Archive for October, 2010

Exit through the gift shop

October 28, 2010
Tiffany and I moved from a big city to a medium-sized Midwestern town just after we got married. There’s only one legitimate comedy club around, a Funny Bone franchise, and they only host open mic once a month. Supply and demand in microcosm.

"Happy birthday, Jesus. Hope you like crap!"

My first time up was last December. I had a Christmas music routine ready to go, and I didn’t want to wait another entire year to make jokes about the Captain and Tennille’s holiday album. With each successive year, jokes about the Captain and Tennille get exponentially less timely. Scientists first observed this phenomenon in 1981, and it’s only snowballed from there.

It took me five open mics before I really grabbed ahold of an audience and shook the laughs out of them. On the strength of that performance, Funny Bone booked me to open three weekend shows for Kenny Smith. I’d never heard of Kenny, but I had a plan. I was going to Google and YouTube him then, shortly after shaking his hand, casually reveal myself to be very familiar with his amazing work. I’d like to say I abandoned this plan because it was cheap and disingenuous, but really, I was too lazy to pull it off. Insincere flattery was unnecessary, though. Kenny instantly proved himself to be a super-cool dude, funny onstage and off, and eager to encourage.

I learned a few things working those three shows. One, take every opportunity to interact with the audience. Two, if  a quarter of your act is about the oral prowess of a dentist named Mike Hawk, and you invite your mother and in-laws, make sure they don’t sit five feet away from the stage in the glow of the spotlight. Three, don’t wear shorts.

The “no shorts” rule is one I’d never heard before I showed up wearing shorts. Then and since, any time I bring this up to anyone, they’re like, “Oh yeah, no shorts. It’s common sense. Comedy, acting, music, public speaking — no shorts on stage.” I was used to open mic etiquette, where the club owner hosts the show in a T-shirt and cargo shorts. I should’ve known something was up when I got there for the weekend show and the owner was wearing Godfather, “How’d ya like waking up next to that horse’s head?” getup. Thankfully, my very pregnant wife was able to bring me some actual pants before the second show.

I played to probably 400 people total, and it was a very different atmosphere from open mic. They even had the crowd-control ropes up to route exiting patrons directly into the open bar and dance floor area. It reminded me of those Six Flags rides that make you exit through the gift shop. Whoever came up with that idea was a genius. Otherwise, I never would have considered buying a $30 T-shirt depicting Wile E. Coyote riding the Runaway Mine Train. I was supposed to use that cash to pay my car insurance, not buy a beach towel rendering of Yosemite Sam on the Log Flume.

Guess whose very pregnant wife didn’t buy the argument of, “I was trying to come straight home, but those crowd-control ropes routed me into the bar, so I had to drink a few more free beers.” For the curious, the answer is, this dude’s very pregnant wife. It was my big weekend, though, so she let it slide. Love that woman.

I’ve been sidelined since The Event, 100+ miles from home and unable to walk until the past week. Last night, I ended the standup dry spell. I strapped on the old Aircast, left the kids with my in-laws and ventured out to the weekly open mic at the Funny Bone franchise here. I’m in the big city right now, remember, and this open mic had me feeling like a medium-sized fish in a large pond.

There were 21 open mic comedians, and some of them were really good. The audience had about 125 people, at least 50 more than were at the Mike Lukas show I went to last month in the same venue. After every four or five open mic comics, a professional ringer would pop up and do ten minutes or so. I got my turn in the middle of the lineup, directly after Mike E. Winfield, who was working out material for his Letterman appearance next week. He was the most electrifying, hilarious performer of the night, and he delivered me an audience ready to laugh.

The four minutes was up fast, but I got lots of enthusiastic laughter and applause. Some of that might have been thanks to the host’s introduction — he said it was my first time doing open mic, when I’d written on the signup sheet “first time here.” I didn’t take any of my precious four minutes to point out that I wasn’t a complete rookie, just a semi-rookie. But that crowd was digging me.

Oh, by the way, before the big-city open mic started, the host was running through some house rules with the open mic comedians. He got to the end of his speech and asked, “No one’s wearing shorts, are they?” Wear shorts onstage? What kind of freaking idiot…?

DELETED SCENES

I did a lot of partying in my twenties. Like George W minus the cocaine. Like Charlie Sheen minus the hookers. Like Snooki minus the eating disorder. Seriously, Snooki used to battle anorexia. I don’t think anorexia put up much of a fight.

Marriage and domestication saved my life. Of that, I am sure. Going home to a wife and kids every night instead of going out to bars has added years onto my endgame and given me a true desire to live to old age. It’s also inspired me to resume creative pursuits. I’m back to writing publishable material on a regular basis, and after 15 years of saying I was going to, I’ve finally made forays into standup comedy. Five to ten minutes at a time.

Getting five minutes of standup ready each month is like being in school again. Even down to the fact that I wait way too long to do the work and then half-ass it last minute. The worst example I can think of was in tenth grade. I failed to start my science project until the night before it was due and, when I realized there was snow coming down, gambled that I could put it off until the next night.

It was a lazy kid’s ultimate deus ex machina — that winter storm bought me a snow day on Thursday and another on Friday. We usually had two snow days the entire winter, and when my big, unstarted science project was due, we got an unprecedented two in a row followed by the weekend. I had an extra four days, a completely undeserved gift, and I still put off all the work until Sunday night. Panicked, stressed and sloppy, and I still pulled out a B on that science project.

Even my most bastardized efforts in life have been worth a B, traditionally, but there’s always an A+ in there begging for sunlight and water. Occasionally, it gets out.

It’s hard to hone material and learn to build rapport with an audience when you only get five minutes a month. I’m never as prepared as I could be onstage, and years of bar karaoke have taught me that I have a far better microphone presence than stage presence. I’d do great in radio, I think, and that’s something I’ve wanted to pursue for years and haven’t. Another married, kid-filled year or two might change that, too. Who knows?

Those are the negatives, as I see them, but let’s not forget I’m in a medium-sized town and I’ve been writing comedy for most of my life.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

POV shot of Sarah and Silas sitting on the couch with me.

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Insert Swede/sweet pun later

October 26, 2010

Andrew Hicks

“Nightline” did a story last week about paternity leave in Sweden. The crazy collection of blond heads and blue eyes that comprise the Swedish government requires new fathers to take two months paid paternity leave and split another 12 months of compensated leave with blaarfengar. That’s Swedish for “mom.”

Even better, Swedes can drop their kids off for free babysitting at the nearest elected representative’s house for up to 20 hours every week. Seriously. You can quote me on that, but don’t, because I just made it up.

On a selfish level, I love the sound of this. It’s so anti-Tea Party it hurts. Pay fathers to change diapers and bottle feed while mothers sport power suits and bring home the bacon. On an even more selfish level, though, I hate the sound of this because every second dad would be writing a blog about baby pee and poop stories. That’s my turf. The rest of you American guys just keep, you know, driving bulldozers and watching football all day on Sunday.

Today was my longest day of childrearing since The Event*. I was up at 7:45 to fly solo with both kids practically until naptime, when I took off my boot and dove into unconsciousness for a couple hours. Then back up for outside play, dinner, bathtime and bedtime. It was exhausting, but mobility-wise, I’m finally back up to the task.

My in-laws’ (God bless them) have Sarah in a solid routine where she gets her nap and goes to bed at roughly the same time, but baby Silas is still a little erratic. I was just reminded of a bad ’80s slasher movie cliche with Sarah. Now it feels like Silas, as he falls asleep for the night, reenacts the climax of all the old Halloween and Friday the 13th movies. He’ll close his eyes, I assume he’s down for the count, then a few moments later he shoots back to life for one last stand before succumbing to the inevitable.

The Little Guy is carving out a good AM/PM routine as well, but I’m still having body clock issues. With being on unpaid disability, mostly apart from my wife and having my in-laws take care of the babies in the morning, it’s been like high school summer break around here. Drinking Mountain Dew, microwaving tiny frozen pizzas, watching crap on TV until practically dawn. And writing sometimes, too.

I’ve often said 4:30 is the true witching hour of the day. Not even farmers are up that early, and not even tweakers are up that late. It is, however, the best time of day to watch local news. I saw a great investigative scare-tactic report about how small children can drown in just one drop of water. On the noon or evening news, that story would seem sensationalist and implausible, but at five in the morning, it had the ring of gospel truth.

I’ll stay at my in-laws’ a few more days to complete the transition from bedridden to functional. Then it’s back home. Tiffany and I dropped the kids off overnight at my mom’s on Saturday and drove home for a night. It was my first time back since just after The Event, and we spent a few leisurely hours watching the new SNL and playing Wii. A nice, low-key date night that even ended with me getting lucky. Excellent night, in fact.

When married couples have sex, the angels in heaven rejoice. It’s true. I saw it on local news in the dead of night.

*Kind of late in the game, I know, but I’ve decided to retire the term Ankle Break 2010 and its godawful acronym AB2KX and just refer to my injury as The Event. It’s a timely meta-term because there’s a new NBC series with that name airing Monday nights at 9/8 Central. But it’s also homage to my new favorite blog of all time, Right Behind, an exhaustive and amazingly funny page-by-page dissection of the Christian Rapture novel Left Behind. I’ve practically spent entire days reading Fred Clark’s posts; I don’t feel too bad, though, because he spent five years writing about the same crappy book. That’s dedication.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Dad and Sarah at the hospital the day she was born.

MVT (Most Valuable Time)

October 23, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m near the end of the glorious downtime that occurs only once in the daytime hours. Both babies are asleep. As parents know, an hour lasts 120 minutes when your kids are awake and 30 minutes when they’re not. So this is the most valuable time of the day for me. It’s my 1909 T206 White Border #366 Honus Wagner baseball card*, if you will. This is when I take my laptop outside and write this blog.

It’s another great day out, too. Even the faint smell of Liggett Lady’s secondhand smoke and the sound of her intermittent hacking cough seem to be harmonious with nature. Only the back issues of the Farmer’s Almanac will be able to say for sure, but I suspect this September and October have been home to the most beautiful days I’ve ever slept through.

This is the fourth day I’ve been getting around with a cane rather than crutches, and it’s been a major advancement for me. My in-laws are still taking good care of Sarah and Silas, for which I’m extremely grateful. Tiffany comes up on the weekends, too, but each day sees me resuming more and more of the responsibilities of caring for my own children.

Probably one more week of assisted-living exile, and I’ll be back at home, facing 45 hours a week of solo daddy time. I’m having to relearn old stuff and freshly learn new stuff. My body’s still healing, too, which leaves me feeling exhausted a lot more easily. It’s hard for me to resist sleeping when they sleep, and nap time is over far too quickly.

The naptime wakeup ritual has taken a strange turn this week. For four consecutive days now, sometime during her nap, Sarah has removed her pants and diaper. No poop episodes yet, but everything in her bed that could be peed on got peed on. Parents of kids older than mine have been warning me this would happen. And, yes, I had noticed Sarah randomly pulling her pants to her knees and then walking around with them like that, but I just figured it was because VH1’s been showing 8 Mile twice a day for the past month.

The potty-training days are drawing nigh. We’ve been watching the Elmo’s Potty Time DVD on almost a daily basis lately. Having seen “Sesame Street” with Sarah for more than a year now, it’s weird to watch their format be adapted to talk of poop, pee and diapers for an entire hour. Three quick examples:

  • A disconnected shot of a soundstage with twelve to fifteen preschool-aged kids standing around and all simultaneously announcing, “I really need to urinate.”
  • Lots of bathroom-themed songs, including one called “Dirty Diaper Blues.” It’s a decent rendering and all, but the great Elmore James recorded the definitive version.
  • When Baby Bear, the muppet character with the speech impediment, calls himself a “potty animal,” it sounds like he’s saying “potty enema.”

I’ve been more or less out of commission with Sarah since AB2KX**. She’s gotten better at her tricks. Sarah moves fast, she hides my cane when I’m not looking, and she frequently outsmarts me. After just one afternoon back on the job, I was ready to call local adult-contemporary radio and dedicate Sade’s “Smooth Operator” to my daughter. Some people count to 10 to get their anger under control. I get Delilah’s people on the phone.

Sarah is a really fun, warmhearted, loving little girl, and I treasure the time I spend with her. It’s been great to be able to play outside again minus crutches. Sarah likes me to pretend-chase her around the yard, and I can finally do it again. The ground is unlevel, so she kept falling down. I was moving conspicuously slow and unsteady and could never catch up with her. It was like we were reenacting a scene from a bad ’80s slasher movie.

Then we went inside, and I gave her cookies and let her eat the outside of a banana (pronounced “buh-mah-muh”), which Sarah insists is the tastiest part. I’m getting back into the swing of things.

*I just Googled a few “most valuable _____ in the world” queries, and that was the baseball card match. Several sites I hit first all proclaimed the most valuable thing in the world is “time.” Indeed, I wasted five minutes reading about the value of time and another five pondering the simple irony of wasting valuable time reading about how valuable time is. Then about 90 seconds typing up this footnote that no one in their right mind will read all the way to the end. Pickle shoes. Cinnamon and gravy.

**a.k.a. Ankle Break 2010. I’ve decided to get all acronymy on you. But aesthetically, especially with that double asterisk weighing it down, the phrase AB2KX looks like a hack-job. It doesn’t make me cool. Just Google AB2KX and see what I mean.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah and Silas with my father-in-law Jim, our child-care MVP of the past month and a half. Thanks, grandpa!

Shaving grace

October 22, 2010

Andrew Hicks

In the immediate aftermath of Ankle Break 2010, while I was under heavy, medically supervised sedation at the hospital, I decided to grow a beard. A friend compared it to an NHL athlete’s playoff beard, but I thought of it more as a strike beard.

I identified with Conan and Letterman, who returned to work with faces unshaved to show solidarity while their writers were on strike. These late-night hosts knew they’d be good in the long run, but a major element of their success was fundamentally missing. For them, it was the word-crafters. For me, it was the ability to walk and work.

The wildly growing hair on my face — an unruly swatch-melange of black, brown, red and gray — was there to state boldly, “This is the amount of time it’s been since I was normal.”

The beard came off last Saturday, in a mundane moment of anticlimax. I decided it was time to look semi-presentable again, and I was tired of my new, annoying habit of pinching and tugging at the tuft of beard right under my ear, where jaw meets neck. I found myself executing the pinch-and-tug move several times per minute. Inexplicably, I’d start to move at double speed whenever Nancy Grace* showed up on the TV.

I never got a picture of my bearded self, and I wish I would have. The odds of me going all wooly bully again are zero unless an Asian prison sentence is involved. Which would be all-around bad for more reasons far more profound than loss of shaving privileges. Note to self: No more felonies in The Phillipines or misdemeanors in Malaysia.

(Also, no more arson in Ankara, assault in Armenia, battery in Bahrain, blackmail in Bhutan, burglary in Bangladesh, embezzlement in India, extortion in Iran, jaywalking in Jakarta, kidnapping in Kazahkstan, larceny in Laos, manslaughter in Myanmar, mayhem in Mongolia, murder in Moscow, perjury in Pyongyang, robbery in Riyadh or vehicular homicide in Vietnam**. I don’t know what I’m going to do for fun anymore. I guess shave. Lots of shaving.)

In a half-assed marriage of odd and tacky, I took my battery-powered trimmer outside with me and did most of the heavy face-hair removal there. Instead of a bathroom sink and floor full of beard particles of varying length, the wind blew it out into the grass, like the personal grooming equivalent of scattering urn-ash.In a matter of minutes, I went from being enshrouded in facial tresses to being completely cleanshaven. It was the first time I was sans goatee since I was Meat Loaf for Halloween in 2006***.

Baby Sarah was confused for a minute, like she had a new big brother. Tiffany, my wife, was seeing me without any form of facial hair for the first time. She basically said what everyone else tells me when I shave off my goatee: You’d better grow that thing back ASAP.

Tiffany was nicer about it than everyone who’s not in love with me has ever been. She marveled over how young and innocent I looked. And she said I could groom myself however I wanted to and she’d still think I was hot. But there was noticeable, instant relief when I told her the facial hair would be coming back. What can I say? I’ve got a freaky chin. And this beautiful grown adult woman likes me better when I don’t look like I’m 12.

*Several years ago, I was involved in a tawdry, one-way Love To Hate relationship with Ms. Grace. I haven’t gotten around to seeing Nancy’s new daytime courtroom show, but I imagine she got the idea from watching Judge Judy and thinking, That woman is way too nice and not nearly condescending enough to her plaintiffs and defendants.

**Hopefully, I cannot be prosecuted for run-on sentences in Russia or killing a joke beyond recognition in the Koreas. I think I’m done now.

***Pretty much all my notable Halloween costumes have required the full shave: Meat Loaf, Elwood Blues, Mama Cass (complete with partially eaten ham sandwich), Sam Kinison, Miss Cleo and this year’s upcoming persona, Big Old Justin Bieber.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas and his beautiful mommy.

iCane

October 20, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Today we have what a hack television detective would excitedly refer to as “a break in the case.” Obviously, in the 38 days (yes, I am counting) since my ankle popped through my skin, I’ve been hesitant to use phrases with the word “break” in them. But this is a game-changer.

I can walk with a cane now. No more crutches! My mobility status has been upgraded from Invalid to Old-Ass Man. I’m only weeks away from being back where I started, as Sweaty, Outta-Breath Fat Guy You Don’t Want On Your Softball Team. I can’t wait to just be out of shape again.

What I will miss least about crutch transportation is not easily being able to carry anything from point A to point B. If it didn’t fit in my pocket or hang in a plastic bag, the only way to move, say, a dinner plate was to take one step at a time and switch the carried plate from one hand to the other with each step. It was a slow process and, I might add, hilarious for second and third parties to watch.

Sadly, the Neck Basket does not actually exist.

It’s too bad the Neck Basket is a hoax and not an actual infomercial-shilled product. It looks like the shower caddy I used in my college dorm days, only suspended from a neck chain. Just like the Medic Alert bracelet I mentioned yesterday, the Neck Basket is a product I would have considered utterly useless until Ankle Break 2010 made it utterly useful.

Plus, I could wear that thing out in public, attach a placard with a simple, hand-written, all-caps sob story underneath, and accept crumpled cash donations in it. Thing would pay for itself in no time.

The crutches are behind me — like the hospital stay, the leg cast and the walker — and I look forward to seeing what kind of odd search engine terms lead people to my blog now that the cane-walking era is upon us. WordPress, my blog host, has a complete list of the typed-in phrases that have led readers to this corner of cyberspace. These are the:

TOP TEN CRAZIEST ACTUAL SEARCH TERMS THIS BLOG MATCHES

10. fiberglass leg cast kid
9. diaper stories catalogued
8. beard growing blog itchy
7. tosh.0 one legged salsa dancer
6. body clock diary
5. amputee fantasy crutching
4. leg brace and crutch erotica
3. miley cyrus air ankle leg cast
2. tinky winky purple gay teletubbie
1. she put nine diapers on me stories

We’ve come a long way since the days of the public library card catalog. If I remember my Dewey Decimal System correctly, “She Put Nine Diapers On Me Stories” is 812.45 in the stacks. I did a research paper one time, long story…

Search engines should install the opposite of an adult sites blocker. If people who want porn sites are searching nasty terms and end up on my PG-rated blog, obviously that’s a waste of their time and it makes me look bad. I don’t want the “There goes the neighborhood!” effect to lower my blogosphere property value. So why can’t there be a content filter that eliminates straightforward comedy writing from matching pervy Google queries? I just want to go back to writing innocent posts about poop, pee, puke and rubbing bars of soap in my ass crack for a wholesome, God-fearing audience that’s into that sort of thing.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah and Silas, ready for travel.

Where’s the soap?!

October 19, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The string of beautiful days continues. Yesterday afternoon, I worked on a cover letter for a prospective freelance writing gig while sitting on the downstairs patio. Silas was in his stroller next to me, looking around at the leaves falling, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet. Liggett Lady came out three times in an hour to smoke, but otherwise, it was a ghost town. You’d think everyone in the villa community had fallen and couldn’t get up.

I know, it’s easy to make fun of — really easy, SOOOOOPER EASY — but my ankle-break situation has left me suddenly appreciative of the virtue of the Medic Alert bracelet. I still have to hop on one foot to maneuver my way around the shower, and I need the crutches to get in and out. I’m one soap slip away from being flat on the floor. I haven’t had any mishaps yet, but I was on enough of a personal Elevated Terror Risk to have Tiffany spot me the first few times.

We’re not newlyweds anymore, and our comfort levels with each other are high, so there’s only the occasional surprise here and there. But having Tiffany watch every nuance of my single-leg shower ritual broke down a few of the final privacy barriers and positively did not get me laid that night. The clear highlight of Shower Numero Uno was this:

TIFFANY: Aha! I knew it! You do rub the bar of soap in your ass crack!
ME (caught redsoapyhanded): Um, yeah, usually I don’t. Usually I soap up my hand and then clean my butt with my hand.
TIFFANY: That’s still the same thing. Hand touches dirty ass touches supposedly clean soap.
ME: Who cares, it all gets lathered and rinsed away.
TIFFANY: I don’t care, I do it too.

If you just read that line where she admits she does it too, consider yourself lucky. She’s going to make me pull that off of here any second now.

The whole discussion hearkened back to a debate I had with a group of kitchen brothers I used to work with. It was one of those, “Why do white people like mayonnaise? It’s disgusting,” kind of conversations. The KB contingent was united in their view that only the washcloth should touch the soap, and I told them I didn’t use a washcloth just like I don’t use the top sheet in bed.

Simultaneous overdrawn disgusted reactions followed, after which they all told me they’d never come over and use my soap, and I said good, that’s how I want to keep it anyway. Then I spent five solid minutes talking excitedly about how much I loved mayonnaise. Those were good times.

Anyway, as I was saying before the soap-bar ass-crack detour… I got some good work in during Sarah’s nap, but the time just flew by. It’s not often I can get both babies sleeping without personally feeling like I need a nap. Today, I had the little girl sleeping, the baby boy awake and happy, and I was feeling good. But even when all those things line up, there’s still this D-Day clock hovering over the proceedings. No matter how in my groove I get, it’s all over the second Sarah wakes back up. I have to put all personal productivity on pause until she’s in bed for the night. Welcome to parenthood. There’s no turning back.

I stay entertained just watching Sarah entertain herself. Yesterday, she found a favorite new toy (an empty soda can) and a brand new playmate (a big tree). Sarah spent a good fifteen minutes hurling the can at the tree trunk and yelling, “Catch!” each time. The soda can clanked off that tree dozens of times, and the tree never caught crap. See if Sarah plays with you tomorrow, nonparticipating tree. I got to thinking maybe the tree plays by its own rules, though, like, “Don’t expect me to play catch with you while you’re bouncing dented aluminum off my shins.” That poor tree was probably done with people after the Liggett Lady started grinding out cigarette butts in its sycamore crotch. Ouch.

Baby pee, poop and puke

October 15, 2010

Andrew Hicks

NOTE: Today’s post, while baby-related, is all about bodily functions, a subject with which every parent is very familiar. If this disgusts you, go watch a PG13-rated Mike Myers movie.

Parenting is known to toss an array of bodily fluids at the nostrils, hands and clothing of moms and dads. There’s the expected and the unexpected. Poor Silas threw up all over himself a couple hours ago. That’s unusual for him, as he generally throws up all over whatever clean shirt I just put on.

Baby accidents happen, but I’ve gotten pretty lucky. Only once with each child have I had the diaper off for that crucial, “I’m still not done peeing,” burst of yellow liquid. Sarah’s was a kind of slow, pooling eruption, while Silas had the loose, haphazard spray of a spastic, one-armed-clown lawn sprinkler. Each equally messy in different ways.

Then there’s the poop. Sarah’s getting close to the potty-training stage, which will be completely foreign to me. I’m going to have to take notes from the Elmo Goes to the Potty* DVD my mom bought my toddler. “What’s that, Elmo? You sit on the toilet and then you go potty? Slow down, dude. You’re going too fast! Rewind!”

Sarah reached a personal landmark achievement a few months back. She had her first poop that was so big, it clogged the toilet. I swear, I see more and more of myself in that little princess every day.

Yeah, her poop is usually a nice, healthy turd-ball. Sometimes, Sarah grunts and makes the poop face while she’s wrestling it out of her body. Other times, she just walks up to me, my nose wrinkles, and I check her back-pocket area for that telltale lump. We’ve been doing this since her lump was the size of a chicken nugget. Now, more often, it’s that one mutant chicken finger that looks more like a chicken fist**.

We’re brand-loyal to Pampers for both babies. Diabolically enough, when Sarah’s in the store, the Pampers draw her attention because there’s a little cartoon Elmo on the bottom corner of each side of the box. It’s about a half-inch tall, like a quarter the size of the UPC, and I never would’ve noticed it on my own.

They are super-absorbent, though. Many mornings, when I’m changing Sarah out of the overnight diaper, that thing’s sagging at a bowed-down angle like a tightrope with three fat dudes in the middle. I’ve tossed some five-pound pee diapers in the trash.

A collander

I saw a five-minute report on “Nightline” about which generic equivalents of name-brand items are just as good and which are inferior. If you’ve ever had generic Ruffles***, you know what I mean. The TV report didn’t mention diapers, but I’m here to tell you, spring for the name brand. Generic diapers are like collanders. They leak from every possible angle. You’d swear you wrapped a thin layer of cheesecloth around your baby’s privates.

Now Silas, he’s on a strict diet of formula. He’s still a few weeks away from the varietal switch-up of rice cereal and, if he’s a really good little boy, oatmeal cereal. So his poop has that look of soupy guacamole that’s been exposed to a little too much air. Tiffany breastfed the first month or so, and Silas’s poop almost smelled like roses. (Well, you know, plastic roses.) Switch to formula, and that poop smell goes way downhill. Today’s batch of stale, tableside diaper guac was twice as rank as usual. Either he had an upset stomach, or it’s time to start feeding him name-brand formula. Which was also not mentioned in the “Nightline” report.

This post isn’t going to win me any Pulitzer prizes, so I might as well close with a poop story of my own. Last month, when I was in the hospital and the nurses were tossing stool softeners**** in my paper pill cups, I asked them how much warning I’d have when the SSs did their trick. Because, you know, I was bed-bound with no crutches and no bedpan. They laughed.

An upside-down Douglas fir

“Oh no, you won’t poop for days. This is just to make it softer when you actually do.” They were right. I was checked into the hospital late Saturday night. Nature didn’t finally answer the call of the stool softener until Friday. Now, normally when pass a tough bowel movement, I compare it to pooping out a pine cone. This was like pooping out an upside-down Douglas fir.

Okay, thanks for reading. You are hereby dismissed. Hope you get your appetite back before Thanksgiving.

*I don’t think that’s the actual name of the DVD. That name sounds like it could be misinterpreted by the less than pure among us. Such as, say, me for suggesting it.

**If a chicken could make a fist. It’s Friday night, my evocative, poetic imagery is spent for the week. Besides, I’m writing about crap here.

***Ruffies, right? Or are those trash bags?

****I accidentally typed “stool samples” first. Which, gross.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah's hesitant look means it's time for Daddy to stop talking about yucky things.

Stay out of the sewer

October 13, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The weather has been beautiful for almost a week straight. Sarah and I play outside, and I’m mobile enough on crutches that I can “walk” (though it is comical enough to watch that it deserves the quote marks and these parentheses and some italics) the perimeter and go up and down the hill with her.

 

I get worn out easily and retreat to the deck chairs, and that’s when Sarah turns to her props. She’s fond of a giant blue exercise ball that’s almost as big as she is. She also likes to wheel the four-wheel pink horse thing up the hill, then ride it down while laughing. Taking Sarah sledding will be fun when the time comes. Let’s just be sure to fully heal from the last mishap before inviting a new one.

Sarah occasionally likes to venture past her allowed boundaries. She loves to bang on other people’s sliding glass doors. And she loves to play on the concrete storm sewer platform. I’ve seen the TV movie of Stephen King’s It. I know you keep your kids away from those yawning, rectangular sewer openings where the evil clowns live.

As a rookie parent with very little history of authority in the real world, I’m still working out how to make Sarah listen and obey. I won’t be one of those “screaming and hitting,” abusive, low-rent parents you see at Dollar Tree when you’re just trying to reach for the Kraft Thousand Island With Bacon dressing. Which tastes like crap, by the way. I want my dollar back, and I’ll scream and hit to get it.

On crutches, I’ve lost my #1 Dad on Autopilot trick, which is to scoop Sarah up and remove her from the scene rather than achieving the desired behavior from her. Probably a good thing, because now we have to talk it out. I’m trying to weed out my #2 Dad on Autopilot trick, which is to bribe the crap out of the little munchkin. If, “You’re not supposed to play on the evil clown sewer, let’s go play with your ball,” doesn’t work, I’m tempted to ask if she wants to watch Elmo or see pictures on my phone or eat a mound of Doritos instead of being abducted by a sewer-dwelling Tim Curry in white greasepaint.

My toddler diva all of a sudden can’t get enough of the video clips on my phone she’s the star of. “Watch movie?” doesn’t mean “Let’s check out Citizen Kane, I hear it has some of the most inventive mise-en-scenes in cinematic history.” It means, “Let’s watch me splash in puddles at the park on a one-minute permaloop.”

“Look pictures,” means, “Let’s look at all 90 pictures in dad’s phone for the eighth time today.” That I don’t mind so much, because Sarah continues to surprise me with her one-word descriptions of each picture. She’ll usually start by saying who’s in the picture, then the next time through it’s more about what’s in the picture. “Bike, park, bathtub, akeem, car, sleeping…” I’m just softhearted enough to be touched and amazed by it.

This girl is absorbing words left and right, which I found out the hard way when I said “shit” under my breath then so did Sarah, from across the room. I told Tiffany about the transgression after the fact, and she said, “Oops,” followed immediately by, “Was it cute?” It was cute, shit, I can’t lie. But no more accidental cussing around the toddler. Easily said, I know.

Sarah and I keep having to come inside early due to swarms of mosquitoes. It’s the downside of our week-long Indian summer. They’re probably humping like bunnies down in that storm sewer (i.e. the mosquitoes, not the Indians), and if Sting’s tantric ass has taught us anything, it’s that marathon sex creates an insatiable thirst for human blood. And tepid adult-contemporary hits. I have bites all over me, and so does Sarah. She’s got a big bite on her cheek, and even that looks cute, like she has an adorable case of acne-onset.

Poor Silas, my 3 month old, has had newborn acne almost since Day One. Does they make ProActiv in his age group? Silas’s little face bumps are making him self-conscious around the girl babies.

My social life at the moment, outside of immediate family, consists of maybe one friend visit per week, the dully addictive world of Facebook, and the occasional chain-smoking retiree sitting on her outside patio. I ran into one such yellow-haired, yellow-fingered nicotine repository yesterday afternoon. She intoned through gravelly throat phlegm that my daughter was beautiful and that I should enjoy my kids while I can.

“When they’re 18 and 20,” she wheezed, “they won’t come around much anymore.” I wanted to offer some kind of consolatory protest, then I thought of myself at the late-teen age. I had awesome parents and grandparents and lots of less-than-awesome excuses not to see them on a more regular basis.

Liggett Lady was right. I have to cherish the everydayness of parenting. It seems like ages since Sarah was Silas’s size, taking naps on my chest and sucking down 4-ounce bottles. Now she’s describing photos to me, in mostly clean language. Soon Silas will be her age and she’ll be in preschool. I’ll be in my mid-thirties. And Liggett Lady will have smoked another hundred or so cartons. Time marches on.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas celebrates St. Patrick's Day--er, goes for a walk.

Power Chair races

October 11, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Columbus Day, 2010, and I’m celebrating by taking the day off work. For those of you just joining my blog, that’s a joke. A very elementary-level joke. I broke my ankle a month ago, and I haven’t been able to work a day since.

But, while both babies are taking naps, and I’m able to sit outside and enjoy the quiet peace of an 80-degree October afternoon (it’s an Indian summer without the Indians — Columbus would be pleased), it’s a good time to reflect on the sum total of thousands of years of human ambition and folly. Yes, I’ve come a long way in my personal life, and I’m writing words I’m really proud of. Yes, I also can’t walk without crutches. There’s good with bad.

Oh, and the other night, I spilled about a half-ounce of baby formula into my computer keyboard. That was clumsy and dumb.  My space bar is no longer functional. ThisiswhatmysentenceslooklikebeforeIgobackandmanuallyinsertapastedspacebetweeneachword. I’d like to hide behind a claim that it’s deliberate, and I’m updating the printed word into its next grand innovation by reducing its bulk up to 20% and bringing each sentence in at a hyper-efficient one-word maximum. Truth is, words with no spaces between them givemeabigassfreakingheadache. Please stand by while I pop a handful of Tylenol with codeine.

There, that’s better. A whole lot better.

I’m entering my fourth set of weekdays spent away from my wife, Tiffany. The kids and I are still staying with her parents. The child-care situation is becoming a well-oiled machine. Saturday morning, for instance, I stayed up with baby Silas through the night, then my father-in-law took him around 6 am, then my mom came over to watch Sarah and Silas at 8, then my mom passed the kids off to Tiffany around 9:30. A couple more sets of hands, and there might be an actual village raising my children.

Sarah's horse moves especially slow on grass.

This neighborhood seems to be populated mostly with retirees, so I don’t feel overly self-conscious playing outside with Sarah in the common areas. I’m getting around on crutches and a space boot, Sarah’s pushing around this pink, four-wheel horse toy, and kind old Mr. Gunnaker is wheeling his walker out to the mailbox after the USPS mail truck putters by at 3 mph. We’re all taking it slow around here. The fastest thing moving is Mrs. Fishman’s Power Chair down her six-degree driveway decline.

Sarah is learning new words every day, and in the spirit of Columbus and America at large, her two most-used sayings are, “More?” and, “I want.” This girl is skin and bones right now, but she loves carbohydrates. Immobility has led to my couch homebase being laced with carby snack food bags and boxes. I usually try to hide it all when I hear her coming downstairs — I get about a 20-second soundbite headstart of an unseen Sarah saying, “See Daddy? See Daddy? I want! See Daddy?” before her actual arrival. But there’s always something peeking out. Crackers, chips, popcorn, the occasional loose Pop-Tart. When it comes to spotting junk food, my daughter’s vision exceeds 20/20. First comes “I want,” then comes, “More?” repeated ad nauseum.

Returning to normalcy is within sight. I’m close to getting freelance writing work. I’ve been putting slow but steadily increasing weight on the bad foot. I can take showers again, which is fantastic. And I’ve got a refrigerator, freezer and microwave setup in my little studio apartment area. I’ve acquired a modest, humble inventory of groceries. I have lunch meat, salad mix, bread (both kinds — slices AND heels!), cottage cheese, restaurant leftovers and pickles. I mean a ton of pickles. Every plate I make, breakfast included, gets a robust pickle garnish.

Sarah’s naptime is up, and I need to go wake up Silas. Every minute he sleeps when I’m awake is a minute he’ll be awake later when I have other plans.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, surrounded by exciting things like leaves, fences and storm drain sewer caps.

I get the boot

October 8, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I went to the orthopedic doctor yesterday morning. The good news is, I don’t have to wear a leg cast anymore. I will no longer be the target of lusty leers from gorgeous women and creepy old men suffering from abasiophilia – a disease that, with your financial help, could be cured in our lifetime.

It was an epic moment. I was sitting on the exam table when the nurse wheeled in what looked like a ShopVac with a pizza cutter-sized buzzsaw blade at the end of its hose attachment. I flashed back to being nine and having my leg cast cut off with one of those pizza-cutter blades and getting my skin all chewed up. The cast removal this time made me feel more ticklish than in pain, almost jump-out-of-skin ticklish on the bottom of my foot.

Then the nurse wheeled the equipment out of the room and left me alone with my formerly encased leg. At the time, I thought I was about to be X-rayed and recasted. That’s what they’d told me during the last visit – that, as my fracture and incisions healed, the swelling would go down and they’d fit me for a smaller, sleeker cast. Aerodynamic, even, to counter all the wind velocity generated by my half-mile-per-hour top crutch speed.

Pizza-cutter buzz saw

The way I saw it, I had about a minute and a half to scratch every square inch of the skin that had been itching for the past 27 days. I was dainty about it at first. Rubbed my calf, just kind of brushed the top of my foot with my fingernails. And it felt so good. It felt amazing. This must be the kind of pleasure an abasiophiliac experiences when he or she fondles the cast of a consenting partner.

I have nice long fingernails right now, too. My exiled recovery has left me kind of like eccentric, late-period Howard Hughes minus the money. I’ve peed in the jug and let my beard and fingernails grow wild and free. I was grateful for the talons I’d cultivated as I dug in with some full-on leg and foot scratching. Anyone seen the “Seinfeld” where Kramer ends up dating the coffee shop waitress because she has elongated nails and he has a previously unscratchable itch? Same thing. My fingernails and my newly exposed cast leg were a match made in heaven. Howard Hughes meets “Seinfeld” meets Andrew the Uniplegic.

Das boot

Turned out there was no need to blow my leg-scratch wad. Now I can access my lower left extremities whenever I want. The cast has been replaced by a large, streamlined plastic boot with lots of Velcro straps and a Nike Air-style inflate/deflate pump. It’s bulkier than the cast, not as supportive, less comfortable and a lot hotter, but guess what? I can take a shower again. But I don’t want to come back to the personal hygiene fold with just an ordinary shower. Preparations are underway for the bathing event of the century. I will alert the media, you can rest assured. Any day now.

I didn’t have to pay for the boot, either. My father-in-law had one stored away from his own brief foray into one-legged euphoria last year. He’s got all kinds of stuff hidden around the house that can be produced on a moment’s notice. Yesterday, he remembered he had a two-way intercom system in his basement. Which is a much classier way for us to communicate than me just shouting, “Bring me a sandwich!” up the stairs. We tried setting up the intercom units for about half an hour and were unsuccessful. By the end of it, I had really worked up the appetite for a sandwich. And I let him know, by way of shouting.

Oh yeah, the bad news – I can’t go back to work for six more weeks. Definitely longer than I was counting on. If not for the providence of our families, this Thanksgiving would be sugar water and mayonnaise sandwiches for sure. I need to find someone who will pay me to write, or maybe I can crutch my way into an interview for a desk job and get myself hired by invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. (There is a clause in there covering dumbasses who fall down stairs in the middle of the night, isn’t there?)

Meantime, I have no money coming in. Time to sell the old plasma. Not a plasma TV, my actual plasma. Any readers care to make an offer on a three-ounce vial of Andrew plasma? Act now, and I’ll toss in some platelets. I promise not to gouge you; I’ll be busy gouging myself for plasma and platelet cash.

Possibly my most hilarious Facebook friend, a lady named Jennifer Misiurewicz, wants me to mention her in this blog post. And I don’t mind, because I really didn’t feel like writing until I got my joke-word skills warmed up trading status comments with J.Miz. That banter led straight to this entry, so I’d like to reprint the comments, a reaction to my announcement that I’d be selling my plasma…

ANDREW HICKS: Found out I still can’t go back to work for 6 weeks. Time to sell the old plasma. Not my plasma TV, my actual plasma.

S____ F__ and R______ R_______ like this.

J.MIZ: or sperm. its liquid gold mr luck charms

ANDREW: R______ you would like the fact that I’m going to be homeless by this time next month.

R______: i don’t like it i like that you thought of the idea to sell your plasma

J.MIZ: he is inventive that one…..but most degenerates are

ANDREW: R______, let’s eliminate the middle-man. Do you want to make an offer on 6 ounces of my warm plasma? I’ll throw in some platelets.

J.MIZ: ill take gamma globulin for 400 alex

J.MIZ: mmmmmmm warm plasma…..can i get in on this bidding war??? im planning on a hep b winter

ANDREW: I was gonna be Gamma Globulin for Halloween, but now I just have to be disabled.

J.MIZ: NO!!!! the beauty is that gamma globulin cannot stand alone….its a “helper monkey” if u will

ANDREW: Ah, if only Weird Al would parody “White Christmas” and make the opening line, “I’m planning on a Hep B winter.” I would love that.

J.MIZ: why did my brain just start chanting: TWO LEGS ENTER ONE LEG LEAVES??????

J.MIZ: immmmmmmmmm planning on a hep b winter….just like the shots i used to know. where youre shot with virus and miley cyrus

J.MIZ: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…….AMY WINEHOUSE

R______ hahaha….

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah's intense juice face at the state fairgrounds