aging

The Thin Grey (Hair)Line

I’ve got something weird going on on the top of my head recently. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve got something weird NOT going on up there. As in, something seems to be missing. It’s called hair.

The good news is that I still have hair. There’s just less of it. If I style it with gel, or if I comb it a certain way, I can see a strange white sheen peaking through like a mythical unicorn through a weeping willow. It’s my scalp. Where the hell did that thing come from?

A month or so ago, when we were having an early spring weather day, Wife and I did some preliminary yard work. That evening, I had a wee bit of a headache. And the top of my head felt a little itchy. A little discomfort. I mentioned it to Wife and she said, “Yeah, looks like you got a little sunburnt.”

“What do you mean, sunburnt? How can you get sunburn on the top of your head?”

Wife just looked at me while I worked it through.

“Ohhhhhh…..”

I remember having a similar experience the first time I spent the day out after I finally cut my mullet in the early nineties. Okay, maybe it was the mid-nineties. The back of my neck, previously shaded, did not cope well with the garish light of day.

But there are a few differences between the end of my mullet and the end of my scalp. First of all, I could regrow my mullet. Sure, society might condemn it, but the back of my fair Irish neck would be much appreciative. With the shit currently going on up there, I’m out of biological options. Maybe I could go all David Crosby, which would at least return my neck under a protective curtain. But the top ain’t gonna reverse its trend.

Another difference is that I can put sunscreen on the back of my neck. I have a feeling it would be tough to get it on my scalp now. I guess it’s hats for the interim.

I shouldn’t whine. I’m in my mid-forties. I have friends who have had this problem since they were in their twenties. Although, at least those guys are so bald now that they can sunscreen their domes without it looking like that scene from “There’s Something About Mary.”

But dammit, my hair’s always been solid. It’s always been thick. It had a certain body that I thought could withstand the tests of time. When it started graying a few years ago, I remember saying, “Well, at least there’s still enough of it to gray.”

Damn you, Fates, for mocking me so.

Interestingly, the last time I got my hair cut, the smock that they put over me was almost filled with gray. It was a virtual sea of silver, catching the light like a precious metal glowing against the smooth blue contrast of the smock. Sparkling at me. Winking at me. And I remember saying, “With all that gray being cut out, I must have nothing but brown left.”

Will I ever learn to keep my mental mouth shut?

At least the amount of grey being cut off might not be an issue anymore. Who knows how much longer I’ll be going for haircuts in the first place. The price keeps going up and they keep cutting less hair. Rip off!

About a year ago, I started growing my hair longer. On top, at least. Don’t worry, no Return of the Mullet Jedi. It’s something I used to do from time to time when the whim struck me. But I hadn’t grown it out in about a decade. Since right around when Wife and I started dating.

I told myself that I started growing my hair longer because we were looking at some of our early dating photos with Daughter, and one of them mentioned when I used to do stuff with my hair. You know, put product in it. Try to do something with it other than a subtle George Clooney comb-forward.

By the way, when I was in my mid-twenties, I didn’t get the appeal of that ER-era George Clooney comb-forward. Then, when I hit 38 or so, it totally made sense. Early bit o’ gray and, although I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, the first little bit of thinning, made that the go-to style for a number of years.

But now I’m “growing it out” a bit more, putting product in it more often. The other mid-40s guys in my department is doing the same. I can’t help wondering if we’re subconsciously doing this because it might be our last chance.

Or maybe I’m growing it to hide my scalp. Is this how comb-overs begin? Do I have to reconsider all those dudes I’ve assumed were child molesters all these years? Maybe they didn’t just wake up one day and think they were pulling one over on everyone. Maybe it was a subtle process that developed over years. One day you just want to thicken it up a little and the next thing you know, you’re Donald Trump.

Hey, if the presidential election ends up being two almost-80-year-old white dudes, are they just going to do the presidential debate in rocking chairs on somebody’s front porch?

Anyway, Wife finally got tired of me complaining about my thinning hair. Okay, maybe I don’t really complain. It’s more that I’m astounded. Astonished. Perplexed. Incredulous. I don’t complain, I just keep commenting how strange it is. I turn my head this way and that in the mirror. I squint my eyes. I say, “is it just me or can you see all the way to my brain?”

So Wife decided to “help” by getting me a shampoo for thinning hair. Boy howdy, is that even a thing? Am I missing something? Because if that’s a thing, then why are there still so many bald people? I mean, it’s got to work, right? Don’t we have a Consumer Protection Agency to protect people from faulty advertising? I’m sure they’ll get on the thickening shampoo right after they follow up on my contention that Red Bull did not, in fact, give me any wings.

The stuff smells disgusting. Some mixture of aloe vera and chemical sludge. Although movies in the 1980s didn’t have smells, I associate the smell of this shampoo with the vat of chemical waste that Jack Nicholson fell into to become the Joker in the first Batman movie. Or maybe this is the stuff that made the Toxic Avenger.

And this isn’t just a “put it in and rinse it out” kinda shampoo. The instructions tell me I must leave it in my hair for two full minutes. Not a moment less, nor I suppose a moment more. One minute, fifty-nine and my head will still resemble a chewed-off pencil eraser. Two minutes, one second, and I assume it’s seeped through and giving me brain cancer.

This isn’t great for a guy who a) has a morning routine drilled down to the microsecond in order to sleep in as much as possible and still get to work on time, and b) likes to wash his hair last, with eyes closed. Because now I either have to do my hair first and let it sit there while I maneuver the rest of the shower, subjecting my eyes to the burning trail of napalm that keeps snaking down from my hair, or I have to lather up my hair and then stand there like a dumbass trying to think of a song that lasts two minutes.

I looked it up, so now I try to sing “It’s Only Love,” by the Beatles. But about the time I’m fumbling through “the sight of you makes nighttime bright,” I remember that the original version of the song was called “Thanks for the Hat” and I wonder why Lennon’s so emotional about a goddamn hat, because I can only assume the rest of the lyrics would stay the same, and “Thanks for the hat/and that is all/why do I feel the way I do/thanks for the hat and that is all/but it’s so hard taking a hat from you, taking a hat from yooooooooooouuuuuuu….” just like how Paul McCartney has said the original lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby, how I love your legs,” which I can only assume were followed by “Now I need a place to hide aweg/Oh, I believe in scrambled eggs,” and now that I think of it, it’s… “ahh! ahh! ahh! Shampoo’s in my eyes! It burns! It burns! I’m meeeeeeeeeltiiiiiiiiing….”

On the plus side, my eyebrows are going to be positively LUSH! Maybe I can at least get the cool kind of brain cancer, like John Travolta in “Phenomenon.”

And I know it’s totally psychosomatic, but man, I can feel that shit doing something to my hair while it’s up there for the full two minutes and not a second more. And it doesn’t seem something overly natural. Well, at least when I die, the corpse’ll have positively dashing locks. Maybe the mortician can give me a dash of Just For Men while he’s at it.

And the sorta crappy thing is that I had finally found a shampoo I liked. After years of going from whatever crappy piece of wax was cheapest on the shelf to whichever one was next to it, all the while complaining about the dandruff I just could never get away from, I finally decided I made enough money to splurge fifteen bucks on a bottle that will last me for six months. And wouldn’t you know it, my hair started feeling fresher and the dandruff was gone. I just didn’t know this new hair god took ten percent tithing.

Wife says I can still use the good stuff. She says I can do the two-minute ritual with the pagan juice, then wash my hair like I normally would. But this seems counterintuitive to me. Wouldn’t I then just be “cleansing” my hair of whatever napalm I had just put in there? Or is the two-minute meditation long enough for it to seep all the way into my brain in order to be dispensed into my blood stream at regular intervals throughout the day?

So I still resort to the American Crew once or twice a week when my hair is particularly gruesome. Sometimes I use it after the two-minute pagan sacrifice, sometimes by itself. Don’t tell the thickening shampoo. I think the first commandment was “Thou shalt have no hair products before me.” It’s right up there with not coveting thy neighbor’s hair.

So the real question in this whole process is, “Does it work?” I’m an American, and we are fully versed in destroying our bodies and souls in order to maintain a surface beauty. But dammit, if I’m going to sell my soul to the Pompadour God, I want to at least make sure my sacrifices aren’t falling on deaf ears. Unhearing ears behind a curtain of hair is fine.

But unfortunately, I can’t answer if the thickening shampoo is working. Because of the fine print. At the very bottom of the bottle, underneath all the unpronounceable chemical ingredients (wait, is that how you spell hellfire?), it says that results will start to show after six months of use.

SIX MONTHS?

And then they really have me by the short-and-curlies (which, naturally, aren’t thinning), right?  Because anyone who buys this product already has thinning hair. Which means that six months from now that hair was probably already going to be thinner. So if my hair is the same thickness six months from now, they can just tell me that it would’ve been thinner without their product. Heck, even if it continues thinning, they’ll say it would’ve been worse. It’s really hard to create a control group when you’re studying history. We’ll never know if Japan would have surrendered without dropping the atomic bomb. And I’ll never know if I would’ve had less hair six months from now without using the thickening shampoo.

You know what we CAN know for certain about the future? I can guarantee that the bottle of shampoo won’t last six months. I’m guessing they’ve put about a five-month supply in there. Because I’m going to need to buy that next bottle before I can say definitively if it’s working or not. And then five months later, I’ll look in the mirror and say to myself…

“Hey Honey, is that my scalp I see?”

Whither Yacht Rock, Old Sport?

I know March is not my usual time of year for concert reviews. But cover bands don’t count as real concerts, right? Besides, this review isn’t really about the band, nor the venue. I’m here to talk about the song list.

Mustache Harbor, which bills itself as a Yacht Rock cover band, recently came to town.

What’s Yacht Rock, you may ask? Well, as you’ll see below, it’s not the easiest music genre to define. The definition usually starts with a generic description of “Late 70s/Early 80s Soft Rock.” But that hardly does it justice, nor does it differentiate it from many other acts out there. Barry Manilow, for instance, is late 70s soft rock, but he’s not Yacht. Christopher Cross, on the other hand, is.

So what distinguishes Yacht Rock? A little bit of funk, but not too much funk. Maybe a dollop of driving bass line. Electric piano goes a long way. It doesn’t have to have saxophone, but really, it should probably have saxophone. And harmonizing vocals, preferably of the falsetto variety.

The only thing that everyone can agree on is that it must be smooth. Think Doobie Brothers in the Michael McDonald era. Or Steely Dan in the Michael McDonald era. Or Michael McDonald in the Michael McDonald era.

But beyond that, there’s some debate.

Kenny Loggins? His early stuff, sure. But once he became a soundtrack machine,  he was not. Or rather, he was “Nyacht.”

Toto? “Roasanna” is a yes. “I’ll be Over You” is a no. “Africa” is a maybe.

But what about Rupert Holmes? Or Fleetwood Mac? Or Air Supply?

Disagreement abounds. The Sirius/XM channel that comes on the car every summer defines some songs as Yacht Rock, Pandora uses a different definition. Even Alexa can weigh in with a playlist of her own.

The definitive listing comes from yachtornyacht.com. Those are the guys that first coined the term “Yacht Rock” back in 2005 and they now have a podcast where they rank songs from zero to one hundred. The top song on the list? “What a Fool Believes,” by the Doobie Brothers. The lowest song on the yachtornyacht scale is Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain,” scoring 2.25 on the Yachtski Scale. I don’t even know why that song was rated. I mean, I guess it has a certain bass beat. But it’s Zeppelin. Zeppelin’s not smooth.

Then again, I disagree with yachtornyacht on a regular basis. They have “Escape (The Pina Colada song)” at 35.25. Look, I know it’s cheesy. I know it’s overplayed for all the wrong reasons. I know there’s no way the wife would smile and say, “Oh, it’s you,” when he shows up at the restaurant. She’d say, “OMG, I can’t believe you were coming here to fucking cheat on me, you worthless piece of shit. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer on Monday.” But all that notwithstanding, it still needs to be above the 50% line, which is the cutoff for “On the Boat.”

There are a few other faux pas on their list, if you ask me. Chuck Mangione’s only at a 44.5? I think the last time I was on a cruise, they put that song on constant loop. And sure, a 2015 booze cruise isn’t the same thing as a 1980 yacht, but why you gotta hate on the flugelhorn? And what’s this? They have “Key Largo,” by Bertie Higgins at a 39.75? Come here, Yacht Rock Guys, I need to smack you upside the head. Watch the video! He’s on a fucking yacht. With a white suit and shirt buttoned down to his navel and his shaggy hair and beard are blowing in the wind while his girlfriend isn’t wearing a bra. That might be the most 1982 piece of media in existence. You could find Ronald Reagan orally copulating on Margaret Thatcher while she’s shouting “Where’s the Beef?” and it would only be half as early-1980s as “Key Largo.”

So, before I get into lambasting Mustache Harbor’s definition of Nyacht Rock, I’m being up front about the fact that Yacht Rock is not the most definitive style in existence. Based on their playlist, Sirius/XM probably rates Steely Dan higher than Doobie Borthers. Amazon plays a lot more Fleetwood Mac than I’m comfortable with. A number of people online keep trying to add Jimmy Buffett. And I swear by all that is mighty that every time I hear “Ain’t Even Done with the Night,” by John Cougar or John Mellencamp or John Cougar Mellencamp, I want to rank it a 95 on the Yachtski scale, but I have yet to hear or see it on any playlist. The closest it gets is Sirius/XM’s “The Bridge,” which is Yacht Rock’s evil twin brother, goatee and all.

Oh, and speaking of most definitive videos of a particular year. you can’t get much more 1980 than this. Or maybe this. I really can’t tell which video of the same people performing the same song in the same way is more glorious.

That being said, there are some hard and fast rules. And Mustache Harbor broke many of them. When I went to their concert recently, I decided to…

You know what? One more aside. Mustache Harbor is a Yacht Rock cover band. Regardless of your definition, the height of Yacht Rock was in the late 70s and early 80s. Let’s do the math. If you were, say, ten years old in 1979, you’re turning fifty this year.

Why does the age of Yacht Rock fans matter? Because the fucking concert started at ten o’clock!

Let me repeat that. The concert STARTED… at 10:00! PM! What the hell time do they think us forty- and fifty-somethings go to sleep? Dude, put the Christopher Cross guys on at 6:00 and let us grab a drink afterward and pretend we’re in our twenties again. Then maybe you can follow it up with some dancehall DJ or something. Do they still call it a dancehall DJ? Did they ever? Is the phrase “Discoteque” still in favor?

So anyway, my wife got the tickets for me as a Christmas present. Then we saw the start time. Way too late to get a babysitter, so I was flying solo. Fortunately, we have some other couple-friends who were similarly able to divvy up the chores between concerting and sleeping in the same house as children. But because wife, who also enjoys the genre, couldn’t be with me at the concert, I decided to jot down the playlist.

It wasn’t long before I thought, “This isn’t a wife list, this is a blog post.” By song five, friend and I were upset that we didn’t think to make a “Nyacht” sign.

So, without further ado (or as Yachters say, “adieu”), here’s the list of songs, along with the Yachtski number (when applicable) and my commentary.

Ride Like the Wind. Christopher Cross. Yahtski Scale: 93.75. Smooth start, Old Sport. Christopher Cross is right there at the top of the list. If Michael McDonald is the Jesus of Yacht Rock, Christopher Cross is Saint Peter. The first apostle. The first pope. “Ride Like the Wind” might not be as definitive as “Sailing,” but I’m sure the latter is coming.

You Make My Dreams. Hall and Oates. Yahtski Scale: NR. Hmm. Hall and Oates. It’s hard to be sure if they’re on the boat or not. They are definitely in the right era. And a good portion of their songs are pretty damned soulful for two white dudes, one of whom has a poof of blond hair and the other of which has a molester’s porn ‘stache. And if one of the things that defines Yacht Rock is harmonies, Hall and Oates have got those in spades. But Hall and Oates has a pretty wide range of music styles. They were tough to genre-ize, so you have to take their songs one at a time. As proof, while yachtornyacht hasn’t classified this exact song yet, they have rated twelve other Hall and Oates songs. Most are under fifty, but twelve songs means they keep popping up. You Make My Dreams? Yeah. I’ll allow it.

Somebody’s Baby. Jackson Browne. Yachtski Scale: 49.75. I love this song. This is one of the few songs that I absolutely must sing along to every time it comes on the radio. But this is one that the Yacht Rock world can’t really agree on, as is evidenced by that Yachtski Number. It’s a little too fast-paced for some. A little too mainstream rock. The lyrics are a little too whiny weenie, which is not smooth. And there are two general questions that one must ask to get a song on the boat. 1. If you were at a Yacht Rock Party, would you be okay with this song coming on? Absolutely. 2. Do you think yacht owners were actually playing this song on board in the early 1980s? Unfortunately, I gotta say no. But I don’t give a shit. This song is wonderful and this concert’s going pretty well through the third song.

Rosanna. Toto. Yachtski Scale: 95.75 Yeah. this song would be fine at a Yacht Rock Party. And I’m pretty sure every yacht in the entire world was playing this song in 1982. Soulful. You can sing it at the top of your lungs. Harmonies? Bass? Yeah. It’s the seventh-highest song on the Yachtski scale. I don’t know if I would rank it that high, but it’s definitely, unequivocally, on the boat.

I Keep Forgettin’. Michael McDonald. Yachtski Scale: 98.5 Yaaaaassssss! Starting with Christopher Cross and building toward Michael McDonald. The Yacht is Strong with this one. I Keep Forgetting… that things are about to take a turn for the worse.

Big Shot. Billy Joel. Yachtski Scale: NR I love Billy Joel. If there’s any temporary Sirius/XM station I listen to more continuously than Yacht Rock Radio, it’s Billy Joel Radio. And Billy Joel is capable of a wide variety. He does doo wop. He does a capella. He does rockers. I’m certain if he wanted to emulate Kenny Loggins at some point in his career, he could have without half a thought. But I don’t think he ever wanted to emulate Kenny Loggins. The people he emulated tended to be the 1950s and 1960s act that inspired him. Unlike Hall and Oates, who are routinely left off the boat, but are at least continually put forward as potential, there is only one Billy Joel song on the Yachtski scale, and it ain’t Big Shot. It’s Zanzibar, and it’s below fifty. So yachtor nyacht, which has ranked some 800 songs, has looked at Billy Joel’s entire late 70s, early 80s repertoire of, what, fifty-plus songs, and only one time did anyone ever think, “Huh, I wonder if this is Yacht Rock.” And then the answer was no.

Then again, would a yacht owner in 1982 have “Glass Houses” on the Hi-Fi? Yeah, he probably would. And “Big Shot” is about hangovers, so that fits the motif. But this song is a bit too driving. Too front-beat. It doesn’t even have any saxophone, and I think seventy-five percent of Billy Joel songs have a saxophone. Had they gone with “Keeping the Faith,” I might’ve been a little bit more inclined to put it on the boat. Still, Billy Joel might be classified as Yacht Rock adjacent. At the dock, maybe.

But for the first time, I’m questioning this band’s song selection. Speaking of the first time…

Feels Like the First Time. Foreigner. Yachtski Scale: NR.  I mean, props to them for picking another band I’ve written about before. But no. Foreigner is a rock band, pure and simple. Similar to Billy Joel, there is only one Foreigner song on the Yachtski scale. It’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” and it’s not ranked as high as “Zanzibar.” All of the “leaning nyacht” elements from Billy Joel are present in this song, but most of the “leaning yacht” elements are gone. This song was playing at frat parties in 1980, not yachts. If the next song ends up being “Working for the Weekend,” by Loverboy, I’m leaving. After all, it was already past my bedtime when you played “Ride Like the Wind.”

Summer of 69/Boys of Summer. Bryan Adams/Don Henley. Yachtski Scale: NR/NR These two songs came via a medley. A medley of summer. Yachts go out in summer, I suppose. So two songs with summer in the title. I can only suppose they cut “All Summer Long” in the rehearsal. Althoguh, unlike Kid Rock, the two summer songs they chose are bona fide top 40 hits of 1984. But unfortunately, they are in no way, shape, or form, Yacht Rock.

But I’m starting to see what they’re doing here. Maybe Yacht Rock is not enough to sustain a full concert, particularly at 10:00 at night. If they hit us with a steady stream of Gerry Rafferty or Grover Washington or Seals and Crofts, we’re not going to make it to midnight. Yacht Rock is intended to be listened to while relaxing and sipping a cocktail. This band is playing to mid-lifers at midnight. So they’ve got to throw some more upbeat songs in. And while they’re on their third Nyacht song in a row, the songs they’re picking are probably enjoyable to Yacht Rock fans. The timeframe is correct, and who didn’t love some Foreigner and Bryan Adams and Don Henley back in the early 1980s? So if you’re a Yacht Rock band that’s going to dally into Nyacht territory, these are safe dalliances. It’s a playlist catered to people of a certain age. It’s Nyacht, but it’s enjoyable.

Life in the Fast Lane. The Eagles. Yachtski scale: NR. Two Eagles songs in a row. Sort of. I know the last song was technically solo Don Henley, but let’s classify him as Eagles.

The Eagles don’t split the Yacht Rock community as much as Hall and Oates, but they’re still there on the periphery. Yachtornyacht has ranked four of their songs, but this is not one of them. Some of their songs, like maybe “Desperado” and “Tequila Sunrise,” have elements of Yacht Rock. But most of what they produced were straight-up classic rock. I think a fair amount of their later work might’ve influenced Yacht Rock. Pre-Yacht Rock? Pracht Rock? That’s the argument, at least. But nah, I don’t buy it. Eagles are classic rock. Sorry.

But what about the individual members after the breakup? Mmm… Nah, still not seeing it. Don Henley spent the 1980s much closer to a Phil Collins or a Rod Stewart than to a Christopher Cross. I might, MIGHT!, on a very generous day, give thought to “Smuggler’s Blues,” by Glenn Frey, but I’d still probably end up saying, nah, don’t buy it.

But “Smuggler’s Blues” is a bit too hard edged for Yacht Rock. If any former Eagle hit should count as Yacht Rock, I’d be most inclined to give it to Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good.” But even then, I’d say, “Nah, Nyacht.”

Kiss on my List. Hall and Oates. Yachtski Scale: 62. And now we’re back in in the realm of Yacht Rock. Not on the Yacht, necessarily, but in the realm. Maybe you’re even off the dock. You’re stocking up the cooler.  Again, it’s Hall and Oates. And again, we’re facing the question of whether they’re Yacht Rock. I’m still on the fence. But after five Nyacht songs in a row, at least we’re reminded of what we’re here for.

Biggest Part of Me. Ambrosia. Yachtski Scale: 72.5. Okay. Finally, we’re back on the boat. For sure. Ambrosia is a couple of solid 1980-level crooners. Hell, if the whole concert was like this, you wouldn’t be reading a blog post right now. I don’t know if they’re a duo. Probably. If they are, forget what I just said about Air Supply. These guys are yachtier than the Aussies with their       Smooth. Harmony. Don’t bother me now, I gotta sing along. Ooo-Ooo-Ooo-Ooo-Ooo, Baby please don’t go.

Can’t Go For That (No Can Do). Hall and Oates. Yachtski Scale: 42.75. Wait a second, is this a Yacht Rock band or a Hall and Oates cover band? Did they start as the latter and realize that it didn’t really fill the stadiums arenas community centers? Not enough floozies willing to through their panties at a non-mustached Oates replacement? So they decided to Google search similar bands and discovered this new genre of music? And then they decided to slip in a little Eagles and hope no one noticed. And thinking that solo acts and the band they came from are somehow different. Is Method of Modern Love, which I believe is technically listed as a Darryl Hall solo project, coming up next?

As for where this one fits on the spectrum, I feel like it’s not as Yachty as “Kiss on My List,” but it’s better than “You Make My Dreams.” They are more yachty than the Eagles. Way more yachty than Foreigner. But if were going to have three songs from the same duo, would Air Supply kill you?

Go Your Own Way. Fleetwood Mac. Yachtski Scale: NR. Fleetwood Mac. My wife loves them. Both in general, with “Stevie Knicks Radio” as her go-to Pandora Station, and specifically, she feels that they deserve to be in the Yacht Rock genre. I can take them or leave them, generally, and specifically, I don’t think they’re anywhere near the boat. Straight-forward Classic Rock. Tom Petty’s opening act, or maybe it was the other way around. If I were to pick any Fleetwood Mac song as Yacht Rock, it might be “Rhiannon.” I know 1975 is too early, but the beat is right. “Go Your Own Way,” however, is no “Rhiannon.” And my family must not be the only one facing a similar division. Yachtornyacht.com has ranked five Fleetwood Mac songs, but none of them rank higher than 34. This song, however, is not one of the five. Nor is “Rhiannon.”

Hotel California. Eagles. Yachtski Scale: 7.17. Really? Three Hall and Oates songs AND three Eagles songs? But only one solo Doobie Brother and no Kenny Loggins. I’m really starting to think this whole Yacht Rock cover band thing is just a made-up designation because you wanted to be a Eighties band but had too much seventies. Or vice versa. You’re really just scouring the Top 40 lists from 1975 to 1985 and throwing darts.

Bennie and the Jets. Elton John. Yachtski Scale: NR. No. Nuh uh. Never. Next?

You Should Be Dancing. Bee Gees. Yachtski Scale: NR The Bee Gees are disco. Ask any person on any street in any town in the United States. Or the world. I don’t care if it’s a street in Ouagadougou, and the Burkina Fasoan has never even encountered electricity before, he’ll know that the Bee Gees are disco. When a band defines one entire genre, you can’t just sneak them into a cover band for an entirely different genre. That’s why there’s no Jimmy Buffett on the boat, either. He’s got his own genre. Ain’t nobody got no time for that.

Even worse, we’ve no had three of the last four songs be unranked. And the fourth had a single digit, which is probably worse than being unranked. And they’re actually starting to veer away from the “Good dance songs from the Yacht Rock era” caveat I threw them before. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone dancing to “Hotel California.”

Well, let’s spin the random song of the early-eighties-o-meter once again and see what new Nyacht song we can come up with next.

Easy Lover. Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. Yachtski Scale: NR. Hmmm… On the plus side, it’s got Philip Bailey. On the minus side, it’s got Phil Collins. Not that Phil Collins is a negative. For my money, he’s probably one of the best rock drummers in history. And you can’t get very far into a discussion of eighties music without “No Jacket Required.” But smooth would not be in, oh, the top hundred adjectives I would use for Phil Collins. And I haven’t seen or heard this song on any Yacht Rock list before. But now that I listen to it, it does check most of the boxes. Falsetto harmonies. Backbeat. Smooth bass groove. Nice electric guitar solo. Well shit. Has this song been overlooked? If I can hold onto my “Ain’t Even Done with the Night,” then maybe there’s room for some “Easy Lover.” Thank you, Mustache Harbor, for making me contemplate this, and I will overlook the fact that you’re now on five straight unranked, or should have been, songs.

What a Fool Believes. Doobie Brothers. Yachtski Scale: 100. Thank God for some Doobie Brothers. It’s about fucking time. The only song ranked 100% Yacht on the Yachtski scale. This is it. No, not “This Is It.” That song is only ranked at 98.25. But if we’re back in Doobie territory, Kenny Loggins can’t be far behind. Maybe they’ve finally gotten all of their Disco, Classic Rock, Glam Rock shit out of the way and now it’s all Yacht Rock the rest of the way. After all, we’re nineteen songs into a concert that started at 10:00 at night. There can’t be many songs left. Hey, they totally should’ve done “Hey Nineteen” for their nineteenth song. But it’s too late for that. Come to think of it, I haven’t heard any Steely Dan yet. And I’m fine with that. If Fleetwood Mac’s where my wife and I tend to disagree, then Steely Dan is where I come to blows with BOTH Sirius/XM and yachtornyacht. Yes, I know Michael McDonald was briefly part of Steely Dan, and they do have some Yacht Rock songs, but Sirius/XM plays, like, three Steely Dan songs an hour, and at least half of the Steely Dan songs they play are just plain bad. I mean, if I have to listen to “Deacon Blues” or “Babylon Sisters” one more time, then I might have to, oh I don’t know… Not turn off the radio, but maybe pray a little harder for the return of Billy Joel radio? C’mon, Sirius/XM, play some more Doobie Brothers. Michael McDonald era Doobie Brothers. Something like, oh I don’t know, “What a Fool Believes.”

Oh right. Where was I?

All Night Long. Lionel Richie. Yachtski Scale: 61. I’m actually surprised how high this one is on the Yachtski scale. I thought it was more controversial. I think Lionel Richie might be hurt by the rest of his catalog. He’s often mentioned alongside Barry Manilow. Or Nicole Ritchie, but that’s an entirely different mark on his career. But musically, there’s a lot of straight ballads in his catalog. There’s got a lot of funk in there. There’s a lot of whatever the hell “Dancing on the Ceiling” is in there. But really, what is Yacht Rock if not funkified ballads? And “All Night Long” is way more upbeat than “Easy” or “Hello” or “Truly.” It’s not straight funk like “Brick House.” It’s almost frustrating that Lionel Richie couldn’t fuse his sappy-ass shit with his funk bona fides more often. But he does it here. He does it in “Sail On,” too.

Okay, and maybe “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

Hold the Line. Toto. Yachtski Scale: 56.5. Doobie Brothers, then “All Night Long,” then quintessential Toto? I’m in. We are back on the boat. By the way, there are fully eighteen Tot songs on the Yachtski Scale, and none of them rank below 40. That’s how you determine a Yacht Rock act. If Michael McDonald is Jesus and Christopher Cross is Saint Peter, then the singers of Toto are the rest of the disciples. Like Judas. He’s a good guy, right? I didn’t stay till the end of the movie.

Regardless, it’s smooth sailing from here on out. They faked us out with their Elton John dalliance, but these dudes know what they’re doing. I can safely stop creating my “Nyacht” sign to hold up every time they start a new song. Super excited to see where this cruise stops next.

Maniac. Michael Sembello. Yachtski Scale: 14. What the-? Umm… Well, at least it’s a movie soundtrack. About a stripper. It’s Kenny Loggins, right? Footloose? Wait, are you sure that was Jennifer Beals who did the lean back in the chair with all the water dumping on her? I could’ve sworn it was Kevin Bacon in a tank-top and jeans, twirling through the barn, and then he finishes by pouring water on himself. Those are two different dances in two different movies? I don’t know. I might have to take that under advisement.

Regardless, “Flashdance” isn’t Yacht Rock.

Africa. Toto. Yachtski Scale: 93. Toto, part three. Although, as with the Eagles and Hall and Oates, they’re playing two songs from the same band way too close to each other. Who makes the setlist for these guys? Did he forget to hit the shuffle button at the end? I wish I could find a video poker machine that’s as “random” as your songs, because I’m pretty sure I could get three of a kind all day long.

As for “Africa,” I think it’s a heck of a lot better than “Hold the Line.” Maybe than “Rosanna.” Heck, “Africa” might be one of the most perfect songs ever written and recorded, and quite possibly one of the quintessential songs of the 1980s. But I don’t know if it’s Yacht Rock. I enjoy it when it comes on Yacht Rock playlists. But, even though it was released in late 1982, I associate it more with 1984 and 1985. It had enough legs to last well into mid-decade. It’s almost a genre unto itself. Kind of like “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

And no, Journey is not Yacht. But I’m surprised this band hasn’t gone there yet. Journey’d be more legit that the Eagles.

Baby Come Back. Player. Yachtski Scale: 58.5. Hold on. Can’t comment. Need to croon. ANY KIND OF FOOL CAN SEE! I mean, I do find it odd that they played this song twice in the same concert, but… hold on… my bad, the other song was “Biggest Part of Me.” I guess I was never aware those were two different songs.

Regardless, man, this is my happy place. This is the shit I came to see. I don’t care where yachtornyacht ranks it. I don’t need to listen to the podcast episode where they blaspheme it all the way down to what my students would call a D-minus-minus. And y’all got “Babylon Sisters” at an 89? What is wrong with the people who invented the term Yacht Rock? Y’all got no clue of what you’re talking about. Am I the only one who really knows? Well, me and Mustache Harbor, right? You and me, guys. We know what’s going on. Can’t wait to see how you finish this concert out.

Blinded By the Light. Manfred Mann. Yachtski Scale: NR. I know, I know. I’ve used the same joke multiple times. And I really wanted to start this with another “Ummm….” or a “What the…” But I’m kinda being real about the emotions I went through at the concert. Every time they would get on a roll, I’d start thinking maybe they had to get past the Nyacht and now they’re in the Yacht. I came up with logical reasons why they would throw in a Bryan Adams song. I tried to make a good argument for Phil Collins. I side with this band against the feudal lords on the “Player v. Steely Dan” debate. And then they bust out the Manfred fucking Mann. Forget designations of Yacht and Nyacht. On what planet is “Blinded by the Light” in the same setlist as “I Keep Forgetting”? And unlike “Feels like the First Time,” this isn’t a mood-setter. We are near the end of the concert. We’re building toward your finale, and all I can think is that if this is your best stuff, then my initial suspicions were the most accurate: you were some other type of cover band who only reclassified in a new genre to trick unsuspecting fans like myself. Although what the hell were you covering before? There’s too much seventies to be an eighties band. Too much eighties to be a… well, I guess there aren’t any seventies cover bands, are there? So maybe a white funk band? Fine, if you want funk, then put in some Tower of Power. “What is Hip?” wouldn’t make it on any Yacht Rock list I’ve ever seen, but it’d be no worse than Manfred Mann. Hell, play some Bruno Mars.

Unfortunately, I took a leak during this song, so I don’t know if he sang the alleged lyric, “And little Early-Burly came by in his curly wurly,” or the real lyric – “And little Early-Burly gave my anus curly-wurly.

Easy. Commodores. Tachtski Scale: NR.  Well, shit. I just got finished saying “All Night Long” was legitimate Lionel Richie Yacht Rock, not like his slow-ass ballads. Like “Truly.” Or “Still.” Or… Do I now have to take back everything I said about knowing the fifty year-olds in your audience need some pick-me-up songs for a concert that starts after dinner? Because if that’s the case, then how is this the penultimate song? I mean, I didn’t check the clock. Did you intentionally wait until midnight so that it is now officially Sunday morning? Because 12:01 Saturday night isn’t “Easy like” anything. It’s hard as hell and I’m trying to be a young buck and pound my last IPA, but my daughter’s going to be waking my ass up in five hours because she doesn’t seem to understand the difference between weekday mornings and weekend mornings.

And if they DIDN’T intentionally wait until midnight just to be clever, if they’re just playing some slow-ass Commodores song because they think that’s what the people demand, then I need to make sure I pack that “NYACHT” sign next time.

Still the One. Orleans. Yachtski Scale: 31.25. This is the song they ended their main set with. I mean, I guess it’s more upbeat than “Easy. But is it Yacht? Meh. The timeframe kinda works. It’s a fun song. No harm, no foul. If I hadn’t been questioning your bona fides for the last two hours, if you hadn’t tried to sneak “Hotel California” and “Bennie and the Jets” past me, I’d probably be fine with this. But coming off of the last two songs? I feel like I haven’t heard Yacht Rock in a half-hour.

And regardless of its genre, I don’t really know that I’d call “Still the One” a set ender. This is more of a “Don’t forget to close out your tabs, then come back for the finale” song. Honestly, this is where you might want to stick an “All Night Long” or a “Hold the Line.” Even “Easy Lover” is upbeat enough to build toward.  It’s like you now feel bad for keeping us up past our bedtime and you know want to lull us back to sleep. Except we still need to drive home, so throw us a beat here.

And then they left the stage. But the lights didn’t come on. And we all know what that means. Encore! Boy, I wonder what they’ll play.

Of course, with a standard band, you think back over all their catalogue of hits and try to find that needle in the haystack, that quintessential hit that they haven’t played yet. I’ve seen Mummford and Sons enough times to know that they will usually play either “I Will Wait” or “Little Lion Man” as the second or third song of the concert. Then the other one will be in their encore. See? That’s how you make a setlist.

However, with a cover band, and especially a genre cover band, it’s wide open. And with this particular genre cover band, boy howdy. It could be anything. “All Shook Up” to “Uptown Funk.” Maybe follow up the Orleans version of “Still the One” with Shania Twain’s song of the same name.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s see what genuine Yacht Rock is still out there.

They still haven’t played any Steely Dan. I’ve got no problem with that particular oversight, but I’m sure some other aficionados might. “Hey Nineteen.” “Peg.”

Still no Kenny Loggins. This seems like a greater oversight. “This is It” seems like a good encore song, but I’d be willing to listen to “Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong.” “Footloose” isn’t Yacht Rock, but it would be a good intro song if you’re doing more than one song.

They only played one Christopher Cross song, and it wasn’t the most iconic Yacht Rock song of “Sailin’.” They’ve got to do “Sailin’,” right? You can’t have a Yacht Rock concert without that song. Seems more of a show-starter than a show-stopper, but maybe if the encore is more than one song.

Who else is missing? Rupert Holmes? Bertie Higgins? Al Jaurreau? Boz Skaggs? Captain n’ Tenille?

Well, they didn’t give us long to muse. I don’t even know if the last band member was off the stage before they were heading back out for their send-off, one song, encore.

What’s it gonna be? What’s it gonna be?

Encore: 

Blink. Blink. My jaw stood agape as the opening hit. Wait, this isn’t-? It kinda sounds like-. It can’t be-. Did they really just-? WHAT THE FUCK AM I LISTENING TO?!?

Come Sail Away. Styx. Yachtski Scale: 7.25.

Seriously? Styx? A song more memorable as a “South Park” bit? Yes. Yes, I know that it says “Sail” in the title, but… What in the Actual Fuck are they thinking?

That 7.25 on the Yachtski scale is being generous. They probably just threw it a bone because it has the word “Sail.” But this song is the opposite of smooth. It’s overdone. It’s baroque brashness.

Yacht Rock goes for fun over dramatic. It’s smooth, unassuming. You WANT to be on the boat.

Want to know a boat you DON’T want to be on? The one where the captain keeps begging and pleading for you to join him. “Come sail way, come sail away, come sail away with me, you guys…”

C’mon… PLEASE?!?

Kinder is Coming

Yesterday, my baby daughter was born. I remember, quite distinctly, when she opened her eyes, seeing the world for the very first time. She wasn’t much of a crier, didn’t scream a peep. She just looked around. Large irises that bordered on purple looked left and right, constantly blinking, absorbing and adjusting to this newfangled light thing.

The nurse took baby and me off to our first crash course in diapering, bottling, burping, swaddling. Mama was out of commission, so the first twenty-four hours or so was all daddy. Figure it out, daddy. There’s a reason they don’t call it a paternal instinct.

I remember it all so clearly. The water breaking at 1:00 in the morning after I had been scorekeeping at a minor-league baseball team until past 10:00 PM. The “to pitocin or not to pitocin” question, when neither Wife nor Husband (not yet Mama and Dada) didn’t know what the fuck a pitocin was. The “Hey, I’m going to go home and shower and get dressed because the doctors say you’re still hours away from delivery.” Followed by the “Holy shit, I was only gone an hour and baby’s already on its way? Is that what the fuck pitocin is?”

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Because it was just yesterday. Wasn’t it?

Because today, I registered my daughter for kindergarten.

So clearly, one of my internal timestamps is inaccurate.

I know I’m far from the first parent to lament the acceleration of time. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting the “she’s going off to college” post any day now. Will blogging still exist in 2032?

But the really weird thing about my soon-to-be-kindergartner is that, while it totally feels like she only showed up a few days ago, I also can’t really remember what things were like before. I’ve always been a parent, right? There was never a time when Wife and I could just plan a weekend trip to Reno without securing promissory notes from seventeen institutions, was there? I seem to remember, back in some amorphous prehistory, the existence of an hour of happiness at bars and restaurants, when alcohol and appetizers were cheap. And all it took was a text to Wife that I’d be home by 6:00 and should I pick up some take-out. Pretty sure if I tried that now, Daycare would call CPS.

Then again, there were thirty-eight years of my life when I didn’t even have a wife to text. Back then, I believe, happy hour might extend beyond an hour. But I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps I only saw that in a movie.

Not that I’ve seen a non-animated movie or TV show in four and a half years.

Life has a funny way of doing that. What seems so normal one year is all but forgotten the next. Something that happened five years ago feels like it happened yesterday, and yet at the same time, it feels like it’s always been there.

Like cell phones. There was a time before cell phones, when I couldn’t text anyone anything. I’m positive of it. I actually remember a twenty-something Gen Xer saying he’d never get a cell phone. Why the hell would I want to be reachable at any time of the day? Why in the world would I want to let some future wife and daughter know that I was picking up dinner at a place that might or might not have a happy hour special?

So I know there was a time. I know for a fact that I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was in my late twenties. And yet…

When I think back on things that happened, I can’t fathom how it happened without a cellphone. New Year’s Eve, 1999, me and four friends were going to a huge radio station-sponsored party at the Convention Center downtown. I had to work the dinner shift at Old Spaghetti Factory, so the others went to the party before I got off work. When I got off work, I went home to change, and went to the convention center to meet my friends, who had already been drinking for a couple hours.

As I think back on that scenario, I can’t fathom how I found them amongst the milieu of thousands. Nowadays, I would send out a text as I walked into the convention center. “I’m @ entrance. Where r u?” And then I would stand there, within feet of where I sent the text, until one of them either texted me back or came to get me at the entrance.

Clearly, that didn’t happen in 1999. So what did happen? Did we set up a meeting place and time? Except we didn’t know what the layout would be. Nor when I would be arriving. Was one of them supposed to check a general area every fifteen minutes? Or did we all just figure we’d meet up in the drink lines? I’m not being funny when I say I can’t remember. It almost seems an impossible task to do without cell phones. But I know it was done.

The way we coordinate play-dates with my daughter and her friends seems something that couldn’t have happened before. Daughter wants to go to the neighborhood park, so Wife instant messages parents of neighborhood kids and when we get a positive response, we head to park and, lo and behold, neighbor child is there.

Something similar happened when I was growing up. I always seemed to be having friends over or going over to friends’ houses or going to the park with friends. And I’m not talking the birthday parties that are planned for months. I’m talking on a whim. Let’s go to the beach and meet up with friend X. One time in high school, I organized a softball game with 10-20 friends on a Saturday afternoon. How the hell did I do that? Did we coordinate it at school during the week or did we call everyone that morning? And how did we know if people were running late or just not showing up?

And don’t get me started on how teachers taught before Google. I would’ve flamed out in one year.

Hey, didn’t someone once write about becoming overly dependent on new technology and forgetting how to do things the old way? Hold on, let me google it…

The Unabomber? Are you sure? Okay, moving on.

Let’s see, where was I? I’ve always been a parent, even if it seems like she was just born yesterday. And then today, I…

Right! Kindergarten! Coming soon to a suburbia near you.

There are times I feel like she’s totally ready for kindergarten. She’s making wonderful observations and connections between disparate items.

“I have a surprise for you when we get home,” she said in the car the other day.

“Okay,” Mom responded, “but dinner will be ready as soon as we get there, so we can’t be running off to get engaged in something else.”

“Don’t worry,” Daughter responded. “It’ll be faster than a horse can run.”

An interesting concept. “Did you hear that phrase somewhere?”

“No. I just made it up.”

Which makes sense, because “faster than a horse can run,” while an acceptable metaphor, is not exactly a colloquialism that I’ve encountered before.But who knows what sort of mischievous language quips those hoodlums at daycare are making up. Criss-cross, applesauce? What the hell is that? Why don’t they just keep calling it Indian Sty… ooooh, I see what I did there.

The surprise, by the way, was an impromptu dance to “Pup, Pup, Boogie,” from Paw Patrol. Making the horse reference even farther fetched.

A few months ago, we pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru and she counted two cars in front of us. “Two cars plus us makes three,” came the commentary from my back seat. “If one more car comes behind us, it will be the same number of cars as how old I am.” Four is currently her favorite number, for obvious reasons.

“Good job, Miss,” I responded. Then on a lark, I asked, “If there were five cars in line, what would we have to do to get to four?”

She stared out the window for a moment, then returned her attention to me in the front seat and responded, “take one car away.”

Holy shit. I’m pretty sure I teach teenagers who couldn’t have maneuvered that complicated of a word problem.

But then there are other days when I wonder how in the world she’s going to sit still long enough to read or write or learn anything. The pouting didn’t stop after Christmas was over, and now we can’t threaten her with anybody “comin’ to town” for another eleven months. You can’t correct her for shit.

“Hey, honey, ‘the’ isn’t spelled t-e-h. Move the e to the end.”

And then she stands up, walks away from her artwork and curls up in the corner like a dog that’s just been smacked with the newspaper. She’s about to commit hara kiri after disgracing herself and the name of her family by spelling a word wrong at the age of four. Have fun with that level of bat-shit, kindergarten teacher.

In December, my daughter performed in “The Littlest Nutcracker,” which is way better than the actual “Nutcracker,” because each dance only lasts two minutes instead of the usual twenty. Each group had about five kids, each of whom had to do a routine of five or six steps. Plus the teacher was on stage doing the steps, so all they really had to do was copy the teacher. My daughter hit about seventy percent, because she’s the self-immolating perfectionist type. And the video clearly shows a shocked and mortified look on her face on every move she misses. Even if the other kids in her class were barely aware that they were on a stage and that there were set moves they had been working on for four months that they were supposed to be performing.

And these are the kids that are going into kindergarten with her. Not all into her class, of course, but at the same time. Again, how the hell do kindergarten teachers do it? A mixture of kids with no emotional, and only partial physical, control, some of which take their development way too seriously and others who are barely aware that there is a world around them.

And holy crap, there’s going to be, like twenty-five of them in the room. More power to you, kindergarten teacher. I’ve supervised my daughter playing with neighbors, and I max out at about three children. And all I’m in charge of is keeping them from impaling themselves, not teaching them anything about letters or numbers or, I don’t know, potty training. What are the kindergarten standards these days? Pretty sure it’s way more than it was forty years ago, when a successful day in the classroom meant a little bit more paste went onto the paper than into the stomach.

And of course, there was the kid that didn’t make it to the bathroom in time. He was still hearing about that in sixth grade. Kids remember the darndest things, don’t they?

Sure, the same could be said for the high schoolers I teach. But at least mine have bowel control. Sort of. Now that I think of it, I notice how many times I have the following conversation with one of my students:

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

“Student X is there. You can go when he/she comes back.”

“But I really, really, really need to go. Like, I’m about to pee my pants.”

“Student X only left two minutes ago.”

Blink. Blink.

“You didn’t have to go at all two minutes ago, yet you’re going to pee yourself now?”

Blink. Blink.

“Invest in some diapers.”

But whether she’s overprepared or underprepared, socially or physically or educationally, the tallyman is coming to capture all of the little kids to indoctrinate all the free-thinking children into good little automatons for the state. Winter is coming. Or maybe it’s autumn. Actually, these days school starts in the middle of summer.

Maybe it’ll be a good thing. There are weekends where I really, really, really wish she had some fucking homework or the ability to read, so that she wasn’t constantly hanging on Mommy and Daddy. On the typical weekend day, she spends the day pushing buttons and pushing buttons and pushing buttons, giggling and giggling and giggling, while we say stop, stop, stop in an escalating matter until one of the three of us has had enough. Then she goes into the corner to prepare for self immolation. Then, ten minutes later, the process begins again.

“Scoop me.”

“I’m busy making you lunch.”

“Scoop me.”

“You weigh forty pounds.”

“Scoop me.”

“I have gout. I can barely hold up my own weight.”

“Scoop me.”

“Here’s your wakizashi sword.”

They assign term papers in kindergarten, right?

Actually, the school she’s going to doesn’t assign homework. I’m not sure how I feel about that. While I understand that many schools go too far, giving hours and hours of homework to kids still in the early developmental stages. However, I think it’s important to send a message early on that education does not stop when you leave the classroom.Some sort of carry-over or throughline from the school to the home probably goes a long way to encourage growth. You can read at home, too, kids.

And no, I’m not saying this just because I teach high schoolers who are completely incapable of turning in a single homework assignment.

“Why do I have a D? I did all the work.”

“Yes. You have a ninety percent in classwork, a sixty-eight percent in tests, and a zero percent in homework.”

“What can I do to improve my grade?”

Blink. Blink.

And let’s be honest. Most of those horror stories of fourth-graders paining their way through three hours of homework every night probably only had one hour of homework plus the two hours’ worth of classwork that they didn’t do in class because they were too busy talking to their friends or generally being as unaware that they are in a classroom for the purpose of education as the three-year olds in “The Littlest Nutcracker” were that they were on a stage for the purpose of dancing. And, another honesty check here, that three hours of homework was probably an hour of work interspersed with two hours of whining, complaining, texting friends, video games, and the other sorts of distractions that the child faced in the classroom, which is the reason he has “three hours” of make-up classwork in the first place.

And yeah, that second observation DOES come from my fifteen years of teaching students who will do anything in their power to avoid doing the task at hand.

So yeah, I’m a little bit worried about a no homework policy. I understand it in theory, but if the child hasn’t figured out that home is a vital part of the educational process by the time she’s in sixth grade, I worry that something is amiss. And when seventh grade hits, that’s going to be a learning curve from hell. Thirty minutes of tracing letters in second grade might be an easier gateway drug than quadratic equations.

Then again, the principal at Daughter’s future school was just shit-canned. And all indications are that it wasn’t an amicable split. Maybe the teachers were finally fed up with actually having to teach their students at school and not pawning their job off on beleaguered parents at home and demanded a change.

Did I just successfully malign both sides of the homework argument? Yes, I did. It takes a special talent to play the cantankerous asshole on both sides of an argument, huh? Good thing I don’t take on politics in this blog or else everyone would hate me.

So who knows. Maybe homework will be part of the curriculum by the time my baby gets there. Maybe the new principal will help stem the tide of desperate housewives in my neighborhood who are trying to get special dispensation to have their students go to a different school than the one we are mapped for. IN FUCKING KINDERGARTEN!

And no, it’s not because of the homework policy. It’s because our current school funnels into the above-average high school in the area, and not the uber-rich high school. Because your child should definitely have to go across town for the first nine years of his education in order to raise his chance of going to a four-year college from sixty-eight percent to seventy-one percent. I mean, I guess if you’re a stay-at-home, then you don’t have to worry about transportation. And I suppose if you’re a stay-at-home, you’ll be five martinis into the day by the time your child gets home, making it too difficult to engage him in his education or his future prospects.

But here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter where you go to school. If you apply yourself, and ideally are helped out a bit by a parent that’s more interested in your well-being than in keeping up with the joneses, you should be able to get into most colleges. I teach at an inner-city school, and we’ve sent students to ivy league schools regularly. Our valedictorian two years ago had three to choose from, and was a little bummed he didn’t get into Yale and had to settle for Columbia. If only his parents had gotten him into the right kindergarten.

So now the only question is where my daughter will fit into the grand scheme of things. Will she be the mopey perfectionist, the teacher’s pet with only-child syndrome, or will she follow the popular kids, the nascent cheerleaders and woo-girls, around in an attempt to Single White Female them? In her first four-and-a-half years, she’s shown aspects of every clique. But as we all know, the time for equivocation will shortly pass. School ain’t for numbers and letters. School’s for pigeon-holing and rounding out square pegs to fit into the grand round hole that is American society.

So put down the unicorn pictures and prepare to be whacked down with a mallet, kid. Now once again from the top. Twelve times twelve equals…?

I Am Gout

I have gout.

Maybe I could have come up with a better hook. Some quip or background story about the course and curse of my life. But nah. When your foot’s swelled up like a goddamned softball and the thought of walking fifteen feet to the bathroom brings on a bout of shakes and sweat like day three of a detox, necessitating a military-style gameplan complete with analysis of terrain and supposition of barriers and where-the-fuck-is-the-dog-because-as-soon-as-I-get-up-she’s-going-to-plop-herself-right-in-front-of-my-route, well, you learn to just keep it simple. I have gout.

Besides, it’s a phrase I have to repeat twenty times a fucking day when I’m having a flare-up. You get used to it.

“Why are you limping?”

“I have gout.”

“What happened?”

“I have gout.”

“Hey… Umm.. Are you…”

“Yes. I have gout. I am gout. I am Groot.”

Because nothing devolves into a one-line talking tree more quickly than a seemingly healthy forty-something hobbling around like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, right before his cloak withers around his flesh dissolving into the ether. Is that my best pop-culture old man reference? Yeah it is. What, should I have gone with Citizen Kane gasping out about his stupid sled? Well that movie sucked. I don’t care if it ranks #1 all-time. It was boring and can’t hold the jockstrap of Casablanca and The Godfather, the other two that it usually muscles out for the top spot. Yoda’s a better reference, because every Star Wars movie is better than Citizen Kane.

(Editor’s note: By “every Star Wars movie,” I mean episodes four through eight, and maybe Solo and Rogue One. The others don’t count.)

(Editor’s postscript: I can make editor’s notes that say “I” because the writer and the editor are the same person in this masturbatory act of self-publishing.)

My first bout with gout (hey, a rhyme) came in my mid-thirties. I was still single and living alone meaning, unlike now, I couldn’t ask my wife to take the trash can out to the curb just this once. Hoo boy. I remember that Lawrence of Arabia-esque trek toward the curb.

“Aqaba! From the land!”

“Trash can! To the curb!”

“You are mad, sir!”

BTW, Lawrence of Arabia is also a damn fine movie and should be hundreds of places higher than Citizen Kane.

The journey to the curb was bad enough, because at least I could use the trash can as a pseudo-walker. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Fifteen minutes later, I turned around with horror to see the wide open expanse of my driveway leading back to my front door. Nary a stabilizer nor support lay betwixt myself and my goal. The December ground was wet with light drizzle that was ongoing, yet still the prospect of getting down on all fours and crawling back into my abode seemed a perfectly viable alternative, and if my pants became shredded and knees bloody, it seemed a small price to pay. After all, I could always shower once I… wait, showering requires standing. Never mind, I guess I’ll just hobble back for twenty minutes and risk pneumonia. They hospitalize you for that, right? Bedridden for the next week sounds like an excellent gameplan during a flare-up.

That flare-up was a particularly bad one. It had started in one ankle, but after a few days of favoring the other foot while walking around, I now had two ankles the size of softballs. Walking around with one painful foot is difficult. Walking around with two painful feet is a simultaneous exercise in futility, frustration, and misfortune. I believe Chasing Amy refers to that as a Chinese finger trap.

That trash night was followed by my first ankle-related doctor visit. Which is saying something, because as a mid-thirties American male, I didn’t believe in going to the doctors for shit. There’s a reason any plan to make insurance affordable starts with making young men pay for it, because everyone knows they’ll never use it.

The doctor brought up this newfangled diagnosis called gout, but she was hesitant to classify my current condition as gout. First she had to run a thousand tests, which required my gimpy ass to drive all over town to different medical offices and hospitals, most of which had parking lots over a block away from the institution. I had to go to the x-ray guy to see if anything was broken, and the ultrasound guy to see if my leg was pregnant. Or maybe she was looking for a blood clot. Regardless, my leg was neither clotted, nor knocked up.

So then the doctor gave me a pill that I had to take once every hour until one of two things happened. Either the pain would go away, meaning I have gout, or I’d get sick as hell. And how about another “Hoo Boy” for that one. I said “sick as hell” instead of “sick as shit” for a reason. Because all of a sudden I was spewing out of both ends like Old Faithful. And believe me when I say it was “all of a sudden.” I went from zero to a million in the time it took me to crawl the ten feet from the couch to the bathroom. What started as a vague sense of “something’s not right” quickly became a pinwheel spinning from ass on the seat to face in the seat to ass on the seat and praying that there would always remain a split second between the two phenomena. But as I kneeled next to the porcelain goddess after the seventh flush, I remember wiggling my toes and still feeling the pain and thinking, “well, at least I don’t have gout.”

It would take five years, and at least three doctors, before that “not gout” designation was reversed. And no, I wasn’t doctor shopping or anything, I was just going from one insurance plan to the next based on whichever one was cheaper. It’s not like I was going to use it, anyway. Although when the second doctor only diagnosed me with a case of “you walk funny, get some orthotics,” I decided to find something more permanent. Plus, I switched to Kaiser, because then if I had to go through another bout of tests, they’d at least all be in the same building,

So now, a decade later, I can just say I have gout. Well, sort of. Because my form of gout doesn’t fit any of the normal descriptions. The only thing that made me finally admit, begrudgingly, that I may in fact have this particular affliction is that gout medicine usually helps me get better.

Gout is a form of arthritis. A flare-up happens when there’s too much uric acid in your blood. The uric acid usually falls toward your foot, creating a dull pain in the toes. And there are a few times I feel that. It’s a deep discomfort, almost a stiffness, that appears in my toes. It makes walking more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily get better or worse if I walk. It’s always there. And at those points, I think, “Yep, that’s what WebMD and Wikipedia tell me gout is.”

But those textbook gout feelings are rare. My usual modus operandi hits my ankles, not my toes, and causes them to swell up to the point that flip-flops are the only footwear that can contain them. Sometimes, but not always, this is accompanied by a sharp pain in the arch of my foot or my heel, like plantar fasciitis. But usually I chalk the arch and heel up to continuing to wear shoes, and oftentimes an ankle brace as well, which bruises my swollen foot.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Grab some Advil.

Gout is usually caused by diet, and a flare-up usually happens after eating something bad. But mine is usually caused by rolling my ankle. It can be slight or severe. Sometimes I step on a rock and my leg kicks out while my foot stays still, and I know that three or four  days later, my ankle’s going to be spherical in shape. Other times I feel the twinge and try to think back as to what I did over the last few days and can’t pinpoint what exactly I did. Even if I can’t pinpoint the incident, I don’t think it’s usually tied to food.

Except maybe salt. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in discomfort, and even an occasional outbreak, after I overindulge in salt. Whether it’s dinner at Panda Express or processed lunchmeat sandwiches or hitting the sunflower seeds too hard at a ballgame, you can bet I’ll be wearing an ankle brace the next few days.

Oddly enough, though, salt isn’t listed as one of the key ingredients that brings on gout. The magical elves at Wikipedia list red meat and shellfish as the cause. Do I like red meat and shellfish? Sure. Do I eat them a shit ton? Not really. Sure, I love me a hamburger, but my pasta sauce and homemade tacos are just as likely to have chicken or turkey. And while I’m definitely the guy at the crab feed that the organization doesn’t come out ahead on, I can’t afford to eat crab or scallops or shrimp more than once or twice a year. And the type of red meat they they usually reference on the gout sites are the nasty shit – livers and kidneys. And sweetmeats, which I’m pretty sure are fucking brains. Eww. Never ate that shit and probably never will. Definitely never will, now that I know it’ll inflame my gout.

What’s that? Beer is also listed as one of the irritants? Because of the yeast? Why are you bringing that up? Seems completely irrelevant…

So let’s go down the checklist.

Dull ache in my toes? Nope.

Eat a lot of cow brain? Nope.

Discoloration of the gap between tiles? Oh sorry, that’s grout.

After years of reading all of the descriptions of gout and thinking, “that’s not what I’ve got going on,” someone saw me hobbling along and asked if I had bursitis. I said, “No, I have gout,” then immediately looked up bursitis. Well, not immediately, because it probably took me ten minutes to go the fifteen yards to a computer. But “immediately” in gout world.

Bursitis is the swelling of the bursae fluid sacs at the joints. Symptoms include a stiff ankle, swelling of the heel, hot skin, red skin, veins popping out, pain when wearing shoes.  Ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner! I mean, not really a winner, because it’s not exactly a prize, but at least the symptoms sounded a lot closer to what I had experienced off and on for years. Why the hell does everyone want to diagnose it as gout when it’s clearly bursitis?

Hold on, let me read a little further. Causes of bursitis may include… gout. Well, fuck a duck. They might want to add that little footnote to all of the gout descriptions that say it’ll hit your toes first.

I also got it in my knee once. That was fun. While curling (actually, while sweeping), my lower leg went the wrong direction, and three days later, I could barely put on pants. The left knee is still a little bit tender, but at least it has the decency to confine itself to one side of my body, a concession my ankles rarely make. Still, nothing makes me feel quite so alive as those days that I’m wearing two ankle braces and one knee brace. I’m like Cyborg or Robocop, mostly machine with only a trace of humanity remaining.

I’ve become more adept at predicting when these outbreaks will occur. I’ve even been able to avoid a few major flare-ups. I usually feel a twinge in one or both of my ankles, and I immediately cut down on its usage. Sleep on the couch with my foot propped up above my heart for a couple nights, maybe a little ibuprofen and some ice, and a few days later, I’m fine. The acronym for a hurt ankle is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I repeat it over and over like the episode of Family Ties where Mallory learns the acronym for SCUBA.

If the twinge is a little bit worse, I can take my indomethacin prescription pills for a couple days. But not more than a couple days. Because if I have to get a refill more than once every two years or so, my doctor might want me to come back in for a closer look. And while I’m now in my mid-forties, I’m still male. Besides, you can’t drink alcohol with these pills. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a vomit-fest.

But whenever that happens, whenever I feel the gout coming and can avoid it with a little bit of precaution, I think to myself, “Whew, I’ve finally nipped this thing.”

Then the gout responds, “Oh yeah? You think you’ve got me under control? I hope you weren’t planning on going upstairs anytime soon. And have fun honing your cruise control skills.”

Because if I’m distracted or unable to take it easy for a few days, the gout hits a tipping point, and then it’s going to take a week of indomethacin and ibuprofen, not a day. Or longer. My current discomfort’s been going on for a few weeks. I thought I was getting better after four days and quit the pills for a day or two. Oops.

The last major incident before my current stroll down no-stroll lane came last February. It was the week of the Mock Trial competition at my school. I am the Mock Trial coach. Not much I can do to avoid being out and about for fifteen hours a day. Oh, and the parking garage is a block away from the courthouse, because they used the same ableist, piece-of-shit civil engineer as the hospital. I resorted to using my wife’s grandfather’s cane. Nothing says hip, with-it, and in control of one’s faculties quite like a circa 1970s wooden cane that looks straight from a Tijuana street vendor. Can I get a pimp cane to go with my pimp walk?

What made it even more sublime was that the Mock Trial case involved the defendant’s walking stick being used to bludgeon the victim. Some of the opposing teams joked that I was bringing in an inadmissible prop. Until they saw me walk. Then they asked me what was wrong.

“I have gout.”

But the cane did little to help me walk. It helps when I’m standing in front of the classroom, because then I can lean on it. But when I’m walking, it does virtually nothing to alleviate the basic problem of moving my foot through the air and placing it upon the ground. The amount of weight I put on the foot might doesn’t really affect the amount of discomfort. If anything, the cane makes it a little worse,  because in addition to pain, my foot also lacks strength. The cane fixes the latter, meaning I can walk faster, but does nothing to alleviate the pain, which is now happening more often. I’m sure, with more experience, I could be more effective with the cane, but at this point, I’m still a neophyte. Hell, I can’t even figure out if I’m supposed to use it in the hand that’s on the hurting side or the strong side.

This week, I finally broke down and bought one of those knee scooters. You know the one? You cock your leg and rest the lower half on a raised scooter. Totally fancy, and even moreso, it allows my infected foot to never touch the ground. Of course, it also puts pressure on my knee and must do something wonky with my bloodflow, because when I do finally put the infected foot down, it’s a dazzling shock to the system. A sharp pain from an appendage that thought it was getting the day off.

Oh, and the knee scooter doesn’t help with stairs.

Oh, and it looks really silly. I know, I know. That totally shouldn’t matter. If I’m already gimping around, why am I worried about appearances? Because I’m a vain motherfucker. And generations of badasses from John Wayne to John McClain to John… umm… McCain? have told me that walking with a limp can be manly. Swagger! But only pussies would ride around on a scooter.

Wait, Fonzie drove a motorcycle, right? So all I need to do is invest in a leather jacket! Unfortunately, I just bought a knee scooter, so there’s no fucking way I can afford a leather jacket.

I’ve had a few other flare-ups at bad times. They always seem to happen at bad times, because if it’s a time where it’s convenient for me to slow down, it doesn’t go into Full Gout Mode. They also tend to happen when I’m distracted. When I can feel the twinge and think, “Oh, that’s not the gout. It must just be the…”

One time was in England. I blamed it on all of the traffic circles, because driving a stick-shift on the wrong side of the car is bad enough, but needing to slam out the clutch to go from zero to fifty in a half-second in order to negotiate the two-yard gap in a continuously streaming cross-traffic is not beneficial for somebody with traditionally wonky ankles.

Sorry. Two-meter gap. Yards are outlawed in Europe.

It coulda been the salty Nando’s, too. Mmm… Nando’s. I’d chop off my ankles if it meant I could get a Nando’s here on the west coast.

The ankle got worse and worse, and by the night before we left, it was horrible. And the Bristol airport puts their rental car lot even further away from their terminal than do northern California hospitals.

When we got to the counter, my wife told me to ask for a wheel chair. I was very reticent for the same reasons I don’t want to use my knee scooter. I hate looking like an invalid. I hate needing others to push me around. I’d rather have to let little old ladies pass me than to throw in the towel. Because if I’m in a wheel chair, people will avoid eye contact with me. But if I’m limping, they’ll ask me what’s wrong.

“I have gout.”

But Wife insisted, and there I was, being pushed around by my wife, who was four-weeks pregnant at the time. And a little bit hungover, because we didn’t know she was four-weeks pregnant at the time. Makes me feel like an abusive husband. Barefoot, pregnant, and pushing my ass around an airport.

But it’s a good thing we did that. Because the airport staffers called ahead and when we got off the plane in Atlanta, there was a wheelchair waiting for me. This time it was pushed by an airport employee, because evidently capitalist America hires people for those roles, whereas socialist Britain tells you to do it your own fucking self. The wheelchair pusher had some clout. He pushed me past the milieu and, most importantly, to the front of the customs line. Holy shit, I should ask for a wheelchair more often. Then he took me out of the international terminal onto a tram and all the way to my domestic gate. Had I attempted this journey by myself, it would have taken me three hours. I would have missed my connecting flight. So fuck you, John McClain. If you missed your connecting flight, then Hans Gruber wins. And if Hans Gruber wins, then there’s no incentive for him to get a job at a wizarding school and not one, but two movie franchises are ruined.

“You feel that, Butch? That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride.”

Did I just go full Bruce Willis circle on that? I did!

My other experience with wheelchairs came two summers ago when the gout stuck while we were vacationing in San Diego. San Diego in summer. Totally the time one would expect to get hit with a form of arthritis that is exacerbated by the cold. And there’s not even any cow brain on the menu there!

The two places we wanted to take our child in San Diego were the zoo and Legoland, two places not known as favorites of the immobiles. Wife again insisted I get a wheelchair at both places. And good God, y’all, did you know they have hills in San Diego? The San Diego Zoo must have at least ten different elevation changes of a thousand feet or more. The polar bear exhibit is halfway down a hill that is approximately a mile long and at a seventy percent incline (I’m not a geometrist), so if I wanted to see them, my options were either to start at the bottom of the hill and relive the story of Sisyphus or else start at the top of the hill and run some fun experiments on terminal velocity.

And then there was that whole pride thing, again. I didn’t want to make the bus stop for me and take the time to load and unload my wheelchair. I didn’t want to ask for help from strangers, and Wife was busy single-parenting a three-year old who wants to see all the animals at the same time. So there I was, going up a steep incline using the poles of an iron fence to pull myself up, which I had quickly realized was much easier than pushing the wheels uphill. So yay for leveling up in wheelchair faster than I did in cane. But holy crap, if I had to be in a wheelchair every day, I’m pretty sure my upper torso would look like Rambo’s.

The following day, we went to Legoland. Again, we rented a wheelchair. There are fewer steep hills at Legoland, but it seems like the whole damn place is on a slight slope. There were very few places that I felt comfortable taking my hands off the wheels without worrying about gravity pulling me slowly away from my family.

But I did find out one pretty cool thing. Most Legoland rides have a separate line for disabled people. I don’t know if I technically counted as disabled, but I was definitely mobility-impaired, which was the main thing they were concerned with. Or maybe they just felt that since I paid $50 to rent the wheelchair equivalent of rental skis, I shouldn’t have to stand for long periods of time in line.

So I got to go to the super secret disabled entrances to rides, which aren’t really all that secret, but are very, very super. For most of them, you go the then end of the line or the end of the ride, where people get off the ride. And then, just like customs at Hartsfield-Jackson, you’re magically next in line. There were a few rides at Legoland that had a Fastpass-style disabled entrance, where you’d sign up for a time to come back. But unlike the real Fastpass, the time is twenty minutes from now, not two hours. And twenty minutes turns out to be just enough time to skip the line at the ride next door and come back.

Hey, wait a second. We’re taking our kid to Disneyland in March. Maybe I can rent me a wheelchair and become Dad of the Year. I remember all those stories a few years ago that wealthy families were hiring disabled people to skip the lines for them. Can I hire myself out? I assume Disneyland is a bit more scrutinizing than Legoland, but I’ve gotten the royal treatment once before.

Then again, at the rate my last week has gone, it might be wiser for my family to keep me at the hotel. Or leave me at home.

I guess in the meantime, I’ll do what I do best at times like this. Sit in pain and wait for the drugs to go into effect.

Say it with me: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

This is 40

I just turned forty.

Thank you, thank you.

Polite golf applause.

And boy, are my arms tired.

Dammit, that’s not the punchline.

Maybe sense of humor is the first thing to go.

Or the ability to write paragraphs longer than one sentence.

Quite a few people have congratulated me on turning forty. They do realize I didn’t actually do anything to get here, right? This wasn’t Cal Ripken taking the mantle from Lou Gehrig. All I did was keep breathing. And this wasn’t even in the age of cholera or “the consumption.”

But I guess I bucked the odds and made it over the hill. Or is forty the top of the hill? When I was younger, forty seemed so much older. Yes, I know that sounds stupid. Wow, your parents were older than you? Welcome to the generation gap.

But I think it goes beyond that. When my parents turned forty, their youngest child was in eighth grade.  Five years later, they were divorced and empty nesters. Hence, forty meant they were on top of the hill and ready to coast down the other side.

By contrast, I am still a relatively newlywed with an infant who will graduate high school when I am fifty-seven. No time to put that cardboard under my butt and let gravity do its work. I’ve still got some climbing to do.

Which is not to say that I am not aging as nature intended. Things like gout and pre-diabetes were as distant as nuptials a decade ago. But I’m about to have a toddler running circles around me, so aging body be damned.

But I’m not here to write about aging with my whopping one week of forty-something wisdom. Instead I am here to talk of parties. Specifically birthday parties, because I’ve had some good ones and some not so good ones. Plus, the next few will likely feature bouncy houses, so indulge me.

A couple of the parties from my youth, twenty-eight and thirty, stick out.

Whoa, grandpa, did you just call thirty your youth?

Watch it, whippersnapper, patience is the first thing to go.

The only time I’ve had that “Holy shit, I’m getting old” feeling was at twenty-eight. For most people, the round numbers hit them, but not me. I think there were a few things going on with twenty-eight. From a generic number standpoint, at twenty-eight, you go from “mid-twenties” to “late twenties.” It also marked the ten-year anniversary of turning eighteen, hence a decade of adulthood. Up to that point, in my mind, I was still in “college aged,” even if I had been out of college for six years.

A more personal issue I had with twenty-eight concerned where I was in my life. I had received my teaching credential earlier that year after a failed first career, but I had not been hired as a teacher yet. With an October birthday, that meant I was still a good eight months away from the teacher hiring process. So I was waiting tables and occasionally subbing in an elongated “lost weekend.”

I’m sure waiting tables while failing to get hired for my second career had nothing to do with my focusing on the whole “late twenties, six years out of college” thing. It wasn’t so much a “mid-life” as a “pre-life” crisis.

So what did I do for said party? Got drunk, got stoned, went to karaoke with a bunch of the drunk potheads that I worked with, hit on and struck out with the cute girl from work, hit on and struck out with her friend, got frustrated, drank and smoked some more, finally learned the words to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (minor accomplishment!), then showed up very hung over for the lunch shift the next day and resolved that I wouldn’t go through the same thing when the Big Three-Oh hit in two years.

I also figured that, two years later and still striking out with pretty much any woman I faced in the batter’s box, my thirtieth birthday could replace my bachelor’s party. Who knew if or when I’d finally have a successful date, much less a full courtship and engagement. If it was forty or fifty, would I be able to have the big blow-out that every guy wants? Strip clubs frown upon men using walkers, right? “Here, missy, a dollar for your G-String. Don’t go spending that all in one place. Now where’d I put my teeth?”

Two years later, I was in a slightly better place. Still waiting tables, but now only to augment the measly second-year teacher salary. Even better, the school district that hired me featured a break between quarters that conveniently landed on my birthday.

So more money, job stability, time off, bachelor party atmosphere, and two years to think about it? New Orleans, baby!  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Those good times might be the first things to go. Better let ‘em roll while we can.

I had been to New Orleans before – once for Mardi Gras, once for New Years. People were tired of me talking about it so much without experiencing it themselves, so I invited everyone to come along for an extended weekend. To ease the burden, I paid for two hotel rooms. Anyone willing to cram themselves in with three other people could stay for free. I even booked a couple flights for co-workers, because restaurant workers can’t be bothered with complicated stuff like that Inter-webs thingy.

Ten people ended up joining me. It was a mish-mash of people from different aspects of my life. That first, failed career donated a friend or two, the teaching credential program another handful. My cousin and her friend who I had already traveled with to England and Australia, and my mom. Yes, my mom. I mean, she was the only one that had been there thirty years earlier, right?

There have only been two or three times in my life I’ve seen my mom drunk, and my thirtieth birthday was one of them. That by itself would’ve made it a memorable trip. At one point, as I sat looking up Bourbon Street from the balcony of the Tropical Isle, the girls all decided to go to the male strip club and asked my mom if she wanted to come. Her quick response was “Oh,yeah,” before sheepishly turning to me and saying “I mean… if it’s okay with you… it’s your birthday…”

Continuing on the subject of inviting my mohter, one year later, when Huricane Katrina hit six weeks before my thirty-first birthday, the role she played in my thirtieth became more apt. Had she waited a year to have me, we would’ve had a whole bunch of non-refundable deposits to an inaccessible city.

Timing is the first thing to go. No, hold on. That doesn’t even make sense in this context.

We drank plenty (The liver is the first- oh, who am I kidding), but we also did some of the other touristy shit around town, like trudging out to the swamps for a boat tour and following the tourbook walk through the garden district.

We ate at Emeril’s restaurant the night of birthday, and that might have been one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. Not to be confused with Brennan’s the next morning, which is one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. It was painful, though, on only two hours of sleep and still stuffed from Emeril’s (and a few drinks) from the night before. But oh, how I had to stuff myself. “No, I’m going to pass on the Bananas Foster. Oh, they cook it right in front of you? It smells so good…”

The Angels were even nice enough to clinch the division on my birthday that year, even if the highlights of that game got me in trouble from one of the girls in the group. After the male revue, she wanted to compare it to female strippers, so she found the boys and took us to a strip club. It had a big screen TV that occupied much more of my attention than the topless girls. Fewer scars and cottage cheese.

Simply put, we had a blast. It more than made up for the twenty-eight debacle.

Since thirty I’ve still had some fun birthdays.  My quarter break still sometimes lands on my birthday, so I still travel, albeit with a smaller entourage. I’ve spent one birthday in Ireland, and one checking out the Smurf Turf at a Boise State game. I even lost one birthday entirely by boarding a plane in Los Angeles the day before, crossing the International Date Line, and landing the day after in Fiji for my Honeymoon. My wife refused to accept that she was now married to a younger man.

Speaking of honeymoon, that bachelor party that my thirtieth was supposed to replace? It ended up happening at the age of thirty-six. It was great, but I was right with my earlier assessment. It was way more low-key than it would have been in my twenties. Sure, we went to Vegas, but we opted for a minor league baseball game over the strip clubs and woke up both mornings more tired than hung over. Nobody was arrested, which is something that happened on a Vegas bachelor party I had been to ten years earlier. The worst shenanigan of the whole weekend was a little short-sheeting.

My wife tried very hard to arrange a big blow-out for my fortieth birthday. She had some very grandiose ideas. One involved a trip to Kentucky for the Bourbon Trail and the South Carolina at Kentucky football game. Ora trip to Tennessee for a Jack Daniels distillery tour and a Titans game. I’m sure there were some other ideas that included whiskey and football. Or beer and baseball. Or wine and hockey. Really, I’m easy.

The problem this time was getting other people to go.  Money wasn’t an issue, as we are all making more money than ten years ago. But getting time off is more difficult at forty than at thirty. At thirty, most of us had jobs that wouldn’t suffer from a few days away. At forty, we have careers that are more difficult to take frivolous days off from.  We also have families now. Spouses and children not only complicate travel plans, but also change the priorities for the days we do get off work.

So instead of big travel plans, we had everyone over to our place for a barbecue. Nothing extravagant, just burgers, but not the fast-food inspired burgers that a thirty year old would like. No, we’re gourmeting this shit up! We wanted to stuff the burgers, but couldn’t decide with what. Bacon, blue cheese, grilled onions, Tabasco, Worcestershire? So we made it “Build Your Own” and put about thirty ingredients out with the raw meat. It went over great, and even better, I didn’t have to spend the whole time cooking. Everyone actually grilled up their own concoctions after putting it together.

Had I attempted this at age thirty, I am sure half the guests would have ended up with salmonella. But at forty we all properly washed hands, cooked burgers to a nice medium, and survived. And half of every couple limited their alcohol intake , so that everyone could get home safely and at a reasonable hour. Back to our families. Back to our careers.

Because irresponsibility, it turns out, is the first thing to go.