Archive for August, 2011
For some reason, it seems that I have extra time on my hands in the evenings all of the sudden. And while I could just shuffle about the house after the kids go bed, mumbling to myself about the voices, how The Man is watching me in the kitchen, or why Syfy kills everything I love, I’ve been trying to find more constructive things to do in my few hours of Puddin time at night. This period of inactivity is going to be short, after all, just a quick cooling-off before edits begin. So, brief bits of relaxy time need to be taken advantage of whenever possible. I’ve caught up a little on my reading, tried to give some extra thought to my turns in Words with Friends (in the scant hopes of producing words not found in a second grader’s vocabulary list), and decided to watch a weeknight movie here and there.
As I was trying to choose last night between the current Netflix DVD at home, streaming something from Apple, or digging up something ancient buried on my DVR just waiting for excavation, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen a good comedy in a long time. I think I sat through “Date Night” at some point in the not-too-distant past and tried to watch “Dinner for Schmucks”, but I eventually turned that one off. Let me say that again: I turned It. Off. I hardly ever give up on something halfway through. Hell, I read all of Crime and Punishment once, and watched two whole seasons of America’s Next Top Model. I’m not a quitter.
Date Night wasn’t awful, but really wasn’t funny either. It was convoluted and heavy. You can have a comedy, even with dramatic themes, and still be lighthearted. And Dinner was just, ugh. None of the characters were likeable and the whole thing was uncomfortable and hard to watch. I have better uses for my time—see above: shuffling and mumbling.
I’m sure there’s some general clamoring right about now for things like “The Hangover”, parts I and II, although, really, it’s the Exact. Same. Movie in two different settings. That’s just cheating, if you ask me. And while I will allow that there were moments of limited amusement in the first one, there were no knee-slapping, snot-flinging, I-can’t-breathe outbursts, or really even moderate giggles. Oh, and “Vampires Suck”? That steaming pile of stupidity wasn’t even as funny as the “Twilight” movies it attempted to parody. Granted, the Twilight “saga” is usually only unintentionally funny, but hey, sparkly vampires are chuckle-inducing.
The real question, though, is whether this is lack of amusing, light, even entertaining comedies is Hollywood’s fault, or mine. I think back to the funny movies of my youth, “Caddyshack”, “Real Genius”, “Summer School”, and even the raft of John Cusack films like “Better Off Dead” and “One Crazy Summer” and can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve seen them. I’ll still stop and watch those first two when and if I happen across them on the vast expanse of the satellite TV guide.
So, is it something about the characters in the older comedies that draws me? Or are today’s comedic characters truly the generally flat, lifeless caricature cutouts they seem to be? Admittedly, I have a tendency to shake my cane at everything the kids enjoy these days while bellowing a hearty, “Get off my lawn!” Some place, deep down, though, I want to believe it’s not just me, it’s them.
So what is it, curmudgeonliness or crummy creativity? You tell me. And while you’re at, I could use some suggestions too. Anyone see anything funny lately?
Well, besides my face?
As it turns out, putting 100k words together in some semblance of both sequential and logical order is not an insignificant task. I suppose I realized that at the outset of my adventure, when it occurred to me way back in the Spring of 2010 that the Puddintopia exercise in laying down some random fiction wasn’t actually all that random and that a fledgling novel was afoot. I wrote the first 400 some-odd words on February 2, 2010. In the intervening 18 months, I learned an awful lot about what it really takes to draft an entire novel.
To wrap up my week-long personal back-patting exercises, I thought it might be worthwhile to post about I learned. Before I do so, though, one important caveat: this is not a blog for writer’s. At last count, there are apparently more aspiring writers on our little planet than actual people. Well, not really, but it’s a big number. Some of those writers write about writing with the intent of helping other writers write what they want to write. Make no mistake, though, I’m not that kind of writer, this is not that kind of blog, and I’ll thank you, sir, to keep your hands to yourself.
Puddintopia is about, well, a wide range of stuff, but how to be a better writer isn’t included. I’m still figuring it out as I go, and as an example of that I’ll happily point to the fact that it took me 18 months to write a novel when someone with experience could probably pound it out in a season or something. So, here, then, are the lessons I learned though the course of producing draft zero. If you’re working on a project of your very own, these may apply, they may not. Taking advice about writing from a guy like me would be like letting a kindergartener teach you how to paint. And I’d think twice about something like that, considering they just learned how to finger-paint using the same instruments for art that they use to “dig for gold”, if you catch my drift.
In other words, here are the lessons I picked up along the way. Your specific mileage may vary.
So, then, having reached the end, is this all I have to say? Well, no, because I haven’t reached the end. I’m not sure there is an end. For the moment, there’s still revisions and many a read-through, query letters, begging for an agent, etc, etc. Many many steps still stand before me here, even at this plateau. And what’s even better is that now I get to apply my lessons again. Because I’m not done writing books, oh, no. Not by a long shot. I plan to start the next one around the first of the year. Will this one ever sell? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not ever going to quit.
And that’s lesson #1.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the other 18,367 forms of social media in which I participate and have been not-so subtly dropping mention of it, I finished draft zero of my very firstest novel last week. So, I’m done right? Time to demand an obscene advance from a publisher and pick out a nice tweed jacket with the elbow patches for the book jacket Author Picture?
Not so fast, Quickdraw. My novel isn’t finished, not by a long shot. Draft zero is a collection of near incoherent ramblings that might contain the unpolished nuggets of a story somewhere deep within the apparent random utterings of a pack of feral, tweaked-out meth-addicts. I wouldn’t show this draft to my mother, lest she denounce me as a half-wit and disown me. Over the next month or so, I have to go back over the draft word-for-word, line-for-line and cull out the festering nonsense while carefully brushing away the sand from the fossilized good stuff with a water-coloring brush.
After that, and only when I’m mostly satisfied that the revisions have taken my steaming pile of word-vomit, cleaned the gunk off, and polished what remains to a high shine, will it be ready for others to view for the purpose of critiquing. Which, of course, brings me to the abject begging portion of our post; I’m looking for 4-5 “beta” readers to give my freshman work a thorough physical examination, including the awkward turn-your-head-and-cough test. I think I have a couple helpful volunteers lined up already, but am still in the market for more. So, do you read and enjoy books? Are you capable of evaluating one, ruthlessly, if necessary? Are you willing to delve into the depths of my dark fantasy machinations (dark fantasy is a genre, not a reference to whips, chains, and the gimp outfit), and then, even seeing that tender glimmering shine of hope in my eyes, squash my dreams like a roach beneath your impartial and unyielding boot heel?
If so, I would love to know what you think. Nothing would make me happier than being confident in the knowledge that I’ll hear about it if the best thing you have to say about the book is “meh”. So, if you like to read and want to hurt me, shoot me an email here or send me a tweet or a facebook message or and let me know.
Also, statistically speaking, people who read and offer helpful feedback, even if it’s to spray the manuscript with lighter fluid and set it aflame using a Macintosh Yankee Candle, are much more likely to earn free beverages (anything legal in the continental US) than a control group. Just, fyi.
My overinflated ego is looking forward to a good-natured beating.
So, if you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet this weekend, is because I basically decided to take it off. From darned near everything, honestly. I’ve done next to nothing constructive, and, by gum, I’m perfectly happy about it. For the first time in a year, I didn’t have any novel-writing to do, so I figured that was an excellent enough reason to just throw it all aside and bask in some lack-of-accomplishment.
Thus, I have intentionally been as worthless as a bump on a pickle.
I attended a family party, I had my celebratory steak and beers, and have otherwise languished lazily. If you really need a hit of weekend Puddin, allow me to suggest going on a Puddintopia scavenger hunt through the archives. First one to find the individual posts where I a) came up with the phrase "stupid early" and b) reviewed the McRib wins.
Normal posting will resume tomorrow, assuming I can find wherever I dropped my gumption. In the meantime, I hope you find yourself in non-hurricane conditions and the weather is pleasant.
[Pudn's note: I've known the author of this 3-Way post, Brooksy, aka Mark, for the better part of almost twenty years. I worked at the retail chain that Dustin Hoffman said sucked in Rainman; Mark dated (and later married) someone who was close friends with someone else who worked there. Come to think of it, I don't really know how it all worked out that we've known each other so long. It's kind of lost in the college-era fog. At any rate, for nearly two decades, he and I have been politely disagreeing about the best place Cincy chili. I was thrilled, then, when he said he'd happily contribute to 3-Way Thursday.]
Ok, I admit it. I have been little remiss in the writing department. My intentions were good. My execution wasn’t. As a way of explaining today is my birthday. When I was younger without kids this was my day. The day where I dictated what I want to do, or as the case may be to ignore it as I see fit. Children don’t see it that way. Every birthday should be celebrated with gusto. This means that my birthday now has an agenda, one not of my making. There are dinners, cakes and surprises, like the game of Sorry at 6:35 this morning. All this means is that I was a little side tracked but my heart was thinking about Blue Ash Chili, not really, I was enjoying time with my kids.
I have had Blue Ash Chili before. I didn’t care for it. It seemed bland, but I gave it the second shot. I went to Blue Ash Chili with Pud’n. We sat and were served by a bevy of waitresses. I ordered a 4-way onion. When it was presented, it was a good portion, with the right amount of cheese. Not heaping, but enough that it won’t melt. The taste: The second time around the chili was good. There was no heat, but the spice load was pretty good. It seemed as if it had been simmered a long time. Every bite of the chili seemed to be the same. The flavors were melded really well. Of course that was the chili. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with my 4-way. It took me about half the meal to figure out why. The spaghetti they use is fairly thin. This thin spaghetti was coated with butter. My son would have loved this. I think both of my kids could eat butter by the spoonful. But the butter kept the chili from sticking to the spaghetti. The layer of pasta seemed to stick together like a really thick noodle. It was doughy and took away from 4-way experience. All in all, I wouldn’t eat another “way” there, but I would probably go in and have a bowl of chili. The onions were good, not hot but flavorful. If I had to give a number to the total experience I would say 3 oyster crackers out of 5. On that note, the oyster crackers were definitely lacking. I prefer an airy oyster cracker. These crackers were very compact, adding to the “doughy”ness of the entire meal.
Well this old man is out. I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn. Now where did I leave my…..why did I come in here?
Celebrity. If you look the word up in a dictionary, one of its definitions will be something along the line of “fame, renown”. It’s something everybody wants, at least a little, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. Secretly, deep down, there’s a tiny little voice that whispers, “if you do this, you might be famous someday.” And everybody has their own personal this.
Yes, even I’ll admit to having the occasional flight of delusion fueled by that stealthy whisper. It tells me that someday I’ll sell a novel (oh, did you notice the 100% over there to the right; don’t worry, that’s so another post) and everyone will love it and they’ll make a movie of it and I’ll have a facebook profile of me on the red carpet with Angelina Jolie on one side and Hollywood’s flavor-of-the-month leading man on the other.
Of course, then I chuckle to myself and go back to unclogging the toilet.
Blue Ash Chili, however, has gotten a taste of that celebrity. When the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives was in town, they could have picked any one of a number of locally-loved chili parlors. But they picked Blue Ash Chili.
And now I finally know why.
I made a few trips to Blue Ash this month, to sample their ‘ways, and I’m just going to say it upfront: they deserve their measure of celebrity.
Having decided to stick with the ‘try-it-both ways’ approach to evaluating a ‘way, I dined-in first and returned a week later to give the carry-out a try. The single most impressive thing I found about Blue Ash Chili is that there is very little discernable difference between eating in and carrying out. Much of the reason for that, I reckon, is that they use the proper container. See the terrible pictures I took there? Yep, that’s a boat made for a 3-way right there, not a carton made for egg-drop soup. It makes a huge difference.
That’s not the only reason I liked Blue Ash chili, though, not by a long shot. Basically, they seem to get everything about a ‘way right. The chili is exactly what I’m looking for in Cincinnati-style chili: meaty, rich, and perfectly balanced in flavor. The spices are all very evident and very flavorful, but all work together in harmony so you can’t really pick them out individually—well, at least I couldn’t. I would classify their chili on the sweet side of the spectrum, and it has almost no real heat (just a tiny, almost imperceptible bit on the finish). But that’s okay, that’s what hot sauce is for.
Without question, this is thickest chili we’ve tried so far, and that does tend to prevent it from seeping as deeply into the spaghetti as I’d like. Each order I received came with at least two pre-packaged bags of crackers, but one is more than enough. In fact, because I’m a two-bag kind of guy, I automatically dropped a pair into my first 3-way, and in the end I found several almost-dry crackers with just a thin layer of chili covering them. That was a foreign experience for me.
Nothing’s perfect, of course. For one thing, the beans on my 4-way were your basic dark red kidneys. I prefer the smaller red beans I’m more accustomed to finding in my Cincinnati chili.
Oh, and that celebrity I was talking about before? Well, if you’ve ever seen Vh1’s “Behind the Music”, you know that forty minutes into the show there’s always the “price of fame” segment. That holds true for Blue Ash Chili as well. If there’s any one thing I would complain about, it’s that the service I had during my few visits could be…uneven. The fact is, the place always seemed to be hopping, especially at lunch. In my experience, the parking lot could have a “Thunderdome” vibe to it: sometimes you need to be assertive about which parking spot is yours. Inside, while the employees were always moving quickly and with purpose, it seems that the occasional application of patience can be necessary when waiting to order, get your food, or even receive the check. But I’m not talking about a doctor’s offices-style oh-for-the-love-of-all-things-holy-I’m-so-bored-the-beige-wallpaper-make-me-want-claw-my-eyes-out-with-a-bubble-wand kind of wait, so it’s just a minor blemish on an otherwise stellar overall experience.
And in the interest of full disclosure, I did also try the famous 6-way, which is your standard 5-way (beans and onions) with the addition of fried jalapeno caps. While I wasn’t sure about it to begin with, man, it’s fantastic. The trick is that the fried chiles provide the perfect level of both crunch and spice to compliment Blue Ash’s chili formulation. This absolutely would not work with a more spicy chili or one with a thinner texture. They’d end up soggy and confusing. But here, well, let’s just say I think it might be my new favorite ‘way.
Blue Ash Chili is a celebrity in the ‘way trade around town nowadays, and frankly, was long before Guy Fieri came to town. Sure, that celebrity comes with a few disadvantages, but make no mistake, it’s the real thing. Substance, not just style, Dustin Hoffman, not Lindsey Lohan. I’ll happily carry-out from them again.
Now I just need to fabricate some reasons to go to Blue Ash.
[Pudn's note: The author of this Puddintopia contributor post, Crankybear, aka Tom, is actually the 'Tom' half of Tom and Carla, the couple that created and maintain Hoperatives.com. He's the one who rather infamously offered me the chance to ramble incoherently over there from time to time instead of wasting all my rants here. I was and continue to be honored with the opportunity to write for them, and I'm likewise both honored and very fortunate that he decided to chime in on our 3-way quest.]
Ah, 1969. I sort of remember it. It was the year of Apollos 9 – 12. The Cuyahoga River catches on fire the same day Judy Garland dies in June. The Haunted Mansion opens in Disneyland and that night the first of the horrible Manson murders happens across town. Woodstock was the next week. The Beatles release Abbey Road in September, the same month William Calley’s troops destroy My Lai.. The first message is sent across ARPANET and Wal-Mart is founded a few days later in October, setting the stage for two cultural forces that shape the final decade of the 20th Century.
I was six years old. Beyond the Apollo program, I wasn’t much aware of any of this. I started the year in my hometown of Independence, MO and ended it in the then-not-at-all-trendy town of Asheville, NC. Oh yeah, Nixon became president. I was convinced his full name was “That g****mn Nixon” because that’s all my father ever called him. Not a fan.
1969 is also the year Blue Ash Chili opened on Kenwood Road. I have no idea how much of a splash that made locally. They were the new kids on the block long before there were New Kids on the Block. It had been 40 years since Cincinnati-style chili was invented when they opened, and it was another 42 years before I managed to find a parking space to try the place out myself.
The truth be told, it wasn’t that hard to find a parking spot. They have a pretty big parking lot because they need a pretty big parking lot. If you go during the lunch rush as I did, be prepared to wait. You won’t have to wait too long. The first thing I noticed about the place when I walked in is that everybody was hustling. There had to be a dozen people behind the counter. The tables turn over. Notice that there’s a line for take-out and a line for sitting down. Keep that straight and it’ll all work out fine.
One of the things Blue Ash is known for is their six-way chili. Beyond the typical onions and beans that give us the 4- and 5-way, Blue Ash adds fried jalapeño caps to add one more. I didn’t get it that way because I always get a 4-way (onions) to be consistent with each place I go. I did get one of their hold-the-hotdog coneys that had the peppers. When I go back — and I will — I’ll be getting those things on my 4-way. I approve of them entirely.
The chili is hyped, and I understand why. It’s really a fine example of what the dish is supposed to be. It’s easily the thickest in consistency of any we’ve reviewed so far, but it’s not stiff. The liquid-to-meat ratio is perfect. I think they grind their meat very fine because you don’t find big chunks of meat, but if you look at it closely you see that a spoon of it is as much meat as liquid, if not a bit more.
There’s no heat to the chili at all, but it’s flavorful. I wish my order had come out at a warmer temperature. As much as the server was hustling, I think the order sat for a couple of minutes. On the other hand, when I started doing the mixing in the cheese melted, so it wasn’t like it was stone cold. I definitely classify the flavor as sweet, but the spice blend is so well-balanced no single one jumps out at you.
I’ve only been to Blue Ash Chili once, but based on that visit I can say that it’s my favorite of the places we’ve visited so far for 3-Way Thursday. If I were introducing someone to the dish, this would be a good way to do it. What’s interesting is that the place seems to be as well-known for its double-decker sandwiches and non-chili-based dishes as it is for its namesake. It could just as easily be called the Blue Ash Diner and be perfectly accurate.
I’ll probably never be able to shake the impression that Blue Ash Chili is a newcomer to the Cincinnati Chili scene, but I’ll also never get used to responsible adults being quite a bit younger than me. It’s a 1960′s thing. You kind of had to be there.
This will be brief because, well, I don’t know why. It just will. Blame it on the earthquake that, by now, everyone’s heard about (right?). For the record, yes, I felt it, as did plenty of other people in the Cincinnati area. It was the first recognizable earthquake experience of my life, at the well-seasoned age of 38. Well, at least the first one that didn’t include a case of cheap beer. Feeling the room move somewhat spontaneously is sort of a right-of-passage for the college-aged, and rumor has it I might have experienced that a time or two. In my foggy youth.
At any rate, the whole shaking Earth thing made for an interesting afternoon.
So where was I? Oh yes, musical things.
First things first, I wanted to share this:
In case you’re one of those whippersnappers that needs to get off my lawn, that’s the theme song from the The Muppet Show as performed by OK Go. I will readily admit that before today I’ve been utterly, completely meh about OK Go. I mean, I’m old, right? They were probably tugging on their momma’s apron for a Capri Sun when I was in college. Now having heard this exceptional piece, while I can’t say that I’m ready to follow them on tour, score some coke, or pick out the green M & M’s for them, they certainly have earned a modicum of respect in my eyes.
Lest you mock, I would not take that lightly; it can potentially lead to full-blown appreciation. For instance, I once hated Justin Timberlake with every fiber of my being. I mean, come on, he was “the pretty one” in N-Sync; all the ladies swooned. In contrast, I was the kind of the guy nicknamed Puddin. But as he grew out of his boy-band days and started mocking himself and others (as well as gift-giving) on Saturday Night Live, I realized I no longer loathed him with the same ferocity I do ranch dressing. So as long as he never sings again, he and I will get along just fine.
Which is important, of course, in case I run into him at the annual Puddintopia Holiday party. Otherwise things might have been awkward.
Item number two falls into the category of “Questions I Want Answer To”. Can someone please tell me why the blue bloody hell all the soft past-contemporary-type radio stations in Cincinnati have to play Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” Every. Single. Day?
Look, I appreciate me some Prince, and yes, everyone agrees that baby is much too fast. But if you’re playing hits from the “80’s, 90’s, and Today”, isn’t there a large enough pool of recorded tracks available so that maybe you don’t have to repeat, you know, hardly anything? I mean, even if they just limit themselves to the pop stuff, you’re talking about three decades—decades—worth of music! I’m pretty sure I could keep each of those stations rolling independently with enough embarrassing songs from my youth that you wouldn’t hear the same track twice on any of them all month long.
(As an added bonus, I’d throw some Tiffany in there too, just for my freshman high school self. Kid had it rough; he deserves a little something. Sue me.)
The point though, is that, yes, we get it, somebody likes that Little Red Corvette a bunch. Now, can we please move on. Maybe compromise on Purple Rain sometimes? Let’s Go Crazy? Anything; I’m open to suggestions here.
Thirdly, an announcement: you’ve likely seen the last Earworm of the Day around here. I love the idea and very much enjoy sharing my earworms with the world, but it just wasn’t working out. Every time I’d finally rid myself of something, I’d open up a new Chrome window and BAM! Barry Manilow’d be all over me again. So, no more.
Finally, although my complete lack of any sort of musical ability has been well documented, my love of language finds me constantly putting together words on accident that would make excellent band names. Some might claim that I’ve pilfered this activity from the inimitable John Scalzi (whom you can see frequently do exactly that on twitter by following @scalzi—which you should do, because he’s tremendously entertaining). Before I go any further, I would like to assert that I’ve been making up fake band names since 1996, when I magically fabricated the phrase “Liquid Dog” from thin air and have been playing Band Name Boggle ever since.
For example, I found some inexplicable reason to use the phrase “intentional nonsequitur” yesterday at some point. Thus, Intentional Nonsequitur is currently the front-runner on the list of potential names for the band I’ll never form. Now, I suspect this is a very common practice. Everybody’s got a future band name, right? So then, I’ve showed you mine; what’s yours? Leave a comment below and post your best moniker for all the world to see. Maybe I’ll pick my favorite. As an added bonus, this way you’ve got copyright evidence, right?
No, I’m not kidding. Make with the band names before I take back my no-more-earworms pledge.
Don’t be shy; bring it!
Yikes. Looking over Puddintopia for the past few days, one thing is abundantly clear: I have been a bad, neglectful blogger. I think I promised once that I’d try very hard not go days at a time without posting…something. But, here it is Monday and I haven’t put up anything new since Thursday. It’s like I took the weekend off or something, and clearly that’s not okay. I’m not saying I need to be chained to a keyboard and forced to make with the words like that guy in “Misery” or anything—which is good, because both the Puddinette and I both prefer me un-hobbled—but going three days and giving you nothing is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
You’ll be glad to hear that I haven’t simply been lazing away comfortably these past few days, putting a permanent ass-crease into my recliner and fondling my universal remote with greasy pizza hands, or being fed grapes from scantily clad-serving girls, Roman-style. I mean, let’s face it, if I was going to be fed anything from scantily-clad anyone, it’d probably be cheese coneys from Oompa Loompas in bikinis. I think we can all be thankful that’s not happening.
Also, you’re welcome for the mental picture. Bleach for you brain can be found in aisle 12.
Anyway, the thing is, two separate events came together and waylaid my bloggery the past few days. First, in case you missed my near-incessant spouting of progress reports on twitter, facebook, and Google+, as well as via sandwich board at that sketchy street corner where the commuter-targeted panhandling operation works, I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my now-not-so-fledgling novel. I figure I’ve got two or three thousand words left to write before it’s finished. I’ve written the climax even, so there’s nothing left but a little denouement—which I think is French for “don’t leave me hanging”—and it’ll be time to get out the red editing pen and shiny word buffer to give everything a healthy sheen just like your Golden Retriever.
That’ll be a whole different kind of painful, btw, but we’re not going to think about that mountain yet.
The other thing cutting into Puddintopia time is, of course, the start of school. I know I rambled on about it last week, so I’m not going to beat that particular horse again. Well, until next year. The point, though, is that the start of school isn’t just that one thing. If it was only school, that’d be okay. But it’s not. It’s the cornucopia of other stuff that just happens to coincide with the start of school. That includes, but is not limited to:
- the start of once-a-week supplemental religious indoctrination classes for the kids, which are necessary because the Puddinette and I are terrible heathen Catholics that send our children to those devilishly secular public schools (hey, I went to ‘em, by gum, and there’s nothing wrong—well, diagnosable, at least—with me).
- weeknight dance classes
- Cub Scouts
- Daffodil or Peony or Rhododendron Scouts—or whatever you call Brownie (scout?) girls before they take to the chocolate-color smock
- maybe some karate
- eventually probably some basketball
- who knows what else.
It’s a lot to go from summer evenings spent lounging barefoot in the backyard as the sun drops below the horizon to the full-on regular school year routine for a family of six. So, from now until at least Labor Day, each weeknight is going to be a confused series of near catastrophe until we all settle into a schedule.
In the meantime, I’ll be a good writer and will keep my nose to the grindstone, I promise. Luckily, the application of a beer or two will smooth over the inevitable bumpy roads up ahead.
If only the Oompa Loompas would pour it down my throat for me.
School started for three-quarters of the children of clan Puddin on Wednesday (The Attitude starts preschool next month, and we aren’t sure what to expect when that happens—a toddler-led revolt, perchance?). Obviously, the first day of school means making the long walk to the bus stop, the middle-aged Dad’s version of “dead man walking”.
Last year, I posted something about the first day of school that I felt pretty good about at the time. I just reread it, and I’m not sure who actually wrote that piece, but it seems like they did an OK job. I’m not sure I can add anything to it.
I would, however, like to point out that yesterday my facebook news feed looked like the old fall Sears and Roebuck, Co. catalog. You remember that, right? It was that thick book that came in the mail every September, chock full of glossy pages showing kids with plastic, Ritalin-influenced smiles and dead, doll’s eyes just being cool and hip in brand new clothes.
At least, that’s what I vaguely recall. In all honesty, I usually flipped right to the back where all the Christmas toys were found. I’d bend down the corner of that first toy-related page and forget all about Suzy Sweater and Jeffrey Blue-Jeans. That way, all I had to be irritated by was the occasional pink-tinted page of—ick—girls’ toys.
Stupid Barbie pinking up everything.
Anyway, I was tickled pink (see what I did there?) at having picture after picture of school-bound, backpack-laden kids fill up my facebook feed Wednesday. It reminded me of PetFinder, but with kids: “Joey’s a great kid with a winning smile that wants to warm your heart. Seen here in his new back-to-school Shaun White shirt and sporting a brand new ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ movie-themed backpack, he’s ready to take this school year by force.”
For the record, currently offended readers, what I meant is that the pictures were chock-full of cute, like a gaggle of puppies. I wasn’t associating anyone’s kids with animals or suggesting they might be free to a good home. Although, admittedly there are days*…
Oh, and lest you think I’m mocking other people here, rest assured that’s not the case. The Puddinette and I took the pre-bus-stop pictures and the pre-boarding pictures and oh-my-God-there-the-bus-goes-down-the-street-what-do-we-do-now pictures.
The irony here is that most of those pictures the kids could do without. To them, at this point, it’s just another First Day of School. Sure, that makes it a special day, but not the same way it does for us parents. For me, it’s one more in a very finite possible number of notches on the closet doorframe, another year closer to seeing them living independent lives where I’m, at best, a mostly forgotten, yet warm, comfortable thought in the back of their respective heads. Kind of like a mental security blanket or a psychological cup of cocoa.
My kids got on the bus yesterday without any looks back, or any last-minute hugs. Sure, there were smiles and waves from the windows, but nothing more than I could expect on any other given day. The first day of school is part of the ritual of childhood now, one more step up the staircase.
If only that was all it meant to me.
*I’m just kidding…really.