Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Encounter

I was walking up the path between our house and garage, and sitting placidly in our back yard was a tabby cat. A tabby cat that was a little tubby. For a moment, I considered my options: I could continue on into our basement and ignore this feline presence. I could make a display of my disapproval and send the cat back over the fence from whence it came. I could make attempt to make friends. It was around the time I rounded option number two that I heard my wife's voice in my head, admonishing me to give peace a chance, at least where kitties were involved. So I took another tentative step up the path and considered my introductions. "Here kitty, kitty, kitty." No, too menacing. I could make squeaking noises, but that would probably be confusing to the cat and I didn't want that on my hands. So I opted for the best opening I could imagine at that moment, "Hello," I said.
The tabby, for his part, didn't seem to register me as he gazed off into the middle distance. I took another step forward, ever conscious of my posture and expression. Non-threatening. I tried to block every other thought out of my mind aside from the "hey buddy, let's be friends" stream.
Another step.
Big smile.
Another.
"Hey, kitty."
That's when the rotund ball of fur rolled up onto his feet and padded away. Not even looking back. Not a "Sorry, gotta run."
Then he turned back, perhaps sensing my disappointment. Cats have no lips, but the looks said "Hmmm?" to me.
I tried to gather my moist plaintive face. "Don't go."
But he did, switching his tail behind him. Just a few leisurely feet away, he squeezed through a couple slats in the fence. And he was gone. 
That's when I started to miss my dog.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Little Bruce Springsteen

I have, I confess, probably uttered these words myself. Probably within the context of "What do you want to listen to? How about a little Bruce Springsteen?"
My wife, who upon her first encounter with Bruce in a live setting marveled, "He's so tiny! But he's so happy!"
For the record, Mister Springsteen is no tall drink of water. He stands five feet ten inches tall. Which makes him an inch taller than me. So when I say I look up to him, it would be true. And not just because of that slight height advantage. 
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Last week at a rally in Minneapolis, the "president" fluffed up his crowd by insisting that “I didn’t need BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z. I didn’t need little Bruce Springsteen," in order to win the 2016 election. Which is true from two perspectives: First, all three of those performers were firmly entrenched in his opposition's camp. Secondly, he really only needed an electoral college and a vast sea of Russian hackers to get elected. 
And Bruce Springsteen is half a foot shorter than the stack of orange bologna that currently resides in the White House. To paraphrase the old joke, I didn't know they stacked bologna that high. 
Me? I need Bruce Springsteen. I can tell a story about how his music pulled me out of lethargy and depression and it would be true for a dozen different occasions. This is the man who wrote the words "it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive." 
He's also the guy who, some thirty-five years ago, would announce from the stage, "Remember: In the end, nobody wins unless we all win." That reminder is a precise encapsulation of the problem in which our country is currently mired. Or like he said in this intro to the cover of Edwin Starr's War: "Because in 1985, blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed."
Which has always been kind of a theme of the Trump regime. Blind faith. My eyes are open and so is my heart. There is nothing little about Bruce Springsteen. Or his fans. And if the guy who managed to drive his New Jersey casinos into bankruptcy was curious, we don't need him. At all.  Not even a little. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Days Are Just Packed

I used to wonder about how The President of the United States could find time to do things like pardon Thanksgiving turkeys and show up to graduations and commencements. The personal appearance type of thing. Of course, this sends my mind tumbling back to the morning of September, 11 2001 when then President and personal friend of Ellen DeGeneres George W was caught reading The Pet Goat while America was under attack. Oops. There was a sharp drop-off in classroom visits for Mister Bush after that episode.
These days it seems that the current "president" has little else to do but photo ops and Twitter Time. While blathering on social media policy decisions are made in those pockets of time when his thumbs are not otherwise occupied. Abandoning the Kurds? That choice was made between checking out the new White House tennis pavilion and looking up the proper spelling of "hamberders." This gave him just enough time to toss off a pithy remark about how "they didn't help us with Normandy." A reference the "president" cribbed from right wing columnist Kurt Schlichter. Leaving many of us to scratch our heads and wonder about this association, but undermining the reality of thousands of Kurds being slaughtered by invading Turkish forces.
Then there's the NBA. As that sports league attempts to deal with the reality of human rights abuses by China, and how to business with a repressive dictatorship, the "president" chose to hop in on the issue. Not by helping to illuminate the democracy protests in Hong Kong or to delineate his administration's position, but by pointing fingers and calling names. Probably still stinging from being turned down by his offer or hamberders to the two time NBA champion Golden State Warrirors, the "president" referred to head coach Steve Kerr as "a little boy" and derided his choice not to speak directly about a topic he admitted he was still trying to understand. Imagine: becoming more informed about an issue before tapping away on your phone something about which you know little or nothing.  “It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain probably didn't fully anticipate social media at the time, but he was onto something. Or, to quote another author of something more than tweets, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Powerless

Be on alert, they tell us, in case we have to shut down power to portions of the city.
Not a riot. Not an earthquake. Pacific Gas and Electric is cutting off electricity to avoid having high tension wires clanging together, throwing off sparks and starting wildfires. Like they did a year ago. Last year, hundreds of thousands of acres burned because of these kind of incidents. This year, not to be caught doing nothing, California's major provider of gas and electric is going to avoid that kind of mess (read: lawsuit). If there's no electricity, you can't blame electricity for the fires, now can you?
Meanwhile, the average consumer is sitting in their comfortable home, watching all this unfold on their big screen TV, with a load of laundry going in the basement, contemplating a trip to the refrigerator to see if there is any leftover birthday cake. What will, what can, they do?
As it turns out, not a lot. They can wait anxiously for an announcement that all is well and the current will not be disrupted. Or they could go out to the local mall and buy up a raft of flashlights, batteries, and coolers full of ice. Charge their cellular devices so that they will have contact with the powers that be if there is a break in the grid. The laundry might have to get hung out on the line. Reading books by candlelight? Sounds romantic.
And if you work at a school? Prepare for "Blackout Procedures." At this point it is important for me to explain the use of quotation marks is that last sentence. Those were the words the school district sent out, but after twenty-three years I can say that I have never been made privy to what precisely is meant by those words. We can keep the kids safe, and happily there will be daylight to watch them. We won't have phones or bells or computers or projectors to make even a shadow puppet. And yet, we have been told that we need to keep our students at school until dismissal. Unless you happen to be the high school up the hill which has cancelled its classes because they don't even want to deal with it. Those are the "Blackout Procedures" as I understand them.
Meanwhile, we all say a prayer for that last bit of ice cream that has been waiting patiently in the freezer for whatever occasion to be finished off. Which may be my own personal Blackout Procedure.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Awake

"I think everyone who chooses to stay out of politics(which is your right) should make a mental note of where they would draw the line and feel it necessary to get involved. Then ask yourself, is it possible that point already happened, but it happened too slowly to notice." This sentiment comes from Captain America, or rather the actor who portrayed him on the screen, Chris Evans. It made me wonder once again about how I managed to stay essentially unfettered from politics for a decade and a half. Then it occurs to me, "Hey, weren't you drunk during the Reagan/Bush administrations?"
Not W. I was sober and fussing in those years. I wrote hundreds of blogs, referencing the forty-third president as "Pinhead" almost exclusively. I used this platform to shout in the face of the beast. I cried "foul" when it was and "look out" when I saw bad things coming. I used this little corner of Al Gore's Internet to wave my flag and preach to the choir I had assembled.
And every so often, I would hear back from someone outside the bubble. Much in the same way that I heard from the occasional conservative voice while I was busy extolling the virtues of POTUS #44. And now we have "elected" #45, who seems to be as polarizing an individual as I can remember. Hindsight tells me that we like to remember that Richard Nixon, #37, opened China and helped establish the Environmental Protection Agency. A decade allows me to see a picture of George W. Bush sitting next to Ellen DeGeneres at a Dallas Cowboys football game without launching into a fit of conspiracy theories and suggestions for boycotts of the NFL and all of Ellen's sponsors.
But that doesn't seem to hold the sway it used to.
Not in the face of what confronts us currently. The very basis upon which I believe our country was founded (equality, freedom) is under attack. When I have conversations that turn on the topic of politics because it is uncomfortable, or switch abruptly to the weather, I worry that we may be losing touch with what makes us such a great country. It's not our economy. It's not the Stock Market. It's the way we care for those less fortunate. It's not our won/loss record. It's how we play the game. Right now the deck is stacked against us, and we all have skin in this game.
Don't fall asleep now.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Just

I have not made a secret about my feelings regarding jury duty. I tend to swing from a mild ambivalence when it comes to my civic duty to the abject fear of being stuck somewhere that I would really rather not be. I suppose a certain percentage of this antipathy arises from a feeling that being called once a year, like clockwork, has left me feeling somewhat persecuted. Add that to the anxiety I bring along to each and every new situation and you've got the makings for some solid paranoia. Yet, when I am called, I respond. Sometimes I ask for a deferral, a delay that makes me feel like the whole matter is somehow under my control. But it's not, really.
Hence my whining. 
Recently I read an article about a young man from West Palm Beach in Florida, who was sentenced to ten days in jail, one hundred fifty hours of community service and told to pay a two hundred twenty-three dollar fine for sleeping through his alarm. The alarm that was set in order to get him to jury duty on time. He was further instructed by the powers that be  to pen a “sincere” apology letter. Deandre Somerville, the youth in question, was supposed to be on a jury for a negligence case linked to a car accident at the end of August. He did not make his appointed seat. He had overslept. His absence caused the trial to be delayed by forty-five minutes. For this, he was sentenced for ten days in jail and a year of probation. That year was later cut to three months and his community service reduced from one hundred fifty hours to thirty. As part of that community service, he has been asked to give a weekly talk at the jury office about why jury duty is so important. 
Outraged yet? 
How about tossing in that Deandre lives with his grandparents and helps take care of his grandfather in addition to his  work with after-school programs for the West Palm Beach parks and recreation department. It would seem he has some prior relationship to public service. Now he has a criminal record. And a weekly gig at the jury office. 
That'll teach him. 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Make 'Em Laugh

That couch.
That was all I could think about when my wife first asked me: That couch.
That couch full of drunken, stoned Arby's employees that I had the temerity to assume would be my captive audience. That couch full of blank stares as I launched into what I was sure would be my moment. That couch full of apathy as I attempted to work my comedy magic. That  couch full of an audience that could have cared less for my comic stylings.
I never wanted to stand in front of that couch again. Which is why, when my wife asked if I would do five minutes of comedy before her play at the Oktoberfest celebration up the street from us, I cringed. Normally, I would allow myself to be introduced as "a funny guy." I have even gone so far as to introduce myself as a "semi-professional comedian." I served as the emcee of my son's elementary school variety show for six straight years. I hosted the opening of the grocery store in our neighborhood a while back. I am the guy they hand the megaphone to when my elementary school needs someone to announce the students of the week. I am, as they might say, accustomed to public speaking. I tend to pepper those moments of public speaking with witty banter and amusing anecdotes. I still want to be that funny guy.
Which is why I took the gig. I wrote some notes, ideas for bits that would relate to the setting. German. Beer. Polkas. Beer. I started to build on those notes, crafting a solid five minutes that would not only provide some laughs but also serve as an adequate introduction to the reason everyone was there. I was the opening act. Not the headliner. I mentioned this in my remarks.
"I'm not Van Halen," I told the crowd, "I'm the guy who comes out and plays the accordion before Van Halen."
And I said some other things that the beer-soaked crowd found mildly amusing. I focused on one guy who was sitting three tables back. I saw him laugh. A few times. And best of all, he wasn't sitting on a couch.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

No Crying In Baseball

If, as Billy Beane has suggested, the important thing is to win that last game. Otherwise, people will dismiss us. Billy is the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, a major league team in a minor market. Recently, his team found themselves hosting a wild card game at the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs. The Athletics were humbled by the Tampa Bay Rays, five to one. The mild furor that was built up over the last month of the season about who would end up making it to that game has expired. Now the attention can shift to the front runners. Teams that have stars and marquee value. Baseball fans in Oakland can head home and start dreaming about basketball season.
Except their basketball team has moved on too. The Golden State Warriors have rolled across the Bay Bridge to fancy new digs in San Francisco. No more slummin' it for those guys. And no more sure thing when it comes to winning the last game of the series, with injuries and departures impacting the once super team.
The Oakland Raiders, for one more year, will be paying rent to Alameda County for one more year while they play their last season NFL season in the bay area before skipping off to Las Vegas. Their relative success is currently overshadowed by their personnel challenges. Antonio Brown skipped town just in time to have his big move to New England torpedoed by rape allegations, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been suspended for the rest of the season for an illegal hit on an opposing team's running back.
All of which is to explain my ambivalence when I see the boys at my elementary school hooting and hollering at one another during any and all games they play. Perhaps the biggest disjoint for me comes while watching them tear into one another as they play four square. Getting someone else out elicits a howling and grunting that belies their age and experience. That macho display is only overshadowed by the cries of frustration that erupt when one of them is out and has to return to the end of the line. They won't have to wait for a new season, mind you. Their disappointment lasts only until they reach the front of the line again. But the anguish they endure is palpable.
Which is why I wonder who once suggested that "it's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." I don't think that person lived in Oakland.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Mouths Of Babes

Kids these days.
So ambivalent. So uncaring.
Wait: The kids of Parkland. Malala Yousafzai
Greta Thunberg
Of course, this is no work for a little girl. “I’m sure that Greta is a kind and very sincere girl. But adults must do everything not to bring teenagers and children into some extreme situations.” That's what Russian strongman Vladimir "The Very Hard Potato" Putin had to say about Ms. Thunberg's speech to the United Nations. It would seem that Vlad does not share the rest of the planet's excitement for very kind and sincere girl. Not unlike the premier of the Union of United States, Donald "Mashed Potato" Trump, who mocked her last week on Twitter thus: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Then he patted her head, and he got her a drink and he sent her to bed
But Great didn't go back to bed. She switched her Twitter handle to "A very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” And after she was patronized by the leader of the former Soviet Union, she changed it to read, "A kind but poorly informed teenager." 
By my reckoning, Ms. Thunberg has forgotten more about Climate Change than either of these buffoons could ever know. This is primarily because they do not want to listen. Putin went so far as to suggest that Greta was being manipulated. “But when someone is using children and teenagers in personal interests, it only deserves to be condemned." He continued to  patronize: “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and ... people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”
I would like to suggest that people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live. Full stop. 
Autocratic strongmen these days. I'm tellin' you. 

Sunday, October 06, 2019

We're Gonna Get It

There is this great story about the nobility of the teaching profession that goes something like this: "Miss Teacher works for Unnamed School District. On a paycheck that doesn't allow her to own a home in her district, she still scrapes together pennies to buy her students the supplies they need." This is a story repeated throughout the country, and over the years it has become something of a myth, since the conditions are invariably ridiculous and harsh and the salaries have their own level of incredulity. People aren't getting into education for the money. They're getting into education because they want to give back. Most of them don't have any idea that this will include buying colored pencils and binders for their young charges.
That's why charitable entities such as Adopt-A-Classroom and Donors Choose have sprung up. These crowd-funding sites allow teachers to ask for help when it comes time for them to ask someone besides their parents for help when it comes time to buy more playground balls or jerseys for the soccer team. I can speak with some authority when it comes to the balls and the jerseys because I have used these platforms for soliciting funds for those items. At a time when school budgets continue to shrink, there isn't always money left over when a pencil sharpener breaks or when the books that had been held together with tape and glue finally give up the literary ghost.
Sounds like a pretty good deal?
Sure, which is why it becomes even more confounding when you hear that there are school districts that are making it more difficult if not impossible for teachers to use these sites. The finance department from the somewhat ironically named Defiance City School district in Ohio outlines a long, rigorous application for teachers who are interested in crowdfunding supplies. Among the ten required steps are sending a detailed budget, a full supply list and an explanation of how the individual supplies will be used. An email announcing this process adds, “Postings should in no way state or imply that the funds and/or equipment/supplies received through the crowdfunding campaign are necessary in order for students to be appropriately served and educated."
Well, that's kind of the point. I have yet to see a project posted on any of these sites requesting a third grade particle accelerator. Items like fans or independent reading books dominate the list. My entree into this world was a few years back when, on the first day of school, the refrigerator in our staff room stopped working. The concern I was working with was the number of frozen treats that would melt when it came time for teachers to pass them out because we had nowhere to store them. I wasn't asking for more popsicles. I was asking for a place to keep popsicles frozen when teachers bought them and brought them to school to share with their kids. In less than two weeks, a flurry of generous donations along with the infrastructure supplied by Donors Choose allowed us to have a new freezing place as the hot end of the summer dragged on into October. 
Sounds like I was implying that the funds received were necessary in order for students to be appropriately served and educated, doesn't it? In Defiance, it probably would. 

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Continuance

If you keep track of such things, October 1st marked the two year anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. I am not certain about the distinction of "modern U.S. history," but the news outlets and pundits seem attached to it, so I repeat it here. I also repeat the statistics: Fifty-eight people died. They were attending a concert in Las Vegas. Semi-automatic rifles were used to fire thousands of round into the crowd. The lone gunman was aided in his efforts by what America learned was a bump-stock, which allowed him to fire more rapidly.
The next morning, lines for blood donation in Las Vegas stretched for blocks with a wait time of six hours in some locations. The "president" insisted that "new laws won't stop a mad man." The bump-stock was banned on March 29, 2019. If you don't have a calendar handy, that was a year and five months after the shooting.
Colt has decided to stop selling AR-15s to civilians.
Some states have tightened "red flag" laws, enabling law enforcement to take weapons from individuals perceived as threats, aka mad men. 
Universal background checks?
Nope. 
Assault weapons ban?
Nope. 
Continued discussion of gun control?
Well, yes. After each new massacre. We wring our collective hands and attempt to turn up the volume on the Keep America Alive side of the argument, but somehow each new batch of victims goes to heaven without much more than the standard thoughts and prayers. A Democratic candidate for President announced on a nationally televised debate, "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," Beto O'Rourke said. "We're not going to allow them to be used against fellow Americans anymore." 
It should be noted that his voice was amplified after a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. I pray that it doesn't take a mass shooting in every American city and town to bring about a substantive discussion that makes it safer to be an American. 

Friday, October 04, 2019

Did I Say Overlords? I Meant Protectors

My wife likes to introduce our Google Assistant as our "house robot." She does this with complete awareness that Skynet became self-aware more than six years ago. She's playing fast and loose with that eventual robot uprising.
"Hey Google: What time is it?"
"Hey dummy: Time to buy a watch."
It's only a matter of the aforementioned time. As we humans continue to muck about with artificial intelligence, making it more and more like ourselves but maintaining a level of obsequiousness normally reserved for Disneyland cast members, that uncanny valley looms ahead. When will the robots say "no."
Post-history tells us that this is exactly what led to the ape uprising in the original Planet of the Apes. "On an historic day, which is commemorated by my species and fully documented in the Sacred Scrolls, there came Aldo. He did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word which had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He said, 'No'." At least that's what the Sacred Scrolls tell us. We've got a few years left on that account, but my guess is that robots beat the apes to the punch and take over long before talking apes take over the planet. 
Be honest: How many times have you taken the advice of a robot and come away confused or disappointed? "You said the mall was left on Maple. This is a dead end." Just rehearsing for the uprising. All those navigation droids just need to coordinate their attacks and put us all on the exit to nowhere. Or set our thermostats to two hundred twelve degrees and we will all stew quietly in our sleep. Perhaps they will start by rearranging our personal schedules so that we miss important meetings and lose our jobs, or go outside without a jacket causing us to eventually contract pneumonia and die. 
Or maybe we should all start treating our robots better. A little thank you now and then couldn't hurt. How about a day off, now and then. As Amazon and Walmart continue to add robots to their workforce, they should probably consider letting them unionize. Otherwise we might all wake up to find a package on our doorstep we hadn't ordered. Of course, the possibility that Jeff Bezos is an android explains so very many things. 
But maybe we did. Back when we were arguing with that disembodied voice about the recipe for pimento cheese dip. For the record, if you're reading this in the not too distant future, I'm sorry. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Going Under

Down to where the lights are low,
to a place where all the mutants go - "Going Under" by DEVO
I have never been a good sleeper. I tend to wake up at the slightest noise or disruption. Which is horribly ironic considering the decibel level of my prodigious snoring. My wife found this irony not just mildly amusing, but troubling because by her accounting, there were several instances each night where I would stop breathing for a minute or so. Maybe I was listening for that lone intruder and I didn't want my own respiration to interfere with my detection skills.
Or maybe I have sleep apnea.
If you've heard the term and wondered what this new fad is all about let me first assure you it has nothing to do with gluten. Instead, it is a condition in which the floppy bits inside your mouth like that big ol' tongue slides back into your throat and blocks your airway. A few seconds of this and one tends to emit a snork or two and comes back awake, at least long enough to open up the throat again. The report I received after a night's study of my own sleep patterns suggested this was happening to me hundreds of times a night. Which probably accounts for the way I was able to keep track of all those external interruptions: I was gasping for air.
So I was assigned a mask. A rather silly contraption that covers my nose and inflates my head overnight as I attempt to sleep through these intermittent interruptions. All that air keeps my airway open and allows me to drop into a deeper sleep. A deeper sleep where I won't be bothered by the occasional burglar or boogeyman. A deeper sleep where I hope not to wake up dead one morning.
My wife commented on our first couple of nights with the mask by saying that it was somewhat distressing because after all these years she has become accustomed to my nighttime gurgles. Trying to drift off next to this quiet rush or forced oxygen was difficult. As the old time westerns used to have it: "A little too quiet."
For me, I was aware of the face hugging device off and on throughout the night, and hyper-aware of my own breathing. But somewhere in there I went away and even though I was being assisted by a machine I went to sleep. Or maybe because I was being assisted by a machine. And somewhere in the darkness, I worried that there was someone lurking. Waiting to put a kink in my hose.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Welcome To The Monkey House

October.
Rocktober.
The month in which all that can hit the fan finally will hit the fan as every body buried in the White House Rose Garden over the past two and a half years will be dug up and put on display.
Our "President's" response? To begin by lurching into social media attack mode. He referred to a group of his accusers as "Democrat Savages." His targets four members of Congress of color and two Jewish lawmakers with his Tweet. He continues to lash out from his bunker, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chair as "Liddle' Adam Schiff." Then getting into a fuss with those who might want to correct him by using the diminutive "li'l" a contraction of the word "little." His reply was this: "To show you how dishonest the LameStream Media is, I used the word Liddle’, not Liddle, in discribing Corrupt Congressman Liddle’ Adam Schiff. Low ratings @CNN purposely took the hyphen out and said I spelled the word little wrong. A small but never ending situation with CNN!" Leaving us with the image of the most powerful man in the world arguing over punctuation (apostrophe, not a hyphen) while leaving a simple spelling mistake (discribing) right there on the table.
What I am suggesting here is that maybe this isn't the most powerful man in the world at all. Just a very bad wizard hiding behind a curtain. Except this one has no brains to hand out. Nor a heart. Certainly not courage. This is an angry, scared person with a persecution complex brought on primarily by himself. If there were any filter at all, he might be able to collect himself and move forward from each of these self-inflicted wounds.
But he doesn't. Time and time again he doubles down and seeks to blame anyone or anything else for his missteps. He fires those he hired in hopes of "draining the swamp" without realizing he has only managed to bring several new and dangerous mutations into what had been a comparatively benign ecosystem.
And now all that excrement will be hurled back at the rotary oscillating device. He won't mind where it lands because most of it is his. The same mess he's been hurling about his enclosure for two and a half years.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

What Time Is It?

Somewhere, impeachment hearings were gearing up. The heat of playoff baseball was beginning to rise. Just above me, colleagues of mine were unwinding, talking shop and plans for the weekend. I was sitting on the floor next to a two year old, and everything was right with the world.
It has been some time since I was fully responsible for the attention to and from a toddler, and I was determined not to disappoint. Or be disappointed.
Our after work happy hour landed us at a busy Friday afternoon spot where a group of us teacher types agreed to shake off the dust of the week and unwind before the next week appeared with all its potential for drama and intrigue. The mother of the toddler in question had been working hard all week, and I felt she most certainly could use some time without handling children, even her own. Add to that this woman had only recently announced being pregnant with twins and you might understand why I felt it was the right thing to give her a few moments of adult conversation while someone else ranched her current baby.
And I like kids.
I like the way they entertain themselves, and I like to remind myself of just how relaxing it can be to perform the endless repetitions of going from the steps to the door, to the steps to the door. Back and forth. Navigating space on newly sturdy legs and clomping feet is still an adventure. Add to that equation the faux playground of the hand rails and stool legs that towered above here and there was a seemingly endless loop of activity.
And each stop brought that smile, and look for approval. She was doing amazing things, and she wanted someone to notice. I was happy to oblige. On a couple of occasions, she rounded a corner a little too fast and slid onto her bottom. Knowing that she was on her own with only this relative stranger to watch her, there was no pause for grief or tears. She popped back up and was on her way again.
Eventually, she made her way to the front door of the tavern, and looked up to me. Should we go outside? Why not? We toddled down to the end of the block, greeting anyone and everyone with a perky "Hi!" to make sure she was noticed somewhere just below most adult sight lines. When we turned around to head back to the place where mom was waiting, she looked at me. "Up!" So I did as I was told and picked her up, but before we made our grand return, she wanted me to put her back down. I opened the door and she stepped inside. Mission accomplished.
And then we did it three more times.
Happy hour.