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.

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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.