Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm Not Smiling At You

In truth, this is a story better told aloud, as I do a great Kate-as-an-evil-James-Earl-Jones impression. It's probably better shared just among friends to protect the guilty. Nevertheless, I share it to illustrate older siblings' ability to put the hoodlum in sisterhood.

Enter into my remembrance. It was years ago, when both girls were young ... Kate may have been 11, which would put Emily at about 8 -- that seems about right.

The evening had been going fine from my perspective ... the girls were playing quietly in their room, Marilyn was puttering about, and I was loafing on the couch ... Then, it got quiet. Yep, tooooo quiet. So, naturally, I did what any good father would do.

I crept upstairs to spy on the kids.

Atop the stairs I could hear the hushed conversation: a one-sided fight was in full swing, raging at barely audible levels to prevent intrusion from downstairs. Kate was in full Darth Vader voice mode, breathing heavy and seethingly berating her little sister for some offense tied to playing with Barbies, I think.

Peeking around the corner, I found Kate with her back to me, hands planted on her hips, blocking their bedroom doorway. Emily was trapped, cowering in front of her.

As I crept up behind Kate, I came into Em's line of vision and the little sister began to smile.

That smile infuriated the big sister even more. "Don't you smile at me!!" Kate hissed, slowly and menacingly, in the deepest, darkest possessed voice she could muster.

Emily's eyes twinkled as she wiped away a tear. "I'm not smiling at you," Em whispered in explanation. "I'm smiling at Dad standing behind you."


Kate nearly lept out of her skin as she spun to face her father (himself a life-long little brother of an older-sister). Midspin, she miraculously transformed from evil villan Vader to delicate flower Princess Leia ...

"Hi, Dad ..." my older angel chirped, with as sweet a smile as she could muster on such short notice. "How long have you been there?" she inquired, trying to calculate the depth of the trouble she faced ...

"Long enough," I said slyly. "Em, you're free to go -- I'll deal with your sister for you." Needless to say, I didn't have to ask the little one twice.

** Surveilance of Offspring by Creeping Upstairs (SoObCU) is fully authorized under Section VII (paragraph 1.4.3) of the Parental Freedom of Information Act, circa 1989.
** In recognition that Emily must have done something equally obnoxious at some point, it behooves me to point out that sisterhoodlum-ness is a shared role, both munchkins have always been delightful daughters, and they remain the bestest of buds ... :-)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Dempster Perspective

"Even more money" is a powerful magnet that pulls many to misery -- making Ryan Dempster's story worthy of note.

Dempster, a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, just signed a 4-year, $52-million contract to stay in the Windy City, rather than sign an even more lucrative offer elsewhere. He said he enjoyed playing in Chicago, enjoyed his teammates, and wanted to win a championship there. His quote:

"Was there more money on the open market?" said Dempster, who said he recieved interest from Atlanta, Toronto, the Los Angeles Dodgers and both New York teams. "I'm sure there probably was. Maybe there was five years. That's a question that I'll never be able to answer. But truthfully I don't really even care to know because I'm happy with what I have. It's more money than I could ever dream of getting when I was a kid growing up playing baseball."

Compare that to Mike Piazza's reaction back in 1998 when his career-long team (he was their 62nd round pick), offered him more money than any player at his position had earned in the history of baseball (six years, $84-million). He said he found the Dodgers' offer "insulting" and demanded to be the highest paid player in baseball history, not just the highest paid catcher, as anything less than that would be disrepectful.

My older daughter was a thoughtful 9-year-old baseball fan in 1998. She mulled Piazza's reaction and asked me, "Dad, would you have signed the 6-year deal to stay with the Dodgers?"

I remember my answer.

"6-year? Kater, I'd have signed a 100-year deal to stay. $84 million is enough money for anyone for life, especially if you're getting paid to do something you love. It would pay for mom and I to live for rest of our lives, as well as for college for you and your sister, for your kids, for your kids kids, and if invested it right, there'd still be a small fortune to pass on. Yep, if Mr. Hofstetter offered me more money than anyone had ever been paid in the history of the world for doing what I do, if I would agree to stay at NMC for six more years, I'd be eternally grateful -- not insulted. Money's only part of the question, my friend. I like the saying 'money is like oxygen -- you need some to live, but it's not the reason to live'. Piazza's forgotten that."

Piazza's indignation got him traded to the Marlins and then to the Mets, where he ultimately signed a 7-year, $91-million deal. He went on to post impressive individual stats and might make the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, to get that extra money, he damaged his Dodger legacy, ended up bouncing around five different teams, and never knew the joy of helping a team win a world series.

Ten years later, it's heartwarming to hear Dempster's different perspective on his newfound (albeit smaller than possible) incredible wealth. "I'm happy with what I have" are words to live by. They are not an invitation to complacency or mediocrity, but rather a tip of the hat to contentment and recognition that money is just part of the equasion of success. Dempster provides a teachable moment for us all -- and gives us a good reason to hope that 2009 is finally the year for the Cubbies.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Different Take

What are you, when you're different?

Is the different the weed in the garden? A swan among ducks? A round peg among square holes? A dentist among toy makers? A lone voice crying in the wilderness? A metaphor among cliches?

Is the fact that oil and water are different a problem, because the two don't mix -- or is it a solution, because that's what makes the magic of lithography possible?

Does different enrich discussion or represent resistance?

Opposites attract -- what do differents do?

After all that's been and given what is, perhaps it's time to approach this ... a bit differently.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pirates, Piers, and Piercing

When faced with a plan that had devolved to involve modern-day pirate types in the mainstreet equivalent of a darkened navy pier, what was a young artist to do? Yep. Get Dad. Egad!

You see, our artist had finally secured authorization to have her upper-ear cartilage pierced to add a bit of spiral flair to her head -- only to find they now only do lobes in the safety of the Mall. "For cartilage? You'd have to go to a tattoo parlor for that ... "

Now, Mom had been okay with the Mall -- but she wasn't likely to take on a tattoo parlor, so the 17-year-0ld in need of parental consent did the only thing she could think of. She turned to Dad.

While the "shirt & tie" is a costume for a role, realistically, I only relate to the underworld's romance from afaaar and simply don't travel in the "tattoo parlor" circles ... So, I did what any Dad without a clue would do -- I asked my stylist at my Salon for advice ...

Tracy sent me to Sarah's Tattoos (they don't do piercings) who sent me to Yankee Tattoos (they don't work on anyone under 18, no exceptions) who sent me to Body Art Tattoos & Piercings ... Visiting the first was delightfully entertaining (Sarah's sweet, in a rough kind of way -- like rock candy) ... calling the second was surprisingly professional (like calling a swirl of a doctor's office and art gallery) ... and the third? Well ... calling Body Art was a bit like calling a pirate ship docked at a darkened navy pier somewhere off the sinister bowels of a waterfront wharf's back alleys ... Gruff voices. Brusk answers. Background chaos. Condescending use of the term "dude" ... Egad.

Refusing to be detered, I double checked the plan with a trendy graphic designer down there and that Saturday, after a photo wander-off, I met up with Em on Main Street in Burlington outside Body Art. She gleefully gathered her resolve and in we went. Em waded through the crowd in the lobby -- a woman who wondered if the ball under her lower lip was too big and looked ridiculous (it was and it did), a woman who wanted her child's footprint tattooed on her right shoulder blade (that'll be $184 for custom), the UVM girls trying to get the nerve up to pierce their bellies (apparently sharing one brain between the four of them), and made it to the counter ...

The pirate running the ship at that moment? Julie. (Yep, God might have been watching out for us.) Older than Em, younger than I -- another rock candy type with an engaging smile and a surprisingly gentle way. Em explained what she wanted and Julie nodded and asked, "Are you 18 and did you bring your ID?" ... Em shook her head no, but her response brought light to the pirate mistress's eyes "No, but I brought my Dad." I got a grinning once-over and Julie asked, "And did Dad bring his ID?" and I thought, "Oh, bless you, my child" ... though as I reflect back, it was likely a liability inquiry rather than flirty flattery ... (Such is life at 43) ... A disclaimer and a pair of signatures later and Em was cleared for piercing.

I got invited to the piercing room and watched the process unfold ... cleanliness looked good, sterility seemed to be in order, Em was up for it, and Julie went to work. In moments, it was over, as were the after-care instructions. I think the $42 hurt my wallet more than the needle hurt Em's ear -- but my wallet will heal faster ...

With that we escaped to the hilarity of the sidewalk for a cell phone photo and a grand hug of appreciation.

It'll be a couple months of healing (while avoiding staph, Hepatitis, and the Flesh Eating Virus) before the starter hoop gives way to the decorative spiral ...

While that time passes, we'll revel in our priceless Dad/Daughter adventure in pursuit of youthful artistic expression ...

Life is good -- enjoy every moment!