Friday, December 16, 2011

God's Little Corner (Cue the Spooky Music)

There are many misconceptions out there about parenting. It's tough, but not for the reasons one would think. It can get a little pricey, but I'd probably find something to spend the extra money on anyway. The hard parts sneak up on you. It's discipline vs. compassion. It's supportive vs. domineering. It's finding out just how much chaos one can survive. But mostly, it's the logistics. Without kids, a trip to the store simply involves enough clothes to keep from getting arrested and a mode of transportation. With kids, it's an entirely different evolution. Your car becomes an appropriately nerfed rolling entertainment center. I'm not just referring to the portable DVD player. One must also assume that at some point one, or both, children will choose to self-entertain. In that case, a handy collection of age appropriate toys must be accessible.

Next, you must assume that at some point during your venture, no matter how short, one of the kids will express a bodily fluid at the worst possible time. This means you should definitely pack extra EVERYTHING and enough wipes to dam a river. Don't believe me? Make sure and read my other post, titled: "Seriously, How Did I Get Here?"

Various types of snacks and drinks should also be considered. It's damn hard to scream whilst chewing. I recommend a man bag, diaper bag, or purse roughly the size of Utah to ensure ample space. You would never believe the amount of goldfish a child can eat in one setting. That's because it's an optical illusion. It may look like the food is in their little mouths. Truth is, you'll find most of it the next time you remove your car seat. There, crushed into your seats will be the remains of thousands of sad little cheddar flavored fishies that never met their intended destination.

Once they are packed, your brain is so shot that you'll probably forget most of your own essentials. I would recommend making lists, but that's a sissy move. Live dangerously. Anyone can handle a stinky day or two, should you forget to pack the deodorant.

Packing the truck for our Thanksgiving trip was a nightmare. After all, this wasn't a simple trip up the road. We were stopping for one night in Alabama, to spend some time with my family, then pushing on to our final destination, Pigeon Forge. We would then spend three nights in a two bedroom cabin with Amanda's parents and her brother's family. If you're in to math, that's nine people in a two bedroom.

The cabin was a result of a last minute decision to take the trip combined with the fact that two million other families decided to share the same holiday dream. After looking on many various sites, with no luck, I was shocked when my father in law was able to acquire a cabin so quickly. Most of the ones we looked at were woefully overpriced or not available. My shock quickly turned to concern when we arrived at the cabin. First of all, it was suspiciously tucked away, down a long and winding one lane road. As we drove up to the cabin, and I literally mean UP, I became very concerned about the parking situation.

The truck came to rest at a 45 degree angle, and the parking brake whined sadly as the entire weight of the truck tested it's worth. While straining to keep from falling down the mountain side where our cabin was precariously perched, I instantly began to dread what came next. There was a very real possibility that the carefully packed luggage and assorted accoutrement would most likely tumble out of the truck, and down the hill, the moment I open the rear hatch. Luckily, only a few items shifted during transit and I was able to keep them from tumbling into the darkness.

(Cue the spooky music)

I've waited until now to reveal the primary source of my concern. Our cabin was named: God's Little Corner. Now look, I'm as God fearing a man as the next, but this name concerned me greatly. First, it's a little condescending. The all knowing, all powerful God of the universe certainly doesn't require a "little corner" to call his own. If he did, I doubt he would choose to place said getaway anywhere near Dollywood.

Second, I was sure the name wasn't referring to the fact that this cabin was so palatial and grand that it must be like a little piece of heaven.

Finally, I'm not a fan of being murdered in my sleep. Why was this place so readily available when nothing else was? Here we are, an unsuspecting family of do-gooders paying good money to meet our doom at god's little slaughterhouse. Sounds plausible, right?

Surely my fears would be relieved once we got inside and settled in to our new comfortable digs. Wrong. The owners of "God's Little Corner" wanted to make sure that we got the message. Every square inch of wall and shelf space in the entire cabin was chock full of figurines and paintings of angels. The Vatican would be jealous of such a spread. One could not find a place to sit where a host of heavenly angels weren't creepily staring at you. Amanda's brother even complained the next morning that he had a hard time sleeping because he felt like he was being watched the entire evening.

As we settled down for bed that evening we were faced with the ominous task of sharing a bedroom with two kids, one under the age of two. Some people don't think that humans possess the instinctive abilities that we see in nature. I disagree. If you've ever tried to sleep in the same room as a small child you will agree that we all possess the ability to move in complete silence, like a ninja. Because we know that one single grunt or cough could turn a peaceful evening into a gauntlet of pissed off kid. Once you're in bed, you feel like a prisoner. Not laying in a comfortable position? Tough shit. You're stuck there until morning. Lord knows you wouldn't want to risk shifting to your back. Next thing you know, he's standing up in his travel crib glaring at you. This glare can't be avoided either. You can't simply pretend he isn't there. If you do, he'll result to other means to let you know that if he ain't sleeping, ain't nobody sleeping.

Perusing the entertainment center in the living room was when the "culty" factor stepped up a few notches. The TV was accompanied by a VCR and a handful of VHS tapes of unrecognizably tasteful movies. We're talking MUCH lower rent than the dreck spewed out on ABC family. However, they did include a copy of Forrest Gump and Sister Act. Good lord. They couldn't even spring for the far superior Sister Act 2. Who were these monsters?

But no multimedia collection would be complete without an entire catalog of religious CDs from some random pentecostal housewife. Every CD cover was a unique scene of a heavy set, middle-aged woman in an indiscriminate floral dress staring off into the distance with a cheesy nature backdrop behind her. I'm not talking two CDs here. More like eight or nine. Apparently this chick was a big hit in the snake handling, jazz organ circles.

All of this led me to one very pressing thought: Webcams.

Yep, time to search the cabin up and down for the hidden webcams. My heart raced at the thought of some deliverance type psycho sitting behind a laptop sharing MP4's of my bathroom rituals with some businessman in Tokyo. After an exhaustive search, and no I'm not kidding, I was unable to locate said cameras. This guy was good.

The next day we decided the best place to eat lunch and enjoy some entertainment would be the Dixie Stampede. If you've never been, let me break it down for you. Your party, and 1100 of your closest strangers are packed in to a rodeo arena to dine in the darkness. They actually take pride in the fact that they do not have utensils. That's right, let's reinforce all the hillbilly, backwoods stereotypes out there by serving a four course lunch with no fork in sight. And we're not talking ham sandwiches. More like, cornish game hens, pork and even soup which you are forced to drink from the bowl like a refugee.

I've been a part of some pretty uninspiring performances in my day, but nothing compared to the energy of the Saturday lunch show we were privy to. This show consists of some basic horseback races with predetermined winners to ensure that we would all be on the edges of seats while at the trough. The Christmas portion even included some people dressed up as toys dancing to a collection of very austere Christmas muzak. It was like something out of an ambien commercial.

After surviving our lunchtime extravaganza Amanda's family shockingly decided to grant my request for the weekend. I'd read about this place called Cade's Cover that was supposedly a natural marvel, complete with wild animal encounters and breathtaking views. Bull crap. It was a single lane eleven mile road through some random fields. And wouldn't you know it, Nolan luck swept through the area like a toxic fog and scared away the animals. That's right. We saw two stinking deer and a handful of boring turkeys. What a waste.

But our trip was not complete. Nature was not finished screwing with us yet. Our entire eleven hour drive home was in a torrential downpour. Here's where you really earn your pay as a dad/husband. As soon as droplet number one hit the windshield, my entire family, Amanda included, entered a coma-like state. So there I am, driving through the mountains in a monsoon, while maintaining perfect silence in the vehicle. This requires copious amounts of caffeine and a vivid imagination. With every mile that passed, my mind did what it usually does; It relived. One of my more annoying habits is that I tend to dwell on encounters. I relive them over and over creating new and exciting outcomes to whatever the conversation was, at the time. I'm sure I would've looked like a complete psychopath, if Amanda would awaken to find me pantomiming a ten year old conversation, but at least we weren't careening in to oncoming traffic.

I guess that's how we are supposed to survive the logistical nightmare of having kids during the holidays. Find your own coping mechanisms. Find something to keep your mind off of the mind-numbing lengths you go to so that your kid can laugh and tell jokes with a cousin who lives far away. The jokes, hugs and memories are that much sweeter if you can ignore the fact that a horse-filled, sporkless lunch shouldn't cost $120, or that some Japanese CEO has pictures of you in your whitey tighties.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Life as a Criminal

There are lots of drugs in this world. Some alleviate pain, while others alleviate conscious thought. Some help you sleep at night, while others keep you up for days. Some help you open your mind, while others prevent you from being able to spell. But there is one drug that completely rules them all. There is one substance out there that completely skews your world view so wildly that you can no longer perform the simplest of tasks. It destroys your physical image. It ruins your view of your loved ones. It turns them against you. It makes you seem like, most of the time, you're speaking a completely different language than non-users. You destroy life-long friendships and lose the ability to attract the opposite sex. Sounds terrible doesn't it? It is. The worst part is that once you start using, you lose the ability to control it. You simply have to hold on and ride it out, with only a faint wish that one day you will snap to senses. Maybe then you can repair the damage left in the wake of teenage hormones.

While in the throws of this addiction, there is no simple way out. It seems as though adulthood is some distant land that must surely be a trick that resembles a taller version of eighth grade. With every struggle to understand your new feelings and physical mutations you continually think to yourself: "is this going to be forever?" I look back at those years now and see all of the paths I could've taken. I wonder why thoughts of college or the future NEVER ranked higher on the list than second base. I could never fathom anything more interesting or mysterious than a bra strap. If there was something out there that rivaled it, I was certainly not ready to learn it.

This causes you to do crazy, and I mean CRAZY things. If I would have worked as hard at school as I did trying to garner female interest, I would have been south Mississippi's Doogie Howser. Still, I never thought that one day, my tireless effort had the ability to get me killed.

In the neighborhood of human personalities, pompous and naive are next door neighbors. One doesn't know it's an asshole, the other doesn't know there's such a thing. As I look back now, I see that most of my crazy behavior is more related to naivety. I truly never considered that consequences ever got more severe than a stern talking to.

As is always the case, this story centers around a girl. Let's call her Elise. I've never known anyone named Elise, but she seems like a nice girl already. Elise understood the mind of a teenage boy better than anyone I've ever met. She was beautiful and smart, but her devious nature, which was never too far below the surface, was the thing that truly brought all the boys to the yard. Her interests centered around Stevie Nicks, horror movies, and anything else filed under "macabre." She kept many on the line, and was truly able to make you feel that if you withstood her folly long enough she would make it worth your while. I think I always knew it was a game with her, but was never able to muster the strength to call shenanigans. For most of my high school years I hung out with my best friend Joey. We chased the same girls, listened to the same music, and shared an interest in movies.

He lived in a nearby town, that was closer to Hattiesburg, so we spent most of our time cruising Hardy street looking for trouble. We weren't troublemakers, by any stretch of the imagination, but like all teenage boys, in our minds we were half a step away from being the reincarnation of James Dean.

Being the cool cats we were, we went right along with any request Elise made, even when she requested that we sneak up on her and her mom in the walmart parking lot and "kidnap" her. To her, it was a fantastic goof on her mom. To us, her bra strap seemingly outweighed life in prison if her mom overreacted. Honestly, I remember thinking that her mom would get a kick out of it. To me, we would pull up to their car, jump out wearing masks, make it seem like we were serious, and then reveal that it was all a ruse.

So there we are, pacing the aisles of the walmart parking lot on a Friday night, wearing gorilla masks, viewing ourselves as jokesters, rather than potential kidnappers. After ten minutes or so, we didn't see Elise, so we gave up and drove away.

The hardest part about puberty is that one minute you feel like an adult whose opinions should somehow matter, and five minutes later you're back to being a kid.

After leaving walmart, we drove around for a little while and eventually stopped at the office depot adjacent to the mall. We went inside and did what any common sense adult does in an office depot, we raced up and down the desk chair aisle attempting to identify exactly which was the fasted chair. We were having so much fun that we barely noticed the police officers running up and down the outside aisles of the store. They glanced at us and kept on going. "Hmm, must've been a shoplifter," we thought. After a few more minutes, we headed to the register so Joey could purchase a fancy new pen. While waiting for the cashier to ring him up, the front sliding glass doors open and in walks a tall and quite grumpy Lamar County Sheriff's deputy. To my surprise, he's coming right for us.

"HEY! Which one of you is (Joey's full name)?" Joey whips around and says, "I am. Can I help you?" Now, my inability to type sarcasm doesn't accurately convey how Joey's response sounded. It was snarky and condescending. And while it really thrilled the officer, I got the most benefit from his tone. I was empowered!!!!

The following exchange went something like this:

Officer grumpy pants: What in the world were you doing riding around in ski masks?

Naively confident me: We weren't in ski masks.

Officer grumpy pants: You weren't?

Naively confident me: No, we were wearing gorilla masks. (hey, details count)

Officer grumpy pants: Gorilla masks? Why in the hell were you doing that?

Naively confident me: We were going to play a prank on a friend of ours.

Officer grumpy pants: What kind of prank?

Stupid, but not that stupid me: Oh nothing really. We were just going to sneak up and scare her. Plus, wearing a mask isn't against the law, is it?

At this point, officer grumpy pants' blood pressure spiked to near-stroke levels and I'd won the conversation. With every breath, he yelled more and more while I remained calm and oblivious to his threats. I told him that we didn't commit any crime and he should leave us alone. That's when he asked me a very interesting question. He said, "boy, have you ever had the barrel of a gun pressed against your head?"

My naivety lead me to believe that he was out of reason and was now just trying to "scare us straight." Didn't work. Try again meathead.

This entire time, Joey is visibly uncomfortable with my unknowingly cavalier attitude. He's using every non-verbal method possible to get me to shut up, but I wouldn't back down. As the officer walked back out of the office depot, I puffed out my chest, satisfied that I stood up to the nonsense, and kinda looked cool doing it.

As we started up Joey's dad's Bronco and pulled in to the empty Dillard's parking lot, the cops were on us before we knew what happened. All at once we were surrounded by six cop cars. Lights, sirens, and loudspeakers galore. As we stopped the truck, they all kicked open their doors, guns drawn, and began to give instructions aloud.

Cop: Turn off the ignition.

Cop: Throw the keys out the window.

This instruction led to Joey opening the door to loudly explain that he had power windows and couldn't roll them down with the ignition off. Then he shut the door.

Cop: Uhh, okay. Uhh, turn it on and roll the window down. Then off again and throw them out.

We complied. Step by step, we were instructed to leave the vehicle and place our hands on the hood. As we stood there staring at each other across the hood of the truck we laughed and joked at how and why we got to this point. Ahh yes, a girl.

In an instant Officer grumpy pants is huffing and puffing in my ear, "you're not so funny now, huh?" To which I replied, "am I under arrest for being funny?" He snarled and walked away. As they searched the vehicle they found a bag of fireworks in the trunk area. "What do you plan to do with these, huh?" "Uhh, pop 'em?," Joey replied. Just then, I heard a common phrase that haunted me to the core.

An officer off to the side said, "wait a minute, are you Dale Nolan's kid?" Oh crap.

This response personifies the teenage mind. There I was, hands on the hood and a gun in my face and nothing made a bump on the old fear needle until my dad's name was mentioned. I turned around and met my accuser. He asked me, "son, what in the world are you doing out here, and what did you do to piss off officer grumpy pants so bad?" I took a few minutes to explain our situation and that we were truly no danger to anyone. He told me that an elderly couple saw us in the parking lot and followed us to home depot while on the phone with 911. They thought we were going to kill someone. Great. Thank God grandpa wasn't packing heat. He would taken us out all by himself.

Once everything calmed down, I apologized to grumpy pants for getting him so angry, and we were once again free men.

As we walked in to Joey's house, his parents invited us to join them in the living room. It seems that when the cops ran the tag on the truck, they ran through office depot looking for his dad. They then called his house to find out who was driving the truck. He'd been on the phone with them the whole time, and knew everything that had taken place. Like something out of a bad ABC family movie, Joey's dad jerks out a huge handgun and sticks it in our faces. "How does that make you feel guys? Is that a good feeling? Are you scared NOW?"

To which Joey replied, "not really dad. It's a revolver, I can see it's not loaded." Through gritted teeth his dad growled "GO TO BED." A few seconds later, his dad came to the bedroom door and handed me the telephone. "Call your parents and tell them what happened."

The ladies and gentlemen of the screen actor's guild would've been proud of the performance I put on during my two minute fake phone call to my dad. I explained the entire thing even feigned demure as I got an imaginary earful from the other end. After a few "yes sirs" I hung up and handed him the phone. "He said I could stay, but that I need to come home first thing in the morning."

As his dad closed the door, our minds shot back to the most pressing question resulting from tonight's escapades. "Where the heck was Elise?"

Yes, I do fear the looming storm of Jackson's karmic teenage payback on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thankgiving (The Legend of the Little Doll)

I am writing this posting in the dreary fog all parents know too well. For this fog was created by broken sleep. The only thing worse than no sleep, is broken sleep. One can not subsist on power naps alone. If one tries, one will lose his/her mind. At some point, your brain needs to shut down in order for your subconscious to once again remind you that your spawn isn't resisting sleep out of spite. Somewhere around three in the morning, my mind begins to convince me that he's snickering at me every time I'm roused from my bed when faint whimpers turn to blood curdling wails. I tell you all of this as a simple disclaimer in the case that my wanderings of incoherence are for more frequent than normal.

It's that time of year again. The time when families come together to once again marginalize the spirit of a holiday by adhering to elaborate traditions of the various menu options we use to induce family-wide food comas. It's THANKSGIVING!!! A holiday based on giving thanks to God, family, and friends for the gifts we all too scarcely recognize during the day to day grind of trying to survive. Sure, our first world problems are no match for the hardships faced by the early European settlers of the new world, just as much as the small acts of kindness that we show to those around us are sadly no match for the selfless consideration that the native Americans showed toward the pilgrims by sharing their limited resources to ensure the survival of strangers. Their actions did not mirror the law of natural selection. In the wild, if an animal doesn't identify the perils of it's surroundings and plan accordingly, no other random animal swoops in to save the poor fella. He's toast. That's the miracle of Thanksgiving that we all too frequently forget. The kindness shown to our ancestors was uniquely human. It was humble, not boastful; caring, not selfish; and most importantly, it was a gift, not a loan.

So what is true thanksgiving? It isn't a day, or a meal. It isn't Thursday afternoon football games just meaningless enough to ensure that there won't be any post-tryptophan sportscenter guilt. Instead, I think it has more to do with a mindset that we should all challenge ourselves to uphold on a daily basis. "Well Jamey, what is that grandiose, pompous statement supposed to mean?"

Well, I think it means that we all should pay attention to those around us that "get it." There's always someone in your life that provides you with the example of a spirit of thanks. So, here is one of mine:

My dad came from very humble beginnings. His young life was marked with sacrifice while excess was rare, if ever. The thought to treat oneself simply didn't make a blip on the radar. Niceties were for others. That's why I always loved to study my dad's appreciation for the seemingly marginal things in 20th century life. When I was about 5 years old my dad bought a car. In true Dale Nolan fashion, he scoured the classifieds to find the right model to suite his transportation needs, budget, and totalitarian emphasis on reliability. After patient consideration, he went down the road less traveled. He purchased, with cash, an aggressively beige 1982 Toyota Corona station wagon. To me, and to my then teenaged siblings, this car represented a rolling pocket protector. The headlights resembled nerdy wire rimmed glasses, the exterior paint (beige) was a vacuum of auto personality, and it was a station wagon, for God's sake. The tiny four cylinder engine was just powerful enough to reach highway speeds, or run a weedwacker if the grass wasn't too thick. And upon ignition, it emitted a thunderous roar similar to that of a dust buster.

All that aside, it was the definition of practical. It had space. It was economically priced, and with the price of gas in the 1980's, you could run it up and down the roads all month long for about the price of a Clark bar.

But it wasn't just the purchase of the car that puzzled me so. My dad LOVED this car. Of all the inanimate objects in the world to heap affection on, I couldn't understand his fascination with this excessively unfascinating vehicle. Every Saturday, especially during pollen season, I would watch, and sometimes help, him wash and wax the little doll in true OCD fashion. He would pull it into the yard, take a few minutes to check it for pine sap, then break out all the necessary accoutrement to treat this pauper like a princess. He would then spend the next few hours washing it multiple times, waxing it to streak-less perfection, and finally giving the engine a once over to ensure all the fluid levels were up to par. It was a love affair inexplicable to anyone but he and the car, which he named "the little doll."

He kept this car for the next twenty five years or so. Over that time it developed quirks, like the fact that once it was cranked you could safely remove the key, if necessary, to retrieve anything you needed from a locked glove compartment. Somewhere around the 240,000 mile mark, the odometer stopped working. That was in the early 90's. I have to imagine that when he finally parted ways with the little doll, it probably had something like 750,000 miles on it. And no, that's not an exaggeration. There was, however, a brief period where the little doll saw some down time. In the early 90's he bought a second corona station wagon. It was a fancier 1984 model that was a noticeable upgrade when you considered the automatic transmission and blue paint job. But, it never had his heart. It was an also ran. The funny part is that for a brief period he would trade off driving the cars. During the summer he drove the little doll because it had A/C and no heat, and during the winter he drove the also ran because it had heat, but no A/C.

It took me until adulthood to truly understand my dad's motives. He wasn't crazy. And God knows he wasn't disillusioned about what constituted a cool car. Before he and mom married, dad saved all of his money and bought a 1957 Chevy Belair 2 door hard top, the cherry-est of all rides. No, his love for this car was due to one truly fascinating fact: He was thankful. He was thankful for the fact that he'd identified a vehicle that he could afford that would meet his NEEDS. And he treated it with the heart of a truly thankful person. He humbly cared for it in a fashion not of it's own deserving. He placed so much emphasis on this car not because of what it was, but for what it represented. This simple car was all he needed. No longer was his life faced with the hardships of decisions on how to stretch a nickel or handmade clothes. No, he was in a place in his life where he understood that while he could do more, all that he was required to do was to painstakingly care for what he had. He didn't have to struggle to piece together his means. Why then, would he ever care for anything he had less than completely?

It was a powerful lesson. The grateful and humble nature of thanks for all he had was not one that most generation X'ers could ever understand. He didn't spend his time looking at others for his cues of social norm and competition. For him, the competition was complete. He'd won. His struggle was over, and there was no more simple and content way to celebrate his victory than to love and care for a car whose worth only he was able to recognize. Maybe that's what he always wanted. Humble beginnings scream for recognition. Maybe there was a person in his life who reached out to him and recognized his beauty and worth when he needed it most. Maybe that's what we all should be thankful for. Maybe we should constantly focus on those around us that saw our worth and fostered our growth through friendship, mentor ship, and unexplainable love. And maybe, the best way for me to teach my kids about thanksgiving is show them that understanding the contrast of who you were and who you are is only half as important as recognizing those who selflessly helped you along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One of These Things is NOT Like the Other

My parents loved to travel. Because of this, I've been to 46 out of 50 states, all by car/motor home. I've been to mountains and oceans, canyons and caverns, and rivers and Great Lakes. The most interesting thing about all of this travel was definitely the sights and scenes. However, a very close second was meeting the different people from many various cultures. Some parts of this country made life in south Mississippi feel very cosmopolitan, while others made me feel like we rolled in straight off the set of Andy Griffith. I distinctly remember trying desperately to explain to a group of kids from Michigan, that I absolutely owned shoes and had never driven a tractor to school. They were shocked at the fact that Mississippi actually had roads and that my parents weren't a part of the klan. It was very frustrating. I found myself consciously straightening up my twangy southern accent and trying to reference all of the new, hip things I'd most recently seen on MTV.

It was shocking to be forced to understand, at such a young age, the vast cultural differences and ignorance that existed among the people of just one country. While assuming that it existed globally, one night in London really drove home the concept of how different people can be, even when they speak the same language.

Our college choir traveled to England during the spring of my junior year. We spent a week visiting different areas of the country side including Stratford, Canterbury, and Oxford. Eventually we ended up spending three days in London, singing in various churches, to round out our trip.

I may have mentioned this before, but I hate flying. I fly a lot with my job, but the anxiety has never subsided. The trip to England was the first time I'd ever been in an airplane. We took a small regional plane to Charlotte. It was a little bumpy, but overall not too bad. However, I had no idea what I was about to experience with an overnight transatlantic flight. First off, we were on the biggest damn plane I'd ever seen. It was some model of Airbus that could apparently accommodate around 10,000 passengers. It was HUGE. Well, no one told me that planes that size don't simply perform a rolling take off. No. You can imagine my surprise when we pulled on to the runway and revved the engines up so loud that everyone started sharing looks of concern. Just when the crescendo of jet propulsion reached a climax, the pilot dropped the emergency brake, slamming us back in our seats, and we blasted down the runway. I pretty sure I left fingerprints in the armrests of my coach seat, and I may have made a few sounds one would deem less than masculine.

There are a few things about transatlantic travel that no one ever cared to explain to me. Had I known these things, I could've probably saved myself a lot of mental anguish and pain.

1. Bring some type of sleeping aid.

Jet lag is one of nature's cruelest tricks on the human body. You can be square in the middle of an enlightening conversation, when you suddenly become drunk with unexplainable exhaustion and your body feels pinned to the earth by gravity. This is only exacerbated when your nerves of flying cause you to stay awake during your entire overnight, twelve hour flight.

2. The meaning of the term transatlantic.

It all seems very romantic and lofty to travel the world on a "transatlantic" flight. You half expect Humphrey Bogart to sit down next to you and order a nicely aged scotch. What you don't expect is the cacophony of dark and terrifying images that flash through your mind when you realize that once it starts, your only chance of survival, should the unthinkable happen, is to out swim the inevitable hoard of hungry sharks below until they've had their fill on the carcasses of those passengers who skipped their swimming lessons. In my exhausted state I began to stare down the aisles of the plane, imagining the oxygen masks dropping from the overhead as we bounce violently toward the sea below. I envisioned panicked flight attendants, screaming women and children, and a litany of sloppily filled vomit bags. This went on for TWELVE hours.

3. I would rather plummet than descend.

I have bad ears. I had tons of ear issues as a child, much like Jackson. But as a young adult I was sure that my years of ear aches were far behind me. Wrongo. The descent in to London was a long, arduous journey that completely changed my outlook on how I would hold up under torture. Around an hour in I would've drop kicked a kitten to make the pain stop. I tried not to cry, but I may have sprinkled an ounce or so. It was unbelievable how much pain I was in. I would look around at casual businessmen reading their papers, completely unaffected by the pressure in my head, and fantasize about running across the aisle and violently boxing their ears so I wouldn't be alone in my agony. Little did I know that my pain was centered around the fact that I was in the beginning stages of a pretty severe sinus infection. That explained a lot. Anyway, always bring gum.

4. London is foggy.

Two rules about flying in to London. Don't confuse fog with clouds. You're probably much closer to the ground than you realize. Also, DON'T scream like a girl when your plane apparently lands on a runway while in said clouds. Just because you can't see the ground, doesn't mean you should draw attention to yourself when the plane jolts to a sudden halt. Show some testicular fortitude.

Aside from the trip over, and the first few days of being incredibly sick, the trip to England was magical. We sang in front of Shakespeare's grave, visited Windsor castle, and I sang a solo during a master class in the catacombs of the Canterbury cathedral. We were constantly surrounded by history and culture. But like any good college story, eventually history and culture take a back seat to partying and the shaking of one's booty.

Our last night in London was pretty amazing. Some attended the theater. I, and a handful of professors and students saw Thomas Hampson perform Kindertotenlieder with the London Philharmonic. We got in rather early from our stuffy affair, and decided that there were just enough hours in the evening to see what the nightlife had to offer.

After listening to locals wail out Meatloaf's greatest hits at a local karaoke night and drinking a little, a few of us were sure that there was something great going on in north London, and we just had to find it. So, like in any harrowing adventure, a small band of us (slightly intoxicated) set out to find a decent place to dance. Our group consisted of four girls from the choir, all hooched up in their going out clothes, and a buddy and I. After being assured by many passerby's that a cool nightclub was just up the street, we chased our wild goose all the way to the end of the rainbow.

There it stood. A five story building, with very little activity going on outside. In fact, there was just one guy. In bright green neon letters near the top of the building read the work SCALA. Well, this was the place we were told of, but we all took a minute to exchange worried looks before our inner party animals forced us to take the plunge.

As we approached the bouncer at the front door, he moved in an aggressive manor, to block our path. "I'm sorry," he said, "club's closed for a private party."

We immediately freaked out. We'd walked about fifteen blocks to reach this place and were furious to find that our travels were in vain. I try to reason with the guy by explaining that it's our last night in London and we really want to find a fun place to party. He's not phased by my attempts of reason and guilt. Finally, one of the girls, who will remain nameless, decided that a flirting with the fine chap might do the trick. After talking to him for a couple of minutes, he relents and gives us passes in to the party. Girls are magic.

He hands us a small piece of paper with the following blanks and instructs us to go to the top floor:

Cell phone number:

We think nothing of the slips of paper and eagerly head in the front door, where we are met with a completely dark hallway. "Umm, this is weird." Noticing the stairs to our left we begin our climb. Floor two is made up of a pair of locked double doors and more stairs leading upward. The same can be said for floors three and four. By this time, all of us are definitely experiencing a chill as the hairs on the back's of our necks begin to rise. That's when we finally reached the fifth floor, where we are met with one final set of double doors. Behind them, we hear a faint thumping noise. Scared of what lie ahead, we gently crack one of the doors, where we are blown away by the sight before us. On the other side of the doors was a huge, open ballroom with club lights, loud techno music, and about 500 Londoners dancing to the beat.

We stumble forward, amazed, at the contrast of silently dark hallways that hid this raucous party only feet away. To our left was a huge bar, with young people crowded around it in a frenzy for social lubricant. To our right was a small DJ booth where the music was created and the slips of paper were processed. On the wall above the booth was a giant projector that would display a new slip of paper for all to see every few seconds. This was a hook up party, where single people would introduce themselves anonymously, and choose over their cells where and if they cared to meet up with potential suitors.

I couldn't have cared less about that. Mine and my buddy's target was the bar on the left. After fighting our way to the front of the bar we ordered ten shots of tequila to share. I wasn't much of a drinker, but I could handle tequila pretty well. Plus, there was no telling how long it would take us to get another drink, so we ordered all at once for the evening. After hearing our order, a young attractive South African girl approached us, aggressively. "You're American, aren't you?" "Yes, we are. Where are you from," I said. "South Africa. I have an internet boyfriend in Michigan, who I'm going to see soon. Do you live near Michigan?" I explained that we were no where close to Michigan and that we were leaving in the morning. After a few minutes of her telling us how badly she wanted to go to America, we decided to hit the dance floor.

The girls from our little band of idiots were tearing it up on the dance floor. They were going all out trying to lure some unsuspecting British chap. But, a small circle formed around them like a viewing party. None of the guys would dare approach the scantily clad vixens. It was weird. As my friend and I returned to the masses the environment completely changed. The circle dissipated and the dance floor felt as crowded as ever. After a few minutes of jumping up and down to the beat and tequila shots I began to notice a trend.

Everywhere I looked I saw a different version of an early twenties male, dressed predominantly in black and grey clothing. There was no color, no wild and crazy outfits, and very few females. That's when I realized why the girls from out party were having such a difficult time attracting a dance partner. We had crashed a party that was mostly made up of young, gay men.

One would think that the girls stood out like sore thumbs. While that's true, I think it was my buddy and I who were the most noticeable. We looked REALLY American. My outfit consisted of Timberlands, carpenter jeans, a peach polo shirt, and a fitted Alabama ball cap on backwards. We were a freaking parody of the American youth. We looked like walking glow sticks in a sea of black and grey slacks and cardigans.

And boy, were we popular on the dance floor. Here in this sea of humanity, instead of panicking at how outside of our elements we were, we decided to embrace it. We'd walked a long way to party. There was NO way that we were going to let this get in the way of our good time. The journey was too long to give up now. So we danced and had a great time. It was pretty obvious that we were straight, so there were no uncomfortable rejections on the dance floor. Instead, we acted like who we were, loud and bright Americans. After all, we were the freaking belles of the ball.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This One Time, In Band Camp....

Some of my proudest moments are directly related to my experiences playing the trumpet in my high school and college marching bands. I loved band. My love of it grew out of traveling to watch my brother march in junior college. It was loud, bright, fast, and exciting. It was just so big. But I think what intrigued me the most about it was the serious nature of the band members. It was cool to see 100+ college age students work, tirelessly, to put on a very complicated musical show. When they snapped to attention, their bodies rigid and still and faces as solemn as a funeral, I shuddered in anticipation. It was a powerful thing to behold at eight years old.
The weeks leading up to band tryouts in the sixth grade were some of the longest of my life. Basically, those interested in band would travel all the way (300 yards) to the big imposing high school campus to tryout. The tryouts consisted of trying to make a sound on a few various types of instruments and playing a very rudimentary rhythm on a snare drum. You were then assigned which ever instrument you inherently played the best. For me, there was a lot riding on this little test. I took it all very seriously. What if I nailed the flute? How in the hell could I show my face if I was naturally inclined to play an instrument that was less than manly. Maybe, when it's my turn to try the flute, I should just grab the thing and smash it over my head. Surely they won't assign it to me if holding a flute causes me to be a danger to myself.
And before some league of manly flautists starts keying my car or egging my house, you must understand that I'm not really dogging the flute. It's a perfectly acceptable instrument. The scary part of the flute is the case! It looks like an oversized make up compact. You can't look cool carrying that thing around. No, for me it had to be the trumpet. It was bright, loud, and usually carried the melody.
Wow, I just exposed a lot of my personality issues with that revelation right there. It seems that my "please notice me" insecurities found a way to control every decision I've ever made.
Anywho, I never really gave much credence to the whole band geek moniker. I mean, it made sense, but for me it was like calling a white guy a cracker. It really didn't hurt, and I didn't really mind it. For me, I was doing something that I felt was too cool for non-band geeks to understand. We worked hard, played some cool music, and were very competitive. We competed every Friday night "against" the opposing band. We competed at band contests to get good scores, and we competed against each other for the highest chair position in our sections.
But today's stories have nothing to do with competition or music, or even marching. Today's stories revolve around the band bus. In junior college I had two very interesting experiences on the band bus traveling to and from away games.
My times at PRCC was some of the most exciting times of my life. Everything was accessible. There was no safety net. I was on my own. Little did I know exactly how scary being on my own could be.
One Thursday night we loaded up the buses and traveled to Decatur, MS to East Central Community College for a football game. We stopped at a little town called Newton, about a half hour from our destination, to grab a quick dinner at McDonald's. The band usually traveled in three coach buses. Unlike high school you weren't really assigned seating. You could pick your bus and ride with whomever you wanted.
After our dinner we all lounged out on the grass, and I began to feel a rumbly in my tumbly. I knew that once we reached the campus I would be relegated to using the restroom in some stadium bathroom with wet floors and urinal troughs. That was not going to happen so I looked at my clock and figured that the ten minutes we had before departure time would be plenty long enough to take care of business.

You know, for the slightest of moments, as I sat in the McDonald's bathroom with my pants around my ankles and heard the roar of the charter buses pulling out of the parking lot, I actually considered rushing out of the restroom screaming for them to stop. But, thankfully, the good people of Newton, MS did not deserve to be subjected to that sight. Nope, like a little Fonzi I stayed cool as a stranded cucumber and weighed my options. The sticks of MS was no place to order a cab, and it was probably too far to walk, so I was completely at the mercy of a stranger's kindness.

I shyly approached the counter and asked the cashier if she knew how far it was to Decatur, and what my best option would be to get there. She smiled and said, “oh, it's just up the road a piece. Tammy gets off in a few minutes. I'm sure she could give you a ride.” Whew, Tammy to the rescue. My relief was quickly dashed as Tammy rounded the corner and spotted her passenger for the evening. Now, I'm not going to be rude here, but Tammy kind of looked like a meth addict. She was 5'0” and about 94lbs. She had a wiry look to her and appeared 15 years older than her real age. The cashier asks if I'm willing to wait about ten minutes until she finishes her shift, and she'll give me a ride. She lives in Decatur with her parents and dropping me off would be no problem.

As Tammy's tiny little toyota truck tears out of the parking lot a wave of “I might be about to live out a horror movie” rolls over me and I begin to survey my escape options. Luckily, I haven't spotted anyone hiding in the bed of the truck with a machete, and Tammy hasn't brandished a single fire arm. The following is a transcript of the beginning of our conversation:

Tammy: So, you got a girlfriend?

Me: Uhh, yea.

Tammy: That's cool, I guess.

Me: Yea, she's nice.

Tammy: (excitedly) So, you're in a band?!

Me: Well, no. I'm in THE band. A college marching band. We are going to the ECCC football game tonight.

Tammy: (puzzled look) Oh, what kind of music do you play?

Me: Marching band music.

Tammy: (satisfied) Well duh, that makes sense.

At this point, her smiles and glances have gone from flirty to rapey. I begin to wonder if I can hold McDonald's responsible for sexual harassment. Nah, it would never stick. I change the subject and tell her that I'll soon be moving to a different college in Jackson. She gets REALLY excited and tells me how much she loves Jackson. She used to date a guy from Jackson after she got out of high school. Her tale of love and loss went something like this:

Tammy: I used to date a guy from Jackson. He was so great. I thought we were going to get married one day, but daddy told me I couldn't see him anymore, seeing as how he was a skinhead and all. I don't know why daddy didn't like him. I mean, daddy don't like blacks neither, but he said the skinheads liked fighting too much.

Yep, I'm going to die.

As we pull in to the parking lot at ECCC I open the door and begin to get out while the truck is still rolling. Tammy, obviously worried for my safety, slams on the brakes which sends me crashing in to the door and I collapse to the ground.

Tammy: “Oh Lord honey, are you ok?

Dazed, I hop to my feet, look for any witnesses, POLITELY thank Tammy for the experience, and sprint through the parking lot desperately looking for a familiar face. She sat there for a brief second and watched yet another potential love fade in to the night. Maybe, just maybe, Tammy is somewhere writing a blog about the time she almost bagged herself a band geek.

Laundry was not my strong suit in college. During my first semester at MC, it took me three months to realize that I'd been washing my clothes in fabric softener rather than detergent since the beginning of the semester. Sure, they smelled great and were ridiculously soft, but there's no telling the level of filth trapped in every fiber of my clothes.

At PRCC, I took my clothes home on the weekend to take advantage of the mom and dad laundry service. All week long I would pack my clothes in a mesh bag and haul it twenty minutes to my parents' house for a nice washing. There was, however, one article of clothing that never made the trip. I owned one pair of black dress socks that only served one purpose. I would wear them with my marching band uniform every time we marched in a football game. Upon returning to the band hall I would remove my marching shoes, shove the socks inside, and head out to whatever party was scheduled for the night. For a year and a half, these socks never saw a washer. At the end of my first semester, they stayed packed tightly in my marching shoes until the next August. When I pulled them out, it actually took some effort to un-bunch them. They were pretty stiff. In fact,they could probably stand up straight if I tried. I would describe the smell for you, but I was never brave enough to get them anywhere near my face.

One fateful Thursday night in November of my sophomore year, we were returning to campus from an away game. I had removed my marching shoes and devil socks and spread out across a bus seat, hanging my feet off of the arm rest. Even if my feet had smelled, no one would've been able to tell since the entire bus stank of teenage sweat and body odor. My girlfriend at the time was hanging out a few seats behind me playing truth or dare with some of the other girls and guys. I wasn't really paying attention so I had no way of knowing that one of her close friends requested a dare when her time came.

Not really awake, yet not really asleep I dozed off gently to the hum of the bus engines and the white noise roar of 50 young adults on a bus. That's when I felt it. The big toe on my left foot began to tickle and feel very warm. I opened my eyes and locked gaze with one of the most horrified faces I'd ever seen. Apparently this poor girls was dared to suck my toe. I always felt that she may have had a thing for me, but this was unbelievable. For God's sake, she knew I'd spent my evening marching on a football field sweating my butt off. What was she thinking? In that instant, her eyes told me that she was coming to the same conclusion. She was living the repercussions of her mistake.

That's when my thoughts shifted to the socks. I began to get the precursor to vomit where hot spit started collecting in the back of my throat as she shivered and pulled back from my foot. There sat my toe, covered in saliva, standing as a barricade between her face and mine. Both of us horrified at the confluence of forces that would undoubtedly lead her to gargle unscented bleach. She quietly stood back up and returned to her seat as if it wasn't that bad. That's what she wore on the outside. On the inside, which I could see when I looked in her eyes, she would've given her last penny for a sip of ANYTHING to drink, and her first born for some mouthwash. Poor kid. Maybe next time she'll think twice about trying to hide a personal fact and she'll just go with “truth.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Every Man Should Be Told About Babies

Any parent should be familiar with the book "What to expect when you're expecting." It's a big ole monster that details the forty weeks of the human gestational period. It's meant to help you prepare for pregnancy and what happens after you bring your little guy of gal home from the hospital (unless you're one of those uber hippies who scoffs at modern medicine and chooses to pop your kid out in a bath tub). It's a good book, I guess, but it fails to truly cover the things that no one tells you about babies. So, please take the following posting as my very abridged version of "What to Expect Once Your Little Monster Comes Home: What Every Man Should Be Told About Babies."

1. Soy should be illegal.

Both of my boys had some pretty adverse lactose issues. We quickly switched them to a soy based formula to soothe their little tummies. The transition went well for both boys, but was a scarring event for me. During every feeding, a baby must be burped. My kids obviously inherited my gene of prolific gas exertion so they both burped like grown men. This really isn't a problem unless your kid must go the soy route. Soy burps can change your entire outlook on what you think stink really is. It's toxic, and is kind of like getting stuck behind a dump truck in traffic, it lingers like a beast. I swear that my youngest Matthew used to get a kick out of turning toward me just as a blue ribbon burp rolled up his chest. ugh.

2. Babies have a natural instinct to suckle.

I won't go too far in to this one, but it should be noted that from birth a baby knows exactly how to suckle. So gentlemen, be sure to wear a shirt when you go to rock your baby back to sleep at night. No one wants to be involved in that awkward of a father/son moment.

3. Babies love to squeeze.

For the first few months of a baby's life their little hands interact with everything they touch by squeezing. Do yourself a favor and protect your sensitive areas. When Jackson was only a few months old we put him in bed with us one evening when he was finding it difficult to rest. When a baby sleeps in your bed instinct kicks in and you become statuesque. Amanda and I both faced inward, with Jackson positioned in between us, and I unknowingly tucked one arm up behind my head and dozed off. Somewhere around an hour later I was torn from the depths of peaceful sleep by a life-changing level of pain. Apparently Jackson wasn't sleeping well and began to toss and turn a bit. In his wanderings, his little left hand found my armpit. Nothing says welcome to parenthood more vividly than trying to unclasp your infant's hands from your armpit hair while fighting the instinct to scream in pain for fear that you'll wake him. He never shared our bed again.

4. Deep coughs mean trouble.

Listen, if you are laying in bed one night and are awoken by the sound of your baby's gentle cough, it's ok. However, if that cough gets heavier and finishes with a deep guttural sound like an animal would make, it's a different story altogether. Go ahead and get up, grab the rubber gloves, spare sheets, diapers, pajamas, and some disinfectant spray because there's a 90% chance that your kid just vomited all over everything. Oh, and be sure and wear clothes you don't really care about because you're going to have to interact with a vomit covered kid, which quickly becomes a vomit covered family.

5. Baby monitors mean business.

Parents are asked to put a lot of faith in a $29.99 piece of electronics you pick up on the sale isle at Babies R Us. Your brand new human being could be choking to death and you are meant to simply plug in both components so you can leap to the rescue should the unthinkable happen. That sounds quite daunting, especially if you are a heavy sleeper. But rest easy. Baby monitors are specially designed to transmit your child's every whimper at a volume that could stop a human heart. I swear the first time Jackson began crying in the monitor I pee'd a little, in fear that I was being attacked by a legion of wailing demons. A sudden cough can rupture your ear drums. Do yourself a favor, turn the volume down a little to help avoid incidents of arrhythmia and soiled sheets.

6. Drool happens.

Babies are born with many inherent abilities, such as suckle when hungry, cry at everything, and react to sound. However, no child in history has ever been born with the ability to operate it's bottom lip. It's like an open faucet at all times. A session of "playing with dad on the floor" can quickly turn in to baby spit in your mouth. It happens. You expect that. What you don't expect is the chemical reaction that occurs when baby drool is mixed with formula or your baby's favorite juice drink and becomes one of life's most rank smells. It's sour and horrible. For me, it's worse than a poop diaper.

7. Plan wisely.

I'll be very careful on this one. Babies are born with a sub-conscious sensor that alerts them when it's "mommy and daddy time." Plan wisely. Fill that little bugger's stomach with formula, lay him down, and don't doddle. You never know how long you have until the all knowing one is alerted as to your intentions. Once he realizes that you may have placed your attention on something other than him, your party may be cut short. Good luck!

8. Contents under pressure.

Diapers seem harmless. Most of the time when your kid poops, diapers operate as designed. However, if your little guy or gal's tummy is upset in the least, diapers react in a very different manner. I would've never believed it before my boys were born, but it is very possible, and almost expected, for a child to poop up his back. It's the human version of zero gravity. To this day most scientist can't explain exactly how it occurs. I maintain the theory that the child simply wills it to happen to satisfy his morbid love of pooping on everything he sees.

9. Diaper rash cream smells like crap.

Not really, but your mind plays tricks on you. Because the two smells are so closely tied to one another you lose the ability to tell them apart. Your olfactory senses are confused. Every time you smell poop, it's followed by the smell of rash cream. Poop then cream. Poop then cream. After a while you will begin to obsessively wash you hands when you get cream on them because you are convinced that the smell is that of poop. My advice: visit your local auto parts store and get some of that mechanic's soap. The smell of diaper rash cream is REALLY hard to get off your hands. It's better to invest in a serious soap than walking around all day concerned that you're contaminating every thing you touch with human feces.

10. Other people's kids are diseased.

Seriously, other kids that don't live in your house are walking petri dishes. All you ever hear from parenting books and advice websites is how important it is to "socialize" your child at an early age. Screw that. Think of every kid you know. Now realize that each one of those kids may represent patient zero that will certainly create two weeks of snot and diarrhea for each and every member of your house. Load up on vap-o-rub and tissue because your child's enlightening experience of sharing drool with a room full of other people's stinky kids will probably have a dramatic affect of the stock value of Lysol. My advice: buy some more baby einstein dvds and skip play group.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snuggies, Muffins, and Hot Wings

Throughout our lives we are faced with moments that exist to teach us perspective. Only time will tell whether or not we recognize them when they occur. I would say that's the hardest part of self-actualization; the ability to maintain perspective through trials. But it's difficult to stay on the right path when outside influences try their damnedest to blur your reality and create false or temporary goals or truths.

For me, the biggest example of this is marketing. How many of us have sat through a commercial for a snuggie where the actor on the screen struggles, in a ridiculous fashion, to grab the remote control because his/her hands are inexplicably trapped by some rascally blanket. I've seen magicians struggle less to free themselves from a straight jacket secured with pad locks. Or how about a commercial for some new-fangled muffin pan that will surely make all those other evil muffin pans obsolete. I can't count the senseless slaughter of delicious muffins that has occurred in our house because our muffin pan apparently has the ability to destroy our entire kitchen. You know the type, the screen is transformed to a black and white picture, like something out of a horror movie, while a frustrated homemaker destroys her perfect muffins because she's unable to unlock the Da Vinci code that is her inferior non-stick surface.

That's just it, these situations are created in our minds; they don't really exist. We allow people to create insecurities that we use our own weak psyches to exploit. How many times have I heard the phrase "retail therapy?" Don't think I'm mocking the concept. I'm sure it's a very real thing. It's only logical that we would flock to our local shop to upgrade one of our possessions during times when we feel overwhelmed or out of control of our everyday lives. It's our way of facing a falsely perceived shortcoming and creating a victory, no matter how meaningless. If we were truly able to maintain perspective on those big insecurities, maybe we wouldn't have to resort to raiding Target's $1 aisle so the world would make sense again.

I've taken a different course on discipline lately. I've noticed that many of Jackson's behavior issues are usually related to how he perceives his potential courses of action, rather than some purposeful decision to act like a maniac. Sometimes he just doesn't understand that his world may not be as it seems. So I now find myself spending less time BARKING at him with a "what were you thinking!" tone, and spending more time TALKING to him with a "what were you thinking?" approach.

I swear, every time I hear him explain himself and how he perceived his choices, I'm reminded of times in my life where I got it so wrong, and some, where I got it right.

Amanda and I were faced with one of these perspective type situations last weekend. On Saturday morning we got the kids fed and dressed so we could do a little shopping for some cold weather clothes. After hitting a few stores we decided to stop for lunch at WOW. For those of you who are unfamiliar with WOW, it's a your basic chicken wing joint. Think hooters + self-esteem. The place is usually littered with families because kids eat free, plus dads can watch football on one of the 73 flat screen TVs that litter the walls. The front of the restaurant has a few arcade games, and some toy-vending machines to ensure your rugrats get their junky toy fix for the day. We are regulars at our local WOW and are usually waited on by the same waitress. She has a son about Matthew's age and is always excited to compare silly toddler stories.

Well, this Saturday in particular we walk in and take a table that would provide a good view of the games for me and a nice view of the arcade games so we could keep an eye on our kids. What we didn't notice is the family of four seated at the table adjacent to ours. Maybe we don't notice them because we are so focused on all of the moving parts associated with wrangling two boys, but it probably had more to do with the fact that they were completely silent in a restaurant a buzz with activity. As soon as we sit down our boys are off. Jackson sprints to the bang-bang hunting game and Matthew follows close behind in curious delight.

Not long into our little lunch adventure Amanda begins to take notice of our lunch mates. It's a mother, father, and two kids (boy and girl). The kids are sitting perfectly still, almost zoo animal-like, while the mom CLOSELY oversees their lunch. She directs their bites and curtly and condescendingly addressing them. The husband says nothing as mom carefully orchestrates nearly every breath they collectively take. I begin to notice that she periodically glances at us in disgust. I think nothing of it. Maybe she's having a bad day. Hell, maybe we smell bad. Who knows? As our lunch arrives both boys return to the table to eat up. Jackson uses his best manners as he asks our waitress if he "may please have some more sprite." Matthew, on the other hand, is having issues. We've started to notice that he may not feel very good. He's unusually fussy and refuses to eat. (side note: the day after this event he is diagnosed with a double ear infection) Seeing this, Amanda and I go into divide and conquer mode (parental style). We take turns eating our lunch while the other of us tends to Matthew. He's up and down, walking around, and generally fighting everything.

That's when our "perspective" was tested. The young daughter at the table next to us shifts in her chair as if she's going to get down, but is swiftly rebuked by mommy dearest.

Mommy dearest: NO! You sit still and eat your food. We do not walk around in a restaurant. That's bad manners!

Now listen. I'm an adult. I can tell when something is directed at me and when it isn't. This was DIRECTLY addressed at us. This crazy tyrant was attempting to spread her rule of law from her kids to some random family she'd never seen before. Immediately my blood pressure spikes. In a split second I begin to mentally prepare countless witty/arrogant retorts that should surely teach her a lesson. Most of them involved name calling that any Sunday school teacher would find offensive. One of them even involved reaching over and kicking her chair out from under her while screaming "HOW'S THAT FOR BAD MANNERS?!?!" as her butt hits the floor.  I kid.

In an instant my temper is quickly surpassed by the growing storm of anger I see in Amanda's eyes. Her temper is unable to be swayed by fantasies of revengeful whimsy. She's mad. Really mad. Momma bear has been set free from her cage. But instead of tossing a plate of hot wings at this chick and diving across the dining room in a Nature Boy Ric Flair-like fashion, she locks eyes with me in a "talk me out of killing this chick" type gaze. In all honesty, Amanda isn't the brawling type. She's a lady. But, if anything could turn her to violence, it's her boys.

Over the next few minutes we both take the time to gain perspective on why this crazy, and obviously suicidal woman would attempt to teacher her child about manners by being so incredibly rude to someone she doesn't even know. We quickly resolved that this woman had no perspective. She treated her kids like some sort of science project, where arbitrary rules took precedent over understanding. Her husband sat in the corner like a wounded animal, unable to contribute to the parenting process. She had created her little world, and was truly bothered by those that didn't seem to adhere to her laundry list of rules.

But, we maintained perspective. Amanda didn't claw a single eye, and I didn't kick a single chair. We took comfort in the fact that we could not, and should not control every crazy person we come across. It wasn't our place to teach this woman a lesson on how to behave in public, just as much as it wasn't her place to teach our kids "good manners." If we spent our time chasing the misgivings of all those we come in contact with, how could we ever find time to examine our own lives.

Still, I have to admit that I do find myself imagining exactly what that witch's hair would've looked like covered in sweet tea and ranch dressing. hmm.......

Monday, October 17, 2011

NERF THE WORLD!!! (Seriously. How Did We Survive?)

My youngest son is now eighteen months old. A phase of early childhood development I commonly refer to as the "hey dad, let's see if you can stop me from killing myself" phase. This phase is highlighted by the fact that he now sees his short stature as a challenge to overcome by carefully scaling every large object in sight. He also apparently enjoys the "devil may care" thrill of climbing things positioned on non-carpeted floors. Anything hard and suicidal like brick, concrete, or ceramic tile suites him just fine.

On a positive note, his wish to test Newton's theory of gravity has really upped my time in the forty yard dash, or at least the ten yard dash. I can now make it from my chair in the living room to our kitchen table before the final consonant of whatever the expletive du jour is leaves my mouth. I feel like Indiana Jones as I sprint while leaping over the coffee table and dodging stray toys. And wouldn't you know it; as soon as I rescue the little monster from his own horrific judgement he screams at me and attempts to begin the climb again. Doesn't he understand heads are supposed to be round? Why is he in such a rush to add so many nice, symmetrical flat spots? If he's successful, he's gonna feel really silly when the prematurely bald Nolan gene catches up with him.

I wish I could say that my kids grow out of this type of self-destructive behavior, but so far Jackson is providing no evidence to support that theory. This summer we took him to Mobile, AL to join in the celebration of his cousin's birthday. It was a lovely party complete with tons of kids and an inflatable water slide. This slide stood about fifteen feet high and attaching your handy water hose to the top made all of the kids squeal with joy as they plummeted to the bottom. At the bottom there stood a backstop to catch the never-ending stream of flailing sixty pound bodies it would endure over the course of a hot summer afternoon. Jackson quickly identified that the backstop area at the bottom of the slide was collecting water at a dangerous pace. This would not do! How could he possibly stand for this apparent design flaw that would inexplicably lead to the drowning of his party mates.

Knowing that only he would be able to save them all, he sprang in to action and devised a plan. In order to "safely" remove the excess water from the slide, only one course of action would do. He would have to climb to the top of the slide, run and jump (thereby avoiding the pesky slide part), and cannonball on to the bottom of the slide. Like any good parent, I'm inside yucking it up with the gals, completely oblivious to the fact that my kid is FREAKING everyone out. One of Amanda's relatives taps me on the shoulder and says "umm, Jamey. Could you please ask Jackson to stop cannonballing off of the top of the slide. I think he's gonna really hurt himself." As those words leave her mouth I catch a glimpse of this beautiful human I helped create flying through the air, legs tucked in (perfect form no less), then smashing on the bottom to a chorus of "OH!" from the onlookers.

As he climbs up the stairs for round number: "God only knows" of this horrific daredevil stunt, I catch him by the ankle. He looks at me in a sort of "I know, it's cool right?" way and I immediately remove him from the slide. Our exchange goes as follows:

Me: Jackson, what in the world are you doing?

Jackson: (nearly screaming in delight, while not hearing the question, or caring) dad, did you see what I did? It was awesome! I did a cannonball and made a big splash..........(at this point he trailed off into the ramblings of an over-sugared six year old)


Jackson: What?

Me: Do NOT do that again! You could really hurt yourself.

Jackson: No dad, I'm fine. My neck only popped that one time.

Me: Listen to me carefully son. Don't tell your mom that last part.

I always crack up at people who post some obligatory "when I grew up we drank from the water hose" schtick on facebook, or hear someone claiming that kids these days are too soft and babied. I grew up in a small neighborhood with nine other boys near the same age. Our world certainly wasn't "nerfed" to protect us. We ran around barefooted, in the woods, most days with little to no supervision whatsoever. This led to the invention of games like "let's build our own zip line" or "baseball bat sword fight." These were not games developed by the good people who make those Baby Einstein videos. Far from it. The only thing we learned was the distinct auditory difference from the ping of two aluminum bats smashing together and the dull thud of soft tissue damage.

The zip line really stole the show. Steel wire, an enclosed wheel, and a small lat bar from a workout bench was all that was needed to get the party started. There's something quite exhilarating about breaking the highway speed limit while holding on to a slippery metal bar hanging twenty feet above the earth. If you were prone to sweaty palms, this was not the ride for you. The key to a safe zip line experience was learning when to bail out. You didn't want to let go too soon, or the drop would shatter your little ankles. Too late, and you might get to experience the taste of oak tree bark. And did we clear the landing zone of debris? Hell no. There's nothing like tumbling, in nothing but shorts, through overgrown grass and pine cones to toughen you up a bit.

You know what makes me a little sad? The thought that kids who grew up in cities would never know the joyous experience of having a pine cone splinter removed from the bottom of your foot. It's really a family bonding experience. Nothing says beautiful family memories like having to be physically restrained by your dad while "shaky hands" mom uses a sewing needle and tweezers to carefully remove all of the meat around the splinter so it can gently fall out on it's own. And thanks to modern medicine, infection would be no issue as the wound would most certainly be drenched in rubbing alcohol. Seriously. How bad can gangrene be? How about this mom? How about next time you just cauterize the wound with a glowing hot cattle brand? Ointment was apparently reserved for "sissies." Fine, put me in a dress, paint my nails, and put the alcohol AWAY!

People always say "look at me. I turned out just fine!" No you didn't. How many of us have too many scars to remember where they all came from? New flash; that's not supposed to happen. That cool shiny skin that permanently replaced your regular skin is a back up plan. You're body is only supposed to use it if you've done something really stupid. Or how about the fact that your knee hurts a little when it gets too humid? That's not by design. You're thirty! Those kind of stupid human tricks are usually reserved for war wounds and "I drank too much at a wedding one time and had a horrific chicken dance accident" stories. They're not supposed to happen when you're eight, and living through them isn't a testament to your strong will or manliness. It's simply that old man Murphy hasn't quite caught up with you yet. Sometimes it takes a generation or two for the theory of natural selection to kick in.

I'm aware of the insanity I passed on to my kids. I know that they are both hell bound and determined to test the fiscal limits of modern health insurance. Therefore, I'm committed to wearing expensive running shoes during their waking hours to ensure that they aren't done in because dad got a boo boo when he stepped on a lego block on the way to their rescue. Maybe nerfing the world is a little too far down the insane father path, but don't mock me when you notice that I tweak out like a spooked deer when they're out of my sight for too long. I know what they're capable of and I smart enough to know that my own survival was purely dumb luck.

Friday, October 7, 2011

When I Grow Up....

I read an interesting article this week. It was titled "Why Men Are In Trouble," and it was posted on At first I was completely miffed at why I wasted five minutes of my life reading an old blow hard (author) pluck random statistics and form them into a drawn out version of "you darned kids!" He made broad generalizations about playing video games, religious involvement, education, and career motivations. It was all very lofty and pointed. I immediately labeled him a grouchy old man and tried to move on. But, the more I thought about his view points the more angry I became at the lack of a coherent counterpoint to his article. His main view was that men these days are nothing more than grown boys. We continuously avoid adulthood by fighting to conform to his concept of manhood.

As I ran this through my head I came up with one very real answer to his proposed problem. It was his own damn fault, or rather his generation. Look at the sociological influences that created his generation's version of manhood. World War, the great depression, nationalism on steroids, and limited rights and availability to anyone that was not a white man. Limited education, political positioning, employment, and role models combined with the above influences forced their hand. They had to grow up, farm to survive, and take the lives of foreign soldiers at war. That's some pretty intense stuff. But guess what, that has absolutely no semblance of meaning toward what I choose to do with my life and the path I choose to follow.

My generation was raised by those same people to believe in dreaming and the fact that we were all special. These concepts, while somewhat flawed themselves, were simply the regret our fathers poured out on us. We all do it. How many parents out there state that their goal for their kids is to have a better life than they had. Our previous generations were robbed of the opportunity to dream and be kid-like so they raised us to believe that we were somehow faced with an inevitable greatness because we had possibility. They knew that technology and education would provide us with the breathing room to reach. One problem. We have no idea what we are reaching for. Mom used to say "son, you can be anything in the world you want to be." What the hell does that mean? I have no idea what I want to be. My life is constantly bombarded with images of creative, boring, successful, poor, happy, sad, starving, and fat people, most of whom stumbled into the life they have and had little to do with how they got there.

We have no drivers. We have nothing to nudge us in to a direction. And most importantly, we are freaking terrified of settling on a path. I have a great job. I work every day toward something that I feel is morally right and necessary. I also have a horrible job that forces me to miss clear blue skies and my children's waking hours so that I can stare at a cubicle wall. All for what? To pay my car note? When I took this job a supervisor up the chain of command congratulated me by remarking "wow Jamey, congrats on the job. That's a great job. Ya know, you could be sitting in that same desk for the next twenty years!" To him, that was high praise. To me, it was a ball and chain with ominous organ music playing in the background. I suddenly felt like I couldn't catch my breath. Panic set in. Was my path decided? Was this the "anything" that mom spoke of so many times? Cheap particle board office furniture and microsoft outlook?

Since that date four years ago I've been tirelessly trying to decide the next move for my supposed possibility filled fate. It's hard work to pick the right profession that would take advantage of all this supposed potential. Therefore, I think it would be so much easier if I narrowed down the list by figuring out what is completely out of the question.

My list of awful jobs:

1. Astronaut

Ok, this is a pretty obvious one when you consider the fact that I wet my pants a little during very light turbulence on a one hour flight to Houston. I hate flying. Why big metal planes stay in the air is more puzzling to me than why big metal boats float. Plus, I'm always afraid that my pilot on these small regional flights is some twenty two year old kid who's only shaved twice in his entire life. I know my generation. We are way too distracted and a.d.d. to maintain the requisite amount of concentration needed to shoot me safely through the air for a few hundred miles. He'd probably have ears buds in, marveling at Justin Beiber's talent, completely unaware that we are hurdling to our deaths because he for got to fill the tank or release the emergency brake. Ok, I don't know exactly how planes work, but there has to be some FAA regulation out there that mandates an emergency brake.

Flying into space takes this concept to ridiculous proportions. If you've never seen a Saturn V, three stage rocket, then you have no idea of the true insanity of space travel. I've seen one. We took Jackson to Johnson Space Center in Houston. It's an incredible place where they celebrate the fact that certain human beings were born without the instinct of self-preservation. After eating astronaut ice cream and looking at simulators they shuttled us out to a warehouse three football fields in length. There laid a Saturn V.  It looks like a giant piece of space age technology created by the brightest minds the world had at that time. Bullcrap.

The lowdown on this rocket is that they would take two (gemini) or three (apollo) astronauts and convince them that aliens had shown us how to go to space. This had to be the method because if they told them the truth they would've been indicted for attempted murder. Next, they cram these guys in a cone about the size of a ford focus. Then they use the strongest crazy glue and duct tape they can find to fasten this tiny cone to a gas tank the size of the Washington monument.

But wait, there's more. Do you know what these perverse psychopaths do next? They ignite the gas! That's right. This isn't high science. It's the grown up version of sticking firecracker up a bull frog's butt. They somehow made a firecracker so big that it would jettison humans from our freaking planet! That's a heck of a firecracker. The astronaut's orders are very simple. Don't die. That's about it. Once they are hurled into the most dangerous environment imaginable they float around for a while, pee through a tube, poop in a diaper, and fall back to earth. They fall so fast that the air can't get out of the way fast enough so it explodes. These tiny explosions heat the flying trash can up so hot that if one tiny little gap in protection exists, they are instantly vaporized. Then, if they survive the exploding air, they are left with a parachute to keep them from hitting the ocean at a bajillion miles per hour. All for what? Endless moon rock gifts for foreign dignitaries? Screw that. Let them catapult their own guys into space if they want moon rocks so badly.

So needless to say, I've scratched this one off the list.

2. Psychiatrist

Look, I consider myself to be a very empathetic person. For a long time I thought that I was empathy deficient. That's not the case. I care deeply for other people, but in spurts. I definitely have a cutoff point where I can no longer deal with whiny people. My career as a psychiatrist would, no doubt, be reduced to vast libraries containing only the notebooks of my doodles during sessions where people sit and pour their hearts out. I'm not an artist, so these doodles would be very repetitive. My doodle repertoire pretty much consists of 3D boxes and triangles, that I learned how to draw in the third grade, and human faces that look like something a mental patient would craft. It's the ears. I can never get the ears right. One is always so much larger than the other that it looks like my subject is suffering from elephantiasis of the ear lobe.

I don't think the practice would make perfect. I suck at ears, so why waste so many people's time luring them to my office under the guise of medical care just so I can have time to destroy the hearing of so many fictional characters.

3. Dentist

Seriously? Do I have to even explain this one. We have holes in our body where we store tiny little stones that we use to grind up material before it spoils. One problem; those little stones have a ton of crevices and hiding spots that allow the food to hang out and rot. Then we trust that people are disciplined enough to use a tiny brush to thoroughly clean the stones. I don't trust most people to handle a claw hammer without caving in their own heads, much less that they would be able to meticulously clean their mouths to the point where I would voluntarily touch them with my hands. Yuck.

4. Homemaker

Ok, so all of my female readers, who are homemakers, just internally said "oh no he isn't!" Oh yes I am. I couldn't do it. There's no way. I love my kids; they are completely awesome, but there is no freaking way that I would subject myself to their company 24/7. I'm not saying I'd rather be an astronaut, but after an afternoon alone with my youngest, where maybe he didn't get a great nap, I'm looking a little harder at the Saturn V. When I'm home Amanda and I trade off duties. I usually come in from work and assume Matthew duties for a few hours to give her a break. And do you know what she does with this break time? Nothing. She does exactly what she has been dreaming about all day long. She takes some time to walk outside, go into another room, or just to not jump when he begins freaking out about something. That's not exactly true. It's usually the only time where she can completely focus on the other tasks at hand without having to hit pause and stop him from climbing up the fireplace mantel.

One of my presents to Amanda for our last anniversary was "nothing." I took off work on a Friday and gave her 24 straight hours to have absolutely no responsibilities. It was like she was a drifter living in our home. She came and went as she pleased, watched what she wanted to watch, and for one whole day didn't touch a bottle or diaper. The relief on her face truly sealed the deal for me. Watching the tension roll off of her showed me exactly what she goes through every day. That's not for me. Before long, I'd be the one in diapers drooling in the corner.

5. Nail Shop Worker

First off, the smell of those chemicals can't be healthy. However, that is nothing compared to the concept that a person could shoot me a twenty to grind funk off of their nasty hammer toes. Guess what, it's not the nice, clean, symmetrical feet that those poor women face every day. It's the cashier from Fred's who's been working double shifts all week in her SAS's, with a corn the size of a golf ball and hangnails on four out of five toes.

I walk down the hall of my office and around lunchtime I can tell who brought in leftover spaghetti or maybe a nice bag of popcorn. Can you imagine the olfactory file folder of foot smells that these women carry with them at all times. The volumes of toe lint, fungus, and general cheese they've smelled raises the hair on the back of my neck. I'm getting the heeby jeebies just thinking about it.

So that's my list so far. Maybe one day I'll be left with only a calling that truly suits me, maybe not. Maybe I'll just keep on searching, moving from thing to thing until I give up on it all and write silly blogs for a living. The pay sucks but at least it doesn't smell like cashier Fran's left foot.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sometimes the Cure is Worse

OK, so I told this story to some friends today and was inspired to put it down on "paper."

Disclaimer: The following story does involve some brief mention of bodily functions, but will in no way be graphic. So have no fear.

Also, my old neighbor Mark resurfaces in this story. If you haven't already, please go and read my posting titled "Nutty as a Fruitcake" to gain some perspective on our relationship.

When Amanda and I moved to Slidell in 2004 I was stationed in the USCG command center in NOLA. I worked from six in the evening until six in the morning. Therefore, I had breakfast for supper most days. I would come in from work, wake Amanda up, and fix a big ole omelet stuffed with all of the goodies. Little did I know that my frequency of omelet intake was going to cause me some significant issues in the near future.

One peaceful fall Saturday morning, I sprang from the bed, looking forward to a day filled with college football. I barely even noticed the slight cramping feeling in my big toe. It was a small sting that felt almost arthritic, but I paid it little mind. While sitting in the living room talking to Amanda, I began to complain about this sore little piggy and decided to grab it and give it a good popping. As soon as it popped, I howled in pain. Apparently, my hardcore strength had broken my toe, or so I thought. I really needed to be more careful with these guns I called arms. After all, I had a young child now. What if he were to fall victim to my superhuman strength. I could never live with myself if I accidentally ripped one of his little arms off whilst trying to retrieve him from his crib. While these ludicrous concepts flashed through my mind I noticed that my foot was turning a very bright red and swelling to nearly the size of a cantaloupe. Yep, I broke myself alright.

After some discussions with a corpsman combined with the fact that I could only apply pressure to my heel without letting out an embarrassing, and all too feminine squeal, I decided that a trip to the emergency room was in order. I stumbled into the back room and alerted the nurse that I needed an x-ray because I definitely broken the joint that connects my big toe to my foot. She looked closely at my swollen piggy, which was almost visibly pulsating and informed me that it most likely wasn't broken. Based upon the concerned, and somewhat confused look on her face, I certainly didn't have visions of sugarplums dancing through my head. A few minutes later a doctor strolled in and asked me about my dietary habits. I told him about the omelets and my love of chicken. He nodded and asked me if I drank red wine. As a man of high society, I informed him that I would occasionally drink wine, but only the finest boxed "red" wine would grace the Nolan house. He gave another knowing look, which I interpreted to mean that he obviously recognized class when he saw it. Apparently I misjudged his look, because the next words out of his mouth were some of the most traumatic I've ever experienced.

Doc: Mr. Nolan, you have gout.

long awkward silent pause

Me: uhh, that's impossible.

Doc: Why? People get gout all the time.

Me: Yeah, really old people who wears orthopedic sneakers.

Doc: Well, now you have it.

Sidebar. If you are creeped out at the idea of gout, you're not alone. I had no idea what it was, and assumed that it was most likely some type of age related flesh eating disease that somewhat resembled leprosy. Great, now my foot's going to fall off. I then envisioned me limping around on a wooden peg for the rest of my life making up manly stories about how I lost my foot in some sort of combine accident, or maybe I was a child laborer who escaped the perils of the industrial revolution with only this damn peg as a reminder to live the remainder of my life to it's fullest.

I was quickly brought back down to earth by the facts of gout. Gout is the body's inability to process uric acid. Once the acid stores up, it crystallizes in your joints, usually a big toe. This causes the toe to become inflamed, and potentially demon possessed.

After a quick anatomy lesson, he proposed my treatment options. This conversation went something like this:

Doc: OK, there are two basic treatments. It's your choice which one to take. Treatment A is really bad and will take three days to completely relieve your symptoms. Treatment B is the worst thing you've ever been through, but will relieve your symptoms in 24 hours. Your call?

Me: Did you say 24 hours?

Doc: Uhh, yeah.

Me: I'll take it.

I completely glossed over his prophetic descriptions and chose the path of shorter pain.

We dropped my prescription off at the wal-mart pharmacy and I hobbled over the the shaving isle to retrieve some other needed essentials. After a few minutes I heard my name being summoned back to the pharmacy. When I reached the counter, the pharmacist looked very troubled at me and my prescription. She immediately asked me if I had gout. I embarrassingly responded yes, and gently hushed her volume level to keep the rest of wal-mart from knowing of my illness. She then asked me if the doctor explained exactly what he'd given me. I told her no, and this was her response:

Concerned Drugist: Well, the amount of medicine you were prescribed is really dangerous. I won't even fill this drug for the elderly because it could kill them.

Me: Did you say kill? What did he prescribe me, drano?

Concerned Drugist: No, but it's almost that bad. Mr. Nolan, please follow the instructions on the bottle to the letter. If you over do it, please go immediately to the hospital.

Me: How will I know if I've over done it?

Concerned Drugist: Trust me, you'll know.

She handed me the medicine bottle and asked me to read the instructions in her presence to ensure that I took her seriously. The directions were as follows:

"Take one pill with a glass of water every hour stopping at the onset of explosive diarrhea."

Me: Come on, did you really have to add the adjective "explosive?"

Adamant Drugist: Yes. This isn't a joke. Please don't deviate from the instructions.

To say I was freaked out would be an understatement. But the good news is that if I have any left over I could probably use them to clear a clogged drain or flush the fuel injection on my saturn. Like a good little soldier I started the regimen. Ten hours later, the pills were all gone, and my foot still hurt. I became very cavalier about the whole scary meds conversation, feeling that somehow that idiot pharmacist clearly couldn't fathom intestines as sturdy as mine.

The next day Amanda and I traveled to my parents house for a visit. You would think that staring down the barrel at "explosive" issues would encourage me not to travel more than twenty feet from the nearest potty. You would think. Our visit went well. I'm not sure what I showed off more, my new infant or the cantaloupe foot. Sometime around four in the afternoon, I began to realize that we may have a problem as a tummy tingle or two sent instant panic rushing down my spine. I graciously excused myself to my parents unsuspecting restroom and was truly humbled by the gravity of modern medicine for the following forty five minutes. My cavalier attitude was instantly erased and replaced by the fact that I was now an hour from home. By this point, an hour seemed like an eternity of "cleansing."

As wave one of the storm passed, I rushed Amanda out to our car, threw her the keys, and curled up in the fetal position in the passenger seat. She spent the next hour laughing hysterically and warning me to be proactive about my condition. If I felt the slightest of tingles she would hit the shoulder of the road and I would be remanded to "recuperate" on the side of the interstate.

Hopefully you are caught up on who Mark is, and why we didn't seem to see eye to eye. We were loud, party throwing neighbors who were seemingly unconcerned over the uniformity of our grass height. He was an anal retentive psychopath.

As we neared our neighborhood the tingle had turned in to a gastrointestinal tornado. Mark stood in his yard, horrified as the following scene played out in front of him. Showing no care to the safety of the kids of our neighborhood, Amanda flies down our street, barely breaking as she slides our honda into the driveway, mere inches from our garage door. As the car violently slams to a halt, I kick my door open and projectile vomit a good ten feet in to the yard. Nearly falling out of the car, I stumble across the driveway and slump against the wall until Amanda can unlock the door. His jaw rested ever so gently on his perfectly manicured lawn, mind racing at the crazy guy next door who is apparently fall down drunk on a Sunday afternoon. I never told him the real story. He wouldn't have believed me if I did.

Thanks to the healing powers of gatorade, I survived the next twelve hours or so and my foot slowly returned from Quasimodo-like proportions. Since then, my gout has never returned. Thankfully, I've never had to make the choice between medicine and peg leg again. Next time, peg leg will probably win by a nose. To this day, I still shutter when some fancy chef on the food network makes an omelet. Don't they know they're playing with peoples lives?