Archive for January, 2009

On wearing little more than underwear in public

I decided not to suffer through boot camp after all. Common sense, or laziness, prevailed.

But I haven’t given up on getting fit. Starting February first, which is, holy crap, tomorrow, I’m training for two triathlons, one a sprint in the spring, the other an Olympic on Memorial Day featuring a one-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride, and 10-kilometer run. That Memorial Day race, the Capital of Texas Triathlon, is the goal. I’m shooting for a time of two hours and 45 minutes, a good 10 minutes faster than my best time at that distance.

I’m sharing my intentions with you, so I won’t wuss out or half-ass my way through the training like I tend to do. I’m expecting you Lesley Family Blog readers, both of you, to hold me accountable, to ridicule me, humiliate me, and sock me in the sack if I weasel out. 

Fear will be my friend. It’ll be my motivator when it’s 45 degrees and drizzling and I have to squish myself into the wet suit for a cold swim.

Truth be told, I loathe running. I swear my bones dissolve with each pounding step, and I fantasize about the run ending well before I start.

But I’m into open water swimming, counting strokes alone in Lake Austin, eyeballing the grass carp and the hydrilla beneath me in the green water.

And cycling is my chosen drug. I need a regular biking fix, and when I don’t get it, I storm through the day. Sally will see the clouds hovering over me and tell me to go ride my bike. I’ll grumble, reminding her of all the unfinished work at home. She’ll tell me it can wait, so I’ll air up the tires and pedal away. When I return an hour or two later, I’m sunshine and smiles.

Sally knows best. That’s one of the few things I’ve figured out as I float through my days. I’ve also figured out that running sucks, but that I like triathlons anyway.

Triathlons allow me to be a kid, and I relish race day. For a few hours, I’m an athlete, the competition always a few feet ahead and behind, the spectators cheering me on. I dig the silliness of the sport, too—running barefoot over rocks, wearing little more than underwear in public, getting kicked and punched in the mass swim start. Triathlons are stupid fun.

Except for the run. The run is just stupid.

The world is Eli’s toilet

This morning, Eli shuffles down the stairs, opens the front door, and disappears outside. Perplexed by what I’d observed, I tell Sally, who is in the kitchen making a banana smoothie, that Eli had just stepped outside, still wearing his PJ’s, on a 28-degree morning.

“He’s peeing on the oak tree,” she states matter of factly. “It’s his latest thing.”

“You mean he woke up and walked past three clean toilets to stand out there without socks in the sub-freezing air?” I ask.  “And right now he’s relieving himself in full view of the kids waiting on the school bus?”

“Something like that,” Sally replies.

As is frequently the case, I’m struck by how utterly unprepared I am to be a dad. Does Dr. Spock cover urinating on the begonias in his child-rearing bible? I’m guessing not.

To be honest, I’m conflicted about the whole deal. Ecologically and philosophically, I’m on board with Eli watering the weeds, and lord knows I’ve used nature’s toilet myself hundreds and hundreds of times over the years. But I’m also a parent, and part of me senses that I need to start setting some kind of example and pretending like I’m actually, you know, an adult. Sally feels the same.

So Sally and I came up with a compromise. Eli can pee outside as long as he follows these four easy rules.

Rule 1. Urinate only in the back yard. The neighbors walking their dogs don’t want to see his four-year-old Johnson before they’ve had their morning coffee.

Rule 2. Urinate outside only when others are not around. See comment above about neighbors and coffee and Johnson.

Rule 3. Do not intentionally urinate on the dogs or Snurp. If Chuck decides to investigate, which is his way, and gets caught in the line of fire, so be it. Same goes for Snurp, who might well attempt an insane attack on the stream emanating from the boy.

Rule 4. Wash hands upon re-entering the house. Cleanliness is next to something or other, right?

We’ll see how it all goes. And rest easy, I probably won’t keep you posted.

Dude time

In the mornings, I drive Eli to preschool. It’s 15 minutes in the car together, just the two of us. We call it dude time.

We listen to music during dude time. Most mornings, Eli wants to listen to Gogol Bordello, a gypsy punk band that is part Pogues, part Gypsy Kings, part Borat. Eli claims Gogol Bordello is pirate music. Eli likes pirates.

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We talk during dude time. We talk about driving in the fast lane and cement mixers. We talk about how Colin beat Eli in a race the day before and how Max keeps ending up in time away for not listening. When the grandparents leave, we talk about New Mexico and missing them and Papoo’s red truck.

Sometimes Eli drops beautiful grenades in the middle of our talks. Yesterday morning he said, “Dad, did you know it’s raining right now, everywhere in the world? The world is really thirsty.”

In the evenings, Sally goes to bed by 9:00, and I stay up with Slade till 1:00 so she can sleep some. I change couple of diapers and give Slade his fortified bottle during those night-time hours. But mainly, I hold him. Evening is our dude time.

Sometimes Slade and I watch TV together during dude time. Sometimes I read to him. Last night, I read aloud about a plague of insomnia and a girl who eats dirt. His eyes were open. He must have enjoyed that story.

Dude time is transitory. I get that. The boys will become independent, and they won’t want to spend much time with their old man. And I want that for them, to grow up, to move out on their own, to travel, to learn, to become whomever they’re going to become.

But for now, I relish our time together, my evenings and mornings almost tinted, knowing that soon dude time will live only as a murky memory.

Who put Hot Wheels in my bed?

Friday, I awoke at 4 AM or some awful hour when I rolled over on two Hot Wheels. Eli, our four year old, had left them under the covers.

That same night, as I shuffled to the bathroom, I punted a car transporter with six more Hot Wheels in its trailer. “Damn it,” I burted out, awaking Sally and setting a fine example for Slade.

A few hours later, my toes crunched into a miniature monster truck when I put on my shoe.

The race cars and monster trucks are Eli’s, and his passion for them runs deep. Eli sleeps with his favorite Hot Wheels. He pretend races them for hours. He builds garages and tracks and homes for them out of stuff like crayons, lotion bottles, and orange slices.

corvette_summer1I get his love of fast machines. I collected Hot Wheels and Match Box cars as a boy myself. In 1978, I saw Corvette Summer, a movie about a high school student who saves a Corvette from being demolished and rebuilds it only to get the car stolen. Corvette Summer rocked my world in 1978. It was best movie I’d ever seen.

The critics and movie-going public disagreed, even with Mark Hamill, fresh off Star Wars, playing the lead. When I watched the movie in our run-down local theatre in rural Iowa, only a handful of others plunked down their three bucks to sit through the experience. Two left, in fact, before the show was over. Poor people, I assumed at the time, having to leave before Mark Hamill gets the Corvette back. There must have been an emergency.

 The Cat

Snurp, the cat we feed, has taken to rolling in dirt, sprinting in the house, and shaking. I thought cats were supposed to clean themselves, but the only thing I’ve ever seen Snurp clean is his own anus.

So we’ve started wiping Snurp down with a soaking rag before he’s allowed inside. Snurp adores these baths. He purrs loudly and closes his eyes and sometimes bites me if I stop. Aren’t cats supposed to hate water? I guess Snurps don’t.

Saturday, Sally witnessed Snurp chewing on a tree branch.

“Do you think he’s sick?” I asked.

“No, I think he’s just dumb,” she replied.

The Dogs

I haven’t written much about our dogs here on the Lesley Family Blog. I should have. They’re family and every bit as terrible and unbalanced as Snurp.

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There’s Chuck. 100 pounds. Lazy. Friendly. Disobedient.

If Chuck were a human, he would have been popular as a kid. He also would have been a C-minus student and a daily pot smoker. Chuck, as an adult, would have evolved into Jeff, “Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here,” Lebowski. In his sunset years, Chuck would have found his true calling: Walmart greeter.

There’s Wiley Bucket. 55 pounds. Herding addict. Disciplined. Insane.

If Wiley were a human, he would have been a straight-A student and a hall monitor as a child. The cool kids would have beaten him up. After school, he would have made a career in the Army, identifying with the strict rules, order, and defined purpose. In his twilight years, Wiley would have lived in a tidy brick house with an American flag protruding from the front porch. He would have pulled weeds in his immaculate yard. He would have shaken his fists at the neighborhood hooligans on their skateboards and scooters.

Boot camp

toy-soldiers-clipIn a desperate and stupid attempt to become fit, I’m thinking about signing up for boot camp again. No, I’m not enlisting in the actual Army. This particular boot camp is a class, taught by a sadistic Marine, at my job.

Boot camp goes like this:

It’s 5:55 AM, and you’re standing on the dark basketball court staring at your shoes when, from out of the black, you hear the drill instructor yell, “INCOMING!”

You know what that means. You dive to the ground, awaiting orders. The voice in the dark hollers “PUSH UP,” and you start doing push ups. You don’t stretch. You don’t warm up. You go hard immediately.

Then it’s straight on to jumping jacks, lunges, calf raises, grippers, crunches, leg lifts, and mountain climbers. You hurt. You want to throw up. And it’s still so dark that you can barely make out the instructor’s face.

But then you get a 30-second water break. You stretch briefly. You feel better. You think it isn’t all that bad.

You’re wrong. The running starts. You sing as you run, messed up songs about being Marines and murdering the bad guys that you secretly enjoy.

You sprint up the parking garage with bricks in your hands screaming “KILL.” You do more push ups, more lunges. You crawl across the sand volleyball court and bound over rocks. Your legs burn. You want to throw up again.

And then, just like that, it’s 7:00, and the class is over. You’re dirty and sweaty, but you’re not beat down. You’re high from surviving. You feel tough, almost invincible. You know you’re getting stronger, leaner, faster. That’s the payoff for the pain, and it’s why you signed up.

Later that day you find yourself creaking around with a headache. The high has worn off, and you’re thinking about the next class, dreading 5:55 AM when you’ll be staring at your shoes in the cold and the dark waiting for your orders, waiting to hurt all over again.

Boot camp is hard and dumb. But as much as I gripe about it—and trust me, if I join up, you’ll hear plenty of complaining—the class works. And I have to admit—and this is strictly between you and me—I kind of like playing soldier.

Two Pictures

Just after I snapped the shot below, which was taken on Sunday at Lakeway City Park, Eli cleaned a semi-steep hill effortlessly on his new bike. At the top, he yelled, “Watch me bomb down this hill, Dad.” He did just that, with me pedaling furiously behind, trying to catch up with him before he smashed into a cedar or a prickly pear.

Eli, of course, didn’t crash. He raced down the hill and through the dirt switchback at the bottom smoothly, fearlessly, and perfectly. That boy can sure ride his bike.

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Sacked out in the Baby Bjorn is Slade, warm, still, and content. Now if we could only get him to sleep like that in the black of night.

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Reorganized Mormons

I was raised a Mormon. Okay, technically, I was raised a reorganized Mormon in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS).

Like the Utah Mormons, we in the RLDS church, or Community of Christ as some call it now, believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet who was visited by an angel named Moroni. That’s right. The angel was called Moroni.

We believe Moroni buried gold plates on Cumorah Hill in New York and told Joseph Smith to dig up them up, which he did.

We believe the plates contained the long-lost Book of Mormon inscribed in a made-up language called “reformed Egyptian.” Fortunately, Joseph Smith could read that pretend language. We believe that, too.

I learned about Moroni and the gold plates and Zion in Lamoni, Iowa. You know Lamoni, right? Home of Graceland University, the only RLDS-affiliated university in the world. Home of the only Pizza Hut in Decatur county.

2,500 people lived in Lamoni when I was there. Most of them were reorganized Mormons. Many held advanced degrees, and plenty were straight-up strange.

But it was home to me till I was 16. It was all I knew.

My parents, who loathed Lamoni, moved us to El Paso in 1987. I hated being relocated. El Paso was scorched and polluted and nobody spoke English worth a shit. I despised the El Paso sun. It became my enemy.

At night, I dreamed of cornfields and playing basketball and Amy Bunch, polite and pretty and devout back in Lamoni. But soon I made friends in El Paso and discovered other pretty girls. I stopped missing Amy and the reorganized Mormons in Iowa. And when my thoughts drifted their way, I felt lousy for them, living in that drippy town, slogging through the snow, planning shopping trips to Merle Hay mall.

Twenty one years have now passed, and my reorganized Mormon childhood fades and fades. I’ve got diapers to change and presentations to pull together and dogs to bathe and a triathlon to train for. There isn’t much room for reorganized Mormons.

But last night on Facebook, I chanced upon a handful of my old reorganized Mormon friends. I peeked at photos of them all grown up. I saw pictures of their kids.

I considered contacting them. But what would I say to them after all this time? Would we talk about the time we drove around town backwards? Would I share what really went down that winter night when I was arrested on Main Street? Would we discuss Moroni and his gold plates?

I decided not to get in touch. I’m glad my old friends are out there, washing their dishes in their suburban houses, wearing their black socks to work, planning their summer vacations to Orlando.

I’m sure their lives are rich and full.

But I think I’ll keep them in the past, locked away in 1987, cruising the streets of Lamoni on Friday night, their heads unclouded, their dreams deep rivers.