Friday, February 20, 2015

now and then.

In thinking about the things that I love, meaning interests or hobby-type things, nothing has changed for me in over 35 years.

I'm basically the same person that I was when I was five.  I'm a little grayer now, and obviously a bit wiser, but the foundation was properly set at an early age and there's no reason to fix it.

At five years-old, I could be found traipsing the banks of Montauk or Roaring River searching for trout.  Arriving at the river before dawn with my grandparents and staying out 'til dusk, figuring out ways to net as many rainbows as possible.  I believe by age 11 or 12, I had a personal best of 36 in one day--just ten short of my personal White Castle intake record.

To this day, my favorite activity on earth is exploring a river or lake, catching fish all day long.  Always will be.


When I was five, like most kids at that time, I liked superheroes and therefore "collected" comic books.  "Collected" is definitely a loose term.  I looked at the pictures, cut them up for homemade art projects, spilled Black Cherry Kool-Aid on them, and lost them in a ditch in front of my buddy's house.  Not necessarily in that order.

I donned my Superman cape that mom sewed me and jumped off of our well house on a weekly basis.  I flew for about 1.5 seconds.  I ripped up my pajama bottoms to look like the Hulk's, and busted through the screen door.  Turned out not to be a great idea.  I would put on my Spider-Man Underoos and scale the door frame between the kitchen and living room.

I don't do any cosplay these days, but I'm still a giant superhero nerd.  My comic book collection is impressive, if I do say so myself.  I love the colors, the art, the pop culture history, and the feeling of being a 5 year-old with a vibrant imagination.  Some folks think I'm incredibly immature because I geek out on these books the way I do.  That's okay, I actually like it.  It reminds me that things don't have to be so serious all the time.  It keeps me young, imaginative, and creative.  And although I am a 41 year-old comic book collector and you're not, I'm still cooler than you are.


I mention this quite a bit, and it's been a topic of my ramblings lately.  Mainly because the first Spring Training game happens in exactly two weeks.  Yes, Cardinals Baseball.

I don't need to explain again how deep Cardinals Baseball runs in my family.  Just know that it does, and it will continue to for decades.  Now go trade for Hamels, ya dinguses.


Me and my Granny, circa 1979 at Montauk State Park.  Trout fishing, Spider-Man shirt-wearing, and Cards Baseball on the radio.  Only difference now...Granny's there in spirit and I drink Scotch. 


Sure, I've expanded my horizons over the past 35 years or so.  I enjoy trying new things, going new places, and the like.  My minor interests tend to fluctuate a bit, just like anyone's.  But I'm happy that I've gotten to enjoy so many constants in my life that I have.  

I hope my daughter, Ruby, is able to find things she loves early in life.  Be it swimming, drawing, singing, or whatnot.  Right now her main hobby is shitting herself.  She gets that from me.



My lovely wife accepts my obsession.  The obsession of the Cardinals and crooked aviators.
Rick taught me how to fly fish.  I am now better than he is.

Nerd family Halloween, 2014.  As close to cosplay as I've gotten since 1979.

If it ain't broke...

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday Morning.

What's on my mind, you ask?  Thanks for inquiring.

I think about food, probably more so than your typical joe.  I really like the "idea" of knowing where my food has come from.  I put idea in "quotes" because who really knows, unless you grow it yourself, kill it yourself, or know someone down the street who does the dirty work for you.  I don't necessarily trust Safeway or McDonalds--I believe their marketing departments are paid to make us feel like we're eating consciously or healthy.  They tip-toe around the ripening chemicals and hormones.  Not to mention whatever goo fast food guys use to supplement their actual food.  I'm not going to preach, because frankly I don't know enough about what's going on with my food other than what I've read or watched.  Haven't seen anything firsthand.

With that said, I am sincerely attracted to the practice of knowing where my food comes from.  Not necessarily religiously reading labels and tracing it back, but rather growing vegetables and butchering meat.  But here's the sad part: I don't care for the types of people that are associated with that practice.  I don't care for the uppity, rich, granola, Boulder trust funding housewife that constantly judges everyone else about their eating and food purchasing habits.  Not everyone can spend four hours and $400 a week at Whole Foods.  I'm also not a fan of hippies that are so adamant about "grass fed", "free range", "hormone free", "gluten free", and everything else they claim to be healthy...but then they refuse to wash their bodies.  Then you have the hipsters.  Doing everything "olde timey" because it's fashionable.  I think it's funny that being a man is fashionable.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to eat real food.  The mafia, or whoever has the monopoly on America's food industry, has to make a lot of food, fast.  And I'm afraid it's turned into more of a science experiment than just growing food and selling it.  Small farms that do things the right way are pretty few and far between.  I believe it to be a noble profession to be a butcher or a farmer, and do things the way they used to be done.  Just don't do it for fashion's sake.


Right now, my job is to raise my daughter.  I'm incredibly proud to say that.

The company I was working for up until right before Christmas went belly up, so I am currently a stay at home dad.  I still feel weird about saying that.  It's like I'm admitting to being happy that I'm unemployed, which I'm really not.  The writing was on the wall at my old employer--April and I knew that I (along with the dozens of other employees) was going to be jobless at a certain point this winter.  So we were prepared to prepare.  April was on maternity leave, and just recently went back to work right around the time the shit hit the fan at my work.  So with my mom helping out watching the baby for a couple weeks between the transitioning time, the timing has worked out well.  April and I basically just switched spots.  Now she's working and I'm on paternity leave.

I don't want to call it "leave" though--I don't want it to sound like it's not work.  It's not a vacation.  It's a lot of work...exhausting by the end of the day.  And the term "stay at home mom or dad" should not have the negative attachment to it that I believe it does.  Just because a parent stays at home to raise their child does not make them lazy or does not mean that they don't contribute.  It's a job.  How much do they get paid?  How ever much daycare costs.

I realize a lot of folks don't have much of a choice--they have to send their kid to daycare because they count on two incomes.  We do too, so I'll be going back to work eventually.  But we're trying desperately to figure out a way to avoid shipping our daughter off to daycare.  It has its plusses, I'm sure.  The kids get to socialize more, and might therefore become more independent, or independent faster.  Hell, I don't know.  In my mind, the negatives greatly outweigh the plusses, but I've got to convince myself that they don't in preparation for sending Ruby there every day.  Frankly, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to me to pay someone a lot of money to help raise your child on a daily basis.  In certain situations, obviously.

Point is, I have never loved anything or anyone even remotely close to as much as love this baby.  It wasn't easy getting her here, and it saddens me to think about shipping her off to a stranger five days a week when I've wanted dearly to be a parent for the last 10 years.  That's all.


Speaking of children, let's talk about Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  My daughter is enamored with this show.  She has been for as long as she's been able to focus on objects and sounds.  Not much makes her more happy than the beginning song of that show.  It's fun to watch her get so damn excited and kick and squeal.  But the show is kind of creepy.  It's a spin-off of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, which was pretty creepy in itself.  But Mr. Rogers wore pants, the animated characters on this show do not.  Actually, the weird part is that some of them do, some don't.  Daniel Tiger's mom wears pants, along with a shirt, and shoes.  Daniel Tiger and his dad wear shirts (or zip-up hoodies with nothing underneath, I should say) and shoes, but no pants.  So at this point it's clearly a decision the males in this family make.  In this make-believe land, Tigers are like humans.  They walk upright, they speak, they go to school and work, they live in a house, they eat vegetables, and they befriend human counterparts instead of stalk them and kill them.  Essentially, Tigers are humans, along with Cats and Owls, and coexist with humans daily.  They have dinner parties, their children play together, they have sleepovers.  Animals and humans are the same.  Except, the human men are fully clothed.  The Tigers are partially clothed, which creates creepiness for me.

The Owls are nude, except for shoes.  I'm cool with that.  The feathers cover up any naughty parts, and I think we're all kind of used to nude birds.  Daffy, Donald, Big Bird.  You want to put shoes on them?  Fine.  The Cats have clothes on.  But get this...Daniel puts pants on when there's inclement weather, so they own pants and utilize them on occasion.  Which solidifies my point even more about it being a choice.  Please, PBS animators...let's make it all or nothing.

Now sports.

February is the worst month in life.  The weather in unpredictable, but if you're so inclined to predict it, you're pretty safe in predicting "shitty".  College ball has been over for a couple weeks now, and the NFL has just played their last game, the Super Bowl.  Yep, that's what it's called.

Have you ever seen Rocky IV, with the Russian?  Remember when Apollo Creed was to fight the Russian at the beginning of the movie?  There was this over-the-top (another marvelous Stallone flick) production with dancing girls, pyrotechnics, elaborate stage sets, and James Brown.  It was a gaudy, ridiculous show of excess, gluttony, and poor sportsmanship.  Then Apollo gets killed.

This is what the NFL is.  It's excess, gluttony, over-the-top, and classless.  Sure, sadly I still watch it, but every season it gets worse and worse.   Let's promote good sportsmanship instead of encouraging morons to dance in the end zone for seven minutes after doing their job.  The NFL now is what the XFL was 15 years ago. And that only lasted a year.

Pitchers and catchers report in 15 days.  The longest, most grueling 15 days of my life.

After a several year hiatus, I am coming back to Busch Stadium for Opening Day, the most wonderful holiday of the year.  It's against the Brewers, who can eat shit.

Going to Opening Day at Busch Stadium is the event of events.  It's hard to explain the feeling.  I guess it comes down to history.  I don't care for any other team, be it baseball, football, curling, or what have you.  I was raised a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  I didn't jump on the bandwagon after Springfield got the Double A affiliate.  I didn't suddenly start rooting for them after they started winning again 15 years ago.  I've been a proud Cardinals fan since before I can remember, and I'm proud that my family is from St. Louis.

Like my wife's love affair with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, it's a family thing.  My entire family roots for the Cards, they have for decades before I was born.  So Opening Day, along with the other 161 games, is what we wait for.

This season will be interesting.  The Brewers are good, the Pirates are good, the Reds are good, and the Cubs....should be good.  Fucking Cubs.  Their team has shaped up to be a pretty good looking one on paper, especially with Maddon at the helm.  I would love to go to the Cubs home opener at the newly refurbished Wrigley.  Cards at Cubs, April 5th at Wrigley.  What a way to start the season.


Ruby's waking up.  Time to go.



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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Evening.

Right now, I mean right now, this is what's going on.

I am preparing a healthy supper of fish and shrimp in a garlic, caper, olive oily sauce and mashed cauliflower.  Healthy, for the most part.  That's how we do it nowadays.  I was getting obese from eating whatever the hell I wanted.  Now we're cooking good shit and not eating Chinese or pizza every other night.  Don't worry though, we'll still tear up a raw cow from time to time and we're always fully stocked on bacon.

I am listening to and watching Willie Nelson live in concert in Austin, circa 1974.  That's what my daughter likes to listen to, so there you go.  It's amazing for many reasons.  One, Willie was roughly my age when this was recorded.  Now, he doesn't have the gray hair yet, but I have to say that I still look 15 years younger than he did back then.  Now that I read this, it's not a great comparison. Music was phenomenal back then, minus the disco.  '74 saw country music morph into a beautiful thing that pushed the boundaries of traditional country, and it worked.  Unlike the bro-country of 2015 that needs desperately to go away.  I'm looking at you, Blake Shelton.  You had AC/DC coming onto the rock scene.  The Ramones.  Waylon Jennings.  The year that I was born was a swell year for good music.

I just walked outside to dump some onion skins, cauliflower stumps, and whatnot into the compost pile.  As I walked outside, I immediately smelled my grill.  I'm not grilling anything tonight, it's just the residual aroma from an often used cooking device.  It made me smile.

Guarantee my dog is out there eating up all the vegetable scraps.  He'll be vomiting soon.

Today I went to physical therapy.  Not mental, physical.  I threw my back out last Friday.  Worst pain I think I've ever had.  Could barely pee, due to all the core muscles that you use for peeing that you don't even notice help you pee, being inflamed.  How did I throw my back out?  It was from lifting my 17lb daughter out of her excer-saucer.  This has been my main concern being an old dad.  I don't want to break down physically or mentally prematurely.  I want to play and wrestle and run with my kid(s).  Old, decrepit dad can't do that.  Young, active dad can.  I owe it to Ruby Margaret to be the latter.  At any rate, therapy went well--I'm feeling decent.

While eating supper tonight, Ape and I watched the latest episode of Gotham.  Best damn show on network television.  They did it right.  Sky is the limit with it's potential.  I suppose I get a little more excited about it than most, me being a comic geek and whatnot.  But they really did set themselves up for an endless run of great episodes.  You've got your young Penguin coming up through the ranks of organized crime, getting a little crazier each episode.  (Lt) Jim Gordon solidifying himself as a tough, ethical cop.  Catwoman, Riddler, Harvey Dent, a young Bruce Wayne.  Shit man, they haven't even touched on the Joker yet.  Anyway, it's good.

Willie live in '74 is over and the music box has switched to AC/DC's "High Voltage".  An outstanding transition.

The family and I went home to Springfield over New Year's.  While we were there, we recorded a couple of songs.  That's right.  My dad and good friend Jeff are musicians who play together regularly under the name Zoo Pass.  Don't ask, they'd been drinking.  Add my good friend and ex-bandmate Bryan, and my wife, who has a beautiful voice, and you've got yourself a band.  We learned, played, and recorded two songs, with my dad on the banjo, Jeff playing upright bass, Bryan playing the guitar, me on the washboard, and April singing.  We cut a tune called "Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?", obviously after our daughter, Ruby, and a Merle Haggard tune the old band and I used to cover called "Mama Tried".  It was a ton of fun and after Jeff got done mixing them, it was a ton of fun to listen to.  Afterwards, we drank heavily and decided we'd call ourselves Evil Fred Nolan and her Campbell Street Orchestra.  Don't ask, we'd been drinking.

All right, I'm all done typing & shit.  Have a swell Tuesday evening.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

it's a slow day at the office...

I think about life.  A lot.  I suppose it's a good thing--means I'm not taking it for granted.

Have you ever turned the radio on in the car and heard a band...maybe you're not too crazy about the tune so you flip over to another station, only to hear the same band?  And then you think, "Whoa, did they die?"  You know what I mean?  You're thinking that it's too much of a coincidence for these two, maybe three radio stations to be playing the same artist at the same time, so maybe one of the members croaked?

Yesterday, Metallica was on the radio.  I'm not a huge fan, so I changed it.  Metallica was on again.  So I thought to myself, "What if the entire band died in a bus crash or something?"  Yeah, kind of morbid, but it was rush hour traffic and my brain had plenty of time to wander.

Well?  What if?  I immediately thought about what all they had accomplished in their lifetime.  What were they, 50 by now?  So that's a hell of a run.  They didn't really know what life was like on the other side--meaning how "normal" folks like you and I live.  They went for it early and succeeded.  They trailblazed a unique genre of music, toured the world, made a million dollars, and met some incredible personalities along their way.  Nice job, guys.

Then I got to thinking about how all of us (for the most part) have the opportunity to go for it.  (And when I say "go for it", I instantly think of a corny inspirational poster with a sailboat or someshit on it.)  Most folks--at least most folks that I can relate to--have the opportunity to do whatever they want.  We have the freedom to pursue whatever ridiculous, one-in-a-million chance, eye-rolling dream we choose.  I'm not saying that I want to be a rock star (not anymore...).  I'm just saying that because Metallica happened to be on two radio stations at the same time, that I gained a little perspective and appreciation.  The rest of my day was pretty uneventful.

But now I'm going to keep on rambling...

Metallica didn't die.  They're fine--probably at the Burger King drive-thru right now ordering some food.  But Robin Williams did die.  And as tired as I am of hearing about it, it is weird.  So I go through a similar thought process:  What a life.  What a career.  And...what a shame.

The accident that killed Metallica feels different than Robin Williams' suicide.  It has to do with the words "accident" and "suicide" and how different they are to me.  With Metallica's death, I immediately wanted to celebrate their lives and accomplishments.  With Williams' I was pissed.  Sure, there is sympathy and sadness as well, but a definite sense of anger.

I'm not going to get into the debate of  "is a depression-oriented suicide selfish or not?".  I don't know.  I don't know depression all that well.  Obviously you can't just flip a switch and you're all of a sudden happy and thankful.  I can't help but think that there were some mind and mood-altering substances involved, but whatever.  It feels selfish on my end.

I had a very good friend that suffered almost the exact same fate as Williams, and although he was going through some really rough times mentally, it still felt selfish to me.  Was he depressed?  Yeah, probably.  And if that was the case, I certainly feel sorry and sad, but I'm still pissed.

Seems like I say this every time I write, but I'm not religious.  I don't hang my hat on one organized belief.  But if life isn't a fucking miracle, then I don't know what is.  I don't care about walking on water or turning water into wine--those are baby-shit miracles in comparison to creating a human life.  I've always thought that to an extent, but even more so now that my daughter, Ruby, is born.  Life is mind-numbingly amazing.  I'm not preaching or trying to give inspirational speeches..."Life is great, gang! Carpe diem, everyone!  Carpe diem!!"  It's more than cheerleading for life.  It's much deeper.  I hope Ruby sees that someday.

We all take it for granted, at least from time to time.  Life is all we know, but we still have to acknowledge that it's a ridiculously generous gift from somewhere or someone (whatever or whoever that may be).  So I guess when someone ends theirs, it rubs me the wrong way.  Sure, maybe they had sadness and negativity consuming them in some way, and they couldn't deal with it.  That really sucks.  I'm sorry.  It still rubs me the wrong way, though.  It feels like the ultimate lack of appreciation.

I don't plan on killing myself, at least not blatantly. I plan on doing the best with what I've got.  I plan on balancing contentment with outlandish dreams.  If I die in a bus crash like Metallica did, so be it.  I'm going to be appreciative until the wheels fall off.

That's what I've got going on in my head today.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

fat.

Today is the worst I've felt in a very long time.  I'm not sick, I'm just fat.

I am enormous and unhealthy.  The fatter and more out of shape that I get, the harder it is to lose it.  Working out sucks.  And now finding the time to workout is a challenge.  Today is the breaking point, though.  I decided this immediately after eating bratwurst #2 this afternoon (actually, it was a chicken sausage--I'm already healthy!).

I've always said that I can lose weight pretty easily when I want to.  Well, I want to.  So we're going to keep up a routine of eating better, eating less, and being active.  It's going to be really hard, but I'm cutting out sweets.  I don't eat a ton anyway, but I've grown to love ice cream.  And everytime I eat it, I feel 50lbs heavier.  No fast food either.  No McDonald's breakfast.  No Sonic Route 44s.  No free Taco Bell.  Real food, less of it, and moving.

Starting now.  I'm going for a walk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

baby.

There's a good chance that by now, those of you reading this are aware that I am a father.  It is a surreal experience.

For the past three weeks and four days, my life has taken such a fortunate turn that words cannot describe it.  I am reluctant to ramble about it, because the feelings are so beyond what can be scribbled down in a blog. But my already fantastic life just got substantially better.

I am not necessarily a religious man--more spiritual, I would say (actually I would say it's none of your business), but that little girl that I look down on in my arms every morning is a damn miracle.  Just amazing.  She's healthy and beautiful.


"Just wait!" is a phrase I'm getting tired of.  "She keeping you up at night?"

"Yeah, a little.  We're a little tired--still adjusting."

"Tired, huh??  Just you wait!  Wait 'til she's two months!!  Wait 'til she's two years!!!  Wait 'til she's a teenager!!!!  It doesn't get any easier!  She'll cry and not sleep and you won't know what to do with her!  You'll stay up all night with her for nights on end and then she'll resent you when she's a teenager!!!!  Hahahahaha!!"

Shut up.

I understand you have kids and you're trying to relate.  But stop.  It's become annoying.  I don't need the negativity, even if you are disguising it with smiles and laughter.  Plus, I'm 40.  This has been a very long time in the making and I'd like to enjoy every bit of it that I can while it's happening--good and bad.  The "bad" for my wife and I isn't that bad.  It's not that difficult for us to see perspective when our child is screaming and shitting herself nonstop.  I expect it, I appreciate it, and I welcome it.  It wasn't that long ago that we didn't think we were ever going to be able to have kids--now we have a healthy baby.  She does baby stuff.  She's going to continue doing baby stuff.  Then she'll do kid stuff, and then teenager stuff.

Then she'll be an adult and have to change my diapers.


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

the girl.

This isn't a kiss-ass post or intended for people to gush over as a public love note...or whatever.  It's the truth.

There was a very lengthy time in my life when I prayed for love (short pause for laughter/vomiting).  Now, as ridiculous as that sounds and as stomach-turning as that statement even makes me feel, it's actually the truth.  Let me back up, and spill much more personal information than is needed (I'll give you ample opportunity to judge me throughout this post).

I never had a serious girlfriend through high school, through college, or for quite a while afterwards.  I always saw my parents' relationship--which is nauseatingly great--and longed for that.  I wanted that connection...one with zero doubts.  So at night I would have a chat with God--I don't like to call it prayer, that's way too formal.  My conversations with any sort of higher power have never been robotic or rehearsed--they're just two dudes talking.  I would always ask God (or whatever his/her name is) to help me out with finding the right girl.  Material possessions were never on the chat list.  I generally just stuck to health, family, friends, and then at the end of the chat I would throw in a little request for a girl...THE girl.  That routine went on for a while.

Over the years I enjoyed a few relationships that were good, but not what I needed.  I needed one with zero doubts.  I experienced love, which is always nice, but it was never the right kind of love...if that makes any fucking sense.

Then through an odd series of events and conversations, I met April.  April and I clicked immediately and became incredibly close.  We created our own relationship.  It's not my parents' relationship, it's not our sibling's or friends' relationships...it's ours.  We grew with each other, and became better people through our relationship. It worked and it was right.

April is now my wife.  She has my daughter in her stomach.

One thing I've always told April and myself, is that I will never take her or our relationship for granted.  It took a maze of events for us to cross paths.  It took leaps of faith, generosity from our families, and patience to end up where we're at now.  Not to mention adventure, a wicked sense of humor, and a life's agenda to have fun.

I'm ridiculously lucky to have met my wife, I understand that.  My spiritual chats now have many more "thank yous" than they do "pleases".  I have that connection.  With zero doubts.


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