This is week 155 of The Life of Riley, a weekly post detailing my activities since I ended a thirteen year career as a corporate drone. These posts are usually long, personal, and geared more for my own memory than the reader’s entertainment.
Sunday (Day 1078): Bacon Conquers All
#1GF! took the baby out for a walk, and for the second day in a row, I had an hour to eat my cereal and read a book. It was really good. When #1GF! got home, I made her breakfast.
#1GF! went out to see her mother from midday until late afternoon. I was stuck at home with the baby. Stuck is probably not the right word. I like the baby. But on the weekends, there’s a greedy part of me that wants to spend all the time I can hanging out with #1GF! or getting things done around the house. No matter what I wanted to do, I kept my mouth shut because it’s difficult to argue with someone when they’re doing the right thing.
By the time #1GF! got home, the day was shot, so I handed the baby care over to #1GF! and went out to the local home megastore to pick up an outlet that had stopped working. I came home and replaced the outlet in fifteen minutes. Somehow, it felt as if I accomplished something.
In an attempt to polish some of the tarnish off of the day, I decided to pursue my quest for the ultimate mac and cheese. Bacon-stuffed, homemade mac and cheese will temporarily put aside most problems that don’t involve blood loss. This time, the recipe included nutmeg and Gruyère cheese. It was as close to ultimate as I have made so far, although it needed something. What that mystery ingredient was still hovered outside of the realm of my abilities.
At night, I finished Creepers by David Morrell. The writing wasn’t descriptive enough to make me feel like I was in the middle of the action, but I really appreciated the way the book was intricately plotted out. I didn’t think that I could write a story like that, but it made me want to add more twists into any future books that I may find the time to write.
Monday (Day 1079): Like Lubed Bacon Wrapped In Butter
I headed for the dentist’s to have my only filling refilled, and wasn’t too psyched about it. It’s not that I’m afraid of dentists. I’ve had a root canal with no Novocaine, and come very close to falling asleep in the contoured comfort of dentist’s chairs fairly regularly. I wasn’t psyched because, in my mouth, cavities are little maintenance failures. I’ve had one in my life, and this was to repair a filling from the first. It was on the lighter side of failure, but it was still a failure.
While I rolled along the curved coastal roads, I approached a spot where the two lanes merge for a few hundred feet before going back to two lanes. There was ample space in front and back of me, and everyone was positioned and ready for a smooth merge. Suddenly, the Mercedes behind me stomps on the gas to rush past me and squeeze himself between my hood and the bumper of the car in front of me. I didn’t have to lock up my brakes or anything, but I had to use them unnecessarily. All I could think was, “Nice way to fuck up a merge, asshole.”
Even though I know a couple of Mercedes drivers who are nice people, why is it that I always assume that the actions of Mercedes drivers are the result of being an asshole? The base model Mercedes isn’t much more expensive than ROCKET CAR! was, so it wasn’t because of jealousy. Maybe it’s the instant status symbol of it. Maybe it was that driving a Mercedes is a vehicular version of wearing a tie even though you don’t have to. It’s a logo on your shirt, a number after your name. In my mind, that little tri-pointed ornament somehow peppers a base of justified deserve with words like exclusion and pedigree, and does it in an over-stylized Thurston Howell voice. I have no idea why, but nine times out of ten, no matter what you do in your Mercedes, I’ll think, “What an asshole.” And maybe that’s the point.
When I got home, I entertained the baby a little. At some point during the last few days, the baby learned what “I’m gonna getcha” means. I have no idea how she figured it out, but when I say it, she takes off squealing and crawling down the hall.
I put the baby down for a nap, grabbed a quick sandwich, and sat down to write. It was 70 degrees and sunny out, and it was an understatement to say that I didn’t feel like writing. I’d rather have been reading or staring at a wall, but I managed to get a little editing done despite myself.
When the baby woke up, I took her for an hour-long walk. It was either that or sit around the house keeping her from climbing on things. The walk ended up being 3.3 miles, and the baby seemed bored the entire time. I can’t really blame her. Walks are so fucking boring it hurts. She’s not even walking yet, and she was looking at me as if to say, “Dad, this is SO lame.”
When I got home, #1GF! left to help her mother out. I fed the baby and put her to bed. I wrote for a while, got her up, fed her again, and waited for #1GF! to get home. #1GF! gave the baby her last meal of the day, and I made dinner because there weren’t enough leftovers to keep me from cooking. Actually, there probably were, but one of the peppers was within a day or two of going bad, and I wanted to use it before it did. Holy shit. What has happened to me? Next week, maybe I’ll work in a nice discussion on aprons. Gah.
I ate a lot of chocolate chip cookies that I didn’t even like because even a bad homemade chocolate chip cookie is still pretty good. Instead of doing something useful, I looked up the science of chocolate chip cookies and found that one of the secrets that was in the original Toll House recipe, but omitted from the back of every bag of chips is this line: “At Toll House, we chill this dough overnight.” Some bakers claim to store the dough in the fridge for 36 hours before baking. It was a trick that I’d have to try to keep chocolate chip cookies from flattening out into the greasy wafers that an unhacked Toll House recipe brings into the world.
I cooked dinner, cleaned up, and then cleaned the sink so that #1GF! could give the baby a bath. By the time I sat down at the PC, it was already 8 PM. What the flying hell? Some days just slip through my fingers like lubed bacon wrapped in butter.
Tuesday (Day 1080): Wait For The Beep
We took the baby to her nine month doctor’s appointment. It went normally except the doctor invited me to a baby play group for stay at home dads. I was really grateful for the offer, but it somehow made me feel like a huge loser. I suddenly felt as if being a stay at home dad is a consolation prize for men who can’t do anything else. If I started going to play groups, I wasn’t a writer and a stay at home dad. I was one of those housewives who writes rhyming poetry on the backs of baby catalogs and sends it off to magazines in hopes of being published one day.
I think it’s great that there are play groups like that out there, but I found it difficult to imagine myself getting into one. Play groups for stay at home dads seem pretty rare, so I was happy for the offer, but I didn’t know if I was manufactured as play date ready. It was something that I’d have to think about…after I finish this one last poem.
It was really the first appointment that the baby was independently mobile for, so she had to be contained and entertained more than any appointment in the past. That led to a little fussiness, but the doctor seemed to think that she had a great disposition. The baby turned out to be very normal in every other category, which was a bit of a slap because I see her as a beautiful genius super baby. It was a bit of a wake-up call that I didn’t need. I wanted to return to the fortress of solitude where my skewed opinions met with no resistance.
#1GF! went to work, and I took the baby home and fed her. After I put the baby in for a nap, I sat at the counter reading a book and eating my sandwich because blogging seemed like a stupid thing to do. So did writing. I sat reading because reading is nearly impossible for me to fail at. After ten minutes, I went in to blog because even if I’m failing, I can’t stop. I’m somehow driven to shape and modify my literary failure instead of just accepting it and enjoying the day. The office had the feel of a sprung trap.
#1GF! went to visit her mother after work, so I spent the rest of the day entertaining the baby. #1GF! got home just in time to put the baby to bed. I wasn’t burned out or frustrated, but I was happy to not be chasing a baby for the first time in eleven hours. Eleven hours. It seemed like a long time to watch a baby, but I imagine that other people watch more babies for longer than that on a regular basis.
I sat at the counter and ate leftovers while reading a book. I should’ve written while eating, but I still didn’t quite care about writing. At 8:45 PM, #1GF! came out to get a plate of leftovers, and I went in to finish off the first pass at LOR 154. I was three days behind on finishing it.
Before we went to bed, I asked #1GF! if she saw the Crazy Calls commercial I posted on Facebook.
“No,” #1GF! replied, “you know how I feel about videos.”
“I was writing about that phone call last week when you sang ‘Nobody’s Home,’ and I had to look up the commercial that it came from. Wait for the beep. You gotta leave your name you gotta leave your number.”
#1GF! laughed. “Why don’t you post that sort of thing on your blog?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“You’re not making any money by posting things to Facebook.”
She was absolutely right. I had no idea when I gave up my blog as being a log of all the funny crap I find and turned it into Jon’s baby care and imaginary robot emporium. Fucking social media. It’s like we’re all working to make someone else’s site popular instead of our own.
Wednesday (Day 1081): Subconscious Baby Care Invasion
I woke up in the middle of the night and tried to grab the baby just before she crawled off the edge of the bed and plummeted to the hardwood floor below. I would’ve been able to save her, but she was fast asleep in her crib. What I grabbed #1GF!’s leg, which startled her out of a sound sleep.
The baby woke up at 5 AM, and randomly cried until 6 AM while #1GF! comforted her. I tried to go to back to sleep, and managed to get fifteen minutes out of the deal until the alarm freaked out with a loud buzzing noise that indicated that alarm clocks only have a shelf life of twenty-five or so years. I dove for the nightstand and fumbled through switches and buttons to keep the baby from waking up. I was mildly successful.
It had been raining all night, so I sighed and trudged down the basement stairs to check for water. It was dry. I checked the attic, and there was a puddle on the plastic I laid down as a precaution after I thought I fixed the roof last time. The spot was somehow still leaking. That added to the tired feeling which was coloring my morning an unwelcome shade of grey.
I ate a bowl of cereal and read a few pages of fiction in the dim light that filtered in through the clouds. I was stuck in that indecisive lighting where it’s too bright to turn on a light, but too dark to read by natural light. The baby still wasn’t awake after I fished the last few Cheerios out of the bowl, so I switched books and read a few pages of a book on writing while I had the chance.
When the baby finally woke up, I took care of her until it was time to take a shower. The baby wasn’t interested in me at all. She just wanted her mother, who was busy getting ready for work.
#1GF! got ready and headed out the door.
“Are you going for a haircut after work?” I asked.
“Yes.” She turned to the baby. “It’s okay, honey. Mommy is going to start pulling her weight around here someday.”
“Pulling your weight?” I asked. “You bring home a check. That’s all the weight you need to pull. I’m the one who’s light around here.”
#1GF! frowned and rolled her eyes as if I weren’t right. “Do you remember waking up last night?” she asked.
“And grabbing you? Yea. Sorry about that. I thought the baby was about to crawl over the edge of the bed headfirst and I was trying to stop her.”
She looked at me with unexpected but genuine sympathy. “You poor thing.”
“It’s either baby care or writing about baby care, so it’s about time that it started invading my dreams.”
“Well, what do you want to do?”
“Pay no attention to me. I’m perfectly fine. I’m doing exactly what I want, minus being published and having an incredibly awesome Mr. T beard-mohawk combo.”
#1GF! just shook her head. Sometimes, I think she thinks that I’m kidding. I pity the fool who thinks I’m kidding when I refer to Mr. T. Ungh.
Once #1GF! was off to work and the baby was quietly sleeping in her crib, I sat down and punched out a few notes about the last couple of days. I did it without much feeling or thought because I was getting to the point where I needed the LOR series to end. There was less and less writing to be proud of in its lines, and it was taking up too much time for too little feedback. If I spent the time I wanted to on it, it would be one well crafted, annually published paragraph instead of reams and reams of shit that I crank out week after week. And that paragraph would be nothing worth reading without the surrounding mundane context. The series was a giant catch 22.
I spent the day oscillating between baby care and editing. I wasn’t sure when #1GF! was getting home, so I didn’t start dinner until she did.
“Sorry about all this,” said #1GF! as she whisked in the door and gave the baby a bath.
I was fine with it. It wasn’t ideal to do eleven hour baby care days, but I was sure that people do more. Chasing an infant can be tiring, but it wasn’t like I was working in a coal mine. I shrugged. “You don’t have to apologize. It’s all temporary.”
I made broccoli alfredo for dinner at around 8:30 PM and read a book on writing while I cooked to get the most out of what was left of the day. Dinner was at 9, and afterward, I talked to #1GF! about ending the Life of Riley series. She shook her head at me like she was aggravated. “People like to read it. What about them?”
“What about them? I don’t even know if they’re reading. It’s not like there’s a lot of feedback anymore.”
“But people like it.”
“I’m spending at least half my week writing for people who I don’t know and never hear from. I have no idea if they like it. Even if they are reading along and even if they do enjoy it, how can I justify donating that much time to people I don’t even know for no conceivable gain?”
“Well, maybe they could help you. I always thought one of them would eventually.”
“It’s been three years. Week 156 is next week. That’s a very non-random time to end it. It started as a way to cut the amount of writing, and it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s out of control and I can’t get anything else done. I should be spending that time working on something marketable. Doesn’t that make sense?”
“What about going back to when they were only a thousand words?”
“The only time the series was that short was in the first six months, and that was only because I wasn’t writing in complete sentences.”
“I can’t talk to you when you get like this. You’re not going to listen to me, so end it if you want to.”
“I think I need to.”
#1GF! was getting even more aggravated with me. “But you’ve worked so long to build it up. Giving up on it doesn’t make sense.”
“It’s cutting my losses and moving on. It’s like the daily blogging angle. At some point you realize that it’s not going to work and you have to make corrections or move on. I don’t think that there are corrections that can be made.”
#1GF! didn’t want to talk about it anymore. And neither did I.
Thursday (Day 1082): The Shopping Cart Cozy
After the baby’s afternoon nap, I took her out food shopping for the first time in quite a while. I used to put her car seat in the shopping cart and shop quickly, but she had become so mobile and alert in recent months, that I figured that sort of thing would’ve created a very frustrated and very loud baby. I took this soft cushy shopping cart cover that #1GF! bought with the intention of sitting the baby in the baby seat of the shopping cart for the first time. The soft cover was supposed to keep her cozy and stop her from putting her mouth all over a shopping cart that a million people have touched and no one had ever cleaned.
I took the baby out of the car and grabbed a nearby shopping cart. With one hand, I wrapped the cover over and around the baby seat, and with the other, I put the baby in it. It sounds like it was easy, but there was a fair amount of struggling and a few sheepish grins from other shoppers walking by. Within a few minutes, I had the baby strapped in to this cozy shopping cart cover and we were on our way into the store.
The cover was black with white stripes, but the lack of pink or flowers didn’t make it any more masculine looking. Then again, baby stuff can’t be made to look masculine. Some companies try, but it never really works. You’re better off with pink everything and shrugging like you didn’t buy it than to walk around with some half masculine thing that gives the impression that you actually tried to make it look macho.
The baby wasn’t used to sitting in the carriage, so every move I made rocked her around like a passenger in the car of a teenager driving stick for the first time. Other than that, food shopping went really well. The baby was enthralled with all the different foods, and stared at the bagger while we were in the checkout line. The bagger talked to her, and the baby looked at me with wide eyes as if to ask if she was okay. I shrugged and told her to say hello. She turned back to the bagger and leaned out of the carriage to hold onto the stainless steel checkout counter and smiled. Everyone melted. That’s my kid.
#1GF! arrived home at her normal time, and I asked her if she wanted a little leftover mac and cheese. She didn’t. I cooked up mine, and then, upon seeing it, she said that she did. I don’t understand why women sometimes actually have to see food before wanting it. I don’t understand that at all.
It was really nice out, so #1GF! and I went for a walk after dinner. We talked about the lawn and whether it was better to overseed and fertilize, or simply weed kill and fertilize. #1GF! didn’t share the same opinion that I did and the discussion sort of dropped as we turned a corner and watched the sun drop like a big red ball behind Boston. The red light of the sunset reflected off of windows of the local houses as if an entire neighborhood were being gutted by individual fires.
When it was time for the baby to go to bed, she cried for a full hour, possibly after eating too much mac and cheese off of #1GF!’s plate. She went to bed at around 10 PM, which killed off the evening, as a screaming baby tends to do.
Friday (Day 1083): The Coffee Rebellion
The baby was up at various points during the night crying. I’d like to think that it was because she wanted more of that delicious mac and cheese, but I’m betting that it had to do with an overload of dairy in a fledgling digestive system. What should’ve been a solid night of sleep on a full belly of some miggidy miggidy mac and cheese, ended up as a bad night of sleep for everyone.
Once I was out of bed for the final time, I made coffee in an attempt to stem the waves of contagious yawns that threatened to put us all down. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I ended up with a full-on coffee maker rebellion. The maker was steaming and spitting like an angry old man. Coffee was overflowing out of the top and spilling all over the counter, and the pot was full of grounds. When I took the pot out to dump it down the sink, the coffee maker somehow overrode its shutoff button and let loose a stream of coffee all over the counter. The whole coffee maker went into the sink, and #1GF! went off to work without a coffee booster pack.
I put the baby to bed and then cleaned up the evaporating coffee lakes that had randomly spread across the counter. I went into the office to write, but got distracted because my hands smelled like coffee. Or something did. I washed my hands, and sat down at the computer, and smelled coffee again. I couldn’t get away from the smell, and had no idea where it was coming from.
When I finally stopped looking for the source of the mysterious coffee smell, I got mired in the details of a story I was working on. I didn’t have a good grasp on the characters, and was having a lot of trouble getting anything written. Every line seemed to lead to a question rather than a clarification. To me, writing a book is like dumping a puzzle on the floor. At first it’s confusing and overwhelming, but as pieces fall into place it gets easier and more fun. This story was so new that I was still dumping pieces out of the box.
…And the rest of the day is a mystery. #1GF! came home from work. I probably made dinner. And? And I have no idea. It’s another day lost to history unrecorded.
Saturday (Day 1084): Are You Crazy? You Don’t Feed A Baby Chili!
I put the baby in for her morning nap, and dusted and swept the house. I finally moved a box of PC related crap into a closet. The box had been sitting on our bedroom floor since we moved in. I could’ve cleaned the box out (because, really, when am I going to ever need twenty PC power cables, a cantenna, or a bunch of BNC connectors? Okay, maybe the cantenna could still get some use one day.), but I didn’t. To match my semi-organization, #1GF! finally moved her winter clothes to the attic.
The baby soon woke up, and #1GF! took her out for a walk. I cleaned the bathroom while listening to the Pixies. I haven’t listened to them in a while, so I had forgotten how experimental their music was for its time. I went through Surfer Rosa and Doolittle before the bathroom was clean. I played “Where Is My Mind” twice because it’s easier than letting the song slip by unappreciated.
I put the baby to bed a second time in the afternoon and she didn’t go to sleep easily. Once the crying was replaced with a pristine calm of sunny day in the low 70′s, I sat in front of the PC looking up beards. My intention was to figure out what styles I had left so I could finally shave. I sat there for an hour digging deeper and deeper into beard literature until #1GF! came in to warn me that the day was slipping away. I gave her a confused mumble as if I had just woken up, and finally jumped into the shower in the early afternoon.
We went out to visit #1GF!’s mother and took the baby along. The baby can somehow find a clock in the room when asked “Where’s the clock,” even though I don’t remember teaching her that. It’s a little odd what babies pick up.
After the visit, we picked up a couple of cabinet locks because the baby is very mobile and getting to the point where she’s trying to eat the cabinet knobs. I didn’t think it would be long before she was opening the cabinets to explore, and I didn’t want to take the chance that she got into something in the three seconds that I’m not staring at her.
While #1GF! and I perused the plethora of baby proofing options on the rack in front of us, we stood next to a heavy woman eating a cookie. She told us how cute, but small, the baby was.
“How old is she?” the woman asked.
“About ten months.”
“And what does she weigh?”
“About eighteen pounds.”
“I have twins at home, and they are seven months and twenty-five pounds.”
“Wow,” #1GF! and I both said in unison.
She showed us a cookie. “See this cookie? I eat the cookie, then the babies eat the cookie,” she said very matter-of-factly. “It’s because I’m Haitian. We eat everything. Lots and lots of rice.” I didn’t think that it was a great idea to be feeding a six month old cookies, but then the woman had no detectable Haitian accent, so I assumed that she might be as Haitian as I was Italian. Or crazy. A surprising number of crazy people seek me out for random conversation.
We bought our locks and went home to feed the baby. The day was essentially over and we had barely anything done. To squeeze just a little more out of the day, I went up to the roof to locate the source of a leak that I thought I had already patched. I didn’t have much luck because the roof seemed fine.
I made buffalo wings for dinner while #1GF! put the baby to bed. While I coated those delectably crispy wings in hot sauce, #1GF! asked what movie I wanted to watch during dinner. The movies had been shipped about a month ago, so I had no idea what they even were. For saying that I didn’t care, I got Did You Hear About The Morgans?. It didn’t take long to figure out that it should’ve been titled Carrie Bradshaw’s Other Movie.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant witness a murder and are put into witness protection in Wyoming. Parker spends her screen time pouting and pining for the fashion and bagels of New York while Hugh Grant, as usual, spends his time stuttering and backpedaling. I left to wash my hands about thirty minutes in and never went back. The best thing about the movie was Sam Elliott’s mustache, and there’s only so much of that you can take before you think, “Life is just too short to spend on bullshit like this.”
What I Learned
- Gruyère cheese belongs in homemade mac and cheese.
- David Morell writes a good thriller.
- The baby knows what “I’m gonna getcha” means.
- Toll house cookie dough was originally supposed to be refregerated overnight before baking.
- Baby care has invaded my subconscious.
- I’m not very adept at roof repair.
- The shopping cart cozy was a success.
- There are a lot more variations of facial hair out there than I have on my beard page.
- The baby can point to a clock when asked.
- The baby can identify her hair and belly now, too.
- Some people feed their six month olds cookies and rice. It takes all kinds, I suppose.
- Sam Elliott’s mustache, although awesome, cannot carry a movie.