Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

“Shoveling Out” – Flash Fiction From The Daddy Dispatch

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2009 at 4:20 am

Wet with sweat, muscles aching, and out of breath, he leaned against his shovel and was pleased.  Shoveling is hard work, honest work, northern Minnesotan work.  It had been difficult to leave his family on Christmas Day, but there was no guarantee the weather would hold to drive in to work the morning of the 26th, and so the wife and kids stayed back at the lake while he drove home to find his house slumbering under two feet of snow.

The snowflakes continued to fall as though in slow motion, and the noise of snowblowers had ceased.  As he labored, the man thought mostly about what he was doing, and occasionally about Christmas.  Engaging in his familiar brand of self-justifying environmentalism, the man imagined that he was working out and losing a little weight while staving off the end of humanity for at least a full second simply by doing things the hard way rather than buying a snowblower like all the other guys in the neighborhood.  “You’ll buy one too, you’ll see,” they all said while slowly walking behind their two-stroke snow throwers.  Fat chance, the man thought.  Big, fat, lazy chance.

Consciously switching to a more positive line of thought, the man noticed the colored lights across the street, red and blue and green, pulsing in a soundless and peaceful pattern.  “Sure, holiday lights are an energy indulgence,” he thought, “but since we can’t be perfect we may as well spend our excesses on meaningful personal displays rather than the garish commercialization of Christmas.”  His arms and chest were tingling with the cold as he continued to shovel the sidewalk in a relentless shuffle step: scrape, lift, throw…scrape, lift, throw.

“After all, the perfect isn’t the enemy of the good,” scrape, lift, throw.  “I might not be a vegan, but that doesn’t mean I should eat fast food every night either.”  Scrape, lift, throw.  He was really sweating now, moving faster and faster, all ill feelings forgotten in the rhythms of exertion as a sense of weightlessness and detached peace arrived.  The stillness of the night grew more still yet, and the colored lights filled his field of vision.  The green colored lights had vanished, and the red and blue lights were larger, revolving, insistent.  He heard his last words as though listening to himself from a distance as he understood the absence of green.  “Ambulance,” he heard himself say, though his lips remained in contact with the sidewalk where he had fallen.  “Should have bought a snowblower.”

Sesame Street Baker Therapy

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Our son has been watching old school Sesame Street clips on YouTube since he was a baby and has recently taken to acting out the “Baker” counting video series.  Dylan possesses an irrational but very real fear of these videos, especially the part where the baker announces how many cakes he has, falls down the stairs, then licks the frosting from his fingers.  For the last month or so, he has been practicing his act and we are now ready to share it with the world.  The first video is the Sesame Street original, the second is Dylan’s creative way of dealing with his fear.  Enjoy!

A Winter Ride

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 at 3:37 am

Dylan and I went out for a ride on the bicycle and trailer tonight, and it worked out pretty well.  My friends at the Fargo Moorhead Community Bicycle Workshop (FMCBW) assure me that winter riding can be done, and since the mercury was only a bit below freezing, I felt we had better get a ride in while the getting was good.

I was surprised at the small number of vehicles we met on the road, but that allowed me to concentrate on the terrain right in front of me, avoiding almost all of the obstacles in our path.  Dylan was on my side, reminding me to try not to fall many times while we rode from park to park in search of the perfect winter playtime scenario.  We crossed north Moorhead to our old neighborhood and caught our breath at the 5-9 Park, a place I remember better than he does.  This is the first park I took a one year old Dylan to when I first took on parenting as a full-time occupation, and used to be the extent of my running range at about 5 blocks from the old apartment.

Dylan was not interested in stopping, so we came to one of our favorites, Davy Park.  I chose to continue on across the pedestrian bridge to Fargo’s Oak Grove Park, knowing that Dylan would have been content to play for a bit then go home, but needing more out of our adventure now that my blood was flowing.  We stopped and discussed which park we were going to play at once again near Mickelson Park, and agreed that this would be the one.

Upon lifting his trailer’s snow cover, however, Dylan announced that we needed to go to a different park and we were off.  Across the toll bridge and into a new construction neighborhood, I contemplated the lack of mature trees and prominence of three car garage architecture.  Our house was built in 1926, and has been a long time holdout on the garage front.  It occurred to me that if the future brings less dependence on personal motorized transport, all of the houses dominated by their garages could be remodeled, turning the garage space into lavish parlor areas, or perhaps turned into living space as future owners modify the 2,500 square foot floor plans into duplexes.

At all rates, Bridgeview Park was not the panacea I had imagined, just another wild goose on our chase.  Dylan now insisted that we go back to Davy Park, so the wintry ride continued.  We were across from the razor wire of the county jail when a shape caught my eye near the river.  “Dylan, it’s a deer!”  I unbuckled my sidekick and we snowpantsed our way toward the deer, discovering that it was not one, but at least six deer ambling along the riverbank.  Dylan began to cry, saying that he was cold and hungry and wanted to go home.  We never did make it back to Davy Park, never really stopped riding except to watch the deer, and to talk about which park would be the perfect park in which to play, on a dark winter’s day.

13 Year Degree

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 12:04 am

Gender Muted Fathering- The New Fatherhood Replaced (<– click this link to view the paper)

It is done.  It is not every day that one meets a man who has attained a thirteen year degree in anything other than medicine.  My final paper on the history of fatherhood as an institution took shape over a period of almost exactly one year, and (assuming it receives a passing grade) will be the end of an important phase of my life, the college years.

I attended my own graduation as a spectator the first time around, and listened to my future brother in law’s commencement speech.  Nate spoke of the importance of avocations and the examined life, and it is a message that has stuck with me through the years.

I always was bad at goodbyes, and often thought of my failure to write my final paper and earn my four year degree as a way of keeping an open door to the past.  Now that door has finally closed.  One of my favorite fictional characters, Stephen King’s Roland of Gilead, has been my companion on the quest for my own Dark Tower.  Roland is the last gunslinger in a world that has moved on, and as he finally approaches his goal (the Dark Tower), he sounds his horn and calls the names of all those who have been instrumental in the pursuit of his quest.  In that spirit, I would like to acknowledge the people and places that have accompanied me on my thirteen year quest for a four year education.

“I come in the name of Gay 1-3, we like it on top!

“I come in the name of 707 Wyoming, and batslayers everywhere!

“I come in the name of 712 E 7th, the ka-tet of my youth!

“I come in the name of the commune, the bars, the Hut, and the drawers!

“I come in the name of Northeast Minneapolis, and of Moorhead!

“I come in the name of my parents, who have made me, and their families, who have made them!

“I come in the name of my wife, my son, and my daughter!

“I am Lukas of Morris, and I come as myself; you will open to me.”

Oh The Cat Came Back

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Kenny was a kitten, was a kitty, was a cat.  Kenny was a young master, what you think about that?  Kenny, Young Master Kenny, was a cat.

Kenny is a foster cat whose origins are shrouded in mystery.  The story we were told at a White Bear Lake residence involved a dog carrying Kenny out of the woods in its mouth then depositing the kitten at a construction site.  The workers called White Bear Lake Animal Rescue and Kenny acquired a fear of everything.  Knowing that several other couples refused to adopt Kenny due to his extreme shyness, I question the veracity of this story, but regardless, he ended up with Janelley and I.  A marker in our evolving relationship, Kenny was an even bigger long term commitment than our one year lease.

Kenny was a cute and playful kitten, with facial markings giving him a mustache and goatee.  He was strictly an indoor cat but did manage to get away from us and hide under parked cars a few times.  The only real scare we had was at our last place in northeast Minneapolis, where we believed he had been locked out of the duplex.  We later learned that he had merely spent a harrowing night in the closet of our crackhead upstairs neighbor.  Ken-Ken nearly avoided moving with us later that year by hiding in the basement, but I managed to lure him out before we U-Hauled ass to Moorhead.  Our next cat scare happened last week.

Our growing family visited several sets of grandparents over Thanksgiving, with a quick stop at home to break up the long weekend.  During our layover, we accidentally let Kenny out the side door.  It happened while we were busy schlepping kids, car seats, suitcases, and guitars; all the ingredients for a Thanksgiving family jamboroo.  The upshot is that Kenny was on his own from Thursday to Sunday night, as I worked a twenty-nine hour shift and the rest of my family stayed with the grandparents.  Poor Kenny, an inside cat thrust into an outside world.

We worried, but we didn’t cancel plans to wait by the door either.  We hoped, but we also understood that our nearly five year relationship may have come to an end.  If the cars didn’t get him, Stubby the Squirrel might, his lack of a tail more than compensated for by his ponderous gut.  We knew that cats usually come back, but having experienced the loss of our fish, we dreaded the worst.

Coming home from my long shift, I saw that the food I had left outside was a bit diminished and my spirits soared.  Sure, it could be Stubby the Fatass Squirrel who ate the food, but it could also mean that Kenny was alive and nearby.  I propped open our screen door, turned on a light, and waited.  I was doing well until my eye chanced on what I like to call our imperative pillow (pillows that tell one what to do or think) reading, “A Home Is Not A Home Without A Cat.”  An hour later, the cat came back.

Our joyful reunion was not marred by accusations of human neglect or recklessness, but occurred purely at the cat level.  Down on all fours, we rubbed the sides of our heads against each other, reaffirming our bonds as man and cat.  All is well that ends well, and our family is whole once again.  Kenny’s dish is a little more full than usual this week despite his feline bulimia issues, and we are more mindful of the side door and its temptations for our favorite non-human, Kenny the Cat.