By Daddy Clay July 5th, 2012
As the school year approaches, curriculum reform is on the minds of teachers, parents and administrators. Kids, not so much. Having gone to school myself, I — like many parents — consider myself an expert on the subject. Therefore a have a few suggestions for new classes for the upcoming school year.
Actually Cool Music Appreciation
By definition — all music that parents listen to is not cool. Just ask my tween daughter. But the simple fact is that my music actually is cool, and the kids need to learn to appreciate that. And also tell me that my music is totally cool. If a certified educator makes a reasonable side by side presentation of Spoon and One Direction — the kids can’t help but get it. Austin has a rich tradition of amazingly cool music, and lots of parents that support this scene don’t get credit for being cool. This constitutes a civic crisis that should be addressed by the public schools. Save these children from boy bands before it’s too late.
I’ve had it. I’m fed up with the atrocious spelling, rampant neologisms, lack of punctuation, “emoticons,” and general disregard for the art of composition that characterizes modern communication. I am not one to bash technology or wax nostalgic for simpler times, but no reasonable person can deny that Facebook updates, texts and emails have compromised our expectations of written expression. Therefore I propose we get these kids together and demand that they teach their parents the grammar that they are learning in school.
4th Grade Drivers Ed
Let’s face it — American families today are over-scheduled and overwhelmed. Parents now live in their cars ferrying kids to practices, tutors, recitals and birthday parties. Family dinner is a thing of the past, kids chomping fast food between obligations contributing to the national obesity epidemic. The solution is simple. Teach kids to drive when they are 10. With the advent of video games, kids now acquire the basics of driving from the time they can pick up an iPad. Cars are safer now, and with onboard GPS navigation, sophisticated abstract thinking is no longer required. With the kids now able to drive themselves to practice, parents would be free to do more important things. Like update their Facebook status.
Posted in Fatherhood, School
By Daddy Clay June 26th, 2012
We are momentarily childless, my wife and I, summer camp empty nesters, so we’re going to the gym. As usual, she picks a stair climber, and I loaf around on an elliptical. At first I think she’s picked a machine next to some crazy old coot, rigged out like the Unibomber in grey sweats and hoodie, sporting oversize shades. Old guy’s got some kinda light sensitivity, I think. Look, he’s got towels hung up to block the light coming in the window.
Oh, wait, I’ve heard about this. I sneak a glimpse. Another.
It’s not a geezer.
It’s a major movie star.
When my sentence on the machine is complete, I sidle over to my wife to get a closer look at the dude. And he’s wearing my shoes.
Not just any shoes, either. The crazy canary yellow Nike Free Runs that I have caught endless shit for. “Cool shoes. They come in men’s colors?” wiseass fellow boot campers had asked. These shoes would be perfect to run the Big Bird 10k in, if such a race existed. But the movie star is wearing the same damn ones.
I feel vindicated. Very young. Very fit. Very cool.
So cool that I uttered a little “ugh” under my breath when I saw the bulbous old man bobbing away in the tiny lap pool. “I’ll never let that happen to me,” I thought as I slipped into the neighboring jacuzzi. I spied his wheelchair parked nearby and figured he must be rehabbing something. Stroke maybe. Given his spherical physique, I deemed it a good bet.
The old guy began waving his swim noodle at the glass wall that separated the pool area from the club office, trying to get the attention of his nurse. “Oh, great,” I thought, “I’m to be treated to the sight of this walrus beaching.”
The nurse wheeled the chair to the top of the stairs and the old guy fussed over its positioning. He grasped the handrail and started hauling himself up. It wasn’t going well. He was too shaky, the nurse too small. He began to slowly collapse back down, his legs folding underneath him. The nurse ran to get help from the club staff.
When I slipped into the water next to him, he looked up and in his vulnerable, slightly wall-eyed gaze — probably a result of the stroke — I saw my friend and mentor, Lowell. Lowell was blinded in an accident that left him with a glass eye that never tracked quite right. In his Savile Row suits and eyepatch, he cut a dashing figure. But there were times when he needed help and I found him like this man in the pool, helpless and staring blankly. Lowell was a hero to me, but when he died two years ago, I was on vacation with my kids. When his many aides from over the years gathered — all wearing Hermes ties in his honor — I wasn’t there.
A few women from the club and the nurse returned and we managed to get the man sitting on the edge of the pool, but there are still the stairs to climb.
“If you’ll put your arm around my shoulders, we’ll walk right out of here,” I say.
“I’m so sorry,” says the man.
“Good days, bad days” I say as I slip next to him. He puts his arm my shoulders and I cinch him very close to me, hip to hip, trying to take as much weight as I can. He’s very heavy, very soft. I move steadily and gently. It’s very quiet. We climb.
When the nurse has scampered away to find a dressing for the freely bleeding wound on his shin, and the club staff has returned to their posts, the man turns to me and holds out his hand.
“My name is Mickey.”
I wonder about Mickey’s story while the nurse wheels him off. I hope he will be back at the pool again soon, that he won’t give up after this setback.
In the shower, I cry. I think it’s the Lowell connection, maybe just that glimpse of vulnerability, mortality. Then I put my wet swimsuit in the spinning drier doohickey my son showed me how to use and that made it better somehow. That thing works like a charm.
I put my yellow shoes back on and meet my wife in the lobby of the club, just as the movie star emerges from the exercise area. The three of us walk into the parking lot at the same time, where a number of paparazzi are camped out in a squad of Priuses, backed into parking spaces to face the club entrance.
They snap our picture. I’m in People magazine for all I know. But I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t give a shit about my yellow movie star shoes. I just wanted to tell my wife about Mickey.
Tags: aging, celebrities, childless, elderly, health club Posted in Health, Marriage, activities
By Daddy Clay June 14th, 2012
The Man Spa — That’s how my sons and I refer to Finley’s Barbershop in Austin. Walk in to this un-beauty shop and all the leather appointments, antique photos, and ESPN on the flat screens will reassure even the most thick-browed that this is no girly spa. Even the basic haircut is a throwback to old-school manpering featuring a shampoo with hot towel treatment, a straight razor neck trim with warm lather and shoulder massage — all while sipping on your preferred adult beverage. Add a full shave for the Finley’s Duo ($70) and you’ve got the daddy of all grooming experiences. We’ve noticed places like this cropping up nationwide. Read More
Posted in Fatherhood, Money, Tech, Toys
By Daddy Clay June 11th, 2012
Standing out front of Seton Hospital on a hot summer day is a “sense memory” exercise for me. The cinderblock canyon between the hospital entrance and the parking garage seems to channel the heat directly onto the nape of your neck. Moving from the cool and dark of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit into this bright Texas heat is nothing short of brutal. We did it day in and day out for three long weeks of August 1998.
Yesterday, I was revisiting the hospital just a few weeks shy of my tiny preemie’s 14th birthday, to shoot my contribution for a Philips Norelco video about what it feels like to be a father. I was sporting a freshly trimmed goatee, in honor of the sponsor — a look I like, but the kids frown on any deviation from the full beard — reflecting on the fact that I had recently taught my tiny preemie to shave. Read More
Tags: blogger, dad, dads, FaceofDad, Fatherhood, hospital, NICU, Norelco, Philips, Preemie, project, Seton, video Posted in Fatherhood
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