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.

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.

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.

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.

Bachelor Party

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I love bachelor parties. Usually, they involve me getting quite drunk and making very bad decisions. I would go into detail about specifics, but there is a code of secrecy attached that cannot ever be broken. Plus, I don’t think you’d respect me if I told you that I once drank a whole bottle of Jagermeister and ate a parakeet. Oops, that kinda slipped out. Please don’t tell anyone.

When mommy's not around, we get to eat our feet!

I am currently on a bachelor party, except this isn’t the good kind. No, instead of doing Irish car bombs and giving lap dances to unsuspecting tourists, I will be spending all my time for most of the next three weeks with Malcolm, just he and I. Amy will be off at conferences and customer visits for a good chunk of time, leaving Malcolm and I to our devices while she is gone. What those devices are going to be remain to be seen. I can tell you what we probably aren’t going to be doing a lot of though:

Bathing. Amy is the chief reason that Malcolm and wash ourselves. As she goes, so goes our cleanliness. I am not saying that I enjoy being filthy, I just don’t see the point in hosing off if no one is going to be around to appreciate my pomegranate-scented hair. Malcolm, on the other hand, truly enjoys being filthy. Sure, we’ll clean up real nice right before Amy gets back, but until then, you might want to give us a few feet buffer if you see us out in the world.

Cleaning. Every second that I spend attending to the house is a second that I am not researching fantasy football. Normally, I make the sacrifice so that Amy can come home to a reasonably straightened abode. This week I am going to try and fix my sorry little team (0-2, so far and not looking good.) As such, it’s gonna look like a frat house and all the spiders around here will be smiling pretty wide when the flies start buzzing.

Eating well. Amy, to her credit, doesn’t eat crap. I do and sadly, I sometimes look forward to her extended absences. It’s gonna be one non-stop taco fiesta while she is gone. I’d tell you what else I plan on eating, except that there is nothing to add. I will eat tacos every single meal, and while it may turn me into cheese and sour cream laden whale, I’ll be a happy whale.

While Amy is off wearing business suits, presenting to hundreds of eager conventioneers and dining at four star restaurants, I’ll languishing in filth and watching the flies and spiders duke it out. Malcolm will be dodging large piles of laundry for his pretend baseball games and seeing how many days a milk mustaches can last. It’s not Vegas, but at least we’ll be happy.

Refrigerator Horror Stories

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Every so often, I will open our refrigerator and the smell from the decaying food inside will slap me in the face like an old French prostitute. Stunned, I sit there in front of the open fridge, wasting energy and contemplating my next move. In this situation, I can choose either of two options: a) I can suck it up and clean out the items that have been waiting patiently for the past few months to meet their maker or B) simply close the door and pretend the whole thing never happened. I usually just close the door, and, while it is not at all nice to be confronted with a slapping French prostitute every time you need to grab something out of the fridge, it sure beats dealing with rotting food up close and personal. Yesterday, I took the bull by the horns and actually cleaned out our fridge, and although I cannot adequately describe just how bad everything smelled, I can at least detail what I removed from our fridge.

It's bad if your kid says something is stinky

The first group of items were contained in the fridge for quite some time, but had no chance of ever being used. Think feta cheese (the basest of all cheeses in my opinion.) Think jar of egg whites from Christmas. Think buttermilk. Sure, in theory these items had a chance to make it into a dish, but I was fooling myself to put them in the fridge in the first place. I have as much chance of eating an egg white omelette with feta as I do eating a unicorn. I know I shouldn’t be such an optimist when putting things in the fridge, but that optimism is why you like me, isn’t it?

A second group of items involved leftovers that probably should have been eaten, but just weren’t sexy enough to make it back into the rotation. Gnocchi sounds pretty good, but leftover gnocchi somehow reminds me of rocky mountain oysters. A tub of extra couscous looks more like a snow globe than dinner. Black beans are good, but they have about as much versatility as an Elvis wig. Most people would just toss everything that isn’t consumed after a week or so, but that would mean we are robbed of the experience of seeing a moldy couscous snow globe or smelling rancid black beans (which, oddly, smell like formaldehyde.) I wouldn’t dream of living in world like that.

The vegetable drawer. I don’t really like vegetables. I am getting a bit older, which is sad, and I recognize the need to eat a somewhat balanced diet. I also recognize that it is important to teach Malcolm some good lessons about food. In consideration of these factors, we signed up for an organic produce box to be delivered each week. With so many unique veggies being delivered every seven days, we often can’t catch up, and what we don’t eat tends to reside at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. After a month or so, the bottom of that sucker looks and smells like a compost heap. After a few more months, the veggie stew liquifies, making it not only unbearable to look at or smell, but also impossible to clean. The bottom of the vegetable drawer has to be the scariest thing in my life, easily more terrifying than Tantrum Malcolm holding a hammer or drunk Amy holding an Elvis wig.

As nasty as these elements were individually, the symphony of sights and smells when combined in the sink was enough to make we want to tear off my nose and throw it in the toilet forever. Luckily, I didn’t and some air freshener and kitchen cleaner restored order both inside and out of the fridge. Of course, this meant that the old French prostitute was going to go away, but I think we both know that she’ll be back one day. C’est la vie.

Big Daddy Paul Goes Prime Time

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

That’s right, I have hit it big! Well, bigger than I have been. I am guest posting this week on a blog called Daddy’s Home. And, if you read my blog between the hours of 7 and 10 pm, then I have indeed, hit prime time. Daddy’s Home is a cool place where stay at home dads tell the world how cool we are and what kind of beer we like to drink. I am lucky to be part of such a awesome group of guys. Click here and check it out!

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

Oh wait, I forgot

About this one. (That's a Hooter's chicken wing, by the way...)

Q & A, Week 4

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Q & A, Uncategorized

Wow, a whole month of answering readers juiciest dilemmas. I would like to start this post by announcing a few things. First, we got 100 fans! That is so totally cool. Someday, when this blog has 10,000 fans, you can say you were fan #43. Second, the wicked cool folks at Wayfire Media have recently added a “like” button to each post, so, if you like what you see, hit the “like” button. Lucky for me, Facebook doesn’t have an “don’t like” button. Whew. On to the questions!

Diane from Tinseltown has a problem: Her friend has two kids, but no partner. When at social gatherings, the friend asks Diane to look after the kids so that the friend can socialize and drink. Diane is targeted for this duty more often because she is one of the few childless people at the parties. She wants to know whether she should say something.

Diane, you have a couple of options. First, you could pop out a couple a kids yourself! I am sure that your friend was in the same shoes as you and was being asked to look after other kids all the time. What better excuse is there to not look after other kids than have a stable of your own! Knowing you, I am thinking 8 sounds about right. Another option would be to do something drastically idiotic, ensuring that no one will ever ask you to look after their kids again. (This is my favorite!) One easy way to accomplish this would be to start nursing a preschooler. If your friend sees you bringing a protesting four-year-old to your boob, odds are, that’s the last the four-year-old will ever see of you. Shouting loud profanities at the kids will also do the trick (“PUT THAT FUCKING TRUCK DOWN, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT!” would suffice.) You could talk things through and tell her how it makes you feel, but I am not sure you could have that conversation without sounding like a complete A-hole. I think your strategy is the right one. Agree to look after the little ones, but after you’ve served your time, tell the mom she is back on duty and then hit the bottle. Hard.

Old Man Conrad from (as Malcolm calls it) Missesota asks: “Why does your copyright notice say you wrote this stuff in 2009?  Are you selling us recycled posts?!”

Conrad is avid reader of the blog, and he just turned 40, so Happy Birthday Conrad!!! I bought 500 blog posts in 2009 from a stay at home dad in India. It only cost me $100, so I think it’s been a pretty good deal. After another 280 or so posts, I will be ready to come up with some new material.

Tracy temporarily from Oklahoma asks: “At what age is it first appropriate to let your child carry a concealed weapon?”

If this kid ever gets a gun, I'm dead!

Good question. Wait, what? That’s a horrible question. Who would ask such a thing?! Oh, the Oklahoma Legislature is currently debating this. Mmmkay. I guess if I had to answer, though, I would say that the best time for gun violence to start would be thirteen. I am totally mortified of the teenage years anyways (rampant, sex drugs and rock and roll,) so you might as well throw guns into the mix. That way, I would never, ever be free of worrying. Now that I think of it, Diane this could be another way of solving your problem. Start arming the kids, and you’ll be free and clear!

Great Q’s this week people! If you haven’t submitted a question, yet, do so now. I am keeping score, and you don’t want to lose.

How To Tell When You Have Given Up On Life

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I don’t know what happened to me, but I became very concerned about myself when I saw this picture:

I feel as though I have let myself go a bit. I know that most of you think that I am a drop dead hunk, but I think I may have officially given up on life. Think I am lying? Here are the signs:

Crocs. I bought myself some. Even worse, they are the kind that have the fake lamb hair on the inside. (I would call it faux fur, but it’s color and consistency are more deserving of the monicker, “faux panther pubes.”) Double whammy. I have a few friends who wear Crocs regularly, and I have always taken great pleasure in thinking to myself, “At least I’m not THAT bad off.” Actually, I’m worse. I bought a discount brand at CVS and they are called “Doggers.” I think the brand name may even have an exclamation point in it, as if to stress that you should be shouting every time you mention the name. “What kind of shoes are these? Doggers!” They cost $4. Sure they are comfortable, but there really is no louder way to tell the world that I have seceded from the fashion union than plastic shoes (with faux panther pubes inside.) I have promised myself that I would never leave the house in them, but it’s really only a matter of time before they see the light of day and my transformation will be complete.

Stains. I used to have a rule: when a article of clothing got a noticeable stain on the front, it got thrown away. It was a pretty hard and fast rule, resulting in the loss of many of my favorite things to wear. I’m not sure how I got here, but I am now allowed to wear clothes permanently scarred by fatty oils and unwashable paint. In fact, I take pride in my stained clothing, as if giving some sort of hommage to the bacon which coated my greasy little fingers or the dollop of sour cream that escaped ingestion by jumping of the nacho at the last second. I guess my thinking is, “I don’t have to look at the sweatshirt and it’s comfy, so I might as well wear it.” Sad words indeed.

My stomach. I am not hopelessly out of shape. You’ve seen my legs, they’re quite nice. Yet, for all my efforts at exercise (playing basketball with a couple of friends every other week, and regularly pounding down cookies and popcorn with wine late at night) my stomach is growing faster than the ash cloud over Iceland. I have never had a flat stomach, but I at least I have been able to see my feet with regularity. Like that same ash cloud, my toe spying days are slowly dissipating. At the park last week, a very awkward silence ensued when a fellow stay at home parent asked me when we were expecting. Yikes! In my younger days, I would have gotten myself to the gym and trimmed myself into a body shape that didn’t require a waistband. Now and I am cheap, and lame, and wonder weather having a toned stomach would even matter. I mean, I wear Doggers! and and stained sweatshirt for crying out loud. Who cares if I am chubby too!

Q & A, Week 2

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Q & A, Uncategorized

So, it looks like if I get enough questions every week, I will be able to make friday’s post a response to all of your queries. This, of course, depends on people continuing to submit questions, though. If I have to make the stuff up, you will have to endure both the questions I create for myself and the stupid answers I come up with. Trust me, you don’t want that.

Amy upstairs asks, “What do you do if you’re at a park, it’s lunchtime, and you’ve forgotten the backpack with the food in it?”

This has NEVER happened to me, though I can always empathize with parents who are less awesome than I. This is where you have to use your kid as an asset. Approach all the other parents that are eating at the park and beg for food, using your child as a prop. For the best results, use the words “diabetic” and “glycemic coma.”   If things get really dire, tree bark and dandelions have nutritional value. Wild mushrooms do too, but  avoid them unless your child is misbehaving and you want to send them to the ICU.

Brad in the sticks asks, “Where can I get Moonlight beer in bottles?”

Everywhere! Tonight, ake a bottle of beer outside and hold it up against the moon. Bang! Moonlight beer in a bottle. You are welcome. (That is the only way to get moonlight beer in a bottle, as the Moonlight label is only sold in kegs.) Very soon our stay-at-home dads group will be brewing their own beer, and will make all other beer obsolete. Fret not.

Jean in Reno asks, “Are there any inexpensive places to play golf in Palm Springs?”

Can we get an Orange Julius at the turn?

Palm Springs is quite pricey and golf there usually costs in the $100-$200 range. There are some non-tradional golf venues though that can cut down on the costs. On option is the mall, where the other golfers may technically be “shoppers.” I am pretty sure they are cool with this at Valley Mall in High Desert Springs, as long as you yell, “Fore!” when coming close to the blue haired power-walking crowd. Another option is to drive out into the desert and wander aimlessly looking for the ball you just hit. Careful, though, as the rattlesnakes will try and kill you. A third option is golfnow.com which carries discount tee times for regulation golf courses.  That is the easy way out though.

OK, have a great weekend everyone! Take a look at the fans page on Facebook. It’s getting very close to a round number. I’m not telling you how to live your life, I’m just saying.

How I Got To Be An Incompetent Dad

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I used to be on top of the ball. I had a stroller and a diaper bag, and the two contained everything a parent needs: wipes, snacks, extra underpants (for both of us!), tissues, toys and books. We were prepared for long waits in doctor offices, impromptu trips to the park, and if for some reason we ever got trapped in the car, we had enough supplies to last for a week. We were prepared for almost everything.

Now, I prepare for almost nothing. If we get stuck in the car, I’m going to have to eat Malcolm. I have no bag of treats and no toys. If Malcolm is thirsty when we out in the world, we have to find a drinking fountain. If either of us soils our undies, we either go commando or go home. (If any of you are thinking of making an action movie called, “Go Commando or Go Home,” you better act quickly. I’m gonna trademark that phrase!) He can play with anything he can get his hands on, but he won’t get his hands on any toys or books we have at home. These now stay at home.

I blame potty training for becoming a douchebag dad. When I no longer had to lug around extra diapers, the backpack, and all the bells and whistles that came with it, became expendable. It’s similar to bathing when Amy leaves town for the week. Why bother if it’s not really necessary? Sure Malcolm would enjoy having a snack every now and again, or have something to do at the park that doesn’t involve chasing squirrels with sticks, but at what cost? I wear the badge of a potty-trained son with honor.

Daddy, why are the other parents so much better than you?

The saddest part about all this is the toll I take on those around me. The other parents on play dates give their kids snacks, and then look at me reproachfully when I have nothing to offer Malcolm. While other kids are enjoying chocolate milk or apple juice, Malcolm and I are holding our noses while drinking from fountains in disgusting public restrooms. Other parents lug bags full of Star Wars guns and soccer balls, while I bring nothing but my charming personality and propensity to show off butt crack. They notice. It almost makes me want to be a better parent. Almost.

The New Dating Scene

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Finding a good play date match is a lot like dating. Granted, the play date rarely ends up in the bedroom and you don’t often offer your date assistance going to the bathroom, but the two rituals are more similar than they are different. Each have a multitude of potential pitfalls that you have to negotiate, making a good match a rare feat. When it works, though, life is sweet.

This is bliss. (Actually, it's Drew)

Both dating and play dating involve a lengthy search for what really matters: compatibility. Sure, a nice rack or kids with awesome toys are nice. But if the kids don’t play well together or your date annoys you, things won’t last. The first time we got together with one of Malcolm’s play group friends at, the other kid just rolled around on the floor and tried tackling Malcolm. It wasn’t a play date, it was a wrestling practice. Similarly, the most beautiful woman I have ever dated had this really annoying habit of not returning my phone calls. It was like she didn’t even acknowledge our relationship, and that grew to be very irritating. At some point, you have just have to decide that it isn’t worth it any more and look for greener pastures.

Both rituals also involve finding an acceptable forum for the early encounters. I find that initial play dates at either kid’s house are extremely difficult, as the “home” child has a hard time dealing with the nervous energy and ends up not wanting to share. I try to do all first play dates on neutral ground, and things go much more smoothly. The first date location is also very important. Obviously, you can’t do a first date at your house, and if someone agrees to a first date at your place, they probably look or smell like a troll. Find a neutral site with the right balance of people, noise and alcohol. The wrong location can doom either relationship.

Both involve dealing with rejection. I dated a girl in high school who had a mustache. Not a slight one, either. She looked like Borat. So, imagine my surprise when she stopped making out with me, left, and never returned my calls. I couldn’t help but think, “YOU HAVE A MUSTACHE!!! I’M AS GOOD AS YOU’RE GONNA GET!” Similarly, Malcolm’s friend at school is cool, has a cool older brother, and has cool parents (one of whom is an artist). I tried many ways of getting the boys together, even offering at one point to just take the friend with Malcolm and I to the park, but alas, each advance was shot down. I eventually realized that they just weren’t that into me, and stopped asking. Sigh.

Lastly, both dating and play dating involve hanging out with a lot of losers. I once dated a woman who smelled like formaldehyde. A high school girlfriend looked like the boy from the movie “Mask” and used the word, “pudnucker.” I’m sure the woman I dated thought I was a pretty big loser when I revealed my political affiliation as “Anarcho-Marxist.” Similarly, I went to a play date at someone’s house and they had naked family pictures hanging in the living room. (That is one thing about hippies that I will never understand.) We had one kid over to our house and instead of drawing on the easel, he threw it across the room. I have lost track of the number of play dates that have ended prematurely because Malcolm or the other kid have hit/bit/kicked/slapped/poured battery acid the other. And yet, the search for that special someone must continue.

And continue it does, until you find that special someone. Malcolm has a lot of good playmates, but he just added one more. Note to current friends, don’t be jealous, I’ll get around to writing about you someday, just not today. Malcolm had his first play date last week with his friend from school, Josh. Of course, we followed the rules and went to a nearby park, where the boys ran around together, played imaginative games like tree house or fishing, and when they played Star Wars characters, they were both on the same side. They are smiling and happy together and, although they each melt down occasionally, they seem eager to continue with play dating relationship. Seeing such happiness really makes you feel good as a parent, especially when you recognize the river of shit you had to wade through to find the good play mate. I am sure that it will only last until the mom, who is cool and mustache free, tires of me and decides that we are no longer worth it. Until then, I can enjoy the ride.

Always Be Teaching

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

There’s a scene in the movie Glengarry Glenross when Alec Baldwin’s character explains the secret to a good salesman, “A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” I thought of that line the other day, when I handing out one of the many little life lessons I try to give Malcolm during the day. I realized that I probably over-parent, taking every opportunity imaginable to impart bits of insight. I know that he is not taking in everything I say, but hope that by throwing everything I can against the wall, some of it will stick.

I thought that you might want to experience what Malcolm has to go through in a typical day, so I put together some of my choicer nuggets. If you want to really simulate Malcolm’s experience, read the following quickly and in a loud voice.

Remember how much you practiced hitting the ball? It shows!

Maybe you wouldn’t have spilled that if you were sitting down in your seat.

Don’t taunt me, you might not win next time.

Great job putting on your socks! One of them matches your shirt.

Nobody likes a sore loser. Stop crying.

That’s why football is a dangerous sport.

Today's lesson: when taking pictures of your child, hide your beer!

I told you not to put so many rubber fish in your mouth.

Eating your boogers is gross. If you do that, no one will want to be your friend.

It’s not nice to tell strangers that they can’t come to your birthday party.

How did it make you feel when that boy hit you in the face with the shovel?

Seriously, take the fish out of your mouth.

Do you think it would have been a good idea to go to the bathroom before we left the house?

You don’t need to lie, I don’t care if you wore your rain boots at school, but I do care if you lie to me.

If you don’t eat all your veggies, you’re not going to grow up and be good at baseball like Pedro Sandoval.

If you don’t take those stupid fish out of your mouth, your going to the hospital, one way or the other!!!

And on, and on, and on. I am not sure why I do this, but I think it’s because I heard once you let behavior go by without counseling it becomes tacitly acceptable. The inverse is also true, if they don’t know what you like about them, they’ll resort to stuff they know you don’t like. I don’t know, maybe I just need to drink a big tall glass of Shut The Fuck Up. At least, that’s what they might tell me in Glengarry Glenross.

The Economics Of Being Late To School

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

This may come as a shock to you, but getting a child ready for school each day is almost impossible. Despite the fact that we follow the same routine every day, Malcolm always seems dismayed when I insist that we eat breakfast, brush teeth, put clothes on and actually get out the door.

I aint leaving without a fight. You got that coppers?!

Judging by his attempts to delay the inevitable march out the door, you might guess that I was preparing him to leave the house to be dropped off at the neighborhood coal mine instead of the place where he gets to do interesting projects and play with his best friends. I could possibly rationalize it as his expressing his preference to stay at home and play with me, but since I achieve a certain level of freedom after dropping him off at school, I stoutly resent his his efforts to thwart the daily routine.

I did some quick math and figured that we pay about $.19 a minute for his preschool. We are usually 5-10 minutes late every day, meaning we are losing $1-2 a day because he wants to giggle with joy at how annoyed I get that he won’t put on his underpants. That adds up quick, amounting to roughly a six pack of beer a week. Interestingly, I blame my need of a six pack of beer per week on the fact that I have to fight him every day to get ready to go to school. Double Whammy!

If you add that up for the whole year, his shenanigans end up costing two entire days of school. Two days! With that time, he could be learning how to read or do math problems. He could learn that the word for cheese in Spanish is “Queso” and not “flabiddy doodah.” He might even learn that punching daddy in the groin is not an acceptable way to indicate that he is ready to eat. Instead, he would rather debate the logistics of how many socks he can wear on each foot, or insist yuck mouth isn’t that bad of a fate for a boy who no longer wishes to brush his teeth. This bums me out to no end.

Of course, I try to command obedience through incentives for getting ready. Alternating the carrot and stick approach, I either threaten him for poor performance or offer rewards for meeting deadlines, depending on how much sleep I got the night before. Neither of these seem to work, and I fear Malcolm just likes to fuck with my head. He sees my agony when he runs off and hides when it is time to get ready. He smiles at my displeasure when he poo-poos my fashion selection for the day and then takes five minutes to select the perfect shirt. He squeals with delight while running down the driveway away from his car seat. I almost feel like one trip to the coal mine would do wonders for making him realize that he has a pretty good gig and he should appreciate it. That way, he could start paying off the $2 a day he is wasting.

How I Roll

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

I went biking again today. Between the holidays and all the rain in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to head out for a while. Determined to not the mistakes I have made in the past, I set out for some fun in the sun. My plans were almost shanghaied when my bike had two flat tires and I couldn’t find the tire pump. I knew it was in the garage but our garage looks like the inside of my colon, except with more spiderwebs. After poking around for 45 minutes, I found the pump, pumped up the tires, and decided that cleaning our garage was way overdue. (I remain blissfully ignorant about the ramifications of my colon being in its current shape.)

I started in a bit of a deficit when I noticed that I had grabbed Amy’s biking gloves for my outing. Since they are only partially frilly, I didn’t care all that much. I did feel just a tad extra pretty knowing that I was wearing ladies accessories. When I finally got out there, I had a great time!

An otherwise nice day

An otherwise nice day

My Ipod expertly selected my favorite songs  (which sadly include selections from Twisted Sister, 2 Live Crew, and Erasure) while I nimbly navigated between the hordes of walkers that were enjoying the nice morning. I got a great workout, and knew so because I, for some reason, feel like I need to spit when working hard, and I spit many times during the ride. I also didn’t have to get off the bike and walk up any hills, so the outing was almost a complete success.

Almost is a pretty big word though for me, and I had another one of my moments. Blazing away around a turn singing (out loud) Weird Al’s opus to Star Wars, I encountered two women walking in the path. I announced my intention to pass on the left, but for some reason one of the women hopped right in front of me. Being a bit rusty, I jammed on the front brake. This had the foreseeable consequence of causing me to do a reverse wheelie and ended up ejecting me over the handle bars. I landed with the soft thud a pork shoulder makes when thrown onto the scale at the butcher, but managed to avoid any serious injury. Anxious to prove that I wasn’t hurt, I hopped right back up, looking at my legs to see if there was any residual damage. At precisely this moment, I realized that my fly was down (as it oft is) and immediately took corrective action. I also noticed the numerous trails of spit that had been collecting on my shoulder. I looked at them, they looked at me, and one of them asked if I was alright. I quickly hopped back on my bike, apologized for some reason, and then sped off. I was a tad irked afterwards, but smiled when I considered the story the two women would be relating to their friends:

A chubby cross dresser came barreling around a corner singing about Queen Amidala, screamed, “ON YOUR LEFT!” and then jumped over his handlebars. Then, he stood up looking like a confused monkey, zipped his fly, wiped his mouth on his shirt, grunted, “I’m sorry” and sped away. It was honestly the first time it had ever happened to me.

I think I am going to choose a new path next time I ride. Or maybe I’ll just find something to do that is less embarrassing.

Paul’s Rules For Children’s Birthday Parties

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

We attended two children’s birthday parties this weekend. This is still novel for us as a) we don’t know that many children, and b) parents of the children we do know don’t like me all that much. I hear horror stories of parents in a seemingly endless loop of birthday parties, often leaving one to go to another. With so many parties to attend, I thought it a good idea to provide some do’s and don’ts for kids parties.

DO have a drink if one is offered to you. DO NOT become the drunkest person at the party. If your significant other has to stop you from hitting on the other moms and dads at the party, you’ve had too much. Stay one drink behind the host and you’ll be OK.

DO make sure to play with the kids at the party. DO NOT try to scare them. Frightened children evacuate their bowels and cry, and neither is appropriate for this type of party. Peek-a-boo and keep away are acceptable. Chasing kids with a kitchen knife is not.

DO make polite conversation with the other adults at the party. DO NOT try to conduct business. If you hand me your business card at a four-year-old’s birthday party, I am going to wipe my kid’s nose with it. Don’t tell me about your exciting business idea and I won’t chase your kid around with a knife. That is the deal.

DO NOT tell the parents of the birthday child what you actually think about them. DO say something remotely positive which is mostly true. It’s their day to shine. Don’t fuck it up with the truth.

DO NOT stop your kid from tackling the birthday boy. DO make sure that the birthday boy is cool with it. IMG_2697

DO NOT ever find yourself using the following words during a conversation: “My Nipples. Colonoscopy. Misunderstood Nazi.” You’ll regret it. DO try and use the following action verbs: “Well bred. Hornswoggle. Britches.” OK, some of those aren’t action verbs, but so what? That reminds me: DO NOT correct people’s grammar. Remember, I’ve got a knife and I know how to use it. Leave me be.

The State Of Our House

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Obama got his shot last night, so today it’s my turn. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you all with my fantastic take on the direction our country is headed. Instead, I will focus on things germane to our house. What is the state of our house? Messy. We got crap everywhere. It takes me a week or two to get the large amounts of junk out each room and chuck it somewhere Amy won’t notice. Most of the time, I just lump stuff into makeshift piles in the office. Never ever go into our office.

IMG_2539What else is up with our house? Plenty! We recently unveiled plans to take Malcolm to Spring Training in Arizona in March. Like baseball and warm weather? Join us! Malcolm is excited to get autographs from real players, and we are hoping he continues to enjoy the game. I am hoping that the Giants team will look better on the field than they do on paper. It doesn’t really matter, as long as he wears his uniform, I am happy.

Amy continues to excel in role at Oracle. At least, I think she has a job. She drinks a lot during the day and has a long meetings every afternoon with some guy named “Jacque.” She assures me that “Jacque” is a high level executive, but the guy drives a Trans Am and wears a lot of cologne. I am hopeful that Amy’s face time with such a powerful man will reap long term career benefits.

I am enjoying blogging, cooking and plotting my revenge against the neighborhood cats. (Oh yes, they will suffer by my own hands. I’m just biding my time.) Malcolm and I have good days and bad, but I am generally threatening to lock him in the crawlspace less this year than last. Progress! I am confident that I will fully understand parenting in the next week or two and that I will unlock the keys to raising a perfect child. Stay tuned.

For his part, Malcolm is learning to read and write, learning basic math, and learning to kick the living bejeezus out of his classmates at school. He came home the other day with a huge scratch on his face and, when I asked him about it, he said, “I had a fight with Jack. I won 72 to 1.” I took that to mean, “You should see the other guy.” He amazes and scares the shit out of me on a daily basis and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

So that’s the state of the house. Save your applause for when you see me next. Or, just save your applause and help me clean the office. I am afraid to go in there alone.

The Game Of Life

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Malcolm and I played the Game of Life yesterday for the first time. In case you haven’t played it, it is a game that allows you to experience all the things in real life that are important (marriage, insurance, kids, bad real estate decisions) in a 30 minute board game. Malcolm enjoyed it, as it made him feel very grown up. I had a good time just watching the spectacle of it all.

I noticed immediately that none of the truly important decisions I have made in my life made it into this game. The game did not, for instance, have a space that read, “Impregnate your high school girlfriend, proceed to job at gas station.” Similarly, the game had no fork in the road where you have the chance to try heroine in college. There were no squares for bad tattoos, devastating losses in Vegas, or having your wife and mistress meet awkwardly at a double-booked dinner. Alas, some aspects of the game of Life are just not fun for the whole family, and I was pretty OK with that.

As far as the aspects of life that the game did have, I found the most interesting part of the experience to be Malcolm’s selection of spouses for each of us. I wanted to gauge his view on marriage, so when it became time for each of us to get married I asked whether we should each marry a boy or a girl. He decided that we would each marry a boy.

Batman and Elephant, the perfect couple.

Batman and Elephant, the perfect couple.

He opted to marry his friend Quinn from school, and,when I asked him about his selection, he said that it was because Quinn is his friend. That made sense to me. I, on the other hand, got stuck without explanation with some guy named Eddie. I am not sure why I married Eddie, but I just hoped that he wasn’t mean, wasn’t into NASCAR, and that he didn’t like to eat at Olive Garden.

This particular game wound up teaching Malcolm lessons I am not sure I wanted him to learn. In the game, I was rewarded for skipping college by making almost $90,000 a year as an athlete. He chased after his college degree and for $125,000 of debt, he got a $40,000 a year job as an accountant. He also learned you aren’t in control of when and whether you have any kids and that kids do nothing for you besides cost you money. Lastly, the game taught him that all the really fun stuff happens early in life, so unless your idea of a good time is winning the Nobel Prize, you better have fun while you’re young. Since I won the game, I am sure that he thought it was glamorous to be a gay ball player with husband, two charming little girls, a fine tudor house and 1.4 million dollars in the bank. I want him to know that these things aren’t all that important in the end. What’s important is that you never, ever wind up getting married to someone who enjoys eating at Olive Garden. That’s the real importance of the Game of Life, and I’ll do my best to teach him just that.

Do You Let Them Win?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Malcolm and I play a lot of games. Right now we are playing a lot of Connect Four. If you don’t know the game, it is a lot like chess, except that it is played vertically, and instead of different kinds of pieces, all the pieces are the same. OK, maybe it’s not like chess, maybe it’s a lot like checkers, except vertically played and instead of playing on certain squares and jumping over other pieces, you just drop the checker into a column and try to get your checkers into a row. OK, maybe that’s not a good analogy either. Maybe it’s a lot like a slot machine. Maybe I need to start working on my analogies. I guess my analogies are a lot like a Rubik’s Cube, needing to be manipulated in order to be solved. Or, better yet, my analogies are a lot like a drunk, toothless clown, often entertaining, seldom understood. There we go, that’s the one.

Whatever it’s like, it’s a game that Malcolm and I play a lot. When we first got started, I made stupid plays that enabled Malcolm to win easily. I figured that no one like getting their ass handed to them all the time when playing a new game, and that the feeling of winning the game would spur his interest in playing more. It worked and he is obsessed! IMG_2626He is now getting quite good at the game, and I have stopped letting him win. Is this the right way to do it? I win most of the games, but occasionally he pulls the master play and beats me straight up or I make a mistake and he pounces on it. My question is, is it more important to foster his confidence and let him win often, or is it better that he develop winning strategies to ensure that he understands the work involved in succeeding in life? I have opted for the latter, having read about the importance of fostering a strong work ethic in children. There are times when the agony of defeat is painful to endure, but no one ever said this was going to be easy.

This comes up in a lot of what we do. We go to the park (when it’s not monsooning outside) and play football and baseball. We play Uno. We play tic-tac-dough. We play “throw rocks at the neighbor’s cat who is shitting in our yard.” All these things involve a winner and a loser, be it a player who scores a touchdown, 3 X’s in a row, or the largest collection of cat skulls on the mantle. He experiences losing in all these games, and while it doesn’t always go smoothly, I want him to taste failure. Understanding failure will make victory taste sweeter and perhaps instill the desire to work hard enough to win. That’s the theory anyways.  The good thing about parenting is that you never really know how it’s going to turn out. For all I know, I may be raising the next drunk toothless clown.

Things I Am Anal About

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I am not a clean and organized person. I live in filth most of time and occasionally eat garbage. Our house is messy up until five minutes before guests arrive, and every piece of mail we have received in the past ten months is currently in a pile somewhere in our office. Yes, I have a long way to go before anyone will accuse me of being orderly and hygienic.

Even so, there are some little things that I am anal retentive about. I hate when people don’t use their turn signals. The correct order for the layers on a sandwich must be bread, mayo, meat, cheese, lettuce, mustard, bread. Most of the time, when people use the word “literally” they use it wrong (ie, “I literally had a cow.” No you didn’t, you figuratively had a cow. Momma cows literally have cows, you don’t.)

Sadly, I am not hung up on looking good

Sadly, I am not hung up on looking good

By far, though, my worst idiosyncrasy, is knives. I love em, I use them all the time, and I cannot stand when people use them incorrectly. (When I say “people” I am, of course, referring to my lovely wife Amy, who has been tormenting me with poor knife skills our entire relationship.) How, you ask, do you use a knife incorrectly? Well, for starters, don’t use the tiny little paring knife to cut through a huge chunk of cheese.  It wont work very well and will dull the blade to the point where you can no longer peel a kiwi. A long carving knife will technically chop up carrots, but it won’t be easy and you are likely to lop off a finger. There really isn’t any reason you should use a serrated bread knife, but it definitely should NOT be for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every knife has a purpose, use the right knife for the right job, things will go smoothly, choose the wrong knife and you will endure my wrath.

That’s about it. How about you?

My Kid Keeps Inventing Ways Of Beating The Shit Outta Me

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories, Uncategorized

Our adorable little boy is a bit of a menace. When he was a wee little toddler, he routinely slapped Amy and I in the face, such that at one point I was afraid to have my face within arm’s length of him. He then learned how to bite. He would bite anytime and for any reason. Usually, he would get me when I wasn’t expecting it and in some bizarre spot that really hurt, like my back fat.  After finally getting over biting, he realized that he could use his fingernails as tiny little talons, and tried to remove most of the flesh on my face.  Then, he took up kicking. Now, he can punch. He has developed what some might categorize as a right cross, which by itself wouldn’t be that bad except for the fact that he has also developed a left roundhouse, which hits you when you least expect it. It hurts.

Sadly, each time he progresses through a phase, I am relieved and think, “wow, glad all that nonsense is over,” only to have it replaced by newer, far more dangerous behavior. I mistake his disinclination to use outmoded means of combat as signs that he is becoming a sweet little boy, when, in fact, he is just waiting to roll out the more terrifying weapons at his disposal. Silly me for thinking that my boy will ever be non-violent. I guess he has as much chance at learning to be a pacifist as I have of becoming a vegan.

Sometimes, I wish his arms and legs were always buried in the sand.

Sometimes, I wish that his arms and legs were always buried in the sand

Things are especially bad now that he has stopped taking naps.I blame it on his biorhythms being all out of whack, but at times, he completely loses it. The other day, he hit punched one of his best friends in the face for trying to take a turn at steering a trolley car at a park, and when I announced that we were leaving, he started hitting and kicking me. When I picked him up to put him in the car, he tried every trick he had in the bag to hurt me; luckily I am still larger than him, so I was able to restrain him and not take a licking. He is pretty cool most of the time, but when he doesn’t get what he wants, it is Hurricane Malcolm in all its fury.  I hope he gets adjusted to the new schedule soon, because I am afraid he is going to catch me one of these times and the damage will be significant. I’m not saying that I want my kid to be perfect, I am just hoping that one day I won’t live in mortal fear of him. Is that too much to ask?

How to Survive The Holidays

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

The holidays can be a fun time filled with family and friends.  Of course, your family and friends may eventually drive you nuts, so a lot of people are stressed and irritated during this time.  How do beat the holiday blues? I have the solution!

1.  Drink interesting drinks (with alcohol in them).  Sure, beer and wine are nice, but the holidays provide a guilt free reason to get drunk on silly concoctions.  Take advantage! Make some egg nog from scratch and drown it in rum.  Add vodka to any red juice and call it a Christmastini.  Mull some wine, whatever that means.  It doesn’t really matter what you do, just the effort it takes to make a holiday themed drink will make you feel a little cheerier.  Plus, they will give you the liquid courage you need to make it through all of the events you have with friends and family around.

2.  Talk to yourself when you are alone. I like this one.  Whenever I am in a crappy mood, I start narrating my life to myself, at a volume that is somewhere between deaf person and Rain Man.  “I AM GOING TO GO DOWNSTAIRS NOW AND MAKE MY LUNCH.  I’M GONNA HAVE SALAMI!!!”  It works in the car, too, “OH, CRAPPY OLD DODGE YOUR LEFT REAR TIRE IS LOW.  TIME TO CHANGE THE RADIO STATION!!!”  I guarantee that it will lighten your day.  This may seem a little mentally unbalanced, but my internet research has shown me that it’s only crazy if you talk to yourself when other people are around.

3. If all else fails, pretend you are someone else.  Repetition breeds misery,  so if you are tired of the “same old same old,” go about your holiday schedule as if you were someone famous.  I recently shopped for food for a dinner party while pretending to be Jack Nicholson. Some interactions were OK, like when the lady at the meat counter said “hello” and I told her that she made me want to be a better man.  Things went disastrously wrong though when the cashier at the checkout counter asked if I wanted paper or plastic and I screamed at him, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!”  If you host a party this year, I strongly suggest that you take on the persona of the man of the hour, Jesus himself, fluttering around in a pretend robe, doing good deeds like filling up people’s drinks and ensuring that there is enough bread for the guests.  Of course, you never ever want to tell people what you are up to.  It’s a little embarrassing to reveal to your party guests that you think you are Jesus Christ without them raising an eyebrow as to how much you have had to drink.

4. Lastly, smile.  IMG_2407Studies have shown that the mere act of smiling will make you happier.  So, if you are feeling stressed out over the things you have to do, or the things you have not yet done, just smile and you will feel better.  So turn that frown upside down and everything will be just fine.  If that don’t work, it may make you happy to realize that the guy in the car next to you thinks he is Jesus and is talking loudly about the air in your tires.

Paul’s Tips For Disneyland

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

IMG_2565We took Malcolm to Disneyland over the weekend, and had a great time.  Since I am an expert in almost everything that I do, I thought I’d share some insights in case you ever find yourself in the Magic Kingdom.

Don’t stand in line. Standing in line is for losers. Standing in line is where your kids start asking you to buy them shit.  (It is not often that a top of the Matterhorn, your child will lean over and ask, “Can we go to the Lego store?”)  Standing in line is where kids with bad teeth will offer your kid a handful of cotton candy.  Tantrums happen in line.  Arguments happen in line.  Even worse, when you are in line, you have to [gasp!] talk to each other. The horror!  To avoid lines I recommend the following:  1- Go when no one else is at the park.  We go in December, not in June. We got there when the park opened.  Sure, December mornings are cold, partially rainy, and less fun, but remember, if you go in June during the day, they’ll be tons of people and you will end up having to talk to your family. Not fun.  2- Use fast passes.  A fast pass entitles you to essentially walk to the front of the line.  Talk about feeling like you are in first class and the rest of the world is in coach! Never before have I enjoyed watching the thronging masses staring at me like I am royalty. We usually signed up for a big ticket ride fast pass, and then went on a lesser ride while we waited for our special fast pass time. 3- Be contrarian. Just because everyone else is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to. If everyone else is sleeping in, eating lunch, or watching the parade, they won’t be in line in front of you.  Sure, you’ll miss out on some fun stuff, but missing out on fun stuff is what family time is all about.

Don’t eat crap. Disneyland is one of the funnest thing a kid will get to do.  Why, then, do you need to give them crap to eat?  If a kid cannot have a great time by simply riding the rides, watching 3-D movies, and interacting with the characters, then there is officially something wrong with them. Save the cotton candy for more mundane activities, like going to the library or “bring your child to work day.”  We packed a backpack full of snacks, and every time we waited in line, we opened up the bag and ate some.  Mind you, they were pretty awesome snacks: celery and peanut butter, salami and cheese sticks, cashews, carrots and ranch dressing, mangos.  This approach to eating also had two other byproducts: 1- you don’t need to talk to your family when they are stuffing celery and peanut butter down their pie holes, and 2- everyone will stare at you longingly when you are eating salami in line.  The smell of salami is unbeatable, and I love it when people envy me!

Enjoy some grown up rides. Being at places like Disneyland should be fun for everyone, so feel free to go on rides that your kids can’t.  Malcolm is a bit of a candy ass when it comes to thrill rides, so there was a whole universe of rides that he either wasn’t ready for.  We wanted to enjoy some of the racier stuff, but with one of us needing to stay with Malcolm, we didn’t want to spend a bunch of time waiting by ourselves. That’s when you ask where the singles line is.  The singles line has all the benefits of the fast pass, but without the advanced planning.  Usually you go through the exit and just walk right up to the front of the line, and they will put you next to someone on the ride that isn’t sitting with someone else.  The only drawback is that the single that you have been paired with will undoubtedly think you are a creep who smells way too much like salami, but that is a small price to pay for instant access to the most thrilling rides in the park.

Have a cocktail! Having drinks at Disneyland is a lot like giving your kid crap to eat.  However, we stumbled on to something and it seemed to work for us.  At around 7 or 8 pm, we were dragging. We had been at the park for around 12 hours and our legs were tired, our bellies grumbling for something other than mangos and cashews, and we needed a break from riding rides.  So, we went to dinner, thinking that we were probably done for the night.  At dinner, they brought us hurricanes, mojitos, and mint julips.  Wouldn’t you know it, the booze gave us a second wind!  Not only that, it gave us the keen parenting skills that allowed us to take Malcolm on Space Mountain (which we knew he would hate, and that he absolutely hated and never wants to ride again) and “Honey I Shrank the Audience” which includes a 30 foot tall snake roaring at you and trying to bite your head off, all in the wonders of 3-D!  Granted, this strategy may work better if you are able to share the drinks with your candy ass kid, but the booze numbs your own senses to the point where good parenting really doesn’t matter any more.  Plus, there’s tons more to talk about!

So, there you go, enjoy my tips and have a great time at the park.

How to Make an Awesome Breakfast Without Really Cooking

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Many of you are wondering how they can make a greasy hangover-curing breakfast while lying in bed.  Or, maybe you just prefer to sit and read the paper while your kitchen appliances make breakfast for you.  Perhaps you actually like your child(ren) and enjoy spending quality time with them in the morning.  (Ack!) Whatever the reason, prepare to have your breakfast world rocked.

Bacon – 1) Put slices of bacon on a foil lined cookie sheet and stick in the oven.  I like bacon, and recommend about 15 slices per person.  (Reduce the per person serving if your significant other starts to refer to you as “bacon boy,” which has NEVER EVER happened to me.)  Stick sheet in oven.  2) Turn oven on to 400 degrees.  Try to restrain yourself from licking the outside of the oven door, as it will soon start to make your house smell like it is Christmastime in Baconville.  I thought this was a joke, but it turns out, Baconville is just outside of Amherst, Massachusetts.  Good gravy I want to move there.  Just imagine!  3) Start checking the bacon in about 15 minutes and let cook until the bacon is the right level of crispiness. This approach is great; no smoke, no splatter, no worries over forgetting to flip the bacon because you are getting injury updates for your fantasy football team.  Plus, you can cook a ton of bacon at the same time.  I mean that. A ton!

Eggs – After the bacon has been in the oven for around five minutes, 1) fill up a pan with water and bring to a boil.  2) Add two tablespoons of vinegar.  “What?” you say, “Vinegar in the egg hot tub, that sounds gross!”  It is gross!  Like a dominatrix at a CPA convention, the vinegar keeps the eggs in check and will make them turn out thick and fluffy.  Don’t worry though, we’ll wipe of the vinegar later.  3) Put the eggs in water.  It’s better if you crack each egg in its own little bowl first and then gently slide the eggs into the water, but feel free to ignore this to save time/dishwashing labor.  4) Cover the pan with the lid, turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  If you are cooking 4 eggs let them sit for 6 minutes, 6 eggs for  7 minutes etc.  This all will vary depending on how runny you like your eggs, how hungry you are, and how late your kids are for school. If you are cooking for a lot of people, use a couple of pans.  5) Take the eggs out with a slotted spoon, put on a paper towel and tamp dry to get the vinegariness off. 6) Put the eggs on some some toast and pile the plate high with bacon. This breakfast takes about 2 minutes of active work but will sit in your gut for years.  Think of it as spackle for your colon.  And now, the spackle is as easy as ever to make!  You are welcome, see you in Baconville.

The Things I Was Thankful For

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

This past weekend was Thanksgiving and we had a good time in Reno with Amy’s parents, my parents, our friends Marj and Tracy, and three dogs.  IMG_2542Of course, little things happened to make it a special holiday, so I will give you all the highlights.

I am thankful that my family does not have a strong sense of smell.  I forgot to pack deodorant, so I spent much of the weekend living like the french.  I showered most of the time (!) so the stench was less than if it would have happened any other week of the year.  In those circumstances where I noticed a funk, I usually just went and sat by the dogs, who, almost on cue, would fart and make my aroma seem like pumpkin pie.  (I thought about putting on my wife’s deodorant, but that seemed a little kinky, especially since I was already borrowing her underwear.)

I am thankful that Reno is a trashy place.  Amy and I decided to hit the tables one night, and one of the new features in casinos now is table-side head and neck massages.  Amy eagerly took advantage of this new feature, and gladly removed her sweater so that the massage therapist could really get some good leverage going.  The only problem with this was that Amy had forgotten to bring any of her normal bras with her for the trip, so her girls were being supported through the use of a sports bra.  Now, if you had asked me if I would enjoy watching an Asian woman massage my wife wearing only a bra, I would have probably said that I would given up fantasy football to see it.  Having actually watched Amy in her sports bra sitting upright in a casino at the pai gow table getting massaged by a woman in a track suit, bra, I can tell you that I would be better off just sticking to the football.  Luckily, all the people standing in line for the buffet got a good glimpse of it all, but like I said, Reno is trashy and they didn’t really care.

I am thankful that we don’t have four or five cats breaking into our place and peeing and pooping on our floors.  Sure we have the one or two that do it all the time, making our return from out of town trips reminiscent of visiting the bathroom at a Raider game, but just imagine how much worse it would be if there were three or four doing it, eh?  Hey, no matter how shitty your life is (literally or figuratively,)  remember, it can always get worse.

Thanks Jean and Scott for having everyone up to your house for Thanksgiving and cooking outrageously good stuff.  Thanks mom and dad for bringing pie, mexico pictures and for letting me run wild at Blokus.  Thanks Marj and Tracy for all the wine, good cheer and bringing dogs that fart.  Thanks Malcolm for being kinda adorable and thanks Amy for tolerating my antics while creaing some of your own.  Life is pretty good.  Except for the cat piss and shit, that’s got to end soon.

The Politics of Picking Up Your Child

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I dread picking up Malcolm from school.  Malcolm’s 1:00 o’clock pickup time shackles me to my domestic duties like a dog tethered to a parking meter outside a store.  1:00 P.M. comes too early every day, and with it comes my consternation about how much more I had hoped to accomplish while he was at school.  Also, I think about how I could go golfing if he just stayed at school until around 3!

Picking up Malcolm also creates a good deal of apprehension about the parents gathering outside the gates of the pre-school.  The other parents who pick up their kids for the most part know one another and a great many of them have bathed recently.  I hear them making play dates with one another, talking about all the fun things they did together over the weekend, and tell each other the great milestones that each of their children have recently achieved.  They know each other’s names, their kids’ names, and are polite to one another.

Anyone want to talk to this guy?

Anyone want to talk to this guy?

I, on the other hand, usually show up in a sweaty mess.  Sometimes this is due to me playing basketball before picking up the boy, and sometimes it is due to me being a sweaty pig and having an alarming rate of perspiration under normal conditions.  I am terrible with names, so I cannot greet people like the others do.  While others begin a conversation with,  “Hey Margaret, how’s Jacob doing?  He really enjoyed your backyard on Sunday,” I am forced to limit my comments to, “Hey you! Do you like puppies? I sure do!”  Most of the time, I use my disgusting appearance as a conversation prophylactic, making it seem like I am so out of breath that I can’t even talk.  Everyone, including the teachers, refer to me as “Malcolm’s Daddy” not because Malcolm is the star pupil who serves as a frame of reference for everyone at the school, but because no one has the foggiest idea what my name is.  With the way that I look, I can’t say I give them much reason to learn it.

I feel like a total outsider, which is a bit lame, because many of them are nice people who I should know and interact with.  My initial attempts to make friends have not gone well.  Malcolm’s best friend at school is Quinn, who’s daddy’s name is Rashaan.  I saw Rashaan one day and said, “Howdy Sharan! How’s things?”  After a minute or two, I realized I had basically called him Sharon and tried to save face by blaming my rampant sweatiness for my overheated mind.  I cannot figure out whether he was least impressed with my getting his name wrong or saying “Howdy” to him.  I need flashcards with everyone’s names on it, and a shower an hour or two before picking Malcolm up.  This won’t make 1:00 feel that much better, but it will sure make me feel less like a dufus afterwards.

A Piece of Halloween Advice

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

We are set to enjoy another Halloween with Malcolm this year. As I see it, there are three ways of parenting around Halloween: 1- give up all parental responsibility and let your child run wild, 2- try some smart parenting techniques to limit the potential damage, and 3- be an asshole and tell your kid that Halloween only comes on leap years. I enjoy raiding Malcolm’s candy stash, so option 3 is not going to work.  I do not enjoy cleaning up candy vomit in Malcolm’s bed, so 1 isn’t going to work either.  That leaves option 2, but leaves the question, “How do you limit the damage?”

First, steal all the really good stuff from your kids.  This will reduce the overall quantity of their candy intake, and also being laying the groundwork for teaching how taxation works. It does, however, create the risk of me getting even chubbier, but I figure that they are certain things I must do for my child’s well being regardless of the consequences.

Second, use the candy as a motivational tool.  Malcolm usually doesn’t get to eat sweets at home, but whenever he has a candy stash like he does after Halloween, I hold it over his head like a baby seal hunter with an oar.  I swear to god, if that kid even looks at me cross eyed, I tell him that he is not getting his allotted piece of candy for the day. Nothing motivates kids all the time, but the chance to select a piece of candy from the Halloween stash works better than almost anything else.

Third, serve high protein foods prior to the candy orgy on Halloween.  I heard from another parent at Malcolm’s school (and corroborated on the internet) that having your kid eat cheese before consuming large quantities of candy will lessen the tooth decaying powers of the candy.  So, before you head out to trick our treat, shove a pile of salami and cheese down your kid’s pie hole in the name of good dental health.IMG_1918

Lastly, when your child asks you to run around naked on the street at the end of the night, tell him/her, “No.”  Malcolm did this last year, and trust me, the junior high and high school kids (and their parents) won’t think it is as funny as you do.  Let your kid spazz out in the comfort of their own home.  It also makes people think you have chosen option 1 for dealing with halloween, and that does not feel good.

Have a great Halloween everyone!

A Whole New Way to Get Parents Involved

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

We attended a fundraiser for Malcolm’s school last weekend. The big entertainment for the evening was a magician.  I am afraid of magicians (like some people are afraid of clowns) and I really didn’t want to go.  The good folks at the school had the wisdom to have a wine tasting at the event, so we ended up attending the event.  I had to turn my back to the stage during the show, and the squeals from the kids were like little daggers in my ears, but we had a mostly good time.

We ordered a lot of wine, so they decided to drop off the wine at the school for pickup yesterday.  I have never been so excited to pick up Malcolm at school!  It is really a no brainer, combine school related events with alcohol and you will find that parents suddenly have a reason to participate (other than caring about the future welfare of their kids.)   I was so excited by the idea, that I dreamt up ways of capitalizing on this idea.

1. Hold PTA meetings at bars.  I have never been to a PTA meeting, but who wouldn’t want to go to a bar?  I imagine that PTA meetings are held in the library and are very quiet, causing people to be nervous and for disagreements to be quite uncomfortable.  A cool bar with kickin’ music and super snacks would cut through the nervous energy at such events, and would allow people to freely express their feelings about the educational process.  As the drinks continued to pour, people would get in contentious fights and begin screaming at each other at the top of their lungs while AC DC played in the background.  At a bar, you can scream at somebody and threaten to remove their skull, and then hug it out when you get outside thebar.  At a library, not so much.  Also, people hook up at bars and is there a better way for people in the PTA to get to know each other than hooking up at a bar?

2. Wine bar at the library.  If you want to increase patronage at your local library, open some zinfandel!  It is a perfect pairing with all things literary.  Granted, beer or hard liquor at the library seems rather pedestrian, but wine seems like a nice fit.  There would, however, have to be pretty tough limits on how much each parent could drink: you can’t have wasted readers shouting at the library.

3. Beer at little league and soccer games.  They are sporting events, beer should be served.

4. Do parent-teacher conferences at a restaurant.  Parents barely know the person who is perhaps most responsible for their child’s development over a year.  Get to know them! Don’t do it at a lame conference at night sitting in a desk designed for someone one-third the size of you.  Go out and enjoy yourselves.  Have a cocktail, drink some wine, get a little loosie goosie! Before long the teacher will tell you who the real assholes in the school are and which parents are the worst.  Actually, I don’t want to do this last one.  I fear that the answers may be Malcolm and me, respectively, especially if people find out that I am the guy bringing beer to the little league game.

Book Review: Frog and Toad All Year

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Admittedly, we took Malcolm to the Frog and Toad party pretty late in the game.  Friends of ours were big fans of the series, so we tried it out, and I am so glad we did.  Frog and Toad are like an amphibeanized version of the odd couple, each with their own charms.  Toad is squat and brown; a bit of a homebody, he is always trying to invent reasons to go back to bed.  Frog is tall and green, into adventure and has to constantly invent new ways of motivating Toad to do anything.  They both crave sweets constantly and make a pretty cute couple.

One of the things I like most about this book (and the series) is that Frog and Toad are always looking for nice things to do for each other.  At some points in his short life, Malcolm has the look of pure evil, and we are hoping that the constant theme of friendliness will rub off on Malcolm at some point.  In the thrilling climax to the book, Toad is worried that Frog has gotten either lost or attacked by a pretty savage looking wolf with big sharp teeth.  Toad wants to save the day, and gets ready to set out after his friend with a frying pan, some rope and a lantern.  Unless Toad planned on tying up the wolf and sauteing the it, I hope that Malcolm won’t learn any survival skills in the story.  He should take note, though, that Frog was merely late because he was wrapping Toad’s Christmas present.  This book is simple, fun and sweet, everything that I think a kids book should be.

Odd Stuff Around Our House

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

I can’t ever seem to find anything I am looking for. When I search high and low for socks in my sock drawer, all I can find is a random assortment of receipts and old pen caps. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I am pack rat, and I have resolved to change my ways. My first step is to admit that I have a problem and disclose the true depths of my ways. Accordingly, here are the 10 weirdest things that we have in our house right now.

We have organic basil in our master bathroom. I know what you are thinking, “Paul, why organic?” Pesticides my friends, pesticides. Not sure how the organic basil got there in the first place, but it sure has spiced up our bathroom routines!

We have a tray sitting on top of our entertainment center which contains the following: a pink headband, an assortment of European power converters, duct tape, and about $2 in Turkish currency (even though we have never been to Turkey). Every time we clean (twice a year, before our superbowl party and before our oscar party) we move this stuff around, but we have never seen fit to actually remove the items from our family room. I assure you that the day we do, the need will arise for someone in a pink headband to simultaneously convert power and Turkish currency while repairing a hose out front. Wait, that’s just the pack rat talking. Sorry.

We have a huge glittery purple vibrator in our guest bedroom dresser. Amy received the sex toy (which looks rather straight out of a Harry Potter movie) for her 30 birthday and it has been relegated to the dresser ever since. At least, that’s what Amy has told me. OK, I just moved that one to the closet when I realized our parents use that dresser to store clothes in. I am not sure they appreciated seeing a vibrator where their jammies go. I think I just admitted that I have never seen a Harry Potter movie.

My old ID for the gym is in the buffet in the dining room. Each time I see it there, I laugh and think to myself, “what’s that doing there?” I then leave it in the drawer, and continue looking for whatever it was I was looking for.

I have a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix in the pocket of my black suede jacket which I wore two years ago. I used to love this stuff, using it to flavor chicken dishes and sour cream based dips. I guess sometime along the way, I thought, “I should have a way to make dip on special occasions.” Guess that magic moment never came.

There is a box in my office that contains a baby rattle, leftover Christmas cards, a PM Dawn CD, paper measuring tape from Ikea and an IPOD. I couldn’t even begin to deconstruct all that, so I hid the box underneath the desk, next to the broken child car seat and the pile of checks from bank accounts that we have closed over the years.

We have a Stuffed Sole entrée from Omaha steaks sitting in our freezer. I find this especially troubling because I hate fish, and have no idea how a Sole got to Omaha in the first place. I will never, ever either eat or cook this, but it still remains in our freezer taking up space. I curse it every time I try to jam more ice cream or corn dogs in there.

We have about 35,000 35 mm slides from my parents sitting in garbage bags right by the front entrance to our house. Last year, I promised my parents that I would convert them into digital files, but I still have not done it. So, the first thing you see when you walk in our house is seven or eight garbage bags full of pictures. Can’t figure out why we don’t entertain more.

There is a JC Penney gift card we received from Amy’s grandma ten years ago sitting next to the phone and answering machine in our kitchen. I don’t know if JC Penney’s is still in business, but if they are, we have some free money there. Yay.

I was sure Malcolm’s closet had something absolutely bizarre in it. I was surprised to find nothing out of the ordinary there, old clothes and toys mostly. I was worried that the closet would stick out a little, so I moved the huge, purple vibrator there. Now it fits in with the rest of the house.

P.S. I just went in to my office to use the computer and next to my monitor was a jar of red chile flakes and a can of spray paint for touching up our kitchen cabinets. There is no hope for us.

Malkie makes a peepee!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

We have been trying to get Malcolm started on the potty. Each night, we have him sit on his fake plastic potty before going into the bath tub and ask him to make pee pee on the potty. Up until today, his response has been to say “pssssssssssssssssss” while looking out over his belly to see his penis (or his “nee nee” as he calls it). After a few seconds of not peeing he would ask to go in the tub, where he would promptly stand up, start peeing and then making the “psssssssssssssssss” sound while staring at you while smiling.

Today, we got home from an outing and malkie had been splashing around in some puddles. I knew that I would have to change his pants anyway, so I asked him if he wanted to go pee pee in the potty while daddy went pee pee in the big potty. He nodded yes, I stripped him down and put him down on his plastic potty. He looked out over his belly and grabbed his nee nee and made the “psssssssssssssssss” sound.

He stayed with it a little more this time, and began playing with his nee nee while making various noises. First, he kneaded his little weenie, like there was some sort of cork which stopped the pee pee from coming out. He found this terribly funny and began laughing hysterically. With adrenaline rushing through his veins, he stepped up from kneading to something more reminiscent of a boxing speed punching bag. He shrieked wildly as his little package made “thud-a-dud-dud” sound over and over again while being slapped to and fro. Any of you who have met Malcolm know his “HAH HAH HAH” old smoker lady laugh, and he busted it out in full force for this.

He eventually got over himself, and I knew we were getting somewhere when I saw his stomach muscles flex. He began to knead wildly again, and a moment later: BAM! He peed straight outward missing the potty by a mile and peeing directly on the floor. I helped him aim the stream back into the potty and a minute later, he was overjoyed at having made the leap from peeing like a baby into peeing like a man (as long as the man pees while sitting down and getting most of it on the floor. Gee, I wonder where he gets that from?) I was a proud parent today, and even better, Malkie was a proud baby, err young man. I don’t know if he will do it again, but I don’t care. He took a step in the right direction today. Now we just need to make him shit on command!!!

Something goes terribly wrong at the Oakland Public Library

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

It rained today. This meant that Malkie and I had to find something to do that was not at a park, or, for that matter, outside. I had heard that the OPL had a story time on Wednesdays so I went down to the library, not really knowing what was in store, but hoping that it would provide an hour or two of entertainment/distraction.

Things started alright, as a frumpy, friendly, older woman (synonymous with the word: librarian) got us set up with a name tag and offered us snack. Being my father’s son, I gladly accepted the free grub and got Malcolm up into a chair after fetching us some juice and muffins. Only, when Malcolm settled into his seat he fell over the edge and went careening down onto the cement floor on his head. A hush came over the moms there, as the sickening “thud!” of a child’s head smashing the floor will generally cause everyone to stare at you until your kid stops wailing. Luckily, Malcolm didn’t hit any one part cleanly, so he lacked any large welts and quieted down once he realized there was a blueberry muffin in it for him.

I made a discovery while returning the concerned looks the mommies/nannies were giving me while Malcolm was crying. All of the other adults there were female, that I am used to. More interestingly, there was a unique asian-cracker fusion going on where almost every other family there was either a white mommy with an asian baby or an asian nanny with a white baby. Imagine how much we stuck out, especially when I told Malcolm to “rub some dirt on it” when he fell down. We now import almost everything we need in our country from china. We get the babies from china, the toys the babies play with, the clothes the babies wear, and the people that take care of the babies. Wouldn’t we be better off if we shipped our babies to china and got them back in 22 years with a college diploma?

Things took a turn for the worse when the HLIC (head librarian in charge) told us it was time to sing a song. She broke out the sheep sock puppet and we all came together for a less than rousing version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” This was truly sad, for HLIC circled the group smiling gaily at everyone, while a weak chorus of high pitched singers quietly mouthed the story about Mary and her stupid pet and how upsetting it was to have a sheep at school. I felt like I was back in church listening to the geriatric crowd murmur their versions of “Joy to the World,” and questioned why I went.

Next came sticker time. We were given a paper animal and a couple pages of stickers so that the kids could put the stickers on the paper animal. Malcolm put about 8 stickers on the lion we were given, having a good time while doing it. Stickers 9 through 28 either went in his mouth or were flicked (much in the same manner a booger is flicked) onto the cold hard ground. When I tried to get him to resume placing the stickers on the lion, he looked at me as if he were saying “why dad? The lion already has 8 stickers. How many stickers does it need?” He made a good point, so I focused my efforts on peeling the stickers off the floor.

The HLIC told us that our time was up and made some announcements about what would happen next week. I was pretty sure that I would never return, except that the HLIC turned on some music and a throng of kids formed to stomp, clap and nod their way through 6 or 7 songs. It was truly a cute scene, except Malcolm got a little nervous while standing (while definitely not­ stomping, clapping or nodding) in the middle of it all, not really knowing what to do. He begged me to pick him up so that he could watch the whole affair, and I couldn’t help but think this is what I did during every junior high dance I ever went to. I decided that I needed to bring Malkie back, if only to teach how to dance socially. So we are in, and by God, Malcolm will someday follow in his daddy’s footsteps at the last 5 weddings he has been to, and learn to stomp, clap and nod his way to the music.

When we got home, I was filled with the sudden urge to have creative project time. I got a magazine, a glue stick, some scissors and some construction paper expecting to fill up pages and pages of highly interesting pictures. The problem with my grand plan was that the only magazine we had handy was ESPN – The Magazine. I turned every page of that rag, asking Malcolm to point to everything he found interesting. At the end of the frustrating exercise, we had three pictures down, a robot, a fast red car, and a pint of Newcastle beer. Not the collage I thought we’d have, but at least you can tell it was a father-son art project. The other way could tell was that Malcolm ate a good deal of the glue stick and it just so happened that the actual glue was purple. Nothing like sticky purple proof of an art project!

Day 36: Chinese Travel Torture

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I hoped, really hoped, that our journey home would be an easy one. This is not some wild eyed fantasy, like the Bush Administration hoping that people will believe anything said at a press conference, but based on previous successes with Malcolm flying and us maintaining composure. We had neither success or composure this day, and not even the little promise I had made myself (that if I could make it through the last days of travel in Europe I would be rewarded with cheesesteak at the Philadelphia airport) allowed me to make it through the day without the feeling that we were being tortured.

I should have figured that our poor choice of flights was a harbinger of bad things to come. I naively thought when booking the tickets that all flights back from Europe were the same, in that you got on a plane in Europe, you arrived on the east coast and then you connected to the west coast. I realized the idiocy of belief when I saw that our flight from Zurich to Philadelphia was 9 hours long and that a non-stop flight from Zurich to San Francisco was only 10 hours long. Well, the trip will be twice as long as it needs to be, but as long as Malcolm behaves himself, things will work out alright.

After a painless check-out at the hotel, we made it to the airport in record time. We needed to drop off the rental car, and quickly found the garage to do this. This was a multi-functional garage though, and served also as short term parking. The signs for the rental car return quickly disappeared once inside the garage and we were dumped into the short term parking lot. Why are there signs everywhere for shopping at the airport and no signs for returning rental cars, I quickly asked myself. Better yet, who the fuck would go to the airport to shop?!?! If I ever need some chocolates or some newfangled leiderhosen, you bet your ass I am not coming to the god damn airport to get them. We exited the parking structure, and after circling around a few times, we eventually found the Hertz signs.

There was a pretty hefty line to check into our flight, but we were at the airport absurdly early, so we didn’t mind. We soon realized that the line was for a pre-screening interview which I thought was completely goofy. When we got to the front, an older woman asked that we gather all of our luggage and listen to her questions, which she asked in a librarian-quiet voice. For most people this wouldn’t have been a problem, but we were packing heavy. We had 6 checked bags, 7 carry-on bags, a stroller, a car seat and a toddler who has as much interest in an old lady asking stupid questions as a Dali Lama has in an episode of Desperate Housewives. When we were finally huddled around all of our luggage, the old woman asked whether we packed our bags. Well, yes, and that’s fine. She then asked where and when we packed them, and how we got to the airport. I tried to imagine a terror plot that would be thwarted based on answers to these questions. The only thing I came up with was the honest terrorist, who freely would reveal that the carry-on bag was packed last night at the hotel, but the suitcase bomb was built this morning at the secret bunker. The whole Q &A was even more surreal because the old woman was whispering the questions to us; it gave the questioning an odd sensuality as if she were feeding me grapes underneath an oak tree on a warm summer day.

No mind, however, as we were finally allowed to pass and hit the ticket counter. It took forever for the ticket agent to print out our boarding passes, so we had time to make sure that our luggage weighed less than the 23 kilogram weight limit. After a small amount of repacking and some countermeasures (placing the suitcase on the side of the scale to absorb some of the weight) our luggage finally went down the conveyor belt. We were down to 7 carry-on bags, a car seat, a stroller and a toddler hell bent on stretching his legs. Only we were forced to wait a while longer, and then informed that they could not get us seats together on the flight. They also told us that they did not have boarding passes for Malcolm and I for the second leg of the journey. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and began to think that this might be a difficult day.

This fear was realized when we got on the plane and the seats were about 18 inches apart. This meant that the row of seats in front of Malcolm was within reach of his legs, and he took great joy in kicking the seat in front of him. He did not kick the seat lightly, or on just a few occasions, he thrust his legs at the seat in front of him with wild abandon, kicking the seat in front of him like he was a professional wrestler. The little girl in front of him didn’t appreciate being treated like Jimmy Superfly Suka, and not surprisingly, she started fussing and I knew we were in trouble. Luckily things settled down for a while, the girl in front of us switched seats with her brother, Malcolm fell asleep and we enjoyed a little quiet.

I had tried to ease our burden by asking a couple of flight attendants if they could find us someone to trade seats with, as the person next to Malcolm was willing to trade seats, only not with Amy, who was in a middle seat behind us. They assured me that there were no empty seats on the flight and that the woman next to us was stuck next to Malcolm and Amy was stuck in the middle behind us. Luckily, the woman next to Malcolm and I was a mother of four, and was understanding when Malcolm was not-so-well behaved.

The boy now in front of us was named JJ. JJ didn’t seem to mind getting knocked about, and I soon learned that was because he was a giant pain in the ass and his parents must beat him savagely for it. JJ didn’t talk, he screamed in a raspy, guttural voice, and referred to himself in the third person all the time. “JJ thirsty!” he would yell, or “JJ want monkey!” When his mother would try to get him to sleep, which was every 5 minutes or so, JJ would yell, “JJ not sleepy!” This yelling woke Malcolm up from his sleep and I began to hate JJ. JJ then began to wave toys in Malcolm’s face and then taking them back, causing Malcolm to get frustrated that he couldn’t play with the toys. This brought on about 4 hours of steady crying. The combination of “JJ want cookie!!!” and Malcolm crying and kicking the seat in front of him, wore on each of us, and we took turns attempting to soothe our crying boy. Needless to say, we were not successful. In case you don’t know what it is like to be trapped next to a crying baby for 4 hours try this: give yourself about 25 or so paper cuts on your ear and then dip your ear in lemon juice. Whenever it gets so bad that you want to cry, slap yourself in the face
, if only to get you mind off of the unending irritation of your ear.

Interestingly, it was not Malcolm that drew the ire of our fellow passengers. I guess we were lucky to have JJ on the flight, for he, and his mother, took the brunt of the passenger frustration. The woman in 7C actually left her seat, went up to JJ’s mom, and asked in a pissy voice, “does he ever stop shouting?” JJ’s mom responded with a rather irritated excuse for the rambunctious behavior, and threw in a “you must not have any kids,” to which 7C responded, “I do, they just aren’t wild.” Wow. I loved it because I despised JJ, and especially loved it since the airplane mob wasn’t focused on our child. When Malcolm continued to fuss, I was forced to walk him around the plane despite heavy turbulence and instructions from flight attendants to retake my seat. I had had enough with US Air when they resumed the in-flight service and our flight attendant said that they didn’t have any milk. No milk?! What is this, Air Siberia? The attendant on the next aisle fortunately did and Malcolm quieted down for the last part of the flight. It was only then that I realized that there were indeed some empty aisle seats on the flight, and that things could have been less painful if the flight attendants had just cared a little. My rage was compartmentalized, as we still had a good deal of travel, and we got off the plane.

With 3 hours in the Philadelphia airport, we figured we would have quite a bit of downtime and Malcolm would be able to run around a bit, albeit after we made it through customs with our assorted array of contraband. Plus, I had a cheesesteak coming my way, so things were looking up. I really thought that we had turned the tide when customs didn’t even bat an eye at us and our 13 bags filled with European chocolate and wine.

Things definitely were not looking up, however, when we got to a US Air customer service counter which would supposedly have Malcolm and I’s boarding pass for the upcoming flight. I was informed that our flight was overbooked and not only did they not have seats for us together, but they didn’t even have a seat for me on the flight. They printed a “gate ticket” for me (which allowed me to get through security) that said my destination was Las Vegas. I figured someone at US Air would take pity on us and we made our way through security to get to the gate. And we waited. And waited. It took over an hour in the tremendous heat for us to get by security, and I couldn’t even figure out why we had to wait in security at all, since we had previously disclosed where we had packed our bags and how we got to the airport. I guess our Swiss whispering silver fox hadn’t shared any of the answers to the tough questions we had answered in Zurich earlier that day.

After we finally snaked through the security line, I proceeded to the gate. I stewed while waiting in line over our treatment and the prospect of another painful flight. At one point a woman looking suspiciously like an off-duty nun tried to cut in line in front of me, and I began to mull over how I would tell off the line-cutting nun (I had settled on, “just where in the bible does it say that you don’t need to wait your turn in line” before deciding at the end to just say that I was next to go). After explaining my plight to the counter personnel, I was informed that they still didn’t have a seat for me, much less 3 seats together. More waiting. More fuming.

I was at the end of my tether. When finally given a seat that was not next to Malcolm, I told them that US Air was the only airline in the world that didn’t think it was important for a parent to sit next to their 19 month old, and asked why they just could reseat one of the people either next to Malcolm or I. I was shocked when I was told that the “Privacy Act” forbade them from doing this and almost started screaming. I had actually resigned myself to the very real possibility that I wouldn’t be on the flight at all, so a seat on the plane was good enough for me to just shake my head and wonder why no one at this stupid airline would lift a finger to help us. That was the last straw and I vowed then and there to never fly this airline again. The counter personnel assured us that the flight attendants onboard would get us seats together, and I laughed out loud when they said this.

Amy was a savior and ran off and got me a cheesesteak to eat on the plane. Malcolm tried to show us that he wanted to go home by pushing the stroller down the runway, but since they wouldn’t board yet, he was frustrated. So he cried. He continued to wail for the 30 or so minutes before the flight and I wondered why we ever had a baby in the first place. Tired, sweaty, smelly, weary from the last flight and even more weary over what was about to take place, we tried unsuccessfully to amuse Malcolm before finally stumbling down the ramp to the plane.

We boarded the plane, and the flight attendant actually got us 3 seats together. We were so happy that the fact that the seats were in the back right next to the smelly toilets didn’t even matter to us. This happiness faded however, when that very same flight attendant came back and asked Amy to move so that another parent could sit across the aisle from their child, (apparently US Air has a policy of sitting parents far away from their children). ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Not to worry, we were told, it will only be until we were in the air, they just needed everyone in a seat so we could push back from the gate. Amy graciously agreed, figuring that another 20 minutes apart would be no big deal.

It should have come as no surprise to me that we didn’t end up taking off for another hour and a half. I knew that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while when I looked out the window and saw that there 13 planes in front of us waiting to take off. When a little boy sitting in front of us started to spaz out and get Malcolm’s attention, I a felt like suffocating him with an air sickness bag. Instead, I told him that once Malcolm went to sleep, the boy needed to be very quiet or he would get in trouble. It was I actually that would have gotten in trouble, because if the boy woke up Malcolm from his sleep, I would have made good on my daydream and Malcolm’s next visit to me on Father’s Day would have been in San Quentin.

Malcolm ended up falling asleep while we waited to take off and I enjoyed my hard earned cheesesteak. This moment of sheer bliss was soured a little as the people around me could smell
my ode to meat and cheese and looked at me and my sandwich longingly. I didn’t care anymore, and slurped my coke loudly despite the boy sitting across the aisle crying to his grandfather that he was thirsty. This was my moment, I had swum through my river of shit, and I was sure as hell going to enjoy it. We eventually took off and Amy was eventually returned to our row, and although we had to suffer through the endless stench of toilet cakes from the nearby toilet, we were finally on our way to San Francisco. This was a America west plane that allowed enough leg room so that Malcolm couldn’t reach the seat in front of us. Malcolm slept for a large portion of the flight and when he wasn’t sleeping he was playing quietly in the seat. We touched down at SFO, and began the very last leg of our trip.

Of course, nothing came easy for us anymore. We got all of stuff off the plane and proceeded to the baggage claim, Amy and Malcolm stopping at the bathroom to change his diaper. Amy was sure she had her computer bag with her going into the bathroom, and when she noticed on the escalator that she didn’t have it with her, she tried to scamper back up to retrieve it. She didn’t make it back up, and fell and cut her knee on the razor sharp edges of the moving stairway. She folded over in pain and had to sit down for the rest of the journey down. Exhausted, and with her tail between her legs, she walked up to me and announced that we would have to go back through security to the bathroom to fetch her bag. It was only then she learned that I had her computer bag and her injury was all for naught. Her leg was bloody and beginning to bruise, but we didn’t care. All of our bags had made it home, and we got in the taxi to return to house. Home sweet home. Definitely a corny phrase, but nothing better could describe how we felt when we walked in the door. We were finally home, and it was sweet.

Day 35: Food Fight!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I hoped, really hoped, that our journey home would be an easy one. This is not some wild eyed fantasy, like the Bush Administration hoping that people will believe anything said at a press conference, but based on previous successes with Malcolm flying and us maintaining composure. We had neither success or composure this day, and not even the little promise I had made myself (that if I could make it through the last days of travel in Europe I would be rewarded with cheesesteak at the Philadelphia airport) allowed me to make it through the day without the feeling that we were being tortured.

I should have figured that our poor choice of flights was a harbinger of bad things to come. I naively thought when booking the tickets that all flights back from Europe were the same, in that you got on a plane in Europe, you arrived on the east coast and then you connected to the west coast. I realized the idiocy of belief when I saw that our flight from Zurich to Philadelphia was 9 hours long and that a non-stop flight from Zurich to San Francisco was only 10 hours long. Well, the trip will be twice as long as it needs to be, but as long as Malcolm behaves himself, things will work out alright.

After a painless check-out at the hotel, we made it to the airport in record time. We needed to drop off the rental car, and quickly found the garage to do this. This was a multi-functional garage though, and served also as short term parking. The signs for the rental car return quickly disappeared once inside the garage and we were dumped into the short term parking lot. Why are there signs everywhere for shopping at the airport and no signs for returning rental cars, I quickly asked myself. Better yet, who the fuck would go to the airport to shop?!?! If I ever need some chocolates or some newfangled leiderhosen, you bet your ass I am not coming to the god damn airport to get them. We exited the parking structure, and after circling around a few times, we eventually found the Hertz signs.

There was a pretty hefty line to check into our flight, but we were at the airport absurdly early, so we didn’t mind. We soon realized that the line was for a pre-screening interview which I thought was completely goofy. When we got to the front, an older woman asked that we gather all of our luggage and listen to her questions, which she asked in a librarian-quiet voice. For most people this wouldn’t have been a problem, but we were packing heavy. We had 6 checked bags, 7 carry-on bags, a stroller, a car seat and a toddler who has as much interest in an old lady asking stupid questions as a Dali Lama has in an episode of Desperate Housewives. When we were finally huddled around all of our luggage, the old woman asked whether we packed our bags. Well, yes, and that’s fine. She then asked where and when we packed them, and how we got to the airport. I tried to imagine a terror plot that would be thwarted based on answers to these questions. The only thing I came up with was the honest terrorist, who freely would reveal that the carry-on bag was packed last night at the hotel, but the suitcase bomb was built this morning at the secret bunker. The whole Q &A was even more surreal because the old woman was whispering the questions to us; it gave the questioning an odd sensuality as if she were feeding me grapes underneath an oak tree on a warm summer day.

No mind, however, as we were finally allowed to pass and hit the ticket counter. It took forever for the ticket agent to print out our boarding passes, so we had time to make sure that our luggage weighed less than the 23 kilogram weight limit. After a small amount of repacking and some countermeasures (placing the suitcase on the side of the scale to absorb some of the weight) our luggage finally went down the conveyor belt. We were down to 7 carry-on bags, a car seat, a stroller and a toddler hell bent on stretching his legs. Only we were forced to wait a while longer, and then informed that they could not get us seats together on the flight. They also told us that they did not have boarding passes for Malcolm and I for the second leg of the journey. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and began to think that this might be a difficult day.

This fear was realized when we got on the plane and the seats were about 18 inches apart. This meant that the row of seats in front of Malcolm was within reach of his legs, and he took great joy in kicking the seat in front of him. He did not kick the seat lightly, or on just a few occasions, he thrust his legs at the seat in front of him with wild abandon, kicking the seat in front of him like he was a professional wrestler. The little girl in front of him didn’t appreciate being treated like Jimmy Superfly Suka, and not surprisingly, she started fussing and I knew we were in trouble. Luckily things settled down for a while, the girl in front of us switched seats with her brother, Malcolm fell asleep and we enjoyed a little quiet.

I had tried to ease our burden by asking a couple of flight attendants if they could find us someone to trade seats with, as the person next to Malcolm was willing to trade seats, only not with Amy, who was in a middle seat behind us. They assured me that there were no empty seats on the flight and that the woman next to us was stuck next to Malcolm and Amy was stuck in the middle behind us. Luckily, the woman next to Malcolm and I was a mother of four, and was understanding when Malcolm was not-so-well behaved.

The boy now in front of us was named JJ. JJ didn’t seem to mind getting knocked about, and I soon learned that was because he was a giant pain in the ass and his parents must beat him savagely for it. JJ didn’t talk, he screamed in a raspy, guttural voice, and referred to himself in the third person all the time. “JJ thirsty!” he would yell, or “JJ want monkey!” When his mother would try to get him to sleep, which was every 5 minutes or so, JJ would yell, “JJ not sleepy!” This yelling woke Malcolm up from his sleep and I began to hate JJ. JJ then began to wave toys in Malcolm’s face and then taking them back, causing Malcolm to get frustrated that he couldn’t play with the toys. This brought on about 4 hours of steady crying. The combination of “JJ want cookie!!!” and Malcolm crying and kicking the seat in front of him, wore on each of us, and we took turns attempting to soothe our crying boy. Needless to say, we were not successful. In case you don’t know what it is like to be trapped next to a crying baby for 4 hours try this: give yourself about 25 or so paper cuts on your ear and then dip your ear in lemon juice. Whenever it gets so bad that you want to cry, slap yourself in the face, if only to get you mind off of the unending irritation of your ear.

Interestingly, it was not Malcolm that drew the ire of our fellow passengers. I guess we were lucky to have JJ on the flight, for he, and his mother, took the brunt of the passenger frustration. The woman in 7C actually left her seat, went up to JJ’s mom, and asked in a pissy voice, “does he ever stop shouting?” JJ’s mom responded with a rather irritated excuse for the rambunctious behavior, and threw in a “you must not have any kids,” to which 7C responded, “I do, they just aren’t wild.” Wow. I loved it because I despised JJ, and especially loved it since the airplane mob wasn’t focused on our child. When Malcolm continued to fuss, I was forced to walk him around the plane despite heavy turbulence and instructions from flight attendants to retake my seat. I had had enough with US Air when they resumed the in-flight service and our flight attendant said that they didn’t have any milk. No milk?! What is this, Air Siberia? The attendant on the next aisle fortunately did and Malcolm quieted down for the last part of the flight. It was only then that I realized that there were indeed some empty aisle seats on the flight, and that things could have been less painful if the flight attendants had just cared a little. My rage was compartmentalized, as we still had a good deal of travel, and we got off the plane.

With 3 hours in the Philadelphia airport, we figured we would have quite a bit of downtime and Malcolm would be able to run around a bit, albeit after we made it through customs with our assorted array of contraband. Plus, I had a cheesesteak coming my way, so things were looking up. I really thought that we had turned the tide when customs didn’t even bat an eye at us and our 13 bags filled with European chocolate and wine.

Things definitely were not looking up, however, when we got to a US Air customer service counter which would supposedly have Malcolm and I’s boarding pass for the upcoming flight. I was informed that our flight was overbooked and not only did they not have seats for us together, but they didn’t even have a seat for me on the flight. They printed a “gate ticket” for me (which allowed me to get through security) that said my destination was Las Vegas. I figured someone at US Air would take pity on us and we made our way through security to get to the gate. And we waited. And waited. It took over an hour in the tremendous heat for us to get by security, and I couldn’t even figure out why we had to wait in security at all, since we had previously disclosed where we had packed our bags and how we got to the airport. I guess our Swiss whispering silver fox hadn’t shared any of the answers to the tough questions we had answered in Zurich earlier that day.

After we finally snaked through the security line, I proceeded to the gate. I stewed while waiting in line over our treatment and the prospect of another painful flight. At one point a woman looking suspiciously like an off-duty nun tried to cut in line in front of me, and I began to mull over how I would tell off the line-cutting nun (I had settled on, “just where in the bible does it say that you don’t need to wait your turn in line” before deciding at the end to just say that I was next to go). After explaining my plight to the counter personnel, I was informed that they still didn’t have a seat for me, much less 3 seats together. More waiting. More fuming.

I was at the end of my tether. When finally given a seat that was not next to Malcolm, I told them that US Air was the only airline in the world that didn’t think it was important for a parent to sit next to their 19 month old, and asked why they just could reseat one of the people either next to Malcolm or I. I was shocked when I was told that the “Privacy Act” forbade them from doing this and almost started screaming. I had actually resigned myself to the very real possibility that I wouldn’t be on the flight at all, so a seat on the plane was good enough for me to just shake my head and wonder why no one at this stupid airline would lift a finger to help us. That was the last straw and I vowed then and there to never fly this airline again. The counter personnel assured us that the flight attendants onboard would get us seats together, and I laughed out loud when they said this.

Amy was a savior and ran off and got me a cheesesteak to eat on the plane. Malcolm tried to show us that he wanted to go home by pushing the stroller down the runway, but since they wouldn’t board yet, he was frustrated. So he cried. He continued to wail for the 30 or so minutes before the flight and I wondered why we ever had a baby in the first place. Tired, sweaty, smelly, weary from the last flight and even more weary over what was about to take place, we tried unsuccessfully to amuse Malcolm before finally stumbling down the ramp to the plane.

We boarded the plane, and the flight attendant actually got us 3 seats together. We were so happy that the fact that the seats were in the back right next to the smelly toilets didn’t even matter to us. This happiness faded however, when that very same flight attendant came back and asked Amy to move so that another parent could sit across the aisle from their child, (apparently US Air has a policy of sitting parents far away from their children). ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Not to worry, we were told, it will only be until we were in the air, they just needed everyone in a seat so we could push back from the gate. Amy graciously agreed, figuring that another 20 minutes apart would be no big deal.

It should have come as no surprise to me that we didn’t end up taking off for another hour and a half. I knew that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while when I looked out the window and saw that there 13 planes in front of us waiting to take off. When a little boy sitting in front of us started to spaz out and get Malcolm’s attention, I a felt like suffocating him with an air sickness bag. Instead, I told him that once Malcolm went to sleep, the boy needed to be very quiet or he would get in trouble. It was I actually that would have gotten in trouble, because if the boy woke up Malcolm from his sleep, I would have made good on my daydream and Malcolm’s next visit to me on Father’s Day would have been in San Quentin.

Malcolm ended up falling asleep while we waited to take off and I enjoyed my hard earned cheesesteak. This moment of sheer bliss was soured a little as the people around me could smell my ode to meat and cheese and looked at me and my sandwich longingly. I didn’t care anymore, and slurped my coke loudly despite the boy sitting across the aisle crying to his grandfather that he was thirsty. This was my moment, I had swum through my river of shit, and I was sure as hell going to enjoy it. We eventually took off and Amy was eventually returned to our row, and although we had to suffer through the endless stench of toilet cakes from the nearby toilet, we were finally on our way to San Francisco. This was a America west plane that allowed enough leg room so that Malcolm couldn’t reach the seat in front of us. Malcolm slept for a large portion of the flight and when he wasn’t sleeping he was playing quietly in the seat. We touched down at SFO, and began the very last leg of our trip.

Of course, nothing came easy for us anymore. We got all of stuff off the plane and proceeded to the baggage claim, Amy and Malcolm stopping at the bathroom to change his diaper. Amy was sure she had her computer bag with her going into the bathroom, and when she noticed on the escalator that she didn’t have it with her, she tried to scamper back up to retrieve it. She didn’t make it back up, and fell and cut her knee on the razor sharp edges of the moving stairway. She folded over in pain and had to sit down for the rest of the journey down. Exhausted, and with her tail between her legs, she walked up to me and announced that we would have to go back through security to the bathroom to fetch her bag. It was only then she learned that I had her computer bag and her injury was all for naught. Her leg was bloody and beginning to bruise, but we didn’t care. All of our bags had made it home, and we got in the taxi to return to house. Home sweet home. Definitely a corny phrase, but nothing better could describe how we felt when we walked in the door. We were finally home, and it was sweet.

Day 34: Zurichfest

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Today was another travel day. We were making our way to Zurich, our final destination, and, with Malcolm still feeling poorly and us tired of being on the road, we wanted to go home. We didn’t really want to go to Zurich, but the only way we could get a trip using frequent flyer miles was to book a ticket on Tuesday out of Zurich (today was Sunday). So we made 4 trips loading the car, said our goodbyes to our old and new friends and hit the road.

Zurich was only about an hour and a half from Bern, and the trip was easy. We knew we had been driving in Europe long enough when we got lost using our directions and found the hotel by ourselves. Luckily, Zurich is not that big, and our instincts were getting a little better.

We checked into the hotel, and counter person told us to wait and someone would help us park our car. Eventually, a bell hop came out to meet us and told us to follow him in the car. He walked at a snail’s pace on the sidewalk while I drove slowly next to him. If the bell hop had a leash, you would have thought that the man was out taking his car and tourist out for a walk. We turned the corner and he led me down the ramp to the parking structure. Right about the time that I was thinking, “what an absurd parking routine?!”, I understood everything completely. The parking garage was not so much a garage, but a labyrinth, yielding 6 hairpin turns and only 18 or so inches of space on either side of the car. It took about 15 minutes to navigate the ridiculously narrow caves until the car rested in the spot about the size of a toaster oven. I walked back with the bell hop and after I commented about the narrow driving paths, I was confronted with the strangest voices that I had ever heard. The bell hop was Pakistani, having a thick accent, and a tone about three octaves higher than Shirley Temple. He made, “you did a good job” sound like an ethnic Muppet on helium, especially since he giggled uncontrollably when he spoke. I was speechless, and could only manage a giggle back in response.

It looked like it was going to rain, so we headed out to try and see a little of Zurich before the downpour. Here is the view of the city before the rains came.

Luckily for us, it started raining as soon as we left the hotel. The huge Zurichfest was going on, so the streets were packed with Swiss, eating sausages, drinking beer, and listening to local bands put out bad versions of American music. We stopped and got some great beer and yummy sausages for ourselves and quickly wolfed them down in the rain. Malcolm wanted no part of the sausage, however, so we sought out some savory carbs for him to enjoy.

We found a stand selling Thai food and got Malcolm some curry with noodles. There were no tables to sit at that were protected from the rain, so we had to feed him while sitting on a bench underneath a tree. The only place we could find was in a courtyard that had a huge TV screen and loud speakers pumping out music. This would have been OK if Malcolm’s favorite show was on, but we felt a bit guilty when dirty rap songs came on, with semi-pornographic images displayed on the big screen. I hope that we are not creating a monster here. Malcolm was ravenous and didn’t seem interested in being fed small amounts of the food by spoon. So, we fed him by putting noodles and chicken on his chest, and he would shovel it all in his mouth as quickly as he could. Here’s how it looked.

Memo to all the Swiss people who walked by us and saw a spastic boy with large piles of noodles on his chest squealing while watching half naked women on a 15 foot TV doing stripper dances to the tune of Bitch Betta Have My Money: We are not always this bad at parenting. Five weeks of travelling have caused us to give up.

Zurich seems like it was in full Bohemian mode. There are titty bars everywhere and, even though it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, there were drunken revelers all around. Then, we passed a thrill ride that spun riders around in a variety of different ways. We thought this was at least wholesome fun, until I recoiled in horror when the “kiddy” ride began with a loud voice belting out over rock and roll, “ARE YOU READY MOTHERFUCKERS?!!!!!” Some kiddy ride.

We almost took Malcolm and more subdued train ride, but seeing a little girl a little bit older than he erupt into tears during the session put an end to that idea. We opted instead to just watch the ride while cowering under the small canopy covering to stay away from the rain. It had the nice side benefit of washing the stroller, which we left in the rain, of the substantial amount of Thai noodles which had accumulated during Malcolm’s feeding frenzy.

The one thing I was sad about our trip ending during the walk home was that we would be giving up our unbridled love of eating unhealthy foods. We had indulged every fried food fantasy during our trip, and I shed a little tear while eating some sugar-covered fried dough, knowing that I would no longer be able to pig out in a few days.

Davale and Lisa had also made the journey to Zurich as stopping points along their travels, so we met up with them for dinner. I had been itching for some fondue, so we had to choose between 2 places to get our cheese fix. One place had outdoor seating right next to one of the many concert stages and the other was a quiet family place with an old style interior. Needless to say, we chose the outdoor place, and made the right call. The thought of Malcolm throwing cheese covered bread cube missiles all over a respectable family joint made me wince.

I had Malcolm duty after Amy’s long stints as care-giver during my friend’s wedding. Dinner would have been almost impossible without the following: a ton of bread covered in cheese, and loud noise with people dancing close by. Sadly, the people dancing closest to us were “those people.” You know who I am talking about. The kind of people who are good at dancing, and want to show the world exactly how good they are. They twirled each other around, easily transitioning between moves without any of the smacking, kicking or accidental biting that Amy and I get caught up in. This would have been OK, if not a little pretentious, except that they did it all without the slightest bit of happiness in their faces. They seemed so intent on counting the beats in their head that their facial expressions appeared as if they were reading a dentistry journal. Amy and I may look like two ferrets making friendly in a knapsack, but at least we look like we are having a good time while doing it.

The fondue was super yummy and Amy seemed to really enjoy the adult conversation. Under cover of taking care of Malcolm, I was free to stuff myself with two kinds of cheese fondue and a few bites of meat. I can really pack it away when given the chance. Malcolm fought his way through dinner, clearly not happy, but a little cheese goes a long way with him.

Afterwards, we wandered around for a bit, as the rains subsided. There were bands on every different corner, all playing American songs. I was enjoying the familiarity of it all, until I saw something which ruined music for me forever. I saw a grown man running in place shaking his head around in utter joy while singing “I’m So Excited” by the Pointer Sisters. I promised myself I would never listen to live music again, just to be sure that I would never look like that. I caught the man’s eyes during his shameful display, and I tilted my head at him as if to say, “Really? That’s what you’re all about?” He looked at me and mouthed the words, “And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I want you, I want you.” I looked away, and sincerely hoped that my faith in my fellow man will be restored at some point.

We decided to stop along the way at a pharmacy, as we were out of baby wipes, and Dale needed some feminine products. The pharmacies here have little actually on shelves, everything being stored away in a countless number of drawers around the store. To buy anything, you ask the pharmacist for what you want, and they go to a drawer, and get it for you. This is all find and good when you ask for baby wipes. It gets a little trickier however, when you have to ask for things that go in your vagina. That is precisely what Dale had to do, and we all gasped when the pharmacist asked Dale whether she needed the petite tampons or the large ones. I laughed out loud when Dale told the pharmacist that she needed the large one, exclaiming, “You here that? Dale’s got a big woowoo!” I am not sure Dale saw the humor in this otherwise personal transaction, but I decided that I could always have a good time in Europe by just listening to conversations in the drug store.

Writers are cheap. Lisa, a writer friend of Matzel, was with us as we settled down for a beer outside our hotel. Of course, she didn’t have enough money to cover her beer, and in fact, hadn’t even had enough money to cover her share of the dinner. She tried to come close, but ended up paying part of it in nickels and dimes. I was offended, as I do not consider nickels and dimes to be real money when paying a debt to a friend. She offered to repay the outstanding debt by giving me an acknowledgement in a book she was hoping to publish, and I thought this was a great idea, unless the book sucked, in which case it would be a terrible idea. I imagined her upcoming book to be an expose about chicken molesters and that I would forever be associated with the subject matter. I figured that the acknowledgment would read as follows: This book tells the story of misunderstood rooster fuckers in Louisiana. Until now, their voices have not been heard, but thanks to Liberty Press and my editor Jan Liebowitz, their story can be told. I would also like to thank Paul Schwartz in Oakland, California for financial assistance for this project. And now, Chapter 1: The Forbidden Dance of the Cocks. (I should have just let the $10 slide).

After the beer, we returned the hotel. Amy and I slept soundly, safe in the knowledge that were one day closer to coming home.

Day 33: Matzel’s Wedding

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

This was the bride and groom’s big day, and we were ready to celebrate with them. The close friends and family there were all a bit nervous about how things would unfold, since Matzel are writers and not necessarily the best at the little details of life. They did manage to schedule a ceremony and a reception, however, so at the very least we’d see a Swiss wedding and get a meal out of it. Ever wonder my chic Paris fashions look like (or as I said the night before in my drunk-speak, Ferris Passions)? Check me out (also notice the hot wife and still unstained baby).

The ceremony took place at a nice old building away from the downtown area in Bern. A Swiss wedding ceremony looks nothing like its American counterpart, which usually involves religious pomp and circumstance. Here, the process is entirely a civil affair, mostly circumstance with almost no pomp. A small older woman sat us down and began to belt out instructions in German. The bride likened the speech to a government interrogation, something along the lines of, “do you have any Jews in your house?” It was Switzerland after all, so there was probably a disclaimer in there like, “it’s OK if you do, we just need to know for record keeping…”

The ceremony got off to a bit of a shaky start, as the interrogation was translated by the best man who told us that we should hold off on taking any pictures until the formal ceremony began. The translator, Humpa (real name, I can’t make up anything that good) was Matt’s friend from grade school and a really good guy. Not having been to a Swiss wedding before and not really understanding anything that was going on around us, the official wedding photographer, David, and the official wedding videographer, me, looked at each other quizzically, since we didn’t know when the interrogation ended and when the formal ceremony began. I didn’t want to break any laws, but was concerned about missing out on footage, so the first part of the wedding footage consists of me taking video on the sly, and shooting the back of the wedding party’s head and shoulders, with an occasional glimpse of the bride in a mirror, for artistic effect. To really sell it, I had to cough loudly when I started shooting to cover the “BING!” noise the camera made when beginning to roll. Smooth, real smooth. The interrogation continued, with the government official confirming that the bride and groom had actually signed the wedding certificate and confirmed the details out loud and in front of anyone.

In the midst of the interrogation, the wedding official decided to read a poem she had written. Really odd. Imagine that that you had jury duty, and then the judge took a pause from detailing how to discharge your duties dispensing justice to read you a poem about love and trees and puppies. It was just so out of place, given the stoicism of the bureaucrat in front of us.

Eventually, the translator, Humpa, informed us that the ceremony would begin, and David and I leaped into action. It was a good thing too, because the actual ceremony consisted of the following (after translation): You, woman, do you want to be married to this man? Yes. You, man, do you want to be married to this woman? Yes. Ok, you are now married. People, you can now congratulate the couple.” WOW, that was to the point! But I did feel a little something missing, nobody had to promise to stick around for illness or poverty, or at least to obey your new spouse. I guess in Switzerland, you can do anything you want after you are married, just as long as you don’t lie about your birthday. I should have gotten married there!

We strolled outside with the happy couple and took some pictures by a fountain.

Malcolm had been getting sick the last few days and Amy graciously took him home so that he could rest up for the big reception. I was a little sad to lose my baby and my sweet baby with all of the love floating around, but made do by promising my camera that I will recharge its batteries, even when I am sick or poor.

The ceremony and pictures afterwards, albeit different, or maybe because it was different, seemed to shine a little light on Matzel and their relationship. The sweetness of their voices and in their eyes brought you closer to them, and showed what their life is like together. Sometimes disorganized and sometimes needing translation, I truly felt that their relationship worked, and that they will enjoy a lifetime of memories together.

We had some down time before the reception, so we rested up, and I eventually met up with others in the wedding party to try and find some decent beer. Didn’t find any, but we enjoyed the amazing view from the reception spot before Matzel arrived and we ate blanched almonds. I don’t know what makes an almond blanched, but I couldn’t get the Golden Girls TV show out of my head while eating them and it ruined the experience completely.

Eventually, Malcolm and Amy arrived, right before the bride and groom, and we all sat down for one of the finest dining experiences I have ever had. The reception was in the afternoon at a 5 star hotel, and the weather was perfect for an outdoor table for the 20 people in attendance. The patio we were on overlooked the glacial green river, with rolling hills in the distance and the Alps serving as a perfect backdrop. It was spectacular. The courses were brought out by 10 or so waiters who, after a description of each course in mouth-watering detail, all lifted silver tray covers in unison to give the meal a lot of razzle dazzle. Each course, except for the salmon (mind you I can’t stand fish and wouldn’t eat it even if it were served on Jessica Alba’s chest,) was exquisite and made you want to eat like a king every meal.

That isn’t to say that we didn’t have a little good ol’ fashioned fun along the way. During the meal, which was paired with seemingly never ending portions of amazing wines, David took a break from his photography duties to inform us that he had the title down for the next great porno: Bi-Lingual. David’s work is in graphic design and does a fair amount of work in the adult entertainment area (alongside Businessweek and the like) so we laughed hysterically, but not too concerned when he detailed his entire franchise idea: Bi-Lingual Too and Bi-Lingual Three(way).

I began to notice some cultural/language differences when Matt was translating the Bi-Lingual movie ideas to his friends sitting next to him. We gathered that there was something lost in the translation and giggled when we mistakenly believed he described the movie as “He speaks two languages.” Then, Humpa (won’t ever get tired of saying his name) was telling us how much he liked the fifth course, lamb, except instead of saying lamb, he said “lamp.” So, he proceeded to talk about how he normally was friendly with lamp, but this was the best lamp he had ever chewed. I was going to egg him on by telling him about the special Westinghouse lamp we had back in the states, but the day was going nicely, and it just didn’t seem right.

That is, of course, until Javier, another of Matt’s Swiss friends took up the subject of the bride’s beautiful cream colored wedding dress, which her mom had commented on. Javier, in full dirty pedophile cadence, laughed and said that it sure was a sign that she wasn’t wearing white. Ouch! In America, you generally tell the bride that she is beautiful and lovely and not, as Javier had done, announce to the table that the bride is a tramp. I could see the horror in my friend’s eyes after the comment, and I did my best to diffuse the situation by declaring my love for the wine. She rebounded like a champ, and no long term damage was done.

Of course, you didn’t need to be Swiss in order to be silly. The bride’s mom, Joyce, and her boyfriend, Andy, were having a delightful afternoon at the end of the table, enjoying the food, wine and the view. The one thing that Andy wasn’t enjoying was the water, which was fizzy, and he preferred flat. So Andy got up, meandered over to the bushes on the far side of the table, and emptied his glass into the bushes, while staring off into the distance to really sell it. He then returned to the table where he was able to mooch flat water from some of the other diners. For whatever reason, Andy decided not to bother with the wait staff about his preference for flat water. That is why the wait staff was continually repouring fizzy water into his glass (at least 10 times). Andy would exclaim, “Sheesh!” and then retrace his steps over to the bushes to empty the glass. I don’t know which was goofier, Andy being incredulous that they would refill his glass so many times, or the looks the waiters would give each other, as if to say, “wow, this guy really likes his fizzy water!”

The afternoon really was amazing, and it was too bad that Malcolm did his best to make sure we didn’t enjoy a single moment. Malcolm had been getting sick this week, and the heat of the day, combined with the length of the afternoon, made Malcolm a very grumpy boy. Amy did the lion share of the parenting, even taking Malcolm for a long walk in the hope that he would fall asleep so we could enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, he never did, even though I made a desperate attempt to make Malcolm feel better by getting him some Swiss cough medicine. He did remain mellow enough for us to enjoy the cake, though, and Amy & I managed to spend some time together during the last moments of the reception.

One of the most important aspects of Amy and I’s marriage is the (sometimes brutal) honesty we share with one another. We had a bit of a dust up on the way back from the Reception over the correct way to orient the stroller (the sun was in Malcolm’s eyes so I was pulling the stroller backwards), and Amy was a little sick and tired of my (sometimes backwards) approach to life. She hinted that I should maybe go for the post-wedding walk with the group by myself, but after another minor dustup in the room, she pointed to the door and said “don’t talk to me anymore, just go.” The ability to realize that our significant other is annoying us for no specific reason serves us well, and sometimes space is the best way to get along.

Having been ejected from the room, I met back up with the wedding party. We decided to go for a walk around town, and Humpa, the best man, (and my vote for best name) came down in the one of the oddest outfits I have ever seen. He had a short sleeve button-down on, coupled with some men’s-capris (manpris?). Seeing a man in three quarter length pants is quite interesting, but the whole outfit was sold by his black socks and black dress shoes. Not to worry, Humpa assured us, he still needed to change. When he came back, he was wearing everything except the dress shoes which he had changed to black tennis shoes. The best way I can describe it is to say that he was giving a modern day shout out to the leiderhosen. It’s a good thing I didn’t wait to buy my fashions in Switzerland!

When everyone finally gathered, we all set out for a walk along the river. It was a glorious evening and we all had a fantastic time walking and talking. Here are Dale and David (Davale?) along the way.

During the walk, I was able to have a great conversation with the bride’s mom and her boyfriend. They are definitely more at ease in the one on one than the group setting. I felt bad that I didn’t engage them earlier in the trip. Maybe if I had, I could have ordered him some flat water.

We ended up finding an Italian restaurant that could seat the 12 of us, and had a great meal. Matzel, Davale and Lisa and I sat at the “kids” table and laughed the evening away. At one point we were in tears over our telling stories over embarrassing statements made when the background noise all of a sudden the stopped. The actual stories were a bit graphic, just picture a crowded subway train getting really quiet at the same time when genitalia is describe in grotesque detail. This was especially funny considering we were dining on the same street that Einstein lived on when he lived in Bern. Oh, we can class up a joint!

The walk home was a bit sad, knowing this was our last night together and that in the morning the group would disburse. The wedding was a great affair though, I was glad to

be a part of it. There are many types of weddings you will attend in your life. There are those you are guilted into going to, those that you enjoy because of the friends and family there, and those involving your close friends. This was somehow better than all of those. Matzel’s wedding allowed you to glimpse what their love is like, and I was honored, if only for a moment, to share in it.

Perhaps this feeling of love was the reason the night brought on one of my favorite moments with Malcolm in his short life. He was continuing to struggle and woke up during the night wailing. I held him in my arms, and when he rejected milk, I knew that he was feeling bad. I held him tightly and told him that I loved him and that he was my special boy. Amazingly, he stopped crying right then and there, and fell asleep in my arms. I sighed quietly, and hugged him again, knowing that parenthood can bring you more happiness in a quiet moment than a lifetime of beer, fried foods and loud laughter.

Day 32: The Road Less Traveled (to Switzerland)

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Today was a travel day. We packed up the car, said our goodbyes to Scoan, and headed off for Switzerland. Things were a bit nasty from the get go, since there was a bad traffic jam and we missed our exit to the freeway leading out of Paris, making us hit the traffic jam from a direction which made things even worse. It took us about an hour and a half to get out of Paris, but once we were free from the city, we made good time. We stopped at a truck stop to eat our lunch and dined on crappy sandwiches and cardboard pizza while sitting on the grass in the rain and the wind.

After we got back in the car, we continued on the large expressway until our Google directions had us going off into the French countryside to eventually cross the border. It was a difficult decision, but staying on the big roads would have taken us several hours out of the way, and we preferred the more direct approach. The road soon narrowed and we found ourselves on a tiny two lane road in the fog and rain. This is how we were going to get the Swiss border?

Ouch! Amy is an amazing navigator though, and we made every single correct turn and found the border. I was worried that we were just doing it wrong somehow, but when I saw cars and trucks coming towards us with Swiss license plates, i figured we were on the right track. We were a bit nervous about crossing the border itself, as I wasn’t sure how close a look they would take and whether they would be concerned over the ample supply of wine we had with us. Our fears were laid to rest though, when we got to the “checkpoint” and they didn’t so much as look at us, much less go through our stuff. Sweet! As soon as I heaped praise on Amy for her expert map skills, she missed a turnoff and we eventually hit the expressway after some roundabouting. It was a quick trip to Bern from the border and we soon found ourselves at the hotel.

Malcolm was generally good, but 8 hours in the car was a bit too much and Amy and I were getting a little sick and tired of the Curious George soundtrack by Jack Johnson that we believed Malcolm liked. We must have listened to the same CD 6 times during the day. Luckily Malcolm did sleep a fair amount, so we were treated to David Sedaris books on tape for parts of the journey.

The Swiss don’t really care for people in strollers and 14 bags of luggage, though. Our hotel was up 3 flights of stairs before there was an elevator and I developed a decent sheen of sweat getting everything up to the front desk. Amy had warned me about the seductive look of the desk woman there, and when I checked us in, I was taken in by her rapturous eyes (the corn rows, not so much.) I think the desk woman thought I had some odd facial ticks when I kept winking at her during the check-in, and didn’t really make eye contact with me for the rest of the weekend. That was probably for the best, as neither Amy nor I had any defense to her exotic stare. I would have probably ended up doing her laundry if left alone with her for too long.

The parents of the groom continued to impress me as they treated the entire wedding party to dinner at a nice steak place the night before the wedding. One of the ways I coped with this long trip, however, was the thought that Swiss beer would be waiting for us during this time, and since Switzerland is right next to Germany, they must have really excellent beer too. Well, not true, and least this beer at this place. After a crappy lager, we switched to wine. I was a bit depressed.

I had seen steak tartar on the menu everywhere in Europe and I decided that last night’s steak to was too good to top. So I ordered the tartar. I thought it would be like chopped filet, and I could really enjoy the texture of the meat, but it turned out to be more like raw hamburger with spicy relish mixed in. The weird thing was that it was served in the shape of a heart! I don’t know what they think raw beef does to get you some loving, but I can honestly tell you that it didn’t get me lucky that night. It was a lot less offensive than I thought it would be, and they gave me some cognac like liquor to pour over it (it tasted like apples!) The result was that it actually tasted quite good. I passed my plate around and even got some people to try it who wouldn’t have otherwise eaten tartar. I wished I had taken pictures of the stuff myself, but the wine was getting to me, and I had abdicated any picture-taking to David, who was the official wedding photographer. Just imagine me sitting over a heart-shaped spam looking substance, pouring booze over the top and chewing very methodically, saying, “this is really interesting.”

After Malcolm was done throwing his wienershnitzel around the table and eating crayons, Amy took him home to sleep, stopping on the way to splash around in a fountain that sprayed water 20 feet straight into the air. The rest of us chatted the evening away and I was forced to slog though a crème brulee that I could definitely have made better myself. The wedding was tomorrow, so we all hit the sack, glad to be reveling in Matzel’s nuptials and experiencing a different country.

We did struggle a bit with the language here, though. I don’t what languages they speak here, German or French-German or Swiss, but after so long in France I was confused whether I should use my garbage French or just give up and just say “thank you.” I ended up back in point and cluck mode a lot of the time, safe in the knowledge that no matter how hard I try, I will never be mistaken for someone who knows what they are doing. That’s the good thing about having a baby, I don’t really care.

Day 31: Why Do I Get Myself Into This Kind of Trouble

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Sometimes when you have a child, you take life in shifts. This was definitely the case today. I desperately needed to go shopping to make myself look presentable for Matzel’s wedding. Amy and Scoan desperately wanted to go to the Picasso museum. The only way to accomplish these goals, in conjunction with Malcolm’s nap, was to split up. So, Amy and her parents headed out for a morning of actual touristy stuff, while I stayed behind to lord over Malcolm while he napped. Everything went according to plan, and Amscoan had a nice morning seeing art and some other neat buildings. Amy was especially happy, since her Gertrude Stein book had a lot to do with Picasso, and she was interested to see exactly what his art was all about. I, however, got to see the artistic beauty of a dirty diaper. Suck on that Pablo!

In the afternoon, I set out to buy myself some wicked French fashion. I was looking for some threads that would make Amy take one look at me and say, “Damn!” (Usually, she will look at me and say damn, only out of disgust or embarrassment, but this time I wanted her to say Damn you look good like a Greek God.) So I headed out ready to impress. I had heard that you needed to dress the part when shopping in France, so I put on pants and a nice shirt with my dressy shoes. The topper was my Georgio Armani jacket I had purchased in China. The zipper didn’t work and the sleeves are different lengths, but the name is spelled correctly on the label, so for all outward appearances, I looked like a million bucks.

My dreams of being accepted as a local socialite were quickly dashed, as the morning was warm, and the stupid jacket made me look like I was training for a wrestling tournament (read= sweaty and way overdressed.) Why did I wear this fucking jacket?! Arrgh! I arrive the trendy department Le Bon Marche, which carried the hottest fashions from Hugo Boss, Armani and other European men with odd haircuts and tiny glasses. I immediately realized one fatal flaw in my plan: the French don’t make cutting edge fashion for fat guys like me! Every coat I tried on either came up to my elbows only or was about 6 inches shy of fitting around my considerable girth. Luckily, there was one area that had hefty sizes, so the counter help rolled their eyes at me as I tried on coats in the dark corner of the store reserved for tourists and fashionable walruses. Of this meager selection, 2 coats fit, one that was $500, which didn’t really allow me to breathe or move when buttoned, and another that was baby blue and made my look like I worked for an airline. Dejected, I left the store hoping to find a smaller shop that catered to my needs.

Unfortunately, I slammed 2 cups of coffee right before leaving so I needed to pee really badly. While looking for an outdoor toilet, I decided to record my misery at the department store and reached into my pocket to write in my journal. It was at this time that I noticed that my pen had leaked and there was wet ink in my pocket. This would be a red flag to most people, but I decided to survey the extent of the damage by digging my hand around in my pocket to uncover the level of ink spillage that had occurred. I recoiled in horror when I took my hand out of the pocket and realized that MY HAND WAS NOW COVERED IN WET BLACK INK. Smartly, I tried to just rub off the ink with my clean hand, only to realize that both hands were now black. Smooth, Paul, real smooth. Well, the shopping trip was now on hold because there simply no way I could continue trying clothes looking like a chimney sweep fresh from the job.

After searching for a toilet for 15 minutes, I decided that I would go into a clothing store and explain that I would like to try on clothes, but needed to use the bathroom to clean my hands first. The store I selected was luckily staffed by an older woman who spoke no English. Jeez! I proceeded to try and pantomime my intentions to the woman, and what happened next was particularly amusing. I showed my inky black hands to the woman, and then mimed that I needed to WASH MY HANDS (rubbing my hands together) before I could SEE (2 fingers brought to my eyes) the clothing there and TRY THEM ON (pretending to put on a jacket) and SPEND MY MONEY THERE (rubbing my dirty thumb and 2 fingers together to represent that I had money). The woman looked at me like I was a homeless person trying to get into a white house dinner, and when I got ink on my jacket while miming the TRY THEM ON part, she just shook her head at me and pointed to the door. Ouch! I was utterly dejected and on the verge of a break down, in large part because my urge to pee was now mutating into a full panic attack.

I walked around looking for a place to urinate for another 30 minutes before finally finding a public toilet. This walk contained a whole lot of me thinking “what is the matter with me, why can’t I do things like a normal person” and “Tunzel won’t really mind if I just show up in a golf outfit will she?” The public toilet wasn’t a bathroom, however, but rather a kiosk on the sidewalk that was little more than a hole in the ground to deposit waste. Well, at least I got to pee, even if I inked up my junk a little in the process.

I realized that I was never going to find a sink to wash my hands in, so I proceeded to hand cleaning Plan B. This plan consisted of me spitting on my hands and then rubbing them. Classy. My saliva dried up before the job was complete, so I was left to lick my hands to get off the last remaining remnants of ink. I licked my hands up and down like a tootsie pop, pausing only to wipe my hands on the back of my pants to rub off the black stuff. Anyone on the streets of Paris that day was treated to the brilliant sight of a sweaty American dad walking down the street alternately spitting on and licking his hands and then rubbing from his butt aggressively from top to bottom. The last time there was that much spitting, licking and butt rubbing on the street of Paris was during the filming of Debby Does Paris. I looked like a fricking idiot and all hopes of me “dressing the part” were eviscerated; I would be lucky if the people at the GAP would let me in…

With my hands now at a light gray hue, I braved some more stores who catered to the wispy in-crowd, before finding a store called the Gentleman Farmer. A name like that screams PAUL! so I was hopeful I would find something there. They spoke English at the store, so I was fortunate to be able to communicate in something other than charades-speak, but my mouth was so dry from the spitting and licking that I seemed like Corky from Life Goes On. The clothes fit! I actually had a selection of coats to choose from and after finding one made from a new fiber that helps keep the sweat down to a bare minimum and is wrinkle resistant, I only needed a shirt. After sampling a few shirts it was down to a flamboyant lightweight cotton shirt and a simple c
omfortable green button down. I said “Screw it” and got the flamboyant shirt, figuring I wanted to turn heads and can be comfortable when I am wearing my pajamas. My decision was in no part reliant on the thin gay man at the store who commented a number of times how good I looked in the shirt and jacket combo. (Incidentally, he was way less into me when I responded in a thick, Corky like tongue, “Yippy! I like it!!!”) I proceeded home, half ecstatic that I achieved my goal, and half shamed after my ridiculous adventure. I can’t help but to laugh, knowing that the whole escapade could have been thwarted if I only had Malcolm with me. Why? He who has the baby, also has the baby wipes.

I rested my bruised ego, and we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner, since this was our last evening in Paris. I had been eyeing a neat place around the corner from us, which was all stone and wrought iron inside. We got their right at opening, and we sat down in a relatively empty place. The waiter informed us that it was a fixed menu, so we were treated to 7 or so courses and had an amazing meal. It was really too bad we couldn’t enjoy it, for Malcolm was letting us know that he was tired of travelling and even more tired of going out to long dinners. The meal consisted of the following: a variety of vegetables which involved 15 or so whole vegetables placed in a basket which we were free to cut up and eat with vinaigrette, a cauldron of soup, pate, a rib steak cooked to perfection which Amy and I absolutely annihilated, a cheese platter (which we skipped after last night’s cheese orgy) and a decadent chocolate mousse (which Malcolm annihilated). The best part for me was the huge basket of salamis which we were free to eat as much of as we wanted.

I have never been so happy to be sitting next to 10 pounds of cured meat in my entire life. The second best part of the meal was that we could drink all the wine and beer we wanted, so we polished off several bottles of wine along with our tasty treats.

On the way back to apartment, Malcolm convinced the gelato people to give him a free cone, which he eventually smashed against the store window and then dropped in the gutter. He didn’t really need any, I guess he just realized it was the last time he would be able to enjoy any in Paris. I had a hard time not eating his gutter gelato myself, but I was stuffed from salami buffet, steak and mousse, so I managed to just throw his away.

The evening ended with a whimper, as Jean was feeling to effects of the all-you-can-drink wine. On the way up to the apartment she stumbled on a stair and ran head first into the wall, bending her glasses and sending her into a laughing fit. When we got up to the apartment, we saw the she had a shiner, making me immediately want to head back to the restaurant for some more salami to rest against her wound. We settled for ice, and went to sleep knowing that we had left our indelible mark on this great city. I can’t believe our 18 days in Paris are up. Paris, you are going to miss us!

Day 30: Living Like Royalty

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Amy convinced me to go to Versailles today. I had initially held out on the premise that it would be crowded and that the weather wouldn’t be good. She responded by saying we would go, and sometimes you do things when Amy says that we are going to do them. I began to curse her when standing in line in an outpour without an umbrella. I was quite pissed until I realized that she too was standing in line, only she had to wait in line for half an hour in the rain just to use the bathroom. I didn’t say “that’s what you get!” but i remember thinking it. I was completely done with tourist events, and didn’t care if there was a tits museum handing out free samples, if there was a line for it, I am passing it by.

The rains held up long enough for us to enjoy a brief walk and a meager sandwich on the grounds of Versailles. This palace and surrounding area are huge, and it would truly be something to see if inhabited only by the kind and the limited number of servants around. We walked around the green areas outside and were eventually caught by the rains. We tried to weasel our way into a gift shop to wait out the rain, but Versailles is full of the smell of perfume and I chose to wait outside in the rain rather than stay inside and take in the rose nosed stench. Seriously, it smelled like flower flavored diapers, and I couldn’t take more than 2 minutes of it.

During another brief respite of rain, we made our way back to the car and headed home. We drove to Versailles because I am cheap and did not want to pay for train tickets for us all. It turned out to be a wise decision because we got there and back relatively quickly and we parked on the street. We technically needed to feed the meter while we were there, but we have a rental car licensed in Belgium which we are driving to Switzerland, so the chances of a ticket catching up to us are about as strong as France declaring January 9 as “National Bath Day.” They didn’t even end up giving us a ticket, maybe they knew it was futile.

We were so stoked on our apartment that we decided to host a wine and cheese party for the wedding party. Shopping for a wine and cheese party in France is very fun, even if the people we spoke to didn’t speak English that well. The wines, cheeses, meats and desserts are all so good, that the pressure is definitely off to make sure we get good stuff. I tried to convince Amy that we should do our shopping at the French equivalent of the canned food warehouse, but she would have not of it (they call in the Cannes food warehouse there. Ha!) We got some recommendations for good wines in many areas of France, chocolates that looked more like art than food, cheeses from every imaginable animal and the best salami I will ever eat. Whenever the shopkeepers couldn’t understand what we wanted, we just pointed, clucked and made barnyard animal sounds to get our point across. People also brought fruits (the figs were a hit), olives, and, of course, baguettes. I thought I would go crazy waiting for people to arrive so that I could start eating, but they eventually did, and then I grazed for about 4 hours. This was definitely a highlight of France.

The party itself was very fun, the highlights being Saucisson Sec, the French salami, an almost perfect Pinot Noir, roquefort cheese (blue cheese made from lamb’s milk) and sitting around the dining room telling embarrassing stories about ourselves. You would think that this would not be enjoyable, but after 7 bottles of wine the stories came fast and loose. The evening ended when the Matzel party headed out the door, but we all had a good time getting to know one another and I never want to get this residue of salami and roquefort cheese out of my mouth. This would have been a good spot to drop a few pictures of the party at, but I was eating and drinking too much to bother with a camera. So you’ll have to just use your imagination with me standing up with a glass of wine in one hand and a plate in the other, with a huge pile of meat, a bunch of stinky cheeses and a lone solitary carrot.

Day 29: Its Raining Again

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It’s raining again today. Foreign countries are generally no different than your home country when it is raining and you stay inside. We had to invent games to pass the time. Here is Malcolm and I playing a little something called, let’s sit on daddy’s head.

The game is played as follows: first, and this is crucially important, you must change the baby’s diaper. Next you lie down, preferably on a bed or soft carpet. Finally, Malcolm sits down on your head. If Malcolm squeals with joy and bounces up and down on top of your head, he wins. If he doesn’t, you do. Simple game, I only wish he would have thought it up on a day when Amy was responsible for him.

We were lucky enough to have Amy’s mom with us, who is amused by our, “it’s raining so we can’t go outside” schtick. So she braved the storm and got us fresh baguettes for breakfast. Fresh crusty bread and fresh butter and fresh raspberry jam is the right way to do breakkie, it will be hard to go back home. We are not accustomed to eating decadent breakfasts back home and are really enjoying pigging out. I don’t feel fat, so I assume I am not doing any kind of long term damage to myself. I relayed this to Amy and she said, “Really? You don’t feel fat? Have you looked in a mirror?”

Eventually, the rains let up and Malcolm woke up from a morning nap, so we weathered the rain and met up with the gang to take in the Musee D’Orsay, which had a Picasso/Cezanne exhibit. This flies in the face of everything that I stand for, as it involves 1: going inside a museum and 2: spending money to do so. I am low maintenance though, so I bend to the whims of the group. At this point the parents of the groom showed up, so they were actually camped out in line to get us tickets. They had been there for over an hour in the rain, and were not close to the front, so we bagged the idea and headed instead to a brasserie for some food. Matt’s parents were very nice, but Malcolm didn’t notice because he was too busy splashing around in puddles. If his job as pigeon herder ever falls through, he can definitely make it as a professional puddle splasher.

With the crowds as large as they were, I vow to never ever again visit a place during the high tourist season. I don’t care if Malcolm meets Beyonce and falls madly in love, if their wedding is in Rome in July, I say, “send me some pics and some leftover weird almond thingies!” Some of the sights here would be fun to see, and the endless lines put an end to all that. We didn’t last very long in the restaurant as Malcolm began to amuse himself by picking up hard objects and lobbing them across the table. After the second water glass tumbled over, we headed out into the rain to go back home so he could sit on my head again.

During the evening, Scoan babysat Malcolm, and Amy & I headed to the St. Germain district to have pizza with the wedding crew. Here are the bride and groom (Matzel for short) and Dale’s hubby David. David appears a little non-plussed because I had just finished telling one of my patented long-winded stories about Malcolm’s poop. Matzel, in contrast, love stories about poop, so they were enthralled.

By this time, Tunzel’s mom (and her boyfriend) had arrived so this was the first meeting of all of the Americans in town. During dinner a universal vortex appeared when Matt’s dad was flashing his Iphone around to Tunzel’s mom, whilest the kids (us) at the end of the table were busying themselves with pictures. What? Parents playing with technology, while kids taking pictures? The world has gone to hell in a handbasket. Matt’s dad let me play with the Iphone a little, and seemed a little concerned when I got pizza grease all over it. I just assumed the thing was Paul-proof, i guess that was my bad.

The pizza’s were yummy (they do hot salami right here) and we eventually left for a stroll with Matzel. We really hadn’t seen much of Paris at night, so it was cool to see stuff lit up. It was a nice evening stroll, talking with Matzel, who are both talented writers, about books and how great my blog is. Actually, I talked about how great my blog is and after listening quietly for 15 minutes they started giving me “notes” (writing jargon for explaining how crappy your work is) and then tried to demonstrate what great writing is really like. Since the Great Gatsby lacks both pictures of my sweaty back and detailed descriptions of yummy food, I consider it trash. I guess good writers don’t really know good reading…

Day 28: Our Triumphant Return to Paris

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The drive home from the wine country was uneventful. We were in a hurry to see the boy, so we did not stop and since it was raining anyways, we did not miss much. We were very proud of ourselves, as we disregarded our directions due to bad traffic and managed to make our way through the city anyways. I think we are getting the hang of this European driving thing.

My friend Dale (also from San Francisco State) and her hubby David arrived earlier in the week. We met up with them while they were relaxing to some outrageously expensive drinks. Amy was going to head inside and change her pants, but decided at the last minute to forgo the costume change, and left her pants in the stroller. When we returned from our journey, her pants were gone! Get that! THE FRENCH STOLE AMY’S PANTS! Somewhere in paris as we speak, someone besides me is getting into Amy’s pants. Life ins totally unfair. Well, at least it validates her sense of style. I left some of my clothes in front of our apartment that night, to verify that I am a fashionable man, and they were still there in the morning with a note that read, “Either you dress like a child or your kid is grotesquely obese. Either way, get your laundry off the street!”

We thought about going up the Eiffel Tower, but the long lines put an end to all that. Two hours to wait for an elevator ride? I think not. I would have liked to at least urinate on the tower to mark my territory, but the lines for that were outrageously long too. So we left. Once again, we are very bad tourists. We opted instead for taking photos near the needle.

We decided as a group to go for more falafel for dinner. Everyone was blown away by the tasty pitas and we sat in a park on the grass eating them. Well, some of us did, as a few of the group couldn’t wait that long and ate theirs on the way over. These things are awesome and everyone vows to return.

We ended the day at Café Panis enjoying a unique hot chocolate. They give you a mug of pure chocolate and a small jug of warm milk. Then you get to pour the milk into the mug which instantly mixes with the chocolate for an amazing cocoa experience. Tunzel the bride is hooked on the stuff and visits this place almost every day. The dessert experience started a little shaky when a group of kids sitting next to us got into a fight culminating in one guy punching another guy in the stomach as hard as he could and then yelling at him. They eventually left without eating anything, but their aggression was left in the air, and this was perhaps the reason I kicked the Matt, the groom, in the nuts as hard as I could. He should recover by the wedding night, but my foot kinda hurts.

Day 27: The Wine Country’s Finest

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We woke up and Amy decided to keep the relaxing vibe going by getting a massage. I tried to give her a good rubbing, but she slyly pushed my dirty little fingers away and she opted instead for a professional rubdown. I guess I should have washed that cheesy smell off of my hands first, but hey, at least I tried.

While she was getting rubbed, I nervous paced the room trying to keep from heading down to the breakfast room early. I was hungry and the breakfast was included, so it took every inch of restraint I had to keep from getting to my “free” breakfast. The only way that you can top a buffet breakfast for us Schwartzes is to make it free. I couldn’t do it, and eventually Amy joined me as I was pigging out on croissants and corn flakes. I am pretty sure that I undid all of the relaxing effect of the massage when Amy came down and my face was already covered by fresh raspberry jam and I had the look of a startled raccoon in the night.

Another Chateau

We visited a nice little chateau called Azay Le-Rideau in the morning. The chateau itself was nice, and we enjoyed a leisurely walk without having to worry about where Malcolm was and whether there was anything for him to play with. Thank you Scoan for babysitting! We even got the timer on the camera to work, and look how chateau life suits us.

On the way out of town, we stopped at a wine shop and did some wine tasting. The proprietor didn’t speak English very well, so the tasting itself was a bit awkward. Normally, some of the fun of wine tasting is to talk about the area and the types of wines available. The wine lady didn’t think it was very fun when I ended up looking like I was doing the chicken dance while trying to figure out if 2005 was a good year and whether we needed to drink the wine now, or let it age a bit. I still had fun though because I had a bit of a buzz and I generally like doing the chicken dance. The wines themselves were quite good (the grapes were Cabernet Franc) and we bought 6 bottles. I don’t know how we are going to get these bottles home, but for now the drinking and dancing are all we seem to care about.

The Tastes of Chinon

After walking off the buzz a little, we made our way to Chinon, the heart of this wine-growing area, and we took in the sights of the city. The city center is an old mid-evil aged village and the narrow cobblestone streets were fun to walk around in. Luckily for us, it was Sunday and everything was pretty much closed, making us realize that we are, for all intensive purposes, the worst tourists this planet has ever seen. We typically don’t see a lot of tourist sights when we travel, but when we do they are all usually closed. You can’t close a statue though, and here is Amy re-enacting Joan of Arc in a bloody battle in the square that bears her name.

I guess Joan was from these parts and we reveled in the knowledge that she took an army from around here and beat the English back across the channel. I am definitely curious as to why sexism didn’t end when a woman beat the snot out of a bunch of men on the battlefield. It’s one thing for Billie Jean King beat an old man in a tennis match or for Karen Carpenter to outdrink a bunch of fat Mongolian men in the Indiana Jones movie, but it’s quite another to take an overmatched, outgunned army and lead them into war. If you would have told me that the progress women would have made in the 21st Century we be that Laura Bush can wear a pantsuit instead of a dress, I would have called you a fucking liar. Maybe the First Lady should keep that proverbial ball rolling and head into Iraq herself.

We eventually made our way to a dessert place and had chocolate crepes in no particular hurry. It’s funny though, because we sat next to some Brits who had a baby and I spent a fair amount of time just making googly eyes at the baby. Man, I just don’t know how to spend a grown up day anymore. I knew that we were in a mid-evil village when I heard “We Are the World” playing on the radio during our dessert. It just adds to the local flavor when you listen to music from days gone by.

We found another wine shop and the man there spoke English pretty well. He let us taste some really good and really old wine, and we felt like big shots. We were a little carried away bought another 13 bottles (this tastes good, let’s get 3 bottles! This is excellent, 4 bottles! etc.). I would be worried about customs but when you have a baby, people assume that you are not breaking many federal laws. If there is any doubt, I will make Malcolm wail right before going through customs and he will save us yet again from doing any hard time.

Back to Our Chateau

During the day, I sought out a pair of chic French sunglasses to deal with the effects of sun while drinking wine. I have come to the conclusion that I should never wear sunglasses again. In full superstar mode, I pretend I am actually a fashionable in-shape celebrity. I think that the sunglasses make me feel 15 pounds lighter, while the reality is that I look 10 pounds heavier, as I forget that I am a fat pile of sweat, and consequently do not suck in my gut when I am wearing the glasses. I am sure that Amy will never have sex with me again, for I think I look like young hip-gyrating Elvis, but Amy sees the grotesque lounge act standing before her in nothing but some dime store sunglasses and can’t help but think that she should have done better when selecting a spouse.

The dinner was one of the best tasting meals I have ever had. I knew things were going to be good after telling the waiter that I was jealous that last night other diners had their wine in a decanter, and that tonight I wanted to make the others jea
lous. He obliged and we actually sat with our wine decanting for 15 minutes looking at it like we were kids in front of the candy store, before finally tearing into it. Suck on that other diners, we are big shots! It was astounding how much the wine changed from the initial pour to the smooth wine we eventually enjoyed with dinner. I am definitely buying a decanter when we get home to make our two buck chuck taste like twenty dollar Charles. I must admit though that I enjoyed the wine more thinking it was a $25 bottle than when I found out that it was actually $50.

After some introductory courses and about a pound of butter, I got some langostinos (small lobsters) with risotto and truffles. This sounds a bit foofy, but it tasted unlike anything I have ever had and I savored every last morsel. Amy had some goat cheese raviolis and these were just the appetizers! We both had the lamb and it was amazing again. The highlight of the meal was the crepes in raspberry sauce that were lit on fire right in front of our very eyes. Man that stuff was good. We kept dinner to a reasonable 2 hours and 15 minutes, and since they knew what room we were staying in, we didn’t have to get a check, everything was automatically charged to the room.

We took an evening stroll around the grounds before retiring and I managed once again to undue all of the pleasantness of the day. We were a little tipsy from the accumulated wine drinking, and during our walk I mistook a shrub in the dark for a wolverine. This by itself would probably just have been funny, but I shrieked like a little girl and pushed Amy into the 3 foot high bush and high-stepped it out of there to save myself. Amy was not amused, and was not as appreciative as I would have hoped when I went back for her some minutes later after she assured me there were no wolverines in the area. Better safe than sorry I guess. We realized that we missed our little Malcolm dearly and could not wait for our mini vacation to end so that we could get back and see his smiley face. I don’t know if that makes us good parents or bad ones, but we are smitten with our little guy and will make a mad dash home tomorrow to reunite. That is of course, unless we get taken in the night by a pack of wolverines…

Day 26: A Journey to the Wine Country

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We continued our streak of being good hosts/kids/friends by leaving Scoan with Malcolm and heading off for the wine country today. After 25 days of travel and managing the baby and sights and eating and drinking and crying and driving, we decided we needed a little break. After much deliberation, we settled on the Loire Valley, known for its chateaus, wine and giant, man-eating ants.

It took us a little longer than we expected to get out of Paris as the spider web of regional roads finally gave way to expressway after about 15 miles. There was a lot of traffic and we couldn’t wait to get to our destination. During the struggle to get out of Paris, I noticed a VW van packed to the gills with children and bicycles driving erratically in an effort to go really fast. The VW would pass on the right zoom forward and then get stuck, fall behind and then zoom by on the left. This car actually passed me 4 times, but it never seemed to be able to get clear of the traffic. So, I was delighted when we stopped at a rest stop to see the VW parked in front of the toilets. I walked right in to that bank of urinals and pissed on the driver’s left shoe. I wanted to show him the error of his ways, but I am not sure he got what point I was making. Of course, he retaliated, and we were soon engaged in a game of urinating chicken, seeing who could pee higher on the other guy’s leg. I really wished I wasn’t wearing shorts, especially since he was wearing some sort of hefty bag for pants, so I fled the scene and got the hell out of there. Amy knew something was up, but I just couldn’t stomach telling her I lost a pee fight to a guy who drives a mini-van.

Chambord Chateau

We went to a castle! On the way to our hotel, we stopped at a castle called Chambord. It was a really neat chateau highlighted by a giant double helix staircase, so that the person going up would never run into the person going down. I liked the stairs so much that I made absolutely no effort to get a picture. That was probably because we enjoyed a half bottle of local wine with lunch. They say the staircases were probably designed by Leonardo DaVinci, so I looked for some clues as to whether Jesus was married and had kids. I didn’t see any overt clues, but it’s pretty obvious that he was hinting that Jesus was married if he designed staircases to ensure that you would never run into your partner on the way up or down. It’s funny, when I read that book, I thought they were going to say that Jesus was a woman. That would be a great story, even if Tom Hanks were involved.

We learned that Chambord has become synonymous with “finest quality,” so they had a exhibition of all the brands that use the Chambord name. There were toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, airplanes and booze that all use the name. I have tried the booze, but never cleaned with the Chambord vacuum. (Our house is a mess, most people would think that I have never even used a Hoover). This seemed a bit strange, considering the general ugliness of the people portrayed in the paintings in the castle. Here’s me impersonating the ridiculously ugly people we saw:

During our tour we learned that Henry II was slated to become ruling monarch of France after one of the revolutions. All he had to do was stop flying the blank white flag and fly the French tricolor flag from his carriage on his coronation day. He decided he didn’t want to do that and wouldn’t fly the white flag, and as a result, never became king. I wouldn’t have that problem. I would do anything to be king. Heck, I’d even fly NAMBLA flag if it meant I got live in palaces and stuff myself with food and prostitutes every day. This is what i would look like as King. Oh, and I would care for the poor too. I’d be great. Who am I kidding, I’ll never be king: I get startled by cardboard mooses:

Our Hotel, Chateau D’Atigny

After exploring the chateau, we headed on to our hotel. We knew we were due for a nice stay when we arrived and saw that our hotel looked like this.

We checked in and they had our reservation, so that was nice. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seat us for dinner until 9 pm, so we had some stalling to do. We relaxed all afternoon, trying to go for a walk around the heavily wooded grounds. After being attacked by 12,000 little, stinky, French speaking mosquitoes, we stayed in the room. How do those suckers get the berets and striped shirts on?

At 8, we eventually made our way to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Ordering was difficult, since they had a HUGE liquor selection but a useless bartender. Amy finally decided on a vodka tonic and I got a vodka ginger ale (yuck!) which only set us back €32 ($38). “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” was what I thought after the waiter brought the bill. He didn’t even kiss me first! The astronomic bill was worth it though, for two reasons, first he brought out some snacks and we were starving. One of the snacks was a little tart filled with butter mousse. That’s right, butter mousse. Butter mousse is a lot like butter, only better. I defy you to tell me something that is better than butter mousse: light, creamy and buttery.

The second good thing to come of the price gauging was that the bill came with a little wine cheat sheet. We were planning on tasting some wine tomorrow and we got a little sheet that showed the French wine regions one side and the vintages on the other. When buying wine, we were now armed with the knowledge of whether a bottle from a certain year was better or worse than preceding or following years. I am gonna seem like a
wine superstar, provided the winery personnel don’t catch me taking peeks at my cheat sheet!

Fancy Dinner

Dinner was very nice, only taking two-and-a-half hours to complete. Yes, that meant we rapped up eating at 11:30. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but we ran out of wine at about halftime. We would have ordered more, but it was already late and we had no idea that the rest of the meal would take that long. We thought we were having a two course meal, but it turned out to be closer to 6 courses. So we had a fishy pre-appetizer (didn’t look like fish so I tasted it, dry heaved and tried to get the taste of death out of my mouth by rubbing butter straight into the tongue,) salad/foi gras, entrée (I had lamb, Amy had fish), cheese plate, and then two desserts. The food was amazing, probably the best lamb I had ever tasted: perfectly flavored and melted in your mouth. How do they get lamb to be like that? Each course, however, was accompanied by a 25 minute window where we could view what everyone else was having, including wine at other tables poured into a decanter. Where the hell is our decanter and better yet, where did all our wine go? Things got a bit desperate and we decided to never ever run out of wine again, as we turned on each other during dinner and started throwing chunks of food at each other at cursing at each other. It doesn’t matter if it’s only for 10 minutes, the last thing we will do before leaving the table will be to finish the wine. It’s well worth it, as I do not think that I will be able to get the foi grois stain off of my pants.

We filled the time between courses by talking about how much we missed little Malkie already. We are officially stupid, wasting away valuable free time pining for the little rat that makes us need a vacation so bad in the first place. When we finally made it back to the room, we crashed with full bellies but glad to be away and able to enjoy each other’s company, at least when we are not throwing food at each other…

Day 25: Return of the Scoan

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Today Scott and Jean arrived. Scott and Jean are Amy’s parents, and are here from Buffalo to hang with Malcolm, visit with us, and eat pastries prior to a 2 week tour of England/Scotland. A good host/child would have picked them up at the airport, but we don’t know any, so they took the train here. To prepare for their arrival, we ate the crap out of some falafel/shawerma and took Malcolm to the park.

Scoan arrived and we showed them the ropes around our house. The supermarche, the park, the place to get bread, the place not to get bread, the place to get gelato and so on. Of course, their first meal here was Turkish takeout. They were a bit shy to order so I ordered for them. That’s right, yours truly as a French guide. Then jean started spewing French as it all came back to her, and she began to fit right in. Now the only thing she needs is nicotine stained teeth and a contempt for almost everything.

Being a good host to Scoan, I immediately took the subway to meet up with Manzel and see their apartment. I don’t know what the train is like in your neck of the woods, but the trains in Paris are ridiculously hot. I got on to the train and immediately began dripping sweat. It is a good thing I wore pants for the third time in my life. Of course, I had to sit next to a guy who smelled like he had been saving us his stink since Kurt Cobain died. There are people in this city who smell so bad that they convince you that you stink too. I definitely sat next to one of these “smell throwers” and vowed to begin bathing again.

I arrived at Manzel’s place and learned a few fun facts. First, some elevators in Paris smell like Indian people. Never knew that before. Second, toilet paper in Paris is Pink and Matt likes the pink hues next to his naked body. I quickly realized that I wish I had never set foot in their place.

While I was gone, Scoan was beguiled by the key fairy in our apartment building. It seems that the first time you try to use the key for the front door here, you are unable to make the key work. I got stuck in front of the place for 25 minutes while Amy was waiting with the apartment manager, Amy got stuck for 10 minutes the first time she tried to use it, and Scoan were trapped outside, yelling, throwing pebbles and eventually breaking into a neighbors place to call Amy. As long as you survive this first attack by the key fairy, you are all right, as the key will work again without ever giving you any trouble.

Manzel and I headed out to find a place to eat dinner that night. We swung by a basque place that was recommended by the NYT, only to find that it was booked until 11 pm (exactly what the place the night before had said). I am beginning to think that this is code for “bite it you fat Americans and your snotty kid, go find a Denny’s!” We found an Argentinian place on rue Mouffetard and all got meat. It got off to a shaky start when we had a miscommunication with the waiter. I thought that the waiter said that they had a child seat downstairs, but he actually said that they could store the stroller downstairs. So the guy takes the stroller, at great effort and time, folds it and laboriously takes it downstairs. When we realized that they had no child seats, we made him get us the stroller back. He was not happy stuggling to get that thing up the stairs. I can’t understand why most restaurants say that they are booked when they see us!

Some liked dinner, some didn’t, but the highlight of the evening was the delicious Argentinian malbac that Amy ordered. Oh, and the fact that Malcolm pooped throughout the entire dinner, complete with grunting and watering eyes. He is a private pooper, which makes things difficult when he is letting one go in a crowded restaurant. So if you looked at him while he was squeezing it out, he would yell No! and start shaking the stroller. Somebody get that boy a New York Times! After he was done, we realized that this was no ordinary poop. Amy took him down to the basement to change him, and noticed that the diaper consisted of about a half a can of undigested peanuts. Amy said that she tried a few to see if they retained their yummy roasted, salted nature, but she felt they lost something during their journey. The rest of the dinner consisted of decent dessert and casual conversation of our baby’s latest poop miracle. All other parents would find that conversation (and my subsequent detailed description) perfectly normal. I am sure that who readers who have no kids are wondering why I would talk about Malcolm’s poop so much. You’ll see when you have your own!

We retired home after a nice evening stroll. It was nice to see some of the sights of the City lit up, we’ll have to try and do more in the evenings. It is rather difficult though, when it doesn’t get dark until 10:30 pm.

Sorry no photos today, I left my camera in my other pants.

Day 24: Eating Butt (steak)

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The day starts a little weird when the guy comes over to “fix” the internet problem. He arrived right when we were leaving to go eat and meet up with Tunzel and Matt. Actually typing Matt and Tunzel is quite difficult so I will begin to refer to them as Manzel. They are big fans of celebrity blogs, so they will enjoy having their own Bennifer-type name. I was a little uncomfortable leaving this guy in front of my computer, figuring as soon as we walked out the door, he would be looking up passwords and stealing our mutual funds. (Either that, or prancing around in my underpants wearing Amy’s bra). So once we got our food, I went back to the apartment, under the guise of “I forgot my writing pad.” I flew into the apartment yelling “AHA!”, only to find the guy staring blankly at my computer saying “the internet won’t work.” No shit dumbass, that’s what I told you. Glad to know that you are on the job. I was convinced that he was not a underwear purloiner, but rather a “milk the idiots at the apartment manager’s office type,” so I left for lunch, confident in the safety of our mutual funds and our undergarments.

We enjoyed a nice baguette and cheese and meat in the notre dame square in the sun. Manzel eventually arrived after getting lost (in their town). It is quite difficult to do anything in Paris without wanting to eat, so we decided to enjoy Tunzel’s favorite hot chocolate place. The only problem is that she thought it was on the right bank on a street that was actually 3 miles away. After looking for it for a while, we gave up and looked at puppies instead. Not being covered in chocolate, we found them disappointing and stop at a random brasserie. Matt and I got coffee and Tunzel ordered a lemonade, as they didn’t have any chocolate. This wasn’t the lemonade Tunzel was used to though (think sprite with a lemon twist thrown in for authenticity). Matt didn’t care and drank it down like it was sprite. Luckily, I had run out of Euro money 2 days ago, so Manzel have been paying my way. I like it, it’s like having a 2 headed wallet that can keep up a conversation.

We were going to dine in this evening, but we never got our act together enough to buy groceries. So we headed over to another place in the Marais which the New York Times restaurant review liked. We got there, and the waiter took one look at us and said that they were booked until 11 tonight. Funny, there were about 20 open tables at the time…

No matter, we had passed by another restaurant on the way there and the frites looked really good there. I couldn’t decide what to get, so I ordered a rump steak A) because it was cheap and B) because I had a sneaking suspicion that it was a skirt steak. My sneaking suspicion was about as close to reality as Bush Cabinet meeting. Tunzel laughed at me for even thinking about ordering the rump steak, and was not shocked when it turned out to taste like ass. I was the butt of the jokes for the rest of the night, as I really got the tail end of that deal. You can groan if you want, i don’t care. I am smiling. It didn’t help that it was overcooked, but the waiter assured me that the tough grey interior was “rouge”. It’s one thing to say that he mistakenly thought I liked it that way, but quite another to lie to my face, telling me that something so well done is actually rare. Oh well, the frites are good, and everyone else thought their meat was really good. Amy picked out a very nice bottle of wine and we got tipsy telling stories and watching Malcolm go through about a half a can of peanuts for dinner. This boy loves peanuts.

I wonder what that is going to look like tomorrow.

I have not been sleeping well because the eye of Mordor appears to reside across the street. The light is huge, orange, and brighter than the sun. As long as there is the teensiest crack between the curtains, the light will wiggle its way into the room and shine straight into my brain, instantly waking me up from whatever pleasant dreams I was having. It sucks to mud wrestle Scarlett Johanssen, only to wake up during the first round with a french street light laughing at you. I frantically found some duct tape and clasped the drapes shut, hoping that Mordor will find something else to terrorize and leave me the hell alone. Why not try the suave guy across the street Saruman? He probably has some sort of ring in his genitals as a bonus!

Day 23: The Bride and Groom Arrive

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I woke up today knowing that my good friend from College, Tunzel, and her fiancé would arrive today and I would have someone adult to talk to. Suck on that Malcolm. Ya hear that? That’s daddy talking to someone besides you.

Tunzel and Matt are here to enjoy Paris a little bit before they get married in Switzerland. Tunzel and Matt live in Boston and decided to elope except invite close family and only the smart beautiful friends. Matt is some sort of European mutt, having lived in a number of different places. (I checked to see if his picture was on any wanted signs in the post office here, but I didn’t see any). Paris is one of the places Matt lived, so they will be checking on some of his old haunts. Tunzel spent a few months in France after finishing her undergraduate degree, so they both know the area well. At least I think they did, they may have been on some serious drugs before, so we’ll have to see what they actually remember. (I started to get suspicious when they wanted to go to the Musee D’Orsay to watch all the pretty flowers dance on the walls). They weren’t going to get in until later though, so we had to entertain ourselves until they arrived.

Falafel

We had lunch at a place called L’as Du Falafel. Amy took a break from work and was able to join us. It was recommended by Aaron, formerly the waffle king, now to be known as the Falafel king. The food was quite amazing. I had a gyro stuffed with turkey and lamb, mixed with cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, yoghurt and hot sauce. I can’t believe I liked something with all that crap in it, I am more of a meat and cheese kind o guy, but this stuff was awesome. Amy had the falafel plate and enjoyed every single bite. Malcolm enjoyed both our meals, proving that he will eat anything in a burrito-like format. Hand him a piece of cabbage and he will quickly throw it on the ground yelling “no!” Put that cabbage in some flat bread, add some sauce and he will eat it no problem. After I finished my shawerma, I realized I would like to eat another, but I took an oath to the French code when I arrived (I promised to eat really good foods in really small portions, I promise to wait at least 30 minutes before asking for the bill, I promise to stop bathing and wearing deodorant, and I promise to drink wine at all hours of the day) and I abstained.

Torture

After lunch we strolled through La Marais, a district called the swamp. We hit up a park and Amy quickly ingratiated herself to an older kid there. The first thing she did was to plop right down and sit on his balls. He had assembled a number of smooth, nicely shaped balls of sand and placed them on the sand box curb to await further use. Well, that didn’t work out so well because Amy turned them into smooth pancakes, and the whole enterprise came to a screeching halt when Malcolm began playing with the little boy’s balls. If that wasn’t enough, Amy proceeded to delivered a crushing elbow to the head of the boy’s sister. That was enough for the boy, and he stormed off to play with some other kids. He would hate us even more later when the boy was resting his head on the ground of the jungle gym. Malcolm walked right up to him, wrapped his legs around the boy’s head, and then sat down on his neck. The topper was when Malkie started bobbing up and down, to exaggerate the effect. The boy started to whine a little and gently removed Malcolm from the face rape, then withdrew somewhere to cry quietly to himself.

The French love ping pong. At almost every park we go to, there are permanent ping pong tables with steel “nets” that people play on. The tables are usually occupied, and I am tempted to ask someone to a game of friendly beer pong. I don’t think they could handle my game, though, so I don’t.

Malcolm Hates Daddy

A weird dynamic has developed with Malcolm. He is noticeably favoring his mommy, and takes great joy in showing his distaste for me. We’ll be at a park and he’ll ask for mommy’s hand to go show her stuff, and I’ll ask if I can go and he will shout “no!” Or Amy will hold him and her back will start to hurt, so she passes him off to me and he’ll start whining as soon as I get him. Sometimes when he is enjoying mommy’s company, he’ll get mad at me for just looking at him. I have decided that this is not normal behavior and declared war on him. I figured if he hated me so much then he can find his own way home from the damn train station. Then maybe he’ll be a little more glad to see me in 3 days when he hasn’t eaten and climbed into a garbage can for warmth. Then I’ll win, I ‘ll be the victor.

Malcolm and I went to the park and Malcolm met a little French boy and I actually spoke to his dad. Usually I just cluck and nod to other parents (typically about how ugly or stupid their kid appears to be) but this guy asked how old Malcolm was. I found out the guy lived in SF for a few years and we talked while the boys played. It was quite novel, as strangers make me nervous most of the time. I found out later that this was not really a good thing as he tried to pull me into the train tunnel for a quicky. That didn’t really happen, but could have, and is the reason why I generally don’t talk to people here. Better safe than sorry.

Tunzel and Matt Arrive!

My friends Tunzel and Matt arrived and I went to meet them in their hood, Saint Germaine. My problem was that I took a RER train which has a entry about 4 feet higher than the platform at the station. By the time I confirmed with the station agent that lifting the stroller was the only way to get on the train, I had to wait 15 minutes for the next train. Bummer. Oh well, my biceps, which are rock hard and can bulge like 15 inch pythons, needed a little work anyways.

I eventually got to the meeting point and Tunzel and Matt had already abandoned me! Actually Matt had, Tunzel was still in their apartment getting ready and sent her henchman to retrieve me. They eventually arrived and we strolled around and
they were impressed with Malcolm’s walking ability and throwing away garbage fetish. We settled on a place for dinner, Tunzel was generous enough to share her tasty goat cheese brick (cheese wrapped in phylo) with Malcolm and I was generous enough to let her.
We enjoyed a weird bottle of chilled red wine, served in a bottle without a label. Matt thinks that they added a whole bunch of leftover bottles to our bottle, then threw it in the fridge. I believed him when the wine turned pretty rank upon warming up. I did slightly chip my front tooth trying to work through my tandoori chicken salad, but this is Europe and deformed teeth just make me look more like a local. I didn’t really need the help, though, as my look is uber chic and my french is flawless.

After dinner, Malcolm and I danced in the street: tonight we worked on our Arrested Development chicken dances. I am partial to the Lyndsay dance, but I can tell Malkie likes the Gob. We finally made it home late, and with Amy done with her calls for the night, we regrouped as a family and then hit the sack. I am gonna need some rest if I have to make conversation all day…

Day 22: I am Assualted

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We woke up this morning to a terrible rain storm. It was incredibly windy and the rain was blowing sideways. We spent the morning inside the house and then in the afternoon headed out to Bois de Vincennes. It rained on us a little, but Malcolm didn’t care because he got to run around in the vast open spaces of this park. It is an enormous park in Southeast Paris and we only saw a little bit of it. There is a castle on the outskirts of the park, probably built by Genghis Kahn in around 1050 B.C.

While at the park, we saw 2 pretty neat merry-go-rounds, complete with lights and music. Malcolm was entranced with the lure of high technology, I don’t know which side of the family he gets that from. I decided that if I let him ride this time, he would demand satisfaction every time we pass one of those silly things. I am pretty sure that I am too cheap to pay for a merry-go-round on a semi-permanent basis, so we sat on the sidelines and watched. What we saw was a bit disturbing. A woman held a stuffed animal on a string and then yanked it up and down near the kids as they went by. I guess if they were able to grab the toy, they’d get to keep the thing, but the sadistic carnival lady pulling the string never really let the kids get close. I was shocked at how mean this was, until I started getting jealous that I couldn’t hold the string. I’d be ruthless. I’d let the kids get a little closer to the toy before yanking it away. That way I’d see true sadness in their eyes. Then I would say that the world is a cold dark place and they better get used to it.

A Pervert in the Park

We continued on to the park, where I met one of the oddest little creatures I have ever come across. He was a little boy (about 4) who came right up to me and started talking to me. He had a bowl haircut, thick designer eyeglasses, and looked like his hair had been dyed a blue tinted black. He stood really close to me and when he talked (in French) he looked about 6 inches to my left. This last part was very disconcerting: if you ever want to screw with someone’s mind get really close to them and pick a spot about 4 inches away from their ears to stare at. I kept looking over to my left to see what the weirdo was looking at, but that only succeeded in making me look crazy. Also, he smelled faintly of poo, not that he had recently gone, but rather had rolled in some essence, as if a rememberance of times gone by. So the little German Andy Warhol kept talking to me and then he began patting my knee. Tap, tap, tap. Then he patted my thigh, tap, tap, tap. Then he began patting my groin, WHERE THE HELL IS THIS KID’S NANNY? I spun around to see who would take responsibility for the kid, but none of the nannies perched on the benches on the other side of the playground seemed the least bit interested in any of the children. Rats!

This kid is was too into me, so I excused myself and Malcolm and I went to play on some toys. Deep down, I was a little ashamed that Malcolm didn’t stand up for me and beat the crap out of Chester the Molester, but alas, he was ok which just leaving. Malcolm even turned on me and started playing with the molester. I would have scolded him and told him to stay far away, but I figured if the kid was molesting Malcolm then he wasn’t molesting me, so I sat down next to the nannies and stared up into the trees.

Dinner at the Deportation Memorial

Malcolm and I dined on beer and Turkish Takeout, while taking in the Deportation Memorial on the east side of the I’le de Cite. Without any plaque at the Memorial in English, I came to the conclusion that the French must have deported all the Mexicans in the country that had come to steal jobs and use the health care system, for I did not see a single Mexican person there. I wonder when we will figure out such a successful immigration strategy. The takeout was tasty but the “Zorba” beer was not. My bad on that one, i knew that the can of beer was a mistake.

Amy had a conference call until later in the evening here so Malcolm and I stayed out late and ate gelato. Malcolm was really into it and demanded to hold the cone himself. I eventually gave in and he began to rest the cone on his chin, while slowly slurping away. He was quite offended whenever I tried to snake some gelato from him, and the bliss came back over him the cone returned to his chin. The best part was when Malcolm got down to the cone, he bit the thing in half and it all when dripping down his face. This boy needs some more experience in eating these things.

Idiosyncrasies of the House

What the hell is a bidet for? I thought some sort of stream of water was supposed to shoot up and clean your bum. We have one in our apartment (either that or some sort of small sink that is about 12 inches off the ground), but I don’t know what to do with it. No water shoots up, it just has a sink and a drain stopper. Do you soak in it? That doesn’t seem to me to be especially clean, rather like washing your vegetables in the same water you are brining your pork roast in. Anyone have any thoughts? I will leave that thing alone until I can figure something out.

As I went to sleep, I reflected on the amount of talent it takes artists to successfully depict their subjects. When properly motivated I can put pencil to paper and create a mess of squiggly lines that are only recognizable by Malcolm. His favorite is a couple of weird ovals and other useless markings only made familiar by drawing huge whiskers on a face, prompting Malkie to shout Tittie! (His version of “kitty”, and then he proceeds to meow for a few moments). Most artists however, can draw the human form, and even convey a specific sense of emotion in the face and body. This is truly amazing. Unless, of
course, it is used to further evil ends. This painter painted a huge painting in our apartment, ostensibly of the owners.

The emotion conveyed? Don’t fuck with our house!!!

I am back from vacation and will be posting regularly again!

No new Blogs until 7/2

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Amy have gone wine tasting this weekend, so the blog will be back in full force on monday. Have a great weekend and try not to miss me so much…

Day 21: The Subway and a Posse

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Malcolm made us some money today! Malcolm and I headed out this morning to gather some supplies today from the supermarche. While standing in line, the old woman in front of us started making googly faces and talking to Malcolm, he politely smiled back and pointed to a random object off in the distance. The old woman turned her attention to me and spoke rapidly to me in French. I smiled at her and tried to tell her I didn’t speak French, but she kept on jimmer jammering. I continued to smile and look lost, so the person behind me translated and told me the old woman said that I should take Malcolm to the benediction. I figured she was not talking about any kind of fried doughnut, so I just tried to get make Malcolm say hi or bonjour, but he did neither. The old woman then reached into her purse, picked out a Euro coin and gave it to him. That boy has never been so proud in his entire life! He held it up to the light and waved it around, showing the world the fruits of his labor (well, maybe just his cuteness). He continued to wave around the coin even as we made it to the park, losing interest in it only when distracted by a shinier piece of broken glass at the park. I quietly pocketed the money and decided it would go to my Turkish takeout fund. I truly thought that Malcolm was a special boy, until I saw the old woman try to give a stray dog a coin outside the supermarche. I guess sometimes it just pays to be in the right place at the right time…

A Long Trek

Having explored all of the areas around our apartment, I decided to forge new ground and set off for a little patch of green around the Concord area. I got distracted by hunger pains and stopped first for a gyro. We sat in a little square somewhere, and ate while watching older kids throw rocks at the pigeons. I tried to convince Malcolm that the boys were being very bad when they are mean to the birds, but I don’t think he got the message. Oh the terrible tricks he learns from other kids.

We continued on to our journey and quickly made our way to the US embassy. You can tell when your foreign policy isn’t working when there are about 200 barricades in front of your embassy in foreign countries. The PoPo were everywhere, even watching Malkie and I scamper around to ensure we weren’t up to any funny business. We were definitely up to funny business as Malcolm strutted and danced until we made it to the patch of green we were looking for.

The park had this statute of George Pompadou there and Malcolm was intrigued by it.

Mr. Pompadou was a complete giant of a man, measuring about 13 feet tall. He became famous for inventing Elvis’ haircut and the French have loved him ever since. It also appears from the statute that Georgie designed the outfit later made famous by Dr. Evil.

We continued on in the park and Malcolm pointed to the homeless man sleeping in the park and said “nigh nigh.” That’s right, Malcolm, that man is sleeping. This kid is smart!

There was a tree planted in the gardens to commemorate Yitsak Rabin. Malcolm loved the plaque next to the tree identifying the memorial, and immediately began dry humping it. I didn’t even know Malcolm was a fan. This kid is even smarter than I give him credit for. I considered taking Malcolm off the plaque, but decided Mr. Rabin wouldn’t a sweet innocent child paying him the ultimate compliment.

After Malcolm tried to beg for a banana some nuns were eating, I decided that we better get back for his nap. We were about a 40 minute walk from home, and my legs were tired from relentless walking in the past few days, so I figured we should try to take the subway back. I rolled Malcolm down the stairs and we tried to figure out this subway thing. We are quite a scene going down flights of stairs, the stroller bounds down each stair and both Malcolm and I exclaim “down!” on each stair. After a brief introduction from the gate person, we successfully purchased a ticket and made it down to the tracks. We made it!!!!

Malcolm loved seeing the trains, and didn’t stop saying choo choo during the whole ride. We are feeling quite like the locals and I have decided that we will make more use of the subway system here. On the way up at our station a kind soul even help me lift the stroller up the stairs, so the world was spared a rendition of our “up!” mantra lifting the stroller up the stairs. I looked around for the old woman to see if she was still handing out free money but didn’t see her, so we returned to the apartment.

Greatest Park Visit Ever

Later in the afternoon, we went the close park by us. This park has lots of stuff for Malcolm to do, and has the added benefit of an open air section of subway, so Malcolm can view the trains going by. As Malcolm was playing at the park, he met a little boy playing with matchbox cars. For those without kids, a kid with matchbox cars is like the guy on the corner with crack. Malcolm quickly started pawing at him, asking him in toddler gibberish for just a quick fix. Much to my delight, the little boy shared a matchbox car with him (he had 3)! The two then began running their cars around the playground, and it looked as though Malcolm had made a friend. A little girl got the 3rd car, but she tried to play with them, the other boy sternly scolded No! Somewhere Hootie Johnson is smiling as the “No Girlz Allowed” rule lingers on. I delighted all the kids there by racing the cars down the slide, causing them to crash violently upon reaching the bottom of the slide. This gave me instead street cred and soon I had a pack of obedient followers.

There’s a bad seed in every flock, and my enjoyment of the moment soon faded as a lanky French girl entered the park. I had begun throwing a small ball way up into the air, allowing it to crash back to earth near the kids (and sometimes on their heads) to the squealing delight of the 5 or so members of Paul’s Posse. The lanky girl always grabbed the ball when it landed or when another kid caught the ball, and threw it herself clumsily. She killed the vibe and eventually lost the ball when she hoisted the ball out of the play area (for the third time) into some bushes. I tried to explain to her the inherent fault in her actions, but she started jimmer-jammering at me in French at a million miles an hour, until I got dizzy and ran away.

The posse wouldn’t leave me alone and I decided that this party needed to get a little freaky deaky, so I started a little game called “Ring Around the Rosie.” This sent the kids into a frenzy of laughing, snorting and scraped elbows and knees. Each time, the lanky kid would dust herself off after falling down and immediately start chanting “encore!” I think this meant More!, but I hate being dumber than a 5 year old. We continued to play until Malcolm had his “Happy Fit” and got so excited he tried to eat the cute little English girl’s hair. Not sure where he picked that up, but it sure wasn’t me. He stomped off to look for new adventures, but returned when he got jealous that I was still falling down with the other kids.

What he actually wanted was a drink of water, but I had conveniently forgot to bring any with me, and there was no drinking fountain there. One of the nannies had been on the ball, though and there was a sippy cup sitting on a ledge at the side of the playground. Malcolm went over to it and started drinking from it. I looked and saw the nanny turned the other way, so I let Malcolm take a nice healthy pull off of it. I pretended to look off into the distance, not noticing Malcolm’s blatant juice heist, keeping one eye on the nanny. I really sold it though, when I started whistling quietly like one does when not noticing obvious things going on around them When she finally turned toward Malcolm, I looked over at Malcolm and stopped him, saying “oh no honey, that’s not yours. Oops!” By then, I think he had finished the drink, I was a little ashamed of myself, but more proud at my problem solving skills. Malcolm’s breath didn’t smell like booze, so either there was water/juice in the sippy cup, or the nanny’s stash contained Vodka untraceable to breath tests.

Dinner and a Movie

I made some baked ziti for dinner, and Malcolm enjoyed eating it and recounting his day at the playground.

Amy and I polished off a bottle of wine with the excellent pasta and the nutella crepe that followed. The wine was super good, as Amy is much better at selecting wine than I am. The crepe was a little overcooked, and I was sad that the second shift was working that night. I am addicted to Nutella, though, and want to see the monument for the person that invented that. I should just get a jar of that stuff and eliminate the crepe as the delivery system. It would be much more efficient to just rub the chocolately hazelnutty gooey sludge straight into my gums. I went to sleep, dreaming of ways to get my posse to build me a river of nutella and wine, only to be haunted later on by a lanky crepe pulling on my arm, “Encore!”

Day 20: I Live Like a Local

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Brekkie

We decided that we had been here far too long to have missed breakfast and set out in search of croissants and cafe au laits. Having done a little research, I found that Zagats rated a place near the Notre Dame quite highly (La Petite Pont) and we made our way there to sample French pastries. Oh yes, the pastries are nice, so flaky and light. We each ate a bunch and tried to feed the terrible eggs to Malcolm. He is no dummy, he only wanted the croissant.

Amy took off with Malcolm after he got antsy and I prepared to pay the bill. I reviewed the phrasebook and learned to ask for the bill, “apportez moi l’addition, sil vouz plait.” I got a little nervous and a little sweaty preparing for my new foray into French language, but decided to just go for it. As the waiter came, I prepared myself to bust out as soon as he made eye contact. He walked by, I waited and OK, he just walked by without looking. That’s fine, he must have a big order and needs to get back. He brought a tray of food out and I prepared myself for the upcoming exchange. As he dropped off the food, I practiced, practiced, practiced my lines and then got amped up as he started my way and then DAMMIT WHY WON’T WAITERS LOOK AT YOU IN THIS TOWN? “Apportez moi l’addition, sil vouz plait” ran through my head over and over as I sat in my chair staring at the waiter like a cat looks at the fish in the fish bowl. The American girls next to me took great pleasure at the glint of frustration in my eye, and I started to care more about leaving the restaurant than looking like a French person. So, as the airport worker with the colored batons flags down the airplane and directs the plane to the gate, I flag down the waiter with wildly gesticulating hands. When he got there, I blustered my way through the first part of my new sentence, and then I got to the part where I am supposed to say “l’addition” and I black out. Come on you idiot, spit it out!!!! Stammer, stammer, stammer, sweat, cluck and finally “l’addition” (or something reasonably close to it) pops out. Oh thank god. The waiter shook his head at the train wreck in front of him, and withdrew.

By this time, Amy is perturbed and has been waiting outside of the restaurant while I had collapsed with my head on the table, exhausted from what should otherwise be a simple back and forth. A mere 15 minutes later, the waiter actually brought the bill and I paid it and left. Oh ya, check me out!

Divergent Paths

Amy gave me most of the day off so that I could enjoy a little time alone in the big city. I love being a dad, so don’t get me wrong. But, the idea of an afternoon without having to care about Malcolm’s whereabouts sounds like just about the best thing on earth. My first inclination was to head back to Montmarte for the stripper bars, but i had some blogging to catch up on, so a wifi cafe and some coffee and beer was on the menu. I set off and did a little exploring without a map. I eventually came up to a courtyard just next to the Sorbonnes. I figured I would laze about blogging, eating and drinking, and just being a Parisian.

I ordered a café au lait and the waiter brought it out, and the sugar was “daddy” brand, I knew I am in the right place. There are fountains outside the Sorbonne, and people, but not too many people. The Sorbonne is where they invented the frozen fruity dessert; the scoop placed in the cones of ice cream everywhere are testaments to the large dome atop the Sorbonnes. Later the place was turned into a school for musically gifted children. I would have totally gotten accepted there but I was a) not musical and b) not gifted. I was a child once though, so I have that going for me (which is nice).

Tiger Woods, You Have Ruined My Product

My watch broke again at the café. I considered throwing the damn thing in the fountains, since it had begun to leave a dark black smudge on my wrist whenever I sweated. (For most people, this is not that big of a problem, but I spend a good deal of time each day just sweating. Its like a gift, a wet, smelly gift, that keeps on giving). I hope this watch doesn’t kill me, that would be a tad embarrassing. “We are all here today to remember Paul Schwartz. It’s really too bad, his father’s feet were done in by Mexican Shoes, and Paul was taken out by a Chinese watch. This family should definitely have stayed home” I put my watch back together, wind it, and laugh at how my wrist is the cleanest part of my body. It’s been many weeks of not bathing and I am close to smelling like a Frenchmen. Heyy, at least something is clean.

Oh Boy This is Bad

I really wanted to seem like a Parisian, so when the guy next to me lit up, I bummed a cigarette off him. Yuck, what’s in this stuff? Old tires? I hack and snort my way through the grossest cigarette ever and put out the filthy thing in the ashtray, or at least what I thought was the ashtray. The waiter then came by and sneered at me, while he emptied the plastic change holder that the bill comes in of the cigarette and ashes that I had mistakenly put there. I might as well have ashed in the soup. He barked something at me, stomped off and I decided that I needed to switch cafes.

Worse!

I liked the location so I went to the place right next to that cafe. They had free wifi so I felt like I took a step up. I ordered a croque mounsier, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with a piece of sliced bread, some ham, another piece of bread, and cheese on top. It’s quite good. Interestingly, a croque madame is the same thing, only with an egg on top. A bit strange. Amy suggested that i was lucky they didn’t put testicles on the sandwich, but I thought that a bit gross. Actually, I can’t repeat what Amy said, too many work people read this thing. I sat and ate my sandwich (coupled with some Belgian beer) while looking at the waiters next door who were still fuming at me.

While I was eating my sandwich, I noticed that I had gotten some crumbs on the keyboard. I tried to brush them away, but couldn’t seem to get them off. So, in a moment of sheer brilliance, I figured I would just blow off the crumbs, in spite of the fact that I had just taken a bite of the sandwich. I am sure you are not surprised, but I was, when I made a loud spitting sound, and then recoiled when I saw that I spit croquet mounsier all over the keyboard. Now my whole keyboard, and part of the screen, was disgusting and the loud spitting sound had caused my neighbors to turn and look at what must be wrong. Rats! I was truly embarrassed, so my attempt to cover was quite feeble. I told the neighbors that I was downloading my lunch, but I don’t think they bought it. When they continued to stare at the idiot next to them, I simply looked straight up into the air and then rocked my head up and down and said “mmmmm hmmmm.” They eventual
ly looked away and I cursed not having Malcolm because the whole incident would have been avoided if I had the stroller and the wipes.

Meanwhile

While I was succeeding wildly at being a regular local guy, Amy and Malcolm took in the Esplanade de Invalides. This park was constructed in Paris after the U.S. passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is the sole act the French have done for people with disabilities. Since I have traveled with Malcolm and have the stroller, I can understand some of the hardships those in wheelchairs suffer. Paris is almost completely inaccessible by wheelchair, consisting mainly of cobblestone streets, staircases and narrow passages. For instance: while in Montmarte, we grabbed lunch from a place with takeout. While I was waiting for the crepes to finish, a group of older tourists (half of whom were in wheel chairs) wanted to go in and eat in the restaurant. The owner came out and said that the wheelchairs wouldn’t fit inside and began to offload the tourists, assisting them into seating inside. What followed was comical if it wasn’t so sad: each person was picked up and carried inside and sat in a chair in the restaurant. I would have helped out, except that our crepes were done, so I nudged my way through the crowd throwing elbows, exclaiming “get ‘em off of me!” Isn’t it sad how the French don’t care about the disabled?

Anyway, oh yes, Amy and Malcolm. Here they are:

A Gay Man’s Dream

We went to Jardin de Luxembourg in the afternoon and it was some sort of Cop Day, so there were men in shiny uniforms everywhere. I felt like every cop knew my dirty little cheese stealing secret and promised myself to never again “forget to pay” for fromage again. There were several different exhibits, with vintage cop cars, self defense exhibitions and even a police dog show! Here is a dog attacking a man. We decided not to show Malcolm this (lest he be permanently afraid to go near dogs) and then took off for the mega playground.

Wow, this place was packed. Kids were everywhere, playing with teeter totters, rope swings and “bash each other’s brains in with a nerf soccer ball.” I get that you think its fun to throw something at your friend’s head, but when he throws a ball at your groin, wouldn’t you want to block it? These kids didn’t. Malcolm eventually found a few things that weren’t inundated with other kids and we had a good time. I did have a problem with a French mom who sat and watched her ugly sack of a daughter take away a sand toy that Malcolm was playing with and then didn’t do a thing to stop it. I don’t care if your kid is Frankenstein, as long as you seem to make an attempt to discourage the bad stuff. When you sit there playing with your hair when your daughter purloins a choice shovel, I have issues. I gave her the stank eye (which she never saw, she must be a waitress), until we decided to leave.

Screw You Zagats!

We decided to eat dinner out tonight. We hadn’t eaten dinner at a restaurant and wanted to sample some real French cuisine. I am quite self conscious about taking Malcolm to nice places, so we stuck to outdoor places where his noisy food throwing would be muted. After 40 minutes of walking around looking for a place that looked like it had tasty frites and an available seat outside, we headed back to La Petite Pont, based on Zagat’s recommendation. I usually don’t like going back to a place, but we were tired and Malcolm was crying and I hate walking around looking for a place to eat with a crying baby more than anything else in the world.

What followed was the worst dining experience of my adult life, and it was so bad I reveled in it. It was kind of like gassing up your car and then smelling the gasoline on your hands for the rest of the afternoon. The wine tasted like old grape juice, the cheese was fishy, the fish was fishier and the steak tasted like my Adidas slippers. The one saving grace was that the meat came with a blue cheese sauce that was actually good (not even they could screw up cream + blue cheese). The frites even tasted good when you dipped them in the blue cheese sauce. Malcolm had no idea things were so bad, as he loved his dinner of popcorn, sole in lobster sauce, and orange juice. Afterwards, we had a nice stroll in the plaza outside the Notre Dame. Malcolm and Amy danced to the music drifting in the air and had fun with each other (both smelling disgustingly of sole in lobster sauce). We retreated back to the room, convinced that we would never eat out again with Malcolm, unless taken there by a Parisian. A real Parisian.

Day 19: A Tour!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Ahh, today we set out for a new part of Paris, Montmartre. I actually downloaded a tour from the internet so there is a chance we are going to learn something today, assuming we can actually find where the tour begins.

The Trip to Montmartre

We passed a little park area on the way there, and decided to stop to let Malcolm play around a little. There was another boy there; I had hoped Malcolm and he might play together. I insisted Malcolm not, however, when I spotted the boy looking off into the distance (away from his dad) while picking his nose AND EATING IT!!!! Ick, no way that booger lover is coming near my sanitary, well behaved child. He only puts yummy food in his mouth. Oh and rocks. And I guess broken glass. And used cigarette butts. Other than that, clean as a whistle. Except for the time a random Chinese baby sucked on a lolly pop, then gave it to him, then he promptly dropped it on the ground in Tian’en square, and he picked it up and ate it.

Anyway, we passed a rather impressive structure after leaving the park, but this was not part of the tour I researched so I had to improvise. This is the lesser known Arc de Défaite, celebrating the fall of Paris to the Germans. It was made by out-of-work soccer players, using alabaster and stale cheese (supplies were running low back then). It was originally painted black, signifying the obvious sadness, but was later stripped and repainted when people kept running into it at night.

We are definitely in a tougher neighborhood along the way. The people are way uglier and the dogs look a lot meaner than where we normally hang. A lot of stores are closed today, except for the sex shops. Luckily those are always open.

We bought Malcolm a new toy, since he had grown weary of the few things we brought for him. It turned out to be quite a disappointment, costing about twice what it would have in the states and the batteries didn’t even work. It was a train. Not like a real train though (which Malkie adores), but a zoo train carrying a rhino and a penguin. When we finally got batteries it made a sound like an ice cream truck parked in front of a large gathering of seals and dolphins. What does this have to do with the rhino and the penguin? And who has dolphins at a zoo anyway? All we wanted it to do was chime Whoo Whoo! Now, whenever he sees a real ice cream truck, he is going to think that there are large sea dwelling mammals inside. He’ll be the first kid to be disappointed that the ice cream man sells dove bars.

The Tour Begins

We found the beginning of the tour, and already, we are learning things. First, Montmartre means “mountain of mars” referring to the large martian looking dome that is there (the Sacré-Coeur). Then we saw the place where Gertrude Stein had her portrait taken by Pablo Picasso. Here is the place!

I don’t think he used a camera. I am pretty sure Picasso was some sort of painter and he used paint or chalk or something similar, to depict The Third Rose. The neat thing about seeing this was that Amy just read about this incident in her Stein book, so things are coagulating quite nicely for us.

We got to a cute little intersection that was the scene of a famous painting by Utrillo. I am in here somewhere.

Too bad he didn’t paint this now, otherwise I could have been immortalized. Amy almost got run over by a bus taking this picture, it is hard to imagine a bus driving on these tiny cobblestone streets, but they do. After passing the Salvador Dali museum (which costs money and is therefore not worth seeing) we got to a panoramic vista, or so the tour indicated. Here is what we saw:

This was undoubtedly the worst panoramic view I have ever seen. Everyone kept thinking they were missing something, for they stood there cricking their necks to try and make something out from behind the tree. Nope, there was nothing to see.

We got to the central square and it was bustling with activity. The area still functions as an artist colony, so there were tons of smock and beret clad artists selling their works. Wouldn’t you know it, one of them wanted to make a painting of Malcolm! Wow, our little boy, the subject of a French painting. Maybe the portrait will be in the Louvre some day. We decided against it since it was lunch time, and headed for a patisserie. In approximately 5 feet we were approached by another “artist” who also offered to paint a portrait of Malcolm. I began to think this was some sort of tourist trap and a constant barrage of artists ensued asking to paint little Malkie. If you have ever seen the movie Airplane!, there is a scene where Ted Striker has to endure unending waves of Hari Krishnas in order to get through the airport. I, like Ted Striker, resorted to wanton violence in order to make it out of the square alive, karate chopping, groin kicking and eyeball poking my way through the crowd to safety. Amy got into the act, as well, wielding the water bottle as if it were a broad sword, dropping the last few artists to their knees after I was tired out. That woman can kick some serious ass!

Lunch consisted of the worst sausage roll in the history of sausage rolls and some ok crepes. We ate at a small park that had a great vantage point of the Sacré-Coeur. Surprisingly, there was nothing on the tour about this church, so I surmised it was the scene for Star Wars Episode II, where Darth Vader gets the princess pregnant. That was such a bad movie, but the location was nice.

You get an interesting perspective on the world when traveling with a k
id. You don’t get to see and do a lot of what you would like to do, but you do get to see things you definitely wouldn’t have without a child. If I were an artist, I would describe it like this:

The world is similar, you just get a slightly different perspective. There are little playgrounds like this all over Paris, some better than others. You can always count on finding little things to break up the day with Malcolm though, so this has been helpful.

A Couple of Windmills

We broke off the tour, as our tiny little minds were inundated with details that taxed our brains. We did happen upon this moulon, however, and I honored Don Quixote by attacking the windmill with this spare toothbrush we had in the diaper bag.

This is yet another reason to have a stroller, handy weaponry whenever you need it.

We capped off our tour by hitting the Moulon Rouge, and Amy gave quite a performance in front of it.

Saucy! This area is generally seedy and we were surrounded by stripper bars and sex clubs. The worst part is that Amy wouldn’t let me take Malcolm into any of them. Some looked quite innocent from the outside, but when you looked in the windows, there were strippers waiting for you when you walked in the door. That’s what I call service!

Sticky Delights and Reliving the Past

After trying unsuccessfully to get Malcolm to nap, we decided to regroup and get gelato. I got the usual and Amy sampled pistachio and nutella. Malcolm had a little bit of everything, and got it everywhere! We all had sticky stuff all over our hands, face and clothes. This was definitely not a good time to run out of wipes.

We headed off to the one place in the world where dirty faces and sticky fingers don’t matter: the playground! After some quality time, playing and watching trains go by, we planned for dinner and went to the store. A lot of Parisians buy their produce from produce markets here. These markets are unique, for you are not allowed to touch the fruits (maybe they know a thing or two about sticky fingered shoppers). Here, you identify what you’d like, either by referring to their name or pointing and clucking if you don’t, and the workers outfitted in lab coats pick the appropriate amount of fruits/vegetables for you. They weigh everything, put it in a bag, and give you the bill to use in a central queue. Never, I repeat, never, try to touch the food yourself, for their vengeance is swift and severe. Amy hit the produce market and the wine shop, I got some more Jesus chicken and we headed back for dinner.

Never, ever try to redo something that is amazing. I wanted Amy to try the Roti chicken to show her how tasty it was. We got flabby skin and dry meat. I am, of course, referring to the chicken, people. Amy rolled her eyes as I pounded the table and assured her that we must have gotten Judas chicken by accident, choosing instead to believe that i just picked the wrong chicken from under the heatlamp. So the meal was mammoth disappointment, but dessert was not, as Amy scored us a pudding cake and a delicious moose. I am sure that is not how you spell the dessert moose, but I have been watching Napoleon Dynamite and it just seems fun to spell it that way (I caught you a delicious bass!)

The whole day was highlighted by our giggling after the wine and dessert about Amy’s ordering at the market. She meant to order something from Provence (pronounced Pra-vanse,) but it came out Pra-vanke. Needless to say, the man in the coat winced and we later laughed in delight about how Provankative our dinner was. You can take the kids out of the sticks, but you can’t take the sticks out of the kids.

Grammy Jean Wilson wins the Blog comment award for referring to the Blog as perfect. Congrats jean!

Day 18: Rainy Day Blues

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

It rained pretty steadily today. So, we stayed in and tried to have fun with Malcolm in the apartment. During a marathon session of playing with blocks, I was able to re-enact my successful pass through the roundabout around the Arc de Triumph. Pretty good eh? Malkie eventually got tired of life in the apartment and the few toys we have with us, wanting instead to head out and see the world.

A Trip to the Museum

So I took him out into the rain and set coordinates for the Museum of Natural History, which houses a large collection of real dead animals. The top to the stroller is mostly good, covering 80% of his body but Malcolm got pretty wet from the knees down in the steady downpour. We finally made it to the museum and dried off while looking at the animals.

The animals are quite good, although they are a bit eerie since they are dead and stuffed. These are not, however, stuffed like cute Muppets or teddy bears. This is more like a zoo for taxidermists. There were giraffes, elephants, bears and pretty much every other animal under the sun (there was even a huge room full of nocturnal animals as well). Malcolm really enjoyed cruising around seeing the various animals until he got spooked when we were “attacked” by this lion.

Then it was “hold me daddy and take me around in your arms.” We did this for a while, until nap time and we headed home. Luckily by this time the weather had broken and the sun came out. Guess whose feet got to dry out?

Who Takes Their Kid to a Train Station?

After his nap, I decided that the train station might be a good idea, so we headed for the Gare de Lyon. On the way, we stopped by the Bastille and I was greatly unimpressed that it was not some grand building. It is only a monument. What a bummer!

Without a guide, I was left to surmise what this was a monument to. The fleet afoot golden runner at the top of the monument demonstrated that this was a testament to the last time the Olympics were held in Paris. When was this, you ask? Well, it was right there on the monument. At 3 days instead of 3 weeks, it was a lot quicker back then, since Bob Costas and Dick Enberg were not involved. Also, the 4 chickens near the top of the monument celebrate the Cock Tossing event, which was held before the discus was invented. Since it was in Paris, they threw baguettes instead of javelins, and the 100 meter dash was actually a lazy 100 meter stroll. The winner had the time of a brisk 15 minutes, stopping only for wine and crepes (and a quick cigarette). This is heralded ground for the Parisians, as the kids in the skate park across the street from the Bastille were not allowed to spit on the ground more than 5 times, and the man who was drunk and throwing his beer bottle around was quickly escorted away (by his mom).

We finally made it to the train station, but it was not as I had hoped, for no trains came or went during the time Malcolm allowed me to keep him there. It was rather like going to a hospital (not to visit anyone you know) to just walk around the halls. It was kinda fun though to see people running at breakneck speeds through the station to see that they had missed their train though. This proved that we are not the only travel impaired people here! Malcolm was unimpressed with the huge throng of people there, choosing to eat his shoe rather than soak up the scene.

I gave up on the idea, hit up a park, and then proceeded back to the store to get some supplies for dinner. This trip was much easier and people did not stare awkwardly at my pile of groceries, since I only needed a few things.

Food & Wine

I made chicken and mushrooms to go alongside some rice with asparagus and it turned out quite tasty. The rice was a lot like fried rice without the soy sauce. I think I may make my “French Fried Rice” when I get home!

So far we have had one disappointing Bourdeaux, one OK Pinot Noir, and one pretty good Medoc. Anyone with actual wine knowledge flinched while reading that last sentence, as described 2 wine regions and one type of grape, rather like saying I had a Pilsner, a Budweiser and a German beer. I had hoped that great $5 wine would be everywhere, but I guess we will have to be a little more selective.

We drank wine and ate Belgian chocolates we were supposed to bring home as gifts after dinner and enjoyed just sitting and talking, while taking in a view of the rascal across the street and his blonde. We even sat down to watch a movie and lo and behold, they shot scenes from the Bourne Identity right across the river from us. Screw Hemingway and Stein, Matt Damon shot a movie really close to us! By the way, the Bourne Identity is a great action movie. Anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, go buy it now and watch it. twice. It’s hard to watch that movie though and not be able to take the car out for a mad chase scene around the cobblestone streets of Paris. Maybe we can do that if we pick someone up at the airport.

A word on the commenting about this Blog. I have notice that people are not chirping as much as they ought to. I command that everyone starting making comments in the comments section here, as I feel that this is too one sided. Think I use too many pictures? Comment. Don’t like me eating Jesus chicken? Comment. Let me know you are out there people, I get kinda lonely sometimes. I will begin to award the comment of the day to whoever has the best comment each day. You will receive a shout out in the blog and truly exceptional comments will be rewarded with souvenirs. However, if your comment is that the Blog is too long or anything that suggests that I am wasting my time, I will respond with diatribes against that person and telling embarrassing stories. For instance, Jon Murray, the first comment on the first day saying this was too long and asking for cliff’s notes, once wore Amy’s swimsuit. He looked good in it too.

Day 17:Tastes of Paris

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

We began our day by me getting frustrated at the limited internet connectivity at our apartment. The place has Wifi, but it is not working properly (nor is the TV) and we have to connect to unsecure networks floating around in the area. I have called the manager about this and am assured that someone will come by to check on it. I am not confident they will.

We set out to eat lunch by sampling some local meats, cheeses and breads via a makeshift picnic. Outside the little butcher shop, they are receiving their meats for the day. Here’s what we saw.

What this didn’t show was the strange looking beast of a man who looked at us with his crazy eyes and told us not to take any pictures. I am not sure why, but cest la vie. At least I wasn’t the only tourist taking a picture. These are whole pigs, and the crazy beast brought in a whole cow, sans skin. Gotta use the whole animal people!

The local patisserie hooked us up, as does the fromaggerie. We sat in a little garden by the Notre Dame and take it all in. Wow, this stuff is good. A lean ham, some soft cheese and fresh crusty bread sure do work wonders. Everything is light and tasty and I wish I could eat a 100 of these little sandwiches. Alas, 3 will have to do. We topped it off with some apples and bananas, just to make us feel like we are eating healthy. Also, the massive dairy diets we are on have backed up both our systems up and we try to ingest a little fiber here and there to try and move things along. The day we have to leave and return to soft bread and weak cheese will be a sad one indeed, and I think my next line of work will be a French food import business.

The Mongrels

We took in the surroundings as we meandered our way through lunch, until we noticed that the 300 or so kids around us were all acting like they drank the kool-aid. Seriously, it was though 300 little zombies were running around trying to brain each other. They hit, kicked, shoved, slammed with backpacks and threw water on each other with true mean spiritedness and I was afraid Malcolm was watching and learning too. I guess it’s good to see that it is not just American kids that are violent, but I wonder how many Arnold Schwartzenegger movies contributed to the melee. I guess I would be that violent too if I had been subjected to Twins more than once.

We went back to Luxembourg gardens and Malcolm played with some bigger kids who were a little better behaved. He stood on the sidelines and begged for candies they were eating and some were nice enough to share. Unfortunately, the sugar got them going too, and soon thereafter they were trying to beat the shit out of each other. This was a very neat scene in one section of the park.

On our way back we stopped at the Notre Dame I “hunched” over for this pic.

Heee Heee Heee, get it? I had a “hunch” you would. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

More French Flavor

I was going to make dinner in the apartment, so I needed one crucial item for tonight’s roast pork: olive oil. I saw that our charming little street had a charming little olive oil shop so I headed out to secure some high-end stuff. I once again practiced my “I don’t speak French” French and got into the tiny, stifflingly warm shop and completely panicked. I looked like the shop girl was trying to rob me as I choked out some garbage reasonably close to je ne parl Francais. Then I started to sweat. The shop girl looked more concerned that I would keel over and faint than annoyed that I was another stupid American. The back and forth that ensued was neither quaint nor enjoyable for the path to the correct olive oil is long and complicated. I clucked, nodded and massively sweated my way through whether I wanted fruity or piquant (I don’t even know what that means), cooking or as dressing, French or Spanish, and several other key qualities to consider. I finally decided on the cheapest one in the store, not so much because it was the cheapest, but because it was the easiest one for me to point to. The shop girl said that she hoped I liked it during the intolerable 5 minutes it took for the credit card to run, and I said that I hoped so too, and that I would bring my friends and family there too, when they arrived. She clearly didn’t understand what I meant and looked at me like I was inviting her out to attend my grandmother’s funeral. With relief, I left the store with some ridiculously expensive oil, a fragile mental state, and the desire to speak in perfectly good English to the stove.

The pork and sweet potatoes (and a salad for good measure) was decent, but hey it was fresh, local and best of all, not inedible. Malcolm used to eat sweet potatoes by the handful, but tonight he was showing how much he had grown up. Kids are weird this way: yesterday’s best thing ever is today’s no fuckin’ way I’m touching that. So he went back to mac and cheese and everything was fine.

After our dinner, and Malcolm was bathed and bedded, I went to secure us a Nutella Crepe to celebrate more Parisian delicacies. By the way, Amy and I have set the lofty goal of sampling delicious French desserts every day we are here. It is a lofty goal and one that I hope to achieve. I know that others have lofty goals too while here (seeing every piece at the Louvre, making it to every important landmark or learning French) but ours seems enjoyable to do and will leave us with a permanent reminder of our trip (making us too fat to fit into our clothes).

I had to stand in line a bit, as the creperie was packed and everyone had just ordered. When it came to be my turn, I successfully ordered in French. Better yet, we actually got a Nutella crepe! There is something so right about seeing a skillful chef work the crepe wheel and make your dessert right in front of you. I took it back to the apartment and we enjoyed the crepe with some decent wine. Enjoyed is probably not the word though, more like made love with our mouths. We took our time too, and the gerbil-sized crepe probably took about 15 minutes to eat, each of us savoring each bite, licking our teeth and gums between each bite, and washing it down with wine.

Sadly the eating part of our day was done, and we drifted off to sleep reading about the Paris of old. I am reading A Moveable Feast, by Hemingway and Amy is reading the Autobiography of Alice Tokeville (or something close to that) by Gertrude Stein. Both are set in Paris in the early 20th century. Isn
’t it weird that we are no longer in the 20th century? It is interesting to read about the Paris they lived in and to set out on the same adventures that we do now. Only, they seemed to go inside the buildings. Losers.

Day 16: A Louvre Sighting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

We headed out to begin our day by walking along the Seine. We walked on the right bank (I think) and the rue alongside us was a three lane rue which was a one way rue headed in the opposite direction. I noticed with great amusement that a taxi was going the wrong way up the street (against the great current of other cars honking at it and gesturing wildly was they went by). The taxi finally spun around and proceeded to stall out while blocking two lanes of traffic. I took satisfaction in learning that I am not the only one with driving difficulties here. I was a little concerned for the tourists in the back of the taxi who mouthed the words “help me!” as they went by, and I guess laughing and pointing at them in their hour of need was not what Jesus would have done. Maybe he would have. Maybe he was the one driving the cab, I don’t know…

Lunch and Louvre Gardens

Lunch was a pretty stellar panini with melted ham, cheese, pickle and potato. I am told this was a Panini Swiss, and i can’t help but wonder which Swiss person thought up this configuration. A sandwich with potato in it? Oh well, it worked. I know you are wondering how I decide where to stop for my food. Well, the first two criteria I have is that the place must be accessible by stroller and not have any lines. That knocks out about 99.6% of the places, so whatever I find first after the first criteria are met I generally stop at. I guess the other trick I use is to get near the place I would like to go see and then walk two blocks out of the way to rid myself of the overly tourist stops. Then, I leave any place that has anyone speaking English in them, for that place is likely to be half as good for twice the money.

So we got to the Louvre gardens and this is not the place I remember. Amy and I spent a good deal of time here on our previous trip to Paris, and we absolutely loved it. We would take a bottle of wine, a hunk of cheese and some bread and waste a few hours eating drinking and talking. We were son young and stupid then. How could we have spent all that time just talking? Our room had a perfectly good TV set in it! I thought the Louvre gardens were paradise. It turns out that they are shabby, like an old man’s coat. The place is not kept up well, and there isn’t any sense that you are at something special. Man, how memories play tricks on you. This was similar to the experience we had last May, when we took Daniel, Suzi, Betsy and Derek to a place we had loved in Cabo San Lucas many years before, only to find that it sucked, big time. Oh well, there is always time to make new favorite memories…

At the park within the Louvre gardens, Malcolm was not making any friends. He promptly went up to a girl who was on one of the teeter totters, pulled her hair, and yelled at her to get off of it. He looked a lot like Calvin in the Calvin and Hobbs cartoon. I don’t know where he is learning these “tricks,” and I don’t like it. She followed him around for a while plotting her revenge and then made her move when he fancied a coke bottle cap. After he dropped it, she ran up, picked up the bottle cap and then took off with it. A dry sinister smile came over her face as she realized her sweet revenge on her attacker. Malcolm, ever the toddler, just turned and ran off to some other shiny object, unaware of the dispensation of justice that had just occurred. Here is a picture of Malcolm hanging onto one of the many death traps in the park:

You should have seen him staggering around after riding this thing for a few turns. He looked like Daddy on Wednesday night after softball and Poker!

Young women here are wearing a lot of baby doll dresses. Courtney Love used to wear dresses like this, except these are much shorter. Sometimes I think I can see underpants, so I double take and then I realize that I have been spotted staring at crotch. I less suave man might not get away with it, but I just stare at someone else’s crotch, then Malcolm’s crotch and then my own, until it is clear that I stare at crotches instead of making eye contact. This has helped me out of more than one jam. Try it sometime!

Near the playground there is a merry-go-round. It is a faded and sad merry-go-round, with depressing music playing in the background and is virtually empty. For some reason, I feared for my personal safety and was pretty sure I was going to be attacked by vampires. No idea why mind you, but such is the power of the vampire. That was us, right before the Nosferatu was to strike. Just to be safe, I decided to buy a crucifix and some garlic, and watch the Lost Boys before I returned there.

A Couple of Observations

I saw a kid wearing a superman t-shirt today, and I realized I would really like to buy Malcolm a shirt like that, so he could be super and fly around the apartment. Then, I realized that the t-shirt said Sperman and the “S” on the logo was actually a slithery sperm in the shape of an S. This was a 5 year old mind you. Some parents are shameless with what they put their kids through.

Paris is one giant make-out party. People unabashedly get after it in public and it’s a little shocking to see at times. And this is not just young fools in love, kissing by the Seine in the light of the moon. This can be two computer geeks licking each other’s faces while standing next to you in the gelato line, while their glasses rubbing up against each other like coke bottles jostling in the delivery truck. Or it could be two people straddling each other on a park bench gyrating against each other while desperately trying to cleanse each other’s tonsils. Then, during our evening park session, a fifty year old man and thirty something girlfriend were lying on top of each other right next to the park, deep kissing, necking, even pulling each other’s shirts up. To make it worse, they were grotesque, extraordinarily ugly people, who did not at all seem a good match for each other. Since Malcolm was playing right next to them, I got a front row seat. I tried to avert my eyes, but it was a train wreck, I kept looking back and shaking my head in disbelief as to what was unfolding before my very eyes. After they finally left, I felt like I needed a cigarette. Also, I gotta buy some sun glasses so I am not so obvious when I stare at the PDA’s.

Dinner: Poulet Booyah!

If Jesus has come back, and he is not a cab driver learning the rules of the road, he is a rotisserie chicken. Malcolm and I ate him tonight and he was delicious. Unbelievably delicious, as you would expect the Son of God to be. He had ultra crispy skin, moist, juicy interior meat, and flavor that c
annot be explained in words. Only a cherub choir singing high notes would explain what happens when you taste the Jesus chicken. Often, I would take a bite, pockets of juice would explode and all the rest of the world would melt away. Malcolm loved the drumstick, and he gulped this down in about 3 bites. My eyes lowered to half mast, and I never put the chicken down while eating, firmly keeping two elbows on the table at all times with sweat and chicken juice pouring down my face. I couldn’t take a picture of myself during this flavor orgy, but this is how I probably looked Definitely get a roti chicken if you are ever here, at € 1.90 per leg thigh combo, they are cheap and tasty.

Amy was missing from dinner tonight as she was networking at the Euro conference. Not surprisingly she didn’t return until 1AM, staying out partying with the Parisians. Oh, she says that she left at 10:30 and then spent over an hour walking around the streets of Paris, lost and without a map. The stink of wine and Yeti betray her lies, though, and I can tell that she has been frequenting the Matterhorn at Euro Disney again. If she would only bring me…

It’s very odd, your reaction to your partner’s return home. I was actually a bit concerned over her well being since she is usually not one to stay out late. I imagined all of the terrible things that could be happening to her right then, but when she arrived home, my worry immediately turned to annoyance. As I drifted to sleep, I thought about all the ways I was going to take my vengeance. You would have thought I would have been happy with her safe return…

Day 15: Fun in the Jungle (Gym)

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Paris is a city that is obsessed with, of all things, teeter totters. There is a bascule chancellent almost everywhere we go, making me think that they were invented in France and they are demonstrating their pride. Malcolm really enjoys them for around 10 seconds, then is indifferent for a few moments before asking to be let down. Doh! He says. If you do not heed his call, the whine comes and then some serious crying. The teeter totters come in all shapes and sizes, from a solo, to the standard two seater, and I have even seen a four seater! I enjoy them, maybe Malcolm will acquire the taste.

Lunch

On our first trip out I saw a Turkish take out place by the Jardin de Plantes. I wanted to go to another Jardin today (de Luxembourg) but needed to stop for lunch first. As I contemplated whether to go back to the first place I saw, I realized I was probably making a huge mistake (kinda like walking a half mile for a Starbucks you saw previously, only to find they are everywhere). Sure enough, I quickly found two Turkish delis, and ordered myself a little piece of heaven in flatbread. Chicken was on the menu today and Malcolm and I took turns eating the sandwich, also filled with lettuce and yogurt sauce, and soggy fries. While we munched, we took in the park we stopped in and noticed how many benches were taken by people sleeping. I was interested in knowing whether they were regular people napping during a lunch break, tourists napping in between sightseeing expeditions, or homeless people. I didn’t end up waking anyone and asking as I had not yet perfect the phrase, “excuse me, are you a hobo?” in French.

Park Adventures

We continued on to the Jardin de Luxembourg. It really does take some getting used to the grand scale here in Paris. Everything is large, majestic and very artistic looking. This park had a very nice palace (it was used by Henry VIII for satan worshipping) and an endless number of pathways cutting through the trees. Remember, never go into anything and take a tour, that’s where they get you! By the way, Malcolm understands the process of taking pictures. I used to be able to get him to look at the camera and occasionally smile. He has figured this out now, so when I say, “look at daddy! or say cheese!” he looks down and the ground and says NO! Smart little bugger…

We found a playground and it was more like a mini-amusement park. There was a ton of different fun, wildly dangerous things to do, the only downside was that it cost € 5. I think that is the symbol for the Euro, at least that’s what MS Word is telling me. Having saved a ton of money by walking by attractions and staying outside of them, I was flushed with cash and splurged for Malcolm and I. Here is Malcolm in the middle of it all (groan for veiled reference to TV show malcolm was named after, we are HUGE Jane Kaczmarek fans). Right after this picture was taken, Malcolm was took 3 handfuls of sand in the face from the kid on the left.

This place had a merry-go-round, and it was old school: metal, manually operated, and blood stains everywhere. Kids whirled themselves around for up to half an hour at break neck speeds, giggling wildly the whole time. There must be something about being 5 years old that allows you to spin around endlessly, because I started feeling woozy shortly after starting and Malcolm stumbled in fits of dizziness after only 6 or 7 turns. Here he is with the look on his face I get in Reno after I have been there for 48 hours. On the slower little kids version Malcolm and two new friends went around at a leisurely pace, I would tickle each one as they went by. I am not sure if there are any cultural taboos about touching other kids here, but they all seemed to enjoy and it they laughed non-stop for 10 minutes or so.

They also had a rope structure that the kids could climb up and the amazing thing was that it was about 2 stories tall. It wasn’t a surprise that these no longer exist in America, as a kid dislocated his elbow plummeting from halfway up and went crying to mommy. These people have a front row seat for the carnage! I think I heard them betting on who the next to fall would be. Malcolm knows his limitations and wouldn’t go near the thing.

Malcolm made some friends playing around in the Jungle Gym as well. The kids would try to tell me things (in French!) so I would cluck and nod, then point to Malcolm and make a funny face. They would stare at me in disbelief, and then run off to Mommy, complaining of the murderer over by the monkey bars. I assumed that most of the kids there spoke French, so I was a little embarrassed when I told Malcolm to stay away from the kid with the infectious looking red blotches all over his legs. To my surprise (and embarrassment) the kid asked why kids won’t play with him anymore. I told elephant boy that there was a dancing bear right behind him (that always works) and then grabbed Malcolm by the hand and took off. Whew! Another close call. We withdrew to a quieter, less sickly part of the playground.

Errands and Shopping

I bought a phrasebook! Lookout world, I am going to parlay with vous. I decided that if I was going to make it here, I was going to need to learn some key phrases, although I was reminded of the expressions, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Armed with very little knowledge, I headed to the car park, confident that I would able to say Je ne parle francois, parlay vous anglais s’il vous plait. This means I don’t speak French, what a plan! I guess I figured they would be so impressed with how hard I tried to learn their language (only enough to say I don’t speak their language, of course) that they would rush to get the one person that spoke English and everything would be alright. Well, when I got there, and asked if the man spoke English, of course he said no! Oh well, I tried.

So I pointed to the price list, clucked a little here, motioned a little there did some sort of interpretive dance involving me driving and flailing about with horns on my head while stomping my feet ( I think I confused myself a little and starting re-enacting scenes from th
e movie “Dances with Wolves”). Eventually the two of us figured each other out, and I parked the car for 2 weeks for about 75% of the cost of parking it in London for 1 week. Not too shabby! While he was running the credit card, I even put together the sentence for asking where the elevator is in French. Me! Speaking French! Who’s the man now dog? Never thought this kid would be asking (successfully mind you) where the ascenser was huh? I liked the guy, he liked me and we continued our half speaking a language the other didn’t understand, half dancing/clucking/nodding/pointing/eye rolling/cursing under his breath at me until I knew how to get into the garage and how to exit and return there.

I was pretty impressed with myself when I left, so I headed to a supermarche for some supplies. I found one I could actually get the stroller into and promptly went nuts! Malcolm had fallen asleep, so I was free to pick and choose my way through the store. This was the “big” store and was about the size of a 7-11 store back home. Not that I am complaining, I was in heaven having visited the previous stores that were about the size of a walk in closet. Everyone else there had a small bag or so of itmes that they stood in line and bagged themselves. I, on the other hand, piled the stroller up high with stuff, turning the sleek and stylish Bob Revolution into something straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. I couldn’t really steer the stroller at the end, I was so busy holding everything together so that it wouldn’t topple off the stroller. Anyways I had about 8 bags of groceries stuck into every nook and cranny of the stroller and proceeded to hog the entire line, and then monopolized my checker’s time for around 20 minutes with grocery bagging (you bag your own here, unless you are a moron, which I “pretend” to be) and paying. We made it out, and we have food at our place! I am not sure all that cheese was paid for though. Actually groceries are quite inexpensive here, and we will save a lot of money by not eating out all the time.

I love that stroller. Some people are addicted to booze, others to drugs, still others to gambling or internet porn. I am addicted to the Bob Revolution. I can put so much stuff in that sucker that it is really like having a 15 pound moveable storage locker. Want some water? It’s underneath in the basket. A cracker you say? Sure, in the top middle of the handlebar organizer. Coffee and sippy cups go in the drink holders. Warmer clothes go in the second basket (underneath all the stolen cheese), and the diaper bag hangs from handlebar. If, god forbid, anything should ever happen to Malcolm, I think I would continue to go out and about with the stroller. It’s not that I would be honoring his memory by having his ghost sit in the stroller or anything like that, it’s more like I wouldn’t be able to fit everything I wanted to bring with me in my pockets. Hopefully, both Malcolm and the stroller will be with us for a while, even when Malcolm has outgrown it and thinks it’s weird daddy has a three-wheeled purse.

Fun with Cheese

I tried to make mac n cheese tonight with a cheese that looks like it was designed to be placed in a fire. At least that was what was on the packaging. I know my first cheese experience should have been with fresh cheese from one of neighborhood formaggeries, and not something that had packaging, but I really didn’t want to waste anything good on mac n cheese. The cheese ended up being ok, it was a little tart though and tasted like good macaroni and cheese about three days after it had passed its prime. My review doesn’t really matter however, as Malcolm absolutely loved it! The only reason I ended up making it, was that I thought it would be a good broccoli delivery system. When he refused to eat the brocco outright, I started hiding little pieces inside the huge elbow noodles I had gotten, and he ate the few he couldn’t tell had secret packages inside. To go with it, I sautéed some chicken in herbs de provence (and a good deal of butter) and voila, it was a splendid meal.

Amy wasn’t around for the first meal, however, since she was stuck at a conference, unless Amy’s boss is reading this and then she was energetically interfacing to learn how to better leverage underutilized resources. What that means, I do not know, but she seems to (not really) and enjoys the conference. Her story would be more believable though if she didn’t return home each night from the “conference” with Mickey Mouse ears, smelling of cotton candy and pirate. She had quite a time getting registered for the conference and when she finally did get a registration badge for the affair, she wore it like a “badge” of honor. (snicker, snicker, snicker. Imagine me making some sort of snorting noise now). When she did return, she had bloody, blistered ankles from walking all over the place, and vowed to only wear sandals and tennis shoes from here on out. Good luck making that work in a suit.

Our Alleymate

So the alley that we live on is about 10 feet wide, meaning the people who live across the street from us are 10 feet away. This wouldn’t be a problem except that the guy straight across from us is quite the social butterfly. So far, he has had different women in his flat each night, and he spends a good deal of time hanging out his window smoking while either seducing tonight’s plat bleu spécial, talking on the phone or yelling down to people on the street. Except he does all this in like 4 different languages. As you can tell, the irritation I have for him is strictly jealousy. He speaks French to tonight’s brunette, and then gets a call to an old Spanish flame, before yelling down to the Italians on the street. Man this guy is good. I take solace in the fact that he probably doesn’t have a cool wife, or fun baby, stolen cheese or even a stroller, so I smile quietly to myself and fall asleep knowing how lucky I am. Until the bastard wakes me up by making some new friends on the street. SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!! CLOSE THE WINDOW AND GO WATCH SOME TV!

Day 14: Paris Baby!

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Ahh, our last day in London. I know what you are thinking, “Paul, you are the most amazing travel author in the history of words, but your blog doesn’t appear to help me at all in my life.” Well, my little sasparilla, the luck is all yours. For the first time in modern history, I present a travel blog that will benefit you:

Tips on Saving Money in London

1. Don’t eat food. Things are ridiculously expensive here. Much better to wait and eat elsewhere. However, if you must eat, don’t shop for foods at Whole Foods. If you do, expect to hemorrhage money. Between the exchange rate and the high cost of living, London will take your silly little dreams and aspirations and throw them into the Thames. (BTW, not pronounced “Thayms” but is called “Tems” by the locals. The woman who told me that didn’t have to be so mean about it though.) Buy your groceries at any other place, a local market will do. In fact the best way to save money is to not buy your food at all. That’s right, steal shit! For every two things I give to the store clerk to ring up and put in a nice, crisp grocery bag, I hide a couple of things in the stroller or diaper bag. Grab some eggs and bread and put it up top, throw some Cuban cigars underneath! I have what you must admit, is the cutest, most effective little accomplice on the face of the earth! Why not use him? If they ever do check, look shocked, and then throttle the little kid for not telling daddy he put stuff in the stroller. (This has less chance to work if he has been strapped in the whole time, but hey, no arrests so far!) I admit that this is a bit risky, but so is driving on the wrong side of the road, walking around weird places in the middle of the night, and sneaking into your neighbor’s rooms and trying on their clothes while the neighbors are out and the baby is asleep. (I especially like staying next to Italians, they have ALL the style).

2. Don’t use chopsticks at Chinese places. They cost anywhere between 20p and 1 British pound. Hey that stuff adds up if you eat as many times a day as I do.

3. This one is really important. DON’T EVER GO INSIDE ANYWHERE. That’s when they can charge you money. Be it museums, palaces, castles or other tourist what-have-yous, nothing good can come of going inside, except maybe learning about new things or seeing interesting stuff. It is not worth it, I implore you. It is much cheaper to stand on the outside of things and make up what its like inside. My personal favorite experiences include complaining about what I thought the carpets in Buckingham Palace would be like and making up my own stories about the ghosts I wish lived in St. Paul’s Cathedral (Sparky the ghost of bad french fries runs around decrying soggy chips).

4. Look for bargains on the internet. I could have done all sorts of stuff if I was a proper tourist. A website called lastminute.com will give discounts on the London eye (not really an eyeball, more like a ferris wheel taller than the alps), boat cruises, theater tickets and small African children. A useful website, and there are more out there for those interested. This item is LAME, I know, but it is actual knowledge I can pass on.

That’s all I could muster, you will have to fend for yourself if you choose to sightsee, eat or generally live here. I couldn’t do it for long, so we are headed to Paris. We took a rather circuitous route to Dover from our spot in west London. Instead of dealing with city traffic for a good chunk of the way, we backtracked, going west, to link up with a major expressway. Our plan was working marvelously, until we caught traffic anyway due to an accident. By the time we got passed the accident, we found ourselves, once again, racing at breakneck speeds to try and catch our ferry. It was truly remarkable because I had slammed a couple cups of coffee and felt like my bladder was going to blow up in an act of defiance. Well, we raced, raced, raced and made it with several minutes to spare. I was hoping again to jump over the cliffs and come crashing down on top of the boat, but instead we just rolled up and stood in the queue waiting for our turn. After racing for so long, and then just sitting and waiting, my bladder was now hurling insults at every other organ in my body. (Especially the pancreas, those two really don’t get along.)

This ferry was not nearly as nice as the one from Dunkirque, but it did have a little play area with logos that Malcolm loved. We had more sandwiches on the ship and I had a funny tasting pepsi. I won’t be having any more pepsi this trip I can assure you. We drove our car off the ship and pladow, we were in:

France!

Amy took a turn driving, now that the lanes were back on the right side of the road. I told her that she wasn’t getting the hang of it until she stalled the manual transmission for the 4th time. We were both out of practice driving a stick, but it came back to us eventually.

We were running a bit low on the petrol (diesel, or gazole if you must), so we made a bee line for a gas station. The station we found was completely automated, with no one on site to answer our questions, but, no mind, we have a credit card and a sense of adventure so we tried our best. By the way, the combination of credit and adventurousness is lethal in Las Vegas, so if you go, leave one of them behind. We were easily outsmarted by the gas pump who laughed at me, coughed and then proceeded to show me pictures of a woman with beautiful hands removing a credit card from the gas pump over and over and over again. I was confused, and the people behind us at the pump were irritated. I then heard a French voice come from the sky (god must be a middle aged woman here in France) and then the pump reset itself. We tried a new lane, but our credit card was rejected there. With our tail between our legs we limped to another place and luckily there was an attendant there. He pumped the gas, swiped the card and we w
ere off to the French countryside. It was quite a nice drive and was a stark contrast to the rain we just left behind in London. Along the way, we listened to French for Dummies Vol. I, which I had on my Ipod. I started to learn some key phrases which I could use once I learned other words later on, like “where is the [brothel] and how much [for one night].” Obviously I didn’t learn the bracketed words yet, but I have enough time in Paris to learn some functional French.

Malcolm was asleep for a great deal of the ride and when we woke up he was not happy we were still driving. So we stopped at a rest stop and it had a modest playground. We already love it here. While Malcolm was playing, I took a visit to the rest rooms and noticed that even the restroom signs here are artistic.

Driving in France

I do not know what the rules are for driving here in France, and I do not care. I drive like an idiot/maniac and I have no real idea what is going on around me. That is why the car it staying in the garage until we leave for Switzerland. The main reason for the mayhem is that the street lights are set back from the intersection by around 10 feet. Thus, when you were actually at an intersection, you had no idea who has the green light. I noticed that the cars honked at me a lot more when I sat at the intersection stopped, not knowing when to go again, so whenever I got to an intersection, I just went ahead, regardless of who else was going.

This was all fine and dandy until we reached the arc de triumph. There is a roundabout around that sucker that is the funnest ride I have ever taken. There are, at any given time, about 150 cars circling the roundabout, and there is some mechanism by which people can tell if it is their turn to go. What that mechanism is, I do not know, for I lurched, halted, and bluffed my way through it. It is a lot like surfing as you navigate ahead of cars you want to turn in front of and brake for cars that want to turn in front of you. As I throttled the engine to reach the turn I wanted (I went from 0-60 in about 3 seconds) I was reminded of the scene from star wars where the good guys narrowly escape getting away from the death star which was seriously blowing up. Phew! We made it, and now we get a leisurely drive down the champs elysses. Very nice, and there are cops everywhere directing traffic so I didn’t have to worry about what color the light was.

Our First Night in Paris

We reached our destination at around 4:30 and couldn’t be happier to have reached our apartment. Our location is on an island in the seine, the Ile Saint Louis. Our place is in one of those small streets. What we found inside was amazing. Old timber beamed ceilings and walls, lots of upholstery (including the walls of course), and HOLY SHIT THERE IS A GIANT PICTURE OF THE OWNERS ON THE WALL! It is very alarming and no matter where you are in the room, they are staring at you. Even the cat is eerie and he is smiling at you like you are tomorrow night’s entrée. I know; we’ll put Malcolm in there, that way the Kitty ghost will feast on the boy, and spare us. Send my parent of the year award to our house in Cali, we can’t use it here. I’ll post a picture when I can go back in there. It still kinda weird’s me out.

We strolled around a bit, and visited the Jardin des Plantes. There was a nice big sculpture of a dragon made out of recycled materials. I am seen quite cleverly here pretending that the dragon is attacking me. We then went to a metro stop so that Amy could get set up for her trip to her conference tomorrow (to Euro Disney and Malcolm and I won’t be going!) As we were looking for some dinner, we passed a neat little statue of some abstract stuff with a man in it when OH MY GOD THAT MAN IS MASTURBATING. The statue is of a man masturbating! Boy am I gonna like it here. When I tried to do that kind of stuff in Bakersfield, they arrested me!

Dinner

We finally settled at a park with some dinner. This was the view from the park (the side view of Notre Dame). Tonite we have a ham sandwich and a cheese crepe. The crepe stole the show, as no one was paying any attention to Malcolm when he fell through the back of the seat and sat folded in two waiting for us to notice. As we dined, I immediately noticed that this was a town of strollers. Everyone seems to be about town with not a care in the world. Even the street lights reinforce this. In London you have about 5 seconds to cross the street before you are smashed to bits by a giant bus. In Paris, the light gives you about 8 minutes to cross the street, and you are free to stop in the middle, converse with a dear old friend or read a
book. London is a town for people who have somewhere to go, Paris is for those who don’t.

I looked around and saw that this was some sort of park for lovers. Every other person there was with someone special, there were two couples making out, 1 couple breaking up, and another couple absolutely destroying a ham sandwich and a crepe. After diner, we enjoyed some gelato, and my lemon and strawberry was pure art, tart and then sweet, it was even shaped in the shape of a flower. Trey Bean!

We returned home and gave Malcolm a bath in his bathtub fit for a king.We drifted to sleep with the sounds of Paris trickling in and out of my consciousness. After about 3 hours of trickling I got up to close the window. These Parisians are fuckin’ loud!!!

Day 13: Last Day in London

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

I am constantly afraid that people will find out that I am a phony. Things like, “nice pictures Paul, but you could have been in a park anywhere,” or “Hey! Get out of the women’s room, you pervert! That kid’s not even a girl!” make we want to demonstrate when I am actually telling the truth. That is why, for father’s day, I wanted to trek around a bit and get a picture with Malcolm in front of Big Ben. This would supply proof that we were actually here one day, when something terribly wrong happens in the US and they try to blame it on me. (Like a jewel heist. In Chinatown. Saturday, June 16, 2007. 6 AM.) Nope, I have proof that I was in London the whole time!

The day started smashingly with a loud and goofy rendition of “Ring Around the Rosie” on the bed. Malcolm is quite fond of the game now, and tries to cheat by letting go and laughing at around “Ashes, Ashes.” Things continued to click as I picked the car up out of parking and parked it in front of the apartment for our early departure tomorrow. I was back in less than 40 minutes and I really feel like I have driving here down. (This means I only hit light poles and 4 pedestrians.

Read This Coppers, I was in London!

We set out for proof that I was in London on June 16 all day and not anywhere near Chinatown. We stopped by Speaker’s corner in Hyde Park, which began as some sort of riot, and then became a free speech zone. People can get up on their soap box and say whatever is on their minds here, and the general public shouts back their response. It is a lot like a modern day chat room, except people here can look at one another and don’t have to type. WTF? TISR. Today, the big draw was an American Muslim arguing for theocracy as the preferred system of government and a the people in the crowd let him know that they thought his idea was “rubbish.” After a few minutes of back and forth, I realized that this was too similar to dinner with my parents, so we took off for an alibi, errr, some sights.

We saw the guys in the fuzzy hats! Malcolm would have truly enjoyed this, if he could see that far. In front of Buckingham Palace, people were lined up everywhere (as if there was a parade starting soon.) We didn’t know what was happening, so we walked down the street like we were in the parade. Amy said we should wave to people like we were the attraction, but we didn’t. We kept going because no one on a horsie (Nee!) came and stopped us, but later found out that it was some sort of veteran’s day parade. I guess that explains why we kept seeing all the WW I & WWII bombers flying around. (I previously thought the Germans were attacking again, and foolishly started stockpiling SPAM and clean underwear. Who am I kidding, it was just SPAM.)

Lunch

We made our way to a lovely spot and had a picnic lunch. Afterwards, Malcolm played for quite a while with a British boy and girl. Then we had mommy rides! Well, at least Malcolm did. Mommy would not have enjoyed hauling this sweaty sack o crap around. Malcolm seems to really be enjoying Mommy, while this is usually how he responds to me. Just kidding, he likes me too! Only because its father’s day.

At precisely 2 PM (6AM Oakland time) we made it Big Ben (actually St. james Tower or something like that, Big Ben is the bell). I got my picture!

We start the long walk back and Amy goes to McDonalds for some food. Just kidding, Amy would rather do the Scandinavian Nasty than eat a McMeal, we just used the toilets. While she was there, I did my best Sherlock Holmes impression in front of Scotland Yard. How do I know this is Scotland Yard? Elementary my dear fans! Actually, I don’t think this was actually Scotland yard, but the real Scotland yard was somewhere across the street and I didn’t want to get run over to find out where it really was. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Sherlock! Some of us are just really dumb and lazy.

We continued on and were lucky enough to find some ice cream. Are we giving Malcolm too many sweets?

We all crashed like a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie (some of my similes and metaphors are in rather poor taste I know, but I am a journalist first and foremost. Gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em). When we awoke, we went back to the
park and Maclolm played with an annoying boy named Reuben who wouldn’t leave me alone. I ended up playing soccer with the little twit (he said he was the best goalie in the whole class, I remembered that, at that age, the fat kid played goalie) because Malcolm doesn’t kick a soccer ball, he just picks it up and throws it. I seriously can’t wait for Malcolm to play soccer with his old man; isn’t that the reason you have kids? Props to me, I know for the awesome use of the semi-colon there!

We then tried to find a pub with the US Open on so daddy could get his golf on. The stupid golf was preempted by David Beckham’s final game with Real Madrid, so we sat outside and had the healthy meal of Ceasar Salad with French fries. I didn’t get to watch a single hole of the tournament, and part of me thinks that is a shame and the other part (read=Amy) thinks I am better off for it. I booked our ferry for tomorrow (got the flex ticket which allows us to miss our reserved boat) but was unable to pay for the apartment in Paris, which was supposed to be paid already. Tomorrow should be interesting, but today was fantastic. Thank you Amy and Malcolm for making daddy so happy today.

Day 12: A Rainy Shopping Excursion

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I am beginning to suspect that the Tag Heur watch I purchased in China is a fake. I reconciled the fact that I have to manually wind the watch every few days to the fact that Tag got Tiger Woods to endorse the product and have offset watch quality with the gargantuan sum they have to pay him. It hands glow in the dark so I figured it must be real right? Today, the watch fell apart on the street during the not-so-strenuous task of cleaning the stroller. I was able to put it back together, but I will never, I repeat never, buy another watch in China, unless of course I find another watch I like but don’t want to pay $700 for it.

A crowded morning

We decided to beat the crowds by taking in the markets in Notting Hill. Anyone who has been to the Portabello markets on a Saturday morning knows how silly we are. We had a better chance of beating the crowds by going to Beijing… during the Olympics. This area was a narrow street lined with antique stores which added street vendors for the Saturday market. There was around 450,000 people within a 5 block radius and they all wanted to get in the way of our stroller. We tried to get into a little place the waffle king (world traveler and fine food connoisseur that he is) told us about, Tom’s deli, and there were only 2 obstacles in our way. First, there was a wait, not too long, only 20 minutes, but when you convert that to American time, its like an hour or two. Plus, its hard to convince Malcolm to be patient, he doesn’t have the concept of waiting for stuff you want down yet! Secondly, the place was about as wide as Ken & Barbie’s Malibu shack, so our squeezing into in aisle and then a table was not likely. We opted for takeout and ate weird pizza, weird lasagna and A weird, but very yummy scotch egg. For those who have never tried, a scotch egg is a meatball wrapped around a boiled egg and then fried. Ooh I want another one now, just writing about it.

We headed out into the market again, and it started to rain. This foiled Amy’s first attempt at wardrobe, so she needed a change of clothes. What’s that you say? The bathroom is taken and the closest public restroom costs money? Leave it to the woman of steel to get into that phone booth and get ‘er done. I blocked one side of the phone booth, but anyone on the traffic side of the phone got to see a side of Amy that you normally don’t see (a pretty nifty side if you ask me!) Super Amy bolted from the phone booth ready to right the wrongs of the world, or at least show Malcolm a good time. We continued on, with Amy melting shopgoers away with her stink eye stare (her other powers, buns of steel and choco tongue, just couldn’t help us out). I tried to buy Malcolm a shirt, but the one store I went into sold only girls stuff. Too bad Malkie’s not like a friend mine named Todd Politiek who would wear girl’s clothing as long as it is British and has the union jack on it.

With fresh clothes and a new lease on life, we headed back to the playground where it promptly rained on our heads for a while. Luckily, we were in Never Never Land and there were little huts for us to chill in.

Malcolm fits into the huts a little bit better than I do.

British people are ready for rain, whereas we think it is the end of the world. British people have to deal with the chance of rain so often that they go on living and once the rain hits, they look for shelter. We were fatalists and wanted to die. I started to cry once it started raining. Amy told me she was a goner and to go on without her. She tried to take the cyanide pill she has hidden in her upper left molar, but I suggested through my tears that we have some cake, and that Malcolm would need his mommy later in life. Cake won out, and I have never seen Malcolm open his mouth so wide.

Dinner and a Tour

Once the rain let up, a little we made it back to the room. While in the room, I researched a place to get some dinner and found an Indian place on Zagats that was yummy, moderately cool, had outdoor seating and was kid friendly. I was going to make a reservation, but I knew that there was a slightly better than even chance that we wouldn’t be able to find the place. Plus, the place was fully booked after 8 pm, so I didn’t want to get there late and be stuck waiting around. A tour of the Chelsea district was a nice complement to the restaurant so we left looking to see home historic houses, hospitals and other sites. Needless to say, we couldn’t find the first street on the tour and got lost and never really saw anything that we were supposed to see. Sometimes it is irritating being us, but the streets we did see were ok. Somewhere along the way we saw a house that Keith Richards lived in during the 70’s. Not sure which one, but does it really matter? We did see the Albert Memorial Bridge and crossed it to go to a park where Malcolm could get out and run around before dinner. He ended up playing with some kids who had scooters. Every kid has a razor scooter and they generally look like they enjoy it, up until the part where they crash and go running to mommy or daddy. I saw one 6 year old boy who was going so fast he didn’t know what to do , so he bailed out and leapt to safety on a grassy area, tumbling along the way. Don’t know if we would get Malcolm one of these things, but they look like fun to me.

While at the park, we decided to dress up a bit for dinner. Not seeing any bathrooms, we ducked into the bushes for a quick change. Amy was getting used to baring all in public, but I, the modest one, never really felt at ease with the public nudity. I was really happy when we weren’t arrested for public indecency. Then again, I wouldn’t call us indecent when we are stripped down to the underpants, maybe only informal. I actually think I am billboard material in my Ross bought Calvin Klein’s.

So we were off to search for another Indian meal. We finally got there and the place was empty! So much for not being able to get a table. They sat us down, were very friendly, and even gave Malcolm a tiny toy train to play with. It was too bad he had to throw it halfway across the room and start shrieking like he did. The food was ok, but quite a bit more expensive ($120) and not as tasty as our earlier Indian food. We sampled (read= drank a bottle of) an interesting South African blend of pinot noir and cabernet. Can’t wait to get to france for the vino! I was really conscious of the loud n
oise Malcolm was making considering two other groups of people had sat down near us, but I got over it. One group was an American family and they must have ordered 16 cokes between the three of them. To heck with them (I cannot stand the sound of an American in a foreign country ordering a “Coke Cola, no ice”). The other couple near us was on a date, and I did feel bad, until Amy told me that the woman part of the date was pregnant. What’s her problem, she’s gonna have one of these things shortly, she should know what she’s signing up for.

On the way back from the restaurant, we saw a day care facility with this “trampoline.” This contraption consisted of a metal frame and a piece of rubber connected to the frame with bungee cords. We are never letting malcolm go to day care here! After an hour stroll home and $18 worth of gelato, we crashed, a little sweatier, a little heavier, but sure as shit glad that we at least try to forge our own way. Feel free to sing frank sinatra here if you like…

Day 11: More of the Same

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I know what you are thinking, “What a great Blog post title!” I really didn’t want to get your hopes up for today’s post. I guess I could have called it “Paul’s genitals meet the murderous Russian maids, hell bent on fixing the microwave,” but that would probably have been too long. Now you want to read it, don’t you?

8 AM: Morning Park Visit

Malcolm loves to take mommy by the hand and show her all the things he finds enjoyable. (He won’t do this with me, something about not knowing where my hands have been). I noticed on our morning walk that parents generally see the best in their kids. I noticed this when Malcolm kept muttering incoherent gobblety gook and I knew precisely what he was talking about. People who have ever seen me really drunk know exactly what I mean, except for the part about understanding what was said. So, whenever Malkie sees a motorcycle, he says, “buh bah,” and I say, “that’s right, Malcolm, there’s a motorcycle.Whenever he sees a horse (which there are plenty of in the park,) he says “nee” and I congratulate him for seeing the horsie. Nee, by the way, is his attempt at making the horsie sound, which kids books put at ‘“Nay!” So, the morning walk is full of Nee’s, buh bah’s and I am pretty sure I heard him say AY! a few times (airplane). So at some point, I am hoping that he will learn the correct version of these words, but for now, it seems like he can “talk.” I am sure his English is better than my French, so we’ll see who the idiot is when I go to a store in Paris and ask for some formagie.

The British are quite different when it comes to teaching their kids to speak. No baby talk here! Parents I have met and seen generally use their proper English and the kids do too. Malcolm bull rushed a boy on a boat at the park today and the boy tried to ward off Malcolm. His mother said, “you are treating that boat rather proprietarily, wouldn’t you say?” Huh, I say not. He won’t say “proprietarily” until he is around 30, and even then won’t be sure he is using it correctly. I would have said, “Malcolm, quit being an ass!”

I also noticed that Malcolm really loves to chase pigeons around. If there is ever some sort of meat related catastrophe and we are left with only pigeons to eat, Malcolm will make a fine pigeon herder.

While in the park, I saw some kids playing cricket. I have always wanted to know the rules of cricket (not really) so I took some time to watch and my observation, coupled with my contacts on the ground here (read=the internet) have taught me the following. A “bowler” runs about a half mile towards the batsmen, why so far? I do not know! When he gets to a line, he throws a ball at the batsmen’s head with a failing roundhouse toss. The batsmen uses a cricket bat, or a tennis racket as the age may require, to stop the ball from hitting the wooden contraption resting behind the batsmen (the “wicket”). If the ball hits the wicket, or knocks out the batsmen’s tooth, the player is out, and must immediately leave the field for tea and crumpets. If the batsmen hits the ball, then the batsmen, and a friend of his just hanging around on the field looking for a fight, run back and forth touching the grass with their bats. Each time they touch a line they must say “god save the Queen” and then chant “Pip Pip” while they continue to run in circles. If the batsmen misses the ball, and the ball misses the wicket, then the whole process repeats with everyone slightly sweatier for it. Play continues for about a week, until a winner is declared by flipping a biscuit into a cup of tea. If you think baseball is boring, cricket may not be the sport for you. The fans on a televised cricket match I slept through were very attentive and seemed to really enjoy drinking, singing and generally watching the grass grow.

Here is me generally looking suave next to a cafe that bears my name.It’s really hard to hold in my gut for that long!

Check this out, they have a guy on a crane cleaning the streetlights! We don’t give car thefts this much attention in Oakland. When I get back, we are taking this picture straight to city hall. Cleaner street lights for all of Alameda county!

Room Adventures

We returned to the room, and I finally asked them to take a look at the shower. I was particularly looking forward to British hospitality during our stay, so it was with great disappointment that I learned that everyone who worked at the hotel was Russian. I am pretty sure this place closed several weeks ago and the Russian Mafia took it over and tried to operate it. So the Russian kid, 16 perhaps, who showed up in my room to fix the shower problem quickly diagnosed the issue. It seems that every so often, (every other night) too much air gets into the water system and this trips the circuit breaker. Or so, I think, I couldn’t really understand his thick Russian accent and I just clucked and nodded a little. I don’t mind, for a can shower for longer than 38 seconds today!!!

My clothes are in Malcolm’s room (why? I am not really sure) and when he is sleeping, I cannot get a change of clothes. I also tend to shower when he sleeps, so today I had a warm shower (luxury!) but had nothing to change into. I put on my shorts but I really wasn’t interested in putting on a dirty, smelly shirt or underpants. So, I wore shorts al fresco. I slightly panicked when the maids knocked on the door, but decided what’s the worst that could happen? When I answered the Maid’s knock, I was a bit self conscious since I wasn’t wearing a shirt, but imagine my horror when I looked down and saw that MY FLY WAS OPEN!!! I played it off pretty cool by shouting, “Look! A dancing bear is right behind you!” and then quickly zipping up my fly and slamming the door shut. Phew, pulled that one off. I know what you are thinking, “Paul, how do you stay so graceful under such pressure?” This happens a lot, so I am used to it. Maids just wanted to make sure that the room was clean. Boy, did they wish they hadn’t done that!

Sightseeing

Later that evening, we went on a cruise of the river Thames. It was a bit cold, but it was neat to see the sights. Malcolm in awe of the Tower of London. We gotta work on the fold in Amy’s hat. She looks like an economics professor! Here’s Malcolm ignoring the Tower Bridge. Our river guide was hilarious and really the government a “how-do-you-do” for the various shady building erections and misuse of taxpayer money. Luckily, our camera went dead during the cruise and I was not able to take pictures of some of the more interesting sights along the way. We definitely got tired of the crowds at tourist spots and headed back to our little nirvana in the west.

When we returned to the apartment, we met some Russian hospitality when the maids called and asked if wanted our microwave serviced. I am convinced that this was an attempt for the staff to witness the Schwartz trainwreck (word must have gotten out about the retarded man- child in room 315), but just to be safe, we didn’t use the microwave for the duration of the trip. It’s highly possible that the maids wanted to retaliate against me for abusing the staff. I saw pictures of that Russian politician who was poisoned, and there was no way I was going to let darling Malkie turn into a wilted prune overnight. No bother, it took about 25 minutes for the microwave to actually heat up anything anyways.

I made dinner with my elbows in my pockets again, only this time it turned out a little better. Stir Fry! Amy said it was generally edible and Malcolm loves to slurp noodles, so everyone was happy. A low key day today, but generally we are happy to be together and are enjoying the chance to walk, live and see “bits” of London every day.

Day 10: My Birthday

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All is great with the world, as I awaken on June 14, my birthday. Amy is excited too, because this means that we are the same age again and I can no longer make all those older woman jokes. I am pretty sure that we are bad parents and gift giving opportunities only reinforce this. This year, Amy bought me noise canceling headphones as a birthday present. Why do I need noise canceling headphones, you ask? Crying babies make noise and there are two ways to deal with this noise: soothe the baby or put on noise canceling headphones and listen to the Violent Femmes. Up until now, I have done a lot of soothing. Little Malcolm, prepare to be ignored!

One of the things I enjoy most about traveling overseas is my complete and utter lack of ability to do anything. This installment details my inability to take a shower. On day 2 of our stay in London, we noticed that despite our fiddling with the 6 or 7 nozzles in the shower, we couldn’t get any hot water to come out of the shower. Malcolm’s baths were all quite warm, but no hot water would come out of the shower head. So, two days ago, I took a lukewarm bath and then rinsed with freezing cold water to rejuvenate. Yesterday, I arrived home in a sweaty mess, so the idea of a lukewarm bath was as appetizing as a Scandinavian Nasty. So I took a freezing cold shower. You can’t really get very clean when you only are under the water for 12 seconds, so today, I ended up filling the tub with warm water and taking a freezing cold shower. With my feet somewhat warm, I was able to stay under the shower for over 30 seconds! Needless to say I am squeaky clean for my big day.

Malcolm at an apple by himself today! I guess he was not digging the Chinese food I got, so I handed him an apple to see what he would do with it. This is what he did:

He loved it! It’s the little things you enjoy as parent. Doesn’t that apple look golden and delicious? Now let’s see if he can hold up that pint!

We hit up the third playground (out of four, I think) in Hyde park and it was another cool place to hang with a toddler. Malcolm raced around the jungle gym, played catch with other kids, and watched daddy sweat. Next time we are here, we will be able to play mini golf!

Every once in a while, you see a side of your kid that demonstrates his DNA is linked to yours. This happened because I waited too long to change Malcolm’s diaper and his Pampers were sagging. I guess I could say that this is how kids wear them nowadays.

Business Advice

Amy asked me to relay some business advice to you all, in case you are ever in the UK in a professional capacity. The advice is solely to use the words “Right!” and “bits” as much as you can. Right! can mean many things. It can be used as an affirmation as,

1) If we make it through this meeting, we can all go have a pint.

2) Right!

It can also be used to change the topic of conversation:

1) Does anyone want to see pictures of my husband in a diaper?

2) Right, as the sales figures for 2006 show, we are gaining ground in Eastern Europe.

Lastly, it can be used as a stalling technique as you contemplate your next move:

1) You need to ride the tube for cockfosters

2) Right… oh yes, I will get on the subway going northeast on the Picadilly line.

“Bits”, on the other hand, means parts, as in “I would love to learn more about some of your bits.” Amy claims that this meant that the man she came home from the bar with wanted to learn more about certain parts of the software she works with. I am not so certain.

Birthday Dinner Fiasco

As you would expect, my birthday dinner did not work out as we had hoped. We had settled on going to an Argentinian Steakhouse for a celebratory dinner, and selected a location near Picadilly Circus for our meal. (Picadilly Circus is a lot like Times Square). We set out in our grubby clothes, and brought a change of clothes with to “dress up” when we got close. After a nice stroll (in which we passed the Hard Rock Café, with a queue of over 100 people in it, standing in the light rain), we went in the Starbucks to change. You would have loved my performance, I stood in front of the counter purportedly shopping for coffee beans while Malcolm and Amy dashed into the toilet to change. My facial expressions changed for each bag of coffee, as if to weigh the pros and cons for each. As soon as Amy and Malcolm made it out, (Amy was looking fine in a pair of jeans) I bolted and changed in the toilet myself. Pretty sly, I know, but after the infamous Bruges toilit incident, I could take no chances.

It was all for naught, as we arrived the Gaucho Grill and they informed us that they were totally booked. I am not sure whether they actually were, or just took one look at us and figured that we were more trouble than we were worth (which we were). So we headed off looking for somewhere else to eat. After a couple of dead end streets and a few smoky pubs, we decided we were probably going to die on the streets before finding anything suitable for our needs. That area is swarming with stinky tourists and we realized that our neighborhood was generally quiet and nice smelling and not close to here. So, we hopped in a cab and zoomed back to our neighborhood for some high end pizza. We dined at a neat little place that had a huge eating area in the basement that included a night club and dance floor. Fortunately for us, there was no one there and Malcolm even shook his booty on the dance floor a little. The gnocchi was good, the pizza was better and the tira misu stole the show. I hadn’t had anything so light, creamy and yummy tasting since rubbing butter into my gums in Belgium, and the fact that it had a candle in it made it even better. If the tira misu tasted amazing here, I can’t wait to go to Italy. My birthday was generally swell and thanks to those who sent me kind wishes.< span> To those that didn’t, shame on you!

Day 9: Boy's Day Out

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8AM: Oh What a Glorious Morning

Wow, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and garbage trucks are still slamming on their brakes, honking and swearing at American tourists who step off the curb without looking to their right. Not me, of course, but at least I have the everything down pat as we stepped into the park this morning for a wonderful morning of chasing ducks, dogs and exploring the British countryside. Well, maybe not the countryside, but Malcolm enjoys it nonetheless.

After two hours of goofing off, we headed back to the room for some brekkie (“breakfast”). Todays menu was eggs and toast, so I attempted to make hard boiled eggs. I hadn’t cleaned any dishes yet since we arrived, and since the maids were unable to clean yesterday because of Malcolm’s nap schedule, we had no pots and pans to use. I figured I could either just clean a pot and make eggs the normal way by boiling them in water, or branch off and do things my way. Needless to say, I did things my way (read= the wrong way). I poured some scalding water over an egg placed in a little cereal bowl, and let it rest there for approximately 7 minutes, thinking this was plenty of time to get the egg to hard boil, or at least soft boil. When I cracked the egg to end the screams of hunger from the toddler pulling on my pants, I learned that these eggs were not even soft boiled, but rather still raw. Whuh? My plan didn’t pan out?! Interesting. Plan B consisted of pouring the raw eggs directly into the water thinking the shell was what was holding things back. Hey, I like poached eggs just as much as the next guy. Imagine my surprise when this failed to cook the eggs at all! Plan C was to discard everything in the cereal bowls, save the yolks, and fry them up in a frypan (which I ended up cleaning while Malcolm was chewing on my socks). A scant 8 minutes later, voila! Eggs ala Paul. If you try this at home, make sure you cook with your elbows in your pockets, as this definitely makes the dish taste better.

11AM: a Great Day Out

After wandering around in places that reminded me of Hugh Grant Romantic comedies, I decided to see some sites that reflected the London shown in postcards. I canceled the trip I had planned to visit the Chelsea Soccer (“football”) stadium, and pointed the stroller towards Buckingham Palace, and off we went!

The first thing we saw was this giant statue, a memorial of a man named Albert. Didn’t recognize him, but if we has anything like the Albert I knew growing up, he was probably a complete spaz. Malcolm enjoyed this statue so much he promptly began playing with his logos. We continued on to the Wellingon Memorial, which was quite impressive. I do know who Wellington was, as they have named a beef dish after him. Any man who loves beef and pastry enough to name it after himself is alright by me! If they name a dish after me when I die, I hope it is Chicken Fried Steak.

Buckingham Palace

We made it to the Victoria Memorial (they sure got a lot of people to remember here, don’t they?) and the images of London I know started to take shape. You can’t tell from this picture, but Queen Victoria was a very “handsome” woman (read= she looka lika man!).


That’s Big Ben in the background! We took in Buckingham Palace in all its splendid glory. Malcolm enjoyed walking up and down the steps (a new trick since we arrived in Europe), chasing pigeons and pointing at buses. We were there for a while. Here’s us goofing around:

Pretty good, considering this was the 28th take. We saw the Queen!!!

Or at least we thought we did, when I took this picture. A crowd had gathered at the gate, and a woman in a blue hat came out of the Palace, left the gates and began to speak to some people who had been applauding her the whole time. I got really excited when I considered the possibility of me getting a picture of Malcolm grabbing the Queen’s nose (it’s great! He makes a honking noise when he does it). I started to get suspicious when there was no security present and the “Queen” was a 35 year old blonde woman. I gave up hope of it being the queen, when she left with her friends and went to eat at the hot dog stand across the street.

From here, we stepped down toward the palace to get a closer look at the guards. If you get to Buckingham Palace at just the right time, you get to witness the time honored tradition of the changing of the guards. I wasn’t even close, but I was there in time to witness the changing of the janitors.

Magical. Later, we re-enacted the whole affair by staging the changing of the diaper. Also, where are the guys with the fuzzy black hats? The only people we saw were these guys marching about:

Lunch

Hmphf, I promised Malcolm fuzzy black hats, and he is starting to get pissed. Actually, it was hunger pangs, so we decided to eat. I could not stand the fact that I had not yet visited a pub, so I went off in search of one. Huzzah! I found one, called the Talbot, with outdoor seating no less. I was a bit worried that they would only have plaid clothes for older women inside, but yes, indeed, they had beer and pies. I had a pint of John Smith’s Extra Cold. They carded Malcolm so he stuck with the Pineapple juice. The food was great too (never thought I ‘d say that in England!), I had a steak pie. For those in the bay area, it was a lot like a Zachary’s pizza stuffed with steak and gravy. Yummy! It came with peas, “payes”, which Malcolm wouldn’t eat. He would, however, eat the fries, “chips.” In order to get him to eat some greens, I had to dig out the potato out of the chips and stuff peas in there like I was loading a revolutionary war musket. Malcolm ate some, as long as I dipped the whole thing in some delicious gravy. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Royalty Sighting

Holy Shit! I saw Prince Charles! During our stumbling, staggering walk home (I had to slam the last half of my pint when Malcolm informed me of his desire to go home and nap by letting out short piercing shrieks) something actually happened. I know I exaggerate some, but this was real. As I was crossing the street near Hyde Corner, I whipped around and saw a couple of motorcycle cops headed my way with 2 cars in tow. Much to my delight, the first sedan had old donkey ears himself in it. I swear! I yelled “wanker!” as he went by, and as I was about to shout that Camilla looks like my dad, when a secret service agent zoomed by and popped me in the mouth. Well, OK that last part didn’t happen, but I did see Prince Charles (or “P. Chucky´as he’s known around here) and that was cool. Or not, I dunno. I wonder if he’s writing in his journal about me right now?

I ran into this American tour group on the way back from the pub, and I have never been more ashamed of my countrymen in my life: Looks like someone way overdid it at the souvenir shop! I stood and yelled at them for 5 minutes to “turn around!” so I could get a better picture, but it seemed they would only take directions from their tour guide. Sheez.

I bought a pen! As you know, I have been without a pen for several days so finding a tourist shop that sold pens was a huge relief for me. Mind you, this is not a Mont Blanc that plays God save the Queen when engaged, but a rather a sad, sorry little Bic pen at a cost of 20 pence. I probably shouldn’t have done this, but I admitted to the shopkeeper that I had not “figured out” the currency yet, and at least should have made an attempt to count the change from 20 pounds that he gave me. I could have been a $40 pen, I don’t know…

Afternoon and Evening

Malcolm had a great nap, although he was awakened (again) by the fire alarms. I swear to God they should change the motto of this place to Fraser Place Apartments, if the maddening construction noise doesn’t wake up your baby, the fire alarms sure will! It was a low key evening, awaiting Amy’s return, as Malcolm and I dined on leftover pasta. It really does taste better knowing that it cost $50. Amy was in Oslo today. Yes, that’s right, Norway. She was needed for something in Norway, left this morning at 5:30 and returned sometime after 10. We’ll see how she liked it! Cheers for now…

Day 8- A Slow Day in London

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8 AM: More Parking, More Strolling

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be facing another day of looking for parking. Luckily, I was able to find a cheaper spot online and take the car to a spot on the other side of Hyde Park. All goes well and I am actually done with it in 45 minutes. Thank you Google maps. Google maps is now 2nd on the sexy scale, ahead of my computer and Belgian Sandwiches, but behind the chocowaffle. I get tired of paying $4 for a cup of coffee and decide to invest in a press (I said “French press”, but I could tell I violated some provision of the Treaty of Versailles). It costs an arm and a leg, but it will pay for itself in a mere 14 cups of coffee, so thank you Starbucks for putting me on the road to financial prosperity. Go Carter!

On the way back from the car park, I notice how truly affluent this neighborhood is. I see Rolls Royce’s, Maserati’s, Aston Martin’s and enough Mercedes Benz’s to choke a mule ALL PARKED ON THE STREET! Wow, like $300,000 dollars worth of car, just waiting for me to “accidentally” smack into it with my stroller. Of course there is more than a hefty dose of Prius cars around, so that is nice too. We own a Prius and one of the reasons I liked the car was that super rich people buy it too, so when people see me in one, they could think that I am super rich. Well, Malcolm knows what kind of car I drive, and whenever he sees a Prius, he shouts “Daddy!”, and I respond, “Yes, that’s daddy’s car.” Well, this is definitely a bonus in this neighborhood. Whenever Malcolm yells “Daddy” I say “Yes, that’s daddy’s car,” and promptly point to the Bentley next to the Prius. I know I shouldn’t do this, but there are a lot of rich women passing by on the street and my normal pickup line “I am Count Schwartz of the Worthington Schwartz’s” hasn’t been working. So sue me.

I also notice the following on walkways:

These are foreigner savers! They remind you that when you step off the curb, you need to look right first to avoid the left side traffic. Amy and I have surmised that they put this warning on any corner where there has been a fatality involving a tourist. When they finish wiping up the blood off of the cement, they paint the warning to look right.

Benny Hill used to live in this neighborhood! We walked right by his old house and to honor the cheeky monkey, we staged a reenactment. I got Malcolm to chase around some women in their underwear while spanking him on the head, singing “deeeer, rear ricky ricky rear rear ricky ricky rear rear ricky ricky ricky rick,” over and over again. My apologies, by the way, for the mistaken impression in my earlier blog about that song in my head being part of the movie Caddyshack. I was confused. The song I was thinking of, was actually the Prelude to the Opera Carmen and played no part in Caddyshack. Sorry for the mix-up. By the way, I listened to a bit of the Carmen opera today and have the following advice if you should ever see it: take great joy in listening to the prelude (it consists of the part I recounted plus the theme to the bad news bears). However, after this really enjoyable 2 minutes and 10 seconds is over, promptly leave. The rest of the opera is quite bad, unless you enjoy the sound of two cats makin’ friendly in an alleyway. You have been warned.

Amy attends to her work all day, and Malcolm naps for most of the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon. As a result it is a slow newsday. Things definitely pick up though when Amy is done.

6 PM: Dinner Divine

We head to the park for some more playing (aren’t you getting sick of me saying “so we head to the park” yet? I am). Afterwards, we stroll through Notting Hill. We continue past Notting Hill on a marvelous tree lined street enjoying a beautiful summer evening and eventually arrive at our destination, The Bombay Bicycle Club, an Indian place we found in Zagats with outdoor seating. We devoured an exceptional meal including samosas, a Chicken with an interesting sauce, and Lamb with spinach in a different kind of interesting sauce. I would write more about the names of the dishes, but I have been without a pen for several days now and have resorted to making entries in my journal with one of Amy’s eyeliner pencils. Maybe tomorrow I will get a pen somewhere. We don’t eat Indian food all that often, so this is truly a treat for us. The wine, a light Pinot Noir, goes with the meal perfectly and I cannot wait to drink stuff like that every day in Paris. We easily burn off more calories than we consume at dinner, as the restaurant is a little more than 2 miles from our apartment. The after dinner stroll is a delight in the perfect weather. A brilliant ending to a rather quiet day.

A Note on the Authenticity of this Work

Some of you may be wondering why parts of this blog don’t really seem true. Well, I do a fair amount of writing while sitting in my apartment (yes, sometimes in my underwear), and occasionally, I stretch the truth of what actually happens. I have always wanted to write more like this, but for the longest time I could not. Hmm, well actually I guess now is as good as any to share with you all my deepest darkest secret. I made it all the way through Junior High and High School, College, a career at Arthur Andersen, Law School and some time as a functioning lawyer while completely and utterly illiterate.

Junior High and High School were easy because they were in Nevada and Bakersfield, respectively. Heck, even the principals had a hard time with the bigger words. San Francisco State was a bit of a challenge, but I took a lot of math classes and used “alternative rhetorical forms” to bluff my way through the others. I was very political in class too, so I scared off my professors from bringing me in front of the academic senate. Arthur Andersen didn’t care what I did as long as I was able to bill the government for my time. I was even able to graduate at the top of my class at UC Davis Law School using symbols I claimed were Latin, an ancient form of “Legalese.” I took mostly multiple choice classes too
, employing a mixture of alternating my answers B-C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B-C-B-C and so on, and making patterns in my scantron that I would have liked to see in the border of my bathroom tile. After Law School, I worked for the federal government, and, since I showed up every day, I didn’t need to actually work at all. When someone actually called me out on it, I filed an EEO charge claiming a constitutional deprivation of my ability to express myself by not expressing myself in writing at all. This charge sat on someone’s desk for a very long time and I was allowed to keep cashing my paychecks. I went into private practice and knew I was in trouble when the court rejected my first brief (consisting of 30 pages of pictograms demonstrating the alleged sexual harassment of our client coupled with an audio tape of an episode of Matlock I had stored on my Ipod).

It’s funny how life turns out, though, because that very night I took a peyote trip and was visited by a small orange poodle who resembled Dustin Hoffman’s female alter ego in Tootsie. He/she told me that I needed to get my life together and learn how to read and write. He/she also told me that he/she would teach me, as long as I visited him/her in Peyoteville. Knowing that Amy would never let me go to Peyoteville every day, so I woke up the next day and told her that I wanted to quit my job and stay at home with Malcolm, even though Malcolm would not be born for another 7 months!

Amazingly, she said yes, and during Malcolm’s remaining gestational period, I went to Peyoteville every day, under the auspices of overseeing a construction project at our house. Each day, we would laugh, trip at different colors, talk about the “real” meaning of music, and eventually crack the books (which contained what I later learned were “words” consisting of a variety of different “letters.”) Day after day, trip after trip, I began to recognize patterns until I could finally type in the letters P-O-R-N into a Google search. “Porn” became “hamburger” which lead to “baseball” and soon I had a firm grasp of the language.

Eventually, Malcolm was born, and, to my delight, I was able to read almost everything on the Birth Certificate! I could not contain my sheer joy when I signed my name on the dotted line, my first steps in the world of the literate. It really is a shame that I signed my name in the box which asked for his gender. I guess I still have some work to do, and, although I have to answer “Paul Schwartz” on any form that asks for Malcolm’s gender, I can now share my stories with you. Well worth it, wouldn’t you say? I haven’t visited the Tootsie Poodle in a long while, and I suspect that now that I can write, I won’t ever again. Tootsie Poodle I want you to know that “I had… the time of my life” Start singing the theme to Dirty Dancing now, while this fades to black…

Day 7: A Walk in the Park

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

8 AM: More Fun Driving

Ahhh life is good again, Malcolm is back to his old tricks of sleeping through the night again. I guess he just gets too antsy if he can go cryin’ to mom and dad during the night. As a result, we both sleep soundly and wake up a around dawn. Too bad the sun rises here at 4 in the morning. Seriously, they should figure out a way to fix that, because it is awfully hard to get used to.

Alas, it is time to go deal with parking. We parked last night in a residential zone which requires a resident permit Monday through Saturday. It is now Monday morning and time to face the music.

Driving in London is rather like a series of 5 meter dashes. All in all, I did about 130 of them. These were no ordinary 5 meter dashes, however, as each one has to be in a different direction. And to make things a little more difficult, other 5 meter dashers are out on the road moving in a different direction each time. Only not just a few other combatants, there are approximately 2,500 cars within two blocks of me at any given time. And remember, they are all out to try and run into me! I feel like Pac-Man only there is no giant dot that allows me to eat the other cars. The final rule to the game is that you can’t ever turn right. (For those of you back home, this is like driving around and never being able to turn left). If you should ever need to point your car 90 degrees to the right, you must do so by going past your desired location by a block (or ten if you are me) and make 3 consecutive left turns. I did not learn how to successfully do this and paid the price today.

I use the exclamation “Wah!” often as I swerve to and fro looking around for a place to park the car. After realizing the cheapest spot in a garage (“car park” here) will be over $50 a day, I head back to the apartment to discuss our options with Wilsie (mostly just to get off the streets while the local contstables look for a person matching my description who has been running over postal boxes and rubbish bins). We decide to park for one night at a posh car park and find a long term solution tomorrow. After the quick 45 minute trip which spans 6 or 7 blocks I park the car and swear at it, wanting to be done with driving here and just throw the car into the Thames.

10AM: The Park!

Malcolm and I head off to the park and we see the round pond with huge swans. These things are huge! Their feet are about the size of Malcolm’s head, and not surprisingly, Malcolm won’t go anywhere near them. I won’t either! We make a bee line to the Princess Die (get it?) Memorial Playground. This is almost as nice as the Dunkerque/Dover ferry, with a Peter Pan theme to it. There is a huge pirate ship, gigantic Indian teepees, a huge play structure and million little odds and ends for the kids to explore.

It was really too bad that Malcolm spent most of the time playing with a leaky water faucet instead of all those things, though. A million dollar playground and the kid thinks it’s a hoot-n-anny to dip his feet in the muddy water and then sit in it. Oh well, you can lead a horse to a play area but you can’t make it not play in the water, (or something like that).

Malkie finally made his way to the awesome pirate ship and enjoyed himself thoroughly. I was able to coax Malcolm onto it, by asking “do you wanna go on the boat?” Luckily an 8 year old girl was there to correct me, “it’s not a boat, it’s a ship!” I hate being dumber than an 8 year old. The ship needed a captain, or so Malkie thought, so he headed straight for the bridge. Only the 8 year old had given specific instructions to her little sister to not let anyone else touch the wheel while she was inspecting the deck. So, when Malkie approached, the little sister gently went up to him, slowly put her arms around him paused, recoiled, and then pushed him with both arms in the stomach! Malkie was as stunned as I was. I tried to comfort him, telling him that some women are like mommy and others are like Angelina Jolie. No real consolation though. He later went below the deck and under the ship there was a huge compartmentalized sand area. I couldn’t really see anything down there and he was gone for a while, but luckily he came back without any major scars and seemed to have had a good time. Wow, this thing sure was cool.

5PM: A Shopping Trip

I decide to make myself useful and head to the store to buy stuff to make dinner tonight. We spied a Whole Foods on an earlier exploration, so I decide to go there. This place was like the Whole Foods back home except it was expensive. That may come as a shock, considering Whole Foods back home is called Whole Paycheck by those in the know, but the one back home now seems like a Canned Food Warehouse. So this place had 3 floors, with a top floor consisting of a huge high-end food gallery. It had a sushi bar, a dim sum bar, an oyster bar, a noodle bar, tapas, and a fancy place to snuggle up to someone special. I left after waiting around for 20 minutes for someone who didn’t think I was a deadbeat. You could get everything there to go (“take-away”) or eat it there. Posh! I somehow managed to get 3 or 4 things on my list of 20 needs and, lo and behold, there were 30 check-out counters. Oh baby! You stand in one cental Queue (line) and then a number pops up telling you which check stand is free. Someone in England has their thinking cap on!!!

I generally look sweaty and confused on the way home which of course everyone else takes as a sign that I am a local and proceed to ask me for directions. That’s fine. I gave directions without guilt as you should never take directions from someone whose fake British accent is as bad as mine (imagine Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins mixed with a little Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot).

After spending $50 on some pasta and sauce, and a few other things like Newcastle, (suck it Daniel) I head back to prepare the evening meal while Amy is finishing up her work calls back to the states. (In case Amy’s boss is reading th
is, this was around midnight, and Amy only took 3 hours to sleep before waking up and working some more). In our apartment, we have what can only be called a murphy kitchen.
It does not physically fold down from the wall, but it is easily hidden by folding doors and has as much room to work in as a car ashtray. If you want to live like I do (and I know you do!) the next time you cook something, try preparing your meal with your elbows in your pockets.

I cook up the sausages and red sauce and then try to get the water to boil for the pasta. And try. And try. Our “burners” are more like electric blankets and slowly, they heat the water to a temperature suitable for an evening swim. Deciding that pasta will not cook in lukewarm water, I spring into action and use the electric water kettle (used for making tea) to pour scalding water over the still hard pasta. This actually works after an hour or so, and we all sat down to a healthy, hearty meal, with which we enjoyed Malcolm’s Spanish wine. Yum! Amy gave it 3 Gilmore Girls on account of it not having any flavor but considering it was edible, I gave it the full 5 chicken wings. After we put away the dishes (read= threw them into the Murphy kitchen and slammed the doors shut before they could fall back out) we sipped wine, ate Belgian chocolates and watched an episode of the British version of the office. Amy, demonstrating her ease with the British accent and odd colloquialisms, made me turn on the English subtitles. All in all, quite a nice evening.

Day 6: Traveling to London

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

This next part is a very long, very sad tale of our trip from Bruges to London. We loved Bruges and will remember our Saturday there for a very long time. I must warn you, however, the following travel tale is long, filled with mistakes and missteps, and is a sad testament to Amy and I’s lack of basic intelligence. If you are tired of me telling stories about things that go wrong (which I definitely am by now) skip this post. If you enjoy hearing about what total losers Amy and I are, or enjoy seeing me fail at things, read on. This will make you very, very happy.

9:30 AM: Already late

I emerge from my brief slumber to hear Malcolm crying and the jets in the bathtub on. I look at my watch. Shit! I look at it again and wipe the remnants of last night’s tossing and turning from my eyes. Shit! Shit! Shit! It was already 9:30 and we needed to check out by 10 in order to make the hour or so journey from Bruges to Dunkerque to get on a ferry for our English Channel crossing. I stumble though the door to the bathroom and tell Amy we gotta jet and get outta there. I made Malcolm his early AM bottle (yes, he still enjoys a bottle, we may try to wean him from it after we get back), and try to download directions to Dunkerque from Yahoo. I then throw everything in the wrong suitcase (I tried to put Malcolm in a backpack by accident at one point) and then save the driving instructions onto Amy’s hard drive as we pile out to the car. Amy heads down to check out, waits behind some tourists who want to talk to the innkeeper about every chocolate store in the village (remember, there are 250,000 of them) and finally is able to check out and gets some “supplementary” directions.

10:20 AM: Auto Racing

We take off from the hotel, and I am auditioning to be the stunt driver in the next French Connection movie. The tires are roaring over the cobblestone as I make the engine scream, popping in and out of gears through the city. We get out of the village and race to the expressway. The first thing that Amy was able to do with the directions on her hard drive is to promptly erase them. Completely. (Or, as she claims, “they just disappeared!”) All that she could access was a low resolution 2 inch by 2 inch map of Belgium. Dunkirk is pronounced Kortrijk in Belgium, or so the innkeeper (not the one who gave us dinner suggestions) told us, so when we see signs for Krotijk, we follow the signs. It is a cloudy dreary day, so there is no sun to help lead us in the right direction. No matter, we are comfortably on our way and making good time. Towards what, I cannot say.

11 AM: The Bottom Falls Out

Amy makes a semi-startling declaration. “Um, I think we have been going south.” This is indeed a case for concern because Dunkerque, or “Dunkerque “ as the Belgians really call it, was northwest. That’s right, the innkeeper screwed us and sent us on a recherche folle d’oies. I drop about 15 F-bombs and shake the steering wheel like it was the inventor of the Scandinavian Nasty. We can longer see any signs on the roads with towns we can see on the 2×2. I inform Amy that she is fired as the navigator. Amy, is nonplussed with my misdirected anger and world war 3 breaks out in the car (interestingly enough only about 150 KM from Normandy!) After a truce is called, Amy agrees to provide navigational services on an interim basis and gets us pointed in the right direction. I redouble my efforts, and make like a bolt of lightning across the Belgian countryside. What’s that ahead? cieux à mergatroy! It’s a sign for Dunkerque! I get excited and take the 6 speed to new heights while alternating between 160 KM/hr and slamming on breaks for roundabouts. We tear through the countryside knowing that I booked at 12 noon ferry for a reduced rate which cannot be transferred, so if we miss this thing, we may have to pay for a whole new ferry (upwards of $350).

12 Noon: All Hope is Lost

I realize that we can never make our ferry. So, we get to France (Dunkerque is in France) and, nothing. No checkpoint, no armed guards, nobody stopping us from importing boxes of white Zin. Christ, even California has a checkpoint to enter (you dirty Nevadans, keep your crappy Oranges and Almonds outta here!). Oh well, god bless the EU and we make our way to the docks. Upon arrival, we see the ferry, our ferry, sailing off into the distance (OK, so not sailing, but its sounds more poetic, eh?) We get to the ferry entry and they have the license plate number for the rental car on file, so the man at the gate immediately knows that we are late. He says, OK, you will have to take ze next one OK? OK?! You bet your sweet bippy that’s OK. I love him and he didn’t even know who we were! (He later found out because we had to give him our passports). I can breathe again! We eat lunch in the terminal buildings, and learn that the butter, ham and cheese baguettes are good even when prepared by Dock People. There is even a little play area for malkie to enjoy while we wait. This is not the play area, but fun nonetheless! I finally get a cup of coffee and try to pick myself up. Sometimes I get really stressed out (and I put my fingers in my armpits and smell em like this!), but this time, it was for nothing. I wish we would have known this so I wouldn’t have had to tell Amy all those hurtful things and she wouldn’t have had to punch me in the nuts.

2 PM: On Board

We entered the Maersk Dansk (Danish for “floating parking lot”) and holey canoley, this thing is amazing. This ship is the nicest thing I have ever seen. I have seen nice things before too, so let me tell you, this is quite a compliment. The interior is super clean, super nice and super plush. It has 4 restaurants (one is a buffet,) 3 bars, slot machines, duty free store and, best of all, a kids play area! Malcolm has the time of his life playing with kids from all over the world in the Lil’ Nippers room. I sit by a table enjoying the wireless internet (trying to figure out how to drive from Dover, where our ferry lands, to our hotel in London) while Malcolm engages in what is most generously described as a free for all rugby match. 2 Scottish Bruiser kids and 1 Irish Hellian (Sammy) ran around tackling themselves, each other, and anyone in their way. The other kids, Malkie included, fed off of this energy and a general riot breaks out. Kids were somersaulting all over the place, like a wild wes
t stunt show. I saw Malcolm get pushed down, yet have the perseverance to scissor kick his aggressor (a 5 year old girl with the devil in her eyes) in the stomach. I later saw Malcolm bear hug a 1 year old to the ground and lie on her smothering her. I finish up with the directions, (we don’t need a map, all we need to do is take the m20 to the A20 and then follow the signs to the A3220!) and watch the free-for-all first hand.

I have to tell you, traveling makes you self-conscious. I don’t want to be the stereotypical Americans with their wild child baby, so it was refreshing to see kids from other parts of the world misbehave so badly. Suddenly, we got nuttin to worry about. These kids were acting out, slapping, kicking and biting. I just wish they weren’t all doing it to me! One Sammy, was especially noteworthy. This kid will make Hanibal Lecter look like Mr. Rogers when all is said and done. A nice little girl is minding her own business? He plows into her. Malcolm is enjoying the toys in the room, he plows into him and plays with those same toys. Another boy, is playing quietly in the back and laughs? Sammy barrels into him, and then bites him on the hand. Yowser, glad he’s not my kid!

We headed outside and wandered the decks some before we get to Dover. The air is refreshing (and not cold!) and we marveled a bit at the English Channel. We then play ring around the rosey a bunch and everyone laughs a lot. Except for Amy’s pants. They were not amused, since they had dark black stains on the rump. Amy exclaims “why do I let you talk me into these things” for the 40th time this trip.

3pm: Britain Baby (Oh Behave!)

With a new found sense of vigor after the 2 hour trip (and one hour time change), we head off into the British countryside, noticing the white cliffs of dover off to the side. Our new sense becomes our old sense, when I get off on the A20, and its starts to head south. Wait, London is still to the north, so this does not make any sense. We get back on to the freeway and I now want to shoot myself for writing the directions to the hotel on an empty page of my $7 book instead of buying an atlas of Europe or printing out directions ahead of time. I ask god again to strike me down and end it all, but no bolt of lightning emerges. I am tired of this.

We continue on and luckily there is another A20 exit! And another one after that, and another one after that and many more to spare! WHY IS EVERY FUCKIN’ EXIT ON THIS ROAD FOR A20?!?!?! I try to curl up in the fetal position, but the seatbelt is too tight. Amy is able to make out another 2×2 on the computer and gets us pointed to heathrow airport. We worry about running into Wales after a while, I finally pull over and buy a map. Not too bad, certainly not as bad as we thought, there are several roads that lead into the part of London we are staying, so this shouldn’t be too bad. Also, the rest stop has a playground and Malcolm gets to play a little on some stuff.

4:30 The Road To London

For a while, the road to London is nice, a lane divided highway that moves smoothly. It trims down to 2 lanes, the divider then disappears and then we are left with a small street in the middle of the London suburbs, complete with buses, traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. No matter, its only 12 km to our hotel!

This was absurd and I am ashamed to admit that’s what I thought. For those of you in the bay area, it is like taking El Camino Real from San Jose to San Francisco. For those who aren’t imagine driving up and down on the busiest street in your town for, oh around an hour and a half. I repeat my English driving mantra (stay to the left, look to the right) while swerving this way and that trying to avoid the stable of cars, buses, motorcycles and bikes trying to slam into the side of us. What are they Kamikaze drivers trying to keep the Americans out? We go off the map a few times, but generally keep making progress. At one point we laughed, but mostly we whimpered quietly to ourselves. Malcolm is starting to get upset, as well. Amy is rehired full time as co-pilot when she successfully gets us to the hotel, or at least where I thought our hotel was.

Amy walked into the John Howard Hotel/Apartments hoping to stop the bleeding and allow us to finally relax. Not surprisingly, they told her that our reservation was canceled. I make like James T. Kirk and look to the skies yelling “Kahn!!!!!!!!!!!) It’s not that I wanted to die, only that I didn’t want to continue living anymore. Not this way, this is no longer something funny to blog about, this is something to throw into the toilet and walk away from never to re-experience. Full of piss and vinegar, (and sweat and tears) I grab my laptop and head into the hotel to show them my email confirmation.

When I pull up my reservation from my email, however, I find the last email from the booking agency, informing me they had canceled my reservation at the John Howard and rebooked at the Fraser Place. Oops my bad. (I would have told Amy I was sorry if she would only speak to me!) Luckily, it was just around the corner, so we repack into the car (I had the foresight to think that something must go wrong before we unpack) and head off to a part of the map the desk clerk at the John Howard had circled. They couldn’t tell me exactly where this place was, but only a general area. Finally, finally, finally, after all the shit I put us through today, we roll up to our hotel.

To no one’s surprise, the entire building was covered by scaffolding.

7pm: We Have Arrived

They do have our reservation, though, and we have a place to stay in London! Kensington, to be more precise. Just south of Hyde Park in Queensbridge. I lug our stuff up the stairs (this is an apartment and hence no porter) and we park on the street, deciding to put off finding a proper parking spot for tomorrow. The cabbies here sure are grouchy when you pull out in front of them because you are looking left and not right! We have a casual dinner and return to the apartment to collapse. Actually, the apartment is quite nice. It has upstairs sleeping areas, a downstairs
living area and has been refurbished.
Since Malcolm finally will be in a different room tonight, I really hope he will sleep well. If he doesn’t, I am going to leave him somewhere on one of the A20’s that we passed. No one will ever find him…

Day 5- The Best of Bruges

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Wow! Bruges is fantastic. We spent the day wandering around look at all the quaint little scenery. Bruges is an exceptional mixture of splendid buildings, greenery, canals and tour groups. The city is a network of cobblestone avenues, and when combined with the period houses and buildings, it makes for a great day strolling. Malcolm may not share our love of the cobblestone, for he spent a lot of time in the stroller and the cobblestone pavement left his teeth in a constant state of chattering.

7:30 AM: WAKEUP!

The day did begin on a somewhat jolting note, as the phone rang at 7:30 breaking everyone’s peaceful slumber. This was no polite “ring ring” though as the phone emitted some sort of shrill fog blast. After last night’s 10k, I was unable to rouse myself out of bed. Amy, however, hating to see our quiet chamber interrupted, flew across the room and, instead of answering the phone, ripped all of the phone chords out of the wall. Go Wils! I was a little nervous that it was Interpol on the line investigating a series of jelly thefts from the restaurants we had visited, but they never called back (or more appropriately, we never plugged the phone back in).

Amy and Malkie took a bath, while I rested up. I have begun preparations for my upcoming life as a Parisian and ceased any sort of bathing, so we head off for breakfast in a little square outside a church. While dining on eggs and croissants and coffee, a group of Chinese tourists strolls by and one of the tourists started to take pictures of Malcolm! He must be a famous Chinese celebrity by now (for those who we haven’t kept up with, we went to China a few months ago and the Chinese loved Malcolm and took pictures/video of him everyone we went). After 20 or so pictures, the man wandered off to rejoin his group. It was really too bad that Malcolm had a piece of bacon stuck to the side of his mouth in every one of the pictures. It is quite possible though, that pictures of eating babies are more valuable in china: 10 Yuan for a picture of a baby, 50 Yuan for a picture of a blonde baby smiling, and 500 Yuan for a picture of a blonde baby with pork products dangling from his extremities.

11AM: A long stroll

After breakfast we head out to stroll past some of the most beautiful parts of the city. We passed a frites/waffle place that we decide to go back to later for a snack, it was right next to the chocolate store and around the corner from the lace shop. Anyone who knows Bruges knows that this description is absurd, for there are (by Constitutional Mandate) approximately 250,000 chocolate/lace stores in Bruges. After seeing so many stores, I have figured out how to operate a successful chocolate shop around here. Negotiate good rent. That’s the only way, for there are far too many stores that sell exactly the same stuff, and the lines in all of them looked the same.

We putzed around the village and took in the various sites to see. We did not take a tour, however, and most of what we saw had little historical/cultural significance, but was charming to look at. Here I am wondering if the columns behind me were ancient Roman, Greek or just Belgian. During our stroll, we had the occasion to walk past the restaurant where I was denied access to the “toilit” last night. The waiter was in front picking his nose!!! I was going to ask whether that was a restaurant or a booger bar, but my sense of modesty carried the day. Speaking of modesty, here is some more Belgian modesty!

In case you can’t read this, it says “Probably the Best Pita in Town”. (They were just OK)

4PM: Sweet paradise

After naps for everyone, we headed to the Museum of Chocolate, or Chocostory. Get it, they replace HIStory which CHOCOstory. MMM good.

That is the world’s biggest chocolate egg. Suck on that Mr. Cadbury! Once again, the temperature rose with every floor we went up, so we were pretty much flying by the end of the tour. We did learn some fun facts about chocolate though. The word chocolate comes from the indigenous tribal words Kakawa and Atl. Say it 10 times fast and you see how the word chocolate was formed. (Not really). I would have learned which primitive tribe this came from, except this part of the tour was on the top floor and could only pause for a few moments. They used to prescribe chocolate and red meat for fatigue and it was believed the way to a healthier liver was to ingest cocoa with pepper. Don’t know about the last one, but the next time I am feeling run down, I am gonna top that hot dog with some hersheys. We also learned that there is a choco fairy in ancient lore. Amy was pretty excited about this prospect, so when we got back to the room, she yanked out one of Malkie’s teeth and put it under the pillow to bring about a visit from the fairy. (I didn’t think this was going to work, but am not crazy enough to stand between Amy and some chocolate). Incidentally, they sell indigenous tribal hash pipes in the museum. I love Europe!

After this museum, there was really nothing else to do except enjoy a chocolate covered waffle, so we headed off to search for a Schnack. On the way, we passed by a little boy singing out international hits by the side of a church. He was very cute, but too cute. Think John Tesh as an 8 year old who enters beauty pagents. He already had the voice of a lounge singer, so the singing was a bit shocking. Especially shocking was his rendition of “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease, wherein he kept saying, “better shape up…cause I need a man.” It’s a good thing the NAMBLA convention is not in town. I tried to get some video of it all, but he stopped and then took a break. Isn’t the whole point of child exploitation (his dad was accompanying him on the keyboard) was t
o work little kids into the ground for 18 hours a day? Oh well, maybe we’ll see him later.

Looking for our waffle Schnack we kept seeing signs in restaurants for various snacks. The funny thing is that the “snacks” they listed were omelets and spaghetti. Next time you are in the mood for a nice afternoon snack, why not cook up a plate of pasta?! We eventually found our waffle place (maybe not our waffle place, just A waffle place) and ordered one of these for each of us:

How could I have not eaten this before? I have wasted my entire trip dining on sandwiches and things, when I should have just eaten these tasty morsels the whole time. We have a hard time talking while eating, they were so good, and I just wanted to rock back and forth humming to myself. Malcolm enjoyed it just as much as we did.

After emerging from our sugar coma, we decide to actually buy some chocolate in a store. We had a recommendation from the hotel for a specific place (in which we were served by someone who looked suspiciously like the sister of the desk person at our hotel) and we got there and needed to bring home some stuff. Choosing chocolates in a chocolate store in Bruges is very easy. All you need to do is ask the person to fill up a small box with some of the 843 different kinds of chocolate available. I was instantly overwhelmed and used the phrase “how ‘bout some of these” about 13 times. I eventually gave up and filled out my order with two boxes of pre-arranged selections. All in all, quite cheap, as we paid about 20 Euros for approximately 16 pounds of chocolate.

The waffles have ruined Amy’s brain! In response to my musings about what they call Swiss Army Knife stores in Switzerland, she replied “Freedom stores!” and then proceeded to announce that a group of ducks was called the “All Male Duck Club.” It’s a good thing she doesn’t need to work today. Except if her boss is reading this, Amy was never really with Malcolm and I, she was in the room working even though it is a Saturday.

Malcolm delighted us by playing at the park, chasing ducks, going down slides and generally being smiley. He also has a trash clean up fetish, in which he picks up garbage on the ground, takes it to a trash can, throws it away and then runs off applauding himself. Well, at least he has one career path available.

Yuck! On the way to dinner, we went by an outdoor fish market. As we strolled by I saw a Danish couple by one of the stalls. The woman picked up a fish about 8 inches long, dangled it over her head, and then promptly lowered the fish into her mouth and bit the head off of it. It was, quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever seen, and have vowed to never witness the “Scandinavian Nasty” again.

7pm: Dinner

We had a great meal at a place that was not touristy! The hotel recommended it, and there didn’t appear to be any relatives working that night. We sat outside, I had beef tournados in béarnaise sauce and Amy had something called Sea Wolf. Sea wolf is a whitefish and is not to be confused with Air Wolf, or cuttlefish a la Jan Michael Vincent, named after the most famous dutch actor in history. I loved my beef, although it may have been because I had it with a glass of red wine, Merlot no less! Malcolm ate a lot of fish, I couldn’t go near him afterwards.

After dinner we crashed back at the room, and Malcolm proceeded to wake up wailing at 10, 12 and 1:30. I am convinced that our neighbors think we beat him savagely every night. I wasn’t in the mood to see the sights tonight, so I kept loading him up with milk. I think the milk may be a bit sugary here, for Malcolm squealed in delight as he scissor kicked mommy in the head about 30 to 40 times at one point. He finally went to sleep, but I battled insomnia thinking he would wake up again. I did some more reading in the bathtub (I gotta try this thing with water in it sometime, or better yet, white beer!) and listening to classical music and David Sedaris on my Ipod. In case you are ever in this same situation a word of advice. There are many different types of classical music, it is not all slow and boring. As I was drifting off at one point, the music played during the boat crash scene in Caddyshack, played with loud crashing cymbals, string and drums. I leave you as I was left, drifting off to meet the Chocofairy:

dunt dunt diddle diddle, dunt dunt diddle diddle, dunt dunt diddle diddle loo,

[slightly higher pitch] dunt dunt diddle diddle, dunt dunt diddle diddle, [increasingly lower]dunt dadadunt dadadun,

dunt dunt diddle diddle, dunt dunt diddle diddle, dunt dunt diddle diddle loo,

[higher again] Dunt dunt dunta dunta dunt dunt Dunt dada dunt da da dun.

It will be interesting if anyone can get the song without knowing the reference to caddyshack. let me know if you do!! I swore to god that I heard the theme from the bad news bears after this, but it just may be our new theme song running through my head.

Day 4 – The Road to Bruges

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized


8AM: The airing of grievances

Having awakened in somewhat of a fog after last night’s fiasco, I am a tad grumpy. I decide that we have finished our stay in what must be the world’s worst hotel room (for us). Let me start by saying that in many respects we are not high maintenance people. However, when we travel it is very important to us that Malcolm not be able to see or hear us during the night. If Malkie can see or hear us, he will generally wake up in the night and demand that he be allowed to sleep in our bed. He sleeps in his crib in his room at home, so this is quite a disruption to everyone involved. At the Radisson SAS, there was no place to put the crib except at the foot of the bed. I got creative and hung a blanket over the side of a couple of chairs to at least block his sight.

(I am sure that the hotel staff felt that we were turning our room into a trailer home, but vous devez faire ce que vous devez faire). This did nothing however, for the various noises which can be heard in our room at night, so Malcolm kept waking up and wailing about how mean we were as parents. I blame the room for Malcolm’s lack of sleep (and my subsequent workout). By the way, I have given up trying to get the pictures on either the right or left with typing next to them. Let me know if this presents a problem.

I am also irritated (literally!) by the towels at the hotel. These things are brutal. Imagine 200 count cement, with sandpaper borders. I’ve never exfoliated while drying off, but I guess the maids must be used to cleaning all the dead skin off the bathroom floors at this place. Speaking of the maids, they are the best thing about the hotel. They are warm, friendly and always smiling, even when they abruptly throw open the door at 8AM when you are in plain view in your underwear working on your computer. Isn’t there some rule about knocking? I know that you are all grossed out to learn that I sometimes work on my Blog in my underwear, but hey, wouldn’t it be worse to learn that I also work on it while on the toilet? Not saying I do, just letting you know that it could be worse.

Malcolm and I head out to buy some souvenirs (most of them replicas showing a little boy peeing). How is that legal? Customs may stop me upon arriving back to US, so I will delete the pictures of Ricky Schroeder ala Silver Spoons off my laptop before coming home. Malcolm napped while I pack up the room and prepare to leave. Given our organizational skills and general level of cleanliness, it only takes 2.5 hours to pack up our room. No, no hostility towards Amy here (I later find her in the lobby talking to anybody she can find to avoid having to go up to the room. Alas, it is time to leave Brussels and head to Brugge for the weekend. But how will we get there?

1 PM: the ordeal in getting the rental car

I wasn’t 100% sure that our car rental reservation was at Hertz Lemonnier location in Brussels, but the Hertz Belgium brochure only listed 2 locations and Lemonnier sounded right. Besides Aaron the waffle king reserved his car there too, and we wanted to go where the cool kids get their cars. So it was a bit surprising to learn that we had no reservation at the Hertz counter when we arrived there. They were quick to inform me that we had a cancelled reservation, but nothing current, and since we would be returning the car to Switzerland, they were unwilling to send any of their cars into the world with us. I told them that I had 2 reservations, one for a green car and one for a air-conditioned car (which ran on baby seal blood and ozone). I canceled the air-conditioned car (after seeing an inconvenient truth) but I should still have one reservation, so I asked them to call the other hertz locations and check to see if they had anything. (I also asked if they had an internet connection so that I could show them the reservation, but having seen the NAMBLA sticker on my backpack, they weren’t too eager to let me on their computer). After still not finding my reservation, I asked if there was an excelsior location (a named that popped into my head after 25 minutes of hand wringing and sweating. Luckily they spoke English so no clucking was needed). The man behind the counter’s eyes bulged “YES!” and quickly called them and confirmed our car, and let us know that they would be able to give us the car, so that we didn’t need to traipse all over Brussels looking for another Hertz location. Meanwhile the Waffle King, who was only hanging around to show us the way back to the hotel, was growing tired of the Amy & Paul show (well, of me really). So he brings a car forward, and we had reserved a full size car, and this was definitely short of full size. I ask about larger cars and they look at me like I had kissed his sister. “Oh yes, dis is de biggest auto we have, you may check in ze garage if you like.” Later, when I did check it out, I saw that 98% of the cars there were about the size a golf cart. They were indeed that this car was the Goliath of the lot.

This is the car, I am pretty sure that those scratches on the door were there when we got the car. At least, I don’t remember hitting anything…. We are going to drive the shit out of this car! Finally we get the car, and the Waffle King leads us back to the hotel, which explains why, when I don’t like the lane that he is in, I take off and go my own way. After I was about to get lost, Aaron shows up out of nowhere and leads us back into the path of righteousness. How he knew which way we would go is beyond me, he must have some secret powers. Either that, or he could hear Amy’s squeals of delight while annihilating her ham and butter and cheese sandwich and caught up to us. We finally are able to leave Brussels and make our way to Brugge. I have seen many spellings of this place (Brouge, Brugge, Bruges, I think that the pronunciation is Broooz
h. It is definitely not Bruggies! though, which I have done in order to show my excitement at going there.

4 PM: the ordeal in getting into Brugge

We make it unscathed off the expressway and begin to head to Brugge proper. Only, that is the precise moment that my copilot starts to take naps during the navigation. Perhaps that is why the declaration that we need to find N397 comes just after having passed that specific road. No matter, it only takes 45 minutes to get back in the right direction passing through a construction site.

Anyone who has been to Bruges knows that the city map looks like a spider web of streets, canals and horse droppings. Not surprisingly, we miss the first street in the city centre and promptly start driving in the direction of Spain. When we finally make it back to the city centre, Amy pops out and gets directions from a Scotsman who is relaxing in the tourist office. A sequence of turns resembling the Punch Out! boxing video game (left, right, right, left, right, body blow!?) After 15 turns, we roll into the hotel parking lot. Wow! A Ferrari is parked here. Things are looking up.

The room is amazing. Very nicely done, mixing classy and rustic.

Not sure what Amy had planned for her pants, but trust me, they stayed on! The bonus is that they are definitely ready for Malcolm, there is a huge crib and lots of teddy bears for him to play with. Plus they left a complimentary bottle of his favorite Spanish wine, so that was a nice touch too. There isn’t, however, any place to hide the crib away from us, so I am concerned about Malcolm’s ability to sleep.

We head out in a light rain and can’t decide whether we want dinner or fries (frites) and waffles (Amy is jonesing for a waffle after my description). Life is weird though, as for the second time while in Belgium I am unable to find a waffle while looking for one. We decide to just eat dinner instead, and found a table outdoors on a neat square. I am totally addicted to eating outside and wonder whether I will ever be able to go back to the US. While ordering God’s gift to us (Hoegaarden Wit Bier), the waiter asks if want small medium or HUGE! Well guess which one I got?

We have a less than satisfactory meal (who cares though when the beer is good) and chase Malkie around the square. He plays with the birds in the square (I worry about the day when he will actually catch one!), plays duck duck goose with some kids sitting down eating their dinner. He is quite funny when he adds a new trick to his repertoire.

However, the litre of beer I just drank (and half of Amy’s “Medium”) needs to find a new home, and I don’t think I can make it back to the hotel. I dove into one of the many restaurants in the square, but am corralled by two or three waiters before I get inside. I ask if I can use their restroom, and they look at me as if I had asked to sleep with the cook. The response from the lead waiter was that “this is a restaurant masseur, not a toilit. Try the public toilit across the square.” Ouch! I think of a million different comebacks but all that comes out is “OK.” Modesty wins the day again and I leave with my tail between my legs and go back to our restaurant and j’urine comme une mere.

1:30 AM: Malcolm wails again

Damn, he is not sleeping again. I get up and decide that I will put him in the stroller again, and hope that he will fall asleep while I walk. If I keep this up, I will lose weight on the french fry diet! We load up and head out into the Belgian night. I walk along the canal, hoping the water will have a calming effect. It is very quiet except for the occasional car or couple strolling home for the evening. There is a light mist, and the wind blows through the trees like breathe whistling through Dutch teeth. The silence is pierced by what must have been a huge Flemish Canal Monster splashing around down beneath us. I quickly turn back and head down a small alleyway when “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT???!!!” I hear a rustling sound off to the left. I am now sure I am going to die a grizzly unpleasant death in the world’s cutest, most charming city. I immediately head to a nearby church hoping to ward off the evil sprits which are swirling about my head. I used to fall asleep in church a lot and I hope that some of this will rub off on Malcolm, so I circle the church 5 or 6 times to no avail. After another 2 miles of walking I get sick and tired of being a parent and ask the devil to strike me down right then to get it over with. I knew I wasn’t going to die when I heard Bob Dylan’s “the Time’s they are Changing” coming from a nearby neighborhood tavern. I return to the room and Malcolm promptly falls asleep. I am more than amped up after the exercise/running from certain death, so I decide to do some reading. I sure as heck wasn’t gonna wake up anyone in the bedroom, so I sat in an empty bathtub in a robe and pajamas and almost finished my $7 book before finally falling asleep. I hope Bruggies is worth dying for.


Day 3- It was the Best of Brussels and the Worst of Nights

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Sorry for the delay, you’ll see why in the days to come!!!


7 AM: The Hotel Breakfast Area

Malcolm actually wakes up in time for us to head down to the complimentary breakfast area. I consider myself somewhat of a breakfast area connoisseur, so I am delighted to add another area to my book. WOW! This place was great! (By the place was great I mean they had one amazing kind of cheese). It’s called Maredsous. It was sliced, had orangish edges and was moist and buttery. Not moist and buttery like a buttered piece of toast. Think more like a croissant drowned in movie theater butter. I tried to rub this stuff straight into my gums at one point. A little embarrassing, but hey cet homme aime son fromage!!! I watered down my cheese orgy after a bit by placing some more cheese on top of a yummy crusty wheat roll and then placed 2 kinds of ham on top of the cheese. Topped it off with a little soft cheese (butter seemed too decadent) and voila, a sandwich! I love Brussels. Malcolm gives the breakfast room 3.5 pieces of cheese (ironic that he uses his favorite food cheese as the scale for rating cheese) as he eats pineapple, strawberry, a fruit yogurt oats mixture (which I aptly named yummy pig slop), 2 kinds of cheese, turkey and apple juice. He ate a lot.

It was 22 degrees Celsius today. I don’t know what the fuck that means. Sometimes in foreign countries I feel like the Catholic at the Methodist potlock. Awkward! Malcolm and I hit the cobblestone in search of some fun travel experiences. That hope fades when we wind up in what appeared to be the red light district. I turn around before becoming something called a “Dutch Treat.” We ate lunch at a little Greek food place. After eating a lamb gyro I have definitely come to the conclusion that we need more Greek people in the US serving up tasty and cheap vittles.

We then head to one of the most famous landmarks in all of Brussels. A fountain consisting of a small boy taking a piss. That is literally what it is called (Manneke Piss). I thought that the Belgians thought this type of activity was openly acceptable, so when I stripped Malcolm down naked and held him in front of the pissing boy (trying to get him to reproduce the scene) I was met with jeers and whistles. Humpf, I guess they can’t take a naked toddler joke here after all. Small cultural differences are often the most interesting. I guess I won’t go after the funnier picture which would have been me washing my face in the urine stream.

2PM: Afternoon delight

Next we took a quick break from eating to go to the Museum of comic strips, or the Belgisch Centrum van het Beeldverhaal. I “try” to act stupid like I don’t know that I need to pay, but the comic strip museum police quickly tracked us down and make us fork over the 5 Euros to attend. This is a neat place where they trace the history of comic strips, demonstrate how comic strips are made, and generally make you perspire. I am not saying I always need air conditioning, but each floor (there were 4 floors in all) became progressively hotter. By the time I reached the top floor, I no longer cared a l’âne du rat about the variety of different types of comics or their place in history. I just wanted to stop sweating. I should have found it interesting that the Smurfs (Les Schtrumpfs) were created in 1958 in a comic strip. But they could have showed Smurfs smurfing each other’s brains out, and I wouldn’t have stopped. Tin Tin is one of the most popular comic strips in the history of humanity, but I have no idea what is, what it’s about or when it ran because I couldn’t breathe and the walls were starting to close in. I did stop to read the Beetle Bailey strips though. That Beetle, he’s so silly. The one thing I was able to take away from the whole experience was the exclamatives used in comics in Europe: Plouf! (Zow!) Plotch (Bang), Pang! (Pop) and Hep! (although I am fairly certain this a racial slur against the Luxembergers). This picture is me with a statute of the famous Belgian comic star Captain Sous-Vêtements hell bent on ridding the world of Jock Itch.

We needed a little pick me up after the comic book sauna, so the obvious choice was to track down one of those waffles. Oh my god!!! I quickly lose interest in both the sandwich and the computer, the waffle is the lovetoy for me. It immediately made me ecstatic to be alive and Malcolm and I floated around for about 30 minutes with a cherub choir ringing in our ears. Imagine a Krispy Kreme donut with a crispy crust and a chewy interior. And its sweeter and has a sugary glaze. My eyes drop to half mast just thinking about it now. The sugar high dissipated though, and we soon found ourselves lying on the street in a puddle of our own mess, weeping and moaning for love lost. We lurched back up and headed back for a nap when I heard a passerby mention a Dutch treat.

7PM: last night in Brussels

We had a really nice evening sitting outside on the cobblestones, each having a pizza and enjoying the beer again. We had blondes (a kind of beer) and then chased Malcolm around the alleyways of the old town area. He is fun to watch in public, he plays with grown ups, other kids and himself. We watched as he marched up to the polite little man playing Take me Home, Country Road on his guitar and then proceeded to stand in front of the man, clapping. He cracked the man up! There were some other strange musical sounds emanating from the streets as well: an oompa street band played on a corner and did the lambada. (Well, they didn’t do it, they just played it). Also, I felt a certain quaintness when the accordion player walked down the streets filling the air with the sound of years gone by. Then I realized he was playing Fernando by ABBA and some of the moment was lost. Alas, our time in Brussels was coming to an end.

Except Malcolm, for all his qualities, decided that he was not going to sleep that night. Amy had her presentation at the conference the next day, so I needed to take Malcolm out of the room at 2 AM to try to get him to fall asleep in the stroller, (we have NEVER had to do this with him before). I wasn’t going to risk becoming a Dutch Treat, so I stuck to the inside of the hotel, doing laps on the 6th Floor of the Radisson SAS. After 7 laps I decided to count the number of steps I made during each lap and found that each lap around the floor took around 225 steps, each roughly equivalent to a yard. Luckily Malcolm fell asleep after 17 laps (around 2 miles). I hope you understand I use the word luckily in the most sarcastic way possible there (I was pissed!) At least I burned enough calories that night to try another waffle later on in the trip. I collapsed into bed and was hounded in my sleep by a giant raging sandwich claiming I was cheating on it and threatening to cut the icing off of the waffle…

Day 1: Getting There

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Uncategorized

Day 1: 7 PM Airport Stories

We are packed and at the airport, ready to kick this trip in the nuts. We got to the airport a mere 4 hours before our flight (part of that out of a desire to allow Malcolm to eat dinner and then play some at the airport and part my getting the departure time wrong). Malcolm loved the moving walkways and he got a little over excited and fell flat on his face after getting off one. When I got him up, he had blood all over his face! Here’s a pic

A little on the tame side, but mommy cleaned him up before I could get a good picture. Amy gets the responsible parenting award today. (I however, get the pudding!)

Exchanged my old Chinese money today for Euros at the SF airport. I gave them a modest Chinese fortune and in return I received 22 Euros. Never again will I use the money changers at the airport! I am pretty sure I’m paraphrasing one of the stories about Jesus in the bible there, someone let me know the book and verse.

Day 1: 10pm Airplane Stories

So, we got on the plane with our 147 pieces of luggage and I went to get my book out of my computer backpack and realized I couldn’t find my computer backpack! Shit!

Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! I went to the front of the plane to see if they had it, but hadn’t seen it. Amy rolled her eyes and laughed at me, this being a family trait to lose stuff only when it suddenly has importance. Went back to the front of the plane, but still no luck. Then they closed the doors of the plane for departure, but instead of making silly hand gestures to demonstrate the safety exits on the plane, the flight attendant opened EVERY SINGLE OVERHEAD COMPARTMENT IN OUR SECTION OF THE PLANE (to see if someone had mistakenly moved it). No, nothing embarrassing about that, since everyone was just watching me, waiting for the plane to leave. After I had made enuff ruckus, I resigned myself to having lost my computer, IPOD and $7 book for the trip. After looking underneath the seat in front of me for the 23rd time, I suddenly realized that my computer backpack was in the row in front of us. A school teacher (chaperoning 250 little band geeks on a European swing) had “accidentally” moved it there, and I guess was too blind to see me rampaging through the cabin. So I found my computer, while also declaring war on all teachers. Down with teachers!!!! Phew, had sex with my computer in sheer joy. Well, we didn’t have sex but did everything but.

During my computer fiasco, we realized that the person who was supposed to sit between Amy and I had been moved. At that point, I was sitting in the empty seat (in the middle of the row instead of my actual seat on the aisle). Just after I realized this, a giant hulk of a man plops down next to me and says, “mind if I sit here? I really need an aisle seat.” He was probably 6’10” and weighed about 40 tons, no lie. To make it worse, he is wearing a Padres hat!!!! No way I am gonna sit there listening to him play hells bells on his IPOD and talk about fish tacos and immigration reform. I wanted to say F You, get the hell away from me you galoot but made some sort of joke about no one ever wanting to move closer to a crying baby before. On cue, Malcolm erupts into tears (love him!) and then I ask the galoot to stand up 4 TIMES while I look for my computer. The big oaf sees the next 12 hours being more like a proctology exam than a flight, and finds another seat. Result! (I think that last expletive is a British phrase, and since I am oh so cultured now, I’ll include a link to translate my foreign phrases. I swear to God that man was a giant, when he was sitting next to me, all light was blocked and I was in a permanent shadow. Phew!

Idiot story: during my rampage around the cabin, (and while I had 1 flight attendant in front of me and 1 behind me) a man stopped me in the aisle and asked me whether it was possible to move the arm rest next to window on the window seat. I said huh? (being so articulate and all) and he asked again. He asked a 3rd time and I just pointed at the flight attendant and walked away. Why would you ask the guy in the bloody green shirt about the arm rest? Guess I just know what I am doing.

2 reasons to fly Lufthansa: German beer served (fo free) and little cupholders directly in front of you (at eye level on the seat in front of you). Someone in Germany has his thinking cap on (must have taken off his drinking cap for a few minutes. Hard tho, German beer is awesome).

3rd reason to flu Lufthansa: huge bathrooms. The toilet in the plane was about the size of an American car. It was so sweet I almost took off my pants, ala Costanza. I would have stayed in there longer, but the sweet old woman before me had taken a huge dump and the place smelled more like Emeryville than a new American car. Ick, she was probably a teacher. Down with teachers!!!!

Do I put this on my face? I got a nice warm towelette from the flight attendant and after the customary hand cleansing, looked around to see if anyone was wiping their face with the towelette. Sometimes I am kind of modest. Nobody was, except the chubby guy next to me used it to clean his armpits. Nice. So much for my modesty. I gave my face a good wipin’ knowing that I was classier than at least 1 other guy.

Day 1: Munich Airport 7 pm

So, germans hand out free coffee to those waiting in the airport. 2 germans have thinking caps that are getting used. They also have a porno store in the Munich airport. Full on negligees and vibrators. Cause you don’t want to miss that moment to buy something special for that special person in your life. Can’t wait til they put a good vibrations in SFO.

Can I put this in my armpit? In the munich bathroom, (which I was in because Amy thought it would be a good idea to brush my teeth and put on some pit stick) I took out my deodorant to combat feeling not so fresh. As I tried to get the Degree under my shirt, the actual deodorant falls out of the plastic application case and falls on the floor. Shit! I pick it up, put it back in the plastic thing and look around to see if anyone is watching me then put that nasty deodorant in my armpit. Sometimes I can be a bit modest. As I am looking around, the deodorant thuds to the ground a second time. Shit! Shit! I quickly put the deodorant back wipe the pi
ts and leave the toilet with my tail between my legs.

Setbacks at the Munich airport: after loading the 147 pieces of luggage up and carrying them down the walkway to the plane, we realize that we have to go down 2 flights of stairs and board a bus to get on the plane. Aint no way we are doing stairs (we look like a physical re-enactment of the Kris Kristofferson movie “convoy”) with our stroller loaded up to the gill and backpacks, car seats and rolling luggage with us. So, back up the walkway we go, and have a Lufthanser get us to an elevator. I already miss the Americans with Disabilities Act, Europe is much tougher to navigate. 15 minutes later, we get down to the bus (everyone is standing on the bus, waiting for us). Except that there are literally 450,000 people on the bus and there is nowhere for us to stand. So I get on the bus start ordering the Japanese businessmen around to clear a space for Amy and Malcolm to sit (actually, not really ordering anything, more like looking desperate and attempting to communicate by gesturing, clucking and sweating). Amy and Malcolm having found seats, I erected a new tower of babel consisting of all 147 pieces of luggage. I looked like a homeless person in West Oakland, with my 6 foot tall stroller. So then we get on the plane and Lufthansa has found it funny to give us 3 seats that aren’t together. I jump for joy, cause that means someone else will have to take care of Malcolm for the flight. I say he was ready to spread his wings and fly solo. FLY LIL BUDDY FLY! Amy wins another award (but sadly no pudding) for getting the Italian and the german to move away so we get to sit together. Shit! So we are finally on the way to Brussels. My back is hella sweaty though. Here’s a pic!

Day 1: 10pm Brussels Hotel Finally made it! Our hotel room is about the size of box of animal crackers. Screw it, we are here lets go eat. Screw eating, lets drink Belgian beer, which we do. Amy has white beer and I have Leffe. And the world is awesome again. I forgive the teachers and we all pass out.

All in all an OK flight. Malcolm slept for around 6-7 hours, we made our connecting flights, all our luggage is here, I have my laptop, IPOD and $7 book, an awesome wife and a smiley son. Let’s kick Europe in the nuts!