The Guy Who Went Up To A Ranch And Came Back With Fat Man Underpants

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We have some friends who live on a real-live cattle ranch in Northern California. We visit them every year, enjoying our time shooting squirrels, riding around on four-wheelers and white-knuckling on horses that walk slower than a squirrel with a broken back. It is an important space for us to leave city living behind and enjoy a spectacularly beautiful area. Here are the quick hits from the weekend:

Yee haw!

We were treated to an impromptu parade consisting of a saint bernard, a dog that antagonizes horses, a tiny dog that thinks he is a Muppet, kids on bikes and a goat named after a dead rapper. Needless to say, such a parade can have no name.

Our bid to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail fell short when, with only 2,649.9 miles left, we went back to the car and had a picnic by a pristine mountain lake.

While offroading and sipping a fine Southern Oregon red wine, we found a horse skull with a bullet hole in it. Malcolm brought it to school, ensuring his reputation in his new class will be, “the kid who brought a euthanized horse skull to school.”

We tried to go to a cowboy bar, but it was closed because the owner got bored and went home.

Sadly, one of the casings went in Judd's wine. Being the gamer he is, he kept drinking anyways...

Sadly, one of the spent casings went in Judd’s wine. Being the gamer he is, he kept drinking anyways…

I demonstrated the proper technique for opening a wax-sealed armagnac bottle by banging it against the side of the house. The wax seal on the particular bottle I brought was soft, meaning the “banging” was more a “light tapping.” Underwhelming was an understatement. (Or was it an overstatement? Either way, not impressive.)

You might be thinking, “Paul, all of these things sound rather subdued. It sounds like you had a perfectly nice time up there, but did anything really interesting happen?”

Read on!

I forgot to pack underwear for the trip. It was not intentional, as our hosts have repeatedly assured me that going commando is NOT a normal part of ranch life. Upon realizing this discovery the first morning, I was forced to consider three options:

  1. Wear dirty underpants.
  2. Wear no underpants.
  3. Find new underpants.

Option 1 had merit. After all, most of the historical figures we celebrate went around wearing undergarments that were not so fresh. Think Thomas Jefferson or George Patton wore clean drawers all the time when the were out there making this country great? Nope. I guarantee this, too, if you ask, “What would Jesus do?” in the same situation, it would be “wear weathered skivvies.” Surely, I would have been in good company if I just decided to grin and bear it for the remainder of the weekend. With all the beef we were eating during the weekend, though, the prospect of a five hour car ride home in four day old underpants was not going to cut it. Option 1: REJECTED.

IMG_4930Option 2 did not seem appealing to me. Many of my good friends profess to a undergarment-free lifestyle, but it is really not something I can get behind. Call me a prude, but I really don’t like the idea of my bits flopping around willy-nilly all day. If I zig, won’t everything zag? This is especially dangerous on the ranch, where trampolines, horseback rides and off-roading are all on the table. I was not going to grin and bare it. Option 2: REJECTED.

This really only left one workable option: I had to find new underpants. This proved trickier than you might expect, as the ranch is at least 30 minutes away from “normal”  underwear dispensaries, like Walmart. Was I 100% sure that I needed to make the trip? Nothing tests your resolve like having to drive an hour out of your way. (I’m pretty sure that that if Lincoln was an hour away from Gettysburg that day, we’d all be talking about the great, “Wilmington Address” instead.) My friend Regina informed me that there were a few closer places that might have what I needed.

The first place we went was a small women’s boutique and there was no chance I was going to walk in and ask whether they had anything that would fit me. The second place we went was a small grocer, and while they had plenty of pants, shirts, hats and socks, they had nothing for the nether-regions. Finally, we went to a place called Mean Genes, a gas station, deli, and, apparently, hunting enthusiast outfitter. I was ecstatic when, amongst the camouflage jackets and vests, I saw numerous packages of underpants. Success!

The ecstasy wore off a bit when I noticed that the underwear for sale was primarily directed at big, fat men. The first set I saw were for XXXL, which means size 52. What the shit? At size 52, I could share the underpants with the saint bernard, and still have room left over for the goat! Poking around a bit, I found some perfectly acceptable boxer briefs that were a mere six sizes too big and settled for those. While not being the most supportive of undergarments, the largesse of my new chonies did have one advantage:  wearing underpants that are way too big really does give you carte blanche for pigging out. It’s like … well nothing actually. Facing a big weekend of eating beef while wearing underpants that are too large has no comparison; it’s one of life’s unique pleasures.

Taking nothing but underpants to a check stand at a gas station might cause other people some anxiety, but I think I handled it like a pro. Here’s how it went:

Clerk: Hi there. Is this it?

Me: Yes, thanks.

Clerk: How is it going, you having a good weekend?

Me: I’m having a great weekend, why do think I need more underpants!

The rest of the time at the ranch was great, we already can’t wait to go back. I may pack differently next year, but the good thing about ranch life is that you make do. Sometimes this means that you find somewhere else to go drink, others, you consider what life would be like with a saint bernard and a goat in your underpants. It’s pretty awesome.

This just doesn't happen in Oakland.

This just doesn’t happen in Oakland, no matter how much I want it to.

BigDaddy Paul Got An Apple Watch!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Mayonnaise Face

OK, I have come to the point in this blog where I don’t know what to do. I started Bigdaddypaul to detail my experiences as a stay at home dad. Then, it morphed into an expat blog so that I could keep track of our time in France. Now that we are back in Oakland, I am a bit at a loss for what to blog about. Malcolm’s life is pretty much limited to school, sports, shaving stray cats and trying to get on the Republican ticket for 2016, so we don’t get into too many adventures anymore. What the heck should I blog about then?

The answer struck me while drunk and on a houseboat. Actually, many of life’s great questions are answered while drinking on houseboats. If you put me on a houseboat with the heads of state in the Middle East, we’d come up with a workable peace plan somewhere between early afternoon shots and pre-dinner margaritas. The only real downside of houseboats is that often you get too drunk to remember any of the great ideas you’ve come up with thing.

On a recent houseboat trip, we noticed that the new thing in Hollywood wasn’t to sell the celebrity, but rather the celebrity lifestyle. Why stop with putting Gwyneth Paltrow out there when you could have her whole brand available for consumption? The idea stuck and, voila, Goop was created. (On a related note, I’ve been trying to spread my goop around for years and people aint having none of it. Must be the timing?) With these new lifestyle brands, stars allow you to see inside their world: what they eat, what they wear and questions they would ask their doctor if they weren’t completely obsessed with the stuff coming out of their butts. Sadly, the pubic is eating up these brands. Almost anyone who is anyone now has a lifestyle brand. For every Jay Z or Drew Barrymore out there who’s got a line of lifestyle products to hawk, there’s also a Shay Mitchell, whoever the fuck that is, begging you to try her technique for making vases out of pineapples. I shit you not!

So why not me? I am interesting. I have exquisite tastes in fabric. I ask Doctors all sorts of interesting questions. I’m perfect! If you don’t think I am famous enough, please know that tens of people read this blog. Tens. Popularity isn’t a problem.

So, here we go. With this post, I am rolling out my new lifestyle blog. It’s a lot like a mullet: business on the sides and party in the back. I’m calling it, “Mayonnaise Face,” for obvious reasons. Reading these posts will not only satiate your curiosity as to how I live my life, it will also make you wildly popular at dinner parties. Here’s what it will be like:

You: Did you know that Bigdaddypaul has ten uses for nacho cheese that don’t involve nachos?

Them: Who’s that?

You: He’s this guy who doesn’t have anything better to write about.

Them: Oh. I don’t know who that is. Anyways, I gotta say that the concept doesn’t really make any sense. Nacho cheese is, by definition, used for nachos. If it is used for something else, it has to be called something else. It’s like that pineapple vase you got there, as soon as you scoop all the fruit out of it and fill it full of irises, it is no longer a pineapple. It’s an accessory. I think you’re friend there is a bit of a loser.

You: See how much fun we’re having!

So here we go. My first post as a lifestyle blogger is to review the Apple Watch. Enjoy!

Product Review: Apple Watch

Amy got me an Apple watch for my birthday this year. I had been searching for a new watch ever since the black market Tag Heuer I got in China turned the skin on my wrist black and then broke when a dog licked it. I was curious as to whether the Apple watch would be useful and secretly wanted one. OK, maybe not so secretly: I asked for one a few months beforehand. Still, when it arrived, I was ecstatic.

I got one in the larger size with a bright blue wristband. Part of owning any new technology is rubbing it in everyone else’s face and, even though the look is more suited on someone who reads Tiger Beat, people usually learn about my new watch within a minute or two of talking to me. My bright blue watch has the same showy effect as a baboon’s bright red ass. It’s ideal for someone who doesn’t have a workplace or, for that matter, regular human contact.


I look at this picture and my only thought is, “I shoulda used a better looking apple.”

The watch is designed for lazy people who don’t like reaching into their pocket to grab their phone. It lets you conveniently read texts, emails, baseball scores, appointments, the weather, maps, or pretty much any app that you have on your phone. To access these features on the watch, you can either press the icon on the watch or have Siri open it for you, by saying, “Hey Siri,” and then repeating your command 10 or 20 times because Siri is a useless whore.

To be sure, there are times when the Watch is handy. If you go to the bathroom without your phone and you want… Haha, just kidding. Nobody goes to the bathroom without their phone anymore. While driving, if you get a text, you can read it and get it an accident without even taking out your phone! You can show how bored you are at meetings by simply looking at your watch. You can look like Captain James T. Kirk by walking down the street and talking into your watch (it acts as a mic during phone calls.) I bought an app that turns the watch into a range finder at the golf course, giving me distances to the hole and letting me keep score on my wrist.

One of the best reasons to own the watch are the health-related apps. It buzzes your wrist to give you alerts, and will do so to remind you when you have been sitting down too long. It will buzz you when you have reached your fitness goals during exercise. It measures your heart rate, but the best thing about it is that it vastly overrates your workout stats to make you feel good about your exercise for the day. I walked to the refrigerator for some salami and the step counter acted as if I ran a mini-marathon. My pants still don’t fit, but I feel great about my body!

The worst thing about the Apple Watch is that it will categorically fail if you try to show it to anyone. Its blank screen will only activate when you raise it to your face. If you swing it around to show it off to someone else, it will go blank again. If you try to open an app it will spin for a few moments and then shut off. I don’t need to tell you about Siri, she won’t help you. While I can set a timer easily or check the temperature of meat on the grill (thank you wireless BBQ thermometer!) I cannot, for the life of me, show anyone else the magic without it letting me down. It’s like that ugly person you dated in high school: you got along great and were fantastic in the sack together, but when you showed him/her/it to your friends they recoiled in terror, asking why you were going out with a sea turtle. Just be happy with your alone time with this watch.

Things it does: gives you quick alerts when your phone can’t, acts as a viewfinder when taking pictures with your phone, tells time.

Things it doesn’t do: make you popular, work, if you go away for the weekend and forget to bring the chord, do anything if your phone is far away or out of battery.

Realistic marketing byline: The Apple Watch: Conspicuous consumption for lazy people who want to make their lives incrementally better.

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories, Uncategorized

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of dropping Malcolm off for his first day of school. The first day of school for kids is always such a complicated time; they are nervous about new classrooms, excited to see old friends, and, if they are anything like Malcolm,  devastated by the idea of not being able to watch Youtube all day. Throw in new wardrobes, new homework policies and new feelings towards prospective boyfriends/girlfriends and you can easily see why kids might have a love/hate relationship with the first day of school.

Parents, on the other hand, have no such mixed feelings. The first day of school to a parent is like Christmas, New Years, Hannukah, Kwanza, July 4th and National Lasagna day all rolled into one. (Not made up, National Lasagna day is July 29!) You know that headlong dash that kids make out of their classrooms on the last day of school? Parents have that same feeling on the morning of the first day of school. To understand why, you have to understand the summer from the perspective of a stay at home parent.

The first days of summer are pretty cool. Free from the bondage of school day/night routines, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Wanna let your kid stay up until 12:30 am to watch an extra inning Giants-Dodgers game? Go ahead! Perhaps you’d like to sleep in late, golf and then go eat philly cheese steaks? That’s cool too! During the first days of summer, the rule book goes byebye and everyone is titillated by the relaxed summer atmosphere. You plan great events for your days and honestly think that you are going to kick summer in the nuts.

Then, some kinks in the armor present themselves. You notice that when your kids don’t get enough sleep, they turn into complete assholes. Their demands for junk food don’t end when you give them a cheesesteak. All of a sudden, they want cheesesteaks AND ice cream. AND Candy bars. AND Donuts. Giving them anything fun isn’t a treat, they now expect it. You could take them to a fair with all you can eat cotton candy and unlimited rides and they would complain why you didn’t take them to the Minions movie on the way home. By the middle of summer, the little person in your house more closely resembles John Belushi than the child you raised. What the hell?

As a stay at home parent, you can’t stand for this new, unsatisfying child and start re-introducing rules. Bedtimes come a little earlier. Diets are monitored a little more closely. You stop letting your kids watch movies like Animal House. You start asking them to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, like read or change their underpants. This is really when the fighting starts. (“But I changed my underpants last week!”) This unfortunately marks the real end of the summer, but you usually have a good six weeks to go before school starts. At this point you  frantically look around for a summer camp to stash the kid in, but the only camps open are for Jewish girls with musical skills and eating disorders. Shit!

The last week or two are a total grind. Nobody, not married people, coworkers, best friends or foxhole buddies can spend an entire summer together without getting on each others’ nerves. Parent and child are no different. In the morning, your child wakes up and starts talking to you, but you can’t hear anything because you’re too busy figuring out what you are going to start yelling at them about. Your kids start making outrageous demands just to watch you break. Every conversation between parent and child is the same: Person 1 says something to Person 2. Person 2 tells Person 1 how much they have disappointed them. Screaming ensues. Both parties regroup in separate areas of the house to plot their respective revenge. It’s not family time, it is the Hunger Games. Summer has profoundly kicked you in the nuts.

Just when things look their bleakest, a day or two before researching how to abandon children at the fire station, you see a calendar entry that becomes a light at the end of the tunnel. Reading the words give you hope, the kind of which you need to make it through to the other side. It is the same hope that that crazy Italian runner guy had to get him through weeks of being lost at sea in Unbreakable. The calendar, on a magical day in either late August or early September, reads: First Day of School. You aren’t a better parent in the days that precede this wonderful, magical day, but it does give you the focus to not go Full Trump and deport your children to any country that would take them.

I don't care where that donkey is going, just get on it and go!

I don’t care where that donkey is going, just get on it and go!

On that morning, your kid is full of unprocessed feelings and nervousness about school starting. You don’t care. Your kids have needs, like lunches, putting on clothes and any paperwork you have received and haven’t turned in yet. You don’t care. Breakfast needs to be made and school supplies need to be packed. You don’t care. YOU DON”T FUCKING CARE ABOUT ANYTHING! There is a beehive of scrambling around you, people running around like chickens without their heads but you just sit and drink your coffee. Smiling.

Nobody really knows the first thing they do when they finally pull away from the curb at the school on that first day. It’s like your first time shooting up heroin. It’s spectacular, but the details are a little fuzzy. All you know is that life is about to return to something manageable. And, it will.

Malcolm started school last Wednesday. We were both ready.

Growing Pains

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

We moved! As hard as it is to believe, we are no longer residents of France. It seems like just yesterday, I was breaking my ankle, turning 40, and moving to Paris to begin a unique chapter in our lives. Now that chapter is over. How could that possibly be?

When we left, it seemed like we were going to be gone for forever. Yet, here we are back in our same house, in our same city, watching the same TV on our same old couch. Needless to say, moving overseas, especially to a city as immensely entertaining as Paris, turns to make your old life seem a bit boring. Since most people ask how we are handling the transition back to our old lives, I thought I would share some thoughts.

First, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Stores here, especially grocery stores are insanely large. We have a back yard, even though it is a small one. Our refrigerator and freezer are cavernous. Malcolm can stomp around on the floor without threat of the grumpy woman downstairs coming up to complain. The cheese here is shit, we can’t find a decent bottle of wine for $4 and no matter what day of the week, we can eat dinner at 5 o’clock if we wanted to. You might have been able to guess all these.


I wonder what major thing happened between May and August that would cause so much inactivity?

To me, the most notable change in lifestyle between Paris and Oakland is the need for a car. I loved walking Paris as a tourist and never really grew out of it while living there. I would routinely walk to destinations even though they were a mile or two away. Throw on some headphones, chart a course through some cool neighborhoods and off I would go. Here, you drive everywhere and this is definitely a crappy habit to return to. I just looked up the distance to and from our normal grocery store here, and, oddly, it is almost exactly the same distance as the walk to our grocer in Paris. Even so, in Oakland, walking to and from the store with a rolling shopping cart seems about as normal as a thinking Jared from Subway WASN’T a pedophile. (Of course he is, why do you think he was always holding up those giant pants? Kids love giant pants: fact!) Anyways, I never even considered walking to the grocery store here, even though I never considered taking the metro or driving to the store in Paris. I blame the stupid car.

Americans eat weird food. This we all know. What strikes me upon return is how many of the events we attend are now just excuses to cram shitty food down our collective pie holes. It’s not a ballgame, it’s a chance to eat cha cha bowls and garlic fries. It’s not a mall, it’s an invitation to Cinnabon. They sell fucking mozzarella sticks at movie theaters! (I’m sorry, but if Italians knew that we are taking their beloved, hand pulled buffalo milk delicacy and are chopping it up and deep frying it so that we can enjoy watching Arnold Schwartzenegger movies in 3D, they would dig up Mussolini and give him another shot.) Social life here seems like it has become way too centered on unnatural food. The county fair shouldn’t be about deep fried Coca-Cola or butter. (It should be about protecting your children from carnies!) Instead of the thing, we are enjoying the shitty food at the thing. To me, “food” like this is best enjoyed in a place which makes you realize that you are engaging in aberrant behavior. If I am going to pound down a a bucket of KFC, I do it in a dark closet, cloaked in a veil of shame, and not, as some do, on an airplane.

Oddly, laundry is also quite different here. Here is how you do laundry in Paris:

1. Load the washing machine. The appliances there are impossibly small, so you can really only wash two or three shirts at a time.

2. Turn on washing machine and hit start or “depart” or whatever the hell button makes the washing machine go. I think I pushed every single button on the front of our washer the first time we used it. It broke shortly after.

3. Wait. Appliances in Europe are very energy efficient. That is really just code for “things don’t work very well and whatever they do takes an inordinate amount of time.” Expect each load about to take about three hours to wash.

4. Put clothes in dryer.

5. Wait.

6. Haha, just kidding. Your clothes will never get dry in France, no matter how long you wait. It’s like waiting for a Republican in the Senate to embrace science. It just won’t happen! Evidently, the EU banned dryer technology some years back, so the only thing that dryers can do for you is make your clothes hot and damp. When you need to leave the house, you put on your hot, damp clothes and head off into the Parisian world. Remember, the appliances are really small there, so you are ALWAYS doing laundry. This means you are ALWAYS wearing hot, damp clothes. Existentialism can trace it’s roots back to dissatisfaction with the laundry in Paris. In the US, a load of laundry takes two hours total and I can wash every piece of clothing owned by every person on our block if I wanted to. My clothes are only damp when I spill wine on myself. It is glorious.

Everything in Paris is closed on Sunday. Well, not everything, but if it is Sunday and it isn’t sold at the Gap on the Champs-Élysées, you better buy it on Saturday. Here, Sunday is almost like every other day. We bought a cell phone, changed cell phone plans, signed up for satellite TV, filled a prescription and had a nice dinner on our first sunday here, and it was so strange! I am happy about every change in our lives which makes things easier/require less planning. The sunday thing is a big one.

Lastly, I became a little more chatty while in Paris. When you live in a foreign country, you spend a lot of time not knowing what the hell is going on. You walk around in a bubble, undecipherable noise happening all around you. In the bubble, your mother tongue becomes golden. For me, every conversation in English was a lifeline, a way to feel “not-stupid.” There were days when I would have given anything for some easy chit chat, when I could have appreciated the desk clerk at the clinic telling me I had herpes, as long as she did it in English. There, whenever I could speak to someone, I would. This has followed me here. I am much more likely to chat up people than before I left, drawing me into conversations with neighbors, store clerks and movie theater employees (who seem pretty ignorant as to just how mozzarella sticks became cinema food.) My head is no longer down and I am learning a lot about the people around me.

Time will tell whether these things still seem strange after a while and how we will adapt to our new life. Maybe I’ll try walking to more places. Maybe I won’t.

If anyone needs me, I will be in a dark closet, enjoying a bucket of KFC (which I just bought in a drive thru.)