April 30, 2009

New Home

Come join me over at my new home. Here or here. It'll be fun.

April 15, 2009

A Little Outage

Hello all, please stay tuned for further instructions and some new toys. I can't post while the work proceeds-even this note is unsanctioned-but trust that I will be back sooner rather than later.

April 7, 2009

Babies and Blossoms

We live in DC, it's a law that we visit the cherry blossoms.

April 6, 2009

California, Part II

Was it the bourbon or the feel good vibes of Virgin that did the job? While my stomach just entered my mouth when we took off, and I am clutching my open phone with a picture of Annie and Tilda on it for support, things are progressing smoothly. I don’t know if the fear comes from wishing I could control the outcome of this flight, or from knowing that I can’t.

For the next five hours my plan is to somehow limit the amount of times I picture the plane breaking up over the heartland and fireballing into a field somewhere. This works for the first hour or so, because I am absorbed in that Iceland article. Elves, really? Now though, the turbulence has started. I think I need something a bit more distracting. I attempt to turn on the television and find that mine doesn’t work. This always seems to happen to me on flights. I don’t feel like listening to music yet, so I fiddle with the fancy seatback system that Virgin uses. Most of it is useless or inactive. It basically amounts to various attempts to get me to buy shit. Without TV, I end up engrossed in the flight map that has kindly been provided for us by those nerds over at Google.

A little red version of our plane sails across America. I watch towns that I will never visit pass cartoonishly beneath me. Chillicoth, Ohio would be a nice place to die. I jot down a quick note to pay a visit if I make it through this.

With my Iceland article (and other financial gloom-and-doom) out of the way, it is time to put on my headphones and settle in. We are less than halfway there. Oh, and still no visit to the bathroom. I am too embarrassed.

I have been on too many flights this year already. Consequently, I have developed a bit of a music routine. My iPod has 83 Death Cab for Cutie songs on it and I play them on shuffle hoping to hear some of my favorites before we crash. Invariably, I skip half of them out of sheer nerves. The best part about this routine is that most Death Cab (I hate this shortened moniker by the way, and will never again employ it) songs are either crazy pick me ups like Long Division...

crazy downers like I Will Follow You Into The Dark...

Love of mine. Someday you will die, but I’ll be close behind. I’ll follow you into the dark.” You may not be an emotional mess like me, but this song better speak to you. Otherwise, we can’t sit next to each other on any future flights. There is no way I can comfort you if your heart is that dense. Anyway, the Death Cab for Cutie catalog lasts about two hours—it’s technically five and a half long—with me frantically skipping the songs that don’t either depress or thrill me.

Unfortunately, it’s time to use the bathroom. I make my way to the back of the plane, where things sway a bit too much for my liking, and wait in line. Of course, who is sitting right outside the door reading a magazine? She gives me a knowing nod when we make eye contact and small talk ensues about life on the West Coast. I find myself biting my tongue when I want to mention my planned trip to In-N-Out Burger. In a minute, it is my turn to enter and I make the executive decision to hold in the goods for LAX. Instead, I pee as fast as I ever have, thus sparing my pride and my acquaintance.

Back at my seat I can’t bring myself to check the time, or open the window, or my eyes, so I quickly find the next band that will help me cope. I settle on Jimmy Eat World. There is a moment in Table for Glasses, the opening track on their only truly great album, Clarity, in which my iPod starts to skip.

I have listened to this song for years now and, to this day, don’t know if the skipping is an aberration or part of the original recording. At this point it doesn’t matter. Like the faded sweatshirt I’m wearing, it gives me comfort.

Okay, I’m almost through this. As you might have guessed, when it comes to flying, my brain is not normal. Get this; I am not at all afraid of landing. As soon as we start our descent, I am completely relaxed. I can now bask in the knowledge that I am further west than I have ever been. California. Is there a person in this country who doesn’t get excited about the prospect of traveling west? I am a 49er, or a frontiersman in a wagon train, I am Lewis and Clark, all wrapped up into one nervous wreck of an explorer.

I can now shift gears into the celebratory portion of my musical journey too. I queue up songs that commemorate my having survived. Fortunately, both catalogues I have relied on contain strangely fitting tracks about crossing The United States.

We touch down in Los Angeles. Despite my first taste of smog, I breathe. Smog is onomatopoeia.

The excitement I feel is only slightly dampened by the hundred person line at Hertz. It takes almost an hour to sort out the rental car, but in that time I meet a wonderful woman from Bakersfield. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me at all that she and her husband once lived in Washington, DC. This is how the world works when you cheat death. Things are just enlightened a little. Once I am in the parking lot and the man shows me how to start my state-appropriate Prius, I declare out loud, “I am in California. I have to change my shoes.” I don’t even try to explain this to him. As he drives away, shaking his head in his golf cart/limo, I giddily shed my socks and slip into my Birkenstocks.

March 28, 2009

California, Part I

The cups hit the bar in a clatter, Jack Daniels sloshing around in their spotted, airport half-cleanliness. The bartender peers down at me as if staring at a degenerate finishing off a bender. When it comes to flying, no time is too early to drink, a sentiment not shared by my host. The men at the bar around me pick through their eggs and sneak glances at my choice of breakfast, while pretending to watch random highlights on the television above our heads. I can't tell if they admire what a man I am or share the bartender's sentiment that I am a mess. No matter, I am only a few minutes from the requisite buzz to get me through takeoff.

After quietly paying my tab, I head out to let the whiskey take its effect. I'm not someone who gets drunk often and after a short time my brain calms down. I start to get the feeling of having a secret that no one, save the judgemental bartender, knows. The rest of the passengers all walk around as if approaching the gallows, and only I have the solution; it jostles gently in my belly and needs a bit of greasy bacon to keep it company. I can't bring myself to eat what Starbucks considers a bagel and so wander the terminal in search of a better option. Halfway down the row of brightly lit stores, I notice a line of people at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Now, I sometimes indulge in a pre-dinner little bacon cheeseburger if I pass a Five Guys while out, but even a guy who drank a couple of whiskeys before dawn has to set limits. It occurs to me that this is the only secret I keep from my wife.

A sudden thought hits me; bacon, egg and cheese would go nicely on a squishy Five Guys bun. I stare longingly at the red and white checkerboard facade. Dreaming. Ah, I am not the only person to hatch this idea. A dutiful line of patrons wait, mouth watering, for the same classic combination. I join them silently. The line creeps closer to the grill and I observe a Five Guys twist on this breakfast classic. They don't simply add a couple strips of bacon to the top of the sandwich, they stack the egg and melted cheese on a half inch bed of crumbled bacon. I swoon.

Something stops me from ordering coffee here, so I head out in search of a decent cup. While this may counteract the effect of the Jack Daniels, it is too ingrained in my morning ritual to skip. I may only drink half the cup. Two customers in line before me admire my partially eaten sandwich and stare in simultaneous jealousy. The woman prods the man to skip breakfast here and double back for some of what I've got. We make pleasant conversation over a shared love of bacon, with only the man talking about the detriment it can have on one's waistline. I can tell that she will relent and settle for the dried scone sitting before us in the case. I pay for my coffee and take leave, knowing that she will regret letting him talk her out of her plan.

It's time for me to head over to the gate and await boarding. Despite the drinks, I dwell on the idea that I am knowingly walking to my own death. Somberly, I take the furthest seat from the jetway. A Virgin America employee is leading some kind of contest in which passengers compete for a set of hot pink headphones. A plainly dressed woman in a blue flannel shirt wins and dutifully gathers her prize. It will clash horribly with her. It is obvious that the feel good vibe of the women at the counter—who aren't going to board the plane I might add—is having the desired effect on the passengers. They smile. They relax. The same employee is now offering early boarding to anyone who can guess where she went to college. She dangles the familiar white and blue logo of North Carolina from a lanyard around her neck. People are calling out answers all around me and they are rewarded with places at the head of the line. They feel like they are flying first class.

My section, E, is called and I slowly move towards row 6, seat A. I'm about to take my place, when a familiar voice says, "Hey, Five Guys guy, how was your sandwich?" I look up to see the pretty face from the coffee shop. She and the self conscious man are our flight attendants. In a flirtatious manner that I have whenever I'm alone, I rub my belly and say satisfyingly, "It's brewing." Her face mirrors mine in that we both realize I just alluded to the fact that I will soon have to take a very large shit in a very small public bathroom. Hopelessly, I continue on about the technical merits of the crumbled bacon, but I have lost her. I sheepishly take my seat and immediately forget my gaffe. It is time to start thinking about death.

March 25, 2009

Whoah, did you see how well manicured that bush hedge is?

Let us return to a recurring theme here at Unfinished Dad. The following is not a commercial I hate, in fact it's quite effective, in that it will certainly spark debate. It took my rewinding it to actually believe that I saw it, but that's what they wanted, right? I'm posting it here because, someday in the nearer-than-I-would-like future, my daughters will want some kind of explanation. And I'll say confidently...go ask your mother.

March 24, 2009

The Hazards of Love

Yes, it's a rock opera originally conceptualized as a stage piece, but when it comes to their albums, it may be, "ask not what the Decemberists can do for you-but what you can do for the Decemberists."

March 22, 2009

Annie Burps and Hiccups the Family Tree

March 20, 2009

The Picture of Chaos


We are a nickname family—as those who had to endure the phase where my wife and I called each other "puppy" can attest—and the kids have had their fair share of quirky monikers. These nicknames usually evolve over time-I wouldn't dare tell you what came before "puppy."

As such, Matilda became Tilda, which became Tildabear, which developed into Tilda-Bear-Workshop, which inexplicably morphed into TB, which then turned into T-bone, and currently, my second daughter goes by the befitting name T. Bone Pickens.