The Day This Blog Died

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I love this blog. Do I still love the name? Nope. If I could get into a time machine, go back to when I started this blog and a) dissuade my earlier self from getting that Gilmore Girls tattoo and b) change the name of my blog to something less creepy, I would totally do it. Nevertheless, BigDaddyPaul.com has given me the chance to make chicken dinner something out of chicken shit nothing. For every experience that has totally sucked for me as a stay-at-home dad, I’ve had the ability to think to myself, “At least this will make for a good blog post!” It often did, and I’ve had a fantastic time over the past 10 years wasting your time at work or giving you something enjoyable to read while using the toilet.

Even so, all good things must come to an end. It’s true! My favorite TV shows, “MASH” and “Anything with Tina Fey in it” were both amazing, and are now no longer with us. Also, Dr. Pepper Gum was my favorite thing in Junior High. Then, poof, gone, never to be chewed and then spit out flavorlessly after less than five minutes again.

Which brings me to the point: this blog must now die. Actually, this blog died on November 8, 2016, I just didn’t know it. On November 8, Donald J. Trump won the U.S. election, promising to deport millions of immigrants, restrict women’s reproductive rights, terminate collective bargaining rights for employees, roll back environmental regulations and eat undersized children. That doesn’t sit well with me. I am not going to take this lying down. (Can I get to three references involving the human body in a non-standing posture? Read on!) This was not something I am able to just squat thrust and forget about. (I did it! All three of them make perfect sense, too. Yay for me!)

The election made me have feelings. Strong feelings. Very strong feelings that I haven’t felt in a long time. What kind of feelings? The election made me feel sad. And mad. I should throw confused in there as well. But most of all, the election made me feel the need to go back to work.

What??

Yes, I want to go back to work. The guy who quit being a lawyer more than eleven years ago now wants to squat thrust his way back into the practice of law! Before my son Malcolm was born, I was a labor lawyer, dedicated to protecting workers’ rights in a number of ways. This was important work for me, able to feel like I was doing something with the good fortune that this world has given me. I eventually quit to become a stay-at-home dad, and while it was an adjustment, I was able to squash my notions of social justice by promoting gender equality in the workplace. This non-traditional, social movement of two was good enough for the longest time.

Until November 8. The election changed everything for me. I just can’t sit in my middle class bubble in my lefty part of the world, content that this new president won’t be able to do too much to me personally. The truth is that a large number of hard working Americans will get the snot knocked out of them by this new administration. That is just something that makes me cringe. And not cringe while standing up. This is a full on, down on the ground, lick the floor cringe. (I’m up to four!)

Alas, I am going to do more than cringe. I am going back to work and I’m going to fight. I’m not sure what kind of work, as I’ve changed a lot in the past eleven years. I will be able to spend a little time (hopefully) volunteering at some organizations that do great work and see what is a good fit for me. I will also get back into the hard work of lawyering by doing some contract work for my old law firm, building my skills back up and proving to future employers that I CAN show up to work every day. (with pants!)

As this blog is first and foremost an account of me being a stay-at-home dad, I have decided to shut it down. I can’t tell you how cool it’s been to catalogue Malcolm’s life (and mine with it) and share the funny little things parents go through when raising kids. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the ride too. Thanks so much for reading. Every single person who told me that they enjoyed a post made my day. It gave me the inspiration to continue doing it, if only to subject others to inappropriate humor while they use the john. Thanks for everything, you are the best readers a semi-clothed, chubby dad could hope for. If we are not already Facebook friends, please hit me up.

As I leave you, I will give you one last little tidbit. Here is the picture I wanted to use for my newly created LinkedIn profile. Let’s connect!

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Actually, this blog is a treasure trove of embarrassing photos of myself. What better way to go out than to put them all together. Here you go! (Cue the sappy music…)

To the confused people on the airplane who couldn't figure out why I was crying during Mulan 2, "I'm sorry."

Party Time! There may be something on underneath. Then again, maybe not.

Thou Shalt Not Try To Ignore Me At A Restaurant!

Congratulations Amy! This is what Board meetings will be like!

I should have left the beard on all day, more cushion for the blows.

 

#6 - I want people to think that I am so prolific that I have four hands to write with. This really has it all, I am pale, blind as a bat and thoughtful. Who wouldn't want to read my writing?

Napping with Dad 2

I can't even see my feet anymore!

Malcolm enjoys his favorite beer

This is pretty much the grossest picture I could find of myself

Not sure why snorting the Cheerio seemed better than eating it, but what the heck do I know?

One of the many cringeworthy moments I have had shopping.

I may not have a degree, but at least I have enthusiasm!

Amy smiles, Malcolm gives a "sad clown" and, of course, I am talking.

No doubt, I miss this!

Never saw this one coming, eh? BTW, that IS beer in that baby bottle...

And then there is this. This is the picture that represented both the blog and Malcolm and I’s relationship for the longest time. I see this picture and I smile. I hope you do too. Goodbye!

 

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

The 3 Weirdest Things That Happened This Week

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork
  1. My Pants Don’t Fit Anymore

If it were up to me, everyone would walk around wearing a burlap sack around their body and a paper bag over their head. Then we’d all stop wasting so much time trying to look presentable. Seriously! 99% of the world’s problems would be solved within 2 years if we took the time we waste at the gym or putting on makeup on things like “Science” or “Learning-How-To-Get-Along-With-People-Who-Don’t-Believe-In-Your-God.”

Alas, the “Burlap and Paper Bag” look hasn’t hit just yet, so I am left with my usual baggy hoodie sweatshirt and baseball cap look. I noticed I looked a little puffier in this getup recently, and immediately weighed myself to discover the extent of my new-found largesse. I am 8 % heavier in the US than I was back in France! (8 % isn’t a large number when say, buying some breakfast cereal at the store, but adding that to an already questionable gross tonnage can have noticeably significant ramifications.) I was/am concerned.

Mostly, I was irritated why this was happening. While in France, I ate rich, unadulterated foods that had a way of communicating to my brain to I needed to stop eating. I don’t know how, but portions there are tiny and fabulous, (which is totally what I am going to name my all midget revue dedicated to Barbara Streisand covers.) American Paul AKA, “Fat Paul,” “Tubby P” or Amy’s current fave, “El Lipidor,” eats and drinks way too much, evidently whatever communication happening between my brain and belly in France has been silenced here. Also, I eat way too much of the following items which are more readily part of the American Dad Diet:

– Nachos

– Beer

– Nachos and Beer

Now, my pants don’t fit any more. The good news is that this means I usually don’t need to wear a belt. The bad news is that “El Lipador” will probably get diabetes soon. I gotta either figure out how to live here with some limits or get an extra large burlap sack and hope to change the fashion industry from the outside.

  1. We Bought 27 Bottles Of Wine At A Grocery Store!

I love a good deal. It’s hereditary. The happiest I ever saw my dad is the day that we went to a drug store that was going out of business. While in the store, they announced over the loudspeakers that all greeting cards were free. Not reduced. Not massively reduced, but free. My dad came out of that store with an entire shopping cart of greeting cards and tears in his eyes because he was laughing so hard. We didn’t pay for cards for a whole decade after. Towards the end, people were more likely to receive cards from us that read, “To my nephew on his Bar Mitzvah” than an appropriately worded greeting.

Were stopped at a store the other day to pick up some wine on our way to a friend’s house for dinner. (That apostrophe was intentional, Wolf’s, we only like one of you. You gotta figure out which one!) While at the grocery store, I noticed two shopping carts full of wine deeply discounted to around $8. Armed with a cool wine app called Vivino, I scanned each label in the cart, reviewed the cost of the wine and looked at the reviews to determine whether it was a good deal, and then snagged every single decent wine from those two carts.

Oh, and I went sailing! Look at me, I'm sailing!

Oh, and I went sailing! Look at me, I’m sailing!

While shopping, I had the same look of joy in my eyes as my dad did when when he walked out of that Thrifty store. That look led some other customers, curious as to how we could turn rummaging around in a discount wine cart into a joyous affair, to as us what the scoop was. Mostly, they wanted to know which wines still in the bargain cart were any good. I told them that everything in our cart was good and that nothing in the discount cart was worth it. They were impressed and mad at us all at once. The look, and the fact that we were in the process of buying 27 bottles of wine in the middle of the day at a grocery store, caused Malcolm to ask if he could join someone else’s family, preferably one that wasn’t so embarrassing. Maybe one day he’ll do the same and remember fondly when we turned Lunardi’s into our private wine auction.

  1. I Got A Job!

I like to cook. More specifically, I like to eat (see Weird Thing #1, above, for more details.) Stay-at-home-daddying has given a unique opportunity to learn how to do both, and after 10 years of watching cooking shows, and trying different recipes/techniques, (often turning chicken dinner into chicken shit,) I can confidently stay I am good at it. How good?  My lasagna scored a cameo in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VIII movie. Also, I have it on good authority that a ravioli I once made was being considered for Trumps vice-president. (Sadly, the ravioli was deemed too foreign.)

I recently decided to turn this passion for cooking and eating into an income stream. I am joining forces with a startup company to provide delicious home-cooked meals to friends and neighbors who don’t have the time/energy to do so for themselves. It’s a private supper club for people who like fresh, reasonably healthy food and don’t want to sit across the table from me wondering why I am wearing a burlap sack at the dinner table (again.)

I couldn’t be more excited! I believe in food as a means of expression, and cranking out my favorite meals is a way for me to hug my friends and neighbors in the mouth. (Look how awesome I am at talking about food, and I am just getting started!) I plan on cooking two nights a week, two times a week when I can share what I love doing with those close by. How lucky am I? If you live close by, how lucky are you!

Be on the lookout for more details. If you live in the area, be prepared to pony up to the “El Lipador” Express, because this kid’s going places. As I said, food is a way to express yourself, I have a lot of weird, wonderful things to express. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Japan vs. Omaha, A Photo Quiz

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We took two trips recently. One was a family vacation to Japan, where we reunited with old friends, made some new ones and experienced a brand new culture. The other was a trip to Omaha, where we saw some reunited with other dear friends, made some new ones, and got to experience the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting first hand.

Rather than bore you with the nitty gritty details of each, I thought I would bore you with a photo quiz. What is a photo quiz, you ask? Shut up! I ask the questions around here. Here you go:

1. Which of the following breakfast items contained more grams of fat?

a) Breakfast in Tokyo:

Miso soup with clams, tamago (egg) and Tofu.

Miso soup with clams, tamago (egg) and Tofu with scallions and soy sauce.

b) breakfast in Omaha:

A Jumbo Honeybun

A Jumbo Honeybun

Answer: With a whopping 29 grams of fat in the 141 gram bun, this would turn every geisha in Japan who ate it immediately into a sumo wrestler. “Jumbo” doesn’t refer to the size of the bun so much as the size of your buns when you eat it. Evidently, Malcolm wants a badonkadonk.

2. Why was this sign put next to the port-a-potties in a Tokyo?

IMG_4664

Answer: I don’t know and I really don’t want to find out.

P.S. Perhaps this is just an opportunity in disguise. I am thinking a “CSI” type crime drama: “PPP: Tokyo” with PPP standing for Peeping Photo Patrol. Think Ted Danson would be interested?

3. Who is the most bad ass duo?

a) Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger

Screen Shot 2016 04 30 at 10.33.02 AM

Photo: Yahoo finance

b) These two

IMG_4559

Answer: Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are billionaire geniuses that have made Berkshire Hathaway one of the most successful companies on the planet. They are 85 and 92 years old, respectively, and consume Cokes and peanut brittle like ravenous goats. They are rockstars in the corporate world. Still, Malcolm and Miu will one day have an album cover that looks like this and that automatically makes them the winner. The album will be titled, “Only one of us uses chopsticks.” (Malcolm and Miu were classmates in Paris. That they will continue to be friends despite being a world apart is kinda awesome.)

4. Is this the best beef in the world?

IMG_4599

Yes, yes it is. This is called Ohmi beef, a type of Wagyu cattle that is raised in certain areas of Japan. You’ve probably heard of Kobe beef, but Ohmi is every bit as good, if not better. The name really means, “Ohmi-fucking gawd!” We had it at a Shabu-Shabu restaurant in Kyoto, sliced paper thin and then boiled for five seconds in a broth, along with some veggies. Look at that insane marbling! It was dreamy, that’s why the picture came out the way it did.

Our friends in Omaha served us some fantastic beef from half of a cow that they recently purchased. It was spectacular. It could not, however, compete. That’s because an Ohmi steak, served like the one pound T-bone that we had in Omaha, would cost $700. Yowza!

5. Which was more crowded:

a) this intersection:

IMG_4655

or b) this “meeting”:

Image result for how many people went to the berkshire hathaway shareholder meeting

Photo: wsj.com

Answer: They were the same! Too many people! Too little space! The Shibuya crossing in Tokyo is said to be the busiest intersection in the world, with as many as 2500 people crossing the street with each green light. It’s a lot like surfing, except with more surgical masks. The shareholder meeting is also crazy. 40,000 people go to it, filling up the nearly 8,000 seat arena and spilling into overflow rooms. Like I said, Buffett and Munger are rock stars. They had an event at a high-end jewelry store the night before, serving dinner and drinks to people who were free to roam around and check out fancy watches and diamonds, etc. There was no space to eat, so we saw plenty of people hunkered down on the floor, devouring the meatballs and carved roast which was offered at the buffet. Considering the cost of a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock is more than $200,000, I am pretty sure we saw millionaires and possibly even billionaires eating floor meatballs. Insane!

Lastly,

6. We’ve traveled to many parts of the world and seen many interesting things. For my money, you can’t beat re-uniting with amazing friends. This is my friend:

IMG_4924

She is out there every day, fighting for what she believes in. She inspires me to do the same. Find your friends, eat some steak (or peanut brittle) with them, and conquer the world.

 

Why Lazy Parenting Is Good Parenting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am a lazy parent. Well, maybe not a lazy parent, but certainly I am lazy-er than I used to be. I think back to when Malcolm was small and a typical day involved making baby food, changing diapers, feeding time, reading time, play time, tantrum navigation, trips to the park, trips to the store and then, to top it all off, a lengthy pre-bedtime ritual which involved bath time and redoing many of the other things before he would finally drift off to sleep. Phew! That is a shit ton of work, and I am frankly surprised we ever made it through it in one piece.

My approach has changed somewhat over the years, bearing little resemblance to the (some say hovering) presence I used to be. I trace this transformation back to one specific thing that Malcolm used to do: asking me to wipe his butt. Mostly, it was the way he asked: he’d scream, “Wipe!” but really I heard, “Wipe it, loser, and hurry up, I got stuff to do!” The whole transaction reeked of an impolite transaction between an over-entitled business traveler and a shoe shine guy at the airport. There is only so much indignity that a parent can stand, and one day, when Malcolm summoned me, I declined. Of course, he was incredulous, like it was some great honor for me to be involved in his bowel movements at all, but I held my ground and made that kid wipe his own arse. After a lengthy back and forth, he accepted the new truth and began caring for his own backside. That was seven years ago. (In another seven, he will probably start getting it right!)

I felt good for a number of reasons after refusing to wipe Malcolm’s butt, the most notable being the feeling that sometimes, when a parent doesn’t do something for their child, the child is actually better off for it. You will never learn to wipe your butt if your parents do it for you. So why do it then, unless you like wiping butts? In this age of helicopter parenting, could it be that sometimes the best thing a you can do for you kid is to stop doing the thing that you don’t want to do anyways? Wow! Over the years, I have been utilizing this principle to make Malcolm do the things that I don’t like doing, whether it’s putting away his  laundry, making his school lunch, or diagnosing his own communicable diseases.

I realized recently that I was feeling guilty about not being more proactive in certain areas of Malcolm’s life. A bit of reflection has allowed me to recognize that there is more going on than lazy parenting. Here is what is happening:

  1. Play dates.

Malcolm has been asking me a lot to make play dates with this or that person. I don’t like doing it, they require a lot of details and, more importantly, I have to figure out stuff for them to do. Plus I totally get all caught up in the soap opera-esque subtexts: Why this kid and not this other? What happened to fun with gal pals? What do I care? My parents may correct my memory on the subject, but I remember being in fifth grade and I don’t remember parent organized play dates at all. When I was a kid (D’oh! The dreaded words of parenting. Fuck it, I don’t care!) playtime occurred when child A got on their bike and went over to child B’s house. If child B was home and wanted to hang out, they would both get on their bikes and check out what child C was doing. Things continued to a small gaggle of kids had coalesced and adventures were had. Now, we are stuck in this parent controlled system where everything is pre-authorized, pre-planned, and pre-negotiated. Yuck! I hate it, both because it robs kids of their own invention and causes me extra work/mental energy. I recently started telling Malcolm to schedule his own time with other kids. It has had limited success; I am still involved in more of the process than I want, but Malcolm is making all the initial overtures. It would be a lot easier if all his friends lived in our neighborhood.

2. Summer Camp

I used to have Malcolm’s summer schedule planned out by mid-February. I was heavy on camps of differing interests, science camps, sports camps, cheap get dirty and tired city parks and rec camps, grandparent camps, with a few weeks reserved for he and I to engage in some shenanigans. I have nothing set up for Malcolm this summer. If he has some interests that he wants to explore in greater detail this summer, let him figure it out. I don’t feel like it is my job to tell him what he should find interesting and then spend a bunch of time and money getting him summer exposure to it. Oh, I’ll help him identify and plan anything he wants to do, but my days of overscheduling his summers are done. In practice, this means that if he wants us to fork over the cash for him to go to Minecraft Camp, he is going to have to do the leg work himself!

3. School

Malcolm’s preschool and kindergarten severely limited parental involvement in the classroom. At the school, students did all their work in the classroom and parents had little or nothing to offer to help with the kids’ learning (other than money!)  Malcolm has changed schools many times since then and certainly the schools’ cultures have changed as well. My approach hasn’t, though, and I don’t like getting involved in Malcolm’s classwork. If he can’t figure something out, he knows that he needs to ask the teacher about it. I am interested in his schoolwork, for sure, I am just not interested in helping him do it. I ask to look at his work once he is done with it, and rarely if ever, point out the all the wrong answers. He recently had a big science fair project and I can gladly say that the sum total of my contribution to it was going to the store, at his direction, and buying some poster board. Luckily, the project was not a complete disaster, as Malcolm’s partner’s family doesn’t hold the same “hand’s off” policy as ours. Lucky him!

I am not always 100% comfortable with my take. I would like it if Malcolm were more social, pursued his interests more and was more diligent in the outcome of his school work. I mean, who wants their kid to have a shitty science project? Not me, for sure, but Malcolm is ultimately going to have to decide whether he is the kind of kid who will figure things out or just suck at stuff. I will only get in the way. Sometimes, the lazy approach is just what they need.

This is what's really going on in my mind...

This is what’s really going on in my mind…

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.

Big Daddy Paul In The News

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

There’s a new article about stay at home dads out, and I was interviewed for it. It’s nice and chewy, covering some interesting research about stay at home dads and me getting a little goofy. Check it out!

 

http://inthefray.org/2016/03/men-at-work-at-home-stay-at-home-dads/

One Last Kiss

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

As some of you may know, we returned last summer from a short stint living in Paris. By far, the most interesting thing about living overseas, especially in France, was the “little differences” that popped up every now and again. These differences were both good and bad; sometimes they lead you to a fantastic experience that you would never have expected, while other situations made you want to pull your hair out and hide under a blanket. Examples? We have many.

When Amy and I went in for our permanent visa cards, we left each other in the waiting room and then ran into each other in the hallway before our medical examination. Neither one of us had a shirt on. It was the least satisfying topless scene I have ever known. (Explanation: they do a chest x-ray to confirm that you don’t have TB.)

In order to get an apartment, you have to have a bank account. In order to get a bank account, you have to have an apartment. Getting either set up makes you look like a dog chasing its tail around and around and around. We were fortunate enough to get help from Amy’s work. Otherwise, we’d have been forced to live in Bois de Boulogne with the scary prostitutes and swamp rats.

IMG_9125

This is what it feels like when your head is spinning in Paris.

In Parisian restaurants, you can’t normally eat before 8pm, they won’t serve you steak cooked more than medium rare and leaving a huge tip is just about as gauche as wearing a fanny pack. True, if you are successfully able to navigate the dining scene in Paris you will be eating some of the best food of you will ever have, but make one mistake and the waiter’s eyes will roll and you will be ignored for the duration of your meal.

On the flip side, I took Malcolm to the doctor’s office once and the doctor answered the phone when I called, the doctor met us when we walked in her door and her first question to us wasn’t, “Have you filled out all these forms?” It was “What seems to be the problem?”

Also, their cheese is ridiculously awesome.

Having returned to the US, I thought I was done with all these charming nuances of French life. I was wrong. Herein lies the tale of me closing our bank account. For dramatic effect, I am replacing the seemingly endless strings of emails back and forth with a made up conversation between me and the bank officer. All of the hoops they made me jump through are real, though. Enjoy!

Me: Hi there. I would like to transfer the money in my French bank account to my good ole American account.

Them: Oui, monsieur. If you could be so good as to fill out ziss transfer form.

Me: Great! Here is the form.

Them: Ah, ziss is a problem. To transfer all of the zee money from zee account, you must first close the account. Please be so kind as to fill out zee following form.

Me: OK. Here is this form.

Them: Merci. Unfortunately, we are unable to close your account until you have destroyed your banking cards and your remaining checks. Please let us know when ziss is complete.

Me: OK, I have done it. Not really sure that was necessary since A) I have no idea how to fill out French checks and B) IF THE ACCOUNT IS CLOSED THE CHECKS AND FUCKING CREDIT CARDS WON’T WORK! Whatever it’s done.

Them: Ah, monsieur, very nice. We must have verification that the cards have been destroyed. Please send them to us.

Me: Huh? You want me to send you credit card scraps? What kind of perversion is this? You are actually demanding that I send you garbage through the international mailing system? Absurd! Whatever, I will play your little game. Here is the refuse you require.

Them: Monsieur, I am pleased to inform you that we have received your financial debris and will process your account closure.

Me: Finally! Please send me the money soon, as March Madness is coming and I need money to bet on basketball with.

Them: [Eye roll.]

Me: (after some more time has passed) Hello? Anyone there?

Them: Ah yes, Monsieur Schwartz. Vee need to verify your account closure request. Please give us your phone number so zat we may call you to confirm that everything is in order.

Me: Makes sense. All the shit that you just put me through isn’t really a good enough indication that I want my account closed. You should really verify that this is what I want to do. Ya, give me a call.

Them: Monsieur, unfortunately we need verification zat zee phone number you have given us is really your phone number. Please verify the verification number by sending us a phone bill with your name on it.

Me: What the fuck is wrong with you? You know what, just keep the money. I’m tired of your shenanigans.

{scene}

I still don’t have the money. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I kind of miss you France. You’re like a big stupid dog. I can’t get you do anything I want you to do, but you enjoy life and make things interesting. Plus, that cheese!

Goodbye Baseball – My Kid Just Quit Little League

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Parents all have different reasons for having kids. Some want a loud household where the pitter-patter of little feet can barely be heard over the constant giggling and singing. Others want to preserve the family name or have someone to take care of them when they are old. Celebrities want kids like they want fashion accessories, and Making of a Murderer star Steven Avery’s parents hoped that having a kid would someday make their family reunions the talk of Manitowoc County. Boy were they right!

Me? I’m pretty sure that the only reason we had a kid was to watch him/her play baseball. If this sounds stupid, just remember that Ted Cruz was bred by his Martian parents to slowly sap the joy from our lives with his creepy stare. THAT is a bad reason to have a kid. We are completely normal. We didn’t think Malcolm was going to be a pro ball player or even a great youth player, we both enjoyed playing sports growing up and wanted to experience that same vibe as parents. We weren’t going to be pushy parents, we just wanted our boy to be on a team.

Immediately after the taking of this picture, he accused me of being a "mean pitcher" and we left to a chorus of tears.

Immediately after the taking of this picture, he accused me of being a “mean pitcher” and, after he tried to bite me between second and third base, we left to a chorus of tears. (Just to clarify, it wasn’t the “good” biting that can take place between second and third base.)

So, we had a kid. As soon as that kid could walk, he had a bat in his hand. A stay at home dad has a huge perk; he can spend as much time with his kid doing what he likes to do. As a result, Malcolm and I would go to the park, throw the ball around and do some hitting. We’d eventually get to a game, and everything would go great, until the temper tantrum that would inevitably arrive and derail everything good in young child’s life. I was pleased, though, my kid liked playing baseball!

By the time organized baseball arrived, Malcolm had a leg up on the competition. He could already hit, throw, spit tobacco and touch his junk. He was as baller as a tee baller could get. True, tee ball is painful to watch, and coaching it is worse than going on a date with Ted Cruz. Still, my boy was on the path to the Little Leagues and I loved every minute of it.

Like butta!

Like butta!

His progress through the ranks was remarkable. He was a switch hitter as a six year old, and if you don’t know what that means, it’s the youth baseball equivalent of winning an EGOT. If you don’t know what an EGOT is, it’s really good. If you don’t understand what either “switch hitting” or an “EGOT” is you got problems. Big ones. Take that nose out of the books and live a little! Anyways, Malcolm continued up through the Little League ranks, playing well above his age level and, while the games only got marginally better to watch, we enthusiastically attended all of his games.

When we moved to France, his interest waned. He played on a French team and practice was in French. The games were 2 hours away through a mixture of buses, trains and carpools. The 7th inning stretch involved Chablis and a sinewy goat cheese. No one was particularly found of French baseball, so when he wanted to quit, I didn’t pay much mind. Actually, I was relieved, but was sure that he would pick things up again when we got home.

He didn’t. Baseball tryouts were a few weeks ago, and he coolly informed us that he wasn’t going to play anymore. We spent a good 48 hours “making sure” that had thought things through. In reality we tried to bribe him, threaten him and come at him from every single angle to see if he would budge. He wouldn’t, and it was the end of an era.

In my “Fine, have it your way” speech, I was pretty emotional. We had spent countless hours in the activity together, working at a game we both loved. It was our thing, and now he was over it. Yowza! I teared up, not so much because he was done with baseball but because the era of “he and I” was coming to a close. I am sure we will always have things that we’ll do together, but the days of “proud dad and his ferocious tiny tike ball dude” were done. It was saddening. I cried.

There must be a multitude of good things that will come of Malkie quitting baseball. I can’t appreciate them all right now, I just keep remembering the feeling of walking off a dusty baseball diamond having just enjoyed the session. Of course, he was usually crying and/or trying to bite me, but still: I remember the good times. The good thing about your kid growing up is that they develop they own personality and are able surprise you with the things they are interested in.

Unfortunately, it can also be a bad thing.

At least he’s not Ted Cruz.

Yet.

Goodbye little gamer. Goodbye crocs. Goodbye jammies under the jersey.

Goodbye little gamer. Goodbye crocs. Goodbye jammies under the jersey.

The 6 Stages of Adele Infatuation

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

I saw Adele on Saturday Night Live the other night. (By the way, if you are an SNL fan upset over how terrible the show has become in the past few years, you should check it out. It was the best show they have put on in quite a while.) After watching Adele’s performance as the musical guest, I thought I should chronicle my “journey.” Enjoy!

Stage 1- Denial

When Adele took the stage, I immediately thought, “Oh good, I get to watch this white girl croon about getting dumped again? Ugh!” She’s such a wet blanket, I don’t understand how she ever got anyone to like her in the first place. Maybe she should sing about something funnier, like touching your private parts after handling habanero peppers. People like to laugh and maybe then guys wouldn’t dump her and break her heart. Just a thought.

Then she started to sing.

Stage 2- Anger

My jaw dropped after the first word in the song, “Hello.” Was she really covering Lionel Richie? Yikes! Is it me your looking for? No. You’re looking for a new songwriter. (And the number for Barbara Streisand’s nail salon.) After one lousy word, I was already irritated. With the exception of Sinead O’Connor, people shouldn’t get upset just watching a variety show. It didn’t start off good.

Stage 3- Bargaining

Not wanting to hit the fast forward just yet, I decided to give it a listen.  Adele is very talented and I thought maybe, just maybe, she can turn it around. It would be a lot easier if she stopped saying, “Hello” though! I decided to let it go until at least the chorus.

Stage 4- Depression

When Adele hit her stride 1:07 into the song, I got a little goosebumpy. Then she started singing about being sorry about something or other and it made me feel. I am not quite sure what, because I didn’t really understand the lyrics. But still, it made me feel. Her voice will do that to you. It’s like a free trip to the therapist’s office.

As the song progressed I found myself saying, “I’m sorry for everything I’ve Done.” I’m not sure why, but I apologized for my past misdeeds. I thought of all the times I have been a jerk to people and done wrong. I thought of the sacrifices I chose not to make and the people who would have been a lot better off if I had just been a better friend/family member and tried harder. I thought of our dog Nomad, who we once forced to sleep outside because he was chewing up everything in the house. That dog wailed all night! Shortness of breath hit and I started feeling a deep sense of melancholy. Damn you Adele!

Stage 5- Acceptance

Whoa, that woman has some pipes. As the last chorus approached, I thought, “Adele is going to be the next president of the United States of America.” I don’t even care what her take on the Syrian refugee crisis is. Anyone that in tune with her heart has to be a good leader, right? Besides, it would be heard for Putin to be a dick during arms negotiations if she started singing “Someone Like You,” to him. As the song wound down, I was completely transfixed. Adele for President!

Stage 6- Inebriation

Adele’s music is really just an invitation to plop down on your couch under a warm blanket and drink a giant glass of wine. Don’t lie and tell me you don’t feel the same. To get the same sensation at work, some women are now wearing comfy sweaters and filling their entire Nalgene with merlot. It’s true! I would probably do the same if I had to.

At the end of Adele’s set, I was reduced to a bleary eyed mess, the kind of blubbering idiot version of myself that you usually only see on an airplane. (I have cried to both “My Giant” and “Mulan 2” while on White Russian fueled binges.) In the light of day, and sobriety, it seems a bit silly, but I liked her music more than I thought. Not enough to listen to it more than my normal mix of Weird Al and dirty rap music, to be sure, but certainly whenever my thoughts turn to sad dogs or cartoons about mistreated Chinese girls. I considered her performance on SNL to be a smashing success.

To the confused people on the airplane who couldn't figure out why I was crying during Mulan 2, "I'm sorry."

To the confused people on the airplane who couldn’t figure out why I was crying during Mulan 2, “I’m sorry.”

There’s only so long you can go after mentioning Lionel Richie music before you go listen to it, so that’s what I’m going to go do now. Hey Lionel, it is you I’m looking for! By the way, don’t Google, “Cartoons about mistreated Chinese Girls.” Pretty rough stuff. The kind of stuff that would really bum Adele out.

Why I Can’t Write About Paris

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

We were really bummed to hear the news about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Paris is a magical city and we feel quite fortunate that we were able to live there, if only for a short period of time. We have a nice assortment of good friends there, and, while they are all safe, they must be a bit freaked out. Last weeks events will certainly change Parisian life, although no one is sure just how yet. Terrorism sucks.

I was going to write a post about how it all makes me feel. It was going to be insightful, comparing it to US gun violence and questioning whether a violent response will make things better or worse, yet funny, bringing an irreverence that would benefit a otherwise grim and uncertain time. Then, life got in the way.

On Friday, instead of writing this very important piece, I found myself racing across town trying to unload a few vials of Malcolm’s stool. Why? Why not! Talk about an adrenaline rush; you haven’t really lived until you have your son poop into a garbage bag, scoop some of it into small jars, shake those jars up like one of the bartenders in “Cocktail” and then drive speedily around, just hoping that you get pulled over and have to explain what that smell is. Actually, I wasn’t doing all that for fun, I was doing it in response from a certified letter I received from the county public health administration, requesting I prove my son didn’t have a contagion. Everyone gets those, right? Well, maybe not. Maybe we are special. Maybe one member of our household picked up some intestinal bacteria during one of our trips to Africa last spring, and it went undiagnosed for several months until it was finally noticed during a routine physical. Maybe. I guess the doctor ratted us out to the County and didn’t want us running around spreading African parasites all willy nilly, so they kindly requested proof that we had it treated. We did, but we needed to prove it to the relevant authorities. So anyway, Friday was taken up by fast cars, vials of human feces, racing against the clock to get the sample to the lab before it closed and avoiding storing said vials at the house over the weekend and being nauseated to the point of no return. (Can anyone sleep soundly knowing that there are jars of human waste in the house? Believe you me, I can’t even if they are in the fucking garage.) Luckily, I got to the lab before the doors were locked and the stool sample properly went to wherever such things properly go. While I was relieved, I didn’t get much writing done.

Saturday was Malcolm’s birthday party. He had five friends come over for a sleepover, turning our house into 85% jokes about butts, farts and balls, 10% eating junk food, and 5% screaming at one another over various Minecraft transgressions. (And, another 5% bad math!) We hid from them under a blanket watching the Warriors basketball game. Such an environment is hardly one that lends itself to writing, so I didn’t get anything done. I did, however, take solace in the fact that the boys were not able to play with two vials of poop we had lying around. We also smartly threw away the directions for collecting samples, not wanting to give the the boys any ideas. That would have been too much.

On Sunday, we went to a musical. Our friends’ daughter is into theater and we watched her production of Tarzan. Community theater productions are pretty engaging. On the one hand, there are some amazing people with amazing abilities who make you wish you were that good at something. Then, there are the “other” people in the production. These others seem like they are only there because they lost a bet. (Once, after a particularly unlucky March Madness, I had to play “Rum Tum Tugger” for an entire run of “Cats” at the Bakersfield Repertory Theater. Not pretty.) Watching someone young do a shitty job onstage is painful, mostly because you feel sorry for their parents, who are probably in the audience are squirming in their seats, wishing their kids knew more about sports. Sunday was a mixture of highs and lows, mostly highs. Our friends’ kid did great, which saved us from having to lie to their faces and tell them that their talentless stage sponge was in fact, Barbara Streisand. Phew!

Two things about this pic: 1- I heart Paris, 2- I suck at Photoshop

Two things about this pic: 1- I heart Paris, 2- I suck at Photoshop

I realized at the end of our weekend that my moment had passed. Like we do, we’ve moved on to the next thing, whether it’s preparing for Thanksgiving or watching videos of cats that are completely freaked out by the sight of cucumbers. It’s too bad, really, because it was going to quite sophisticated. Instead, I leave you all, including my dear friends in Paris, with stories about vials of stool sloshing around in my passenger seat and the imagery of what I would look like as a giant, stupid, cucumber-fearing cat.

You’re welcome.

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.

IMG_3965

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.

IMG_3894

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.)

Big Daddy Paul’s Guide to Shopping In Paris

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

I am not what you would consider a fashionable person. During the course of a typical year, I am supplied with new clothes twice a year: on my birthday and at Christmas. These clothes arrive by way of my lovely wife, whose fashion sensibilities run a little more sophisticated than “hoodie and flipflops.” Occasionally, at a nice dinner out, I will look presentable, but most of the time when you see me on the street I look like a character out of an Adam Sandler movie.

Every once in a while I feel compelled to augment my array of ill fitting polo shirts and awkward length shorts, causing me to head out looking for the holy grail of men’s fashion: girth obscuring apparel. Yes, my entire approach to fashion is the same as Kirstie Alley when she was pregnant on Cheers that one year. In the United States, I can navigate stores like Ross Dress for Less and Marshalls to satisfactory results. Shopping in Paris is quite a different beast, though. If you ever find yourself similarly situated, I created this handy, dandy guide to surviving the Parisian shopping scene. Enjoy!

Ground Rules:

I find it helpful to have a set of well established principles to guide me when out looking for clothes. With all the potential prats and pitfalls that go along with any shopping trip, if you have no foundation for your search, you might just drown in details. Here are mine:

1. Nothing white. The only people who should wear white clothes are chemists and orthodox Christians on their way to church. The rest of us have life to deal with: coffee stains, kids with grubby fingers, toothpaste mishaps and such. White clothes will usually only be used once or twice before they become a walking announcement of how much you suck at life.

2. Absolutely no denim above the waist. Really, the last time it was acceptable to wear jean-like clothing was the two weeks following the first time you saw, “The Outsiders.” Now, if you wear a denim, you look like a 1940’s mechanic.

3. No used clothes. Many people consider vintage clothing a great way to find unique clothes that are often a fraction the cost of their new counterparts. I don’t. When considering wearing someone else’s clothes, all I can think is, “These are the clothes that someone else wore when they went to the bathroom.” Pass.

Those are my rules. Make your own and then stick to them when you head out.

The first thing you need to do here when buying clothes here is knowing where to shop.  You might think that there a lot of options to choose from in Paris, but really the clothes are pretty much the same at every store here. Really, the only decision you need to make is “What size store do I want to shop at?” For me, the critical consideration is how much I want people to laugh at me. The smaller the store, the more they will laugh. Bitchy shop clerks at large stores have to spread their condescension over a large customer base. At a big enough store, they may never even see you! At a small store, you are often alone, meaning the small gaggle of employees focus their entire attention on you. Try on something ridiculous enough, and the snickers will emulate a pack of hyenas. I generally stick to the larger stores, but when feeling particularly masochistic I will head to a small boutique for a lesson in humility.

Having selected the right store to fit your needs, you will head in and start looking at clothes. Upon entering, clerks greet you and ask if you are looking for anything special. They will turn on you, I promise. All of them. Just preemptively sneer at them and tell them you are looking for clothes for your dog. Anything else will give them the upper hand.

If you are lucky, you won’t find anything that you like and and you will be free to leave to go have lunch. Occasionally, however, something may catch your eye. This is really a shame, because this means you will have to try something on. Find the “Cabine” and select your size for the stuff you want to look at. It’s really hard to find your size here, so with any luck you won’t find anything. For men, the most common size for pants is 28 W x 36 L. WTF? These dimensions suggest that the men of France are as tall as Shaquille O’Neal and have the same waist size as one of his legs. Occasionally I will read the pant sizes backwards and only realize my mistake when I am unable to pull the pants up above my knees. For god sakes, definitely don’t ask a clerk for helping finding a size. You would be better off just bringing in a cricket paddle and asking them to whap you upside the head with it. Find the size yourself or move on.

One of the many cringeworthy moments I have had shopping.

I don’t remember the name of the brand, but if I had to guess, it would be called, “Cringeworthy.”

Even when you think you find things in your size, you really haven’t. This is because fashion designers here lie about sizes. I try on clothes here in the same size that I have been for 20 years and find that I look like Doctor Banner about 3/4 of the way to his transformation to The Hulk. Not good. In the US, I wear clothes size “L.” I have clothes here that say “XXL.” I AM NOT A FUCKING XXL! The sizing here are a pack of lies. To figure out your European size, use the same formula used to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and then rip the tags off to hide your shame.

If, when trying on clothes, the clerk asks if you are OK tell them that you are just shredding up the clothes to rework them into something worth wearing. Do not, leave your cabine and ask how it looks. If you do, the following will occur:

Clerk: Is everything OK in there?

You: Yes.

Clerk: Can be of any assistance?

You: How does this look?

Clerk: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It looks like a marshmallow man bound in saran wrap!

Having made many, many mistakes while shopping, I found a store where I can happily find clothes that fit. The store is called “C & A,” short for a name that translates to “Short and Fat.” It is the French equivalent of a store somewhere between Target and Home Depot. It is chronically understaffed, making the cabines wonderfully hyenae-free. I can’t say I look particularly good with the clothes I buy there, but my clothes are not white, not denim and have not been previously used by anyone who has gone to the bathroom. For this stay at home dad, this is just fine. Good luck shopping in Paris. Unless you are one of Shaquille O’Neal’s legs, you are going to need it.

Cheese of the Week: Epoisses

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Cooking and Eating

The cheese education is one of my favorite aspects of living in France. Most of the cheese eaten here are quite difficult to find outside of the country. Here is my latest find:

Epoisses is a cheese made in the Bourgogne region of France. Like all good cheeses, it is stashed away in secret caves to mature, and then rinsed several times a week with alcohol. (In the case of Epoisses, it is rinsed with a mixture of rainwater and marc de Bourgogne, a fancy French way of saying “moonshine.”)

At this point in the review, I would like to just take a step back and go on record as saying that everything in this world, EVERYTHING, should be rinsed several times a week in a mixture of rainwater and moonshine. Can you imagine how much better off everything would be? If you rinsed “The Godfather” with rainwater and moonshine regularly, it would come out looking like “The Godfather II.” Rinse Al Gore with rainwater and moonshine a few times a week, he’d become Barack Obama. Give Obama the same treatment and he’d become JFK. There isn’t anything in this world that wouldn’t benefit from a rainwater/moonshine rinse, so go ahead, start looking for ways to improve your life. You are welcome.

OK, back to the cheese. Epoisses was wildly popular in France in the 1800’s, even becoming Napoleon’s favorite cheese. (Another entry for best band name ever!) However, due to the fact that France most of its cheese mongering men during the World Wars, Epoisses fell out of production. The cheese was revived later in the 1950’s and now has a special place in the French culinary scene. How special of a place? This special:

It has oft been said that Epoisses has the force of Charles le Temeraire and the sensibility of Madame de Sevigne.

HAHAHAHAHA! My goodness, that one gets me every time. If you do not understand the reference, it is really a pity. I am quite the expert in French culture and get the reference perfectly. Really, I do.

epoissesBeing such a hit in France, I was especially looking forward to my first taste. The taste, however, is not the first thing you notice. The first thing you notice upon opening the little box is the shiny, almost laminated orange exterior, the fromage equivalent of John Boehner in the sauna. Then, the smell hits you. The professional tasters out there mention the pungent smell as “earthy” or “meaty.” They can’t use terms like “funk” or “pretty funky” “sweet Jesus, that is really just too much funk.”

I wasn’t put off so much by the smell though, as the taste. I noticed a hint of cat piss in it, which either meant that the cheese was reaching the limits of it’s ripeness or that “Lucky” the neighborhood cat had taken some liberties with the open air market at which I bought this cheese. For the rest: whoa. This cheese is strong. There is a lot going on, so I recommend trying this cheese for the first time like I did, in an empty, unlit house.

Words I would use to describe this cheese: gym locker room, wrestling in the dirt, Greek cab driver.

Words I wouldn’t use to describe this cheese: boring, simple, a hit with children.

Serve Epoisses at room temperature with a pinot noir, a Belgian beer, or some moonshine. If you must serve with white wine, something a little sweeter would be better, as a drier white would take your mouth down a path it will not enjoy.

I Hate Paris in Winter

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

I rather dislike Paris in Winter. There, I said it. Oh, sure, the food is top class, the museums are amazing and Paris fashion week brings out some of the more “interesting” looking creatures in our species. Still, it’s just not enough.

What’s wrong with Paris in Winter, you ask? Just five things. Five big things.

It’s dark. The sun comes out late, leaves early, and, to make it worse, even when it’s “out” it’s not really out. It hides behind clouds all the time so the light is quite filtered. On the “out” scale from Liberace to Aldus Dumbledore, Parisian winter sun is definitely more Dumbledore on the scale. Everything is dim and shadowy and depressing, and I hate it. It’s like everything here is lit the same way as the basement of the New York Public Library.

It’s wet. Parisian winters are damp. We are in the midst of a pretty dry season here, and even so everything is usually just moist enough to be annoying. Imagine a kitten following you and sneezing in your face every minute or so to get a sense of what I am talking about. Sure, it will also rain properly, and once in a while even snow, but mostly the Parisian winter bombards you with tiny, irritating droplets just large enough to be un-ignorable. Generally, people walk around with an agitated look on their face. Wouldn’t you if you were constantly being bombarded by kitten mucus?

Well, at least it's shepherd's pie weather...

Well, at least it’s shepherd’s pie weather…

It’s cold. I am cold in Paris. I wear a hat, gloves and a scarf to leave the house here, and this is quite difficult for a person who doesn’t want to even wear pants when he leaves the house. Are there colder places in the world? Yes. Why anyone would want to live there is beyond me. In terms of preferred climate, I am sticking to places that are pants: optional.

It’s full of vampires. Not to get too young adult fiction on you, but there are a ton of good looking vampires that live in Paris over the winter. Annoyingly, all the vampires here act like they want to have sex with you, but when you get close, they wonder if they are really ready after all. Then, these other vampires get all jealous and think that they should have sex with you first, and then fights break out. In the end, there’s a lot of male grappling, no sex and a lot of longing glances. It’s pretty shitty. Come to think of it, that may explain all of the people who are here for Paris Fashion Week.

There’s terrorism. In case you didn’t know, Paris was the site for a recent terrorist attack. There was quite an unsettling week when we didn’t really know what was going on. At one point, Malcolm’s school was closed due what was termed a “direct threat,” and I thought, “Great. I have to wear pants and now this?” The threat to the school was deemed not credible, and life here is slowly returning to normal. Terrorism is a fact of life in the world we now live in, but reminders are always very scary. Like the smell of a skunk that lingers even after you’ve given your dog a tomato sauce bath, the terrorist-related ugliness persists in spite of the passage of time and the posting of armed guards at your kid’s school. Besides, it’s not as if life back in Oakland, California, USA is free of gun violence. The world is a pretty shitty place when you think of it. Doubly so in winter.

So there. Paris in winter is less good. Maybe that’s why you never see marketing along the lines of “Come to Paris. It’s dark and wet and cold, and if the terrorists don’t get you, the vampires sure will!”

 

Reflections On A Year in Paris

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

In October, we celebrated our one year anniversary in Paris. Whoa. That went blindingly quick. You know how sometimes, at the end of a party, you are unintelligible, your pants are nowhere to be found and you can’t remember the name of the Germans you are in a hot tub with? That’s the way I feel now. (As you can see, a year here has done nothing to improve my metaphors.)

Leaving our USA lives was quite difficult, mostly because it was such a llllllooooooonnnnnnnngggggggg period of time. Or it was supposed to be a long period of time. The year has flown by, a series of whooshing memories, highlighted by painful quasi-French interactions, travel memories and some really good wine. I feel the need to take stock of things, and will do so now:

I guess I should have translated the word "Bijoux." This picture is less cool if it turns out to mean, "Disposable Chopsticks."

I guess I should have translated the word “Bijoux” before including here. This picture is less cool if it turns out to mean, “Disposable Chopsticks.”

When we first got here, we were understandably interested in “French” things. We wanted to learn all the little differences and soak them up. We delighted in the fact that salad comes after dinner here and that you don’t need to refrigerate your milk or eggs. The French have a slew of official and unofficial holidays with unique ways of celebrating them. We loved the differences! Then, slowly, Paris started to lose its shine. I noticed that Asian rug stores had going-out-of-business sales every month. Episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (nee, Buffy Contre Les Vampires) are always on. When low voter turnout lead to right wing political gains in the last French elections, I had to ask myself, “Is it really all that different here?”

There are also amazing scenes all over this city. I will never tire of just heading out with a camera and capturing some magic.

There are also amazing scenes all over this city. I will never tire of just heading out with a camera and capturing some magic.

Perhaps out of the realization that life in Paris isn’t too dissimilar from life back home, we are starting to revisit things we thought we had to give up while here. I have been reunited with hot sauce (and it feels so good!) We golf. Movie night is a perfectly respectable way to spend an evening, and I spent much of October waking up in the middle of the night to listen to my San Francisco Giants win the World Series. Old habits die hard and we have stopped fighting. If the French can at Burger King, is it wrong that I wear tennis shoes every once in a while? I think not.

The museum scene here is staggering, still. Malcolm is really into World War II right now, having begun reading the Henderson’s Boys books by Robert Muchamore. On our way to the World War II exhibit at the Musee de l’Armee, we detoured. Malcolm wanted to show us stuff he had seen on a field trip to the Musee d’Orsay and we happily obliged. We ended up with a relatively uncrowded viewing of Whistler’s Mother, Von Gogh’s Starry Night, sculptures by Rodin and numerous other masterpieces. Back home, we might detour to stop at the mall or grab something at Starbucks. Here, the unplanned activities involve seeing some of the most famous pieces of art in the history of the world. Like I said, staggering. This is quite the unique opportunity.

The Eiffel Tower is like a dead whale being eaten by a pack of sharks. You wouldn't want to get close (tourists, pickpockets, etc.) but afar: pretty cool.

The Eiffel Tower is like a dead whale being eaten by a pack of sharks. You wouldn’t want to get close (tourists, pickpockets, etc.) but from afar: pretty cool.

The food scene in Paris is radically different than we would have guessed upon arrival. The charming open air markets that dot the landscape here sell factory farmed fruits and vegetables from decidedly un-French places like North Africa and South America. Hamburgers are a hot commodity on menus here. 70-90% of Parisian restaurants are reheating frozen food. Mind you, the onion soup made in centralized kitchens is pretty good, but then again, so is an Awesome Blossom. If you want to find fresh food prepared by real chefs at a restaurant, you have to work much harder than you think. The processed food industry has hit the French food scene and hit it hard.

So, there you have it, the state of our state of mind, if you will. To be sure, France has changed us, but not as much as I might have thought. We have a little over seven months left in our adventure, and nobody knows what we have in store. Actually, now that I come to think of it, the Germans in the hot tub said something about knowing our future. If only I could remember…

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

One of the French traditions that I am loving the most right now is the Sunday Roast Chicken. (Don’t even think of stealing the name for your bowling team. I got dibs.) Sacrosanct, like scarves or complaining about your landlord, there is nothing finer than sitting around the table on a day of rest, enjoying fresh, uncomplicated food with your people. Based on my recent experiences making this traditional meal, I have prepared a step-by-step guide so that you can do this at home. Here it is:

Step 1- Get a chicken. Why settle for a supermarket chicken? My favorite is to go to our open air market and select one from the many butcher stands there. On Saturday, my favorite butchers had a nice, plump 2.5 kilogram chicken, complete with information about the farm it was raised on. Even without a detailed description of how this bird spent its days, I could tell from the meaty legs that it got a lot of exercise playing games like, “Chicken rugby” or “Holy crap, here comes the dog, run for your lives!” With a bird in the hand, I returned to our house to cook it.

Step 2- Prepare the bird. Some people are overly fussy about their pre-roasting routine, brining, marinating, and/or seasoning under the chicken’s skin. Here, the meat is so wonderfully chicken-y that I just rub a lot of salt and pepper on the outside. This last time, I got ready to do so and discovered this:

IMG_2501

So, yes. I guess on prior trips to the market the butchers took pity on meand removed the head (and feet!) themselves. Perhaps I have begun to fit in a little around here, and this one made it home looking a little less “Marie Antoinette” than I would have hoped. I briefly procrastinated by removing the internal organs before gearing up for the final task. If this happens to you, don’t worry. You have the skills to do this.

Step 3- Cut the head off the chicken. It’s simple really. Even so, when it happened to me, I stared into the dead chicken’s eye for a few minutes and, unable to proceed, I decided to take a quick detour from the task at hand.

Step 4- Open a bottle of wine. Sure, you probably going to drink some with the Sunday Roast Chicken, anyways, but I needed some wine to just get to the point where I could get the stupid thing in the oven. I drank the wine (more like a shot than I would care to admit,) and even forced some down the chicken’s throat. None of the involved parties should be sober when cutting off a chicken’s head.

Step 5- Do it. With my newly found liquid courage, I commenced the beheading. I split the job into 2 steps, since I wanted to keep the neck for use in making chicken stock. First, I severed the head at the top of the neck. It went through surprisingly easily. Then, I rolled back the skin of the neck near the chicken’s body and found a place to hack through with a knife. When I was done, the trachea fell out of the neck, as did the contents of my lunch shortly thereafter.

Step 6- Gross your kids out. Having a newly severed chicken head is a wonderful way to get back at your kids for getting on your nerves. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Step 7- Roast the chicken. I heated up the oven to 190 degrees and then rested the bird on top of a layer of potatoes.

I really wanted to make this post about the simple, wonderful tradition of a family meal together. But seriously. I had a chicken head! What was I supposed to do, pretend it wasn’t there? Not me. You all know how to roast a chicken, it’s not rocket science. What you probably don’t know is what to do with a chicken head and some free time. I got you covered. Without further ado, here is how the chicken head and I spent the rest of the day.

First, I introduced my friend to my fantasy football team. He said I should have drafted Andrew Cluck.

First, I introduced my friend to my fantasy football team. He said I should have drafted Andrew Cluck.

 

Then, we re-enacted some famous scenes from movies. If I was a famous movie producer, I sure wouldn't want to wake up with this in my bed!

Then, we re-enacted some famous scenes from movies. Don’t mess with those Corleones!

 

Next, we had some philosophical debates. He got his feathers in a bunch over it though.

Next, we had some philosophical debates.

 

Next, we chilled out and watched some TV. I thought he'd only be into animal planet, but it turns out he's into the period dramas.

After, we chilled out and watched some TV. I thought he’d only be into animal planet, but it turns out he’s into the period dramas. Who knew!

 

Alas, only so much time could pass before he wanted to see some more of Paris. He wanted to go up it, but the lines were too long.

Alas, only so much time could pass before he wanted to see some more of Paris. What a beautiful day on the Seine for me and my chicken head!

 

Finally, our time together came to an end. (He started to smell something awful.) His final resting place befitted his status as "Something extra on our dinner that I never really wanted." That's him next to the soda can at the bottom.

Finally, our time together came to an end. (He started to smell something awful.) His final resting place befitted his status as “Something extra on our dinner that I never really wanted.” That’s him next to the water bottle at the bottom.

 

Chicken head, I will always remember our special day together. You taught me a lot, and made me constantly dry heave. Cue the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing.

Chicken head, I will always remember our special day together. You taught me a lot, and made me constantly dry heave. Cue the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing.

Whoa, America is Different

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France, Uncategorized

Life abroad is difficult. Not difficult in a “I live on the Gaza Strip,” kind of way, but rather more like, “They don’t have my favorite fabric softener here!”.  There will inevitably come a time during every expat assignment when you have the opportunity to return back home an extended stay. Each expat hears a different calling. Amy heard work calling, the opportunity to return to her colleagues at headquarters instead of the Parisian office, abandoned by Les Vacances. My calling? Nacho cheese. Unsurprisingly, they don’t do canned cheese well in France.

So, we are in the United States for 3+ weeks. Amy will be working. Malcolm will be goofing off with his friends. I will be nachoing. (It’s a verb. It’s totally a verb!)

Having been back a few days, I am quite mindful of the differences. Here is what I’ve noticed:

Everything here is larger. The portions at restaurants are insane! Our Parisian washing machine can actually fit in the washing machine we have here. American toilet paper rolls are enormous, and this must be directly related to the size of American butts. You can make the argument that bigger isn’t necessarily better, but, unless you like doing extra loads of laundry or staring at boring, flat European butts, you’d be wrong.

Ok, the size of everything here is most of the difference. Owing mostly to a distinct lack of originality, here are some more size jokes:

An American menu and a French menu were sitting at the bar. The French menu took one look at its American counterpart and said, “You’re a fat piece of shit.” Seriously! We have seen menus in our short time here that are six pages long, pictures included. Hospital admission forms in France are not six pages long.

Our freezer in Paris is sufficiently small that we cannot fit a bottle of Vodka in it. You have the space to actually distill vodka in our American freezer.

So things are indeed different there. This is how Luke Skywalker would stand if he were looking for power converters in Paris. Pretty sure he would be striking a different pose in Oakland.

So things are indeed different there. This is how Luke Skywalker would stand if he were looking for power converters in Paris. Pretty sure he would be striking a different pose in Oakland.

There is more space in the cereal aisle in a grocery store here than in our entire market in Paris. I walked into a Safeway here and was struck by how much larger it was than the Louvre. The Louvre is one of the largest art collections in the world. Safeway has a million kinds of chips.

The average French car could sit in the back seat of an average American car.

Malcolm ordered a deli sandwich yesterday. It had ten times as much meat as a French sandwich. You should not ever eat anything that has ten times the meat of something else you eat.

The Champs-Élysées is the grandest street in Paris, large and opulent. It is the host of nearly every important celebration in France, and one of the most recognizable sights in one of the most heavily touristed cities on the planet. It would be the fourth largest street in Oakland.

They have soda machines here that dispense shockingly large amounts of soda to customers. The cups here are the size of most French suitcases, and contain enough ice and soda to make your pancreas groan. At most places you can order soda in Paris, they will bring you a shot glass size bottle of soda and a glass with one ice cube, (if you ask!) I love soda, but seeing the soda machines here spewing out buckets of the stuff is pretty startling. I fantasize about putting my mouth directly under the spout and guzzling some Dr. Pepper straight from the source. The only thing that keeps me from doing so is the realization that if I did, I would have ten times the meat of my former self. Unacceptable.

We are enjoying being home, visiting our friends, noticing the differences and taking a respite from living in a challenging and wonderful and frustrating and different place. Being here is nice. We’ll have to see what it is like to leave again. I bring some fabric softener though.

Les Vacances

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

If there is one thing I have learned in our time in France is that if the French are intent on doing something, they to do it well. They have exacting protocols to ensure that wine, cheese, meat, bread, butter, and even lentils all are produced as advertised. (Trust me, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a Frenchman get upset over the quality, or lack thereof, of his legumes.) The French take their fashion very seriously, and spend hours on end discussing the role of the current government in ruining everything they hold dear. They also place a great importance on leisure, regulating everything about the workweek from the number of hours you can work (35) to the time of day when you can no longer send work-related emails, (6:00 pm). Also, and at the heart of the French attitude towards leisure, during the summer the French take, “Les Vacances.”

“Les Vacances” is the name given to that substantial portion of the summer whereby the French flee their homes and hit the road. Spending a good chunk of the summer on vacation is a fact of life for the French; it is a crucial means to use part of the six weeks of vacation time their employers are mandated to provide by law. (!) Typically, they head south or west, heading towards the water, but the “where” isn’t all that important. It is only important that they go somewhere, and the fact that they are all doing it together at the same time creates a sense of distinct national well-being.

Raise your hands if you like vacations!

Raise your hands if you like vacations!

Wanting to fit in, we planned an ambitious travel schedule ourselves. Last week, we hit the beach in Holland, spending some time in the impossible-to-pronounce-in-English seaside town of Scheveningen. (When enunciated correctly, the town sounds like an old, beat up car with a dead battery trying to will its way into starting.) We are now in Ireland for a few days. This weekend, we will travel to Bordeaux to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Next weekend, we travel back to the United States where I will reprise my role as village idiot of our hometown, Oakland.

Before you go congratulating us for joining the French leisure class, realize this: with the exception of our weekend in Bordeaux, Amy is working for all of these trips. She travels a lot and has found that she’d rather us join her on her trips and we can spend the evenings together than be without us, even if it means a bit of envy with our day being a little more fun than hers. Of course, as a stay at home parent, heading out on the road does not mean that I am free from my day-to-day duties as a parent. I still need to find places to stay, things to do, and put food on the table, even if I don’t cook it myself. This is the part of the post where you feel bad for me because my life is so difficult.

Bon voyage Malcolm! Those flight attendants have no idea what is in store for them...

Bon voyage Malcolm! Those flight attendants have no idea what is in store for them…

As of a few hours ago, however, I am truly on vacation. This morning, we dropped off Malcolm at the security checkpoint for his first ever solo flight. That’s right, little Malkie is flying by himself, and the skies will never be the same. Outwardly, he will be as cool as Don Draper, but I am sure the inside his mind will be as random as an episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I am not worried about him, the abundance of in-flight entertainment on airplanes nowadays ensures that he will be plugged into movies/shows/games until the plane has taxied to the gate in San Francisco.

Malcolm is flying home to spend some quality time with his grandparents. I am not sure whether he was more excited to get spoiled by his grandparents or have the exhilarating experience of flying alone. (He has already promised me he is going to ask the flight attendants for some bourbon on the flight.) He’ll be fine, and even if we are struggling a bit with the realization that our son is old enough to fly across the planet by himself. We will reunited with Malcolm in ten days, when we arrive in the United States. To be sure, it won’t be a proper vacances, but the village idiot rarely does anything the proper way.

Wine of the Week: Rosé

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Blank of the Blank

If you are like me, there are certain truths that are self-evident. Sure, all the crap in the Declaration of Independence is a place to start, but my list goes well beyond that. I believe the only acceptable condiment on a corn dog is mustard. Men should never wear white shoes and sandals are out of the question. People who mistake hemophilia with pedophilia should be barred from working in a children’s hospital. Until recently, I also believed that rosé came in a box and was only properly served on a houseboat.

Boy, was I wrong. The rosé here is strong. Real strong.

Looking and tasting nothing like the rosés I was used to, French Rosé is a basically a way to hug each of your senses. It is served chilled, and enjoying some rosé on a nice warm day is one of my favorite experiences here.

They make rosé in almost every wine region in France, but we have been paying special attention to the Côtes-de-provence region, in Southern France. Rosés vary in color from salmon-urine pink to I-need-to-get-my-liver-checked orange. To me, rosé is best when it loks like watermelon juice that has been left out in the sun for a few hours.

I am reusing this pic from an earlier post, but whatever. The sentiment is perfect.

I am reusing this pic from an earlier post, but whatever. The sentiment is perfect.

For the most part, rosés have a nice balance of dry and sweet. When a rosé hits the mark, (probably 80% of them do) every sip is like ensconcing your tongue in a cold velvet sock (one that’s been dipped in honey!) Oh, sure, you could drink wine like a connoisseur, searching for hints of berry or undertones of leathery hay, but I don’t. I drink rosé and think of friendship and sunshine.

The fact that rosé goes well with any food is not lost on me either. Rosé is the pork of wines, versatile and suitable for any mood. (Didn’t like that metaphor? How’s this one: rosé is the mullet of wines, business in the front and party in the back! You can rock your rosé anywhere you go.) We’ve had rosé with steak and blue cheese salad, salami, popcorn and pastries. You can pair a good rosé with almost anything and it makes that almost anything better. Right now, I can’t think of anything better than enjoying a perfectly balanced rosé at an outdoor restaurant with some friends, eating some duck breast and laughing about life. Luckily, we have some friends coming into town and we plan on doing a lot of that.

Words used to describe rosé: balanced, Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69”

Words not used to describe rosé: fussy, one-dimensional, fully clothed.

Lean In, The Hard Way

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

I know awkward. Some people can recite the teams in every Superbowl. Some knit sweaters for their pets. My specialty in life: getting myself into awkward situations. It’s a gift, really. I am like Don Draper except that I make people’s skin crawl instead of arousing them.

This is especially true here in France, where I do awkward like Monet did water lilies. Differences in language, culture, currency, politics, units of measure and hat-ware preferences all conspire against me to turn my life into a living hell.

Oddly, the thing that causes me the most anxiety here is the simple act of saying hello. In the United States, things are relatively straightforward. You greet new people with a handshake, you greet friends with a hug and if you are sweaty or haven’t showered in a few days, you just sort of wave at people and say, “Hi there!” All of these are accepted means of introduction, as are high fives, bro hugs and knuckle bumps.

Here, the rules are different. The standard greeting is called “la bise” and involves kissing one another on each cheek. You make lip-cheek contact, but don’t firmly plant. You can go twice on each cheek, supposedly, but the standard practice around here appears that you do each cheek once. You give bises to people you have just met, people you kinda know, people you know well and people you work with. This is true for woman-woman greetings, woman-man greetings and man-man greetings when the men are close. Importantly, kissing a hello is not sexy time, so don’t go grabbing any butt and, under no circumstances does that tongue come out of your mouth.

When we first got here, the French tried to help me through all this by leading me through the process like a nurse during a medical procedure. They’d lean in to me and tell me in a matter-of-fact voice, “I am going to give you bises now, that’s how we greet one another here,” and then we’d clunkily perform the ritual. It took some getting used to, but after a while, I finally got the memo.

Malcolm goes to an International school, though, and most of my time here is spent with people caught between cultures. Everyone seems to know the rule for engaging the French, but how do you deal with, say, a Greek living in France? Do you give them bises? Do you start with a handshake? Do you greet them the Greek way, with a hearty sniff to the groin? OK, that may not actually be true. Greeks don’t sniff groins. (If they did, theirs wouldn’t smell so bad!) When you are bi-cultural, you are often bi-curious as to what you should bi-do when you meet up with someone similarly situated.

So, most of my introductions are a swamp of unease. I’ve leaned into people who have lurched back and looked at me like I was “that uncle” at a Christmas party. Other times, people have leaned into me, only to run into a Walter Payton-esque stiff arm. (I don’t like touching cheeks with people when my face is sweaty, which, unfortunately for me, is around 90% of the time.) Mostly, my greetings involve two people who nervously stare at one another like a couple of gangly prepubescents in a closet at a junior high party, wondering, “What the hell should I do now?” I hate it.

Lean into this? Not likely.

Lean into this? Not likely.

Currently, I have two ways of coping. Sometimes, I just skip the salutation, figuring if I don’t say hello we don’t have to worry about it. Whereas most people greet one another with some sort of acknowledgement, I jump straight into conversation. You might say, “Hi, how are you doing?” I often open with things like, “I tasted whale last weekend.” There’s no room for kissing when things start with eating whale. Fact.

On the other extreme, I might start a conversation by just telling the other person, “Let’s be French!” and go in for the bises, all the while telling myself, “Don’t grab any butt!” This works well 10% of the time, with the remainder requiring an explanation as to why I just laminated their face with my sheen.

Neither of these approaches adequately quell my apprehension of beginning a conversation here. There are quite a few times when I just don’t make eye contact or find something terribly important on my phone that requires my undivided attention. Unsurprisingly, I am not very popular. Except for the Greeks. The Greeks, they love me.

There may come a time when introductions here become less stressful. Unfortunately for me, I think that time will only come when I have played “bises chicken” with everyone at least one time to determine what our standard greeting will be. Until then, lurchings, stiff arms, and awkward stares will continue to populate my already popular universe of awkward moments here in Paris.

Another Day In Paradise

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

So this happened (For simplicity sake, conversations in French are noted with italics):

I started my day with my post-Malcolm drop-off walk in the park. Last week, I saw Mary Joe Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe in the park, as the French Open is going on right now. Today, I only saw a cute old beagle. Or, maybe it was one of the German mixed doubles players. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Anyways, my walk was pretty aggressive. I stopped often to do pushups, squats, danced a little to the Beasties, and got several minutes of planking in. I was very sweaty and tired at the end, and the resulting mental fatigue was probably why I tried to make out with the beagle on my way out of the park.

My day continued with a trip to the golf store. We are going to Norway this weekend and, you know, no sane person goes to Norway without bringing their golf clubs, right? At the golf store, this conversation took place:

Golf man: Where are you going to play golf?

Paul: How?

GM: Where are you, err, Where are you going to go play golf?

P: Oh. Norway.

GM: Where?

P: Norway?

[Pause]

GM: Why?

GM: Unintelligible negative sentiment.

Luckily, they had golf club travel carriers in stock and soon on I was on my merry way home. The man asked if I wanted a bag, but being only a few blocks from our house, I declined.

As I approached our street, I felt like there was something wrong, like the feeling you get on a blind date when the person across the table asks if you enjoy having tea parties with cats. I quickly searched my pockets and discovered that my phone was missing. Evidently, awkwardly carrying the golf travel carriers (without a bag) had dislodged my phone out of my pocket, leaving me with absolutely no ability to play scrabble or stalk my friends on Facebook. What a disaster!

I briefly retraced my last few minutes, and seeing no evidence of my phone, did what any self respecting, sweaty Parisian would do, I went home, showered and put on pants. My next few moves were going to depend on the kindness of strangers, and navigating the complex world of cell phone cancellation while sweaty and dressed in workout gear wasn’t going to get me any favors. So, while someone was possibly out there running up my cellular bill, I bathed and put on some respectable clothes.

With a fresh wardrobe and outlook on life, I headed to the cell phone company store to suspend my account. The first person I spoke with had excellent command of the English language and I was easily able to explain what I needed to do. However, they soon handed me off to a second person who was less able. A portion of the conversation went as follows:

P#2- Did you lose your phone yesterday?

Me: Yes.

P#2: What time?

Me: 30 minutes ago.

P#2:Wait, did you lose it yesterday or today?

Me: Who? (My French “question” words suck, as you can tell)

P#2: (confused) Did you lose your phone today?

Me: Whoops. Yes, today.

P#2: Unintelligible negative sentiment.

I left the phone store, safe in the knowledge that I had either suspended my account or just purchased a new phone and extended my plan for 5 years.

On my way to the police station to fill out some paperwork about the phone, I stopped at the golf store to check to see whether the phone may have popped out before leaving. This conversation ensued:

Me: Hello there, I lost my motorcycle. (I have replayed this conversation in my head many, many times and for the life of me I cannot understand why the word for motorcycle came out of my mouth at this time.)

GM: Unintelligible negative sentiment.

Me: I lost my cell phone while out running errands. Did you find one here?

GM: A what?

Me: MY CELL PHONE.

At this point the man put a pretend phone to his ear and pantomimed making a call.

Me: Yes, yes A CELL PHONE.

GM: (Blank stare.)

Me: Is it possible that I left it here, did you find MY CELL PHONE.

GM: No.

Me: OK.

The man then pantomimed making a call again, and I realized he was asking whether I had tried calling my phone.

Me: Oh, I haven’t tried calling it. I guess I should try that.

The exceedingly nice golf man then handed me their store phone to make the call. He is quite nice to not just be done with me, and I began to appreciate his generosity. I called my number, and, lo and behold, a woman answered it. I was elated for exactly one second before becoming irritated that the cellular company hadn’t shut it down yet. This mental distraction was the reason the following conversation took place on the phone:

Nice Woman Who Found My Phone: I found your phone in the street!

Me: Good morning madam, I lost my phone. My name is Paul Schwartz! (It was 1 pm.)

NWWFMP: I found your phone, and I don’t [untranslatable words in French].

Me: Uh, do you speak English?

NWWFMP: A moment.

Nice Woman Who Found My Phone’s Friend: Hello, we found your phone in the street.

Me: Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I then made arrangements to pick up the phone and did so. Luckily for me, the NWWFMP found my phone near the gutter in the street, evidently after I had dislodged it while walking back to our apartment. I found all this out because her friend was from San Diego and could give me a full account. Boy, am I lucky! I then proceeded back to the cellular store and the golf store to show everyone I had retrieved my phone. I felt like I was a total winner and not a complete loser who had just lost a cell phone by causing it to fall out of his own pocket. Now I can play Scrabble again, but not without some serious pain inflicted.

After experiences like this, I like to do a little mental inventory and take down some lessons learned. Here is what I learned:

1. Don’t try and make out with anything at the park.

2. If the man at the golf store asks if you want a bag, say, “Yes!”

3. Learn the correct French word for cell phone.

Perhaps you already knew these things. I didn’t. Now, I do.

Malcolm wasn’t there for any of this, but if he was, he would have looked at me like this:

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Big Daddy Paul’s Guide To Provence

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

Have you ever met someone that you thought you might like, but turned out to be a Nazi who enjoyed burning down orphanages? This is what our recent trip to Provence was like, except the complete opposite. Provence wasn’t a Nazi, it was Mahatma Gandhi, and instead of burning down orphanages, he cooked, gave us foot massages and knew all the lines from Napoleon Dynamite. It was pretty much the best weekend we ever had.

We expected to like Provence, what with all its quaintness and whatnot, but we walked away after the weekend thinking it was one of the most enchanting places on earth. Everywhere we turned, there was some little scene that makes travel writers wet themselves with glee. More a state of mind than an actual place, Provence kept coming at us with imagery that wore down our pent up hustle and bustle until we were  left with a sense of tranquil serenity. (Foot rubs from one of the greatest pacifists ever helped with that too.) I can’t recommend Provence more highly.

“But Paul,” you ask. “How do I get me some of that?” Fear not, dear readers. I have the following list of suggestions that, should you find yourself making plans to go to the South of France, will help you fashion your own perfect Provencial vacation. Thank me later.

If I ever start a band, I am going to name it, "Old stone and shutters."

If I ever start a band, I am going to name it, “Old stone and shutters.”

1. Find some old shit. One of the most striking aspects of Provence is its age. People have been enjoying the high life in Provence for three thousand years, and many of the buildings still standing there date back to the 12th century. That’s old! Old stone buildings and long, rustic walls dot the countryside in Provence and the look is fantastic. Unlike your high school sweetheart, the older and more weathered the features of Provence get, the better they look. Many inns/bed and breakfasts are set in these old, weathered buildings. Find one with a price tag that fits your wallet and stay there. If you find yourself trying to use your accumulated points to stay at the Best Western in Aix-en-Provence, you’re doing it wrong. Your litmus test should be, “Does it look like its original owners died from bubonic plague?” If so, you’ve found your home. We stayed in a 19th century farmhouse called Le Mas des Arts and loved it.

2. Calm the hell down. Upon arriving in Provence, you will probably have a list of things you want to see and do, suggestions for where to eat, and a schedule. You will be tempted to maximize your opportunities and cram in as much as you can while you are there. Don’t do it! Part of the allure of Provence is to relax and enjoy life a little bit more than you are normally able. You can’t really do this if you have an agenda of things you have to do and long days filled with sightseeing and logistics.

Take time to stop and smell the Rosés

Take time to stop and smell the Rosés

Instead of being your normal travel self, try this: plan lazy days. Sleep in if you can and enjoy a little quiet time while you enjoy your coffee or some tea outside, listening to the birds. Putz around a few tiny villages during the day, then enjoy a nice, long, leisurely lunch. After, go back home, nap, read, shoot squirrels,  or do whatever it is that you find relaxing. Make dinner for yourselves and eat it outside. Drink some wine. Have some dessert. Get up the next day and do the same. Sure, you won’t have a completed checklist and a bunch of entry ticket stubs, but you’ll have a much more satisfying holiday. How many vacations can you say left you relaxed and happy? Try it. Provence won’t let you down.

3. Throw out your guidebook and go explore. This one may be tough for some, but you will ultimately be rewarded. For the most part, the most enjoyable parts of our weekend involved stumbling onto things that were completely unexpected. One day, I noticed we were out of dessert. I took off without any idea of where I was going. While I was lost looking for cake, I saw this:
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And this:IMG_6232

 

And this:IMG_6236

All this, on a pastry run! I eventually found a little patisserie on a little square in a little village called Goult that had the most ridiculous tasting creamy chocolate and nut cake ever. If you had told me before hand that there was an patisserie in Goult with an excellent cake there, I would have sought it out and readily agreed with you after. The cake was so much better, though, because of the surprise factor. Sure, there was a chance that I could have stumbled into the French version of Deliverance (“il a une très jolie bouche, n’est-ce pas?”) but even that would have made for some interesting vacation stories after. Let Provence surprise you. Leave your guidebooks next to your Hilton Honors card.

When in Provence, rent a car, and then set out each day on a small, one lane roads following the signs to little villages with hard to pronounce names. Don’t go to the places in Provence, let them come to you. I took 650 pictures in four days, 190 of them turning into something I kept. Pictures of what? How bout this:

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Or this:IMG_6482

4. Avoid other people. People, for the most part, suck. Stay away from them. Definitely don’t stay in a city. Don’t even visit the cities. I even found the mid-sized villages too cramped. Provence is huge area, you have absolutely no need to put up with crowds. Do you like busloads of German tourists arguing over World Cup prospects this summer? How about the Americans who talk TEN DECIBELS TOO LOUD BECAUSE THEY THINK THAT ANY LANGUAGE BARRIER CAN BE OVERCOME WITH ENOUGH VOLUME? Russian tourists are only and always looking for one thing: sex. It’s a fact.

Don’t put up with this. If you find yourself amongst a large group of people, get the hell out of there! The good thing about exploring without a guidebook is that if you run into a large herd somewhere, you have the freedom to bypass it. I look back at our experiences over the weekend and there was definitely a correlation between how crowded a place was and how much we liked it. I have said it before, and I will say it again, “Smaller is better!”

Normally, crappy chipped paint jobs are frowned upon. Here, they are cultivated by decades of neglect.

Normally, crappy chipped paint jobs are frowned upon. Here, they are cultivated by decades of meticulous neglect.

5. Look everywhere. Approach Provence like you are at Costco when they are handing out free samples. Wander. Savor. Try cheese twice! Almost everywhere you look when you are in the small villages there, you will notice something interesting. Walk around and take it all in. Once off the beaten path, you will have the opportunity for unscripted discovery. Take advantage. Just don’t go into stranger’s houses and try to nap on their couch. Evidently, that is still considered trespass.

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How many places in the world will give your kid a crossbow and teach him how to shoot it?

6. Go to the castle. Having said to not have an agenda, there was one thing we did that was so cool that it bears mentioning. There is a museum at a castle called Chateau des Baux. Go there. It is awesome. They have working catapults and give demonstrations. They have sword fights where (like political pundits on cable news shows) the combatants pretend they hate each other. Oh, yes, they also let you shoot fucking crossbows. Other than the museum of boobs and awesome pizza, there could be no more satisfying museum experience in the world. You will not be disappointed.

The castle is only half of it, however. Below the castle is an art exhibit set inside a huge cavern. Inside the cavern, on 50 foot high stone walls, they project huge works of art, some of it stationary, some of it moving in choreographed pieces. The room is pitch black, so the effect is surreal.

Thing made us go "Hmmm."

Thing made us go “Hmmm.”

The cake topper is that they pipe in loud orchestral pieces to accompany the art and the sensation of seeing it all come together is insane. Other than Emmet Smith’s House of Fantasy Football Art & Bacon Factory, there is no other art exhibit that can measure up.

You will find crowds at the castle and the art exhibit. Thankfully, if you follow my rules, they will be the only crowds you run into in Provence. We have just returned from our trip to Provence, but are already plotting how to get back. Gandhi, get those fingers ready!

Here are a few more pics:
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Six Months And Counting!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

I noticed a few weeks ago that we had passed an important milestone. We have been in Paris for six months now, a fact that impresses and horrifies me at the same time. It’s good to take stock in where you are and where you come from every now and again, so I am taking this opportunity to do just that. Here, without further ado, is what we look like six months into our gig.

Language

I have come to the sad realization that I will never, ever be able to speak French. Well, a more apt description is that I will never, ever be able to understand French. I regularly impress myself with the things that I am able to cobble together (finally got that jock itch cleared up!), but everything breaks down when the French reply. Most of the time, I end up staring back at the speaker like a dumb cow while my mind races to figure out just what he or she said. Perhaps they speak too fast. Perhaps my hearing sucks. Perhaps I am just too old and will never get it. Whatever it is, I am glad that most everyone here speaks English.

French Bureaucracy

The French are renowned for complicated bureaucracy that is often impossible to navigate. Some things have lived up to the reputation (getting our apartment manager to do anything, getting our immigration papers in order) but there have been some pleasant surprises, too. When you go to a doctor here, you don’t really fill out any paperwork. They don’t demand insurance and make you jump through a ton of hoops to see a doctor. Usually, you go to the doctor’s office and the first question is, “What’s wrong?” It’s almost worth the strep throat I got earlier in the year, just to watch to system in action.

I also had an interesting experience signing Malcolm up for a day camp last week. I emailed the camp director who secured Malcolm’s spot; no application, no deposit, and THEY DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR A CONTACT NUMBER IN CASE ANYTHING HAPPENED! Dreamy. I dropped Malcolm off in the morning and knew that, no matter what, I wasn’t going to have to retrieve him until late in the afternoon. Can anyone say, “Happy hour?”

Cooking

My culinary skills are on the upswing! I have reveled in the gratuitous use of cream and butter that I could have only dreamed of eight months ago. I made Pommes De Terre Dauphine that rocked the house, and while it took two and a half hours to make potato puffs, it was well worth my time. I have found some great cheeses, made strides toward a perfect vinaigrette, and even started poaching chicken. Poached fucking chicken, get more French than that, I dare you. We have been enjoying the $5-10 wine here, wondering why anyone would spend more, until we open a more expensive bottle and understand completely.

Clothing

While I have found Paris slightly less formal than I originally thought, I have started dressing more like a man and less like a boy. Gone are my signature flip flops, hoodie and baseball cap. They have been replaced by (albeit comfortable) European shoes, smart sweaters, a scarf and combed hair, the later the result of semi-regular bathing. Am I the dapperest dan in the joint? Certainly not, but when you remember where I have come from, you have to be impressed. The real test will come this summer, when I will have to trade in my board shorts for French style man-kini.

Malcolm

Malcolm continues his own unique brand of being exasperating and inspirational. He lost two pairs of pants at school. I have no idea how one loses one’s pants at school, let alone doing it a second time, only to exclaim, “Oh, no, not again…” Like the prospect of wearing a speedo, I prefer to just not dwell on it. His current roster of friends includes an Australian boy, two Indian boys, a pair of British twins and a Japanese girl. His school is every bit the international experience we hoped it would be. I can’t really tell if he is learning anything at school, since most of the communications with his teacher revolve around his inability to hang onto stuff. He is enjoying the sporting life, playing basketball and soccer on his school’s team and baseball with a French team. He has undertaken a serious study of the European football scene, and can recite the lineups of the most of the decent teams here. Even with all that, he spends a lot of his time talking to me about food. When I don’t want to throttle him, I want to put him on my shoulders and be his best friend.

Travel

Roma!

Roma!

We have done a pretty good job of seeing Europe while we are here. We have been to Amsterdam, the Alps, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Italy, with plans to go to Provence, London and Helsinki in the immediate future. Phew! Some weeks, it seems like I spend most of my time travel planning. Europe is at our doorsteps here and we feel lucky to be able to do so much so easily.

The “French” Experience

It would be easy to beat myself up over our lack of integration into the French scene. Sure, it would be nice to have a ton of French friends and be more acquainted with what’s really going on here. This takes a lot of work, however. I drink wine on the couch with my wife instead of going to conversation exchanges with native French speakers. We have enjoyed the friendly confines of our expat friends (some of whom are from the bay area!) over the slightly heavier lifting involved with cultivating French relationships.  We are living a somewhat French-lite life here, and while it has its ups and downs, it suits us just fine. Life is to be enjoyed, and we are enjoying it. Isn’t that what life in France is supposed to be like?

OK, that was a little too serious. I should make a fart joke. I won’t, but I should. Happy six months to us!

Cheese of the Week: Langres

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Blank of the Blank

Langres: An unpasteurized cow cheese made in the northeast part of France, near Champagne.

I totally should have taken a picture of this cheese whole, but I just couldn't help myself!

I totally should have taken a picture of this cheese whole, but I just couldn’t help myself!

Langres is a weird looking cheese. Its veiny, wrinkled exterior is tinted orange, giving it the appearance of an extra on the Golden Girls. (The orange comes from regular washings with annatto extract. How someone decided to wash French cheese with a subtropical orange spice is beyond me. The effort that they put into cheese here!) It has a cylindrical shape, curiously reminiscent of the mountain on Close Encounters, except that its roof is caved in. This caved in roof is called “the fontaine” and creates the perfect excuse to supplement your cheese experience by pouring some brandy in it. I am going on record right now by saying that we need more things in this world that have dented roofs so that you can pour alcohol on top.

The smell of the cheese is slightly funky, enough to wrinkle your nose and wonder, “What’s that smell?” but not too strong that you to answer, “Paul’s feet.” You definitely need to clean up after you’re done eating it, for it lingers in the kitchen long after your done enjoying it.

My first taste of the cheese was a thing of beauty. It’s sticky, creamy consistency at room temperature automatically became my third favorite food texture ever, trailing only perfectly cooked steak and roasted marshmallow. The cheese has a pungent, salty taste that beguiles your senses without over powering them. It had something to it, something I couldn’t put my finger on and never quite did. Langres is a hot date with a strong accent at a crowded bar: you’re not ever 100% sure what they are saying, but you sure as hell like the way they are saying it.

This wine goes well with big, red wines. It may be the perfect cheese to serve to guests. I plan on doing so the next chance I get.

Words used to describe this wine: wrinkled, salty, sticky, orange, (Basically J Lo in 20 years.)

Words not used to describe this wine: Crunchy, sterilized.

Annecy In My Panntsy

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

A cool feature of living in France is the ability to find interesting places far removed from normal tourist path.

OK, I just read that sentence and immediately hated everything about it. Oh, it conveys the sentiment appropriately, but does so in a way that would even put Rick Steves to sleep. I am going to try that again.

Do you like cool, old shit and melted cheese? I do, and found a boatload of it in a amazing little town that I had never heard of.

This is closer. I am tempted to leave it at that, but I really think I can do better. Nothing is coming to me right now, though, so I will go ahead and write the post. By the end, I will have a beginning so exciting that Rick Steves will bite the head off an angry chicken. Believe it.

Annecy is a town in Eastern France located at the base of the French Alps. It is directly south of Geneva if you are into maps, (and let’s face it, who’s not into maps.) It is a pretty satisfying mix of old world charm, outdoor adventure spot and place to develop a nasty toe infection. We went there for a long weekend and had an amazing family adventure.

If you like the traditional European experience of wandering around old cobblestone streets dating back to the 11th century, Annecy is a good spot to do it. (OK, I feel your pain, you have been reading this entire post without having been told how to pronounce the name of the town we went to. I will ease your discomfort: Ahnsie. Make the sound like when the doctor is looking at your sore throat, then finish with the way a petite, Mexican debutante would answer a question in the affirmative if she were guessing, {“Si?”} Got it? Make no pause from taking pronunciation advice from someone who doesn’t say the word, “Pronunciation” correctly.)

The textured streets blend quaintly into multi-colored buildings and it seems like every tiny alley you turn down in Annecy is a potential erectile event for Rick Steves. (I’m warming up!) We spent the better part of an entire day just walking, eating and looking at old shit. Losing yourself amongst the bustle in a town like this is such a cool experience that even Malcolm was appreciative.

Annecy is situated near a lake bearing its name and nestled amongst the towering, snow-capped Alps. It is like a skinnier version, less meth-y version of Lake Tahoe. We took advantage of the location by taking (an admittedly chilly) boat ride around the lake and then later heading up the mountain for some time in the snow. Malcolm and Amy were so excited by the prospect of being in sunny, powdery snow that they rented cross country skis and made a lap around the forest groomed course. They had a blast! Where was I and why didn’t I accompany them? This was what I was up to:

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You were wondering when I was going to come back to that, weren’t you? So, this happened, and not only did this little piggy fail to make it to the market, it hurt like hell. It had it all: tenderness, searing pain when moved, pus. So while Amy and Malcolm were off frolicking around the forest on their skis, I sat like a pile of bear turd on a heap of snow. It was a tad embarrassing, but with a toe like this, they really didn’t want to be near me anyways.

Annecy is a tourist destination and the food was reflective of that. We were able to avoid the most overly-touristic places to enjoy Haute-Savoie cuisine as it was intended. Incidentally, Haute-Savoie translates to, “High Cabbage,” so don’t go there looking for culinary sophistication. Of course, catering to tourists means that you have to do street desserts well, and the chocolate-whipped cream laden waffle Malcolm got and took 20 minutes to finish did not disappoint. One of the specialties of the region is/was fondue, and Amy and I played the always dangerous game, “When should I stop eating this fondue so I don’t feel like crap?” The fondue we tried was composed of a few different local cheeses and wine, and the resulting hot, bubbling bowl of velvety heaven was the perfect match for the fresh bread used as the vehicle to get it in our mouths. Malcolm really doesn’t like the funkiness of French cheeses, so the game he played was, “How rare of a burger will they cook  for an eight year old boy?” He really likes his raw meat, and we spent a fun evening sharing a meal that I can totally imagine Rick Steves enjoying (with the stuffed corpse of his mother, which he keeps in his apartment and whom he NEVER gets cross with.)

Annecy has a ton of stuff going for it, and we had a remarkable time there. We will definitely go back in the summer, mostly to partake in the myriad of summer activities available: biking, hiking, boating, golfing, etc. I think there is a little part of Amy and Malcolm that want to find out if they too can develop a nasty toe infection, but they probably won’t admit it. If you find yourself in France wanting something to do besides the normal museum-laden experience, you should definitely check it out. You can even bring your taxidermied mommy!

OK. Pressure’s on for a tighter opening. I think I have it:

Have you been longing for a place infected with gooey, old world charm and outdoor adventure possibilities that even a petite, Mexican debutante would find alarming? I have the place for you.

Bingo!

As much as I would like to leave a picture of my toe as the sole visual evidence our weekend, I cannot. Here is the rest of our weekend in pictures:

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The train ride from Paris to Annecy was around 3 hours, and provided enough time to do some sort of statistical analysis of European football players and the Paris Metro system.

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The first thing you do when arriving in any European city is find the open air market. Check!

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Hello!

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Nice to meet you!

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Tttthhhhattttt bbbbbbboooatttttt wwwwwwwasss a llllllitttlllllleee chchchchchchilllllllllyy

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Did I mention that Annecy has a lot of canals? It’s the best of Amsterdam and Switzerland, all rolled into something French!

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Courtyards. Everywhere.

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I almost got tired of taking pictures. Almost.

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The red roofs of the old town, taken from a nearby chateau.

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You can probably skip the chateau tour, but there were still some intriguing nuggets tucked away.

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More quaint shit

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Get more French than that, I dare you!

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It’s a good thing everyone bought their paint at different Home Depots there.

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Our view at lunchtime at an outdoor cafe.

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We really hearted Annecy

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If only they made ’em this big.

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Little chilly, little rainy one afternoon. Hot chocolate time!

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Sometimes you attack the dessert…

 

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Sometimes it attacks you.

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Of course we stopped at a place with this name for crepes and waffles.

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I’m going to go with, yes!

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Fresh snow and sunshine makes for good scenery.

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And eating!

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Luckily, the Olympics were just on, so they knew how to do it.

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Immediately after this pic was taken, he fell, twisted his knee, and had to be saved by daddy. That’s what happens when you try to set the new world record.

We bought these little gems at the open air market. Kind made the whole toe thing seem like it was for the best.

When Your Kids Annoy You

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

The unfortunate truth about living here is that, despite the mouth watering delicacies, the limitless supply of art and culture and crazy-interesting patterns of dog shit all over the sidewalks, you must still be a parent. Call me naive, but I thought that we would all be so wrapped up in the experience of living abroad that Malcolm would be an angel and I would effortlessly continue my reign as #2 parent of all time. (Octomom, I’m gunning for you!)* Alas, to my great dismay, one must still be a parent when they move to Paris. Blah.

To make things exceedingly difficult, Malcolm has hit a “development milestone,” which is clinician-speak for “I don’t know who my kid is and I don’t like him.” Every so often, your kid makes a huge push forward and changes in a way that is simultaneously surprising and frustrating; surprising because it involves behavioral changes that seem to spring from nowhere, and frustrating because you have no idea how to react. For everyone who tires of being begged  to engage in imaginative play all day long or doesn’t particularly like being bitten on the love handles (Malcolm’s favorite cut of parent) stepping into a new plane of development is often welcome. Figuring out the newest iteration of your kid is tough, though, and represents one of the greatest challenges we face as parents.

Up until now, I have generally enjoyed each new version of Malcolm. Each successive iteration came with new activities, new things to talk about, and new ways to enjoy one another. Until this one. This one feels like a lemon. This one steals anything not tied down and hoards it in his room. It is lazy to the point where it can’t even get it’s own towel after getting out of the bath tub. This one loses everything, whether it is a 10 Euro note it has obviously stolen from me, or a new watch that was proclaimed the, “greatest gift ever” when bestowed a week and a half prior. At the dinner table recently, this one chewed a long piece of cabbage like a cow (slowly and with most of it sticking out the side of its mouth.) When the cabbage fell out of its mouth onto the ground, this one, when asked about it, said, “What cabbage?” Arrgh!

If it only were as simple as him posing with pastries.

If it only were as simple as him posing with pastries.

To cap it off, this one either refuses to communicate, communicates in one word sentences, or engages in lengthy communications to inform you of what a crappy parent/person/cook you are. Whereas interactions with former models were interesting and oft surprising with the stuff it’d come up with, conversations now feel like interrogations, with the roles of interrogator and interrogatee  switching multiple times throughout. Most blind dates (even those between computer engineers from different sides of the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum) have smoother conversations than we do right now. Maddeningly, he refuses to look at the person he is talking to, and at times I think he is Keyser Soze, constantly scanning the room to come up the material to feed his web of lies. Double Arrg!

Perhaps you are thinking, “Let’s see: lazy, irresponsible, mischievous, sloppy, doesn’t speak good, generally irritates those around him, that sounds like someone I know whose name rhymes with Pig Baddy Dall!” Oh, I know. There is really only room enough for person like that in this house. Amy won’t stand for any more! If there is going to a bunch of lying, cheating, stealing and irritating, around here, I am going to be the one to do it. Your job as a parent isn’t to raise your kid to be the person that you are, it is to raise your kid to be the person you want to be (and one day will actually get around to becoming.) I want Malcolm to become the awesome person that I pretend I am when filling out online personality quizzes.

Honestly, I have no ideas for how to make that happen. I know that if Malcolm continues on the path he is currently on, he will become the 15th child in the Octomom household. I am hoping that he will regress a little toward the mean and that we will learn some better coping mechanisms than, “Stop doing that, it’s annoying.” It’s too bad, too, because sometimes I feel like we miss out on some Parisian adventures because one of us is trying to make a point. If the French had a term for such a predicament, it would probably be something like, “That’s life.” OK, enough venting. The next post will be France related.

* You might think it odd that my #1 Parent ever was the Octomom. Before dismissing this outright, consider the following:

Octomom had six kids and no job. Most people would find such a circumstance debilitating. Not the Octomom. You know what the Octomom did to help support those six kids?

She had eight more kids! Think about that: eight fucking kids! When was the last time you thought about finances or the future? At that time did you think, “The answer to my problem is to have eight kids.”?

No, no you didn’t. You couldn’t muster that much courage.

Then, to ensure the future for all those kids, Octomom made an adult movie. Whoa, talk about effort. I have never considered jamming something into one of my body orifices for Malcolm. Have you? Would Claire Huxtable? Once again, the answer is no. In comparison, we have done so little on behalf of our kids.

And that is why Octomom is the #1 parent of all time.

Anatomy Of A Dish: Steak Tartare

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Cooking and Eating

As you might suspect, the food here in France is crazy good. Who wouldn’t want to eat in a country that has more potato dishes than deodorant brands? Seriously, in the French version of Forrest Gump, the subtitles reveal that Forrest wants to open his own potato stand, instead selling his versions of, “Pommes frites, pommes dauphine, pommes noisettes,” etc. (I would have preferred the dubbed version and hear Forrest’s pronounciation of the dishes, “pohwm freet, pohwm dohwfeen…” but, alas, it was not to be.)

Even with all these classic dishes tantalizing us here, there are a few things that people back in the US would find a little off-putting. As a public service, I will occasionally try one of these less appealing dishes and report back on what I find. I am starting the exercise with a little something called Steak Tartare.

If you are like me, you probably think steak tartare is just hamburger that is, for whatever reason, uncooked. This is not true. A hamburger is a fatty glob of ground beef. (If that sounds negative, it is not because I don’t like burgers. To me, a properly executed burger is 15 minutes of culinary bliss, on par with such things as buttered popcorn and anything deep fried and served at a county fair.) The idea of eating a raw burger is disgusting, though, and on par with eating such things as buttered uncooked popcorn kernels and a wet glob of unfried dough.

Here served with a little basil oil.

Here served with a little basil oil.

Steak tartare is no uncooked burger. It is perfectly lean, meaning there isn’t a hint of fat in it. It is just good old fashioned muscle, hopefully from a cow that was whipped with a bamboo stick every day of its life tenderized. While I have heard that some places grind their tartare, I have only had it at places where the cut is chopped into small pea-sized chunks. Ironically, if you tried to make a burger out of a patty made from lean, pea-sized chunks of beef, it would probably suck. (Do any of you tire of reading the phrase, “pea-size chunks of beef”? I don’t! I plan on trying to work it into every day French conversation as soon as I can Google Translate to figure out what the hell I mean by it.)

The pea-size chunks are then mixed with some dijon, some cornichon (cute little pickles, of which I believe the singular and the plural are the same, like deer or Kardashian) some onions, a raw egg yolk and maybe some capers. After mixing, the dish is assembled like a hockey puck on your plate, which you get to tear apart like a velociraptor. To me, it is a perfect combination of acidity, a hint of spiciness and cornichon. I find I am even more attracted to the texture of the dish. It is the tender texture of a perfectly cooked steak, and that is pretty amazing. When paired with wine and pohwm freetz, it is a spectacular bistro dish that I order often. Malcolm likes it too, except he often has to negotiate with the waiter ahead of time to ensure that it doesn’t turn out too vinegar-y for his tastes.

Oddly, the dish has its roots in something called, “Beefsteack à l’Américaine,” although no one is sure why. Did the mid-20th century French culinary world really think that Americans took their beef raw? Everyone knows that, during the 1950’s, Americans took their beef in an aluminum tray, a la Salisbury. Perhaps sensing this inaccuracy, at some point the name for the dish transmogrified into steak tartare, and now the term tartare is used to refer to any number of raw meat preparations. Curiously, it did not make its way into the name of the German dish, “Mett,” which is raw pork served in shape of a hedgehog. I think I know why. everything about Mett sounds fucking disgusting and anything that disgusting deserves to have a name like, “Mett.”

So that is Beef Tartare. Try it sometime! It’s not fatty. It’s not ground up. It’s not served in the shape of a hedgehog.

I think I just came up with a new advertising slogan.

Big Daddy Paul Is Lousy At Making Friends

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork, Uncategorized

I noticed last week that my best friend in Paris still enjoys playing with stuffed animals. It was a, “What am I doing with my life?” moment, and I stepped up my efforts to make some connections on the friend-front. Granted, I am not expecting to replace all my friends back in the bay area, but it would be nice to have conversations with someone capable of making the “th” sound properly. (“Daddy, da fird grade teacher told me I didn’t do nuffing on Fursday!”)

At first, I looked for other stay at home dads here. After whiffing on a search for stay at home dad groups in Paris, I hit Google for the following:

“Male companionship in France.”

“Other Big Daddies in the city of light”

“How to find guys with little ones in Paris.”

That totally didn’t work, although it did reveal some interesting mustache ideas. Strike two.

I switched things up and hit up a website for English speaking expats here. I found that they were having a coffee for new members to the area and it was right down the street from Malcolm’s school. It sounded perfect! I arrived at the cafe and found three groups of people seated at tables quietly engaged in conversation. I stood there dumbly for a second trying to discern which of the groups were my soon to be expat friends, but my keen ear failed to detect any friendly tongues. I investigated by taking a seat at a nearby table and eventually found the English speakers were. As I prepared to make my entry into the conversation, I realized that the two women seated there were talking about breast-feeding. Abort! Abort! How the hell was I supposed to seamlessly get myself into this conversation?

Briefly, I considered the blunt approach:

Hi! My name is Paul. I am from the United States, and my nipples are killing me too!

I was there to make friends, not creep the hell out of people, so I decided the more prudent course of action would be to just wait it out. I ordered coffee and a croissant and hoped that the topic would fizzle sooner rather than later. Five or ten minutes later, I still hadn’t found an entry point. I was getting worried that if I sat there too much longer, I would just wimp out and go home. Then all I would have is a ton of self-loathing and an overworked anti-virus program. After what I considered an acceptable amount of time to talk about the trials and tribulations of nursing, I regrouped and introduced myself (sans nipple references.) They were nice!

Things went smoothly for a while, all of us talking about our backgrounds and making small talk. Soon, more mommies and soon-to-be-mommies showed up and before long, there were eight or so of us engaged. As my luck would have it, I was trapped at the “We are going to talk about babies the whole time,” part of the table. There was a time in our lives when I would be able to hold my own with topics like “Having a baby in a bathtub” or “C-sections, what was yours like?” Eight years removed from Malcolm’s birth, though, I was not really of much use. The sad thing, though, was that I sat there, mute. I definitely felt like the women there should have the space to talk about all this baby stuff (we sure did when Malcolm was a baby,) but I am just not into it anymore. I chimed in whenever the topic of conversation changed, but like the stank of baby vomit on your sweatshirt that you can never fully get rid of, I felt like I was out of place. Did these women want me there? Did I want to be there?

Who's got one thumb and is occasionally socially awkward?

Who’s got one thumb and is occasionally socially awkward?

Is that weird? Can I ask four questions in a row? (Yes!) I am hardly the first dad who has felt a bit out of place around a group of moms. I must say, though, that this is new for me. My stay at home parenting group when Malcolm was little was a group of guys focused on two things, raising kids and drinking beer (although not always in that order.) I’ll take some lumps learning the ropes in this world of mommies, but hopefully it won’t be anything too severe.

I am perfectly willing to chalk this one experience up to “wrong place, wrong time,” though. When women get together they talk about more than just babies, right? I have to assume so. In many respects, finding friends is eerily similar to the dating scene. Not every date is going to go well. Sometimes your date eats salad with their fingers or checks their cell phone too much. Or, sometimes they talk about the inner workings of their uterus to relative strangers. Either way, the key is to not give up. I won’t. Until then, playing stuffies on Fursdays will have to do.

A Tale of Two Wines

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Blank of the Blank

I love drinking wine. It is a national pastime here, and the availability of excellent wine at a reasonable cost is a huge draw. If you go to a restaurant, you will often find that a pretty decent house wine costs much less than a soda. (Plus, wine makes you giggly, while soda rots your teeth and makes you diabetic.) We end most every day with our feet kicked up and a glass of wine in our hands. We are totally spoiled.

Here are two noteworthy wines of late:

Wine #1: Domaine Noel Girard. This wine is from the area, “Pouilly Fuisse,” which translates roughly as “Fussy Chicken.” It is grown in the Burgundy Region, close to the center of France. It is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes.

I love this wine. Normally, white wines want to take me down I path I have no interest in. I really don’t like overly dry wines, overly sweet wines or wines that taste like lawn clippings or rose petals. After drinking most white wines, I feel as if my mouth has been ravaged by a bee, which really isn’t a good quality for something you put in your mouth. I recognize that my comfort zone for white wines is pretty small.

           Heck Ya!

Heck Ya!

This wine, however, is like your stoner friend in college. It is chill, easy going and just wants to imagine a better world to live in. It doesn’t wear a hat, but I am sure that if it did, it would be rastafarian. This wine is simple, not trying to be too anything. It’s flatness is a virtue, promising nothing remotely close to a series of bee stings. If you really want to search, you can find some pear and tiny hints of butter, like the feint odor of bong water you could detect on your college pal. It is crisp, but not too crisp, like a Cheetoh that has been found after sitting for several hours lost in your couch cushions. I love this wine and will go to it often once the weather is nicer.

Words I would use to describe this wine: Sunshine, Citrus-Cleanliness, Springtime, Smiling Hippy.

Words I would not use to describe this wine: Grassy, Gassy or Floral. Racist.

Wine 2: Le Blah-Blah-Blah. I think the winery knew this wine was a stinker. The name on the bottle is tiny and the cursive is ornate to the point of illegibility. At least I think so. I just drank a good deal of that white wine, so I can’t see so good now. Whatever the winery is, it was grown in Saumur-Champigny, which is smack dab in the middle of the Loire Valley. It is made up predominantly of Cabernet Franc, and Francly, I think this wine is terrible.

Hell No!

Hell No!

This wine smells like an old person sitting upon a large pile to flowers, all well past their prime. Mind you, this isn’t a casual, passing whiff, either; this is grabbing their stale blue hairpiece and really getting your nose down into it, taking every sad experience they’ve ever had into your nasal canal. Then, you taste: tasting gives the sensation that you have released the head of your geriatric rotten flower lounger and commenced licking the folds in his/her neck, constantly discovering new flavors you wished never existed. Do I detect Lycra from the 70’s? Is that a perfume you bought on vacation, only to find out it was old goat water? What kind of mint is that? Vapor rub? I can’t seem to taste this wine without every muscle in my face recoiling in horror. It’s bad. I can’t even finish the glass.

Words I would use to describe this wine: moth balls, beef jerky soaked in rose water, angry hornets in your mouth.

Words I would NOT use to describe this wine: pleasant, drinkable, worth a dollar.

A Tale of Two Softball Teams

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

Actually, that was the name of the Dickens classic, until someone gently reminded him that his target audience would have no clue what softball was. So, he changed it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ba dum dum dum…

A most curious thing happened the other day. (Dickens aint got shit on me, eh?) Malcolm is starting with a new baseball team, and on our way to his first practice, I was propositioned. I had fully intended to help coach Malcolm’s team, but one of the existing coaches looked at me after we arrived and nodded off into the distance, “Those people over there are on our softball team, would you like to join them?” Evidently, in France, teams field entries in every age division, so for every U9, U12 team, etc., there is a corresponding U-Past-Your-Prime team. I was stunned. I thought I was lucky to find a team that was closer, both in geography and skill set match for Malcolm, but the new team had so much more to offer. The grown up team practices alongside the youngins, meaning we were BOTH going to be able to play on a team. How cool is that? I dumped my coaching duties in favor of playing duties faster than you can say, “What broken ankle?”

After a grand total of the one practice, I am ready to summarize the differences between softball teams in the two countries. Here they are:

I want to put something bad ass here, but it is hard when the sport is, you know, softball.

I want to put something bad ass here, but it is hard when the sport is, you know, softball.

1. The softball team in France has a coach. He doesn’t play on the team, he just organizes warm ups, practice and teaches the game for those who need help. He hauls the gear out from the shed and sets everything up. Whoa. We had a coach in the US. His name was, “Noodles,” and got the job because he had the worst hair on the team. He tried to collect the league fees from everyone and sent out an email each week telling us when and where the game was. If he ever tried to “help” anyone on the team, we would all died laughing because no one will take softball advice from someone who plays in biker shorts.

2. The softball team in France practices, every week. We work on drills, take batting practice and get into some game-like situations. Pretty routine stuff. A guy suggested we practice on my team in the United States and I bashed in his skull with a batting helmet in front of the others to make the point that softball is an old, fat man’s game that is never to be rehearsed. We haven’t practiced since. Actually, there are probably teams in the US that practice but we were not one of them. My team habitually ended the year in second to last place, and I guess we figured that practice wouldn’t change anything.

3. In France, they warm up. We jogged around the outside of the field a few times, did several kinds of sprints, made the little circles with our arms, and then threw for about ten minutes. We warmed up for around 40 minutes total, the players talking amicably with one another, before getting to the drills. In the US, we went to a bar and drank beer until five minutes before the game began. Then, we’d race to the field, throw the ball back and forth five or six times, and spend the rest of the pregame time looking for a bush to go to the bathroom in. Funny, writing this all down now, I can totally tell why we were never very good.

4. In the US, the game was a completely social affair. The core team has played together for many years and we use it mostly as an opportunity to get out and hang with one another. It is one of the things I miss most about being away from home, Noodles included. Only time will tell whether my new team will be the social outlet that my old team was. For now, I am content to have a team to call my own, an unexpected delight in a land filled with many of them.

Cheese Of The Week: Mont D’Or

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Blank of the Blank

I am starting a new feature around here. It’s called the [blank] of the [blank]. There are certain things I’d like to share about stuff we do/eat/drink here and they may not fit into a whole blog post. So, I’ll write a little mini post about whatever it is and provide some background details as well as my experience. It’s like a review only more useless. So, without further ado, here is my first:

Cheese Of The Week!

Like fondue, in a spruced up pot!

So bubbly, so good.

This cheese is called Mont D’or and is only available during the winter months. It is made in the mountains near the border of France and Switzerland, from raw cow’s milk. Why raw cow, you ask? Have you ever had milk from a cooked cow? Totally gross. This cheese looks cool when you buy it. It comes in a spruce-lined thin wood container. Why spruce, you ask? One of the first cheese-makers thought the package a bit plain and ordered his staff to, ahem, spruce it up a bit. (HAHAHAHA, making cheese jokes is going to be easier than I thought!) The cheese has an orange rind and is runny enough to eat it with a spoon at room temperature. This may seem tempting to do, but please don’t. You’d be missing out on a true French cheese pleasure.

Following a recipe I found here, I sliced some garlic and jammed it down in the cheese, topped it off with some white wine and baked in the oven for half an hour. The result was ridiculous, and I recently enjoyed some with a crusty baguette with my parents. It was like fondue, and I fondon’t want to forget about it any time soon. It makes you think of that time you got back from a hard day of skiing and returned to your mountain cabin, stripped naked in front of the fire and made love on a bear skin rug, even if none of those things has ever happened to me you.

Words I would use to describe this cheese (as prepared):

Ooey. Gooey. Unctious. Deep. Hay-ee. Slightly Funky. Amazing.

Words I wouldn’t use to describe this cheese:

Hard. Mediterranean. Smells-Like-Lady-Business (Admittedly, though, there was actually some debate in our house as to whether or not this was true. I thought not, whilest others weren’t so convinced. Buyer beware.)

You may have a hard time finding this cheese outside France, owing to its un-pasteurized-ness, but if you do ever find it, grab some, get home and enjoy an experience that will actually make you glad it is winter.

Copenhagen, More Than Just A Brand Of Chewing Tobacco

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We are getting back up to speed around here, having traveled home for the holidays and now getting back into the swing of things here. Here’s my post from a trip we took back in December.

For Amy’s birthday this year, I got her the best present that anyone could ever give: me! She had to be in Copenhagen for a conference on her birthday and I tagged along to ensure that she wouldn’t be lonely and depressed on her special day. Her parents were in town for a visit, which meant we left Malcolm behind and visited a new place by ourselves. This is Copenhagen:

IMG_1791

They also like celebrating the holidays in Copenhagen. Why all the lights? It's 3:30 pm!

They also like celebrating the holidays in Copenhagen. Why all the lights? It’s 3:30 pm!

If  you are like me, you probably don’t know where Copenhagen is. It is in Denmark. If you are still like me, that probably doesn’t help all that much. After looking it up, I found that Denmark is the land mass that connects Germany and Sweden. If you can look at a globe, you’ll see that it’s about as far north as Alaska, which is about 1,000 miles farther north than I ever want to be, especially in December. It is far enough north that the sun goes missing for long periods of time. Seriously! In Copenhagen, the sun comes out at 9 and goes away at 3, meaning it keeps the same hours as a 20 year-old dog. Most of our visit there was shrouded in darkness.

Despite their unfortunate relation to the sun, we found the Danish (the people, not the pastries) to be warm and welcoming. OK, maybe the pastries are that way too. While the official language is Danish, most people spoke English. (Not that I minded. Danish is quite an interesting language to listen to, sort of a hodge-podge of soft German and other Nordic languages. Imagine Hitler hushedly doing an impersonation of the Swedish Chef, with less table-pounding and more fish tossing.) We went to dinner at a small casual family restaurant the first night and it felt less like a place of business and more like we had been invited over to someone’s house for dinner. The Danes are indeed great.

The only thing good about being dark at 9 am is that you get to sit in a cafe eating and drinking without remorse.

The only thing good about being dark at 9 am is that you get to sit in a cafe eating and drinking without remorse.

On our only full day there, Amy went to her conference and I set out to see some sights. I had coffee and a danish at local coffee shop, mostly because I had see what Danish danish were like. Anytime the name of the food specialty matches the name of the town, I have to give it a try. (Except of course, when I am in Dirty Pig Testicle, Texas. There, I skip it.) The pastries were good, yeasted, and therefore light and airy on the inside, crisp on the outside and deliciously sweet and cinnamonny all through. My pastry experience here was like waking up on Christmas morning, in baked-goods form.

Looks pretty crappy, exactly like it does in Bohemia.

Looks pretty crappy, exactly like it does in Bohemia.

My first stop was Christianshavn, a residential area known for its bohemian atmosphere. After seeing a lot of things described as “bohemian,” in my life,  I have come to the conclusion that this is really just code for “crappy looking.” From what I could tell, the chief attraction in this part of the woods was Christiana, a commune set up by squatters in some old army barracks. There, residents have attempted to set up an independent autonomous collective, complete with its own government charter and lax attitudes towards leashing your pets. As I wandered the paths of Christiana with 20 mangy looking dogs, I saw the “Green Light District,” which is where everyone in Copenhagen goes to score weed. I usually don’t like getting high, but, like urge to sample a Danish danish, I really wanted to see what it would be like to smoke out with squatters who thumb their noses at the rest of the country (pot is illegal everywhere else.) My curiosity only goes so far, though, and as the area was totally scuzzy and it was 10 am, I kept going. Half of the dogs in town followed me.

A twofer! Art and fancy writing in the same tiny book. How lucky was I?

A twofer! Art and fancy writing in the same tiny book. How lucky was I?

My next stop was the David Collection, the largest collection of Islamic art in Northern Europe. I discovered that Islamic art was quite different from other culture’s artistic expressions and mainly consisted of things like tiny picture books, clothing, pottery, calligraphy and coins. Mildly put out by the name, I filled out a feedback form telling them they should change the name of the place to “The David Collection of Old Clothes, Cursive Samples, Tiny Pictures, Pots and Loose Change,” so as to avoid any confusion. The “art” they did have was indeed interesting, although there were so many docents in the museum and so few patrons that the scene inside was pretty uncomfortable. The docents practically begged me to engage them on the exhibits, but I really had nothing for them. Every once in a while, I would note, “Wow, this picture book is really much smaller than the rest” or “I like the way this ‘T’ is crossed,” but for the most part, I was useless. The inside of that place reeked of desperation.

I decided I needed a little blood and guts. Anywhere situated this far north has to have a long and glorious history with Vikings, right? I made my way to the National Museum for what I thought would be an extensive history of the vikings in this part of the world. I was initially intrigued by the early Danish penchant for making tributes. Essentially, in the old days, if you had something you really liked, you tossed it in the bog in the name of good fortune. Got a really nice silver pot? Toss it in the bog! Hey, nice carriage, you should totally toss it in the bog! Where’s your sister? I threw her in the bog, and now my rash is nearly gone! Researchers have had a field day going into the bogs and looking for stuff that people threw in for good luck. I was amazed. I was not, however, amazed at the Viking displays at the museum. There were two rooms, and there was no glorification of violence anywhere. There was no carnage or tails of getting drunk and invading far off lands. I didn’t get to see stories of Eric-The-Red, Eric-The-Mad or even Eric-The-Guy-Who-Just-Tossed-His-Favorite-Shoe into the bog. I was quite disappointed.

One thing that I noticed walking around town was how trustworthy the Danish are. Everywhere I went, I saw bikes parked on the street without so much as a lock on them. Being from Oakland, my first inclination was to steal as many as I could, but upon a bit of reflection, I realized that 100 Danish bikes would not fit in our carry-on baggage. This point was really driven home when I saw a sleeping baby in a stroller parked in front of a store, its owner nowhere to be found. That baby would last 10 minute tops in Oakland before being sold to overzealous infertile San Francisco parents. Perhaps they should include stuff like this in promoting tourism in here: Copenhagen, a place so safe you can leave your baby alone on the street!

This is the National Face of Denmark. Everyone wears it. There really isn't any other face you can make when you are getting pelted in the face with small chunks of ice going 50 miles per hour.

This is the National Face of Denmark. Everyone wears it. There really isn’t any other face you can make when you are getting pelted in the face with small chunks of ice going 50 miles per hour.

One thing that did not disappoint was the weather. While we were there, we saw a steady stream of people getting the hell out of town. A major storm hit there area with temperatures plummeting and winds howling near 50 miles per hour. They closed all the bridges in town, the train station and the airport, leaving downtown Copenhagen a veritable ghost town. No wonder the docents at the Davis Museum were so hard up!

This dish combined beef jerky and bone marrow. Needless to say it was near the top of the list.

This dish combined beef jerky and bone marrow. Needless to say it was near the top of the list.

Of course, no birthday celebration would be complete without a crazy decadent meal. We booked a table at a Michelin starred restaurant and arrived to find that the storm had chased away all the other diners. We had the place to ourselves, meaning the entire wait staff and kitchen was there to dote on us. It was pretty awesome. We had 12 courses, complete with wine pairings, and it was one crazy dining experience. We ate cod skin, beef jerky, sweetbreads, deer tartare, burned artichoke and everything in between. They even made us a nice cake for Amy’s birthday. Amy didn’t remember it though, because we drank enough awesome wine to make us want to invade a neighboring country and pillage the shit out of it. While we normally prefer simpler fare, it was quite an experience to see what fussy food can look and taste like.

Copenhagen was definitely not on my list of places to get to while we are in Europe, but I am really glad we went. I can imagine going there in the summer, when the weather is nice and the sun shines all night long, and enjoying some good beer at a nice outdoor restaurant without having to worry in the least about where I had parked my child. We’ll have to go back.

 

My Christmas Wish(es)

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France, Paul is a Dork

I love the holidays. If I had to rank the favorite things in my life right now it would go like this:

1. Popcorn

2. Amy

3. The Holidays

4. Music from New Orleans

Needless to say, when we watched a Christmas episode of the show Treme the other night, just me and my baby and big ole’ bowl of popcorn, life was pretty good. (For those of you who who are wondering why Malcolm was omitted, he is currently on my shit list for putting me #5 on his list, behind  “Ipads” and his fantasy football team. Bah humbug to you too kid!)

Besides holiday music, which loops endlessly around our house during this time of year, the biggest reason I like the holidays so much is the sense of hope which pervades the spirit. Whether it’s New Year’s Resolutions that you fulfill yourself or the blind faith that a fat man in a red suit will bring you a slice of happiness, there is something in the air that reads, “Things are gonna totally get better for me.” It’s like a fortune cookie that lasts for an entire month!

So, without further adieu, here are my Christmas wishes:

1. I wish Malcolm would stop asking for his own Ipad. Seriously, the kid won’t shut up about it, even though he still has semi-exclusive use of the one we already got. He isn’t getting one because he there is a 100% probability that he would lose it if we got one for him. In the past 3 weeks, he has lost a pair of nice gloves, a nice hoodie, misplaced two library books and broke his nice glasses. The moral of the story is that he is cut off from nice things that are smaller than a dishwasher until he can demonstrate a certain level of ownership competence. I’m not sure it’s tough love as much as it is simple cheapness on my part. I hate replacing stuff for no good reason!

I am guessing there was some pretty good butter in here, but I want the good stuff by itself!

I am guessing there was some pretty good butter in here, but I want the good stuff by itself!

2. I want to find some good butter. The average, grocery store butter here is pretty darn good. I am still waiting, however, to have an experience where you sample some butter and then immediately slap the person nearest to you in the face. Fingers: crossed.

3. I hope to meet someone here who’d care if I died. You always want to feel part of a community, a group where, if news of your untimely demise hit, it would be met with wails and people muttering, “It was too soon.” I have met some people in Paris, but I have yet to forge any relationships where, if my hand got caught in the door of the metro and I was dragged through the subway tube and decapitated, someone would miss me. Sure it might get some people back int he USA roiled up, but, it’s pretty sobering to think that an entire town of 2 million people would all read my obituary and think, “Who’s that?” I gotta make some friends, and quick. The Metro is pretty dangerous here. Bonus points if that person was a) snarky, and b) liked sports.

4. I want everything to go smoothly during our trip home. We are coming home for the holidays for an extended stay visiting friends and family. We rented a house we on Airbnb.com and a car from relayrides.com. Both websites connect people who aren’t using their houses and cars to people who need their houses and cars. The upside for doing things this way is that they are significantly cheaper than a hotel and traditional rental cars. The downside is that the house could be infested with bats and the car has a body in the trunk. We had to try, though. After all, it wouldn’t be a Wilson-Schwartz adventure without the threat of rabies or an unexplained murder. Fingers: triple crossed!

5. I want my dad to feel better. He has been sick, it seems like, since the beginning of autumn. Sometimes they know what is happening, and give him stuff to make him feel better. Other times, the medical establishment scratches its collective head and says, “beats me!”  Through it all, he’s kept the same sense of humor that has made people groan at his jokes throughout his entire life. Enough is enough, get better pops!

I can't ask someone to slow down when they talk, but I can say "Père Noël" with the best of 'em at least!

I can’t ask someone to slow down when they talk, but I can say “Père Noël” with the best of ’em at least!

6. I want to learn how to speak French. I have been working on it, but I have a long way to go. When the store clerk screams at me for messing up her display, I want to understand what she is saying. When the waitress tells me funny stories about Celine Dion’s husband and child, (who we ate next to a few weeks back,) I want to understand all the goofy details. When my cellphone rings and I don’t know who it is, I want to be confident enough to answer it. (Currently, I don’t. I let it go to voice mail and try to piece together things later.) It’s a bit humbling to get your ass handed to you in a foreign country on a daily basis because you don’t speak the home language. I would like for all that to stop. I don’t need to speak it as well as Celine Dion, mind you, just enough to know what her family is generally like.

7. OK, I’ve thought about it and that’s a pretty long list. Skip everything and just get me the butter. Sorry pops, good butter trumps all.

Happy Holidays to you all and as they say here, Joyeuses Fêtes!

Barthalona, It’th Thimply Fantathtic

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We went to Barcelona last weekend. They talk funny there. Not funny-interesting, either, like,

“These cookies taste funny Malcolm, what did you put in them?

Chili powder and macadamia nuts.

Rrkay.”

I found the language spoken in Barcelona to be hilarious. Instead of the “S” sound they make a “TH” sound, making comic gold out of otherwise uninteresting sentences (“For thith reathon the Thpanith Empire wath thaved from dethtruction.”) Are you kidding me? I would watch C-Span all day if it sounded like this! (Thee-Thpan!) Most people sound like they have a handful of ham in their mouth when they talk, and I loved every minute of it.

Why  do they sound that way? Usually, it’s because they have a handful of ham in their mouth! Only, it’s no ordinary ham. While it’s called ham, it’s totally HINO (Ham In Name Only.) They call it jamón iberico. I call it Porcstasy.

Pork in a cone? You bet your sweet bippy!

Pork in a cone? You bet your sweet bippy!

The ham in Spain, the really good stuff, comes from special pigs with special legs that forage around the forest eating special acorns. They lead very pampered lives up until the point at which they are slaughtered. Those special legs are then left to cure for up to four years. (!) After curing, they are brought to a market and stuck in a special vice where artisan butchers slice off paper-thin portions one customer at a time.

Pig in a polk!

Pig in a polk!

One savory sample and your eyes roll into the back of your head while you exclaim, Mary Conchita Alonso Elizabeth Mastrantonio! The acorns give the jamón iberico a truly unique flavor, a rich nuttiness that even the Koch brothers can’t touch. The icing on the ham (mental note: invent icing for ham) is that it is surprisingly high in the mono-unsaturated fats that are actually good for you, meaning that each delicious bite makes your mouth, heart and colon all smile. With so much going for it, we enjoyed quite a bit of ham during our trip.

A blast even without the biggest star.

Forget Messi, Malkie was the big star this weekend!

The main non-ham related reason we were in Barcelona was to watch a soccer match for Malcolm’s birthday. It was supposed to be a slaughter: Malcolm’s soccer idol, Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona squad was up against one of the cellar dwellers of the Spanish League. It turned out that Messi and several other stars on the team were out due to injuries, meaning a) Malcolm was really bummed at not seeing his hero play, and b) I was excited because the tickets were a lot cheaper. That probably means that I am a bad person, but as long as it’s only “probably,” I am fine with it. The home team still won 4-0 and Malcolm had a great time. He will forever be able to say that he got to watch FC Barcelona win on his birthday, and that is pretty cool. Later, after the game and dinner, Malcolm ate an entire dessert sampler by himself. He had quite the birthday, and will probably be talking about it non-stop, until he starts planning his next birthday (next week!)

Huh?

Huh?

By far the highlight, sightseeing-wise, was the church designed by Antoni Gaudi. It’s called Sagrada Familia, which translates roughly to, “You are not going to believe this nutty fucking church.” With it, Gaudi seemed to turn science, art and reality on their respective heads. You walk around looking at everything in/on the church and wonder what happened. It all just looked so … weird. (I imagine it’s the same sensation Lady Gaga’s OB-GYN has during her annual pap smear.) After we left, the three of us just let out a collective, “Whoa.” to what we had just seen. I think I liked it, but I couldn’t tell whether I actually enjoyed the aesthetics of it or just appreciated the different-ness. I loaded some pics to follow the post in case you are interested in seeing some more. Gaudi was an insane genius person.

I don't know why there are so many songs about rainbows, but thanks for asking!

I don’t know why there are so many songs about rainbows, but thanks for asking!

It seems like we spend the rest of the weekend asking our tour guide stupid questions. We didn’t know who defeated the Romans and the end of the Roman Empire. We didn’t know Spain was neutral during World War II. We couldn’t understand why, if the foundation behind the construction of Gaudi’s church was devoted to Joseph, the church didn’t have more Joseph statues. (The Paul society will be erecting fat-faced statues in every house I ever lived in, I guarantee you that.) I wish you could have seen some of the looks the guide shot us, they were quite amusing. There were times when she contorted her face in disgust at our ineptitude that she looked like a baby excreting in its diaper. The good thing about hiring a guide, though, is that you are paying them to answer all your questions, even the dumb ones. Our guide earned every cent.

When confounding the guide became old hat, we ate. We had a few unhammy meals, and they were pretty awesome. We had delicious paella, outstanding tapas and, after a trip to the Picasso Museum where I proudly announced, “I don’t get it,” we had a proper Spanish lunch. Lunchtime in Spain is a 2-3 hour saga in which the entire country shuts down to enjoy a multi-course meal. I thought it was for sleeping, evidently, it is for eating! Our Comida included the best pork dish ever. Pork shoulder was cooked in pork fat for several hours until until it had the consistency of pulled pork, then it was topped with some crispy pork skin and served with mushrooms and a red wine reduction. To eat it was to feel the sensation of hugging a pig in heaven. Malcolm and Amy had a delicious fish cooked in a thick layer of salt. I don’t remember the dessert because I was in a wine-aided bout of porkphoria. Our lunch lasted 2.5 hours and it made us miss our intended tour of some additional sights. We didn’t cram some more touristy stuff in because we’d rather eat than tour. Period.

You’d think that with all these cool experiences, though, that we would have been the toast of the town. Instead, we were hated in Spain with the fuerza normally reserved for members of the Inquisition, Franco’s secret police and people who don’t like soccer. People would ask us in questions in Spanish or English, and, after giggling about the “TH” sound thing, we’d respond in French. Then we’d correct it to English, translate it into shitty Spanish and then back to English. Then we would try to hide. This is a very difficult way to conduct simple business and generally made things intolerably difficult for everyone involved. We were not popular.

After trying so hard to learn the French way of doing things for the past month and a half, we found it very hard to switch gears. I have to admit, when we got off the airplane in Paris, and were welcomed with, “Bienvenue a Paris!” it was a welcome relief. Barthalona, you are thuper to vithit, but Parith ith where our home ith.

Here are some more Gaudi pics:

IMG_3338

Huh?

IMG_3341

Wha?

IMG_3351

Whoa

IMG_3363

This looked like a tiki hut, except with, you know, the son of god crucified underneath it.

IMG_3371

Look at that brass!

IMG_3347
Ooh
IMG_3374

Aah

 

Me thinks this quite the spectacle.

Me thinks this quite the spectacle.

French Superlatives

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Living in France

We went to the shittiest parade ever. I’ve been to some real doozies, too, (the Marlin Luther King Junior parade in Carson City, Nevada consisted entirely of the sole black family in town riding around on their bikes throwing Tootsie Pops to people who kept asking, “Who’s Dr. King, is that our pediatrician?”) This one, last weekend, was quite bad. It was advertised as “Armistice Day,” and described as a special day to commemorate the end of World War I. Instead, upset French citizens whistled at politicians while throngs of police officers in riot gear looked on menacingly. After, a car bearing the flag of each participating country drove down the Champs-Elysées while no one watched. It was like the Daytona 500 except without any rednecks or car crashes. If the combatants of WWI witnessed the sad “commemoration” of the cease fire they would have decided to just keep fighting. We commemorated the day by getting Malkie a well deserved pair of mittens. (It’s getting cold here!)

There are so many things right about this piece of bread.

There are so many things right about this piece of bread.

I have been eating ridiculously large amounts of bread. I assure you it’s been sufficiently large to require an internet search for any link between baguettes and big butts. (If you are ever tempted to recreate the results for such a search, and I cannot be more clear about this next part: never, ever looking at the image results. Seriously, you’ve been warned.) After moving into our apartment, I tried the nearby bakeries to see how good the baguettes and croissants were. Turns out the bakeries nearby don’t have the good stuff. Unwilling to “settle” in the City of Bread, I started expanding the search area and found a couple places that, while farther away, serve baguettes so good they make you crazy enough to post pictures of yourself on the internet doing unnatural things with loaves  of bread. One day, I ate half a baguette in my “sandwich” and spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to think about the remaining portion of the loaf hanging out all by itself in the kitchen. I have become a painophile. (Don’t google that one, either.) At some point I am going to write a whole post on the qualities of a good baguette. I just need to do some more research first, like maybe 50 or so loaves. I should be done by next week.

I think the morning Metro ride may be the quietest public transportation experience in the world. Getting on a cramped subway car, you’d expect that the interior of the car would be bustling with the sounds of life. Not so here. This is true even during rush hour, when the cars are completely full and every part of your body fits snugly into the body parts of those standing around you, like we are all just human-sized Lego blocks. Want to try something weird? Go stand next to someone on the street, placing your nose in their ear and don’t make a sound. It’s unsettling. I’d apologize for all the unintended bumping and grinding I have been doing, but I get the sense that verbalizing at all on the subway here would be an even bigger transgression. I would never have guessed it, but I miss the drunk homeless people on BART who mumble constantly about the impending attack of the alien vegetables.

Malcolm and I took the weirdest path ever to a baseball practice last weekend. I think we found a team for Malcolm to play on, but things got off to quite a rocky start. We took a (very quiet) metro to a commuter train, which after driving for 40 picturesque minutes through the French countryside, dropped us off in a village. Neither Google maps nor my innate sense of direction were able to get us to the field easily. So, there we were wandering through a village in rural France, looking for, of all things, a baseball field. Plus, it was around 38 degrees. Not your average Sunday morning in the Ile de France! Things got really bad when the road we were on promptly ended. One simply cannot give up when difficulties arise, however, so we continued on down a muddy path leading through a pasture. Certainly, there were times when I thought, “We are in a fucking meadow! This isn’t going to end up like we want it to.” I kept my game face on, though, and reminded Malcolm that the tastiest chickens are often the hardest to catch. Our perseverance paid off when the muddy path in the meadow eventually gave way to a dirt baseball field! I hadn’t told the coach we were going to attend the practice, I can’t imagine what he must have thought when we appeared out of the wilderness with a backpack loaded full of Malcolm’s baseball gear. We must have looked like aliens falling from the sky. Malcolm likes the team and I think it will be a good fit.

I just licked my screen uploading the picture.

I just licked my screen uploading the picture.

We live across the street from some of the best desserts in France. Turns out that, while the bakery around the corner from us doesn’t make memorable baguettes, it does crank out desserts that could end World Wars. We started with a chocolate cake whose name escapes me because when the clerk was explaining what is was, I was lost in its impossibly shiny chocolate exterior. We had the cassis tarte this weekend and it wasn’t so much a dessert as it was a love letter from the Michelin starred owner’s brain to your tongue. They even serve their desserts at a neighborhood restaurant and we had raspberry religieuse that was so beautiful we hated to eat it. (Every luscious bite!) The desserts are almost perfect. They look stunning. The taste is perfectly balanced, not too sweet, not too rich and not too far that we can’t run over there after dinner and quickly grab a perfect last bite to end our day, good or bad. And with the days that we have sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

What The Hell Am I Doing?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

Before I left for Paris, people asked me what I planned doing while I was here. I usually told them, “Nothing,” and then dreamed of sketching nudes by the Eiffel Tower while being fed bon bons by a mime. (Admittedly, I really didn’t know what to expect upon arrival here.)

Now that I am here, I am starting to struggle with an updated answer to that question. (The authorities here have taken a rather hard line against my insistence that it is perfectly acceptable to draw nude pictures of yourself in public. They have informed me that the long lines of tourists standing in line at the Eiffel Tower are not as enamored with my body as I am. Losers. Wait ’til they get to the Louvre and find out that Mona Lisa looks like a pudgy teen age boy with a lazy eye.)

Life here is not all bon bons and mimes and I am starting to wonder what I want out of the experience. Stay at home parenting will consume all of your time, if you let it. There will always be bills to pay, kitchens to stock, kids to micromanage, laundry to do, neighbors to murder, plans to make, and floors to clean. Is that what I want to spend my time here doing? If not this stuff, then what?

It is a question that stay at home parents ask themselves every day. With the exception of those bizarre people who enjoy the exhilaration of a well ironed shirt or a plate cleaned so well you could eat off it, there will always be tension between the selfless provision of care for the family and the selfish desire for personal gratification. Usually, the conflict is resolved in favor of the family, with provisions made for large quantities of alcohol at a later time.

This tension is magnified here for me. I have never been to the Louvre or most of the other museums here. I know very little about art, or history and absolutely nothing about art history. (Sadly, the entirety of my knowledge in this area comes from the Da Vinci Code, and I read it so long ago that even this knowledge is fuzzy by now. Was Mona Lisa smiling because she gave Jesus a hickie?) I would like to crawl out of this fog of ignorance, and Paris is a pretty great place to do it.

Oh, wait. We are out of milk. Looks like the Louvre’ll have to wait.

This is called Echiquier. You eat and say, "Checkmate!" It comes with a warning that encourages you to exercise.

This is called Echiquier. It comes with a warning that encourages you to exercise.

The same holds for food, a passion of mine. You can take cooking classes here, chase down the best pastry you’ve had in your entire life, sift through an open air market that has chicken feet, cock’s combs and everything in between, or just sit a cafe and watch the world go by. You cannot, however, do any of that if you spend the entire morning trying to resolve printer conflicts for documents you need to get your permanent residence card. (The paper here is a different size. The fucking paper!)

No matter what your poison is, Paris has attractions that will make you forget all about how your refrigerator smells. Music, architecture, literature, churches, and the list goes on an on. There is so much to do that you can freeze up on the universe of opportunities out there.

So what do you do? Where is the happy balance? How can I mix in stuff that I like with the stuff that needs to happen to avoid a divorce? The long answer is that I have no idea. OK, that was pretty brief. Let’s make that the short answer. I guess the long answer is that I set some small goals for stuff that I would like to do. Here are the goals:

First, I am going to stop whining about my “problems.” I live in Paris and someone (named Amy!) is paying my bills. Recently at dinner, we ordered eggs mayonnaise. Guess what was in it? Eggs. With mayonnaise on top! I love this fucking town! I am gonna quit my bellyaching and starting doing things to really make my belly ache. (Like eating eggs mayonnaise morning, noon and night!)

Second, I am going to do something every week that is a complete departure from who I normally am. I will go to a museum/library/house of worship and … wait for it, LEARN SOMETHING! I’m not gonna take any cheapies either, like eating my ham sandwich with dijon and claiming a mountain of personal growth. Nope, I will look for interesting sounding things to do here and then go do them, even if it means that house stays messy one day. My litmus test will be whether it sounds awful. If I read about something and say to myself, “That sounds awful,” I will make myself go. Personal growth is not free from pain. In fact, the two usually go hand in hand.

This book is old and promises to bring us tons of wisdom and bellyaches.

This book is old and promises to bring us tons of wisdom and bellyaches.

Last, I bought a book and I am gonna use it. The book is called Larousse Gastronomique. It was written in 1938 and no one bothered to translate it to English until 1961, undoubtedly because of a belief that Americans were idiots. It is not so much a technical manual on how to cook food but more an encyclopedia of food and some rough suggestions on how to make it. Case in point, the entry for cake starts with the etymology of the word for cake, “Gateau,” a history of the French cultural significance of cakes, (they used to throw confections on the heads of worshippers from the roof of the Notre Dame) and then lists page after page of cake variations. So far my favorite is punch cake: fill a charlotte mould with savoy sponge cake mixture. Cook this cake in the oven. Turn it out and leave it to stale for two days.

We are going to eat a lot of shitty food! At least we will learn some stuff along the way. To me, that sounds a lot better than making sure the clothes are dry, the tired old chicken dinner is served  and the dishes are done after. Well, maybe. Talk to me in a month.

Amsterdam, Not Just For Perverts Looking To Get High

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories, Uncategorized

Amy had a conference in Amsterdam this week, so Malcolm and I joined her for the weekend. Our weekend was really fun, including experiences that were high-brow, low-brow and every brow in between. Here are the random highlights:

I wanna rub my face on that seat!

I wanna rub my face on that seat!

We took the high speed rail to get there and back. Impressively, the trains go 200 miles per hour. Even better, the seats are wide and made of red velvet. The train ride felt like three hours of lying around in a comfy smoking jacket. Malcolm read and played Top Chef on the computer. I fondled the seats.

We stayed with Amy at her conference hotel the first night and woke up to a breakfast buffet that catered to the international crowd. Our breakfast consisted of ramen noodles and broth, pain au chocolate, crusty bread with smoked beef and gouda, pineapple, eggs, bacon, sausage and beans. The businessmen at the table next to us were disgusted. I was too!

Hotels rarely have this right outside their door.

Hotels rarely have this right outside their door.

Most people in Amsterdam stagger around with visions of zebras and giraffes because they spend too much time in the coffee shops. We did so because we rented a houseboat on a canal across from the zoo! The houseboat was pretty cool inside and located in an up and coming area of  restored old brick buildings. This place was really one of the highlights of the weekend. Never stay in a hotel in Amsterdam!

Malcolm and I went to the NEMO children’s museum on the waterfront. It was the greatest single argument in favor of birth control I have ever experienced. Even the Chinese kids there thought it was crowded.

I want to rub my face on that croquette!

Food is always better when you’re not sure what’s inside.

I ate a croquette for lunch one day. If you’ve never had them, they are deep fried log rolls with a strange gooey substance inside. Mine had chunks of ham thrown in every so awesome. Later, I saw them in vending machines and totally wished I had ordered mine from a vending machine. It’s not all that often where you can get fried food from a machine. Next time!

We spent Friday night at the Van Gogh museum. They turned the lobby into a club, complete with cool lighting and a dj. They even served drinks! They gave Malkie a scavenger hunt to do, requiring him to find certain paintings, identify whether the painting mad him feel happy or sad and even taught him/us about brush strokes and art history. Our night at the museum was really the coolest thing we did during the weekend, mostly because we stayed out past 10 pm.

That food was just for us. I'd say we were gluttonous, except that would require too much work

All that food was just for us. Gluttony, it’s what’s for dinner.

For dinner one night, we had an Indonesian rice table (“Rijsttafel.”) Imagine going to a southeast asian restaurant, opening the menu, and saying, “OK, I’ll take it.” They brought us 21 dishes! You get just a few bites of each, but it is a great way to taste your way through southeast Asia, even when you are in Northern Europe. (Indonesia used to be a colony of the Netherlands when it was called the Dutch East Indies.) But you are not thinking of colonization when you are eating. You’re thinking, “Damn, this is some good lamb satay.”

We took Malcolm to the Anne Frank house, waiting for nearly an hour in line. I guess I should say that it was only an hour. When we saw the line later in the day, it had almost doubled! We had prepped Malcolm about Nazi and the treatment of the Jews by having him read Number the Stars He seemed to understand what happened to the family but the most pressing issue he had was to figure out where in our Paris apartment we could stay if the Nazis ever came for us. Be prepared!

We had Dutch pancakes for lunch one day and thought there were awesome. Amy had camembert, ham and leeks, Malkie had chocolate and I had bacon, banana and chili pepper. They were awesome, although eating too large of a chunk of chili almost cost me my taste buds. The pancakes were somewhere between a crepe and a frittata. The place we went to, aptly named Pancakes!, was totally charming.

zzzzzzzzz

zzzzzzzzz

By the time we made it to a canal boat tour, we were pretty worn out. Malcolm fell asleep and I almost did too. I would say 80% of the boat dozed off at one point or another.

We walked around the Jordaan, taking in the tiny cobblestone streets and canals. It was cool, except if you are seven years old. Then, it totally sucks, unless you can find a cheese shop that has pesto gouda. Then it is awesome.

I want to rub my face in those frites!

I want to rub my face in those frites!

For an after-cheese snack, we had war fries (oorlog frites.) At Vleminckx, they make one thing, fries and have done so since 1887. There’s probably a guy on the streets of NY that has been selling the same batch of hot dogs since the 1940’s, but to make one thing, and one thing only for that long a period of time? That’s bonkers. The fries are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and slathered with mayonnaise, peanut satay, and onions. I can’t explain why they taste good. Just trust me.

After some searching around, we found a sports bar that showed the Barcelona-Real Madrid game. We drank beer and ate cheeseburgers and watched the game. The guys next to us started smoking weed, and I can’t imagine how Malcolm didn’t get a contact high. He said he wanted to get home via giraffe and thought my name was Tinderbox.  It didn’t help that there many weirdly costumed people at the bar, including one man dressed in a giant inflatable penis. I sincerely hope none of it makes its way into his weekly journal he keeps at school. I think we are too new at the school to have that much explaining to do.

After dinner our last night, we got chocolate covered waffles and ate them on the steps of a church. Chocolate covered waffles are to dessert what crack is to cocaine. There are light like a donut, except crispier on the outside and slightly chewier. They are also sweet. Really sweet. Sweeter than hugging your favorite aunt at Christmastime. Eating a dessert waffle makes you want to dance with everyone you meet, even if they are dressed as a giant inflatable penis.

The one I kissed was much cuter. (And bloodier.)

The one I kissed was much cuter. (And bloodier.)

We took the tram home and during the trip the tram ran smack dab into a Halloween parade, forcing us to wait 30 minutes as the parade went by. As we sat there, hundreds of zombies came by and spread blood on the tram window and tried to scare us. Malcolm was terrified. I danced with some witches and kissed a zombie through the glass. It was hilarious, and in no part made more enjoyable by the waffles, Belgian beer and second hand smoke.

We managed to pack quite a bit into our little weekend, some good, some gooder and some just plain old Amsterdam weirdness. Coming home was totally surreal, though. Our home was in Paris. In case you aren’t sure, that’s in France, and it’s where we live. Nuts, all.

French Faux Pas, Part I

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France, Paul is a Dork
This is not a rose des sable. Malkie got this one. This is a caramel macaron with two chocolate eyes and a grenache bon bon nose. It's called a macaron clown and Malcolm was in love with it. Until he ate it.

This is not a rose des sables. Malkie got this one. This is a caramel macaron with two chocolate eyes and a grenache bon bon nose. It’s called a macaron clown and Malcolm was in love with it. Until he ate it.

Just to let you know, there is more to life in Paris than fantastic apartments and amazing culinary experiences. It’s true! Why just the other day, I saw something really depressing and it made me think about life and it’s tragic consequences. Oh wait, that thing wasn’t tragic. It was a Rose des Sables, a pastry with hazelnuts, caramelized crepes and pastry creme. It made me want to get on an airplane and go home to slap the mother of everyone single person I know back in the United States. Maybe things are still pretty good here?

There are, however, some instances where things do not work out as I intended. Here’s how that looks:

1. No!

We went to a restaurant that promised a memorable creme brulee. Settling into the table, the waitress brought a basket of bread and said something in French to us. I figured she asked if we wanted bread, and so I said, “No.” She seemed surprised by my answer. When she returned with water, I called my own bluff, asking her what she had said. She said, “I asked if you wanted to know the specials.” No wonder my refusal was a bit surprising! Part of me wanted to double down, and tell her, “I thought so, we came here for this wonderful printed out menu. Why on Earth would we want to get something off that shitty chalkboard? Now bring us foie gras!!!” I didn’t say this, though. I said, “Oh.”

2.Fecal Soccer

Amy, Malcolm and I hit the nearby park to play a bit of soccer. It was a bit rainy, but warm enough to enjoy ourselves. We even got into a match with a local kid. For most of the outing, I noticed that the park smelled heavily of dogshit. Thinking, “That’s just the way it smells at Place Des Etats-Unis,” (ironically, “USA Square,”) we continued the game. When we got home, I realized that Malcolm had stinky, wet dog shit all over his cleats. Mind you, soccer is a game where you kick a ball (with your feet!) so kicking a ball with shit crusted feet ensures that the ball will also be shit crusted. And, when you kick the that ball or grab it out of the bushes and roll it to your opponents, that turd residue rubs off on you. The park wasn’t stinky. We were. I can’t even imagine what that local kid we played with thinks of us. We’re never going back.

3. I scratch … down there.

One of things I am most passionate about is talking about my private parts. (Sounds like a great bullet point for Linked In, doesn’t it?) Anyway, I have jock itch. I would like to take this moment to let you know that this is a good thing. True, it’s a fungal infection, but like athlete’s foot, it imparts a distinction of sports-related accomplishment. In my mind, it’s second only to an Olympic Gold. I will grow concerned only when I start developing ailments like Oaf Scratch or Lazy Man’s Ring-Around-Your-Anus.

Satisfied that my physical prowess extended to my time in Europe, I headed to a local pharmacy to brag about my affliction/trophy. There is, thankfully, a place in our neighborhood advertising itself as “Anglo Americaine” which, to me, reads, “Bring your swollen, itchy junk here for some relief. We speak your language!” I did. I spoke to the woman behind the counter who informed me that she did not speak much English but she would try. (Anglo Americaine my ass!) Sadly for me, she did not understand the term, “jock itch.” This was a crushing development, because it meant that I was going to have to pantomime my affliction to her.

[OK, stop reading, and do this: wherever you are, pretend that you need to describe jock itch to someone charades, style. Go ahead. Done? There is really no way to do this without smiling and/or developing a deep rooted sense of shame about yourself. Yet, this is precisely what I was forced to do.]

I began by scratching the palm of my hand and pointing down towards my groin with both hands like a Eastern European man at a dance club. The pharmacist understood itch, and asked where the itch was. Was it on my belly? No, no the itch wasn’t on my belly. With half a grin on my face, I thrust my hips forward and pointed to my genitals vigorously and then rubbing my hands together ala Mr. Miyagi to demonstrate chaffage. (In many ways, my entire life had been leading up to this very moment. It was oddly peaceful.) I was about to lift my arms over shoulders in a weightlifting pose to delineate my terrific accomplishment from those sad sacs with disgusting venereal diseases when the clerk opted to hide as best she could behind a display of trendy French mouthwashes. When she popped back up, she told me that the other pharmacist spoke better English and that I wait for him to finish up with the customer he was helping. Evidently when Mr. Miyagi points to his crotch constantly here, he doesn’t get good service.

The second clerk didn’t understand the term, “jock itch” either, meaning I had to go back through my dirty gesturing all over again. OH FUCK YOU, ARE YOU SERIOUS? IS THERE NO ONE IN THIS GODDAMN COUNTRY THAT HAS ITCHY THIGHS? REALLY?! (The first clerk feigned un-interest in the corner, I think she just wanted her partner to see my routine.) After going through my itching and pointing, more pointing and more itching, the clerk told me I had two options: essentially, I had to decide between baby-butt cream and bug-bite cream. I was devastated. This was no way to treat an athlete like me! My jock itch was the result of a rigorous workout regimen. I wear that fungus like a badge of courage. To classify what I needed on the same level as a baby who shits itself or someone who gets stung by an ant is to practically deny me any accomplishment at all. This was not good. I took the ant-bite cream, as the clerk said it would probably be more effective. It stung, much like the bite of an ant. I walked home feeling two feet tall.

Life isn’t always perfect here. Still, a little embarrassment (and doggie doo!) is a small price to pay.

9 Reasons Why I Love Our Parisian Apartment

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

We have moved into our new apartment in Paris! We are very excited to be in the same location for the next 12 months. Why are we excited? Read on, dear readers:

1. It is not our temporary apartment. Our apartment for the first few weeks here was born out of necessity, as we were due to arrive in Paris and had nothing lined up. We got there and my heart sank. Literally. The apartment was subterranean. It was dark and dank and you couldn’t open the windows out of fear that someone in the street above would jump down into the apartment and chastise you for trying to look up their skirt. (Hypothetically speaking.) The furnishings were old and dusty and, unless you were an 80 year old woman, it just gave you the creeps. Anne Frank would have tried to move out. Our new home is everything that this old apartment wasn’t.

2. The closets and cabinets here smell awesome. Admittedly, this was not a key criteria when we were looking for flats here, although it would have been pretty interesting to see our relocation guide’s reaction to such a request: “We’d like two bedrooms, an office, two bathrooms and it would be preferable if the cabinets smell like chestnuts roasting on cedar. ” I am not sure how they got the woodwork here to have such a nice aroma, nor do I really care. I keep opening cabinets in the hallway to see if there are brownies baking inside. Yum!

3.The kitchen is outfitted with an induction burner. I don’t know what that means yet. I think it’s good. The concept is pretty cool, the stove heats the pans through an electric current that connects through an oscillating magnetic field, resulting in crazy efficiency. I was a little skeptical when I read the manual and it said the stove could defrost spinach in 15-25 minutes, thinking that you could just breathe on it for 10 minutes and get the job done. Perhaps the manual is just a bit high on humility. I had pasta water boiling in less than 7 minutes, though, so I am impressed so far. The real test will come when I try to put a hard sear on a steak. Still, it sounds impressive doesn’t it? It’s the kind of thing I would say to a fancy-pants at a country club when they name drop about their family lineage:

Old Stuffy Bastard: “Well, there were Worthingtons on the Mayflower, you see.”

Me: “Ya, but did they have an induction stove?”

Drop mic and head off playing “The Final Countdown” in my head.

4. 41 steps. Our apartment is on the four-and-a-halfth floor. How so? The elevator is a half of a flight off from the apartments themselves, so it stops at the fourth floor and you walk up a half of a flight of stairs to get to our door. If I don’t use the elevator, though, I have to take 41 steps to get up to or down from the apartment. That is good for me. I plan on eating the shit out of this town, and the most like result of this scenario is that my body style (currently a “Jon Hamm if he were 5 months pregnant”) will start to trend toward “a Jon Hamm who is past his due date with triplets.” I take great solace in the fact that every time I leave the apartment my leaving and returning means that I will have worked off enough calories for a delicious French pastry or perhaps some pudding. I’ll be fine if I use opportunities like this to exercise, and by fine, I mean anything in the second trimester.

Bring on the soiree!

Bring on the soiree!

5. It has charm up the wazoo. This apartment is French, and not in the “Les Mis/Old French Whore” kind of way. It’s really fucking nice. The ceilings are intricately detailed and bright white. There are artistic photographs strategically placed throughout. (How artistic? We have black and white pictures of silhouettes in train stations and ladies in old-timey bathing suits. Yes, that artistic.) The floors are distressed oak in herringbone. It is impossible to enter the apartment and not conjure up the image of talented writers swilling Kir Royales while listening to jazz. (I wish I were a good writer, liked champagne and could stand jazz. We are more likely to have friends over for lasagne and Weird Al.) With a gigantic solid wood dining room table, I am sure we will all have a good time. I love the way our apartment feels.

6. It has a walk in closet. Having seen 20 or so Parisian apartments during our short time here, I can relate the closet scene thusly: 50% of apartments have a true master bedroom. Of these, the majority would require you to use dressers to store your clothes. A handful actually have closets to store your dead bodies clothes and shoes in. Under no circumstances, however, will these solutions allow you to have more than a one weeks’ supply of clothing on hand. Our apartment has a walk in closet. You can’t walk in do the tango, mind you, but let me reiterate that OUR APARTMENT IN PARIS HAS A FUCKING WALK IN CLOSET. It has four racks for hang up clothes and 28 cubbies for cryogenically frozen heads sweaters. Plus, it smells like chestnuts and brownies in there. Bananas, truly.

Street view.

Street view.

7. Location. I am tempted to say that the apartment has location up the wazoo, but somehow that just doesn’t relay the image that I intended. Our apartment in near the intersection of the 16th and 8th arrondissements, which means that we are within a 15 minute walk of the Trocadero, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Pont Alexandre III, the most beautiful bridge in Paris. We are in between two larger train stations that will quickly connect you to anywhere you want to go here, beit Versailles, Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg or the lesser-visited, Jardin du Oakland, which is really just a place where you can bring your television and just have someone take it from you. Our neighborhood will not excite those who live in Paris as it is not very quaint and “real,” but our out of town visitors will be thrilled. (hint, hint.)

Cool old church! Doesn't hurt that it looks like R2-D2.

Cool old church! Doesn’t hurt that it looks like R2-D2.

8. Light. Our place has a plethora of windows. The front of the house faces the street and the building across from us is two floors shorter, meaning we don’t have any precious sky blocked out. The rear of the house faces a courtyard and four-and-a-half floors is evidently high enough to ensure quality light for as long as their is indeed light. (You may take light for granted, but we don’t have that luxury. It doesn’t get light here until after 8:00 AM and starts getting dark 15 minutes later.) For evenings, the house is equipped with a shit-ton of wall sconces, floor lamps, chandeliers, table lamps, hanging birdcage lamps and a few high powered search lights thrown in for good measure. You don’t appreciate the value of a well lit apartment until you spend some time living in grandma’s basement. All in all, things are pretty bright here.

Says it all (on our bathroom tile.)

Says it all (on our bathroom tile.)

9. There is no scale. Nobody wants to see the effects of Jon Hamm’s kids gestating. With all the lasagna and Weird Al, charm up the wazoo, brownies in the closet, induction steaks, artistic bathing suit pictures and high powered search lights, our apartment will be the source of great pleasure during our time here. I don’t want to see the evidence of the toll Paris takes on me, even with 41 steps up and 41 steps down. I’d rather just enjoy the ride.

And now for larger pics of our house for friends and the architecturally inquisitive:

IMG_3021

Malkie’s room.

Guest bed

Guest bed (hint, hint) Will use as an office.

Chandeliers!

Chandeliers!

Induction!

Induction!

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

Our bathroom

Our bathroom

Haircut

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

I arrived in Paris needing a haircut. Maybe “needing” is too strong. When it gets too long, my hair will make me look like Gov. Rick Perry, minus the guns and the Jesus. I was squarely in Mitt Romney, territory, but heading south quickly. I decided that I was going to get myself a cut, with any luck transforming me into Rick Santorum, or, dare to dream, Marco Rubio. Meeeeee-ow. (I have secret hopes to one day evolve into Scott Brown back in the day, but there is only so much a hairdresser can do.)

I chose the salon responsible for transforming me into a well coiffed fiscal conservative quite strategically. Of course, I could have done some online research to find an English-speaking stylist, but what would be the fun of that? I am here to do French things and learn French ways. The people here don’t get their hairs cut in English, they do it in French. If I wanted North American convenience and French food, I would have moved to Vancouver. No, I moved to France to experience a different way of life. Sometimes this will mean eating a cheese course after my main dish. Other times, it will mean getting a haircut at a place that doesn’t necessarily speak English. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Right or wrong, I also assumed that a French-speaking hair stylist would be better than an English speaking one. I am not sure if this is actually true, but I attribute a certain higher level of stylishness to the French, and the more French they are, the more stylish they should be. Obviously, if one cared to learn English, they would be less French, and therefore worse at cutting hair. Logic is pretty sound, isn’t it? While I am at it, I should throw in the stereotype that gay people are more stylish than us straight folk. With the assumptions in my model now fully detailed, here is how my haircut would look with the different variables:

 Haircut quad.007

I passed by a few salons on our daily walk to and from our apartment to Malcolm’s school. One of them appeared to be quite inviting, meaning that the price of a man’s haircut was listed clearly on the window outside. My choice of salons was totally validated, as the people inside were all dressed in black. I am not sure if was because they were stylish, or just served as a signal to me that they might be as French and as gay as I wanted them to be. Things were looking up, but I couldn’t enjoy the revelation as I was still rehearsing how to say, “I would like a haircut please.” in French. I must have practiced it a hundred times while walking to the salon.

There comes a time in almost every conversation I have here where the person I am speaking to realizes that I have no fucking idea how to speak French. I am decent at the rehearsed pieces, but things really start breaking down when they ask me a secondary question and I look I just farted and don’t want to accept blame. It’s not so much that I don’t know many French words. I do. I know several. The big problem is that I don’t hear so good. People say things to me and I can’t put together the words they are using until after I already know what they are talking about. Sometimes, I just repeat what they say to me, hoping that they will just fix my problem for me. It is quite irritating for everyone involved. As a result, most exchanges go like this (in varying forms):

Good sir, with your permission, I would like a bottle of wine.

Of course! Would you like red, white or rose?

Yes, red, white rose.

Huh?

Wha?

[Swearing under breath.]

{An eternity of uncomfortable silence.]

I am sorry, I don’t understand.

WOULD YOU LIKE RED WINE OR WHITE WINE OR ROSE?

Oh, I see. Red. Please. Thank You.

Idiot.

So it was, yesterday I managed to spit out, “I would like a haircut, please.” to the woman at the front counter of the salon. She replied with something that I had no earthly idea about. I stared back at her, showing her my bottom gums in a bleak display of humility, before saying I didn’t get it. She rolled her eyes and pointed at a coat closet, pantomiming taking off a jacket. Only having a shirt on, and not wanting to take it off while I got my haircut, I said, “No thanks” and quietly wished that an English-speaking heterosexual were nearby to give me a mullet. Where is David Hasselhoff when you need him?

Then, things changed.

I don't know what people must say when I walk in to their shop, but I can guarantee that it isn't, "Yay!"

I don’t know what people must say when I walk in to their shop, but I can guarantee that it isn’t, “Yay!”

The woman behind the counter emerged and had me slip on a white coat over my clothes. Made of a thick paper-like fabric, it wasn’t so much a coat as a doctor’s jacket. I have done many things in my life. I was an All American Debater in College. I graduated from law school. I watched every episode of ER when Malcolm wasn’t sleeping through the night. At no point during any of these, however, was I offered a white doctor’s coat. After being offered one at the salon, however, I was beyond the moon, slowly pressing my hands down the length of the coat silently telling myself, “First, do no harm.” I have never been so honored by a piece of clothing.

Strutting like Doctor Doug Fucking Ross himself, I was lead downstairs and beckoned to wait by a bank of hair washing stations. When one became available, a black shirted effeminate man motioned for me to sit down and put my head back into the sink to get it washed. I beamed at my good fortune and vowed never to leave France. He washed my hair, and even rinsed and repeated. It was awesome.

In retrospect, he probably had to repeat because of the haircare products I use here in France. I have reached the point in my sad little life where my haircare, body care and face care products are all manufactured by the same company. Right now that fine company is “Adidas.” I picked up a bottle of the all-in-one at grocery store when we got here to make life easier and to avoid having to navigate all the various choices at a specialty store. The bottle promises 400 ML of lather that will cleanse my “face, hair and junk” with the same “high energy.” Well, maybe it doesn’t say quite that, but it is undoubtedly something close. I am sure the man cutting my hair could hear my follicle’s cry for help and opted to wash a second time to remove all traces of evidence that my hair was cleansed by a sporting goods company.

Having successfully washed that Adidas right outta my hair, I returned upstairs to the stylist’s haircutting station. After sitting me down at his outpost, my stylist dropped a contraption down on top of me that was particularly beguiling. It looked like a flaccid vinyl record, and it secured snugly around my neck and was designed to ensure that none of my hair would make it home with me after the haircut. It was pretty rad. I imagined that, if my hair protection system were a real album, my album would be Al Jolson, because, you know, I am so cool. (True  to form, not a single cut hair was able to sneak down my neck and return home with me. What a system!)

My stylist probably asked me how I wanted my hair cut and I politely asked if he spoke English. He said that he didn’t, so we had to navigate the rest of our time together with glances, shrugs, raised eyebrows and nods, (pretty much the same way that gangsters communicate with each other non-verbally before robbing a bank.) Hair really is a language of its own, though, and after taking my mane in for a while, the hairdresser went to work. He seemed pretty intent on doing a good job, and 30 minutes later, I was three quarters of an inch of hair lighter, but still looking every bit the sophisticate that I am. I smiled.

My new friend offered me some product to wear out, and I initially demurred, since I don’t usually use any. Then, I changed my mind, figuring that any product that this guy could offer me would offset much of the damage that my “Adidas” shampoo was doing back at home. He put some grey goo on my hair, and I walked out of there feeling good, looking somewhat Santorum-esque and a proud that I didn’t take the easy way out. I could of. Maybe I should of. Things will get easier here for me, though, one silly step at a time. I am venturing. I am gaining.

I am ever so slowly becoming fiscally conservative, and ready for a cheese course.

First Day of School

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Malcolm was accepted at one of the international schools that dot the Parisian landscape here. (You can tell if the school is an international school by the kids out front. If they are smoking, it’s a local school.) We were excited when the school admitted Malcolm, mostly because thoughts of me homeschooling him makes my skin break out in pustules. I like Malcolm, but, considering my lack of subject matter knowledge, I find the idea of teaching him vocabulary and grammar to be literally terrified. I will stick to developing good sportspersonship, working on hygiene and maybe some cooking.

Malcolm was very excited to start at the new school, as well. I have to say that I was impressed with the way he washed his hair while getting ready to go. He is trying to grow his hair long and when you combine that with his typical inability to properly work up a lather, most of the time his hair looks like a blonde brillo pad coated with margarine. On Monday, however, he proudly called me into the bathroom to show me, “How frothy his hair looked.” He actually worked up some suds! After, he had me smell his head to prove just how thorough of a job he had done. He clearly wanted to make a good impression. While his scalp smelled like isopropyl palmitate, it looked like napa cabbage covered with olive oil. Success!

Quit trying to hug me and wipe your baguette on my head! I don't like it.

Quit trying to hug me and wipe your baguette on my head! I don’t like it.

When we arrived at school, he was welcomed by a small group of kids in the yard who knew that Malcolm was going to be a new student in their class. At first, Malcolm wilted under the pressure. Unwilling to engage with them, he clung to my leg like the other kids were covered in, well, margarine. Malcolm is rather independent. He responds to Amy’s requests for physical displays of affection with the warmth of a British aristocrat during a particularly uneventful cricket match. He answers my queries about his day with one word answers. He is just not that into us, so I found his clingy-ness on his first day of school somewhat intriguing. Slowly, he let go of the mother ship to inspect his classmates in closer detail, and, by the time the teacher came down to collect the kids for class, he ran away without saying goodbye. (Just like his first day of preschool, his first day of kindergarten, and his first day of elementary school. Like I said, he is a passionless robot independent.)

I don’t know what my worst fear for his first day of school was, as I try not to dwell on the negatives in life. Whatever my doomsday scenario was, it was easily surpassed when I got an email immediately on Monday morning that Malcolm’s classroom had been exposed to lice. I figured that the timing of the email meant that the school nurse had given him a quick how-do-you-do and found that he brought a scourge into an otherwise sterile environment. This caused a great deal of anxiety. Horrified that we would be known as the family whose chief contribution to the class was an outbreak of contagious, shrimp-like creatures that dwell near your brain, I started looking up homeschooling resources and scratching my newly formed pustules. Even worse, I looked up the word, “Lice” in French and it translates as “Poux.” Fucking American Poux Heads. Could it get any worse? No, it can’t can’t get any fucking worse. Argh.

I arrived to pick him up at the school at the end of the day, and, instead of being the supportive parent who responded to his needs, I whisked him around the corner for an invasive scalp inspection. He squirmed at all the human contact, but I was delighted to find that, in addition to smelling like formaldehyde and looking like a non-dairy slaw, Malcolm’s head was poux-free! I wanted to shout it from the building tops, I was so excited. I have never been so proud of my little guy, even when he was able to recite more wide receivers on the Atlanta Falcons than one of the guys in my fantasy football league. Seriously! I almost skipped home, stopping only briefly at a patisserie for some well earned macarons. (The raspberry and pistachio were too sweet and the flavor not intense enough, but the coffee was quite delicious.) It’s not every day you avoid an international incident on your first day of school. And those pustules? Gone. Not a bad first day.

Goodbye America!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

We leave for Paris today.  As with any important occasion, it is time for airing grievances. America, I will not miss you.

I won’t miss our drug store, who calls me to tell me that our prescription is ready when it isn’t.

I will not miss the spiders who crawl over me at night and bite me in the stomach. (Seriously, our house seems like an arachnid club med.)

I won’t miss our cars. The Metro in Paris is a lot like your car, if your car was stinky and beset by pickpockets. There is a chance that I will miss the smell of gasoline on my fingers. Mmmm gasoline.

I will not miss our nearest grocery store, which has seven different kinds of Cheerios, but only one kind of apple. I will however, miss the cool, nose-ringed checker who made buying toilet paper and dental floss a little hipper.

I won’t miss wearing you, hoodies, shorts and flip flops. You’re SO unchic. Real men wear pants. And shoes. And sweaters. God that sounds awful.

I will not miss my Wednesday Nights. My inner circle, a group of softball guys who put the “ass” in class, has been going strong for over 10 years, hanging out every Wednesday to play softball, poker or just annoy one another. They will be easily replaced by Frenchmen and some house plants. Easily.

I will not miss people who say “Bang” instead of turn, as in, “I’ma bang a right and then be right in the thick of it.”

Baseball. Meh. I will henceforth call the NFL “American Football,” because the rest of the world knows what “real” football is.  Wanna know another “real” sport? Tennis. Yes, fucking tennis.

I will not miss you, convenience. Sure knowing what you are doing and saying most of the time is easy. We are not going for easy. Easy is overrated.

I won’t miss the feeling I get when I see someone who may be casing our neighborhood thinking, “Are those the guys who are going to die in our house from spider bites?”

I will not miss my dad’s group friends. Who wants to sit around drinking beer and making fun of one another’s kids anyway? That’s lame. I will revel in drinking wine and honestly discussing my feelings in French. Totally not lame.

France is going to love the shit outta me!

France is going to love the shit outta me!

I will not miss you deodorant. How lucky am I to be moving to France!

I’m not gonna miss Amy’s once-a-year book club offering at our house. Those ladies know how to party and usually end up thrashing our house. (Book club, indeed. They ought to rename it “excuse to gossip about industry people and drink wine.”)

Those neighborhood cats who crap everywhere and pee on anything left out overnight will not be missed. I wish I had been able to microwave more of them.

I am not going to miss the sun. Sure, it will be cold, dark and rainy for the next 6 or 7 months. The sun causes cancer, though. Look it up.

I will not miss seeing Malcolm and his friends growing up together. Granted, some of them have been together since their respective births, and know absolutely everything about each other.  Even so, keeping track of all those details: who is playing what sport, who has read what Harry Potter book, and who is missing new teeth, is too complicated. I would rather just look at your kids when we get back and ask, “Who the fuck is that?”

I will not miss you chicken wings. OK, that’s a lie. I will miss you chicken wings. And you, beer.  And while we are at it, all you different kinds of Mexican foods, my heart will yearn for you.

I will not, cannot, won’t not miss our friends.  You know who you are. We belly laugh together over drinks. You know all the gory details about what our kid is REALLY like and vice versa. You know when I am down and need a hug. I know when you want me to touch your butt (even when you say you don’t!). We’ve been to each other’s birthdays, weddings and hospital stays. We celebrate made up holidays, mourn losses and take amazing trips together. Sometimes, we finish each other’s … While our lives are so much better for the friendship, we will walk away and totally forget about you. It’s like we never even knew each other at all.

The moisture in my eyes right now is from some onions I cut up a while back and from the realization that I will soon be watching Mulan II on an airplane. Totally.

So goodbye America.

France, prepare to be boarded.

Does France have spiders? Hope not.

Excuse Me, Does This Apartment Come With Transsexual Prostitutes?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

This post is about our house hunting adventures. For obvious reasons, our bid to to star on House Hunters International was unsuccessful. Rather than bore you with all the nitty, gritty details about all the places we saw, I will just give you the highlights.

5. Starting with a bang. By far, the best apartment that we looked at was the first one we saw. It had everything: a brand new kitchen, new bathrooms, a projection TV with a ten foot drop down screen, and, wait, did you just read what I said? IT HAD A GIANT FUCKING TV! Watching TV is not something we had even planned on doing while in France, but the opportunity to watch French TV shows (Mime General hospital, Mime-day night football, Reno Mime-11) was astounding. The living areas and bedrooms were all old and charming while the other stuff was sleek and modern where you wanted it to be. We would have beamed with pride to live in such a house. At first, we didn’t like the location, though, because it was located in the Seventeenth Arrondissement and we felt that to be seventeenth at anything wass clearly not good enough for us. Later, we went back to the neighborhood for dinner and found tons of cool little streets with bakeries, butchers, restaurants and wine caves. Even though it was pretty far away from Malcolm’s school and Amy’s work, we realized that were never going to find a better place to live. By the time, though two days later, that we realized just how cool it was, it had already been rented. Dang.

4. Paris has its share of shitty apartments as well. The second place we looked at was quite crappy, even though the rent was exactly the same as the first. Everything about the second apartment reminded me of something I would have rented in college. The kitchen was dark, gloomy and useful only for using the microwave. The family room had orange couches that gave off different aromas depending where on the couch you were seated. The bathrooms looked like those found in a Supermax prison. The bedrooms were tiny, and oddly furnished. (One of them had three beds in it. Maybe it WAS previously used as a prison?) I found myself holding my breath while touring the apartment, and exhaled contentedly when we left. Yuck.

3. Elevators are great way to grope your neighbors. French elevator technology has progressed to the point where it can be considered mid-18th century. Seriously, the rickety old clap traps they have going there make you want to hug every hydraulic engineer you meet in the US. (Side note, hydraulic engineers are not used to being hugged. Proceed with caution.) To say that most French elevators are only built for two people is to oversell the capacity by about one person. Elevators are generally no bigger than a coffin, and, god forbid, if you ride in one with someone you don’t know well, parts of your junk will touch theirs and vice-versa. This can make for some awkward conversations when you are in one with, say, a relocation consultant that you have only just met. While riding in these tiny boxes, I could never really get over the sensation that at the very least, I could be buried in the thing that I was going to die in. As such, we took the stairs  a lot.

2. Malcolm has weird criteria for evaluating apartments. In every single apartment we entered, Malcolm took his shoes off at the door, bee-lined it for the bedrooms, found the bedroom with the most desks, set up his stuffed animals on the desk chair, crawled into bed and started reading. He didn’t care if the kitchen looked like straight out of prison. He didn’t care if it even had a kitchen, for that matter (I don’t think he went into a single one!) He didn’t even care about the giant fucking TV. He just wanted a lot of desks and a nice comfy place to read his books. About halfway through each tour, we’d hear Malcolm shout, “I like this one, let’s get it!” The last apartment we looked at had four desks in it and, despite the many flaws (view of crappy 50’s apartment high-rise close by, kitchen tailor made for a submarine, lobby that looked like basement of serial killer) he still talks about it as if it is the one we are going to live in. He will be severely disappointed when we do arrive in Paris.

1. OK, time for the payoff: I fell in love with a neighborhood. It’s called Auteuil. If that looks like it has a lot of vowels in it, you are correct. In fact, it is pronounced using sounds that have no match in the English language. Every time we tried to pronounce it, our relocation consultant crooked her head at us and asked what the hell we had just said. We ended up just calling it Tatooine to avoid confusion. It seemed idyllic. It is still called a village, even though it is in Paris proper. It has a central district that has many nice little shops, (including one that sells nothing but foie gras!) and some restaurants. What struck us most was how green everything was. Every street seemed to be lined on both sides by big honkin’ trees and, considering we live on a street with big honkin’ trees, it seems a perfect match. We hope to be able to settle there when we find a permanent home.

One major draw to the area was its proximity to the Park, Bois de Boulogne. This park is almost three times the size of central park in New York and promised to offer us tons of space to enjoy outdoor activities on afternoons and weekends. I asked our relo person to give us a tour of the park so we could see all that it had to offer. Somewhere in my head, I remembered watching a French movie which depicted nighttime scenes at the park involving a lot of oddly masculine prostitutes. So, I asked our guide whether that was only at night and where all that kind of stuff took place. She demurred, opting instead to show us the carnage instead. Driving down the main street (dare I say “vein?”) of the park at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday, we began seeing men dressed as whores. Some were on benches waiting for customers. Some were walking with customers into the nearby bushes for some shenanigans. Others were in various stage of cleaning themselves up. Having grown up visiting my mom in the emergency room, I learned that in some circumstances, you just don’t want to look behind the curtain. Horrible, frightening scenes take place behind the curtains, it’s much better to keep your eyes pointed forward and save yourself the therapy. Despite this training left me and when I saw a flash of something red in some bushes to my right, I glanced over. Sadly for me, it was someone cleaning themselves up and I had the unfortunate luck of seeing something I really didn’t want: dangle. Dangle is not something you generally want to see while touring a park with your family.

Mommy, what's dangle?

Mommy, what’s dangle?

I regretted my decision to look behind the curtain immediately. With eyes firmly focused out the horizon directly in front of us, we eventually made our way out of the park. I don’t know what made the scene so interesting to me, was it the fact that they prostitutes were out in the middle of the day on a weekday? Why were they all transvestites? Are the female prostitutes confined to the Moulin Rouge? So many questions, so few answers. (It’s not like I was going to ask the woman from Crown relocation where all the female hos were!) So, in the end, Tatooine had somewhat of a taint on it. To be sure, we will have to do some research to figure out where in the park we can go without a husky voiced harlot soliciting us. Then again, sharing a park 3 times the size of Central Park is a whole lot better than sharing an elevator.

And that is how our househunting went.

Schools in France

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

We went to Paris last week to look at schools and housing. I have a lot to cover, so I will split up our experiences in three posts: schools, housing and food. (Technically, we weren’t there to scout food spots, but no recounting of a trip to Paris is complete without an detailed explanation of the food. It would be like going to a magic show and not reporting back at all the pedophiles in the audience.) This post is about our search for schools.

We decided to avoid the French public school system. I did a little research on the system there and found the following: students in the French public school system are berated in a manner consistent with being a fraternity pledge during hell week. You are scolded for incorrect answers. You are scolded for poor handwriting. You are scolded for not appreciating the scolding you just got and if you mention any war that the French came out on the losing side of, the teacher will call you an imbecile and throw the eraser at your head. Considering the French military’s record is something like 5-28, (they’ll always have the Crimean War!) we’ll tell Malcolm that it’s best to just avoid such topics. We decided to spare Malcolm the dominatrix approach to education and opted to only look at private schools during our trip.

There are some private schools in France that are have contracts with the government to teach the French curriculum but supplement with immersive French instruction and hugs throughout various parts of the day. This French-lite approach appealed to us for its rigor and for the speed at which Malcolm would pick up the language. Malcolm, who, for his entire educational career, has gone to a grade-free, homework-free, non-competitive environment for his schooling, spoke up during the school tours of these places and announced his desire for homework and grades, a development which sure surprised the school reps giving us the tour. Who asks for homework?! Interestingly, each of these schools insisted on interviewing Malcolm by himself, quizzing him on his math and writing skills  and ensuring that he wouldn’t try to burn the place down the minute he was separated from his parents. Having your kid tested like this is a bit unsettling, but at some point your kid is going to have to go it alone and this seemed like as good a time as any. I was sure, though, to take away his matches before leaving him alone. While these schools were some of the most prestigious in Paris, we ultimately felt that this approach was too focused on the system and not on the child. There were going to be subjects like math where Malcolm was going to be far ahead of the curve and subjects like “writing in complete sentences” and “wiping your butt” that he was going to be hopelessly lost in. We wanted something a little more flexible.

Of course, I couldn't tell them that Malcolm keeps his matches in Snowball's body cavity.

Of course, I couldn’t tell them that Malcolm keeps his matches in Snowball’s body cavity.

We toured a small Montessori school that we originally thought would be perfect for him. With so much change going on in his life, we thought that a classroom that looked like what he was used to would cut down on the stress of the move. After touring the school, we found that he would have been assigned to a classroom of 18 kids split between three grades. If you are doing the math, that’s six kids his age. Six kids who understand the trials and tribulations of being an eight-year-old. (Five kids to make fun of the weird kid with, assuming he’s not the one.) Considering we are moving to a brand new place, six kids is an awfully small peer group. What if the kids aren’t into sports, and therefore completely useless to our son? What if they don’t like Harry Potter and run around their respectively houses screaming things like “Petronum” or “Emporium Maxwell” with a chopstick in their hand? What if the other kids like going to magic shows? No, such a small school was too risky. We needed something bigger.

In the end, we had to decide between our two finalists. School A was a lot like a French school but with a more student-centric approach, which we liked. School B was a lot identified itself as an IB school. (In case you find yourselves interviewing schools in a foreign country, we found that it is totally NOT acceptable to giggle because you think the IB stands for irritable bowels. Evidently, IB stands for International Baccalaureate. Who knew?) Anyway, the IB school was a truly international school, with over 60 countries represented in the student body. We were also impressed with the technology in the classroom at the IB school, it had smartboards in the classroom and the promotional videos for the school showed the kids manipulating spreadsheets on the smartboards. Very cool! Malcolm liked school B because it had the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series in the library and a school soccer football team. (We decided his input was essentially irrelevant until he could come up with criteria that didn’t make him seem like he was a complete dufus.)

The choice ultimately came down to whether we wanted Malcolm to have a more French experience while living abroad or simply an international one. After some discussion, we came to the conclusion that most of what we wanted to get out of this trip was living in a large international city. He probably won’t use his French when we come home, but it sure would be cool if he had friends from around the globe to keep in touch with. Besides, learning about the Crimean war for weeks on end just isn’t very exciting. We decided on the IB school, and submitted our application late last week. Now our fingers are crossed that Malcolm gets in and Malcolm’s fingers are crossed that nobody checks out any of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books until we get there. Dufus.

Holy Crap!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me

I have a secret to share. It’s a good one too. It’s not quite as good as “I was waiting at the pharmacy and just overheard all of my neighbor’s medications,” but pretty good nonetheless. Actually, it’s better than good. It’s huge. You really won’t believe me at first, like when I told the guy at the AT & T store that my phone had not been wet even though I had jumped in Lake Shasta with it in my pocket and it still smelled like lake. Wanna hear my secret? I bet you do. Patience. I’m going to make you wait. You’re going to have to sit through an entire blog post of my useless drivel to get to the good stuff to hear our big news.

Malcolm started reading books by himself. I have always been jealous of parents who tell stories about their kids sitting and reading quietly by themselves. While Malcolm does a lot of things that I find cute and interesting , like …

Ah shit. I can’t do it anymore. Time to spill the beans.

 

We are moving to France.

 

Whoa. You read that right! France. Croissants. Wine. Croissants and wine! I was trying to think of a third thing there, but my brain wouldn’t let me. Seriously! We are moving to the land of croissants and wine! I can hardly stand it.

You have questions. I have answers.

This is my first day ever in Paris. It was a pretty good day.

This is my first day ever in Paris. It was a pretty good day.

Why? Why you ask? I say why the hell not? They have croissants and wine, for starters. They also have bread and cheese. And butter. And gelato. And crepes. And steak frites. And crème brulee. And duck confit. And pastries. My colon is literally vibrating just thinking about the food. Well, I hope it’s my colon. Or do I? Is it good or bad to have a vibrating colon? I’m gonna have to check on that. Actually, the real reason for our move is Amy’s work. Her company (Workday) is growing rapidly in Europe and they want to make sure that the company culture makes it way overseas. So Amy will be thinking about company culture while I have croissants dancing through my vibrating colon. (So, we’ll both be pretty busy.) We are moving to Paris for a year and are a bit excited by the prospects.

Who? All three of us. Amy will be the one working in Paris. She will buy some fancy shoes and spend a lot of time flying around Europe talking to people about business software. Malkie will be there too. He’ll be going to school. The international schools there fill up their slots in March, though, so we are going to have be flexible with whatever school he gets into. Don’t be surprised if he sends you a yearbook picture from mime school or if we just get him a job as a busboy and call it work study. He took the news pretty well, asking if we could go to Barcelona and Italy and then immediately starting to pack. He’ll be fine. As for me, I will be there, as always, trying to get us pointed in the right direction. With all the access to quality food, I may have to change my blog title to “Big Fatty Paul,” or its French equivalent.

When? We have selected October 12 as our move date. It is exactly one day after our visas are supposed to be approved. We will petition the EU to name October 12, “Big Daddy Paul Day.”

How? Stupid question. Not gonna even answer it. I would however, like to take this moment to talk about how much we are going to miss our family and friends here, as well as Malkie’s sports teams, Amy’s coworkers in Pleasanton and the community at Malcolm’s school, Urban Montessori. Our excitement about our move is tempered only by the temporary loss of the lives we have here. We will feel this sting, and have to hope that we can replace each and every one of you with cooler, more interesting people in France. OK, back to the questions you are dying to ask:

Paul, you are so sophisticated and sexy, are you worried that the entire female (and male, for that matter) population will fall madly in love with you? You betcha! I will however, have to change my game up a little. The hoodie and flip flops that have served as the mainstays of my “look” here in Oakland will sadly have to be left behind. I bought myself some skinny jeans at an outlet mall, which, from far away, make me look like a baby alpaca. The hip wrinkle that I  bring to the look is that my legs are different sizes right now, due to the atrophy in my left leg from my broken ankle. So, if you are gonna search google images for pictures of me in Paris, be sure to type in, “Fat, baby alpaca with different sized legs.” That should do it. I probably shouldn’t have started shopping for Parisian fashions in the town of Vacaville either, but, at this point, there are a lot of things I shouldn’t be doing. Femmes D’Paris beware, Big Daddy Paul is on his way!

Do you speak French?  No, unless you consider French to be the language of love, to which I would say that I do a remarkably poor job at it for 20 seconds and then roll over and fall asleep. The first few times we visited Paris, I refused to speak the language. I felt so awful about my pronunciation that I didn’t even try, except for the one time I asked a garage attendant where the elevator was. (I’ll never forget it, “Ou a la ascension?” which roughly translates to “Or did Jesus go to Heaven?”) This time, I am not going to be a tourist. It’s not just the skinny jeans. It’s everything. I want to learn the language. I want to learn about art. I will put down the Weird Al and listen to some jazz. I might even pay attention to <gasp> tennis! Ha, ha, just kidding. That’s just crazy talk. Tennis is for people who like the look of yellow gold against a hairy chest. That will never, ever be me. There are a lot of things that I don’t do now that I want to do when we are there. Speaking French is one of them. My accent won’t be perfect and my words may wrong order be sometimes in, but I will be in the trenches trying.

Will you blog? Yes. Heck ya! I will be writing. I don’t really know what I will blog about. There are already enough blogs about expats in Paris, parents in Paris, foodies in Paris and even one about taxidermists in Paris. It won’t do anyone much good to talk about all the stuff that has already been covered. (There’s dogshit on the sidewalks! French bureaucracy is slow! The men are horny and the butter is divine!) I will however, find some way to entertain you, I promise you that. Most likely, I will just put a fetal monitor near my colon and you can hear it buzzing with excitement. I can’t really say what the future holds except that our future lays there and not here. And that is our news.

Told you it was good!

15 Years Of Memories

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me

15 years ago, on this very day, Amy and I got married. As you might guess, it has been a rather wild ride. I am writing this post as a love letter to my wife.

1.On my first day of work at Arthur Andersen, you threw a “Welcome to the job” party for me but forgot to invite me.

2. Our getting together story is awesome. Never before has headbutting (or getting head butted by) a drunken Irishman proved so valuable.

3. We moved in together essentially after the first date, joined checking accounts after a few weeks of living together, and we bought a car together at the end of the summer. (If Malcolm ever tries this, we will kick his ass.)

4. We used to ride to work together and fed each other handfuls of cereal in my Geo Metro while listening to the Cranberries. When we traded the GEO in, there were approximately 20 cereal boxes in the trunk.

5. We had a tiny apartment in the Marina. You made me peach chicken and tried to get me to jog with you. I showed you how weird a taco could taste. We had an orange corduroy couch and later returned all of our Christmas presents so that we could afford a new one.

I guess technically, all this happened before we got married, but it’s part of our story, so indulge me.

Paul Pics for 40th_00456. Our wedding week in Tahoe was awesome. I have yet to see a woman more beautiful than you in your wedding dress that day. An elderly African American woman crashed a lot of the pictures at the reception, though, so that was weird.

7. During our honeymoon in Costa Rica, our river rafting guide kept yelling at me to paddle and I was like, “Dude, I’m on my honeymoon. You need to chill the fuck out.” You waited several weeks to make fun of me for drinking white russians and crying to, “My Giant.”

8. In our sea-foam colored apartment in Davis, the guy in the hot tub asked if we were sisters.

9. You made law school a breeze by coming home on the weekend and forcing me to get my shit done early. Luckily, you made enough for us to eat at Dos Coyotes regularly.

10. You bought our first house before I saw it, and I bought our second home without you seeing it. In front of the first house, we found a dirty diaper with porn in it and caught the postal worker leaving trucker bombs in front of the second.

11. When I was an attorney and you worked at Oracle, we ate two bowls of cereal every night for dinner. One bowl was healthy (Honey Bunches of Oats) and the other was for dessert (Lucky Charms.)

12. On the beach in New Zealand, you told me I could be a stay at home dad. Our ATM card expired during the trip and we lasted 4 days on 15 dollars, even getting an innkeeper to do our laundry for us.

13. You gave birth to our little boy Malcolm and our lives have never been the same. It felt like Nora Jones was there with us and she would not stop singing the same damn songs over and over and over again. You did real good.

14. We are the only parents in Oakland that think their son’s baseball and soccer practices are as fun as the games.

15. Sometimes our anniversary celebrations involve dining at the Ritz Carlton or traveling to Turkey. Other times, they involve arguing with time share employees over why our credit scores are better than we said. Either way, memorable.

Thanks for 15 years of crazy, stupid love. I can’t imagine anyone better to share it with.

-Me

40 and Screwed

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Well, it finally happened. I spent the past few years ruthlessly heckling my friends who have turned 40, noting how old they had become and how I, since I was still in my 30’s, was so much younger and sprier than they were. Some didn’t care, telling me that my time will come soon enough. Others, who will remain nameless, responded by doing things to me in my sleep. Nasty, unspeakable things. I guess some people can’t take a joke. Earlier this summer, all bets came due and I turned 40. Ugh.

Not everyone was mean about my turning 40!

Not everyone was mean about my turning 40!

I didn’t even really need to have a birthday to recognize the passage of time in my life, sadly, as I broke my ankle in early June. There is no surer way to feel old than to have your body show you how frail it is becoming. The first step in my demise was that I joined a soccer league. I did this because A) I love the sport, B) I need exercise and C) because it is cheaper than a sports car and less STD-y than my other options for a mid-life crisis. My ankle gave way in the first half of my first game, and it turned out to be a break. My soccer “career” was over faster than you can say, “Old men shouldn’t play young men’s sports.” By the time my actual birthday came around, I was already sober to the reality that I am not the young whipper-snapper that I made myself out to be.

At first, the doctors thought that it was a clean break, showing me an x-ray in which my fibula had a nice little line through it. (FYI, the correct medical nomenclature for my injury was a “hairline fracture of the fibula” and not, as I had been telling people, was a “hairlip fracture of the fibia.” There is no such thing as a fibia and most doctors will look at you funny if you call anything a hairlip fracture. I went to law school, not medical school. Sue me.) Surgery, they promised, was not necessary.

After two weeks, I went back to the doctors. They revealed that my nice little fracture had become a displaced fracture, meaning my leg bone was growing in displace when it should have been growing in datplace.  Surgery, they told me, was required. Fuck! 14 hours later I went under the knife, and to show the medical establishment how irritated with them I was, I did not wear clean underpants. Luckily, I had my surgery lying face down. Paul: 1, medical establishment: 0!

I spent the next 5 days in an absolute fog. The first night I was home I writhed in agony as my ankle felt like it had molten lava running through it. I vowed never to feel like that again, and with Amy’s great assistance, I went on a Percocet binge. I was stoned. Really stoned. It was like high school all over again, where all I could say to people was, “I am soooooooo stoned.” Deep into my binge, I knew something was not 100% right with me. I was itchy, to the point where I scratched my back so hard I bled. I was constipated. I sweated through my clothes several times a day. I had involuntary muscle spasms. I had rashes on my belly and nose. I stunk. Sweaty, red-nosed, bloody, bloated and smelly, I was, in many respects Tip O’Neill in his final days in Congress.

Luckily for my family, they did not have to personally suffer through the indignity of me being me. Amy had a business trip to Europe and Malcolm was with my parents in Bakersfield. Friends dropped off food for me each day, and I could see by the look in their eye that I was quite a spectacle. I passed the time watching episodes of The Wire and swatting at non-existent mosquitoes. As the date for Malcolm and Amy’s return neared, I knew I needed to get clean. Some say my symptoms were due to an allergic reaction to the meds, others concluded that I was suffering from a low grade overdose. Either way, I needed to look less like one of the junkies on The Wire and more like my old self.

IMG_1528

It looks like one of the screws has already fallen out. The doctors tell me it is supposed to be that way. Of course, they are smiling at each other when saying this, so I am taking it with a grain of salt.

I weaned myself off the hard stuff for my family’s return, and they returned and were very nice to me. My healing is going well, the doctors tell me that 1) I should wear clean shorts next time, and 2) the six screws affixing my ankle together are doing their job nicely. I have two more weeks on crutches and another two in the walking boot. After that, I am pimp stepping all over Oakland. Not exactly the plans I had for my summer of turning 40, but it could be worse. I could have a hairlipped fibia.

Big Daddy Paul’s Guide To Getting Drunk

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork
Is this the person you want to get advise from? Yes. Yes it is.

Is this the person you want to get advice from? Yes. Yes it is.

For those of you who read my blog for salient advise on parenting, today is just not your day. Today’s topic touches on adult themes and if you don’t enjoy the nectar of the gods, you might just want to skip this altogether. Then again, if you are reading my blog for salient advise on parenting, you probably need a heavy night of drinking to set your mind straight. You have been warned.

Many of us have a special event that is near and dear to our hearts that involves the heavy use of alcohol. For some it is a weekend in the wine country, swilling zinfandels with your oenophile friends and using words like “minerality.” Others enjoy copious amounts of green beer on St. Patrick’s day, and some just hit up the communion line too much (begging the question, “Is it a sin to repent for your sins too much?”)

My event is March Madness, college basketball’s yearly tournament to decide who is the national champion. I have been going to Reno for 10+ years to watch basketball, eat chicken wings, gamble all night and yes, drink. I am heading up again this weekend, and if past results are any indication of future performance, I will drink more by noon than I usually do in a week. I drink lots of beer during the day. I drink lots of bourbon in the evening. One year, I did a shot of Pinot. Pinot grigio. It was awesome, until it sucked really, really badly.

Having been in the trenches for a while, I feel a certain level of expertise. I thought I would share my expertise with you to help prepare you for your big day, whenever that may occur.

1. Prepare. There were times when I would abstain from drinking for a week under the guise of “Let’s make sure my body doesn’t have too many toxins in it before I get there.” This is not a good idea. Would you train for a marathon by abstaining from exercise for a week? Have you seen “There’s Something About Mary? Would you show up a hot date with a loaded gun? No, no you shouldn’t. You need to stretch yourself before binge drinking to build up your tolerance. I have undertaken a solid week of drinking to make sure my liver is top form. It is my way of telling my body, “get ready, ’cause this shit’s about to get serious.”

2. Drink lots of water. Back in the day, we could do consume whatever we wanted and the next day, breakfast would eliminate all manner of sins. That is no longer the case. If I don’t drink a boatload of water throughout the day, I look and feel like the Elephant Man pretty much all the next day. Water is your way of apologizing to your liver, and if enough penance is not given, you are serious trouble. Sadly this means I have to use the restroom about 20 times throughout the day. (I used to bemoan this fact, but I have to tell you, the bathrooms in Reno are an endless supply of comedy gold. Like snowflakes, men at Reno urinals are all unique in their approach to bladder evacuation. Some unzip their fly and approach the activity with two hands on their hips. Others defensively hunch themselves around the urinal so that their private parts are untouched by the bad artificial lighting. Some sing country western songs. Some try and talk to you. I once saw a guy who did it with his pants around his ankles while hopping up and down every so often as if gravity had some sort of role to play.) Don’t miss the show. Drink water and go early and often.

3. Exercise. Wha, you say? You think I am just a big, fat slob, when I blow it out? Not true! You need to make sure your metabolism is strong to get all that alcohol through your system. I have done lunges around the slot machine banks while the black jack dealer is shuffling.  When I win a particularly big hand, I recreate the “Maniac” montage from Flashdance, dancing in place while imagining a giant bucket of water is falling over me. I do squats at the tables whenever I have been sitting for too long. Wherever you are, there are opportunities to move your body around. Use them, even if everyone around you starts to think you may have Tourrette’s.

4. Soak it up, then try to eat something healthy. After a long night of tying one on, you need some grease in your system to soak up all the remaining booze. I recommend anything that begins with, “chicken fried.” Bacon is also good (sorry Laurie!) When you have your baseline in, trying eating something remotely healthy, like a salad. After eating nothing but chicken wings and onion rings for a 36 hour period, I once felt like the grease in my system came halfway up my eyeballs. You are much better off if you pile some veggies on top of your baseline junk food. Plus, it’ll give your intestines something new and interesting to tackle.

5. Make sure you aren’t the only one. If people around you are engaged in similarly feats of degeneracy, then things will generally be pretty fun. If you find yourself slurring words at a child’s birthday party, you’re doing it wrong. Plus, drunk people have poor memories. Sober ones? Not so much. The only thing worse than making an ass out of yourself is hearing all about it the next day. (“And then you told the pit boss he looked like Meryl Streep before dumping and ashtray on your head!”) Not fun.

6. Stay off social media. Oh, you’ll be tempted to share your mind-bogglingly great idea with the world at 3 am, but it’s probably not a good idea, in truth, and people will question their friendship with you. Specifically, don’t take the opportunity to tell people how you REALLY feel about them, don’t post pictures with random strangers and, I can’t stress this enough, DO NOT MAKE OVERTURES TO YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER WHILE INTOXICATED. It always comes out wrong. I once tried to express my affection to Amy by telling her how, after a group of us were trapped in an elevator with a male prostitute who wanted to get a look at our nether regions, I was soooo glad she wasn’t creepy and desperate. Luckily, I was too drunk to enter the password on my phone.

Lastly, keep an eye out for when your day is done. If people are laughing at the things you do, keep doing it, even if it means that your are no longer wearing every article of clothing you started out the day with. If people roll their eyes at you and whisper things to your friends, it probably means you should hit the sack. Similarly, if you replace the letter “S” with the “TH” sound, you’re done. (Want me to give an example? “I’m tho thorry I thpilled my drink on your blouth. = bedtime.)

Well, there you have it. I try to follow these simple rules as much as I can. Of course, they are really goals and we sometimes don’t fully reach our goals. Do your best. (Really, that is my way of telling you I am really NOT going to eat a salad.) Let me know how it goes.

Sorry We Suck: An Open Letter To Our Friends With More Than One Kid

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Dear Friends,

I wanted to apologize for a few things. Our house still smells faintly of musty cat. We generally serve cheaper wine that the stuff you bring over (we keep the good stuff and drink it after you leave.) When we dine out together, I often look at how much of a tip you’ve left, and then leave a little more, winking at the wait staff on the way out as if to say, “Sorry about my friends, but don’t worry, I got your back.”

I also wanted to take up a subject that has been coming up more and more lately. Most of you have two kids. We have just the one.  This wouldn’t seem like that much of an issue, but it turns out to be relatively important, and not in a good way. When our kids get together, our child acts as an impartial third party who is able to settle all longstanding disputes between siblings. Who is the funner child? The one who Malcolm plays with first! Who is the better athlete? The one Malcolm wants on his team! Who is the better wizard/jedi/teacher/parent/weasel? You guessed it, our boy. With every choice Malcolm makes, he sends the implicit message that one of your kids is special, and the other is a piece of shit. Sorry! When you hang with us, one of your kids is generally going to be upset.

It’s not as if Malcolm is uniquely situated as some sort of talent identifier protege. Really, he’s no Paula Abdul. He just gets to be a second vote. And when there are only three votes, the second vote is kind of important. (That’s why marital counselors are so popular!) This is what many of our play dates with you look like:

Activity is decided. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s use Malcolm’s favorite activity at school. It is a game called weasels. I’m not sure what connection he has to weasels other than the name is fun to say. So the kids start playing weasels.

5 minutes later the roles are defined and play commences. Usually there is a parent weasel and a few youngin’ weasels, sometimes there is a general weasel and some spy weasels, depending on the gender of the play date attendees. (For obvious reasons, we put the kibosh on the game that involved the Rihanna and Chris Brown weasels.)

2 minutes later, the parent weasel realizes that the kid weasels are having way more fun and wants to switch. No switch is made, and the two kid weasels begin to make fun of the parent weasel for being lame.

1 minute later, the parent weasel attacks the baby weasel and tries to find out if weasels go to heaven when they die. Parental intervention is necessary. The parents are irritated that their precious conversations have been interrupted and threaten to stuff all the weasels into a sack and smack them against the side of the house.

Repeat.

Repeat.

Repeat.

You might have been asking yourselves, “Why don’t you just have another kid and join the rest of us?” Fair question. (If you are insane.) Have you not noticed what a pain in the ass it is to have a kid? We went through the sleepless nights, the endless crying, the bottles, diapers and long sessions staring at the new kid, just to make sure they are still breathing. Think we’re going through all that again? No chance! Once you get in the habit of NOT wiping someone else’s anus and skin folds several times a day, you’re not really looking for reasons to go back. Also, my hoodie is nearly vomit free and I intend to keep it that way. I am told, as well, that there is something called “sibling rivalry” which does not sound very enticing and we aren’t really looking to sign up for that either.  As nice as it would be to have a back up in case Malcolm turns out to be an axe murderer, we are just going to stick it out with the one.

Slice up this pie? No way!

Slice up this pie? No way!

Plus, there is this thing called the “love pie” that I invented in order for me to get people off our backs when they kept asking when we were going to have a second kid. Here’s how it goes. You only have a certain amount of love that you can give to this world. When you are all alone, you love your TV and your favorite pair of sweats. Then, you meet someone and fall madly in love with them ( causing you to throw out those old sweats.) If you decide to have a child, you spread the love you have between your significant other and your child. When you have a second child, you must spread that love between three people instead of two, meaning your love for each of the wonderful people in your life drops by a whopping 16% when you have your second child. Not good! (If you think the Love Pie theory is a bit flimsy, the groundwork was actually laid out by a pretty smart guy named Albert Einstein. His theory of relativity can be paraphrased as “You only have so much love to give your relatives, so try and make sure you don’t have too many.” So there. It’s science.)

So friends, I am sorry that our familial arrangements are causing some grief. Why not attack this problem more proactively and get rid of the least popular kid your house? All parents say they love their kids equally, but I totally know they don’t mean it. Get rid of one of your kids and we’ll have smooth sailing from here on in. Thanks.

Truly yours

Paul and Amy

P.S. Anyone know how to get rid of cat funk?

The Price Of Glory

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

We promised ourselves we weren’t going to become one of “those” families. Granted, there are a lot of different “those” families that we didn’t want to become (Disney families, families that sleep in the same bed together, clean families) but there was certainly one line we didn’t want cross. We didn’t want to become the family that pushes our kid into ultra-competitive sports at an insanely early age. Whoops.

Up until now, Malcolm’s sports activities have been, essentially, a bunch of cute little golden retriever puppies stumbling about a poorly manicured field. Sometimes the puppies scored a goal or a run, and sometimes they ran off to the side to pee or chew on an old shoe. There were points in the game when a player told his teammates that they ate cake for breakfast or were going to a sleepover that night, drawing a small group of kids (from both teams) while the action was going on around them. Parents and kids all smiled a lot and the most important part of the exercise was the post-game snack.

For some reason, this was not enough. Malcolm tried out for competitive soccer and baseball teams in the past few weeks, and things look quite different than they did before. Yes, that’s right, we sent our seven year old son to tryouts, where, all of a sudden, Malcolm played in front of coaches who would determine whether he was good enough to make a team. On the Warm Fuzzy Scale (WFS), his prior leagues rank somewhere between comfy blanket and a grandparent hug. Tryouts rate squarely as Angelina Jolie.

It was really the first time in his athletic career that the concept of failure came into play. Sure, he gave up goals and struck out before, but these shortcomings were really just part of the game. Kicking the ball into his own net really didn’t matter that much because it didn’t mean that next week he would get put on a different team. The tryout was the first time in his life when Malcolm put himself in front of a ruling body for an up or down vote. It was terrifying, for all of us.

For a better or worse, Malcolm made both teams. I am proud of him, although certainly no more proud than him just putting himself out there in the first place. He will now be part of two competitive sports teams, and at every game he will play on from now til he gives it up and joins a recreational poetry club, they will keep score identifying a winner and a loser. I know that competitive systems always tend win out, capitalism beat socialism (and Angelina Jolie beat out Jennifer Aniston!) but I’m just worried whether we picked the right age to make the switch.

Things could go south quite easily. He could realistically go the entire baseball season without getting a hit and play on a soccer team that routinely gets trounced. While we want him to enjoy playing sports and appreciate the healthy aspects of competition (desire to get better, throttle the weak, etc.,)  it could very easily end up with a not-unexpected result of a seven-year-old saying “Life’s too hard out there. Fuck it, I’m just gonna stay home and play with my stuffed animals.” (Your seven-year-old uses the F-word, don’t they?)

The divisions created by the competitive sports world also complicate matters. Some parents make the decision that competitive sports are a little too crazy for their kids at this age. Heartbreakingly, other kids try and do not make the team. Until now, sports have been inclusive, a way to bring friends together to run around outside. Now, grown ups decide, for one reason or another, who gets to play with who. If you ask me, it sucks. Even if you don’t ask me, it still sucks!

I'm gonna these little puppies!

I’m gonna these little puppies!

The switch also means that my coaching career will come to an end. In “competitive” leagues, the coaches must be “good” and not simply adepts at getting kids to not pee on the field. I will miss engaging kids in weird ways (my warm up routines usually involved interesting dance moves) and will have to figure out a good way to get away with blowing a whistle loudly in kids faces. The upside is that I get to sit on the sideline and root for my son instead of telling him all the bad shit he was doing.

I am not sure whether we are going to enjoy this new phase of sports as much this year. If our cute little puppy turns into a rabid junk yard dog, we’ll know we made a bit of a misstep. Our hope that he learns to dribble better, kick farther, hit a baseball and develop his understanding of what it means to be a good teammate. I guess I should also make sure he knows how to write poetry.

The Stay At Home Dad’s Guide To Downton Abbey

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

We started watching Downton Abbey last Christmas, and I never expected to like it. I mean, a period drama about the life of British aristocrats? No thanks. That kind of stuff is reserved for crazy cat ladies and men with much greater hygiene than I. At first, I sat there and watched with my family wondering how anyone could get into watching the posturing elite and the servants who grovel over them. Then I realized that this is precisely what reality TV, entertainment news, and Congress is. (No wonder it’s so popular!) Slowly but surely, my appetite was whet. I would ask, “Why is that white guy so mean to that other white guy?” Then I would ask, “Why is that old white lady so mad at that other old white lady?” By the time we learned why Mr. Bates walks funny, I was hooked.

I wish I was the kind of person who could unabashedly stand up and tell the world that I watch the show. Sadly I cannot. I don’t tell people I like Jewel, McDonald’s french fries and I definitely don’t tell people I like to get drunk and cry at movies when I travel by airplane. (I drank five White Russians and cried during a movie starring Andre the Giant on our honeymoon. Andre the Fucking Giant.) I guess I want people to think I am a badass, even though I am more of a [insert the opposite of badass here. Good face?]

There is no doubt that “Downton Abbey fan” does not fit the archetype for whatever I am trying to sell myself as. It has nuance. It has costume design. It has stuffy accents and while there are a lot of scenes involving food, it’s British food! (British food is the cinematic equivalent of a movie starring Andre the Giant.)

Instead of embracing the show, I hide from it. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I have compiled a how-to guide for appearing to not like the show very much. Here it is:

Rule #1 – Do not, under any circumstances refer to the show by its proper name. Instead, call it Downtown Abbey. When people correct you, they will unknowingly assume that you have been dragged, kicking and screaming, along this journey. After all, you can’t really be into the show if you think there is anything urban about it, can you?

Rule #2 – Don’t use social media. The start of Season 3 has brought with it a torrent of social media coverage. Everyone is all up in the Grantham’s business, and the chatter is everywhere. It will be all to easy for you to “like” when someone’s facebook status is “Give me an old, one arm Lord any time!” and you will definitely be tempted to retweet comparisons of O’Brien to the real housewives of Atlanta. Stay off the social media, or you’ll be exposed.

Rule #3 – Never take sides in a DA argument. Your friends will invariably engage in debates over who is the spicier spinster Martha Levinson or the Dowager Countess or the effectiveness of the “sex talk” between Cora and Mary before the big Season 3 wedding. Stay far away from all of that shit, even if someone insinuates that Carson is not a complete Dbag. Instead, whenever someone brings up a character from the show, just ask, “which one is that?” It’ll be tempting. (There are people out there who think that Mathew DOESN’T have the bluest, dreamiest eyes in the world, can you believe it.)

Rule #4 – Never use their real names. The show has approximately 147 characters (more if you include dogs, horses and 2nd footmen.) If you can wade through that morass of character memorization, you have to have put a decent amount of work in. Avoid doing this. Instead use the following names:

Robert Crawley – The dad. (He appears to be the first stay at home dad. Sure he appears to play army dress up every now and again and tries to look good for his wife at dinner, but when it comes down to it, he is a fuckup. How many times has he lost his family’s fortune? Yep. Welcome to the land of the stay-at-home dads. Play dates are Mondays.)

Cora Crawley – That girl from “She’s Having A Baby.”

Violet Crawley– The Old Funny Woman

The Sisters: The Old One, the Hot One, and The Other One

Mathew – Uh, He’s OK Looking (I guess)

Mathew’s Mom – Tootsie

Mr. Carson – The Butler with the Giant Melon

Mrs. Hughes – The Librarian

Mr. Bates and Anna – The Unluckiest Dude In The World and The Blonde Who’s Probably Really Hot In Real Life

O’Brien and Thomas – The Meanies That Used To Hate Everyone Together But Now They’ve Turned Their Bitch Rays On One Another (They are the modern day equivalent of House Republicans and Senate Republicans.)

Honestly, there are a few dozen more characters, but I have a hard time telling them apart and they all have much nicer teeth than I expected. Hope you enjoy the show this season. I won’t. I don’t even really follow it that much.

Holiday Pet Peeves

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Hello all! I am back. You may be asking yourself where I have been. The answer? Tehran. I was part of a small group of diplomats who hid from the Iranian government whilst a larger group of diplomats were taken hostage. Luckily for me and my friends, the Canadian government was on the ball and saved us all. Sounds unbelievable? You betcha. Canadians are a bunch of hosers!

The holidays can be a magical time of year where friends and family come together to overindulge in copious amounts of butter, sugar, meat, alcohol and, for certain members of my softball team, horse tranquilizers. I’m fine with that part. The harder part is having to deal with my own neuroses, which usually involves a high level of agitation over absolutely nothing at all. By way of example, here are my biggest holiday pet peeves. Don’t worry if you are guilty of these made-up sins, it is not you who has the problem. This isn’t so much a request for people to do things differently next year as it is a cry for help for me.

1. The phrase “Merry Merry!” Ugh. Ugh. This is way too chipper for me, reminiscent of the level of energy two ferrets share when trapped in your trousers, desperately clawing to find their way out. The phrase makes me think the speaker has realized, mid-sentence, that the listener may be Jewish, Wiccan, or  unable to comprehend sentences with more than one word in them. Would it be cool for me to walk into a restaurant and ask for “Water, water.. bread, bread… and Mahi Mahi?” No. Use complete sentences. Go ahead and invoke the name of our dear lord, sweet, baby, infant Jesus. That’s fine, even for atheists.

2. People who say, “The holidays are sooooo x.” I don’t care how you finish the sentence, it’s gonna be annoying. (That is, of course, unless you say, “The holidays are … when I find you, Paul, the most sexually attractive.” Then, we’re cool.) The holidays don’t make people miserable. The holidays aren’t too commercial. The holidays didn’t cause your gout, your constipation or the break up of your marriage. You did all those things. Stop whining and just get drunk and fat like the rest of us.

3. Half Santa. I swear, take that fucking Santa hat off your head. What are kids supposed to think? Did you steal Santa’s hat? Are you Santa and just forgot to wear the jolly pants and boots? Oh, you’re an elf are you? Listen, elves are three feet tall and have a stellar work ethic. You? Let’s just say you aren’t. Invariably, the person in the hat is doing something very un-Santa like, and it absolutely crushes the spirit. If you find yourself in need of a tramp stamp at the mall while polishing off a Baconator, please don’t do it while rocking the Santa hat. Please.

4. People who brag about all the positive stuff they do during the holidays. “Oh, we took the fam to a homeless shelter to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.” “We took a half day off of work to wrap presents for conjoined Haitians.” “I hugged a Republican Congressman.” Presumably, you did those things to help people. Bragging about it afterwards doesn’t help anyone. It just makes everyone hate you.

This is a picture of a beignet. After eating, the only way I could walk was to waddle. Seriously. Waddle.

5. Holiday cards without pictures. As much as I enjoy reading a stock greeting card from Office Max, when you just send the card, you are announcing to the world that you think you look like a troll. I’ll let you in on a little secret: You don’t. Granted, your nose is a bit weird and your shoes are a little outdated, but you look fine. Let the world see you. Some try and skirt the issue by including pictures of only their kids, but I find this equally annoying. I’m not friends with your kids. I’m friends with you. Even with those shoes and that nose.

6. Holiday party banter. There will be countless opportunities during the holiday season when you are stuck talking to neighbors, coworkers, distant relatives and anyone else you have spent most of the year trying to avoid. People are guaranteed to light you up. They finish your humorous story by deadpanning, “That’s funny.” When you get one line into your story about travel, they hijack the story into something they’ve done. They tell stories about their cat. Seriously, you’re stuck at a work party talking to someone about their fucking cat. There is no solution for these situations. There are only horse tranquilizers.

7. New Year’s Resolutions. Announcing a New Year’s resolution is tantamount to asking everyone you know to post on Facebook that you are not fat. Should people strive to make themselves better? Yes. But the way to do that is to make yourself a better person, not tell the world that you are a better person. Someone once told me that their New Year’s resolution was to talk about themselves less. Check and mate. I wanted to slap them in the face, but my New Year’s resolution that year was to be kind to idiots.

Looking at this fine list, I just realized that I did every single one of these things in the past few weeks. Does that make me a bad person? No (yes). It just goes to show you to be patient during the holidays, because we are all a little off our game. Personally, I blame the Iranians, but next year will be different.

I am resolved.

Big Daddy Paul’s Guide To Feeling Thin

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

You may have noticed that the title for this post is a bit odd. “But Paul,” you ask, “Why would you bother feeling thin when you can just be thin?” After seeing thin people for as long as I have during my life, I have come to the conclusion that they just work too fucking hard. They exercise. They exercise a lot. They REALLY exercise, too. They don’t consider climbing on a chair to reach the red vines you have hidden away from your kid in the top of the cupboard as “exercise.” They probably don’t even eat red vines, now that I think of it. For that matter, they don’t eat nachos, swill popcorn and wine on the couch at night and definitely don’t consider bacon a separate food group (the best one, too!) To me, skinny people do too much of the things I don’t like to do and not enough stuff I like to do.

I have come to the realization that I won’t be skinny anymore, and that’s just fine with me. Better billowy and happy than gaunt and bitter. Just because I’m a few double doubles south of the ideal BMI for a person of my stature doesn’t mean I need to be sad about it, though. I do a lot of little things to make myself feel thinner. Curious? Here’s a sample:

1. I talk about how fat I am. I refer to myself on this blog as anywhere between “tubby” and “lardass.” When I speak about myself out in public, I say disparaging things like “When I sit around the house, I really sit around the house!” I constantly tell people I’ve just met that I need 3X underpants or the waistband gets worn out. Yep, I paint a pretty bleak picture of myself.

This has an alarming benefit though: whenever I see people, I’m not quite the orca they expect me to be. The disconnect between how I look and what people expect me to look like draws a good deal of attention. What do you say to someone who is marginally skinnier than you remember? Of course, you say, “You look skinnier! Working out?” And boom, I have them. People tell me I look great all the time. All the freaking time. Do I actually look great? No. Does it make me feel great when people say I look great? You betcha! Tell everyone you know how plump you’ve become, and when you see them next they’ll heap lavish praise on you for necessarily looking so. It’s a little embarrassing to point out your muffin top to your friends, but trust me, it’s worth it in the long run.

Incidentally, this works in a variety of different settings. If you tell people you have a tiny head, when you show up with a normal-sized melon they’ll be inclined to call you Q-tip. Mention how ugly you think you are and people will come out of the woodwork to tell you that you look like Brad Pitt. I don’t know what the science is behind this, but it’s true. The one situation where it won’t help you out is if you are about to engage in some consensual sex and announce to your partner, “Get ready, because my wiener is nearly microscopic!” That is usually met with a long, awkward silence and then a sudden memory of having to be somewhere else.

2. I wear long sleeve thermals. Thermals are Spanx for stay-at-home dads. In my mind, the thermal binds in all my lumpy bits, so the that the tee shirt I wear on top reveals only the tightly sculpted body of a German soccer referee. Is this the case? No. Remember, it doesn’t matter that I actually look like a giant German jelly doughnut, it only matters how I feel. With thermals on, I feel like Batman.

3. I weigh myself. A lot. I begin each day by hopping on the scale. You might think this unwise, but I merely use this early morning weigh-in as a baseline. Every time I do anything (and I mean anything) that would cause me to lose weight, I immediately rush back and re-weigh myself. This allows me to feel that, at the very least, my body mass is headed in the right direction. Play a round of golf? “Hey I just lost 2 pounds!” Healthy bowel movement? “Break out my skinny jeans?” Haircut? “I’m as light as a feather,and my mullet is tight!” Plus, I converted our scale to display weight in Stone (used as the official measure of weight in Britain.) It’s always nice to see your weight in double digits.

4. I wear long shorts. I resisted the modern trend toward obnoxiously long manpri’s for the longest time. Then I tried some on and thought that the long shorts magically lengthened my torso, making 14 stone look it was part of a more appropriate seven-foot frame. How strong was this magic? I thought that these made me look thinner:

This leads me to #5. When you actually feel good about yourself, never, ever take a picture. It ruins the mirage.

6. When all else fails, wear a hoodie. If you’re constipated, or can’t get a haircut, if your thermals are in the wash and nobody around you can stand any more self-depricating fat jokes about yourself, wear a hoodie. A hoodie is a cotton-blend fortress of solitude, keeping you impervious to any physical repercussions from eating too many Baconaters. This too is odd, since no one, in the history of hoodies, has actually looked good in one. Not in my mind though. In my mind, a hoodie is like a silk bath robe. Justin Bieber wears hoodies. Eric Estrada wears hoodies. That’s why Paul Schwartz wears hoodies. He may not be thin, but sure feels thin.

Big Daddy Paul is guest posting!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

 

Today, I am guest posting on my friend Neil’s website today. Go over and read it there, it’s a funny post. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, but I will tell you there is some disturbing imagery involved.

Neil is a fellow stay at home dad, fellow former lawyer and fellow meat lover. Wait. Now that I think about it, he just might be a vegetarian. Well, don’t hold that against him, he still a cool guy. He started a website with more serious writing, (more serious = better.) His writing is honest, from the heart and if you ask me, utterly lacking in exclamation points. (!!!) Enjoy, people!

Urban Montessori

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Soap Box

Hello people! Today’s topic is very special. I know what you are thinking, “But Paul, every topic of yours is special.” True. So very true. Today’s topic, however, does have a higher level of importance to me than, say, my post on eating ox penis or killing the tooth fairy. Today, on big Daddy Paul, I am going to talk about school.

A wise crackhead once said, “I believe the children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” (This is but one of the many ways Whitney Houston touched our lives. I tell Amy every morning that IIIIIIIIEEEEEEIIIIIIII will always love her.) In this country, we are not doing a good enough job at teaching kids well and letting them lead the way. We have replaced art, music, sports, language, and lunch ladies with “test prep,” “extra test prep” and “test prep for kids who really don’t get it.” Our educational system is designed to leave “no child behind” when it should be striving to “make all kids awesome.”

Oakland schools are particularly troublesome. According to a recent poll, 10 out of every 7 Oakland school kids are bad at math. (Just let that sink in for a minute.) Less than half of Oakland school kids are proficient in English. About a third of Oakland kids dropout before graduating from high school. To make matters worse, the corn dogs they serve for lunch are (gasp) soggy! You can screw with a kid’s future all you want in my book, but a soggy corn dog? That’s fucking sad.

Despite all this, I stand before you today to announce proudly to the world that we are sending our delightful little boy to public school in Oakland next year! “But Paul,” you say, “why would you do such a thing? You just got done telling us about how bad things are out there.” My friends, the answer is simple: we are insane.

We are insane because there is a new school opening up in Oakland next year, and we are so sure it is going to rock the educational world that we are sending Malcolm there. The school  believes there is a better way to educate kids. The school will develop a child’s love of learning, help them to think critically and become adept problem solvers. The school will teach grace and courtesy, soccer and foreign languages. The school? Urban Montessori.

Urban Montessori is opening? Huzzah!!!!

You could call Urban Montessori a school, but I like to think of it more as a social movement. The school will implement arts integration, design thinking and a montessori curriculum in its classrooms for a truly unique educational experience. I could try to explain what all these concepts mean, but frankly, I’m better at making jokes about Whitney Houston. Let’s just say they are all fantastic ideas and bringing them together in one classroom is even more fantastical. (It’s like the first person at a baseball game who thought, “You know what would be nice to have right now? A hot dog and a beer.”) If you really want to learn more about the school check out their website, or this really cool video they made.

Up til now, such innovative educational models have been reserved for people who can afford to pay for private school. Urban Montessori is a public school and will serve the diverse population of awesome people who call Oakland home. This means that people who can’t pay for private school, like single parents who work multiple jobs to get by, will have access the kind of elite education normally reserved for people with names like Winston Howell III or Baron von Schnicklepants. That sounds kinda awesome.

Now comes the hard part. The school has had it’s charter approved and will open this fall. It has money, but it’s not nowhere near enough. For comparison, let’s say you wanted to open your own barber shop, but your funders only gave you enough money for a bean bag, a weed whacker, and some Crisco to use as hair gel. Could you open? Technically yes. Would be a success? No.

The school needs money to buy things that it can’t right now, so I write today to beg for your support. Please give the school money. Give whatever you can.  $10? $20? I don’t care. Every little bit is going to help the school open and give the kids in Oakland a chance to thrive. I want everyone who reads this to follow the link here and donate money to this school. Sure bigger donations are better, but the real key is to have participation from everyone. If everyone contributes a little, the results add up. The algebraic formula can be read as follows: (a little money) x (a lot of people) = a lot of money.

Sadly, without your help, the school is probably not going to be able to accomplish its mission. That means a lot of kids running around with Crisco in their hair. Please, please, please give whatever small amount you can and help this awesome school get off the ground. Give because you want to ensure that everyone in Oakland has a chance at a quality education. Give because you want your kids to go to Urban Montessori whenever they are ready for elementary school. Give because you want want quality corn dogs. I don’t care. Just give. Thanks!

 

The Boy Who Went Up A Mountain A Pervert And Came Home A Whiffle Baller

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

Best title ever? Probably so. I’ll probably have to delete the post once Malcolm starts surfing the internet on his own, but until then: enjoy!

We went camping this weekend. Amy had to go to Europe for work, so Malcolm and I joined some of my friends with kids for some roughing it on the Yuba river. I don’t know if you can call it “roughing it,” considering we had access to decent bourbon and premium salami, but since I packed neither shoes nor deodorant, I noticed a difference from a normal weekend. Who’s got two thumbs, flip flops and stay at home dad musk? This guy! (Now that I write that, I see a tremendous opportunity for a new cologne: SAHD musk. Marketing campaign will go something like this: For the man who doesn’t need to impress anyone. Salami. Funk. SAHD Musk: the scent of unemployment.)

I am hoping this is a normal thing with kids, but Malcolm does very odd things when he gets excited. I wish that he expressed his excitement in a productive manner, like, say, helping me unload the car or making guacamole. Instead, he tends to get a little pervy. As we were getting dinner ready the first night, Malcolm and some of his little buddies went down to the river with the other parents playing the part of chaperone. After about five minutes, my friend Greg came back and said, “I think that you should know that your son was groping me down by the river. I would have let it slide but he did it three times and it got really annoying.” Pausing and wondering whether I wanted to know, I caved and asked where Malcolm touched him. He told me Malcolm grabbed his junk and then jabbed him twice in the butthole with his finger.  We had been there all of 20 minutes and Malcolm’s first notable act was to treat my good friend like a home schooled proctologist. I tried to hide my shame by doing what comes naturally. I jammed my finger up Greg’s butt and told him that’s how we roll on the Yuba. He wasn’t impressed. The last thing you want to do when you are trying to enjoy the great outdoors with your fiends is have to explain to your child that he shouldn’t be tickling anyone’s prostate. Malcolm has a history of shenanigans like this (his schoolmates call him Clarence Thomas) so I had to banish him to his tent to contemplate whether he was going to spend the whole weekend acting weird or if he could calm down a little. There was some occasional semi-clothed wrestling with one of the other kids, but for the most part he turned it around.

Take this stick, sneak right up behind Greg and...

The rest of the weekend went a bit smoother. The kids played. The parents drank. We swam in a cold river. We ate marshmallows and other yummy camp food. When the kids went to bed in the tents, the grown ups sat around the campfire discussing important issues like, “What’s the theme song to the show, Growing pains?” and “Should we allow the Schwarts boys along when Amy can’t come?” The kids there ranged from a few months old to fourth grade, and, despite the age difference, they got along fabulously. They organized themselves into imaginary games and for some of the scarier missions, the older kids led the younger ones around by holding their hands. It was some truly cute stuff.

With my selective memory, I will remember this weekend as the weekend that Malcolm took up whiffle ball. We played a game with the older kids and dads, with people generally pitching as fast as the could. There were strikeouts, dramatic tag outs and some epic home runs. (Not by me, mind you. I put the whiff in whiffle ball out there.) I did have the foresight to draft Malcolm on my team, meaning I didn’t have to suffer the indignity of having him strike me out, which some of the other dads did.

On Monday, after we had arrived home and I took Malcolm to school, Malcolm asked me if we could go to the park and play some whiffle ball. My heart leapt! When kids ask their parents to do stuff that parents really like to do, whether it’s work on crafts, read, play music, cook or throw rocks at the neighbor’s cat, the parent is overcome with an emotion that is often lost in the day to day routine: sheer bliss. Malcolm asked me to play whiffle ball and I was in nirvana. After school, we played for 90 minutes straight at the park near his school. It was awesome. Afterwords, Malcolm slapped me a high five and said, “Daddy, that was really fun.” The smile grew across my face, my spirits soared and I couldn’t help but think, “Well that sure beats a finger in the butt.”

Ranch Enthusiasts

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

Every Memorial Day, we visit our friends Regina and Judd. They live on a cattle ranch near the California-Oregon border. Together, they do three out the following five things: raise cattle, grow alfalfa, function as the guidance counselor at the local high school, murder bad guys that the mainstream police can’t catch, and tattoo each others chests with pro-racism messages. (I’ll leave the guesswork of which ones fit to you.) It is one of our favorite weekends of the year, as evidenced by our prior trips here, here, and here.

Most of the time, we go up to the Hanna Ranch to experience life in the country, complete with guns, “barrel-food” and a bar where people on dates often wear the same outfit. (Apparently, camouflage hats and vests are the hot fashions for both men AND women in some places!) I sometime help Judd out with his chores around the farm, Malcolm spends a little time on the back of the horse and Amy wears non-skinny jeans. It’s a welcome change from our normal weekends.

Who's ready for some vomit-free fun?

This year’s trip was a bit different. Malcolm has a nice little tradition of throwing up in the car on the way up. This year? No nacho cheese Dorito-colored vomit worked its way into every crevice of the back seat. Similarly, he showed little interest in cruising around the ranch to play with all the old trucks and tractors dotting the property or going for a horsie ride. We didn’t go for our family four wheeler ride and I only pressured Judd to take me out squirrel hunting once. I didn’t even sneak out at night wearing Judd’s clothes and cowboy hat to pretend that I was a real rodeo cowboy. (Bulls weigh somewhere around 2,500 pounds. I find it is much easier to ride them at night, while they are sleeping!) This year was different.

This year, we had gourmet weekend away. Regina and Judd arranged for babysitting one day and we went wine tasting with them and some friends of theirs from the local college. While sipping fine pinots, we made comments like, “Does this taste more like saddle or wet wool?” We learned the proper way to pronounce the word, “Qatar.” Hint, it doesn’t rhyme with guitar. We pretended that we were too highbrow for corn dogs and moose munch. We even laughed at some poor schmuck in Ashland that took a drink from a fountain, thinking it was fresh spring water, only have it turn out to be sulfuric nastiness that smelled and tasted like a Nascar fan’s butt. Poor sap. All his friends were laughing at him, probably because they were so jealous that he was so good looking and fun to talk to. Anyways, it had been a while since we had been wine tasting and we had a great time.

When they weren’t whisking us around Southern Oregon showing us how the 1% lives, the Hannas  treated us to some pretty stellar food around their place. They served us farm eggs in the morning and roast lamb, hearty Brazilian black beans superb pasta and, get this, bacon-wrapped venison tenderloin for dinner. I am pretty sure I would eat anything that started with the words bacon-wrapped, even if the name of the dish ended with the words, “salmon vagina.”

Ummmm, yes.

When we finished stuffing our pie holes with dinner, they brought us homemade lemon bars and white chocolate fruit tarts. While we were eating the amazing food, we drank excellent wines and expertly crafted cocktails. I thought we had checked into the Scotts Valley Four Seasons.

You may be asking yourself what Malcolm was doing while we were eating like royalty. I am proud to report that I have no fucking idea. He was quite content to muck about with the Hanna kids around the house. We occasionally received word from the Hanna five year old that Malcolm wasn’t sharing and there were reports that he removed his pants at one point, but, for the most part, the kids did an excellent job of entertaining themselves. This meant we got to eat, drink and be merry with our pals on the Hanna ranch, and were we treated to a ridiculously fine time. What’s better than a weekend where your kid has a great time and you get to have fun doing grown up stuff (besides bacon-wrapped salmon vagina)? Nothing, we can’t wait for next year!

Pants On Fire

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids have a nasty habit of growing up. When they are born, their shit literally does not stink. Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, little baby excrement one day turns foul, letting you know that everything you know and like about your kid will one day disappear. Every time we seem to hit a point where we have conquered the demons that torment Malcolm, something new, unexpected and unwanted pops up.

Malcolm is currently going through some personality changes that we aren’t so thrilled about. He is testing boundaries. Sometimes this can be quite charming, like when a young tiger cub cautiously ventures out into the world, periodically checking back with his mom to make sure everything is OK. Malcolm isn’t acting like a cautious cub, however. Right now, he mostly channels a velociraptor, violently throwing itself against an electric fence to methodically find weakness. He has gone from a child who mostly wants to please his parents into a kid who wants to find out what he can get away with. His teachers at school used to beam about him to us during afternoon pickups. Now, they generally roll their eyes at me when I ask how everything is going.

By far, the most disappointing aspect of this phase is the lying. Malcolm used to be honest with us, copping to everything from biting to secret cookie consumption. When that got inconvenient and embarrassing, his memory began to fail. When asked about subjects that he didn’t really want to dive into, he would claim that he “couldn’t remember.” This seemed to work for him until he began claiming that his memory couldn’t go back as little as fifteen minutes prior. Realizing this strategy didn’t have much in the way of legs, he began to spin the truth, “Yes, daddy, I hit Billy, but he hit me first.” Then the justifications got sufficiently wild that we both knew he was stretching the truth, “Well, if I HADN’T shown Louis my wiener at school, he was going tell everyone I didn’t have one!” He has now come to the conclusion that it’s just better to lie and save himself all the drama.

Raise your hand if you've ever told your parents you've got your pajamas on, when, in fact, you don't have your pajamas on!

Like a young Skywalker, impressed with his newly developed powers of the Force, Malcolm is using his new trick as often as he can. He lies about brushing his teeth. He lies about changing his socks. He lies about washing his hair in the shower, even though his hair is completely dry. Mostly, he lies to protect his habit of being alarmingly lazy, even to the point of bearing false witness to whether he wiped his butt after pooping. (!) The other night, he told us that he finished his dinner, when, in fact, he had just dumped half his plate under the ottoman. When we found it the next day, he blamed it on his friend Henry. A double whopper! Impressive for a six year old, no?

Luckily, everyone reminds me that this behavior is “developmentally appropriate.” These words are useful to avoid blaming my DNA for leading Malcolm down behavioral paths that lead to prison, but they also scare the shit out of me. If lying is part of the developmental equation, then so is getting good at it. Right now, the lie doesn’t come easy to him. Right before making up a tall tale, he pauses, looks directly at his eyebrows, and then blurts out the most obvious non-truth. He gets called out on it because we can totally tell that he is not giving us a straight story. Things are going to get a lot more dicey when we aren’t able to decipher whether his story is true or not. If he gets really good at it, he may even go to law school one day, a truly horrific thought!

At some point, we are going to have to sit down with him and teach him how to lie. Of course, we don’t want him to be generally untruthful, but sometimes the lie is the right way to proceed with things. When a classmate asks why Malcolm isn’t going to a birthday party, it’s not really cool to say that the birthday boy smells like a wet goat. I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable social situations I have gotten out of by harmlessly telling people, “Yes, that is a banana in my pocket!” There are times in life when a nice little harmless lie will do the job just fine. We can’t really show him how to do this right now; he’s got to finish his Jedi training before he can face the emperor. Until then, some socks won’t get changed, some teeth won’t get cleaned, and the family room floor may have more pork on it that we are accustomed to. We’ll just take our lumps.

My Least Favorite Holiday

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Everyone has holidays that like more than others. There are Christmas people, Halloween people, and I know one guy who thinks that Flag Day is the coolest day of the year. (It may also be his birthday.) (“He” may be me.) I can honestly tell you, I’m not all that fond of Easter. Why, you ask? Let me tell you:

First, I find the religious aspect of it all quite confusing. Easter Sunday comes on the heels of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and So-So Saturday. That’s a lot of stuff in one week!  If “Good” Friday is the day Jesus is paraded through town and then crucified, then I would hate to see what happens on a bad day. (Maybe that explains why people always tell me that they think my blog is “good!”) There’s treachery, Italian meals, gruesome death scenes, and happy endings. It’s not a holiday, it’s an episode of the Sopranos! And what’s a Maundy? I looked it up and it means “Laundry.”  Mmmmkay.

Not even the music can save the holiday. Christmas has a million songs and you can teach them all to kids. Throw them “Away in a manger” along with “Rudolph” and they can happily sing their way through the holiday. Ever try to teach a kid to sing Handel’s, “Messiah?” Not gonna work. We need more accessible Easter music.

Explaining all this to kids gets pretty tough, too:

What are we celebrating today daddy?

Jesus came back from the dead.

Cool! Can our cats come back from the dead?

No, only the son of god can do that.

Why not?

Well, you know how I let you play goalie in soccer more than the other kids? It’s like that. Sometimes parents play favorites with their kids.

How did Jesus die?

Everybody hated him. They tortured him, made him wear a hat with pricklies in it and then nailed him to a cross and stuck a pitchfork in his ribs. He died slowly and in agony.

[While slowly approaching for a hug] Can we just celebrate Valentines Day again? I like pink!

Even if you strip out the religious story behind it all, Easter really is a pain in the ass to celebrate. There is no more terror-inspiring figure in all of the holiday world than the Easter Bunny. I have yet to see a Easter Bunny suit that doesn’t make the wearer look like a member of the occult. Sitting on Santa’s lap makes kids cry. Being approached by a six foot tall psychedelic bunny makes kids shit their pants. You then have the difficult task of explaining where the Bunny got all those eggs and why he/she is hiding them all over the place. Does the Easter Bunny just hate chickens? You tell me! You also have to describe just what the heck “Peeps” are made of, and why they all appear to have been made in 1947.

Of course, no Easter is complete with the time honored tradition of decorating eggs. If your family is like ours, it means your house stinks like vinegar and boiled eggs. They should rename the holiday, “Smells Like Fart Day.” If your family is REALLY like ours, it also means that you accidentally buy brown eggs to decorate every year, meaning ALL of the Easter eggs turn out varying shades of green. Not all that exciting! After the kids decorate the eggs, you feed them to the kids, hoping that the various chemicals you use won’t erode the kids’ tiny little brains. You could just throw the eggs away, but that I don’t think Jesus would be too thrilled that he went through all that so you could create some brightly colored garbage. Nope, you have to make them eat the eggs.

I don't think he dislikes the holiday like I do.

By Sunday, your kids misbehave because they have eaten about 3 pounds of chocolate, marshmallows and greenish hard boiled eggs. They distrust you because you have attempted on several occasions to furiously scrub the dye off their hands and they don’t have much skin left on their paws. Some kids are pissed because they have been forced to dress in nice outfits and subjected to church services. Others are confused as to what Laundry Thursday means. If you ask me, it makes for a pretty shitty holiday. Or a “good” one, as the case may be.

What I Would Do With All That Money

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

The lottery is being held tonight for a half a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money. While driving home from dropping off Malcolm just now, I got to thinking of how many Slim Jim’s I could buy with that money. Then I let my mind really wander and here’s what would happen if I won:

1. I would buy the Slim Jim company and rename it, “Fat Paul.” Eating all those Slim Jims would take its toll.

2. I would buy tickets to opening day for the Giants. I recently looked for tickets and found upper deck tickets for $163 each, plus a $25 (per ticket!) “convenience fee.” Grand total for the three of us to go was around $550. You shouldn’t need to hit the lottery to watch your team play baseball. Shame on you Giants.

Spring Training. This was nice. There's be a lot more of this.

3. I would get a nanny. It would have to be a guy, making him more of a manny. He would teach Malcolm to play baseball, cook and learn math. He’d be like me in every way except one: he wouldn’t be filthy stinking rich. Rich people throw tantrums, they don’t put up with them.

4. I would buy a plane. That way, I could fly wherever I wanted whenever I wanted without having to check on someone else’s schedule. Then I would paint it brown and name it Slim Jim. Planes can’t get fat, can they? Besides, I have never seen a dark brown airplane. I bet it would look sweet. I’d probably put a tape deck in it.

5. I would buy my plane a plane. Where does a plane go to get away from it all? Anywhere it wants when it has its own plane.

6. I’d buy Canada. Amy would hate it, since she doesn’t really like cold weather, hockey or gravy, but I like most of those things. I’d turn all the French speakers into an army of drones dead set on churning out the best cheeses this world has ever seen. Then I’d change the national anthem to something by the White Stripes, (probably Seven Nation Army, just to confuse people.)

7. I’d start a non-profit dedicated to women’s health. By “women’s health,” I mean wine. I guess I am saying I would just drink a lot of really good wine.

8. I would start a school for cats. Cats really serve no purpose in life. That must change. No one gets a free ride when I am a power broker!

9. I would buy Amy a nice pair of sunglasses. I’m not saying her glasses now aren’t nice, I’m just speculating that they might be better with 500 million dollars in the bank.

10. I’d download some new music. I’ve been waiting a while to get the Mumford and Sons album. Maybe I could just hire them to become the soundtrack for my life, humming theme music for my day and making it seem that I smell really good.

11. I’d buy a monocle.

12. I would rename my self Taco Cobra. We had a guy in our dad’s group who used that as his screen name. We thought it was the coolest thing ever. The first time we met him, he brought bacon wrapped jalapenos. He had a chain attached to his belt in TWO locations. He was awesome. He’s gone now, though. I would love to meet him again and say, “Who’s the Taco Cobra NOW, dog?”

13. I would get counseling. It seems like my list of things I want to do after winning the lottery is to just rename everything. That’s weird.

14. I’d rename my counselor Mister Fixit. Or Doctor Feelgood.

What would you do?

Ah, Crap, I’ve Become An Ass

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I used to be pretty mellow. If we went to your house for dinner and you broke out a Manu Chao record and some bongo drums, I’d have played some mean backup tambourine. Our house was generally kept somewhere between “cluttered” and “what the inside of an irritable bowel looks like,” and I was fine with it (although I’m not sure our house guests were!)  People/friends/business acquaintances would often do things that I found annoying, but I would just smile (then blog about it later.) I rolled with the punches, generally enjoying whatever came around the bend.

Having a six year old has changed things, to say the least. In drug parlance, I have gone from pot smoking hippie (“That’s coooool dude”) to twitchy meth freak (“HOLYSHIT!HOLYSHIT!NOFUCKINGWAY!UNBELIEVABLE! HOLYFUCKINGSHIT!”) Somehow, we have fallen into a rut around here that Malcolm does whatever goofy activity he wants until I have to menace him into a) leaving b) getting ready to leave c) doing the thing that he needed to do before we could leave or d) do anything he doesn’t want to do. I swear, I have to ride that boy like a sad carnival pony to get him to do pretty much anything around here. He has very little interest in cleaning his body, brushing his teeth, picking up anything around the house, and being on time to anything. It’s like he is a little version of me, and damn it, there’s only room for one of me in this house!

Daddy, if I can't see you, will you stop yelling and go away?

Recently, I have come to the conclusion that I have become somewhat of a dick, resembling very little of the person that I want my son to think I am. This has to change! I want to be the cool dad. The dad that he brags is the most awesome person on the planet. I want to be his hero, not his drill commander. Now, he constantly asks if I am leaving town anytime soon (evidently, grandparents are a little more patient and lenient than I now am.)

The problem is, if I leave him to his own devices, everything will get fucked up. When I ask him if it is important to get to school on time he fires right back, “No. People are always late and never get in trouble.” He thinks it is perfectly acceptable to brush his teeth for five seconds and bathing is only necessary if you roll around in the muck. There are currently 200-300 stuffed animals lying around the house, I when I suggest that he pick them up, he says, “Why? I am just going to take them back out later.”

I could probably remain cool dad if this were to happen occasionally, but when it’s so many different things on almost every day, the bong is put away and the dime bag comes out. I start to twitch, my voice get shrill and I become the guy I don’t want to be. It’s like I become the Hulk, only more angry (and less fit!) One day, I will learn to get things done without beating the sad little carnival pony. That day can’t arrive fast enough because I’m starting to drive myself a little batty.

Finances For a First Grader

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Our son’s path towards learning about money began with him becoming a thief. Like the sewer rat who poaches items left in the gutter and hoards them in his little lair, Malcolm has been salting away dollar bills and change that he finds lying around the house. At first, I found this upsetting, admonishing him for taking money that he didn’t earn and using it as his own. When Amy gently reminded me that I hadn’t earned a paycheck in over seven years, I changed my tune, congratulating him for his ambition and steps toward securing his own financial freedom. Lucky for us, Amy leaves A LOT of money around the house, so there is plenty to go around.

I look at him and see lots of gaps. He sees dollar signs.

I would say that this little hobby has now made him a full-fledged capitalist. He has come to the conclusion that having more money is better than having less, and has figured out some schemes to raise additional capital for Malcolm Enterprises. In spite of our early, “There is no tooth fairy” policy, Malcolm somehow convinced us that we should be putting money under his pillow when he loses a tooth anyways. I am not sure that we want to teach him to sell his body parts on the open market, but we have caved nonetheless. He has also talked us into giving him an allowance ($1 a week.) Every Sunday, he gleefully announces, “Daddy, you owe me a dollar!” and when I give it to him, he scurries away and puts the dollar with the rest of his cash reserves. (To be honest, I do the same with Amy’s paycheck.)

So now he has this huge pile of cash and change. Like many a capitalist before him, his empire is the result of a mixture of ingenuity, larceny and sacrifice. Every once in a while he dumps his money jar on the ground to assure himself that he is the richest child at his school. (We gave him some play money for Christmas and, not really understanding the difference between real and fake currency, he went ahead and told his friends that we had given him $843 for Christmas. Whoops!)

His pile of singles began to remind me a little too much of a degenerate at a strip club, so we gathered them up the other day and headed to the bank to open his first ever bank account. When the dust settled, he had a shiny new account with $35 in it. Based on the .05% interest rate he is getting (!), he will have enough money in the account to buy a Wii or a bicycle in a mere 500 years. I haven’t exactly told him this yet.

Of course, I am not going to let this opportunity pass without using it as a means to forestall doing things that I don’t really want to do. He recently asked if he could get a pet gerbil. Researching the pros and cons of critter parenting, we found out it costs around $325 to keep a gerbil every year. He was rather amazed at the cost. The gerbil movement has been tabled, and I consider myself somewhat of a genius.

Now that he has money, I also want to make sure that he understands the concept of wasting it. He has a nasty habit of taking a yogurt to school in his backpack and then forgetting about it. Days later, we will find it in there and it has begun to smell like a sick gerbil. After finding the third or fourth dead yogurt, we struck a deal: I was going to fine him a dollar every time he wasted a yogurt.

I am sure these lessons are but the tip of the economic iceberg. In the coming years, we will have to address issues like, “Can he spend his money on anything he wants (like a toy cross bow) even if we don’t really want him to buy it?” and “What do we do when he tries to sell his platelets to the blood bank?” For now, we have an allowance and a bank account, and even that seems a little scary.

Big Daddy Paul Is NOT An Accountant

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

As Malcolm would say, "Accounting is yucky!" Actually, Malcolm doesn't know what accounting is. he would say, "Brushing your teeth is yucky!"

Tax time is upon us, meaning I should be sending out 1099’s, preparing financial statements for our tax guy, and scratching off the names of restaurants from receipts so that the IRS doesn’t know that “Board Meeting for Wilson Insight” really means “Took Malcolm to Hooters.” All that stuff really hurts my head, though, for the mind-numbing intricacies of the tax code require patience and sharp attention to detail, which are not exactly my strong suits.

Today, however, I am procrastinating. I am dedicating this post to things I would rather be doing than stupid tax stuff. Here’s my list:

1. Thinking up things I would rather be doing than doing tax stuff.

2. Taking Malcolm to Hooters. Did you know that they serve kid’s meals on Frisbees there? That means when your kid is done with the grilled cheese sandwich, you can wash it off and have a really excellent frisbee to play with. I know, incredible value!

3. Have a colonoscopy. It’s probably not first on the list, but I thought it important to let you know the “scope” of my hatred for tax time. (For anyone who thinks that isn’t very clever word smithing, I welcome you to go perform a colonoscopy on yourself. Use a thesaurus, too.)

4. Clean the house. Malcolm made a tether ball court out of a game of Sorry, a vuvuzela, some string and a nerf basketball. It is adorable from a “parenting a creative child” perspective. Sure, every time he tries to play, he knocks over the vuvuzela, trips on the game of sorry and the string falls off the ball, but he designed it and made it himself. Props to him. While trying to avoid our office, all I can see is the pile of tether ball stuff in our family room. As charming as it is, my hatred of the tax code requires me to disassemble it.

5. Stare at the internet, blankly. I don’t really care about anything Yahoo thinks is news, but I check it 10 or 20 times a day. I mostly enjoy reading about which fast food meals are the most unhealthy. Sometimes I want to see what my favorite actresses wear on the red carpet (sadly, it’s never a Hooters uniform.) Right about now, I would read almost anything, including coverage of the Republican Primaries, to avoid the pile of receipts and forms sitting on the desk.

6. Figure out which of my Twitter followers are just porn websites in disguise. I have a lot of moms and dads following me, and sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the woman who has a “love of life” really just wants me to “message [her] for a date.” It’s like a little game show that unfolds on my computer each and every day. Actually, I’d rather go on a date with the porn girl then do the taxes. I know, shocking.

3. Did you see what happened there? Tax time makes me numbers stupid. Crapola!

8. Justify salami. I recently read some articles (thank you Yahoo!) about the effect of eating processed meats on cancer rates. To my shagrin, I learned that eating these meats every day substantially raises your risk of cancer. Malcolm has had salami in his lunch every day since he was about 4. I don’t want him to have cancer, so I have been looking into remedies for the situation. I have done searches on “Is it OK to eat salami if you eat broccoli too?” and “Will you get cancer if you eat the $25 a pound nitrate/nitrite free salami?” So far, we have cut his salami down to once or twice a week.

9. Play word games. I have anywhere between 8 and 10 Scrabble games going on at a time, challenging friends, their moms, their sisters, and their brothers. I don’t usually tell the people I am playing with that I usually make moves while pooping, but do I really need to? Isn’t that a given? They should rename the game, “Words With Friends In The Bathroom.” Want a challenge? Hit me up for a game! (Don’t worry, these posts are excrement-free!) (That joke barely edged out my other idea, which was, “All of my moves are crappy!”)

10. Ah, crap, I am out of excuses. OK, it’s off to the library for me. Stupid receipts…

Goodbye, Frozen Embryos!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Those of you who know Amy and I remember that we had a hard time getting pregnant. We tried many things to get pregnant, most notably having sex with one another, but to little avail. (I can honestly tell you it is the most enjoyable thing that I have ever failed at!) As the months turned to years, we realized having a baby the old fashioned way just wasn’t in the cards for us. We were serious about becoming parents, so, instead of throwing in the towel and remaining DINKies, we opted for the horribly invasive, often painful and outrageously expensive option of in vitro fertilization. To do this, Amy had to submit to daily hormone injections, ovular extraction and finally, uterine injection. (For my part, I watched some porn and whacked off in a cup.)

We have a portrait of Malcolm at 100 cells, how cool is that? Right after this pic was taken, Malcolm murdered and ate his brother.

This process left us with a handful of viable embryos, two of which were inserted into Amy’s lady business, and one of which developed into the big bundle of joy we now refer to as “Malcolm.” We really didn’t know what to do with the extra embryos at the time, and opted to store them in a cryogenic freezer. (I heard rumors that our fertilized eggs sat on a shelf next to Ted Williams’ head, a perk I found revolting and yet, at the same time, paid extra for.) The people who operate the freezer now want to charge us $125 a month for the luxury box seats of the cryogenic freezer world, causing us to really consider what we want out of those eggs.

For a while, the embryos served as an insurance policy. We were secure in the knowledge that if something terrible were to happen to little Malkie, like not enjoying sports, we could always just defrost the backups and start over. (In case you are ever in need of a good line to give your kid extra motivation to pay attention to you, “If you don’t start behaving, we’re going to replace you with the embryos we’ve got at the clinic” works wonders!)

It now appears that Malcolm mostly behaves himself and is deeply dedicated to the following of sports. As such, those embryos are unnecessary for this family to function properly. We think the idea of having another child is completely insane, and even though some of you gladly tackle the insanity, we are perfectly content to give all our love and attention to the one kid we got. I would suspect that almost every couple that is happy with the number of children that they have would think that adding another would be a disaster. Our bar is just lower than everyone else’s (a fact made known to me prior to our marriage, when everyone tried to talk Amy out of marrying me in the first place!)

In a perfect world, we would keep Malcolm’s putative kin frozen in perpetuity. (Sentence of the year? Maybe!) The sizable fee for such frozen nostalgia, however, makes it unrealistic for us. The real question for us now, is what do we do with the eggs. Here are the options:

1. Eat them. I have been advised by the scientific community that this is a stupid idea, as the eggs have little to do with their counterparts in the chicken world. Besides, we wouldn’t have the right bacon to go with them. Nope, can’t eat ’em.

2. Donate them to a couple. Assuming the other couple wouldn’t eat them, they would eventually turn the eggs into a baby. That’s just fucking weird, having your DNA in some other family. What if they raise the kid better? What if the kid becomes president one day and Malcolm works fast food his whole life? Or, what if it turns out that we just got lucky and the other couple had a kid that became the next Hitler, or, worse, Pat Sajak? Nope, too much weird shit, can’t let people make babies out of ’em.

3. Donate them to science. This seems like a great idea, as early signs indicate that embryonic stem cells can be used to cure spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. Looking up uses for these cells, however, I found that researchers are currently injecting stem cells into rat’s tails. You gotta love researchers. I know that this is the groundwork for great stuff later on, but it hardly seems worthwhile for Amy to put up with all that shit just to have it all injected into some rat’s hiney. Maybe it’s just me. If the only alternative is throwing the cells away, though, I’ll guess we’ll go with this option, however unsightly it may seem. Enjoy little rats, enjoy. We hope your tails feel better.

Even though we have been so certain about our family choices, the decision has been a little weird for us. I guess it’s because of the finality of it all. This kid is going to be our only kid. There is no longer any safety net, there’ll be no redos or second chances. (Yes, that’s now a word.) When I look at our little family, though, and think of our life together, it feels just right.

Big Daddy Paul, Financial Guru

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

Every once in a while, I think, “Whatever happened to X?” with X being anything from an old girlfriend to Malcolm, when I hadn’t seen him at a park in a while. I made some stock picks way back in 2007, and after seeing our credit card bill from December and becoming concerned over the state of our financial health, wondered whether those picks had helped or hurt our cause. For a disturbing look at how my financial brain works, you can check out the post related to my picks here. Please forbive all the tipos I made in the post. I was steel getting used to blogging back then.

Before we get into the nitty gritty detail, I want to remind you all of a few things. First, the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression happened after I invested the money. More people lost their shirts during this time than at a Ricky Martin concert in Palm Springs. (After reading that joke I am pleased with the general theme, but think it is just a little off. I will try again later.) I also want to note that I was an absolute novice at picking stocks. I did not (nor do I now!) understand market fundamentals, like “Why you shouldn’t start investing your money right before the largest financial disaster since the Great Depression.” The sole basis for my investing decisions were to invest in companies listed on Forbes, “Best Companies to Work For” list. Remember, happy employees are productive employees. Let’s see how I did:

As a baseline, we shall compare my picks to the Dow Jones Industrials. If you are lazy, like me, and don’t want to find out just what the Dow Jones Industrials, you may assume that Dow Jones is a distant relative of Star Jones (and, oddly enough, former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones) and s/he picks their favorite restaurants that are publicly traded companies. Also, Dow Jones loves cats and keeps track of companies in the ever-growing feline leisure industry. Needless to say, I hate Dow Jones. On October 19, 2007, the Dow Jones sat at 13,806. Right now, it is at 12, 259, meaning if you had invested $10,000 dollars in the companies that Dow and his cats like, you would have lost 10% of your money. Yikes!

OK, let’s try this one: more people lost their shirts during this time than when the Jersey Shore cast went to Palm Springs. Still a bit off, I think. I’ll keep trying.

Surprisingly, my picks were pretty good. Nordstroms went up 24%. The tech firms on the list not named Google went up between 12 and 37%. Whole Foods went up 50%. Holy crap! Sure, American Express and Google both went down, but it wasn’t much worse than if I had given the money to Dow and his stupid cats. All in all, I turned my $10,000 into $11,916, a 19% increase. Boo ya!

From this, I learned the following:

You don’t have to shower regularly to make money in the stock market.

You can make lots of money off of rich people. If rich folk want to pay $12 for grapes and $1,200 on shoes. Let them. Buy company stocks that make a habit of overcharging the rich and soon you’ll be rich too. (Just don’t shit where you eat and go buying $12 grapes yourself. That defeats the purpose.) This strategy works ever during dire economic times because rich people will ALWAYS buy $12 grapes to show their neighbors how well off they are.

Don’t buy a stock do anything because you think it’s cool. I bought the Google shares, knowing that they were pricey, at $625 a share. I figured that Google was cool and that I shouldn’t worry about the hefty price tag. I was wrong. Let the Jersey Shore kids be cool. You be you.

Lastly, treat your employees well. These stocks kicked butt while employees at other companies were busy taking off their shirts. Put your money where the employees are treated well and you will be treated well yourself.

OK, last one: More people lost their shirts during this time than when Siegfried and Roy went to the Cat Fancy New Year’s Eve Ball.

Damn, 0 for 3. Some jokes just don’t work. Unless one of you want to take a run at it…

OK, it looks like we can pay our December credit card bill. Yay! I’ll let you know when I make any new picks, for I am sure you will be waiting with baited breath.

The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Hello everyone! You may have been asking yourself, “Where has Big Daddy Paul gone?” I say to you, “Mind you own damn business. I ask the questions around here.”

I know the holidays are the cruelest time to leave you all without the linguistic nuggets that so wonderfully color your days, but the truth is, I was perfectly content to not write on this blog. And then, I had the best day a parent can have and had to share it with you.

It wasn’t Thanksgiving, mind you. Thanksgiving was fun, owing mainly to the arrival of a large amount of gravy that no one, not even your spouse, can tell you to take it easy on. (I like gravy so much that I put it cold on sandwiches the next day and then revel in slurping it between my teeth.) We spent Gravy Turkey day in Reno with grandparents, aunties and family friends, impressing and freaking the hell out of everyone by quizzing Malcolm on the number of Atlanta Falcons receivers that he knows.

It wasn’t Christmas either, despite the large number of awesome things my dad got me from the Guinness factory in Ireland (I have a Guinness hat with a bottle opener and a Guinness Piccolo. I am rad. You are jealous). We got Malcolm a Kindle fire this year, and now he can surf the internet and send emails to his grandparents. He might be too young for such things, but I will try to keep an eye out for emails promising P3nis enlargement and large Amazon orders for movies and cartoons. See, I’m a good dad! I will also throw in the joy of winning my fantasy football championship on Christmas Eve, Christmas Night and the day after. Good times indeed, but not the best.

It wasn’t New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day either. We spent good times with friends eating large amounts of cheese and bacon, explaining both why we are such good friends with Jon and Dayna and why I am fatter right now than I have ever been before. Ever. Right now, I am “the back of my neck looks like a pack of hot dogs” fat. New Years Day was fun for me as I got to watch NFL football (boo Raiders! I hate you for losing,) Malcolm got to play Wii baseball AND real baseball and Amy got to go shopping. It was a great day for all of us, but not the Most Wonderful Day of the Year.

At this point, you may have already had enough of me. No one likes to have a subject introduced, only to be lead down a plethora of dead ends. I just wanted you to make sure you really missed me. Sometimes you think you want something, like a nacho bath, and then when you actually get it, you are left with sticky body hair and a trail of curious mice. Yep, you missed me.

Easily, the Most Wonderful Day of the Year is “The Day Your Kids Go Back To School.” It should be a national holiday, only that would mean your kids wouldn’t go to school and it would just be another shitty day where you gotta find stuff to do. Summer can be grueling, considering it lasts for what seems like 6 months, but at least you can go run around outside or stick them in camps. The holidays are filled with long nights, travel, loads of sugar and things that Santa/Hannuka Harry DIDN’T get your kid. This results in your perfectly nice little child being turned into an angry badger. During the holiday, you can’t even deal with the angry badger like you normally would, fearing that the family staying with you might frown on you whacking your child over the head with an Elf on a Shelf and threatening to strap them to the furnace. As much fun as the holidays are, there is a certain amount of stress involved for parents.

You know I love your goofy little face. Now get out of the car and get in that classroom!

And that, my friends is why yesterday was so awesome. Malcolm told me that he didn’t want to go to school, and I thought to myself, “Good, I didn’t particularly want to watch you melt down for an hour after I asked you to take five minutes to clean up after a game we just played.” As I sat in an empty house, tweaking the nacho bath idea (tortilla chip Speedo? No, that’s just weird. Or IS it?”) I enjoyed a quiet moment. And. Just. Did. Nothing.

Except figure out a way to use more sentence fragments. I’m back, baby!

 

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids grow up, it’s a fact. For some parents, this is a good thing. For others, not so much. Around here, I take every sign of progress as a merit badge. Every step he takes in the march toward full-fledged personhood is a sign that I am doing my job adequately. (I just got my “No Skid Marks” patch!) Amy, on the other hand, sees this march as a transformation from someone who likes to cuddle to someone who thinks his parents are squares. She is, needless to say, not so found of each new step in Malcolm’s development.

Whether you like it or not, there are many ways to mark your child’s progress in life. You can count tantrums. You can tally the number of times they say, “Thank you,” or “I’m sorry I hit you in the face with the bat” without being prompted. You can mark their height on the wall or compare how their voice has changed from something similar to a squeaky mouse to something more like an old rat. They read longer, more complicated books and occasionally catch you when you get the math wrong. The signs of growing up are everywhere, and they have the effect of making you proud and scaring the shit of you, sometimes at the same time.

One of the funnest benchmarks of where your kids are at in life is their selection of Halloween costumes. Without any research behind this, I would venture to guess that most kids start out their Halloween careers with costumes that are more in the cute and cuddly variety, consisting of things like bunnies and adorable root vegetables. Have you ever seen a one-year-old dressed up as a ninja? I haven’t. As they get older, though, their taste in outfits gets a little more sophisticated. Your sweet little baby trades in their farm animal fetish to become Batman or similar ass-kicking hero. Your child’s taste in Halloween attire demonstrates as much about where they are in life as the cleanliness of their underpants. (If you are looking for a sentence to use in your submission for my blog as “blog of the year,” go ahead and use that last one.)

Grandma Jean made this costume and, if I dare say, nailed it!

For this reason, Amy is delighted in Malcolm’s Halloween costume selection every year. He is unabashedly sweet in his preferences, and always has been. When he was three, he wanted to be an elephant. I have pictures of him at school surrounded by three Batmans, two Spidermans and a couple of race car drivers. At four he selected a salami sandwich as his preferred candy obtaining vessel. (He was easy to spot in the crowd of Jedis and stormtroopers at the Halloween parade.) This year? He chose a horse. Of course! After seeing the different type of horse costumes available on the internet, he didn’t even go with the menacing war horse costumes available. He wanted to be a cute, fuzzy horse. We were ecstatic, for while he reads fancy books and does some fancy math, he showed us that the cute stuff is still in there somewhere.

At some point, his Halloween decisions will betray his status as a big boy, (one kid this year said that Malcolm’s costume the worst at the school.) He will inevitably give in to the peer pressure and want to look like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. or Skeletor. His transformation will be complete, and, with some mixed feelings, I will get my merit badge for “bad-ass costume” in addition to the badges for I already have for being “precious” and “nutritious” (I put lettuce in his salami sandwich.) Until then, and like all glimpses of the little boy we used to have, we will take what we can get.

This does not mean, however, that I will enjoy the occasional skidmark.

Who’s Pie? Occupy!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I took Malcolm to the Occupy Oakland general strike on Wednesday.  I usually don’t make a habit out of taking Malcolm out of school for superfluous reasons, but I figured this would be a good teaching opportunity for concepts like “income inequality” and “tear gas.” I explained what the protest was about and gave him the option of attending and seeing the opportunity to get out of school early, he said that he wanted to go. (Of course, I only gave him the option of going to the strike AFTER he went to school for his piano lesson. To me, politics take a back seat to getting things that you have already paid for.) He even told his teacher that he was going to a presentation because it wasn’t fair that some of the people in the world get to keep all the money, so it looked like the day might even be instructional. (Those of you wanting to cry foul over me bringing Malcolm to a lefty protest, realize that I have exposed Malcolm to a wide range of events which some would find objectionable, including wine tasting, the county fair and, yes, Hooters. Don’t get mad at me for showing him the world out there.)

We are the 99!!! (Or, as Malcolm put it, "We are the chicken ear!")

The event we went to was called the Children’s brigade, a group of 100 or so parents and kids who wanted to tell the world that we care about our kids’ futures. The group marched from the Oakland public library to the main protest stage chanting, “Who are the 99? WE are the 99” or silly iterations of it that the kids thought up. Well, the other kids, anyways, Malcolm ate for a good portion of the march, meaning he had salami and cheese sandwich crammed in his mouth for most of the chanting. We held up signs, waved to supporters and had a great time walking down the middle of the street (a thrill in and of itself.)

While there, we ran into Malcolm’s friend from soccer and another family from his school, and upon greeting we gave each other an implicit, “Oh, you’re a hippie too!” nod of approval. I definitely did NOT want this to turn into a playdate, but after the march ended we found ourselves standing in the middle of the street too far to hear any of the speeches and close enough for there not to be any cars in the street. So, the kids played tag and frisbee in the street.

We toured the Occupy camp after playing with his buddies for a while. I can’t tell you how cool it was down there. They have food tents that give out free food to anyone who wants it. (They had ice cream, but only after we left.) They have acupuncturists. They have meditation centers, gardens and even what looked like an area for mimes to gather and express themselves mimically. Taken together, the place was a farmer’s market, swap meet, and political rally all built into one. I found it fascinating. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a bar, but, judging by the number of joints being passed around the place, people were making due.

We made our way to an amphitheater and sat down to watch some musical events. They had old women singing folk protest songs from the ’60’s, a 15 year old boy reciting poetry about what they thought their future would look like, and an an actor performed a soliloquy about “the man” being a “white devil.” They had homeless poets describing their anger about life on the street. There were androgynous singers and a rapper named Kiwi detailing the earlier scuffles with police.  It was, in a word, awesome, except for the heavy use of the word, “Motherfucker” which I love myself, but was not quite ready for Malcolm to start using on his own.

Malcolm began to wain after a few hours, and I did something I usually think is bad parenting. I bribed him. I brought some Halloween candy with me and after he finished his lunch I gave him some. I also promised him some more after another hour to make sure that he would be into staying and listening. (That boy would wait through an entire day of actuarial accounting lectures if it meant a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the end.) The bribe totally worked, and he went from whiny lap sitter to enthusiastic dancer. We laughed for a good part of the afternoon, mostly at his awkward attempts to dance like a fish and a snake.

When I finally ran out of peanut butter cups, we left for the day. It was really cool to show up with fellow parents, Oakland residents, and homeless poets to express ourselves. You may disagree with the point that the Occupy Protesters are trying to make, but I am pretty sure you would have had a good time there nonetheless. Malcolm may not fully understand the politics behind the event, but at the very least he will know that good things can happen when a community comes together the get their voices heard. Well, that’s probably a little naive. In all likelihood he will associate political protests with salami and peanut butter cups. That will work for now.

Birthday Party Invite List Shenanigans

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

Sometimes kid-related issues sneak up on you with their trickiness. If you find your kid and his buddy in a hammock with their pants down performing what looks like a penis puppet show, should you say anything, or just slowly back away and hope they didn’t see you? If your child dresses himself, but insists on wearing their clothes backwards, do you make them turn it around? What excuse do you use when your kid asks to go see Disney On Ice? The list goes on and on.

Birthday parties used to be so simple. Invite your best friends over and laugh when your kid went apeshit over being given cake. Now, it's a whole big thing.

One of the trickier subjects involves the guest list for your kid’s birthday party. It would be nice if your child has a summer birthday party and you can just invite everyone your child knows to the park for some running around. Malcolm’s birthday is in November and the threat of rain always forces us to consider indoor alternatives. (That was one of the many reasons I wanted to delay’s Malcolm’s conception way back when, an argument I ultimately lost as being, “Totally stupid.”) This year, Malcolm will have an indoor soccer party at a local gym, and they have told us that only 20 kids can come to the party.

We sat down with Malcolm over the weekend and tried to hash out which 20 kids were going to make the cut. Of course, his first list contained exactly ten kids, all of which were the ten kids on his soccer team, and, since he had played a game earlier that day, they were the last ten kids Malcolm had seen. (He even seemed to select them in the order of their skill on the soccer field, and I am sure that he was going to just take all the good kids on his team at the party to ensure that his soccer party was one big face crush.) While it would have been nice to only pay for the ten kids, we were forced to suggest some names that he may have not considered, which he reluctantly agreed to add to the list. In case you find yourself in the same situation, I have put together this hierarchy of relations to assist in your birthday party plans:

1. Family. You’d be hard pressed to be able to ignore your brothers’ and sisters’ kids if they live in the area. This is true even if you don’t particularly like the kids, or even your brothers and sisters. Amy and I don’t have any brothers and sisters, so we skate on this one.

2. Family friends. You know these people. You like these people. These are the bread and butter invites, and, since they know your kids better than anyone else, they are likely to provide your child with the best gifts. Try and fill up your guest list with these people, as they will be the most forgiving when your child acts like a spoiled brat on his/her birthday.

3. School mates. I have a difference of opinion with most people here. Some people invite most of all of the class to their kids’ party, or at least invite every kid who invited your little angel to their party. Fuck that. Birthday party invites are a valuable form of currency on the playground. Last time I checked, we don’t live in a socialist state, so use those invites to show where the people stand in the free market. Don’t invite the biters, paste eaters, or kids who just won’t calm the hell down. If your kid insists that they want to invite them, tell your child that the troublemakers are busy. It may be a tad uncomfortable talking about the party in front of families that invite your kid to their kid’s party, but hey, they raised the dipshit, not you. Invite only the kids that you think are cool.

4. Sport’s team members. Similar to schoolmates, except you should invite the coaches kid if you think it will get your kid some more playing time. Give preference to the current sports team. Malcolm’s tee ball buddies won’t know that they weren’t invited to his party until next spring. That’s gold!

5. Old friends. Kids always seem to talk about old acquaintances that have no connection to their current schedules. Malcolm periodically asks about old friends from school/sports/play groups. I usually tell Malcolm that the families have moved away except for a few special instances. If the child has a hot mom/dad, are richer than you, or have tickets to your favorite sports team, you are permitted to invite them. Remember, these invites are currency! Sue me.

6. Neighbors. Should your child be punished just because someone moved onto your block with a child the same age? No way. Don’t invite them unless you like them.

7. People who are busy. Around Malcolm’s birthday I am hyper-diligent about knowing people’s travel schedule. If I know that they are going to be out of town, I invite them knowing they will be unable to attend (even if I wasn’t going to invite them in the first place.) This often results in getting extra presents for your child and also allows you to make them feel guilty for missing the most important day in your child’s life. Guilt is a pretty cool currency in its own right. Every once in a while, this will backfire, and their empty-headed nitwit will show up if their plans fall through, but trust me, you should still come out ahead.

After going through some tense negotiations (involving statements by us like, “Are you sure you want to invite Billy? I thought he threw up all over the birthday boy at the last party he went to.”) we came up with a list of 18 kids that we all were comfortable with. Some of you readers will make the list. Others will be told that Malcolm isn’t having a party this year out of respect to those affected by the flooding in Thailand. It’s not noble, but to the guy who hides from his penis-wielding kid in a hammock, nobility is overrated.

How Old Is Too Old To See You Naked?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

As kids grow up, you are often forced to reconsider situations that were perfectly acceptable for young kids. Childbirth is a perfectly natural and wonderful thing, but do you really want your Kindergartener mucking about your uterus? I think not. The issue has been coming up a lot more recently and here are the the things that Malcolm used to do that are now seeming a bit weird:

There's something that just doesn't sound right about saying, "Malcolm, quit playing Scrabble on my phone and hop into bed for a snuggle."

Snuggling in bed. Is there anything better than an early morning cuddle with your young child? Provided it is not before your preferred wake up time, little tiny infants and toddlers crawling around your bed giving hugs and kisses is pretty cool. Whereas the young child eagerly awaits such time, the older kids must be coaxed into it, mostly because they can see the desperation in your eyes. When we force Malcolm to do it now, it is an endless morass of gangly arms and legs more reminiscent of a octopus fight than a tender scene between parent and child. Amy may go after my head for suggesting that the end of snuggle time is near, but it’s just not the same anymore.

Kiss before school. Every day before school, I lean over and tell Malcolm to plant one on my cheek. He readily agrees and it signifies the transition in his day from being my kid to being a student. It has worked out well for both of us, except when he has done a poor job of washing his face after breakfast and I get a cheek full of jelly and milk. When I look around at the drop offs for his elementary school, I don’t see much in the way of hugging and kissing. Kids, if anything, casually nod to their parents in an expression of affection usually reserved for the British royal family. Of course, I would like to continue our little tradition, but I do not want Malcolm to become known on the playground as a “Daddy Kisser.” That can’t be good.

Seeing you naked. Kids love staring at their naked parents. We have all sorts of stuff that they don’t got, and they like noting the differences, doubly so when it has been a long time since any manscaping has taken place. I am certainly not anti-naked, as anyone who has been to one of my birthday parties can attest. But, while it is much easier to get dressed while you are talking to your kids,  at some point it you have to ask yourself, “Should they be watching this?” It’s possible that the development of a sophisticated vocabulary is the main problem here. Little tiny kids point at parts of the body and use cute words like, “boobies” or “nee nees.” When your kid points at you and says, “Schlong” or “Vajayjay” it might be time to start locking them out of your room.

Perhaps I am jumping the gun a little here, and some of you will zealously defend your naked snuggle time or wet sloppy good byes on the school yard. (I will however draw a pretty firm line at playing around in the uterus.) This just seems like one of those times when it pays to be ahead of the curve rather than behind.

Stop Fucking Swearing!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids learn to swear. It’s part of growing up, like losing teeth or learning to feel ashamed of your private parts. Kids see how deliciously wicked swearing is and are attracted to it like moths to the crack pipe. When you swear, you are a complete bad ass, and since you can’t really get a permanent tattoo of a hot woman writhing around on a car when you are in preschool, most of your rebelliousness manifests itself as dropping dirty words around the play yard.

Today on a very special episode of Big Daddy Paul, "When good kids go bad..."

Kids learn to swear from many different sources. If you are like me, you spend most of your time following rules of polite society, but the one time your kid throws your Iphone in the toilet and you yell, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”, it makes an impact. Even if, however, you have the tongue of a priest (a sober one, at least) there are many people in your life that won’t. For all your hard work in biting your tongue when your toddler bites you in the back fat, there will be a drunk relative or forgetful friend that swears like a sailor. (Or, you may just know a sailor!) Will chaining your kid to the water heater in a convent keep them from hearing dirty words? Not if they go to school! Kids will learn most of the dirty words they know from other kids. You can choose to believe that when kids are huddled around the corner of the school playground they are talking about favorite cotton candy flavors, but you’d be wrong. They are bargaining in obscenities, which, I assume mostly consists of who can use the F-word the most in a sentence. Not surprisingly, Malcolm has had fits of of his own F-Bomb usage.

As any reader of this blog knows, I rather enjoy swearing. As such, I cannot in good conscience forbid Malcolm from swearing. I am, however, mortified of the following conversation taking place at school:

Polite child:        “Malcolm, it’s my turn to play on the monkey bars.”

My Child:            “Fuck off shitstain, this playground is all Malcolm, all the time!”

I want Malcolm to know that there is a time and place for most things in life. It’s OK have dessert on Friday night at a restaurant; Nutella for breakfast? Not so much. This means that I focus my attention on the subject about what happens at school. Every do often, I talk to Malcolm about what words are OK for him to use at school. Lately, this is where I have been struggling the most.

Obviously, George Carlin’s seven filthy words are off limits (although in the sanctity of your own home it might be pretty funny for your toddler to say “Motherfucker” just once.) But how about words like “Suck” or “Balls?” If you ask the FCC whether these words are obscene they would say, “No,” but your kid doesn’t seem all that charming if he tells you in front of a group of parents that you suck for making him leave. Where do you stand on “Crap,” “Damn” or “Douche?” The list of words in profanity purgatory is long and fraught with peril.

Another group of words that are difficult to police are words like,”Friggin” or “Hecka” that are obvious replacements for more profane words. I can applaud the effort, but in my mind when used I do not think, “This kid’s not a sailor.” I think, “This kid’s a chickenshit sailor.” Does using an obvious replacement word get you anything?

Overall, the one thing I can say about our approach to Malcolm’s swearing is that it has been remarkably consistent. Every time he swears, we laugh. When he gets a bad hand at cards, and says, “Oh crap!” we snicker into our sleeves. He was breaking down fantasy football match ups earlier this year and told me that Peyton Hillis was a good play because Indianapolis’s run defense “sucked.” I couldn’t stop giggling. Amy’s response to Malcolm’s use of the word “Fuck” at the airport was to turn her head while laughing and think to herself, “Paul is gonna die when he hears this!”

Does this send the right message? No. Could we handle it better? Yes. Are we going to? Probably not, at least for now. To us, there is something pretty funny about a swearing child, mostly the shock value of a sweet kid saying some really unsweet things. One day, it may become tiresome to hear his potty mouth. But for now, we are just enjoying the ride.

Do any of you have any good stories about your kid swearing?

You, He and Loser Makes Three

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This is a very exciting time in our household. You could say that it is always an exciting time in our household considering our penchant for getting stuck in our car or taking a kid with pneumonia on vacation, but this is different. Good things are happening.

As you learned in my last post, Malcolm is moving up to elementary school. Talking to the school about him, I am learning about the tremendous strides he is taking. They say things like, “He is demonstrating a huge leap in his social maturity,” and “His brain is starting to operate in the second plane, (whatever that means, I assume it’s good. Two planes must be better than 1!) Mind you, my standards are not very high, I take it as a good day whenever the teacher doesn’t pull me aside and tell me that he tried to eat one of his classmates. Things are looking up for little Malkie.

Amy is also killing it. They announced earlier this week that Amy has joined the Workday software company (company announcement can be found here.) It is an amazing opportunity where she can get on board with an awesome company and make it even awesomer. The outpouring of good wishes she has received has been thrilling and she is so super-stoked. She hasn’t had this much spring in her step since I replaced the insoles in her work shoes with marshmallows.

Then there’s me. I haven’t had a job in more than six years and, at this point, I am unemployable.  While Malcolm took a music theory class at school, I had an existential debate (with myself) over whether it was really necessary for my deodorant to function properly. (It’s not, should I care? Jury’s still out.) Amy’s job announcement contains the words “Amazing,” “Passionate” and “Visionary.” The words people use to best describe me are “Grating,” “Bad At Grammar” and “Fatso.” I just made a conscious decision to leave a oven pan in our car because it reminded me of the potato skins that it used to contain and the very thought brought me happiness. I spend the first five minutes of every new conversation explaining away the stains and old name tags in various stages of decay I have dotted around my sweatshirt. I am not exactly on fire.

I like to sit in little chairs and make bacon! (And, yes, those are the swim trunks I was still wearing from the day before.)

So what do you do when everyone around you is kicking ass and taking names and you are getting your ass kicked and have to  remind everyone what your name is? You could work really hard and do something successful yourself, or take the easier route and just make up a lie about something successful you’ve done (why yes, I did just discover the cure for narcolepsy. I’ll email the pharmaceutical company just after I take this nap…) There are some uber stay at home parents out there that manage to make a name for themselves in spite of the million things they are doing around the house for the their family. Those people usually crap out after a few years of constant methamphedical use.

The rest of us are content to share in the joy of those around us, the veritable special sauce on the double cheeseburger of our families. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world to be a condiment, but this job is not about glamor. It’s about being there, day after day, spread on the bun to make everything just right (think this metaphor is dead yet? I don’t! This job is about being poured into a plastic container and dipping your french fries in it when no one else is looking.) I’ll gladly leave the glamor to those who have functioning deodorant.

It’s Elementary, My Dear Malcolm

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I just saw the dumbest ad on TV, and I can’t shake it. In it, a talking truck says “I vow to never complain, never give up, and never say never.” I certainly understand the sentiment, but why would you make a vow that breaks the vow IN THE VOW ITSELF? Dude, you just said, “Never” four fucking times! It has to be one of the most ass backwards sentences ever written.

Of course, I fancy myself a writer extraordinaire, so I will try my hand at even more idiotic lines:

I had some really nice pastries at the Agnostic Jews For Jesus bake sale last night.

The worst thing about vegans has got to be the salami breath.

I got a tattoo. It says “I Have No Tattoos.”

Ok, that’s enough lead in. We made Malcolm vow several years ago to never grow up. (Nicely done, eh? You didn’t think I could get here from there, but I did! I told you, writer extraordinaire!!!) We liked our little tyke, but were concerned that the cute, cuddly little smurf was turning into a little boy that talked about butts all the time. We wanted to hang on to the little boy sweetness as long as we could, telling Malcolm that when he “grows up” (even a little) he’d be going off to work in a coal mine. It worked for a while, but it appears that he has now broken his vow.

We learned yesterday that Malcolm will be joining the elementary classroom at his school. We like Malcolm’s school because they told us he would move Malcolm from the preschool classroom to the elementary classroom whenever he was ready to move on and not based on any strict age deadlines. We like to let other people make all the tough parenting decisions for us. (When he gripes about the HPV vaccination, we get to blame Rick Perry!)

We thought this would mean Malcolm would be hitting the big time next summer, or perhaps January at the earliest. Just to make sure, I tried to keep him immature and stupid over the summer by enrolling him in sports camps and having him watch C-SPAN coverage of Senate floor. Evidently, it didn’t take. His teachers started running out of work for him during the first week of the school year and came to the consensus that it would be better for him to move up to a new classroom than infect the younger kids in his room with all the butt chatter.

So now he goes. Gone are the days of his comfy blanket, his hot breath blowing up against our neck while he slept on our chest, and the words, “Wuv” and “Eleventeen.” I will miss the little bubbling mass of dulcet pudding, even when it is being replaced by a beaming tower of awesomeness. We are proud, but it is bittersweet, as he takes another step in the journey that will one day culminate in him becoming a man.

A man who will hopefully have the fortitude to one day say, “I’ll never say never.”

Do You Want Your Kid To Be A Loser?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I know what you’re thinking, “Of course, Paul! I want my son to hang out in somebody’s garage huffing paint while discussing the virtues of neck tattoos.” Amen.

Sadly, we are not quite there, yet. Today’s question involves whether I want Malcolm’s sports teams to be any good. He had his first game the other week, and it did not go well. The other team was aggressive, made spectacular plays and knew how to kick the ball more than five feet. Malcolm’s team, perhaps recognizing the brilliance on the other side of the ball, mostly watched passively as the other team run circles around them. The final score was 6-0 and we didn’t score even when the other team removed half of their players to make things more equitable.

Some coaches would be concerned at the results, especially when the assistant coaches quietly murmur to the other parents that they would do a MUCH better job of coaching than I. I am not troubled. Luckily, Malcolm’s league is not competitive at this age, meaning no official score is kept and there are no standings to display the ineptitude of our little guys. Even so, I am kind of glad that his team sucks.

First, I want the kids to listen to me. If they jumped out of the gate beating the pants off the other team, they might tune me out when I try to teach them things at practice, thinking to themselves, “Blow on the whistle all you want fat man, we are dominating this league!” Instead, I get to yell things like, “You want to get shut out again this week? Keep bunching up around the ball then.” Losing badly just might make the kids willing to listen to advice like, “Pass the ball!” or “Stand up and watch the game!”

Second, I want the kids to learn to love the game and gauging success by the progress they make. Little boys are competitive to the point where they get into arguments over who is most competitive. (After a talk with them about not being so competitive, they got into a contest about who could be the least competitive. You gotta love little kids!) Early success only tells kids that they have less to learn than they might think. Instead, I want them to just have a good time out there and enjoy the little things like making a pass or actually stopping the ball from going into the goal.

For sure, winning makes you feel better than losing. Nobody pops champagne for being the worst team, (even though losing teams are probably more in need of alcohol than winners!) If, however, your child only enjoys the game when the outcome goes their way, they are eventually going to stop playing the game. Losing is part of life, and if you can just accept the fact that you are going to lose, it frees you up to enjoy the game and try to get better. It is much easier to teach this to kids when they lose all the time, so I am hoping that his team continues to underperform. Oh, the lessons we’ll be able to give!

That way, when Malcolm gets a neck tattoo later in life, it will read, “Play hard, have fun.”

Ode To A Single Parent

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

Amy is out of town this week. At first I was pretty sad, for she was leaving Malkie and I for a long weekend of fun in New Mexico with her college pals while we were left to fend for ourselves. Being a single parent can be quite a challenge: you are there in the morning when they want to start their day, you cover the entire morning ritual solo and get them off to school, you manage any after school activities, and, if you make it through dinner, you close out the day with the nighttime routine. For all your troubles, you get to sit alone on the couch when the kid is in bed and dream of having a conversation that didn’t involve scolding the other party. For all you single parents out there, you are amazing.

I got to thinking last night about my current situation and decided that I had it all wrong. Being a single parent isn’t lousy. It’s the bomb! Here’s why:

Party Time! There may be something on underneath. Then again, maybe not.

1. All the “rules” of civilized society become mere options when you are alone. Bathing, responsible eating, tidiness, heck, even clothing can all now be viewed as things I don’t give a rat’s ass about when Amy is gone. We are currently in the middle of a modern day primordial ooze here, and I, for one, am soaking it up. The uninvited guest may be quite surprised to find us living like Cherokees (with the curious ability to crank out awesome won ton soup,) but I don’t let fear run my life. The rules are relaxed now and so are we.

2. I get to watch whatever I want on TV. I am definitely NOT saying that Amy has bad taste in TV, but when she is gone, it’s Dude TV 24-7. My current rotation involves heavy doses of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” and, well, that’s pretty much it. I may throw in a “Pardon The Interruption” or some football games to round out my week, but you just can’t beat the Philly gang for raw, unadulterated fun. Especially when it involves two or three of the following: popcorn, beer, salami, chicken wings, more won tons, or nachos. Evenings around here are epic.

3. I can sleep wherever I want on the bed. Amy enjoys sleeping on her side of the bed in the correct orientation. Now, this is a perfectly normal way to order your life, but, whoa, what if you could sleep in every corner of the bed and at any angle you wanted? Last night, I went reverse cowgirl on my normal position (whatever that means) and wound up with my head near the laundry I had put on the bed and not folded and put away. The liberty is like air in my lungs.

4. Volume. Amy has been working at home this past year. As such, it is generally frowned upon to crank up the jams while chugging through blog posts, and post-Yahtzee celebration dances that resemble mardi gras. Let’s just say that this week, we are making some noise. Er, check that, THIS WEEK WE ARE MAKING SOME NOISE!!! (Insert weird sounding Howard Dean noise.)

There are surely many other reasons to enjoy going solo this week. I am sure that Amy is having a radical time with her friends, but so are we. You should come check us out. Just call first.

Where The Heck Did Big Daddy Paul Go?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

It’s true, I have been ignoring you. In my heyday, I could crank out blog posts as fast as you could say, “Bob’s your Uncle,” even though Earl is my Uncle and Bob is, in fact, my dad. I could get into the etymology of the expression and maybe drop stories about how it is perfectly fine for me to call my dad “Uncle Bob” on Drunken Christmas, but that would take too long. You probably would also get very bored. I already am, so let’s start over.

Hi! Wow, things sure got busy around here. I traded my old responsibilities around here (hunting spiders, making mayonnaise) with real activities. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

The greatest portion of my time is now spent dealing with other parents. I have agreed to coach Malcolm’s soccer team and joined the board of the parent’s association at his school. I have generally avoided getting involved in the details of Malcolm’s life out of the fear of having to work with other parents. Why? It’s simple. Parents are fucking crazy. Every time I get into a meeting with a large group of parents, I invariably tilt my head, crinkle my brow and wonder, “What the hell is the matter with you?” Wait, you think it’s a good idea to feed your kids cookies in the middle of a sporting event? Riiiight. Oh, you’d like to highjack a 50 person school meeting to talk about the difficulties in scheduling your parent-teacher conference. Okey dokie, that’s a good use of 30 minutes of our time.

No, nobody ever regrets coming to meetings when I am there.

It is precisely this dynamic that has caused me to eschew getting involved in running the activities in Malcolm’s life. The only problem with this approach is that you have little say in the way things are run. Sure, I could skip school meetings because the couple next to me wouldn’t stop petting each other and whispering in each others’ ears, but is Malcolm better off for it? I think not. No longer content to grouse in the background about how things are run, I am stepping up. My early strategy is disarm the crazy with my wit and dashing good looks. I don’t know what I’ll do if this doesn’t work. On second thought, can’t you just smell how witty and good looking I am? it’s gotta work!

I have also been spending a decent amount of time working on my book. I originally thought turning my blog posts into a book would be a relatively painless affair. I would restructure some sentences, throw in some clever punctuation, and Bob’s your uncle/dad, I would have a NY times bestseller. Getting into my posts, however, I realized that they were actually quite crummy. In most of my posts, you have to wade through a substantial river of shit to get to the good snippets. Putting the book together requires more snippets and less shit. Easier said than done, and things are coming along quite slowly.

Ah, fuck it. I spend most of time nowadays on fantasy football. I love fantasy football as much as Garfield loves lasagna. I love fantasy football as much as Cathy hates Mondays. You remember how much Snoopy liked leggy blondes? Yep, that’s how much I enjoy fake football. Tired of cartoon references? OK, try this one: If fantasy football was my baby and Amy died in a horrific cable car accident, I would wear a male nursing apparatus until it could eat solid foods. I might even read a book or two on male lactation. I came in last place last year, so I am quite excited to start a new season and try to march my way to the victory circle. I just hope there won’t be any parents there. Buzz. Kill.

10 Things To Do With A Sick Kid

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

Malcolm was sick this week. Ordinarily, this would have been no big deal, and we would just sit around the house doing drugs (if only Ibuprofen,) and watching movies. This was not, however, a minor illness and we had some pretty big plans around here, so the week turned out to be quite the carnival of fun. If you are wonder what to do next time your kid gets sick, wonder no more!!!

1. Go to baseball camp. Most doctor’s recommend rest in a peaceful environment for sick kids. I say, “Bah!” to that. We sent Malcolm to baseball camp on Friday after mistakenly believing his fever had subsided. (That Ibuprofen really works!) When I picked him up from camp, his counselor called him the, “Strong, silent type.” I knew something was drastically wrong. Most of the kids leaving the ball fields that day had red faces because they were sun burned and tired from running, but Malcolm’s was due to a 104 degree fever. When sending your kid to camp with a dangerously high fever, I recommend putting him/her in long, black polyester baseball pants and a sweatshirt like we did, too. It surely makes them feel even worse.

Things not oft heard in an ER: "No seaweed for me, daddy!" and "Can you get the wasabi off of this tuna for me?"

2. Eat sushi in a weird place. (FYI, this does NOT mean jamming sushi in a non-traditional orifice!) After getting home from camp, Malcolm crashed. Even though he was sick and fell asleep at 4:30 in the afternoon, I decided we should keep our big plans for the night: eating sushi and watching the movie, “A Perfect Game.” When he awoke from his nap, his fever spiked to 104.6. To me, that sounded more like a FM rock station than a safe temperature for a human being, so we loaded Malkie and the sushi into the car and headed to the emergency room. We were all pretty hungry when we got there, so while we waited for our turn we ate sushi in the waiting room. Being the classy individuals we are, we used our “white trash chopsticks” (which is another way of saying our thumb and forefinger) as the preferred delivery system. Not all of the families in the waiting room were nauseous in the ER waiting room before we got there, but after we left surely everyone wanted to throw up. Oakland Children’s hospital waiting room people, you are welcome!

3. Take a road trip. The ER doctors assured us that Malcolm had a virus that would work itself out in a day or two, and that we were totally cool taking the week long camping trip we had planned. I am not sure if most people would look at their feverish, lethargic child and decide that the best course of action would be to load the kid in an RV for a five hour drive, but we are not most people. (Does that make us least people?) The trip was pretty weird. Malcolm just sat there. He didn’t watch movies or play games on my phone. For nearly five hours, he stoically looked out the window like an inmate being transferred to a new facility. Strange.

4. Eat fast food. I know when I am sick, I like soup. Some people like crackers. We fed Malcolm a cheeseburger and chocolate shake. Technically, the In And Out “burger” lacked a meat patty and was therefor a grilled cheese sandwich, but still. After four nights of sickness, we attempted to get Malcolm better by pretending he was no longer sick. It didn’t work.

5. Build a crappy fire. I brought a shit-ton of firewood for our camping trip after collecting the wood from a tree that a neighbor chopped down a few years ago. This wood was big and needed chopping, though. I tried using the hand axe we brought and the only thing I succeeding in doing was giving myself four blisters. A fellow camper took pity on me and gave me a better axe, but I still couldn’t break up the giant logs. Having seen the Shining, I thought that if if something is made of wood, you could chop through it with an axe, but evidently, this is not the case. I felt like the guy trying to cut a strip of beef jerky with a spork. I eventually scrounged a meager amount of kindling together and after setting it ablaze dumped some giant logs on top. This succeeded only in making a huge amount of smoke. Fun fact: smoke is bad for sick people. Malcolm was up all night crying and coughing, coughing and crying. We felt awful, but not as awful as Malcolm did. We were getting quite concerned for our little boy.

6. Don’t eat s’mores. Along with “Not Bathing,” s’mores are one of main reasons that people go camping. Malcolm adores s’mores and would probably agree to get really sick if it meant that he could have s’mores when he got better. Under the “pretending he is better” theory of parenting, we offered him s’mores the first and second night of the camping trip. He said (and I quote), “I don’t think I want any s’mores. I just want to go to bed.” Under normal circumstances, I would giddily accept such a request as it would inevitably mean that there were more s’mores (is that redundant?) for me, but this just broke my heart, much in the same way Hillary must have felt when Bill Clinton said, “You know, I don’t think I’m going to get any interns this summer.” Something was definitely wrong.

7. Eat burned bacon in a weird place. (Same thing goes with the orifice.) On Tuesday, I committed a cardinal sin: I burned the bacon. You can end up on whatever side you want with the whole “flabby vs. crisp” bacon debate (I am unapologetically pro-crisp) but no one likes their bacon burned. I burned the bacon, and as we sat down to eat breakfast on Tuesday to this sad reality, Malcolm had a coughing fit so severe that he threw up a pile of foam. I didn’t recall serving him any salmonella-infected foam, so I took this to be a bad sign. I freaked out and demanded that we immediately take him to whatever urgent care facility they had nearby. Luckily for us, there was a hospital ten minutes away, so we packed Malcolm and the burned bacon in the truck and made our way to our second urgent care facility in a week. While we waited for Malcolm’s tests, Amy and I took turns eating in the waiting room. The people there would have preferred that I eat sushi, telling me, “Dude, burning the bacon is a dick move.” I didn’t disagree.

Who needs a camping chair when they have perfectly good beds at the hospital?

8. Play games. We had planned on playing a lot of Scrabble and Yahtzee, but at this point in the week, we were forced to play “Chest X-Ray,” “Get an IV installed” and “The Blood Drawing Game.” After a spelling bee, we learned that the proper way to spell Malcolm’s malady was “P-N-E-U-M-O-N-I-A.” When the doctor told us this, I excitedly fist pumped and exclaimed “Yesssssss!” not because I wanted my son to have pneumonia, but because it meant that he had an illness that he would get some medicine for. Having a child with an undiagnosed illness is way worse than having a child with a diagnosed illness, even when the illness sounds serious and has two consonants in it that normally don’t go together. The doctors again told us that we could continue camping, but just to take it easy (and probably avoid crappy fires.) After filling up prescriptions at the local pharmacy, we headed back to the campsite.

9. Hang out with friends. Most people don’t expose sick children to their friends. We do (remember, we are least people!) We had traveled with our friends Marj and Tracy to the campsite and decided to stay for as long as Malcolm was up for it. Marj and Tracy were amazing, putting up with our stressed out psyches and even giving up their bedroom in the RV so that Amy and Malcolm could hide from the other campsite fires. I hope we don’t repay them by giving them pneumonia.

If you have to pick a place to be sick, we did pretty well.

10. Pretend you’re not sick. Malcolm get incrementally better each day and enthusiastically demanded we do such things as hang out at the beach for an afternoon and golf. He eventually got his appetite for s’mores back and even found the strength to play 10-20 games of Yahtzee a day, sometimes by himself when we all got tired of playing. He beat me at white trash bocce ball (two whiffle balls and a pink golf ball) and even played a little pretend baseball by throwing the whiffle ball into his camp chair. He still took pretty long naps each day and went to bed pretty early, but we felt better at the end of the trip knowing he was on the path to recovery. Sometimes pretending you’re not sick works and sometimes it doesn’t. It finally starting working on Wednesday, and our trip was pretty fun until we finally left on Saturday.

I am sure that in the days preceding your next vacation, you will actively attempt to get your kid sick. It really isn’t as glamorous as I make it sound. Give me a healthy, s’more eating kid, some decent firewood and crisp (unburned) bacon any old time.

Psycho

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

For those of you from Amy’s past hoping this post would be chock full of stories about Amy in high school, this post will disappoint you. Yes, her nickname was, “Psycho,” back then but she told me in no uncertain language that I shouldn’t mention anything about that here because of the damage it would do to her reputation. Honey, your secret is safe with me!

This post is about our adorable little psychopath, Malcolm. Why do I think he’s a psychopath? Glad you asked. The boy is psycho about baseball. Not psycho in the fact the he likes watching baseball, likes playing baseball when outside, likes playing pretend baseball while inside, like calculating intricate statistics about how players are doing (“Daddy, what battering average is 14 for 23?”) or even can impersonate most of the Giants’ various batting/pitching motions.

What makes him a psycho is that he does all these things every day during his free time, and nothing else. I swear, he really does nothing else! We can cajole him into eating, occasionally taking a bath or eventually going to sleep each night, but if left to his own devices, he would not stop participating in baseball-related activities. Ever. He is the rain man of the diamond.

While all the other kids were playing grabass and begging for cotton candy, Malcom was scoring the game. He recorded every at bat for the game!

At first I thought it was cute that he liked baseball. Actually, I didn’t think he liked baseball as much as he just wanted to please me by showing me that he liked my favorite pastime, a weird daddy-child version of the Stockholm Syndrome. Even so, it was cute to hear him say things like “Pablo Sandoballs” and “Dude, the Giants are killing me.”

Now, baseball is everywhere and everything to him. He mutters in the back seat, “And after a big inning, the Giants take a 13-12 lead.” Yesterday, after 7 hours of baseball summer camp, Malcolm came home and asked if we could go to the park to play baseball. We did. When we finally came home, he waited for dinner by, you guessed it, playing pretend baseball. One night, after kissing him good night, I swear I thought I heard him say, “Three run homer. Definitely a three run homer.”

As obsessions go, of course, baseball has to be pretty sweet. I would be pretty bummed if Malcolm spent all of his attentions focused on ice skating or the Obama administration. As a matter of fact, if he were into the smurfs, I mean,  really into the smurfs such that he used the word, “Smurf” as a noun, verb, AND adjective, I would probably just drop him off at the IVF clinic we used with a note attached that read: “YOU made this mess. Clean it up.”

And yet, I complain. I use the baseball part of my brain with Malcolm right now, but everything else lays fallow. Although there are conflicting reports as to just what the rest of my brain has to offer, I would like to find out. With the exception of a permanent nacho fountain and boobs, too much of a good thing becomes un-good. When Malcolm is president of the chess club or won’t put down the X-Box, I will look back on these with nostalgia. Until then, you may actually here me say, “Aww, Malcolm, do we have to play baseball again?”

Am I Lazy, Or The Best Parent Ever?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

One of the most difficult aspects of stay at home parenting is the monotony of it all. With exception of a few days here and there where you are on vacation or lock the kids in the basement and go on a wine and bacon bender, stay at home parents do the same shit every day. Mind you, I am totally NOT complaining, this is the sweetest gig one could ever imagine. It’s just that I hate some aspects of the job so much that if they were stuffed in a gunny sack, I would stab them repeatedly with a pitchfork and then whomp them against the side of the house, like a cat that is just not right. See? Totally NOT complaining.

In the past few months, I have realized that the best things to do with tasks that I don’t particularly enjoy doing is to simply stop doing them. “But Paul,” you ask, “Who will make Malcolm’s lunch? Who will brush his teeth? Who’s gonna track down all the underwear he seems to enjoy throwing around his room and put it in the hamper?” The answer is simple: he will.

This three point line that Malcolm wanted installed in our driveway may not be beautiful to you, but since he did it (while I played Scrabble on my phone) I think it's the most ridiculously perfect line ever.

Remarkably, we have found that Malcolm is surprisingly open to tackling a lot of responsibilities around the house. Sure, there may be some griping here and there, but for the most part Malcolm has accepted his new responsibilities with the same zeal a cubicle worker receives a new stapler. We have found that these simple guidelines will help you along the path to turning your child into an indentured servant (or is it dentured? Not sure about that one.)

First, make sure that the kid knows he/she is the one who is going to have to do it. If they call your bluff and you do it, they will know you are a pushover. You can be ready to assist them while they get up to speed on the new tasks, but they have to do the heavy lifting themselves. Show them how to use sharp knives and demonstrate how one washes their own testicles, but for crying out loud, don’t do that stuff yourself. Of course, things may be a little painful to start with. Fingers may be hacked off and sandwiches could be a little messy (finger sandwiches usually are!) but when your kids finally start doing things themselves, it will be worth it.

Second, tie the new work to the fact that they are now older. We told Malcolm that he was a big boy now, and as a result, he was going to be responsible for making his own breakfasts, lunches and helping out with dinner.  This turned the task into less of a, well, task and more into an honor. He resisted, smelling out the rat that he’d just been given, but if big kids make their own food, then who was he to stand in the way of the natural order.

Lastly, give them tons of praise. This builds confidence in your kid and gets you out of the constant loop of criticizing them. Find something nice to say about their work before offering any “suggestions” for how to make it better. When Malcolm made Christmas cards for all the grandparents last year, I told him that his penmanship was beautiful and his choice of colors was amazing before indicating that the picture of a rifle that he had drawn was perhaps not the best way to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus. Stay positive!

So there you have it. Go out and turn your kid into a worker bee. You’ll find that once they “get it” they will automatically start doing more things for themselves. Every task that they do for themselves is one thing less that you’ll do every day, breaking the shackles of monotony from your beaten down neck. It also means more free time for you and hopefully less stabbing things in a gunny sack with a pitchfork.

The Coke Bottle Ruins Everything

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Shortly after this photo was taken, a frisbee was introduced to the group. Teeth were lost.

Scene 1- Some boys are playing nicely in the park. They throw sand on the slide and pretend they are trains coming out of a tunnel. They have imaginary picnics and provide the parents with such delicacies as “chocolate cake with ketchup sauce.” They are getting along nicely until, during a lull in the action, the parents provide the kids with two tennis rackets and a ball. After a grand total of five minutes, the kids turn on one another, alternately fighting with each other over the ball and then attempting to bash each others’ brains in with the rackets. They went from “Model UN” to “Lord of the Flies.”

Scene 2- A group of kids sit in the dugout awaiting their turn at bat. They ceaselessly play grabass, but generally the coach is able to focus most of his attention to the player at the plate. One child ventures out and smuggles one of the practice balls back into the dugout. The ball is then bandied about amongst the kids, being used as a bludgeoning weapon and a missile. The coach loses it, and practice is halted until the object aggression is removed.

Scene 3- A child goes to school with Trainspotting brand toy heroin kit (complete with bendy spoon!) The kids, who had previously been boning up on the geography of Southeast Asia or the Spanish terms for the parts of a flower, start tying themselves off and engage in what experts call “euphoric projectile vomiting.” The teacher removes the kit, causing some of the heavier pretend users to retreat to the corner while itching and shaking uncontrollably. Most of the kids now have temporary tattoos all over their body.

What is the unifying theme of these scenarios? The answer is that the kids were fine until some foreign item was introduced into the situation. Left to their own devices, children use their imaginations and seek common ground to relate to the other kids around them. The “item,” whatever it is, upsets this level playing field and turns the socialist nirvana into a capitalist nightmare. For this reason, I firmly believe that the worst thing you can ever do for your kids, besides bringing them within slapping distance of Wendi Deng, is to give them something to play with.

If I were smarter, I would you point you to the scientists who found that the  possession of external objects is one of the most common causes of violence amongst children (and apes too!) I could also direct you to the research of social scientists who argue that toy based play has led to a decline in the executive function of kids today. I won’t (even though I just did!) and will leave you with this one nugget of parenting wisdom for today:

Don’t send your kids to school with pretend heroin kits.

You’re welcome.

Things That Make You Go, “Hmmmm”

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I know pretty much everything there is to know about raising children. How do I know? Well, the good folks at Child Protective Services wouldn’t be here every other week or so unless they wanted to learn how to do it the right way, would they?

Even so, every once in a while I get a curve ball that even I don’t know how to handle. Here are a few:

Hmmmm #1- You’re kid might be doing something shady, but he’s out of your hair.

At the park the other day, Malcolm joined a group of other kids running around the park. They eventually stopped running and huddled together on the other side of the park.  This allowed a fellow stay at home dad and I to discuss things like “What TV shows are you watching” and “Hey, the hot nanny is looking at you. Suck in your gut.”

Malcolm does many things. He runs. He screams. He begs for ice cream. One thing he normally doesn’t do is huddle. While I wasn’t sure, I had a suspicion that the kids were huddling around a cell phone supplied by a nearby nanny. Ignorance is bliss, but I wasn’t very excited over the prospect of Malcolm sitting around a nice, sunny park watching TV.

Do you find out whether the kids are watching TV, or do you sit back, enjoy the day with your friend and let the cards fall where they may?

Hmmmm #2- Is summertime for work or play?

I love the fact that Malcolm goes to school. He learns stuff that I could never teach him (math, Spanish, a sense of right and wrong, etc.) When the school year ends, however, parents are left with the decision as to how their kids should spend the summer. Most summer camps out there let kids be kids, offering an endless array of fun summertime activities. They teach kids sports, art, swimming, singing and, occasionally, fart jokes. When children at these camps are asked on the way home if they had a fun day, the kids typically give no answer because they have fallen asleep in the car after being worn out all day.

Raise your hand if you want to graph polynomials!!!

The other option is summer camps that offer educational curricula. Many schools, including Malcolm’s, offer summer programs and there are plenty of camps that pride themselves on making your kid smarter. While they may not say, “This camp will get your kid into Harvard,” science camp, chess camp and, yes, even math camp afford your child the ability to get ahead of the kids who are learning to do the hokey pokey. Children at these camps aren’t asked whether they had fun during the day, they are given comprehension exams and then berated for any shortcomings, “What do you mean you don’t know whether insects are invertibrates?! No candy for a week!!!”

Do you want your kids to have fun over the summer or continue their educational development?

Hmmm #3- Later bedtimes

A child’s bed time is a wonderful thing. Not counting some subsequent minor household duties like washing dishes or talking to your spouse about their work, bed time signals the end of the day for us stay at home parents. It is precisely this reason that we set Malcolm’s bed time at 4 pm for the longest time. As kids become more interesting to hang out with, though, the days get longer, inevitably pushing back bed times later and later. This has the irritating effect of depriving us parents of wine, a quiet house and a second glass of wine.

Do you pack your days and nights with fun activities with the kids or stuff them in gunny sacks and lock them in their rooms as soon at the first sign of dusk?

Of course, there are no right and wrong answers to these dilemmas, (provided you make the same decisions we do!) For the record, I put the kibosh on the Iphone presentation of what turned out to be “Tom & Jerry,” we have Malcolm in mostly sports camps with a few weeks of science camp to ensure that his brain doesn’t atrophy over the summer, (next year, he’ll go to school year round,) and we recently moved his bed time back an hour to 8. Malcolm may not always appreciate my take (“Aww dad, all the other kids get to watch Tom and Jerry!”) but he has been pretty happy, lately.

What do you think? Got any interesting conundrums yourself? (Yes, a blatant request for more of you to chirp in and let me know who’s out there…)

How To Get Your Kids To Eat Ox Penis

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Cooking and Eating

People are always asking me, “Paul, how do I get more sex organs in my kid’s diet?” I tell ’em, wait… What?! Why on Earth would you want to do such a thing?

Actually, as luck would have it, I got Malcolm to do just that. Here’s how it went:

We went to Raging Waters to beat the heat yesterday. Raging Waters is a water theme park, where you can ride water slides, play in the wave pool, and expose yourself to massive amounts of chlorine and toddler urine. At first, I was worried that Malcolm would simply stay in his comfort zone and play in the children’s area, maybe taking in one of the rides where parents can ride in tandem with their kids. He impressed both Amy and I, though, when he attacked some of the more daring rides, even going down in an inner tube by himself. Way to go Malkie!

The real fun started when we left the park. The area we were in seemed to have a heavy Vietnamese influence, so we stopped for dinner at a place called Bun Bo Hue An Nam, which, if I translated it correctly, means, “Never eat in strip malls.” Having come straight from the water park, we were still in our swim suits. At times, this family exudes class. Amy went in to check with the waiter to see if we would be allowed in wearing our chlorine and urine soaked beachwear, and he said, “Umm, it’s OK as long as you are comfortable.” We took this as a resounding, “Yes!”

Two of the spicy soup dishes at the place looked the same, so I asked the waiter how they were different. He said that one of the soups had beef tendon, and the other had ox penis, deliberately lowering his voice when he said the word, “penis” so as not to make Malcolm too giggly at the prospect of eating dinner. What the waiter did not know is that I am a complete nimrod, and started giggling myself.

Ordinarily, I am not much of an adventurous eater. Maybe it was the being in the sun all day. Maybe it was the consumption of so much chlorine (and urine!) For whatever reason, I decided, “When in Rome… (which evidently means, “When in a strip mall in Fremont, order a soup with farm animal genitalia in it.”)

The soup arrived with a bevvy of vegetables and random unknown meats in it. I asked the waiter to explain what each of the items were, and he pointed at things and said, “This is the pork cake. That is the beef tendon. This is the pork blood (large purple squares with a tofu-like consistency.) And over there, is the ox penis,” once again lowering his voice when he got to the naughty bits, and again causing me to grin. I am sorry, but a waiter saying the words “ox penis” in hushed tones in the middle of a restaurant to people still in their bathing suits is funny. It just is.

Having tackled the weighty issue of whether to show you a picture of said private parts, I opted to present, for your viewing pleasure, this picture of Malcolm and his sign at the baseball game instead. You're welcome.

I sampled each of the types of meat and decided I loved the pork cake (think Asian Spam with a way better consistency,) didn’t care for the pork blood, thought the tendons were just OK, although way more tender than I expected and actually liked the wee wee. (Just so you know, this blog has taken me about three times as long to write as it normally does because I keep stopping to laugh at each mention of private parts.) Ox penis tastes like a long blob of glutinous rice. You would definitely NOT know you were ingesting some dumb animal’s Captain Winkie unless someone told you.

As I slurped the spicy soup and grabbed at the bizarre meats with my chopsticks, I thought, “Malcolm went on some new waterslides today, maybe he’ll be a little adventurous at eating too.” I offered him some pork cake and he snapped it up, asking for more. Not wanting to share the pork cake, I gave him some pig’s blood. He asked for more of that too. Finally, I decided to share some of the tube steak with him as well. I cut off a piece, and wouldn’t you know it, he asked for more of that too! Amy sat in horror on her side of the table and wouldn’t go anywhere near us. Of course, I only told Malcolm what he was eating in general, saying, “Oh, this? This is … pork. (Or beef.)”

So there you go, that’s how to get your kids to eat ox penis. Only refer to the subject in quiet tones, and then lie about it when they ask what they are eating. It’s not the most straightforward way to do things, but it gets results, people. I didn’t figure it would work to ask Malcolm if he wanted to try some of the cow’s nee nee. (I especially worried about how this would play out when talking to his friends at the playground, My daddy likes to put a cow’s penis in his mouth!)

At some point, when he is being very, very bad, I will tell him what he ate. He’ll deserve it.

Big Daddy Paul Is An Asshole

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I know this may seem rather surreal, considering how suave and awesome (suasome?) I seem to most of you. The truth is, I am friendly to pretty much everyone on this planet. I wave hello to the garbage dudes in the morning, tip my cap to the thieves breaking in to my neighbor’s houses, and, when it is really hot outside, I make sure to douse the Cal Trans workers at the side of the road with any liquids I have lying around the car. Yep, I am pretty much a saint to almost everyone who knows me.

I generally try to take all the fun out of being a kid. Needless to say, making my kid look like a business coming home from a long day of work is pretty rewarding.

Malcolm, however, thinks I am a complete dick. To him, I am merely the rotten caretaker who enforces a litany of mean-spirited rules. These rules do nothing other than to make him miserable. Plus, he is pretty sure I eat all the ice cream after he goes to bed. Here are the rules that he frets about:

Rule #1- Beat your children. As appetizing as it might seem, don’t go Mommy Dearest and break out the clothes hanger on them. Instead, beat them at games. I beat Malcolm’s ass at Cribbage, my teams win baseball championships all the times, and around here I am known as the Monopoly Master. Sure, this leads to a fair amount of tantrums, but I think kids need a good dose of failure to get them comfortable with the idea. Think Kim Jong Il lost a lot of games of Scrabble growing up? Nope. Now he surrounds himself with yes-men, yes-women and yes-transgendered people who tell him how awesome he is at everything he does. Maybe it goes without saying, but please, please, please don’t raise your children to turn out like Kim Jong Il. Plus, it is more than a little satisfying to beat your kids at stuff when they have been giving you a lot of grief during the day. Win-win!

Rule #2- Never, ever buy your kids anything. I take a good deal of happiness in not buying Malcolm things he wants. I call it “Character Building,” others call it “Sadism.” Last week, we went to an amusement park, and Malcolm stopped at a merchandise cart to ask for some little toy. I said, “No.” The family we were with generously offered to get him something, as their kids really wanted a souvenir. I still said, “No!!!” I am no longer sure of the lesson I am trying to teach, but I am having fun depriving him anyways. Malcolm doesn’t think it is nearly as fun.

Rule #3- Always give them fewer treats than they want. If Malcolm were a robot, he would recite, “Give me candy” on a monotonous loop every single moment of the day. I generally rebuff his attempts to consume sugary treats, but there are times when sweets are totally appropriate. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter how much they get, as most of the excitement is that they get it at all. So, Malcolm gets a lot of half candy-bars, smallish pieces of cake and shared desserts. One time while camping, Malcolm only got two s’mores, while his buddies all got three. He looked at me like I was Kim Jong Il. I smiled like a crazy dictator.

To me, life is all about teaching your kids to deal with failure, disappointment and inequality. Making your kids miserable is highly rewarding experience, one that I enjoy often. Perhaps that’s why I’m not real popular around here. That’s cool. The Cal Trans people all love me.

Big Daddy Paul’s Guide To Getting Fat

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Cooking and Eating

People are always asking me why I am so fat. At first, I took this to mean “phat,” so I would answer, “Because I got the flavor!” typically bringing about several moments of staring at one another blankly until the realization that it was more a comment about my girth than my grooviness. Now when someone asks my about being fat, I tell them I am not, in fact, fat, I’m just retaining nachos.

I have come to the conclusion that I would be better off if everyone around me put on a few pounds, so I am putting out this guide in the hopes that all you other folks become big like me. Between a swelling of all my friends and some crafty photo editing, I hope to feel like an emaciated Justin Beiber. Mind you, this is no “Dummies Guide To Getting Fat, where they tell you to eat onion rings for breakfast and use butter as toothpaste. No, this guide is phat, please enjoy.

Step 1- Finish your kids food. Kids food is awesome. If your kid is anything like mine, he/she is getting a healthy dose of grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese or [insert cheese type] with [insert starch]. When kids don’t finish their meal, it is tempting to devour the remainder of the meal in the spare bedroom when no one is looking. Give in to this temptation. Kids can eat this stuff because they burn thousands of calories a day bouncing about the house and throwing tantrums (the amount of calories burned during a tantrum is staggering!) Adults not named Russell Crowe won’t usually burn near enough calories to support such a rich diet, meaning the cheese-carb combinations that kids revel in will go straight to your neck-fat. Give in, and plump up.

Step 2- Don’t clean your house. Cleaning is serious work, what with all the squatting, scrubbing and mopping involved. Take all the money you were planning on spending on organic produce and redirect it for maids and pork rinds. If you really want to go all out, you can just hire people to do any sort of work that requires physical exertion. Hire people to wash your car, play sports with your kids and even chew your food. (That’s no typo, I saw an add on Craig’s list for “Momma Bird Mandy” to come over to your house, chew up your food and then regurgitate it in your mouth. I found this prospect kind of enticing except for everything about it being totally disgusting.) The less you do, the better I’ll look.

Sno Cones just make you feel good, don't they?

Step 3- Go to theme parks. Theme parks are where diets go to die. I just took Malcolm to Gilroy Gardens, a place that celebrates all of the fine fruits and vegetables that California is able to grow. Too bad none of these fruits and veggies made their way onto the menu, leaving us to decide whether to feed our kids sno cones or slurpees for lunch. Of course, we had the option to wash it down with some churros, and follow it up with a refreshing snack of cotton candy and licorice afterwards. This place didn’t even have the high end amusement park fare, meaning we were left without any chance to have deep fried [insert any food imaginable]. I guess I needed some reason to anticipate the Alameda County Fair this year! Please, please, please go to an amusement park people. My hair is getting Bieberish just thinking about it.

Step 4- Go to Bakersfield. Bakersfield is known for being on many lists, including the lists for: America’s dirtiest city, America’s drunkest city, America’s fattest city, and America’s dumbest city. I go to Bakersfield to visit my parents, but I gotta say, going to a place where you are so thin, clean and smart has its rewards. I could go on an on about the strip malls full of processed foods that dot maps all over Bakersfield, but the real reason I want you to go here is for Dave’s tacos. This guy set up a taco truck (now a taco stand) and makes tacos with such an awesome distinctive sauce that you cannot resist shoving as many as you can in your pie hole before your stomach and nervous systems begin to shut down from overeating and spice poisoning. (If you want to see how good I think they are, check this post out.) I suggest a minimum of eight, although if you want bonus points (pounds) you can easily work your way into double digits. Sidle up to Dave and let the saddle bags grow!

Step 5- There is no step 5. If you have outsourced all physical activity, finished all your kids food, and traveled to Bakersfield and surrounding amusement parks, you are already well on your way to sweat pants nirvana. Thank you for your hard work, I can’t wait to stand by you in pictures and feel good about myself. Now I gotta go, Mandy is chewing up some popcorn for me…
Thanks again!

Rotten Little Monsters: An Ode To Malcolm’s Tee Ball Team

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

This is by far the most bad-ass picture of Malcolm we have. Gamer!

Malcolm’s tee ball season just ended. I thought this would come with some level of sadness, because the kid really gets after it in the field. Watching him strut around in a jersey, making plays and tattooing the ball all over the park has been nothing short of miraculous. While I appreciate all the joy Malkie has brought us this season, I am ecstatic that tee ball is finished.

If you are wondering why, I say to you, “READ THE TITLE PEOPLE!!!!” Coaching young kids is painful, and not the easy kind of pain you feel when someone lacerates your liver in a bar brawl. I had some fears early on about being responsible for a group a small kids, but I had no idea how miserable they could be. Remember the post I did on using quadrants to help figure out how things will turn out given certain variables? Here is the one for my tee ball season:

Actually, a more realistic version would be this:

To be sure, not all the kids were evil. Some were far better than others at “not hurting their teammates while you weren’t looking” or “listening to anything you have to say,” but for young children in a pack the size of a tee ball team, the dynamic always degenerates into chaos. Whenever you see someone who works in early childhood education, give them a hug. They need it. Now the season is over, and every time I realize I don’t have to spend another Tuesday cajoling the kids into obedience, I smile. (Actually, the games were pretty fun. Practice, not so much.)

The question that necessarily arises at the end of the season is, “Will I do this next year?” It would be easy to cut and run to ensure that I am never, ever around large groups of kids again. If I did that, though, the terrorists would win. (Not Al-Qaeda, I mean the children on the tee ball team.) I don’t want these kids to think that they can beat me by simply playing grab ass and drawing pictures in the dirt.

As nice as it may seem to sit on the sidelines and watch someone other sucker go through all the pains of coaching, I would feel like I was missing out on something. All of the coaches took a certain level of satisfaction in seeing the kids make progress in their abilities during the year. Like a warden marveling at the rehabilitation of a serial arsonist, I really enjoyed helping the kids to learn to throw, catch and hit. So, next year I will do it again, and might even consider becoming a head coach. I guess scorpions just aren’t that bad.

Nerds

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

I have spent most of my life being a nerd. While some look to my inherent dorkiness as the reason for this, I prefer to see it as a lifestyle choice. Growing up, I saw all the complications and difficulties of being part of the “in” crowd. I realized early on that if I surrounded myself with dweebs and spazzes, I was suddenly the good looking and funny one. So, I joined the debate team and limited my social circles to debaters and other AP students. In the land of the socially awkward, I was Grace Kelly.

With my background as it is, you’d think that the recent revelation that Malcolm needs glasses would have given me a certain level of parental pride. After all, what could possibly be more nerdy than wearing glasses? Alas, I was not so excited.

After we noticed that Malcolm’s eyes started crossing and he essentially failed an eye test when covering up his left eye, I was distraught. He never really had anything wrong with him, and when the doctor used words like Amblyopia and Esotropia, I nearly fainted. (Not having much of a medical background, I took the diagnoses as the following, “Mr. Schwartz, I regret to inform you that your son is a cyclops.”) A later visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist softened the blow a little bit, describing his condition as “your son’s eye crosses when it focuses,” and prescribing glasses to fix the issue. Even so, the news that his eyes didn’t work properly pretty was pretty disheartening.

We immediately set out to find glasses that were so adorable that people would think he was a fashion icon. I was thinking, “Tina Fey Chic mixed with a little John Lennon honesty.” Imagine my surprise, then, when Malcolm picked out a pair of pink horn rimmed glasses that said, “Sally Jesse Raphael during her later crazy cat lady years.” To make matters worse, the glasses came with an astonishing $310 price tag. I can tell you this, Malcolm will never, ever get something to wear that costs $310, so I told him that the eye doctor had in fact told us that we needed to get his “special” glasses at Costco. We proceeded to place Malcolm’s ocular health in the hands of the place that sells nacho cheese in five pound cans.

Luckily, he found a pair there that he really liked and did not make me think he looked like a sociopath. I presumed that the glasses would make him look weird, like he was somehow a different person. When he put on these, though, he looked like his old self.

Glasses don’t make the nerd. This outfit on the other hand…

Malcolm has taken surprisingly well to the new glasses. Aside from a minor freakout on the way to school on his first day with the glasses on, he has simply accepted them as a new fact of life. One day, he didn’t wear glasses, and now he does, as if I said to him, “Malcolm, you are having macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. Also, you’ll be wearing high powered bifocals for the rest of your life.”

I am sure there will times when the glasses present a challenge. I could envision the situation where Malcolm would lose his glasses running from first base to second and instead of sliding steathily into the bag, he dry humps the second basemen out of confusion, but I am confident that he will take these lessons in stride. At some point, kids might make fun of him because he is different, but it can’t be any worse than being on the debate team. Trust me, I know.

Birthday Wishes

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

Today is my birthday. Everyone knows you get to make wishes on your birthday, and as long as they aren’t for more wishes, they all come true. Here are my wishes:

I wish for unlimited wishes (D’oh!)

I wish that every politician I thought was really cool didn’t turn out to be a pervert.

I wish that Malcolm could hit a home run on Saturday. He has been coming really close and he really wants it. The other parents know he really wants it too and we all seem to be rooting together. A home run in the final game of the season would be really cool. It would almost make managing the little turds at practice worth it. Almost.

I wish that I could have dim sum for lunch, pizza Napoletana for dinner, and Amy’s homemade cake for dessert.

I wish Buster Posey was playing.

I wish my face weren’t so fat. I just saw some old pictures of myself, and wow. I look I’m storing 15 or 20 Gobbstobbers in my mouth at any given time. Ick.

I wish I had more hats. It’s hard to spend money on a second hat, though.

I wish the close grocery store had better produce. It looks like I am going to have to drive across town now.

I wish I didn’t like Journey so much.

I wish I hadn’t kept those overdo movies from the library so long. $10 late fee for Stuart Little? That seems like too much, (unless you’re Dayna.)

I wish my knee didn’t hurt so much. I used to like doing things.

I wish Malcolm’s best friends at school weren’t all leaving next year. Four of his besties are going elsewhere next fall. He’ll be bummed because he doesn’t get to play with them, and I will be too, because their parents are all pretty cool.

I wish I could CapITAlizE and Punctuate better?

I wish chicken skin was good for you.

I wish I was a detail oriented person. Mind you, being a big picture person is cool too. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Here's me thinking about the big picture. Impressive isn't it?

I wish this post were finished, this is getting a little old.

I Am Sick And Tired of Drinking Liquor And Talking About Children

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Amy and Me

I am getting quite the knack for being mysterious with my blog titles, aren’t I?

We had a very busy weekend. We went to a surprise 40th birthday party on Friday, a parent-teacher mixer on Saturday, and a relaxing backyard barbecue on Sunday. You’d think that these events would be sufficiently different enough to ensure that things didn’t get stale, but, sadly, that wasn’t the case. We spent most of the weekend consuming alcohol and talking about school. It seems that’s all we ever do nowadays.

One time, (right around this time of year) I got attacked by a 12 pound lobster! It made quite the story.

I am not sure how this happened. I used to be a thrilling conversationalist. In my heyday, I could react to current events, accurately describe what it would happen if two angry camels were trapped in a tent and if you heard me start a story with, “One time, I ate a handful of Slim Jims and then…” you could bank on the next ten minutes being quite enjoyable. Now, the angry camels and Slim Jims are all gone.

In their place lie the details of learning, school and the educational system as a whole. If I am not talking about what Malcolm’s classroom is like, then I am talking about what my classroom was like growing up. What happened to me? I’m not really sure why I find the subject so fascinating, but like the Hooters patron desperately trying to make eye contact with the waitress, I try and avoid the topic. But just at the point where the patron’s eyes wander downwards, I say something like, “Well, actually Malcolm doesn’t go to kindergarten. His classroom is for 3 to 6 year-olds” and boom, I am sucked back into the vortex. If you ask me what I think of the Anthony Weiner debacle, I could give you a few minutes of penis innuendo (Penuendo?) If you ask what my fears are for Malcolm’s next few year years are, I will literally follow you home after boring you at the party, just so I can bore you some more.

I apologize to any of you out there that have subjected to my relentless eduspeak. I need to get over it and recognize that Malcolm would probably turn out the same whether we had him in a Montessori school or a tent with two angry camels in it. In an effort to try and rehabilitate myself, I would like to ask you, my readers, to help me come up with things I can talk to other people about. I will take your suggestions, write them on my hands, and then bust out with them in social situations. The more ludicrous the topic, the better, as I would recapture some of the magic I used to have.  Thanks in advance, I hope I get some doozies.

Two Cowboys, A Truck, Two Glasses of Pinot and a Gun

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

For those wondering whether this is somehow code for a cute story about Malcolm getting into a goofy situation in the park, it’s not. I know you have questions, so I will answer them.

Who are the cowboys? The cowboys are yours truly and a guy named Judd. Who is Judd? He is a real life cowboy and works his family’s cattle ranch with somewhere between 400 and 4 million head of cattle depending on who’s telling the story. He married my high school neighbor Regina and we visit them (and their two little cowpokes) every year for Memorial Day.

This is me, last year, doing what cowboys do. Luckily the camera angle doesn't reveal where I am scratching myself!

You may be thinking, “Yes, Paul, Judd may be a cowboy, but are you?” Let me set the record straight. When I visit the ranch, I am no candy-ass. Sure, I may girlishly shriek at the sight of spiders around here, but I get after it when visiting the Hannas, getting my hands dirty while performing a wide array of ranch tasks. (I make sure to avoid visiting during insemination season!) On Saturday afternoon a neighbor’s herd of cattle wandered onto Regina and Judd’s property and Judd and I sprang into action and tried to confine them. I was magnificent, showing those stupid cows what’s what, and actually got them into a nearby pen. Afterwards, I asked Judd whether it made me a real life cow herder. He shrugged and said, “we just say cowboy.” Can you believe it? That’s right, I am a real life cowboy!!!!

Sunday afternoon, Judd wanted to treat us to the latest haute cuisine in their neck of the woods: barrel meat. I don’t know what you think of when you hear this term, but evidently for them, it involves hanging a roast in a metal barrel over coals for long periods of time, combining a barbecue and a smoker for some really good flavor. To make it all work, we needed some hooks to hang the meat with, and this required we visited Judd’s brother who lives up the dusty gravel road form Judd and Regina.

To get there, we piled into Judd’s truck, which has elevated crappiness into a work of art. I could describe in detail the rust, the large dents and holes in the body or the curious metal “button” which is used to start the truck, but let’s just suffice it to say that Judd’s truck is the kind of truck where you can drop a handful of bullets in it and it doesn’t really matter. Every time I get in the truck, I instinctively reach for the seat belt, giving Judd fits of laughter. Wearing a seat belt in this truck is like wearing a mouth guard to a “Get Kicked In The Balls” contest. Sure, it might be a little safer, but is it really worth the ridicule?

Of course, we couldn’t just get in the truck and drive to Judd’s brother’s house without bringing our drinks with us. It was a little chilly that evening, so we had already moved on from the beers we were drinking (while herding the cattle). What does one drink while driving a dirty truck up to a neighbor’s house to retrieve some meat hooks to cook barrel meat with? We chose pinot. With wine glasses in hand, we piled into the crapmobile and made our way up the dusty road.

Shortly after our trip began, we were ambushed by a pack of rabid, gun toting communist squirrels. (By that, I mean we saw a squirrel by the side of the road.) Luckily, Judd’s gun was still in the truck, and he pulled over. Quickly grabbing the gun and balancing it against the side mirror, he took the squirrel out. I didn’t know what else to do, so I raised my wine and we clinked glasses. The absurdity of toasting pinot noir in a crappy truck while shooting squirrels made us giggle in the way two junior high boys giggle when they find free porn in a garbage can. We continued our way up the road, stopping every now and again to shoot vermin, clink wine glasses and giggle some more. It was epic.

If you are like Judd’s wife Regina, you probably think that we are crazy. To her, pinot was NOT the right wine to be drinking under such conditions. (She suggested Barbera.) I disagree, for everything about our little excursion was absolutely perfect.

Thanks Regina, Judd, Dylan, and Grady for making our annual trip to the farm an awesome weekend!!!

Playground Politics

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

I consider myself a pretty well adjusted social being, but there are still two social situations where I still don’t really know what the rules are: play dates and orgies. My awkwardness for both scenes boils down to the fact that I am not sure who should be doing what with whom and when. (It also doesn’t help when I confuse the two and bring diapers to the orgy and wear crotchless chaps to the park.) To ensure that I don’t gross everyone out, I’ll just about the play dates from now on and won’t mention the orgies anymore. Except for the end. Mentioning orgies at the end is just good literary strategy.

The other day, I went to the park with Malcolm and two friends of his. This was fine and good and I chatted with the kids’ moms while the kids played with each other. While we were there, two more kids from school showed up, with nannies in tow. Mayhem ensued when Malcolm was ditched by the “mommied kids” for snack time, and began playing with the “nannied kids.”

This got a little sticky, and I made my way over the the nannies to prove that A) I wasn’t ignoring my child and B) I wasn’t a playground snob who couldn’t be bothered to talk to the hired help. Patting myself on the back for being such a good dad AND man of the people, I became concerned when the two nannies I was speaking to moved away from me and continued their conversation without me. Wha? Could  it be that I am not nearly as interesting to talk to as I think I am? Or is it that since the nannies continued their conversation in Spanish that they simply felt more comfortable discussing life in a non-English format with non-gringos? Either way, I was a bit bummed, and got my revenge on the nannies by leaving the area, meaning they were responsible for the kids when they invented a new game called “Let’s throw sand at each other than then push each other down the slide.”

Eventually, all the mommies and Spanish-speaking nannies left the park, leaving Malcolm and I with one other group at the park. I sidled up to the remaining kids’ nanny and struck up a conversation with her. She answered some questions, and then promptly took out her cell phone in an effort do anything she could to get me to shut up. It worked.

Do we live in a world where parents only talk to other parents and nannies only talk to other nannies? Considering the extent of my Spanish is, “Dos por uno” (it means “Happy Hour,” look it up!), is it just a language barrier? If so, why do the English speaking nannies ignore me too? I mean, the least they can do is to politely inform me that my chaps have no crotch. Even that is sometimes a challenge.

My Kid Eats Like A Pig

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Not sure why snorting the Cheerio seemed better than eating it, but what the heck do I know?

When your child first starts to eat food from non-nipple sources, things are a bit messy. At first this is a good thing. Moms are excited that the kid won’t be savaging their boobs anymore, and dads are excited to A) have someone with worse manners around to make them seem less messy, and B) finally get access to their wife’s boobs again. Plus, getting a picture taken with an earful of porridge is a rite of passage that all kids must go through. Malcolm was no different, and he spent a good deal of time as a youngster sullying his face with highly nutritious foods meant for his stomach.

After a while, your tolerance for disgusting eating habits wains a bit. The other day, Malcolm tore into a burrito like a velociraptor ripping apart a puppy. His face smeared with refried beans and with a large piece of chicken (dripping with sour cream) dangling out of his jaws, I thought, “I don’t really care for Malcolm eating in this manner.” It’s one thing for a six-month-old to end up wearing most of its food, but quite another when your five-and-a-half-year-old eats like an extra from Clan Of The Cave Bear.

Malcolm needs to learn some fucking manners. (Don’t worry, I completely understand the irony of that sentence.) I don’t need pinkies to be raised in the air during tea time or for him to be able to tell the difference between a dessert spoon and a salad fork, just to be a little less gross around the dinner table. In the next few weeks, I am going to try and teach him to chew with his mouth closed, eat with a fork and not his fingers, take one bite and swallow before taking another, and to not fart as much at the table. It might also be nice if he could sit in his chair while we ate. I don’t consider these to be too lofty of goals, even for a Schwartz. We are close to the point where people are not going to want to eat around him, so I am hoping to head off anything too disastrous before it becomes too much of an issue. Then again, failure may lead to some acting opportunities, as I hear they are making Clan Of The Cave Bears 2, Clannier and Cavier!

Two Cupcake Limit: How Sugar Is Booze For Kids

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

It’s a fact: five-year-olds should not be drinking alcohol. Sure some chains like Olive Garden and Applebees think it’s cute to slip mickies to youngsters, but I firmly believe you should not be abusing alcohol until you have emotional problems that only hooch will wipe away (and no, Billy’s refusal to share the ball with you at the park does not justify a a few shots of Cuervo in your sippy cup.)

Interestingly, I have the same look on my face when a waitress drops off a pitcher of beer.

Watching Malcolm enjoy sweets lately I have made an interesting observation: he acts the same way on sugar that I act on alcohol. This actually makes more sense the more you think about it as the sugar in candy has many of the same effects on the body as the sugar in alcohol has. OK, that last part is mostly made up, but it can seem more scientifically-based if you picture me saying it while wearing glasses and a lab coat. Here’s how Malcolm’s sugar intake and my alcohol intake match up.

One Drink/Cupcake: Malcolm and I are social beings. We smile and talk to the other people at the party (even the ones we don’t know or don’t like.) There’s something inherently fun about getting together with others and enjoying a special treat. For me, it means wooing the affections of others and telling funny stories. For Malcolm, it primarily means giggling and generous hugging.

Two Drinks/Cupcakes: Things are still pretty good, although sometimes boundaries are crossed. My stories, which had previously involved topics such as “a funny thing happened when Malcolm and I were at the pool” inevitably move towards my crotch, as in “Dontcha just hate it when the gruff Chinese guy at the acupuncturist accidentally touches your penis?” Malcolm’s hugs get a little longer; sometimes they involved toppling over to the floor, and at this point in the festivities he may try to forcibly kiss other kids. You can hear both of us say things like, “It feels so good when it touches the lips!”

Five Drinks/Cupcakes: Usually the consumption of these items is done in some dark corner so that Amy can’t really tell how much we’ve had. Our speech is begninnning to ssslurrrr and for some reason we both like to sing a lot. We have a hard time actually peeing in the toilet, me because I am swaying pretty noticeably and Malcolm because he is so amped up. Glassy eyed, we both really enjoy telling people just how much we love the Giants.

Ten. Stay out of our way. Short, rapid breaths pretty much eliminate the ability for each of us to communicate clearly. When we can actually talk, we tend to tell people exactly what we think about them and there’s a pretty good chance both of us will be getting at least partially naked. We dance for no reason and mistake tackling for hugging. When we don’t get what we want, we get mad, then we cry. For obvious reasons, Amy wants no part of either of us. Luckily, I have the luxury of not remembering things the next day. Malcolm often wakes up with stuffed animals in his bed that he has no intention of sleeping with ever again.

You can use this to help decide both whether you should have another drink or, conversely, whether you should allow your kid that extra piece of cake. A good rule of thumb is to just make sure that there is someone else at the party that has had more than you or child. Trust me, you don’t want your kid or you to be “That Guy.” We’ve been “That Guy” too many times already.

Big Daddy Paul Gets Old

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Paul is a Dork

This will forever be known around here as the year that my body fell apart. Aside from feeling like shit, I am OK with this designation, as the alternatives, “the year that I got rabies” or “the year Malcolm ate a puppy” seem way worse. I used to consider myself a spring chicken, throwing my body around carelessly for any manner of physical activities. Now, my arm hurts when I throw, my knee hurts when I run, and I can’t even seem to get out of the car without grunting in pain. Getting old sucks!

Of course, I am not going down without a fight. Today, I went to the acupuncturist. You see, my normal response to any dilemma is to ask myself, WWABCPD, or (as the bumper sticker on my car asks) What Would A Billion Chinese People Do? Simple, they’d go get acupuncture. Unless I have my facts wrong, acupuncture started in China 3700 years ago when a local peasant fell on a nail, causing his tennis elbow to feel better. Since then, the Chinese have perfected the art to the point where bay area liberals have no reservations about letting complete strangers stick tiny needles in the most sensitive areas of their bodies.

Our current acupuncturist offers a massage as part of the treatment, and today’s massage made me hate getting older even more. Normally, I do not look to see what the masseuse looks like, preferring to pretend that the strong, calloused hands belong to someone who looks like Lucy Liu. For whatever reason, I looked into the eyes of the person responsible for giving me the rub down, and the face looking back scared the shit out of me.

This guy looked the extra on every movie ever made about Atila the Hun. He appeared to have one eye, three nostrils, and spotty facial hair that looked like it was grown in a dungeon. Yikes! Even worse, the guy made every disgusting sound imaginable, so when he wasn’t burping or clearing phlegm out of his throat, he grunted like a feral animal. I swear, if you didn’t know what was going on in the treatment area, you’d think two frat guys were going full Brokeback on some parchment paper.

What else do I get for my troubles? A couple of seeds taped painfully to my ear!

In retrospect, it was a good thing that Lucy Liu wasn’t giving me the treatment because I had neglected to wear any d