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.

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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.

I’m Your Biggest Fan…

It was a weekend in Fall of 2008 and I was teaching Abby how to ride her bike without training wheels. We woke up early and found a deserted grocery store parking lot in Catonsville. I spent the majority of the morning getting more than my fair share of cardio, sucking air as I galloped behind her with a hand on the back of the seat, like some cheesy Nationwide Insurance commercial, reassuring her that I wasn’t going to let go.

We developed a sophisticated system where in the event I wasn’t able to keep up with her or she felt like she was going to lose control and the front wheel started to wobble, I’d yell, “BAIL!” and she would. Most of the time she would just bail preemptively, fearful of meeting the asphalt with her face. But she never did; she always landed on her feet.

After an hour or so she got to where she’d ride about 10 feet without bailing. Around this time I pulled out my LG Rumor 2 and started recording. I watched as she took off like a rocket, tearing up asphalt like a fearless daredevil. I still have that grainy video stored in a portable hard drive.

Yeah, 2008 was full of incredible events. The world felt like it was changing at blinding speeds. We had our first black president. I moved 1,500 miles from Texas to Maryland. I even finally set up a Facebook profile and started pulling away from MySpace (even though most of Earth had abandoned it in 2006).

Just like MySpace 10 years ago, I’m deleting my personal Facebook page in the coming weeks. I would have deleted it a year ago, but for Abby’s 15th birthday, I have compiled all of my Facebook posts about her over the last 10 years. Every morning for the past year, I’ve checked my “Memories” on Facebook that mention Abby in one way or another. I would take a screenshot with my phone and upload it into a file that now holds somewhere around 270 screenshots of updates/posts. Let it be a quote and/or conversation, it’s all there and currently being converted into a book.

Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 words…but sometimes 150 characters tell a pretty fucking good story too.

2018 has held some remarkable achievements. Strangely, they revolve around multiples of 5. I’m fond of multiples of 5. Katie and I recently celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary. It’s actually 10 years to the day when I made my last trip up to Maryland to see Abby for her 5th birthday, then decided to pack up my shit and make the permanent move to be close to her. But the biggest mark in 2018 is my daughter turning 15.

A few weeks ago, in a drunken stupor, I babbled on about how much I really do love this kid. I told her I was her biggest fan. No bullshit, I’m a fan of many things…film, music, comic books…but I follow this kid like a high school punk rock band groupie, handing out homemade flyers on neon colored paper to everyone at school. I’m always floored when I see her and pester her as much as I can before she runs into her room to escape me. Can’t blame her – I’m really annoying!

Without Abby, I most certainly wouldn’t be here today. The kid gave me a reason to live when I wasn’t looking for one. She also gave me reasons to worry, like any helicopter father would. But I find myself less and less worried about her as she turns 15. Still worried, mind you, but less so. I know that there will be some rough patches here and there where Dad won’t be there to save the day. I’m not completely fine with that, but I get it. It’s called life and that’s how it rolls.

But I know now, just like I did when she was 5, that she’ll land on her feet.

Bad Barry…

We made our way westbound on 50 towards DC on a cloudy Saturday. Katie and I were heading to Vienna, Virginia to take Abby to a concert. You’d think, based on how Abby’s giddy, lit match to a full powder keg, behavior she was en route to see Eminem at Bonaroo, inevitably to be surrounded by tens of thousands of loud and obnoxious fans, water and beer splashing inbound from every direction. There would be body surfing and madness, the likes of which none in attendance could imagine… Nope, we were on our way to Barry Manilow.

I think it was some time in 2013 when Abby and I watched Hellboy 2. There’s a scene when Hellboy and his buddy Abe are both drowning their sorrows with a few beers and begin to sing along to Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” as it plays in the background. She fell in love with Barry right then and there. Later on, she started downloading other hits from Barry. Less than a year later, she made her own playlist of nothing but Barry.

Twenty minutes into what was going to be a 90 minute drive, Abby commandeered the Bluetooth and proceeded to play all of Barry Manilow’s hits. Through the rear view, I watched this 14 year old girl lip sync and dance to every song for the next hour. I considered myself fortunate that all I was supposed to do that day was drive. At $100 a ticket, Katie and I determined only one adult needed to accompany this little fan. Abby’s backseat antics were the closest I was going to get to seeing Barry Manilow, and I was more than okay with that.

When I pulled up to the passenger drop off at the Wolf Trap, it looked like recess at a nearby senior living center. The smell of Icy Hot was strong as herds of geriatric Manilow fans formed a line anxiously waiting to get in. The order went Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia and repeat. Before you knew it, you didn’t know if you were at a Manilow concert or a Golden Girls cosplay contest. I couldn’t get over how many people came for this show!

I also noticed that the only men there had been clearly dragged reluctantly, with their arms crossed much like a toddler being denied a toy at Wal-Mart. It was abundantly clear their only function was to drive their significant other and applaud in between songs…though the latter was never agreed to. I assume the men had negotiated before they had arrived that there was a snowball’s chance in Hell they would be waving a lighter with the rest of the crowd. No, those tired hands were going to remain tucked tightly under those Brut-scented, pits.

I waved to Katie and Abby and told them to have fun. I drove to a nearby pub called Caboose Brewing Company, settled in and enjoyed a beer as I waited for the concert to finish. I began to think about what I was like going to concerts when I was her age. In the mid-90s, when I was Abby’s age, I would go out of my way to find the craziest concerts in my hometown of Denton, Texas. If it wasn’t overcrowded, with bodies pressed against strangers like canned sardines marinating in cheap Lone Star Beer, bouncing around left and right, I wouldn’t be there. I needed ear piercing noise that made my heart flutter! I needed the madness. I thrived best in melodic chaos. In my mind, life was nothing without a local concert at the (now closed) Good Bad Art Collective, where ONLY experimental music was hosted.

She walked out of that concert with a t-shirt, pictures and the biggest shit-eating grin. She had stories as well, one about how Barry got upset with the band as they started a song in the wrong key. He yelled, “We fucked the song up!” in frustration. THAT I might have paid to see. Later in the show, Barry performed his famous “Copacabana.” It was quite the spectacle as the 74 year old Manilow started “grinding on one of the dancers.” Abby was pretty descriptive about him rubbing his dusty nether regions on other dancers on stage, Abby called him “Bad Barry” for the rest of the night when addressing him. I laughed uncontrollably. Needless to say, she was on cloud 9 the rest of the night.

Parenting often feels like a wild car ride as you sit in the driver’s seat topping out at breakneck speeds with no steering wheel. It feels like chaos when all you’re trying to do is get a pulse on your kid’s life and find out how her day went. But I will look back at days like this last weekend and certainly appreciate them. Yes, it may be a while before I’ll be able to forget the story of “Bad Barry” gyrating his titanium hips on stage… but it will really be the memory of an extremely excited teenage kid emphatically singing “Can’t Smile Without You” as if she was performing tonight, in my backseat through my rear view that will remain in my mind for years to come.

I later posted on this Facebook:

If anyone was wondering who the youngest person (VOLUNTARILY) in attendance at Barry Manilow at the Wolf Trap in Virginia, it was my Abby.

The “HalitoSisters”…

There was once a 3 year-old little girl who would wake up at the fucking crack of dawn to run into her parents’ room to inform them that she was A) Awake and B) Hungry. Every morning her father was rudely awoken from a peaceful sleep by the pitter-patter of little feet sprinting across the 2nd floor apartment, followed by a tactical dropkick of the master bedroom door. This was her daily method and, I must say, it was incredibly effective.

Her father didn’t need an alarm for work, for it was a guarantee that the child would alert him of the new day. This was convenient during weekdays, as this would also assure his employer he’d never be late. But it was torture come the weekend.

I look back at those days and mostly smile now. But it wasn’t just the bull in a china shop approach the child used to get our attention, it was how up-close and personal the kid was once she was in the room. She would come right up the bridge of my nose and say “Good morning, Daddy. I’m hhhhhhhhungry!” When the morning breath made contact, it was equal to smelling salts waking a football player…hell, who am I kidding, it could pull patients out of comas. At the time, her breath was a little pungent, but very endearing. This little girl greeted her father FIRST every morning; no greater feeling in the world.

That was in 2006. Let’s fast forward to 2018.

Abby and I went to the IMAX the weekend the new Avengers movie came out. We ended up grabbing some breakfast and catching an 8:30 am showtime. There was some serious father/daughter bonding that day and it was delightful. As the kiddo gets a little older, days like this become fewer and far between. But that’s the way it goes.

The movie was great. It didn’t fall short of clever one-liners that had the audience laughing, myself and Abby included. But, as we sat in the theater, I was convinced someone was ripping serious ass the entire time. It must have been so gut-bustingly hilarious to someone else in that auditorium that it loosened their sphincter as a result.

The movie finished and we made our way back to the car. We went back and forth about how much we both thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was then, it hit me. It was HER breath that had been distracting me the whole movie! The smell was unimaginable… It was like a Christmas Carol and I was Ebenezer Scrooge being visited by 3 ghosts…that actually smelled of death! It hit me harder than it did back in 2006 and the green stink lines coming out of her mouth weren’t anywhere in the vicinity of “endearing.”

I confronted her about her breath. I asked her if she had brushed her teeth. Keep in mind, this has been an ongoing question/battle for years. When she was around 8, she used to lie about brushing. I never met anyone so against brushing their teeth like Abby. Katie and I became sleuths. We noticed her toothbrush used to be bone dry. SHE got savvy to that and then just started wetting the toothbrush. THE NEXT STEP IS BRUSHING, and she STILL wouldn’t do it!

After I told Abby her breath was foul, I was certain she’d be insulted. She wasn’t. She actually started laughing when I addressed her pungent breath! That’s this generation for ya. They’ve heard and seen it all and there’s very little that will get under their skin. Which makes sense since they usually deal with a national travesty before they’ve even had their morning Juul or belittled 50 people via social media that morning! #LordoftheFlies

The irony in all of this, and most certainly not lost on me, was that my father used to rag on me about my breath when I was a kid. “Apestas!” he used to scream all the time, which translates to “You reek!” My father used to ask me if I had brushed my teeth…with shit. Truth was, I hated nothing more than brushing my fucking teeth.

On top of that, as I was writing this article, Katie told me HER mother used to rag on her about her breath! Low and behold, the smelly circle of life. We sat at the kitchen table and had a good laugh about Abby’s constant lying back when about brushing her teeth and how frequently our parents complained about our breath as kids.

The day we got back home from the movie, we gave Katie a brief recap of the movie and how awesome the father/daughter time was. I noticed Katie’s breath was a little ripe as well. To her defense, her back went out a couple weeks ago, making it difficult to get around and doing anything that was once routine. Regardless, I dubbed Katie and Abby the “HalitoSisters” which, as always, way funnier to me than to them. Although, based on Katie’s breath hitting a 7 out of 10 on the breath scale, I did understand Katie’s mother a little better that day.

Rooby-Rooby-Roo…

Scooby

When I first arrived in Maryland, I fell on some hard times. From the small things like an apartment that didn’t have cable or internet, to larger issues like keeping a steady job, to even getting my goddamn car repossessed and having to learn Baltimore’s bus transit system. But the one thing that kept me sane (or close to it) was having Abby come over every other weekend. Come Hell AND high water, in my case, that kid made the flame-retardant/arm floatie-equipped suit bearable on the East coast. But trying to keep a 5 year old entertained was a different challenge altogether.

Back then I had to get resourceful when a 5 year old stimuli-hungry and literally hungry child came over. We would play pretend. We would draw and color. We’re talking endless rounds of Kids Monopoly…which is still the Chinese Water Torture of board games. But after it dawned on me that all the previously mentioned activities had taken place and only 4 minutes had passed, I knew it was time to move on to a more sustainable (and my favorite) source of fun…movies.

Bus #77 would take Abby and me to the Goodwill on Route 40 in Catonsville every weekend when she was over. At this age she never complained. Unlike now, where trying to get her to a Goodwill is like trying to bathe a feral cat…it’s not pretty. We would go to Goodwill because it was one of the last places on earth to find VHS tapes. Here you could find everything from The Goonies to old Disney films in white clamshell cases that had become discolored and yellowed with age. We would walk out of there with 5 to 8 tapes per visit.

The movies we watched were hit or miss. It was easy to forget she was 5 and didn’t want to watch everything I recommended. But by far, the most successful purchases were always anything with good old Scooby-Doo. She would want to watch the most ridiculous episodes repeatedly. Have you ever watched Scooby-Doo Meets the Harlem Globetrotters with your kiddo? Do it! I think it’s just awful but you should definitely show it to your kid! They will (assuming they are under 5) LOVE it!

One time we found the live action version of Scooby-Doo that was released back in 2004. It was fucking terrible. But to a 5 year old without much experience watching quality film, it was life changing. She instantly loved it. We watch Scooby-Doo more times than I care to remember. Unrelated, they made a sequel which I was convinced couldn’t be worse than the first, but I was very wrong!

The years come and go quickly as do a lot of the memories. You may remember something you thought was huge at the time when your kid was X. Then 10 years later you ask them if they remember and get a blank look from them. But bring up some crappy tapes from Goodwill when they were 5 and they’ll tell you what day it was, what they were wearing and everything they watched.

Last week Katie told me that Abby rented Scooby-Doo through iTunes and watched it again. This kid remembers way more than I give her credit for.

Combustible Pancakes…

When I look back at March to July of 2008, I can’t recall much. The Skype phone calls between Abby and myself, to the best of my knowledge, were regularly scheduled. I went to work Monday through Friday. And I gradually came to grips with this new life without the kiddo around. This wasn’t an optimal way of life, but that’s the human condition, isn’t it? Being able to adapt and move forward is what makes us, well, US.

They weren’t easy months by any means. But, at one point in those dark months, I started to envision what life would look like long term without having Abby around. Keep in mind, I didn’t commit to moving to Maryland until July of 2008. Before that time, I just assumed this was how it was going to be for the foreseeable future. Those 4 months really were a blur. It almost feels like I was in suspended animation during that short window of time.

So, we’re changing the narrative for the next few months leading up to July. I’m sure you all got your fill about articles regarding divorce and, I most definitely, got my fill writing about it. The next few articles will be much less confusing regarding flashbacks and will focus on more recent events. The articles will be broken into parts of a larger story arc I’ve titled “If I Hadn’t Moved”. Enjoy.

If I Hadn’t Moved – Part I

It was just another weekend in January 2018. Katie and I were on our way to pick Abby up from her mother’s house. We had asked Abby where she wanted to grab some grub. This almost always mutates into your typical “I don’t care where we eat” conversations that I’m not going to bother to go into. You’re welcome.

I was under the impression it was one of those weekends where we would eat somewhere close by in Annapolis. A drive to Baltimore, DC (or farther) was just out of the question. Tantrums would be thrown, people in the car would be punched! No one in this car was safe if I had to drive to Baltimore or DC!

We went to the Sip & Bite in Baltimore. I was not happy. Katie and Abby had breakfast for dinner. Not me. Can’t stand breakfast for dinner. Certain foods are assigned to a time of day; in my book, eggs showing up at 6pm is unacceptable. I do not participate in breakfast for dinner and condemn all that do! Abby ordered chocolate chip pancakes. Meal heresy, I say! I had the chicken sandwich. It’s versatile. It can be lunch…but a dinner appearance is also welcomed.

The next day, Abby went to reheat the chocolate chip pancakes in the toaster oven. I was in the living room watching Chelsea destroy Newcastle when I smelled something burning. I walked into the kitchen with a sense of curiosity. I really didn’t think much of it. But what I saw next will haunt me for a while to say the least.

Some of the chocolate chips from the pancakes melted and fell into the heating element of the toaster oven. The heating element didn’t take too kindly to the melting chocolate shower and reacted as it would with anything that touches it…it caught fire. Fires occasionally happen. I’m guilty of being a little careless in the past and inadvertently provoking a little flame here and there in that toaster, but this wasn’t the shocking part.

As I panned my eyes over to my daughter, I witnessed the unbelievable. It was a 14-year-old girl without her eyes glued to her cell phone for once. It was the fire that had her undivided attention. She was calm and collected. She watched as if it was a campfire by the beach on casual Friday evening. Maybe roasting some marshmallows and talking about how lovely a night it was…not a care in the world. She had forgotten the world for a moment and took in the warmth of the flame behind the glass door of that Black & Decker Toast R Oven…until I interrupted her meditation session with my concerned parental verbiage that sounded like, “WHAT THE FUCK?! FIRE!”

I opened the toaster and tried my damnedest to blow out that flame. It took a few fairy tale big bad wolf huff and puffs but I was able to successfully put it out. I then turned to Abby with a look I’m almost certain she was unfamiliar with. A look that said “I love you…but…why?” Then I said, “I love you…but…Why? Why didn’t you do anything to put out the fire? Fire in a toaster is bad.”

I really should have expected her response since I’ve heard it so many times. She looked me dead in my eyes and said, “I don’t know.” The most troubling part of all was that I believed her. She really didn’t know. This would have been an acceptable answer for a toddler taking a crayon to the living room wall and sketching a masterpiece and immediately being confronted. A toddler would just shrug, and you can’t really hold anything against them for doing so.

But this was a 14-year-old kid. A kid that can bathe herself, feed herself…hell, put on her own makeup. THIS KID is capable of calculated complex algebraic equations. A kid that (currently) does not believe in religion because science makes more sense. Yet apparently she doesn’t understand the science behind melted chocolate dripping on the heating element of a toaster catching fire and burning a house down. I was dumbfounded. WE were dumbfounded! Each of us dumbfounded for different reasons but dumbfounded nonetheless.

Too many thoughts to count rattled around in my mind. I wanted to reprimand her. I wanted to ask her at the very least 20 more questions. But then I smiled. Then I started laughing. I remembered MY father was a short tempered man most of the time. I think all he needed was a minute to take a deep breath and reevaluate the situation to realize that whatever he was going to get worked up about, let it be a broken jar of mayonnaise or some crumbs left on the floor of the living room, was not that big of a deal. So, some burnt pancakes, in my book, were going to fall under that column as well.

I try not to dwell too much on the idea of what may have been if I hadn’t moved to Maryland. If I hadn’t moved to Maryland I would have missed this moment. It wouldn’t’ve happened…well, it may have happened, but not with me at this house in Annapolis, Maryland. It would eat up an entire week and drive me insane imagining my hands as they type these very words beginning to fade like the members in McFly family photo in Back to the Future!

So, I will dedicate this kind of chaos theory/critical thinking strictly for the purpose of the next few articles.