Archive for July, 2009


Slade, unlike his big brother Eli and the odd job who writes this blog, is a big eater. He’ll devour whatever Sally smashes up for him. Squash, pinto beans, avocado, green beans, oatmeal. Whatever. Same goes for mother’s milk, even if it’s pulled cold from the freezer and loaded up with Neosure.

We’re glad the boy eats well, but we have discovered a downside. We call them vurps, as in, Slade just vurped on my only clean shirt, as in, Slade just vurped on the cat.

As in:

Me: “I think somebody spilled something on the floor.”

Sally: “No, I think somebody vurped.”

Me, looking at Slade: “Young man, did you vurp on the floor.”

Slade, kicking, smiling, drooling: “Coo. Oooh. Daaa.”

Sally: “See? The boy is obviously guilty.”


We get in the car and we go

“Want to go camping?” Sally asks.

“You mean in July? In this heat?” I ask.

“Sure,” she replies. “Next week. We get in the car and we go.”

“You realize that it’s 105 degrees outside,” I tell her. “And that it’s not going to cool off till Thanksgiving.”

“Come on,” she says. “We get in the car and we go.”

Sally eventually won me over, and on her 40th birthday, in record heat, on a day when Slade threw up on Sally’s face and hair, we went camping.

Camping used to be easy. We’d buy some hot dogs and beer, throw the tent in whatever junker we owned, and drive away.

Things are different now. We have kids and dogs and all this stuff that owns us as much as we own it. Simple jobs just aren’t these days.

It took us hours to plan and pack and organize to leave town. It proved draining work, and in the middle of loading up the sunscreen and the peanut butter and the changing pad in white afternoon sunshine, Slade, who’d been fussing the better part of the day, threw up on Sally.

“I think I’m going to break,” Sally stated, oatmeal vomit running down her chin and dripping inside her shirt, the day pulling her down like a heavy stone.

“Some birthday,” I offered.

“Some birthday,” she agreed.

Sally, of course, didn’t break. She never does.

And that evening, an hour before sunset, in the family wagon overloaded with crap, we arrived at our destination, 5.27 undeveloped acres we own in the Texas Hill Country with big hills and springs and an abundance of porcupines.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, Sally, Eli, and I went for a swim in the spring-fed pool while Slade kicked and cooed in his jogging stroller and the dogs trotted and sniffed.

“I’m better now,” Sally shared, floating in the cool water. I realized I was, too. I realized we all were.

That night, Sally and I laid on a blanket, listening to the springs bubble, watching the freetail bats flap overhead, scanning the black sky for satellites and shooting stars.

“Some birthday,” I said, the dogs and the boys finally sacked out, the air warm and still and perfect.

“Some birthday,” Sally agreed.

Water slide

“You sure this five year old is big enough to go down this?” I ask the teenage girl at the top of this slide at Volente Beach Water Park:

Picture courtesy of Volente Beach Water Park

Picture courtesy of Volente Beach

“I think I’ve seen kids his size before,” she replies, chewing gum, looking bored. She thinks she’s seen kids his size? Thinks? That’s not the soothing response I was looking for.

“Eli,” I say to the five year old. “You sure want to do this?”

“Yeah, dude. Let’s do it.”

And so we do, me terrified, me clutching onto the boy, me yelling involuntarily as we blast down the first drop.

“That was cool,” Eli exclaims as we climb out of the raft at the end of the slide. “Let’s do it again.”

A few minutes before, Eli had gotten stuck in the tube slide. Waiting for him to reappear, I’d panicked, imagining the boy caged and claustrophobic inside the blue tunnel.

But Eli wasn’t scared. Mainly, he was disappointed. “That slide’s too slow,” he informed me. “Let’s do a fast one.”

Sometimes I don’t see myself at all in the boy. And sometimes I’m grateful that I don’t.

The b is back

We’re back. I could share sorry excuses for our hiatus by whining about work and vacationing in the mountains and sunny afternoons soaking in Lake Austin. But I’ll spare you. I’m nice like that.

eli, slade, lily, tatum at lakeside park july 2009

Neighbors Lily and Tatum with the boys at the lakeside park

As to the past few weeks. . .

We—the wife, the boys, the dogs—drove to New Mexico to visit family, hike in the mountains, and nap.

Our niece Shane holding her cousin, Slade

Our niece Shane holding her cousin Slade in New Mexico

While there, Sally and I day tripped to Santa Fe without the kids. We intended to shop and maybe visit a museum or gallery, which is what you do when you’re a tourist in Santa Fe.

Instead we went to a bar for low-grade microbrew. I wasn’t taken with the place, but I bought a commemorative Blue Corn Brewery glass anyway. I buy stuff when I drink. It’s an unfortunate habit.

Leaving the bar, we passed a store that advertised Native American flutes. Sally pointed to the sign. “This is it,” she said. “This is what you’ve been missing.”

“A Native American flute?” I asked.

She nodded. “A Native American flute,” she replied.

We walked past more stores, some with Native American flutes. I resisted the urge to buy a musical instrument.

Sally and I sauntered into another bar, this one overlooking the plaza. As we sat on stools in the cool afternoon, sipping pints, watching the tourists and the hippies and beat-down Native Americans below, a procession of Catholics marched past. There were monks and nuns and banners. There was incense and a statue of the virgin mother and a bishop in a big white hat.

The bishop muttered inaudibly as he waddled up the street.

“What do you suppose he’s saying?” I asked Sally.

“Probably that he likes little boys,” she stated flatly.


Before New Mexico, on Father’s Day eve, I took park in Kyle’s beer bike 2009.

Kyle, co-worker, friend, part-time redneck, full-time beer aficionado, hatched the beer bike plan one Thursday afternoon at a bar. My guess is he was probably drunk when he put it all together. Dumb ideas sound great when you’re drunk.

The idea? Ride bikes and drink beer and ride more and drink more and so on until the bars closed or somebody got hurt.

Kyle invited lots of people to participate. Five accepted. The rest invented limp-wristed excuses.

I invited people, too, all of whom declined, most noting that drinking and biking late at night without lights in downtown Austin is, like, you know, dangerous.

“You’re right,” I emailed back to one guy. “Drinking and biking in the dark isn’t safe. Which is why you should go. It’s important to do stupid things.” He wasn’t persuaded.

Kyle, the five others, and I rode around north Austin and past the state capitol and through campus and showed up at bars stinking and smiling.

At the end of the evening, I broke from the group and spun alone in the sticky night, the streets silent except for the summer bugs, my legs electric, my mind focused. This is what I’ve been missing, I decided as I pushed a big gear on the black road. This is what I needed.

Or maybe what I really needed was a Native American flute. Or maybe a dream catcher.


On the Fourth of July, I participated in wedding number two this summer. I played groomsman for Shawn, a roommate from college, and Jenn, his girlfriend of almost 10 years. As a groomsman, I had to wear a suit, stand in front on the congregation, and pretend like I was listening. It was an easy gig.

The reception took place at the Shoreline Grill on Lady Bird Lake with steak and dancing and cupcakes and booze and fireworks blasting overhead.

I finally shuffled off to bed at 4 AM. The bride and groom were sitting in the hotel lobby, drinking wine they’d bottled themselves, carrying on conversations they wouldn’t remember in the morning.

That gets you to today.

Eli, who stayed an extra week in New Mexico with his grandparents, returned with my mom today. We’ve missed the boy. With trips to Chuck E. Cheese’s and Cliff’s amusement park, I’m not sure he’s missed us back.

But I think he’s happy being home.