The Moment: A Halloween Story

By on Oct 31, 2014 in Writings | 0 comments

I’ve spent the last thirteen years a head in a jar.  A brain, awaiting a body, encased in a skull, suspended in a liquid contained in a jar. I’ve had water in my ears for over a decade. I think back on it sometimes, back to the exact moment when fate turned on me.  I was all set to get a body.  The storms raged all around, flashes of light flooding the room with each crack of thunder. All the while, I waited patiently, perched on my shelf.  I waited for my call.  For my moment.  And then it came!  “Fetch the brain,” the master commanded.  His minion, the lumpy-backed misanthrope, approached, his right leg dragging the left.  My heart leapt as he came closer (I speak metaphorically, of course, as I have no heart.  But thrice did I raise my eyebrows, such was my excitement).  My time had come.  The hunchback drew closer; I attempted to draw his eye.  But much to my shock and dismay, he hobbled right past my shelf, through the doorway, and out into the rain. I couldn’t speak out, such was my shock (and also I had no lungs with which to force air past the frayed remains of my vocal chords).  I can still remember clear is if it were yesterday, the master saying after five or ten minutes had passed: “Now where did that damn fool go?”  Forget him, I mouthed, unable to vocalize my anguish.  Just take me.  I wish to live again!  I wish to walk.  To fornicate. To visit a haberdashery (for while my head remains perfectly suited for hats, I have no means of placing them on my head).  I long to eat kippers in oil.  I long to hold a woman in a firm yet gentle embrace, touching my nose to hers, our eyes locked in a knowing gaze.  Maybe I nibble her chin, just a bit.  I long to scale a mountain, not just because it’s there, but because it’s there and really, really tall. I wish to drink a fine Bordeaux paired neatly with a plate of chevre. I’d like to visit the Americas; I hear they have a good thing going over there.  And while over there I’d like to purchase a monkey.  And no, I know what you’re thinking, but I’m referring to a literal monkey. I’ve always wanted a pet monkey. I long for many things; I have many wishes.  But most of all, I wish for life. It was perhaps a full forty-five minutes before the great oaf returned from his search.  As he entered, he reached into his coat pocket, producing a a slightly flattened lump of grey matter.  Picking a half dozen pieces of lint from the surface of the brain, he handed it over to his master who snatched at it greedily. As I watched the crazed scientist lower the brain into the open skull, tears spilled from my eyes, mingling with the surrounding fluid.  I wept for the dances I would not dance, the steps I would not take.  The gentle-yet-vigorous love I would not make, possibly with twins (although based on the scars and protruding bolts on my would-be body, twins might have been a bit of a stretch.  To be honest, that body is a bit of a train wreck).  I wept for the life I had lost; the life that would never be mine. The brain in place, the master and his servant waited patiently, their eyes to the sky.  And then, in an instant, the room filled with a blinding light  and the wires connecting the body to the heavens glowed red, brighter and brighter until the wires themselves evaporated into the night.  A beat, and then the body released a low, throaty groan.  And then silence.  For the next several minutes the thunderstorm drew quiet, perhaps out of respect for those of us listening for a sign of life.  But the body was still.  The master scuttled about, eyes bulging, touching the body here and there, searching for a pulse.  The hunchback merely stood off to the side, scratching his chin. Frantically, the master adjusted dials, threw switches; all the while never taking his eyes off the corpse before him.  After packing a lifetime’s worth of desperate efforts into a single five minute span, the master stopped; his shoulders slumped.  A low moan escaped his lips as he threw his arms across the dead man’s broad chest, weeping softly into the lapel of the dead man’s jacket. The brain, I thought to myself, it had been defective!  I was going to get a second chance and this time the master would surely not once again leave the task of finding a brain to an underling.  I just knew there’s no way the master would take a chance and pass up a brilliant brain such as mine.  I allowed the excitement to wash over me, bubbling up from brain stem to cerebral cortex.  Yes, again, I allowed my hopes to rise prematurely. And premature it was, because in the next moment I saw it.  I saw it before the master.  I saw it before the hunchback.  And just as quickly as hope had flared up within me, it was snuffed out as the monster’s left hand curled into a tight fist and then slowly unclenched.  Unquestionably, a movement of life. And so...

City Living Benefits

By on Oct 29, 2014 in Chicago | 1 comment

I love living in Chicago. We’ve lived here in the city in different neighborhoods for about 10 years. From Wrigleyville to Ukrainian Village to Lakeview and finally to Lincoln Square. The walkability of these neighborhoods is by far one of my favorite things Yesterday I had a typical day. Took Rocky to the park (stopping for a coffee on the way), walked to the grocery store, walked to get Lucy from school and finally walked to the gym to take Lucy to her swim lesson. All these things are just a few blocks from my house and aside from the going to the park and getting coffee were all things that are just your normal day to day things (getting to school, the grocery store, sporting event). If we lived in the suburbs these things would have all been things we drove to (most likely). I have driven exactly twice since Veronica was born (4 weeks tomorrow!). Once for her doctors appointment and once to go to target to get some things that we needed for Halloween. Yesterday dong those normal day to day things I walked 5.5 miles. I’m not saying you can’t walk in the suburbs but it’s just more “let’s go for a walk” rather than “I ran all these errands” and got this free 5.5 miles of walking in. It’s one of my favorite favorite things about the city.  It’s free exercise just to live here! And really….the most important part…being able to walk home from the bars without worrying about having a designated driver. Priorities people....

Shush, Pat, Scream, Cry. And that’s just me.

By on Oct 28, 2014 in Expert Advice, Life With Three, Parenting | 0 comments

It’s amazing to me how, despite this being our third kid, I don’t know anything about taking care of a newborn.  Each night for the past couple weeks, I’ve been spending evenings face to face with a well fed, well swaddled, rosy cheeked little angel who won’t go the fuck to sleep.  I look at her; she looks at me.  Neither of us knows how to stop her fussing.  We’re both motivated, don’t get me wrong. We both want this sleep thing to happen; we’re just helpless.  At least she has an excuse.  She can’t even control her limbs, let alone her sleep habits. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to avoid the old standby of the pacifier.  I’ll give it the occasional longing glance during these frustrating nights, but I know it’ll be all for the best if I leave it lying on the nightstand.  And, of course, I can’t get a burp out of this baby.  So, as far as I know she doesn’t have gas, but I’m never quit sure.  At a certain point, though, you have to stop smacking your baby as you tiptoe up towards that line between burping and beating. So each night, I had been taking this happy little baby, swaddling her up, and attempting to lay her in her crib only to have her start fussing the moment her body touches mattress.  I’ll pick her up and she instantly settles.  I relax and gingerly set her back down. “WAHHHH” Rinse and repeat.  So right, I don’t know what I’m doing.  But then just two days ago (our baby is almost a month old), I remember the magic trick to baby raising:  the Shush and Pat.  Baby’s are none too bright, you see, and so they can’t process three things at once.  Send in two inputs simultaneously (e.g., a shush and a pat) and their circuits lock up, clearing their mind of whatever bothers them.  Instantly, the crying stops; it’s truly magic. So Sunday I finally remembered this trick.  That night we had the baby in our room for some reason or the other, sleeping in the little rocking basinet we have.  So I gave her a rock and a shush and down she went.  Magic.  Worked both times I had to get her to sleep. Last night, however, we moved her back to her crib.  Her crib that’s in the room with the two lunatics.  You know what?  It’s a lot easier putting her down in that room when Rocky’s already sleeping. Putting Down Baby: A Play in Way Too Many Parts I walk into the kids’ room, a happy dozing baby in my arms, just off the breast and tightly swaddled.  Her face is relaxed and serene as I step lightly across the hardwood floor. A constellation nightlight shines with a blue light, casting stars across the ceiling, and our wind-powered sound machine pumps out white noise from across the room.  From the corner of my eye, I see a diminutive form stir within the shadows. “BABY VERONICA GOING TO BED?” “Shhhh, yeah, buddy,” I whisper as Rocky looks at me, head cocked to one side. “And we have to be so quiet so she can sleep.” “OKAY DADDY. I NEED A HUG AND KISS.” “Sure, buddy,” I say, easing her down and cross the room to his bed.  I give him one more hug and a kiss before heading to the door.  Lucy is already asleep at this point.  “And remember, so quiet.” Rocky drops back onto his bed and I head downstairs to listen in on the monitor.  Silent.  No crying baby.  But then slowly it begins.  First a little fussing, then a quickening of the breath.  Then a bit louder and the sound of struggle as baby V fights again her swaddle like a cat trapped in a bag.  Or, like any 18 month old I’ve ever tried to carry away from the park.  Quickly I head back upstairs, but this time I know what to do.  I’ve got my shusher and my patter all ready to go. I open the door and again the shadows shift as, once again, a tiny figure sits upright.  I pretend not to see Rocky shift around and pick up the little bundle from her crib, throwing her over a shoulder. “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I say, my shush almost sounding angry over the sound of the white noise machine.  I pat furiously as her cries begin to subside. “SHHHHH-” “DADDY, PUT BABY VERONICA DOWN” I wave a hand frantically in the general direction of the little voice, all the while continuing my “SHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.  My mouth begins to go dry, my throat hoarse. “DADDY, PUT VERONICA IN THE CRIB!” “Rocky, you need to be quiet,” I say, breaking from my shush.  I feel the baby twisting in my arms and look down in despair as her face begins to contort in discomfort. Jesus Christ, come on guys.  “Rocky, just lay down and go to sleep.  I’m trying to put Veronica down.”  He flops back down on his bed. “SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” I’m back on it and again the cries stop.  I can feel the tension going out of her – “DADDY, I WANT TO HOLD VERONICA.” “Not now, buddy,” I whisper. “I WANNA HOLD VERONICA,” he whines, edging towards tears. “Tomorrow morning, I promise.  It’s bed time.  She’s tired.” I’m fucking tired. This goes on.  “SHHHH.”  “DADDY.” “Quiet, Rocky.”...

Movin’ on up (to the 400’s)

By on Oct 27, 2014 in Chicago, Cubs, To Do With Kids | 1 comment

Who’s excited about the Cubs around these parts?  Yes, the same Cubs that had to scratch and claw to 89 losses last year (which, sadly, was progress).  Yes, the same Cubs that have finished in 5th place for the past five years.  Those Cubs.  Why are we excited?  Let me count the ways (spoiler alert, I’m going to count to three): Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez will all be stud rookies (or close to it in the case of Baez) next year, joining Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to form the sort of murder’s row that’s going out of style these days. Free agents will be signed, money will be flowing soon, and a dynasty-level system is on the way.  For the first time in my life and – I don’t know who’s reading this, but I can say confidently – in your life too, the Cubs are doing everything right.  And, on top of all that… Joe Maddon, the best manager in baseball, is on his way to the Cubs. It’s just a matter of time before it happens. So, with all that being said, when we went to pick tickets for season tickets this year, I considered it choosing our seats for the World Series.  Sure, we only have two tickets so watching them win isn’t going to be a family affair, but tough noogies kids.  They’re going to grow up with a lifetime of the Rickets family as owners and will only have read about the stupid goat curse in the history books.  They’re going to grow up rooting for the Yankees of the National League. Yeah, that’s right.  Book it, baby. In the end, after some discussion, we settled on seats in the 400’s (433 to be exact).  The 400’s have a fantastic view of the action and we have a legitimate chance at catching a foul ball.  Great tickets to for watching a bunch of grown men jump up and down after recording the last out to clinch the first World Series title in well over 100 years.  If you’re getting misty eyed, don’t feel ashamed.  That was an emotional win for all of us. For the both of you non-Cubs fans that are still with me and haven’t closed this to emphatically (and perhaps a bit too aggressively) unlike us on Facebook, let me explain a bit about the 400’s.  They are the portion of the upper deck seats in Wrigley Field that aren’t under the overhang and aren’t behind any support posts.  Moving from the 200’s, we’re losing some protection from the rain and gaining some sun, losing the proximity to the family bathroom and gaining and unobstructed view.  We’ll bask in the relative warmth on the cold days and apply sunscreen to the kids every inning on the sunny days.  But, more importantly, we’re moving a few stories up. And we’re in the third row. The third row from the edge, in case that wasn’t clear.  The edge of the bowl that’s a few stories up. And we have a kid named Rocky.  I almost couldn’t pull the trigger.  It was very hard for me.  All I can see is him running full steam down the stairs towards the edge of seats where a far-too-low railing would attempt to stop his tumbling momentum.  It terrifies me.  I’m fairly scared of heights, but in a very rational way.  I fear falling to death, either mine or a loved one’s.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to unclench my sphincter for all 9 innings.  He might just not get to go to a game until I feel confident he won’t take a header over the edge. Maybe 8th grade. Or maybe I’ll get a...

Doing all the things wrong?

By on Oct 24, 2014 in Chicago, Life With Three, Parenting | 1 comment

Or at least feeling that way. I had a parent teacher conference for Lucy today. Not like a special meeting with me and the teacher but just that time of year for all the parents. In good news Lucy is ahead academically on all the things. Letters, sounds, shapes, numbers, counting etc etc. I wasn’t surprised about that. She’s been really interested in letters and that general thing for a long time. Then the teacher said that she has noticed a difference in Lucy since the new baby. She said it’s nothing that’s unexpected. But just that she’s not as bubbly as she was before the baby came. Of course in my head I hear, “Your kid isn’t a happy kid anymore.” And rationally I don’t think that’s it. I think she wants to be home with us and Veronica (I mean she told Jason on the way to school the other day, “I don’t want to go to school because I want to be home with Veronica.”) and so isn’t as excited to go to her classroom. It’s also timed just right that we are at about 6-8 weeks into the school year. About the time that Lucy in the past has gotten over the newness of a classroom and turns to not wanting to go. We’ve had some general attitude problems with her her at home. We think all normal behavior (according to The Google and the pediatrician). But still. If I was better. If she could always get one on one time with us. If we weren’t so tired. If. If. If. I “know” that with time the three kid household will become the norm and attitudes will change. But for now it’s been harder for Lucy (and in turn us) than I thought it would be. AND! I don’t know why I didn’t think it would be easier for her! She’s always ALWAYS had a problem with change. I don’t know why I didn’t prepare myself better for this. I’m genuinely sad that she’s not as happy as she could be. And wish I could just give her some fairy dust that gets her over this hump and back to her bubbly self. In good news she’s not being mean to friends at school or not participating in the classroom. Just a slight bit of sadness. The teacher is good and talked to her and just said, “It’s just hard isn’t it Lucy?” To which Lucy agreed. And nice of the teacher to notice and talk to her about it and not just write her off as a sad kid. All we can do is keep being a fun household (I don’t know how this helps her want to go to school though) and tell her we understand it’s hard. And hope with time it gets better. But right now I just can’t help feeling like I’m doing all the things...