Archive for November, 2008

After the guys got home from school today, I asked each of them to write down the top ten things they wanted Santa to produce this Christmas. I passed out a stack of holiday wish books that mysteriously found their way into my mailbox for inspiration as well as one catalog of odd shit you never knew existed (no kidding that was the name of the catalog). This was pure genius as far as I was concerned. The list making activity kept them quiet, forced them to practice their writing skills (Santa can’t read hieroglyphics) and, on top of that, gave Connie and I something to chuckle about later in the evening.

So here is what Mack and Cayden would like for Christmas (keep in mind this is draft 1 of 1,000)

Cayden would like fake cigarettes. We asked him why he wanted fake cigarettes, but he couldn’t articulate a reasonable response. Maybe it is so he can get himself some fake emphysema?

Cayden would also like a collectible edition Al Pacino “Scarface” lamp. Great lamp, it actually has a realistic assault rifle as it’s base with functioning grenade launcher and when you pull the chain it lights up and says “Say allo to ma leetle friend” (best Cuban accent I can muster). How appropriate for a 6-year old, why don’t I get him a Hugh Hefner smoking jacket and an official Michigan State beer bong to go with.

Cayden would also like a “RIGIPROPEFDKECIGERRTEFFEST”. Any clue what this is? Granted I should have expected some misspelling from a 6-year old but what the hell? I googled it and apparently Cayden wants a small village in Botswana, I don’t think Santa is going to pull through on that request.

Mack would like an entire series of items endorsed by the CIA. He wants a covert pen-sized recorder, spy sunglasses and a set of high powered binoculars. I am either molding the next James Bond or the next “creepy neighborhood pervert”. Personally, I don’t think any of these items could possibly lead to an academic scholarship so instead Mack will get a world globe, a Texas Instruments calculator and a microscope. I’ll just tell him that’s as close as Santa could get.

Mack is also asking for a hand buzzer and a flashlight that shocks the shit out of you when you turn it on. It appears that he plans on being the only spy in the agency that has the same sense of humor as the Three Stooges. I’m sure he’ll be popular.

Final item, both boys would like an item called the “Fart Machine”. I’ll throw this request to my sister who is actually responsible for teaching my boys how to fart. Thanks Stacey for personally tutoring my children on every crude activity in your repertoire. Cayden’s first complete sentence was “I can fart my ABC’s” (yes, I said fart), which of course is a perfect example of my sister’s influence on my children.

As you can probably tell, my boys tossed the Toys R Us catalog aside in favor of the “Odd shit you can purchase but never knew existed” catalog. I really can’t blame them. I personally purchased a baseball hat with built in mullet and a t-shirt that read, “Conserve the rain forest- wipe your ass with an owl“.  Maybe it’s me that gave them their warped sense of humor, who knew?

Halloween has come and gone- nothing left but a bucket full of candy corn and dum-dum suckers. The crunch bars, M&Ms and butterfingers didn’t see the dawn of November 1st, so what remains is the ghetto candy that folks pass out when they don’t want to invest in a pagan holiday. What’s up with that anyway? Where’s the good stuff? What happened to that one crazy guy at the end of the street who would hand out full sized Zagnut bars to every kid who wandered up his driveway? I loved that guy. I need to look him up on facebook and give him mad props for his Halloween can-do spirit. These days my kids are as likely to get a Slimfast bar as they are a Milky Way; one guy actually had the audacity to give my boys a 4oz bottle of water and a roll of Tums, hello freak it’s Halloween, give up the goods!!!

But this post isn’t a simple rant about how Halloween was better when I was a kid (but it was if you’re wondering). Actually I am posting because I was fortunate enough to witness another “random act of toughness”. Several weeks ago, I told my readers (hi Pammy!) that I planned on starting a series of posts aimed at highlighting just how tough my 6-year old son, Cayden, really is.   This is my second installment.

On Halloween night, Connie, the boys and I were wandering around our neighborhood doing the trick or treat thing.  We have our routine- every year we walk the same path visiting the same boring houses getting the same boring candy. Most of the kids along our route are under two years old and dressed up like an Anne Geddes portrait. We adopted this route because when we first moved into our neighborhood, the kids were tiny and vulnerable thus safe, boring, quiet houses on Halloween night were probably the smartest choice. Conventional wisdom suggests that you shouldn’t take your 2-year old to see the opening of Saw IV or the new Rob Zombie Movie- the same flow of logic that Connie and I used when deciding where to trick or treat. We avoided the infamous Hampton Street at all costs as we knew that if we ventured onto its hallowed ground, the kids would never sleep again.

What’s a Hampton Street you may ask? Hampton Street is where all the wacky folks in our neighborhood reside. I am sure you’ve met their type before.  They are the kind of people who don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because they’re saving all of their energy for a real holiday (i.e. Halloween). These folks take it to the next level.  They buy 50lb plastic tarantulas and enough fake webbing to capture a Boeing 747. They sport the no-kidding made for Hollywood mask that costs more than a new Prius and they purchase authentic coffins to place in their front yards. You’ll most likely hear them first because they’re blaring spooky music from a sound system that looks like it came straight from a Stone’s concert. Of course, every single one of them owns a black cat. But did you know they stop feeding them two weeks before the big day just to make sure they’re angry enough to take the finger off an unsuspecting 10-year old without the slightest hint of provocation? Bottom line- Hampton Street is home to Maryland’s Halloween hardcore zealots.

With an intro like that, you know that Connie and I took the boys to Hampton Street. Right or wrong, we decided it was time to introduce the little men to the real meaning of Halloween- if you want the good stuff, you better bring your gonuts, cause it comes with a price. So off we trounced down Hampton. At first, both of our boys were excited. Each of them knew that we avoided Hampton in the past because it was reserved for big kids and allowing them to go was a right of passage, a vision quest if you will.

Mack was dressed as a zombie skate punk. He is eight-years old, thus much too cool to be a superhero, fireman or hockey player. His costume came from buycostumes.com, a purchase Connie made to avoid going store to store looking for the perfect Halloween get-up. When I saw it online, it looked pretty legit. What came in the mail, however, was no different than the flimsy costumes of my youth- you know the ones I’m talking about, plastic coveralls with one-sided mask held to your face with the world’s cheapest rubber band. Mack didn’t seem to notice, he felt like a no-shit zombie skateboarding punk, how he knew what that felt like is beyond me, but he did. Cayden selected a pretty sweet Darth Vader costume. Leave it to Cay to want to be the villain, no surprises there. His costume was pretty damn authentic the only difference between him and the real thing was about 4-feet and the fact that Darth Vader was probably slightly more merciful towards his foe and a bit more pleasant before meal time.

 

So off we wandered- Connie, the zombie, Mini-Vader and yours truly. The first sign of trouble came when we spotted a large group of screeching teenage girls. They went shooting past us like they just spotted the Jonas Brothers. Obviously something in the direction we were heading had set them off- kind of like in those nature films when the wild beasts start to stampede because of the presence of a lion. The kids giggled; Connie and I looked at each other nervously. That’s when I spotted the lion (metaphorically speaking of course). About 5o yards to our right was a Hampton Halloween zealot dressed in a monk’s robe and wearing a very authentic looking demon mask. He was moving stealthily from shrub to shrub waiting for the perfect opportunity to jump out and scare the living daylights out of whoever passed his way. This guy didn’t care if you were 6-months old or 60, in a stroller or moving with the aid of a walker; his judgement may have been lacking but his effort was commendable.

I watched as the demon monk moved into position to pounce on my children. Mack and Cay were so busy trying to crack the code on a box of Hot Tamales that they failed to notice that this joker had them in his sights. Everything was set- my boys were looking down, the demon monk was in position, and Connie and I were braced for the ensuing mayhem. That’s when all hell broke loose.

The demon monk sprung from his lair and growled at the boys. Mack screamed while shitting his pants, dropped his candy and pushed his little brother into the path of the monster (obviously loyalty is a trait learned later in life). Cayden reached for his light saber and dropped his box of Hot Tamales to the pavement. As Mack ran screaming into the relative safety of my arms, Cayden assumed the basic warrior stance that I had taught him during our in home Marine martial arts training seminars. The demon monk look perplexed. Little boys were supposed to react like Mack, they were not supposed to defiantly challenge the creature to open combat. Before I had a chance to intervene, Cayden took to swinging his light saber at the demon monk with all of the might his 40lb frame could muster. The monster back peddled while looking over his shoulder for support from his group of Hampton cronies who had so enjoyed watching little kids run in terror just a few minutes earlier. Cayden advanced; the demon monk retreated. Obviously the guy in the monster suit had never met a child such as Cayden. I’m sure he’ll pick his targets more carefully in the future as to avoid the embarrassment of getting his butt kicked by kids who can barely recite their ABC’s.

Cayden wasn’t even breathing hard after the encounter. He went back to retrieve his Hot Tamales and took the opportunity to ask Mack why he was whimpering behind my back. Personally I think he knew why Mack was scared, but wanted to rub it in a little. I guess that was Mack’s punishment for throwing his little brother under the proverbial bus. The remainder of the night was spent hunting down the demon monk; Cayden wanted some more of that action. Conversely, the demon monk must have spent the rest of the night trying to stay out of our path as to avoid a second encounter with the little boy who shattered his Hampton rep.

My newest bestest friends…

November 5, 2008

The festival was an excellent chance to mingle with all sorts of exciting folks and Connie and I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity. If you’ve never been, you may believe that the renaissance festival is simply an event for people to play out their medieval fantasies by dressing as knights, court jesters and fair maidens. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, it’s a forum for people of all orientations to express their creative, often bizarre, taste for the arcane.

As I stated, Connie and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, so we made sure to introduce ourselves to as many different people as we could. Admittedly, we were a bit timid at first, but as the day wore on (and the beer took effect), our willingness to approach people and discuss their apparel choices became much easier.

Meet Ed!

So where do I begin?  Let’s start with the older gentleman who decided that the Renaissance Festival was the ideal locale to sport his bright new rubber boobs. When Connie and I saw him we knew we had to meet the guy. Both of us were curious about the motivation that drove this gentleman’s garment selection. Did he wake up that morning, open his closet, and discover that the only items not in the wash were a pair of big rubber boobs and his svelte Scottish cap? Did he wear the boobs to other festivals, shopping, to his job? Where does one store fake rubber boobs when not in use? Is this an item that one would place in a curio cabinet next to a grouping of Hummel figurines? Can you rent rubber boobs or is this an item that you need to invest in for long term use? We had a lot of important questions that needed answering so we engaged him and pumped him for some info. It turned out that Ed was super friendly and also super drunk. All that he could tell us about his boobs was that he “waited to break them out until late in the day for the sake of the kids at the festival.” Note- we took the picture at approximately 5pm, not sure what kids the guy was talking about? Truth be told, I witnessed several toddlers trying to breastfeed off the old guy later that afternoon. In case you’re wondering, I did give Ed’s boobs a squeeze; I heard fake boobs felt different than the real thing so I gave him a quick groping and moved along.  I thought his boobs felt fine, but his beard creeped me out.

Meet Frank!

Connie and I spoke to Frank while waiting in line to wash our hands after fondling Ed’s fake boobs. You really can’t tell by the photo but Frank has some pretty high-end vampire teeth affixed to his bicuspids. He was more than happy to tell us about them, in fact he was downright proud of the fact that he painlessly entered the realm of immortality by visiting his local dentist on a lazy Saturday afternoon. According to Frank, anyone off the street can get their vampire on for the measly cost of about $200. He further went on to explain that they were not permanent, you could easily remove them for brushing purposes. To prove his point he demonstrated how easily they popped out. He must not have seen us squeezing Ed’s fake boobs because he offered to let me hold his fake teeth. GROSS! I declined his offer and went back and washed my hands again because the thought of holding Frank’s teeth was a bit much to stomach. Frank was a good guy and he left us with this thought about the Renaissance Festival, “If it makes you happy you gotta do it, man, and this is the place to be when you’re happy.” Frank was the happiest vampire I’ve ever met. We can all learn something about life from his personal philosophy.

Meet Sally!

Sally had the most gi-normous boobs Connie and I had ever seen in real life.They were so large and unruly that Connie refused to get any closer than the photo illustrates. Sally was more in line with the Renaissance theme. Most of the women dressed in authentic era costumes were sporting large amounts of cleavage, but Sally outdid them all. Not sure what the pirate hat’s about? In all honesty, Connie and I are probably the only ones that noticed she was wearing a hat. In fact, Connie and I are probably the only Renaissance-goers that realized that Sally had a head at all.

Meet Juan!

Juan was my most favorite Renaissance participant of the day. Though the rubber suit and gas mask may have intimidated some people, I felt more than comfortable walking up and introducing myself. He was super friendly and more than happy to pose for a photo op. I guess it comes with the territory- when you go out in public dressed as a sadomasochistic superhero, people are going to be curious.He never really explained

why he was dressed as he was, but does he really need to? I think Juan is just a tad bit freaky-deaky and the Renaissance festival may have afforded him the one venue where he could openly display his eccentric nature without getting the snot stomped out of him by a group of less than tolerant bikers.

At the end of the day, Connie and I met some wonderful people.  We went there with an open, non-judgemental attitude and everyone we met was super cool. I won’t be hanging out with Frank, Ed, Juan or Sally on the weekends, but their perspectives were fresh and their insight was interesting and, really, what more can you ask for on a warm autumn day?

More about our adventure at the Maryland Renaissance Festival-

Connie and I had a great time meandering through the festival meeting strange and exciting folks, sampling the local cuisine and participating in some no-kidding renaissance activities. I think the activity that we liked the most that day was drinking beer, but we did other things as well. At one point in the day, we found a whole row of stalls set up where you could pay money to throw any number of extremely sharp objects. The goal was to get your sharp object of choice to stick into a wall that had a painted target on it. I’ve seen things of this nature before. For example, at most amusement parks you can cough up a couple of bucks to throw darts at some balloons or you can play around in the shooting gallery. Some would consider these activities dangerous, but well-established amusement parks do an excellent job of creating safety controls and regulating what you can and can’t do. For example, in most shooting gallerias, the only thing that comes out of the end of your high speed rifle is a beam of light, not to mention they are chained to the table, making it impossible to turn your beam of light onto your fellow park patrons.

News flash: The Renaissance festival doesn’t believe nor endorse “Namby-Pamby” safety regulations.  At the Renaissance festival, you better bring your gonuts because they believe in doing things the old fashioned way (i.e. someone is going to lose an eye before the sun goes down).

So, let me set the stage for the booth that we saddled up next to. We found a row of stalls, like I mentioned above. Each of these stalls had its own particular edged weapon that you could pay to throw. For example, you could throw axes, knives, ninja throwing stars, old lawn mower blades, scissors- if it could be sharpened to a razor’s edge, then you could pay to throw it. Connie was the test subject for this event and she selected throwing knives, which honestly seemed liked the most reasonable sharp object in the lot.

She paid her $2.00, was handed a gob of well-used, but really sharp throwing knives and took her place along the counter.  The goal of these booths is to make a lot of money, so Connie was shoulder to shoulder with about 10 other renaissance goers. I found it interesting that Connie was the only person not dressed in chain mail or sporting a John Deer baseball hat. She was also about half the size of the next smallest person in her group. The only similarity between Connie and the rest of her group was the beer she was using to hold down her wad of cash. It seemed everyone had a beer in one hand and a sharp object in the other. This should have sent off some internal safety alarms for me, but I was busy holding a camera in one hand and my beer in the other, so who was I to criticize?

The counter was about 12 feet from a large wooden wall which had a painted heart for each person at the counter. The heart was the intended target. When everyone had paid their fee, the stall administrator stepped cautiously behind a protective barrier (again warning sirens should have been going off) and gave these commands: Make Ready (pause), Aim (pause), Throw!

Make Ready!

Make Ready!

Throw!!!

Throw!!!

What happened next could have been considered terrifying, but thanks to the cheap beer it was more exciting and funny than anything else. The minute the group was given the command to throw they went bananas. I’ve never seen a group of people display such a flagrant disregard for their own personal safety. Each of them threw the knives so fast that you would have thought that the contest was to see how quickly you could get the knives down range.

Of all the people throwing, I saw one guy who actually made his knife stick into the wall. The rest of the group’s knives either didn’t make it the distance (12 ft) or the knives bounced pathetically off the wall. The lack of successful attempts perplexed the throwers, so they threw the knives harder and faster. Made sense to me, if at first you don’t succeed try harder, right? Now what I saw was a bunch of beer-fueled, embarrassed men hurling their razor sharp knives toward the target with all their might. Of course my wife was not in this category. Connie was not embarrassed at all, every time she came even remotely close to hitting the wall she looked over at me laughed, smiled and took another sip of her beer. I thought her technique was much more effective.

The rest of the throwers were embarrassed. These feelings were reinforced by the mob of bystanders who decided to heckle the group for their substandard knife throwing performance. Does this make sense to you? I personally make it a point not to insult well-armed intoxicated people, but obviously my train of logic was not a shared standard of behavior. By the end of the round of knife throwing, the knives were hitting the wall so hard that they actually came dangerously close to boomeranging back past the counter and into the unsuspecting crowd of drunken hecklers. No one seemed to notice.
So that’s how it ended, no one was seriously injured, but I believe that our knife throwing experience was an anomaly. At some point during the month long Renaissance celebration, I guarantee someone walked away with a sharp object embedded in some part of their body. The law of averages suggests that this would be a very safe bet. Here is my final observation regarding this outing, what moral high ground do I now possess when encouraging my boys to not participate in dangerous activities? Haven’t I just raised the mark for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior? I can only imagine my boys reading this post and using it against Connie and I when one of their hair-brained schemes is hatched:
“Dad, Cayden and I are going to parachute off the bay bridge with our superhero bed sheets, we’ll be back in time for lunch, see ya”.
Followed by:
“Come on Dad it’s not like were going to drink beer and throw razor sharp objects into a crowd of rowdy middle-aged dudes dressed up in weird costumes”.
I see trouble brewing…