Friday, December 22, 2006


I was out in my front yard one evening this summer and noticed a car driving by real slow. It got my attention as I try to be observant and aware. As it got closer I noticed it was a couple of little old ladies staring at me. They drove around the block and came by again sizing me up as either a friend or foe.

The second time coming by they decided to pull over and get out. One of the women was on crutches (not the broken leg kind, but the aluminum ones with the arm cuffs). They came up to me and said that the woman with the crutches grew up in my house. She lived on the first floor with her parents. Her aunt and uncle lived on the second floor throughout the 40's and 50's. The other woman, who was behind the wheel, was a high school friend of hers who now lives in St. Louis Hills.

I invited her in to show her the work I had done on the place. Since I completely gutted the house before moving in I didn't think she'd recognize much. She loved the condition the place was in and pointed out things like which room was hers. She also recognized these 2 massively heavy armoires that came with the house. She said that her Dad bought them for $5 each. They are both beautiful cross cut oak and would be worth hundreds today. She had polio and told me about how her Dad would lift her in and out of the tub a couple times a day and that she got bumped out of her room and had to move her bed to the hall when her cousin moved in with them.

She mentioned she went to Roosevelt High School, which is where my mother-in-law went. She recognized the name and it turned out she graduated with my wife's Uncle. She said he was very handsome (a very difficult thing to imagine now), and that he was a little odd back then (he's a lot odd now and is rarely seen by the family since he lives in Germany).

She now lives in Washington, D.C. and her husband is a retired diplomat and they did a lot of world traveling. She doesn't get back to St. Louis very often, but was happy I happened to be in the yard because they wouldn't have had the guts to knock on the door.

I think she told me her name when she first pulled up, but I'm terrible with names and it felt rude to ask again before she drove off.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. There is a young woman pacing around on the corner near my house smoking a cigarette. I pull up with my son and am getting him out of his car seat when she walks up and asks me if I live here, pointing unfortunately to my house. I noticed right away she was missing a front tooth and had a black eye. I reluctantly said...yes, imagining her pulling a gun, forcing me into my house to rob me or steal my baby.

She said she lived in the house for 16 years in the 80's and 90's. She was embarrassed about the black eye and missing tooth but was trying to get a friend off drugs who wasn't cooperating. Unfortunately I had a tired and sick baby in my arms and had to cut it short. As she was walking away I asked her name and she said "Jennifer".

Yesterday I get a poinsettia delivered. The card said: "Thank you so much for letting my friend and I visit your home which was my home from grade 6 through college. What lovely changes you have made and how nice it is to know your lovely family lives there." And it was signed "Jenny Bergsten".

It seemed odd that 2 woman approached me about living in my house. One named Jenny and one named Jennifer. I had to remember to tell my wife, Jen, about that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm not bald I'm Bold!

It's funny that I seem to be forced into "clubs" that I never had any intention of joining. One of those clubs is the bald man club. If you're not bald you pay no attention to new products or positive and negative portrayals of bald men. Bald guys are almost exclusively bad guys in the media. You have your occasional Jean-Luc Piccard but it's certainly rare and that character was 10+ years ago. Watch Law and Order or CSI and the bald guy ends up being the serial killer. It's easy to spot him and guess the conclusion if you know.

Sports end up being the only place where bald men are portrayed positively. But let's face it Matt Hasselbeck and Brian Urlacher are just one DWI away from being a villian. Anyway, I noticed this new line of products labeled as "Ideal for head shaving" and just wanted to thank them. They are attempting to capitalize on a niche and I wish them luck.

Monday, December 11, 2006

If your life were a movie your soundtrack would be...

I love the strange coincidences that pop up with something like this. It gives new perspective to old material which is something art is supposed to do. Some songs work, some don't and some are just plain funny. Have fun and comment on what came up for you. I'm anxious to do it again, but these were my first attempt.

So, here's how it works:
1. Open your music library (iTunes, MusicMatch, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool.
OPENING CREDITS: Graveyard Shift by Uncle Tupelo
WAKING UP: September Song by Willie Nelson
FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL: They Never Got You by Spoon
FALLING IN LOVE: Waiting For the Sun by the Jayhawks
FIGHTING: Hotel by Broken Social Scene
BREAKING UP: Here Comes My Baby by Yo La Tengo
PROM: After it All by Cat Power
LIFE'S OK: Paper Aeroplane by Kasey Chambers
MENTAL BREAKDOWN: Bizarre Love triangle by Frente!
DRIVING: Hash Pipe by Weezer
FLASHBACK: Lizzy by Ben Kweller
GETTING BACK TOGETHER: Turn a Square by the Shins
WEDDING: Speaking of Happiness by Gloria Lynn
BIRTH OF CHILD: Kiss Off by Violent Femmes
FINAL BATTLE: U Mass by the Pixies
DEATH SCENE: Don't Come Home a Drinkin' (with Lovin' on your mind) byLoretta Lynn
FUNERAL SONG: Don't Get Around Much Anymore by Sam Cooke
END CREDITS: Halloween by Ryan Adams

Friday, December 01, 2006

the perfect storm

Craptastic! That's how I would describe this week. It started with Nate getting a stomach virus that leaves him puking and with the worst diarrhea ever. We thought it was a 24 hour bug, then a 48 hour bug, then 5 days in we realized it was much worse. That however is not why it was a bad week. That was just a small contributing factor. Nate is a trooper and for the most part has kept his spirits up.

My wife is travelling for work this week. She goes to NY/NJ a couple times a month. It's all become pretty standard. That is until the worst snow/ice/freezing rain storm to hit St. Louis in the last quarter century happens and she can't get home. This is but one more factor in the perfect storm that hit this week that nearly succeeded in breaking me.

You see the storm brought with it widespread power outages. We were hit by a big wind gust in July and never lost power. That may have played a part in me being totally unprepared for this outage. As I mentioned Nate has been sick. Frequent vomiting in his crib has become commonplace. I heard him on the baby monitor losing his dinner at approximately 11pm Thursday. I went up to change him and it was a sad state of affairs. He puked and then rolled in it. It was in his fuzzy hair and he wasn't happy. I picked him up out of his crib and he felt really wet. I took off his pajamas and he was covered from chest to knees in diarrhea.

That, dear loyal readers, is when the power shut down. I had a naked baby on the floor covered in excrement when things went black. I froze. Nate sensing this wasn't a normal occurrence froze as well. A moment later the power flickered. I took that opportunity to open the shades in his room. Then it went dark for good. Even with the street lights blacked out it was lighter outside than inside. By the pale light of the cloudy night sky I grabbed fist fulls of wet wipes and began to clean the baby. He stood up and clung to me as I searched for something fresh to put on him. He's been sick all week and we were running low on fresh outfits to sleep in. I found one and got him in a new diaper and some pajamas. I was feeling pretty good.

It was then that I realized I wasn't going to be able to clean up his crib, give him fresh sheets and put him back to bed. For one thing he wasn't letting go of me. I had to do everything with one hand. Also with the power out the temperature was going to start dropping. He couldn't sleep in the crib by himself even if I could clean it up. I decided to put him to bed in my bed. I placed some pillows down the side to keep him from rolling off and put a towel under him in case he got sick again and we snuggled in, a little daddy/son team, working together. Then he puked again.

I picked him up and set out to find some candles and matches. It wasn't as easy as I had hoped, but I got my hands on some and lit up the room. By that point I could feel the temperature dropping. It was probably in the 50's in the house, but I began to worry. I wanted to find someplace safe for my baby.

I have 2 cars. One is great in the snow and was purchased with snow emergencies in mind. The other is an old Ford pick up that has rear wheel drive and is atrocious in the snow and ice. I'm sure you can guess which one was at the airport while my wife was stranded in NY and which one was sitting out front with it's doors frozen shut.

I called Jen and she went to work. It was late but she started calling her family and organizing the troops. At about 1am my brother-in-law picked me up in his Landcruiser and drove me to my Mother and Father-in-laws in the county. We were total refugees. Nobody wanted a sick baby. They were understandably protecting their own families.

My in laws were also without power, but they have 3 woodburning fireplaces in their house. I set up the portable crib and put Nate down in the family room. After all this excitement he had no intention of sleeping. I tried rocking him, but it wasn't soothing. The fireplace needed to be stoked and logs needed to be added. Every time it would wake him. Every time an ember would make that popping and crackling sound he would wake up. If I let the fire get low it would get too cold. We finally both collapsed at about 3am and woke to a chilly room at 7am.

Little Nate was sick, tired and out of his element. He was understandably not himself. It was a difficult day and we were running low on diapers, juice, patience and all the other things a parent needs to have on hand. While I was out picking up supplies I received great news from my next door neighbor via my barely charged cell read...Let there be light.

The power was up. It was very good news. I can deal with all of these hardships much better if I am on my own turf. Packing a duffel bag in the middle of the night by candlelight wasn't exactly ideal and we weren't going to have enough clothes to get us through another night. Thank goodness we could go home.

Jen's Thursday evening flight was cancelled and she was hoping to get on a Friday afternoon flight. Unfortunately many people were trying to get to St. Louis from LaGuardia. Nobody was giving up their seat. She is booked for a Saturday morning flight back to STL. She did what she could for the family from afar. She proves herself to be a great parent and partner time and time again. If she were able to be here, if the power hadn't gone out, if the baby wasn't sick, if my 4 wheel drive vehicle were here, if any one of a number of things had been different it would have been a much better situation. As it was it was a perfect crap storm and although it's dying down I'm still here by myself taking care of a sick baby. But at least I'm doing it under my own roof!