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Archive for May, 2010

A man can’t be a man unless, at least every now and then, he’s allowed to be a man. You follow?

Lovie does. That’s why she grants me the occasional hall pass to get out into the woods where I can scrub myself free of worldly worries long enough to eat dinner by an open fire to the soundtrack of running water and crackling wood.

This weekend, two friends and I went on a backpacking trip to do some fishing, ultimately ending up a little over six miles in, camping alongside a pristine mountain stream. Since we were above 3,000 feet, we were able to catch some brookies (of the southern Appalachian variety). These small, beautiful fish live in water which roars over boulders and carves its way through the valley, down the rolling foothills of the Smokey Mountains, reluctantly providing anglers tiny pockets of opportunity to snag these native delights. Hours seem like minutes as they, like many of the coveted fish, swim right by and turn into the past, one five-second drift at a time.

My friend did an excellent job documenting our trip, right up to the meal we gorged on once we finally got out of the woods. Click to check out his slide show. Oh. One warning…there are some random pics of bear-shit that my buddy decided to include. May need to talk to him about that…

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Lovie Lookalike

After Lovie showers, she often brushes her hair back and puts it up with a clip. There it will remain as she gets ready for her day before she eventually blow dries it.. The other day, I noticed something astonishing.

JCO: Oh my.

Lovie: What?

JCO: You look just like someone.

Lovie: Who?

JCO: That chick who played the man.

Note to readers. Don’t every tell your wife she looks like “that chick who played a man.” As you’ll see, I pulled it off, but I know what I’m doing. This is NOT a rookie maneuver.

Lovie: Rupaul?

JCO: No, honey. That’s a man who’s playing a chick.

Lovie: So who?

JCO: I can’t think of her name, but it’ll come to me. Here. Hold this. [hands Lovie a pink highlighter.]

Lovie: Why?

JCO: It’ll help me think. Just hold it. Like this. [positions highlighter as if it’s a cigar.] Perfect. Now look slightly to your right.

Lovie: Why?

JCO: Because, [gets out phone and snaps picture] I wanna show people this:

Lovie doing her best...

Victor Victoria impersonation.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Remember, freedom isn’t free. Thanks to all the men and women who pay the price, sometimes even the ultimate one, so that you and I can do whatever it is we’re going to do this weekend, and countless others. God bless y’all. You’re the true heroes.

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In the summer of 1984, I developed a shoe fetish. Check that, it was actually a Shue fetish. As in Elisabeth Shue. You know, the unassuming hottie who played Ralph Macchio’s love interest in that deplorable movie, The Karate Kid?

Yet as memorable as Elisabeth proved to be, it was Mr. Miyagi who made the biggest impression on me. In fact, even after all these years, I still think about him every day. Can you guess why? No? Maybe the following exchange will help.

Daniel: Hey, what kind of belt do you have?
Miyagi: Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?
Daniel: [laughs] No, I meant…
Miyagi: In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants. [laughs; then, seriously] Daniel-san… [taps his head] Karate here. [taps his heart] Karate here. [points toward his belt] Karate never here. Understand?

Give up? I’ll always remember Mr. Miyagi for telling Daniel-san that, no matter how much he practiced, his, um, “johnson” would never be able to administer a karate chop.

Kidding. Sorry about that.

So seriously. You still don’t know why I think of Mr. Miyagi every day? Here. Read this exchange and see if you can figure it out.

Daniel: Hey – you ever get into fights when you were a kid?
Miyagi: Huh – plenty.
Daniel: Yeah, but it wasn’t like the problem I have, right?
Miyagi: Why? Fighting fighting. Same same.
Daniel: Yeah, but you knew karate.
Miyagi: Someone always know more.
Daniel: You mean there were times when you were scared to fight?
Miyagi: Always scared. Miyagi hate fighting.
Daniel: Yeah, but you like karate.
Miyagi: So?
Daniel: So, karate’s fighting. You train to fight.
Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: [pondering] No.
Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: [thinks] So I won’t have to fight?
Miyagi: [laughs] Miyagi have hope for you.

Give up? I think of Mr. Miyagi every day because my toddlers talk just like him. They’re finally able to express their thoughts, and like the karate master, they do so with surprisingly few words as well as with little or no regard to grammatical nuances such as subject-verb agreement. The nouns in their short sentences may not be preceded by articles, but Sam, Jack, and Kirby are able to make their points nonetheless, even if they choose to make them while referring to themselves in the third person. Just like Mr. Miyagi. (And that annoying, little red bastard, Elmo.)

Whenever I happen upon Jack, he’s quick to tell me what he’s doing. And he’s always doing the same thing.

“Jack play with twuck, Daddy. Jack like twuck.”

“I know you do, buddy. Here. Let Daddy play, too.”

“Daddy play with twuck? Jack turn. Jack play with twuck now.”

It’s the same thing with Kirby, only with a twist. She, too, speaks like Mr. Miyagi, but she does so while treating me like an unwanted suitor.

“I love you, Kirby.”

“Kirby love Mommy.”

“Don’t you love Daddy, too?”

[Like Daniel-san, she ponders before giving her answer.] “No. Kirby love Mommy.”

While Jack is busy playing with “twucks,” and Kirby is busy worshiping Lovie, at least I can always count on Sam for a little back and forth. The other day, we were walking into his room when I made the mistake of opening the door.

“No, Daddy. Sammy open door. Sammy do it. Sammy do it!”

So I closed the door and let him open it. Once he did, he ran into the room with a grin that begged me to chase him. So I did. And once I caught him, I pulled up his shirt, buried my face on his belly, and gave him a world class zerbert, causing the little guy to laugh uncontrollably.

“Daddy tickle Sammy,” he said as he touched the stubble on my chin that had exacerbated his reaction.

“That’s Daddy’s beard,” I explained.

“Daddy beard,” he repeated.

“That’s right, buddy. Sammy will have a beard one day, too.”

Sam touched his smooth face and looked into my eyes with wonder. “Sammy beard?” he asked.

“Yep.”

He smiled at the prospect of his eventual manliness, until a look of concern swept over his face.

“Daddy?” he began as he reached up and touched the bare spot on the top of my head. “Sammy bald?” he asked in a serious tone.

And just like that, Sammy took the Mr. Miyagi thing to the next level. After all, Sammy-san not only talk like Miyagi, he think like him, too. Wise Sammy know when some man grow hair in one place, he lose hair in other.

“You’ll probably be okay, buddy.”

A look of relief accompanied his widest smile yet. “Sammy no bald, Daddy. Sammy no bald.”

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I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that if you combine

Grace Jones

with

Kathie Lee Gifford

and then divide by two, you’ll get

Rupaul

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15-Lovie

Lovie’s got a new gig. In February of 2009 she started playing tennis pretty regularly with some of her friends, but it was more for fun than anything else. Four months ago, however, she upped the ante and joined a USTA team which requires her to play several times a week. Lovie’s a tennis star now.

Lovie? Is that you?

So I’ve given her a new nickname. Evonne Goolagong.

A couple of years ago, when she was still Lovie, we had a little spell where we played a handful of times over a three-week period. During those matches, two things were evident.

First, Lovie is an excellent athlete, whose fluid motion and graceful coordination translate well on the tennis court.

But second, she was no match for yours truly, lucky to win even one game in a combined two sets.

Recently we decided to play again, and I must say, I wondered how she’d fare as Evonne. After all, between the USTA matches, social games, and lessons, Lovie’s smacking the yellow ball up to four, sometimes five times a week. Word is she’s one of the best if not the best on her team, having lost only once in all the USTA matches she’s played.

Me? I’ve not picked up a racquet since the last time we faced each other. Oh. Did I mention I’ve not worked out regularly in months? Still, the lopsided nature of our previous contests had me convinced she’d pose no real threat to actually beat me. Right?

Right.

I beat her 6-2, 6-3, and it should have been 2 and 1. I was serving, up 5-1, 30-love, just two points away from the match when something happened. I suffered a meltdown on court number three. I dropped that game and the next one, after which she let out a celebratory scream, complete with fist pump. Such an outburst bothered me. Greatly. Fueled by anger, I waxed her the next game, and walked off the court with a less-than fulfilling 6-2, 6-3 victory. The sinking feeling in my gut combined with the confident smile plastered on her face for the next four hours made me wonder who the real winner was.

Lovie means business.

One thing was clear. Lovie’s way better than she used to be. It doesn’t matter how hard I serve, or where I place the ball. It’s coming back. Same thing with ground strokes. The woman gets everything. To win a point, I have to hit three shots that would have been winners against her in the past. Combine all that with the extra five (alright, twelve) pounds of JCO I’m hauling around these days? She’s a tough out to say the least.

About a week later, we played again. Lovie took the opening game. It was the first time she had ever held a lead on me. She won the next game, too. And the next. And the next. I was serving love-four before I even knew what hit me.

No worries, though. I’ve been in that spot a few years back. I was once down the exact same score to an ex girlfriend before storming back to victory. During a pivotal point, I charged the net before becoming the victim of a perfectly placed lob. Lucky to get it, I lobbed it back, and played the rest of the point the same way–hitting lobs, each effort even higher than the previous one. My last lob nearly brought rain and landed right on the line, bouncing so high, she literally couldn’t even get a racquet on it.

“You play dirty,” she said.

“What’s that?” I asked holding my racquet up to my ear? “Fifteen-thirty?”

Comforted by the recollection of that clutch effort, I stepped up and won the next three games in convincing fashion. Crisis averted, right?

Wrong. Lovie took the next two games, and won the first set 6-3. Thanks to a time constraint, the second set was a truncated one. I lost, 3-2. Lovie had done it not once, but twice. I left the court none too pleased.

Two hours later, I dialed her cell.

“That was bullshit. I want more.”

“Relax, honey. It’s just a game.”

“Don’t tell me to relax. Get your candy-ass to the court.”

“Honey, let it go.”

“What’s wrong, Evonne? Scared?”

“No.”

“What, then? Big engagement down unda? Got some shrimp to put on the barbie, do ya, mate?”

“If I play again, will you shut up?”

“See you in ten minutes, Lady Goolagong.”

Simply put, I never had a chance. My game was a wreck, and Lovie continued to play lights out. 6-3, 6-3.

As I walked off the court, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had  actually lost. Was it her serve? Because they are hard to return. After all, her meager offerings come at me so slow I’m literally forced to stand on the service line just to be close enough to get it before it bounces a second time. It’s reminiscent of a ball gently lobbed by a four year old girl. With her left hand.

Have you ever tried to hit such a serve? While mad? I landed out of bounds more times than Ben Roethlisberger at a Florida bar during spring break.

I know what you’re thinking. All y’all love Lovie, and you’re on her side. You can’t believe what a jerk I’m being. Well I got news for you. I’m far from the sore loser this post paints me to be. I realize full well that I lost to a better player.

Forget that I had more unforced errors than Britney Spears multiplied by Lindsay Lohan. Squared.

Forget that I hit more balls out than a juiced up Barry Bonds.

She won. Fair and square.

Even if, on that particular day, I couldn’t have held my serve with the jaws of life. The outcome had way more to do with what she did than what I did.

Even if I did hit the net more times than gang of drunken trapeze artists.

I’ll get her next time. In fact, I predict a spanking.

It’s just that I’m not sure who’ll be the one administering it just yet.

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What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

If the old adage is true, no wonder author Ron Mattocks doubles as Superman on his popular blog, Clark Kent’s Lunchbox. Because after losing a wife to a divorce, his sons to a custody battle, and his high-paying job to the economy, Mattocks has somehow become stronger than ever. He chronicles his amazing story of change in Sugar Milk–What One Father Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka.

Three things become evident about Mattocks within the first few pages.

Number one: In a world filled with phonies, Ron Mattocks is the real deal. He hides behind nothing as he details insecure feelings of fatherly failure which overtook him while he watched his family ship sink thanks to his painful divorce.

Number two: Ron’s writing is next level, powerful enough to actually bring his readers aboard that ship with him, leaving them lost and forlorn as they go down alongside the captain, himself.

Number three: Ron is uncommonly funny and the possessor of a razor-sharp wit–able to seamlessly blend humility and humor, as evidenced by his sinking ship metaphor, which he turns on a dime:

I didn’t view myself as a ship captain, but rather, something closer to a shift manager at a Long John Silvers.

Each of the next fifteen chapters tells a tale–the end result, a beautiful collage which was destined to rise from the wreckage, every picture painted by the author’s evolving perspective. Mattocks’s versatility is on full display, both as a writer, and as a man, as he transforms from newly divorced dad, to dot-com dater, to single-mom suitor, to stepdad, and finally, to stay at home dad. Readers will devour every word as they go on this wild ride with him, pausing only to laugh.

But between the laughs, Mattocks will also make his readers think by deftly turning hysterical accounts of mundane fatherly experiences into something else entirely. On the one hand, the chapter “This Isn’t Kindergarten Anymore,” is about his older stepdaughter preparing her younger sister for kindergarten, while simultaneously developing an aversion to the comparatively difficult first grade. But on the other, it’s about transitions in general, Mattocks’s own in specific.

The reality of first grade had hardened in her mind like concrete: the whimsy of last year was now paved over by new challenges that replaced those golden papers asking happy questions about her day. It was her sister’s turn for all that now. But that’s how the cycle works–we take what we know to the next level, leaving behind past memories as we go on to face those yet to be lived. I could have said something to that effect, But Allie didn’t need any reminders that she wasn’t in kindergarten anymore.

At that instant we drove by the office building of the company that had laid me off six months ago. I knew how she felt.

Me personally? I’m glad Ron lost his corporate job. Because this hilarious collection of well written stories define him far better than any six figure job ever could. Sugar Milk can be purchased on Amazon, as well as in select bookstores across the country. It comes with my highest recommendation.

Oh, and if you’re on the fence for the upcoming M3 Summit in Atlanta, perhaps this will sway you. Ron will be on a panel alongside other authors / bloggers, and will be sharing his experiences on topics ranging from social media to fatherhood.

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Errant Parent

If you’ve never visited the the site Errant Parent, it’s one that I highly recommend. Lots of funny stuff there. Today, they’re running the second post I ever wrote, a little piece that examines the unique challenges this dad encountered when bathing his three toddlers at once–What Happens in the Bathroom Stays in the Bathroom. It’s one of my favorites, and a great example of some of the episodic humor that’s found in my book, so if you’ve not read it, I hope you’ll check it out by clicking here.

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