Leaving Home

“We gathered up our worldly goods, stole off in the dark, quickly as we could”

So I left Charleston. The world hasn’t collapsed. In fact, I think it’s gotten better. My wife accepted a job in Tennessee. We bought a house and moved here on the first of July. 6 weeks later and I’m feeling pretty solid about the move. My kid now has room to run around a yard and play. I’m not coming in late at night. I’m waking up early and making my kid breakfast every day. I putter around the house. I clean. I do yard work. I watch a sprinkler. And I’m calm. There’s no stress. Nothing to bother me. I get together with one of my best friends and his 3 boys and have play dates. I see my Inlaws (who live up the street) and have dinner with them. I sort of think that boring might just be good. I bought a lawn mower. I looked at bedroom sets. I watched the stars. I signed up for classes at the University of Tennessee. I’m happy. Thank you.

“And I apologize but I don’t know what I love more, you next to me there or the receding shore”

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“The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is Often Unbearable”

Milestones 

I looked at the temperature gauge quizzically. How was smoke pouring out of the smoker but not able to get to that 185-190 degree Fahrenheit temperature that I like to smoke at? A couple of troubleshoot activities I ran through. It wasn’t my smoker and I had only used it once before. So I rechecked all my connections. The smoker box wasn’t totally attached to the cabinet. So I made sure to reattach it and waited. For a moment it seemed my problem had resolved itself. The smoker temperature was climbing. Yet I was only able to get it to around 115 degrees. This would be a problem because I was smoking Boston Butts and needed them to reach 175 to 180 degrees. I knew I was going to have to enlist my back up plan and throw them on the grill and smoke them that way. So I pulled out the grill, quickly washed the grates, replaced them, opened the hood, cut on the gas and went to fire this sucker up. Click. Click. Click. Great. Some asshole (me) forgot to replace the gas when he used it up last. 18 hours until my daughter’s first birthday and birthday party and things weren’t going well.


My wife and I had decided that we should throw a party for my daughter’s first birthday. We had kicked around a couple of ideas and finally settled on having it at the Oyster Catcher Community Center on Seabrook. The rate to rent it was fairly low, and I figured I’d make all the food for the event so we wouldn’t have to pay to have it catered. On top of that, if the weather was nice there was a swimming pool and the beach was a boardwalk away. So we made a guest list and it got a little out of hand and so I made the trip to Costco to get supplies.

Luckily I had a backup gas canister. I mean, letting one go empty is not the end of the world when you’ve got yourself a backup. Click. Click. Shit. Some asshole (me) had also used up that canister without getting it refilled. So I jumped into my truck, gassed it out the driveway, and probably scared my neighbors in the process. I run to the closest filling station and trade out my empties. No problem. I’ve scheduled some time into food preparation for these types of crises, I just have to be diligent about my time use from now on. I take the wood pellets I was going to use in the smoker and stack them up in a foil packet and place them on one of the burners and get them going. I trick the grill into holding a little over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a little hotter than I’d like but it will do. I walk in the house to prepare the sides. We’ve decided to have potato salad with the Barbeque (Barbeque is a proper noun) sandwiches I’m currently smoking the meat for. I course cut a large bowl of red potatoes and throw them in a large bowl. I fill a pot with water, put it on my stove top and…. Click. Click. Click. Oh come the fuck on. How did the large tank in front of the house run out of gas? This time it was not my fault, rather the company that services our house’s tank. Luckily, the stove was electric. It looks like it’s going to be a roasted potato salad.

Despite everything going wrong that could go wrong, the wife and I were able to jointly get a meal out for the 60 expected people that had RSVP’d “Yes” to our daughter’s birthday party. The party would go off without any major incidents or meltdowns. My Inlaws, my parents, my wife, and my 3 sisters along with myself all seemed to enjoy ourselves and didn’t even bicker at our normal level. It probably helped that there was a lot of children, ages 5 and under, at the party. By the time it was over I was sending plates and containers full of Barbeque with folks. Only about half of those who RSVP’d “Yes” actually attended.  


It was a very nice day and I was full of pork but I had to come to the realization that my baby was now a year old. She had spoken her first word a few days earlier (despite my best efforts to get her to say “Tar Heels” it came out “dad”) and would be walking in the week following the party. And I get it, as a parent you want your child to develop, learn, and share with you, but selfishly part of you wishes that they would always fit on one arm or snuggle up under your chin when they sleep. And while I would hardly call the process “unbearable” as my Bukowski inspired title would suggest to you, I do write this with tears in my eyes. Both happy and sad for my little baby.

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“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

Introspective thoughts late at night after too much coffee.

I was recently speaking with a friend about our fathers. Like most conversations worth a damn, it was early in the morning and fueled by a couple pints of beer. My friend brought up a really solid point about my father that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

During the course of our conversation I mentioned how when growing up we had a lot of books in our house. We had multiple built in book shelves, and the room I slept in we had 3 more large free standing bookshelves. My parents also took us quite often to the library and let us check out stacks of books. I’m pretty sure my parents were aware that I was sneaking in extra reading under my covers at night growing up. I also mentioned that my parents had saved a few of their college text books which came in handy for school projects growing up. I always thought that was a great resource and had saved quite a number of my books from college for the same reason. My friend then asked me what my father read.

It took me a minute to think about the question. I have very vivid memories of reading as a child with him. One of my most clear memories from growing up is reading “The Swiss Family Robinson” with him. But reading for himself? The only publications I could remember him reading were ENR (Engineering News Record, a trade magazine that my sisters and I had zero interest in), the newspaper, and college textbooks. I went on to tell my friend that both of my parents took classes at the local community college throughout my years growing up. I can to this day remember my mother bringing me into her computer labs while she learned auto cad and my father studying Spanish at the dining room table.

 

my father, my little sister, and me around 1986

 
My friend was quiet for a moment and then said something I had never thought of. He said “wow that’s really cool. I’m sure you and your sisters watching your parents continue their education as adults really instilled a sense of the importance of education into you at an early age”. 

This was my first thought that rushed to my head; how do I make sure that I instill this value into my child? How do I make sure to show her that education is really important and one of the keys to a better life?  

I examined myself. I know I can do better to learn more. I have been coasting for a couple of years now outside of the classroom. I still read a decent amount but not as much as I’d like. But I do have many interests that I could go to the local community college and explore more (auto mechanics, graphic design, computer programming, culinary arts, etc). I’ve also thought about going back to school and getting a certificate or masters in therapy. So these are now my 5 year goals. To make sure that I’ve spent some time learning new skills over this time. My wife, who works full time, and still takes time to help me out a ton with parenting and housework can make time to read both for pleasure and continuing education. If she can do it so can I. And hopefully our child sees that with education, the world is there for you to explore.  

  

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Tiny Tim and his Crippled Leg: 

I was able to get the surgery I’ve been talking about scheduled and finally had it on the 18th. To recap it was to fix the varicose veins in my right leg. The timing was both good and bad. It was good because apparently after your wife has a kid you’ve met your deductible for the year. It was bad because my wife and child would be out of town going on job interviews (our child stayed with her Grandparents during them).  
  

Luckily I have 3 amazing sisters and 2 of them live in Charleston or North Charleston (the third is in DC for you who were curious). They were super helpful, and shuttled me to and from surgery and subsequent appointments. My friends Kathleen, Samantha, Brett, and Mike all kept me company while I was recovering.  

See after the surgery I felt great! Maybe it was the Xanax I was on but I felt like a million bucks. We got out and I insisted that I take my sister out to lunch. We went to 5 Loaves in Mount Pleasant, waited in line, and had a really nice lunch (5 Loaves is one of my favorite lunch spots). My sister dropped me off at home and I went about my day, doing some dishes, washing some laundry, and later my friend Mike picked me up.  

Mike is my best friend but we don’t get to see each other as much as I’d like. He has 3 sons himself and works in schools so he has a much different schedule than me. Still we were both excited to see the 7th installment of a film series we both grew up on. No, not Star Wars, we went and saw Creed, the latest in the Rocky franchise. It was a really well made film and the best of the Rocky films since the first one. We chatted about the movie and he drove me home.

The next day I thought I had been hit by Adonis Creed. I couldn’t really walk. I was able to hobble to the front door to open it when my friend Samantha came over. My sister then showed up with a bottle of extra strength Tylenol and an assortment of Gatorade. These would prove to save my life. I would go in and out of sleep while my friends were over. I felt like a terrible host but that’s the nice thing about friends. They don’t really mind.  

  

This routine went on for a couple days. My leg would hurt in the morning and less at night. I would fall in and out of sleep. My feeding habits got progressively worse, ordering food from anyone that would bring it to me.
Finally, yesterday I had enough. I had an appointment that my sister once again drove me to. She picked me up, brought me to my house, did the dishes and took out the trash for me (this sister is 7 months pregnant. Nothing makes you feel like an ineffectual older brother like having your very pregnant sister taking out the trash for you). When she finished we hugged and said our goodbyes and I sat back down on my bed. I thought to myself “I might as well drive halfway to my Inlaws house today so it’s not such a long drive”. Here’s the problem. I was using an 8 Iron as a crutch and couldn’t really walk. But whatever. I “packed” a bag (I might have to get some shirts here) and headed out the door. Around North Charleston I hit my first traffic. A semi truck cut me off forcing me to stand on my brake pedal in order not to hit him. That was painful. But that was my only bad experience with traffic. I used cruise control to get halfway. By halfway I figured, might as well go all the way. I had to stop for gas though so I pulled my truck as close as I could to the pump, and sort of used the pump and the truck to brace myself up.  
  
Once I got to my Inlaws it was totally worth it. My little girl gave me the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and cooed with excitement. There is no better present I could have than the love of my daughter. She is my everything.

  

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Kitchen Confidential: I used to cook?

After my freshman year of high school I got my first paying taxes job. I got hired on to work in the kitchen of the local pool’s snack bar. I worked making burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, nachos, etc. The job payed minimum hourly wage, but the perks were awesome. They let me eat as much as I wanted to. 

 This started me on a long path of working food and bev jobs. I’ve worked many different positions in F&B, but mostly as a bartender. Still, I consider myself a pretty decent cook (I know I’m not on the level of the professional chefs or line cooks in this town. You guys rock), and it is my favorite hobby. Most family gatherings you can find me in the kitchen or over a grill cooking for everyone. I love cooking for large groups but I also really enjoy cooking for just me and my wife.  I make most of the meals we eat at home.  

Or I used to make most of our meals at home. Now with the kid, cooking has become much more difficult. Lunch, when I’m by myself, has become much harder of a chore. I’ve started one hand cooking. Which means I’m holding the baby with one arm, and trying to make myself food with the other. If I’m smart, and have planned ahead, this isn’t so bad, “That gazpacho I made yesterday? Perfect for lunch”. When I haven’t planned ahead it’s more like “hmm… I wonder if I can make a couple hard boiled eggs and have some carrot sticks?”. And when I haven’t slept or planned ahead, “it looks like I’m eating a handful of nuts and this granola bar that may have been packaged when N’Sync was popular”. So what I’m really trying to say with this blog post is: feel free to bring me some food. This fat kid is starving.

This is how I pack for family gatherings

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I’ve been first and last, Look at how the time goes past: Father’s Day

This Father’s Day I woke up early to attend Church with my wife and daughter. It was my child’s first time attending church, and my second time attending my wife’s church. Normally, as an atheist, I wouldn’t go. I have nothing against going to church or Mass (I will go with my parents to Mass because it makes them happy), it is just not something I have any interest in. The reason I had an interest today was because I learned that at 10am, the downtown church’s would all be ringing their bells in support of Mother Emanuel, the parishioners there, and the 9 people who lost their lives.  

  

Growing up in the Catholic Church, and going to Catholic schools, I was taught from a young age to be socially active. Part of our education was to do community and church volunteer work. I became an alter boy as soon as I could. I also would go on mission trips with our church’s Monsignor (Father Allen) where we would bring clothes, food, school supplies, baby products, etc to the poor. The Catholic Church that I belonged to was also unique in the fact that it had a priest who was married. Father Kuhn was one of the few priests in the world that was married with the blessing of Pope John Paul II. These two priests were hugely influential on my upbringing, advocating for various social issues (promoting racial equality, advocating on the part of prisoners, helping the poor, being church leaders that were vocal in their support of Gays and Lesbians, etc). And while I may be an atheist today, I feel like Fathers Allen and Kuhn would be comfortable knowing that I took away these lessons.

So today when I attended church with my wife I was pleasantly surprised to see my wife’s pastor speak on topics of social importance. He called for a ban on guns, the removal of hateful symbols, and an openness to dialogue about race. And while I disagree with him about some things (I would’ve called for the removal of the flag of the army of Northern Virginia from statehouse grounds and told my parishioners that to vote for someone that supports it is morally wrong), it was nice to see leaders in our community take a stance.

Father’s Day was a fairly somber day this year, but sometimes the best days, the days where you feel like you and your community have moved forward, are. Don’t forget the people that were shot in a church because of the color of their skin. Pass meaningful legislation, now, and remove that flag. And promise to not vote for politicians who continue to support it and call to remove state employees who support symbols of hate.  I’m talking about you Glen McConnell and Nikki Haley.

*update:  Nikki Haley finally does what a rational person would’ve done decades ago.

  

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It’s the end of the world as we know it: dad rock

Episode 12:
So at what point do you get old and stop listening to popular music? And I don’t mean downloading the newest T. Swift or Black Eyed Peas made for the radio bullshit.  I mean at what point do you stop discovering bands that are a little under the radar that make the type of music that touches you where only Father O’Bryan used to touch you, the soul?  

I’ve got friends from multiple age groups but the people that are my best friends are from about 27-37. At this point we’ve pretty much settled into the types of things we like. Dinosaur Jr, Lucero, and Bob Dylan aren’t moving off my favorite music list anytime soon. And I’m most likely not picking up the newest Skrillex album at Virgin records (wait that sentence doesn’t make sense to anyone under the age of 30). But that being said, I try to keep abreast of the music that the 21-25 year old crowd is listening to. I work at a bar (the Upper Deck Tavern, 353B King St 29401) where the average age of our customer is about 26. I want to stay current, but then again the movies I’m most looking forward to this summer are about NWA and The Beach Boys. I’m a guy clearly stuck in the past.

I really hope my daughter will appreciate music that I think is good. In 1994 my father really was excited about Woodstock ’94. He and I were going to buy an old mail jeep together and drive it up and see the concert. When the original ’69 Woodstock happened my father had already been drafted. I think he wanted that experience of three days of peace, love, and rock and roll. I was more than happy to go with him. I was a weird kid though. In ’94 I was less concerned with pop music and was more focused on old blues, punk rock, and hard rock albums. My mom ultimately put a stop to us going and insisted we order the concert on pay per view (the most punk rock thing an adolescent could do). I stayed up watching and recording all the concerts. My dad and I watched those VHS tapes a couple times over.  

When I was a senior in high school my dad wrote me a letter telling me that one of the things he was proud of me for was the fact that I listened to complex music. I hope I will offer the same praise to my daughter one day. I know my dad didn’t understand some of the stuff I listened to but at least he gave it a shot. I hope that as my daughter gets older she listens to stuff I’ve never heard of in genres yet to be discovered. And I hope, like my old man, I’m big enough to give it a shot.

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