Monthly Archives: May 2011

Patriotism & Memorial Day

I took a friend to the Red Sox game last week. In addition to being a Fenway Park virgin, he’s also a veteran who served in Iraq. Twice. So it was fitting that that particular nationally televised game turned out to be “Military Night” at Fenway. I’d like to say I had it all planned out to impress him, but it was totally coincidental.

The pageantry that night was second to none. Soldiers from all branches of our armed forces were present and accounted for, hundreds of them lining the field. Distinguished veterans were honored and threw out pitches. A soldier with a prosthetic leg running the bases was a particularly poignant moment.

And then came the piece de resistance:

Fenway’s fabled Green Monster—which stands 37-1/2 feet tall in left field—was draped in an enormous American flag while the Star Spangled Banner was performed. And as you can see, our seats provided prime viewing.

It was a powerful moment. But it’s what happened afterwards that moved me most.

My friend—my tough as nails, macho, 6’5″ mountain of a friend—had tears in his eyes. And I realized in that moment how much I take for granted. I donated some money once to a non-profit organization that helps veterans and I take my hat off when the national anthem is played. Aside from that, I haven’t served my country in any tangible way.

But my friend (and countless others just like him) have done so. And then some. They’ve left their families for months and even years at a time, often missing huge milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries and even the births of their kids. They’ve dodged bullets in the desert, and sometimes those bullets didn’t miss. They’ve watched their friends die and they’ve had to defend themselves. Often by lethal means.

Some don’t come back, but even the ones who do don’t always come back whole. The missing parts aren’t as obvious as an absence of limbs either. It’s insidious PTSD, nightmares and memories that never seem to fade. It’s not being able to enter a city block without worrying about snipers, or being uncomfortable every time you’re around a large group of people. It’s being petrified about assimilating back into a society after witnessing the unspeakable.

Is it any wonder the song that encompasses all those things brings tears to the eyes of the people who have taken it upon themselves to experience the unimaginable horror of war so we don’t have to be burdened with it?

I’ve been around veterans when people from the general public come up to them and ask/say stupid things. “How many people did you kill?” “Were you shot at?” “Did anyone in your unit die?” I’m not sure what it is about that uniform that seems to give people the right to think it’s OK to ask ridiculously insensitive questions, but it does happen. And I want to punch them in the face.

I don’t know the best way to honor veterans. But personally, if I see a veteran I offer a handshake and a simple “thank you for your service.” And for my friends who served, I’m just there. There if they want to talk about what happened, and there when they want to talk about everything else instead.

When it comes to Will, all I can do is instill in him an appreciation for the monumental sacrifice our veterans make for us. And lucky for us both, I happen to have a handful of friends I can show him who illustrate that point perfectly.

Happy Memorial Day. And thank you—all of you who put your lives on the line for this country—for your service.

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Spidey, Penis Glue & Cantaloupes

I’m sick.

Sinus infection, earache and the early onset of pneumonia. I’m achy, I’m sore, I’m lethargic and I don’t feel like doing anything. Including parenting. Especially parenting.

I have no scientific proof to fall back on, but I’d bet my left testicle kids can sniff out when parents are at their wit’s end and that’s when they decide to shift their hyperactivity and general craziness into overdrive. Just to fuck with us. Yesterday—as I plopped on the couch with my nose leaking lime-green snot, shooting pain in my ear and tension emanating from every bone and joint in my body—Will decided to play 20,000 questions in rapid-fire succession.

I swear this conversation actually took place.

WILL: “Dada how was your day?”

ME: “Actually it was—“

WILL: “I played today. And I saw two horses.”

ME: “Cool.”

WILL: “Yeah it was cool. Daddy, you’re a person. And Mama is a person. But mama doesn’t have a penis.”

ME: “I am a person and—wait, did you just say penis?”

WILL: “Why doesn’t Mama have a penis? Did it fall off?”

ME: “Ummm…well—“

WILL: “Mama said she doesn’t have a penis because her a girl. Dada will my penis fall off?

ME: “Only if you get married.”

WILL: “Oh. Well my penis use glue and it stay on. Hey dad, you get cantaloupes across the street?”

ME: “Huh? Wait. What? How did you go from penis glue to cantaloupes? And there’s not even a store across the street. Where would I get cantaloupes?”

WILL: “Hey daaaaad, can I have the Bird is Word song?”

ME: “I thought you wanted cantaloupes.”

WILL: “No, I’m Spiderman now.”

ME: “OK. Does Spiderman eat cantaloupe?”

WILL: (suddenly very serious) “Dad, that is a silly question.”

ME: (feeling stupid) “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought it was a legitimate query.”

WILL: “My name is William George Thomas Gouveia. I live at (he recited our address)  in Bourne. Bourne is a town. I go over Bourne Bridge WAY HIGH UP! Your name is Eeeee-rin.”

ME: “I’ve told you not to call me Aaron. I’m dad.”

WILL: “You a bungo.”

ME: “What the heck is a bungo?”

WILL: “It’s you.”

ME: “Well that explains it.”

WILL: “Dada, I play with Jacob at school. I was Spiderman and he was Spiderman and we shoot webs. Spiderman is Peter Parker and he wear glasses. Dada where are my Spiderman glasses? Can I have them? Dada? Dada?? DADA?? I need my Spiderman glasses because they’re my favorite thing every time. Can we watch Spiderman on TV? Dada, does Spiderman have a penis?”

ME: (throwing in the towel) “HONEY?!?!!?!?”

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McDonald’s Gives an Inch(worm)

I am not a picky eater.

My wife (bless her heart) can be a nightmare when ordering at restaurants. Just like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally,” she orders things very specifically and on the side and substitute this for that…let’s just say I cringe whenever she makes one of her “special requests.” And if something is wrong or she isn’t happy with her food, she sends it back.

Not me.

I sent food back once, and that was because there was a band-aid in my mashed potatoes. I’ve gotten food that isn’t cooked exactly right, but I eat it. Or they give me the wrong dressing, so instead of sending it back I just suck it up. Hell, I’ve found a hair in my food and I forge ahead. Maybe it’s because I started working in a restaurant when I was 15 and still vividly remember how horrible some customers can be, but the point is, I have a very strong stomach and—short of a band-aid—there isn’t much that will bother me.

But congratulations McDonald’s, you raised the bar.

On Sunday we stopped at the McDonald’s near our house, located at 370 MacArthur Blvd. in Bourne, Mass. Will loves chicken nuggets and MJ decided to treat herself to a Big Mac and fries. We walked in, ordered, got our food and sat down. Will began munching away (because we told him he can’t open his happy meal toy until he’s done eating) and MJ tore into her Big Mac. She and I were picking at her fries. I was eating so many of them she decided to dump out half the box on a napkin on top of the table for me.

And that’s when we both nearly lost our lunch, because we saw this:

Yup. That’s right. An inchworm. Wriggling away, still very much alive. It came out with the fries when MJ dumped them on the napkin.

Now first of all, this is not a fake picture. I took it shortly after we discovered it, right there on the table. It wasn’t there before, we didn’t go outside after we ordered and we’re not carrying around inchworms trying to scam free meals. There actually was an inchworm in our food.

Look, as I laid out before I’m not a prude. I can deal with a lot. But even though we weren’t dining at a 5-star gourmet bistro, I still think we’re entitled to food without living worms in it. And while I understand McDonald’s is all about their “healthy options menu,” I think we can all agree this is not what they had in mind when they talked about eating more greens.

Now, being a reporter, I wanted to see how the staff would react.

I sent MJ up with the inchworm and the employees let out a simultaneous “EWWWW!” And yes, they apologized. But amazingly, that was it. We got a “Gee I’m really sorry about that” and then it was back to our table. A few minutes later the girl working the register did come back over and ask if she could get us anything else, but at that point I was fuming. A manager did eventually come over, but I was less than enthralled with his attitude as he said “I know you’re never going to eat here again after this, but here’s a coupon for a free meal in case you do.”

Yeah. That’s what I want after finding a worm in my food. More contaminated food.

My question is, WHERE WAS THE OFFER TO REFUND OUR MONEY?!?!? I specifically didn’t ask for it because I was waiting for them to offer. It should’ve been automatic and without an ounce of hesitation. You find a living animal in your food, you get your money back. I think it would be wise for all restaurants to adopt such a policy, don’t you? But instead I got a belated offer of more worm food.

To be fair, I did get a response on Twitter from a McDonald’s team member who had me call an 800 number to report the complaint. The following day. After the picture of the worm had already been viewed hundreds of times on Twitter. But by that time they had already blown it in my eyes.

I guess I should thank them. This McDonald’s is open 24 hours and less than a mile from my house. After a late meeting it’s the only thing open, and I’ve succumbed to the charm of the Golden Arches more than once. But not anymore. Now I’ll eat healthier, if only by subtracting McDonald’s from my diet altogether. Finding a wiggling little worm in your fries will do that.

But I guess the upside is fishermen can look forward to a Big Mac with free bait!

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You’re Growns Up & You’re Growns Up

It seems my son is all grown up.

You see that wretched looking brown thing at the top of the picture? That’s Monkey. He’s been with Will since Day 1. There isn’t a night that goes by when Will and Monkey aren’t together. He cuddles Monkey, he chews on Monkey, he kisses Monkey. And now, it appears he has renamed Monkey.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Monk!

Yup, that’s right. Just like Prince goes through transformational identity crises, so too does Monkey. Will informed me recently that “Monkey is a baby name.” Then he decreed, in no uncertain terms, we were no longer allowed to address his prized possession by its former moniker. Apparently Will stopped over at the Stuffed Animal Social Security Office (SASSO) and filed the appropriate documents for a legal name change to Monk. Which, quite obviously, is much more grown-up.

I guess I should’ve seen this coming.

My son has been rebelling against almost everything lately, and even altered his own name. We can’t call him “baby,” “pumpkin” or “Stinker Butts” anymore. Hell, he told us we’re not even allowed to call him “Will.” He actively demands we refer to him as William. Sometimes he even goes so far as to order us to address him as “William George.” I joked with him that I should just get it over with and refer to him henceforth as “King William II of Monument Beach.” He liked that one, but fortunately had trouble pronouncing it and promptly forgot about it.

Also, now that he’s fully potty-trained he demands to do his business in private. Before, when he was scared, we needed to be right next to him. Sometimes holding his hand. Now the little bastard cocks his head to one side, gives me a pissy look and demands his privacy.

Just goes to show they grow up fast. But on the bright side, it gave me a chance to post a clip of one of my favorite movies of all time. Enjoy young, thin Vince Vaughn & Swingers!

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Kid Toy or Kid Torture?

At first blush, it seemed like a fantastic idea.

Will loves dinosaurs. Loves them. So when one of our very generous family members saw a dinosaur egg toy in a store they bought it for Will. He was out of his mind with excitement. And why wouldn’t he be? It looks like a real dinosaur egg that you put in water. Then a little dinosaur grows to four times its size and eventually hatches out of the egg. Is that not friggin cool as hell??

Well…let me tell you what common sense should’ve told me in the first place.

The idea of this toy is very, very awesome. What kid wouldn’t want their own dinosaur, and to watch it be born. Hell, I was excited about it. So excited, in fact, I forgot to read the fine print. So it was only after I worked Will into a frenzy and put the dinosaur egg in water that I looked at the box and saw something troubling:

“Within 24-48 hours, the dinosaur will crack through the egg and grow larger.”

Uh-oh.

For those of you who don’t have kids or have never been around a 3-year-old, let’s just say instant gratification is of the utmost importance. There is no patience with kids this age. They need things and they need it now. That’s to say nothing of their gnat-like attention span, which can only be described as ADD on crack.

After a whole 30 seconds underwater, Will turned to me and said “Where’s the dinosaur Dada?”

I’m a dumb parent. Mainly because I usually tell my son the truth even when he won’t like it and we’ll suffer for it. So I just flat out told him it takes a whole day or two for the dinosaur to be born. But I assured him that if he just put it out of his mind, went to bed and checked on it the next morning there would probably be some progress.

I should’ve lied to him.

He threw a mental fit and demanded the dino’s birth. I tried to distract him with food, candy and other shiny objects but unfortunately Will picked this moment to focus all of his energy on one thing. And he refused to move. I can’t get him to sit still when it’s time to eat, brush his teeth or get dressed. Yet he was glued to his chair for a good hour—nose inches from the glass—intently watching for any movement from his dinosaur egg.

It was right about that time I cursed whoever the sick bastard was who invented this thing (Jim Henson by the way), because this is not a kiddie toy. It’s kiddie torture. It’s like telling a kid who just go this driver’s license that he can drive a brand new Corvette. But then you hold onto the keys and park it right in the driveway for a few days, not letting him get behind the wheel.

When he finally hatched it was cool and Will liked it, but then I realized the dinosaur shrinks after he’s out of the water. So now I’ve tortured my son for two days with a toy he can’t touch, and then when I do let him play with the dinosaur it goes all Benjamin Button on us and starts withering away to nothing.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a a whiny kid for 48 hours, a happy kid for 45 minutes and back to an inconsolable kid wondering why his dinosaur is sick and shrinking even though it was just born.

Thanks a lot Jim Henson, you muppet bastard!

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