I am always haunted by three songs. They are my personal ghosts. They are with me wherever I go, just ready to jump back in front of me with a scream of “Boo! Got ya! Now sing along!” And I have no choice. I sing every damn time.
The first is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something. Let’s get this out of the way first, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an awful movie. It’s not just an awful movie, it’s also a racist film. There is no good reason for the lyricist and the soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to have fond memories of that film. I would even argue that an enjoyment or love of the film a good ground for dumping… on both sides.
But gosh darn it, that chorus in the song is so catchy!
I hope wherever the lead singer of Deep Blue Something is, he is also singing that song every day… seems only fair for what he has put me through since its release.
The second song is “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” by Us3. This song from the ’90s was created out of an attempt to combine Blue Note jazz records with rap. For some strange reason, this is the only rap song I can rap along with all the way through. Which means at some point during my day you might hear me quietly bragging about my basketball skills and my ability to rap. (Both things that aren’t true.)
The third song though hits me more psychologically. It cuts me to my core, leaving me feeling guilty about the smallest things, because…
I will not ever, ever, EVER be like the dad in Harry Chapin‘s “Cat’s in the Cradle.”
For those lucky enough not to know this folk pop number, it is a cautionary tale about parenting and the lessons we teach our kids without meaning to. The narrator is a father who never seems to have time for his son. He wasn’t there when his son learned to walk or speak. He even casually dismisses his son’s birth, saying that he was merely born “in the usual way.” I’m sure his wife when she was screaming in the hospital didn’t think it was “usual.” Continue reading
Music has always been very important to me. Many times when I look back at a time or a memory, a song will sneak in before an image. I thought it would be interesting to look back at people and moments by tapping into this quirk. This is the first in what I am thinking of calling my “With Music” series.
She had elf ears.
People confuse elf ears with vulcan ears, but that is just not fair. Vulcan ears (Spock) look out of place for a reason; they are alien, different. The old Star Trek was filled with this. Want something to look alien? Accent something that we are not used to. But elf ears are different. They are an extension of nature, they embrace the face, accenting, like a playful cursive twist at the end of a letter. They can remind more of a vine slowing stretching just that little bit farther up.
I first saw her at a writing table. It was being held at a local museum and everyone else there isn’t worth mentioning or remembering. Cruel to say, I know, but by then I had attended enough writing tables (thanks to colleges and bookstores and libraries) so that people fell more into categories than something flesh and blood. There was the guy who wants to be Stephen King (a little creepy and always stares a little too much), the older woman wanting to write a nice romance (I always feel there is hidden heartbreak there), the angry youth (who may or may not share poetry, but would always share their annoyance through expressions), the man with the mustache who is writing a thriller (there is always a man with a mustache who is writing an action thriller) and etc., etc., etc.
Writing tables like that, including the one with the young woman with the elf ears, was one of the reasons I was moving to Los Angeles. I had attended a lot of them while living in Grand Rapids, hoping one would give me some kind of sign of what to do next in my life and writing career. Frankly, by then I had been waiting enough. That is what my life felt like up until that moment, one long wait.
I had waited through college, waited through part of grad school, and now waited while counting down to when I was to leave in December for the University of Southern California. Sunny Los Angeles… where I was certain all my writing dreams would come true and everyone would recognize me for the genius I was sure I was. Continue reading
My wife has this way of internally rolling her eyes, when she doesn’t want me to see she is rolling her eyes…. Yet, I still know she is doing it and she knows I know.
A lot of this eye rolling has been occurring because of another man. Well, technically, a band of them. For the last year I’ve regained my obsession with Dave Matthews Band and their music. The funny thing is this obsession was rekindled after a bad concert.
Yes, Dave Matthews Band is known for their amazing live performances, but my complaint was not with them. This guilt is all on the shoulders of the audience around me. During the show I almost wondered if my annoyance was because I am older and this is not a thing anymore (and really concert going can take a lot of energy). Nah. This ain’t on my shoulders. Honestly, the people around us were dicks.
There, I’ll say it again: “Dicks.”
Someone was selling beaded necklaces, another family was coming and going throughout the show (I think there were some drugs going on there), and a family sitting next to us brought their own bongos. Yes, you read that right- bongos. And of all of the members of Dave Matthews Band, Carter Beauford doesn’t need any drumming help. The man is freaking amazing.
Yet, ever since that concert I have not been able to stop listening to Dave Matthews Band. I listen to the music while I am getting ready in the morning, having breakfast, when I am driving the kids to school, and going for walks. Dave is there always, and it feel very natural. Like a friend, just hanging out, catching up on memories. Continue reading
I was in the shower when this all went down.
There are two little kids in our family. My son is seven, my daughter is three. So it is fairly common for there to be a lot of noise in the house. Having shouts, arguments, and/or loud laughter (sometimes all at the same time) is the Southard norm. Actually, it has gotten to such a point that I get more nervous if things are quiet. That is truly when my parenting radar kicks in.
Silence terrifies me.
When I turned off the water and began drying off, my son was at the door, breathless. “She ate a penny.”
“Who did?” I asked confused.
The funny thing is that this penny wasn’t even ours. I can’t explain this but other kids always seem to be giving my kids stuff.
Last year, while my son was in kindergarten, he had a friend who was always giving him little things. He would come home each day with a new marble or little plastic army man. It got to such a point that I asked my son to tell his friend in no uncertain terms: “Thank you, but please stop giving me things.”
It didn’t stop. Just a few days ago, another friend of his gave him 50 cents. My son was thrilled by this and happily asked if he now had enough to buy a Disney Infinity character (he is dying to get a Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy). The answer was of course no. Continue reading
This is the second part of a post that begins here.
The worst product I have ever seen in my life was a condom key chain.
We used to sell them at the pharmacy and based on the marketing they were obviously targeted to the teenage audience.
When you bought a box of three—which was the same price as buying a dozen not in a keychain—they would each come in their own little see-through keychain case. Each condom was a different bright color. And the idea is that in a moment of passion, a dude just had to take out his keys and break the plastic open to get at it.
Okay… now let’s consider the reasons why this is a bad idea (and why we probably never sold a single box of them while I worked behind that counter):
- To be the kid to proudly display that you were getting lucky like that by having it on your keychain would take… well… balls. And if that dude did have a girlfriend, would she want it so proudly displayed? Do people like that really exist outside of badly written TV shows and movies?
- What if his keys fell out when he was visiting his girlfriend’s folks? There they would be, on the couch between you and the dad. Seriously, what do you do? What do you say? What!?!
- Do you really want a teenage boy reminded of sex every time they touch their keys or, worse, when they are driving and their keys are in their ignition right in front of them! Teenage boys think of the deed enough, did they need the reminder right in front of them… while they are driving!?!
- What if the keychain broke by mistake? If they could be so easily broken up like they claim on the package, couldn’t it happen when they are simply banged against the other keys?
- And really… just three?
Stupid, stupid, stupid product. Continue reading
So there is a good chance that the pharmacist I worked for while in high school had a drug problem. Whenever he felt he needed to change “something” he would disappear down one of the drug aisles behind the counter, and a few pills later everything would be right as rain.
The pharmacy was located in a chain of grocery stores, so he had to be careful with his personal dealings. The more “monitored” drugs were located in a locked drawer at the front of the pharmacy, and one day when I was counting some off for a customer, he made a point of noting to me that if there was one pill missing in any of the bottles everyone would hear about it. It was a warning to me, but I also knew it was a reminder to himself to keep his hands off.
I never would have considered touching any of the drugs in the pharmacy, interest in that kind of recreational activity was never in my hardwire. I think at least the HR person recognized that from my interview and my reviews from my previous position. Mr. Goody Two-shoes. I was just not that kind of kid, probably making me one of the few teenagers who would be a perfect candidate to work at a pharmacy counter… unsupervised.
For two years before the pharmacy I was a bagboy at a different grocery store in the same chain, which meant bagging the groceries for the customer and then helping get them to the car. They were very personal and friendly stores. We were even given a list of possible conversational starters: sports, weather, local news (that isn’t too controversial). Definitely not politics or religion! Also, it was considered oddly rude to talk about a customer’s purchase, even if you just watched it rung up by the cashier and you put it in the bag for them. That was crossing the line. I still don’t get why that is true, but it feels right in my gut.
I kind of liked being a bagboy… 40 percent of the time.
Bagging groceries always felt like a challenge, a little game, trying to figure out how to fit everything into one bag without smashing anything or ripping it. The problem for me was with the other 60 percent. Which could include cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors and dealing with the empty cans and bottles.
The cans and bottles were the worst. Yes, even worse than the time I had to clean the bathroom walls after someone tried to do art on them with… I’ll let you use your imagination. Continue reading
It’s my birthday and I am reading Stephen King again.
I do the book reviews for my local NPR station and I knew I would have to take on this very popular author at some point. After a year and a half and over 30 reviews the moment had finally arrived. A copy of his newest novel landed on my porch from his publisher (three weeks before its official release). They want my review. So be it.
I had an aunt growing up that was obsessed with Stephen King. My aunt in some ways was a King creation waiting to happen. She had fiery red hair; a loud, almost shrieking voice; and many of us kids were scared of her. When she got mean, she got really mean. I always did my best to avoid her, never spending the night at her house, trying to avoid being in the same room with her for too long. My aunt would spend her days either on the phone (always complaining), chewing gum or drinking Pepsi (she drank a lot of Pepsi), and reading Stephen King. When I was in 7th grade, she, for some reason, noticed me and gave me a pile of her Stephen King books to read.
I was not impressed and told her as much when I returned the pile a few months later. Rude of me? Yeah, probably.
We spoke even less after that.
Yet, here it is, 28 or so years later and I am once again reading King and I feel like it is a time capsule to that old me, right then. Mainly, it’s because King sounds exactly the same. His voice/prose hasn’t matured, even the plot and characters feel the same as those other books. I’m guessing for many of his fans (including my aunt) it feels like returning to a home.
For me, I see the cobwebs and I wonder why no one has done any cleaning… Continue reading
This is the eighth and final entry in my Flashback Monday series. I created the series to showcase some of the posts you will get if you pick up my new book Me Stuff, which contains 40 different quirky tales from this site! You can check out the other Flashback Mondays here, here, here, here, here. here, and here.
I always knew I wanted to end Flashback Monday with this entry. Some might roll their eyes seeing Disneyland in the title (or if you follow the site, not surprised I am writing about the park again), but there is a reason why it is here. Why? Well, I really love the writing in it because for me it captures a magical moment with my family and in my life, that even then I could tell was slipping away.
There is this time when you are staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel when you can have it all to yourself.
It’s quiet, with the faint hint of music playing in the hotel lobbies in the background. I first discovered it when I offered to grab my wife one early morning a coffee at the shop in the hotel. But the moment I exited the elevator (and the haunting overture from The Jungle Book was playing in the speakers), that I realized I had discovered something unique.
It was still dark outside and I was alone.
I walked along the pool, passed the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant (with its fireplace still ablaze). There is a smell to Disneyland that I have yet to put my finger on, but the blossoms around the hotel and the restaurant added to its intoxication.
It was so peaceful that I almost felt a tinge of regret when the coffee shop finally opened at 6 AM and I had to make my purchase and return to the room and the excited kids. Dawn was approaching, a new day of adventure. Holding sweaty palms, wondering about bathroom breaks, and taking a lot of pictures.
That pre-dawn walk became a little ritual for me during my stay, and I picked up a coffee for my wife every morning at the same time. She always said thank you, but she didn’t need to.
It was for both of us.
You can read the rest of the post here. Or, better yet, you can grab a copy of ME STUFF which contains 40 editorials like this one and it is super cheap-o.
The eBook version of the book is only $1.99 (here on Amazon) and in print for only $8.99 (here on Amazon).
Before I get to this week’s Flashback Monday (a classic old post that is collected in the new book ME STUFF, I did one last week as well about poisoning a professor which you can check out here), I just want to say something quick… ah hmm…
It’s only a few hours left to enter to win an autographed copy of ME STUFF!!! What are you waiting for!?! The link is at the bottom of this post! Hurry! Hurry!
Okay, I am done. Here is the beginning of a piece I am pretty proud of, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Vasectomy.” (Yup, you read that right; oh, and it also contains one of the most disturbing things anyone has ever said to me at a doctor’s office).
This was my end of the bargain.
My wife would have our two lovely children and when she was done I would go to the guillotine, as it were. I would be Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities, with both hands tied behind my back being led to my destiny while reciting, “It is a far, far better thing I do…”
That sounds strangely noble in theory, but in actuality, I must admit, with the birth of our second child I had been avoiding this doctor trip like the plague. I had postponed the visit two different times (scheduling then rescheduling… twice), but after a year, I was running out of excuses for myself.
On the day of the appointment, I was freaking out. I tried to explain this to my wife, but, as sympathetic as she tried to be, she didn’t get it. And comparing it to what she had to experience in the birthing of our children, didn’t help. Yes, I am sure birth is a bigger life changing, panic-driven, and painful experience. But for a guy, this is something. Yes, it means something, and it’s not something that can be easily explained, it’s in the gut, it’s in the animal part of the brain. It is part of what defines us as male. Hear us roar!
You can read the rest of this article here. Or, even better, you can grab a copy of ME STUFF which contains 40 editorials like this one and it is super cheap-o. The eBook version of the book is only $1.99 (here on Amazon) and in print for only $8.99 (here on Amazon).
When you get home from a trip, sometimes you slowly, slowly empty your suitcases as if a part of you doesn’t want to admit that the trip is over. It’s a thankless task as you have to decide what to keep as a treasure, a memory, or what would be better left thrown away. This decision is especially difficult after a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, especially if it dares to have the name “Disneyland” printed someplace on it.
That is where I am right now, doing my best to get back to normal life. Just look at last week on the site! To prove everything is back I wrote two articles on the art of writing. Two!
(By the way the art of writing is something I worked hard at NOT thinking about when I was on the trip.)
So… now that I am home and the suitcases are empty, as a final little bit of goodbye to that time, I thought I would share the links to some of the articles I have written on Walt’s park below. After this I am going to take a break from the mouse and Fantasyland (even though normal life can sometimes feel so boring without rides and jungle cruises). I hope you enjoy them.