Embellished memory

March 11, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Upon noticing I picked it as my top blog post so far, my wife finally read the account of the night I met her. And pronounced it entirely inaccurate. I guess I got the basic facts right — we were each at Ameristar Casino by ourselves, I went over to talk to her after finding out she’d gotten a quarter jammed in the player card slot, we bonded over Phil Hartman, she came back to my place after as “just friends hanging out.”

But apparently, my entire account was based on the fallacy of me saying I’d already noticed her down there and determined she had some unique form of beautiful insanity. In my version, I was some kind of hawk-eyed lothario who had a premonition of destiny. In her version, I didn’t notice her until she flagged down the bartender.

And, you know, it’s been almost four years now. Every time I tell a friend, acquaintance or customer the story of meeting my wife, it’s based on the version I told the time before, all the way back to the original time I told it. And every time until I wrote and published it on the Internet, Tiffany wasn’t there to say, “That part’s not true,” “He never said that,” or, “Lemme tell you how it REALLY happened.”

So how much is an actual memory, and how much is a personal urban legend, tweaked in a compounded fashion over the years? I honestly don’t know. There are those romantic occasions where she’s in my arms, and she’s like, “Tell me what you remember about this or that momentous event,” and my memory is a vague blur beyond the most basic details.

Nothing kills a romantic mood like, “The first time I kissed you? Well, let’s see, I was drunk. I remember that.” Then I go off on an intricately detailed tangent about the dive bar we were in the first time we kissed and how amazing the jukebox was there, complete with a list of about 50 favorite songs. Way more details about the jukebox than the kiss, and then I get to sleep on the couch for a week.

I have an account of the night I met Tiffany that was written in 2007, a few months after the fact. Tiffany says that version is way better than my new, incorrect version. I can’t really remember much about the original account. It’s on a plastic floppy disc (remember those?), and I’ll get it uploaded to my hard drive before too long. Then I can share that version, put the two side by side, and let readers decide which is better.

Meantime, I’ve challenged Tiffany to write a rebuttal account titled “The Night I Met My Husband, The Liar.”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas wearing his invisible frumpy frock.

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Daddy/daughter kite flying

March 10, 2011

Sarah and I flew a kite for the first time late Wednesday afternoon. It was my first time flying a kite in at least 20 years. I can only remember a couple instances of kite activity, and both times I had to run with the kite behind me to get it into the air. But it wouldn't stay in the air, it would crash back to earth, leaving me shaking my head. This time, the kite took right off, and Sarah was instantly mesmerized.

Here we are, watching the kite soar upward. This is our backyard, so there's a tree in one direction, and another tree in the other direction. And the wind is whipping the kite back and forth like Willow Smith's hair, so I can't let it get too high. Besides, Sarah likes it better when the kite's yellow plastic tail is close enough to the ground for her to jump for it and still not catch it.

That square yellow bucket, by the way, is half of a washers set bought for my family by a visiting friend a couple summers ago. Every time it's nice outside, I pull out the washer tubs and tell myself I'll master the art of tossing the red and blue rubber-metal rings for the next hoosier Memorial Day barbecue I'm at. And I never get any better. If the bucket was four inches wider on all sides, I'd make almost every shot. Also, if I was throwing from two feet away, I'd probably make almost every shot.

Sun setting. Kite stuck in tree. A good time to go inside and get some juice. I'm glad my daughter doesn't know the word "clumsy" yet.


100 posts, six months

March 9, 2011

Earlier this week, I celebrated the six-month anniversary of this blog and my hundredth posting. In honor of both occasions, here are my picks for the top ten posts to date…

BEST OF THE BLOG SO FAR

1. January 24, 2011 – The night I met her
“I was watching her earlier, out of the corner of my eye. I could tell from a distance that this girl had a magnetic personality, a natural beauty and just something different. Something crazy. She tells me she’s at the casino by herself, like I am. I tell her we should take the escalator down to the ground floor and cruise the tables. I overheard a cocktail waitress say ‘American Idol’ star Chris Daughtry, who played a concert earlier tonight in the casino showroom, is playing blackjack on Table 7 and is way shorter and uglier than you’d think from TV. But we don’t go anywhere. We stay at the bar and talk and laugh, and my Budweiser draft disappears with a quickness.”

2. November 3, 2010 – Sarah’s birth day
“Someone announces that they see a head. The curtain is blocking all the action. I look into the reflecting glass of a medical cabinet on the wall to my left. There, I can see the flurry of movement by well-trained hands, then the silhouette of a tiny body being lifted from its mother’s womb. A quiet, quick second passes, then… we hear the baby cry. A stuttering, hesitant billy goat bleat that soon escalates into a full-blown, hyperventilating wail. ‘Baby’s crying?’ Tiffany asks me. Yes, I tell her happily, choking back tears. The baby’s crying. A voice on the other side of the curtain announces that it’s a girl. Another voice announces the time — 8:06 am. I squeeze my wife’s hand and brush her left cheek. I’m also in charge of making sure her drool gets collected in the maroon plastic kidney-shaped bedpan. Side effect of heavy anesthesia, the drool.”

3. September 16, 2010 – Ambien and physical therapy
“Since I compound-fractured my ankle, my wife has been an all-star. She has earned a great big Thank You gift. I just need to have her help me into the car, drive me to the Hallmark store or wherever, get out my walker for me, carry around whatever I decide to buy, figure out how we’re going to pay for it, help me back into the car and probably wrap the gift for me, too. I’m a horrible gift wrapper.”

4. January 31, 2011 – My quiet neighborhood
“The house next door to us on the opposite side is vacant. It’s tiny and dilapidated, and it looks like it hasn’t been lived in for at least a decade. Still, during the nice-weather months, whoever owns it shows up promptly every Saturday morning to cut the grass and edge the yard. He cuts it with a diagonal crisscross pattern and everything, and it always irks me that the abandoned crack house next door continually has a nicer lawn than mine. Although, I will add, it doesn’t irk me enough to do any extra work on my yard.”

5. October 6, 2010 – Tubby custard hobblicoition
“I learned something new today. The term ‘abasiophilia’ describes the fetish of having sexual desire for someone in a cast or on crutches. My wife is not an abasiophiliac, and I’m pretty glad she isn’t. If Tiffany did have a cast fetish, I’d probably always be suspicious that she was trying to push me down the stairs or run me over with the car to achieve her own perverse ends. Because nothing turns a lady on like having to do all the housework and pay all the bills yourself while your husband is immobile. That’s white-hot, ‘Funky Cold Medina’ stuff right there.”

6. October 8, 2010 – I get the boot
“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. When my leg cast was removed, I was grateful for the talons I’d cultivated as I dug in with some full-on calf, ankle and foot scratching. 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.”

7. September 20, 2010 – Nurse Ratched’s sledgehammer
“My mom is so devoted to my recovery from this broken ankle that she’s going to turn into Kathy Bates from Misery. I’ll be typing away on the laptop one sunny afternoon, and the door will open. She’ll say ominously, ‘You’ve been out of your room.’ I’ll say no, I don’t know what you’re talking about. She’ll say, ‘Andrew, my little ceramic penguin in the study always faces due south.’ Then, out will come the sledgehammer. It will be for my own good.”

8. December 31, 2010 – Twelve new Christmas memories
#3, Christmas Eve: “Some might have received my proclamation that my family would start our holiday shopping on Christmas Eve as a joke, but this is what in fact happens. The snow is still swirling from the sky as we spend well over an hour stuffing a WalMart cart with our entire haul of presents. We pick out a couple things that we want for ourselves under the guise of, ‘This is your Christmas present to me,’ and later we get a big box of bargain Christmas cards from Walgreens. I used to have a cheat sheet listing which relatives received which bargain cards (‘Grandpa = puppy in stocking, 2008,’ ‘Tiffany’s sister = winking snowman, 2009,’ etc.), but now I get to experience the rush of possibly giving the same relative the same card several years in a row. Will they call me out on it? They haven’t yet.

9. September 7, 2010 – Day One of daytime daddydom
“When we had our second baby, child care began to cost us $13,000 a year. We abruptly decided I was going to quit my daytime job and watch Sarah and Silas for free. Mind you, I’m not high-income. I 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 and I both sometimes wish it was.”

10. February 13, 2011 – Seen Jamaica?
“The Wal-Mart checker was, I’d guess, in her late 70s. She was about halfway into the process of scanning my 56 items when she looked to her right and realized there were eight people in line behind me, and none of them had more than six things to buy. ‘Where’s Jamaica?’ the elderly checker asked loudly. ‘I need Jamaica! Hey Susan, have you seen Jamaica?’ I figured Jamaica was the name of another checker who’d turned her light off and left her line unattended because it had been dead all night, but what if there was another explanation? What if this old lady’s visions of visiting or moving to Jamaica, the beautiful Caribbean island itself, were the only thing keeping her going through this barrage of graveyard checker shifts in the twilight of her life?”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY


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


Birthday karaoke

March 7, 2011

Andrew Hicks

I turned 33 a week ago. It can be a tough age, 33. It claimed three of my heroes — John Belushi, Chris Farley and Jesus. All of whom exhibited an above-average fondness for prostitutes.

All things considered, this was the best birthday I’ve had in a long time, and it came together at the very last minute. The past few birthdays, I’ve tried to put together epic parties by hyping the event weeks ahead of time then spending most of the event itself wondering why everyone didn’t show up. And the truth is, no matter what type of social event you’re planning, only about half of everyone you invite will actually come. It’s like election voter turnout — you can MTV Choose or Lose it up all you want to, but 50 percent of the population is still going to stay home.

This year, I kept it noncommittal and low key. My wife’s birthday — earlier this month — and Valentine’s Day both were underwhelming for us, thanks to a lack of money and an abundance of baby demands. So I was either going to have no birthday, have a few people over on my birthday, or just go up to karaoke.

Karaoke night has been a social tradition almost since I moved up here. Every Thursday evening, the Mexican-themed restaurant I used to work day shifts in has karaoke in their bar. It’s right across the street from the Australian-themed restaurant I used to work night shifts in, so it’s easy to get old coworkers to stop in, have a few drinks and maybe sing some Roxette or something.

Once a month, they have karaoke on Saturday, and I found out Friday morning that the next night, my birthday eve, would be February’s Karaoke Saturday. I asked Tiffany about me going or us getting a babysitter and going. She was willing to drive the kids to St. Louis, drop them off overnight with a grandparent or two and then drive back so we could go together. I called my mom to ask about keeping the kids. My mom offered to come up to Springfield, get a hotel room and babysit there. Bing bing bing! Jackpot! Instant winner!

The hotel chain of choice for grandparents on both sides of the family is Drury Inn. There’s an indoor pool — which means Sarah can put on her floaties and cruise the perimeter with adult accompaniment — and a free happy hour. Three drinks per guest. None of the visiting grandparents are drinkers, so on a couple occasions, I’d sit and slam a six-drink happy hour while talking about family stuff.

These days, Dry Andrew can still enjoy the spread of free food at the Drury happy hour, which on various days includes microwaved chicken tenders, the microwaved contents of a giant can of chili, microwaved baked potatoes cut in half, microwaved hot dogs that are lukewarm and gray, iceberg salad mix, Ruffles in a bowl, and carrot and celery sticks.

On my birthday eve, Sarah laid waste to the carrot sticks, neglecting the chips in the process, which surprised and pleased me. Tiffany happened to call from home during Sarah’s carrot binge, so of course I bragged about it. Then Tiffany told me carrot sticks are a choking hazard to a 2 year old. One more lesson learned by New Dad after the fact, but wouldn’t it make me seem like a better parent if I told the attending physician my kid choked on a carrot and not a giant deep-fried meatball?

Sarah spent the night at the Drury with my mom, while I went to karaoke and Tiffany stayed home with Silas. I’d invited people up to karaoke the night before via Facebook, with the tantalizing promise that my elusive wife, who was pregnant for a total of a year and a half, would be joining in the festivities. When she changed her mind and didn’t show, there were grumbles of disappointment, but I was glad she was staying home to protect our valuable. (That wasn’t a typo. We only have one valuable.)

Had Tiffany come to the party with me, it would have been a more cohesive social gathering. As it was, probably 15 people were there because I invited them, but they were spread all around the room. Not everyone knew everyone, and a couple people didn’t know anyone but me, which meant some people weren’t having the best time possible.

On a selfish level, though, it was great for me, because I love to work a room when I can. I was trying to keep up with three separate crowds, which kind of reminded me of that scene in Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams has to go to dinner with his family as the British nanny and do a job interview in another part of the same restaurant as himself. Minus the dressing up like an old lady, in my case.

At midnight, it was my birthday. I was invited out to the 3 a.m. dive bar people were headed to next, but when you’re 33, and you don’t drink anymore, the Taco Bell drive thru sounds like a way better idea than the afterparty.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah always laughs at my jokes.


Things I don’t miss about drinking

March 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

1. Waking up with a hangover.

2. Not remembering everything I said or did.

3. Taking care of babies with a hangover.

4. Having to apologize for things I said or did.

5. Working all day with a hangover.

6. Paying four bucks a pop to drink beer in public.

7. Driving with a hangover.

8. Driving drunk.

9. Having to talk to anyone while I have a hangover.

10. Having to listen to drunk idiot monologues in bars.

11. Losing a day’s productivity to a hangover.

12. Having people not listen to my drunk idiot monologues in bars.

13. Staying in bed way too long with a hangover.

14. Messing around with fat chicks. (This also appears on my list of things I don’t miss about being single.)

15. Not being able to get rid of a hangover.

16. Giving over the majority of my free time to alcohol.

17. Anything hangover-related.

18. The erectile dysfunction that sets in somewhere between drinks number seven and twelve. The alcoholic ED factor kept #14 on this list from having far worse repercussions.

19. See #17. Hangovers are that bad.

20. The panicked Encyclopedia Brown feeling of having to identify where I am, how I got here, what day and time it is, and whether I’m supposed to be at work or not, then mentally tracking down the location of my wallet, keys, phone and car.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

"Silas, Bacteria. Bacteria, Silas."


A week off

February 26, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew has really dug himself into a creative hole this time. He was going to write this blog for last Saturday on the following Wednesday. Then try to write a blog for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then he had the thought — how about taking a week off, ex post facto, as a birthday present to himself? Then he weighed out the following pros and cons of a weeklong vacation from blogging:


A WEEK OFF: PROS AND CONS

PRO: Already five days behind anyway.
CON: Have enough material to write five current posts.

PRO: No one really reads blog posts that go up five days late.
CON: Every blog entry counts toward a body of work.

PRO: Will relieve pressure to overproduce or half-ass to make up for past mistakes.
CON: Will break commitment made in January to produce 365 blog entries in 2011.

PRO: Would allow me to just free-write and stockpile material to make future blogs better.
CON: Who am I kidding? If I give myself a week off, I’m not doing anything productive.

PRO: You’re gonna take the lazy way out anyway.
CON: You’re right, Pro, damn you.

See you in a week.


Love letter to my iPod

February 25, 2011

Andrew Hicks

We have an anniversary coming up, you and I. Five years. Half a decade since you came into my life. I have a hard time remembering what things were like before you came along, and I can’t picture my life without you.

Yeah, we’ve had our rough patches. Remember when I lost your charger for like two months? Remember when the Bose dock bit the dust? Remember how mad I would get when I’d put you on shuffle, and you’d pick the same “random” songs every time?

But iPod, I’m not kidding — I love you, man. You were around before I had kids, when I used to party all the time. They called me the Music Nazi because I didn’t feel like a social gathering was complete unless you were front and center, spitting out jams from the My Top Rated playlist.

You’ve gone from the forefront to the background and now back to the forefront. These days, you have to compete with Barney, Kipper and Caillou for background noise in the room. Soon, I might have to silence your Geto Boys and all your ’90s West Coast gangsta sheet, but right now we’re kickin’ it like it’s the good ol’ days.

I both love and hate how you’re frozen in time. When you first came around, I had to load all your songs from my roommate’s Mac. I went crazy, cycling through all my old CDs and begging any friend who gave me a ride home to bring their CDs inside so I could stock you. I checked out 20 CDs from the library at a time so you’d be more full-bodied.

I thought I was being discriminating at the time, but now I wish I would’ve hidden more guilty pleasures in your 30-gig canon. Why did I think in 2006 that I’d never want to hear “Round and Round” by Tevin Campbell again in my life? I love that song.

Inevitably, there will be loss. One day, you will die or get dropped in the toilet or maybe even be stolen by a visiting Jehovah’s Witness with questionable morals. And on that day, I will be sad, inconsolable and probably too broke to immediately buy your replacement. But let’s enjoy what we have while we have it.

So how about we do a shuffle right now? Ready? Okay… What? Wilson Phillips?! Ah, you know me too well, iPod.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah with a Funsaver camera. I can't wait till she's old enough to look at this picture and ask, "Daddy, what the heck is that thing?"


Old MacDonald redux

February 24, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog post is being written a day late, while — no joke — Andrew cooks three pounds of processed chicken breast in the oven.

Sarah has been singing “Old MacDonald” nonstop for an hour now. Which got me to thinking, the producers of the movie Food Inc. should rewrite it and ruin it for all the sweet, naive kids out there. I don’t have the time or ability to complete a full-bodied parody, but the general idea is this:

Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O
And on that farm he had a cow.
E-I-E-I-O
And the cow spent his whole life with hundreds of other cows in a poorly ventilated building, being fed chemicalized byproducts, unable to turn around. And the unattended cow waste piled up, and by the time he was slaughtered, he was standing ankle-deep in cow feces.
E-I-E-I-O
With a moo moo here, and a moo moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O

Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O
And on that farm he had a chick.
E-I-E-I-O
And the chicken was genetically engineered so it would reach maximum breast-heavy growth by six weeks, and disease-ridden chickens fell dead all around him and were left to rot, and migrant workers came in the middle of the night to cram him and his buddies into cages so their connective tissue could be ground into breaded slurry nuggets.
E-I-E-I-O
With a peep peep here and a peep peep there.
Here a peep, there a peep, everywhere a peep peep.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
E-I-E-I-O

Old MacDonald, by the way, has a contract with Tyson Foods that put him hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, made him into an indentured servant and only earns him about $18,000 each year for his 80 hours a week of work.
Old MacDonald is plenty screwed.
E-I-E-I-O


Linda the ho-bot

February 23, 2011

Andrew Hicks

In the interest of continuity (for those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile), I should mention it’s been almost six months since The Event, and I’m still not back to work. Oh, I’m working around the house — dishes, cooking, vacuuming, laundry and multitasking the double-baby situation — but none of that draws a paycheck or cash tips. I won’t get to exploit all this family work until I’m close to death and need one of these lucky kids to change my bedpan or something.

So it’s about time to go back to waiting on people (unless YOU — yes, YOU — want to pay me to write stuff), since the injured ankle is almost healed. My movement is still restricted, I still have pain at the end of the day, and I never should’ve walked in the snow earlier this month. Also, if you break your ankle in September, and in February, your 2 year old begs you to get on the trampoline and jump with her, don’t do it. You will look foolish, you will ache, and you will regret it. But I’m feeling good, I’m writing, and I’m still not drinking.

I do owe some people some money, though. Can’t lie about that. I get all kinds of robocalls I don’t answer every day. Most don’t leave a message. Some leave an automessage that is joined in progress once my voicemail starts recording. And then, there’s Linda. Linda is a collectorbot who calls and leaves the same 12-second voice message a half-dozen times a day. Crazy thing is, every time I get a Linda message, it originates from a different area code. You know that Ludacris song about having hoes in different area codes? Well, for one ho, Linda is in 124 area codes and counting. That’s impressive, Linda. But annoying.

My birthday’s this Sunday, and already I’ve gotten a card from my mom with a very generous check in it. This proves once again that the most thoughtful gift anyone can give is a lump sum of cash. Made my day. Not a word of this to Linda, anybody.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

This caption has yet to be written.