'm guessing it is.
  3. (Nölff + Fatrobot) - sarcasm = Manimal - British accent
  4. I totally stole the math bit from Nölff.
  5. My kids' school had an end-of-the-year concert. The first song the band played was identified in the program as 'When the Band Comes Marching In.' It was, I stress, an instrumental--no words were sung--but I really wanted to sing out the lyrics of this grand old piece of Americana:
    Oh, when the band
    Comes Marching in
    Oh when the band comes marching in
    Oh, Unspecified Deity, I want to be in that number
    When the band comes marching in!
    For fuck's sake--are we really living in a society where we can't even use the title of century-old folk/jazz/gospel song in school? No one was singing the words, even though I'm sure everyone knew them. Who does this thinking protect, and from what does it protect them? I'm all for separation of church and state, but I'm also for a modicum of common sense. This is a song that has deep roots in Americana, and we can't even play it in school without Bowdlerizing it?
  6. If someone wants to send me eighteen dollars, I'd be glad to email them. Hell, I'll give you a discount, and email you for fifteen.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Land of 1,000 Geeks

Smugtown was awash in really smart people with bad fashion sense this past weekend. Including my brother. An event known as SAE Baja was in town, hosted by my bro's Alma Mater. 140 teams from schools and universities around the world showed up to test their offroading skills.

Each team was given what is essentially a powerful lawnmower engine and has to build an off-road vehicle around it. Their car has to be able to climb hills, maneuver in mud, water, and rocky terrain, and be fast.

My brother was the co-captain of his school's entry a quarter-century ago. Since his school hosted the event this year (and he could sack out at my place), he came and volunteered his services, plus it gave him a chance to see how much things have changed.

To me, they all look alike, which is to say they all look like the car he helped build (and I should know--he brought it back from school with him, and has dragged it around from house to house ever since. Yeah: a geek and a packrat. But hands off girls--he's taken!)

His take, however was different: "Mine was a Model T compared to these guys."

That's my bro. One of us got the looks, one of us got the brains.

So, I took the kids out on Saturday afternoon to see what this was all about. It was pretty interesting--mostly because there were so many people from different cultures, yet they all spoke the same language: fluid dynamics.

So here's a few shots of what we did on a Saturday afternoon.

Geek fans. The parking area was jammed when we got there, and they expected even larger crowds the next day.

One of three Mexican entries. I love the Aztec design paint job.

Representing Halifax, Buffalo, and Pittsburg, Kansas.

These three are from Korea. They spoke flawless English. Couldn't understand a word of what they said.

I got to peek underneath the Brazilian car. There was a tiny strip of hair between the rear axles.

It was hard to remember these are just kids doing this.

Some of the teams got some big air coming over this ridge. Some of the teams got a little too much air.

Lots of teams broke down. Axles gave, engines blew, and there were a few spectacular crashes. This team's from Dalhousie, in Nova Scotia. Their weekend ended on Saturday. A long way to come for such a disappointment.

I'm glad I went--mainly because it was the only time I saw my brother. He was out on the track at 6 am, and I had gigs in the evening, but it was cool to be able to have him over.

Back when we were in school, I didn't think that we would ever be close. Truth be told, we're not. But we have found common ground, understanding, and love and compassion for each other. And it no longer bothers me that he's such a geek. In retrospect, it never did.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Two Degrees in Bebop, a PhD in Swing

You may remember me saying something about loving music.

This is one of my first loves:

That's classic Little Feat. Not the most famous band in the world, but undeniably influential. This was from its earliest incarnation. They broke up in 1978, then reformed in 1988. And as much as I enjoyed seeing this band in the late'80's and early '90's, and if they were in town this weekend, I'd love to go see them again, it just issn't the same as the earlier era. They can stock the band with all sorts of asskicking musicians, and play tighter than a steel drum, but they're chasing a spark that's been long gone.

That spark died on Long Island in 1979.

For me, Lowell George and John Belushi were very much the same person: A little bit crazy, a little bit dangerous, a whole lot of fearless, even more talented, ultimately loveable, and dead well before their time.

And just like Belushi, ask anyone who spent any time around him for a Lowell George story, and you'll be sure to get one. Like how he cut his left hand on a model airplane propeller just before the band was set to record an album, so he jammed a 11/16" Sears Craftsman sparkplug socket on his finger, and started playing slide guitar, making it up as he went along. At the time, no one in rock played a slide guitar (I consider Ry Cooder to be more of a blues-folk guitarist), and he pretty much invented a new sound.

Like how he walked into a studio practice session one day when percussionist Sam Clayton and bassist Kenny Gradney were grooving on a funky little riff, turned on a tape recorder, and created the song Spanish Moon from it on the spot.
Little FeatSpanish Moon

Like how he would go up to folks on tour with him--roadies, techies, musicians, bandmembers--with a cigarette, and ask them for a light. While he would smoke the cigarette, he'd engage the person in a conversation so engrossing that they wouldn't even notice until later that he'd walked off with their lighter. In his den at his house would be these huge display cases filled with lighters, each annotated with date, place, and person from whom it was lifted.

That being said, I was still surprised when a friend of mine sent me a link to this:

I remember seeing this episode of F Troop when I was a kid. You can watch more of the episode here. Lowell Freakin' George and Richie Hayward on F-Troop. I'm guessing that someone on the set of the show was a friend/schoolmate of one of the bandmembers, and reccomended them when they were looking for some 'hippie kids' to play the old-west verison of The Beatles. What strikes me the most about this clip (outside, of course, of the incredibly bad editing, staging, obnoxiously fake laugh track, and horrid interpretation by the studio musicians of what 'Rock-n-Roll' actually sounded like) is how freaking young and skinny the guy was.

I'm glad my friend sent this clip to me. For one thing, it linked me to a whole bunch of early (and later) footage of the band. I didn't know there was so much early Little Feat video on the web. You can find a terrific version of Rock'n'Roll Doctor by clicking on the title of this post--for some reason, the poster doesn't want it to be embedded. And for another, it's awakened the desire to listen to the band again. I'm digging through my old CD's to find Waiting for Columbus.

I miss Lowell. And I know that there's every chance that had he lived longer, he wouldn't have continued producing the same sort of high-quality work that he had put out in the previous decade. It's entirely possible for the spark to die while the person still lives. But it's so nice to see the young, vibrant Lowell in these videos, and yearn for What Will Never Be. At least, not on this earth.

Two Degrees in Bebop
A PhD. in Swing
He's a Master of Rhythm
He's a Rock'n'Roll King.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Family Jewels

No, this isn't another post about getting a boot in the fork. One post like that is enough.

I've always loved music. Loved it. Loooved it.

I wish I was a musician. But I'm not. And it's not for a lack of trying. I took well over a decade's worth of lessons, practiced mightily, and was in a number of bands. And from that experience I learned that my musical talent doesn't go much past my iPod-programming abilities.

I had come to terms with this years ago. But what pains me now is seeing the musical parents with their musical kids. Since I love music, I have cultivated a number of friends with musical talents, and most of their kids have this talent as well. So it's not an unusual sight for me to see dads and daughters playing guitars. Moms and their sons doing duets. I see them, and I wish I had that talent.

I've tried singing with my kids, but the chorus of any song I start seems to be 'Daddy, stop singing."

I also get sad when I see parents watching kids playing sports. As a single parent, I don't have the time or the money to give for these pursuits.

Musical parents with musical kids. Athletic parents with athletic kids. What was I bringing to my family, I wondered?

Yesterday, in the car, I overheard my nine-year-old daughter and my eleven-year-old son in a deep discussion. My son thinks that Catherine Tate's Lauren Cooper character is similar to Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher, because both are annoying school girls. My daughter, on the other hand, thinks she compares more favorably to Michael Myers' Wayne Campbell, because both like to disrupt things, and are more intelligent than are originally perceived.

No, those weren't the words they used, but that was the conversation.

This is what I'm teaching my kids. I'm teaching comedy. How many pre-teens in North America today even know who Catherine Tate is, let alone be able to compare and contrast her to two characters who were popular before they were even conceived?

How many of them can go on a rant like Lewis Black? Or can sustain a seven-minute improv scene? Mine can.

When you think funny,* you have to analyze things--not only see what's there, but what's being hidden. You make connections that others don't necessarily see. It's called critical thinking.

No, this is not the only way to learn critical thinking, but it's the one this family uses. And we get a lot of laughs from it, too.

Last night, we were playing a video game. One of the characters we had to defeat was shaped like a toadstool. When my son beat him, he shouted 'Take that, you refugee from a slice of pizza!"

Not everything's educational, okay?

I love my kids.


*as opposed to thinking that you're funny. As a rule, most people who think that they're funny, aren't. People aren't funny. Their material may be, but they are not.