Lingering Questions About the Drunk One-Legged Man

LegIt was after 9 o’clock on a weekday when a drunk one-legged man knocked on my door.

Let me begin by saying that my house is not in a particularly busy neighborhood. This is not any major city; it is a middle-class suburb. The kind of neighborhood, where you see the same old couple walking their dog at the same time every single night. Like clockwork. Everyone living near us is so familiar that my wife and I have given them nicknames. Nicknames I dare not mention here.

On the night of the one-legged man, my wife was out, and my son and I were watching Lord of the Rings (his recent obsession, which shows how much we are kin), my young daughter already fast asleep upstairs.

Typically, a door like ours does not get knocked on very often. I remember once during our first few weeks in the house when the knock came from some Seventh-Day Adventists. I told them that I was somewhere between atheist and agnostic. You would have thought they had won the lottery. They were so excited to meet me. Finally, I had to tell them I wasn’t interested and shut the door.

So this, in this neighborhood and at this time, was odd. The knock was loud and quick and both my son and I jumped. Even our dog, who is usually so aware of everything seemed surprised. I told my son, to go back to watching the movie, held my dog back and opened the door.

There was a white truck running in my driveway and the one-legged man was standing on my porch, hunched over like he was having trouble with his balance. There was no cane. His hair was disheveled and his clothes were filthy. His shirt was an old t-shirt, that was probably white once, but now yellow. I was never able to make out the image on it, and I did spend a few minutes squinting at it. He was wearing sweat shorts, so it was easy to see his artificial and metallic right leg going down to his tennis shoes. The man was so drunk I was not certain he could even see me.

“Is Julie in?” He asked.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know a Julie.”

He looked confused. “Julie lives here.”

Now my wife (not named Julie) and I have been in our house for almost ten years, and we did not buy it from someone named Julie. She was Cindi or Cynthia or some other kind of peepy C name. So this man was somewhere out of the distant past… Assuming, of course, a Julie even lived at my house at one time. Continue reading

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Five Things I Am Into Right Now, February 2016

Sherlock Coloring BookHi readers! It’s good to be back. Sorry about the dust. I’ll try to clean up around here in a bit.

I’ve been off for the month, working on my latest novel, but now I am back and…

What is the deal with coloring books? Okay, this is a tangent, but recently I bought a coloring books for adults, based on the TV show Sherlock and I find it all very calming.

There I am, right next to my kids (while they work on their superhero or Little Pony books) and I am coloring a picture of a corpse hiding in some weeds. My daughter asked me “Who is that?” I replied, “Someone sleeping.” That was a lie, it’s a dead body! Yet, there I am coloring a picture of it. I’m feeling calm from doing it. It’s a freaking dead body and I am lying to my daughter too and I’m calmed by this and…

Okay, I really missed having this blog! Let’s see what else?

Oh, I introduced my eight-year old son to Monty Python! We watched Holy Grail. And, yes, I did fast forward through the naughty virgins scene, but the rest he ate up. Ever since then he has been quoting the film back to me, asking “Dad, do you remember when King Arthur asked if the monster was behind the bunny?” or “Flesh wound? He said it was just a flesh wound!” I can’t stop smiling about it. My son fits so nicely into my Monty Python world. Next up Flying Circus. Man, he is going to love the Spanish Inquisition. And spam! Who doesn’t love spam?

Man, did I miss venting here about things.

Deep Breath Scott, get your head back in the game and focused. Now here are the five things I am into right now. Enjoy! I’m off to color questionable scenes with Monty Python playing in the background. Bliss! Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions 2016

HeadSo my 4-year old daughter has been playing mind games with me.

She found this old stuffed dog toy and decided to name it after a beloved pet I had ten years ago. Really, I’m not sure where she heard the name “Cratchit” before (and, yes, if you are taking note I had a dog named after Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol)…. Deep breath, Southard… My daughter, for some reason I can’t explain, stole the moniker and christened this toy with it.

Now here it where it gets a little creepy… like from a psychological thriller creepy. She keeps asking me questions with it like:

  • “Why have you forgotten about Cratchit? He didn’t forget about you.”
  • “Don’t you care about Cratchit anymore?”
  • “Do you want to hug and kiss the dog, daddy?”
  • “Tell Cratchit how you missed him. Here…”

It is totally messing with my head! Cratchit was a great dog! That cocker spaniel lived an amazing 15 years and was a good friend. He is gone. It’s just a stuffed toy… just a stuffed toy. No, I don’t want to hug the toy… Okay, maybe I do…

Where was I?

This website began as a New Year’s Resolution and I’m enjoying keeping it going. (I hope to still be doing two or so posts a week, but things might get busy with the note I mention below). So that is an easy resolution to keep.  Here are some others.

Be more present.

This one is a little more difficult for me. I’m one of those kind of people who are always in their head. Sure, I can have a conversation with you, but there is a good chance I am working through something with my writing or thinking about the new Star Wars film (which was awesome, by the way), etc. I’ve always been that way. And it’s probably not something that others will notice, because I am not “away” or staring off into the distance.  I’m just a person with multiple thoughts at the same time, all the time.  Well, with my kids growing up so fast around me, I want to change this about myself. I want to learn to be more present. Here. Now. If I am playing with them, I want to try and be fully in the moment. Honestly, this might not be something I can change about me, but it is something I want to try doing.

Finish the new book.

So last year I completed a draft of my new novel. For the last month I’ve been working with an agent and we are fine-tuning it. I am really proud of the book, but this will take some time. I truly think it will pay off for the readers. It is a very unique read and I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Seriously, it is very, very good and I think you will like it.

Have less crutches.

What I mean about that is I go to a lot of comfort things in my life. Certain foods for when I am writing (pretzels or Red Vines), soda for the morning, favorite lunches for bad days, favorite dinner for good days, etc. Comfort things are fine but sometimes it feels like we can go overboard with it. So what does that mean? I want less comfort?… Hmmm… maybe there might be a better way to describe it. The fact is I feel like it helps push me, forces me to seize the day more, accept more the things around me (good and bad). Yeah, I guess I want to seize this year.  So 2016 will be mine. (You can have the next one.)

Honestly… Happy New Year! 

3 Thoughts in November

Thought 1: In Paris

Eiffel TowerI was in Paris for only two days. This was at the end of my six-week European adventure, the stereotypical college graduate trying to discover himself and the world.

My trip had begun in London and I spent a majority of my time in England, but my flight to return to the states was from Paris. So (possibly because of bad planning) I ended up in the City of Love exhausted and broke.

I didn’t drink little coffees by the apartment of Hemingway, I didn’t travel the same paths of Fitzgerald. I may have visited the Notre Dame and the Louvre, but today I can’t be certain. For my memories might be nothing more than a picture I saw in a magazine or something from a show or movie. Yes, I might have stolen my memory of the city. I can say with certainty I didn’t go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I walked past it, took a picture, and felt that was enough. It was like a box was checked in my head.

Honestly, I should have cared more. There is a lot of family lore connecting me to France. I can’t verify any of this but as the story goes through my family, on my mother’s side, I have French nobility in my blood. We were the ones that were smart enough to figure out that it wasn’t worth it to stick around during the French Revolution, scampering away to Ireland. Those very streets might have been walked by my ancestors! Of course, if they were nobility they were probably driven around in carriages and didn’t peer out of the windows at the riff-raff (which is exactly what I was as I stumbled around those streets poor and alone).

Instead, I spent most of my time sleeping on the bumpy bed (the bumps I remember) of the cheap hotel I had a room in. When I got up, after sleeping for 12 hours, I was starving. I was so financially spent by this point in my trip I was almost dreading my return to the States. My parents might be waiting for me at the airport, but I imagined also the credit card companies there as well with something the opposite of a hug. So when I wandered to the little restaurant under the hotel my choices were very limited.

Of course, everything on the menu was in French. And since France was not the big focus of my trip (England! Shakespeare! Authors! Venice!) I didn’t bring a French dictionary with me. I was, sadly, the typical dumb American tourist. I admit it. I ended up pointing at the one thing on the menu that had a word in it that I could translate: Ham. Continue reading

The Questions Around Arthur

ArthurI like to think of myself as a connoisseur around a few highly important topics.

Certain books and authors, sure. The Beatles, definitely. Classic jazz, I’ve taken the classes. Nerd films like Star Wars? I have three lightsabers in my house, thank you very much.

But here is the thing- over the last few years I feel like I’ve added a new one to my list.

PBS Kids.

Yes, I am now an expert on PBS Kids and I feel I have the power (nah, not just the power, but the knowledge) to back it up, to say what is working and what is not on the lineup of shows PBS gives to our little ones.

There are the shows I love (Wild Kratts [which I wrote an entire post about here], The Odd Squad, Word Girl, and Daniel Tiger [a post here]); there are shows I like (Curious George, Peep and the Big Wide World); there are shows I think that need a lot of help (Sesame Street, I’ve written a few posts about them, but I would like the writers to stop and consider this: parodies don’t work when the audience doesn’t know the reference; all you are doing is negatively impacted their future enjoyment of the work being parodied- mind blown, eh?); and finally shows I think are awful (Clifford and Caillou). I’ve seen them all. I’ve been to the mountain, climbed it and returned with my tale.

Yet, there is one show I truly cannot put my finger on. My opinion changes every time I watch it. Sometimes I feel love for it (real love), and others I shake my head wondering what the writers were thinking.

It’s like leftover night for dinner, when sometimes things taste great and other times you just wish you ordered pizza.

I’m talking about Arthur, based on the books by Marc Brown, one of the great mainstays of PBS Kids, airing now for over 20 years. A show that has grown so vast since it started—with characters, subplots, etc.—that an encyclopedia around the world would not be unheard of. That is the show Arthur, and honestly, I have no idea how I feel about the residents of Elwood City.

Yes, It is my television broccoli. Continue reading

Recently, You and Me: Me, My Wife and Dave Matthews Band

dmbMy 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

The Pains and Conflicts in the Drop-Off

SchoolThis was a battle I walked away from.

To understand the gravity of this for me, you have to know a little about how my brain functions. Typically, I am not the kind of guy to lose an argument, surrender a point. I’m one of those who will hold on like a dog with a chew toy, and this is especially true if I know I am in the right.

And I definitely know I was in the right! So, so right.

Actually, to correct that, I should say left, since what we are talking about are car lanes.

To put it more bluntly, dropping my kid off at his school is a piece of hell. Let me repeat that, hell (devil, pointy ears and tails, flames, the whole bit).

I’m not talking about the emotional aspect of the separation, that was there for a bit (and always resides a little beneath the surface), but other less pleasant feelings than the accepted sadness in watching your kids grow up. No, I am talking about stress, frustration, and sometimes anger.

…And I know other parents feel that way towards me. Continue reading

The Penny in the Belly

Look for the penny!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

The Stony Hue of a January Morn

January1 of 3

there is
no beauty
in a January snow
and
it conveys
no possibilities-

January cold
does not touch your nose
or tickle your skin-
it begins in your bones
deep in your marrows
then slinks out
like a death
never letting go-

there is a limit
in our cold, cold steps
and each could be the fated last
but we trudge
trudge
trudge forward
never running
forever counting down-

the sun is lost
baked red, hidden away-
the gray clouds will not free it
trapped like an animal
in a dark covered cave
waiting and growling deep-

when the world ends
it will look like a January morn-
quiet-
soulless-
colorless-
void-
and no amount of breath will bring it back- Continue reading

Flashback Monday: “Disneyland’s Silent Gift” from ME STUFF

ResortThis 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, herehere, 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.Me Stuff, front cover

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).