Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mommy Immitation

So as I'm strapping Jack into his car seat on the back of the golf cart the other day, Ella climbs in the front seat and begins to jump around like a little frog. She's having a great time, smiling and laughing and making frog noises, when Jack furrows his brow and says, "No bouncing! Do you understand me? No Bouncing.". Apparently he can now channel his mother at whim. It's only a matter of time before he starts asking me to take out the garbage.

Daddy's Dirty Day Out

The wife had a wedding to shoot today, leaving me alone to rear the children however I saw fit. Too lazy to clean, I decided we would be dining out today and drove them to work for a free lunch. Yes, the restaurant business has it's perks sometimes. Besides, after recently being transferred to a different location, I wanted to show them off a little bit to my new staff.

But the twins would have none of it. They were in no mood to perform. They would sing no songs and recite not a single letter of the alphabet for anyone. Once we were seated, Jack spotted a picture of a locomotive which sent him into full blown autistic train mode. Ask him any question and he would respond by pointing at the picture and exclaiming, "Diesel engine! No trouble. Thomas." Then he would shove an entire roll into his mouth, muffling his tirade and rendering his ramblings unintelligible for a moment or two while continuing to shake his finger at the picture. Then he would clap twice and say, "Come on, diesel!". Ella was too busy eating chicken and kicking her daddy in the knees to notice.

Then we went for ice cream cones at Bruster's, where there is no indoor seating and also nothing to provide shade of any kind. Jack and Ella took their ice cream and sat on the bench while daddy paid the ice cream lady. I'm not sure if they were having trouble with their coolers or if it was just really hot outside, but before I even got my debit card back my ice cream started to melt. One look at the twins and I asked for extra napkins. There seemed to be a constant stream of chocolate pouring down upon them, as though they had been served a never ending dribble cone. Had the ice cream lady played a cruel joke on me? But the twins were happy and seemed to be enjoying the ice cream bath as though it were some exotic spa treatment. They made no effort to stay clean, and Jack was so focused on devouring the ice cream cone that he even ate the napkin that was wrapped around it.

After naptime, I took the kids to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I was a little self conscious that I hadn't bothered to change their clothes or clean them up before taking them out again. It looked like I had bathed them in one of those chocolate fountains you're supposed to dip strawberries in. But then, a lapful of salsa and multiple drippings of cheese dip later, I congratulated myself on not ruining two more outfits in one day. Thank goodness there was a big napkin dispenser on the table, and thank goodness the wife wasn't with us. We stopped by the park on the way home to slide and swing and throw rocks into the pond.

Then it was off to Wal Mart where Ella decided it was time to throw a fit. As soon as her butt hit the basket, she started crying and yelling, "Stuck! Want Daddy! Stuck!" over and over again. I paused to look at some video games, and spent about five minutes completely ignoring my screaming daughter when two blue vested employees came over in my direction. "Can you help me with a game?" I asked, pointing at the locked display case. They walked right past me a few feet, one of them holding a yellow pad with some numbers written on it. I tried again. "Excuse me, can you help me with a game?" Still no response. Maybe they couldn't hear me because of Ella. All of a sudden, the guy behind the photo booth jumps in front of the two guys, waves his hand in front of their eyes and says, "Hey! Are you two gonna help this guy or what?". I'm not sure if he was being nice to me or if he just wanted me to remove my screaming child from his immediate vicinity. Either way, it worked, and we were on our way back home for bath time.

The kids were clean, their teeth were brushed, and they were sent to their room for bedtime. The house was still a wreck, and I'm pretty sure I dozed off to sleep before they did, but I had made it through the day alive, and they had, too. And I had learned a thing or two. Ice cream deteriorates rapidly in the sun, dirty kids are happy kids, and a screaming toddler can actually improve your level of service in big box retail stores. Interesting...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I lost a good friend yesterday, and a small part of me with him. His name was Jody Duncan, but I knew him affectionately as Jod. (Not to be confused with Jode, which rhymes with toad, but rather Jod which rhymes with God.) Although I never met his family and probably never mentioned him to mine, I considered him like a brother, and I will miss him in ways I can't imagine just yet.

We first met in Memphis, at Newby's on the Highland strip, moments after my little ragtag garage band opened for our heroes, the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. It was the greatest night of my life up to that point, and it was about to get better. After exiting the stage and making my way to the bathroom, I found myself standing beside this character with little round glasses squeezed between rosy cheeks and a pork pie hat, wearing a thriftstore tweed blazer over a well worn t-shirt. I must admit that I felt a little uncomfortable trying to handle my business with a complete stranger staring and grinning at me.

"You guys were great! Best opening band I've seen, except for Bill Kirchen, who opened for the Q last week!". This was the highest compliment anyone has ever given me (still is to this day), and it was completely undeserved. We were never in the same league as Bill Kirchen or NRBQ, but we did do a pretty good cover of "I Got A Little Secret", so Jod knew we were Q fans, and that was enough for him to overlook our imperfections, which were many. I was caught offguard by his genuine kindness and was unsure how to respond, but I never forgot this brief exchange.

It was months later, this time in Nashville at The Exit Inn, that he made a formal introduction. Just before the Q took the stage, up walks the same blazer, hat, and glasses shouting "Dude! I saw you open for the Q in Memphis! Remember me?". As if I could have ever forgotten him. From his breast pocket he produced the pen and little notebook he carried with him to jot down the setlist of every NRBQ show he ever attended, scrawled his name and number across a page and then tore it out and thrust it at me. "Next time you go to see the Q, call me!", he said. And I did exactly that.

For the next few years, we travelled to Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and anywhere else we could afford to go to see our favorite band play and bring us together. Long roadtrips were filled with music and conversation and fueled by alcohol and other unmentionable pastimes. We crashed on each others couches, plundered each other's records, and made each other laugh. We were on the road, we were free of our dead end jobs, and we were making memories to last a lifetime. It was great.

Somewhere in there, I started to grow up. My job got more serious, I moved further south, and we lost touch. The Q wasn't touring as much, and the shows were fewer and farther between. Still, every time we got back together at a show, it was just like picking up where we left off, like we had only spoken yesterday. And then we drifted apart again. But I always knew he was out there, and all it would take was a phone call and an NRBQ show to get that freedom back, that unexplainable joy.

Just last year, I dragged my wife to see what was left of the Q, namely Terry Adams and his marvelous Rock and Roll Quartet in Charleston. Just as the band came out and the first notes of "Sunny Side Of The Street" were tickling my eardrums, I was struck with the urge to record the setlist for my old friend Jod. Scrambling for a bar napkin and a pen, my wife was making fun of me, calling me a "geek", but I didn't care. This was for Jod. (By the way, she loved the show... an instant disciple, and told me, "I haven't seen you that happy since our wedding". Sweet, isn't she?) I couldn't wait to get to a computer so that I could post the setlist for Jod and everyone else on the NRBQ list. It wasn't long before I got an email from my old friend, and we picked right back up again.

We spoke on the phone like the old days, and made plans to go to Connecticut, but, alas, I couldn't make it. I called him when he got back, and he gave me all the juicy details of the show, making me jealous and sorrowful and envious and delighted for about forty-five minutes or so. The next day I heard through friends that he had been admitted to the hospital in Evansville, after suffering a series of heart attacks. He was 41 years old. I called him, and we spoke briefly, but I could tell how tired he was, and I felt him fading. It was just a matter of days before he was gone.

I'm no doctor, but I suspect that his heart was just too big to be bound inside that body any longer. He had so much love for his friends and the music they shared together that his heart had grown too big, constricted by spine and ribcage, until it could no longer stand it. Anyone who knew him could hardly argue my theory. The guy never met a stranger, and if he liked you, you couldn't help but like him back. He was kind and caring and outgoing to a fault. He was genuine and intelligent and those of us who knew him were better off for it. He was a fountain of musical knowledge, and a supernova of spirit. But, a star that bright can't burn forever, and when it burns out, it leaves a void, a vaccum in space that can never be filled. Jod is gone, and the world is a little bit darker because of it. There is no longer a light at the end of the roadtrip, and I will never know freedom like we once shared again. Miss you, Jod. You'll have to travel the spaceways without me for awhile.