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.

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Chapter II

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A couple weeks after the divorce in January 2008, the ex-wife packed up and moved from Texas to Maryland with Abby. Within that short period of time, it felt like my world had folded in on itself, crushing the very life out of me. For weeks I couldn’t sleep, eat or function. I grew bitter. It seemed like things were never going to be the same. During the separation the previous year, I would see Abby every other weekend and every Tuesday. I looked forward to those days like one in solitary confinement seeks sunshine. The schedule wasn’t ideal, as I would have liked to see her more, but at that time, it was enough. But now I was going to have to make it work, being 1,500 miles away from each other and communicating through Skype? This abrupt life adjustment turned to poison quickly and without warning. It felt like something in me had become unhinged.

I vaguely recall one day I had a bought a bottle of Jim Beam and started on it early in the day. My old man had noticed my off-putting behavior post-divorce and decided he’d visit me just to see how I was doing. He could clearly see I was a mess. Not like the mess you see in movies where the quirky yet comedic actor sways as he stands, slurring his speech as he speaks of nothing important. No, my father walked in on what looked like the day after a hedonism festival of rhinos pumped with meth and unleashed in a room no bigger than a New York City studio apartment. Empty beer cans and bottles collected next to the sink. Cartons upon cartons worth of cigarette butts scattered around the yard. He could see the distressed look on his son’s face and decided to spend the day (and night) on the couch with me. He didn’t say much, as he didn’t really need to, and occasionally passed me a barf bag as I slipped further down the rabbit hole of incoherence and Charlie Chaplin-like motor skills. My father went home the next day but not before telling me that things were going to be okay. I gave him a hungover nod and he left.

I think about that now and wonder how hard it must have been on him to watch his son’s resolve deteriorate so quickly. After what was clearly a costly divorce, both financially and mentally, he could see it had broken me. Or perhaps he doesn’t remember. I’m catching up with him in May and I’m going to ask him if he remembers. I kind of hope he doesn’t…I would actually find that uncontrollably and uncomfortably hilarious!

Nearing the end of February 2008, I booked my first flight to Maryland to see Abby. I booked my stay at the Double Tree Hotel in Annapolis, just a few miles away from her. I was so excited to see her. Up until that point, it was the longest period of time we’d ever been apart. We spent one day in Baltimore and the following day together at the Annapolis mall. It was just the 2 of us. And even though it rained the whole time, it felt like sunshine to me.

When the weekend ended and it was time to return her to her mother’s, it felt like I got a piece of my sanity back. I wanted to see myself acclimating again successfully and accept this as the new norm. This was going to be an adjustment period…for both of us. But it was going to be okay. It would be another 5 incredibly difficult months before I’d see Abby again in person, on her 5th birthday. Which is a story for another time.

Last Saturday night, we sat on the couch and watched Fargo. As Abby rested her head on my shoulder, constantly complaining about the Minnesota accent through the whole fucking movie, I had one of those “We’ve come a long way” moments. Things aren’t by any means perfect when it comes to my daughter coming over to spend time with her old man. But this situation is certainly much better than it was a decade ago.

Sometimes her complaining gets to me. But she still manages to make me smile, which is an impressive feat. She finds the most insignificant things irritating, and in turn I find THAT to be incredibly irritating. But when I can slow the moment down and compare it to the volume of bullshit I had to go through years prior, the sounds of her complaints become music and I squeeze her a little tighter…just enough to shut her up.

 

 

X…

It’s 2018 and the 10th anniversary of The Moron Editorial, which officially started in October 2008. So it’s only fitting that there will be 9 articles leading up to the 10th anniversary. The next several months will be the previously untold stories, a VH1-Behind the Music style of how it all came to be. But before we commence with reminiscing about a decade of nonsense, let’s rewind the clock 10 years and see where it all started…

Chapter 1:

It was January of 2008, just a few days after an unmemorable New Year’s Eve party. I received a text from my lawyer asking me to meet with him to finalize my divorce documents. It was a cold and dreary morning…or it’s possible that’s just my memory of it. The excruciating divorce that had gone on for over 15 months required a couple of my signatures, then the most horrible time in my life would be behind me.

Civility had diminished within the marriage way before any talk of divorce and the actual process didn’t make things easier. By the time the divorce proceedings had initiated, it was like throwing 2 blood thirsty wolverines into a potato sack and letting them have it out. Having a child caught in the middle of this tsunami of shit didn’t help matters and was the main reason a 2-month divorce got extended to 15. Property and money can easily be divided, but when a kid and terms like “custody” and “visitation” enter the equation, you can bet that both parties will be ready, fists clenched.

Within the courtroom, secrets confided in one another were blurted out without hesitation or remorse. Bridges were burned and lawyers were a necessary evil, working as a steel wool buffers on open wounds. It was pistols at dawn…if dawn was all day, every day and the pistols were on retainer.

Long story short, it was a disaster. In the end, I thought I had been bamboozled and broken by not only my ex-wife but also my lawyer. He wasn’t a good person nor did he really have any “best intentions” in mind. That fucker’s moral compass had been broken for decades before I even met him. It was at a diner near Dallas where I met my lawyer and signed where he pointed. He then shook my hand and I never saw him again. I wonder if he’s dead. Hope he is. Seriously, the world will not miss him.

I look back at that time at how I squandered a year’s salary on courts, lawyers, and booze, and wonder if I could have done some things differently. Perhaps with more patience, I could have handled it better. Perhaps not. I could also sit here pointing fingers and spill details that really don’t matter anymore, but that’s not what today’s introduction is about.

All I know is that I’ve been carrying these documents for 10 long fucking years. They are a constant reminder of the young man who was and the man who now writes these words. It’s not as much “night and day” as it is closer to “dusk and midnight”. It’s so strange that as I write this, it almost feels like I’m reliving it. Even stranger is that this story sounds like a depressing end but it’s only the eye-opening beginning. So stay with me this year and I promise to leave a smile on that face.

Now let’s return to 2018…

Unless you’re Green Day putting out the Dookie album circa 1994, not every song a musician puts on an album is gonna be a hit. The same could be said about my monthly memoirs. Writing these articles, to me, is like producing an LP. Not everything will be a hit and I know that. There will be some great articles. There will be some bad articles. There will articles I thought were pretty good but ended up not being terrible (I’m being honest here). There will even be articles that I wrote that I will look back on and say, “Damn, that was actually a really good story!” (I have yet to experience this.)

I will still post on a monthly basis from now until December with the highest level of mediocrity you all have grown accustomed to! I’ve even spent some time revamping the page, as you can see, with new templates and pictures. Basically, it’s the most hated part of upkeep on this page, which is why I only change it once every 10 years…like the oil in my car.

I could write and publish a book about just the last decade…oh wait, I did and I’m going to. More details on that later this year.