June 30, 2008

Dear Coldplay

Dear Coldplay,

Let me begin by letting you know how sorry I am for the way I have behaved. Way back in 2001 when I first met the woman who would someday be my wife, we listened to Parachutes all the time, loving every minute of it. It was our go to album on late mornings in bed and on the long trips between Rochester and my house in New Jersey. Consequently, tracks such as Shiver and We Never Change now transport us back to simpler (read no kids) times.

In the years since, you have put out three full length albums and at one time or another each may as well have been the sole occupant of my Ipod. An old friend of mine would have referred to this repetitive consumption as a Coldplay “dog diet.”

Then a funny thing happened. People in my life who had never listened to your first album started hearing the singles from A Rush of Blood to the Head and going ga ga for them. Soon The Scientist was not only on my most played list, but everyone else’s too. I knew that there was trouble on the horizon when my brother, whom I played Parachutes for two years earlier to sour reviews, asked me if I had the new Coldplay album yet.

We live in a cynical, snarky world. No one is immune to the temptation of disparaging the popular or the successful. Like baseball fans hating the Yankees or voters turning on Hillary, I started to publicly change my view on your talents. By the time X&Y came out, I was proudly telling anyone that would listen, that the “elevator” music you were making was fine to relax too, but as a real connoisseur I preferred something more “indie,” like Arcade Fire.

Now though, as a more confident man I can come out and tell you that you have always held a special place in my heart. While I was making fun of your songs to the people who loved them, I was playing Fix You every morning on my way to work and making playlists of my ten favorite tracks anytime I need a little pick-me-up.

So with the release of Viva la Vida I want to tell you, publicly, that I’m a big fan. There are still lingering feelings of girliness on my part for enjoying Lovers in Japan so much. But I play it about ten times a day and can’t hide it anymore. I’m sure the people that have seen me belting it out behind the closed windows of my car would agree. I’m just smitten.

From here on out you can count on me for an honest assessment of you efforts; no matter the looks I get from anyone who claims they are real listeners of music. I can just see my brother-in-law’s face when he sees this week’s playlist. All Coldplay, all the time. Haters be damned.

Well, see you soon, and good luck,


June 27, 2008

Annie in pictures

Annie will turn one tomorrow. In keeping with the television tradition of splicing together past moments and passing them off as new, we here at Unfinished Dad would like to present you with, "Annie's First Year. The Recap Episode." What follows is a photo from every month of her spectacular debut season. From her early days as a skinny little chicken, to her fatty winter months, to The Face. Enjoy.

June 26, 2008

We've been robbed

I'm sure that Proctor and Gamble put the finest scientists in the world on this data, but I truly doubt that Phoenix is the sweatiest city in America. Isn't it a dry heat? All of the sweat in Phoenix must immediately evaporate, whereas here in the humidity of Louisiana our sweat hangs on us like so much honey.

Let's face it, we here in Shreveport have been slighted. 7th, for crying out loud? We were beat out by the likes of Waco. How many people could possibly live in Waco? Band together and sweat, Shreveport.

If this study were done again when we were all leaning over our crawfish pots, I think you'd see a better showing. That's it, I'm going out into this fair city and taking pictures of all the pit stains I can find and sending my results to the fair minded folks at P&G. We will be redeemed.

On a related note, Shreveport-Bossier was ranked the 10th most dangerous metropolitan area in the U.S. What is more surprising, that we were 10th, or that we are considered a metro area right along with the New York tri-state area?

June 25, 2008


• Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) has always been a favorite in our house. Self deprecating, manly, not afraid to get poop on himself and now I find out that we have common gaming interests.

• My wife had a routine ultrasound today to verify that the new baby is on track size wise and all checked out fine. We did discover, however, that one of my traits continues on. Annabelle II has the cranial circumference of a 40 week old—my wife is 35 weeks along. Couple this with Annabelle I’s gourd sized noggin and you get a sense just how much of me they have inherited.

• Today was our last day of Swim School and my lazy ass never snapped a picture of Annie taking the plunge, sorry. This is kind of what it was like…

June 24, 2008

Everest Update...

The unexpected twist to today's post.


As you know, life is good right now. But sometimes we are presented with an insurmountable mountain to climb. You stare directly up its sheer, black face and wonder if you have the fortitude to press on. This space hasn't had the negative tone that is used to, and somehow I miss it. Well, those days are over. After all, it's the lows that remind us of the highs we once had. Behold, my Everest.

June 23, 2008


Mmm. I woke up feeling different today. The sun seemed to welcome me to a new week and the alarm was not my enemy. The fresh sheets I put on the bed last night, though crazy soft, weren’t holding my head to the pillow. I couldn’t wait to spring forth, make some coffee, kiss my babies, and whack some golf balls. But my now weekly date with the old dodgers at Olde Oaks wasn’t the reason this suddenly spry 32 year old was so damn giddy.

Ready? I have slept without interruption the last two nights. Suddenly, my old eight hours have returned, and so has my ability to rise. If you ask anyone close to me, I have always had a knack for sleeping. I’m kind of an anywhere anytime sort of guy. Pre-baby, I was out within a minute of hitting the pillow. I’m not kidding. So this new life in which I struggle to fall asleep and then get startled awake once, or twice, or in the old days, three times a night, really wasn’t agreeing with me.

However, Annie has been on a bit of a role and I’m reaping the benefits. Couple that with the fact that I have been blasting the house with more air conditioning than ever—don’t worry Annie’s vents are closed and she is toasty—and the old Joe is back baby!

I’m ready to conquer the world. Wait. What? I’m having another baby? And it just took a year for Annie to figure this out. Eh, what’s another year without sleep?

June 22, 2008

More Booty

I love the farmers market...although we end up spending more money than we expect every Saturday. It's for some hard working local people and that makes it better. Below is this week's haul. The highlights were the giant shrimp (as usual) and some nice Zinnias for a friend. Oh, and that's a $10 watermelon. Hmmm.

June 20, 2008

Silly Baby, You've Got Undies On Your Head

Why I'll Never Live in Gloucester

Given all of the time that I spend with Annie, I sit here wondering how I’m going to guide her through the world. I won’t be one of those parents who tells her what sports to play and what to major in, but I’m supposed to ease her down the correct path, no? How do I avoid this? It seems that no matter what you do for your children there are thousands of pitfalls along the way that can reach out and lure them in. And I don’t even consider myself a worry wort.

To think that Annie and her sister will grow up with more opportunities than 99% of the kids in this world. How much does the mother of a child Myanmar, or Sudan worry? Perhaps worrying is the byproduct of having.

June 19, 2008

Live Blog of Midnight Screamfest

11:35—Annie wakes up and lets out a helpless little cry

11:38—Helpless little cry turns into helpless big cry

11:41—Cry no longer helpless…this kid wants my attention

11:45—On hunch, decide to check on blood curdling, wailing child. Find poop big enough to wake whole army of babies and it is just waiting to breach the levees that are her size 3 Pampers.

11:49—In keeping with what all other mothers and grandmothers tell me I vow to myself not to feed baby

11:50—Commence singing lullabyes to Annie that are both out of tune and lacking many words. “Go to sleep, and good night. Da da Da da da Da. Mmm m mmm m Mmm m Mmm. Mmm m Mmm m m Mmm.”

11:51—Annie pushes my face away as if I’m trying to steal her bob

11:54—Sit down in rocker with Annie hoping that this will calm her. She promptly pushes my face away as if I’m trying to steal all her bobs

12:00—Put Annie down (still screaming) and leave room. Maybe I’m just too fun to sleep around

12:10—Enter room, find ten bobs scattered on the floor like confetti. Put bobs in crib. Pat baby. Leave room.

12:12—Screams now seem to be damaging baby’s vocal chords. Open internet and surf web.

12:14—Wonder if anyone on earth is really stupid enough to think this isn’t offensive…http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/06/the_downfall_of_the_sock_obama.html#hp

12:17—Her cries are getting more plaintive. They are punctuated with a certain awareness at this age. And a certain bit of “Fuck you dad, feed me and we can put an end to this.”

12:23—Re-enter room to find Annie sitting up and crying so helplessly that I just want to crawl in bed with her and make it stop. She is whimpering.

12:25—Find myself enjoying new Coldplay album. Probably because there are no radio station in Louisiana, and I consequently have not heard all 10 tracks 10 thousand times.

12:30—Yes I forgot to tell you that it is well after midnight. Annie has been crying for almost one hour.

12:33—This is kind of what Annie sounds like…http://www.slate.com/id/2193863/

12:37—You really can get lost in Ebay when you are cruising for golf stuff. Even in the middle of the night when you are just trying to drown out your daughter’s pleas for help.

12:40—I want…http://www.clevelandgolf.com/woods.html

12:41—Check on Annie…her cries are lessening in volume, but not ending. Why won’t she sleep? She only wakes up every few nights, but this can’t go on. She is going to have a little sister soon who is never going to sleep and I can’t deal with two night owls at once.

12:23—Just spent the last twelve minutes sitting with her and rubbing her chest. I could feel her strong harp knocking on her delicate ribcage. She was hyperventilating a bit. She calmed down towards the end so I left.

12:23:30—She’s crying again

12:57—I didn’t realize that for the last two times I wrote 12:23 and not 12:53…I’m tired.

12:58—Hmm. She hasn’t cried for over a minute.

1:00 A.M.—Three minutes

1:03 A.M.—Six Minutes

1:07 A.M.—Ten Minutes. Post to Blog. Ignore typos. Good night, dear Annie.

June 17, 2008

Father's Day

I grew up with a Dad for the ages. Hardworking, strong, dedicated, and loving—honorable to a fault. He embodied the essence of fatherhood usually seen in old movies and quaint television shows. Looking back, every day was a lesson in compassion, wrapped up in sarcasm and manliness. Under his guidance I became adept at speaking, leading, digging ditches, and caring. Nowhere else in life have I witnessed a Renaissance man such as him.

As an adult, I have been critical of his faults with money and his inability to talk about his problems. Slowly though, I have come to realize that my wish that he remain perfect was an impossibly boyish dream. For all he got right in raising the four of us, the few things he got wrong now seem inconsequential. Thanks in large part to my mother, externalizing my problems was never an issue, and if anything, my anger at his insouciance toward finances was based on the fact that I inherited it, and took far too long to fix it in myself. Having a place to lay blame for your shortcomings is always easier than tackling them.

Perhaps the strongest memory I have of growing up with him is one that fills me with a combination of comfort and guilt anytime I wake up in the middle of the night. He worked his way up to Vice President of a New Jersey steel company through guile and determination. Consequently, he needed to be there at the crack of dawn when product started rolling out of the cold, cavernous warehouse. To do this he woke up every day at 3 a.m. I can still hear his diesel truck engine turning over in the icy winter air while I lay comfortably in my bed. It seems I awoke every morning with the belch of that old truck. Each time, I wanted simultaneously to run outside and say goodbye, and to curl into a ball pretending that his life was without difficulty.

To this day, whenever I am unsure or unready to begin a task, I think of him on those dark mornings, alone. How can I not pull myself off the couch to finish the dishes or return to work in the fall after our second child is born? With the thought of his greatness and his fallibility imprinted deeply in my head, I simply do it.

So what’s left to work on? Every day I try to embody the virtues that he bestowed on me and become the best person I can. In this current phase of my life that means teaching Annie all the good that he taught me, ensuring the comfort of my impossibly pregnant wife, and yes, shooting the lowest score possible on the golf course. So, will Annie grow up with the perfect father? More than likely she will; that is until she reaches adulthood and gets around to contemplating life, death, and all that I imprinted on her. For better or for worse.

June 13, 2008


I fell in love with my wife over seven years ago. It took all of two weeks for the full descent. At the time I was head over heels for her intellect, her drive, and her uncanny ability to sink little ping pong balls into solo cups. I would never have imagined back then that within her analytical mind churned an amazing creative force. From knitting clothes for Annie, to making quilts for both babies, to designing invitations—paper and I are about the same level for her I think—her creative brain is always on another level. Below are some of my faves over the years.

June 12, 2008

How I Cope

It's easy to forget that my life is about to turn upside down. We are less than two months from making our family of three into a family of four. Despite my soon to be brimming love for our new baby, I'm really in no rush. You see, life is pretty damn good right now. Annabelle II is just going to reset the clock to July 2007. Long nights, spitting up, crazy nap schedules, impossibly small clothes; the list grows longer each time I think about it.

So how do I cope? Well, I do what any longtime procrastinator would. I put my head in the sand—in this case the sand trap—and pretend that nothing new is about to happen. There isn't anything you can do to prepare for a baby outside of making sure you have all the necessities. This is something you find out after the first one, when you spend months planning out the most minute details and buying all the gadgets you are sure you need, only to find out that your baby likes about a third of them.

Having said all that, there are certain times when you are yanked from la la land back into reality. Below is one of those times. Yes, that's her nose, seemingly pressed up against the camera.

June 11, 2008


June 10, 2008

Harvest Moon

At fourteen, I started my first job. That is if you don’t include all of the holes I dug and rocks I rolled in the backyard of my childhood home in Highland Lakes. My employer was a local market that everyone in our little town called the general store, with no capitals, as if the familiarity of the old green floored place depended on it. The owners were a home grown family that had been there for just about as long as folks were setting their Sunfish in the cool mountain lakes that lent our town its name.

My position as stock clerk covered all of the menial tasks you can imagine. Most of them were jobs that boys my age hated, and to be sure I hated a few, but the more I look back on those days the more I realize that many of the duties I performed colored a good deal of the work I have done since. To this day I can remember Mr. Dupont the senior, not the title eschewing son Ron, explaining to me that when you are wrapping lettuce in heated cellophane it’s best to finish each stage—rinse, chop stalk, remove browning leaves, wrap—separately, and then complete the entire process. I have even called on this maxim when guiding employees at J Crew though the rigors of setting up table after table of new clothing.

I also credit the joy I get from a sparkling white sink and toilet to the Monday and Wednesday mornings I spent cleaning the store’s two small bathrooms. And I will never forget the way in which we broke down all of the boxes and cartons that the beer came in. Stacking two cardboard trays together and breaking each corner is ideal; one at a time is too inefficient and three at a time is just too difficult.

All of this reminiscing about that old job is yet another roundabout segue to an Unfinished Dad post. I used to work every other Sunday morning at the then unheard of hour of 8 a.m. The store opened at 10, but we had to go in early on Sundays so that we could assemble the papers. Who knew that the paper didn’t arrive at the vendors all put together? The first time I had to slide each interior section into the main page I was baffled—Sports, Comics, Business, Style, Travel, Magazine.

Those early Sunday mornings shaped more for my future likes than just about anything else that preceded them. They showed me just how good fresh bagels could be; still hot enough to melt the giant pats of butter I spread on them. They showed me the joy of quiet, solitary work, long before most people start their days. I wouldn’t love William Safire and the New York Times magazine if they hadn’t piqued my curiosity while I was stuffing them. Those mornings with ink all over my hands even got a restless kid out of going to church every week. But more than anything, I credit Sundays at the general store, and Ron’s affinity for classic rock, with my love of Neil Young.

For years after leaving my position as stock boy (clerk sounded so stuffy) I would hum the tune of Harvest Moon, not even knowing who sang it. Ron wasn’t much of a talker and it never crossed my mind to ask him the names of the artists we listened to. So for years I had Neil Young in my head, not even knowing that a catalog spanning five decades and over thirty albums was out there waiting for my discovery. The advent of the internet re-ignited my love. I was able to find Harvest Moon while wasting time perusing tracks at a future job that taught me nothing valuable other than the things I hated about myself.

Before you listen to Harvest Moon in the player to your right, take a minute to play I’m Coming Back by Steve Gallo, or as I like to call him, Phoebe Gallo. He happens to be my little brother-in-law, though the current version isn’t so little. Now he is a dedicated musician and writer who, depite his age, often acts as a sounding board for me and part time musical guide. He is barely recognizable as the kid with the poofy little crew cut, Big Dogs tees, and chubby cheeks anymore. To me he will always be the boy who was red with embarrassment when I got the staff at Outback to sing Happy Birthday, dear Phoebe on his 11th Birthday.

June 9, 2008

Golf Day

Mondays are now officially my golf day. I’ve never had a specific day of the week that I played a round of golf before. But then again, I’ve never had a regularly scheduled babysitter either. So, the golf happens thanks to Bre, the babysitter. I have been having trouble putting my finger on it, but something about heading out every Monday morning alone to hit the course doesn’t quite feel right.

Part of it is guilt that I have this incredibly time consuming job that essentially boils down to twenty-four hours a day of work, and yet I still have this gift of golf. I think that anyone out there with children will tell you that it can sometimes feel like a thankless job, especially if you also cook and clean every day. It gets so that you feel as if you should always be in stay-at-home-dad mode. I find that when I take time for myself (a reasonable thing, no?) I have a complex about someone (my wife first, my in-laws second) thinking that my life isn’t difficult enough.

I won’t have to worry about this much longer though, as in six weeks two major aspects of my life will change. First and foremost, baby number two will be here—we affectionately call her Annabelle II. From what I can tell, I actually have had it easy. Once you double the workload the rounds of golf disappear. I’m sure I will still get to hit a few balls, but nothing like this.

The second major change is one that pains me to think about. The cheap golf is about to end. The course I play is one of the best around and I play it for $29 dollars. If you live in the Northeast I’ll give you a second to wipe off the coffee you just spilled on your shirt. When we get to New Jersey a comparable course will cost $90 on a weekday and $110 on weekends. That makes Monday golf unreasonable.

The bottom line is that I better get over the guilt and enjoy the wonderful help from Bre and the sunny, cheap golf from Louisiana. I’d prefer not to think about how much a trustworthy, two day a week babysitter will cost in New Jersey.

On a related note, my love for golf pales in comparison to a gentleman I hit with today. He plays five days a week and he has the game and the custom golf cart to show for it. I would say that he shot about 85 today, despite tiring on the back nine. What made his 85 so special was the blue handicapped flag on his cart. On every shot he walked to his ball with the use of a cane, and two very large kneee braces. Oh, and he was about 65 years old. So I may love golf, but I'm not so sure I'd be getting up every morning to go through the pain he must have felt out there today. I will forever get a lot of joy picturing him with his wooden cane hanging from his back pocket while he putted.

June 7, 2008

Something to do in Shreveport?

Well, not normally do I find something fun to do in downtown Shreveport on the weekend. That has changed baby. It's farmers' market time here in The Next Great City of The South. The market runs from May 31st to August 30th. The hours you can attend are Saturday from 7-12 and Tuesday from 4-7. Go early on Saturday. Our arrival at 9 was late, hot, and crowded.

Take a look at my booty below. Highlights include cheddar sausage, homemade pickles, and ground beef from a farm owned by our ultrasound technician. That's right.

June 6, 2008

First Step

Annie took her first, albeit very tentative, step yesterday. She was leaning against the couch in her own casual way when I tempted her with a hug. She took one step toward me and then toppled over. As far as milestones go, this one seems to be at the top. She will inevitably progress to toddling by next week; soon after will come driving and dating.

This afternoon in Gymboree, she parlayed her single step into two. The third almost happened, but she fell into my waiting, proud arms first. I anticipate a walking snowball effect to take place over the next few days and I will endeavor to capture this on film. Hopefully on Monday I will have video proof detailing the dawn of her coming adulthood.

June 5, 2008


Lately, this blog has become less and less about Annie and more and more about Daddy. I know that I am the author, editor and creative director of Unfinished Dad, but the reason for the turn away from my muse is the fact that I haven't been able to locate my camera charger. So when the battery died a week after our trip to New Orleans last month, this blog, in essence, went dark.

I was on my way out to buy a new charger today ($44.95) when I decided to pull out the couch that I had checked under four or five times previously. This time I moved it to the center of the room in a fit of frustration, and woops, there was the charger. Frustration and baby black out over. On another positive note, I was officially exonerated. My wife definitely blamed me, or Annie, and thus by extention, me.

So without further ado...a photographic update of my one and only.

June 3, 2008

The Red Album

I’m spending the day listening to the new Weezer album. Early returns are strong. Highlights include: Troublemaker (a song about high school that includes the line “You wanted arts and crafts, how’s this for arts and crafts,” followed by Rivers blasting a gaudy guitar solo), Thought I Knew (a cool track sung by guitarist Brian), and The Angel and The One (a classic Weezer finishing track, sort of, because the album comes with six “bonus” tracks that follow it).

I think I will enjoy this album a lot. I don’t think it’s a Pinkerton, they are too self conscious now. Or is it self involved? Anyway, they are too self-something to pull off music that is as naked/raw as Pinkerton. An interesting question the album raises is one of length. The complete deluxe version comes in at an hour (that’s 15 minutes longer than Make Believe and almost twice as long as any preceding album), and there are four songs that measure over five minutes.

Is this some kind of statement? Is it an “I told you so” by Rivers in which he proves he can write songs that are over three minutes? I like those three minute songs. A band has to grow though, and that means straying from your wheelhouse. My guess would be that after a week it will feel like some of the songs should have been left out.

Two last thoughts: Was this album influenced by Queen, Tenacious D, and Wings, and is that a bad thing?

June 2, 2008

Big Screen Tetris

The Unfinished Dad is pretty tired, because he played golf three days in a row—stay at home parent is a noble undertaking, that comes with certain…perks—so I will tell you about an accomplishment that supersedes all others.

On the back of our toilet here in Shreveport sits a demonic piece of plastic called Big Screen Tetris. Any time you find yourself, um, in our bathroom, you should pick up Big Screen Tetris and play a few rounds. Unlike the original, the object of our pocket-sized, commode version, is to complete 25 lines as quickly as possible.

My wife became proficient at what she affectionately called her “Tetris game” much more quickly than I did. No, this had nothing to do with time played, you sickos, but more to do with her uncanny ability to play video games and her own particular pluckiness. While she was posting times in the 1:30’s, I was wallowing somewhere in the low 2:00’s. (Sad, I know. Especially from someone who beat Mike Tyson’s Punch-out—yes it made it easier if you hit 007 373 5963 to skip all the other fighters—but in order to beat Tyson you had to be legit). Eventually, she posted the unheard of time of 1:26:00 and I was completely defeated. I had to give up the game.

But then I sat down one day and really tried to hammer a good one out. It was fun just to type that. Over the last few weeks, I have devoted way more time to Big Screen Tetris than anyone should. Like a devoted distance runner, my times started to fall. Then they started to plummet. Soon I too was lurking around 1:30 and I started to grow in confidence the longer I sat there. A quick note: There is something about the ironically small screen of Big Screen Tetris that ensures the best playing position is elbows on knees, sitting on toilet. Another quick note: You don’t even need to be doing anything else. In fact, I have played many a game with my pants up.

Let’s hurry and fast forward to Saturday evening. Annie just went to sleep, my wife was working on a quilt, and I was about to commence with a game of Big Screen Tetris. I made a few stupid mistakes right out of the box. However, with Big Screen Tetris, your mistakes can sometimes be your friends. If the right pieces fall, and those little empty boxes open up at the right time, you can find yourself reeling off a string of lines very quickly.

I was sitting there, in a nice groove, when all of a sudden there were no more lines left to complete. The game was over. Intuitively, I knew the time was fast. I don’t look up while I’m playing, though I have found myself having one line left without realizing, and some of my times have suffered. Ultimately, I decided that the fraction of a second that it takes to look up was too much to sacrifice. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.


Oh, and honey, I have no idea how it's possible to forget every day things like buying milk, and still have that old cheat code rattling around in my head.