Ten Years?

    It occurred to me today that this month is 10 years since I left my last job in TV. It was the last production of Junkyard Wars, and I worked really hard to get that job. I guess I'd worked in TV production for 4 years at the time, but it seemed longer. I ended up being a segment producer on one show that was interesting, but ultimately not very good. When that show ended (because I got fired for leaving a flippant outgoing message on a co-worker's phone that was no longer in use), I struggled to find good jobs. I'd find something here and there, for three to six months at a time, and my credit and pay rate kept going down at each job. The gig before Junkyard Wars was at G4, where I thought I could really fit in, producing for a show called Filter. But I had a producer I worked under who seemed to have no idea what he was doing, and I got no input from anyone. I would put stuff together, and when it was done, the executives weren't so into it. At one point, I was basically instructed to take out every clever joke, and dumb everything down. The producer I worked for, who hired me, who was useless, got fired, and my job kind of ended. 

    That's Kathy. She was my boss' boss. Also his girlfriend.

    Finally, I ended up at Junkyard Wars, and instead of producer, the best I could get was researcher. Any other show in the world would have called it an associate producer, but desperate times. It paid $800 a week, which sounds not terrible, but it was a paycut, and you also have to factor in the idea that you're out of work for weeks or months between jobs in that field. So we produced a show where people made snow vehicles, and I found or helped find teams from the US, UK, and Russia, and we found expert judges, and we arranged for them to come out to the shoots, and stocked the junkyard with the right parts needed (spoiler), and it was generally successful. But then that was over too, and I had no more leads. I ended up taking a more regular office job, tangentially related to TV work, where I was for 4 years before leaving to do iFanboy full time.

    But that was my first career. Over at 26. Now I work in digital publishing. It certainly wasn't the plan, but the thing was, I don't know that I really had a plan, which might have been a problem, but it might also have just been a pretty normal thing that happens to people. TV sounded good, but I never found an opportunity to work in the kind of TV I wanted. I worked in an early version of reality TV, before it was even known as that. Since then, the entire landscape of TV production, cable and broadcast, as well as distribution has changed entirely. I used to always say that if everything fell apart, I could always go back into production, but I think that train has sailed, which is fine, because I didn't really love it. It sounds cool to people, and I got to meet celebrities, but that gets old pretty fast, and the long hours and unreliable work can wear you away. On the other hand, it taught me that I can literally do anything that needs to be done. I ended up with some strange objectives, and had no choice but to get them done. That gave me a form of confidence I still lean on today when I feel like I'm over my head.

    I don't have a moral or a point. I just can't believe it's been that long, and thought it was a bit of a milestone. Also, it took me a good minute or so to think of how old I was 10 years ago, when suddenly it dawned on me that I'm an idiot.

    Ooh, here's a lesson. It can be hard to follow your dream when you don't know what your dream is. Before you know it, you're hunting around the San Fernando valley for a 4WD truck that can be made to look like junkyard scrap moments after you get back. 


    The Cake

    Today is my wife's birthday. Every year, I make her a carrot cake. I don't even remember when I started doing this, but we got this cookbook when we got married, and it's supposed to be aimed at young married couples, and it's fine and all, but in there is this recipe for carrot cake. I made it for her one year, and it's pretty amazing, and it was decreed that henceforth, she would have this cake for her birthday. 

    Every year, we seem to get busier and busier. The runup to the birthday this year has been incredibly packed between a kitchen renovation, Thanksgiving, the general toil that is raising a toddler, and a million other annoying things that make you sigh heavily when you finally get to sit down, and make a terrible groan when you have to get back up. This year, like all the others, Lindsay gives me an out. "You don't have to make the cake this year," and I always wave her off. 

    I do have to make the cake. I realize it's one of our few standing traditions. It means a lot to me, as much as it might to her. Because of the swirling world we've created for ourselves, I never feel like I'm as present as I'd like to be. I never feel like I can be the best husband and father and friend I need to be all the time, and I certainly never get to treat her with the romance she wants and deserves. Lindsay has, especially over the last nearly 4 years, shown incredible strength and love and this seemingly endless compassion to take care of our son, as well as me. So, yes, I do have to make this cake. I have to make it for you. Not just because you want it, and you do want it, because it's a seriously amazing piece of confectionary, but because I don't know enough other ways to show how much I appreciate you getting up in the morning, and taking care of the things you take care of, and for driving me to the hospital as I literally squealed in pain passing a kidney stone, and for telling me to go take a bike ride because I'd gotten too cranky from being stuck in front of this damnable laptop. And I can't do all the things I want to do for you, because there's not enough time, money, or sometimes even energy left. But I can make this cake.

    Happy birthday, Lindsay. You are wonderful and you are my best friend. I love you and I made you this cake.

    And I hope it doesn't spoil anything, but you're getting it again next year. 


    My Boy

    My human boy is fine. Bit of a lingering cough, but really mostly fine.

    The first boy, the infamous George Clooney the french bulldog is in a bad way, and it is ripping me the hell up. They're not a healthy breed. Don't get one. Honestly, it's heartbreaking, and they kind of just should not be. But they are, because they're cute, and they're also quite sweet (mostly). But he's been hospitalized a couple of times for pancreatitis, and he's on hypo allergenic (expensive) food, and we live in a state of constant fear that he's going to stick his face into something, have a reaction, and either die, or end up in the hospital for a week. Even with pet insurance, I'm still sitting on a couple thousand dollars on my credit card from the last time it happened. With a young child and a house that needs... assistance, it's a lingering shadow in the background all the time.

    Then this thing happened. Frenchies, because they're bred for dwarfism, have screwed up backs, and are prone to IVDD, or intervertebral disc disease. Over the last couple of years, there have been a couple times when he wouldn't walk up the stairs or jump up on the couch. After a few days, it went away. This happened again over the last week, and I tried not to worry. 

    Saturday, after being out all day with my son (perfect day), I took George out for a short walk. He pooped, we came back, and then it started. He couldn't relax, and started whining and panting. I'm alone with my son, and he's got to go to bed soon. I gave the dog some baby aspirin, and he laid down and went to sleep for a while. We went to bed. I thought I'd take him to the emergency vet in the morning. At 2 AM, he woke up screaming. If you've ever heard a frenchie scream, it is terrifying and high pitched. He doesn't bark ever, and this sound is terrible. 

    I took him in at 2 AM after 2 hours of sleep and they basically gave us some pain med, and I took him home. He didn't relax or go to sleep for another 2 hours, and we finally slept from 6-10, when he woke up screaming again. I couldn't give him any more pain meds until noon, and it didn't seem to be doing well at all. He was panting and whining, and couldn't walk or get comfortable. It was torture to sit there and not be able to help him at all. 

    I went back, and they said there was nothing more they could do at the moment. He's still got pain, which is oddly good, because he's not paralyzed, but he's just exising in agony. I gave him the pain meds at noon, and he finally went to sleep. 

    The pain meds, which I can give to him every 8 hours, last 2 hours. You can see how this is a problem. I can't handle sitting there and watching him writhe and wince with pain. And I can't do anything about it. We made it though the day, and he got his meds at 8, and I went to sleep down on the couch, next to him on the floor, and he woke up whining 10 minutes after I went to sleep. 45 minutes later, He settled down again, and slept until almost 2. We couldnt' get him to sleep again, and it was 2 hours until meds time. We called the ER again, and they said we could do 1 1/2x the Rx, and we gave it to him about a half an hour early.

    Then we went back to sleep for about an hour before he woke up again whining. I'm going crazy.

    Finally, more sleep until about 6, and I took him out to try and pee, which he can't do, because he can't stand.

    Finally, after whining and crying for almost 3 hours, Lindsay took him to the vet again where we're waiting to see what's next.

    The thing that's scary is, we straight up can't afford to have him go through surgery if he needs it, especially, if there's a very good chance it's going to be a recurring, consistent problem for the rest of his life. 

    It's all just too much, and I'm writing here because it's the only thing I know how to do. I don't handle it well at all. My wife does much better. But to sit here and listen to him in agony is agony, and it's no way to live. Also, I need some damn sleep. So does Lindsay, and frankly, so does the dog. He also needs to poop.

    So that's what's going on. Wish us luck. No idea what we're going to do. I've gotta do my job now though, and try my best to ignore this, because apparently that's what a man does, when he can't take time off because shit needs to get done. Thank goodness Ollie is in daycare today, because it's all taking up more energy than I have to spare.

    He's getting some different meds right now, and we should see improvement soon. 85% chance of recovery. 15% chance of oh shit.



    Every night for the last couple weeks, our 3 year old son has been waking up and refusing to go back to sleep. Prior to that, he'd been waking up at 5-5:30 AM, which we thought was pretty miserable at the time, but in retrospect wasn't nearly as bad.

    The problem for me is that while I have no problem going to sleep at night, if I wake up fully at 3, 4, or 5 AM, I have an incredibly hard time going back to sleep. It's 5:30 AM right now, and I've been up since before 4. I've put my boy back to bed about 5-7 times in that period.

    Right now I want to kill everyone and everything in the whole world.

    And he just got up again.

    We don't know if he's scared or going through a thing or what, or when it's going to end. But it needs to end at some point, or I assume I'll just expire from critical fatigue.

    My wife has it worse than me, but she's better at handling it. When he's upset, she's the one he really wants. When I'm awake in the middle of the night for the 4th night in a row, it's all I can do not to speak in pure curse words only. Normally, I try to get out on my bike a couple times a week, but that just leaves her stuck at home longer. At least I look at it as "stuck" which probably isn't the pediatrician-approved terminology. Getting away keeps me sane, since we both work at home and are, as such, ALWAY HERE and more recently ALWAYS AWAKE AND HERE. I'm also too tired to pedal, and it won't stop raining either way.

    So in the meantime, what on earth can you do? Obviously I can't actually kill everyone. For one thing, I'm too tired. You can try to go to bed early, but since I'm a blubbering simpleton now, due to the lack of sleep, I'm not getting anything done. By the time we get him to bed, we've got maybe an hour to just relax and then try to get to sleep. And I've got shit to do! This isn't working. It's almost harder than when he was an infant.

    But this is the real meat of being a parent. It's the part where you understand that you exist solely to take care of that kid because you are literally all he has. Some people adapt to this better than others. I do not adapt well. I get cranky and surly and resent everything mine eyes look upon when I'm this chronically tired. I resent the kid for doing this, even though I know full well that he's in no control of his tiny dictator brain. I resent my wife, even briefly for not just letting me sleep and taking care of it, even though she's dealing with it more than I am. It doesn't have to make sense to create an emotion. Of course following that is the guilt for having those irrational feelings in the first place. The resentment is chemical an fleeting. It's not real. But it feels real.

    When it all comes down to it, I just tell myself that this will end eventually, and ignore the fact that some other problems will take over these, and those too will be forgotten eventually. In the meantime, I've had a headache for days, I've seen 4 AM far too many times in the past week, and why the fuck do those birds have to be so loud?


    That Guy Needed a Bike

    This was a thing I wrote for a contest a few months back. I can see now why it didn't win anything, but I was proud of how honest I made it. I bought my bike one year ago today, and it made a big impact on my life, obviously.

    I didn’t like that guy.

    He certainly wasn’t anyone I wanted to be. Thirty-four years old, tired, bombed out, and cynical. I was in trapped in this harrowing descent into being that guy forever. I’d had bouts of depression and spent enough time fighting with my wife that it was worrying. My pants and shirts didn’t fit anymore, and I went on a three month coughing jag eventually discovered to be acid reflux from a combination of stress, a bad diet, and getting fat. Just look at that round face!

    My son was just about two years old, and it had not been an easy road. Some people have easy babies. Some people have lots of family and help around, and some people like us had neither. My wife and I were at home, where we both worked, with our son, day and night, every day just a scramble to get to the next, when it started again. I was worried that this kid was going to end up with the worst version of me, a defeated, bloated, cranky dude who was pissed off that the world hadn’t rewarded his talents, and that he’d missed his shot.

    It wasn’t that things were terrible. We’d just moved out of New York City, specifically Queens, which had stepped on and crumpled a significant portion of our belief in the inherent goodness of people. Research, chance, compromise, and some guessing lead us to move to southern New Hampshire. I grew up in Maine, but got away as quickly as possible spending 8 years in Los Angeles, followed by 6 years in New York. After all that, it turns out I’m not a city person. I instantly found solace in the beautiful stars at night, the sounds of crickets, and the distinct absence of car horns and strangers randomly cursing at each other. But we were still stuck in the same rut, doing the same things, just in a larger, more serene setting.

    That guy still needed a bike.

    I was never an athletic guy. I puttered around at the edges of sports as a kid, even doing a year on the JV basketball team in tenth grade, where, possessing limited skills and almost no natural talent, I sat the bench with a vengeance all year. In my twenties, I was fairly regular with gym visits where I would pedal in place, and lift random weights according to magazine articles. Way back when I was about 15, I found myself very attracted to one of those bikes with fat tires.

    The shape and idea of the mountain bike was always high in my esteem. I broke a Murray version of a mountain bike jumping off curbs, and when it came time to replace it, I went to L.L. Bean and cleared out my tiny savings account to buy my first real mountain bike. It was purple, rigid, and lasted over a decade. I rode it sporadically on trails around my home town, and even took it to an early bike park. I still remember the ache in my wrists the next day. I bought mountain bike magazines, and wondered if I’d ever bee able to afford the four figure machines advertised in them. It turns out that it would be a while. After going off to college, I never hit a trail again until my late twenties, when, living in Los Angeles, I traveled to Big Bear and rented a full suspension bike and rode down the mountain.

    “Oh right! I love doing this! I need to buy a bike.”

    Shortly after that, I moved to New York and there was nowhere to keep a bike, and nowhere to pay for it. That was my excuse anyway. Life’s disappointments are paved with excuses for why we didn’t do the thing we wanted to, or should have.

    It took almost a year after moving to New Hampshire, researching all the while that was able to buy something. It turns out that bikes had gotten really expensive. A well timed work reimbursement arrived, and I agonized over asking my wife about buying a bike with it, instead of fixing stuff in the house that needed fixing. Every time I had a spare moment, I was off to one of the local bike shops, trying out different things. I tried hard tails, 26ers, 29ers, full suspension bikes, and was a little overwhelmed by the new designations of trail or cross country or all mountain. When I was trying to decide between a full suspension bike and a better appointed hard tail, the guy at the shop stopped me dead, asking my age, and then following up with “Do you really want to be on a hard tail bike at 40 or 45 years old.” It was sobering, but it certainly helped me make up my mind.

    I literally thought about the bike every night before going to bed for weeks. My wife gave the OK, and on my thirty-fifth birthday, she suggested we go to the bike shop and finally pick it up. I panicked for a moment, because it turned out that the model I’d finally settled on was a little more expensive than we’d discussed. Again, she was accommodating and understanding. That bike was red, white, shiny, and so beautiful.

    It snowed for the only time all winter the next day, my dreams of a cold, but dry winter ride delayed. But the freakish weather melted that snow quickly, and one morning, a week later, I hopped on the bike, riding off in a random direction, just to give it a try. I noticed a trail entrance in some woods a near my house, and I was off.

    Now it was time for that guy to pay the price for being such a slob.

    It was not a hard trail. It wasn’t that hilly or technical, or anything. I think I lasted 40 minutes at mostly very low speed, breathlessly returning to the house. It wasn’t that cathartic of an experience to be honest. Clouds didn’t part with divine inspiration. I was tired, and even though I knew I was out of shape, I was surprised at how much of a struggle it was to wrestle that aluminum thing up even small hills. I wanted to go back out again. As soon as possible.

    Over the next few weeks, I found that I was blessed with a surplus of trails in the area. Within an hour in any direction, there was something other riders loved. My closest real trail system was a punishing rocky singletrack, far more technical than I was equipped for. I was instantly glad I went with the big wheels and front and rear suspension, except when I realized I didn’t have the skills to make some of the quick corners required of me, resulting in my flying off into the trees fairly regularly.

    With a little more confidence, I started sucking slightly less wind. I also started falling more. My technical skills needed lots of work. There’s some accounting for instinct, but watching some videos and talking to people who knew what they were doing made a huge difference. My legs started to gain some serious scarring. I went over the bars once or twice and really shook myself up. I remember being more upset that it had happened so early in my ride, when I had precious free time, than I was about the blood running down my arms and legs, or the scratches on my new bike. Those wounds still haven’t gone away completely. I’m cool with that. A friend of mine informed me that I was giving off a Fight Club vibe, just short of proudly spitting broken teeth out to show how tough I was. He wasn’t wrong.

    Because of the magic of the internet and a local Facebook group, I was able to meet up with other riders in the area. These were guys I had nothing in common with, and would never have met in the other parts of my life. But they were all, to a man, friendly and gracious. That was important because I was much, much slower than all of them. I got smoked by people much older, much younger, much fatter, and much thinner. I saw guys ride at a pace I literally didn’t think possible. I never heard so much as a sigh or an eyeroll. At least not until I got to know them a bit better. But mostly they were just happy to be riding. I went from only riding by myself to almost always riding with others, often new people I’d never met before, testing the limits of my introversion, and yet almost always with positive results. Today I'm actually real friends with some of them, which was another unexpected benefit in a small town where I don't really know anyone.

    So what happened to that guy?

    I’m not going to go so far as to say he’s dead, but his power is greatly diminished. He’s about ten pounds down from where he started, and a hell of a lot less stressed out. I try to find time whenever I can to ride, often having to get up early in the morning to fit it in at least two or three times a week. I am generally h

    appier. So much of that stress and crabbiness disappeared behind me on the trails. I have more energy. I don’t want to eat junk food for therapy. Spousal bickering is way down, and I haven’t had a bout of depression in recent memory. It took me almost twenty years to get me back to this thing, this mountain biking that I have an unexplained affinity for, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. No matter how punishing a ride, and how much I want that awful hill to be behind me, or how many mosquitoes and ticks feast on me, within moments of the ride being over, I want to go back and give it another shot, even if my body is screaming at me to stop. I’m sleeping better. My clothes are fitting again. My wife is proud that I’m sticking to it. My son really wants a bike too. Getting my mountain bike, and hitting the trails is literally the best thing I have done for myself in years. It isn’t a cure all. It doesn’t fix the problems I had before, but the clarity of mind and fitness it provides, the outlet it is, has made everything better and easier. My bike has pounded that guy far off stage, and made everyone around me happier as a result.