Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Murphy's Law Rides Again - Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Rapids


So I have had the 24 hours from heck, with a little sprinkle of hell left over.  (Ok not quite that as I have been having a good time with my daughter.)  I have just left Big Foot Rapids.  And I am completely soaked. 

It is at this point that I remember the first time I went on that ride with my brother, friends and family.  We had gotten on and off the ride multiple times and everyone had been soaked but my brother.  Somehow he avoided that, or even barely a sprinkle despite the fact that they had waterfalls pouring water from up above.  He was proud of himself to have missed it all those times.  So a friend and I tried to tempt him on it one last time.  There was no way that we could convince him, until we noticed that they shut off the waterfalls.  He laughed and figured that he would be able to get out unscathed now, so he took us up on that challenge.  While we began that ride with frowns, figuring he had escaped the soaking, they quickly turned as I believe he got soaked more than all of us put together, despite the fact that the waterfalls were off. 

Fast forward to this last weekend and Knott’s has shut off the waterfalls, permanently.  There were too many people trying to get out of their seats to avoid getting splashed, and that was too dangerous.  So removing the waterfalls, Knott’s figured, would reduce the need to get out of seats to avoid getting splashed.  While I was not going to get out of my seat, I knew better than to believe I could avoid getting splashed.  Getting on the ride proved to be a risky proposition: for my brother then; and for myself now.  And lo and behold, the chilling water claimed another victim.  I might not have been as drenched as my brother on that first day. But in a race for who could be wetter, it was a photo finish.  I’m not sure it’s a race I would have wanted to win.  And ultimately I think my brother got the better of it all as it was a warm summer day that first time out.  For me, it was the last weekend in January.

Here I am, water dripping down my body beginning with my neck and traipsing all the way down my back landing in my socks, trying to figure out what to do next.  My daughter decided that we should go to the school house once again.  We had done the Robin Hood play the last time we were there.  The time before that we had done a play with George Washington and chopping down the cherry tree. In a role that was quite a stretch for me, I portrayed George’s father.  (You can send your votes to nominate me for the Tony awards later.  It will be on Broadway, I swear!!!)  This time we arrived and there was a new school master in the school house. 

Why did they feel the need to change things up?  While going to Knott’s Berry Farm, I understand that most of the attractions there in Ghost Town are just to give you a little sense of history.  The glass blower place was always one of my favorites as I was able to watch someone blow and shape glass.  They also have the livery stables and the blacksmith, with people standing around watching them practice their craft.  And they always have some western show going on at the Birdcage Theater.  It’s like going into a living museum.  Think Westworld without the shooting . . . and the robots.  The schoolhouse was no different, usually.  There was some school master or schoolmarm standing at the front of the classroom explaining what it was like for people to be learning way back in the day. 

Today had been different.  Today they had a teacher who was actually teaching lessons in the front of the class like it had been 1870.  He even went out a couple of times to explain to the children about gravity and how it worked.  He joked that the students should get extra credit for going to class on a Saturday.  Usually, that pronouncement would have received the standard guffaws that it deserved.  But today, the kids really did learn a few lessons and they were enjoying it.  (Knott’s, if you are listening, you have a good thing on your hands so don’t blow it.)

But after soaking myself to the bone and sitting down to watch this different school master, after the amazing one this morning, I was sorely disappointed.  And what’s worse, it meant that my daughter was no longer happy to be in the school house because she was comparing the teacher to the amazing one we had earlier in the day.  My daughter usually loves that place, even with the boring people who stand up in the front of the class talking about how the school moved from Kansas in the mid 1900’s because Walter Knott wanted to retain a piece of history for his ghost town.  She would have fun listening for a little while.  But even if this teacher knew his stuff, nothing was going to live up to the fun of earlier in the day.

I attempted to distract her from the not quite as exciting schoolhouse by having her take her medication.  It is at this point that I realize that I am missing another thing on this grand adventure besides the sunscreen.  I am missing one of my daughter’s medications.  I suppose I could have been happy because it was not I who had misplaced the pills.  It wasn’t in her pill box that her mother packed for her when she came with me.  I knew I was going to have to call her mother when I got out and possibly have to drive all the way back to her house to pick up medication after we were done at Knott’s.  I suppose if everything is going to go wrong, why not that?  Trying to forget about that fact, I had her take what she could, trying to extend the time in the school.  But that didn’t last long and she wanted to leave.

While I am sure the next person who took my seat was not going to have a good time with how wet the bench was in the classroom, I was none too pleased myself as I was being dragged out into the rapidly cooling air of what was now night time.  Thankfully we noticed they were letting people in to the Birdcage Theater to watch Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies.  I was able to smile knowing I was going to listen to some good bluegrass music.

If you were going to talk to me when I was growing up, and even into early adulthood, and heard me say anything about country music of any stripe, it was always going to be accompanied by an UGH!!!  Or a why?  If it came on the radio, I was as likely to leave the room as anything else.  Krazy Kirk was the first band that convinced me that maybe . . . just maybe . . . there was something more to country music than twang! 

Krazy Kirk wasn’t always so called.  And if you ever go to one of their shows, despite protestations that they came from the mountains of Santa Monica, they are a group of performers who had been forged in the fires of the Mouse.  Yes, that’s right, Disneyland was where they got their start, and their popularity.  They had replaced the very popular Golden Horseshoe Revue.  I’m sure for those who went in to the Golden Horseshoe and saw them there instead, they would have been quite a disappointment.  But by the time I was able to go in to the hallowed doors of the Golden Horseshoe for first time, Kirk, I mean Billy Hill, was up there doing his shtick. 

As I said in the previous blog, they were a band with a ton of talent, and a lot of comic timing.  They would play anything from The Devil Went Down to Georgia to The Orange Blossom Special with a little Surry With a Fringe on Top in the stylings of Elvis to boot.  Ok, maybe they didn’t do the last one all that often.  But that’s what made going in there so exciting.  They did their usual stuff but they always threw in something different for the people they knew to be their audience.  And if you ever get to see him and his “prosTEETHus” you know you are in for a laugh, and some amazing music.

Unfortunately, as we left the school house earlier than I had planned, we had to wait a bit of time before the show.  In the meantime the theater filled up to capacity, which was good as it warmed up the place.  But my daughter, who had been overheated earlier in the day, now began to exhibit some stomach issues.  She wanted to watch the show with me, but as a parent you know you feel badly as you watch your child contort their body to get comfortable.  With every twist it was like she was twisting at my stomach instead of dealing with her own.  The show couldn’t start fast enough.

When it did start it was some amazing music as always.  I could express to you all the things that Kirk does in the show, but I think you should go and check it out for yourselves.  If you are in Southern California and want to see an Amusement park that is a little piece of history, with some thrill rides thrown in, go to Knott’s Berry Farm and check out Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies. You won’t regret that.

Although, after we were finished, I wasn’t sure whether I would regret staying at Knott’s later into the evening.  I knew I was going to have to make a phone call to my daughter’s mother and figure out what was going on.  I needed to make it out to the car and given her latest contortions, I didn’t know what lie in store. 

Thankfully she was able to walk pretty well and make it out to the car in the parking lot.  But then I was going to have to deal with the parking lot challenge.  At any major event, no matter how good of a memory you have, after a long day it’s a challenge to remember precisely where your car was parked.  The advent of the alarm clicker for the car was a good help in this regard, but if you didn’t make it to the proximity of the car, you better hope that it’s loud enough for you to hear.  And Knott’s, unfortunately, never really designed the parking structure with easily verifiable markings to know where your car was.  It’s not like there were signs on the lamp posts that read cowboy C-3.  What’s worse is that Knott’s must have had a ton of lightbulbs go out all at once, or they had changed the timing for when the street lights came on, and the parking lot was dark . . . too dark.

After guessing at the aisle and walking down it, I started pressing the button.  Thankfully, I wasn’t too bad of a guesser about the location of the car and I was only one aisle off and made it to my car.  But by this point my phone had run out of power, so I knew I was going to have to wait a minute or two for it to charge before calling up.  I'm sure that the family who came to the car next to us wondered what we were doing in the parking lot.  Hopefully they didn’t get too scared by the glowing lights in the car with two bodies in the window...  Maybe they thought we were waiting for Knott’s Scary Farm, 10 months too early.

After a few minutes I made that phone call about the medication.  Evidently there was some confusion about where I paid for the medication and picked it up in the first place.  And I am guessing there was a little bit of laziness too.  Also, there was some forgetfulness, on someone’s part, to inform me that we had run out of medication and I needed to go to the pharmacy to get more.  So I pull out my IPhone and check the maps for local pharmacies.  I look at the clock as well.  It’s 7:15 P.M.  This does not look good for getting the medication.

But we made the trek to the local CVS keeping our fingers crossed.  I also was going to throw in some Pepto Bismol as she was still having these contortions that were not getting any better.  We arrived there to find that the pharmacy had closed.  So we picked up the Pepto Bismol, Gatorade, and some mints for her to suck on to help with the stomach nausea.  And we asked the clerks if they knew of a pharmacy that was open later.  Thankfully they did.  Forty Minutes south of us.  I get that gone are the days of the 24 hour pharmacy, or they are rapidly ending.  But every community should have some pharmacy locally that is open late to deal with late night medication needs.  I wasn’t looking forward to the drive and was proceeding to walk out the door when the clerks stopped me.

“What direction do you live in?” One of the clerks asked.

“I live about 15 minutes north of here.”

“Well there is one by St. Jude, if you know where that is.”

Thankfully I did.  And it was only about 20 minutes away.  Yes it was even further away from home, but at this point it needed to get done.  A hop, skip and a jump, or maybe a 20 minute car ride, we arrived at the CVS ready to pick up medicine.  It was after 8:00 by this time, and I was hoping to get in and out and head home. 

“45 minutes,” He said, after I gave him the refill for the prescription.

“45 minutes?” 

“Well I had to transfer the prescription and it is a busy night, sir.”

I tried not to let the sour expression crawl across my face.  In fact the first time I had tried to pick up the medication, across the street from another hospital, they said it would take 4 hours to get it filled.  They had filled it at another pharmacy closer to where my daughter lived with her mom.  And comparing a 20 minute drive with a four hour wait was not a difficult comparison.  I got the medication where they had filled it.  But, with the wonderful communication we have (and given that it was the holidays and neither of us were thinking about it) my daughter’s mother did not think to refill it at her local pharmacy.  Hence, we were in this predicament in the first place, all because of that four hour wait time.

Forty-five minutes was nothing by comparison.  I would just take Bethany somewhere to have a light dinner, hoping she would be able to hold down whatever she ate.  We went to a restaurant that was right across the street and sat down.  This was a mostly pleasant experience of food and conversation, as the Pepto had begun to kick in, and my daughter was feeling perkier.  They almost gave us free fried zucchini for appetizer.  But being the father and person I am, I explained to the waitress that it was not our food, despite them giving our table number for the food.  I hope some people did get to enjoy that appetizer.

From here, after picking up the medication, we finally made it home.  It was only . . . wait a second . . . 10:45 again???  I swear I can get my daughter to bed at a reasonable hour.  Not sure if this makes me the hip dad after this kind of a day.  And we have plans for tomorrow that include shopping . . . the dreaded shopping.  I get her upstairs and to bed as quickly as I can, and get her to sleep.  At this point my brain is on overload and it’s trying to settle down before the long day tomorrow.  Tomorrow . . . what’s tomorrow again?

It’s at this point I will bid you adieu in the story  . . .  Before putting you all to sleep.  There is going to be one more installment I swear.  And also a moral.  Because every good story has to have one.  So this is me signing off for today.

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life

If you liked my blog, continue to check me out at singledadsguidetolife.wordpress.com

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Weekend Blitz - Or Just Call Me Mr. Murphy

I cannot speak for everyone, but for all of the single parents out there, when the weekend comes, you try to fit in all the engagement you can with your child that you missed out on during the week. Maybe it's the same for married parents too.  You remember the last week don't you? It was when you had separate meal times, irregular sleep times and you were lucky if you got to kiss your child goodnight before they went to sleep. When you are the working parent, there is so much that you miss out on. So the weekend comes and you want to participate again.

The first thing you do, if you are a parent like me, is go out to dinner on Friday evening, or better yet, dinner and a movie. So this weekend I had the bright idea of going to see Dr. Strange with my parents. If you are a comic book fan then you should go, or a movie fan for that matter. And if you are a Sherlock fan and haven't gone I'm going to ask, what's wrong with you? It's definitely worth watching, and a must see for those invested in the Marvel Comic movie universe. So going at 6:00   P.M. to a movie should be just fine, right? There will be no problems there.

Sure!!! Out by 8:30 P.M. should be fine, when you thought this through and ate dinner beforehand. But you didn't. Because, you know, the weekend.  And then you go to dinner with your parents who move a little more slowly than they once did so you are lucky to be seated and eating by nine.  And then by the time you finish eating it's 10, and home by 10:15. Change of clothes, get some medicine, and off to bed. Easy peasy! Because you are the cool parent and you can flex a little on weekends.

But me . . . brilliant me . . . forgets that after that I am all wound up and I'm supposed to be in bed because I have plans for tomorrow, bigger ones. I'm a glutton for torture and I want to go to sleep at 1:00 A. M. because I want to go to Knott's with no sleep the next day. Oh did I forget to mention that? That's right! I planned to go to Knott's Berry Farm the next day because, you know, torture.

It's a little more complicated than that. This is the first weekend I've had my daughter in three weeks because of a weekend swap. My daughter seems to have the most energy she has had since mid-October.  And, last but not least, I've paid for a meal plan at Knott's so we get two free meals a day with our passes.  So I'm going because ... that's right... free food.

So a normal parent would sleep in a bit because they could, but I'm working on this writing thing, so I'm up early. Not 8:30 in the morning early. Up with the roosters early. And I'm writing and working, getting up and getting ready, corralling  my daughter out of bed and moving her towards the door like a sheep dog, all the while making sure everything is packed for the day.

I remembered all kinds of things like liquids, medicines, and jackets when it gets cold because I'm on top of things. We get in the car and then get some breakfast. (Knott's doesn't include breakfast in their meal plan. Support your local boycott. I mean go Knott's!!! They have an incredible meal plan. It's actually quite a deal so I'm not complaining.)

Now at Breakfast I am regaled with stories of the last three weeks, which I believe to be the point of what every time with my daughter is. I'm getting to find out about her. There is some great conversation going on. My daughter begins with construction and the leaning tower of Pisa, or jelly and creamer. She then gives me a detailed description of the battle of Lexington and Concord (with Concord Grape Jelly of course) which I had forgotten because I'm obviously not smarter than a 5th grader. And then I talk about my favorite time in American History, the Civil War and the Gettysburg Address.

Things are going well. We park relatively easily. Getting into the park goes smoothly. I've also purchased a bottle of all you can drink drinks for the year at the park.  We start going to all the shows, and to Ghost Town because we are strange like that. It really was a history day.

I'm thinking that this is going swimmingly. My daughter wants to go to the Wild West Stunt Show. I'm thinking this should be great because it's supposed to be a brand new show.  Instead I should have thought to knock on all the wood in Ghost Town and I'm still not sure if it would have fixed the problem.

My daughter wanted to sit in the splash zone. If you have never been to an amusement park, the splash zone is the place you know you will get wet. But at Knott's Berry Farm it means you get sun, even on a day that reaches barely 68 degrees.  (I realize the word barely here might offend people who get actual weather, but as I'm a California boy, I don't.)

It is at this point I realize that I have remembered everything, except sunscreen.

So sitting here after baking for 15 minutes we get splashed. But the splashing is like a taunt because it doesn't happen again for another 15 minutes. The show is cute, and slightly different, with mostly the same stunts as before. And as we are leaving we both agree we want a cool drink, shade, and air conditioning. But Knott's seems to be anti air conditioning. Because California I guess. I suppose we    aren't Arizona and it wasn't exactly a hot day but . . .

So we go to use the meal plan at a place we can get shakes and that I hope has air conditioning. (It doesn't.) We get in line for food as I notice the flush in my daughters cheeks and her need to sit down. Could there be any available tables? Well... what can I say? Just call me Murphy.

Right now I'm going to interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to say a shout out now to whatever family gave up their booth for my daughter to sit down in. It was gracious of you. Thank you, whoever you are.

We eat our food and decide to do more cool things from here on out.  This includes walking and window shopping as well as being in a school play of Robin Hood (my daughter was Robin Hood with a fetching Maid Marion).  And finally it meant Big Foot Rapids ... when it had started to get cold. Big Foot Rapids, the ride that has signs stating: "You will get wet. You may get drenched." Perfect!

The line wasn't too long but the temperature was falling rapidly so as we were getting splashed, it was 15 degrees cooler than it had been when we entered the line. Hence the water that was splashing on us was refreshing, for Polar Bears.

Thankfully my daughter avoided most of the water. I cannot say the same for myself.  But we made it through. And with a little more wasting time at the schoolhouse we made it to Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies.

Who is Krazy Kirk you ask?  Krazy Kirk is a bluegrass band with a ton of talent and a dash of comedy. Maybe a little more than a dash. And on a cool evening like this it was a packed house inside the Bird Cage theater.  They gave one of their typical amazing shows and we left the park.

So the weekend was perfect. Almost perfect. A little imperfect. You are complaining that I skipped something and that the ending was rushed? I guess you will have to come back tomorrow as I finish the tale. This is me, signing off.

David Elliott, Single Dad's Guide to Life

If you like my blog, continue to support my writing at singledadsguidetolife.wordpress.com

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What I'm Afraid of - Or How NASCAR and an Alien Invasion Wrecked My Life

What I'm afraid of ...

Being afraid is not an easy thing. It causes one to hide away from the world, or to do nothing at all. I think many people are afraid of so many different things that their idea is to hide away, from places, from people, and ultimately from themselves. Some people are so afraid of everything that they are agoraphobic. They lock themselves inside four walls. The scary thing is that they are locked within their own minds, let alone the four walls.

As a guy I think it often gets worse.  We are supposed to be the ones without fear. Which means that if the previous 30 other jobs turned us down, we still have to believe we will get the 31st. Or if we have been rejected by the previous 49 women, we are supposed to be totally secure and go out there flirting with the 50th without any insecurity or fear.  It also means we have to be the brave ones and step out when the robber goes into our home.

Let me state that I am not a person trying to argue against these things. I'm not saying a guy shouldn't have confidence about himself and his capabilities. And a guy should be secure in himself to take rejection. I also think the guy should be the person prepared to defend himself and his family from whatever may come their way. But these things that may be true do not necessarily mean that I have no fear.  Likewise, the fact that I have fear does not mean that I need to go Stuart Smalley and stare at a mirror repeating the mantra, "I'm good enough. I'm strong enough. And doggone it, people like me."

Real Fears

So what do I fear? I fear first and foremost for my daughter. Yes, I fear about her safety.  And after having to be in hospitals and doctors offices for more times than I would like to admit, I fear about her health as well. But those are obvious ones. It's the harder things to see that scare me.
 As a single father, I fear that our relationship has been damaged and in some ways continues to be damaged.  I fear that  I have been set up for failure in that regard. (I take full responsibility for any actions I do. It's just hard when it feels like the other parent in your child's life puts up barriers to that relationship.). I don't want to lose a relationship that is deeply important to me.

Furthermore, I fear that our stunted relationship will make it harder for her to have relationships with other men in the future. (This has nothing to do with her sexuality and everything to do with half the population being men and her needing to be able to relate to them.  Then again I'm a Martian according to popular opinion, so what do I know?)   I also fear that whomever my daughter loves, this damage will make it harder to commit, and to fully give herself to loving another human being. I fear that she will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I fear that my daughter's opportunities will be limited by the failures of her parents.  I know that ultimately her success or failure will be of her own making. But I do fear that I am putting road blocks for her success later in life. She may be the one who is ultimately at the wheel of her life's opportunities, but she may have had a shoddy mechanic working on her engine out of the starting gate.  (I never thought I would use a NASCAR reference so be afraid. Be very afraid!)

I fear that I haven't provided enough for her financially speaking.  I worry that she has missed out on some amazing opportunities because of me.  It makes me wonder whether I should have taken that second job, or driven for Uber, or sold some of the things that I valued but still found their way into an attic, or some drawer.  I want so much more for my daughter than she can possibly imagine and I fear I have come up short.

Personal Fears

Beyond my daughters happiness I fear that I won't take advantage of the opportunities that are given me. Whether you believe in God or not, I remember hearing a service where the speaker talked about a dream she had.  In it, she was in heaven and God took her down to a warehouse of unopened gifts that she saw. There were tons of exquisitely wrapped gifts everywhere, and names next to all of them. She asked God what the unopened gifts were and why weren't they given out?  God told her that those were all the blessings that were available to people should they be ready for them, but they missed out because they chose a different path.  That idea stuck with me. There could be all these amazing things in store if I were just ready to reach out and grab them when they came along.

I know none of us want to admit this as parents. But a big fear of ours is what happens when our children grow up and leave. Whether we want to admit it or not, there has been a big fracturing of society. People grow up and go far away from where they came. They may love their parents but they move on with their lives and love you from afar.  I fear what this looks like. Skype is not contact. And being on Facebook, despite meeting some amazing people, is not a replacement for friendship and one on one connection.  In fact, studies have shown that Facebook makes you more depressed about the things your aren't doing or the places you aren't going. And at this point, with all the politics on Facebook, it is making me depressed watching friendships be thrown away and contacts severed. (I promise to avoid politics on this blog as much as I can. As much as I believe in things, I love people more. And I find them a much more life affirming topic of conversation.)

I fear watching another person slowly withering away from cancer as it first eats away at their body, then their mind, and finally their soul. I have watched my former brother-in-law slowly die from cancer.  It was eight months of agony. It was round the clock watches, mind losing outbursts, and heart attack inducing stress. I would never not be there for a person who had it. But I have seen its devastating effects. I wish for you all that it never happens to you.

These Are Fears Too . . . . I Swear!!!

I fear killer clowns coming down from outer space. I fear millions of poisonous spiders crawling down ceilings and invading a bedroom and a planet near you. I fear Irritable Bowl Syndrome, because, you know, ewww! I fear that cats will figure out a way to take out the dogs from the planet, leaving us without any more dogs to cuddle with. I fear aliens coming down from outer space who will be out to harvest the resources of the planet, which will cause us to wear tin foil hats to protect us from their mind control powers. Because I just don't look good in a tin foil hat. I fear losing control of this blog to a bunch of crazy irrational fears that I made up from movies. (I think this paragraph belongs in some blog... any blog... somewhere.) Ah yes... fear, real fear. That's right.

The Ultimate Fear

And ultimately in a moment of quiet silence and meditation, I admit that I fear being alone.  This fear I think is by far the most dangerous fear. It makes us do crazy stupid stuff. For men and women it makes us act as if sex is a replacement for intimacy.  We want the intimacy so bad we give away a piece of ourselves to get it with no compensation in return, except hurt feelings. We accept less than what we deserve because we get convinced we believe that we deserve what we get. (This is not an advocation for divorce but a challenge for those living in an abusive situation that you should get out.  And please speak to someone to get help.)  We constantly put ourselves in dangerous situations because we feed off the high from the attention be get. But it's like trying to have a meal with all carbs. Sure the bread may taste good and give you immediate energy but you burn out fast and it's ultimately empty calories. I wish I could say I had done none of that stuff. I wish I could say that I had only made good choices. But that is another persons story. That is another man's life.

What To Do With Fear

So is fear evil? Should I simply trash the fear and move on with life as if it didn't exist? Can I go out into a hurricane and hope the rain and crazy winds will drive away the fear? (I do not advocate doing that at home, or anywhere else for that matter. However, no one will call you fearful. Crazy maybe. I may introduce you to a nice new room with four white walls and pads.) No. No. And what are you? Nuts?!?!

I think fear is in us as a motivator. Fear failure? Do everything to succeed! Fear loss? Spend every moment like it's your last. Fear loneliness? Love freely as the right person will love you back. Fear boredom? Seek adventure. Fear mountain climbing? Go bungee jumping. Wait no! Don't do that. Sky diving. That's it! Sky diving.

What I can say about fear is don't try to rationalize it. We have fears. Some fears are irrational. And some fears are self perpetuating. Just make fear your slave. Use it. Don't let it become your master.

Ok let's avoid becoming Confucius. Or Taoist. Or Buddhist. Or even Dudeist. (Have to pay my respects to "The Dude") I don't have simple answers. And I'm sure I have just as many questions. What I can say is I fear stuff. But each day I'm going doing something about it.  Let me know about some of your fears, rational or otherwise. Because fear of the number 13 is a real thing you know! Ok, this is me again, signing off.

David Elliott, Single Dad's Guide to Life

If you enjoyed my writing, continue to read the new material at singledadsguidetolife.wordpress.com

Thursday, January 26, 2017

To Eat Pizza, Or Not to Eat Pizza? Is That Even a Question?

Rances : The Only Way to Eat Pizza

Spending my usual Wednesday evening with my child (especially because I hate doing the same thing over and over again) can be quite a challenge.  I have cycled through a list of restaurants that we both like and have moved on to hopping to more obscure things.  That doesn’t mean we can’t go back to these other restaurants ever, but I love my Wednesday daddy daughter date night to be something different and original.  Someday I am hoping that my daughter actually expresses an opinion about it all and we will run off to some out of the way place that’s new to me. Until that day happens, I am the idea man.

So what’s the menu for this week’s idea?  Pizza.  Ok, I hear the moans from the moms coming through computer screen now.  And maybe I feel a few fist bumps through the computer screens for dad.  But you haven’t had this pizza.  This pizza is Chicago style deep dish pan pizza.  And where is this pizza at?  It’s in the city of Costa Mesa on Harbor Blvd. called Rances.

My Limited Pizza Experience

To give you the setup you have to understand my experience with pizza.  Out here in California you have the crappy pizza places that serve generic pizza and crust.  If you are being extra healthy then someone will suggest that you get the thin crust pizza, which is the equivalent of pizza toppings on a cracker.  Also, competing in this new market place are all of the make your own pizza places such as Pieology, Rev Pizza and the Blaze.  At those places the deal is all about the kinds of toppings you can put on your pizza and not the crust, unless you are gluten sensitive, and then they do carry that option.

But my first experience with Chicago style pan pizza came when I attended UC Berkeley.  At Berkeley there were a myriad of options available, and as the typical college student you were looking for whatever was the most convenient and the most available.  You could get pizza selections from Blondie’s pizza, or another variant across the street.  Most of those places closed at around 1:30 in the morning so they were convenient.  I didn’t need to worry about another place.  Despite my being content with the selection of pizzas that were available, I had college roommates who kept insisting that I needed to try Zachary’s pizza.

I resisted for several months as it was a long walk down College Ave., and we hadn’t been given bus passes yet.  But after a few months, some of my dorm mates prevailed upon me to go.  One person had a car in the neighborhood, which was a rarity.  So we packed into the vehicle and took off down College Ave. to our destination.  Little did I know what I was going to find there.

Zachary’s Here I Come

We pulled up to the place after circling around to find a good place to park.  (You think parking in L.A. is bad?  You are living in a dream by comparison.)  We got out of the car and were informed that it was going to take 45 minutes to get seated.  45 MINUTES!?!?  Were they crazy???  Who in their right mind was going to wait 45 minutes to be seated at a pizza parlor?  I don’t know about your experience, but everywhere I went for pizza it was pretty much open seating.  It wasn’t only that you didn’t have to wait.  They let you sit wherever you wanted.  I had a million things running through my mind at that moment, including getting a beer at Ye Old’ Ship.  But sitting 45 minutes for anything, unless it came down from heaven on a platter, was not one of them.

We sat around talking about what we were going to do.  They said we could order our pizza and it would be ready about the time our table was ready.  Maybe I had lived in America too long.  I wanted things; and I wanted them right away.  Speed of service is as important to me as quality of service and customer care.  But after months and months of prodding, I wasn’t going to back out now.  So we ordered a simple Pepperoni Pizza.  Now at Zachary’s, if any of you have been there, there are a ton of different toppings to choose from.  So for those vegetarian lover’s out there, do not be alarmed.  I am just not among your ranks.  I do not know many starving male college students who are for that matter.  (Dorm food was scary.  Some people speak about a freshman 15.  I think I lost 15 pounds those first few months from lack of nutrition.)

Chicago Style Pan Pizza is Pizza Pie

I was disabused of that “simple” term the moment we finally sat down and they started serving out a slice of pizza.  I don’t know many of you who have had “supposed” deep dish pizzas at places like BJ’s.   That’s a jumbled mess of I don’t know what to call it.  So what do I call Zachary’s? What I will say is that the first time I finally convinced my ex to go to Zachary’s she commented: “I never knew what they meant by a pizza pie before until this very moment.  I will never look at another pizza the same way again.”

What is on this pizza?  Pixiedust?  Magic? Some wonder drug (the coca cola of pizzas)?  All I can say is that the pizza is delicate and amazing with a crust that is firm and tasty (without feeling like you are eating cardboard). It contained layer upon layer of cheese with pepperoni tucked in the middle of it.  And rich, juicy, diced tomatoes were sumptuous as if they had been picked and diced right out of someone's back yard.  The crust is pressed against the side of the pan so it has this pie like design and the cheese, pepperoni and tomato go all the way up to the top of the crust on all sides. Pizza Pie accurately describes what they handed to us.  Now this wouldn’t be very good if the ingredients were not also amazing, but they were.  Everything was fresh and the service was wonderful.  45 minutes?  We would have waited for hours to get a pizza like this.  When we were finished we didn’t know what we would do for an encore.

So there we stood, stuffed like you cannot imagine on barely a slice or two of pizza, wondering what the heck had just happened.  Why had we waited months to go out to this place?  How come most of us had only vaguely heard of Chicago style pan pizza before?  We had all had New York thin crust pizza that you had to roll just to prevent it from going all over the place.  But this was exquisite.  Why were there no pizza places like this in Southern California, as many of us had come from there?  We all said we should start a business down there like that and that it would make a ton of money.  But no one ever did anything.

Back in Health Conscious Southern California

When I graduated from Berkeley and moved back down to Southern California, I knew I would never look at pizza the same way.  Sure, I would try the new pizza place that would come around every now and then.  And yes I was excited to try the cracker pizza with the myriad of toppings at places like the Blaze.  (I actually love the fact that they have a ton of toppings at choose your own pizza places.)  But I was never going to see a place like this in a “health conscious” place like southern California again.  And all I could do was sigh.

One day, while coming back from dropping my daughter off at school I saw a new restaurant on the side of the road.  It was tucked in the shopping center, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a huge place, but decently sized.  I read the sign and it said Rances, Chicago style pan pizza.  My jaw dropped.  I was at once nervous and hopeful, and at the same time I was sure that they would screw it up just like other local placed who claimed to serve pan pizza.  I didn’t go right away, convincing myself that it couldn’t possibly be as good as Zachary’s.  I waited . . . for months.  But staring at the sign day after day, knowing it was there, I finally summoned the courage to go in and order a pizza.

Rances at Last

My ex had finally had Zachary’s after years of prodding so when we finally convinced ourselves to go up to the door of the Rances, we were very unsure of what we were going to be getting.  It was a relatively empty afternoon and a line of tables was in the place that were mostly unfilled as we stood there.

A girl behind the counter asked, “Would you like to dine in or take out?”

“Dine In,” my ex and I stated as our daughter stood by our side.

“Take a seat over there but it’s going to take about 45 minutes for your pizza to be ready.  You might want to order and come back in a bit.”

My ex and I looked at each other and smiled.  It was the first sign that maybe, just maybe, this might be good pizza. We ordered a pizza and then went to Target, one of my daughter’s favorite stores to shop, while we waited for the pizza to be ready.  A little window shopping and a half hour later we came back to be seated and get drinks as we waited for the pizza to come.  In a little under 15 minutes they came back with our order ready.

We could see the steam from the diced tomatoes and oozing melted cheese as the magnificent smell wafted towards us. It looked very much like Zachary’s pizza, but the key was the taste. One cautious bite in my mouth later, and I knew any fears were far removed from me.  Not only did this have the same spectacular flavor, but the crust was sturdy and yet light, almost like a fluffy pastry.  It was an explosion of flavor in the mouth.  We knew we had found the Southern California equivalent to Zachary’s.  (I can argue whether Zachary’s or Rances is better another time.) 

A Word of Caution for Those Nervous About Health

Rances is for when you want PIZZA, not some faux excuse for flat bread and pepperoni.  I’m sure that you can have Stauffer’s flatbread pizza at home every night of the week.  But when you want the sense that you have had something original, and amazing, then Rances blows away the pizza competition. 

Rances, however, is not health food.  Yes, there is a ton of cheese and tomatoes and bread with every slice of pizza.  I would not try to diet on it like that one unnamed spokesman did at Subway.  (Yes, I know his name.  But no, he doesn’t deserve any attention.)  In fact, if you can get more than a slice in your mouth for the meal I would be surprised.  More than two slices and I might faint from shock.  One slice is a lot of food and they often have a lunch special with a slice and a salad.  It makes a great lunchtime meal.  Also, the cholesterol from daily usage would most certainly put you in a grave. 

Chicago style pan pizza is not fast food either.  I would recommend calling and ordering in advance of your arrival if you can decide on what you want ahead of time.  Other than that, enjoy the multi-screened ambiance of the venue while you wait for the pizza magic to arrive.  There are a few appetizers or a good salad that you might split before the pizza comes.  It's also a great time to talk with your little one if you are a dad on a midweek date. 

Consider Rances when you get that pizza craving.  Its not something you do every day. But for a once in a while treat of amazing pizza that melts in your mouth and makes your taste bud’s sing, no one does it better in Southern California than Rances’ Pizza, on the corner of Baker and Harbor in Costa Mesa.

For those of you who disagree, great, I would love to know about more amazing pizza places in the southern California area.  Like I said, I’m all about variety so drop me a message at the bottom.  (Even if they are out of town joints, I like to know about places I can go to when I travel.)  And don’t limit it to pizza places either.  I’m a man on a mission when it comes to trying unique good food and sharing that experience with my daughter.  And until next time . . . this is me signing off.

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Parents Best Friend - Or How An Oreo Saved Me

How in the world could one get a dog at a time like this?  I suppose that's what I could have been asking myself one year before I split from my daughters mother. Bringing another living being into a situation where there are two warring parents isn't something one would consider healthy, or natural.

Now I have to say that I didn't make the choice to do this. I merely received a text on my phone with a picture of a dog. Oreo was his name. And while he was very cute and was a terrier like another amazing dog I had as a child, I was concerned we wouldn't be able to take care of him.

We had tried to adopt a dog from a shelter when my daughter was a baby but that was a wreck. Not only could I not care for him, but my ex was preoccupied with our baby.  I know our child had gotten older but was it old enough to take care of him or would we ignore him much as we did our other pet?

I would love to say that my fears were unwarranted but packing up the family home from the split revealed some big things. First was that Oreo had been hiding things all around the house. (I admit that there were some hoarding issues that contributed to this problem.) But the second thing was that despite my questioning whether we were allowed to have a dog in the apartment, the landlord came and disabused me of this fact shortly before the split.

But even then I would say that Oreo has been worth it.

How could that possibly be?  Why would I say such a thing? And how was I going to handle everything even the splitting of the dog?

Well much to my happiness the dog came with me. She couldn't bring the dog with her as she wasn't going somewhere she could. Thankfully I found a place I could have the dog. Because I didn't realize how much he would mean to all kinds of people.

First, he was able to sense my emotions when I was dealing with the split. This is a pretty amazing ability. I know that animals can sense all sorts of things. And for the most part, cats, even if they can sense your pain, do not care. But dogs, they seem to know what you are feeling, and know what you need. When I was in pain or feeling lost, he made sure I knew I wasn't alone. And that someone cared about me, and relied on me. During that difficult time, it was invaluable.

Second, he helped my daughter overcome all kinds of fears. Maybe some of those fears were dealing with other dogs, which she was afraid of beforehand (the subject of another blog), but he made her feel confident around them. It's possible that it was too confident that she would walk straight up to pit bulls. Eventually she learned that dogs can be good or bad, just like people, and reacted accordingly.

Third, he helped my dad overcome his own loss and disability. Oreo, despite his size was able to help my dad deal with the loss of his own dog, and when he would be with him he also helped him when he was dealing with difficulties through a car accident, trying to help out wherever he could. Maybe he wasn't a seeing eye dog but he was always looking out for him and protecting him in any way he could.

Finally, he just brings joy to every day that he is in.  Whether it's wanting to snuggle with you as you are trying to get up in the morning, or the seeing you off to work as he takes his pets but looks depressed that you are leaving, to his ecstatic return when you come back to the house in the evening, he's a ray of joy.  It's hard to be upset when you are enthusiastically being greeted. And even if you are upset he can sense that too and react accordingly with cuddles and love.

Would I have chosen to get a dog when we did?  Did I think bringing someone into the house was good when things were dark already? The answer would be no. But would I bring Oreo into our lives again? Absolutely. I can't imagine a world without him.

David Elliott,  Single Dad's Guide to Life

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Blustery days and the Top Ten ways to make indoor magic

As an adult, it is easier to take the rain of a blustery day than our children counterparts.  We could always use that extra nap or hour of sleep we missed some day during the week.  And when it’s rainy out, we don’t have to worry about what’s going on outside our doors when everyone stays in.  Of course this does not mean that we turn a blind eye to what may be happening in our own home.  We just have to wait for the house to get “disturbingly quiet” and then we know that something is dangerously wrong.  (Disturbingly quiet is an oxymoron with which parents are frequently confronted.)  So we have to find ways to come up with creative things to do with our kids.  No turning on the TV or putting on Netflix all day will suffice.  It will not hold the children’s interest for long, especially when you have day after day of bad weather.  (Being a Southern California person I understand the rest of the world is giving me eye rolls, but bad weather does happen for two or more days in a row . .. sometimes . . . I swear!!!)

And speaking as a single dad, I also know that engagement is such an important thing with the little time that we do have with our children.  It is why I know that when I have my daughter I want to get out of the house and do something.  Getting out and away from the house and the TV means that my daughter actually has to talk to me.  (Yes, talking to our kids is a good thing, even about scary topics that we don’t want to mention like Donald Trump, or what kind of hair style we were wearing in the 80’s.) So what things are there to do when it’s a rainy, or even a snowy day and the kids are stuck indoors?  This may be another top ten list, but I hope many people add on to this list as I am always looking for unique things to do.  I would love to know what fun and inventive things others do amidst the gloomy weather outside.

#1  -  Puzzling.  Ummmmmm….. is puzzling even a word?  I didn’t think it was until this last week when I put up pictures of a puzzle I was working on with my daughter and friends of mine asked whether I was “puzzling.”  They said they would love to be puzzling with me.  I am hoping that this meant that they wanted to engage with me over a puzzle and not to do some 20 questions game because I am not good at that game.  (And yes I do know that animal, vegetable or mineral is usually the first question in that game.)  Take out a puzzle and work on it with your kids.  It may not engage them for more than an hour at a time, but it’s something you can do and come back to later as you have cycled through other things to do in the house.  Try to keep it at your kid’s level, although a little more challenging is not necessarily a bad thing.  My daughter just got excited by learning that with any puzzle that is 500 pieces or more, you should be starting with the edges and then you can fill in the center.  I just don’t recommend any circular puzzles no matter how beautiful they look.  They are scary, and way beyond most child’s capabilities.  Unless you are raising Einstein and then by all means, best wishes.

#2  -  Board Games.  Here is something similar to puzzling where you can pull up a chair and a card table for a little while and play a game that is suited to their level.  It’s also something that with a game like Monopoly, you can start, go away from, and come back to as you find other things to do throughout your day.  Monopoly is a good one for this.  I love Risk personally.  Candyland or Chutes and Ladders works for the little ones.  Settlers of Catan can also be a really fun game to do if your kids are up for it.  There is even a Lord of the Rings board game that you play as a team as you try to get the Ring into Mount Doom.   The only dangerous thing about some of the board games is that one person can end up losing while the others continue on.  That can be dangerous because it can lead to those disturbingly quiet situations.  My recommendation is that you make sure you lose first, or you find a way to count up money, troops or whatever so that when someone loses the game ends.

#3  -  Cooking.  If you haven’t already gone to the store to pick up a bunch of groceries to have around the house in order to cook for yourself this might be difficult.  But cooking can be a lot of fun and is a hands on activity.  Kids always love to engage with you on things you enjoy.  Maybe you don’t enjoy cooking.  I think that as long as you make sure you are the one around the stove, you will have a fun activity to occupy your time.  And on a rainy day, you have the easiest and probably best thing to cook where you and your kids can get creative:  Soup!!!  Who doesn’t love soup on a nice cold day?  Older kids cut up the veggies.  Maybe the younger kids make sandwiches.  Let them be experimental for a day.  (I might make them reconsider if they tried to make a peanut butter, jelly, and mustard sandwich.)  Or just be safe and have them make toasted cheese sandwiches.   This does get more difficult the more kids you have, but maybe you portion out the jobs to each child. I’m getting hungry already.

#4  -  Playing hide and seek in the house.  I suppose that this can also be very scary.  The possibility for disturbingly quiet moments are endless.  Obviously, you don’t want your kids getting into dangerous things.  Just establish some ground rules before you begin the game.  No running; limit places that they can hide; limit the amount of time that they can hide; Increase the amount of seconds someone has to count before they can start looking; etc.  It may be difficult to find places to hide inside of an apartment, but you would be surprised at how good your kids can be at hiding from you.

#5  -  The mall game.  I know a bunch of you are looking at your computer screens with a quizzical look on your faces wondering what in the world I am talking about.  I will give a shout out to my ex, her mother and father.  I am not the kind of single dad who pretends that the former family had absolutely no good ideas to their credit.  This was one of theirs.  The rules of the game:  Each person is given a limited amount of money with which to spend.  Everyone goes throughout the mall and spends that money.  They try to get the best deals possible with the limited amount of money that they have.  (You will be surprised how many free things you can get at the mall like food, candy, tea, facials, etc.)   Make up your own prizes that everyone gets to vote on at the end.  Awards usually go for things like most things purchased or received, best individual deal, most items that are the color red, etc.  Make up your own awards for your game.  Announce what the awards will be for and let everyone vote on them when you are finished.  This game might be more fun if you have a few other parents and kids come with you, especially if you are a single parent.

#6  -  Build a fort!  Hey! Building a fort is a classic of indoor fun.  It’s pretending like you are camping inside instead of outside.  And now that everyone is forced to be in doors, be sure to make the fort as elaborate as possible.  I’ve seen some pretty impressive things done in my time.  I wouldn’t suggest attaching anything to a ceiling fan or any other part of electrical equipment.  I don’t care how cool the blanket is when it’s electrified to make the fort warmer or whether it looks cool with some bed sheet being flung across the room by the ceiling fan.  As Nancy Reagan once opined: Just say no!!!

#7  -  Time to form your own family band.  Even if it’s just the two of you, you can form a duo.  Who doesn’t love a good duo?  But what about the noise?  Too loud, you say, on a nice rainy day.  Would you rather have loud or that dangerously quiet moment?  Besides, now the next door neighbors won’t be hearing all that “loud banging” coming from your house and you probably won’t be accused of throwing a house party.  It allows you to do something productive and have fun.  Be inventive in the kinds of instruments you create.  Have them learn whistling or snapping if they haven’t mastered the skill yet. There are all kinds of songs you can practice, or make up a few new ones of your own.  Just have fun with it.

#8  -  Legos.  I know your children have to have Legos around the house somewhere.  Pull those out and get to building something.  It can be as easy as building a set that you haven’t put together yet, or you haven’t put together for a long time, or creating one of your own.  You can build a house or a tall skyscraper as I was always one to do; you can make your own exotic garden of Legos; or you can go in an entirely new direction and do like the Lego movie says and be your own master builder.  Don’t use the crazy glue, unless you really love what you have made.  I know I had friends of mine who engaged with their kids in some pretty incredible engineering projects with Legos.  You want a teachable moment?  Mic dropped!

#9  -  Scavenger/Treasure Hunt.  Have the kids find different items around the house from items on a list.  I wouldn’t recommend having anything too specific because you don’t want your children fighting over the particular items that they are looking for.  Be broad and have them find things that are round, square, or some other shape.  Or have them find their favorite book, or a book they really enjoy.  If you haven’t gotten to engage with them about a lot of things, this is something where the broader the topic in the scavenger hunt, the more likely you are to find something about them that is specific to them.  Maybe they will share a secret with you that they only tell their friends at school.  Whatever happens, it’s a win for you and a win for them.

#10  -  Read a book to them.  It does get a little harder with multiple kids of multiple reading levels, but when it’s dark outside it’s a perfect setting for telling scary stories.  You can turn off all the lights in the house. (Hey!  It’s an excuse to use less electricity.  Reduce that carbon footprint.)  Get out the flashlights.  Prepare the creepy voice.  Turn on the scary background music. And let your children’s imaginations run wild.  It’s a good way to help them enjoy reading.  And it encourages them to read further.  Your child’s imaginations are far better than anything that goes on with a TV screen.  Just make sure that you tell these stories in the middle of the day so your kids get to fill their minds with other things before going to bed unless you want your kids to sleep in the same bed with you at night.  As cute as that is, I prefer my ribs to be in one piece in the morning.

And with that I am done.  But don’t be done thinking of ideas yourself.  I am sure that there are a ton of to do list things out there for kids, and mine is hardly the first.  Although I think number 5 is pretty darned unique.  Thank you Reese family.  Would love to hear about some of the things that you do when you have several days’ worth of weather for which to prepare.  So sit back this weekend, relax, and happy puzzling to all of you.

David Elliott – Single Dad’s Guide to Life

Friday, January 20, 2017

Wild theories, conspiracy theories, and those darned things that children say

So I was talking to my daughter this week and as things are bound to come up, we have a wide variety of topics with which we discuss. You know those deep topics like what her favorite flavor of ice cream is, or whether pepperoni or sausage is the best pizza topping.  I try to figure out about what's going on with her school and she tries to find out whether her dog Oreo is getting enough exercise. (Dog park here I come.)

So in the course of those topics we cover, somehow the Smurfs get brought up.  You know the Smurfs, those blue creatures who had names that were directly associated with their personalities. All except Surmfette, who was created instead of . . . how exactly do the Smurfs come to be?  So we started talking about the new Smurf movie that is going to come out. How will Demi Lovato compare with Katy Perry?  What will Papa Smurf sound like for this movie?  And what is up with that new secret Smurf village?

And then she says,"I have a theory."

A theory? Hmmm... This could be interesting.  They have whole TV shows on kid theories. But being a parent I knew I had to find out.

"What's that?" I asked.

"I think the secret Smurf Village is where all the Smurf women are."

I thought for a few seconds, and then thought some more.

"Smurfette was just created. The rest of the Smurfs had to get here somehow."

She was right. The Smurfs had to come into being in some way.  They weren't all Gargamel's creations.  If he had created all of them he'd have their powers anyway. He wouldn't need them.  This doesn't exactly solve the problem of there just being one Papa Smurf.  This also doesn't answer my question about the nature of the Smurf names. (Did Papa Smurf name them those names causing them to have those personalities, which makes Papa Smurf a monster. Clumsy and Vanity Smurf? I rest my case.  Or was Papa Smurf prescient about what his Smurfs would turn out to be? Is Papa Smurf God then? That's a whole other blog post.). But it could solve where all the rest of the Smurfs might have come from.

It made me think about all of the crazy theories that can be out there.  I could just come up with more wild theories that my daughter or other kids come up with, but everyone does that.  So I started thinking about the nature of theories. And as adults we have our own wild theories, only at our age we call them conspiracy theories.  I started thinking about why we believe in them and where they come from.  Maybe they are just a continuation of the need to believe in something and to explain things to ourselves that don't make sense. And in that vein I figured I would come up with a top 10 list of conspiracy theories. This is my list so feel free to argue with it. I'll countdown from ten to one.

Number 10 - Ferris Bueller in the movie does not exist. He is really the Fight Club version of Tyler Durden. He is merely Cameron's ego expressing itself. Cameron has an interesting relationship with the girlfriend then.  And what to make of the sister . . . Whatever the case,  I just don't remember Cameron punching himself in the face.

Number 9 - The Big Lebowski is haunted. Donny is a figment of Walters imagination. He passed away years before.  The Dude only addresses him once and it's possible it was done just to placate Walter. Of course then the question is did Donny exist at all?  And what is in the mind of Walter that he imagines Donny?  Is it some strange conflict within because of the divorce from his ex? Whatever the reason, the Dude still abides.

Number 8 - Fluoridation is an illuminati plot to make people more compliant to accept a new world order and complete control over our lives. I knew that there was something wrong with dentists.  They are hiding their real purpose by causing us to like the fluoride treatment after they torture us. It's like good cop bad cop, with fluoride.  Dr. Strangelove, here I come!!!

Number 7 - RFID chips will soon be inserted into humans just like they do with animals and library books. As a librarian I never knew that we were all a part of the new world order where they can track our every move. I'm still curious as to when they will install these chips and if it will be optional. Will they force it on babies or give the parents a choice? Like circumcision, yes, RFID chip, no.

Number 6 - William Randolph Hearst and several other newspaper magnates were responsible for the elimination of hemp and pot because they were afraid that it would compete with paper products and limit the value of paper. I can only imagine what elementary school would have been like as we wrote on sheets of hemp.... hmmmm.... I guess it would make for a more compliant class, even if no one understood math.

Number 5 - The United States was actively engaged in creating a Tsunami Bomb. We were engaged in this research which eventually lead to the tsunami that occurred in the Indian Ocean in 2004. With the one that happened in Japan later, the US has been really busy with these crazy Tsunamis. Wait!  We created a nuclear catastrophe in the region, and possible worse fallout? What Tsunami bomb?

Number 4 - The Apollo moon landings were all staged in a Hollywood studio to cover up what really happened on the moon. Did we meet with the Russians there and divide up the planet? Did they find mass graves on the moons with human skeletons? (Another lunar, or shall we say looney, theory) Only the black helicopters will ever know.

Number 3 - Area 51 has been hiding all the secrets of the alien invasion for years. From the Roswell Landing to other nefarious projects by these aliens, Area 51 has it all.  These aliens have engaged in all sorts of illicit activities.  Crop circle formations? Special alien technology.  Abductions to run human testing in order to create a new super being? The reasons for midnight disappearances.   I'm not really sure I can swallow this one. Wait a second, we do have a President Trump. His super orange being has indoctrinated millions of Americans. Maybe I am being convinced. . .

Number 2 - The government of the United States had advanced knowledge of the bombings at Pearl Harbor and purposefully allowed it to happen in order to benefit the war industries in the US as they would make millions from the coming war. Instead of warning those at Pearl Harbor they just let it happen. If that's true then Roosevelt's statement about December 7th, 1941 is the understatement of the century.  It would be an infamous day like no other.

And last but certainly not least . . .

Number 1 - The Coca Cola Company specifically introduced the color of Santa's red suit as it perfectly matched the color of the Coca Cola Cans. I'm thinking that the Santa outfit should have one of those big tags on it saying, "Sponsored by Coca Cola."  It all makes sense now.  People deride Christmas as being commercial, when it was all a commercial project in the first place.  With holidays like Valentines Day and Sweetest Day engineered by the candy and greeting card companies, it seems totally plausible. I wonder if they had anything to do with Rudolph and possibly the color of his nose.

I just thought that this was a fun list. I know I could have gone with JFK but that was just too easy a target. You can argue with the order or come up with some of your own. I'd love to hear them.

David Elliott, Single Dad's Guide to Life

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Dreaded 11 - Or Weeknight Dad Date Part Deux

So I came into the weeknight date thinking about where I was going to go.  I was agonizing about the restaurants that I was going to choose from. I'm always for trying things new. I know some of those people who can go to the same restaurant multiple times a week and order the exact same things every time. I say good for you!!! I am not that person. I need to try different things from time to time.  But I was struggling and then I thought about going to Claim Jumper. I love Claim Jumper. It's probably way too much food for any one or even two people but if I get a good steak and some roasted veggies I'm doing alright. Or at least that is what I tell myself anyway. (And for those of you who are Vegetarians or have Gluten concerns there is a growing part is the menu just for you.)  Not only that, but when you take your kids they can order a decent sized meal off the kids menu, and it's pretty reasonable.  I know I have gone here before with my daughter since I was given a midweek night with her, but the last time the doctors were suggesting dairy free and gluten free. So this was a whole new experience right? Shhhh!!! Let me live in ignorance.

The irony was that my daughter ordered the exact same thing almost. She did get Mac and Cheese this time and was able to eat the cheese bread so it was a whole new meal. (And cake is a reasonable breakfast food. Or so several mom blogs are swearing. Breads and Cereals, Poultry, Dairy . . . Make it a carrot cake and add a cherry on top, with cream cheese frosting and you have all 5 major food groups.  Maybe there is something to this.)

Anyway, then we moved on to talking, which was the whole excuse for eating. While there, my daughter asks for the kids menu. She then looks at the top of the menu nervously and then sighs a big sigh of relief.

"What," I ask her.

"I'll be able to eat on the kids menu until I'm 13 here. So many places the cutoff is eleven."

And there dropped the mic. What? My daughter is about to turn 11. She's speeding into her tween years. She will be in Junior High before I know it. But the real problem is that I'm going to have to pay more for her restaurant food. That's it! I'm throwing down the gauntlet. Why in the world do they choose 11 as the last year they can eat off the child's menu?

As if I didn't have enough fears in my life as boys start coming around, and you are going to make me start paying more for this??? There will be periods, the sex talk, the boys talk, the junior high years, the not wanting to spend time with her dad any more, and you, the restaurant industry is going to make me pay more for that privilege.

And beside that, you are going to make me pay more for her food, while at the same time giving her more food than any two persons should eat at one sitting.  She's not a growing boy after all. (No slight to growing boys.) And they won't stop over feeding her until she is 55.  There is something that's just crazy about this.  Why in the world do we do this and what is it about that number?

And there was that dreaded number 11 again. Why 11?  I realize that you couldn't start going to Hogwarts until you were 11. And my daughter has made this known to me more than once as she wants it for her birthday party theme, Hogwarts is school from a book. And that book only came out in the last few years. She's not starting Junior High just yet, despite local school districts making it middle school instead of Junior High. Darn you middle school. But what's up with this?

And then there is the doubling of the costs of going out with my daughter, all because she has turned some random number. I know some people lie and tell restaurants they are actually younger. Or when their kids turn three they tell Disneyland they are still 2 so they get in for free. (I especially sympathize with those Disneyland lies given their skyrocketing costs.). I am not that guy.  To my ex's chagrin, I hated lying to people to get something. I'm not claiming sainthood here but it just felt wrong to tell a lie to get a discount. Layers of guilt would wash over me. I just can't be the guy who does that.

Now 13 I kind of get. It's the last year before Junior High. In Judaism it's when the child is considered to become an adult.  It's when boys went out to work for their fathers. It's when women way back in the day used to get married because most had already had their bodies go through puberty. Or for those of you who are younger, that big red button in Inside Out.   Thirteen is when everyone is going through physical changes that mark growing up. Eleven is Eleven. What's with 11?

This is Bob the Frenchman Mouse . . . Ho! Ho! Ho! (A little like Santa Claus but a French one with whiskers.)

Wait... I know now. It's the highest dial on the amp for Spinal Tap the faux rockimentary band.  I suppose if their "hit" Big Bottoms is in the top 50 Heavy Metal songs of all time, then going to eleven must be important. Because you know, "My Amp goes to eleven."

Share your Random number story.

David Elliott's Single Dad's Guide to Life