I have been to the mountaintop!

Oh, the baggage. [sigh] The baggage, the baggage. The heavy baggage. It weighs upon me. Heavily. The baggage, it does.

Occasionally, however, there comes a way to shed some of that oh-so-heavy baggage … and because one of those ways recently presented itself to me, I feel I should share it with you. It’s called: The Delete Button.

Let me show you how it works:

Say your father comes over to pick up your 5-year-old son for a pre-arranged sleepover your son cajoled your father and his wife into hosting, and your father is all stressed out because he thought his wife was going to be fetching your son, but she apparently is running late, so here he is—with his pick-up truck.

Now, let’s also say that your father just so happens to be the single worst driver you and your wife have ever been in a vehicle with, which is why you usually prefer that his wife drive any automobile containing your offspring, and that if he must be the driver, he at least be at the wheel of his or his wife’s newer-fangled automobile, preferably while she is in the car with him.

Let us further say that your son has, for his entire life, ridden in a child-safety-seat placed in the backseat of whatever vehicle it is in which he is traveling. However, as it turns out, your father’s pick-up truck is a pick-up truck (and by “pick-up truck,” I don’t mean one of those PICK-UP TRUCK pick-up trucks with the double doors on each side and full-sized backseat or any of that nonsense).

And it occurs to you that you don’t even know if it’s legal, let alone safe, for your son to ride in his child-safety seat in the front of your father’s pick-up truck, so you quickly step into your office and attempt to find that information on the Internet. The best you can come up with in the 30-or-so seconds that you have is some Massachusetts-specific, but non-state-sanctioned, info indicating that, no, your son should not be traveling in the front seat of a pick-up truck.

Matters are now complicated, because, as fate would have it, you love your son and feel somewhat responsible for keeping him safe. Unfortunately, doing so in this situation isn’t going to go over well, because your father? He laughs in the face of safety. “Ha-ha!” says he.

For example, he has told you he doesn’t wear a seatbelt because he doesn’t (and I quote) “believe in seatbelts.” (You have asked him if he believes in “inertia” and “windshields,” but to no avail.)

So it would most likely be with some concern and trepidation, then, that you would subsequently tell your father that your son can’t be transported in his pick-up truck—and your concern and trepidation would be well justified, because your now-exasperated, easily angered father would reply, “I knew this was going to be a problem.” (And at this point, you find yourself thinking, “Well, if you knew this was going to be a problem, why in the bloody fucking hell did you put yourself—and us—in this position when you could have just gone home and gotten your car?” But you don’t say that.)

Then he says, “What? What’s gonna happen? I’m going to get pulled over?” To which you respond, “Actually, I’m more concerned about my son’s safety than the threat of you getting a traffic citation.”

And your wife, she backs your play (which, incidentally, makes you want to freeze time like that dude on “Heroes” so that you can immediately whisk her away to the bedroom for a few minutes) and reasserts that your son won’t be traveling in the pick-up truck, but adds that she’d be happy to go out the door right now and drive your son to your father’s house, which is what ultimately happens.

“Yes, but Jon, what about the whole ‘how to unburden yourself of baggage’ thing you mentioned 25,000 words ago?” you ask. “Isn’t that the premise under which you sucked me into reading this novel-like post?” Indeed it is. Hang in there.

On the day following the whole Zan’s-not-going-in-your-pick-up-truck debacle, you receive from your father an email. The subject line reads: “The Way It Is.”

You open it, and the first of what appears to be many sentences contained in a single paragraph reads something like “lowercase lowercase lowercase YOU lowercase lowercase YOU.”

Over the years, you have received several maddening emails from your father—most notably the winner of the Most Obnoxious Email Of All Time award, which dates back to 2001, and whose subject line reads “RESPECT,KNOWLEDGE,SELF RIGHTEOUS POMPOUSITY[sic]” (and you still know the email’s subject line because you have saved the email in a special folder). And in the past, when you have received such emails, you have always expended copious amounts of energy dissecting, and then responding in kind, to every point your father has put forth.

During every one of those reading-and-responding-to-Dad’s-email incidents, you have felt your blood pressure soar so high that the top of your skull almost blows off—and blow off it would if not for the heavy, heavy baggage firmly holding it in place.

And it occurs to you that never in the history of these vitriolic electronic exchanges has your father ever come to you afterward and said, “Son, you are right, and I am going to begin thinking and acting differently from this day forward. Thank you for setting me straight.” And this realization makes you think that perhaps going through the whole “I know you are, but what am I?” thing this time around probably isn’t worth the effort.

And now you are standing at a crossroads.

The path to your left leads to a bile-inducing hour or so spent reading, and then drafting a response to, “The Way It Is” (which likely will only lead to a second—and perhaps third—round of email exchanges between you and your father). It is a well-worn path. The path to your right, however, is as untouched as virgin snow, and suddenly looks far more attractive than your usual route.

You note that you have already taken a step towards this virginal path on your right, because you stepped away from the computer immediately after doing nothing more than scanning the first sentence of “The Way It Is”; in fact, so cursory was your look at that first sentence that, scant moments later, you don’t have even the vaguest recollection of what it actually said.

You explain to your wife about the email, and that you haven’t read it yet, and that you don’t think you want to. She asks if she can read it for you in case there’s anything important in it, to which you respond, “By all means, knock yourself out.” So she reads it, which is a far less burdensome act for her than it would be for you, because the almost-four-decades’-worth of baggage you wish to keep from getting crushed under isn’t sitting on top of her.

Upon completion, she says, “You’re right, you don’t want to read it. All you need to know is that he won’t expect to drive Zan anywhere unless he’s driving a car that has a backseat.”

You thank her and sit back down at the computer. Somewhere in the distance, you hear a voice, and realize it is coming from that thorny path on your left. “Come on, Jon,” it says. “Don’t be a pussy. Read it and then let’s lace up those gloves, my friend. You can beat him this time.”

And for perhaps the first time in your life, you tell that voice to go fuck itself, because you’d rather have a pleasant Saturday with your family.

So, baggage be damned, you hit the “Reply” button, type “Great! Thanks! Love, Jon” and click “Send.” You then return to your Inbox, select “The Way It Is” and press (drumroll, please) … The Delete Button! Hallemotherfuckinglujah!

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Posted in Life | 8 Responses

Still headbanging after all these years

Self-inflicted dipshit wound

There are so many things wrong with this photo (not the least of which is the fact that I was standing in the bathroom at midnight taking a picture of myself in the mirror), or at least why this photo came to be, that I hardly know where to begin.

Every night before I go to bed, I hoof it upstairs and carry the kids to the bathroom in their sleep so that we can avoid any bed-wetting mishaps (and, boy oh boy, have there been some spectacular bed-wetting mishaps over the years … but a friend who is the father of an only child once told me that, in the interest of his child’s dignity, bed-wetting incidents were off-limits in his blogging, which seems reasonable—so, rather than tell you, for example, about the time one of the children wet the bed only a little, but after being carried to the bathroom for post-bed-wetting cleanup let loose a tsunami-sized tidal wave all over the bathroom floor with his/her pajama bottoms still on, I’m just going to leave it at that). On some of those nights, I bring upstairs with me the children’s recently laundered clothing, which Wonder Woman often leaves folded on the stairs. Carrying it up is the least I can do, since she is usually the one who humps it all down to the river, bangs it against the rocks, wrings it out, hangs it to dry, gathers it all up and folds it. (Love you, honey!)

Normally, I place Zan’s folded laundry on the floor to the side of his dresser, from where Wonder Woman can then, on the following morning, put it in the proper drawers. (I leave this for her because I, after all, was the one who had to carry it all the way up the 10-or-so miniature steps that lead to our Lilliputian-sized second floor.)

Last night, however, the area where I usually place Zan’s clothes was occupied by the front end of a fully assembled tent thing that looks like a rocket ship and basically takes up as much room as the actual Space Shuttle. Thus, there was a limited amount of space right in front of the dresser, which is where I chose to instead place the clothes. Atop the light-colored birch (*cough* veneer *cough*) dresser, I later discovered, was a piece of relatively darker-colored construction paper that just happened to be positioned directly in front of my location, and which, in the dark, managed to obscure the front edge of said dresser. (Yes, I’m making excuses for what is about to happen.) So imagine my surprise, then, when I quickly bent forward to place the clothing in its unfamiliar location (more excuses) and suddenly felt my head slam into the construction-paper-obscured (rehashed excuse) front edge of the dresser.

Because I often, at moments like this, turn into a drama queen, I hit the deck with both hands clamped over the site of the injury and lay there waiting for the angels to claim me. After a moment or two, however, the pain subsided, so I removed my hands and rubbed the spot with my fingers, at which point I felt what seemed to be not a mere bump, but an actual gash in my forehead. Yes, I had slammed my head into the dresser with enough force to cause my skin to separate upon impact.

To the bathroom I went to wash the blood off my fingers and examine the damage.

Twice during my childhood, I split the skin on my forehead, and if you’ve never had a head wound before, let me tell you from experience that they bleed like a sonovabitch; I had to get a number of stitches on both occasions. Last night’s injury was, thankfully, less catastrophic, but to get the bleeding to stop, I had to press a wad of tissues against the cut with a great deal of force for a fairly lengthy time.

And it was during my wait for the clotting to kick in that I realized this whole blogging thing is a form of mental illness, because instead of just thinking “Jesus Christ, what a fucking spectacularly moronic way to split my head open” (which, admittedly, was still the predominant train of thought) and “Holy shit, I’m glad that wasn’t an inch lower, or I’d have an eyeful of broken glass,” I quickly found myself also thinking (perhaps even with a small bit of joy?), “Well, at least I can write a blog entry about this!”

My wife woke up in bed this morning next to a 38-year-old man wearing a “Hello Kitty” Band-Aid on his forehead.

Hello Kitty Band-Aid

[Memo to self: Buy some grown-up Band-Aids.]

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Posted in Buffoonery | 8 Responses

When up on the roof, there arose such a clatter …

It wasn’t that I thought placing the ladder’s feet on the cement-and-flagstone walkway was necessarily a good idea … it’s just that that’s where I needed it to be in order to properly secure the Christmas lights to the gutter above the front door. I had already tried standing on the threshold of the doorway, but I couldn’t quite reach the gutter from there. A step ladder probably would have been the way to go, but it was getting darker and colder and I had already spent more time than I could afford trying to string up all of this holiday cheer, so fuck it, what’s the worst that could happen?

I should note that the item I am referring to as a “ladder” would more accurately be described as a “piece of a ladder.” It is actually the lower half of what, in its original form, was a two-piece aluminum ladder, the upper section of which most likely had mounted on the top ends of its rails some sort of rubber guards that would protect the surface on which those ends would ostensibly be placed. I would also imagine that an added bonus of placing those theoretical rubber guards against the surface of the house would be their ability to help the top end of the ladder maintain its grip on said surface. I wouldn’t know for sure, however, since the top half of my ladder is non-existent.

Because we got the house painted several months ago, I was loath to place the sharp, aluminum ends of my piece of ladder against the freshly painted wood. My hurried and improvised solution was to wrap around the top ends of the ladder a pair of hand towels held in place with packing tape. Brilliant, right?

I started on the left end of the front gutter, and all went well with the three-or-so ladder placements it took to string the lights to a point just to the left of the front steps, during which the feet of the ladder were planted firmly on the lawn moss-and-yellow-crab-grass-covered earth.

Which brings us to the point of this little tale: in my haste to finish the job, I then placed the ladder’s feet in the center of the front walkway and rested the towel-covered ends against the moulding above the front door. In my defense, I tested the stability of the ladder’s placement by, you know, stepping on the bottom rung for a split second and gently bouncing up and down once or twice.

My rigorous inspection complete, I ascended until I was able to reach the gutter and began securing the string of lights. I affixed to the gutter a couple of the plastic light-hanging-fastener-things, then attached the—

BAMTHUDCRASH!

And just that fast, I found myself lying atop the fallen ladder, the length of which had come to rest against the set of steps leading up from the walkway to the front door. It happened so quickly that I barely even realized what was going on. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it went something like this: the feet of the ladder presumably slid backward a bit on the relatively frictionless walkway, which resulted in the top of the ladder slipping off the moulding—an occurrence that, no doubt, was aided greatly by my use of hand towels as ladder guards.

Although I have no specific recollection of this part, Wonder Woman, who was reading a book to Jayna while seated on a couch just a few feet away from the front door, assures me that she heard the top of the ladder scrape its way down the entire length of the storm door, so it is fairly miraculous that the glass didn’t shatter and no visible damage was inflicted upon the door—an occurrence that, no doubt, can be largely attributed to my use of hand towels as ladder guards … so at least I have that minor victory going for me.

You know how sometimes when you’re out in public, walking, and you suddenly trip or stumble on something, then recover your footing by breaking into a little trot for a couple of steps before resuming your regular walking pace, wondering all the while if anyone is watching and laughing at what a bumbling doofus you are? I knew right away that I must not have injured myself in the fall, because my immediate reaction was to jump right up and casually assess the position of the ladder and the placement of the lights while thinking to myself, “God, I hope none of the neighbors saw that.”

A quick personal inventory made me aware that my left thumb hurt, but it was only slightly bruised. I am guessing that I must have placed a death grip on the rapidly descending ladder, and, upon impact, my thumb briefly got squished between the ladder and the steps.

I most likely escaped further injury because I had fortuitously placed at the top of the front steps two cardboard boxes, in which I had carried out the lights and some other supplies. Somehow, those boxes ended up being positioned such that the left and right ladder rails landed squarely on top of them, crushing them in the process—and, as viewers of the Season 2 finale of “Fetch with Ruff Ruffman” well know, cardboard boxes can greatly aid in softening the impact of a falling object. (Zan is addicted to that show, and never tires of watching the same episodes over and over and over again, so WW and I have seen the cardboard-box-to-stop-a-falling-object thing a bazillion times—which is why she laughed her ass off when I told her it was one of the first things that flashed into my mind when I realized why I had barely avoided amputating my thumb with the ladder.)

Disaster averted, I managed to finish hanging the rest of the lights without incident, and the holiday season remained merry instead of tragic.

(And, yes, Mom, I promise not to do anything that moronic again—or, rather, I promise I’ll try not to; I’m guessing I’ll definitely do something that moronic again.)

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Posted in Buffoonery | 5 Responses

Reasons I Love Her, No. 337

Scene: Me, in my office, spending my umpteenth hour of the past week working on a freelance web-programming project, payment for which will make it possible for Santa to leave another mind-numbingly huge batch of presents this year for Zan and Jayna, ensure that our heat continues to function for a short while longer, and keep us slightly beyond the reach of the snapping jaws of home foreclosure. I have just built into the client’s website an insanely cool javascript-pop-up-window thing that I accomplished by geek geek geek blah blah blah, and, I assure you, it’s amazing. Sadly, no one applauded. Because I am a vainglorious infant who needs praise and adulation, I summon an audience.

“Honey? Can you come here for a minute and pretend you care?”

Enter, Wonder Woman.

“So I’ve been struggling with this for hours, and I just downloaded and installed some blah blah geek geek blah, which is awesome, because look at this: [I click on something, and something happens that, I swear to god, is one of the coolest things ever—if you’re a total geek.]

Wonder Woman, convincingly: “OH MY GOD! THAT IS AWESOME, HONEY! WOW! REALLY, THAT’S AMAZING! SERIOUSLY! YOU ARE SO HOT!

“OK, that’s enough. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Exit, Wonder Woman.

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Posted in Geek, Marriage | 4 Responses

Um, no, really: I’m with the band …

Trent motherfucking Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, taken by me

There is a scene in the movie “Almost Famous” during which the star—a young and budding music journalist—approaches the backstage door of a concert venue, rings the buzzer, gives the surly security guard his name and says that he’s there to interview the band.

The guard checks the guest list on his clipboard.

“You’re not on the list,” he says dismissively and slams the door shut.

Undeterred, our young hero again rings the buzzer, and the annoyed security guard again opens the door.

“Sir, I’m a journalist,” the naive youngster says, holding up as a form of identification a copy of the publication for which he is due to conduct the interview. “Here’s a copy of the magazine that I—”

“Not on the list,” the guard says while some nearby groupies chuckle about the boy’s embarrassing predicament.

This scene is, for me, perhaps the most memorable moment of the entire movie, for it is an experience that I have lived through on more than one occasion.

The most recent occurrence happened earlier this year when I took a friend with me to a Chris Cornell concert that I was reviewing. After standing in line, we reached the door to the club, where stationed was the girl holding the ever-present clipboard to which was fastened the mythical “GUEST LIST.”

“Hi,” I said in my most charming fashion. “I’m supposed to be on the list.”

“Name?”

I provided it. She scanned the list, flipping through it until she reached the last page, then let go of the previous pages, which fell back into place.

“Hmmmm. Who are you with?”

I told her the name of the publication. She flipped through the list again.

“I don’t have you on here.”

“Really? Wow. Chris’ publicist just emailed me today and said she’d have me down for a plus-1,” I said, attempting to bowl her over with my knowledge of guest-list lingo. (“Plus-1,” as you can probably surmise, means the reviewer can bring a friend along.)

And it is at that moment that she and everyone in earshot joined in an unmatched display of synchronized telepathy to mentally shout in unison, “Bullshit!”

The thing is, I really was supposed to be on the list … so, rather than slouching over, slinking away into the night and finding a safe haven in which to nurse my ego back to health, I did the Douchebag Shuffle. This is the move where you say, “Well, if you don’t mind me standing off to the side here, I’m going to make a call to see if I can straighten this out,” then step out of the line and shuffle on over to rock-concert purgatory, where you stand on display for the other concertgoers to look at with bemusement as they proffer their own tickets and enter the club without incident while an almost visible cartoon-dialogue thought-bubble hovers in the air, from which successively smaller bubbles trail down to everyone’s heads, and the lone word in the middle of the cloud is “Bullshit!”

And now the game is on, because the guest-list girl and the security guards at the door? They think you’re full of shit, and that your little charade of pulling out your cellphone and calling someone is a weak attempt at saving face. But you know you’re for real, and you have been doing this for years, and this isn’t the first time this has happened, which is why, just before pulling out of the driveway to head to the show, you remembered to run back into the house and program the publicist’s phone number into your cell.

After a short conversation with said publicist, I hung up and informed Guest-List Girl that there was another list on its way, and that my name would be found therein. The dialogue in the cartoon thought-bubble morphed to “Suuuuuuure there’s another guest list on its way.”

But lo and behold, along came a higher-ranking Guest-List Girl, backstage laminate swinging from the lanyard around her neck. She held in her hand several sheets of paper, and my name was, in fact, on one of them. The dialogue in the cartoon thought-bubble morphed into “Well, blow me down. You don’t see that every day.”

Over the years, Wonder Woman and I have been fortunate enough to attend numerous concerts thanks to my job, but the frequency with which I go to shows has diminished greatly since the arrival of our lovely cherubs, and on those rare occasions when I am inclined to do so, I often end up going without her—since, you know, someone’s gonna hafta get up at an ungodly hour the following morning when the Pre-Dawn Duo rises, and, thankfully for me and my career, she is willing to be that someone.

Such was the case for the Nine Inch Nails concert the other night, which took place way out in Worcester, a city to which I would travel for perhaps no other reason than to see a Nine Inch Nails concert. Up until a day or two before the show, I had convinced myself I wouldn’t mind skipping it in order to avoid the hassle–but I had to miss the show the last time NIN was in town, and they are one of my most favoritest musical acts in the whole wide world, and their live shows are always completely spectacular. All of those factors eventually ganged up and convinced me that I wasn’t OK with skipping it after all.

With Wonder Woman recusing herself, I was left to find another date. I offered a free ticket to at least a half-dozen people, but pretty much all of them have kids and jobs and don’t get paid to stay out late at a rock concert.

So there I was, dragging my ass out to Worcester, alone, on a Sunday night.

“Who are your tickets from?” asked the woman behind the glass at the will-call window as she eyed my driver’s license.

“The group’s publicist,” I said, bracing myself for yet another performance of the Douchebag Shuffle. She nodded and walked away from the window. The Will-Call Window Craps game began. Would I roll a seven or snake eyes?

She returned, handed me an envelope containing my tickets and smiled. Seven! We have a winnah!

Written on the envelope were instructions to head to the security booth located at Door 5, where I would receive my photo pass. I asked a venue staffer where Door 5 was, fully expecting her to ask me who the hell I was and why I needed to know the whereabouts of Door 5. Instead, she did everything short of draw me a map and offer me a piggyback ride. Wow. This was going far too smoothly.

When I finally arrived at Door 5, I expected it to be locked and heavily guarded. There was a goth-girl standing in front of the door with what appeared to be a list.

“Are you handling the photo passes?” I asked her.

“Huh?”

“Do I check in with you for a photo pass?”

“I don’t work here. I’m just waiting for my boyfriend.”

Jesus, what a dork.

I pulled on the handle and Door 5 swung open easily. Inside was a little lobby, where stood several other photographers. Opposite the doors was a large plate-glass window, behind which was the security office. Everyone was just as pleasant as could be.

The two women whom the venue tasked with handling the photographers showed up and went into cruise-director mode—like, full-on Julie McCoy—introducing themselves to each of us, asking us our names and thanking us for being there.

I was looking around for a hidden camera, and trying to decide if I should deck Ashton Kutcher when he came through the door.

But it turns out we weren’t being Punk’d. In fact, the only complaint to be had was that, instead of shooting the first three songs, we had to wait backstage during the first two songs, then shoot during 3, 4 and 5 … which means I missed the beginning of the show. Also, when the band’s liaison finally led us into the security pit at the front of the stage and song number three commenced, its onset was accompanied by a deluge of fake fog that made the band practically invisible. (And here, I shall thank god for Photoshop, which allowed me to milk 40 or so worthwhile photos from the 250 or so that I shot.)

After the shoot, one of the pleasant and bubbly venue liaisons pleasantly and bubblingly escorted us into a service elevator that dropped us off at the seating level—and, serendipitously, right in front of a Sam Adams stand.

So, cold beer in hand, I sat and watched the most impressive lightshow in rock-concert history (seriously; check this, this and this for proof) while listening to live renditions of some of my favorite songs performed by one of my favorite bands, and contemplated how far I had come since the first time I, metaphorically speaking, rang a backstage buzzer.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this for more than a decade now … and even harder to believe that I actually get paid for it.

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Posted in Music | 3 Responses