family

Quaran-geddon, Post IV

The world has seemingly settled into a new normal. It feels like the sparkle is off this journal. But the problem is what the hell else am I supposed to write about? It’s not like I can go out and make pithy observations of my fellow human beings. I can’t regale you of stories about those crazy teenagers in my classroom. Do you want to hear my thoughts on Frozen II? Trust me, I got plenty o’ thoughts on Frozen II.In the meantime, here are more oddities and frivolities from the Great American Stay-Home:1. We’ve been playing restaurant at mealtimes. Evidently we eat out often enough (or ate out, back in the Before Times) that Daughter feels uncomfortable without someone bringing food to the table. So she plays server. She takes our order, picks up our food (which Daddy Chef left on the counter before taking his spot at the table to have his order taken) and brings it to the table. We’ve allowed exceptions for wine and beer, which requires a grown-up “sommelier” to deliver. Not for any moral reasoning or anything, but because we don’t want her sloshing out the good stuff.The first time we did this, I said, “Garcon, coffee!” She just responded with “Okay,” not yet familiar with the proper response of “Garcon means boy.” We gotta wait until at least week four of quarantine before I make my five-year-old sit through Pulp Fiction. So naturally, she thought I was naming her Garcon. That it was maybe printed on her name tag. So now, she asks if she can play Garcon, like it’s some alter ego.She’ll be sitting at the table and realize she needs more water. So she’ll ask Wife or I to ask Garcon for water. Then she leaves the table and, wouldn’t you know it, Garcon shows up. It’s like Clark Kent and Superman. We’re supposed to tell Garcon that our daughter is at the bathroom but she’d like another water. Then when she “returns,” the drink’s there. Just like Mia’s food in Pulp Fiction. I’m tellin’ ya, Quentin Tarantino predicted my quarantine to a T over 25 years ago.She needs to work on her pricing, though, if she’s hoping to stay in business beyond the pandemic. Odd things are included and others aren’t. The coffee’s included, but not the creamer. Cereal’s free, but the milk will cost you. Our breakfast bill came out to $117 the other day – everything was included except for the bacon ($17) and the coffee ($100). I mean, at least she’s got the concept of demand down pat.2. I love all the advertisements and mail circulars I’m seeing that were clearly written before Quaran-geddon started. The first week or two of grocery store circulars were comical. Oh, they think pork is on sale this week? Have they seen their meat section? Good thing they don’t list toilet paper. They understand the concept of inelastic demand.Sorry, I’m a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now. If I don’t point out portions of our history or government or economy, I might just burst.A batch of coupons I received a few days ago came in an envelope encouraging me to tune into the XFL. That league stopped all of its games and canceled the rest of the season weeks ago. Others made reference to St. Patrick’s Day. Or “Get Out for Spring!” Or “Happy Easter!” Is Easter still happening? Can we postpone it for a few months like they did the baseball season?Of course, the obsolete advertising that I’m seeing the most is related to March Madness, the college basketball championship. Then again, maybe some ad exec knew it was canceled, but figured “Get into the Madness” still works perfectly fine.One company that seemed to miss the whole March Madness memo as Great Clips. I was near one the other day that had three postings. The first was a poster of a basketball spinning on a finger that read “This March, we’re getting in on the Madness.” Oops. There were two other sheets of paper on the door. The first, dated March 18, said that the health of their staff was their first concern, so please don’t come in if you’re sick. The second, dated March 23, said they were closed until further notice. Somebody had handwritten in “But don’t cut your hair until we’re back.” Tacky much?That’s what the NCAA gets for picking Great Clips as the Official Haircut of college basketball. Sports Clips actually has TVs where they show sports. Of course, most of the time those TVs are pointless because live sports don’t happen at the same time of the day as haircuts. But during March Madness, that’s a key selling point. But go ahead, NCAA, partner with a business that has no TVs and doesn’t show your product.3. The brewery that I was heading to for weekly growler fill-ups is now delivering beer.I’m going to let that one sink in for a bit: Hand-delivered craft beer.Obviously they can’t deliver growler refills. But two “crowler” cans has the same amount of beer as a growler. And four crowlers, which is what I ordered, equals 128 ounces of beer. That’ll keep me busy for a bit.Technically I live outside their normal delivery radius, but they were willing to extend it for me. Either because I’m a regular customer or because I just ordered 128 ounces of beer. Or because, I don’t know, what the hell else are they going to do?When the guy dropped off my beer, he thanked me profusely for the business. Like, he seriously wanted me to know how much it meant and how he’d be willing to extend their official delivery options any old time I wanted to sit on my ass and get beer.Again, I’m going to let this one sit for awhile. Some dude was delivering beer to my front door. And I was somehow the hero in this scenario!4. “Want me to brew another pot of coffee?” I ask, shaking the empty pot to indicate its emptiness toward my Wife.”Wasn’t that already our third pot today?””Yeah, but it seems too early to switch to beer.””What time is it?””10 am.”5. Thanks to Josh Gad reading bedtime stories on Twitter and Mo Willems doing lunchtime doodles on YouTube and Weezer’s hilarious video for “Lost in the Woods,” where they do a shot-for-shot remake of the scene in Frozen II in which the song appears, complete with Kristen Bell, the real-life voice of Anna, in the place of Anna from the movie, Daughter is becoming more familiar with the actors and writers behind the scenes of her favorite media.This led to the following back and forth.”So Anna’s not a queen, is she? And Elsa’s not either?””Well, they were both princesses. Elsa was queen for most of the movies. Anna was a princess who became queen by the end of the second movie.”(Oops. Spoiler!)”No, I mean that Kristen girl isn’t a princess or a queen, right? So Anna’s not REALLY a queen.””Oh, no. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are Americans. Our constitution says we’re not allowed to take titles of nobility unless we renounce our citizenship.”So, wherever you are, jut think that it could be worse. You could be quarantined with a stay-at-home social-science teacher right now, like my poor daughter.6. Okay, since I broke the seal on Frozen II, here’s a shot of Daughter watching it:You’ll notice she has an iPad next to her with a face on it. That’s her and her friend Facetiming and watching the movie together. And no, this isn’t because the friend doesn’t own a copy of the movie. This is just what they decided to do. Video call your friend, then instead of talking face-to face, turn it around and watch a movie together.Can’t wait to see what generational hang-ups will manifest themselves in 20 years. I’m already prepared for a drop in my high schoolers’ reading abilities in another six or seven years.7. Lots of parades these days. All the teachers and most of the staff at Daughter’s school paraded through our neighborhood. Thirty or forty honking cars, decorated with the school name and mascot and elementary teachers leaning out the window and shouting, winding up and down all the streets in their attendance area. Thank God my school doesn’t come up with some bullshit like that. I’m all for “show the kids we miss them,” but I can accomplish that with a well-timed reference to the Zombie Apocalypse. And explanations of constitutional provisions against titles of nobility.Then all the local emergency services followed suit a few days later. Fire trucks and police cruisers and ambulances, sirens and buzzers blasting. I guess when society shuts down, we don’t need to worry about being on-call for crime or fires or non-COVID patients requiring rides to the hospital. Ha ha, just kidding. Non-COVIDs don’t get medical attention. Sorry, grandma on Life Alert.Allegedly this was for community outreach, but I’m not so sure. I figure their income’s gotta be through the floor with nobody driving. Gone are the revenue streams for speeding or rolling stops or parking violations. And isn’t anyone who leaves their home to see the parade violating a government mandate? I figure they had a whole bunch of pre-written fines and were tossing them out like beads at Mardi Gras. I was a few neighborhoods over when it all went down, and all I could hear were sirens and horns. I assumed every blast was another $100 coming toward our fair city’s coffers.8. Corona just stopped brewing because of COVID-19. Mexico has determined it to be “non-essential.”To repeat: No more Corona because of coronavirus.I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.

Coronavirus Quaran-geddon Part III

I’ve got a shirt that reads “It’s all fun and games until the beer runs out.”

I usually wear it when I’m man camping or doing some other weekend-style, fun-time activities.

When I threw it on the other day, however, it took on quite a different meaning. The beer running out seems far more imminent a threat now than when I’m out golfing or rafting. And when it runs out, it won’t just be a temporary message that maybe I need to cut back.

That’s a lot scarier than the toilet paper situation, if you ask me.

We’ve shut down all of society to stop the spread of a disease that might kill one percent of the people who catch it,. But it probably kills substantially less because that one percent relates only to those showing enough symptoms to warrant a test. When they started testing more people in South Korea, it seems a lot of people have it but show no symptoms and probably aren’t dying. So maybe the death rate is closer to, I don’t know, one-tenth of one percent? One-hundredth of one percent? That sounds like a good estimate. That would mean that only one out of one hundred who have the virus fit enough of the tick boxes to get tested, and of those, one in one hundred die.

It isn’t so much the death rate, the experts say, as the contagion rate. Each person infects three people, whether they’re on quarantine or washing their hands or whatever. You could lock yourself in your house and that virus will jump out your window and knock on your neighbor’s door. Then those three people will infect three other people. Whereas the flu, which only infects 1.3 people, will grow to something like 14 people, the exponential rate of Coronavirus, they say, means that one infected person will infect 59,000 people by the time you’re done reading this blog post.

At least that’s how it’s being reported.

We’ve had just over 6,000 cases in California, so I guess we only started with 10% of one infected person? We’ve also had 33 deaths, in a state with some 40,000,000 people. Am I prepared to have that number double? Triple? Quadruple? When all it takes to stop that death toll is by shutting down the entire state. I mean, who cares about an extra 5,000,000 unemployed if it can save 20 lives? It’s not like being unemployed and homeless has a high mortality rate or anything.

Although, to hear those in charge, those people are losing their jobs and it’s not even helping. Nothing we’re doing is working. Otherwise why would they continue to change the rules every day? Closing all the bars and restaurants didn’t seem to work, because the next day, we were stay at home and the day after that we were shelter in place. It couldn’t just be that Newsom and Trump love nothing more than seeing themselves on tv, and people might stop tuning in to their press conferences if they aren’t making up some cockamamie new rules. f they’re we’re need to have a new press conference every day. To get eyeballs, they gotta ban something new. Gotta double down on what we did yesterday, regardless of its effectiveness.

Maybe I’m coming at this from a different angle because of where I work. In California education (and I assume education across the country, but California education burns through a lot more money), we continually jaunt and jump from one “fix du jour” to the next. Somebody at the district or county office finds somebody who’s written a book or has a website about how education can be fixed and they pay him or her $10-20,000 to come present to teachers at a specific school or district. One year we had some lady from Georgia who yelled at us about using academic language. I don’t think she intended to yell, but maybe volume modulation isn’t part of academic language. Then we had a principal from a Newsweek article who raised test scores up 100 points. At the end of his presentation, he said maybe if we followed all of his directives (and paid him an extra $100,000 to visit more often), we could be on the cover of Newsweek, too. Of course, after raising his school’s test scores 100 points, they were still 60 behind us. And since he’d started spending more time promoting himself than them, they’d dropped back down, so we were about 100 ahead of them. But tell me again how we can get on the cover of a news magazine? Another time it was a woman who said that she felt sorry for her daughter’s teachers when she goes into parent-teacher conferences, because she knows that teacher already knows who she is and that she’s such a better teacher than they are. It must be daunting. Shocking that the room full of teachers that she said this to didn’t all jump up and applaud, huh?

But I’ve sat through all of them. Sometimes we pretend to follow the new directive for a whole year. Most of the time it’s forgotten by Winter Break, because somebody at the district office has found the next manna from heaven. Or, more realistically, has found the next kickback from the next dude who’s getting $100,000 from us. Sometimes they still give lip service to the previous fix, but usually they don’t even bother. After all, this new thing is a panacea, so who gives a shit about academic language?

We never see any of these things through, even if the presenters themselves say it’ll take a few years to see quantifiable results. So at the end of the year, our test scores go up or they go down or they stay the same. But what caused that change or non-change? Who can know? Ten things changed and maybe one of them had an effect or, meh, maybe it’s just a good/bad batch of kids this year and next year, it’ll be completely different. And if it’s not necessarily a good batch, but rather something we tried for a year back when they were in third grade, then who the fuck cares? We’ll change something again next year to even it out.

That’s what this Coronavirus shut-down has felt like. Every day they come out with new things that they’re shutting down. But there’s never any data to back it up. There’s never any discussion about if anything we’ve done has been effective so far. And how can there be? We barely test anybody, and if we did, it would take too long to get the results. Any numbers they give us now are the people who felt sick two weeks ago and got tested a week ago. They were probably sick before we even started washing our hands. But who needs data?

“We shut all the schools, but there’ve been ten new cases, so now you can’t go to restaurants. We shut the restaurants, but there’ve been five new cases, so now you have to stay at home. Goddammit, people, you’re not listening to us. We’re up to one hundred sick people! Fire every single person from every single job!”

The governor actually took the nicer approach. He commended us for doing what we’re supposed to be doing before saying that it isn’t working, so we’re going to do more of it.

At least we’ve determined that education isn’t “essential.” I guaran-fucking-tee my district will use that as their opening salvo the next time we’re negotiating a raise.

I assume the reason they did this piecemeal was because they couldn’t go for the whole pinata at the beginning. If they told us to shut down on day one, we would’ve said no. So instead they told us to wash our hands and then told us that wasn’t enough, despite no evidence to back that up. The real reason we’re on lockdown now is because Newsom and Trump saw that everybody went along with it, no questions asked, then took the next step.

Great and all, if you buy their rationale, but that’s kinda what Hitler did before World War II, too.

Newsom said if we don’t follow his orders, 25,500,000 Californians will contract the virus. Despite the fact that only 500,000 people worldwide have had it. Think about that. For every one person worldwide, an extra fifty-plus people in California will catch it. And that’s evidenced by the 3,000 or so in the state who already have it.

Now he needs another 50,000 hospital beds for “the surge in cases.” What surge? Where is the evidence of this surge? The few times I drive out, isolated in my car, nobody is out anywhere. Airplanes are flying with seven passengers aboard.

Every day we’re being bombarded by reports of who has it now. Two players from a hockey team. A senator. An actor. A member of a rock band. And each one of them is treated like an HIV diagnosis in the mid-1980s. It’s a surefire death sentence. If the NHL ever comes back, how will the Ottawa Senators field a team with two dearly departed, and I’m sure the rest of the team will have it soon, too. And poor Tom Hanks will never be able to make a movie again. And the Senate… Meh, fuck the politicians. But how dare he go to work when he didn’t know he had the virus? Talk about non-essential…

My local Kaiser has stopped taking non-emergency medical conditions, so I can’t get allergy shots anymore. The last time I went in (the day before shots got shut down like I was Indiana Fucking Jones grabbing his hat as the door dropped) they greeted me at the door with soap and asked me what I was there for, then sent me around to avoid any contact with anyone. But that wasn’t enough, so they shut the shit down. My primary care physician sent a mass e-mailed saying don’t come it unless it’s an emergency. And chances are, any non-COVID emergency will be told to shelter in place. We don’t give a shit about your terminal cancer, fuckface, this county has 50 Coronavirus cases.

Wait, did I read that right? My county currently has 50 cases. Two deaths. So they shut down the entire medical facility for 50 people? How big is this hospital? The good news is that I know of a doctor and a facility that’s more than ready for Gavin Newsom’s 50,000 phantom victims.

Flatten the curve. I get it. But are we really flattening the curve? It seems to me that if we’re just pushing pause on life for three to six weeks. Then we’ll go back to giving hugs and everyone will catch the virus anew. We’re delaying the curve, not flattening it. Okay, maybe the curve will have 50 fewer people in my county.

Unless washing our hands works. Too bad we didn’t bother doing our due diligence to find out.

Maybe we’ll reopen society in stages. We could do some businesses, then the others. But how would we decide who opens first? There doesn’t seem to be gradation in essentiality. You’re either essential, in which case you’re still open, or you’re not. So then maybe we should have every business reopen with only 25% of their staff. We can have a lottery. Then, once those 25% all turn into zombies, we send them home, wait a week, and pick the next unfortunate saps. That would flatten the curve. And it worked really well in World War I. I mean, aside from the whole 60,000 British casualties on a single day of battle.

I know, I know. Y’all don’t come here for the vitriol. You come for the pithy. So let me put away my tinfoil hat and come up with some of my more run-of-the-mill observations. To wit:

– We’ve been doing some spring cleaning. What the hell else are we supposed to do with all of our time? Get to know our family? So I did a really good job of going through some of my old books to clear some space on the bookshelf. So did Wife, and even Daughter okayed a few hand-me-downs.

But what the hell were we supposed to do with these books now? All of the used bookstores are closed and something inside me cringes if I have to throw a book away. It seems so wasteful. And it takes up vital trash space for all the plastics.

Fortunately, we have a Free Little Library. If you aren’t aware of these, people build little wooden mailbox-sized houses with clear doors out where people walk. If there’s a book in there you want, you just take it, and if you have a book that you are done with, you can leave it there. Great. I can just dump all of these books there. Except its got limited real estate, and I notice that it’s filled up recently, probably because every other household in the neighborhood’s doing the same thing as me.

So now I’m like Andy Dufresne taking rubble out to the prison yard in his pants. I’m taking one or two books each day and trying to slip them in. At last check, seven of the thirty or so books came from this house. And I’ve still got a stack ready and waiting. Come on, neighbors, read the shit I’m putting out there.

That might be the motto for this blog, too.

– We’re trying our best to support places that are still open. We’re doing takeout. We’re doing drive-throughs and curbside. I keep going to my favorite brewery to refill my growler. On one trip last weekend, I ran into the Sprouts (a grocery store that doesn’t have the same foot traffic as the behemoths) while Wife did curbside pickup at Joann’s. Then she did curbside at Target, which is super fancy. You don’t have to call them or anything. Just open your app when you’re in the parking lot and Big Brother heads right out. Then I went to the BevMo to pickup my online alcohol order. They’re not quite as high-tech – I had to call somebody to meet me at the front door with my booze – but really, I was picking up booze that I had ordered online, so who the hell cares that they weren’t to Amazon Prime delivery yet. I keep wondering to myself if those in charge would’ve been so ready to shut the whole shit down if we weren’t already living in the future.

But there are other businesses that I want around after the shitshow who aren’t quite as conducive to supporting while in quarantine. There’s an Indian place with a wonderful lunch buffet. Sure, I could order from them a la carte, but that just seems wrong. Why pay for one entree when I’m used to having ALL the entrees. Plus I probably should’ve been paying closer attention to which dishes I like all those times I partook. But then, what’s the point of a buffet if not mindless scooping?

Another favorite that doesn’t have a to-go option is Mongolian BBQ. Perhaps I’m being obstinate with the Indian food, but with Mongolian, I really don’t see how it’s feasible. You have to stand in line and put your grubby paws on the same food that other paws have already grubbed. Even if I could put that into a Doordash order, there’s no way the chef’s going to know the proper number of spicy versus sweet versus salty sauce scoops. I don’t even know. It’s a touchy-feely things, like those old grandma recipes that said q.b., short for quanto basta, meaning “How much is enough” or “as much as needed.” But I don’t think Doordash has a q.b. option.

We need restaurants or businesses like this to establish Patreon accounts. I’d be willing to send them some money to keep them around. And if they want to make it good for a meal when this thing is done, great. But if not, consider it a much better pay-it-forward than buying that fat fuck behind me’s Frappuccino.

Sure, I could get gift cards in the meantime, but if the business doesn’t have an updated website (and let’s be honest, the Mongolian and the Indian restaurants aren’t likely to be the most technologically savvy), that means I have to go in. But are they even open?

So they just need to establish a Patreon. If it’s good enough for podcasts, which don’t even give me an egg roll on the side, it should be good enough for brick-and-mortars.

-The grocery stores seem to be restocking some of the staples. Bread and ramen still seem a little sparse. Meat is still hit or miss, but it’s better than all-miss, as it was a week ago. It’s almost like, follow me here, our economy produces enough for us to consume, as long as we don’t freak out and try to buy the whole goddamned store.

I’m reminded of FDR’s first Fireside Chat, after he’d closed all the banks. Well, he didn’t close all the banks, he only declared a bank holiday that ended up lasting the better part of a week. Back then, can you imagine, presidents and the government actually thought there were limits to what they could do, who and what they could command to stay indoors and close their doors. So when the banks were about to reopen, he got on the airwaves to tell the people to not be numbnuts the next day. Banks, he explained, only keep enough cash on hand to cover normal withdrawals and the rest is tied up in mortgages and shit like that. “[A]n amount which in normal times is wholly sufficient to cover the cash needs of the average citizen.” But if all ya numbnuts go and try to get your money at the same time, it won’t be there.

The same could be said for tortillas and ground beef and pasta. If we had all bought what we needed for, say, one or two weeks worth of isolation, instead of six months, there’d be plenty to go around. Unfortunately, our current commander-in-chief doesn’t seem quite as concerned with calming and quelling the populace. His fireside tweet would probably go something along the lines of, “Go Fuck yourself. Pull my Finger!”

-Somebody posited that the run on flour wasn’t so much hoarding as it was a byproduct of most Americans baking at home for once. Makes sense, since the flour that goes to bakers and restaurants is probably direct from suppliers. I don’t think Krispy Kreme is heading the the Piggly Wiggly each day.

But what does this say about the toilet paper? Are we finally shitting at home instead of work?

-Has everyone else lost track of what day it is? Holy crap!

I was thinking about buying a Nintendo Switch to introduce Daughter to the joy of video games, and possibly Wife and I to the joys of a moment of goddamn peace. Sure, Daughter’s watched me murder some nasty Brits in Assassin’s Creed III on my fancy, high-tech PlayStation 3, but maybe it’s time for her to learn of the existence of non-violent games.

Turns out there are no Nintendo Switches for sale, like, anywhere. Not available on Amazon, no Target or Best Buy or GameStop (before they closed) within 200 miles of me had one in stock. I did a little research and discovered that this shortage was coming even before people were going to be shut in for months. It was just sped along by the Quaran-geddon.

All is not lost, though. Amazon might be able to get some once they end their moratorium on non-essential restocking. The article I read suggested mid-April. No problem, I thought. Why, mid-April must be coming any day now.

What? It’s still March?

Fuck!

Whiskey Tango Family

I’m pretty fortunate when it comes to my extended family.

Not because they’re particularly helpful. Or empathetic. Or normal.

No, I’m fortunate because they live 400 miles away. Which means they’re close enough to visit for a weekend without wasting a day traveling each direction, but far enough away that I don’t have to see them very often.

I used to visit my family more often. Back then, I was single and in my twenties and my nieces were cute little kids and Southwest ran some really good fares.

Nowadays, I’ve got a five-year old daughter and a lot of shit going on that really makes it a hassle-and-a-half to get on a plane. Oh, and Southwest ain’t as cheap as it once was. Plus those rat bastards charge full-price for said five-year old even though her butt takes up, at a maximum, forty percent of that seat. AND I’ve stopped eating on Southwest since they switched from yummy peanuts to salt-lick pretzels.

And the TSA is a pain in the ass. And driving takes that full day I mentioned. And… umm… the lunar cycle? Help me out here. My mom is asking about next month.

I’ve managed to whittle it down to just two or three visits to the extended family per year. And I’ve started to notice that, with an additional distance between visits, a similar distance has grown between me and my family. Such that, whenever I’m forced to interact, I spend a good portion of my time wondering how the fuck we are related.

Part of it is generational, as the driving forces of my family have always been the baby boomers. So when the cooler is filled with a shit-ton of some tiny-ass water bottles that contain more plastic than water, such that I have to make a genuine decision between hydration and killing the planet, I chalk it up to the baby boomers being hellbent on ensuring that the earth doesn’t survive past their generation.  After all, they’ve been told that the world belonged to them from the moment they were born.

But my generation ain’t lining up to change things, either. I’m the only one who moved away. Everyone else stayed behind. Some of my cousins still live with their parents at 40 years old. The others have ventured a whopping two or three miles away from their childhood bedroom!

One of my cousins has a daughter who is six weeks younger than my daughter. I suggested we hold a joint family party somewhere in between, so that we could separate our requisite “crazy family party” from the “kids’ party.” She wouldn’t hear it! The birthday party has to include both family and friends, and must be as close to the cousin’s actual birthday as possible. The result is a “joint” birthday party that takes place six weeks after my daughter’s birthday, at which her cousin is getting twice as many presents.

And yeah, my daughter got a whole bunch of presents six weeks earlier, but that’s a hard concept to describe to a five-year old. So instead I just tell my daughter that all of those presents are shitty 99-cent store presents (more on that later) that we’re going to throw away as soon as we get home. Okay, I don’t tell her the last part, but I have yet to have her ever ask about any of the shit she’s gotten in the orgiastic bacchanal of two five-year olds simultaneously opening forty presents.

Full disclosure, I used to fucking hate the “family” birthday parties, where the child whose birthday it is ranks about twentieth on the list of reasons for the get-together. Reason number one is always showing off the house/cleaning skills/culinary skills.

One year I went to my room for two hours and nobody noticed. The boomers were all just there to see each other. None of that has changed. At this year’s party, the two birthday girls had to get out of the pool to blow out candles because, dammit, some old farts wanted cake before they left.

But it’s not just about birthday parties. It’s the whole shebang. Why do none of them have interest in anything slightly above banal? I only live 400 miles away. How am I so much less parochial? And, if they raised me, when the hell did they all become so god-damned Whiskey Tango?

To wit:

Beer. Last time I visited my family for a shindig, there were two beer options available: Bud Light and Corona. I tweeted about it, but wasn’t too bothered. The party hosted by boomers, so it was expected. All of their beer tastes were developed in 1960, when all beer came from Milwaukee or St. Louis.  For them, Michelob is a “premium craft.” Heck, I should be impressed they’ve “branched out” to Corona, even if it goes against my core belief that nothing that is supposed to have fruit added should be classified as beer.

Yes, Blue Moon, I’m looking in your direction.

But the child’s birthday party was hosted by Gen Xers, not Boomers. They are world travelers, and I have personally traveled to Australia and Scotland together, and I know she’s aware of craft beers. So I opened the cooler with baited breath. I was greeted with… Coors Light. I moved it out of the way, dug underneath and came up with another Coors Light. I opened the other side of the cooler, looking for the secret compartment with craft bee. Heck, I’d take a Michelob at this point. All I found was another sea of silver.

So I grabbed an iced tea instead. At least it wasn’t sweetened.

Maybe I should have…

BYOB. When we were leaving my mom’s house to go to the party, my mom’s husband asked me to pick out a bottle of wine or two. He said that my cousin never had good wine. I don’t think my mom’s husband’s wine is all that great, either. I live near multiple wine regions. Nothing in Southern California comes close. So if someone who drinks crappy wine says that the wine at this party will be crappy, then I better just plan on drinking beer.

Oops.

So I grabbed a bottle of wine for him. When we got to the party, I felt a little awkward bringing it in. Honestly, who brings their own booze to a non-BYOB party? So fucking tacky. Can I put my car up on blocks in your front yard, too?

Even worse, it was white wine, so it had to go in the host’s refrigerator. Because the cooler’s filled with Coors Light, naturally. Nothing’s so classy as walking in the front door and saying, “Hey, can you move some shit out of your refrigerator so I can put my mediocre wine in there since your wine sucks ass?”

Then again, had I known about the Coors Light situation, I would’ve been sneaking a six-pack in the refrigerator behind the wine.

Is it to late for Amazon drone delivery?

Shopping. At one point, we had to get a couple of things at the grocery store. Mainly, we had to pack the birthday present we brought for the cousin. If we tried to wrap it before we left, the TSA would have undone all our efforts.

My mom also wanted to provide fruit for the party. It’s BYOF, too. So off to the grocery store we went.

My mom didn’t ask what we needed. So when I appeared in the same checkout line as her with a gift bag, a card, and one package of colored tissue paper, she blinked and said, “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what you were getting. We could have gone to the 99-cent store if you wanted.”

Ugh. The 99-fucking-cent store. Both my and my wife’s mothers frequent that place. Neither mother is miserly nor in danger of running out of a pension anytime soon. But goddamn it if that 99-cent crap isn’t going to find a spot on their shelves.

It’s like they took all of those “Thrift” ideals that their Great Depression-era parents taught them, but only understood part of it. Thrift means both not overspending for things you need, but also not buying a bunch of unnecessary crap. But the Baby Boomers want all the crap, they just don’t want to pay for it. This becomes an issue because every time my mom sees my daughter, she’s giving her crap. It’s all ephemeral, not meant to be any more meaningful in the grand context than a passing bowel movement. Of course, each 99-cent piece of crap gets added to all of the other 99-cent pieces of crap and our house is overflowing like a backed-up toilet.

Meanwhile, while my mom’s chastising me for paying full price on a birthday card, she’s purchasing one of those pre-cut, pre-arranged fruit platters. Costs about eight bucks for maybe two bucks worth of fruit. With more plastic than a 3-ounce water bottle.

But just make sure you’re making the most from your “toys made of lead” budget.

Now let’s get out of here and enjoy the Southern California traffic.

Traffic. My mom doesn’t trust traffic apps. How does Google know, she asks, if there’s about to be an accident on a route? Fair enough, although I actually wouldn’t put it past Google to have an algorithm that knows where and when future accidents will occur.

But when she picked us up from the airport at 6:00 and we wanted to make a baseball game by 7:00, I told her in no uncertain terms that we were taking the route Google told us to take.

Of course, Google doesn’t assume you’ll stay in the slow lane for the ENTIRE fucking route. And sure, this is in Southern California. so all of the lanes are slow, but the slow lane is especially slow. Every mile, an onramp deposits ten new cars into the lane, who promptly merge in front of us, then slow down even more in order to pull into the second lane, from whence they speed up by twenty MPH or so. And my mom is pretty much eternally going five MPH, except for the times she’s at a complete stop for all of these mergers.

“And see?” she says when we get to the game twenty minutes later than Google said we would. “Google doesn’t know how to account for this Southern California traffic.”

I wonder what Google would say is the dominant flavor in…

Churros. We met my niece for breakfast at a pretty good establishment in San Diego County called the Breakfast Republic. Solid food. I’ve eaten there a couple of times, but this was the first time I’d eaten at this particular location.

They have lots of scrumptious variations of Eggs Benedict and pancakes. My niece is a vegetarian, so she wasn’t interested in the crab cake bennie I got. She got Churro Pancakes. She gave us each a bite. Pretty yummy. Actual chunks of churro in there, and a dominant flavor of cinnamon.

Which my mom found odd. “Huh,” she says. “I wouldn’t expect that for a churro. Do you taste, I don’t know, kind of… cinnamon in there?”

Um, yeah? What the hell does she think a churro tastes like? What does she think that brown powder that they roll the dough in when it’s done cooking? Cumin?

Oh well, at least she wasn’t offensive or anything…

Pride. After breakfast, my niece was heading off to a Pride parade. She wore a rainbow shirt that said Pride on it. At first, my mom seemed oblivious, but the conversation eventually went there.

She seemed okay at first. Nothing overly offensive. She asked if my niece’s boyfriend was going to go to the parade. My niece said probably not. It’s not that he’s opposed to gay pride, he just doesn’t really want to hang out with a bunch of sweaty dudes with asscheeks hanging out. Totally get that. I’ve never understood how, in order to support LGBTQ rights, you need to oppose basic hygiene. Is there any way I can believe in marriage equality without getting a sunburnt schlong?

That being said, does my niece’s boyfriend realize that it isn’t just dudes letting their asscheeks hang out? Nothing like a gay pride parade to bring out all the heterosexual labias. It’s Mardi Gras, only without the beads and the necessity to fly to New Orleans.

But I digress. The reason I brought this all up was my mom’s response. She agreed with the boyfriend. Sort of. In typical Baby Boomer and/or white trash and/or general out-of-touchness, she started with, I shit you not, “I’m not a homophobe, but…”

Prepare the eyeroll.

“I just don’t want to see it.”

Okay, not quite what niece’s boyfriend was saying.

My mom went on to say there’s a gay couple on a soap opera she watches. She just fast forwards whenever they start kissing. It bothers her.

Um, what exactly does she think the “phob” part of homophobia means. If I say I’m not afraid of snakes, I just don’t want to see one because it makes me uncomfortable, guess what? It means I’m afraid of snakes.

But my mom adds the coup de grace.

“I don’t have any problem with them doing what they do. Just… do it behind closed doors or something.”

Spoken like a true non-homophobe.

Seriously, how did I come from this family?

I don’t know.

Just pass me the Coors Light.

Disneyland, Part I

About a month ago, I took my first trip to Disneyland as a parent. And needless to say, I’ve got some stuff. I’ll hit some of the big ticket items today, and return with some quick hits later this week.

Obviously, I’ve been to Disneyland plenty of times before. I grew up in Orange County, so Disneyland was more or less a babysitter for some substantial latchkey portions of my youth. And I’m an Angels fan, so I probably am not quite as filled with wonder for The Mouse Corp as those who only encounter it via their movies and a bi-annual trip to Anaheim.

That being said, it’s been a few years. And of course, the last time I went there with a four year-old, I was incapable of writing a blog. Or writing at all. Or changing my own poopy diaper.

So if you’re looking for the best spot to view a certain parade or ice cream cart with the shortest line or the brightness in my daughter’s eyes the first time she saw the line for Alice in Wonderland, you might want to look elsewhere. If you want a crotchety old man whining about the good old days of Disneyland, you might get a little of that. But it’s really just a snapshot of what’s changed, what remains the same, and how the hell we’re supposed to maintain our phone battery for 16 hours if we have to bust out the Disneyland app every five minutes.

Bibbity Bobbity Boutique I had one role,  and one rule,  when I became a father of a daughter. I know Chris Rock says all I have to do is keep her off the pole. But that’s still a few years away. In the meantime,  when she was born,  I said “no princesses.” I have a friend who went full princess with his daughter. She had every single Disney doll in her room, and every night,  she picked out the proper pajamas to go with the proper doll which might also go with the proper sheets and the soundtrack that accompanied her to never-never land. (Although I’m not sure if she ever dressed up as Peter Pan to head to neverland.) Princess,  princess,  princess, and as a result, that girl is a motherfucking  PRINCESS. And, in line with Chris Rock,  we can all agree that princess is the first step to stripper, right? I mean, if Ariel was willing to give up her voice to please the patriarchy, can her dignity be far behind?

And why would we want our daughter to adore to some antiquated title of nobility, whose greatest life accomplishment is being born to the right parents, when there are so many other options of strong women for her to emulate. Let’s tell her the story  of Angela Earnhardt. Or Sandra Day O’Connor. Or, if we want to stay in the fictional realm, let’s go Squirrel Girl. Anything’s bet than Stockholm Syndrome and the Beast. even if it’s the Hermione version.  Hey, how about Hermione as a goal?

So, now that my daughter’s approaching get fifth birthday, that means she’s about a quarter of the way to adulthood. The quarter mark is a good spot to send a progress reports. So lets see how I’m how I’m doing.

Bang up job,  Wombat!

Of course,  this photo is brought to you by the princess makeovers available at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, hidden in the far, far corner of Fantasyland. And, in case you were wondering, it is NOT included with the price of admission. I don’t know precisely how much it costs. When I asked my wife, “Do I want to know how much this costs?”, her answer was,  “No.” Good enough for me.

I do know that we didn’t pay for the whole shebang. She didn’t get to meet any of the princesses or take a picture in the pumpkin carriage.  That’s the full  package,  not the low-end crackwhore package our poor daughter was subjected to by her evil, natural-born step-parents.

While I was in the Boppity Boppity Buttfuck,  I heard a daughter ask her dad how much the makeover would cost. She wasn’t there for a makeover. Evidently, it also serves as a giftshop. I totally didn’t even know it existed, though I’ve been going through this nook and cranny for forty years. Probably just something my teenage/bachelor/non-parent male had blinders to.

By the way, the castle in the middle of Disneyland was closed when we were there. How the hell do you close something that effectively serves as a thoroughfare? It made it a pain in the ass to get to certain parts of the park. Damn you, Disneyland for making me walk!

Anyway, when the non-makeover daughter asked her father how much a makeover would cost, he said,  “I don’t know. Probably fifty bucks or something.” I almost fell over in amusement, but I don’t think I’d be able to afford the copay if I fainted. Or the giftstore crap I’d probably break on the way down.

The Consumerism is Strong. On Day One, we went back to the hotel for a nap and the only way to get my kid back to the park was to entice her with a stop at the Disney Store. Let me repeat, she didn’t want to go back to Disneyland. She only wanted to go to the Disney Store. And every time we got off a ride, she wanted to shop in the gift shop that each ride conveniently dumps you out into. And really, what’s it going to hurt? All she wants is these stupid little pins. I doubt they cost much more than… Holy crap! Are those pins made out of Golden Showers?

On the first night, during that compensatory store visit, she bought a Baby Sven doll. At least they called it a Baby Sven, but it looked more like the leftover Eeyore dolls that weren’t selling. So they wrapped a cute little swaddle around it and all of a sudden the donkey becomes a baby reindeer, and a fifty year-old property is rebranded as the hottest thing in the market right now.

Daughter carried Baby Sven around for the next thirty-six hours. It had a fun little handle so she could swing it around, often tossing either Sven or the swaddle into whatever stagnant water could be found. I think somebody vomited on Haunted Mansion when we were on it. I’m surprised she didn’t immediately become an artillery captain measuring the windspeed to gain the proper trajectory for ballistic arc to land in the vomit like a World War I trench.

But seriously, how do you vomit on Haunted Mansion? It’s one of the smoothest rides in any amusement park. I’d normally assume alcohol, but the closest inebriation you can get is in the other amusement park and costs $10 for a 12-ounce pour of 6% alcohol. So I’m at a loss. Maybe Dude should have gone next door to the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Oh hey, did you know they have a “Pooh Corner” in Disneyland? Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near any restrooms. They really needs to find someone with a sense of humor to design their park.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, Baby Sven. By Day Three, that swaddle was the most sodden, disgusting piece of cloth in America. But it didn’t last much longer, because when we took the Monorail into the park, somebody commented on her doll. So Daughter took off the swaddle to show it off. I don’t know precisely what happened next, but when we exited the monorail, Sven was swaddleless. A woman ran after us, asking if we dropped a blanket. We said yes. She said she put it “on the platform,” so Mama trudged back up the exit stairs to look. Daughter got a look of abject horror, of existential dread, on her face, and started asking what would happen if Mama can’t find the swaddle.

So maybe it’s that she had already played through the permutations in her head. But I was impressed with her reaction when Mama came back down, empty-handed. A look of sadness, of profound loss. Her shoulders drooped, her cheeks fell, she looked down toward the ground. A single tear fell from her eye. And then she looked back up and said, “Well, it’s okay, I guess.”

And I’m thinking, “Woo Hoo! How’s that for parenting? Our four-year old has the coping mechanisms of a Tibetan monk!”

Then she says, “We can just go buy another one.”

Did I say Tibetan monk? I meant American suburbanite.

It’s a Cross Promotion After All. I’ve gotta give credit to my four-year old. She didn’t shy away from anything. The first ride she wanted to go on was Haunted Mansion, and we ended up on that bad-boy three times. We also rode Splash Mountain three times. Twice in a row at one point, because it was an overcast day so you could pretty much walk right on it. She did the Matterhorn and Big Thunder without missing a beat and she cracked up the entire time we were on Guardians of the Galaxy. Thank God she’s got my instinct for thrill rides. As opposed to some of her friends, for whom Pirates of the Caribbean was too scary.

But then there’s the OTHER ride we went on three times. Ugh. Because if a kid’s favorite things in the world are unicorns and rainbows, you know she’s going to want to hit It’s a Small World over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

I’ve never been a fan. Okay, that’s probably not true. I’m sure at one point, I loved it. But once I hit the age of reason, I realized how truly horrible of an experience it is.

I used to call it “It’s a Stereotype After All.” Because nothing conveys the idea that “there’s so much that we share” than to imply that all Scots wear kilts and Indians are snake charmers. Yeah, that’s the way to foster tolerance and inclusion.

But now there’s something way worse than a little old-fashioned essentialism going on in that ride. In typical Disney fashion, they’ve eschewed ideas of love and inclusiveness for a chance to highlight more of their characters. Go fuck your world peace, we’ve got some movies to shill.

It’s obnoxious. Peter Pan is flying around the London portion of the ride. Pinocchio is in Italy. Donald and the Three Caballeros are in Mexico. Aladdin’s in the Middle East. And Lilo and Stitch are surfing in Hawaii. That’s how you know they haven’t updated the ride in a couple of decades. Otherwise they’d have Moana.

But then the promotions became even worse. Woody and Jessie from Toy Story were in… well, I don’t know, the American part of the ride? I don’t explicitly remember anything dealing with the Lower 48. But now there’s a cowboy world. Because, you know, if you’re going to curtail to stereotypes, then I guess Cowboys and Indians, it is. Ignore the fact that the park is actually in a very suburban, cosmopolitan part of that same country. If it’s America, then let’s put a sheriff’s badge on a cowboy. Especially if said cowboy happens to be a Disney property.

And seriously, Native Americans, how can you not get on board with the message of the song? Are you saying you didn’t get along with the cowboys? But “there’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware…” that it’s going to be taken from you in exchange for smallpox-laden blankets. So that’s a win-win, right? So glad they threw Toy Story characters into that portion of the ride, because who doesn’t want their genocide a little bit cuter?

But wait, there’s more! Because after “The West” and Hawaii portions, we went to a place whose inhabitants really need to hear the message – underwater! Because Ariel’s a Disney character. So they’ve turned an entire room of the ride into mermaids and groupers and racist crabs. I mean, I guess it fits with the fiction of the ride. If we’re going to say that we all have more in common than we have different, then we might as well say mermaids exist, too. One seems just about as rooted in reality as the other.

Although I do wonder what room was taken out to put Ariel in? Which nationality was relegated to a tiny corner of another country’s portion or thrown out altogether. Did the Native Americans used to have their own room, but now they have to be thrown in with Whitey? So sorry! And that apology’s coming from me, not Disney. Disney is just saying “Fuck you, you’re not as important as that extra sale of a thirty year-old DVD.”

Maybe, since the ride was last redesigned before Moana, they had shrunk down the Scandanavian portion. But that won’t last for long. You know that, when they do their next maintenance, all the blond-hair, blue-eyed Abba-clones will be replaced by Anna and Ilsa and Sven and Olaf. Unless, of course, the anti-semitic Walt Disney wrote in his last will and testament that the park must always show proper deference to Aryans.

Space Mountain. Space Mountain was closed when we went, so my daughter will have to wait another five years or so to ride that one, since I think Disneyland is sold out for the next decade once Star Wars land opens. I know that they routinely shut down rides for updates and maintenance, and our bad for going in the slow part of the calendar. Heaven forbid we actually want to get on rides. But this particular year seems a really odd year to close down this specific ride. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s, like, some new land opening in Disneyland at the end of May. If you weren’t aware, then you probably weren’t on our Big Thunder train. Because the thing damn near tipped over at the top of the first hill when we all simultaneously leaned to the left to get a better view of the Millenium Falcon poking its nose out of an impound lot in Mos Eisley.

The new land has to do with, like, some Stars and maybe some Wars. Hopefully that doesn’t pique your interest, because every hotel in the area is booked the entire week that its open. In fact, the impending opening of Galaxy’s Edge was the main reason we were going to Disneyland at all. I initially said no until my daughter could go on all the rides, because the worst day of my life was when I went to Six Flags Magic Mountain at a height of 46 inches. And this was in the days before kids lands and variable height requirements per ride. So I spent the whole day sitting on benches with my aunt while my sister and mom went on all the rides. I wasn’t going to subject my daughter to the same life-defining torture. Almost made it. She was tall enough to ride everything except the Indiana Jones ride (who woulda guessed that ride would be more restrictive than Matterhorn?) and the Incredicoaster. I got to do the latter. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s hilarious.

But we had to take her now, because I have a bad feeling it’s going to be even more crowded than usual for the next year. Or two. Or fifty. At least by the time my daughter is fifty-five, she can go on all the rides.

But seriously, if Star Wars land is opening in a month, why would you close Space Mountain now? I’m thinking nobody’s going to give a crap about that ride for the first year or two that Galaxy’s Edge is open. Not only will its theme seem even more dated than usual, but it’s on opposite sides of the park. Maybe they’re trying to have it updated in time to coincide with the Star Wars theme, but Space Mountain seems to coincide more with the other cheesy 1970s sci-fi, not the fantasy-inspired Star Wars.

But whatever. Maybe they’ll use the time after Star Wars Land opens to finally put Arendale in Small World.

The Case of the Missing Fastpass. Okay, so a weird thing happened with my Fastpass when I was in California Adventure. And it happened twice, which makes me think it’s more feature than a glitch.

We had a Fastpass set up for Soaring. We had already been on it once. It was the first ride we went on, and my kid loved it. Have I mentioned that she’s a ride fiend? I mean, it’s not like Soaring is super fast or shaky or whatever. But it does kinda feel like you’re hovering in midair with the ground hundreds of feet below. I’m fine with any ride, but even I get a little lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach on that ride. There’s a certain helplessness to it. It really feels like they should rename the ride “Falling” instead of “Soaring,” because that’s the sensation that I get.

Regardless, the kid loved it, so we re-upped on Soaring for later in the day. We had a 2:00 PM Fastpass, and we were planning to use that as a chance to get back near the entrance and maybe go rest in the hotel room for a bit. But the, at about 1:55 PM, I got a notice on my phone that the Fastpass for Soaring was canceled. It was replaced with a “Wild Card” Fastpass, which I could use on any Fastpass ride.

Odd, I figured, but maybe Soaring had shut down. The wait time for Soaring dropped from about two hours to about thirty minutes within a five minute span of my Fastpass being canceled. But the wait time never actually bottomed out at zero, nor was it ever listed as “temporarily closed.” Maybe the drop in wait time was only based on them canceling everybody with a Fastpass. Fuck all those people who had foresight, let’s get you people in line on the ride.

I wasn’t sure if the “can use it on any Fastpass ride” meant any ride OTHER THAN Soaring or not, nor could I figure out if Soaring was currently running or if all of those people were waiting in line for thirty minutes in the hopes that the ride might come back online. And I didn’t really feel like hoofing it over to Soaring to find out, so meh, kid just enjoyed Goofy’s Sky School, so let’s go once more without the wait this time.

But then it happened again. We had timed two Fastpasses back to back to end our day. Radiator Springs and then Guardians of the Galaxy. Like I said, my kid’s not messing around. But right as we were about to get on Radiator Springs (Even with the Fastpass, you have to wait for twenty minutes on that ride. Without a Fastpass, it takes two hours.), I get a notice that my Guardians of the Galaxy Fastpass has now become a wild card.

But this time, I’m ready. And more importantly, this time it’s a ride I haven’t already gone on so I’m much more reticent to just go on Goofy again. So I watched the wait time like a hawk. It dropped a bit, but was still showing 45 minutes. And again, this time I’m curious if the drop was from all the canceled Fastpasses.

Only one way to find out. We walked over to Guardians of the Galaxy. Turns out it’s running perfectly fine and our wild card Fastpass works perfectly fine for it.

So while I joked about it the first time, I’m now wondering if this is a thing. It never happened the two days we were in Disneyland, but happened twice on our one day in California Adventure. But California Adventure has fewer rides and closes earlier. Whereas you can still get a Fastpass for most Disneyland rides well into the evening, you have to book the California Adventure ones long in advance. So maybe they overbook some. Maybe when that wait time creeps up toward two hours, they “release” a bunch of the Fastpasses into the wild to alleviate the wait time. After all, one time it worked on us and we went on a different ride. And really, if my daughter didn’t have her heart set on Rocket Raccoon and Groot, maybe we would’ve just gotten right back on Radiator Springs.

But at the same time, that’s kinda chintzy. Look, if you want to give me the option to swap my Fastpass out for something I’m currently closer to, that’s fine. But the first time it happened, I was under the impression that I could not go to the ride I had booked earlier. Again, Disneyland, we have the app, you have the turnstiles, you know how many Fastpasses you’ve given out at any given time. This shouldn’t be a problem. And this definitely shouldn’t be, as it appeared to be, a standard operating procedure.

You can read Part II here.

An Anniversary… of DOOM!

Anniversaries suck.

I mean, not anniversaries in general. What’s not to love about celebrating the fact that a certain event happened on this specific date in a different year?

No, I mean specifically my own wedding anniversary.

Again, this is not a judgement on my marriage. I love my wife. We have a wonderful marriage the other 364 days of the year.

And it’s not like our anniversary reminds me of some horrible occurrence on our wedding day, wherein Elton John lept upon the alter screaming “I Wanna Kiss the Bride.”

(How’s that for a 1980s deep cut?)

Quite the contrary. Our wedding was one of the most well-regarded shindigs of 2011 and beyond. We picked a great spot and kept the people entertained. Heck, we even had the guests were trading baseball cards with people they had never even met during that awkward post-ceremony/pre-reception time while we were taking pictures and signing the license. Because when you get married in your late-thirties, you’ve been to plenty of those weddings that leave the guests in a time-bending lurch at that time.

Oh, and did I mention the groomsmen got to play “Rock Band 3” in the wedding venue’s “Man Cave” the whole weekend? Fucking awesome! Way better than the time I was a groomsman and we were all holed up in the golf-course bathroom for three hours while the bridal party took their pictures.

So the wedding was great. The marriage is great. The anniversaries… man, Wife and I suck at those.

It’s not usually our fault. Honestly! It’s just that fate has conspired against us to ruin not one, not two, but THREE of our wedding anniversaries. It’s always something different. Sometimes it’s medical science, sometimes it’s the fury of nature, sometimes it’s… whatever the hell just happened last month.

Our first two anniversaries went off without a hitch. A couple of lovely bed-and-breakfasts in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Similar locale to where we got married and, as a bonus, wineries! On our first trip, we went north toward Sierraville and the Lakes Basin. We picnicked by a lake and opened a bottle of wine that had been given to us as a wedding present. Thus started a tradition where we would purchase a bottle of wine to be consumed on our next anniversary trip.

This vaunted tradition lasted precisely one year. Two if you count the bottle we got at the wedding.

The following year, we traveled up to Jamestown off of Highway 108. They have a railroad museum up there. We got to see the train car that they filmed “Back to the Future 3” on! It was specially-made for Michael J. Fox to hide how short he is. We drank Year One’s wine and bought another bottle for Year Three.

That bottle might still be in our wine rack. Because our third anniversary was the first one that went sideways.

Our daughter was born three months prior to our third anniversary. I wish I could go all high-and-mighty, new-parenty and say we couldn’t POSSIBLY think of leaving behind our newborn treasure. But truthfully, we had grandma lined up for months. Baby was perfectly fine that weekend. Momma, on the other hand, was not.

I wrote a while ago about some of the complications my wife had after the delivery of our daughter. In a nutshell, the pregnancy and the delivery went fine, then my wife spent the next six months in and out of the hospital. So even if she hadn’t needed to be in the hospital that specific weekend, it was going to be a low-key anniversary. We booked a B&B about twenty miles from our house and figured we’d only be gone 36 hours or so, at which point we could get back to our baby and deal with whatever medical issue she might be having at that time. You know it’s a fun year when you can bank on medical drama weeks in advance.

Unfortunately, there was no way we could’ve banked on this particular drama. September of that year brought an inflammation, and the subsequent necessary removal of, her gall bladder. The good news was that this was probably one of the mildest/run-of-the-mill medical issues she had that year. Evidently many pregnant or postpartum women have gall bladder problems. It’s one of those stupid organs we don’t need anymore and it tends to get all riled up when you have the audacity to put a fetus up in its territory.

The bad news was that, when Wife went in to the doctor on the Thursday before our trip, they said she should go to surgery immediately. She told them to, very politely, go fuck themselves because if they aren’t going to cover pre-existing conditions then we ain’t gonna cancel our pre-existing B & B reservation. They looked at her with a very serious furrow of the brow.

Actually, Wife was way more polite than that. And way more polite than I would have been at the midway point of six months of medical incompetence. But she had become a pro at the whole thing by then, and she knew they wouldn’t give her the surgery immediately anyway. Sure enough, we finally admitted her on Saturday, and they didn’t remove her gall bladder until Tuesday. Her blood pressure was too high. So maybe they should’ve just shut the fuck up on the whole “cancel your anniversary” shit.

But we did at least cut our sojourn short. It was originally planned to be a two-night stay, but we cut it to one. It turns out that the two other reservations at the B&B for that night also cancelled. Since we were pretty damned local, the innkeeper asked if we minded if he took his teenager out to see a movie that night. After all, it’s not often they have a Friday night with a shit-ton of guests. We said sure. We went out to dinner and came back to a completely empty house. Kind of weird. I wanted to go kick back in their game room and crack open a beer. But that would be kind of mean with Wife unable to imbibe.

So instead we sat around an empty house that was not our own in a somber mood. We knew we were going to be leaving first thing in the morning to drive her to the hospital, where they would be removing a key portion of her body. Add to that the fact that she had already spent weeks upon weeks at the hospital that summer, and the empty B & B just made it seem a tad too real, a tad too final.

But, damn, the breakfast the next morning was pretty fucking good.

And we were so happy, when Year Four came around, that Wife hadn’t had any parts of her body inflamed or removed for over six months!

But I guess health isn’t the only reason to cancel a weekend away. Year Four just came at an all-around bad time. Child was a little past one-year old. Wife and I were still trying to figure the whole work-and-parent balance. I mean, I guess we still are, and will be for another, oh I don’t know, twenty years? But a one-year old requires different attentiveness, like changing diapers and mashing up food. Whereas a four-year old only has pre-school friend drama. Wait a second. Is there any way I can go back to cleaning up soiled drawers?

One additional wrinkle we had in Year Four was that we had just bought a new house. We signed the paperwork and got the keys the two weeks before our anniversary, so we were still pretty much living amongst, and out of, fifteen hundred square feet of boxes.

It’s been three years since we moved in now and we’re still not entirely out of the boxes. Like I said, we’re still figuring out that whole “working parent” thing. And we’ll ignore the fact that, even before we were parents, we never finished unpacking my crap from when I moved in with her. So maybe we’re still figuring out the whole “Working Adult” thing. But man, when I retire in twenty years, the house is gonna be SWEET! Too bad my aching legs won’t be able to get up the stairs by then.

But after losing the previous anniversary to medical drama, there was no way we were going to let this one fall by the wayside. Who cares if we can’t find our suitcases or that wine bottle from two years ago that we couldn’t drink last year? We booked a B&B near Murphys, California, which is another cute foothills winery town, albeit further south than usual. It wasn’t far from Jamestown, where we spent Year Two, when we had encountered some of the wineries near Murphys and decided we wanted to double back.

As the anniversary approached, we both broached the subject of cancelling. Had Year Three been spent out of the hospital, we probably would’ve canceled earlier than we did. But cancelling two anniversaries in a row kinda feels like a bad thing.

You know what else is kinda a bad thing? When the entire foothill region catches fire! Maybe the universe was telling us to take another year off, although that’s pretty mean of the universe to sacrifice lives and property just to send a message to a couple of numbnuts in the suburbs.

Anyway, I called the B&B to cancel our reservation.

“Oh, were you calling about the message we left you?”

“No. What message?”

“We wanted to see if you were willing to give your room to firefighters for a refund.”

“Oh, sure. We’d love to. Thanks.”

“Wait, you said you didn’t get out message? So you were going to cancel regardless?”

“Was I? No, I think that I…”

“Too late. No refund. But the firefighters thank you for your donation.”

Okay, that might not have been the actual conversation, but it wasn’t far off. I think they refunded us one night, but not the second.

Regardless, we made it to our fourth anniversary with a whopping fifty percent completion rate. We were dead set on raising that bad-boy up to a D- grade by Year Five. One of the wineries we belong to in Amador County rents out the owner’s old house in the middle of the vineyard. Pretty sure the vineyards will be hydrated enough to withstand any wildfires. Wait, what happened in Napa last year?

Actually, we were in Napa Valley last year for Year Six. I know Napa seems to buck a certain trend. It’s not in the foothills, and if I ever get around to writing that “Wine” post, I’ll contend that it isn’t really wine country, either. But it was on Groupon late in the game, so winner, winner! Even better, we managed to be there two whole weeks before it turned into a hellacious moonscape of soot. Anniversary mojo is back, baby!

So going into this, our seventh, anniversary, we had almost forgotten all about our earlier foibles. To quote bastardize “Major League,” we had a successful anniversary in Year Six. We also had one the year before. If we could do it this year, it will be a streak. Oops. The third strike is always the hardest one in getting a turkey.

Sorry, mixed my sports metaphors there. The latter “strike” was a bowling strike, being referenced in a paragraph about a baseball movie. Bad Wombat!

This year, we decided to go back to the Amador region. This was a little bit of a late plan, but Year Six hadn’t really taken shape until a few weeks prior, so why plan ahead? Actually, seeing as how we already went to New York and Denver and San Diego in the past few months, we weren’t entirely sure we should take another weekend away. Even though it was a month earlier, we were kinda treating Denver as our anniversary weekend.

But then we realized that all of the wineries in the Amador region were doing a festival. We’ve always talked about going to one of those, and if it falls on our anniversary weekend, we can’t really NOT go, can we? Once we confirmed there were still rooms available (not an automatic in a town of less than a thousand inhabitants on a weekend that draws members from fifty different wineries), we decided to head up.

No fire this time! Yay! In fact, the weather was absolutely sublime. Partly cloudy, low eighties. STRIKE 1. I guess after getting evacuated from Camptathalon in August, nature decided to take it easy on me. And the wine festival was wonderful. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but you get a glass and you go from booth to booth getting a half-ounce of wine each time. Delightful! Why haven’t we done this before?

STRIKE 2.

The plan was to head into town to check in at our B&B and then walk to the brewery across the street.

“Oh, I don’t have your reservation.”

GUTTER BALL.

The innkeeper says this as soon as she answers the door, before we even tell her our names.

Wife starts to pull up the Travelocity reservation on her phone, which is not that easy in a town where they consider 3G to be the GOOD kinda cell service.

“Oh, well I’ve had pneumonia all week, so I moved all of my reservations to the hotel in town.”

Okay, that’s fine. We don’t mind staying there. In fact, we tried to book that first, but they were all full as of three weeks ago. If you could just point us in the right…

“But I’m feeling better now. So you can stay here if you want.”

Um, okay. Even though you don’t have our reservation? What’s the catch?

“It’s not the room you booked. It’s this one that’s on the outside, not in the actual B&B. But hey, it’s an upgrade because it’s a king-sized bed instead of a queen-sized bed. It’s our most popular room. But the people that had booked it are now staying at the nice hotel in town. I can show it to you.”

Umm… okay?

So she escorts us around the side to the “Carousel Room.” What a day to leave the clown porn at home!

Well, okay, maybe we could make this work. I mean, the brewery’s closing hour ain’t getting any younger. Even if it is kinda weird that she “doesn’t have” our reservation and everybody else has been sent packing. No horror movies start by being the only customers in an abandoned hotel, right?

Should I be concerned that the innkeeper’s talking to the corpse of her mother?

Still, while we don’t have specific plans for the next day, we kinda wanted to hit another winery or two on the way home, maybe have lunch at the restaurant we had our first date in, and grandma’s already booked to babysit through the afternoon tomorrow. Plus, did I mention the brewery’s open until 8:00 within stumbling difference? So why the hell not? Sure. We’ll take the room.

“Oh great, I’ll run your card.”

You mean the card we used on the website to make the reservation that you never received?

“What is your name?”

Umm… Has this not come up yet?

“Oh, by the way, there’s no breakfast tomorrow. Because, you know, I once had pneumonia.”

Blink. Blink.

So Wife and I return to our car with things to discuss our plan of attack outside of Typhoid Mary’s earshot. Both of us are a little bit skeeved out. Too many oddities. We couldn’t really tell if she was trying to get rid of us or not. Or if we were going to wake up in our mortal shells the following day.

Finally, despite the call of the brewery, we decided to cut our losses and head home. We walked back up to the front door to return the key.

“Oh, do you need to get back home to your child?”

I don’t specifically recall mentioning we had a child. Maybe it’s mentioned in our missing reservation. Or else she’s already analyzed some DNA we dropped on our “tour” five minutes earlier.

“No,” we respond, “it’s just that the room we reserved is… um, I mean the breakfast that was supposed to… um, yeah, you know what? We want to go home and see our daughter.”

“Well, okay,” the innkeeper says. “But the website is going to charge you for the night, anyway.”

Oh, you mean the website that didn’t have our reservation? That one?

Turns out that, yep, as soon as we were back in cell range, the charge had already gone through. And get this, it was the rate for the “upgraded” carousel room. I didn’t check to see if they had added the clown porn surcharge.

So let’s see, that’s two good anniversaries, two bad ones, two good ones, then one bad.

My daughter would look at that and say, “Look, Daddy, it’s a pattern!”

And I would say, “Good, honey. And what can you predict about the next one?”

And then my daughter will be grounded until after Year Eight.

Cat-astrophe

My mom was visiting last week for some time with her granddaughter. While she was here, she proudly claimed she “fixed” my cat’s dietary issue. Three thousand dollars later, the cat came home from the hospital.

And boy, are my arms tired.

Sorry, don’t know how to punch that particular line. Line that particular punch? How does one verbify punchline?

Sorry, where was I? Oh, right. My mother almost killed my cat.

In her defense, we didn’t know what she was doing was wrong. However, the problem wouldn’t have gotten quite as acute, or cost me quite as much money, if grandma were not visiting.

My cat is eighteen years old, far past the life expectancy for one of his ilk. One of the few twentieth century kitties still roaming around. He’s been with me from my mid-twenties into my mid, um early forties. Through six moves and six “roommates,” if you count wife and child as roomies.

In fact, he is the longest-tenured roommate in my life, surpassing my mom. I moved away to college one month shy of my eighteenth birthday. The cat came to live with me, small enough to fit in my hand, in November 1999. So last November, he had been living with me for eighteen years, one month longer than I lived with my mom.

No, I don’t think she was taking it out on him.

The cat hasn’t been fully healthy for a few years now. He has trouble keeping down food. Lots of kitty vomit around the house. Thankfully I’ve got a toddler, too, so we can just wait until they’re both done and replace the carpets. Of course, he’s always hungry because he pukes up what he just ate. If Oprah still had a show, she’d probably book him for a very special kitty-bulimia episode.

Despite always whining at his bowl for food, he’s really not a fan of cat food. He’s never liked the dry shit (his words), but more recently, he’s not a fan of the wet food, either. He’ll take two or three bites and leave the rest for the other cat to hoover. Then Old Dude counter-surfs for human food. He’s pretty spry for an old dude, especially when I’m sitting at the kitchen table trying to enjoy my own goddamn food that I had to work pretty goddamn hard for, cat, so maybe you best go get your own fucking job if you really want to eat your own goddamn taco meat.

At his last weigh-in, before the tuna incident, he was down to nine pounds, which isn’t particularly healthy. Meanwhile, the other cat in the house has ballooned up to fourteen pounds. We’re now under instructions to make Fatty lose weight. Do you know how hard it is to make one cat eat more while making the other one eat less?

So when my mom decided to feed him some tuna while I was at work, I didn’t think much of it. She said he liked it and she was going to feed him more tuna the next day. Sure, Mom, more power to ya.  

Oh, did I mention he’s been diagnosed with kidney problems? And the worst thing for bad kidneys is a lot of protein? There isn’t any protein in tuna, is there?

Of course, he was diagnosed with kidney issues four years ago, which was the first time I ran a blood panel on him. The vet said his kidney levels were a little elevated and I might want to do something about it. It’s good to know that animal doctors are just as vague as human doctors. A little elevated? What the fuck does that mean?

We opted out of any specific kidney-related diet or behavioral changes that year. Said we’d fix his diet and make him do little kitty aerobics and make sure he never went outside and, I don’t know, make him floss more. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say when you’re being chastised in a doctor’s office?

The following year, they ran another panel and came back with the same answer: slightly elevated kidney functions. Alright fine, the flossing didn’t work. Speaking of flossing, the poor bugger actually had to have a tooth removed that year. He’s down to three of the good teeth left. It hasn’t affected his ability to eat, but it has given him a really gnarly Billy Idol sneer.

But this time, we figured he was fifteen and showed no interest in getting a driver’s permit, so we might as well splurge and get him the kidney diet. And wouldn’t you know it, the skinny cat that is very finicky about what he eats… didn’t like the kidney food. He had a tendency to avoid it and then, when forced to munch on the day-old crap in his bowl, proceeded to vomit it back up.

Meanwhile, Fatty has some of the best kidneys you’ve ever seen in a five-year old cat. You could eat off of those fuckers.

When we took him back for his Sweet Sixteen checkup, wouldn’t you know it, his kidney values were a little up. At this point, we figured fuck it. Whether we give him the good shit or the bad shit, he’s going to get the “D-” in kidney class. Dude’s sixteen years old, so let him enjoy life. Let him eat what he wants to eat.

Except maybe not tuna.

A couple days into grandma’s week-long visit, I noticed he was walking a little wobbly, but whatever, he’s eighteen now, I’m surprised he’s not using a walker by now.

The diarrhea was a bit off-putting (in MANY ways – the bed comforter will never be the same). And by the time my mom left, it was clear that he was not just having a senior moment. There was something clearly wrong with him. He was dehydrated, which you wouldn’t think you can spot in a cat, but you can. He was having trouble walking up stairs. When he tried to sit, he splayed out with his back legs, then flopped. When he face-planted in front of the water bowl, I didn’t think he’d ever get up. I lifted him and there was almost nothing there. When we got him to the vet the next morning, he weighed at seven pounds, and I think that was being generous. Two pounds may not sound like that much of a difference, but it was a quarter of his already-depleted body weight.

The first thing the vet said when they saw him was that they didn’t think they had what he needed at their place. He was going to need a legitimate animal hospital. Of course, they still ran $350 worth of tests.

If you guessed “elevated kidney functions,” give yourself a gold star.

By the end of the day, he was in the hospital. The new vets commented on the lack of detail in the previous blood work. “It would be nice to know how far ‘off the charts’ his BUN is.” I agree.

The new vets decided to hydrate him. I could’ve told them he needed that. Then again, I wouldn’t’ve had a fucking clue HOW to hydrate an animal that chooses if and when he will drink water. I learned that, even at the best of times, cats don’t hydrate themselves enough.  It’s not like with humans, where you can just spike the water with some Crystal Light or EmergenC or lime or vodka to get them to drink more.

Wait, I’m not supposed to be hydrating myself with vodka? No wonder my marathon training’s stalled out.

They gave my cat electrolytes. It’s what cats crave!

They also wanted to keep him for forty-eight to seventy-two hours to see if any of the treatments were working.

Our initial deposit was three thousand dollars. Yikes. I knew it would be expensive. We have an odd sense of what medical procedures cost in this country because they are usually paid by an insurance company.  Many people are surprised that a quadruple bypass heart surgery actually costs a bit more than the $20 copay. And the rest of us that are on the same insurance plan as you would really love it if you put that last chicken wing down next time, cause our premiums keep going up.

So I know that services cost money, and if this place is going to staff around the clock, said staff needs to be paid. Particularly those staff of the veterinary PhD style. Not too mention all the shots and specialty food and supplements can’t just be covered by some random government MediCat bureaucracy.

That being said, $500 for an ultrasound seems excessive. Pretty sure my cat isn’t pregnant.

Can’t I just get Kaiser or Blue Cross to pay for it? Or maybe claim it as a tax deduction? Animals can now be classified as therapy necessities. Isn’t keeping them alive, then, a psychological necessity. Can I at least claim moving expenses since he had to live in the hospital for a few days?

This is where my cat might want to give extra bonus purrs to his mommy in the future, because the asshole father that he’s been living with for eighteen years was ready to cut bait and run. It’s not that I’m miserly or heartless. Had I received a guarantee that he would survive, I would’ve happily paid it.

Okay, maybe not happily, but I would’ve paid it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good gamble. If they had said, “Pay the three grand and your cat has a seventy to eighty percent chance of survival,” I would’ve jumped at it. But the “pay three grand and it might not do a damn thing,” is a bit of a hard sell. Can I at least hedge my bets?

So my first instinct was to remind my wife and myself that he’s an eighteen year old cat. Hell, we could give him a kidney transplant, a brand spanking-new robotic Kidneytron 3000, and he still might die from a hairball in two weeks. It’s not like we resuscitate people on death row or anyth… Wait, we do? Oh, for fuck’s sake, can I just charge my cat with some special circumstances?

So we ponied up the three grand to get our seventy-two hours of hospice care before having the awkward conversation with our daughter. Hey, at least the kitty hospital had 24-hour visitation rights. I don’t think many human hospitals have that kind of compassion and understanding. On the first night, we visited the cat only to find him still heavily sedated from his visit to the first vet, even though it was ten hours or more since the administration of said sedatives. They just escorted us into the cage area to give him some pets that he did not seem to notice.

By the evening of day two, they were able to put us in a little family-visit room before ushering him in like a prisoner being granted a conjugal visit. They even brought his dinner, hoping that seeing his family would bring his appetite around. He scarfed down the food, showing no interest in the water. Woo-hoo!  His demeanor was a bit trepidatious at first. Then he became ornery. I cringed when he tried to leap down from the steel table-tray they had put him on, despite still having a PICC in his front leg. I intervened and lowered him down to the floor myself, and he walked over to stare forlornly out the window. Did I mention it felt like a prison visit?

This was the first point that I started to think the three thousand might not be going to waste. Because this pissed-off stare, accompanied by a “are you shitting me?” meow is precisely the way my cat of the last seventeen years would react. Not the lethargic wraith of the past few days. He was pissed at being cooped up inside. Now he was saying, “if you could just put me on the opposite of this goddamned window, I’ll find my own fucking way home, thank you very much, and if you want to be helpful, you could have some goddamned dinner ready for me when I get there because I might have to kick some fucking ass while en route.”

Just no tuna.

His magical numbers in his blood had come down a bit the next day, but were still very high. Of course, not having a baseline, it was hard to say how close these numbers were to the normal “elevated kidney functions” he had been coping with just fine for four years. We were given the option of taking him home or keeping him in for one more night to see if the professionals could bring them down any more. Since we hadn’t used up all of the deposit, we were playing with house money anyway. Sure! Keep him one more night. And lets buy a round of Alpo for the house while we’re at it.

Day three brought more or less the same results as day two. Meh. It’s not like that $750 would’ve gone to anything more worthwhile.

We arranged a pick-up, which ended up being delayed a half-hour or so because all five visitation rooms were occupied. Saturday night’s alright for fighting, huh, frisky folks? Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Oh, and we still hadn’t used up our initial mark. Seventy bucks coming back our way! Woo-hoo! Don’t call it a comeback!

Kitty’s back home and all is right with the world.

Except for the home care element. We have to do is make him take a pill every day.

And shoot some white liquid down his gullet after every time he eats. He hates it. Scratches and bites the shit out of me and my wife. Half the cream ends up on his fur, he spits the other half of it out. It looks like the culminating scene in a… uh… genre of movies that often have punny titles about shafts or moistness or… college coeds.

We’re supposed to feed him and shoot our wad down his throat once every eight hours. Not sure how feasible that is in a dual-income family. And if we hadn’t been a dual-income family, I doubt we would’ve made it this far into the process.

We also get to hydrate him subcutaneously. I hoped that meant a pill, or worse case scenario, we fill a syringe with a couple ounces of water. Until they rolled in the IV stand like it’s a goddamned cancer ward. Turns out we have to put 100 milliliters a day. One of those IV bags is a liter, so we have to get a tenth of that bag into him each night. We have to use a different needle every night. We didn’t have a standard needle depository like you get from the human hospitals, paid for by insurance companies, or from f=your friendly-neighborhood drug dealer. So we’re putting the discarded needles in an empty Baskin-Robbins quart. Can’t wait to explain that needle collection to CPS.

Fortunately, you can lift the skin on a cat’s back and they don’t feel the needle going in. Unfortunately, it takes a couple minutes to get the 100 mL in, and cats aren’t known for sitting still when you want them to. After I take the needle out, he’ll sit still for the next three hours, but as soon as it’s in his back, he has the burning desire to waddle over to the other side of the couch.

I’ve also noticed (or at least my bloodied hands and forearms have noticed) that the cat tends to be less amenable to the injected-water thingy on the second or third day in a row. I think the initial vet said most customers only to the subcutaneous fluids two-to-three times a week. Having poked my own hand when he bolted out last night, that sounds like a capital idea. Now where the hell is that Baskin-Robbins quart, so I can dump the feline-and-human-stained needle?

The vet tech said that sometimes the needle will go through two layers of skin and you’ll be dumping water out the other side. That happened on our third attempt. She said all I had to do was pull back on the needle a bit and it would be back inside him. Nope. Then I was just spraying the water all over the initial opening. That was fun. I tried to re-engage, but the sweet spot was even harder to find when it was surrounded by matted fur and a very cantankerous, wet, pussy cat.

Just like those movies I was talking about! Just kidding, just kidding. I would never compare my cat to a…

Oh, who am I kidding? He’s been sedated, had things shoved in his mouth, and has more needle holes than a crack whore. Is there really any line of work he could go into other than prostitute or porn star? Maybe it’s time for him to start earning back some of that precious coin.

After all, he’s eighteen years old. I  hear there’s quite a market for that age.