Monthly Archives: February 2010

BOOOO Canada!!

I don’t particularly enjoy hockey, but I would love to see the entire country of Canada collectively commit suicide over this game. My son has similar feelings. Check it out. Nothing like teaching blind nationalism at an early age.

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Danger: Dad in Playgroup

I’m a dad at a play group. And I am trouble.

Odds are if you’re a dad and you’ve attended one of these local get-togethers where parents bring their kids to a predetermined destination for play-time or story-time, the first thing you notice is the sound of a record scratching when you walk in. And a cursory glance around the room tells you why: you’re the only vaginally-challenged parent in attendance.

Yup, these things are dominated by moms. Moms who have been coming to the playgroup for months, maybe even years, and have an established pecking order and way of doing things. Territorial moms who eye you suspiciously. And if they had those little cartoon bubbles over their heads, the text within would say:

“Who’s this deadbeat?” and “Why isn’t this bum at work?” and “Who is this hot dad and please let him be single!” OK, the last one is wishful thinking but I digress.

It’s actually like being the new kid in school, because no one talks to you yet everyone seems to be watching you because they’re curious and want to see how you’ll react. One option is to start introducing yourself to people, which I did. But I got a chilly reception on my first attempt from a mom who was looking at me like my picture might’ve been the one from the Level 3 sex offender mugshot hanging up at the post office. After that initial letdown, I got gunshy so I kept to myself and looked after Will.

From that point on all I wanted to do was blend in, let Will have fun and get out unscathed.

So all the kids are playing with balls and hula hoops and running around like crazy. Most of them were Will’s age, but I’m raising a gigundo toddler who is bigger than all the other kids his age. He doesn’t know his own strength and has a hard time controlling himself when he gets excited, kind of like Lenny from “Of Mice and Men.” He totally can’t be trusted with a rabbit (or a farm girl with extraordinary hair).

So everything is going well and Will is playing on the mats. He was running around cavorting with a few other kids when all of a sudden he stopped on a dime, spotted a ball on the other side of the gym and reversed course suddenly.

Just in time to smack face first into another girl.

The poor girl immediately fell to the ground and covered her face, while Will stood dazed for about two seconds before he was off and running toward the ball. I walked over to the little girl and got down on one knee to ask her if she was OK, at which point she removed her hands from her face to display a lip that was bleeding at a pretty good clip.

“Oh sweetie, you’re bleeding. Where’s your mommy?” I said.

The poor girl couldn’t hold in the whimper that had been slowly building, and all of a sudden she turned and ran to find her mom screaming “MOMMY!” I followed her because I wanted to be sure she was OK. The mom didn’t see the accident, but instead finds her daughter running up to her in a panic, bleeding profusely and followed closely by the sole weird guy who showed up and ruined this week’s play group.

I tried to explain what happened and that it was a total accident, but I don’t think she believed me.

Basically the whole experience reinforced what I already knew. That many moms still think parenting is their turf and they can have a severe problem with men encroaching on their territory. Not all moms, but some.

I felt like the manatee who accidentally swam too far north and ended up in Cape Cod instead of staying south in warmer waters where he belongs. Onlookers said they felt it was “like seeing Bigfoot.” And unfortunately, the chances of seeing fathers at play groups and spying Bigfoot or a manatee off the Coast of Massachusetts are about the same.

Not to mention the fact that my play group experience was not at all unlike slowly freezing to death and eventually dying from hypothermia, just like the poor manatee.

DAD BLOGS AND FATHERHOOD FRIDAY. CHECK IT OUT…OR PERISH!

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Patience Rocks

Someone recently asked me what the most difficult part of being a father has been. The answer, hands down, is patience. Whether it’s having it, maintaining it or not losing it, patience is a virtue I lack. Unfortunately for me, when you’re dealing with a toddler it’s the one quality of which you need to have an abundance.

The thing is, I’m a punctual person and I’m all about efficiency. I don’t dawdle, meander or dillydally. If I need to go somewhere, I take the quickest possible route to my destination. Then I do what I have to do, leave and get home as quickly as possible. I think it stems from the fact that my mother was habitually late, but that’s a therapy session for another time. The point is, when Will doesn’t do exactly what he’s supposed to precisely when he’s supposed to, I get pretty irritated.

And god help us all if we deviate from the plan. I hate unexpected detours. As you can tell, I’m just a ton of fun.

That’s why MJ has begged me to calm down. When Will is tearing through the Tupperware cupboard and tossing shit around the kitchen, my blood boils. When he’s eating pasta but not using his fork and getting the mess everywhere, I have a series of little heart attacks. Basically if he strays from my best laid plans I go a little berserk.

I had the last two days off from work and luckily, Mother Nature finally stopped being a total bitch long enough to temporarily release us from the clutches of another frigid New England winter. With temperatures being so mild, I knew it would be downright criminal to keep Will inside for the day. So I decided I’d take Will to the playground on the beach two miles from the house.

But instead of being thankful for the mild weather and rare chance to go outside in February, all I could think about was the wet sand, dirty slides and the fact that all Will wants to do is dip his wee little Nikes in the ocean. And the ocean is wet. Which soaks his feet. And then the sand sticks to his sneakers. And God forbid if he falls in.

Soon we arrived and sure enough, like clockwork, he went straight for the sea.

I spent the next five minutes pulling him back from the water’s edge, while he repeatedly kept trying to dip his toes in. Back and forth, ebb and flow. Over and over again. When he got tired of that, he started throwing rocks. But he would only pick up the rocks that were underwater, thus creating a very unstable situation as he crouched perilously over the water giving me great stress.

I was about to pick him up and drag him back to the car kicking and screaming. But instead, I took a deep breath and remembered my wife’s advice.

Suddenly I realized what an idiot I am.

I was at the beach with my son. We had the entire stretch of sand to ourselves. Dad and son together, tossing rocks into the sea as the light of day prepares to give way to dusk. Kodak couldn’t even make a moment like the one on which I had been unwittingly sitting.

Instead of freaking out about how wet his shoes were and sand getting everywhere in the car, I took a few deep breaths and realized how lucky I was to be with my son. So I picked up a rock and gave it a toss.

“Yaaaaay, dadda! Throw, throw!” was the response I got.

So I picked up another one and threw it a little farther, and received a similar response.

“More, more. Big throw dadda. Big throw!”

This time I grabbed a slightly larger rock, took a few steps back and launched that sucker toward the horizon.

“Wooooooowwwww,” said Will.

The kid was looking at me like I was Superman. He had an amazed look on his face, the kind of look all dads hope to receive and hold onto for all time. Like I was his hero who just performed the most amazing feat imaginable. There was no need to tell him I dislocated my shoulder with that last toss, it would’ve ruined the moment.

For the next 20 minutes we happily took turns throwing rocks into Buzzards Bay. Laughing, smiling and not worrying about the stupid shit.

Although I still have sand in my sneakers even two days later.


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The Dying Middle Class

Hello, I’m what’s left of the American middle class. And I’m dying.

I’m in my 30s and I have a wife and one child. I own a house, and although a man is only a man once he buys land and a domicile, it is this very house that is crushing my will to live. But more on that later. Here in the middle class, both of us work full-time. And we work hard. We kind of had to after one of us lost that job when the economy imploded. Sure we make less now, but one of us was also forced to take a job an hour away from home, so we’re spending a fortune on gas that costs nearly $3 a gallon and less time with our families. And because we can’t spend as much time with our kids as we’d like, we need to pay for daycare. That means one of our jobs is paying almost exclusively for someone else to watch our kid, yet we slave away.

But then home values tanked and we were stuck with that exotic mortgage. I know exotic sounds sexy most of the time, but trust me, in this instance there’s nothing appealing about it. It was only supposed to be temporary, you know, until we could refinance or sell the place and get something bigger. But then the market crashed and home values dropped faster than Tiger Woods’ pants. All of a sudden we’re upside down $75,000 and saddled with an adjustable rate mortgage that’s about to shoot up higher than Tiger’s erection when he passes a strip joint. We can’t refinance because we don’t have any equity in the house. We can’t sell the place because we’d still owe a fortune. And we can’t rent it because the rental income wouldn’t even cover all of our expenses.

Not to mention most of us haven’t received raises in a couple of years now, and health insurance costs have ballooned up to nearly unthinkable levels as employers contribute less and less to the cause.

And speaking of expenses, it’s getting out of control. The condo fees are getting a little too close to $300 a month for comfort. And on top of that, the condo association has implemented a 5-year “special assessment” at the rate of $1,100 a year to put new siding on the houses. Not to mention another $140 special assessment for landscaping, which is already supposed to be included in the regular condo fees. Yet my house has no new siding, they don’t do anything besides mow the lawn and the snow barely gets plowed in the winter. Meanwhile NStar is charging me a $500 per month electric bill because energy costs are off the charts.

Although we haven’t used credit cards in years, it became clear  a few months ago we had to lean on them in our time of need. But lo and behold, new credit card regulations are going into effect and the credit card companies don’t like it one bit. So, they began either drastically reducing credit limits on existing cards, or in some cases, canceling them altogether. That means our emergency safety net was suddenly removed, just as we got to the most treacherous part of the tightrope. And the biggest kick to the junk is when you’re hoping for a mini bailout in the form of a tax return, only to discover you owe the government $3,000 because you had to take out withdrawals from IRAs and 401ks just to get by.

Recently, after some simple math, it became clear that making timely mortgage payments, utility payments, condo fee payments, etc was not going to be possible. But because we are proud people who have never fallen behind on any payments in the past, we wanted to be proactive. So, being the responsible middle class folks we are, we began calling around.

We tried to refinance our mortgage and were rebuffed. We tried to negotiate with the condo association and were shat upon. But perhaps the most frustrating part was appealing to the mortgage company. We explained our situation to them and told them for at least a few months, we weren’t going to be able to pay on time. And so we asked for assistance, noting that we were doing so ahead of time to stay in front of things.

Wanna know what they said? They told us there was nothing they could do for us until we were at least two months behind in payments.

Incredulous at their response, we asked them if we were correct in surmising that they could do nothing to help us now, but if we were derelict in our responsibility to pay them for the next two months, then and only then could they step in and help us.

Does anyone else see how fucking backward this is?!?! No one can help the middle class until the middle class is so broke they become the poor. It actually benefits me NOT to pay the mortgage, so that I can receive help to then — you guessed it — pay the mortgage. Maybe I’m a goddamn lunatic here, but wouldn’t it be more cost effective to assist people BEFORE they get to the point where they’re considering walking away from a home with no equity of which they’re in arrears?

And make no mistake, people are walking away from their homes. And who can blame them? A lot of the middle class didn’t put money down on their homes, they’re upside down and with the market correction may never see any kind of profit. Where there used to be a strong connection to our homes, many see them as an anchor around their necks. There’s no “pride of ownership” related to a home that is slowly killing you. So people are taking the credit hit, weathering the foreclosure and starting over.

Meanwhile those of us working several jobs apiece and breaking our backs to pay everything on time (or slightly behind) are met with no assistance, liens on our homes and threatening letters from lenders and bill collectors. And whether it’s a car repair, home repair or medical problem, we’re all one major unexpected bill away from serious motherfucking trouble.

This is why the middle class is disappearing. The middle class makes too much money to qualify for much of the available aid out there, but not enough to make all the ends meet. It’s like being stuck in some hellish limbo where things admittedly could be worse, but at the same time there’s no real chance of them getting any better. It’s a never-ending struggle and swimming upstream is so fucking maddening sometimes, I feel like just sinking to the bottom so someone will come rescue me.

But I can’t. I can’t imagine getting behind on the mortgage. I would feel too much guilt, because I’ve been taught personal responsibility. And that’s what the bigwigs bank on, the pride of the remaining class that will keep them paying into a money pit that will never benefit them.

I thought our President might provide some relief, and for the first time in a long time I was hopeful. Turns out I was naive. There’s no help on the way. No white (or in this case, black) knight coming to the rescue. We either need to give up and be dirt poor, or hit the lottery (or land a book deal) and move up to the wealthy stratosphere.

Because those of us in the middle are nearly extinct, and we’re running out of reasons to keep trying.


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Tiger: Embrace It

I hate Tiger Woods.

I fully admit, he’s probably the best athlete to ever don funny pants and walk around hitting a small ball with a crooked club. He’s only a few years older than I am, so I distinctly remember being a teenager and watching him make his meteoric rise to stardom. The world LOVED this guy. An African-American phenom who seemingly had his head screwed on straight, worked hard on his game and never seemed to say or do anything even remotely controversial? Tiger was the second coming of Arnold Palmer mixed with Michael Jordan.

But I never liked him. Mostly because I tend to gravitate toward athletes I feel I can relate to in some way. Athletes who let us in and give us periodic peeks behind the curtain into their personal lives. Players like former New England Patriot Tedy Bruschi, who lives in the town next to the one where I grew up, personally gives out Halloween candy to the kids in his neighborhood and regularly talks with his fans. Tedy wasn’t the most talented player out there, but he gave it his all and he connected with us regular schlubs. And that’s why we loved him. Tiger, on the other hand, is a golf ball hitting cyborg who never strays from the carefully crafted image his PR people have conjured up for him. Completely unrelatable and, for me, unlikable.

Well, I don’t think I have to tell anyone how things have worked out lately for Tiger.

He cheated on his wife with every stripper, IHOP waitress and hooker along the PGA tour. Despite his wife being HOT! He left ill-conceived voicemail messages on his mistresses phones, displaying a startling disregard and reckless abandon about possibly being caught. And apparently he gave absolutely no consideration to how all of this would affect not only his marriage, but the lives of his young children. Because make no mistake, those kids will ALWAYS deal with the aftershocks of Tiger’s actions.

Look, I’ve already judged Tiger. I think he’s a dick. But I realized something else recently. You see, Tiger is the biggest sports superstar on the planet and the reason most people watch golf. He has been must-see-TV for years, and I didn’t think anything could make him more of a draw.

Then this happened and, unbelievably, Tiger has a chance to come back bigger and better.

Unfortunately (but predictably) Tiger has opted to talk a stroll down Contrition Lane. He did what all celebrities do when they’re caught, which is go to rehab and drum up pity for “his problem.” He set up the most scripted and ridiculous press conference on the planet to “apologize.” He desperately tried to work up some human tears, although I don’t think his robot circuitry was fully operational. That’s all well and good and I’m sure it’ll work, but I have a better plan.

The truth is, Tiger has already driven a stake through his marriage and he’s one of the worst dads on the planet. Tiger the responsible husband and father is dead and gone for all eternity. He will never fully make amends for what he’s done, and if Elin knows what’s good for her she’ll follow through with a divorce and get sole custody.

If that’s the case, I have some advice for Tiger. Instead of running away from his troubles, I say embrace them and become:

Pic courtesy of celebritypixx.blogspot.com

Pic courtesy of celebritypixx.blogspot.com

Yup, that’s right. Tiger should completely reinvent himself, embrace his sexual deviancy and become Big Pimpin’ Tiger.

Can you imagine? It would be like in wrestling when Hulk Hogan made himself into a bad guy and became “Hollywood Hogan.” Tiger could reinvent himself as golf’s bad boy. He’d show up to PGA events with a half dozen Playboy bunnies and strippers on his arm. His caddy would be a bikini-clad hooker and they’d be caught having sex during course play in the woods off the 13th green.

Tiger Woods, the bad guy.

I hate golf but I would be tuned in for every friggin event! And impossibly, the world’s foremost golfer suddenly finds himself even more in demand than ever before. Sure he’s reviled by some, but that’s already the case now. There are many people out there who will never forgive Tiger for what he’s done. So why shouldn’t Tiger flip em all the bird and go down his own path. And since he’s been philandering with other women for years, I’d say there’s a fairly large chance that scumbag Tiger is his actual personality, instead of the obviously concocted Mr. Upstanding Golfer.

He’d be the New York Yankees of the golf world. And as every Yankee-hater knows, people love to hate the bad guy. But even though we hate the Yankees, we are ALWAYS paying attention to what they’re doing.

So yes, Tiger is a huge asshole. But you know what? At least he’s interesting now. Here’s to hoping he gives in to the dark side.

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