Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trains, Trains Everywhere

My father-in-law loves toy trains, model trains, train shows, fishing and boats. Not necessarily in that order. But his love for all things that go clickity-clack brought the whole crew to a very special event this weekend. My wife, my son, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law and I went to the local Model Train Swap Shop.

See that picture you have in your mind? It's... well, it's kind of right. It wasn't in a big, cavernous convention center. There were miles of tables. But it was in a Youth Rec Center hall and there were at least thirty to forty tables spread out over two rooms. More on the Rec Center and the patrons in a bit. First, let's get some of the basics out of the wa

There were about sixty people in this place when we got there. A man and his 8-year old son were in front of us as we got to the nice old man taking money for the entrance fee. All the proceeds on tickets went to the local Model Train club or association or something. What they do at their meetings is... well, we're still trying to figure that one out.

You walk in and it's set up just like any flea market. Tables are arranged in rows and merchants are plying their trade and trying to make deals. In fact, the first person we saw was someone you'll recognize simply from his catch phrase:

Ladies and gentleman, we have a Monty hall sighting! No, not really. But it was the kind of place you might run into an old TV personality trying to make money off something just to fund one more run at the top.

On a side note, I did think that I saw one of the contestants from "Let's Make a Deal" dressed as a railroad conductor.

If you can't read that sign, it says: "Fight Poverty, Buy Here!"

Ok, I'll let your laughter die down a bit. Apparently, one of the little-known and under-reported programs started by the giant Stimulus Bill was a new war on poverty, starting with the model train world. President Obama would have been proud.

At least on some level. Remember that I said this thing was held at a Youth Rec Center? Every picture of a sports team in the trophy case or on the wall. was a celebration of some 100% African-American team from the surrounding area. The walls were covered with educational posters of famous African-Americans throughout United States history. Looking at the surrounding wall, each and every train profiteer or collectible connoisseur could learn about Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

Of the fifty or so people there at the train show? One black guy. The rest looked like happy hour in a North Dakota steak house.

One final picture. Don't look at the train. Don't look at the table where the monstrous train set was arranged in a ten-yard-square track where it went through tunnels, over bridges, and through make-believe towns.

No, take a look at the couple sitting on the stage. He's content as a lark, totally in his element. I know because I went by him at least four times. Each time, he smile seemed to either get bigger or perhaps more pleasant. That's really what he looked like, a nice guy who was enjoying the heck out of his life at that very moment. She's holding her nose like she has the biggest train-induced headache in the world. And it got worse. I looked over later and wished I had my camera up. Her arms were on her knees and she looked like she badly needed a barf bag.

Finally, after we walked outside and were ready to leave, three things happened that caused us immense joy. First, two men walked from their cars to go into the show. The lead guy had a doo-doo brown beret on his head; the follower had the worst comb-over I've ever seen. His hair stopped growing at his ear and stretched over his dome to the other ear. And there wasn't much of it. Second, a man got out of his van to go into the train show and his pants fell halfway down his rear end, giving us all a great view of his rather large butt.

The third thing that happened? My son learned a new meaning for, and then used correctly in a sentence, "the moon!" God Bless trains!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guy's Night In

Yes, I know I haven't written in a while. No, I have no excuse except to say that my job is hectic and, well, it's more fun to spend time with my son than write about spending time with my son. And isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

Tomorrow is Guy's Night In. The Wife is going out with her family, so my son and I are going to be spending Friday in "guy heaven". Which means:

- First up is eating dinner. His meal is supposed to be something healthy set up by my wife. Yeah right, we're having hot dogs, chips, ice cream and whatever else he wants. Yes, I'm going to give him cake if he wants it (and if I can find some in the house). Yes, he can have some of my french fries. But only him, no one else.

- Highlight of the night will be either one of two things. One is playing with his trains. My son got a "Thomas the Tank Engine" starter set from Santa Claus and he loves it. I cannot put into words how much he loves his trains. It's like me when the Browns beat the Ravens. Wait, that hasn't happened in a while, remind me how that feels please.

- The second possible highlight of the night will be showing him a new movie we bought: Cars. The Disney Pixar movies are his favorite, and any kind of car is one of his favorite things to play with. Seems like a match made in parenting heaven. Plus, I haven't seen the movie in forever, so it'll be fun to watch. Even better to watch it with him.

- One thing that will not be played unless it is absolutely neccessary is any episode of "Wonder Pets!" This deserves it's own post and I'll do it whenever I can rationally discuss this. But right now, just the thought of this show on Nick Jr. makes the theme song run through my head and I want to punch myself in the face because of it. "The phone... the phone is ringing..." There, if you know the song, you are suffering same as me. Don't get mad at me, I didn't write the thing.

So that's what's going on in my world. I'll let you know how it goes. But for now, enjoy your time with your kids. Sometime soon, I'll be writing them detentions.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Hate Snooki

(This blog isn't about being a Daddy; it's about writing, and the industry of writing and publishing. So if you aren't interested in such trivialities, by all means continue with your spreadsheets, emails and other work stuff. However, if you are keen on my take on things, keep reading.)

I hate Snooki. I hate Lauren Conrad. I hate Nicole Richie.

Yes, I am going to teach my son that "we don't hate anyone, that's not a good word; we dislike someone or we aren't interested in something, but we don't hate anything or anyone." However, I hate all three of those girls. Hate them. I don't dislike them; I'm not not interested in them. I hate them. I loathe them. I dispise them. I curse the day I heard their names.

All three of them have no discernible talent. All of them get paid money, when you break it down to its barest level, for no reason whatsoever other than people know who they are. People recognize their faces and their names. That is why they get paid. But, you might say, that's what being famous is! People recognizing your name and image is exactly what it means to have fame. You are correct, but let's look at other famous people. LeBron James is famous. Russell Crowe is famous. Rhianna is famous. All of these people have faces and images and names that we all recognize as famous. But that's where the differences end. You would have to agree that LeBron James is a very talented athlete. If you don't think Russell Crowe is talented, put Gladiator, The Insider, and State of Play as the next three movies on your Netflix queue; the different walks, mannerisms and personality he displays will be all the evidence you need. Rhianna might be lousy at picking boyfriends, but the girl can sing incredibly well.

Snooki, Lauren Conrad and Nicole Richie all have book deals for novels. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. If you want to re-read it a few times to let the idea sink in I'll wait till you're done.

Welcome back. Shocking, huh? Maddening, right? It is a sign that Western Civilization is crumbling before our very eyes if you ask me.

I've been writing fiction for years. I've got two novels finished and at least four more partially finished. I've got a multitude of short stories ready to be submitted to contests and/or magazines. And do I have a literary agent? Nope. An editor interested? No. A publisher ready to fork over six digits (hell, four!) for the prose I've written? Not even close. But I am a smart guy (just ask my wife, who swears that I am even though I'm stupid at times), I've served in the US Air Force, got a degree that involved massive amounts of writing and being taught how to craft words, and I don't have any of that publishing pub. Snooki's greatest contribution to society is... um... hold on, I'm thinking... there's got to be at least one, right?

And she has a f&%king novel coming out!!!!!! Not that I'm bitter...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rain, Rain Just Go

I thought that my son was going to get his first named storm hitting our area of his lifetime, but alas we were stuck today and yesterday with basic, run-of-the-mill Tropical Depression 16. Not that I ever want a hurricane to come and hit anywhere near us, but... call it a desire to have something to add to my son's memory bank one day. See, I look at these blog entries not as a way to convey to the world what it's like to be a brand new Dad (even though they are), but rather as a collection of details both funny and meaningful to show to my son when he's old and capable of being totally embarassed in front of a date. I mean isn't that why we had kids in the first place? So that we can do to them what our parents did to us?

My first named storm wasn't until I was thirty years old. It went over this place like a quick thunderstorm. Of course, The Wife's father had us put the storm shutters up while the thing was hitting, which was a perfect time to do so if you ask me. I mean standing in ankle-deep water while a seventy-five mph wind was blowing and a gallon of water a second comes off the roof onto my head is exactly what I wanted to do on that lovely afternoon. What was The Wife doing while I was suffering through this hurricane? Standing under the shelter of the porch laughing at me. I love her. I really do.

Oh, forgot to tell you the name of that delightful baby hurricane. When it passed over South Florida, it was a Category 1. Unfortunately, it would grow once it hit the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina would be memorable, alright but not in a good way. The second named storm to hit my area of the world while I was living there was Wilma. Not good times. Lots of days without power and no hot water makes for one very unhappy me. However, one good thing to come out of the storm was our first trip to the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot in Orlando. That was good times!

So, The Son is still waiting for the first named storm to hit our area in his lifetime. I'm going to say a quick prayer that it is to hurricanes what playing the School for the Deaf and Blind is to football, a breeze. Until then, I'm debating showing him the joys of playing in rain puddles. That is until Mommy makes us come inside cause the street lights are coming on.

UPDATE: Yes, I know this piddling little storm was actually named (Nicole if you're scoring at home, which I know you are) but I've seen sun showers do more damage. So, no this will not be The Son's first named storm. You hear that? I said no! Don't make me pull this blog over.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Movie Review Time

My son has started watching television, which any parent will tell you doubles as "thank God, I can sit down and not have to chase him all over the house" time. Kids, like most adults, are transfixed by the boob tube. And when they start watching, it's time to get movies that are age appropriate for them to watch. Nothing in the world is better than putting on an hour and a half cartoon movie and being able to do adult stuff for a while. So I thought that for all you new parents out there, I'd give you a list of the movies we've let The Son see, what he thinks and how re-watchable they are. Whether a movie is funny or stupid or colorful or educational isn't the most important thing to us adults. It is how it holds up on the 85th viewing, because you know as soon as it's over the kid is gonna want to watch it again right freaking now!!!

1) Up - made by Disney/Pixar, it's the story of an old man who is trying to get his house (where he lived for decades with his late wife) to South America using balloons. Yes, it sounds stupid, but it's a kid movie. This one is not only entertaining for the kids with loads of colors and fun characters, it is great for adults. Bonus points for the tremendous handling of three issues that most kid movies won't touch (death, a woman not being able to have children and divorce). And as for it's re-watchablity factor? Off the charts. You notice something different each time you watch it. It's my son's favorite movie.

2) Monsters, Inc. - Another Disney/Pixar flick. It's really, really good. Billy Crystal and John Goodman make it worth watching. But I don't think it holds up after viewing number 70.

3) Ice Age - We finally watched this one the other day. I couldn't believe how much the movie holds up after multiple viewings. I love the story, love the characters, and it is really cool to see Denis Leary voicing a sabertooth cat. The second movie isn't as good, and I've got the third one on the DVR just can't get away from Up long enough to watch it.

4) Shrek - Another of my son's favorites. It is a classic. So is the second movie. But the third... eh. I didn't even see the fourth one.

5) Toy Story - The third movie was my son's first "in the theater" movie and he loved it. I know this sounds weird, but watch the first one of this trilogy on DVD sometime. The technology, which was awesome when it came out, looks like a bad video game. Have we really advanced that much in just a decade? And yet we can't do beaming yet... I'm a little disappointed.

I know there are hundreds of other movies, but understand this: your child will be entertained by things you never thought they would have even watched. For instance, my son can walk and kind of half run now. When he hears the theme music for the Ellen DeGeneres Show, he imitates Usain Bolt getting to a TV. And yes, I have started him early... he is already a fan of football.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Anything Like Me Part 1

I'm a country music fan. There, I said it. Hi, my name is Daddy and I listen to country music. I even paid money to see Brad Paisley in concert. To some, he might be better known as Mr. Kimberly Williams. But to country fans, he's a terrific guitar player and song writer that captures some of the funniest and most moving moments in life and makes them even more real. Like giving up your significant other for fishing. His latest single is called "Anything Like Me." The song is a look forward to what Brad's son might be like if he's anything like his father. Of course, I saw the song as a perfect blog post.

What will The Son be like if he's like me? What will he do if he imitates his Daddy? If he's the spitting image of me, as the song says, heaven help me and my wife. Here's the evidence.

If my son is like me, he will...

- announce to an entire Red Lobster that he just had an absolutely splendid explosion of diarrhea. His parents will be horrifed. He will laugh. People will leave the restaurant because of the smell. He will laugh harder.

- at 4 years old think that he can get a riding toy from under a still-running car. This wasn't my brightest move. For some reason, my parents still saw fit to have me tested for the gifted program a few years later. And for some inexplicable reason, I passed. However, I have a scar thanks to this move of utter stupidity.

- convince his brother or sister (if we have another that is) that it's a great idea to shoot out the windows of a neighborhood house with a BB gun. See, no one was living in it... so that meant we could do whatever we wanted and no one would care, right? No one will want to buy the thing if no one's been living in it for a month, right? Hello? Uh... anyone there?

- take the Tinker Toys that his mom and dad were so proud to buy him and instead of building gigantic skyscrapers and megaplex cities, he'll divide them up by color and play football with them. Green will be the Eagles, blue the Cowboys, yellow the Steelers and white the Giants.

- jab his dog in the eyeball while shouting for everyone in the house to hear, "Eye!" This will not make the dog happy. And if his dog is anything like his daddy's dog, then the poor pooch will not take it out on my son. He'll take it out on my son's father. Probably in a gift of pee and poop in the bed. Why bite? Watching your owner do laundry at midnight is way more fun!

- not want to let his younger brother or sister play with his Lego blocks. When his mom reminds him that his Bible verse from church that day was "Be ready to share," he'll think for a few minutes before replying, "I'm not quite ready yet."

There will be a part two of this because I'm just up to about age 8. You won't believe what happens in the teenage years. Yeah, my wife and I will be either grey or bald by 40, I'm guaranteeing it.

A Little Off The Top

The Son got his first haircut last month. I never knew this was a big deal until I made a crucial mistake: I said this out loud. The Wife informed me that everything in a kid's life that is a first is a big deal. I must be getting smarter in my old age because I didn't ask if the first time passing gas or burping was to be celebrated.

I do remember the first time I heard him let one go, because I looked at him wide-eyed. I smiled, so did he and we laughed about it for a good two-three minutes that will go down as one of my favorite memories in life. So I guess they are a big deal. And very, very smelly.

On to the haircut. The place we chose for this important event was on the outside of a mall, along with everything now. Remember when stuff used to be in the mall? I would tell you what's inside now, but I haven't been in one in years. Judging by what used to go on in there, I'm betting a bunch of senior citizens have turned it into a carpeted track where the people working at Spenser's hand out prune juice in old hollowed-out whoopie cushions.

I imagined that the haircut person (I refuse to call them a stylist because they are cutting a toddler's hair... toddlers need a stylist like they need a bank account. Oh wait...) to be a bubbly, bouncy, perky girl that belonged in the Small World ride at Disney. All pony tails, ribbons, and smiles. What we got was a tad bit different. Our haircut person was a bubbly, bouncy, perky man that belonged in the Small World ride at Disney. His name was Luis, which he told me was pronounced "Looooo-EEEEEssss". His arms were bulging with veins big enough to drive a Hot Wheel through and his shirt was painted onto his chest. Then he picked up a bubble blowing device and started to shower my son's head making him squeal with laughter. Looo-EEEss that is; oh, my son laughed, but nothing like Looo-EEEss. I liked him.

He started to wet down my son's head and combed his hair into a mohawk. Why do haircut people do this? You'd think someone would be creative enough to do something different with wet hair other than a mohawk. I can't think of anything, but hey, I don't cut hair for a living. When Looo-EEEss was about to start cutting, he gave the bubble-blowing duties to my wife. And this started maybe the funniest forty-five seconds of my life. The Wife blew on the bubbles, but nothing came out. Spittle rained down on my son's face as he looked on in horrified confusion. I stared. Looo-eeess, to his neverending credit, broke the stunned silence by saying, "Ok, let's take the bubbles away from Mommy and give her something less complicated." I loved Looo-EEEss.

The Son was perfect during his hair cut. He no longer has a toddler mullet, which I am grateful for, and looks like a little boy. And I now have a first that I will remember forever. Thanks to Looo-EEEss and a bubble machine.