First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Fence

Busted, rotten-toothed, blighted, crystal meth-mouth of a fence. Pink paint peeling to show grey wood, like new flesh shedding to reveal old. The stretch that provides the border between our faded tar driveway and our neighbor's. The neighbor children toddle through the snaggletoothed space left by broken pickets, like chocolate drops tempting jagged fangs to clamp down on plump, defenseless, sweetness. And there's only me to fix it. Carpentry. I hate carpentry. Also not a big fan of dentists.

Maybe it's more fair (to me) to say carpentry hates me. I try to learn the language of carpenters. I admire carpenters who carpent well and provide well-carpented structures. Measure twice, cut once, inches, wood, nail, nail banging device. I know all the lingo. I just have trouble connecting my hands to my brain and my brain to the wood.

If I had been the Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi had sought to teach me karate via light carpentry, I never would've made it. I would have been gone before the end of sand the floor.

"Eieesh, Homemaker-san. What you do to dis floor? And the fence! Looks like it was painted by brain damaged muskrat! You no learn karate. You go buy gun. Chances much better."

But, I did it. It's done. Basically mostly pretty much done. I replaced the missing and broken pickets. Two days ago my wife noticed one of the new pickets was loose at the bottom. I have yet to check on it. Probably I'll until wait a gust of wind finishes ripping the picket off the fence and drives it through our dining room window. Then I'll blame the kids. "Who launched this 3 foot picket through the dining room window?" I'll scream. They won't know who did it because kids don't know anything. And if they do, I'll give them Starburst to eat until their mouths fuse shut and their teeth look like the fence. Like the fence once did, he said with smugness.

The fence came out ok, really. The original fence builder didn't exactly get everything straight, so that took a lot of pressure off. My whole house has kind of a "This Old House" meets Charles Bukowski feel. It leans drunkenly, and it's fucked up and a little grubby, and hipsters would like it if you told them to. Yet, it's 125 years old, still standing, and there's just something charming about it . . .

The reason I tackled the fence in the end, other than that it was a dangerous and unneighborly eyesore ("your mother" joke. Bam.), and that neither I nor my chubby, sloppy, little ego could afford to hire someone, was that I want the kids to have some sort of comfort with tools. Even some small, fleeting, incompetent handle on a tool and what it does--"this is called a drill you use it for drilling. This is a screw driver, you use it for screwing. I don't know what that one is. That one hurts fingers. I call that one Saul. Whoops, careful son, that one stays in your pants til you're thirty." And so on.

I called them both out of the yard and had them help me. O, how they helped. It's difficult, I find, to teach someone something you don't know yourself.

"Ok. Good job. Whoops careful. Put that down. Put that Down. Thank you. Thank you. Can you hold that. No, just hold it. Hold it. Sure, you can put it in your pocket. Ok now, pull. Pull it. The button thing there. The trigger or whatever. I'll hold it too. No, I'll hold too. Because it's dangerous. BECAUSE IT's--you just sit over there for a minute. No just sit. Sit. There. Yup. Ok. Yes, you can hold that. Not like that. Yes. Ok. Now, do you want a turn? No, right there. Just push . . . I don't know what those numbers mean. I don't know. You ready. Ok. Good Job. Because . Because you can't. You just . . . what? Ok. You're going back in the yard with Mommy? Ok. Thanks for the help guys!"

The exclamation point is there because I meant it. They really did help. They distracted me from the task at hand.

And they did spend some small sliver of time around tools and fixing stuff and so forth.  I put this in the parenting victory column next to "they have yet to break a bone," and "Don't really know what a Justin Bieber or a Selena Gomez is."

Next up, we have to replace the doors on our bulkhead. I've been stressing about that for years now. The doors are so far gone they couldn't keep out a caffeinated Jehova's Witness. If my calculations are correct, I should have that project done poorly by April 2015. If the weather holds.

I am the Carpentry Walrus. I don't exist, and even if I did, I have fucking flippers and big stupid tusks and a terrific mustache. I can't fix shit. Coocoocachoo.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Funny, I've Heard That Name Somewhere Before

Next door, we have black neighbors. Across the street and next door on the other side too. The particular neighbors in question have a six year old son. He was in The Peanut's kindergarten class this past year. He's a big, huggable, good-natured sweetie-pie. His name is Trayvon. How's that for some shit?

When the verdict came down, I felt so bad, so guilty. Remember when Obama was elected the first time, and we were all walking around and looking each other in the eye, and nodding like, "yeah, voted for him too." And it felt like we were all on the verge of a big high five. This was exactly like that, except the complete opposite. I felt like every black person I met wanted nothing to do with me. And who could blame them? I didn't particularly want much to do with me or my kind--I mean white, not Jewish, but to most people, I'm splitting hairs here--myself (By the way, white guilt is an excellent, excellent quality in a white person. It's really one of the finest qualities a white person can possess. Beware of the non-guilty white person, everyone who is not white. They will get you, eventually).

Except for Tre'. That is how I knew my neighbor Trayvon at first.. As Tre'. I knew him as that until shortly after Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, actually. Imagine my shock when I first heard his full name.

Anyway, the night of the verdict, all I wanted to do was find that little boy and hug him and laugh with him and tell him sorry. I wanted to say sorry to him, his whole family, every black person I saw. Still do. But I don't. Don't know why for sure. Probably because it'd be rather presumptuous and weird and self-serving.

I do know that Florida sucks. There have been lots of voices more eloquent and erudite than mine that have stated the fact that we shouldn't blame Florida. That systemic racism is a blight upon our entire country. And that's true. Black men are frisked at a much higher rate in New York than are whites, die at a much higher rate in Chicago, lack the chance at a quality education and get incarcerated at a much higher rate everywhere. The backlash against our first black president combined with the long standing injustices that frame black life in America have the entire country neck deep in the shit storm that is systemic, institutionalized racism. But then again, Florida has been fucking up for over a decade ( at least) now, in issues of race, the law, political gaffes, sleazy real estate deals,  etc.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure every Canadian blanches when they find out they have to go anywhere near any  U.S. city with the possible exceptions of Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Oregon. So maybe I should give Florida a break. But probably not.

I know that this post is late. Many people have written about this topic from most every angle, and mine is not a voice that should be heard over anyone else's on this subject.

I also know that when I first saw our neighbor Tre', two days after the verdict, he waved and grinned and said "Hi, Homemaker Man!" And I waved and grinned and said "Hi!" back.

Finally, I know (reaching the limits of my personal cache' of knowledge now) that part of what has gotten us here is too much silence. And I know a little boy named Trayvon. He is a friend of my daughter's. He's got a chubby, smiley face and a friendly way about him and I love that little kid. And so though I'm late, and though I'm only one middle-aged white blogger, and though I'm ineloquent, I will not be silent. I'll say what I feel I have too and I'll keep on saying it. I've got to now. Trayvon lives right next door.


Thrills! Amusement! Thick Inner Ear Fluid! It Could All Be Yours!

The sky spun around us as we flew higher and then higher still. One push of the little black button and we soared, in perfect circular formation with the other fat, primary colored jets around us. We were Flying Aces, and it was the first ride we went on at Six Flags New England this past sunday.

We were invited --and comped--for a day at Six Flags New England as part of their Media Weekend and we had a blast. 

For those who want to skip the review, go to the end, comment, and be entered to win a family 4 pack of tix that includes free parking. Free. Parking.  In the Boston area, free parking is as mythical and valuable as Unicorn tears. 

So, first off, we were met at the gate by Samantha. She was our media guide for the day. She was very pleasant. Early on we convinced her to go on a raft type ride with us that both spun "a lot more" than she "remembered," and had about three inches of water in the bottom, immediately rendering her shoes soggy relics of the past.

This is Samantha. We ruined her shoes. 

After that, I myself was not up for much ride wise. I love roller coasters--the anticipation during the long climb, the brief jolt of weightlessness as you plummet earthward, the high pitched girlish screaming emanating from my throat, the soiled undergarments--love it. But the spinny rides .. oh the spinny rides kill me. After 3 or 4 revolutions, my inner ear fluid thickens up like egg white and my stomach threatens to turn the entire ride into a vomit-y whirlygig. Don't love the spinny rides.

But, we had a great time. They have two sections dedicated to little kids like ours (and smaller), plus other family and kid oriented rides sprinkled throughout the park, so there is a lot to do for little ones. Plus, there is the water park. The day we went was in the 90s, so the water park was packed, but we still enjoyed it. 

The Peanut met her personal hero, Wonder Woman, and got her autograph. That was wicked sweet. There was also most of the cast of Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, and the entire Justice League.

The park was immaculate. Most of the employees carried sticks with levers near the handle and white claws at the end so they could pick up trash whenever they encountered it. I kept trying to convince Sam to challenge one of the other employees to a claw stick duel, but she was far too professional. I think'd it'd be very entertaining, but I'm kind of a moron. 

They had lots of free shows going on around the park. The Peanut had been sick for the magic show they had at her school this year, and I had promised her one this summer, so the magic show at the park totally bailed me out there. The kids loved the show, though there was a whole Marilyn Monroe tribute part that was completely lost on them. Which is probably my fault. I've neglected their pop-culture education. 

I would say, if you do go with young kids, bring an extra adult/big kid, so that two of you can ride the big rides while one watches the kids. Also, if you have someone willing to stay close to your bag, backpack, etc., avoid renting a locker at the water park. It's expensive. Other than that though, big thumbs up to Six Flags New England. We had a friggin' great time and we'd go again in a heart beat. Enter the giveaway so you can have a blast too. 


Bonus Pics!

Trying really hard to catch glimpse of the little Kintner Boy.

Yeah, we blew Scrappy right the fuck off.
Original Gangstas only, please.

The Peanut met her hero. And so, I assume, did Wonder Woman.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Vacation Accompli

The sky was blue like clouds had never been invented. The kids had made fast friends with a very nice man named Charles.  Charles had come up from Manhattan "on a whim." He grew up in San Francisco with summers at his grandmothers house in the French countryside ("It was so boring. It wasn't like it was Paris or anything. It might as well have been upstate New York. My dad got me a Eurorail pass when I was 14 or 15 and boy did grandma freak out about that! He can handle it, he can handle it, my dad said, but she was not happy.")

My Wife, lounging on the beach, took a moment from our Charles chat to beseech our daughter.  "Honey, it's so hot out and the water is beautiful, just try it." Up until then, we had spent most of our swimming time in the hotel's salt water pool.

The Peanut jabbed a toe into the foam near the shore. "It's cold," she bleated.

"Me and the Peanut, we're the glass half empty-girls," said Charles. 

And that is just a tiny sliver of the perfection that was our week in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  We stayed from Saturday to Saturday. The beach we played at was the hotel's private stretch. It was way more than we could afford but we didn't have to afford it. It was paid for by My Wife's Aunt.

The Aunt, along with her wife, are the legal guardians of My Wife's 14 year old cousin . . . The Girl. The Girl's father, after a long illness, died about 5 years ago. The Girl's mother is a human non-recyclable, so in his will he named his sister--The Aunt--The Girl's legal guardian. The Girl, a fine student, excellent athlete, and all around good kid, is an only child with no cousins near her age. She thirsts for family. 

About four months ago, The Aunt called and said to My Wife, "Do you have plans for the Fourth?" 

"No," said My Concise Wife. 

"Well, we'd like you to come down to Provincetown for the week of July Fourth this year. We go every year and we want you guys (including the dog) to come. The Girl would really love it. We stay at a hotel with a private beach and a salt water swimming pool and you can watch the fireworks from the beach and we'll pay for the room."

"Nonononono, that's too much, we can't do that, thanks for the offer but nonono we couldn't do that I, uh, no," was My Suddenly Inconcise Wife's reply."

The Aunt said, "You never got a graduation present (true), or a wedding present (true), or a honeymoon (with the notable exception of every single day of our perfect union, also true), you never go anywhere (apparently she'd never heard of a little place called "the movies.") just let me do this for you."

So we said yes. We were nervous as hell. A vacation. With family. Who paid! Sounds like the plot of an old John Candy movie.  In retrospect, an excellent decision.

Provincetown is clean beaches, sea waters teeming with life, houses that are New England quaint on the outside and marvels of open space and burnished Scandinavian wood inside. It's thriving night life, great restaurants, fabulous art galleries, a note-perfect Cher impersonator, great shows (Patti LuPone! Megan Mullally!) everything in walking distance, dog friendly, and people without a single unkind word for anyone. Everyone was so upbeat, so joyous, so gregarious and interesting and FUN. We weren't three days in before the kids told us they never wanted to go home. Who could blame them? 

The first day, The Girl was overwhelmed. The affection, the action, the expectations that our kids had for her knocked the pins out from under her. She needed a break. But as the week went on, they grew closer and closer and by the end she was the one holding their hands on our walks, waking up excited to play, spending hours with them at the pool, teaching them how to play soccer. We have plans to go to the movies (see?) with her later this week. Bonds happen quick like Krazy Clue when people are young.

We sat in the sand together and watched my kids' first real fireworks display. Glowing faces and shining eyes and all that. The Pumpkin Man kept up a constant commentary throughout the show. The Aunt said, "he really never stops talking, does he?" She has no idea. We'll be seeing a bit of them from now on, I think. The Aunt pronounced, more than once, that  "you'll have to come down again next year. We'll make it a tradition." We responded with stunned silence. We're slick like that. Family, luck, timing. That shit be crazy. 

As for me, I lived on the Cape some in my former life as a boy nomad and then again as a man-child. I was never a big fan. Until now. PTown. You stole my heart. Seriously, that was some rich food. I think my heart fell out near the library. 


Bonus Pics!

Praise Neptune!

The family marches steadily toward the downtown area,
intent on wreaking millions of dollars worth of havoc.
The kids looove tequila.

The Peanut caught it all by herself in an area called the Beech Forest.
I kissed it and it turned into Prince.
This is what is sounds like, when jokes die. 

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