Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yesterday's Math

"Here is the math you needed yesterday."  What part of yesterday don't I understand?  Nothing stinks more than yesterday's math.  What I could really use is tomorrow's math.

I keep looking up at this and it cracks me up every time.  I love how there is nothing at the apex of the arrows; all things start here, at nothing, this random spot.  In N's defense, the math is pretty good, in fact a good solid 'C' I would have to say, seventy-five percent, right?

I am trying to keep it short today because I am introducing a new feature here on 'ihopeiwinatoaster.'  My wife, Marci, uses little things she overhears the boys say as updates on her Facebook page.  She calls it:  '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...' and they are usually very entertaining.  She just sends them out there, usually with no explanations.  I am going to try to include one at the end of my daily posts.
From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'
Nick: " Have you ever done something you did not think you were able to do?'
Zack (thoughtfully): "2010."
Yeah, that's how it works.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Inexplicable Instructions and Flow Charts

Jan Fogy seems to be in charge.

"for arrow on"
"off arrow on"
"no arrow off"

I personally have seen charts and instructions and computer bluescreen requests and toy assembly instructions and video cameras and workplace handbooks that have made less sense than the above.  I love the rectangle with the arrows every which way towards the top right.  It reminds of those little icons you see on computers and gadgets and stuff that you don't really know what means.

Here is one from N.  It's a little more straightforward.

"No taking the menus home.  No going into the kitchen.  Try to be clean."

I have seen forty page employee manuals that basically just said this.  Seriously, that covers about everything:  Don't take our stuff, keep out of the Chef's way, and keep it clean in every way.  That's all you really need to know.

Do you remember that old children's song, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream?"  I've always thought that everything I ever needed to know was in that little song.  Think about it.

It's "Row, row, row your boat," not one, but three rows there.  Life is hard work and takes not a double effort but a triple effort. Also, it says your boat.  Man, is that good advice (which I personally have trouble heeding).  Row, row, row your own damn boat and stay away from trying to right the boats around you.  They already have a captain and a bilge pump, they'll be fine.

"Gently down the stream."  Two things here.  Gently, yes, gently.  It's a ginger planet and the souls around us are fragile, the minds we shape are vulnerable and the hearts so breakable so, in all things we must be gentle.  And remember, don't ask too much of yourself.  Row down  the stream, it's so much nicer and it's easier to stay on course if you're not forcing yourself into the oncoming rapids and twisting eddies we face in an upstream battle.

And finally, "Merrily" four times.   Four times!  Do this thing festively, happily, the people in the other boats are watching.  "Life is but a dream."  I could spend a lifetime and never come up with words so simple and poetic.

So, whether obfuscated or simple, life's instructions are everywhere.  We just need to recognize them.  And a good place to look is in the hearts and through the eyes of our children.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"All Hail" (or What Did The Clown Do?)

I never really got the story on this one just nearly tripped over it one day.  It sort of creeps me out with its blatant absurdity, if Camus had Legos, you know.

I mean what did the clown do?  Who slayed him and what appears to be the ice cream man?  Is this a joyless god to whom they are praying?  Is it a birthday party gone horribly wrong?  Why does that woman have the golden chalice?  Why are they all so stiff and formal and expressionless?  What does the machine thingee do?  Why is this happening?

But most troubling to me, the real question is... who came in the car?

Sunday, November 27, 2011


You know where I am going with this, right? 

As I previously mentioned 'hairbrainage' is defined as  'the results of misguided or flawed thinking which are inexplicable  to those uninvolved in their making. (see bower bird).'  'Dumbf**kery' takes that one step further by introducing the element of imminent physical harm.  This video shows it at it's best, we were "chunkin' punkins'" in the back yard using a giant slingshot strapped between the two maples in my backyard.

Yeah, the ways we all could have been hurt are innumerable.  I also wanted to show that my boys come by it naturally, all boys do.  There is something inherently thrilling about being a part of something that could quickly turn wrong, and children, especially boys, are always waiting for the explosion, or the slip-up, or the accident.  It is their way of learning that life is not perfect, dads aren't perfect, plans aren't perfect.

Dumbf**kery is standing on the roof of your playset for the first time, climbing a ladder as your dad spots you, hoping he'll catch you if you slip (and you're two and a half).  It can be as simple as trying to stand on a soccer ball or as complex as spinning in a hanging hammock, swinging a stick, chanting "boradoraboradora" as your brother ducks each time the stick comes around.

Perhaps it is this type of asinine behavior that steels us for the long journey of calculated risks we must all take as we navigate our way through this thing called life.  Those small early risks get more complicated and exponentially more dangerous, and, increasingly, the danger is to our souls and not just our bodies.  Hearts will be broken, dreams will be shattered, minds will explode and there is nothing we can do about it, but, somehow the risks seem worth the taking.

On the other hand, maybe it's just fun to do stupid stuff.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


 This is what I rushed down to see the other day after Z yelled, in his 'emergency' voice:  "Dad, you gotta come see this!"  (Of course I'm thinking should I dial 9-1- or at least grab a towel for the blood.)

Yeah, WTF would be the appropriate response.  This is what I have come to call 'hairbrainage,' not to be confused with 'dumbf***ery' which I will get to in another post.  'Hairbrainage' is defined as:  'the results of misguided or flawed thinking which are inexplicable  to those uninvolved in their making. (see bower bird)'  It's a real thing, that I , well, made up...

The first pic is N's creation, play plates and Hot Wheels and a stray can and a piece of track arranged, in my opinion, very artistically with a great sense of color.  The second is Z who has broken into the third dimension using those ubiquitous cardboard blocks and the even more ever-present Hot Wheels.

They were so excited by these odd creations into which so much energy and passion had been put.  I stood in silent awe and said, "My."  A word I save for when I am truly rendered dumbstruck.  I took the pictures (or they would have had to stay up until hell freezes) and they pushed them down and stomped through them Godzilla-style (although they are without that antecedent) and found some other windmills to slay.

Later, as I sat looking at these pictures, reflecting, I was struck by the significance of their insignificance.  I can't tell you how many times I have come upon these sorts of utterly baffling presentations and displays, marveling at the energy, time and intellect they've taken, and simply wonder, "why?"  This time an answer revealed itself as I looked closely at the details, the precision of their work, the obvious choices they had so carefully made.  The answer wasn't: 'Because we could.'  The answer was 'Because we had to.'  These things have an imperity that I don't understand, which is a way of saying, that I've forgotten.

I sometimes wish that something, anything, could have that sort of native, naive importance.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"You Should Try The Purge..."

Try the what!?

Ever since the boys were two or so they have played pretend restaurant.  I was working as a waiter when they were born and for several years afterward.  Often, they came into the  place I worked and consequently they began to cultivate a working knowledge of the restaurant business.

The first restaurant they opened was called "Slide" and it's had a long run here.  It sells sliders and fries and milkshakes and homemade chips and pickles and chicken fingers and... well... bar food, apparently.  Their second endeavor was an upscale place called "Chef," sort of and insider's place where all the "restaurant workermans" go for an after shift nosh and a microbrew.  It's actually above "Slide," or below, it sort of morphs back and forth, and it sells fancy foods like steak and "pretty things to eat," I think N said.

To any marketing types out there I'll wait while you are blown away buy the obvious brilliance of this business plan.  Basically, a pub sorta of place twinned with a high check, cuisine nouvelles, get-a-lot-of-buzz sort of joint.  And, ohhh, here's the good part; you never know which is which and, genius again, they share the same kitchen.  Brilliant.

Anyhow, the third restaurant in their entrepreneurial dynasty has opened, again, on the same premises. Called "Meat" it began serving this evening, a soft opening with a limited menu.  Here is that menu with my translations (you can click on it and get it full sized):

I was seated at a nice table near the kitchen and the chef came out because the waiter was a little giggly and a bit too silly to take my order.  

"You should try the Purge, Daddy."

"I was wondering about that, what is it?"

"Really good."  Chef talk for I dare ya to try it.

"I'll have the salad, The Purge, an orange joos, and I'll try the cheese appetizer."  With my kids you don't order just one thing.

"We're outa cheese," the ditzy waiter again, who is now lying prostate on the floor.  (At this point all I can think to myself is: didn't I work here once?)

The chef, Z for anyone taking notes, goes back to the kitchen and after about ten minutes of moronic prattering, sophomoric scatological references and a few mild physical altercations  (I know I used to work here, now) all the food arrives, served by the featherbrained waiter, followed by the chef wiping his hands on, oddly enough, a map torn from the yellow pages.

The salad is fine, the joos cold and The Purge is revealed: an open-topped box stuffed with every available toy meat in the pretend kitchen: a steak, two chicken legs, a hot dog and a sausage, a second steak (perhaps a lamb chop), a burger patty, a slice of deli meat and, the topper, a pickle wedge.  Yep, The Purge.  Order it next time you're at "Meat," you won't be sorry.

Next time I think I'll try the "Hand Burger."  (Honestly, doesn't that make more sense than Hamburger?)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Am Thankful

I love the piles of stuff that come home from First Grade.  This is the first page of the "I am Thankful" booklets they made two days before Thanksgiving.  That's N on the left, "Kity" is his stuffed kitten with whom he's been sleeping since he was about one and a half, clearly a house, food, and what appears to be a half-full glass.  Z there, on the right is thankful for his real kitten, Bailey, his house and food.

I guess at this age they are thankful for what makes them happy.  Am I?  I always go to things like 'good health' and 'family' forgetting the other things like my guitar and my truck and a cold beer and meat and so on.  So tonight I am good, what are you thankful for?

Here's the second page. N says: "house.  I am thankful for my house decos (because) it ceqs (keeps) us worm (warm).  Z says: "my cat Bailey, me."

"Me"  I hadn't thought of that.  I am thankful for me, and I am a little embarrassed I had to be reminded of that.

The whole  ten page booklet is full of all the simple things we should all be thankful for: "ice cream, my hat, playing, birds, fruit, bunnies and butterflies, monstrkrucks (sic), trees and flowers and, of course, bugs by the garden."  I wish I could be that specific, that on target, that plainly, simply, poetically, profoundly thankful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Dabby Peedles"

It says:  "I love Dabby Peedles" and I recieved it from Z about a year ago and, honestly, I hope I never lose it.  You may wonder why it speaks to me so, which may be a bit difficult to explain.

Here's the truth, I am a 'failer,' not to be confused with a 'failure,' a failer, one who fails.  I feel strongly that a person should fail.  I mean really Z failed here a great deal (that 'b' 'd' think gets a lot of kids) but, is his message difficult to understand, muddled or confused?  Certainly not.  Did it stop him? No.  Do I treasure this unsolicited  gift?  Yes.  I will forever be Dabby Peedles if I have to.  He certainly got the one word right, love.  That was his message.

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."   Samuel Beckett said that, and I use it as a mantra sometimes.

"Fail better."  Doesn't that truly describe the maturation process, the growing up that lasts a lifetime?  I sometimes watch my boys struggle at what seem to me to be the simplest tasks.  I watched on in near agony for an hour as they both tried, and failed, to make the five pointed star that you and I render so casually.  They came out so lopsided and hopeless, metaphorical and actual hair was pulled out and anguished moans of frustration rose up from our dining table, where a great deal of failures and successes begin. They got better at it, failed better if you will, and now, well, perfect stars litter many drawings of night skies, stars decorate race cars and firetrucks, sheriff's badges, golden and perfect, are worn proudly.  In fact, there for a while I got pretty damn tired of stars.

I love my kids, I love to watch them succeed, but, I also love to watch them fail, for that, I think, is where character begins.

Ain't It True

"No pliers are available."  Well, ain't that the truth.  Are they ever available, the pliers, the tools we need go get things done?  Not really.  Are they there, in our possession?  Yes.  But they aren't available.  Are they accessible, obtainable?  Probably, they just aren't available.

I read this as oddly optimistic.  The pliers aren't lost or broken.  They are not too difficult to use or understand.  They are neither mystical nor imagined.  They are simply unavailable, at this time.  A slight misunderstanding perhaps, a glitch, a temporary lapse, a misplacement.

I don't know what what made N, then maybe four, write this assessment.  I don't know if he needed pliers for some "hairbrainage" or to pretend fix something or what his motivation was.  I just saw it on the floor in the basement and read it and thought: 'Well that's good to know, thanks, buddy.'  I'll look for something else to do, use a different tool, go in a different direction.

I'll look in a different toolbox.

I call this "Blue Jet" and it makes me happy.  Again, just a random find on top of the random detritus that typically layers our floors.  Upon seeing it I smiled.  I wanted to be that blue dude, in his blue jet, with his retro helmet and his jaunty scarf.  Flying in an empty sky, on a lovely day, flying right into life headstrong, with a smile on my face.

I am not sure what inspired Z to sketch this.  I hope happiness. I hope joy.  I hope courage.  I hope faith. I hope the endless dreaming of a then five year old, the anticipation of what is to come...

...or, perhaps he could only find a blue crayon.

So this is what I intend to do here, I'll find more stuff, I already have piles of it.  I will always look down and I will always listen.  I will always be willing to learn from them.  I hope I win a toaster.