Archive for the 'I regain productivity' Category

Snow day

January 8, 2011

Andrew Hicks

I pulled out the computer yesterday in feverish attempts to maximize the ever-brief time Sarah was taking a nap and Silas was sitting in his Bumbo not fussing. Imagine the pleasant surprise of the century when I logged on and remembered I’d already written and posted a blog late the night before. It was like a snow day or something.

It was an actual snow day, coincidentally. There was a fresh inch on the ground, and I didn’t have crap to do. While Silas was napping, I grabbed the baby monitor and put Sarah’s snow clothes on, and we went outside. She’d been excitedly baby-babbling about snow and sledding since she woke up*, but when we finally got outside, she wanted to “play jump” on the next door neighbor’s porch stairs.

Sarah loves to jump on the floor and on the bed, but she really loves to jump off things. Luckily, she’s smart or just naturally cautious enough to insist that I stand below and hold onto her hands before she does any risky jumping. Which is good for peace of mind but a little mind- and back-numbing for Daddy if Sarah decides she wants to jump down the same set of three stairs 25 times consecutively. It’s hard to put an early stop to it, too, because she enjoys Jump #25 as much as the first one. I don’t want to mess with such a simple source of pleasure for such a sweet little kid.

Anyway, when we were out in the snow and she just wanted to “play jump,” I realized that when Sarah has her snow boots on, she can’t jump or climb like she usually does. And she realized it too, early on, so she just took ginger steps down instead of jumping. I’m considering having her wear her snow boots around the house on days I feel like I just don’t have the energy to deal with normal toddler activity.

*One of Sarah’s wakeup rituals is to have me pick her up from her bed and walk over to her window, then I open the blinds and we talk about whether it’s sunny, cloudy, cold, nice, etc. So she saw that snow before she even got her overnight diaper changed.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas's first Bumbo sit.

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Got ’til midnight

January 2, 2011

Andrew Hicks

The Post-Dispatch article on me ran in the Sunday paper today on the front page of the Community section. Well, I think you have to jump to Page 2 before you get to me, but they did run a super-tightly cropped headshot of me and a couple funny old diary quotes from me that I’d forgotten about. It’s great when Ghost of Andrew Past makes Ghost of Andrew Present crack up.

I don’t know if says more about article placement or the declining influence of print journalism or the hugeness of the Internet, but when the 1996 contest article ran, my website got more than a thousand visitors that day. The 2011 follow-up piece has driven exactly nine StlToday.com readers to check out my blog so far. There’s a doctored picture of Justin Bieber’s head on top of a kneeling girl in a pink bikini that gets more views than that every 30 seconds. I should know, I look at that thing twice a minute.

Maybe my pageviews will spike before midnight. Thanks to comedy buddy Chris Trader, I changed the time zone settings on my blog to Chicago from Wrexham, Wales. The time stamp on my posts will be from when I actually posted them, not six hours later. I have until midnight to write and post every day. I have until Jimmy Fallon‘s first guest comes out. So I will post every day. I might just not have a lot to say every day.

(Insert 3 more entertaining short paragraphs here. The paragraphs that really make the piece come full circle and leave the reader satisfied. You have until midnight.)

Oh, what does everyone think about the bold words here and there approach? This is my second time trying it in writing. I’m pretty sure I like it. For Internet writing, anyway. I don’t think I’d try it in print.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby's first Christmas: Tiffany holds Silas.

2011: A blog a day, I promise

January 1, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Ankle break aside, 2010 was one of the best years of my life. My second baby was born, my first baby really began to grow into her personality, I started this blog, I quit drinking, I made inroads into standup comedy, I met some great Facebook friends, I continued my slooooow progression into adulthood, and I steadily seemed to enjoy everyday life more and more as the year went on.

I didn’t manage to achieve my simplest goal for this blog, though — I want to update it daily. Well, 2011 will be the year I post every day, and to hold myself accountable, I’m participating in the WordPress Post a Day 2011 campaign.

I’m already going to have to cheat and backdate the post time, though, since my blog dashboard seems to think I live in London. Blog time is six hours ahead of actual time, so I’ve already missed January 1st by that definition. I don’t know if that’s the international dateline or if I could easily change the setting to central time with a little poking around. That’s not my concern. My concern is writing every day, even if it means writing about time zone settings I can’t figure out how to change or if I can change. Quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality, people. First things first.

The highlight of New Year’s for me was spending a total of two hours on the phone with my mom and dad. With the time consumption of the Wife-N-Kids life plus my own lazy procrastination and antisocial behavior, I haven’t devoted enough communication time to either of them over the years. And each, I think, has been too considerate to be the social aggressor in initiating regular phone calls.

I closed out the year with separate high-quality dialogues with both parents. My mom I’ve known all along, but my dad and I have been incommunicado for about half my life. I’m only now realizing he’s twice the talker and thinker that I am. I laughed harder at his end of our phone conversation than I have at any movie or TV comedy since I stopped drinking. I’m at the perfect stage of my life’s journey to seat my parents up toward the front. The peak of my relationship with each has yet to come, and it’ll be a lot of fun climbing to the top.

Speaking of family, today is my stepson Josh’s 18th birthday and the first time I’ve mentioned in my blog that I have a stepson. (He has red hair, too, though I long ago tired of cracking second-rate “redheaded stepchild” jokes.) When I started the blog, I made a decision that I wouldn’t write about Josh until he got to legal voting and smoking and lotto-gambling age. It’s one thing to tell stories about my own kids. Neither of them is old enough to read, write or kick my butt. But I wanted to respect Josh’s privacy. Now that he’s legally an adult, I can feel free to bitch to the world about how he pees on the toilet seat sometimes.

The number-one question I’ve been asked — when it becomes apparent to people that I’m a 32-year-old man with a 38-year-old wife, an 18-year-old stepson and two kids age 2 and below — is, “Isn’t it weird?” And you’d think it would be. When I was 14, and my parents had been divorced a few years, I don’t think I would’ve welcomed having a stepdad living in the house with me and doing my mom. Much less a stepdad who met my mom in April, got married in July and got her pregnant the following March. But the situation, as it developed, seemed natural from the beginning. Okay, I often feel much more like Big Brother than Dad to Josh, but it’s obvious that he values my opinion and my presence. Both good things.

So, anyway, you can find new words right here tomorrow. And every day this year. Who knows? I might even write something funny next time.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Josh holds Silas on the day he was born.

Old glories, new publicity

December 18, 2010

Andrew Hicks

[AUTHOR’S NOTE <added 12/19>: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on me that’s mentioned below for 12/19 now is scheduled to run on Sunday, 12/26. I’ll likely repost this entry then, but for now, I don’t have anything else written, so I’m leaving it up.]

[AUTHOR’S NOTE <added 12/20>: I got an email from Jim Cook, author of the above-mentioned piece for the Post-Dispatch. The article has been re-rescheduled for Sunday, 1/2. If nothing interesting happens between now and then, you may get to read about me.]

On my eighteenth birthday, I found out my website won first place in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s “Best of the St. Louis Web” contest. I’d just gotten to college six months prior and found out students could create their own sites for free. I met up in the computer lab with a slender, thirtyish techie-dork stereotype who introduced himself only as Spiff. A couple hours of simple HTML code later, The Andrew Hicks World Wide Web Extravaganza was born.

I had a backlog of movie reviews, original stories based on the 1960s “Batman” TV show and a completed comedy diary called “A Year in the Life of a Nerd.” I’d started a second yearlong nerd diary upon arriving at college.

The Internet was so young then that the Yahoo! directory had to create its “Diaries” category specifically for my site. This was years before the term “blog” existed. Competition for original comedy writing online was a lot scarcer than it is today, when the words you’re reading right now might as well be hosted on TheTumbleweedBloweth.com.

I bring this up because now, 14 years later, Jim Cook — the fellow who wrote the original “Best of the St. Louis Web” article in the Post — has put together a new contest for STL-area sites. As a companion piece, he’s written some kind of Where Are They Now?-type piece that profiles me. It’s scheduled to run tomorrow, in the local section of their Sunday paper.

I’m hoping the new exposure will result in expanded readership. Just a few more people reading and laughing is all I’m hoping for. I’m not expecting anything so dramatic as the orgiastic run on goods that happens when some mom-and-pop operation suddenly gets vaulted into Oprah’s Favorite Things status.

No matter the end result, it’ll be nice to have a few people reading my words other than my family and circle of Facebook friends. Or people who stumble on my blog by searching random terms like “broken ankle pink cast” and “good looking man self taken photo hick.” Both actual search terms that added a single hit apiece to my traffic tally.

If you’re one of those people who found this site courtesy of the Post-Dispatch or Stltoday.com, welcome. Look around. Bookmark it. Catch up on the old stuff. Come back for the new stuff. Tell your friends. Pay me to write or edit for you. Book me a high-paying stand-up comedy gig. Mail me your winning lottery ticket. And have a great Christmas.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Okay, so it's not a baby pic, but I was only 20 when this was taken. Which kind of seems like Baby Andrew when I look back now.

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.

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.

Day One of daytime daddydom

September 7, 2010

If you would have run into me a week ago, and we started talking about my kids, I would have launched into a stock bit. About how I was totally cool to take care of one baby or the other at a time but that I hated being charged with both babies simultaneously and now had full appreciation of the burden foisted on single parents, etc.

A week ago, I had no idea I was going to start watching Sarah (almost two) and Silas (barely two months) every weekday from 8:30 to 6. It was an abrupt decision. Tiffany had just gone back to work from maternity leave, and we’d started taking both babies to the same babysitter. This service, by the way, was projected to run us about $13,000 a year. We figured we’d make it work somehow.

Mind you, I’d just celebrated – well, “celebrated” is not really the word for it, more like “wincefully acknowledged” – the tenth anniversary of my intended-to-be-temporary foray into serving and bartending at mid-priced chain restaurants. I graduated college with honors at the age of 21. I was going to take a year off and write a book. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s not 1999 anymore, although the band Smash Mouth probably wishes it was.

I had a party-filled twenties and got some writing done that I didn’t really form into anything publishable. It wasn’t until I fell in love, got married, moved away, settled down and opened the baby factory that it seemed both feasible and imperative to get back to writing and performing words that make people smile and laugh. I started doing open mic standup last Christmas. The day Silas came home from the hospital, I joined Facebook. Two new outlets where a year before the only thing on my social/comedic radar was karaoke night.

Then this decision – go on a leave of absence from my daytime job, switch to all closing shifts at the nighttime job, and stay home with Sarah and Silas during the day. No immediate financial loss stands to take place, and things are looking good for my wife and her job. I’ve been wanting to start a new blog but was at a loss for a theme. This ending just wrote itself.

So this was Day One of the new arrangement, and I didn’t need an alarm clock to wake up for it. An alarm clock to me indicates putting an end to sound sleep. Me, I sleep for a few hours here and there when there’s no one crying. Last time was between 5:30 and 8:30 this morning. Both babies came to life just after Tiffany left, and I started my day in triplicate. Feed Baby #1, feed Baby #2, feed myself. Change Diaper #1, change Diaper #2, take a crap. Put Sarah in Outfit #1, put Silas in Outfit #2, put on my old black Sublime shirt with the pinprick hole in the belly.

This mundane process actually takes hours. I might be able to shave off a few minutes after I’ve been doing it a couple months. Sarah can at least pull her shoes on now. She’s obsessed with socks and shoes, actually. The “socks” part I’m not too concerned with, but the “shoes” part down the road could break the bank.

Meanwhile, I’ve got the entire PBS Kids lineup playing in the background: “Dinosaur Train,” “Sesame Street,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “Super Why?” and Barney’s bitch ass. These are a daily staple. Sarah’s at the point where she can name the main and secondary “Sesame Street” characters. She can’t name any state capitals yet, but she knows which one’s Telly and which one’s Prairie Dawn. I don’t even know which one’s Prairie Dawn. All the “Sesame Street” girl muppets seem interchangeable to me.

My mom was kind enough to buy us a Graco DuoGlider double stroller. This thing is a serious piece of hardware. Silas gets mounted facing me in his car seat, and Sarah rides up front. She’s like six feet away from me when I’m pushing them. We just broke in this stroller a week or so ago, and I’ve had Tiffany show me how to unfold it six times. But while Silas is inside asleep and Sarah is strapped into the single stroller next to me, it takes me ten minutes and a hundred attempts to get the thing open and ready. If I was even remotely famous, you’d be seeing footage of this atrocity on tonight’s “TMZ.”

I feel like an idiot, but I don’t give up, and soon the three of us are walking to the bank, to the post office, and then to the park via milelong bike trail. Silas sleeps the entire time, while I let Sarah run free over an empty football field and chase the geese up toward the lake. The weather, by the way, is absolutely perfect. It couldn’t possibly be any nicer, and there’s not another human in sight.

Last week at this time, I was rolling a stack of silverware while listening to some girl ten years younger than me bitch about her love life. I think this is a change for the better. I got a new blog out of it too.