Archive for August, 2009

The Sex Talk

August 29, 2009

 The girls and I were watching the Colts preseason game last week.  A commercial came on that featured a man and a woman.  Carly looked at me and said, “Is this one of those boner pill ads?”  I wanted to laugh out loud.  I did laugh out loud.  It was a credit card ad.  The thing you use to pay for the boner pills.  I’m glad she is comfortable asking me questions like that.  I see she inherited my straight forward approach to life.  There was no beating around the bush…no pun intended.  When I was seventeen I would never have asked my parents that question.  I turned inside out if a tampon commercial came on when I was watching TV with my family.  We just didn’t have that kind of relationship.

When I was in Jr. High my mom walked into my room and gave me a book called, How Babies are Made.  She asked me to read it and if I had any questions I could ask her.   Thanks to Playboy, Penthouse and weekly conversations with friends I had a grasp on that concept without the aid of paper mache illustrations from her book.  Yep, she put her teenage son’s sex education in the hands of a book that depicted chickens made of construction paper “doing it”.  To think my wife wonders why I’m weird.  I don’t even remember if there any pictures of humans.  I flipped it open just to see what they had to say.  To…see what there was to see.  Were there any pictures of naked women that were better than the Playboys we had stashed in our tree house?  When I saw paper mache chickens I closed the book and never opened it again.  No matter how hard I try I can’t get those images out of my mind.  That brief encounter with her book had the opposite effect.  Though I do prefer chicken over beef when it comes to meals…and I love the feel of down filled pillows…I mean I really love them.

When I was in high school my dad took a stab at educating me.  We were driving to my grandmother’s farm.  OMG she had chickens…no wonder I loved going there!  Any way he asked me if I had any questions about sex.  I said no and asked him if he had any that I could answer.  He said no and that was the end of that.  Those two brief conversations were all they offered me. 

I vowed it would not be that way when I had kids.  I wanted them to be comfortable asking me anything.  So their education started when they were small.  When Carly was in first grade I was driving her to a sleep over.  We were talking about something unrelated when out of the blue she said, “Dad I get that a woman has eggs and a man has sperm, but how does the sperm get in there?  Does it crawl across the covers and hop in while the mom is sleeping”?  I said, “Only when I get home really late at night and I’m the one who crawls across the covers.”  Kidding I didn’t say that.  I took a deep breath and told her the truth.  We finished that talk about the time we arrived at the sleep over.  I asked her to please not make this a topic of conversation that night.  Then I gave the host mom a heads up about our conversation.  She was less than thrilled.  I think her idea of car ride conversations revolved around radio Disney play lists.

Back to the ads, how did they come up with those plots?  Who approved them?  A couple on a beach at sunset, each has their own bath tub.  The tubs are close enough they are holding hands.  Bath tubs on the beach?  Really?   Call me naïve, but I fail to see the symbolism.  Then again my education came from Hugh Heffner.

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Dinner at Three

August 25, 2009

My dad turns 75 August 28th.  My step mom wanted to throw a surprise party for him.  So she made the reservations before asking everyone when they could make it into town.

Surprise!  No one can make it until later.  I have a brother and a sister.  One lives three hours away and the other is four hours away.  Both have families.  Both will be here but, none of us can make it until later.  So, when the confetti drops and the balloons go up my dad will be celebrating his birthday without any of his kids.  What time was the reservation you ask?  Three PM…for dinner.  Who eats dinner at three PM you ask?  As far as I know just babies and people who are fed by a tube.  

My dad is still a fully functional adult who, as far as I know, doesn’t wear diapers again.  He also still enjoys meals that require teeth.  So I’m thinking that he doesn’t fall into the early meal category.  They aren’t going to a show later in the evening so… the only reason she is planning this meal at three is to be at the restaurant with my dad and a couple of friends.  That’s called a dinner party, not a surprise party.  They normally eat dinner at eight-thirty.  Then they sit in their chairs and watch TV until midnight as the fat builds up on their mid section.  They doze and digest until it’s time for bed after Conan’s monolog.  They watch TV loud too.  They probably need to because all of the blood has rushed away from their ears and brain to help digest the giant late meal.  If you compare the decibels of an indoor Ted Nugent concert, airport noise, and CSI Miami on their TV, I bet Ted would come in first, with their living room running a close second. They are at the stage of their lives where they argue about the weather forecast.  Their short term memory isn’t sharp enough to remember dates I give them, but it’s good enough to remember minor details that invite debate…day in and day out.  I wish my step mom remembered that most families with kids have mid day activities.  Some of those activities can’t be missed, like auditions, all star games, etc.

We asked if she could move the reservations.  She said, “No” she wanted to do this early.  I’m trying to find the logic in eating dinner at three.  It’s not Sunday, in the south.  They aren’t going to a show later in the evening.  Their idea of going to a show is putting in a DVD after dinner.   They “travel” from the dinner table to their chairs in front of the TV.  They do come to see grand kid performances which is nice, but that’s about it.  Like I said, my dad is still a fully functional guy.  He hasn’t regressed to the point that he’s driving 20 mph when the speed limit is 45.  His head reaches well above the steering wheel.  He is the most artistically talented person I’ve ever met.  He made a living as an artist.  He owned and led a graphic arts studio in downtown Indianapolis with a client base that included, Procter & Gamble, Dow Brands, and Stokley Van Kamp.  He created the scrubbing bubble character, he perfected Mr. Clean, and he painted all of the labels found on Stokley Van Kamp fruits and vegetables.  His real life paintings have been seen nationally.  He was a very successful entrepreneur.  He was born in a dirt floor cabin in Acorn, Kentucky.  He possessed the drive to better himself.  He became the first in the family to complete high school and graduate from college.  He raised three kids who are all entrepreneurs.  He passed on his artistic genes.  If my kids possess his level of artistic ability, drive, and business savvy they will be very successful in dance and beyond.

I would like to be there to tell him that in person, when the ball drops, and before the sugar coma sets in.  But he married a woman whose current flexibility rivals steel and brittle poly propylene.  Happy birthday Dad, I love you, I’m sorry I can’t be there at three.

Spam-a-Lot

August 19, 2009

When I was young I listened to The Dr. Demento Radio Show on Sunday nights.  Dr. D played only comedy songs.  The show was on late enough that I fell asleep listening to it.  Monty Python’s Spam sketch was on his regular play list.  The members of Monty Python need to issue a new version of the song and instead of serving spam, eggs, sausage, and spam they could serve spam, Viagra, Cialis, and spam or spam, cheap watches, gambling, and spam. 

My junk folder is overflowing with…spam.  I sift through it several times a day just in case a customer’s e-mail is mistakenly filtered as spam…spam, spam spam!…Is any money generated by the cheap watch offer?  Are people really ordering E.D. drugs from these bogus emails? 

Last week the people who make decisions about relevant emails decided that any email sent from my company was spam.  I found that out with the first email I sent Monday morning.  It bounced back to me like a brick on a trampoline.  Nothing says, “Welcome to the work week” like a hassle before you’ve finished the first cup of coffee.  Who decides what email is real?  Is it Al Gore, inventor of the internet?  Does he also double as, Paul Blart, spam cop?  We send the email and he with the help of little elves scan it and rout it based on a continually updated book of lists?  The elves all look the same, messy hair, Star Wars shirts, and black jeans.  They mumble to themselves as they scan each email…this is legit….this isn’t.  Then they play Dungeons & Dragons at lunch.

I checked with our web people.  Apparently we had been black listed and they were working to resolve the problem.  Black listed!  That sounds terminal.  What’s next, crabs?  I asked if someone hijacked our e-mail account.  The short answer was “No”.  They don’t divulge a lot of information.  Our company shares server space with other companies and one of the companies was either spamming or their email was hijacked.  So the server was black listed.  It took me an hours to drag that little bit of information out of them.  In the last week I have learned that IT guys are a different breed of smart guys with their own language and power.  They give you vague information in spurts as if it’s some type of prescription medication.  Too much and you OD. They also have a habit of being….socially unavailable.  They’re a little like lawyers without the polish and etiquette, (apologies to my lawyer friends). 

Our problem persisted throughout the day…one day led to another which became the whole week.  Each morning I would test the waters with an e-mail.  Each morning it would bounce back with a message saying, “The message was rejected because it contains prohibited virus or spam content.”

I’d been checked and I was clean of bugs and my content had nothing to do with, “What every woman wants”, unless she craves a firm… purchase order for print.   I began to realize how easy it is to jack with people.  Note to self: make a list of all the business people who are over the top mean.  Keep their information in a black book.  It could be called the black book of black lists and I’ll be the black knight.  Next I’ll brush up on my Dungeons & Dragons and learn to speak in code so I can join the network in charge of the network. 

Something’s wrong when Ashton Kutcher could tweet about breakfast to fans around the world and I couldn’t email a PO across town.

Genetics

August 17, 2009

Near the end of the school year last year Grace, then 12, said, “Dad, next year I want to get up early, go to high school to take Latin, then catch the bus to middle school for the rest of the day.  Is that OK with you?”   First I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.  Then I took her to the doctor to have her DNA tested.  I was sure she wasn’t my daughter.  I spent my school career trying to figure out how to get out of homework.  She not only embraces it, but looks for ways to increase her workload.  Surely her genes must be from her mother and a player to be named later.  It turns out she’s mine…must be a recessive gene.   She felt Latin would help her with English skills.  I felt that there is a smart guy in Indy with the same DNA as me who had a fling with my wife.  I signed the paperwork saying it was OK.  She wrote an essay campaigning to get in.  They said yes.  So last Wednesday was her first day of classes. 

When you look at Grace there is no denying she’s my daughter.  I remember the first time I picked up my wife for a date.  There were photos of two women on the mantle at her house.  I said, “Who are they?”  They were her sisters.  I said, “Were you adopted?”  They looked nothing alike.  Some of you are thinking there are better topics to discuss when picking up a woman for your first date.  Some choose to talk about the weather and pets.  Not me.  I dive in looking for family secrets and dirt.  She laughed which is always a good sign.  So I said, “Seriously…did your mom have an affaire with the milkman?  You look nothing like them.”  She stood her ground.  I made some comment about denial and we were married two years later.

The more I came to know her sisters, who are good people, the more I realized my wife was either wallowing in recessive genes or…was the product of (cue mystery music) a dum…dum…dummmmm torrid affair.  Was he a fireman?  He arrived in the neighborhood with his big ladder fire truck to save a cat stuck in a tree.  First he stripped to the waist, because….he’s her mom’s fantasy guy and that’s what they do.  She saw him as a compassionate man with a sweaty, muscular, fireman body and she fell into his arms.  Nine months later my wife was born.  It was fun to come up with scenarios. 

When her mom came to visit I would drop these obscure comments about having family members who look nothing alike in my family.  My wife would kick me under the table.  I would pass the salad and we would move on to other topics.

Then my mother in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She moved in with us.  We took care of her up to the day she died.  I’m glad my wife and girls had that time with her.  In the last month as she was fading she asked Keely if there was anything she wanted to ask.  So she asked, The Question.  It turns out I was right, but he wasn’t a fireman or a milkman.  “Knowing” took the fun out of chasing my idea of the truth.  Confetti didn’t fall from the ceiling.  That disappointed me a little.  I really wanted horns to play and lights to flash when we found out the truth.  The truth was that she was raised by a mom and dad that loved her for who she was.  The truth didn’t change the relationship she had with them.  She grew up to be a smart, successful woman who married a sarcastic guy who looks like his parents, but acts like he was raised by strangers.

“The” Coach

August 6, 2009

I drove past my old little league football fields yesterday evening while running errands.  The kids were out there in pads running though their drills.  It brought back a life time of memories.  I had one coach from the time I was six to thirteen.  His name was Charles Dinwiddie.  Coach Dinwiddie was part Bear Bryant, part Woody Hayes.  He always had total command of the team.  He was big on rules.  He was tough.  He yelled, he taught, he led, he inspired, and he worked us until we were dripping wet with exhaustion.  He developed a complete team who was in shape, fundamentally sound, and played with heart.  We won the championship every year.  If he coached little league football in 2009 the moms would fire him before he had the chance to win his first game because of his on field persona.   

If you were late, you had to run.  We were eight years old.  We didn’t drive to practice.  That didn’t matter.   I remember moms and dad’s trying to assume the blame.  They tried the whole time their kid was running.  I don’t mean running a lap around the football field.  I mean you had to run to the other end of the park and back.  When you made it back you’d better be ready to play. 

When he was mad he used your name as an expletive. Phelps! “God Bless America, Phelps!”  That was his way of avoiding the big cuss words.  When you heard God Bless America, followed by your name, there was no parade in your honor and it wasn’t the 4th of July.  There was a good chance you would be circling something on as distant planet or extra calisthenics.  “I don’t know why you have a hustle problem today Phelps!  Have a brief conversation with that tree and make sure the problem is solved before you get back!”  Which tree the one on Oklahoma?  Never ever say that.  Just run around the tree and get back to the team. “Now, get in there and knock someone’s jock strap up on the line!”  That was one of his favorite sayings.  God Bless America Phelps knock him out of his jock or you’re gonna circle that tree”!  I’d hit anyone to avoid circling the tree again… Mother Teresa is going down if she is between me and the ball. 

I was quarterback and defensive back.  I was allowed to call my own plays.  One time in a scrimmage I called a killer play.  It was before anyone high fived, but I did something to let the team know that we just kicked butt.  He saw it.  He ran out and grabbed me and ran me to the goal post.  My arms and legs we twirling like a garden whirly bird.  He grabbed the belt of my football pants and my helmet and raised me so I could see the cross bar of the goal post, “This is where you score….not back there.  Do you see it?  Get a good look at it!  Now, you see the rings on Saturn?  Continue running!”  I never celebrated like that again.  He wasn’t a total dictator.  He knew where to draw the line.  I saw him smile a lot.  I know he loved us for who we were and what we meant to him.  I know what he means to me.  He taught me just how hard you have to work to be the best.    As I saw those kids in pads with giant helmets half the size of their body I wanted to reach out to them.  We went undefeated, untied, and unscored on, the last year he was my coach.  I continued to play sports in school, but I never had another coach like him.  I apply his lessons to my business and to my girls and their dreams.  They don’t have to circle trees, unless their cutting the grass.  They realize I understand what it takes to be successful because of the way I help guide their decisions and future plans.  Dinwiddie’s voice is one of the few who still guides me.  I wish he were still around so I could thank him.

Parents, Concerts, & Technology

August 4, 2009

We were headed to the Dave Matthews show Saturday and it began sprinkling.  Thanks to technology I could phone a friend, have them jump on the internet, guide them to weather.com, where they could look at the heavens to tell me if this was a brief shower or of we needed rain gear for the show.   I don’t have the internet on my phone because I have Sprint.  They have more dead zones than a horror movie.  So we have unlimited text for the girls, but no other “extra services”.  What’s the point?  I go into digital roam in my home and I live 13 minutes from down town Indy.

Going to see Dave’s show has been a family event since Carly, now seventeen, was five.  I never went to see shows with my parents.  That would have been a drag on so many levels.  My dad would have complained about the parking, the traffic, the noise, and the cost of the tickets.  The tickets back then were $8.00, but I guarantee you he wouldn’t be hip to the cost.  My mom would have been worried about second hand smoke and the thought of someone shooting heroin into my arm if I went to the bathroom alone.  She still wants me to carry my money in my sock when I go out in public.  You can never be too safe!

So…this was probably the 17th or 18th time we’ve gone to one of Dave’s shows, but the first time to phone a friend for weather help.  As luck would have it no one was answering.  Against my better judgment I called my dad.  He switched from dial up to DSL earlier this month (don’t get me started) so I knew he could bring up the weather radar before …the show ended.  Talking to him can be a little like playing one of those Japanese TV game shows where you are unexpectedly hit in the head with giant padded balls.  I explained how to get to weather.com’s home page.  I told him to look at the top left of the home page and type in Noblesville, IN.  He did and he said it came up page not found.  I said, “Not in the tool bar, on the home page”.  He said there was no place to type on that page.  This went back and forth for 10 minutes.  He finally asked why I needed a weather report right then?  Because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment I muttered under my breath. Then I held out my wrist for my wife to check my blood pressure…The conversation was like a bad Abbott and Costello bit.  I direct him to the place on the page…he tells me it’s not there then I kick myself.  “Are you going to that Dave Matthews rock show?” he asked …and wasting your money he whispered under his breath.  I said yeah but we’ve been talking so long I missed my turn at Noblesville and now I’m in Canada.  At that point I went through a dead zone and lost my connection.  That’s the only time I’ve been thankful that I dropped a call.

During the show they played the song Dive In and Grace called her friend and held the phone so they could hear it together because it’s their favorite.  Her friend and family happened to be at a neighbor’s house for the evening.   The host is a dad who’s approaching 60.  He said “what band”?  Her friend responded Dave Matthews.  He said oh, “they are a marijuana band.  That guy is so stoned out of his mind he doesn’t even know what he’s singing when he writes that stuff”.  It made me laugh out loud, a marijuana band?  This guy grew up in the 60’s and went to jazz festivals in San Francisco!  I need to invite him to my dad’s birthday party.  They can bitch about technology; watch the movie Reefer Madness, while reminiscing about the days when Wes Montgomery played great jazz to a “sober?” crowd.  You know, back in the day when you got the weather from the local news on a black and white set and kids didn’t make phone calls from cars.