Archive for the 'Party crashing' Category

Neighborless

March 8, 2011

Andrew Hicks

On several occasions previously, I’ve mentioned my next-door neighbor, the single mom with the four kids. They came over for Sarah’s birthday, and we came over for Super Bowl, but more than that, Miranda and I have been smoke break buddies for three years. I was never much of a smoker, but when I got to drinking, I liked to have a cigarette here and there. Now I don’t drink, and I still have a cigarette here and there. But Miranda just moved away, so the smoke breaks are suddenly a lot quieter.

Miranda knew she was moving a few weeks in advance, but there were never plans for a going-away party. Rather, after her place was cleaned out and her van loaded one last time with stuff, we had one final smoke break in the driveway. I’m a sucker for occasions like this. I use them to rhapsodize and reminisce and express appreciation. In this case, it’s a double rhapsody, because I get to rhapsodize during the final smoke break, then turn around and rhapsodize again when Miranda has her housewarming party at the new place*.

Our ceremonious final smoke break was doomed from the get-go. It was after dark, her four kids were exhausted yet wound up from the big freakin’ deal that is moving out of one house and into another, and no one wanted to just get in the van and let Mommy have a few minutes of grown folks’ time. There was one kid running around the van, one kid honking the horn, one kid climbing, one kid pinching another kid, the other kid screaming about it, at least one kid in a constant state of crying, and one single mother simultaneously trying to manage it yet let it be so she could have a damn cigarette.

Me, I’ve got the failsafe of a wife and co-parent to let me off the Baby-Rearing Express for a morning or evening when I feel burnt out. I only have two kids. Miranda has four kids, and she has them all to herself. At that moment, trying to be the happy but aloof bystander-friend, I got a capsule glimpse into my neighbor’s world. There was frustration and resignation, a feeling of no escape. I know Miranda loves her kids more than anything, but watching her plead for five quick minutes of peace made me wish for a cosmic remote control that could put the offspring on pause just for the length of a cigarette.

Miranda ended up having to intervene with the kids, and that’s when her oldest daughter, who is 8, slid in and took her place.

“Do you see that?” the daughter asked me, pointing at the slow-moving lights of a twin-engine plane in the night sky above. “That’s a UFO.”

“It’s flying pretty low,” I said. “They’re usually not so obvious about showing themselves.”

“I see UFOs every night. One night I saw sixteen.” She pointed to another plane excitedly. “Look, there’s another one.”

“How about that,” I said, not condescending in the least. “They might just be traveling, you know, just taking the spaceship out for a spin after dinner like some people walk their dog.”

“The first UFO is over the high school now.”
“Maybe they need a football field to land in.”
“It’s not landing, it’s still going past the high school. Look, another UFO! Three UFOs!”

I don’t know, it was a simple little moment in the middle of all this chaos, and it made me think, It’s all worth it. When you have kids, there’s lot of stuff you give up, little and big stuff that hits on an everyday basis. But there’s this cute, living, breathing, thinking, talking extension of you that you get to build a family life around, and it’s all worth it.

Miranda drove off a few minutes later, her empty apartment darkened, and I walked back home. Saw my wife and announced, “It’s nice and quiet over here.” Not really, said my wife, and within two minutes, both of my kids were crying and needing parental attention. Full circle, as it were.

*This is why I ate it all up when Conan signed off his NBC late-night show, debuted his “Tonight Show,” signed off the “Tonight Show” and debuted his TBS show all in the span of like 18 months. That’s four different legitimate occasions to wax rhapsodic over the same dude’s body of work. I loved it.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

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Super Bowl kids

February 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew once again dashed his daily productivity goal and did not have this blog posted before midnight. The culprit this time? Super Bowl XLV. Now, don’t assume for a second that Andrew cared a thing about the game. He had to double check which teams were playing before the game started so he wouldn’t look like a moron at the party. Andrew never watches football and, in fact, spent most of his high school years at a Christian school whose homecoming game took place on the soccer field against schools with names like Because He Died For Us Central.

Let’s not forget, though, Super Bowl is one of the major party days every year, and until just a few months ago, Andrew was a major partier. Super Bowl is only partially about the game. It’s also about gathering, eating a ton of food and talking over the game. Andrew estimates that this Super Bowl, the first since he quit drinking, he paid less attention to the game than when he was matching Anheuser Busch ads one beer per commercial.

The domestic takeover of Andrew’s life, though, was ever-apparent at this year’s Super Bowl party. He went with his wife and kids to the next-door neighbor’s house. Andrew’s two kids plus the neighbor’s four kids plus the neighbor’s best friend’s two kids plus another neighbor’s kid outnumbered the adults in attendance. Seven adults, nine children, and it was a completely new experience for Andrew to have his child playing in another area of another person’s house with other kids.

He had to frequently quit watching the game — no major sacrifice, but still — to go upstairs and check on his 2 year old, who was perfectly safe the entire time. Oh, and when one kid climbed up on Andrew’s shoulders during one of these visits and begged Andrew to take him for a ride, Andrew obliged him, not realizing that all the other young kids were going to see this, think it was awesome and each want their own turns. Then beg for second turns directly after completing their first turns.

Andrew quickly felt every bit of how out of shape he was, which he supposes is some kind of basic irony, considering Super Bowl is supposed to be the ultimate show of the atheletic strength and agility of the few contrasted with the passive, indulgent consumption of the many.

Oh, and Andrew wants to add that he was tired of people talking about Christina Aguilera messing up the national anthem immediately — partially because he couldn’t come up with an easy, decent joke about it. He is grateful, however, that the Aguilera incident caused entertainment gossip shows to dig up a hilarious 2003 clip of Michael Bolton having to check the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” that he wrote on his palm. Funniest part was, people were still asking Michael Bolton to sing the national anthem at major events in 2003.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas, ready for transport.

Silly Spider’s trunk or treat

November 2, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Last year on Halloween, I made a last-minute trip to ShopKo to put together a costume. The extent of my purchases for self were a $3.99 Afro wig and two-dollar bottle of hair oil to keep the wig well-lubed. I added that drippy wig to the black pants, suspenders and blue ruffled ’70s tux shirt (which I found on eBay by searching for those exact five words) from my Meat Loaf costume. And I was off to our weekly karaoke night.

Who was I? It took me a half-dozen improvised answers before I settled on Jerry Pekin, replacement bass player for Toto on the European leg of the 1979 Hold the Line tour. My Pekin getup won first prize in the costume contest, to the chagrin of people who actually spent time and money on their Halloween rigs. Honestly, I had that contest locked down no matter what. I had a big group of friends with me, and none of them had entered the contest. Their votes were automatically going to me.

That same ShopKo trip, I bought a Silly Spider costume for Sarah, who was not quite 1 and not quite walking yet. She wore Silly Spider at home for a couple pictures but didn’t leave the house in it until this year, when it was less a full-body costume than an above-the-waist costume. Tiffany coordinated a noteworthy effort, though, dressing Sarah in purple jacket and socks, long-sleeved black shirt and gray pants. Those three colors perfectly matched the palate of the Silly Spider. Let no one say my wife’s religious viewing of all eight seasons of “Project Runway” has been for naught*.

My Silly Spider

I’ve been back home with the babies for four days now. We go to the park and hang out in the backyard, but Dad remains pretty stationary in his play efforts. Taking Silly Spider Sarah trick or treating in the neighborhood was an awfully involved walking effort for the amount of candy we got. The ratio of houses with candy to houses without candy reminded me of the old Paperboy video game right before you get kicked off the route. Dark house, dark house, dark house, dark house then finally one with the light on.

I put the busted ankle through a hell of a workout** before retreating to our house with only a few flavored mini Tootsie Rolls, some stickers and an oversized Gummie Lifesaver in Sarah’s candy bucket. Tiffany and baby Silas joined us, the latter wearing an adorable orange-and-black sleeper trumpeting the fact that it was baby’s first Halloween.

We decided to bag the neighborhood walkathon and head straight to the Trunk or Treat at a nearby church. Turned out, it was the only place to be. This was my first time doing a Trunk or Treat. I was a single, childless dude up until a couple years ago, but even if I’d had kids, I would have wanted to boycott all Trunk or Treats because of the lame-ass name alone. Little did I know a TOT is like walking among a concentrated cornucopia of stationary, decorated mini-parade floats, all bearing candy.

First Halloween for Silas

In the same amount of steps I’d already walked in my neighborhood, I netted — I mean, Sarah netted — 20 times the treats. All you have to do is walk up and grab. When my toddler reached into the candy cauldrons and had a hard time deciding, I plucked out one of everything for us. The owners of the tricked-out trunks were all too distracted by my super-cute kid to notice me taking triple helpings of Three Musketeers. Even if they did, what were they gonna do? They were church people, and I’m a big dude. You’ve got to let stuff like that go. God says.

On top of it, there was free cotton candy and lemonade and a weenie/marshmallow self-roast campfire. And not a single Methodist in attendance used all this generosity as leverage to invite me to church. That’s a good tactic, too — you end up thinking, Wow, if they’re so confident in their church that they don’t even invite you, it must be a great church. I’m still not gonna go, but I enjoyed the sense of community. Everyone knew everyone except us, and we managed to blend.

Sarah enjoys her spoils

We skipped the “roast your own hot dog” action because we had the two babies with us but also because a dude whose house was right across the street from the church was yelling at the crowds about his free hot dogs and chili. So we wheeled the DuoGlider over to his place and finally got socially worked over in exchange for goodies. Owner of the house was sick of talking to the same old small-town folks he already knew, so while we were eating his super-greasy chili*** over by the garage, this dude was working his talk-show interview magic.

I don’t often invite sober small talk, particularly with strangers. My approach to these situations is to offer as little information as possible, dash off a good one-liner and exit while they’re laughing. We were trapped this time, but I quickly realized, when this guy asked a personal question, it was only so he could listen for the first available tidbit that would prompt him to tell a tangentially related story about himself. That I could live with. Even better, the second we were done eating his food and drinking his Crystal Light or whatever, we used the old “gotta get these precious babies to bed” excuse and darted back to civilization****.

Even that little side trip helped make 2010 the best Halloween in years. Small town, fall weather, free stuff, beautifully delighted toddler, Tiffany and I sneaking little kisses here and there. It was the kind of simple, beautiful family holiday experience I just didn’t get all those Halloweens I spent drinking, getting rowdy and staying out until damn near sunup.

The best part is, Sarah’s too little to know she earned herself a giant stash of candy that her parents are going to eat the lion’s share of while she’s asleep. Stolen Halloween candy tastes even sweeter. Especially when you’re taking church candy from a baby. Muwahahahahaha…

*One of my more reliable standup bits thus far has been mentioning how I love being married but wish someone would’ve told me beforehand that I’d have to watch reality shows on Bravo until death do us part. It’s one of the hidden wedding vows: Better. Worse. Sickness. Health. Project. Runway. Top. Chef. Real. Housewives. HOLY! CRAP!

**Oh yeah, get this — just before leaving to take Sarah out for Halloween, I realized while strapping up my Aircast boot that I’ve been putting that thing on wrong the entire time. Massive cripple fail.

***I overheard him explaining to a rather large lady how his chili meat recipe yielded the ideal combination of 50% beef, 50% grease. Indeed, the top two inches of crock pot product were composed of nothing but oily orange liquid. He had two serving spoons in the chili — one slotted, one solid. He told his oversized lady guest that the solid spoon was for those partygoers who liked their chili grease-only. America is something freaking else, man.

****I always end up chickening out, but one of these days I’m going to let loose with some outlandish, made-up stories at one of these events just to see if the other people challenge me. When I departed for my first weeklong Caribbean cruise, I told all my friends I was going to introduce myself to people as an anesthesiologist. Give them only a vague sense of the basics, then if they pressed harder to learn any details about my professional life, stop them with, “Hey, hey, come on now. I live anesthesiology day in and day out 49 weeks out of the year. I’m sick of talking anesthesiology. I’m on vacation here, I hope you can respect that. Let’s talk about you for awhile.”