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.


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.