Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Against my better judgment, I guess I’ll add my two cents (worth barely that) to the fray.

I don’t remember exactly when it ruptured. The division had always been there. But rupture seems the more appropriate term for what happened. It was definitely during the election, but more precisely, it started to take shape during the primaries. When sad politicians, with their sneers and bird-like eyes, spread their blankets of rhetoric.

It seems like a long time ago, now. A time when we had our different opinions on candidates, but could still find that humorous, middle-ground. You know the one: “He did this/she did that… Yeah, let’s just agree that they’re both kind of nuts.”

It was around that time, when a friend commented on how it seemed as if real life had transformed into a Coen Brothers film. And hey, the Coen Brothers make some pretty entertaining flicks. So it wasn’t all bad.

Sure, you had your hard liners on either end, but show me someone stepping passionately onto their soap box, and I’ll show you a really boring dinner party. One that I’m probably trying to get out of. Back then, I was dodging political conversations like a republican during the draft. And just like those fellas of yesteryear, I was getting good at hiding from ugly truths.

Little did I know that the truth was much better than me at hide and seek.

Full disclosure: I’m the son of immigrants. Actually, all of my family here in the states are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. We’re the kind of family that learned to speak Serbian before we learned to speak English. And now, most of us speak both languages (less than ideally).

This was one of the reasons I was so surprised by the fact that some in our family were thinking about supporting Trump.

Given, I’m a socially liberal fella. So I’m surprised quite often. And when you-know-who started in on his anti-immigration rants, and ugly sound bites about women, I was fairly certain a lot of our family’s Trump contingent would pull back on the throttle. That didn’t happen.

Still, that was fine. To each their own, I thought. I knew some of the reasons they supported him over Hillary. She was the same old thing. Business as usual. And there was also the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, and the Clinton administration and UN led bombing campaigns. This was hard to swallow, especially when some of our family members had died, and many others became refugees. Add in a host of small business interests (all of them in one blue collar trade or another) and there you had it. Even if I didn’t agree with Trump or his ridiculous campaign promises, I understood why some of our clan liked the guy.

Anthony Bourdain recently wrote a great piece about this, except from a rural, middle-American perspective. The fly over states and all that. It’s mostly about how people become resentful when it feels like they (or their problems) aren’t being taken seriously. And looking back on it, this seems like one of the major factors in getting Trump elected. It wasn’t him so much as it was a frustration, or impotent rage over a system that many felt hadn’t just failed them, but had ignored them as well.

I don’t think a lot of those Trump supporters actually believed that he was going to try and make good on some of his wackier campaign promises. Maybe he was just sticking it to the man, in their eyes. Who knows?

But with recent events, the immigration ban in-particular, this Coen Brothers flick just got a lot less humorous.

Perhaps the one good thing that has come from this administration’s heavy handed, un-American policies, is that it has brought people from different backgrounds together in protest. And perhaps groups like the ACLU doing what they can, will inspire more.

People are getting involved and doing their part as Americans. They’re putting their money where their mouth is. Donations are starting to come in to the appropriate groups, while businesses that are trying to profit from unfair policies are being boycotted.

There’s a lot to think about in the strange days ahead. For instance, I’m kind of worried that the fiscal cuts that are coming could affect the arts a great deal, and that would be a shame. But who knows, maybe a lot of us will give a piece of our tax refunds right back to the programs that are affected. And maybe, this is how the fight will play out.

Maybe it’ll be through the voice of the majority, and just as important, through our wallets. Once politicians begin to see that the majority is spending its money with a political interest, maybe they’ll start to think twice. Capitalism isn’t owned by this administration. And once our money starts working against their policies, they’ll bend.

If we’ve learned anything from recent history, politicians will follow the money. If lobbyists can get their ear by lining pockets, we sure as hell can get their attention with how we spend our money. Just look at the contributions in the last couple of weeks to the ACLU. This could very well be an indication of things to come.

This administration’s rhetoric, along with the cable news play-by-play, are divisive in the worst sort of way. They’re making out by simply pitting us against one another. And unfortunately, it’s a big reason why we’re in this spot. We let them divide us. We bickered amongst ourselves, and they fed off it. This isn’t a football game. This isn’t about winning or losing teams. This is more nuanced than that. This is about coming together and reminding these entities that they work in our interests, not the other way around.

And those Trump supporters? We need them too. There’s no use patting each other on the back and talking about how smart and enlightened we are, while simultaneously grousing about how ignorant they are. So we make our tent bigger, and we bring them in. A lot of those folks have already noticed the destabilization that these new policies have brought about. Even if they don’t want to admit it yet. And I’m willing to bet many of them didn’t sign on for all of this craziness.

There were a lot of decent folks, who were simply dismayed by an ugly political system. These are hard working people that could very well change their minds. And we can help them do it. Perhaps some of them are just proud. People in general don’t want to be belittled and/or talked down to. That’s a common trait we all share. Sure, this seems trivial, but in all seriousness, trivial shit got us to this point, maybe it can help get us out.

Some of those people are on the fence already. I’ve seen it. I’ve had more than a few conversations with Trump supporters. In fact (This is our little secret), one in-particular is coming around. She watched the Woman’s march. She saw the news stories about innocent people being detained at airports all across the country, and she knows the wall is a ridiculous waste of money. It’s only a matter of time before she abandons this administration’s outdated way of thinking. And others will as well. And we will need those people. And they will need us.

United we stand and all that groovy jazz.

Well, that’s all I got. And if you don’t agree with my ramblings, that’s fine too. I’m just another dope pecking away at a keyboard in the middle of the night. Hell, I should have renamed this blog The Soap Box. Eh, it’s probably already taken. All the good ones are.

Till next time, be kind and keep going.

 

 

It’s just terrible. Sure, some might say it’s a mixed bag, but those are most likely the same, sadistic folks that I see jogging around the neighborhood when it’s under five degrees.

It makes sense that these people enjoy our current, frozen hellscape. They’ve been secretly trying to kill themselves every winter, under the guise of exercise.

They do this, so you can feel twice as bad.  First, for how sloth-like indoor life has made you. And second, for the fact that the cold won’t kill them. Yet it would you.

This same sort of deception is at play when someone says “Eh, it’s not so bad.” Or the most obnoxious of all: “It could be worse.”

Yeah, it could be worse. We could be naked, fighting off wolves in Alaska. But I probably wouldn’t have time to update this readerless blog, if that were the case.

And you know what else?

It could also be better, a lot better. We could be cuddling koala bears, while snapping pics of tropical drinks, on a beach somewhere in Honolulu (If that’s even a real place).

That said, I guess it’s not all doom and gloom. After all, December does bring with it the holiday season. And yes, there’s a lot to be grateful for. And the different holidays and their rich traditions make life that much more special. Yadda yadda yadda.

But seriously, who are we fucking kidding? It’s 10 degrees below zero, right now . And I’m willing to bet cold, hard cash, that almost all winter traditions were invented for the sole purpose of stopping us from walking off into the frozen night. Even something as small as a catchy jingle can stop one from giving in to death’s warm embrace.

So you see, If cavemen had Christmas ornaments, we’d all be a lot hairier. That’s just plain science.

Unfortunately, when it’s this kind of cold outside, even heartwarming holiday cheer can mutate into something a bit more ominous.

Take classic Christmas carols like Deck the Halls, White Christmas, or Silent Night. If you’re cold enough (And if you live in Chicago, you are), you begin to decode what these songs are actually about.

Some might point to cabin fever, but the sort of chill I’m talking about is beyond psychological symptoms. And it’s beneficial in one way, and one way only. Like Neo in the Matrix, you begin to see things for what they are.

Fa la la la la is the sound teeth make during their final death rattle. It’s obvious that the poor bastard who wrote this tune, never could get that sound out of his head. Betchya didn’t know that.

Silent night, holy night was evidently written by someone suffering from hypothermia, and preparing to meet his maker. You can’t get much holier than that.

And White Christmas? Well, Bing Crosby might as well have been part of the alt-right. The jury’s still out on him. *Note: Just kidding, Bing. That was a low blow.

“But, what about fun traditions like building gingerbread houses?” You ask.

I agree, it’s a wonderful way to spend the day. Architecture meets sweet delights. It’s the sort of combination that would’ve made Frank Lloyd Wright shed a tear and loosen his belt a notch.

Still, it was an invention most likely born out of necessity. Cabin fever and dwindling food reserves, forced folks to get creative and combine their resources. After all, there’s only so many times one can read Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Yes, I’m assuming Gingerbread houses are an old German thing (no time to google, I’m on a roll).

I suspect I’m starting to sound a bit unhinged. So I won’t even get into the issues I have while drinking and driving (under the legal limit, of course) during the winter months. That would probably be bad form.

Seriously though, even with the salt, it’s like a slip-n-slide out there. And it’s even worse if you’re seeing double (or so I’ve been told).

See? This is what the winter does. It sends you on chattering tangents. Anything to keep your core temperature up.

Well, I’ll stop preaching to the choir, now. We’re all in this together. And if their is a deity in charge of the changing seasons and groundhog shadows, then I hope he or she is a merciful bastard, but I suspect this is not the case.

Also, if you’re from a tropical climate and reading this, you should thank that same cruel deity (who is undoubtedly in charge of the geographical lottery, as well). And know this, you’ll probably be reincarnated in Aleppo. Fair is fair.

A friend of mine, who will remain nameless for this blog (eh, let’s call him Ricardo. I always liked that name). Ricardo’s family started a holiday tradition of their own. His family celebrates Christmas in July. Because, and I’m speculating here, it’s too damn cold to celebrate anything in December.

And they do so with a White Elephant party, which on an unrelated note, I recently learned does not involve car keys, a hat, and condoms (boy, was that an embarrassing night).

Anyhow, Christmas in July seems like a tradition I could get behind. After all, snow is great for about one day. After that, it’s all busted shovels and thrown-out backs.

I guess June or August could also work. But a counterpoint to this would be that those months are already great, and without the holidays, December is undoubtedly the worst month of the year… which is saying a lot.

Jesus, this blog is all over the place. And I’m not sure how I feel about any of it. Except for the part about hating winter. I feel quite strongly about that.

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a very roundabout way, is we’re lucky to have the holidays. Because without em, we’d be a bunch of miserable assholes.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

 

 

The year was 1990, and Tecmo Bowl was my jam. I would take the rock to the house, spike the controller, and shake my ass all over my brother’s bedroom. This was my twelve-year-old version of the Ickey shuffle, and it was glorious. And if our Nintendo controller had to suffer because of this, so be it. It did so in the name of art.

Then came WCW Championship Wrestling. I would write out brackets on notebook paper, and inevitably get Rick Flair chest-chopping his way into a championship bout. After a successful title run, I would let out a “WOOOOO!” and shuffle out of the room. And occasionally, I could be heard hollering “Twelve pounds of gold, baby!” to no one in-particular.

Because that’s what WCW video game champions did. We shouted cool shit like that.

My teenage years brought with them games like Altered Beast (best when accompanied by Metallica on your Discman), as well as the NBA Live and Madden franchises.

Sports games were the last to hold my attention (even after women entered the picture), but my time spent button-mashing was quickly coming to an end. It also helped that video gaming went the online route, while I had begun to develop a case of tech-allergies (I blame 90’s public schooling).

That said, I still drank beers with buddies, while they argued with thirteen-year-olds. Thirteen-year-olds who viciously murdered them in video games, and called them “bitches” or “punk-ass bitches” over their headsets as they did so. Ah, those were the days.

Then came kids. The first seven (or so) years of child-rearing were mostly video game free. Sure there was Angry Birds, or some other iPad inspired silliness, but the console driven madness of first-person shooters and Hail Mary touchdown passes were still a ways off.

And then my kid was nine, and all he wanted for Christmas (Besides his front teeth and a BB gun) was an Xbox One. And being the exceptional, fantastic, and all-around swell dad that I am, I got him that Xbox One.

With one caveat, I pledged an oath to my wife that he’d only play age-appropriate games. And only for ten minutes each day. But soon after the pledging of said oath, other kids in the neighborhood started getting Call of Duty Black Ops.

And then everything went to hell.

Fast forward a few months, and we had an Xbox Rambo on our hands. He and his friends conducted clandestine missions in our TV room, while we yelled at them to “Turn it down”, or “Go outside!” Although I had to admit, the game looked pretty fucking awesome.

But I’m a dad, so I dad-watched from the doorway, and I shook my head dismissively. As if I wasn’t impressed by the insane graphics, and the cool, shooty-gizmos they were using. I said things like “Okay, wrap it up”, Or “Five more minutes, guys.” Or “Any of you kids ever hear of Golden Eye?”

But what I was really thinking was more along the lines of “Holy shit, dude! Is that a fucking flame thrower?!”, followed by “Holy shit that IS a fucking flame thrower!”

Then one day, my son asked if I would like to play him in Black Ops. And I was all like “Pfft, I mean I’m a really busy guy, but I’m also an awesome dad, so yeah, whatevs, I guess so.”

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a trash-talker. And yeah, maybe I spit a little bit of that old school trash-talking game in my son’s direction.

Stuff like “Kid, I’ve been playing video games since you were a gleam in my sharp-shooter eyes.”

“A gleam in your eye? What does that even mean?” He asked.

It was neither the time nor the place to try and explain the birds and the bees. That’s what a 6th grade field trip to the Robert Crown center was for.

“Er, nothing. Don’t make this weird.” I shot back.

“Speaking of eyes, you ever hear about a little game called 007 Golden Eye?”

“Jeez, Dad. No one knows that game.”

“Well, it was awesome and your old man left quite a few digital bodies in his wake.”

“Yeah, okay. You can pick your armor and weapons now.”

My god, all that armor and weaponry. I was a golden-armored god, with a machine gun forged by Ares himself. The world would have no choice but to bow before my unholy might, or it would be crushed beneath my shiny, armored boots… or so I thought.

After I finished outfitting my unstoppable bringer-of-destruction, my digital warrior king, I clicked save and awaited my son’s doomed character to appear.

My son, worried about his father’s new obsession with dressing up video game characters, tried to soften the painful lesson that was soon to come.

“It’s okay, Dad. I don’t need any armor, and I’m just gonna use a knife.”

“A knife? A KNIFE?! I have serious firepower, you don’t stand a chance, kid.”

Was he patronizing me? He was definitely too sure of himself. Was he bluffing? Was he underestimating my merciless first-person shooter acumen?

Or was I about to step into a world of shit?

The game began. Our characters spawned on different sides of a bombed-out city. I ran through the streets, aiming and shooting at random stuff. Because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

After a bit, I stopped trying to blow stuff up, and decided to find my target. Through my gun’s scope, I finally spotted my son. There he stood, maybe a hundred yards out. A sitting duck (or standing in this case). He faced me, unflinching, with nothing but a knife. It reminded me of Jason Vorhees right before he brutally murders a bunch of teenagers, in any of the Friday the 13th movies.

The kid was toast. I hooted a war-cry and opened fire. A lot of things happened then. First, I realized it was really hard to aim my gun. Bullets bounced around him, and then he began to strut toward me.

Suddenly, he was in a full sprint, sliding and jumping and doing weird slidey-jumpy moves, as I continued to fire and miss.

“Hey man! No! Hey! I can’t— just stay still!“ I cried.

John Rambo’s words rang in my ears: “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.”

I was the oafish, stubborn-as-a-mule Sherriff Brian Dennehy, as I stood my ground and continued to fire and miss. Rambo-Son scaled walls and did those slidey-jumpy maneuvers again… and soon he was on top of me.

It was all so fast, violent, and efficient. He sliced through me like butter, and I was no more.

“AHHH! What the heck!” I yelled, as he plunged the blade into my chest.

A toothy grin was all he gave in response.

I respawned a moment later. Whole once more, and ready to continue the battle. His face still held the grin, as his character appeared before me like a demon summoned.

I suddenly knew the answer to a previous question: I hadn’t just stepped into a world of shit. I was dancing a goddamn jig in it.

I fired sporadically, while I ran in the opposite direction. He gave chase, and again I was cornered, and soon after that I was dead. This process continued for the next fifteen minutes. I shot at, and around him, then I screamed and ran, then he laughed hysterically, and then he murdered me.

The controller fell from my hand.

“Dad! Don’t throw the controller!”

“What’re you talking about?… It fell… from my hand.”

“No, you threw it down. Come on, let’s keep playing.”

“Kiddo, I think this is way too violent. You shouldn’t be playing this.”

“You’re just saying that because I’m way better than you.”

He was right, mostly. Something had shifted in our relationship. I was always the best at pretty much everything we did together. And now, he had surpassed me in something. At the age of nine.

I’d like to say my chest swelled with pride at that. But after watching him bury a knife into it for twenty minutes straight, I instead gave him a pat on his back.

“You got ten more minutes, then wrap it up.”

“Ten minutes?!”

“I’ll tell you what, when you’re done, we can go outside and shoot some hoops. Sound good?”

“Aww, yeah!” He said, with that toothy grin I loved so much.

He wouldn’t be grinning soon however, because I took him to the hoop. Repeatedly.

Some might say that last part was a bit harsh, and that maybe I’m a little immature. Hell, even just a tad insecure.

But I won that basketball game 15-5. And that’s what counts. I mean, not crossing him over and taking him to the hole repeatedly. Not that.

No, what counts is we had some honest-to-god, father/son bonding time.

Yeah, that’s what I meant. Jeez.

 

 

Well, the kids are back in school, the dog days of summer have buried the last of their bones, and Labor Day weekend is upon us. I’ve been more than a bit negligent with this blog over the last couple of months, and today feels like a good enough day as any for a blog post. Supposedly, Friday is a bad day to update your blog. And a Friday before a holiday weekend is even worse. But if my track record is any indication, cultivating hits to this site is not something I’m very good at.

Maybe that’s because I’m not really sure what this blog is, any longer. It’s morphed more than a couple of times. At first it was a webcomic, and when that chapter came to its inevitable conclusion, it morphed into a travel blog of sorts, and for the last couple of months it’s just lain dormant.

Mostly because I’ve been slowly hacking away at a new screenplay. One that I’m both excited about and also dread working on. I guess a minor case of writers’ block, and a new found aversion to social media (Political memes are the herpes on my Facebook feed), are both partially to blame for my absence from this blog. Not that anyone cares too much about blogs, let alone the lack of them.

All that said, this blog still remains a convenient writing exercise, for this hack.

Especially this afternoon. Seriously, I wish this stupid screenplay would just write itself. Writing most of the time is a tedious endeavor, especially if you’re doing it for free. Some might say if you’re doing it for free then it’s a hobby, or they might spout some take on “for the love of the game”. But on days like today, it’s just a glowing screen and silence.

Static and a girl crawling through a television would be preferable.

And, now I’m veering off course. So back to it. What’s new with me, you ask? This is my blog after all, so “me, me, me,” it is. Thank you for asking.

Well, first off, I’ve still been traveling for work. And while the road has lost some of its luster, I have found ways to pass the time. Some are tried and true, like the godsend known as Audible. Though my book picks have been hit or miss lately, I did stumble upon “The Hike” by Drew Magary.

It was a fine way to spend ten hours in a car. Along with my co-pilots, coffee and cigarettes. The latter of which I can’t quit. So please don’t kill me, Cancer.

Then there’s the occasional hit from a Californian vape pen (you know the ones), and after that, shit usually gets weird. The other day, I worked out for two hours straight in the hotel gym. The last time I worked out was two weeks earlier. I could barely walk the next day. And that same night, I ate half-dozen white castles in my hotel bed… at midnight. Like I said, shit got weird.

Let’s see, what else. Last month, there was a family vacation in South Haven. That was nice. The kids played with their cousins and friends, while the parents drank a bit too much and soaked up the sun. I grilled a lot, which is therapeutic for me in some strange way. I think it’s because I’m Serbian, although it’s more likely just a middle-aged guy thing.

I brought our dog with us, and in the mornings we would stroll through town together. Looking back on it, I think South Haven was a pretty good vacation spot. But sometimes, after more than a couple of days on vacation, I feel like my wheels are spinning. It’s kind of like my shifter is stuck in the neutral position, but I keep giving it gas, waiting for some sort of forward propulsion that never comes.

After days of observing other out-of-towners, I suspect this might be a common occurrence amongst a good deal of folks.

At one point, midway through our vacation week, I was driving home from the grocery store (we had run out of hot dogs and beer), and I saw a man trying to ride a bicycle to the beach, but he couldn’t get the hang of it. This guy must have been mid-fifties, yet it appeared that he didn’t know how to ride a bike.

His wife, possibly girlfriend, maybe sister, or perhaps caretaker, was half a block ahead of him. While the man, losing ground to her every second, veered left to right, catching himself just before crashing, on multiple occasions.

It was like gravity worked differently on him, playing some strange cosmic prank on this poor unsuspecting bastard. And when I slowly passed (he was all over the street) he glared at me and actually shooed me away with his left hand, which not being on his handle bars, forced him to veer off into someone’s yard.

Let’s see, what else? I was in Nashville the other day.

Full disclosure: I’m in Nashville a lot. Also, I despise pop country music. I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive, but I could be wrong. Pop country music is pop music for people who want their pop music to be more manufactured and less nuanced. Lucinda Williams rips farts with more soul than any pop country song I’ve heard on the radio.

If you’re wearing store bought, pre-torn jeans, and your teeth are too white, and you have a craving for endless cornfields, and Budweiser, then you need to stay off of my radio. But you probably don’t care, and you’re undoubtedly wealthy, and quite satisfied with yourself. So I’ll just swallow my contempt for your craft, and shut up about it.

Back to the “me, me, me” of it. I ran into some friends who were celebrating their 40th birthday, in Nashville. It was a surprising, and refreshing coincidence, which resulted in me not spending another night bellied up to a bar, with a copy of the USA Today to keep me company. We drank, listened to live music, and had an easy going, fun night.

The following morning however, was reserved for my hangover and the long drive home.

Hmm, I feel like this blog post might be a tad too negative in spots.

So, I’ll brighten the overall mood a bit.

I’ll be travelling to Detroit soon. No, I’m not being sarcastic, this is indeed the mood brightener. There’s actually something really positive about going to Detroit, I swear.

Little known fact: Detroit’s hotels have the best bathtubs in the Midwest… Seriously.

I’ve been to multiple hotels in most of the major cities in the Midwest, and over-priced suites aside, the hotel bathtubs in Detroit are a glorious reprieve. A hidden gem of Midwest business travel.

My personal favorites include the Athenaeum in Greek Town, and the Motor City Casino and Hotel.

Long soaks in the tub are something that I’ve recently taken to. Mostly, on the suggestion of my doctor. You see, countless hours of traveling takes a toll on a very specific part of the anatomy.

Namely, my ass.

Full disclosure: Hemorrhoids are a very real problem for the middle-aged traveler. And according to my doctor (after a thorough and humiliating exam that I’d rather not get into) a good soak in the tub goes a long way for the ol’ butthole. There’s a reason you always see cowboys soaking in tubs and chomping on cigars in the old west. After hours on a horse, there were no amounts of powders or pastes that could relieve a case of the butt darts better than a nice soak and a good cigar.

So, there. A happy note.

 

ODDS & ENDS:

-I’ve recently sat through both a Marvel and a DC superhero movie, and I can’t help thinking that Pepsi and Coca-Cola really need to get into the movie business.

-Also watched Anomalisa, while on a solitary road trip. And while it was quite well done, I would not recommend a viewing, especially if you’re feeling a bit lonely in a foreign land. Seriously, suicide prevention hotlines are more heartwarming.

-I was listening to a podcast while driving home the other day, and one of the guests dropped a profound piece of knowledge on me. She stated that Dirty Dancing is the female movie equivalent to Point Break.

…Let the truth of that sink in for a moment. I mean, holy shit. Right? That’s the most observant thing anyone’s ever said… Like ever.

-Last night I laid in my son’s bed, while he and his brother read to themselves. The window was open, and a cool breeze was blowing into the room. It was a fall breeze. And it was just right.

 

So long summer. Until next time, here’s a pic of my dog.

My dog under a blanket. Random but adorable.

My dog under a blanket. Random but adorable.

 

The television was droning on, as I regained consciousness. McCain was being asked by a CNN reporter whether or not the birthplace of Ted Cruz should be investigated. He thought it would be a prudent move. I rolled over and let out a sigh. It was 4 am. Ted Cruz was of questionable origin. And I was in Detroit.

This was yesterday.

I rolled back over, and burrowed my face deep into the pillow. I briefly wondered if self-smothering was an actual thing. And then I smelled it. The scent was immediately recognizable. It was the smell of my Grandmother. Or to be more exact, my Nana.

She helped raise me as a child, and to this day, she still smells exactly the same. A mixture of Revlon perfume, Revlon hairspray, and old foreign lady. It can be a reassuring, even pleasant scent. Not so much, when I’m alone in a strange city in the wee hours of the morning.

Confused and in need of fresh air, I lifted my head. The fragrance danced through my nostrils. Needing to get to the bottom of this, I burrowed my face even deeper into the pillow, and inhaled deeply. This was weird, not quite disturbing, but definitely weird.

I played out the different scenarios.

SCENARIO A). The Supernatural One: My Nana has a ghost scent. It may have developed from years of working on a Revlon assembly line (which she did). And now, this phantom odor had for reasons yet unknown, decided to haunt me in the only way it knew how… by making stuff smelly.

SCENARIO B). The Practical One: The cleaning woman must be an older woman from another country. She obviously also believes in the beauty and staying power of Revlon products. As she fixed the bed, her old lady smell must have crawled its way down from her hands and onto my pillow. Until finally, it climbed up my nostrils with the determination of a hundred Navy Seals.

I chose the rational explanation. After all, ghost scents were reserved for mysterious old homes, not chain hotels. Even if this one happened to reside in, what some might consider, a haunted city.

I slowly rolled off of the bed and stood. Stretching out the cobwebs, and wiping away the smell. Unfortunately, it was still with me. The cleaning lady’s nana scent clung to my face and maybe even to the rest of my body. The thought of a nana scent all over my body, was uniquely repulsive.

I headed to the shower. After a thorough soaping and scrubbing, I was once again myself. The nana scent had released me from its clutches. I methodically trimmed my beard and combed my hair.

Then I reached into my toiletries bag, which my wife packs for me along with an occasional lunch, because I am perpetually twelve years old. I quickly removed the hairspray, and doused my head. Cementing what was left of my hair into place. My eyes went wide in terror. The scent was back. I was once again a giant, hairy, eighty year-old woman.

Shocked, I glared down at the can of travel hairspray in my hand. It wasn’t the travel size can of big sexy hair (don’t judge me), which I usually used. Instead, this was a dented old can of REVLON hairspray. The image on the can showed a beautiful woman with windblown hair, sort of Medusa meets the runway, staring at me with cold, soulless eyes. She was a mythical witch of Revlon, and she had cursed me with a scent reserved for loving foreign grandmothers, not a thirty-something salesman. A Greek tragedy had played itself out in my hotel bathroom.

I hit the showers again, and made a mental note to call my wife regarding this matter, at a more decent hour.

Resigned to my fate, I trudged into that morning’s meeting with unkempt hair, and smelling faintly of old women. God only knows what the men I was meeting with would think when they first saw me, or worse, when they first smelled me.

Hopefully they thought of their own grandmothers, and of simpler times. Perhaps reminiscing on such innocent thoughts might help propel any future business along. But who knew with these types. Perhaps, they might’ve thought I was rolling around with old ladies, and didn’t own a comb. And worse still, maybe they were into that sort of thing. I hoped not.

I guess that’s how things sometimes go. We hope for the best, but nervously fear the worst. And if we’re lucky, life falls somewhere in the middle of our imaginary spectrum. And sometimes we smell funny, and there’s always a bad hair day right around the corner.

And that’s fucking life, man.

 

 

My oldest son, Aleks, had spent the last couple of weeks begging his mother and me for a dog. He swore that if we brought home a puppy, it would count for both his Christmas and birthday present. After realizing that getting a puppy meant I would have to be more responsible, I took it upon myself to navigate around those treacherous waters, at all costs.

I countered his terms, with talk of video games and laser tag battles. Unfortunately, his resolve was steadfast, and his terms were non-negotiable. Like countless revolutionaries before him, there was no quieting his message once it was heard, and soon his words became infectious.

My youngest son, Maks, not quite the dog lover (more on that later), joined the cause. And so, this burgeoning children’s crusade was now a united front. No amount of reasoning, persuasion, or even subtle attempts at bribery, could bend their will. We, the parents of these puppy-loving radicals, were losing ground fast, but as long as we matched their steely-eyed resolve with our own united front, we stood a chance.

And then Maria caved. The boys had changed their tactics without my knowledge (Though thinking back on it, I should have realized kids inevitably play their strongest hand). And our boys were holding a straight flush. They turned her to their cause with cuddles and innocent whispers. And she quickly became the Hanoi Jane to my Murica.

Our two, tiny Mongols wiped out my once pet-free kingdom. That beautiful land, free of hairs and smells. That once glorious castle, where bowel movements were flushed away with a magic that left Merlin envious. Gone now. And we are officially dog owners.

And while we’re only a week in, the transition is complete. The hair has been shed, and the mistakes (i.e. dog shit) have been made. I no longer can smell ‘dog’ which means I am now following the path of the dog.

And though the increase in responsibilities are not good for my endocrine system, there is something to be said for a cuddly puppy that wants to nap with you.

Now, I’m not going to get mushy about all of this. I’ll leave that to Hanoi Jane, but I will document our first week or so with the new addition.

WEEK 1:

We drove an hour west, to DeKalb IL, home of Tails Humane Society. The only animal shelter that had the type of puppy we were looking for (two months old, and cute as a button). Aleks was shaking with excitement, and Maks was relishing in the fact that he had broken us.

The four of us strode into the building, and Maria and Maks strode out of the building just as quickly. Maks is much like a six year-old version of the X-Men’s Wolverine. He can be a rough customer, he possesses a sweet hairstyle, and he also has a heightened sense of smell. One of those things doesn’t work well in a small building filled with animal farts.

He stormed out holding his face and refusing to go back in. Meanwhile, inside the shelter, Aleks was spinning in circles and on the verge of happy tears, stopping occasionally to pet the puppy and make kissy noises, before returning to his spin of win.

After a quick pit stop at the PetSmart down the street (we needed to purchase an animal carrier and all of the other bells and whistles that go along with puppy rearing), we were on our way home. Now, a family of five.

We needed to name our new addition. He came with the name Pirate, but it didn’t roll off the tongue with the je ne sais quois that we were looking for. So, our drive home was spent debating the merits of different dog names. Cooper, Murphy, Sparky, Hopper, and John, all vying for the title of puppy name. That is, until Maria, staring out of the window introspectively, muttered our kid’s first love in literature: Calvin & Hobbes. After a family vote, Hobbes had it. The puppy bumped his tail back and forth in his crate, seeming to agree from the confines of his temporary cell.

There was petting and playful banter, but mostly Hobbes napped. As Maria and I inspected his under-carriage for signs of bowel movements, while also googling different potty training scenarios.

After hearing google out on the matter, we decided on a form of potty training known as crate training. And though Maria bought some sort of dog pads, to leave around the house for Hobbes to use if he couldn’t get outside fast enough, I couldn’t allow it.

Sometimes baby steps are needed. Training wheels for instance, or the delicate art of teaching people of a certain age to send emails without the caps lock on. But in the case of a puppy emptying its bowels, there is no learning curve, only dog shit.

Speaking of dog shit, Hobbes left a steaming little gift under our dining room table earlier today. Aleks promptly stepped in it, and then raised his arms and screamed to the heavens. I guess it’s true that we are indeed our father’s sons.

Maks and Hobbes are on good terms for the most part. Although, Hobbes, like all other dogs before him, views Maks as a giant dog treat. Maks walks by, and suddenly Hobbes ears perk up. He stands and sniffs the air, and then the puppy is off, trying to nibble pieces of our son, much to the chagrin of Maks.

You see, Maks has spent his formative years running away from our friends’ and families’ pets. And our friends’ and families’ pets, like all other pets, only enjoy one thing more than treats… hunting human kids that also might taste like treats.

We’re trying to rectify this situation, but I suspect obedience school is in our future.

Maria insisted on certain rules. No puppies on the couch was her first rule. After snuggling with Hobbes on the floor for close to an hour that first night, she broke her own rule and brought him on the couch with her. Hmm, a pattern is starting to form.

In the days following his arrival, I attempted to get a good, or at least decent photo of Hobbes in all of his puppy yumminess (Shit, I’m using words like yumminess, now). After about seventy or eighty photos of him turning away from me, or trying to steal my phone, I managed to snap one or two gems.

Hobbes at attention.

I command you to love me.

I command you to love me.

 

Hobbes at rest.

Your home is my bed.

Your home is my bed.

 

Our walks have been relegated to the backyard for now. Hobbes is spooked by barking, cars, wind, and rain, but we still managed to get all the way out to the front yard. I live in a working class suburb of Chicago, so yeah, it wasn’t much of a feat, but nevertheless, he made the journey. And after standing in the front yard for a long moment, with ears perked, and a look of “what the fuck is all of this” on his face, we retired indoors for doggie treats and a beer. Not too shabby.

It could always be worse…

He could be a cat.