Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Battle of Los Angeles

Sleeping's been getting better these days. Not great. Better. Better than the last 10 months of new baby-hood. And the reason it's been getting better isn't that the baby girl has been sleeping better (she hasn't), but because I'm sleeping in the office on an Aero Bed. Zzzs a plenty in the office. Far enough away to avoid hearing any 1am wakeups. Or 3 am. Or 5:30 am. Etc.

So you can imagine the wonderfully rested and refreshed state I'm in when when the soothing melodies of a harp recording emanate from my phone's alarm in the morning. Bliss. And you can also imagine the confusion, then irritation, followed by anger-ation when the very non-soothing sounds of something scratching on the roof woke me up yesterday before the harp alarm could gently lift me from my slumber.

I ripped the blankets away and stormed toward the nearest door. I took a few steps outside and scanned the roof edge. Nothing. I came back inside and headed directly for the patio door and went outside. I spotted the scratching culprit: A squirrel was gnawing on the gutters on the roof edge. When he saw me he stopped and froze, possibly thinking that if he stood still I wouldn't see him and he could get back to gutter gnawing. But I wasn't fooled. I picked up the nearest thing I could find that I could throw at him: An apple from our tree. Those apples are mealy and gross anyway. I chucked the apple at the squirrel and he ran to the other side of the roof.

A short walk around to the other side and I spotted him again, frozen in his stance. I picked up a small rock and threw it. He took off and vanished out of sight. The rock made a clinking sound wherever it tumbled down and eventually landed. Probably onto my neighbor's truck.

At least the gnawing was over, but I wouldn't be hearing the soothing sounds of the harp this morning. I made my way back onto the patio and reached for the door handle. Locked. Because I was standing there in only my boxer briefs, and the sun was already up, I thought it wasn't a good idea to hang out too long on the patio so the neighbors didn't get any funny ideas like I'm crazy and I like to throw apples at squirrels in my underwear for fun. The question was, do I knock on the window to our bedroom? That would surely wake up Lily and the baby. And that's not an option.

I went around to the side door and checked it. Open. Good thing I was in such a hurry to maim the gnawing creature that I didn't lock that first door. Disaster averted. Rumors in the neighborhood of Lee's strange behavior averted. Gotta remember to put on some clothes next time before throwing apples at squirrels.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let Me Ride

To this point in the boy Judah's life, the only wheeled mode of transportation he's had control over has been a tricycle. Sturdy, not too fast, easy for him to maneuver and control. Recently, on the second leg of our vacation, he got a taste of riding a big boy bike. It had training wheels, but he was able to sit up higher, go faster, and get the sensation of being slightly out of control again. And he loved it.

So when we got back home, Lily and I discussed fast-tracking the whole plan of getting him a big boy bike when he turned four. We searched online and found some decent bikes for kids in the 3-6 year range, but they were all fairly spendy for something he'd be destroying and growing out of soon. On a gift-buying excursion to Toys R Us, we made a detour to the bike section and had Judah try out a few. He liked one with Go Diego Go on it and the price was right, but we still weren't quite ready to pull the trigger on the purchase.

The following weekend, after a playdate at the beach in Santa Monica, Judah and I were driving home when I spotted a kid's bike just the right size for him at a yard sale. I pulled over and asked how much.
"10 dollars" the woman said.
"10 dollars?" I asked.
"10 dollars" she said holding up 10 fingers.
I got out of our car, unbuckled Judah and had him sit on the bike. Slightly big for him, and it didn't have training wheels, but I knew he'd grow into it.

"Do you want this bike?" I asked Judah.
"No" he said trying to get back into the car.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
Judah was already buckling himself into his child seat.
"It doesn't have training wheels" he replied. So cute.
"Aw, well we'll get training wheels for it!" I told him. I was obviously more excited about the bike than he was.
"Okay, I like that bike." he said.

I pulled out my wallet and looked inside. On first glance I could see I didn't have enough cash, and I counted. Nine bucks.
"I only have nine dollars" I said to the woman, holding my wallet open for her to see. "Will you take nine dollars?"
"Sure" she said and she took the money.
As I put the bike into my car, the woman said something in super-fast Spanish that I couldn't understand. The people with her laughed.

When we got home, Judah took a nap and I searched online for the best training wheels. The ones at REI seemed like they'd be sturdy, so I called to see if they had them in stock at the store in Santa Monica.

"Hi. I'm calling to see if you have kid's bike training wheels in stock" I asked over the phone.
"Kid's training wheels? Let me check. Can you hold?" said the REI salesperson.
"Thanks" I replied.
A few minutes passed, then somebody different picked up the line.
"Hi, what were you holding for?"
"Kid's bike training wheels" I said.
"Kid's training wheels? Let me check. Please hold" said the 2nd REI salesperson.

A few minutes passed, then the first REI person picked up the line.
"Hi, you were looking for kid's training wheels?"
"Yes" I said.
"Okay, I checked the computer and it says we should have some in stock but I'd have to transfer you to the bike department if you want them to see if we have any in store. Would you like me to transfer you?"
"That would be great" I replied.
"Okay, hold please" said the 1st REI salesperson.

A few minutes passed, then another different REI person picked up the line.
"Bike department"
"I wanted to see if you have kid's bike training wheels in stock" I said.
"Training wheels? Let me check. Please hold" said this different REI salesperson.
By this time Judah had woken up, and we decided to play some basketball in the driveway while the phone was on speaker.

More minutes passed, then another different REI person picked up the line.
"Hi, were you asking for kid's training wheels?"
"Yes" I said.
"Okay, I'll check. Please hold" said this REI salesperson.

(This is not an exaggeration or a stretching of the truth. If anything, more people than I'm writing about picked up and put me on hold. I can't help but think these REI kids were bored and wanted to mess with me. Or maybe there were actually 5 or 6 REI employees bumping into each other searching for training wheels in the bike department.)

Even more minutes passed, then some REI person picked up the line.
"Hi, you were the one asking about kid's training wheels?"
"Yes" I said.
"I looked for some, but we don't actually have any in the store. We usually have some, but if you want to come by in a few days we might have some. Or you could always order online."
"Thanks so much for checking" I said, and we said our goodbyes and got off the phone. Good thing I called in advance.

Judah and I drove to Toys R Us to buy training wheels. I grabbed the cheapo brand that I've seen on just about every other kid's bike, and we were about to make the most efficient toy store shopping excursion getaway in the history of children, when I was distracted by all the cool helmets for kids. In the middle of trying every single helmet on Judah's head, I noticed that there was a package of training wheels for sale that looked like a revolution in training wheel technology. They had a spring coil design that would ensure that the wheels give a little when the boy leaned one way or the other, supposedly enabling him to learn how to balance faster than regular training wheels. Slightly more expensive, but... sold.

We arrived home, and I made a beeline for the toolbox. I was determined to see the boy on the bike that afternoon. Apparently with all the new training wheel technology, they didn't make it any easier to install the damn things, but I succeeded in getting them on and soon Judah was pedaling his way around our neighborhood. It was tough to get him to put the bike away, but the upside of a big boy bike is that it makes him big boy tired, so he was feeling winded enough to save it for tomorrow.

The next day we went for a ride again, and I quickly realized I couldn't keep up unless I was on my bike too. This time a we ventured a little further out onto a bike path down Culver Blvd that's completely separated with a median from the cars whizzing by. I had one of those amazing fatherhood moments where I realize I'm witnessing something new and amazing with my son for the first time. We rode for a while. Judah and I laughed at the sight of each other riding on a bike. He chuckled and said "That's silly. My wheel is making a funny noise." I rode my bike up next to him to hear what he was talking about. As if on cue, his training wheel fell off and his bike and his body came crashing down onto the ground, only to be momentarily interrupted by his face hitting my handlebars on the way down.

Luckily he wasn't badly hurt, but I was sure he was going to cry his eyes out from the shock of the fall. But he got up like nothing happened. I saw that his left training wheel had fallen off. It was on the ground a few feet away. I tried to put it back on and realized a part was missing - the part that held the wheel on - probably from back when his wheel started making the silly noise. We walked our bikes back and forth looking for the missing piece, but we couldn't find it. We walked the bikes all the way home. I got out the toolbox again and took off the wheels and put them back into the packaging for a return.

The next day after work I walked up to the returns counter at Toys R Us. I said "I'd like to return this" and handed over the training wheel package and the receipt. The lady didn't say one word. Just reached into the register and gave me my money back. I headed straight for the cheapo training wheels and got the hell out of there.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Into the Drink

One of the first tour stops on our three week vacation was the Russian River in Sonoma, CA. It's become something of an annual trip with friends of ours. We rent a house on the river and try to get our ya-ya's out as much as possible in one week's time. This year's house came with a canoe tethered to the dock, and that became our vehicle of choice during our time there.

Inevitably with all the consumption from keg plus the attempts to kill our canned beer supply, this would lead to a drunken attempt at late night canoeing for me and the two men on the trip, Aaron and Jesse. If you haven't been in a canoe lately, they're generally built for two people, as our canoe was. Because there was three of us, and because I was the lightest of the three, I would be sitting in the middle. And being more than a bit inebriated, I knew I should be seated in a throne fit for a king. Not sitting on the floor of the canoe where my ass might get wet, not sitting on a low stool, but sitting in one of those white plastic patio chairs with a proper back to it so I could recline whilst the others paddled me around.

We propped the chair into the middle of the canoe, Aaron climbed into the back of the canoe, I sat down in the patio chair, and Jesse climbed into the front. For some reason I had a paddle, and I actually made a half-assed-fully-drunk attempt at a row before we all decided that wasn't going to fly. I made an awkward maneuver to hand the paddle back to Aaron, and succeeded in handing it off only to have the weight shift in the canoe first to the right, then to the left and tipping the canoe over and dumping the three of us into the water. We hadn't made it more than 5 feet from the dock.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the canoe capsized, but the three of us put together in that mental state didn't exactly equate to one rocket scientist. A higher center of gravity in a canoe isn't what the canoe inventors had in mind. But it was funny as hell and we laughed our asses off as we made our way back up to the house to change out of soaked clothes. And that was the end of that night.

The next morning I saw the contents of Aaron's wallet laid out on the dining room table to dry. I was relieved I didn't bring anything important down to the canoe. Or at least that's what I thought until that afternoon when I started looking for my asthma inhaler and I couldn't find it. The inability to find one's asthma inhaler always seems to trigger a minor asthma attack, or at least trick the mind into thinking it's happening. That's what happens to me at least. And it always leads to an obsessed search for it until it is found.

I vaguely recalled having the inhaler in the pocket of my jacket when the canoe capsized the night before. I could only imagine that it was at the bottom of the river. Less than 5 feet from the dock. I was going to have to dive for it, and probably cause an asthma attack in the process of holding my breath and gasping for air over and over when I came up for air. I could always buy a Primatene Mist inhaler at Safeway, but that always feels more cracked out than the prescription inhaler variety, so the diving drill seemed like the better option.

Judah's kid-sized swimming goggles came in handy for the diving experiment. Luckily it was a hot day, and I didn't mind diving in over and over. The only problem was that the water wasn't clear enough to see the bottom until I was about a foot away from it. I'd dive down, do a quick search around a small area, then I'd have to get back to the surface for a breath and another try. It must have been about 15 dives before Jesse had a brainstorm that it would be cool if we had a hose so that I could stay at the bottom and still get air from the surface.

Two minutes later I'm standing next to Jesse on the dock with the garden hose ready to jump in. We did a little breathing experiment on the dock, and it seemed like this was the ticket. I jumped in with the hose in my mouth only to realize seconds later that the volume of air coming in was much too small for anything but a panic reaction under the water. Two minutes later I'm reattaching the garden hose to its spout.

Because it was getting later and later on a Friday afternoon, one of the few remaining options for getting my inhaler back would be to call my doctor and have them call in a prescription to the local pharmacy. A few calls and I was in business. Judah and I drove down to the pharmacy, I handed over my ID, and the pharmacist said "they just called it in, it'll be ready in 15 minutes."

Judah and I walked over to Safeway to buy some Coca-Cola and kill some time. When we returned to the pharmacy, I showed my ID again, and the pharmacist told me that he couldn't fill the prescription because they didn't have the exact type of inhaler that the doctor's office had prescribed. I asked him if I could get something similar, and he said that they couldn't do that. He called Safeway to see if they had it, but they didn't. This is the point where David Banner usually turns into The Hulk and smashes everything in sight, but that never ever happens to me. A lightbulb went on over the Pharmacist's head and he realized that he had some special powers of his own, and he made a "special emergency" override and got me my medicine.

I went back to the river house with my new inhaler and a two-liter bottle of Coke. And a new puzzle for Judah to play with, which he figured out in about 5 minutes. That's the problem with puzzles: Once they're put together, the fun is over. I didn't use the new inhaler once on that trip. But the panic mode going on in the back of my mind was gone, and that's what having a security blanket is all about.