Santa Claus and Transvestites

January 7, 2010

More random stuff

Bernadette was out running errands with Penelope yesterday and stopped at a bagel store for lunch. Since Penelope can pack away the food, we have to eat at the cheapest places we can find.

So, the two of them are sharing lunch when a man with long white hair and a bushy white beard sits near them. He waves to Penelope and strikes up a conversation with Bern. Within five minutes he starts detailing his long list of medical problems: liver trouble, heart disease, food poisoning and chronic fatigue syndrome.

As he starts discussing his bout with lyme disease, Penelope points at him and exclaims, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

Yes, Penelope, while there is a Santa Claus, he most assuredly doesn’t eat at the bagel shop and talk about food poisoning.

Bern is talented at attracting bat-shit crazy folk. Two Januarys ago, while vacationing in Chicago (yes it was cold; it was 15 below zero in Chi-town when the plane landed), we had a strange experience at a piano bar. I wandered off for a few moments to determine whether the person wearing a dress and sitting at the piano was a man or a woman. When I returned to our table, a couple was chatting with Bern. After a few minutes of talking, they offered to buy us drinks. We passed. But then we strongly suspect they propositioned us for a couples’ swap because the man looked at his girlfriend and said “Ready?” and she responded affirmatively. Then they both simultaneously crossed their wrists.

Bern said, “What the hell is that?” and the pair quickly scampered away, leaving their drinks behind. Most peculiar. A friend later convinced us that they were suggesting a mate swap. Anyway, the lesson I learned from this experience was never to wander off to spy on a transvestite in bar.

The New Year

OK, having survived as a parent for a few months in 2009, I’ve decided to set some ambitious — well, not quite — goals for twenty-ten. I’m blogging them here with the belief that if they’re in writing, I might actually achieve them. (Yes, I know it’s a lame theory, but kindly work with me here!)

1. I will learn how to change a diaper in a public bathroom while Penelope is standing.

2. I will figure out the purpose of the goofy plastic blue bath toy Penelope has. I have no idea where it came from or what it does, and the one time I tried to hide it in a closet, Penelope dug it out.

3. I’ll learn how to get tights on a squirming wiggle worm.

4. I will stop raiding Penelope’s animal crackers after I put her to bed. Did you know Animal Crackers contain no trans fats and there’s only 100 calories in 13 of them? However, I’m not sure if that claim is truly accurate since I didn’t check the fine print to see if some animals have a higher caloric content than others.

5. Since we brought Penelope home last August, I’ve only finished four books. So, I’ve compiled a list of 20 books to read or re-read this year. They include:

— Pride and Prejudice. Every time I start this book, Bern gets all worked up because she believes she has yet another excuse to watch the PBS 427-hour miniseries with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. I immediately place the book back on the shelf.

— Tom Jones. I thought it was a biography about the singer until someone told me otherwise. (You’ve been a great crowd, good night. I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.)

— War and Peace. Yes, the book is 1200 pages long and the print is microscopic, but it weighs about 17 pounds and the additional upper-body conditioning would do me some good.

— Don Quixote de la Mancha. Yes, I need a reminder about attacking windmills. Actually, I want to re-read this because I had a conversation about this book recently and am not so sure about my interpretation of the ending.

— Remembrance of Things Past. Because I’m thinking of titling my autobiography “Remembrance of Things Pabst.” OK, that’s an old joke but I still enjoy it.

Footnote: Yesterday, a friend from work gave me a box of Maltesers that her boyfriend brought from Scotland. Maltesers are similar to malt balls, but lighter. And while I was hoping they’d have scotch in them (they don’t), they were real tasty. So much for that New Year’s diet!

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The Things We Left Behind

A quick update . . . .

After our dinner at Makedas in New Brunswick, Bernadette and I promised each other a date night once a month. While I’m not surprised we’ve kept that promise, I admit in retrospect I am a little amazed that on our second date we journeyed into New York City. And not just into midtown, but way way way downtown (where there’s free parking if you’re lucky!).

I was a little nervous about this trip, but had complete confidence in our babysitters: my friend Mark and his mother. In fact, Bern called the babysitters only twice. Well, I guess three times if you count the time she made me call them.

We planned a special night which included attending a farewell party for a friend who recently moved to Boston (we hope you three are doing well!), and a stop at the City Winery to catch an acoustic performance by Blue Rodeo. The band hails from Canada and is quite popular there, but has never caught on here in the states. I’ve been a fan of their music for about 15 years, which is about how long my wife has had a little crush on guitarist and singer Jim Cuddy. She downplays it, but I remember years ago I was watching a video of theirs and Bern, who happened to glance at the TV while walking through the family room on her way to the kitchen, stopped dead in her tracks, backed up and said, “Holy Hottie, who’s that?!”

Hmm, maybe my goal to learn to play guitar and write songs is a good one.

Anyway, we both loved the venue, the drinks and appetizers, the chance to be grown-ups without a two-year-old in tow, and most importantly, the show. Afterwards, Bern and I met Jim Cuddy. He signed our CD, and we chatted for a few minutes. Bern thought he looked a little tired but that didn’t stop her from acting positively giddy on the walk back to our car.


The band was touring to promote its new double disc, “The Things We Left Behind.” Basically, it’s 16 songs about infidelity and the heartless things some couples do to each other.

I wanted to tell you
I could see all along
You pretending to forget

While you’re out on the town

So I sat in half knowing
And I try to forget

The last time you wanted me

And I lay in your bed.

— Greg Keelor, The Things We Left Behind.

I cannot imagine how the poor guy in that song feels. I just know I’m grateful for my family; I know I’m a lucky man. And when I forget, Bern is good enough to remind me.

If you feel so inclined, you can watch Blue Rodeo’s latest video here.

Holidaze

January 1, 2010

Pity our poor dog Sammi. She’s a beagle, a breed with a proud lineage that stretches back to Great Britain at a time prior to the Roman conquest. Its first mention in English literature was in 1475, and King Edward III bred beagles specifically to hunt rabbits. Nowadays, beagles sniff out drugs or bombs at airports and help detect traces of flame accelerants at suspected arson sites.

Sammi, sadly, isn’t helping make the world safe from terrorists or solving crimes. She’s busy hiding from a two year old who’s trying to force her to wear a diaper.

Santa brought Penelope several toy diapers, hoping she’d stop taking the real, and oftentimes wet, ones off herself and putting them on her teddy bear. The toy diapers seemed like a good idea, but now Penelope has advanced from stuffed animals to living ones. On her first attempt, she almost managed to swing the diaper around Sammi’s back legs. If it’s possible for a beagle’s face to express surprise, then that’s how I’d describe Sammi’s look. She jumped a few feet forward, but a persistent Penelope pounced on her tail, and implored the puzzled pooch to “nay down.” All those centuries of highly attuned hunting instincts kicked in, and Sammi scampered to the safety of another room.

Sammi wasn’t the only victim of one of Penelope’s Christmas toys this year. Earlier this week after fixing the CD player, Penelope and I were bouncing around to Rilo Kiley. Penelope grabbed a pair of toy maracas. I cradled her in one arm while I shook a tambourine with the other like I was auditioning for Josie and the Pussycats. Unfortunately, I was looking away from the Peanut when she accidentally clocked me upside the head with her maraca. Hello, head-circling stars and tweety birds!

Bernadette arrived home a few minutes later, saw the lump by my eye and asked if she needed to take me to the emergency room. After a few moments of muddled pondering, I decided I’d rather risk the cranial bleed and pull a Bill Holden than suffer the embarrassment of explaining what happened to the ER nurse.

Despite the wounds to my head and Sammi’s dignity, our first Christmas together turned out quite wonderfully. We traveled back to Buffalo to visit Bern’s family. While there I learned a few things, namely: no matter how cold you think Buffalo is in December, it’s even colder; if you give already energetic kids enough Christmas presents and sugar cookies, they can actually be in three rooms at the same time; and a coffee maker works better when you remember to place the coffee pot under it.

Perhaps Penelope’s favorite Christmas presents are the kitchen set, and the assorted “Melissa and Doug” wooden food items (a pizza, stir fry, cookies and vegetables) and utensils. Her manner of playing has progressed in the past few weeks, and I’m fascinated watching her development. She has shifted gears from playing predominantly for physical development of motor skills and dexterity, to emotional development with pretend play.

Up until recently, Penelope’s idea of playing was to fill a container with blocks or puzzle pieces and dump them on the floor. Now, she’s standing in front of her stove, wearing an apron and slicing wooden vegetables and cooking eggs or pizza for me.

I pause and wonder if I’ve got a future Iron Chef living under our roof. Then the daydream ends: I hear a toy mixer running in the bathroom, and I know the mixing bowl is filled with water. Time to scurry off before I’m mopping the bathroom walls.