Saturday, June 16, 2018

My dad, his dad, and me.

My dad was a Marine in 1968 in Vietnam, literally a war hero because of his bravery in battle. He saved the lives of two critically wounded soldiers by pulling them from a burning tank.

Harold Newell II
Dad, with medal
His Dad was an army paratrooper in the Pacific during WWII.

Harold Newell I
Grandpa, with rubble

I spent my early twenties in Chico, California interviewing bands, trying to be Hunter S. Thompson. I always wonder what my life would've been like had I been in the military.  This look is as close as I got.

I'm an idiot
My cousin was a Marine in Bosnia during that unpleasantness and then again later in Iraq. He was involved in the rescue of Jessica Lynch, if you remember that operation. We don't talk anymore and I miss him but that's another story altogether. The thing about Father's Day is that it always brings up these thoughts about what my life would've been like had my dad lived to see old age. He died when I was six.  The circumstances around his suicide are a tragedy and they have something to do with both P.T.S.D. and alcoholism and I don't have anyone in my family really to talk to about it that knew him around that time. I assume they would tell me they wish they could've done more to help him. I was given a box of his stuff a few years ago, mementos from his time in 'Nam and pictures of him as a baby and whatnot. Its a weird thing to sift through because of how weighted the items are. The Vietnam stuff is fraught with pain because it looks like he was at summer camp. In lots of the pictures he's goofing off with his buddies, they're holding scary guns in the jungle like something straight out of Full Metal Jacket and they look so young. He must be 19 at the time. Just a kid. He put the pictures in these photo albums like he thought he would want to look at them later in life. Like someone might have done for their time in college. But with the war, and the ugliness that followed it after his return, I'm pretty sure he never looked at them again. But I wouldn't know because, again, there's no one to talk to about all that. My dad's family kind of fell apart over the last couple of years after my grandmother passed away. She was the hub around which the family gathered. Without her, there's not a lot of reason to get together and since they sold her old house in the hills, there's nowhere to go. Man, this story got sad, didn't it? What I'm trying to say is that Father's Day is tough. But the good news is I get to completely embrace a new kind of Father's Day now that I'm a father. Sure, I didn't go to War, and I don't have any Greatest Generation kind-of wisdom to pass down, but what I do have is lots of love and support and a clean bill of mental health to provide comfort and care and a general sense of well-being to this little ball of love I brought into all our lives...the village its going to take raise her, I mean.

I could really fill out a jump suit.
And being a dad is awesome, man. It's really been a great thing for me because I get to do all sorts of stuff I missed out on being able to do because I didn't have a dad growing up. I get to be there for her. I get to live the kind of life my dad didn't get to because he had challenges he never had time or the will to overcome. That's too bad. But me, I get to build the kind of family I would've wanted. I get to teach her how to surf and ride a bike and throw a knife and build a tree-house. I get to take her to punk shows and read her Where the Wild Things Are and teach her how to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches.  Every Father's Day when I was a kid was just a reminder of what I was missing out on. But now it becomes a day I get to live in the present and be thankful for the kind of life I have made for myself and my little girl and that's the best thing I could ask for. She's two months old this weekend. She smiles at us, is becoming more alert to her surroundings, and really turning into a little person.  And let me tell you, it just keeps getting better.

Friday, May 18, 2018


I've been having this thought about how the universe is expanding. Our galaxy is in the middle of it, the universe, that is, but what that means is that the galaxies on the edge further out are moving farther away from us, faster. It makes me feel lonely. Like when you're at a concert in a crowd of people, alone. You're not alone, but you feel like it. That's what I feel like in the universe. Brainy science dudes say that its very likely that there's other intelligent life out there, but the chances that they will have reached technological maturity enough to venture far enough away from their own planet to reach us, at the same moment in time that we are evolved enough to greet them is very unlikely. The earth is 4-1/2 billion years old. The entirety of recorded human history from cave paintings to now is like 40,000 years and of that only the last 7000 is documented in any real way. So here we are hurtling through space a fleck of dust on a gnat's ass (in cosmological terms), and the mathematical likelihood that we'll be alive at the exact moment in geological time that another advanced civilization reaches us is infinitesimal. So that's a bummer. But in that thought there is hope. If aliens can't be our friends, maybe we should be friends with the people we have here on Earth. I'm a friendly guy. Will you be my friend?

Which brings me to my point with all this. As a father I'm going to need to be an expert in a lot of things. Or I'm going to need to be perceived as an expert. Kids ask a lot of questions. I plan to have a lot of answers. For instance, today at lunch my boss was looking at these single serve creamers I had to go in my coffee. They weren't refrigerated, but they were real half and half. He was concerned.

"Those don't go bad?"

And I said, "No, they're shelf-stable"

"What do they do to them?" He pressed.

"A wizard blessed them." And that finished the conversation. Of course a wizard blessed them. They were wizard-blessed half and half's. These are the kinds of answers I'll have at the ready to tell my kid. I'll be very convincing. And who is going to judge me? You?! Science is magic. Religion is just stories. Facts are debatable.  It'll be great.  I'll be the repository of all bullshit knowledge. Jelly beans are unicorn poops, that sort of thing.

In fact, this goofiness has already begun. When we told people what we were thinking about naming our kid, we played a little joke on them. We'd say, "We came up with the perfect name....Methany!" and then let their faces crinkle up into a forced smile and they tell us what a nice name that was, unique and the like. And then we'd go. "Just kidding, its Amelia." and they'd let out a sigh of relief and admit they were only being polite and that they were so glad it wasn't something as stupid-sounding as Methany. But I guess with a couple of my buddies, I let the joke too far. As in, I never told them what her real name was at all until one of them sent me a "Congratulations on your new baby!" card and it was written to Methany's parents.  Now I'm trying to remember who else we told that dumb name to and who might still not know we were fibbing. If you are reading this and you are a friend of mine her name is Amelia and I'm sorry I forgot to tell you the truth. I guess the joke is on me because you really thought I was one of these awful parents who invented a name with the word Meth in it.  Lovely.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Old dads bend at the knees

I noticed today that I'm old, or I'm getting old. I feel very old, I've learned, when I stand at the changing table for too long and start to feel a weird tinge in my back. "You're hunched over, dummy." I say to myself "Bend your knees!" and then I have to adjust my stance and put my feet out wider so I am closer to the job at hand, like cleaning my baby's dirty butt, and not putting so much weight on my lower back. Also, it was really dark at the changing table, so I made this little floating shelf with an LED light under it that I could turn on to see things again, because I'm half blind from old age.

Put your baby's name on things that way you'll be less likely to forget it.

 I now can see all sorts of things better. Like my baby's beautiful face that's usually crying because I am annoying her with my diapering, which she hates. But mostly I see her dirty butt. I am going to do another post about how to make that shelf thing, because I am learning how to monetize this blog with useful content. To monetize means to turn my inane thoughts  (that you enjoy reading) into COLD HARD CASH by tricking people into clicking on links I embed in my writing. Like this: you hungry? Buy these banana snacks, they're hella good! I eat them all the time. Seriously, buy them. I'm not kidding. They're delicious.

That shelf I was talking about is really neat though. I built it from scraps I had lying around, I'm a woodworker by trade, a carpenter, you could say. So I threw it together real quick. The best thing I did, was get this switch you put on the ground so you can turn it on and off with no hands, like a guitar pedal.  I figured I'm going to be walking over there with my hands full of baby, why not find a switch I could put on the floor? How easy! I'll write up a "how-to" soon enough, you'll love it. Maybe I'll make a bunch of those and put them on Etsy and make all sorts of money. I guess that's what this blog is really about, how I can I turn a monetary negative, having a baby, into a monetary positive, blabbing about that silly baby on the internet in return for eyeballs on advertising. Thanks a-lot, America! I'm gonna spin poopie diapers into gold, GOLD I tell ya!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Stroller review - Chicco Bravo Trio - Best Stroller Ever! (There, I said it. Please pay me.)

I've decided I'm going to review things I use in a dad-ly fashion. I'll be an expert in dad things I use because I have very valid and objective opinions and I don't mind sharing them with people. And for no good reason at all I expect to be such an awesome dad, I figure you're going to want to listen to me because I'm crushing it so far. I mean, I'm almost 3 weeks in and the little nugget is doing great.  She breast-feeds and naps like a champ and fills her diaper like its her job, and she's almost 7 pounds already. I haven't dropped her once. This dad stuff isn't so hard after all!

Anyway, with the stroller its a Chicco Bravo Trio, we got it at Toys 'R Us a few months ago, even before they were totally going out of business.

Chicco Bravo Travel System, Orion
Asleep in the bushes again, that's my girl

It was a floor model and we got a helluva deal on it. $100 off and it was still practically brand new! We stole the thing, if you ask me. As far as we can tell its the Cadillac of the Chicco line of strollers. It has a base you put in the back seat of your Prius. (Where we live in the Bay Area everyone has a Prius so for convenience's sake I will assume you have one too.) The base is this plastic thing you lock, more-or-less permanently, to the car that the car seat with the kid in it snaps into.

Chicco Carseat base
Our kid hella likes Santa Cruz
 Its super easy to lift it in and out. That part is awesome. And then when you put it in the stroller part, it just snaps in there the same way it does into the base, like magic. Way easy. Whoever designed this shit was a goddamned genius. I remember when my kid brother was born back in 1991. We had just invaded Iraq and I was at wrestling practice during my freshman year of high school. Somebody brought a message to the wrestling room. "You just had a kid brother!" they told me, and I remember everyone was congratulating me and saying how cool that was and I was like "What you congratulating me for?  I didn't do anything." and then we went back to practicing wrestling which for me was mainly Steve Krueger putting his sweaty sack and groin in my face while he bent me in ways my body was not intended to. Let's just say I wasn't very good at wrestling. Steve Krueger was very good at wrestling and went to the State finals that year and I just felt lucky to be beat up by him and that he knew my name. But anyway, my memory of car seats and strollers back in the 90's was that they sucked. You had to buckle the car seat in every time with the seat belt like a fool. No one had invented the base thing. What a bunch of idiots we were. It was like we were still banging two rocks together to make fire. Times were so much simpler then. I remember thinking it was cool we were going to liberate Kuwait, which we did in like 3 days, if my memory serves.  And then we conquered Iraq and there was never another problem in the Middle East again! Those were the days.

But I digress...This stroller is way good. I don't have any other strollers to compare it to, really, because we only bought the one and I'm not a famous-enough blogger for companies to send me free shit. If you do read this, GRACO, please send me free stuff. If you pay me, I will write nice things about it. Selling out is my goal in life. We live in a post-keeping-it-real world. I am not "punk" anymore. As I have alluded to in previous posts, I am not cool. I USED to be cool, which makes me an expert on what WAS cool. But in terms of what can be used effectively by middle-aged dads, and whether or not that thing can be recommended, is completely related to how often anyone will send me free stuff and even better, pay me to talk about it. I used to review CDs for five dollars a pop 20 years ago when I was at "college" and I wrote for the local free weekly (that has since gone belly up, I just learned.) My prices have gone up since then, but not much! I'm very affordable. Sign me to an exclusive contract PAMPERS, I can be HAD!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Life is a Sandwich - the good parts are in the middle

I started this blog many years ago to talk about sandwiches. I even took a food blog writing class at Stanford. "I'm a Stanford Alum." I like to tell people who never asked. That's the most important thing I learned at Stanford, was how to drop the name Stanford into innocent and not-at-all-related conversations. Never mind that the food blog writing class I took was one of those "Continuing Education" types of things for middle-aged locals to while away their time on casual art appreciation and business public speaking skills. I make sure to mention as often as possible that I "went" to Stanford.  For example, say someone asks me whether or not I liked the movie Get Out, I could say "Back when I studied at Stanford, race was a huge issue..." Sure it was 2012, and race is always an issue in this country, and me being at Stanford has nothing to do with it,  but that's not the point. The point is that I get to talk about Stanford and my relation to it.

The blog writing class was really neat though. It was me and 15 very nice ladies who liked to cook and bake and brought lots of fun food to the class for everyone to try. There was even someone in the class that turned her blog into a NY Times bestselling cookbook. Nom Nom Paleo, they make her recipes at Whole Foods now. Anyway, the point I'm getting to is that I have a passion for sandwiches. I coined the term Sandwichosity which I define as the quantifiable ability of a sandwich to be pleasing. Sandwiches high in Sandwichosity are good. Like a Katz Deli pastrami on rye. Or my favorite sandwich of all time a Wise Son's pastrami Reuben. It has all the elements; extremely delicious home-made ingredients, griddled bread and melted cheese as well as the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats, and sauerkraut, which I used to think was disgusting, but on this sandwich is somehow awesome.

Eating a sandwich, properly, with child.
I bring all this up only to shoehorn my love of sandwiches into the realm of fatherhood.  I posit that life is a sandwich. The boring parts are the bread...going to work, the cutting of toenails, the paying of taxes. They keep the thing together, like the rough framing of a house. Nobody gets too excited about the bread. The best parts of the sandwich, pretty much the only thing worth paying attention to, are the middle parts. The Meaty Bits. That's  your egg-salad, or your PB&J, your roast beef...those are the good times of life. The having of kids, the going on vacation to Yellowstone, the marrying your sweetheart.  At the beginning, you are a kid just figuring everything out. And when you're really old, well let's not get into that just yet. I'm going to be an old father. I'll be 59 when my kid gets out of high school.  I'm experiencing parenthood older in life than most people.  But with that, I have a better perspective on things. I know who I am. I know how to let stuff go and not get too worked up about the little details. If I were 20 and getting on this roller coaster, I wouldn't have done my first stage-dive, or have eaten sweetbreads or have slept on the street in front of a library during Mardi Gras. Now at the ripe age of 41 I'm past all that, worrying about what's cool, like Snapchat or dabbing. Now I get to sit back and work on my lame dad jokes and wear my pants too high and complain about kids today. "Kids today!" I'll say "Kids today are always staring at their phones going 'Hey phone, entertain me! I don't want to have to think my own thoughts.' But me, back in my day, we had to live in total boredom. Thinking your own thoughts was the only way to pass the time, the Internet didn't exist! We had encyclopedias! Remember them?!" And my kid will look at me like "Dad, you're the lamest." And she'll be right. Because even though I'll know I used to be cool, there will be no way to impart that sense of coolness. Being cool is fleeting, like a fart, you know its there in the moment, but when its gone, its gone. And good riddance.