Back To School

 “I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over,” I said to the infamous Dr. Sanchez as he led the way to our seats with a beer in each hand.  I followed quickly with Jack in one arm and a draw string diaper bag hanging off my other shoulder.  “I don’t want it to end,” I continued.  I watched his pony tail swing abruptly to the right as he swung his head around to give me the evil eye and a smirk.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he inquired.  “Your life is one big summer vacation!” he continued, emphatically.

“Yeah, I suppose it is, isn’t it?” I responded with a chuckle.  “But, you know what I mean, don’t you?” I asked.

I could tell he probably did, but I went on anyways, “This will be over!” I waved my arm across the entire scene in front of us, spilling some beer on my son’s head below us.

As we took our seats in the shady part of Rosenblatt Stadium, trying to find respite from the horrid,  unceasing heat and humidity of late summer in Omaha, I knew he was right.  I had in fact found my dream job.  A job that really isn’t a job per se.  Of course it’s work, but it doesn’t feel like a job.  I don’t get paid, but the perks are priceless.  I can’t really sleep in, but there’s naptime scheduled if I ever want to join in.  Plus, I can wear my AC/CD pajama pants and Chewbacca t-shirt all day long, and still be the best dressed in my workplace.  My radio job was a peerless job, but this job is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. After all, the best job is no job at all.

Yes, my life over the past year has pretty much had an “Endless Summer” vibe to it, but the past few months of actual summer were even better.  After being trapped inside with a newborn baby throughout a rough Omaha winter, I dove cannonball style into every ounce of the summer.  My whole idea of “summer vacation” disappeared as soon as I was old enough for my first summer job, but like that fucking Lost island, you can apparently find it again if you know where to look.  This summer, I found it again. I also found myself losing track of days on multiple occasions.  Trust me, it’s a great state of mind.

For the past three months or so, the Professor was home more often than she was at her office.  I was able to let my childcare guard down a bit, allowing her some of the pleasures of greater Jack responsibility, and allowing myself the pleasures of letting her do so.  Throw in some visits from and visits to relatives and friends (aka babysitters), and my “job” suddenly became pretty damn near part time, freeing me up for every BBQ, brunch, and baseball game I could squeeze into my lazily busy schedule.  I spent weekdays at the pool, went on actual dates with my wife, and got drunk at outdoor concerts with my friends.  You know the simple two-word phrase in The Grateful Dead’s “Sugar Magnolia,” “sunshine daydream?”  Well, I’ve been living it baby, with the Jerry Garcia beard and everything. 

But, suddenly the pool is now closed for the summer.  The Omaha heat wave has broken, at least for the moment.  It’s starting to smell like football practice outside.  With a hint of evening chill on the front porch, comes a strange urge to stock up on notebooks, pens, and a flashy new Trapper Keeper.  Some part of me wants to register for classes, meet new teachers, and crack open new books.   I can try to deny it all I want, but it’s in the air.  It’s time to shake off the rust.  It’s time to get back to work.  It’s time to go back to school.  Though, I would argue that since my son was born, since I quit my radio job, since I moved to Omaha, and since I became a Stay at Home Dad, while I may have been living without a job, I’ve constantly been in school.

Not only have I learned how to take care of my son, I’m learning about my son, too. Even though he is only 1 year old, he is already his own little person with his own idiosyncrasies.  I’ve learned that my son loves to walk around with shoes on his hands.  I’ve learned that he has a weird obsession with ceiling fans and light fixtures.  I’ve learned that he loves to waterboard himself in the pool and the bathtub.  I’ve learned that he gets a kick out of walking backwards.  I’ve learned that he would prefer to eat grilled onions and black olives over anything else at the moment.  I’ve learned that he has a thing for stuffed Giraffes.  I’ve learned that he can spend an entire afternoon hunting for empty cicada shells and crushing them with his meat paw hands.  I’ve learned that he enjoys stuffing entire bananas into his mouth every single morning.  I’ve learned that he loves watching motorcycles start up and school buses drive by.  And, I’ve learned that toddlers can in fact get jock itch.

But, the most important lesson that I’ve learned this year–and keep getting reminded of daily–is this: every day is new.  Need more unpredictability in your life? Have a fucking kid.  It’s as easy as that.  Every day, Jack becomes someone else. I become someone else.  We both get older.  I may know how to be a father of a fifteen month old, but do I know how to be just as good of a father to a two year old, or a seven year old, or a seventeen year old?  Will I know?

No matter how much I think I have down, no matter how much I think I know, no matter how confident I become, in the end, I’ll always be clueless about something. I’ll always be naive. I’ll always be surprised. I’ll always be afraid. And I’ll always need to go back to school. The hardest work is ahead, in the coming days, the coming weeks, the coming months, and the coming years.  I may be becoming an awesome babysitter and a motherfuckin’ homemaking wizard, but I am only going into 2nd grade as far as this Dad shit is concerned. 

I always tell my wife that it’s hard to believe that the little guy running around our house is our son.  It’s hard to believe we’ve made it this far.  It’s hard to believe how much we’ve all changed.  It’s hard to believe we live in Omaha.  And it’s hardest to believe that I’ve been doing this Stay at Home Dad thing for a whole year already.  A year my son and I have spent getting used to each other.  What I’m really looking forward to, though, is getting to know each other.

The challenge ahead is going to be to figure out how to help Jack become a good son, a greater man, and perhaps one day, a Dad himself.  I’m still not sure exactly how to go about it, but I don’t need to know it all right now.  I’m perfectly fine dancing around the living room with Jack in my arms, our fists in the air singing along to the rousing chorus of one of my all time favorite songs, “Knowledge,” by the band Operation Ivy.  “All I know is that I don’t know! All I know is that I don’t know nothing!” Nothing, except that this is exactly what I want to be doing.  I am the luckiest man alive.

Saying goodbye to one of the best Summer vacations of my life is going to be difficult.  There’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to bid adieu to those BBQ’s, baseball games, back porches, and lightning bugs.  I’ve gotten used to having my wife around, the three of us with nothing better to do than enjoy every second of our first Omaha Summer.  I’ve gotten used to the help.  But alas, our favorite professor is back to work full time, leaving us to get used to her not being around all over again.  The good Doctor Sanchez is no longer available for day games. Everyone is going back to their regular routine. And soon, Jack and I will find ourselves once again sitting on the front porch swing every afternoon, just two dudes hanging out, learning about life on our own terms, pointing at school buses as they drive by, watching the real world go on around us and graciously, without us, until Mom comes home.

Rookie of the Year?

 “Really, dog? Really?” I questioned my rat terrier as she busted through the bathroom door to sit at my feet and beg for attention.  I figured it would happen.  I can’t remember the last time I shit without an audience.  It’s literally a crap-shoot that results in any combination of wife, kid, or dog, and sometimes all three, interrupting what I would prefer to be a super exclusive party of one.  I imagine my wife feels the same way, but as far as the dog and the kid are concerned, when Mom is at work it’s an event worth crashing time and again.  I’m not sure why I even entertained the idea of this time being any different.

I thought I was in the clear.  Jack was walking around with my sweaty running shoes on his hands and heading into the relatively safe zone of our living room.  The dog was nowhere to be seen.  I gave the toddler and his immediate surroundings a final once over before sneaking around the corner into our main floor bathroom.  I even managed to shut the door a bit, making sure to leave it open a crack to allow me to monitor the sounds of the front of the house while still providing me with a false sense of privacy.  I had barely settled in when the door burst open and the dog claimed her usual spot on the brown, circular bathroom rug in front of my feet.

For a dog that can usually care less about me or my affection, my bathroom time is apparently her favorite bonding time.  It’s quite odd, but like many things as of late, it has become a now predictable and nearly comfortable part of my life.  I pretty much expect it to happen, even though I thought I might get away with some solitary seconds on this occasion.  She looked up at me and whined, and in my vulnerable state, I quickly resigned myself to her presence.  At least it was only the dog.  I scratched her on her butt while trying to decipher the noises coming from the wandering one year old in the living room.  He was still keeping himself occupied, relatively quietly from what I could tell, so I attempted to dive into a magazine article I had been trying to read for what seemed like a month.

Then the alarm went off. At first, I had no idea what it was.  The high pitched loop of a siren would have had me pissing in my pants from the shock and surprise if they weren’t currently around my ankles.  Sometimes things just go your way, I suppose. Before I could collect my thoughts or my pants, Jack started screaming.  Although I couldn’t see his face, I knew he was in full on, dead-red, eyes closed, gasping for breath wailing mode.

It soon registered that Jack had merely gotten a hold of my keys and had triggered the panic button on my Hyundai, but it was already Def Con-1 outside of the bathroom. I jumped to my feet, a reflex honed over the past year forcing me to get up and sprint for the front room.  There was no time to wipe, let alone pull my pants back up.  I stepped out of them, almost stepping on the dog in the process, as we both raced to the hysterical wreck that was somewhere behind the couch.

I snatched my keys from the clutches of the crying kid and remedied the alarm situation with one finger as I scooped Jack up simultaneously and held him to me.  I proceeded to try to console him over the next couple of minutes as the dog, still barking from the excitement, tried to jump in my arms as well, scratching up my bare legs in the process.  There I stood, exactly one year from the start of my “stay at home” parenting experiment, naked from the waist down in the middle of the living room, fending off a terrier with one hand, wiping away toddler tears with the other, all the while doing my best to convince a freaked out fourteen month old that everything is going to be alright.  Then we all went back to the bathroom.

The panic button on my key chain isn’t the only button, literal or figurative, my son has learned to push over my past year as a Stay at Home Dad.   He knows how to make me smile.  He knows how to make me frustrated.  He knows how to make me cry.  He’s also learning very quickly how to get what he wants from me.  I, however, am not learning quite as quickly how to get what I want from him or figure out exactly what it is that he wants.  Sure, I’ve got the basics down.   But, I still have a long way to go.  I’ve learned how to keep my kid alive and well.  I’ve learned how to care for him on my own for hours, days, and weeks.  I’ve learned how to make him stop crying.  But honestly, I feel like that’s the easy part.

The other day I was talking to a new dad that I know and he admitted that he hasn’t changed a diaper yet.  It had been eight weeks, and he hadn’t touched one single diaper!  I didn’t even try to stifle my laughter, and I erupted right in front of him.

“I didn’t even know dads like you still existed,” I said, then I questioned him again.  “Not one fucking diaper change in two months?” I asked.

“I’m good with being the guy that hands her the baby, or hands her the wipes, or throws away the sealed up old diaper,” he responded, taking a sip from his drink. “I’m like the sidekick or something,” he added.

“Well…good for you!” I said sarcastically, “remind me not to let you knock me up.”  I took a bite of a slice of pizza in disbelief.  I wasn’t sure what was worse, his acceptance and even pride in being a hands-off, second class parent or the fact that the mother of his child actually let him get away with it?  Apparently I hadn’t just traveled back to Chicago for a visit, I had gone back in time.  It’s hard to relate to the sidekicks when you’re vying for Rookie of the Year.

Later that night, as I waited for sleep listening to the Pixies’ lullabies streaming out of the baby monitor for the billionth time, I thought about the conversation I just had.  If that guy had never changed a diaper on his own, there was no way he had ever been left alone with his child.  There was no way he had ever attempted to go for a run in a park with a dog and a cranky three month old on his first week in a new city.  There’s no way he has ever been handed a crying and stinking four month old first thing in the morning and left to figure it all out.   There was no way he’s had to decide whether or not to hide from mommy the witnessing of a first roll, first tumble, first crawl, first step, or first word so she wouldn’t feel left out.  There was no way he’s felt the anguish of a sabotaged nap when there was shit to do in the house.  There was no way he’s spent a week home alone 24/7 with a teething nine month old.

There was no way he’s been caught up in a never ending loop of picking up and cleaning up and picking up again.  There was no way he’s had to ask his wife for poker or beer money for a rare few hours away from childcare. There was no way he’s had to clean baby shit out of the bathtub before his wife got home.  There was absolutely no way he’s had to drive his son to the doctor on a Friday afternoon to get his personal diagnosis of jock itch confirmed by a doctor and then spent almost two weeks rubbing anti-fungal cream and zinc oxide on his son’s balls three times a day.  And there was no fucking way he’s ever stood mid-dump, naked from the waist down, in his living room with a crying kid in his arms trying to shut off a screaming car alarm.

But, there was also no way he’s reaped the confidence of taking his child on an amazing and enlightening 800 mile road trip alone.  There was no way he’s spent multiple hours in the middle of the day staring at lights on the ceiling with a starry eyed five month old.  There’s probably no way he’s gotten to be the first to see his son drink from a bottle all by himself with no one else around.  There was probably no way he’s had slow mornings sipping countless cups of coffee on the front porch swing absorbing the sight of a baby in a bouncer. 

There’s no way he’s taken his baby out to lunch while Mom’s at work.  There was no way he’s given himself a mohawk due to cabin fever and a desire to entertain a cooped up kid.  There was no way he’s spent dozens of weekday afternoons watching his son crawl up and down the empty aisles of a minor league baseball stadium when he wasn’t watching for stray foul balls.  There was no way he’s felt the elation of a private dance party for two to old punk rock records at full volume with no one else around.  There was no chance he’s fallen in love with his son while listening to Lullaby Led Zeppelin and changing his diaper. 

Sure, changing diapers isn’t everything.  It’s really only the beginning, but you have to make sure you don’t miss your chance to get started. I mean,  if you can’t handle the shit, you should have kept your pants on in the first place. I know Mr. Sidekick will have his moments, and I wish him and his family many amazing ones.  I wish for him the greatest variety of parental experiences.  I wish him luck.  I hope he decides to become more involved and not less. I hope he changes a diaper soon, at least for the sake of his wife.  I hope he finds a way to be all the dad he can be.  But I wouldn’t trade the last year of my life — the good, the bad, and the thousands of dirty diapers for all the beer in the world.

Go Go Jackzilla!

“I still feel kind of disoriented,” my wife said, as we sat down on two of the dozen empty bar stools in the corner pub down the street from my parent’s home in the Chicago suburbs.

“I know what you mean.  That movie was completely fucking…” I struggled to come up with the word as I struggled even harder to put my sorry excuse for a Nebraska driver’s license back inside my slowly deteriorating velcro canvas wallet with the cartoon basketballs on it.  I had finally succumbed to trading in my Illinois ID and twenty six bucks for a Nebraska one the week prior.  The real shit of it all was they didn’t just hand you your new ID like every other reasonable state in the union (Illinois and Pennsylvania),  they printed you out a paper copy and then you have to wait for the real hard copy to come in the mail. 

Our trip to Chicago couldn’t wait on Nebraska bureaucracy, so I was left having to explain to every single damn cashier, waitress, bartender, and bouncer in Chicagoland why I thought I could get away with using a printed out piece of paper to buy alcohol.  For the most part, I was able to convince my inquisitors of my more-than-old-enough age and ability to buy beer, but it was becoming a greater annoyance by the instance as the long weekend wore on.  It was completely asinine to be almost as old as Jesus when he was on the cross and be carded so hard everywhere. But it was even more idiotic that the state I now called home thought a black and white piece of paper would be acceptable identification anywhere east of the Missouri river.

With each weird look I got from one of the weekend’s beer gatekeepers, the urge to look them in the eye and say, “I have a one year old at home and a fucking full grown beard. If that’s not enough to make me legal for a beer, just kill me now,” grew exponentially.  Instead, I sheepishly explained the utter absurdity of the State of Nebraska while trying to make my oldest-looking beer-thirsty face at least a dozen times over our five days spent outside of Omaha. The stocky forty-something with the thick South Side accent that had greeted us upon entrance to Jordan’s Pub, though obviously hurting for any customers willing to pay for drinks in his establishment, was no different in his confusion over my proof of age or his desire to immediately let me in.  This whole license situation was making me a stranger in my hometown.  Everyone looked at me with suspicion.  My wife chalked it up to my beard.

Finally free to advance, we made our way to the back of the tavern to an “L” shaped bar. We eventually opted for two spots right in the crease of the upper case letter, after moving from our original bar stools because of the Professor’s aversion to the air conditioning vent above her.  A Schlitz bar light flickered to our right as the blond bartender barely looked up from her phone call, her voice drowning out the conversation that the bar manager was having with the regular at the edge of the bar near the door.  No one jumped to take our order so we scanned the scene, immediately regretting our decision, yet too far past the point of no return to walk away without at least one drink.  Forgetting that I never completed my sentence, my mind drifted to the final scene in the movie we just saw as I perused the tall cooler to my right for something worth drinking.  My wife cut me off before I could finish the thought or the sentence.

“Seriously, that movie was a mind fuck.  I’m not even sure if this is real,” she said with a smile motioning to our present scene as I followed her gaze around the bar trying to use some Jedi shit to get the attention of the bartender.

“If this is a dream, you should just reach behind the bar and grab us a few,” I said.

“Maybe I can make the beer better while I’m at it,” she smirked. “That would make me the ultimate Architect, wouldn’t it?” she asked. 

We had just come from close to three hours inside a dark theater watching Inception.  The sun had disappeared while we were inside.  Combined with the contrast of the outdoor heat and humidity to the cold air of the theater, the frenetic back and forth suspense ride that was at the core of the Summer blockbuster left us dazed and more than slightly confused during our walk to the car.  The Professor was obviously disoriented, and, though sober, was driving like a cautious drunk as she maneuvered the Hyundai awkwardly of the parking lot and across town until we reached the bar.  If there was ever a moment to get yourself grounded on some bar stools with beer, baseball, and post-film conversation, this was it. 

Not helping matters on the dream vs. reality end of things, the place we had chosen was a place we had driven past a million times but had never gone inside.  It seemed odd that we ever would go there, and even odder when we actually pulled into the empty parking lot.  Aside from the one obvious regular at the front end of the bar, the dude that carded me, and the blond bartender on the phone, we were the only people in the place. It was Twilight Zone empty. There was no volume coming from the any of the three TVs and no music playing. 

“Do you guys want another round?” the blond bartender finally asked a few minutes later after she put aside her cell phone.

Another round? What the hell was she talking about?  We hadn’t even ordered the first round.  Didn’t she just see us walk in?  Oddly enough, she even started to open a tap and start up a pint before turning back around and realizing that she had no idea what we were drinking nor what we were going to ask for.  We didn’t even know.  Things were not getting easier for us.  I was even starting to question reality now.  I searched the walls for answers.

Across from us was a poor selection of draft beers, and a flat panel TV broadcasting the White Sox game.  They were playing a west coast team, so we were able to see the first pitch despite our post movie timing and our futile attempt at finding a better place to go.  To the right was a fridge full of domestic bottles, Hawaiian Punch, energy drinks, Smirnoff Ice, and tall boy cans.  To the left of the television was a black board with specials announcing a free burger and fries with any beer purchase that wasn’t a domestic bottle.

Though not particularly in the bar burger eating mood, it was easy to see that my wife was mulling over the possibility, as was I.  With a deal like that, I couldn’t believe the place wasn’t packed, loud, and greasy.  However, our building excitement was quickly extinguished once our minds registered the fact that it was after the designated hours which were written in fluorescent marker right under the special.   It was almost as disappointing as our beer choices.  It all started to make sense.  The more I surveyed the scene, the more I discovered that this probably wasn’t a weird dream after all.  Nope.  It was just a mediocre bar, the worst bartender of all time, and bad timing.  We reluctantly started a tab, determined to make the best of our extremely rare date night.

“Maybe this is a dream,” I suggested, taking my first gulp from my High Life, and checking the time on my phone. “We’re up past ten on a Monday, we were just at a new movie that wasn’t on Netflix, in an actual outside-of-our-house movie theater, and now we’re at a bar,” I continued.

“With no kid,” she added.

“No kid!” I repeated. “Exactly! Let’s get a beer or two down before we wake up,” I suggested as I offered a toast.

It’s no exaggeration to say that being away from your kid for a night with your wife can feel like a dream.  When you’re used to spending just about every waking second of every day with a fourteen month old, being on a date by yourselves can feel downright strange.  Moving to Omaha and giving up that instant support system, and bullpen of trusted babysitters at beck and call, has forced us to do things with Jack, do them alone, or not do them at all.  I never knew how much I took for granted the sweet, simple luxury of going out to the movies with my wife before our little guy came along.  Now being away from him for the night bordered on the surreal.  Hell, every second of my life since the midwife yanked Jack out of the Professor’s poor vagina has been pretty fucking surreal.  Who needs movies when it seems like you’re living inside of one every day?

As the parent of a fourteen month old, most of the time I feel like I’m in a disaster movie.  Think Twister, or better yet, Godzilla in a fucking onesie.  Sometimes, it’s as if he’s King Kong, the Cloverfield monster, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man rolled into one.  Do you remember Rampage?  The arcade game where you picked your monster and unleashed havoc on city after city was always my favorite growing up.  I would pop quarter after quarter into that machine at the bowling alley while waiting for my parents: climbing buildings, eating helicopters, and chasing after helpless citizens. I never imagined that one day I’d be living it, and that I’d be one of the helpless citizens.  Jackzilla is loose, and I’m left cleaning up in his wake of destruction. Over and over and over and over and over again.

Like most Summer blockbusters, it all started over the 4th of July weekend.  Jack had just started walking.  Sure, he had taken steps previously, but now he was doing it unprompted and for dozens of steps at a time.   By July 8th, Jack was no longer resorting to crawling after falling.  I was on the phone with my brother when it first happened.  Jack walked from the kitchen through the dining room into the living room, fell, then got right back up and walked straight past me to my pair of shoes near the front door.  He picked up the shoes, put them on his hands, then stood up and walked to the Professor’s home office where he used the shoe hands to knock an entire shelf of books to the floor.  I was so excited, relaying the play by play and color commentary to my brother over the phone while filming it on a camcorder, that I didn’t even notice his new-found destruction technique.  He was officially walking and I was beaming.  I couldn’t wait to call my wife and show her the video.

By that Friday, he was walking around the Pizza Shoppe like he owned the place, and I had spent the past forty eight hours chasing after a cherubic tornado.  It only took me a day before I knew why everyone kept telling me to “watch out when he starts walking,” and “don’t be in such a hurry to see him walking, and “use a condom.”  Once again my own naivete as a parent came up and smacked me right in the face with a strawberry juice and drool coated meat paw.  Then it went and knocked the books off the shelf again.  Holy shit, man.  I spent an entire afternoon picking up those same damn books and the fucking sign language flashcards that were on the shelf, which would scatter instantly throughout the room with each damaging blow to the bookshelf.  I never did learn to put the flashcards somewhere else, and he wasn’t too keen on learning to obey my “no” commands either.

My wife and I have always been against “child-proofing” our house.  Our theory is that if you teach your child to behave appropriately, you may have a few appendages broken off Beatles figurines, a couple of cracked dishes, and dozens of man-handled books all over the floor at first, but eventually you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.  We have no idea if our theory is correct, obviously, but, combined with our utter lack of desire to actually go about doing what it takes to child proof your house, that’s what we’re going with.  It’s an easy decision to make for the parent that doesn’t have to run from and after Jackzilla for an entire day. I, on the other hand, have to play the role of reluctant yet empathetic hero locked into a one on one battle of wills with a cloth-diapered demon.

I’ll sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty from a nightmarish flashback of the day before.  The monster, naked, stomping around clumsily, tipping over talking red dump trucks, launching a little yellow car over his shoulder, kicking a wooden airplane, and knocking over the books again.  Everywhere he has been is marked with his presence, his scent, and his saliva. Animals lie motionless about the area.  Food scraps are scattered ubiquitously. Cheerios are pulverised.  Ringo is missing an arm and a head.

Then comes the noise.  First, he opens his mouth wide, baring way too many teeth for a monster his age.  He swings his baby blond monster mullet from side to side.  Then he wrinkles his brow and unleashes a great roar.  His screech is piercingly harsh, coming from the depths of his desire to communicate, paralyzing me with annoyance, and forcing my wife to run out of the house and go to work at any hour of the day.  When he finds water, he splashes violently, drowning the little pirate guy and tossing his boat onto dry land, screaming all the while.  Removing the beast from water after he is exposed to it, or saying “no” to anything for that matter, is apparently akin to torturing him, or at least taking his milk cup away before he’s finished.

He runs with a confused sense of purpose, despite not having entirely grasped the concept of walking or, more importantly, balance. This presents an entirely separate set of problems: furniture is knocked over, he slips repeatedly in the pool, he trips, he falls down, he bumps his head, he smashes his face into foot rests, he tumbles again, and again, and again.  He’ll chase the dog until he ends up rolling down the hill in the backyard because he doesn’t quite understand downhill or uphill.   And though he seems to be understanding more and more what I am saying to him, you never quite know if you’re making any sense to the creature or if it simply learns by its mistakes.  He just keeps stomping, and tripping, and getting back up, and eating, and running, and tripping over the same object over again. 

The falls he takes they pay stunt doubles to do in the movies.  They leave me cringing at my sweet little nemesis’ pitfalls, but they don’t phase the cheeky monster at all.  It’s really like babysitting my friend Tim when he’s walking zombie blacked out drunk.  He’s blond.  He’s half naked.  He feels no pain though he falls down a lot.  He knocks shit over, he headbutts people, he mumbles and moans, he eats with abandon, and you never quite know if what you are saying is getting through to him.  He just keeps going, with no remorse for the wreckage he has sewn or the drinks he has spilled.  He is pretty much unstoppable. Let down your guard, and the books will be on the hardwood floor again.   

Lucky for me, I have a lot of experience with Godzilla.  We go way back.  All the way back to the fifth grade at Our Lady of the Ridge School.  That October, I was finally able to host a sleepover birthday party.  Five dudes, some pizza, Nerf indoor golf, staying up late watching my buddy Greg hump a pillow and pretending it was Christie Brinkley, and scary movies on VHS.  The scary movies were key.  The precedent was set at the other Jason’s legendary sleepovers the two prior years.  At Jay’s house, we got to watch all the classics: Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Ghoulies 2, and Friday the 13th part 7.  We would watch them one after the other as we drank generic Jewel pop till we puked while his Mom smoked cigarettes at the kitchen table.

The guys all expected something along those lines.  It was practically Halloween after all! But I knew there was no way my mom would let that go down.  I told her to get a scary movie, but there’s no way she was coming back with something rated “R.”  She came home with The Return of Godzilla starring the Perry Mason dude and a bunch of frightened Japanese extras.  My heart sank. The party’s trajectory took a sudden downturn.  Lucky for me, we were a mere two hours away from Greg humping the pillow.  Thereafter, nobody even thought about the movie. And though it was mocked, we did watch at least half of it.  That’s all I needed.

I learned quick how to deal with a beast like Godzilla: you can’t.  All you can do is run around flailing your arms and pray he doesn’t smash the important stuff. If that doesn’t work, you just beg for the kick and hope it’s all just a weird dream.