Seize The Day

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

Prince is dead. A sad fact, to be sure, but I must admit that I don’t share the same sense of loss as many of you. I only have room in my life for one tiny purple man, and that man for me is, and has always been, Willy Wonka. For every choice lyric or quote you give me from Prince, I can easily fire one back from the madman of candy:

  • Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world… there’s nothing to it.
  • A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.
  • If the good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented roller skates.

I had an epiphany yesterday and it actually happened before learning about Prince’s death. I needed an epiphany, as I have been struggling a bit lately. Caught up in my own head, I have recently been tortured by all the questions in life which seek to derail an otherwise optimistic existence, questions like, “Will my son ever learn to lift the toilet seat?” or “Why does the pharmacist hate me so much?” I have let life’s tiny irritations accumulate to the point where they almost fully cloud my field of vision. I noticed my problem this week when I thanked my wife for cleaning the entire kitchen and doing the dishes by telling her she forgot to start the dishwasher. (Sorry Amy!) All the insignificant minutiae details of a stay-at-home parent life have caused me to fall into a sense of ennui. This is particularly troubling because I don’t know what that word means. I can’t see the forest because of the trees.

So what was this epiphany? My discovery came, as many good things in life do, from one single word: Kennyfuckinloggins. “Danger Zone” came on the radio yesterday while I was in my car and electricity shot through my veins. Obviously, it wasn’t words that had an impact, for the song is really just an undecipherable ode to why you shouldn’t pronounce the “G” in words that end in “ING.” (Seriously ! Listen to the song and here is what you get: revvin’, howlin’, beggin’, headin’, spreadin’, jumpin’, and shovin’. Its like a description of the RNC convention if it were held in the deep south! I’m all for colloquial pronunciation, but sometimes even Kenny takes it too far.)

No, the song was able to inspire me with its unique ability to conjure the image of grown men playing volleyball while wearing blue jeans and no shirt. (In case you were born in a barn, the song is the mainstay of the soundtrack to the movie, “Top Gun.”) Oh sure, the guys could have put on shorts and tee-shirts to finally settle who the most manly men were, but how homo-erotic would that be? Fuck that. They greased up their finally chiseled torsos, strutted around like dopey roosters and provided, in slow-motion at times, enough sexual energy to make straight women, gay men, and casual volleyball lovers all lose their damn minds.

So here’s where we get to my epiphany. Those men, those heroes, had a lot on their mind at the time. Maverick had daddy issues, the guy from ER dies, there’s sexual tension everywhere, and, to top it all off, the US was under attack. Holy shit! Yet, with all that is going on, the flyboys were able to shed their woes (and their shirts!) to get down to the heart of the matter. They could have easily not played, or played in appropriate athletic attire. But they didn’t. They put on their jeans, lubed up their glorious pecs, abs, biceps and deltoids and did their best impression of Karch Kiraly, all while wearing police sunglasses. USA! USA! USA!

When the song came on, I felt the parallels to my own life immediately. The world around me is constantly pressuring me to keep my proverbial volleyball shirt on. “Don’t enjoy your son,” life whispered to me, “concentrate on his bathroom etiquette.” “Harp on the negatives,” it continued, “no matter what the people in your life do for you.” The whispering continued, drawing me farther and farther away from where I want to be. When I heard the “Danger Zone, I realized, I don’t want to live like that! Somewhere on Macarthur boulevard, after dropping Malcolm off at school, I decided I wasn’t going to let life drag me into the abyss. Think Goose or Iceman obsessed about their pharmacist’s steely glare? No! They played with vigor and sunscreen, hugging and high-fiving until the large crowd that had gathered was in a virtual frenzy. That’s what I want to do.

Tom Cruise aint got shit on me! Except a good body. And glasses that aren't broken.

Tom Cruise aint got shit on me! Except a good body. And glasses that aren’t broken.

Obviously, I don’t think this means I should play more semi-naked volleyball. Rather, my discovery is that I need to seize the day. If I don’t thoroughly enjoy this moment, it will be gone, replaced with something that is actually shitty. I don’t want to waste any more time on hangups. As often I can muster the strength, I need to celebrate those around me and the amazing opportunities that life offers. I want to be a spectacular husband! I want to be a great dad! I want my experience with everyone, whether as a friend, son, or prescription picker upper, to think, “Damn, that kid is bringing it!” Put simply, I need to stop getting in the way of myself. Willy Wonka said, “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” Paradise: I coming for you!

Then again, Wonka also said, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Maybe I just need to drink more.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Donald Trump

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Soap Box

This election is completely bananas. It seems like it started five years ago when Donald Trump paid a bunch of actors to show up to his kick off announcement, and then descended into anarchy when 17 Republicans joined him in the field. Hillary Clinton was supposed to sail through the primaries, but now finds herself going toe-to-toe with a guy who seems more suited to the role of “crazy guy sitting next to you on a bus” than president. Things have devolved to the point where press coverage of the election has the same tone as two 13 year old girls texting one another:

OMG, did you hear what Cruz said about Trump’s wife?

Crazeballs. Trump threw shade right back, doe. Called Cruzzz a man-ho.

WTF?  Cruz a total creeper.

Normally, you want to get your kids into the political process as much as possible. This year? Not so much. Watching and listening to Donald Trump will undo more of your parenting than a family camping trip to Burning Man. (“Like, wow, man, I never thought mushrooms belonged on a s’more… until now!”) If you are having trouble explaining the Trump phenomenon to your kids, fear not. I have put together this little FAQ guide to help you through this troubling time. Here’s what to say when your kid asks:

  1. Why is he so mad?

Donald Trump isn’t really mad, he is just pretending to be because he thinks it makes him look strong. He thinks that if people think he is strong, he will be a good leader. You can take this opportunity to point out leaders who were strong without being angry, like Nelson Mandela or Yoda. You can also say that Trump is angry because he been divorced twice and declared bankruptcy four times. If they won’t know what that means, you can just say that he is mad because he is orange.

  1. Why is he so orange?
I was too was well on my way to becoming orange. #SeniorPicture

I was too was well on my way to becoming orange. #SeniorPicture

Shoulda saw that one coming! Nobody knows why Donald Trump is orange. Maybe he eats a lot of carrots. Maybe one of his parents was an Oompa Loompa (that would certainly be ironic, wouldn’t it?) Don’t tell your kids about spray tans, though. As soon as you do, they will want one too. This is a great opportunity to tell your kids that, as MLK said, people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. I don’t think that Dr. King ever thought his quote would one day be used in defense of orange people, but hey, look how far we’ve come! Unfortunately for Donald Trump, the content of his character is nothing but a sack full of money and some old pornography.

  1. Why does he call everyone ugly?

Sadly, Donald Trump’s vision of beauty is chiefly derived from old pornography. In his world, if you aren’t good looking, you aren’t worthy. You might be tempted to discuss the obvious disconnect between his comments about the way Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz look and the road kill he has affixed on his dome, but that would be giving into the madness. Instead, tell your kids that Trump looks for any potential weaknesses in people and tries to exploit them. He is, in short, a bully. Bullies are bad, you and your kids already know this.

  1. Why is he rich?

Donald Trump was born rich. Even so, he took risks and got richer. There are lots of people who inherit a fortune and then lose it all. To his credit, Trump has been successful in business. Not all his businesses have been successful, but some of his risks have paid off. I think that is useful to kids. You can have stupid ideas like “Trump Steaks” and survive them as long as your good ideas pay off. It’s a great way to learn modern portfolio theory! If kids have a hard time understanding it, try the jelly bean way: Some jelly bean flavors are good (buttered popcorn, cherry, key lime pie,) and some are terrible (vomit, canned dog food.) As long as there are enough good jelly beans in your bag, you will keep buying and eating them right?

  1. Is he racist?

I think it’s usually pretty destructive to point fingers at people and call them racists. Well, most people anyways. It’s pretty easy to call the members of the KKK and white nationalists that support Trump racist. (It’s kinda their thing, just look at their tattoos!) That should also be a signal to you that you are doing something wrong. Tell your kids that if white men in pointy, hooded robes ever hold rallies in their honor, your kids are probably on the wrong track. Trump has no problem lumping every member of a group together into a homogeneous category, (“Ban all Muslims” & “The blacks love me!”) which to me is the very definition of racism. If your kid does the same, you have some parenting to do.

  1. Will he be president?

He could! Evidently, there is a small portion of people in this country that thinks that a risk-taking racist orange man with a dead animal for a hairdo should be our commander in chief. This is an excellent opportunity to talk to your kids about voting. The people who actually vote in this country have an exaggerated effect on the future of the country. Why is this? Nobody votes! In the states where Trump won the primary, here is the percentage of population in that state that voted for him:

Iowa                            2%

New Hampshire        9%

South Carolina           6%

Nevada                       2%

Alabama                     10%

Alaska                         1%

Arkansas                    6%

Georgia                       6%

Massachusetts           6%

Minnesota                  1%

Oklahoma                   4%

Tennessee                  6%

Texas                          4%

Vermont                     4%

Virginia                       5%

Kansas                        1%

Kentucky                    2%

Crikey! The people who are inching us toward a Trump presidency represent a tiny minority of the population. It’s pretty easy to see that voting matters, and matters a great deal. Even a kid can see that. The question becomes, will that tiny minority of the population actually pick a president?

An April Fools Day Loveletter

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me

Twenty years ago today, I pulled off a pretty cool April Fools’ Day joke. Here’s how it went:

In 1996, I was a fine piece of ass. At the time, I worked at Arthur Andersen, an organization known for its diversity by hiring graduates from both BYU AND Claremont. Whoa! I was surrounded by accounting nerds and a selection of straight-edged people that would make Mitt Romney say, “Golly.” I was, to put it lightly, different. I had an earring. I smoked cigarettes. I wore high top shoes with baggy acid washed jeans and flannel shirts. If not for the fact that I looked like I was 13 years-old and drove a Geo Metro, I would have been the Kanye West of the accounting industry.

Evidently, I didn't stay a bad ass for very long. How did that dork end up with the hottie?

Evidently, I didn’t stay a bad ass for very long. How did that dork end up with the hottie?

It was this bad boy image that lead me to want to play an April Fools day joke at work. We had been working on a project at Stanford University doing a physical inventory of the 100,000+ capital assets at the school and our work required us to be in close contact with people in various departments on campus. I thought it would be fun to have these departmental people call our boss, Mihran, and complain that we were getting drunk, stealing stuff and trying to hook up with the employees/students in the department. Such ribaldry would have set off alarms within Arthur Andersen to raise the mood from, “Golly,” to “Jeepers, we have a problem.”

My idea sprung into action when I convinced the woman I worked with in an engineering lab to tell Mihran that I had tequila on my breath and a penchant for leaving my fly down. (Not a stretch for anyone that knows me!) Feeling confident that my plan was coming together, I rallied my coworkers to join in the fun. They all assured me that their efforts would be forthcoming.

Sadly, they did not. One by one, my co-conspirators wimped out. Their excuses ranged from, “I don’t think this is a good idea. You’re going to get in trouble,” to, “No one would believe I’m drunk, I’m Mormon!”  On March 30, I had exactly zero people signed up to help. I knew I needed to do something drastic to make sure the joke wasn’t a flop.

On April 1, 1996, I showed up to work just like any other day, except that my coworkers had become a gaggle of Japanese school girls, giggling and pointing at me in anticipation of what was to come. Things did not go as planned. I returned from my morning work, slammed my clipboard down on my desk and exclaimed a word that caused several people around to blush. The joke had gone horribly wrong! Mihran said he received the message and that he was going to take drastic action to protect the good name of the company. He sent me back to the San Francisco office to face discipline by the managing partner. Mihran also scheduled an “All Hands” meeting to go over acceptable conduct while working at the firm. I was in deep shit, a development that did not go unnoticed by my coworkers Gary and a certain Amy Wilson. Amy had been acting as my supervisor on the project and, while the thought my whole shtick was a refreshing change from the pressed shirts I was working with, she was not romantically inclined towards me. (At least, that’s what I thought!) Gary and Amy took me outside and, nearly in tears, I explained my predicament. They were flabbergasted and supportive. I stormed out when I couldn’t stand it anymore, noting that Amy was particularly upset by my sad lot in life.

The “All Hands” meeting was brutal. Mihran lashed into a diatribe about the noble history of the firm and how shenanigans like the one I tried to pull off were unacceptable. He had prepared a fifteen minute speech that detailed expressly what the expectations were for people at the company, but the look in eyes of the staff in attendance told him that he didn’t need to spend that long. After five minutes of tongue lashing, he saw that his point had been made, and to avoid really demoralizing the crew, he announced, “April Fools!”

How did I know this? I was in on it! I got so mad at my friends/coworkers that I circled back with Mihran the night before, told him about what we were going to do and then reversed the prank to prank the non-prankers. To his credit, Mihran really got into the spirit, scheduling the meeting and even giving me a few hours off during the day, which I used to by a new car stereo for my Geo Metro. (I told you I was a bad ass!)

I returned to meeting room expecting to burst in and yell, “April Fools Day!” to my stunned coworkers, but, as I said, the meeting had been cut short and the beans had been spilled prematurely. When I finally saw everyone, they punched me and razzed my hair, admitting that I had gotten them good. I had pulled off the perfect prank! To celebrate, we all decided to go to a bar and watch the college basketball championship game together. Armed with the knowledge that my potential departure had caused an emotional reaction from Amy, I asked her if she wanted to share my umbrella to the parking lot. She agreed! Even better, after I withstood a headbutt at the bar from a drunken Irishman who was hitting on Amy, she grabbed my hand, locked me in the bathroom at the Polk Street Grill, and we made out.

That was the last night either of us was single.

We moved in together the next day.

We joined checking accounts the next month.

We bought a car together later that summer. (Goodbye Geo Metro!)

We got engaged the next year, married the year after that and had a baby boy seven years later.

Now, we have a fantastic life together and I can’t imagine a better way to spend 20 years. I didn’t think my little joke would alter the course of my entire life, but it totally did. It has been totally awesome.

Happy Make Out Anniversary, Amy. I love you.

I Finished My Book!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul Writes a Book

PaulI freaking did it! Eight and a half years ago, I started this blog as a way to capture our adventures during a seven week business trip/family vacation to Europe. Five years ago, I decided that things got sufficiently weird during the trip that it would make for an interesting book. I wrote it, rewrote it, and then rewrote it again, weaving together harrowing tales of wandering the streets of Europe at three in the morning with a sleepless toddler with a larger take on what it is like out there for a stay-at-home dad. The result is a 70,000 word memoir, chock full of goofy stories, food reviews and the gender politics involved when a man performs the work previously done by women. I’m really proud of it, it’s appropriately inappropriate. Above all, it’s really funny, the kind of book that a book club can devour over some wine and laughs.

Why am I telling you this? I am new to this and need help! I would like to figure out if this is something I self publish and give to my friends and family or if it is something more: something that I can get published by real, live publishing house. I know that getting a book published is incredibly difficult, and don’t presume anything. Much of what is in the book, though, my journey from inexperienced dad to master of my domain, is a story worth reading. I would love to share it with a larger audience. To that end I am looking for two kinds of people:

  1. Do you know someone in the publishing business?

I need to get this in front of editors and agents. Do you know any? I know some of you do and I would love it if you could give me their particulars, or even better, an introduction! Cold calling about a book where I wander around the streets of Paris with ink on my pants is going to be tough. However, if you could vouch for me and get the book in front of someone, I would be eternally grateful. I have sample chapters I can send out and am finalizing a letter of inquiry. Let me know!

2. Are you a critical book reader?

I’ve never written a book before! I don’t know if I wrote this the right way. It’s funny, but so are videos of getting hit in the crotch with a nerf bat. Not everything is ready for prime time, and I would love your feedback. You could help me with how the book is structured and whether it is focused on the right things. This isn’t a opportunity for you to say “Sure, Paul I’ll read your book,” and then tell me a while later that you thought it was “neat.”  You can do that after it gets published in whatever format it takes. I am looking for people interested in giving this a serious critical eye, helping me transform the book in its current form into something even better. Are you up for it?

I am calling the book “With My Elbows In My Pockets,” a reference to cooking in a London kitchen that fit entirely in a small closet. It aptly describes my feelings of being hamstrung by society, by my own lack of experience, and the difficulties of life on the road. I hope you all get to read it someday.