Operation: Banana Gah-Na-Chee…

In one of the latest posts on Trip Advisor, someone wrote that they had a great time at Level in Annapolis, a restaurant with small plate style dining. Apparently, the food was excellent and the drink menu left an impression. They also ordered the Banana Bread Pudding, which Level’s online dessert menu describes as “served with banana brulee and chocolate ganache. But today’s story isn’t about reviews of dessert menus online with elegant, French-word-riddled-descriptions.

One year, I believe it was back in 2005, my ex planned a surprise birthday party for me. We were supposed to go to Dallas for dinner. I remember she was acting strange, almost nervous and hurried about the plans. So, when it was time for me to get ready, I started the water and pretended to get in the shower. While the water was running, I snuck out of the bathroom and overheard her on the phone telling someone on the other end that we’d be out there to meet up with everyone at 7pm. Through my cunning sleuth skills, I was able to deduce she had arranged a surprise party where all my friends would be waiting. I jumped out buck naked and yelled, “I knew there was going to be a party!” to which she replied, “Great, you ruined your own birthday party, you stupid asshole.” At the time I was pleased as punch. Now I see that I was clearly a stupid asshole for ruining my own party. 

From then, I inadvertently became the destroyer of all birthday parties, even ones that weren’t mine! Historically, planning or being part of planning birthday parties has resulted in disaster, especially for Katie. It seems like every birthday we’ve celebrated together, I’ve screwed the pooch. But I told myself this year was going to be different. This year’s key to a successful birthday was a simple checklist. This January I was going to impress Katie.

The Checklist:

1. Bring flowers. (Easy promise to deliver on!)

2. Surprise Katie with a birthday dessert. (I’ll order cake. DONE!)

3. Be nice! (This one is going to be a bit more of a challenge, but can be accomplished!)

I just kept referring to this list and telling myself the simpler the plan, the less chance of failure.

We arrived at Level right on time with the reservation we set. Jonathan, our waiter, greeted us and gave a thorough rundown of the menu. A few small plates were ordered and the food was pretty good. I’m fully aware “good” is a lame description when you’re a writer. But I’m not a food critic. Food is hot or cold, good or bad. Anyway, as we dined, Katie asked if I had forgotten her flowers. I had. I told this woman earlier in the week I’d bring flowers, and I didn’t.

God damn it. Strike One. 

So failure, I guess, WAS an option. One more absent minded faux pas, and then it would be back to the drawing board. As long as dessert made it to the table and I was SUPER NICE (Mr. Rogers NICE) for the rest of the night, everything would be fine. 

Halfway through the dinner, I excused myself and pretended to go to the bathroom. I stopped to inform Jonathan that it was Katie’s birthday. He asked if I’d like him to bring a dessert with a candle and I told him that would be perfect. The choices were cheesecake or banana bread pudding. I was leaning toward the cheesecake as I’m pretty sure I know my wife and thought that’d be a safe bet. Just then, the chef walked by and interjected. He told me that the banana bread pudding is amazing. I’m not a fan of bananas in general, let alone banana bread pudding (insert the old lipstick on a pig comment here). I wasn’t sure even Katie would like banana bread pudding, regardless of how it’s prepared. But after a ringing endorsement from the chef himself, how can you even consider cheesecake? I told the chef to slap some Lancôme L’Absolu Rouge on that porker and let’s do it…not in so many words. 

For 10 minutes I asked Katie questions about dessert, lightly placing feelers out there to get some feedback on that bread pudding. I was playful in my probing. I would intentionally mispronounce “ganache” as Gah-Na-Chee. But Katie presented her case time and time again, bashing bread pudding, calling it disgusting (it is) and how no one would order it (they wouldn’t). My overall read made it very clear Katie wasn’t going to be too pleased when this banana bread pudding arrived.

I looked for Jonathan, like a lost child looks for a parent at the mall. I tried not to draw too much attention. I needed to notifyJonathan to abort Operation: Banana Gah-Na-Chee, but it was too late! Jonathan was coming to the table. I wanted to run to him and say, The chef fucked us! This is going to be a disaster! We’re talking Chernobyl! Abort! Abort, goddamn it! She’ll kill us both, you fool!” I imagined the plate hitting the table and the look on Katie’s face, riddled with disappointment. Another year ruined by my inability to make the correct executive decisions. Katie wasn’t going to be the only person disappointed. 

In reality, the unwanted, though well prepared, dessert arrived,and it might as well have been a dog turd with a candle on a silver platter. I could read Katie’s face as it landed. The face said, “Oh, that’s why you talked about banana bread pudding for so long. I feel a little silly after everything I said. But I still don’t want it. We looked at each other and started laughing. All the cogs fell into place and it became clear to Katie what was up with the incessant questions about this fucking banana breadpudding. The situation became funnier by the minute!

I thought to myself “Strike Two. See ya next year.” But Katieawarded me partial credit and said that my intentions were good. And the way it all unfolded made for a good story and a laugh. 

Strike that strike! We’re still in the game!

When we got home, Katie picked out a movie she wanted to watch, and we camped on the couch. Before the movie started, I pointed at her and said, “Hey, remember that time you were totally awful at your own birthday and ruined dessert? That was hilarious!” Then started laughing. 

Strike Three. Try again in 2020. As the French would say “Merde!”

Should’ve gone with the cheesecake.

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Little Girls Who Don’t Answer Their Phone…

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A rush of that winter fresh 2019 air fills my lungs as I bid the yesteryear a farewell…almost. I’ve got one final story that sits on the razor’s edge of 2018 to kick off January’s article. So, let’s put our stupid New Year’s Eve paper top hats and noisemakers away and get to it.

 It’s become more and more difficult to schedule time with my teenage daughter. Nowadays, Abby’s busy with school, sports or her boyfriend (not necessarily in that order, though I wish it was). But that’s life. And while it’s a bit tricky to find time with her, I love that she’s becoming her own person as each day passes.

 I bought tickets to see Aquaman. Abby and I were set for Friday, December 28th at 11:15 am. She confirmed that she would be available and wanted to go see it. Katie bowed out as it didn’t interest her, so it was going to be another memorable chapter in the already bible-thick father/daughter book. I was up, dressed and ready by 10 am. I was, as I always am, excited to catch a movie with the kiddo.

 On the drive to pick her up, I decided to give her a call to let her know I was en route. The phone went directly to voicemail. This is a common, yet hair-ripping-scream in frustration-worthy, thing she does. I usually have to make a second (sometimes third) call until she picks up. This time, she didn’t pick up at all. I sent Abby a text kindly instructing her to pick up her phone…more or less…not really. I’m pretty sure I told her I’d kill her if she didn’t pick up.

 Upset that I would most likely have to cancel the show time, I decided I would grab some breakfast at Wawa while I waited for her to reply. I figured killing was going to be difficult enough, no need to be hungry while I do it. I reached out to Katie and see if she had heard from Abby. While on the phone with Katie, I helped myself to a bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwich and 2 hash browns. Never had breakfast at Wawa? You’re doing yourself a disservice. Katie asked what I was going to do next. I told her I was certain we weren’t going to make the movie and that I was grabbing a breakfast sandwich while I waited for Abby to call me back. Katie asked if I was going to get Abby anything. My reply was simply, “Little girls who don’t answer their phone do not get breakfast.”

 My phone voice tends to ignore what society would consider appropriate and carries well beyond the normal range. So, when I said that, it was apparently loud enough for ears within 10 feet to hear it. Katie said that my approach was a little rough, but the reaction from shoppers in Wawa was laughter. But it was the Wawa clerk who quoted me as I checked out, “Little girls who don’t answer their phone do not get breakfast. That’s a solid philosophy, man!” It brought a smile to my face. I paid the man and told him to have a good day. Right as I stepped out, Abby texted me. She said she was awake and ready to get picked up to see the movie. I explained that the ship had sailed. I told her I’d still pick her up, but since she didn’t answer the phone, we’d have to catch a show time later that week or next.

 When I picked Abby up, she apologized for sending me to voicemail and said it wouldn’t happen again. I knew it inevitably would happen again, but nodded regardless. Some would probably chime in here and call me a cynic, but I’m a realist when it comes to parenting. She told me she hadn’t eaten and wanted a breakfast sandwich. I’m not sure what the alchemy is that can make me both rough and unwavering with her one minute and then an old softie the next, but I made a straight shot to the nearest place to get breakfast.

 We returned to Wawa, where she grabbed a couple of donuts, an iced tea and some fried mozzarella cheese sticks…a breakfast for champions. As we stood in a line at the checkout, I noticed that the clerk who had checked me out before was still working…and we were in his line! I thought maybe he wouldn’t recognize me. Granted, it had only been about 30 minutes since I last saw him, but it’s a Wawa off a major highway with lots of foot traffic and LOTS of faces. No way would he remember me.

 We approached the checkout. The clerk looked me, then he looked at Abby. The irony was not lost on that clerk. He immediately recognized me. Then he looked back at me and said, “I guess little girls who don’t answer their phones DO get breakfast?” I looked befuddled. I was conflicted between feeling upset by his remark, but also wanting to laugh, as I saw the humor in it. I went for the old rolling of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “What are ya going to do?”

 Merriam-Webster defines embarrassment as “the emotional state of being made self-consciously uncomfortable.” I’d say that’s a pretty spot-on analysis of what occurred in line at that Wawa on Friday, December 28th at 11:00 am. Now don’t get me wrong, the child is not the source of this embarrassing moment – it was me. I created this with my big mouth and inability to use my inside voice. Had I just spoken a little softer, or not at all, the clerk of Wawa wouldn’t have remembered me and my flawed, high decibel “wisdom.”

 Having a kid, at times THIS kid, can be trying. I could’ve put a friend, any friend, in Abby’s position and see myself at the 11:30 am show time of Aquaman alone and not feeling remotely bothered by it. In fact, I would’ve told that friend what a great time I had. But when you’re a parent, the rules are different…except, perhaps in my father’s parenting book. I’m certain my father wouldn’t have given me a second thought and gone to see the movie after he called and it went to voicemail ONCE.

 We ended up seeing it later that night, at almost twice the cost and surrounded with loudmouthed buffoons that recited every line like some daft parrot. On top of everything, Aquaman was garbage!

Tears for Fears Xmas…

I usually don’t get caught up in the holiday hype – rather the opposite. Getting to the mall becomes harder than sitting through 5 minutes of “Johny Johny Yes Papa” (look it up, it’s fucking torture!) But this December is different.

At the Giant grocery store off Bay Ridge Ave in Annapolis, a crew of 3 (so far) Salvation Army bell ringers take shifts sounding off daily, collecting donations as they do every year following Black Friday. But one particular, and somewhat peculiar, man stands out. And I mean he stands out like a clean shaven, loose-fitting jeans sporting, carnivore in Portland. (That was a well written joke aimed at hipsters.) But this gentleman, in my book, shines a bit brighter than most. For proper context, we’re going to need a flashback and new paragraph.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, like everywhere else in America, the Chesapeake-neighboring town of Annapolis goes into full-on Christmas mode. Vibrant, seasonal lights coat the city and an invasion of bell toting carolers representing the Salvation Army set up camp in front of every grocery store. I, like many of you, notice them initially to later have my attention diverted by the next limelight-hungry group demanding my money for a good cause.

Abby and I wrapped up some grocery shopping and exited Giant, when an unusual ditty sideswiped us. A man singing the following stopped me dead in my tracks: “There’s a room where the lights won’t find you, holding hands while the walls come tumbling down…” I was in denial at what I had just heard. Yes folks, someone was singing in the correct key AND in rhythm with the bell! I’m telling you it seems as if the Salvation Army bell ringers got together and decided that the two previously mentioned skills are mutually exclusive. They most certainly are not. But since it’s the holidays, good cheer and whatnot, I’ll just put this in the nicest way possible…There’s the way this guy was belting notes in front of Giant and then there are the rest of the bell ringers who are complete shit.

When I paused, Abby did too. I asked her if she was listening to the song. She replied in her signature way, “Listening to what?” This just reaffirmed my original theory that this kid lives in her own little world and sound travels only on the outskirts of her ears, never in. I sang the lyrics I just heard and she immediately identified the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” It was interesting watching someone break out of traditional Christmas carols and try something new for a change. I regretfully never talked to him to give him kudos for flipping the festive script…until last Wednesday night.

After weeks of subpar, tone-deaf bell ringing carolers, I finally saw him again the other night! This time I decided to approach him and ask, “Excuse me, sir, a few weeks ago were you here singing Tears for Fears?” He turned to me and replied, “YEAH, I WAS! Tears for Fears is one of the greatest bands ever!” He was an older gentleman, around 65, with the most contagious smile that ran from ear to ear after I initiated conversation. His response and overall demeanor made me mirror his smile. No embellishments In today’s article, as you can see in the picture above. (yes, that’s really him).

 As I made my way back to the car, something came over me. I quickly dumped the groceries in the backseat and reached into the middle console and cleared all the change I had. I then jogged back to him and dumped every cent I had into that fire engine red bucket. I told him that I wasn’t a fan of this time of year in general, but told him he had made my year. He smiled again, wished me a Merry Christmas and I reciprocated.

I think about how Die Hard can arguably be the greatest Christmas movie in my opinion. Why can’t “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” be a Christmas song? In a time when Thanksgiving can be rejected by some and addressed as “the decolonization of native Americans” and “Baby, It’s Cold outside” is now considered “rapey,” it looks like a slot may have just opened up for a new holiday song. #ThanksMillennials

 Final Note:

I’ve never heard of New Year’s resolutions being abandoned BEFORE the new year starts, until now. I said earlier this year I’d be taking a break from The Moron Editorial in 2019, but I’ve had a change of heart. So with that, I’ll be back in January 2019. Now go open presents or whatever the hell it is you do.

Not Going to Stand on Ceremony…

Turkey

It felt like my writing stalled recently. I spent most of a creatively dry November with no ideas for articles, submitting my resume for Counterintelligence jobs at the NSA (seriously, when I get bored, I apply for jobs I have no chance of obtaining). Then Thanksgiving came…

A 13 pound turkey I had brined for 2 days hit the smoker on November 21st at 10 am. We were celebrating Thanksgiving a day early so there wouldn’t be any friction between the ex and me about who would have Abby on the actual day. The holiday back and forth battle has been going strong since 2008 and frankly, I’d welcome a colonoscopy over future feuding. So Katie and I now celebrate all the big holidays early to avoid any further confrontations for the sake of the kiddo and our sanity.

I texted Abby earlier in the week and told her she was more than welcome to invite her boyfriend, Cam, for dinner that day. I wasn’t sure if he would come, as texts to my daughter are replied to as often as the NSA regarding my resume. In fact, I’d bet there is a higher likelihood that the dog would vocally express his love for me before Abby will respond to a text. But Cam did end up coming over.

We sat down together to dig in, but not before I said, “We’re not going to stand on ceremony,” a phrase frequently uttered by my father-in-law. After dinner, we all gathered around the old PS4 and played Little Big Planet 3. It was about 10 minutes in when Cam decided he was bored and started sabotaging the team by killing the rest of us. I quickly realized I didn’t like playing games with this kid and an overwhelming urge to kill him in real life took over me. But I referred myself to last month’s article and recited “I want Abby to be happy. This kid makes Abby happy.” until the urge to kill him subsided.

Later in the evening Abby mentioned all the driving Cam had been doing since getting his license two weeks earlier. Between picking Abby up at her mother’s house two towns over, not to mention the joyriding, Cam was filling his tank twice a week. I felt for the boy and decided, on the down low, to slip him $20 and tell him it was for gas. It’s something my father-in-law (The Rick) would do.

The Rick…

My father-in-law has, as long as I’ve known him, been an easygoing guy. He enjoys beer, football and is incredibly social…and I mean social to a fault. This guy will introduce himself to everyone. “Become the known” is one of his favorite mottos. From the coat checker to the damn performer, if given the opportunity, he will say hello and ask you your name. For the sake of discretion in today’s article, we’ll just call him “The Rick.” There are many Ricks, but none like him. I know this sounds like some introduction from The Big Lebowski and I’m describing The Dude, but the difference is that this is a real person.

It’s only in the last month I have found myself trying to follow the blueprint my father-in-law indirectly laid out for me. The man is a master at the “how to” on almost anything. He is the most even keel person I’ve ever known. These days, it seems to be one of the rarest commodities.

I have never seen The Rick lose his temper ever…except, ironically, Thanksgiving 2012 when his dog, Rowdy, jumped up on the dinner table and took a turkey leg. I thought it was hilarious until I saw The Rick’s face. I’m almost certain that dog would’ve ceased to exist if he wasn’t hosting family. But I don’t blame him for being upset. If it were my dog, he’d STILL be sleeping outside. In his defense though, in 2015, I farted and blamed Rowdy at a family function. I regret nothing as I do not like Rowdy, but I digress.

I’d bet it’s a strange view from the outside looking in at the dynamic of a father looking out for not only his daughter, but the boy said daughter likes. But I look at it as being part of an elite club. Not being the father of a daughter, but being a strong father-like figure to another man that may require a little bit of guidance and advice (when asked for it). THAT’S what makes this club elite in my opinion. I know there may come a day in the future when Abby will bring home the man she’s chosen to spend the rest of her life with and I hope to have this father-in-law skill as fine tuned as The Rick.

I find myself now asking WWTRD (What Would The Rick Do)? If this man, father of two daughters, doesn’t know, I know I’m fucked.

Meet the Parents…No, The Other Ones…

 

Katie and I met Abby’s boyfriend this weekend. Even I find that sentence unbelievable. More in the sense that she’s growing up so fast and less that she would ever have a boyfriend. FACT: My daughter is stunning, and I never doubted this day would come.

 

So with Abby having an official boyfriend, it was time for meet and greet. Cameron “Cam” already met Abby’s mom last week and now it was our turn. I can’t recall meeting divorced parents of anyone I ever dated, so I kind of felt for Cam. I’m sure having to run the parent gauntlet twice is grueling! 

 

For a few days leading up to the meeting, I imagined what Cam was going to be like. I wondered what would be the first thing he’d say as he walked through my door. I know the image of a rebel in a black leather jacket is a very dated notion, but that’s what he was wearing in the scenario I created. I had a delusional picture in my mind of me giving him some generic “protective father speech and cautioning him to be good. It didn’t go like that…at all. 

 

It was nothing like you’d see on some poorly written sitcom on TGIF and it wasn’t Meet the Parents. He wasn’t rude or offensive. There was no overbearing father speech. It was surprisingly tame. Cam walked into the house, introduced himself, shook my hand firmly and made eye contact. The kid must have done the research and read the playbook on what to do when meeting a girl’s father. He didn’t say much else. He was calm that whole time he was over. They say the loudest guy in a meeting typically knows the least; I could tell he was not that type of person. Unrelated, I’m almost always the loudest guy in meetings.

 

Katie and I spent most of the evening in the kitchen, about 20 feet away from the couch where Cam and Abby were loungingKatie was working on her computer while I tried my damnedest not to stare at the kid with his arm around my daughter. It felt so strange to like someone and not at the same time. I wanted to like him because Abby likes him. I wanted to kill him because Abby likes him. I wanted to grab his arm, break it and tell him to keep his hands to himself. But I also wanted to make sure he wasn’t uncomfortable…maybe a little uneasy though. Ultimately, I had to behave. 

 

I kept telling myself, “I want Abby to be happy. This thing she found in the wild makes her happy. So, if she’s happy, I’m happy…But if I choke him, I’ll be happy. I shouldn’t choke him. I could. But I won’t.” I THINK this is the closest I’ll ever get to being in the right frame of mind in this particular situation. And if you know me, you know kudos are in order!

 

As the evening went on, he became a little more relaxed. He talked about his dog and even shared his theory that SpongeBob SquarePants is actually a tampon (and proceeded to explain how this theory works)I laughed. Later in the week I Googled this theory to see if it was an original. Sadly, it was not. But originality is a rare commodity these days, so I didn’t fault the boy. I gave him partial credit for trying to talk to me. Plus, I got a pretty good chuckle out of it. 

 

I want to say I played it cool…more or less. But a father can never be 100% cool when meeting his daughter’s boyfriend. That would be impossible. In the end I ask myself a simple question: Is Cam okay in my book? Sure. Are we going fishing next weekend? Fuck no. This kid’s trying to get his grubby paws on my daughter. I don’t even like it when people grab a fry from my plate and I NEVER lend my movies…now you’re trying to date my daughter?! I got my eye on you, bubba. I mean, for the love of ham and swiss, I JUST finished writing an article last month about when I taught her to ride a bike! Now this kid is going to just stroll in and commandeer 90% of her free time? But that’s how the story goes…and keeps going. It’s supposed to change and evolve. Frankly, half the shit Abby says is aimless and tends to go on longer than it should. At least Cam, the new sound wall, is taking over in that department too…sucker.

 

Speaking of the ever evolving and things I’m proud ofThe Moron Editorial turns 10 years old this month. I know I’ve told the story countless times before, so I’m going for one of those Netflix style hyper-recaps before I finish today’s article. The Moron Editorial started in text form and then evolved into emailblasts as I needed more than the 160 characters my phone allotted me. Yes, it was that long ago! But a few technologically geriatric (and tragically daft) fools hit “reply all” requesting to be removed, in turn encouraging MORE FOOLS to make the same requestonly exacerbating the thread.  So, in October of 2008, I created The Moron Editorial – my own website where people could read my (at the time daily) posts.

 

I’ve always been a laugh whore. They say the saddest people are champions of comedy. I can see that. When I first started this project, it was during one of the hardest times in my life. In fact, it has given me the confidence to pursue other projects. Because of THIS project, I have published a book. I placed 2nd in the Maryland Film Festival screenwriter’s competition in 2017 and was a second-round finalist in this year’s Austin Film Festival’s pilot script competition. I’m currently working on a new script for next year’s film competition and HOPE to publish my next book. 

 

I look back at both Abby and my writing after 10 years, and I couldn’t be more impressed with or prouder of both. Luckily, my work isn’t dating.

Stockholm in Baltimore…

Over the last decade, and many flights to Texas, I found myself gradually becoming more of a visitor in Texas than a resident. The sites that were once home have changed over the years and become foreign. I even told my sister a few months ago that my life in Texas sometimes feels like someone else’s fading memory. It would be insane to sum up what is now 10 years as of September 2018 since I moved to Maryland, but I’ll give it a shot.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how 2008 was very difficult for me after my divorce was finalized and Abby moved to Maryland. I was an absolute wreck for the next 8 months. It was only after I saved some cash, found a roommate on Craigslist, packed up what l could fit into my car and made the somewhat blind leap to Baltimore to be closer to her, did things get better…somewhat.

I had a 2007 Kia Spectra. This was the car that made the 1500 mile trek with me from Texas. That was the only real bond I ever had with the god damn thing. I bought it brand new. It was supposed to be a midsized sedan, but it felt small…really small…like it came with 20 clowns, small. I hated that fucking car. I got bamboozled by the salesman into buying it because I was in dire need of a vehicle and he knew it. The monthly payments were incredibly high and so was the interest rate.

Long story short, it took some time to find a decent paying job in Baltimore. Money was tight and I couldn’t swing the car payments. A few months after settling in Baltimore, my Kia was repossessed. One particularly freezing night in January 2009, I heard a truck outside my apartment. I took a peek out the window to see that my car was about to be repossessed and towed away. In a panic I ran out into the 20 degree cold and approached the tow truck driver. You could tell this guy was ready to defend himself as I’m sure he’d seen the crazy look of many confrontational people before me, ready to put up a fight. They wanted their car. They needed their car. I slowed down my approach with raised hands showing there was no ill will.

Still a little jumpy he said, “Hey man, I gotta take the car. I don’t want any problems.” I nodded and, like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive when he catches up with Harrison Ford, replied “I don’t give a fuck about the car. I’m GLAD this fucking thing is gone. Can I just get my daughter’s things and car seat before you haul it away?” The guy looked perplexed. I guess he’d never seen anyone welcome him and have an indifferent attitude about the whole situation before. Or maybe he’d seen The Fugitive and appreciated the inflection. He allowed me to get Abby’s stuff before taking the car.

I’m usually not one to find a silver lining. I’m not a glass half full kind of guy. When something like a car repossession happens, it induces stress and panic. But I wasn’t stressed. I didn’t panic. Instead, I learned how to use the Baltimore Public Transit System.

I learned when and where I had to be to catch the bus to get to work. I learned (through many mistakes) which buses took you into Baltimore’s shadiest neighborhoods (there are a lot more than you’d think). I sat at bus stops through unforgiving winters and rather tame Baltimore summers (compared to Texas in July). But I also got to know Baltimore on a level that no tourist, or even some lifelong residents, were acquainted with. Even stranger than that, I grew an appreciation for Baltimore as I got to know it.

I’m not sure how it happened. After losing a few jobs, having my bike stolen, being 1500 miles away from family, somehow, over time, I came to know Baltimore as home. But at the same time, I got to see Abby almost every other weekend, and having her in my life again trumped whatever Baltimore could ever throw at me. It paled in comparison to the perpetual discomfort I felt when Abby wasn’t around.

Last week, I flew back to Texas to visit my sister and family. We had our first (of hopefully many) game night on Saturday. Sitting at a table with my little sister and cousins felt just like old times. It’s a thing of beauty to see that no one missed a beat, like we picked up exactly where we left off. I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

But on Sunday as I flew over Maryland and caught a view of Annapolis, I couldn’t help but feel at home. I used to think I’d still feel like a stranger to Maryland even after living there for years. I thought I would be calling Texas home for the rest of my days. Ironically, it’s the other way around now. Stranger than that, I’m thinking about where I’m going to live next. It won’t be Maryland. But I know I won’t be hanging my hat in Texas either – are you fuckin kidding me? It’s hot as FUCK there! West Coast? Somewhere in the mountains, maybe?

Moving to Maryland has been an eye opening experience. It showed me that this world, specifically my little world, is a lot bigger than I thought it was. Does this mean I now wear Ravens gear and root for the Orioles? Well, let’s not get crazy.

Icarus, The Film Buff…

Through the 80s, skateboarding became wildly popular. Yes, I am fully aware you can date skateboarding back to its birth sometime around the 50s. But I’m talking vert ramp, Christian Slater/Gleaming the Cube, street skateboarding and the rise of the man himself, Tony Hawk. To me, THAT’S when EVERYONE wanted to be a skater.

Around the same time, other street sports started to gain recognition as well. Rollerblading started to build momentum, pun intended. Everyone was on wheels in one way or another. Since I didn’t have the proper balance required to handle a skateboard, rollerblades were my fallback. At the time, it was thought that inline skates were going to take over skateboards…of course, they didn’t.

For Christmas 1991, my aunt bought me a pair of rollerblades. It got so crazy, rollerblades coming with so many accessories and upgrades, you couldn’t get a decent pair without spending a pretty penny. Wheels came is more colors than one could count. They made them with extra cushioning to prevent blisters. They made some that were super light to make you feel like Icarus, ready to race the speed of sound! I didn’t get any of those upgrades. I got the base model. But don’t get me wrong, I was stoked! I loved them!

Summer break came before I knew it and there wasn’t much to do in the summer, living in the country in Texas, but to skate and rent movies…and that’s what I did. A local mom n pop shop, Pay Less Video, had duplicated pretty much everything Blockbuster had done, but was cheaper. VHS rentals, that’s right I said VHS, came in a hard plastic clamshell and were about a dollar to rent. Say what you want, there was no better feeling to a kid (at that time) than opening a clamshell VHS and popping it in the VCR!

As I’ve recounted endlessly in previous articles, we didn’t have cable. We had about 8 channels that came in with less than perfect reception. Two of those channels were PBS and Univision (a Spanish channel) which to a 12 year old kid, were LESS interesting to watch than a non-working channel showing only static. Movies were all I had as a source of entertainment. So every few days I’d beg my father for cash to rent movies from Pay Less Video. It was difficult to get a few bucks from the old man. He was tight with his money to say the least.

On one particular day, the old man gave me 3 bucks. This generous act was very much unexpected. But I wasn’t going to look this frugal gift horse in the mouth. I took the cash and grabbed my skates. It had reached 105 degrees. I felt sweat trickle down the small of my back instantly as I walked out the door. I put on my skates, tucked the cash in my right skate and took off.

The trek was 3 miles, 50/50 uphill and downhill. But when it’s 105 outside it feels like an uphill battle both ways with anchors on your shoulders. The air diffraction caused by record breaking heat coming off the unforgiving asphalt should have been my first sign to turn around and maybe read a book. But I wasn’t much of a reader. I wanted a god damn movie and I wanted a god damn shower. There wasn’t a god damn thing that was going to deter me that day. I pushed through all of it knowing I’d be at Pay Less soon enough.

When I did finally get there, obviously drenched in sweat, I sat in front of the store’s curb to catch my breath. I reached into my right skate to recover what was certainly going to the most disgusting $3 ever documented. But it wasn’t there. A new coat of panic sweat made its presence felt under the layer of sweat that already existed. It was a bitter and colder sweat like the first time you’re asked if you were listening and you said yes (but you weren’t) and then they ask you to repeat what was just said.

I checked the other skate, fully knowing that it wasn’t going to be there. I took both of them off and double checked. I triple checked and even took off my socks. There sat Icarus, sunburned and penniless as he cried barefoot on the curb of Pay Less Video’s storefront. The world was little darker that day.

I eventually put all my gear back on and skated back home. I can’t recall any of my thoughts on that trip back in soaked socks and rollerblades. I couldn’t tell you what I told my father IF I even told him anything. Was there a lesson here? “Use your pockets next time, you dumb shitbird!” Truth was, there was no lesson to take from the occurrence. The universe is just a strange and cruel bitch sometimes.

Here’s another spoonful of strange to tack on to today’s article:

It just so happened that I was at the grocery store last weekend and saw a guy on rollerblades. I thought about what a coincidence it was that I had been working on this article for weeks and right before I published it, I see my first rollerblading nincompoop since yours truly! What are the odds? Seriously, what are they!?! Have you seen on inline skates recently? Let me rephrase; have you seen anyone NOT being ironic? I like to do some research (if it’s needed) when I write an article. At one point, I recall Googling rollerblades and only one Google result. It said, “Go back to 1991 and destroy your phone booth time traveling machine, you tool!” Jesus, those fucking things disappeared faster than overpriced Hypercolor Shirts. Which, come to think of it, my aunt also bought me. That woman is a badass.