You see, for the first 2 years of your life, you were dreamy. You were the sweetest of the babies. Your smile was an infection everyone wanted to catch. You were good with new acquaintances. You were good at restaurants. You were good on long plane rides. Your potty training was an easy weekend in which no one contemplated suicide.
For the past 2+ years, I called you “my baby” when talking to your mom about you. As in, “My baby and I are going to the playground. Your baby just took a shit on the new area rug and is dancing on it!”
But all that changes on your birthday tomorrow when you turn 3.
3 is the age all children spend a year firmly entrenched in the Will of the Devil. 3-year-olds argue. They’re insolent. They may get such euphemistic descriptions for their behavior as “being willful” or “acting cranky-pants” or “talking back,” but any parent of a 3-year-old knows that what you’re really doing is “replacing all feelings of affection that have built over the past 2.9 years with feelings of desperation, frustration, indignation, and resignation until you turn 4.” Or, maybe that’s just your mom and me.
Please don’t act like your older siblings did when they were 3. We really have a good thing going here.
So tonight, on your last night as a 2-year-old, I’ll say this: happy birthday, sweet BL. Hold onto 2-years, as long as you can; changes come around real soon, frustrate women and men.
Like I did in October, I traveled this weekend to a legal conference that’ll hopefully help me learn how to help military veterans, an area of law I wish to add have added to my practice this year. Besides the obvious reasons why Washington, DC is special to all Americans, it’s special to me, as it’s where I spent the first several months of our marriage in 2006 (after our eloping in November 2005).
January to June 2006 were some of my favorite memories as a grownup. We lived in a hotel suite at the Comfort Inn just outside one of the Andrews AFB, MD entry/exit gates. I used to ride a mountain bike to work each day, and my bride would drive our one car into the ‘hood to teach a bunch of low income minority kids at a public policy charter school how to act (one of her 3.5 college degrees is in theater). On weekends, the three of us (10-year-old Emilie was with us too) would visit one of the nearly 20 Smithsonian museums, a monument, a nearby city, a park, or an event. We planned all our weekends in January for the duration of the deployment and seized each day like I’ve never before, or since, done. Asking for forgiveness instead of permission to take my new family with me to that deployment was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When I learned about this class a few months ago, I wanted to take the whole family up there and spend several days on a tax deductible vacation, but given the school that would have had to be missed (including Emilie’s prom) and the money that would need to be spent (while we’re in the middle of a huge renovation project that has doubled its budget), we decided I should go alone.
I arrived Friday morning to the Atlanta airport and saw the worst security line I have ever seen, as it wound through the food court and down the hall leading past baggage claim for the south terminal. I then realized that paying $100 and filling out a bunch of forms + participating in an interview to get a TSA PreCheck designation was TOTALLY WORTH IT as I walked right into the concourse without so much as removing my shoes or laptop, much less waiting in any line whatsoever.
After attending classes until 8pm, I tried some of the many wonderful samples of bourbon and whiskey at Jack Rose Dining Saloon until sometime early the next morning, and it was awesome.
The next morning was not awesome, but I learned a bunch of stuff and then slid out at the end instead of attending the black tie gala that was planned for us, because I wanted to see my little brother on his birthday, only he couldn’t come down from where he lives in Pennsylvania (just under 2 hours away), so I went for a run and then decided I wanted to visit some of my favorite war monuments at dusk.
And the girls who were sliding down the decline next to the steps leading up to Lincoln.
And the eerie Korean War soldier.
And the wall I first visited on a high school field trip in 1992 with my friend Chad, whose father, like mine, served in Vietnam.
And my dad’s roommate in undergrad, Robert Wade Brunson (whose name I remembered from his telling me to look for him in winter 2006).
And the King!
And the longest serving Commander in Chief, complete with little dog.
After visiting the other monuments, I went up to Chinatown and ate nearby at Jaleo, which was great. I may have walked to another bar or two afterward before heading back to the hotel.
Sunday, after another day of classes, I skipped this and went to the Delta lounge for a spell before heading home that night.
And it only took me a few minutes of listening to news radio upon returning to normalcy Monday morning to lose every bit of admiration and appreciation I’d developed for our federal government the previous 3 days (especially when reading about how disparate the income is in DC)!
We flew up Wednesday night, dropped off suitcases at the condo we found on www.vrbo.com at 37th Street and 9th Ave, and we set off for the pizza joint recommended by the door man. We walked around Times Square and met Woody and Buzz. We got real cold.
Thursday, we walked down to SoHo where I could try to find my size in the Campers I wanted at 2 of their retail stores but failed to find them (I called and had them saved at the store on 5th Ave instead, which was my 4th location to search for the damned things). Then we spent A LOT of time at the Uniqlo store buying clothes for the teen (and a few for the Mrs and me). I wandered away and checked out the united colors of Converse.
We then took the subway back up to Times Square to the TKTS booth to try and get tickets for one of the 2 shows Emilie specifically requested to see while in New York: The Lion King or Wicked. And despite my telling my bride we should buy tickets way in advance for said show, she advised that since these shows have been showing for several years, we would have no problem getting them at half off at the TKTS booth, so we waited in line around an hour and found that tickets to both shows were available…on Tuesday: 3 days after we flew home.
After the inevitable weeping and gnashing of teeth subsided, we convinced young, teenaged Emilie that there were, in fact, other good shows on Broadway in New York City, and maybe she should show some fucking appreciation and an open mind and try one of them! Since we’d flown all the way up there and all.
We had some damned good Italian at Patsy’s, because that’s where Frank Sinatra went for damned good Italian.
And then we saw “Nice Work if You Can Get It” starring Matthew Broderick and Blythe Danner and a bunch of other good actors I didn’t know from movies. And you know what? It was outstanding. Maybe my favorite play ever. Hilarious, well-acted, and full of good music from the 1920s (the time period in which it’s set). I loved it.
Kinda makes you want to spray paint “Save Muskrat” atop a water tower, don’t it?
My bride and my oldest also followed their narcissism toward Muppets in their likeness (they actually did it first. I succumbed to peer pressure afterward).
Dinner that night was Asian fusion at Qi Bankok (very good) and then our show was Avenue Q (off Broadway now), which had a bunch of swearing and fornicating puppets in it that were pretty funny but a bit juvenile for my taste. The teens loved it, of course.
The Mrs dragged me to Mood Fabric, but I’m getting a nice linen jacket out of the deal, so I didn’t mind. Then it was dessert at the base of the Empire State Building after Emilie wanted to go to the top, but they no longer let military go to the top for free, and it was really cold and windy, so I didn’t want to spend $100 for all 4 of us to go to the top, but I offerred to let her go while I sat in the bar at the bottom and drank beer, but she turned me down.
So, I agreed to let the 4 of us pile up in the back of a pedicab instead, thinking this would be a cheap thrill and a way to get out of the cold for our walk of 2 avenues and 3 blocks back to our condo.
Turns out the price per avenue block ($3) and street block ($2) was PER PASSENGER so what I thought would cost like $30 after tip was actually OVER A HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS which made me sick to my stomach and wish we’d just gone to the top of the Empire State Building and walked home, but my bride and the 2 teens loved it, as you can tell from the laughter as we weaved among cars on the streets (and sidewalks – see 1:18) of Manhattan.
So concludes another successful trip to New York (albeit my only one involving so much sobriety)! Emilie and her little friend loved it and were very grateful that we gave in and allowed her to take it, so thanks for that, loyal blog commenter people. And despite my initial misgivings about confinement with 3 women for 3 nights, I enjoyed it, too. Especially since I knew my old Reserves unit was preparing for a major inspection that weekend.
Owenthe 4yo: Daddy, my penis hurts. Me: Why? Owen: I put soap on it. It burns! Me: Why’d you do that? I told you to just scrub with the soap I put on your back and arms! Owen: Lola told me I needed to use soap on my penis. Me: Son, you are a 4 year old boy. Lola is a 2 year old girl. Don’t do anything to your penis that was suggested by a 2 year old girl, okay? Owen: Okay, Daddy.
Last Sunday (as in, a week ago, not yesterday), our sewer line backed up, and stinky poo water began pouring from a little overflow valve pipe into the basement for a while, so we had to cease all use of drains in the house for the rest of the day. The next day, some plumbers came by with long coils of metal with saw teeth on the end to try and cut through whatever was blocking the line. They even brought a camera that could extend 100′ or so to look for what was blocking it. Despite multiple attempts with these tools and a 4-figure bill, the problem was not solved.
So, they told us for a mere additional $6000 and change, we could dig up the new sod I bought and installed last summer, create a trench in the front yard 10′ deep, and pull up the old sewer line made of terracotta and install a new one made of PVC pipe. I told him I’d think about it.
The next couple of days, we ate meals out, showered at the exercise room in the basement of my office building every other day, and let excrement pile up in unflushed toilets. It was not awesome.
On Thursday night, however, we found someone else who dug up the yard for half of what the first company wanted, as a result of my profanity-ridden gripefest to my bookkeeper Tuesday morning about our family of 6′s inability to bathe or flush a fucking toilet for the previous 3 days. She suggested Jimmy, the plumber who’d done the same required task in her front yard. So, we used Jimmy and saved over $3,000. We liked him so much that when the kids’ toilet overflowed on Saturday, I called him and just replaced the whole fucking toilet instead of the little rubber valve thing and chain that go in the tank, because I figure the more things I rip out of this house from its construction in 1968 and replace with items from the 21st century, the better.
So now we have a sewer pipe and a toilet from the 21st century in our house.
Saturday night, I was at a gathering my wife hosted at her store, and a friend asked, “Do you like your house?”
I don’t think I ever really answered, but I thought about it for the rest of the weekend.
Finally, I believe I’ve decided my answer: “I will eventually. But it is not yet ‘eventually’.”
After finding out 2 friends had heart attacks and a 3rd has stage 4 cancer (all my age, all in my profession), I’ve had levels of nostalgia for the simpler times of the 1980s that are even higher than I have on a regular day-to-day basis. So, in the past couple weeks, I’ve done the following: watched a digitally remastered and 3-dimensional version of “Top Gun” at the theater, got floor seats to Bon Jovi, attended a Dukes of Hazzard reunion extravaganza, and bought tickets to Hall & Oats (they’re coming in May). And you know what? It worked wonders.
Besides the obvious reasons why anyone who isn’t a complete loser would want to see Bon Jovi in concert, it was particularly meaningful for me, because the “New Jersey” tour was my very first concert. My friend Mark and I went on February 20, 1989 (8th grade for us), along with his older sister, Lauren. His folks drove us nearly an hour to Middle Tennessee State University’s gym and dropped us off for 3 great hours of Skid Row and The Jovi. I still can’t believe my folks let me do this on a school night. I bought a t-shirt with the $20 cash money I’d earned from feeding the neighbor’s dog all winter. It had 3/4 length sleeves and a picture of the band standing on some railroad tracks. I was two increased levels of coolness every time I wore it.
Almost 25 years later, I went again. Again, on a school night, but this time, I took my bride, my paralegal, and a couple of lawyer friends (so I could write off the whole thing as “networking/marketing,” and because they’re fun people). I went to bed at 2am and still managed to be relatively functional the next day at work.
Last weekend was the Dukes of Hazzard reunion. If that sounds like an event of such immeasurable levels of awesome that it might render you incapable of accepting any additional awesome, then you and I are clearly meant to be friends. We should connect sometime. In the Old Testament sense.
We had obligations Saturday (specifically, I was judging a bunch of Southern law students’ regional mock trial competition at the local courthouse), so we weren’t able to go until the 3rd day of the 3-day weekend extravaganza, which concerned me a bit, but when I walked right up to John Schneider (aka Bo Duke) to get his autograph without any trouble whatsoever and found out the dude behind me was unable to get it the day before because he’d been in line SIX DAMNED HOURS to get Catherine Bach’s (aka Daisy Duke) signature, I felt like the wisest man this side of those really old dudes who live in the Himalayas.
The children were INTO it. At least he complimented Owen’s t-shirt (given his starring in “Smallville” for 10 years).
After a FaceBook friend alerted me to this celebration, and I bought my tickets, it occurred to me that my children had no idea who these Dukes were or why I had their pictures on my luncbox, t-shirts, thermos, juice glasses, and hats as a kid. Or why I had multiple metal and plastic General Lee cars with Bo and Luke action figures to ride in them. So, I looked to see if Netflix or Amazon had streaming old episodes, picked one where Cale Yarborough guest starred (one of my personal favorites as a child) from Amazon, and tested the waters.
I knew all was well when Owen asked afterward, “Daddy, can we watch ANOTHER Duke of Hazzard movie?”
By the time we got to Tom Wopat (aka Luke Duke), there were a little more enthusiastic.
Sadly, Ms Bach (aka Daisy) was unable to attend on Sunday after flying to LA early that morning, and Messrs Pyle (aka Uncle Jesse) and Booke (aka Boss Hogg) passed away in the 1990s.
But we were able to meet Rick Hurst (aka Cletus) and James Best (aka Rosco), who were both very kind, friendly fellows. We had everyone sign a child’s t-shirt we bought.
But the highlight was seeing Sonny Shroyer (aka Enos). Or, the “nice police man,” according to my 4-year-old son.
I’ve always liked Enos for a couple reasons: first, my uncle went to an event in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 80s when the “Dukes” was my favorite TV show and got a personalized, autographed picture of him for me that I framed and had on prominent display above the TV in my fraternity house room in undergrad. Anyone who visited would be like, “Wait a minute…do you have an autographed picture of Enos from the Dukes of Hazzard in your room? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” and then they’d laugh a bunch. Keep in mind it was the University of Alabama.
The second reason I love Enos is that he played Bear Bryant in “Forrest Gump.”
When I met him, he was one of the most genuine, caring men I’ve ever met–famous or not. He maintained his grip several seconds longer than one typically would when giving an initial handshake, and he asked each of our names, where we live, and what I do for a living. Then he used our names and had questions about the answers to the other questions. His wife of >50 years was with him and was every bit as gracious and friendly as he was. I wanted to make plans to drive down to Valdosta, GA and just hang out on their front porch for a few hours.
He even got the children to smile! Most of them, anyway.
Before we walked away, I said, “By the way, I’d like you to know that I very much enjoyed your work in another production–as Bear Bryant in Forrest Gump!” Enos’ eyes widened and then flitted about, surveying the area for listeners. He then leaned toward my ear and whispered, “Now, that was credited as just College Football Coach–you can’t go yelling that it was Bryant like that!”
I was incredulous. “Oh yeah, look it up,” he said. So I did, and he’s right. I felt like we were sharing a secret.
Their son walked up, said “hello,” and took a picture of us with his dad. I didn’t want to walk away from the Shroyers, but there were other folks waiting to meet him behind us, so we said “goodbye” and pulled away toward a BBQ trailer.
There were some games to play and a few General Lees to see, but the sun was getting warmer, and naptimes had already come and gone, so we loaded back into the Odyssey for the nearly 2 hour drive back to Atlanta. As Friday night at 7pm from 1979 to 1985 disappeared in our rear view mirror, I asked my bride:
me: “Think we can come back if they do this next year? I think, um –the kids– would really like it.”
her: “Maybe so. I agree that THE KIDS would probably enjoy coming back.” me: “Good. Because we can’t leave Daisy off the t-shirt!” her: “Of course we can’t.” me: “Good.”
And then “Never Say Goodbye” cycled through the Bon Jovi Pandora station.