Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Littleheads

So I'm having a BANNER day with my youngest today - he's being as "bad" as I've ever seen him...he's not listening to me, he's back-talking (well, back-talking in two-and-a-half year old terms), whining about anything and everything, and picking on/bothering his big brother.

My blood pressure is off the charts - my head feels like it's going to explode - I am creating new and frightening words (as mentioned in a previous blog, I think I'm speaking in tongues!) - I'd rather stick an ice pick in my thigh than deal with another second of this stuff!

I'm SO looking forward to going back to work full-time on Monday, March 8th...


I know I'm going to miss this. As I've said numerous times on several different social media platforms, this whole stay-at-home-parent thing is THE hardest job in the world, and I truly have a new found respect for those that do it 24/7/365. I've also come to realize how rewarding it can be as well...and that's why I know I'm going to miss being home with my two Littleheads.

It's amazing being a father. I'll never forget how I felt the first time I heard them say "Hello, world, I'm here" with their initial crys. Those of you that read this whom are parents know exactly what I'm talking is so difficult to put into words. Total joy. Complete anxiety, especially with the first born. Fear. Worry. Unconditional love. Amazement. Shock and awe!

And those feelings NEVER go away. They are there each and every waking moment, and sometimes they even creep into dreams. But the reward associated with the feelings are incomparable to anything.

And it's the little things the Littleheads do that I'm going to miss...even some of the more frustrating things.

Mikey and Gabriel were having a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup today, and Mikey exclaimed, "Mmmmm, it's delicious, Daddy".

Gabriel trys to make a deal with me to avoid taking a nap...and the deal is I go downstairs and work on the computer and he'll watch TV real quiet so Mikey doesn't hear.

Out of nowhere, hearing Mikey say, "I wuv wew Daddy", or Gabriel proclaiming that I am the "bestest Daddy in the whole world", or that I make the "bestest smiley-face peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever" (smiley-face PBJ - cut the sandwich in half, then cut one of the halves in half - you get the two eyes with the smaller pieces and the mouth with the larger piece - make one, you'll get the idea).

Listening to the shear excitement in Mikey's voice when the trash men come through the development.

Secretly watching Gabriel play with his cars, and listening to the conversations the characters are having with one another.

Getting Mikey up from his naps, and having him want to lay with me on the couch until he is completely awake - it takes that kid a solid 30 minutes to come around from his afternoon naps!

Watching Gabriel's writing improve, and his language skills get stronger and stronger (although there are some things he says that he shouldn't know and uses PERFECTLY).

Listening to Gabriel belt out songs from U2, Dave Matthews, Incubus, The Dropkick warms my soul because of MY love for music. Just this afternoon, he was doing his own little jig to Flogging Molly's "Devil's Dance Floor" that had me in stitches. The kid cracks me up.

Having Gabriel mention that it's "time for the grand finale", only to have him bend over and cut loose a ground-shaking fart.

Having Mikey uncork a massive in his diaper and listening to him say "Big poopie, Daddy", and "Eww, it gross, Daddy" when I'm cleaning him up. Yeah, Mikey, you should be on my end and see just how God-awful it is!!!!

Looking at them knowing I'm looking into a mirror that shows the past, specifically 32 and 35 years ago.

Having that heart-warming feeling that Mom, Dad, and Mom-Mom are looking down on the three of us and getting a VERY good laugh at my expense.

Knowing without a shadow of doubt that my relationship with the Littleheads has reached new levels that would never have been possible with me working the job I had for the past 5 years.

Realizing that we named the boys PERFECTLY - after the Arch Angels Gabriel and Michael...

Gabriel is the Messenger, and my son fits that role to a tee...I joke and say he never shuts up (which he doesn't!), but he will drop some profound knowledge on us more often than not. The boy has a gift, and I truly believe he is meant for something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined for him. He has something to say, and it's something that will influence many.

Michael is the Warrior, and despite being the younger of the two, he is the brute. He even walks "tough". He plays hard and rough. He's strong for his age, and has an incredible tolerance for pain - at least WAY more than Gabriel had/has. He will be the one clearing the way for Gabriel's message. He will be the rock and the foundation for future generations, God-willing, of our family.

Every parent hopes for bigger and better things for their children. It's natural. I truly believe everything I just typed above about what my two little boys are bound to become, but it will be their path to choose...I'll show them options, and give my advice, but it will be their journey...and I'll be the loving and proud spectator, no matter where it takes them.

One thing is for certain - I rest just a little bit easier at night knowing that both of them will be better men than I could have ever dreamed of being...I hope how I am raising them has something to do with that.

Days like today with the Littleheads try my nerves...and push me to the very brink of short circuit. But at least I've had the opportunity - dare I say, the privilege - to let them try my nerves all day every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the last 5 months. And that's something I wouldn't return for double the paychecks I've missed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nobody's Fault But My Own

I feel like blogging today about a seemingly mundane moment (in my life, at least) that was "life changing"...not so much "life changing" in the same aspect of my folks passing away 5 years ago, the birth of the boys, etc. Just life changing in that I wish I could have that first experience again.

Listening to Beck's song, "Nobody's Fault But My Own" off of his album Mutations for the first time is the moment I want to write about today.

I dare say if there would ever be a soundtrack to my life, this would be the opening tune.

A buddy of mine from college (we'll call him Exxon) was (and still is) a HUGE mark for Beck. He really turned me on to the genius that is Beck's song writing and performing. Anyhow, Mutations came out in November of 1998. I was holding down my first job out of college, but still living the life of a college student; Hell, I worked at Towson U., where I graduated from in May of 1998. I digress...Beck's Mellow Gold was on constant play rotation in any of Exxon's dwellings, from his dorm rooms to his apartments. I can vividly remember, even on some of the more foggy nights (thanks to obscene amounts of gin), the strands of "Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997" or "Blackhole" being the last thing I heard before passing out. Beck grew on me. Quickly and rabidly.

I remember Exxon saying Mutations was a little bit different for Beck.

Different for the most unique musical performer I had ever heard?

I immediately went to Record and Tape Traders in Towson and picked up a copy, went back to my apartment in Towson Run, locked myself in my bedroom, killed the lights and turned up the black lights I had strategically positioned, popped a few beers, and put the album on. The album's first track, "Cold Brains", was getting some air time on 99.1 WHFS. I knew it, liked it, but it wasn't anything too far from par for what I expected from Beck.

Then it happened. The LCD on my Samsung cd player switched to read Track 2 in it's neon green digital writing.

The strum of a single acoustic guitar.

The drones of a sitar and esraj (both Indian instruments, and both frame the song perfectly).

Then Beck's hauntingly beautiful, regret-laden voice pierces through..."Treated you like a rusty blade, a throwaway from an open grave...".

I sat in the black lit hue of my chamber in complete and total awe. I replayed the track at least 5 times, ignoring the remaining 9 tracks. It reminded me, in essence, of "The End" by The Doors. It's 5 minutes and 3 seconds of musical perfection. I opened the cd booklet and read the lyrics. Again, I was amazed.

Is it a parody or a tribute?
Is it regretful or selfish and full of spite?

I guess only Beck knows for sure, but that's what makes the song so great - it can be tailored to whatever stance fits each and every individual listener.

The song went on almost every cd mix I made for about a year.

I find myself gravitating to the song during periods of reflection...much like one I've been enthralled with these past few weeks.

So what's my stance on the song?

Well today, I think the song is about life in general, and choices made that make it what it is. It's someone coming to terms with mistakes made, past and present, and realizing that something must change...a better lit path must be walked, and the "wasted blues" must be overcome and laid to rest.

Nobody's Fault But My Own, by Beck

Treated you like a rusty blade,
A throwaway from an open grave,
Cut you loose from a chain gang who let you go.

And on the day you said it's true,
Some love holds,
Some gets used,
Tried to tell you I never knew it could be so sweet.

Who could ever be so cruel?
Blame the devil for the things you do?

It's such a selfish way to lose,
The way you lose these wasted blues, these wasted blues.

Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.

When the moon is a counterfeit,
Better find the one that fits,
Better find the one that lights the way for you.

When the road is full of nails,
Garbage pails and darkened jails,
And the tongues are full of heartless tales that drain on you.

Who would ever notice you?
You fade into a shaded room.

It's such a selfish way to lose,
The way you lose these wasted blues, these wasted blues.

Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.

Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.
Tell me that it's nobody's fault, nobody's fault but my own.

Listen to the song. Gather your own meaning. Mundane? Sure. But worth every second, and a composition that's sure to elicit some kind of emotion, reflection, memory, etc.

And take a gander at this live solo version...just Beck and his harmonium.

That's all I got on this 22nd day of February, 2010, Beatdowners.

It's nobody's fault but my own...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An Ode to Cordage Walk

Here it is, 2/4/10, and the NWS is saying we're under a winter storm warning...all of my favorite news folk are saying we can expect 16 - 20 inches of snow, starting sometime tomorrow afternoon and spanning through Saturday evening. It's sure to be a good time...hoping to hang with my neighbors, listen to good tunes, have some much needed fun and distraction...but I digress...

Every time major snow events happen in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, it makes me think back to a much easier and care-free time...the early and mid 90's. More specifically, to a townhouse in Columbia, Maryland on Cordage Walk, where some of my greatest friends lived and frequented, and where I spent many a weekend.

There was ALWAYS a story that came out of the gatherings at Cordage Walk. And the soundtrack of my life is engraved in the walls of that place...Tone and I whipping together mix tapes under our mix moniker, "Zeke's Hydro Squirrel"...we had countless volumes.

Back to the snow...anyone remember the Blizzard of '96? It dumped 2 feet or more of snow in and around Baltimore, and practically shut down everything the first weekend in January. And wouldn't you know, I made damn sure to have my ass firmly snowed in with the gang at Cordage Walk.

Snow began to fall on Friday, January 5th. Not too heavily. But we got socked on Saturday and Sunday. Back to the night of the was me, Jeff N, Gavs, Tone, & Ginny hanging out, playing drinking games, acting like fools. It was GLORIOUS. We invented a drinking game called "Coupon"...a deck of cards was involved, as was the extra card in the deck that was a coupon (more than likely for a pack of cigarettes or something like that - amusing in and of itself since none of us smoked). I'm unclear of the rules, and would love a reminder. All I know is that it was fun, and had us very intoxicated very quickly.

There was the challenge remaining from Senior Week back in 1990 - finish 3 beers in 15 minutes, drinking the wonderful blend of barley, malt, and alcohol through shot glasses only.

There was the poor pizza delivery guy...the door was answered by Gavs - she was wearing shorts, massive mirrored shades, a t-shirt, and a red and white polka-dotted Mad Hatters hat...his jaw dropped, and he nearly passed out when she pulled the money for our feast from her bra - to say Gavs was well endowed is a gross understatement. I'm amazed she kept a straight face.

There was some wicked infatuation with Tone's fish - an Oscar - in a tank that any of us could have climbed into like a bath tub. The fish was massively huge. It ate other less-aggressive fish. We tried - and usually succeeded - in petting him on his head...without losing a finger. And then, one of the brainiacs there that night decided it would be a good idea to stick our heads in the tank with reckless abandon. And we all took our dip - and made sure someone was snapping pictures. And we took multiple turns. Eventually, dunking your head in the fish tank became a rite of passage with the group. My older brother even had to take the dip for one party he eventually attended at Cordage Walk.

Jeff split early morning, Ape & her b/f Mr. Burns returned to the townhouse sometime before Noon. I bunkered down. Snow came. And came. And came. We went for a small walkabout to see how things were - and everything was covered in a blanket of snow. The wind picked up, drifts began to form. More beers were consumed. I believe some Jello Shots made with 151 were ingested as well. Tone and I - with raging beer balls - figured it'd be a wise idea to jump from the deck - on the second story - into the snow drifts that had formed in the backyard. I'm amazed that neither of us broke anything.

Sunday we played full contact football - in the parking lot - no fear of injury due to said 2 feet of snow on the ground.

And we jammed all night and all day to the soundtrack - "Something Good" by The Utah Saints, "Submarine Song" by The Candyskins, "Believe" by Dig, "Murder Music" by Renegade Soundwave, Pearl Jam's "Alive, "Even Flow", "Jeremy", and "Porch". Nirvana's "Teen Spirit", "Come As You Are", "Breed", and "Lounge Act". "True Faith" by New Order. Catherine Wheel, The Cure, U2, and Midnight Oil all had songs on heavy rotation. "Drive That Fast" by Kitchens of Distinction. "Mother Earth Is A Vicious Crowd" by Live...Hell, their whole sophomore album Throwing Copper. Peter Murphy, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers...Ride, The Smiths, Lenny Kravitz. Living Colour. Smashing Pumpkins, Belly, and Sponge. STP. "Alive" and "Souled Out" by The Supreme Love Gods. Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Jeff introduced us to a band from PSU - The Dirges. The Pixies. Ah, the music was the capper to the moments.

Nostalgia. It was such a good period of my life. Easier for certain. I often think of the times at Cordage Walk and smile. I think about my friends, and where they are and what they are doing. I often wonder if that time meant as much to them as it still does to me.

"I feel so extraordinary
Something's got a hold on me
I get this feeling I'm in motion
A sudden sense of liberty
I don't care 'cause I'm not there
And I don't care if I'm here tomorrow
Again and again I've taken too much
Of the things that cost you too much
I used to think that the day would never come
I'd see delight in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun..."

Enjoy the Blizzard of 2010 this weekend. Go out and make your own blogable memories. I know I will...and I'll raise a toast to good ol' Cordage Walk, and all my friends who lived there and passed through...a simple toast...6 words..."I love you all. Thank you."

Catch y'all soon, Beatdowners...until then...