The kids have been very, very busy.
Recapping 90 days of fun in 22 photos…..
The kids have been very, very busy.
Recapping 90 days of fun in 22 photos…..
Long before she settled down to a life of domestic bliss with 1980s balladeer Richard Marx, Cynthia Rhodes was an actress who worked alongside John Travolta in what is mostly regarded as one of the worst movie sequels of all time, “Staying Alive.” Directed by Sylvester Stallone, “Staying Alive” was the 1983 follow-up to the hugely successful “Saturday Night Fever,” and Rhodes played a dancer/singer named Jackie, a love interest to Travolta’s Tony Manero character. While the movie was a colossal flop with critics it did do fairly well at the box office, taking in nearly $64 million and was one of the ten most successful films of 1983.
Little did anyone know how much of the $64 million came out of my own pocket.
Yes, I was obsessed with this movie, but more to the point; I had a bit of a thing for Miss Cynthia Rhodes.
Stalker is a bit of a strong term for what I did during the late summer and fall of 1983. Sixteen years old and dateless, I recall wandering in to see “Staying Alive” with some friends at the movie theaters within Old Towne Mall in Torrance. I wasn’t necessarily excited to walk in to see a movie about a one-time disco dancer trying to make it on Broadway, but I ultimately found myself entranced by the Jackie character portrayed by Rhodes.
I may have walked in somewhat reluctantly, but I walked out vowing to return for a second viewing.
Within a few days I’d convinced the same friends who had seen the movie with me originally to join me for another watching. This time we snuck in the back door to the theater, but I was the only one with the stamina to sit through the whole 93 minutes again. I found myself completely smitten by the Jackie character. I loved her voice, her face, her body and her attitude. I wanted to dance with her and I wanted her to sing to me. I purchased a fan magazine that was devoted solely to the movie and featured photos and interviews with the film’s stars. I read only the Cynthia Rhodes interview and gawked at her photos. I was officially crazy. I coaxed a few other friends to join me at the movies for “Staying Alive” viewing parties, but the only one enjoying this particular party was me, and before I knew it I’d seen it at least a half-dozen times.
Now, Mike Mullins, if you are out there and someone has passed this little essay to you for humorous purposes, I completely apologize for outing you, but thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for joining me in my “Staying Alive”/Cynthia Rhodes obsession. Going it alone was such a lonely ride. Literally, as it would turn out.
Yes, I’d found a partner in crime who accompanied me to multiple viewings of the movie and engaged in several deep and meaningful conversations about Cynthia Rhodes, covering topics like what shampoo we thought she used and of course debating about which of us she’d enjoying kissing more. Mike and I were a couple of freak shows as summer turned to fall, and ultimately we had a choice to make: It was either time to get real and find some new interests, or take our Cynthia Rhodes obsession to the next level.
Yeah, we were about to embark on a journey into the seedy world of celebrity stalking, but in all honesty we meant no harm. We just wanted to meet Cynthia Rhodes and see if perhaps she might give us something to remember her by, like say her leg-warmers from the movie.
Somehow, some way we thought that we’d happened upon some privileged information which led us to believe that we had Cynthia Rhodes’ home address. I’ll just admit to you now that we really didn’t have her address, but when a couple of horny, obsessed teenage boys believe they have access to their dream girl, well yeah, they’d pedal their bicycles on an 40-mile trek to find her.
And pedal we did.
Along the way we rehearsed what we would say to her when she willingly came to answer the door to a couple of morons. Pedaling became exhausting and tragically, talk of Cynthia Rhodes became tiresome. We arrived at the gated home hardly even excited about the prospects of meeting our queen. For 30 long minutes we stood outside the gate trying to muster up the courage to ring the bell. When we finally saw a family emerge from the large house and noticed that there wasn’t anyone even remotely resembling Cynthia Rhodes we essentially knew that the dream was dead.
And now we had to pedal home.
If there is anything more depressing than a couple of formerly crazed, weary, smelly teenage boys wallowing in sorrow because they couldn’t get a glimpse of their dream girl, well, I have no idea what it is.
Just pathetic. Sorry for involving you Mike.
The dream was over and it was back to reality. I recall eventually tossing the magazine in the garbage and I tried to not ever again think about Cynthia Rhodes. I looked away from the screen when she appeared in “Dirty Dancing,” and I also remember her appearing in a movie with Gene Simmons of KISS, which caused my mind to think horrible things knowing what I knew about Gene’s exploits. I remember hating Gene Simmons that day. Being a huge KISS fan, I recall feeling like my girl had betrayed me with my best friend. Just an awful feeling.
Years later I was given a Richard Marx CD and I found myself to be a bit of a fan, but mostly I was impressed with his mountain of hair. Before too long I’d read somewhere that he was getting married. To Cynthia Rhodes.
I suppose the fantasy and the dream officially died at the gates of a house that was clearly not inhabited by Cynthia Rhodes, but the coffin was truly closed when she married the man with the massive mullet.
I understand that the couple is still married today and going strong some 22 years later. They have three sons, and their youngest is basically the same age that I was in my year of Rhodes obsession.
Perhaps maybe he will get on his bike one day and pedal to the home of Scarlett Johansson after becoming smitten with her performance in “Iron Man 2.” Perhaps he will become obsessed to the point of watching the movie over and over and over again. Perhaps he will repeat many of the same mistakes I made…
Better yet pal, just live your life and let it go.
But just in case you can’t let it go, at least make sure to get the right address before you start pedaling.
A few weeks ago I lamented the lack of household structure that resulted in a less-than-desirable progress report from school for poor Emily. I can tell you that we have made some minor tweaks to our routine and the unit seems to be functioning at a higher level and the school experience for little Emily has been a better one because of said changes. Still, I was left scratching my head as the words from the progress report continued to haunt me in my waking hours. Not beating myself up about it too much, but the disappointment you feel as a Dad when you are told that your little girl is anything short of spectacular is a cruel beast. He must be slayed.
I was determined to review my own personal history to see if heredity played any role in my little girl becoming a disruptive force in the classroom. It seems her desire to chat with her schoolmates resulted not only in the disappointing news from the teacher but also in her being assigned to different seats on multiple occasions in an attempt to curb the chattiness.
It sounded familiar.
Again, I have my dearly departed Mom to thank for keeping many important (and embarrassing) artifacts from the educational exploits of her son Donnie Fulton, so I carefully reviewed the archives this afternoon in search of any similarities to what Emily is experiencing.
I certainly had my pick of many examples.
From the first grade I discovered a fake apology letter that I’d penned to my teacher, Mrs. Delameter. Attached to the less-than-sincere note from yours truly was another note in which Mrs. Delameter made it a point of advising my parents that I needed to focus more on school work and less on trying to gain the attention of my classmates.
Mrs. Reynolds – my second grade teacher – sent repeated requests to try to tone down my comic aspirations, and while she did find me to be a “funny kid,” I was disrupting the class.
Report cards from the third, fourth and fifth grades yielded less than satisfactory marks in citizenship, as my continued exposure to Bob Hope Specials obviously had me leaning toward a career in comedy. The snarkiness and sarcasm that was to be the hallmark of my comedic stylings was being honed in the classrooms, and while I certainly was a better-than-average student I still wasn’t applying myself completely because I loved the laughter from the other students. Especially the girls.
I went bonkers in the sixth grade, as Mrs. Kobe handed-out “250 Word Themes” – punishment essays – for those who would dare to disrupt her classroom with comedy, arm farts and general fits of obnoxiousness.
Let’s just say that I led the league in 250 word themes that year.
I can’t pretend to have any clue as to what my parents thought of their class-disrupting son at this point in my life, but again the overall grades were certainly better than average, and in an odd twist of fate, I discovered the joy of writing as a result of penning all of those themes for Mrs. Kobe. I even developed the writer’s bump, that telltale callus on the middle finger that came about from doing so much writing by hand. My final years of middle school featured more of the same, with me attempting to crack-up my classmates and bringing home report cards with nearly failing marks in citizenship.
I was apparently a bad citizen.
On into high school I went. Awkwardly. Zit-faced and scared of the world, I no longer trotted-out my comedy routines in class, instead I silently seethed as no girls would give me the time of day despite having my hair parted down the middle and feathered back.
Apparently I thought the Shaun Cassidy look would win the affections of female Torrance High Tartars.
I wrote for the school newspaper and did pretty well in my classes, and as I review my report cards from my freshman and sophomore years I noticed that my citizenship marks were trending upwards. I was becoming a model citizen!
The end of my second year at Torrance High even yielded the following letter from school administrators:
You see that? I was contributing and I was unselfish. No longer was I in it for myself. I was thinking of others (and not just the girls). This was a kid who was going places. The report cards all look great to this point and all indications are that I had shed my comedic aspirations in favor of being a serious student. Heck, I even have a letter from Stanford, who was actively recruiting me for a basketball scholarship.
The world was my oyster as I completed my junior year and was ready to begin my final year of high school as a senior on the move, however during the summer I apparently regained my swagger, as I noticed that the report cards and progress reports from the first half of my senior year reveal a lapse back into my poor citizenship. I was arguing with my guidance counselor on a regular basis and mouthing-off to teachers in an attempt to impress classmates.
What was cute in elementary and middle school was boorish in high school and just didn’t play well with administrators.
The classroom cut-up was nothing more than a court jester.
The idiocy culminated in my earlier letter, which cited my wonderful citizenship, getting trumped by an embarrassing letter from the same folks advising me of a three-day suspension.
Here it is:
Yes, let the record reflect that I did in fact “moon a teacher.” Looking back at the incident I still feel a bit justified in doing what I did (as I’m certain my fellow “moonies” feel too), however it was stupid, inappropriate and disrespectful. I deserved the suspension.
Look, I wasn’t a bad kid. Perhaps I was a bit misguided, but I never set out to hurt anybody. I enjoyed the attention of others and loved to make the other kids laugh. Heck, there’s still a lot of that kid left in me today. While I don’t necessarily crave the attention as I once did, I nonetheless enjoy making people laugh.
I’m not thrilled that Emily is disrupting her class. I do, however, recognize many of her personality quirks as looking very much like the historical quirks I just shared, so I can certainly relate to her clamoring for the attention and appreciation of her classmates. I’m going to tell her my stories, but not for entertainment purposes as much as I want her to know that school is to be taken seriously and that she can still have fun with her friends while being dedicated to her studies and respectful of others.
I’m going to reinforce to her that the adulation of a few classmates is not worth the scorn of her teachers.
And while I’m not entirely certain how the “mooning” story is going to be received, I will definitely show her photos of me and my Shaun Cassidy hair style.
I think it’s important that she knows that her Daddy once had a full head of hair.
I’ve discussed previously my wimpiness when it comes to dealing with sickness and injuries and jury duty and responsibility, etc., but I have to admit that when it comes to migraine headaches I can really take my feebleness to a whole new level.
At the heart of the problem of course is the pain, but as the migraine brethren and sisterhood will attest, there are other factors involved with this cruel form of the headache that can really knock you down. My headaches arrive with a vice-like pain and a tidal wave of nausea, and there is no medicine that I’ve tried that can dull the tentacles of either malady. Caffeine helps a little, so I’ll gulp some strong coffee to take away a bit of the pain, but the acid in the java typically makes the stomach issues that much worse, so I have to decide what I’d rather contend with; a brain-squeezing headache accompanied by some mild rollercoaster stomach issues, or a milder form of the skull kicker and some sickness that rivals the stomach flu.
I usually cave and have a bunch of coffee, as the pain really is that bad.
Growing up and rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers, I recall numerous instances of their great center Kareem Abdul Jabbar missing entire games because he experienced migraine headaches that were severe enough to leave him in the locker room with an ice pack on his forehead or even forcing him to return home or the team hotel and a cool, dark room. I remember thinking that there is no way a headache would ever keep me from playing a game that I loved, but once I experienced my first migraine I became (literally) painfully aware of what Kareem was going through.
Kareem confesses to using medical marijuana to treat his painful headaches, but I’m not really in any position to grab the bong every time my head feels like it is going to explode. Quite honestly I don’t see how going all Cheech and Chong is going to lessen the pain, but if it works for “Captain” I’m not going to question his reasoning. I’m going to stick with coffee and Advil.
Today was a migraine day. Incapacitated is a strong word to use but it is pretty close to describing my condition. This is the fourth migraine that I’ve suffered in the last few months and that is pretty typical for me, as I won’t have one for several years and then I’ll have a batch of them in a concentrated span of time. I’ve had many, many medical tests in an attempt to diagnose the source of the problem, all to no avail. I’ve had a spinal tap, a CAT scan and I’ve maintained a food diary for months at a time, but nothing can help to explain the randomness of these headaches, so I’ve come to accept them as my little, troublesome friends.
My friend and I spent the day together drinking coffee, sleeping a lot and watching “Beverly Hills Cop,” none of which made my friend go away. We sat outside and sucked in some cool air, slept a little more and then we (respectfully) took a cold shower.
He’s still here. He’s now been here for more than 12 hours and needless to say, he’s overstayed his welcome, but I also know that tomorrow when I wake up the severe pain and nausea will all be gone, but I will still have what I call “the shadow” of the migraine. Yes, I will be left with a strange imprint in my skull where the pain resided all day long. It won’t necessarily hurt, but it will serve as a reminder that my friend has left the house, but he’s only around the corner and could return at any moment if he learns that he forgot his wallet or something.
So the migraine is a cruel little friend. His shadow will lurk for a few days and I’ll be paranoid the entire time that he will be coming back for another visit. For the next few days I’ll move a little slower, talk a little less and become quite fearful any time the shadow of my friend begins to morph into pain.
At least Kareem can attribute his paranoia to the pot. What’s my excuse?
Tomorrow when I return to work I’ll no doubt learn of several remedies, medicines and some doctor names from well-meaning folks who want to help me get rid of my little friend. I’ll thank them for the recommendations and truly appreciate that they cared enough to both inquire and to try to help, but what I can’t tell them is that I have really tried everything. This old friend just can’t take a hint. He ain’t going away any time soon.
I obviously had some time to think today and I didn’t waste a whole lot of that time trying to figure out why I get migraines, but perhaps it was the lack of effort to determine the source of the pain that helped me realize something about these little visits for the very first time. This will likely sound/read like crazy talk, but I stumbled upon a common denominator from the last few bouts of migraine headaches and that just happens to be pride.
I was feeling pretty cocky yesterday and cockiness, being the idiot cousin of contentment he lured me into a sense of satisfaction and pride that was so horribly misguided that I could hardly recognize myself. Now there is nothing wrong with feeling good about stuff, but when it turns into something so ugly that you find yourself all puffed-up and superior, well then you have a problem. That was me yesterday and it got me to wondering if perhaps the last migraine had an element of pride to it.
I knew the date that my friend visited last and then reviewed some events associated with the 24 hours that preceded his arrival and oh yeah, I was feeling pretty high and mighty that day too.
Coincidence? I think not.
I truly believe that this may very well be a gift rather than an ailment. Could it be that the pain, nausea and shadow are nothing more than reminders that humility and peace are far better attributes than pride and obnoxiousness? Again, call me crazy – I’ve been called far worse – but I believe I’ve found the root cause of my issue and I’m choosing to rejoice.
As a sinful man, I am so completely full of weakness that only the saving blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ spares me of the judgment and fate I so rightfully deserve. So like Paul, I will choose to rejoice in my weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:30).
I no longer need to maintain any sort of food diary or list all of the sources of stress in my life that are the likely (clinical) reasons for my skull-cracking migraine headaches. I also do not need to fear the return of my pesky little friend. Instead, I need to chronicle the pride in my life and identify the sources of arrogance that may very well trigger visits from my pal Migraine, and if he does happen to show up then I’ll know that he’s merely here in search of my pride.
And he’ll leave just as soon as I’ve been humbled.
The alarming sound of screeching tires struggling to brake was punctuated by the violent crashing and crushing of metal.
That was the noise that rocked our quiet Sunday morning of breakfast burritos, coffee and Trevor giggles. Sporting an outstanding ensemble of shorts, sweatshirt, socks (no shoes) and morning breath, I walked to the end of our driveway to determine if the crash was nearby and I saw that onlookers were gawking at a scene that I still could not easily see. Nobody was running to the scene, so I slowly made my way along the sidewalk toward the corner of our street which is only two houses away.
I was startled by what I saw when I got there.
The car most responsible for the screeching and crunched metal had made its way across the busy intersection, hopped the curb, skidded across the neighbor’s lawn (two houses away) and absolutely wrecked a large truck that was parked in the neighbor’s driveway.
All of this damage inflicted by a small sedan with a tiny woman behind the wheel.
And a very scared little girl in the backseat.
I don’t know what was more stunning to me, the fact that no one was injured or that none of the other onlookers had run across the street to check on the occupants of the car, as a good couple of minutes had lapsed between impact and the tall bald guy with morning breath happening upon the scene. I was the unofficial first responder to this accident.
“Are you okay? Are you hurt at all?”
No response. Just a blank stare straight ahead. The woman was fixated on the truck she had just plowed in to. She did not appear hurt in any noticeable way, and the little girl – looking equally stoic – seemed okay. They were both in shock, or so it appeared. I asked her again if she was okay and if she was hurt at all. Again, no response, but there was some movement. She pulled out a cell phone, dialed a number and began to speak a language I did not understand, but I believed it to be Chinese. I gave up asking any more questions for the moment and decided to knock on the neighbor’s front door. In the unlikely event that they’d slept through the crash I wanted to at least alert them to what was transpiring in their front yard.
As suspected, they were not home.
The man who had apparently caused this accident by turning abruptly in front of stoic front lawn lady was now hovering about. He was very anxious and wanted to make sure that no one was hurt. I told him that the woman and the little girl appeared to be fine, but they won’t acknowledge anyone’s queries as to their well-being, as a few more onlookers had attempted to check on them and were met with the same stare and cell phone conversation.
At this point a good 20 minutes had passed since my breakfast burrito was interrupted by the crash and I was wondering about the lack of police presence. Had no one called this in? I’d seen so many people pointing, gawking and talking into their cell phones that I’d assumed it had been called in, but perhaps not. I called the number for non emergencies for our police department and to my surprise the dispatcher advised that no call had been made to any agency concerning the accident. Mine was the first. I provided all the necessary details and within a few minutes I could hear sirens. Every type of emergency vehicle was quickly on scene and ultimately there were some disappointed paramedics and ambulance attendants who were not going to see any action this day because no one was injured. They left nearly as quickly as they’d arrived and after couple of minutes only a few police cars remained.
I saw the little woman finally emerge from her smashed vehicle and she immediately lit into the man identified as the guy who had cut her off and sent her across road, sidewalk, grass and driveway. To my surprise her accusatory words were not only loud, but they were in English. No longer was she catatonic and looking straight ahead. She now seemed ready to punch this fellow in the face. Things simmered down quickly because of the police presence, as combatants were sent to their corners and officers went about taking statements and investigating the scene.
I wandered across the street (by this time I’d thankfully put on some shoes, thrown on a baseball cap and tossed a stick of gum in my mouth) and asked the guy directly across from our place if he knew how to get a hold of our unfortunate neighbor with the wrecked truck and torn-up lawn. He pulled out his phone and quickly got some of the neighbor’s nearby relatives on the line to tell them the bad news, and before too much longer the family was on the scene, assessing the damage.
I determined that my work here was done and went back inside to play with Trevor, but I kept monitoring the situation. One visit to the window revealed the arrival of the tow truck, while yet another saw the police cars departing. Nearly a half hour later I wandered out with Trevor to watch the tow truck leaving with the beat up sedan on the back of it. All that remained was the tiny/angry woman and many of her family members. They congregated in the middle of the street and I spoke to the woman’s husband who assured me that his wife was fine, and he was holding the little girl who had been in the backseat of her mother’s car that careened, jumped and slammed. It had to be quite an experience for the little girl. My attempts to make her laugh or smile were fruitless.
I’m thinking that the gum didn’t work.
I don’t think the magnitude of what could have happened really hit me until later in the day when Emily returned home and asked to go see the skids and smashed truck.
As we stood in front of our neighbor’s house surveying the scene Emily reminded me that we had been standing on that same corner only a day before the accident. It was an innocent observation without any mention of the possibility of the little angry woman’s car taking out our whole family while we waited to cross the street. That morbid thought was left for my brain apparently. We wandered back to our house and Emily said that she was glad that the car didn’t crash at our house because it would’ve ruined our brand new lawn. I love that simple, innocent thought process, because my mind was still back on the corner visualizing the woman’s car coming right at us.
Why does my mind go there while Emily’s goes to Candyland?
I suppose it has something to do with being here a lot longer than her and experiencing pain, hurt and loss. Any way, I held her hand a little tighter than usual as we walked home and I was thankful that no one was hurt by the accident but also thankful that the accident happened when it did and did not involve us.
I looked at the truck again this morning on the way to work and also glanced at the path left by the sedan from curb to impact and tried hard not to wonder “what if,” because I know that’s dangerous thinking. I hoped that my neighbor didn’t have to endure too much trouble in dealing with insurance companies as they went about seeking repair for their damages.
I hoped that the little woman was a little less angry today.
I also hoped for a return of some happy thoughts rather than the bad dreams that plagued me Sunday night. Cars were crashing, a woman was yelling and kids were frowning.
I needed a glimpse of Candyland. I want to make that little girl laugh.
I’m gonna try a new brand of gum.
I was half asleep in line this morning at the grocery store when the cashier attempted to break open a roll of pennies by doing that cool-looking cashier thingy where they break it like an egg and dump the coins into the register. She cracked it open, but in her attempt to pour the coins into the proper slot in the register she accidentally dumped a bunch of them onto the floor below. With the register drawer open she bent down to pick up the wayward coins, and as she stood up she clanged the back of her head on the drawer, violently rocking her skull and sending a shower of coins all over the place.
I was now officially wide awake.
The good news was that the cashier was not harmed during this stunt. She was however, humiliated. In fact, after she assured all of us in line that she was okay and had recovered all of the coins she confessed to anyone who would listen that it was the single most humiliating moment of her existence.
My first thought was that she must be a very cautious and calculated person to have never experienced anything more humiliating than cracking her head on a drawer and making coins dance through the air, but then I realized that she was pretty young and had a lot of life left ahead of her and plenty more opportunities to truly make an ass of herself.
I could mentor her on the subject, as my body of work in the area of humiliating experiences is extensive. As I drove away thinking about my life of entertaining others with my mishaps I could only laugh at myself for the follies that I’ve inflicted upon myself with various missteps, silly statements and blunders.
I’m not entirely sure if it is possible to condense these pratfalls into a Top Five List of Humiliations, but I’ll give it a shot.
1) I’ll take the Melted Cheese and Bacon. There was definitely a phase of my life when all the synapses were not functioning properly as I’d clearly done enough partying to be an honorary member of Animal House. I was just a dummy. I had silly arguments with my girlfriend at the time about all sorts of odd stuff, like what color batting helmets the New York Yankees wore and other think tank-type topics, and I was forever the champion of the wrong answer. As I mentioned, I was fairly dim, so it is no wonder that we found ourselves at a restaurant one morning and I placed an order for melted cheese and bacon. Let’s attempt to simply ignore the fact that the cheese and bacon were merely items that could be added to regular menu features and assume that I really believed that there was a meal that consisted of melted cheese and bacon. Why exactly would I order that meal? But no, it was not a meal, yet there I was ordering it, and following the puzzled look from the waiter and horrified glance from my girlfriend, I proceeded to argue the merits of ordering such a meal with the waiter to the point that it was extremely uncomfortable to be in my skin. The same skin that apparently craved melted cheese and bacon. Not a good moment for me.
2) Last Man Standing (on the Roof). Toilet-papering a friend’s (or enemy’s) house was always a fun and exhilarating endeavor, but one summer a group of us took it to another level as we considered it more extreme sport than rite of passage. We wouldn’t just load up the car with TP and “decorate” the house of a friend who required hazing; no, we would pick houses at random – people we didn’t know – and target them for papering. Oh it was great fun, and these people had to come out in the morning and wonder what they had done to deserve such treatment. There was one particular house that we seemed to favor and we would return to it often for a toilet paper blitzing. Because the house was on a large lot with lots of grass and trees we would typically utilize more than 100 rolls of paper and we would always drive away gleefully examining our handiwork of a job well done. It wasn’t that these folks were heavy sleepers and didn’t hear us going about the task of papering their home, rather, they were usually not home, so it was easy work for us in the knowledge that there was no danger of getting caught. One night we got super creative in how we went about wrapping trees and light posts with toilet paper and determined that the best way to maximize coverage was to get up on the roof and string some toilet paper around gutters and the television antenna. I volunteered for the task and after getting on top of the house I had my buddies chucking rolls of paper to me, which I would wrap and twist around anything I could find, and then drop the rolls back down to them to secure to mailboxes, tree stumps or whatever. Well imagine my surprise upon returning to the edge of the rooftop after an especially creative wrapping job around the chimney to discover all of my friends running away in every which direction as a car pulled into the driveway chock full of family. They had returned. And there was a perpetrator on the roof. Holding a few rolls of toilet paper. It was horrifying. There was no anger and there was a surprising lack of alarm from the family. They simply exited their car and stood in the driveway looking at me. Speechless, I climbed down and attempted to run away, but as I hit the toilet paper-covered lawn I lost my footing and went down in a heap. I lay there for a moment expecting someone to pounce, but they stood zombie-like entranced by my buffoonery. Needless to say, it was the last time we papered this particular house.
3) “Happy Anniversary!” My group of friends had a nice tradition of trying to embarrass each other when we dined as a group in a restaurant, and usually what we would do is tell the waitress that it was someone’s birthday. Completely innocent and funny, as we would watch our buddy looking shocked as the wait staff and busboys would gather to sing a painful rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the unsuspecting victim, and it usually paid-off nicely for him too, as he would get a free dessert so it was all good. One night my buddy Brian and I were dining at a Mexican food place that we loved and on this particular night it was just the two of us. The hostess sat us in the middle of the room in a very tight booth that had us sitting uncomfortably close to each other, but it was crowded and we were hungry, so oh well. We munched on chips and salsa and grinded on some burritos and tacos before Brian excused himself to go to the restroom. This was the normal time when, if we were a part of a larger party, someone would advise the waitress that it was Brian’s birthday, but since it was just the two of us I figured it wouldn’t be very funny. So I hatched a different plan. It seemed like a stroke of genius, but once everything unfolded I was definitely a candidate for a dunce cap. I whispered in the waitress’ ear that it was a special occasion and gave her the details. She stood back and looked at me kind of funny. She asked me if I was sure and I said I was. She shrugged and said okay and then walked away looking confused. Brian returned to the table and we chatted about splitting the bill and what we were going to do next. Suddenly the waitress was back at our table with a tiny cupcake with a candle on it, and most of the other wait staff was with her as well. She placed the cupcake in the middle of the table between me and Brian and then the staff broke into song – serenading Brian and I as a happy couple that was celebrating their anniversary. Yes, I had told the waitress that it was Brian’s anniversary. I was trying to be original, but this one really blew up on me. The look on Brian’s face while in retrospect was pretty funny, was not a happy one, and let’s just say that this moment likely makes his top five list as well. Top five moments he’d like to forget.
4) U-Haul Adventures. Moving is never fun, and a move involving my brother David is typically filled with some moments that belong in a Three Stooges movie. His involvement has resulted in broken windows, ripped couches and dropped lamps, and while I’ve always appreciated his help, it is always with a sense of foreboding that I make the call to him as moving day approaches. I had a pretty simple move to deal with many years ago as I was just going from one bachelor pad to another, so I rented a U-Haul truck and once again enlisted my brother to help with the heavy lifting. To my great surprise there were no instances of breakage, dropping or other issues during the loading of the truck – the sort that had plagued our previous efforts – so after we closed the backdoor of the truck I climbed into the cab for the short drive over to the new place with David in his car to trail me. I glanced in the side mirror a few times to make sure that my brother was still behind me and I noticed that he was far behind me and driving very slow. This concerned me because he did not know where my new apartment was located, so he needed to follow closely. I slowed the truck, but he didn’t make up any ground. Finally, I saw David speeding up and then he was coming up on my passenger side honking his horn. He pulled up next to me and rolled down his window, but the truck was not equipped with power windows and I couldn’t roll down the window to hear what he was saying. We were neck-and-neck and he was now frantically pointing to the rear of the truck. Did we leave something behind? Was there a celebrity driving behind me? No. It seems that I’d failed to properly secure the loading ramp in the rear of the truck and I was driving along and dragging this thing, with sparks flying all around and just making a tremendous noise. All of which I was blissfully unaware of. All the cars around me knew it, and even my brother David, whom I’d labeled as a Stooge when it came to helping me move, knew it. Just the idiot driver who had failed to secure the ramp had no clue. My brother hasn’t participated in another one of my moves since that day.
5) The Booger Incident. I have a long work history as a team leader, supervisor and manager, so disciplining people is a responsibility I’ve come to accept even though I certainly do not enjoy telling folks that they’ve done something wrong. But it comes with the territory. One particular day I was confronted with an employee who was defiantly disregarding a very basic protocol and I called her on it in front of many of her peers. It wasn’t a particularly ugly incident and there was no yelling or anything like that, but she was understandably sensitive to the fact that I had not handled the situation in private and later that day sent me an e-mail advising me of as much. I didn’t feel great about the situation and wanted to make it up to this employee in a meaningful way, so I figured that since her moment of discipline took place in a very public arena with all of her co-workers listening then it made perfect sense that I would wander over and make a very public apology to her so that she might be redeemed just a little bit. It seemed like a good idea so I headed over. I approached her desk and as she remained in her chair I sat on her desk all casual-like, and proceeded to announce my intentions to apologize for the earlier situation and did it just loud enough for all to hear. Feeling pretty good about myself, I leaned in a little towards my employee and began to talk about the situation and how we both could learn and grow as a result. I was trying to be a good manager. Just then I felt something. It was in my nose. The problem was that I felt it and I was in mid-sentence and there was just no time to react. So in the middle of me muttering on about the complexities of teamwork and the necessity of executing to plans and expectations, a big, crusty, hairy booger shot out of my nostril and onto my employee’s computer keyboard. And there it sat, as the two of us stared at it, equally horrified by the spectacle. She leaned back away from the specimen and waited for the right thing to be done, so I did the only plausible thing I could think of. I picked it up and placed it in my shirt pocket and attempted to return to my speech. It was the only thing I could think to do. I finished up our chat and made the perp walk back to my desk, booger in pocket. I never again had a problem with that particular employee, as I’m certain that she feared another speech filled with flying objects if she ever got out of line again.
So those are my stories. Some a bit funny, and others just sad. They’ve all served a purpose in my life and that’s to keep me humble. I’m quite certain that there are stories more humiliating than these that I’ve conveniently forgotten, and I’m even more certain that as I get older and my body creaks and makes other interesting noises I’m more than likely to embarrass myself and those around me quite a bit more.
Perhaps by the time Trevor is in college I can share my Top 100 List. Assuming of course that my keyboard is not completely covered in boogers…
The number looked unfamiliar so I hesitated to take the call on my cell. The area code rang a bell, but I was a little gun-shy about clicking the little green button for fear that it was this aggressive job recruiter who’d been ringing me for the last few months. The guy was relentless, promising the world and building me up, only to go a tad crazy when I told him that I wasn’t interested. His true colors were not pretty.
But no, the voicemail message was clearly not the head hunter; rather, it was the calm, cool voice of the man largely responsible for saving my soul.
It was Dave Jordan.
More than a decade ago I was in a very dark place in my life. Wandering, floundering and aimless, it seemed like I was too young to already be experiencing a mid-life crisis, yet there I was on the brink of a serious breakdown. But I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my emotions at work, which had become somewhat of a sanctuary for me during this bleak time.
Dave is from Chicago and when I first met him he was the Vice President of the company I worked for, and he was working in our Schaumburg, IL home office and making special trips out to Los Angeles to train me for my new position with the company. Warm but very reserved, little did I know at the time that Dave possessed one of the keenest comedic wits I would ever know.
Our training sessions together didn’t necessarily translate to instant friendship, but we spent countless hours together pouring over the fascinating world of United States Customs bonds and managed to not hate each other as a result, so perhaps it was a sign of things to come.
Dave and his family relocated to Southern California a year after my training, but not because we needed additional hours together discussing duty rates or the pros and cons of renewable versus single entry bonds. No, Dave was now the VP of our branch, and his leadership style was welcomed immediately by everyone in the office. His impact was felt instantly, as his name alone brought about respect from our customers and credibility within our whole team. Rejuvenated by his mere presence, I recall the sales team closing deals at a rapid pace and both the claims and underwriting staff willingly putting in extra hours to get the job done.
It was a great time to be working for the company, but for me it was bittersweet. While I was thrilled to have Dave running the show and for the business to be doing as well as it was, I was in my funk and I saw no signs of relief.
I had the unique experience of walking side-by-side with a fellow who was experiencing many of the same ills that were afflicting me at the time; however he was numbing his pain with drugs and alcohol and treating his body like an amusement park. There was a part of me that desired a walk on this dark side just to escape the feelings of loneliness and emptiness, but thankfully I abstained. But I truly was searching for something to plug this hole in my heart. I wasn’t necessarily looking for an escape; rather I was seeking some purpose.
Dave by this time obviously knew me, but he didn’t know me in the sense of understanding what it was that I was going through or what made me tick. At the time I had no idea what it was that prompted him to walk into my office for a brief chat, but looking back now it is obvious that he was led by the spirit.
The Holy Spirit.
His message to me was simple and loving. Dave revealed to me that he was a follower of Jesus Christ; that Jesus went to the cross to take on Dave’s sins and the sins of all mankind. Salvation was possible, but only to a life surrendered to Christ.
I wish I had a tape recording of Dave’s witness to me that day so that you could hear the sincerity and love in his voice. This was a man who cared for me so much that he shared with me the most important news of all. He told me that his door was always open should I have any questions about his own personal walk with Jesus, or if I had any questions about anything.
And I did have questions. Lots and lots of questions – each one lovingly answered, or if he couldn’t answer to the specifics he’d go home that night and leaf through his Bible for the proper Scriptures for the answer.
My wandering days continued, but the darkness was beginning to lift. The more time I spent with Dave the lighter the burdens, and while I certainly did not become a Bible scholar as a result, I did recognize that if I were to be the man who God intended me to be then it was obvious that I did in fact need a Savior.
And there is only One.
Within a few months of my initial chat with Dave on the subject, Jesus Christ changed my life forever one night at a laundrymat in Redondo Beach as I waited between wash and dry cycles for my clothes to be ready. As I sat outside and confessed my sins to Christ and asked him into my heart I was instantly baptized by the Holy Spirit. My wandering had ended and my journey was about to begin.
So what does it all mean?
It means that I understand that my past exists, but that it does not define me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have regrets in life because I do, however they can’t be the basis for the decisions I make in life. I’m not a hypocrite. I’m a sinner. But our sins are forgiven at the Cross, which is something I think about and pray about each and every day. God calls us to be holy and live a life that emulates Jesus Christ, which seems impossible, but it is only impossible if we attempt to do it on our own and for selfish gain. As the Holy Spirit guides me through the rest of my life here I am continually confronted with decisions to speak, think or act in a way that is in line with God’s vision and plan for my life, and in those instances I fail more times than not to yield to the Spirit and instead choose to honor my old self. There is great disappointment when that happens, but there are also wonderful opportunities to try again. And again. And again.
Dave Jordan has since moved back to Chicago, but we make it a point to keep in touch and do lunch whenever he is in town. And it is cool when God shines a little light on our shared world every once in a while, like when Emily revealed a year ago that she had made a new friend in her church class that just happened to be Dave’s granddaughter. Samantha is currently leading a women’s Bible study and Dave’s daughter is in her group. Small world. Beautiful world.
Dave’s voicemail was alerting me to his business trip to Los Angeles and he wanted to have lunch with me. It will be a pleasure, a joy and a privilege to break bread with the man who had the biggest impact on my life.
My life is blessed because Dave Jordan is a part of it and that he took the time to lead me to Jesus Christ. I can only hope that my life will bear such fruit and impact another’s in such a profound way.
Thank you Dave!
As a parent, reviewing your child’s report card is always a source of pride and fairly exhilarating. It serves as a reminder that you are doing something right and are raising a good little learner.
So what is it about the Progress Report that always gives me the heebie-jeebies?
The progress report is more of a warning than anything else. The precursor to the report card, the progress report basically advises parents that results are either as expected or you better get your act together quickly or your kid is gonna fail.
Up until this week we’d only experienced the “all is well” version of the progress report during Emily’s brief adventures in education, so it was a tad shocking and a bit depressing to receive a less-than-stellar report from the first month of second grade.
Before we even had kids I’d observed other moms and dads as they struggled with reports that their kids were not doing well in a particular subject, and there was a common theme to their collective response to the issue:
It was obviously the teacher’s fault.
That always struck me as being so very, very wrong. Again, I did not have any kids of my own at the time, but even then I recognized that the teacher-student-parent relationship needed to be a partnership if it were to be successful. An alliance perhaps. It seemed like these folks actually wanted to demonize the teachers who were reporting the issue as if the teachers themselves had something to gain if a student failed their class. Some seriously faulty logic if you ask me. Teaching is one of the last noble professions left in the world, and if parents don’t appreciate the efforts of their kids’ teachers then they probably need to take a deeper look into the root causes of that opinion. Disappointment brings with it such a heavy load that we all want someone to blame. Don’t blame the teacher.
I understand the disappointment in getting some bad news.
I feel bad for Emily because she’s just a little kid who requires guidance and encouragement, and any work habits or results that require some refinement are mostly the result of me and Sam failing to create an environment for her that brings about not only success in school, but joy in life. To reiterate; this is not a teacher issue. This is a child rearing issue.
It’s been rough going in these early days of the second grade. We are still very much in summer mode and we are struggling to return to normal bedtime routines. Early evenings are spent trying to coax Emily to focus on her homework while we attempt to corral Trevor. Dinner time is a series of negotiations centered around the kids mostly rejecting every food item that is placed in front of them. Changing into pajamas pretty much brings the circus to town, as both kids run around the house doing everything but cooperating, and one would have to assume that we are attacking the kids with knives by their screaming reactions to brushing teeth. “Sleeping” is the biggest misnomer I know of when it comes to parenting. Most nights find Sam on the run addressing bad dreams and fielding requests for water and midnight snacks. I do my best to help out, but I’m mostly useless. The mornings find me and Sam far from well-rested, yet somehow the kids are forever bursting with energy and start the day at 100 miles per hour.
Now this might all sound like I am complaining and for that I apologize. It is a privilege and an honor to be entrusted by God to be raising His children. Every moment – including every shriek and every protest – brings about a measure of joy that only a weary parent can attest to, but there is another component of this relationship that is so vitally important. Not only is it an honor, not only is it a privilege and not only is it very fun to be the parents of Emily and Trevor, it is also a very huge responsibility.
So when the progress report made its way home and fired-off its warning shot that changes needed to be made in order to bring about the expected results, well, it pretty much felt like a kick to the gut. This wasn’t so much a progress report about Emily the student. It was a progress report about how we were doing as a functioning family unit.
It felt like we were failing.
And this comes on the heels of so many recent victories, like Emily learning to ride a bike and a skateboard and getting a nice big A+ on a spelling test. Trevor has been doing so great with other kids at church and at the park and really enjoys quiet reading time.
But I have to go back to the synopsis I provided you with of our nightly routine because it is the barometer of how we are functioning. A little peek behind the curtain.
I don’t know how other families do the nighttime routine of homework, dinner, quiet time, bedtime preparation and ultimately sleeping, but if our experience is the typical one then I can only assume that all of the other dads out there must be napping in their cars at lunchtime just like me. It is a struggle for survival right now. A battle of wills.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. We’re doing a great disservice to our kids because of our lack of structure. They crave discipline and desire routines no matter how much they protest.
So Sam and I are taking the progress report to heart.
Yes, we are definitely addressing the academic areas of concern and know that it will only require a few tweaks to get Emily back onto the road of success, but it really is in the bigger picture parenting areas that Sam and I are swearing to make the most significant adjustments. We’re pledging to find a better routine that is rooted in sameness each night of the week so that the kids aren’t always wondering “what’s next?” We’re striving to establish an environment where it’s okay to scream and shriek, but the hope is that more of those will be out of sheer delight rather than exasperation and frustration.
It’s definitely going to require some added discipline by me and Sam, and I know for me personally I need to surrender more to the clutter of toys and cracker crumbs and stop sweating the small stuff. I also need to leave work….at work.
So, as parents our “progress report” came home with a disappointing lack of success to report.
Here’s to hoping our report card comes home showing some serious improvement.
Perhaps under a different set of circumstances I would be a gardener or landscape artist, as I just love grass. I love the look, feel and smell of grass, and while you are chuckling to yourself right now please know that I am sincere and not talking about illegal grass.
It started for me when I was a very young boy and I would awake to Saturday mornings filled with the sound of my dad mowing the front lawn. Shirtless and strong-arming a push mower, there was a rhythm and grace to how he manicured that grass, and I absolutely adored the whirring sound of the push mower blades.
This was obviously going on during a time when more folks were taking care of their own landscaping as opposed to paying a gardener for his services, and obviously the push mower has gone the way of the cassette player in terms of technology. I suppose it was the good old days.
And did I mention the smell?
There was something awesome about the scent of moist, freshly cut grass piled high in a classic metal garbage can. Closing my eyes and thinking about it takes me back to the Technicolor days of the 1970s, my dad cutting the lawn, our old station wagon in the driveway (license plate 202 AYJ) and hardly any cars parked on the street.
Once I moved out of the Greenwood abode, I lived in many apartments, rented houses and ultimately a townhouse where there really wasn’t much of a lawn to behold. For eleven years we resided in a lovely condo in San Pedro that features a nice greenbelt with trees and other assorted plants, but it wasn’t until our final year in the association that the landscapers were able to coax a thick, healthy lawn out of the place. A nasty combination of blazing, hot sunlight and water rationing had us mostly staring at dead-brown grass or clumps of dirt.
Back in June we moved to a house in South Torrance, that much to my delight features both a front and backyard. Because the house hadn’t been occupied in a number of years, the backyard looked like something out of the Amazon jungle, with amazing overgrown plants and vines, while the front lawn resembled what I’m assuming Sanford and Son’s yard looked like with all the junk removed. Nasty, thick weeds had cannibalized any grass that had once graced the yard and any thought of rehabilitating it was met with laughter and skepticism.
We had a parade of landscapers come by to offer their services, advice and ultimately their estimates concerning what it would take to produce my idyllic vision of the perfect front lawn.
The verdict: It wasn’t gonna be cheap.
To do it right would first require killing the old stuff completely, followed by replacement of a dilapidated sprinkler system, and then ultimately placement of a new lawn, either by going old school and seeding the land, or the more modern method of laying down some sod. All of our estimates were done with the assumption that we had boxes of money just sitting around waiting to be spent, so the paperwork all came back with prices ranging from $2,500 and all the way up to $4,700.
So for a few months I did what I could to turn those front yard weeds into grass, and the simple act of watering it regularly brought out the nice green color, but the damage was already done and there was no bringing this yard back from death. We really did need some professional help.
And we decided to go old school. Seeding. Cheaper. Much cheaper.
Killing the old stuff came first, as our gardener applied his poison and we watched it work its magic over the course of the next few weeks, as our front yard transformed from semi-green, to mostly yellow, to practically golden and ultimately a yard that looked like it was covered with hay.
This brought about some looks from the neighbors, but we assured anyone who would listen that beauty was forthcoming.
Saturday morning had me waking up to thoughts of yesteryear, complete with push mowers and fresh, dewy grass. There was reason for optimism as our gardener and his team arrived in a big truck and immediately took to the task of ripping out the old haystack-looking weed pile. Next, they went about the job of assessing the existing sprinkler system and their suspicions were confirmed that it was thrashed and required a complete replacement. Over the next three hours I watched them re-pipe the irrigation system and then replace the old sprinkler heads. Finally, with daylight dwindling, the team worked in unison to turn the soil and prepare if for seeding and fertilizer. We got a quick lesson in how to operate the fancy automatic sprinkler system and asked our weary gardener when we might expect to see grass.
He would be back to check on conditions weekly, and our task was to simply make certain that the soil was always well-watered, a job that would be mostly handled by the aforementioned automatic sprinkler system that would water the various stations for 10 minutes at a time each morning starting at 6 AM.
It would seem that my grass fantasies would in fact be a reality in 30 days!
Sunday morning saw me sleeping with one eye open at 5 AM. I wanted to be awake to make sure the sprinklers really came on. Of course I fell back asleep and awoke at 6:45, and dashed to the front door to see if we had the telltale signs of watering, and I saw the puddles. I was happy.
But not for long.
I was outside a few hours later pretending to like the smell of manure while I gently watered a strip of soil near the front porch where there were no sprinklers when I heard a ruckus. I distinctly heard the phrase “Get out of the dirt,” followed by, “I said, get out of the dirt!”
I walked to the middle of the driveway and saw a man walking his German Shepherd puppy in front of our house, only the dog wasn’t walking and he really wasn’t in front of anything. No, the dog was cowering at the sound of his master’s voice and laying on his side.
In the middle of our yard.
In the middle of our freshly planted and watered yard.
My masterpiece was in ruins.
And if that scene wasn’t bad enough, imagine what it did to my heart to hear the man once again order his dog off the yard and then literally begin to pull his reluctant pooch (still cowering in the dirt mind you) by the leash across the yard. Picture a dog-sized divot starting on one end of the yard and then seeing it dragged for 40 feet until the dog finally got up and started walking again.
“What are you doing?” I found myself yelling. Yes, yelling.
“I’m so sorry. I tried to get him to stop.” He said apologetically.
“We just planted this yesterday.” This time not as loud, but twice as whiny.
“I’m really sorry,” he said again. “Can I use your rake to fix it?”
I waved him off.
I decided to survey the damage as the two parties responsible for crashing my grass party wandered off. It was pretty ugly. Just a big dog hole and corresponding trail. Just a mess of dirt, seed and manure.
As upset as I was by the whole episode, I really started to grieve something altogether different a mere 10 minutes later.
It wasn’t this guy’s fault that this happened. It wasn’t the dog’s fault that it happened. It just happened.
I felt awful. I really wanted to hit the rewind button and get a do-over. But life rarely works like that, and the accusatory words had already been spoken.
I sat on the sofa depressed and defeated. The newly planted lawn was a mess and I had gone rage-aholic on some poor guy and his dog because of my grass fetish. I tried to explain the situation to Emily and I told her that I had reacted and acted poorly. She seemed distracted, but before I could insist that she sit down and listen to my life lesson narrative she looked out the front door and said that somebody was out there. People walk by our place all of the time, so it is not unusual to see people at the front of our driveway. But then she noticed something else.
“It’s a man with a rake.”
Yes, the man had returned, only this time instead of walking his dog he was carrying a rake.
By the time I got outside he was already going about the busy work of repairing the damage.
The apologies couldn’t get out of my mouth quick enough.
I apologized for my harsh words and he apologized for not being able to control his dog.
I apologized for my bad attitude and he apologized on behalf of the dog.
I then apologized 10 or 15 times more. He introduced himself and I did likewise. He presented me with his business card and I apologized one more time.
We shook hands and went our separate ways. He raked a little more and I thought about the situation a little more.
As much as I like the look, feel and smell of a nice grassy lawn I really enjoy peace and harmony with people. I appreciated the opportunity to make amends for my horrible attitude and this little experience not only allowed me to broker some peace; it also allowed me to meet a neighbor and perhaps make a new friend.
Little did I know that in my quest to restore a front lawn to please my senses I really just got to take another step in my journey to rehabilitate my soul.
I hope the dog forgives me too.
Somewhere along the way my face became addicted to my goatee.
What started out as a trendy, “every guy is growing one” rite of passage in the 1990s has grown tired and stale for me some 16 years after the first whisker of the miniature beard sprouted on my face. The problem? As I mentioned, my face tends to not be my face without the graying oval shape around my mouth, and its removal has previously been the source of much controversy.
The first time that I stripped my face bare was purely the result of some faulty shaving. In my attempt to keep things symmetrical I accidentally took a little too much off on one side, so I tried to even things up on the opposite site and before you knew it the whole thing was gone.
For Seinfeld fans, think of the episode when Jerry shaved off all of his chest hair.
I remember finishing the shave and looking at myself in the mirror and being fascinated at the sight of my upper lip. It had been years since I’d seen it, so it was good to get acquainted again, but I was fairly stunned by another development: the complete lack of a strong jaw line. I’d gone saggy. The goatee had been serving as a disguise of sorts, masking the extra chins that I’d taken on. Scary. Still, there was a smoothness to my face that was nice to see again, and I just didn’t look as grungy, messy or angry as I’d been imagining my goatee was representing. I felt like I looked a little younger too.
So did Samantha, however in judging by the shocked look on her face and the constant gawking look in her eyes, I had to know that something wasn’t quite right. “You just don’t look like yourself,” she said at the time. I asked her if it looked bad and she advised that it didn’t look bad, but it looked wrong.
I’m pretty sure that’s worse, right?
So as you might expect, I quickly brought the goatee back to my chubby face within a few weeks. The new hairs were prickly and wiry, but once again my face was essentially back to normal and the chins were hidden from view.
So the Don Fulton goatee has been living on for some time. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and the goatee gives off an appearance of a man in constant frown. While it certainly doesn’t help my cause that I am a large human, I’m convinced that I have scared my fair share of little kids over the years because of the angry-frown look that goatee brings with it.
Poor kids. If they only knew how gassy I was they’d really be afraid of me.
A few years ago I again had an adventure in shaving that resulted in the goatee being very much out of alignment. My face looked as thought it was trying to make a left turn at all times. It was time to take it down again.
The circumstances were quite different from the last time, however, as we now had a little girl living with us. Our precious little daughter Emily had only known of a daddy with hair on his face (and not a lot on top of his head), so I was curious and a little excited to see her response when I walked into the living room with a freshly shaved, smooth-as-baby-skin face. I was imagining that she would think me a handsome prince and race into my open arms as we celebrated the start of a new life together – daughter and bare chin dad.
What was it that Sam said? It looked wrong? Yeah, I’d say that Emily agreed with that assessment. But it wasn’t a look of wonder or disbelief or even a critical review of my new look that made me aware of her dislike. No, it was something more dramatic, shocking and well, fairly horrifying.
And not just a little whimper of disappointment. This was a fit. A little hyperventilating and a bunch of big, drippy tears later and I was seriously considering the purchase of a fake beard that same day just to make the crying stop.
It couldn’t grow back fast enough.
So that’s been my life with goatee to this point.
I’m getting older and balder by the minute, but the hair on my chinny-chin-chin is still going strong. Very gray and very stale, it hangs from my face like the relic from the 90s that it is. It seems like I should just dress it up in a little Alice in Chains t-shirt and buy it a Furby. Man, I am so tired of this thing…
So I’ve been telling Sam for a few weeks now that I want the goatee to go away. She loves me and supports me, but she also recalls the horror, shock and disappointment brought on by previous removals, so her approval to proceed features a trace of fear and tinge of worry. Very understandable. I’m definitely not discussing the concept with Emily, as I don’t want to send her into spasm.
Trevor cares not. In fact, his chubby little face gives me hope that underneath this gray mass of crazy hair lies an equally handsome and smooth upper lip and unencumbered smile.
About a year ago Emily brought home a goody bag from a birthday party that for some reason included a miniature novelty moustache. I took it out of the package, removed the adhesive cover and applied it to Trevor’s upper lip. He looked like a dwarf from the 1970s. All that was missing was a Hawaiian shirt and chest hair and he could have been Magnum P.I.’s Mini Me.
He couldn’t rip that thing off his face fast enough.
I know how he felt.
But not wanting to upset the family and very much desiring harmony in the universe, I opted to just leave things alone. But that didn’t stop me from looking in the mirror each day and just wondering how I might look without it. It was during one of these super-intellectual self-chats that I came up with an idea. How about a compromise? How about if I just slowly make the goatee disappear?
Seemed like a good idea, but there’s no way that I can come walking out of the bathroom sporting a moustache. I mean, if Emily cried at the sight of me all baby-faced can you imagine the reaction when I trot out the Burt Reynolds look?
Nah, I had to go the other way with it.
Off with the top and leave the bottom alone. I’d seen this look on a few people at work and I thought it looked good. I took the compromise plan to Sam, who was understandably skeptical, so I pulled up a few pictures of how it might look on the internet. Not a great idea, as these guys all looked very crazy and just a bit frightening. Still, the plan had promise, and Sam knew that I was very much tired of my look. She accompanied me into the bathroom to supervise the execution of the plan.
Off came the moustache.
Well, hello again upper lip!
A little trimming here, a little bit of clean-up there, and I now have a revised and refreshed version of myself. I like it.
Sam was surprisingly happy with the new me, and there was no mention of it looking wrong this time. She thought it made me look thinner and younger. She said I looked even more like Trevor now. I revealed to her that I’d done a little research and discovered that what I had been sporting all these years was technically called a “Vandyke,” which incorporates a moustache and a goatee, and that the look I was going with now was the real, genuine goatee.
But what about Emily?
I walked into our bedroom where Emily was laying on our bed watching Wild Kratts. I stood there and asked her what she thought and she said, “About what?” “You don’t notice anything different,” I asked. Nothing. No tears. No fit. No hyperventilating.
It wasn’t until later on when we all sat down to have dinner that I felt the stare. Emily was looking at me and she knew something was different. Then she finally realized what it was.
“You shaved it,” she exclaimed.
This time she thought for a good long while before announcing her verdict.
“You look funnier,” she said.
I want it noted for the record that she said funnier and not funny.
I asked her if funnier was okay.
“It looks funnier, but you still look like my daddy.”
Now that’s a reaction I can live with.