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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Mr. Sandman, Bring me a Dream

Sleep monitors and sound machines

So after all of these months the kid is finally beginning to sleep for the majority of the night in her crib. The problem I’ve now found is the fact that I can’t sleep.   

I wish I got sleep these days. Unfortunately we have electronics running our lives. We have a baby monitor with sound and a sound machine in the babies room. My wife is convinced that the sound machine helps the baby sleep. I hate the fucking thing. It’s “beach” sounds that just sound terrible. I think it’s driving me insane.  

Added into the mix we have Hugo the cat. Hugo the cat has decided that whenever I was going to fall asleep he’ll do one of three things. 1) Yell in my face. My 5lbs cat rivals any mythological Irish banshees for pure volume. He is a Jucifer concert, devil orange cat. 2) Decide he wasn’t to sleep on my face, then under the covers, then not under the covers, where he will decide that my balls seem like a comfortable resting spot. And finally 3) He’s also elderly and sometimes will just decide to not wash himself so he’ll stink to high heaven. It’s a good thing I love the little fucker.  
  
  
 

Usually by this point in the night now my kid has decided to move into bed with us. So either my wife and I try and rock her and feed her back to sleep or she comes in with us. Where she notices the cat and now is really no longer ever interested in sleeping but now trying to play with the cat (who is nervously making circles on my balls).  

Maybe we got lucky. And the kid didn’t see the cat. And it’s 2am and I’m about to fall asleep. Ah, tonight’s going to be a good night. Nope, psyche, now some asshole is driving his or her car down the street hammered drunk. The high revving engine has woken us all up and I look out the window to see them dragging a bumper down the street. Or maybe it’s the hipster asshole on the Honda motorcycle driving it home with crimped pipes and no muffler. Or maybe it’s the drunk college kids coming to my door wondering if there’s a party going on here (GPS coordinates often give my address as the address for a different house, in a different part of town) despite the lack of noise or lights coming from my house. Thanks frat bro.

Someone get me some sleep….

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Santa Claus is Coming To Town: Baby’s First Christmas

So last I left you fearless readers, I had made it to my Inlaws to see my wife and daughter for Christmas. The next few days would be a whirlwind.  

So one of the nice things about heading to my Inlaws house is, they are head over heals for my child and love to babysit. That meant the wife and I got to have a date night! Another couple that was in town to visit family (who are good friends of ours), my wife’s sister and her husband, and the two of us had decided to go to dinner together. We decided to check out one of the local spots, checking out online reviews and menus and eventually settling on “The Texas Roadhouse”. In my head I thought that this was going to be the greatest dining experience of my life.  Also, I was hoping to see Dalton (shorter than I expected).  The menus online looked ridiculous. The drink menu more than anything else. The other guys were in the same mindset as me going into this experience and our wives pretty much just thought (correctly) that we are a bunch of idiots. So I got ready for our date night by putting on my cleanest t-shirt. Unfortunately my leg was still hurting like hell and so my wife said that she’d drive instead of us taking an Uber. So I climbed in the back seat and away we went. We were meeting our friends there at 5:30, because apparently we were going to eat at the same time as most 80 year olds. I didn’t think anything of it, the Texas Roadhouse being a chain and having roughly 200 tables I assumed we would have no trouble getting one. Thankfully, one of the other guys had called ahead and made a reservation because the Texas Roadhouse was packed to the gills. At 5:30. On a Tuesday.  

My friends had already been seated and we met them at the booth. I was limping along quite nicely at this point as I climbed into the booth. My friend Pat looks at me and says “hey man, the service is a little slow, if you want a drink you might as well order two at a time”. So after looking over the drink menu I decided that the only sensible thing to drink was the specialty craft cocktail, “The Jamaican Cowboy” which was a margarita mixed with Malibu rum. My brother in law, Matt, ordered the Hurricane Margarita, which was a margarita mixed with rum (I’m just saying their craft cocktail menu was so on point). The ladies ordered beers, like a bunch of fools. The drinks came, after several mistakes, about 30 minutes later. It was no big deal, we were sitting and talking and having a good time, but now I was wondering if I should’ve listened to Pat about double ordering. 

  
 
Luckily I didn’t, and was making my way very slowly through my goblet of frozen delectable drink when we placed our food order. My leg was still really smarting. I ordered a steak with the fresh vegetables and applesauce sides. It took a bit for all of our food to come out and by the time it did, I really wasn’t hungry. The pain in my leg overtook how hungry I was. I was feeling downright miserable. I took like 2 bites of my steak, ate all my applesauce (like a big boy), and didn’t touch my “fresh vegetables” which came to the table covered in plastic, to which the wait staff apologized over and over for and insisted that they were “fresh” (despite the fact that I wasn’t complaining or anything). My wife is a vegetarian and got a couple of sides and had noticed me not eating, drinking, and looking miserable. She saved me. She gave her credit card to her sister and told her that we had to go. I apologized to everyone and we left the restaurant (don’t worry, her sister got my food in a to go box and I ate the steak in the morning with eggs). I felt terrible for having to end date night early, especially with friends who we get to see so rarely.  

why does this place have a mascot?

The next day my wife’s family all gets together at my Inlaws home for a large holiday meal. Many of her aunts and uncles live in the area and they all come for it, a total of about 30 people. My mother in law had asked me to make the turkey for dinner but after hearing of my condition (not really being able to walk) she switched duties with me and put me in charge of making some appetizers. Going back to my time in Memphis, I decided that a smoked meat and cheese plate would be a hit along with a olive and pickle plate (along with about the easiest thing in the world to make).  

Everyone came over and we ate all the food we could and talked and had a good time. One of my wife’s cousins has a little girl who’s about 3 and she and I hung out quite a bit and had some interesting conversations. She also ran around the house while I tried to keep up (while looking like Lurch). I hadn’t taken any Tylenol or anything the day before and I think that contributed to me feeling so awful, although I still wasn’t feeling great by any means. It was still really great to see everyone, and everyone was excited to see and hold my child.  

  She was grinning ear to ear as she was passed around between all the relatives. Since it didn’t get cold in the south over Christmas, she ended up out of her Christmas dress and just crawling around in her green draws. It was super cute.

  

So the next day I woke up really late in the day. There was a bunch of stuff that I really wanted to do at the last minute (buying little stocking stuffers) but now my leg was back to being really painful. My wife is a doctor (although she specializes in something much different) so I called her in to look at my leg. It was pretty red at this point. She and I were pretty sure that I had developed cellulitis. One of my best friends is an ER doctor in the area and I called her and asked her opinion as well. She said that I should go into the ER and that she’d call ahead and get a room set up for me. So, Christmas Eve, we headed to the ER. It wasn’t the first holiday where someone in my family has been to the ER, but hopefully it’s the last one.
 

Where’s Clooney?

 
So I get to the ER and get checked out by the doctor. We get my doc in Charleston on the line because she’s on call and she explains to the ER Doctor what procedure I was done on me. The ER Doctor looks at my leg and says “well it’s either cellulitis or a blood clot” and orders some blood work and some imaging of my leg. About 45 minutes later the tech comes and does the imaging on my leg. The results come back. It’s a new clot.  

This clot is bigger, deeper, and more deadly than my last clot. So, yeah, Merry Fuckin’ Christmas to me. Still, it could be worse, I could have to stay in the hospital and miss my daughters first Christmas, but they give me a prescription for blood thinners and put me on pain medication (non opiate thankfully. That stuff makes everything worse I feel like). I take the pain medication and feel better pretty soon thereafter.  

So we return home and my wife being the Saint that she is runs out on Christmas Eve to the local Walgreens and get my prescriptions filled. The stockings get stuffed and the presents wrapped and we all go to bed so Santa can come. My wife and kid are sleeping in her childhood room, while I’m in her parents office on the pull out couch. Her childhood bed isn’t made for two people, especially when one of those people is 6’6 and weighs 225lbs. Christmas Eve is hot. And stormy. It is thundering and lightning out. I open a window because I’m burning up. The combination of the storm and the medication gives me crazy dreams and I toss and turn all night. In the morning, I get up and I’m excited. I didn’t sleep well, I was in the ER the day before, I didn’t get to eat my steak, but none of that matters. It’s Christmas with my daughter. It’s her very first Christmas. And Santa has brought her all sorts of gifts because there has been no one better.
  
My daughter ended up getting all sorts of stuff at my Inlaws house. It was a good thing that we had brought two vehicles and both had to get packed up by noon. Now the wife and I were going to do something we’ve never done as a couple together on Christmas, go to my parents house.  

My parents recently moved (back) to Charlotte after moving away in 1999. It is nice because my Inlaws are only about 4 hours away so we were able to go to my parents for dinner on Christmas. I got to my parents house first. Two of my sisters, their husbands, and one of my nephews were already there (along with everyone’s puppies). My wife and daughter arrived soon afterwards and we all sat down to a great meal that my mother had cooked. After dinner, in a break from tradition in our house, we opened the presents here. Virginia got even more gifts and it was a lot of fun to watch her and my nephew get really excited about their new toys and books. And Santa brought even more stocking stuff which was really nice, and my father gave me a gift which I plan on using a bunch over the next few weeks, my grandfathers cane.
  
So despite the large amount of pain I’m in, the fact that I have to meet with my vascular doc again in Charleston, I have to say, this was the greatest Christmas I’ve ever had. I hope you good reader had a really nice one as well, and I’ll see you in 2016.

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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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Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight: Infidels of love and religion in Memphis

This month has once again brought lots of travel. The rental car guy and I are on a first name basis at this point in the year. I’m currently writing this blog post while stuck in Greenville as my wife spends her weekend working a moonlighting position. The weekend before we were in Memphis attending the wedding of friends of ours.  

 
 

the rental car

 

My friends Laura and Evan decided to get hitched a couple of months ago. I’ve known them both for a number of years. Laura and I went to college together and Evan and I worked together. Evan is the person I refer to as my little brother, despite our lack of blood relatives and the fact that he’s a pretty big dude. So while on my last trip to Memphis, Evan and Laura asked me to officiate their ceremony. I am an ordained minister, which is not a fact that I readily tell most people. It usually involves quite a lot of questions because I’m also an atheist. But I have performed a wedding ceremony in the past, a ceremony which Evan also attended and got the idea that I should speak in front of his new family.

So the wife and I began to prepare for this weekend. Tracy started pumping and freezing extra breast milk as my Inlaws said that they would watch our child. She bought herself a sensible dress that she could also wear to work and I got a couple of my suits dry cleaned. And then I had to write what I was going to not only tell the couple on their wedding day, but what I was going to tell their families.

Laura and Evan both have family members that are Deep South religion. They are conservative, right wing, bible thumpers. I’m pretty sure the preacher father from Footloose would be somewhere in attendance for this wedding.  

So I asked some friends for advice. One of my greatest friends and influences in life is ordained as a Southern Baptist minister. He has a masters degree in theology (among his multiple masters degrees) and I turned to him for answers I had regarding the ceremony. I also was able to turn to my sister, a practicing Catholic, for advice. And finally, from the wedding I performed before for two other (atheist) friends, I just copied their vows. In the end I (we all) came up with a pretty good speech.  

So I packed up the car. I managed to pack my entire closet I’m pretty sure. I normally pride myself in my ability to pack light. This was not the case. We had also rented a Ford Escape, which turned out to have (much) less interior room than our Toyota sedan we normally drive. We had this sucker packed between me, the wife, and the kid. We got on the road and headed to Knoxville. There we spent the night and dropped the kid off with her grandparents.   

Grandpa and Baby

They were excited to watch her a weekend, we were pretty excited about sleeping through the night and having some alone time. This was the first time my wife would leave our kid overnight. So then we went to Memphis to meet up with the wedding party.

The first night we were there we stayed at the groom’s house. We had the rehearsal and then the dinner. Afterwards the bride had taxed us with keeping Evan on the straight and narrow.  

Bride, Groom, Officiant

 
I learned the day of the rehearsal that the wedding procedure was going to be left to me. Which temporarily caused an “oh shit” moment. But, with years of bartending lessons to have learned from, I faked it and everyone seemed to think I knew what I was talking about.

After the rehearsal, the dinner was at Andrew Michael’s Italian Kitchen. The wife and I made an agreement that I would drive Friday night and she would drive Saturday, after the wedding. The food there was fantastic, once again (I wrote about a dining experience there in another blog post). It was a 5 course meal that they pulled off for 53 people.  

The next day Evan and I were up at 7am for haircuts and breakfast. Well, he was up for a haircut. Because of the medicine I’m on I can’t shave (see the other blog posts about this). Because I can’t shave I also have kept my hair long. I currently look like the cover of Bob Dylan’s album “Infidels”.  

We get to the salon where one of my old regulars from Memphis, and one of Evan’s current is cutting hair. Rob is a throw back barber. He gives fantastic cuts and shaves, and does so while telling (in)appropriate barber shop joke.  

Rob might also be the inspiration for a character from “The Simpsons”

  The groomsmen broke out the beer at this point (8:30am) and started drinking, laughing, and generally doing a great job of releasing any pre wedding anxiety Evan might have. Around 9:30 or 10 two 12 year old boys came in with their dad. I’m pretty sure they were going back to school on Monday with a new vocabulary.  

After the barber shop we headed out to the wedding site, but not before stopping to grab a TV from one of the groomsmen’s houses. See, the other big thing going on in Memphis that day was the Old Miss / Memphis football game. Memphis has a pretty decent team this year and it seemed like an upset might occur of a mighty SEC team and the city was a buzz with excitement. Memphis is a city where maybe 20% of the population pulls for the Tigers, 20% for the Volunteers, 20% for Old Miss, 20% for Alabama, and 20% for Arkansas. So for that 1/5 to finally be even in a game with an SEC team was a big deal. The Tigers ended up wining, pulling the upset, and moving into the top 25. 

Evan, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews

 
After watching the game (I mean getting dressed) we went for photos.  

Wedding Party

  Evan saw Laura and the water works flowed. And then came my moment.  Err, Laura and Evan’s moment.

I was able to mix in stories about my dealings with Evan and Laura, with information that they had given me about how they felt around each other. I was able to pull from multiple religious texts (start quoting the Quran at a wedding in rural Tennessee. I dare you. I did it.). I’m an atheist, however, I’m smart enough to know that religious texts do offer some relevant advice on how to be a good and just person. 

The ceremony went over well and I believe everyone was happy with the service. Afterwards at the reception everyone danced to old Stax hits, ate hot chicken, and drank wine (or maybe bourbon from an inside suit pocket).  

That Diet Coke can might have had Bourbon in it…

  Then we wished the couple well, said our goodbyes and went and slept all night long. We got up early, jumped in the car, and were ready to be reunited with our daughter.  We had missed her, being away for 2 days had seemed like 2 weeks.

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Viral matters

At what point does social media make a difference? When I heard about the “ice bucket challenge” I asked the young woman who was explaining it to me, “what is it raising awareness for”. She checked her smart phone and came back with her answer a minute later. She informed me it was to raise awareness for a sick baseball player (in reality it was to raise awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). When a well meaning friend nominated me as a participant, I figured donating money to local charities was a better use of my time and money.

The “ice bucket challenge” is just one example. We’ve had so many hashtags and social movements on social media they’ve all become so watered down. The latest I’ve seen, #masculinitysofragile, had become watered down from its original intent within a matter of hours it seemed.  

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites are really cool. They allow you to share information so quickly with such a large group of people. But sometimes, just remember to look up the actual studies. Check that meme you saw on a fact checking site. And always remember: #Kony2012

  
 

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