Monday, August 31, 2015


          About six months ago my lovely (and dangerous) wife made the mistake of asking our niece what she would like to do for her tenth birthday party.  The wise thing would have been to tell her what we were doing for her party, not asking for trouble.  But we learn these lessons the hard way around here, and this was one of them.

          Sarah told us about a birthday party she had attended at a local hotel, and about how wonderful everything was at this other girl's party.  She went on and on (and on...) discussing the indoor pool, the pay-per-view movie they watched in their room that night, the gourmet breakfast buffet they enjoyed the following morning... and before she was done with her presentation, Sarah had made up her mind that a sleepover at the same hotel was EXACTLY what she wanted for her own birthday party.

          And so it came to pass that two rapidly aging guardians of a hyper child came to host a birthday party at Embassy Suites this past weekend.  Sarah was allowed to invite four of her closest friends (who also turned out to be her four loudest friends, but more on that later...) and we met up with everyone at the hotel precisely at check-in time.  We had purchased a birthday cake from Publix, complete with a faux jeweled tiara, and loaded up goody bags for all of the girls that included fingernail polish (whose fucking idea was THAT?), confetti, rolls of decorative streamers, and all sorts of other loot we would have to clean up later.

            As the other parents dropped off their girls at the front lobby, each of them smiled knowingly at us and said, "Good luck!"  There was something ominous about the way they all seemed in on something no one had told us... But we thought to ourselves, "How tough can it be?"

            Lemme tell you how tough it can be.  First of all, the same kids who might be the most attentive little darlings in the world individually, morph into wild-eyed, hearing impaired, jabbering Energizer Bunnies when left with other like minded children whose parents are no longer on the scene.  It was immediately apparent that our voices couldn't penetrate the Cone of Silence force field projected by their own combined vocal chord cacophony.  Nothing we said got through, at least not on the first or second shout.  We would have to literally bang on an inanimate object to get their undivided attention, and even then our window of opportunity for communication was less then five seconds. After six seconds, there was no way to make ourselves heard.

             I've not spent any time with amphetamine addicts, but I imagine even meth junkies and crackheads can hear one another.  Ten year-old girls in groups of more than four might as well be speaking another language, one that can only be understood by others if projected in a sonic wave level that would rival a police siren in a tunnel.  These kids couldn't wait to tell one another everything that popped into their heads, simultaneously, and for hours.  

             We let them decorate their hotel room, which mean taping up streamers across the walls and lamps, scattering confetti all over the tables, blowing up balloons, and distributing party favors.  Within two minutes their room looked for all the world like a burglary crime scene.  Things were overturned, couch cushions were askew, pictures tilted on the walls, and more paper and plastic was scattered about than the floor of a stadium after the Super Bowl. It was an epic mess... and it was all done is less time than it took for us to say, "Uh... girls?"

             They swam in the indoor pool, splashed around in the hot tub, got back into the pool, returned to the hot tub, went back to the pool, held a contest to see who could do the wackiest "dive" into the water, looked for lost earrings on the bottom of the pool, traded swim goggles, and did everything while still maintaining a sound level that bordered on the threshold of pain for the two weary adults in the pool room.  God, did we crave alcohol... and I couldn't help but miss those wonderful earplugs my former employer passed out to dampen the noise of our machines in the factory.  I had to step out of the room more than once just to open and close my mouth while rubbing my temples... It was like being in a closed hanger with a jet testing its afterburners.

             We ordered delivery pizzas for the girls, which they proceeded to distribute to all corners of their room on various cardboard plates, along with half empty cans of soda and Capri Sun juice pouches.  Empty water bottles were everywhere, as were plates of birthday cake and smeared icing.  And everything in the room had little bits of plastic based confetti attached to its surface, including the kids themselves.  Seriously, their room looked like the aftermath of a tornado.

            Meanwhile, my wife and I tried to stay out of their hair by playing Scrabble on the table in our own room.  Occasionally one of us would step through the connecting doors to remind the weasels on crack that other guests might not want to hear their screams and laughter.  But mostly we just let them carry on, figuring resistance was futile anyway.  At some point the girls wanted to know if they could play "Twister" in our room, since the floor of theirs was hopelessly cluttered with debris.  The Twister game lasted about a minute, and then someone discovered that those rolls of paper streamers would make great wrappings for mummies!  Next thing we know, kids are wrapping purple and pink streamer paper around one another from head to toe... which sounds fun, until you realize that kids whose legs are tightly bound can't keep from falling over... which is also interesting since their arms are likewise bound to their torsos with the same streamer paper.  After the first girl hit the floor and knocked the wind out of her little self, we changed the rules and forbade ankle wrapping... Seemed like the prudent thing to do, safety wise.  My theory has always been "If you're gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough" but then, these were other people's kids and an emergency room visit would probably have put a damper on things.

               At about midnight we tried to get them to settle down for the night, and at some point an hour or two later it was finally quiet in their room.  We got them up early the next morning so they could go down for the free buffet breakfast, which gave us a chance to clean up a little of the mess.  Sarah managed to turn over her glass of juice at the table in the restaurant, and then turned over her cup of hot chocolate two minutes later.  Helpful hotel attendants took care of that mess, and we couldn't stop apologizing.

              After the little dears were picked up (and they really were good kids, don't get me wrong) we came back here and poured ourselves the first of many Bloody Marys.  All three of us took naps during the afternoon... something that NEVER happens.  Exhaustion was in charge, folks.

               We've let The Princess know this won't be happening again anytime soon.  She can have a normal-ass birthday party, but we won't be puttin' on the Ritz again in this lifetime.

               I'm just now beginning to regain my hearing.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


         I got the call at 3:00 AM, and could finally relax.  My first born child had successfully given birth to her second son at a hospital in Virginia, and both she and the baby were fine.

         And I feel like a Bad Dad for not being there... Instead, I was processing soccer pictures and getting set to take our niece to the Embassy Suites for her birthday party sleepover with friends.

         Can't wait to see the new baby (and to see how the first born Young Prince handles the competition!)

          Amber has named the new baby "Ashton", and if you mention "Kutcher" she's quick to let you know "He doesn't own the fucking name, okay?"

           Chip off the old block...

Friday, August 28, 2015


           I've been living here with my lovely (and dangerous) wife for over ten years, and one of the things that I've been meaning to take care of (my phrase for "putting off") has been the disposal of a rusty old glass-top table in our backyard.  It's been rotting away out there, like some sort of yard ornament.  Rust never sleeps, and that's certainly been true of the corrosion eating away at that poor table as it sits exposed to the elements day after day, year after year.

           Several weeks ago I took it upon myself to dismantle the table and recycle the metal.  I couldn't part with the oval glass top, even though I had no idea what purpose it might eventually serve.  Something made me pause on my way to the truck... maybe I can use this?  So I leaned it up against the back of the storage shed... and I've been mowing around it ever since.

           Night before last I asked Sarah to put down her precious iPad for a few moments and pose behind the glass for me.  I took two or three shots, then put the glass tabletop back behind the shed.

           She didn't seem to understand what we were doing, but played along for the sake of expediency.  She's learned that things move quicker if she just does whatever batshit crazy thing is asked of her...

           I like this photo.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


           Our niece Sarah has officially competed her tenth lap around our planet's sun, a date that she's managed to wiggle into every conversation (hourly) for the past eight or nine months. I never knew a kid's birthday could be so vitally important.  I'm pretty sure my own childhood B-days didn't drum up this much fanfare... because we weren't allowed to make that big of a fuss over ourselves.  Having three siblings is a great way to keep a kid humble.

           No child's birthday since the virgin birth has commanded as much attention as Sarah's tenth. She's made it clear to all concerned that "double digits" is a monumental milestone, one worthy of headlines and ticker tape parades through town.  A conversation about vegetables was just as likely to end up being a discussion of her party plans, and it was a rare thing to get through a meal without the details of her celebration being mentioned.  

            Having been duly reminded, we had our bases covered yesterday.  But the kid hopped out of bed singing "Good Morning, Good Morning!" over and over and over, and made several references to the fact that it was indeed a beautiful morning, fit for a princess.  I tried to explain that it wasn't cool to behave like a weasel on crack before adults had consumed caffeine, but there was no talking to the child.  She was wired.  

             On our trip to school yesterday morning, we made a stop at Publix to pick up our order of 30 cupcakes for her to pass out to her classmates, and she made certain everyone within earshot of the cash register knew they were for her birthday celebration at school.  I hadn't had enough coffee for all this excitement, so I was more than eager to deliver the kid and her cupcakes to school.  She jabbered away excitedly as we sat in the school parking lot and waited for the doors to finally open.  What followed was an epic stream of consciousness, complete with tapping feet and waving hands and occasional musical renditions of "Good Morning, Good Morning!"...  You would have thought it was Christmas morning and she child was seconds away from ripping into a stack of presents, not moments away from homeroom attendance.

              I had a few hours to myself after Miss Hyper entered the school, a respite I used to prepare myself for the evening's dinner plans. We had told Sarah that in honor of her birthday we would take her to the restaurant of her choice, and she had smiled and threatened to find one that would cost "at least a hundred dollars!"  She chose TGIF Fridays, so I figure my wallet got a break on that deal...

              Her actual "party" is scheduled for this coming Saturday. We've reserved a pair of rooms at the local Embassy Suites, and she's invited four of her closest friends for a sleepover, complete with swimming in their indoor pool.  Every moment of that evening has already been meticulously planned out, I can assure you.  The child should consider a career as an event planner...

              Our birthday present for Sarah was an iPad Mini, something some of her friends have been using, and a device that she had mentioned frequently in the run up to this monumental event.  We had tried to program it earlier in the week, but like everything else around here, it required a modicum of technical expertise above our pay grade.  Immediately upon opening the iPad's box, Sarah signed in, created a pass code, chose a wallpaper for her homepage, and began chirping questions to Siri... all the way to Fridays.  She made sure the wait staff knew it was her birthday, and nodded approvingly when they offered a free dessert, complete with a cheerfully annoying Happy Birthday song no one recognized.

              When we finally got the kid wound down enough for bedtime, I looked at my wife and said, "At least we have 90 years before we have to worry about triple digits."

               Of course, in a couple of years we'll have to make a big fuss over the "teens".

               Sigh.  It never ends.

Monday, August 24, 2015


            If you've not read any of Bill Bryson's travel books, get thee to Amazon or your local library and check out any of them.  They're all great, and you'll learn more than you ever bargained for, I promise.

            My favorite Bryson book is "A Walk in the Woods", about his ill-fated attempt to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail with an equally out of shape companion.  It's a funny, informative tome about rekindling old friendship, self-discovery, and the painful consequences of being woefully unprepared.

            When my lovely (and dangerous) wife and I stayed at a mountain chalet in northern Georgia this past spring, we ventured over to a nearby state park that boasted the tallest cascade waterfall in the southeast.  While touring their visitor center, I noticed an entire rack of paperback copies of Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" and was informed by the staff that a portion of the movie based upon that book had been filmed within their park.  Apparently, we had stumbled upon a state park that was only 8.5 miles from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail... a little 2,175 mile hike all the way to the mountains of Maine.

             I can't even imagine trying to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Shit, I couldn't even make it up the 600 plus steps at Amicalola Falls...

             Seeing Bryson's book again reminded me of how much fun I'd had reading his struggles on the AT, and stoked my anticipation for the new Robert Redford/Nick Nolte film.  The previews look promising... I just hope the movie does the book justice.