Archive for March, 2009

I’m faster than Wonder Woman and the girl in the bikini with the tiara

I dominated the Capitol 10k on Sunday, and by dominated I mean came in 1483rd place. That’s right. 1483rd place. About a hundred yards from the finish, a 60-something gray-haired grandmother dropped me.

Picture courtesy of Chris Fronda.

Picture courtesy of Chris Fronda.

I did hold off the hard-charging dude dressed like Wonder Woman and the girl in the sparkly bikini with the tiara, so there was that. And my 51-minute time was a personal best.

Next year, I’m gunning for a top 1400 finish. Dream big, right?

Photo courtesy Chris Fronda

Photo courtesy Chris Fronda



Wednesday afternoon, it hailed. Day turned to night, and ice zipped through the air, dinging our cars and cracking the windshield on the family wagon. Sally and Eli and Slade and I watched the storm from under a covered porch at Opal Divine’s, a pub and restaurant where we’d gathered with coworkers for food and drinks.

Eli paid some attention to the white balls flying from the black sky, but I suspect he was more interested in Kyle.

To Eli, Kyle—a that’s-what-she-said savant/master trombonist/uber Star Wars geek/Metallica nut/XML addict/friend—is cooler than anybody in the world. Cooler, even, than the Fonz. And while I’ve come to appreciate and respect Kyle over the years, he’s no Arthur Fonzarelli.

For reference, here’s Kyle:


Kyle is from Midland, Texas, proud home of George W. Bush and Clayton, “relax and enjoy it,” Williams. I hear it’s a lovely place. For reference, here’s Midland:


In Eli’s four-year-old head, Kyle rules because (a) he does magic tricks, (b) he gave us a Metallica CD, and (c) he has multiple gaming systems and regularly loans us Wii games.

Yesterday, in fact, Kyle loaned me Boom Blox. I made the mistake of showing Eli the game in the car as we left preschool, and all the way home, Eli talked about Kyle:

Eli: Dad, how many video games does Kyle have?
Me: Too many.
Eli: Like a hundred?
Me: Probably.
Eli. Whoa. That’s crazy.

Eli: Dad, why does Kyle live in a small house?
Me: It’s called an apartment. Kyle doesn’t need a lot of space.
Eli: Why?
Me: Because he doesn’t have a family. But there are two pools where he lives.
Eli: Whoa. That’s cool. Can we go there someday?

Eli: Dad, how does Kyle pull his thumb off?
Me: It’s magic.
Eli: I don’t think he should be pulling it off. That’s a bad idea.
Me: Why’s that?
Eli: Because it hurts.

And on and on. Finally, I grew tired of Kyle chat, so I asked Eli if he’d like to listen to music. Eli said sure: “Dad, can we listen to Metallica? Kyle loves Metallica, right?”

And I decided right then, right there, that I would need a drink that night.

This morning, at work, I told Kyle of Eli’s fascination, and I mentioned how, for whatever reason, little boys like Kyle. His response: “Maybe I should become a Catholic priest.”

Less than five minutes later, the sky went dark, and thunder rattled the windows, and I wondered if Kyle’s day of reckoning had arrived.

All I really need to know I learned from carnies, racing pigs, and my four-year-old son

Observations from yesterday’s visit to the Star of Texas livestock show and carnival. . .


Observation one: Carnies are mean. I feel bad for them and their beaten-down bodies, stuck out in the wind and the dust and the white sun, watching kids wet themselves all day on rides in that go in circles.

But then a Carny grunts or snarls or says something ugly, and I think, “Go to hell, Carny.” And then I notice that the Carny has no teeth and that a tumor shaped like a banana is growing on his lip, and I figure the Carny probably has his reasons for being surly.

Observation two: Eli is barely a little boy anymore. Holding him up to see the roller coaster we were about to zoom off on yesterday, I realized that my days of scooping him up like that are numbered. For the first time at the carnival, he rode on big boy rides by himself, laid the mat down on the big slide without help, and fastened his seat belt on the swinging pirate ship ride.

Seeing him take care of himself, I thought about how he knows his letters and how he’s adding and subtracting and how kindergarten looms in August.

Kindergarten. How did that happen? Isn’t Eli still supposed to be two, sitting on my shoulders, laughing about being as tall as a tree?

Observation three: We’d have two pigs, six chickens, a pony, a camel, a three-legged alpaca, and a giraffe in the back yard if Sally had her way.

Here’s yesterday at the pig races at the livestock show:

Sally: “Look at the cute pig? Can we get one? Can we?”

Me: “A pig? No.”

A few minutes later. . .

Sally: “The donkey at the petting zoo looks sick. I think he needs a loving, safe home. You know, like ours.”

Me: “I don’t think so.”


A few weeks ago. . .

Sally: “You know how much you hate mowing the yard? Okay, so what if we bought a goat and a sheep? You’d never have to mow again. How cool would that be?”

Me: “No.”

And, as always, there’s the pony pitch. . .

Sally: “What we need is a miniature pony. They’re not much bigger than a dog, and I hear they make good house pets, except for the fact that you can’t potty train them.”

Me: “No.”

I’ll cave eventually. I always do. It’s just a matter of time before Sally persuades me that Caroll the Camel belongs in our back yard and in our living room.

Can I hear an amen?

I’m an ordained minister. I’d forgotten that till I got an email from my friend Teri asking me to officiate her wedding.

The message: “Sally said you got a preacher certificate off the Internet. True? Could you marry me and Drew?”

Then this: “My goal is to get good arm muscles, come to Austin this summer, get a tattoo (on my arm, hence the good muscles and the Jillian Michaels exercise videos) and get hitched. Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate. Just someone who can say ‘OK, you’re married.’ Then we can eat fish tacos or something. Please say yes!”

I told her yes, that by the power vested in me by the Universal Life Church, I would marry Drew and her in the tattoo parlor of their choosing, as long as they buy the tacos.

For the record, if the state of Texas allows it, I really would be honored to play preacher for Teri and Drew, who are good to each other and have been living together for years and who want to get hitched so they can adopt a child from Africa. It’d be the right thing to do, to help a committed couple adopt a baby who needs a home, even if I’m an unorthodox man of faith.

So, me, a preacher. You might be wondering how that came about, how I started on my road to faith.

It’s partially the doing of the stoned hippie who married my brother. The hippie, who lead my brother’s service sporting a tie-dye shirt, jeans tucked inside cowboy boots, and a sombrero, told me at the reception that he’d been called to the ministry by the Universal Life Church. He told me that the church is a loving and accepting institution and that the ministry is open to anyone who abides by these two tenets:

  1. Do that which is right.
  2. Don’t shit on other people’s beliefs.

Be good and don’t dump on others’ beliefs? I figured I could do that.

I looked up the church and learned that it was real and that I could indeed become a minister.

So for kicks, I did. I became a pastor.

And then I convinced my friend Omar—who (a) is spiritual or at least baptized and (b) looks like Jesus, only Mexican and without the beard—to join the ministry, so he could marry Sally and me on a beach in Mexico with the toilet-water blue Caribbean as a backdrop. It was to be a beautiful service, a mariachi band accompanying us, Sally in white, our guests half polluted, and Mexican Jesus in a serape pronouncing us husband and wife.

Omar did his part. He became a minister in the Universal Life Church, and for all I know, he might be proselytizing to crack addicts on 11th street right now.

But we didn’t do ours, and our beach wedding plans collapsed. Things falls apart, I suppose.

And then I forgot about the church and the baked hippie and my pastorly duties.

Until I got the email.

But I’m ready, Teri and Drew. I’m ready to be your pastor.

Sinner in the hands of an angry god (or maybe robot)

Remember how I wrote about my week-long detox, about how I was giving up TV, caffeine, and crap food? Well, Wednesday night, I cheated. I ate coconut ice cream with chocolate and almonds, and it was delicious.

Thursday night, I cheated again. This time it wasn’t with food, but with TV. I watched the better part of the Texas-Minnesota NCAA tournament game, including the lousy commercials.

So I admit it. I’m weak. I’m a sinner.

And I’m pretty sure God or a robot is punishing me for my transgressions. At 2 AM this morning, every eardrum-busting smoke alarm in the house blasted for a horrible half minute. I got up, investigated, and found nothing. And then I couldn’t fall back asleep. When I finally did drift off, the alarms screamed again.

I’m obviously being called out for breaking my word. It’s plain as day.

In other news, Slade laughed today. First sleeping through the night earlier this week and now laughing. The lights are turning on, and somebody is home.

Here’s 7:30 AM:


Between the emotion and the response

It’s late Saturday, and Hollis’ rolling bachelor party has pulled in for its obligatory stop at Palacio, a strip club on Highway 290.

I don’t maneuver well here, in this blinking land of glitter and shadows where everybody expects to a tip—the girl you pay cover to, the tuxedo-sporting guy who opens the doors, the attendant in the bathroom. This is foreign space, a weird world where men in shinny shirts with slick hair and smarmy smiles command respect, a world where a pocket of 20’s makes you a celebrity.

Still, it’s a hoot to be out with old friends, drinking Lone Stars, yelling over the music, laughing about the inflatable sheep Hollis has to carry, and staring at boobs.

A couple of the dancers are out of their heads on speed, which is funny at first when they bubble and giggle, annoying when they camp out at our table, and finally depressing. Depressing because I think about how this is silly fun for us, a herd of middle-aged dudes, but for these dancers, this is their job, taking off their clothes, hitting up men in dark corners for private dances. This is what they do.

I ask one of the dancers—pushing forty, looking beat down—how her evening has been, and she tells me it’s been good. Nobody has tried to stick things inside her tonight. Nobody has pinched or slapped her. For some reason, she shares she’s raising two boys, aged 11 and 13, by herself.

“What do you tell them you do?” I ask.

“The truth,” she says.

She tells me they accept it, that they ask for video games by arguing, “It’s only three dances, mom.”

I suddenly feel lousy for her and her kids. And I realize I prefer the dancers 20 feet away, smiling and beautiful on stage, not here at the table, where the fantasy becomes reality, where they unfold and wilt and become human.

So I stop talking with the dancers.

On Sunday, I wake up early, the Lone Stars and Mexican food from the night before sloshing around inside like thick poison. I think about the toxic world of the strip club. I think about the toxins inside myself, the caffeine and sugar I’ve practically mainlined these past few months, the beer and television I consume that leaves me numb and dumb.

My body is a dump, I decide. I’m polluting myself, and I need to change.

So a couple of days ago, I began a week-long detox. I cut junk food, junk television, and caffeine. For an entire week, I am not to drink a drop of Coke, eat a single jelly bean, or chug Red Bull in the afternoon to stay awake.

I am allowing myself one beer or glass of wine in the evening, but only if I exercise during the day. I figure it’ll help motivate me, and so far it’s working.

Yesterday, I ran over lunch with a buddy of mine and shared my cleansing scheme. He told me a few years ago he attempted something similar. He awoke one Saturday with a hangover and decided right then and there that he would never drink again.

“How’d that go?” I asked.

“I had two beers later that night,” he said.

Thankfully, I’ve already made it a little longer.

Guess who’s sleeping through the night?

Last night, the 10 pounder below slept seven straight hours. He lasted six the night before. I hope we’ve turned a corner.


The Tubres, among our oldest and best friends, visited this past weekend. They brought their daughter Cadence, who is four, pals with Eli, and into babies. I’m not sure that Slade is ready for girls, other than his grammy, his aunt Mellinee, Elaine, and his mom.