Naptime Chronicles: Ode to Captain Calamari

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On our refrigerator, we have a magnetic dry-erase board where we keep a list. The list is called Family Members Ranked. It’s where we rank the family members weekly — well, it’s really more of a passive-aggressive way for the wife and I to communicate. I started the list with me as number one, but I’ve been erased and crossed-out and ranked down multiple times. Likewise, the dog, who got into the trash can recently, has been ranked down to one million on the list.

Currently, in the wife’s handwriting, she and the baby are simultaneously tied for number one in the family. Number two is me; I didn’t do anything to irritate her this week worth ranking me down. Number three is Captain Calamari, barely. We wrote it so long ago that it’s almost completely faded. Number one million is the dog. She can stay there forever as far I’m concerned.

Who is Captain Calamari? He was a plushy squid with various rattles and mirrors attached to his colorful tentacles. He was my baby’s favorite toy. Maybe he was just our favorite toy for the baby. He was a member of our family.

I remember when the Captain first arrived on our porch in a brown box, ahead of the baby shower, the very first “official” baby gift we happened to receive. The wife had registered for Captain Calamari because it was just fun to say. It’s all like “do you wanna register for Captain Calamari?” “HELL YEAH I wanna register for Captain Calamari.” And by pure serendipity, as I was playing with my new video camera that day, I captured the Captain’s arrival and opening on camera. We knew he was special.

The kid seemed to take to him right away. He stared blankly at everything else we deliriously rattled and shook at him, but the Captain always caught his eye. Within a year, the blank stare of a baby becomes an interest, which becomes a gleaming, which becomes a smile, a giggle, a grabbing, becomes a child walking upright and carrying it around.

He intrigued him, he soothed him, he made him giggle. We used to sing “You’re Still the One” about the Captain and the Baby, because it was that one toy he seemed to always go back to.

And then one day, it’s over. He’s no longer interested the patterns and mirrors and rattles. He’s moved on. He wants objects with wheels and things with buttons to push. He wants the dog, her tail. He wants us, always us. So much us. He wants to pull down the magazines, every last one. He wants to walk off with the TV remote control. He wants to play with the outlets, wires, climb up the stairs, and paw at the oven. If it’s dangerous, it attracts him. Soft cuddly objects need not apply.

So now Captain Calamari sits in the back bedroom, along with newborn onesies and dangly object mats and the bumbo seat. They feel like relics to me, a walk through a museum of an older life I used to have. This must be what it feels like when my grandparents go in their basement or attic storage. Except it’s just one year of life, though it might as well be one hundred. Sleep deprivation is to time as blackholes are to matter.

My mom used to tell me. Then other parents used to tell me. Hell, complete strangers tell me. I’ll tell you. “It goes so fast.”

It’s all they ever say, too. It goes so fast. And then you find out it does, and you feel compelled to pass this message onto others, as if they’ll heed this warning and discover something to hang onto, some way to slow life down. But they won’t really listen, they won’t really believe you.

When I was a young adult, I used to wonder what else there was to do in life. Like really, what else is there? Going out and doing stuff, hanging out, hobbies, stuff. It’s all stuff. What else is there to do in life, ever?

Some days, I think I have the answer to that. Like, here is something else. I could write an obituary for a stuffed toy.

CALAMARI, Captain. Beloved first toy of Brian. Devoted plush squid. Dear relative of Huey the Hedgehog, Freddie the Firefly, and Rusty the Robot, in the same series of toys. He served his post well in all capacities. Full of developmental features that capture baby’s imagination and stimulate the senses. Features a crinkly hat, clacking rings, 8 knottie activity legs, rattle, and a surprise mirror. He retired to the back bedroom after eleven months of service. Everyone except for the stupid dog is welcome to attend his viewing whenever they want.

My Kid’s First Birthday Party

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Having never really arranged or thrown a big party before, I sort of pictured a one-year-old’s birthday in the park on a mid-summer afternoon a chill event. You rent a pavilion, you bring a cornhole set, you eat popcorn, drink soda and beer, and you watch a baby smash cake in his face.

All of that happened, so it was a success.

Of course, all of that only happens after a few analytical freak-outs about how many sodas, chips, sandwiches, and party blowers one should buy, laying awake nights calculating complex algebraic ratios of invited guests to Mug Root Beers to Orange Crush sodas. And because I’m insane or can’t do math, it’s easier to just buy a hundred sodas and let the world burn. I imagine dropping a lit match on the fuel-soaked Costco as I swagger out with my “party pack” of sodas in my arms.

Then there’s the decorations, which, the less said about that, the better. The party was Ninja Turtle themed, so just go ahead and multiply my love of Ninja Turtles by one hundred, and you will arrive at roughly what I spent on decor and green napkins.

Also, it was 105 degrees.

Today it is also 105 degrees, but my happy thought today is that I do not have to host a baby’s birthday party in it. Whee!

However, yesterday…well, nobody got heat stroke, so it was a success.

The main reason I’m writing this post though is because my kid got a Powerwheels Car. Grandpa bought it for him. What the hell, Grandpa? I never got a Powerwheels Car when I was a kid.

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Now my dad will try to sell you some sob story about how he once sold a kidney to buy me a Sega Genesis during Christmas season…

Still. Not a Powerwheels.

My kid is a freaking baby. He can’t even drive it. So I went ahead and “tested” the Powerwheels out, my weight putting roughly 10x the stress limit on the motor, but whatever, I’m due this. That bad boy RIPPED across the living at two miles per hour and it was possibly the greatest, longest-awaited two seconds of my life.

Update: I let my kid ride it. I mean, yeah, he’s still a freaking baby, but what’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that. I held him really good. And he loved it. Okay, yeah, that was way more fun than me riding it.

My Kid Turned One. I Got Trading Cards Made of Him.

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My kid turned one a few days ago. As a gift to him, or really more to myself for surviving Year One, I got these trading cards made, modeled after the first series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle trading cards in the 1990s.

First things first, my friend and retro pop culture graphic designer Jon Hunt totally nailed these cards. He’s open to odd jobs, so if you want, you can contact him at flyingsauceronline@gmail.com.

I cut the cards and displayed them in plastic card sheeting, alongside the TMNT cards in a 3-binder notebook, so it sort of just looks like my kid’s cards are part of the original run.

I wrote the captions. #Braggingrights. I know, “Cowabunga!” must have taken me HOURS to come up with. It really did. Don’t even judge.

50 Days of Summer: T-Shirt Regret

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Our first official family beach vacation happened. It was the first time we went on vacation with a kid, and we took the dog too. It was great, but I’m also pretty sure someone has a voodoo doll of me and was sticking pins in it all week.

Things that happened:

– $150 speeding ticket on the way there in one of the infamous, pure pure evil speed traps

– Dog freaked out in condo; barked “without pause” for two days

– “Without pause” in quotations because that’s what the first angry note, scrawled in blood on a paper towel and posted on our door, described it as.

– Okay, it wasn’t really written in blood, but it may as well have been with how seething it was.

– Soooo, we bought the dog a toy, played with her extra, walked her extra, and she seemed totally fine. We posted our phone number on the door for people to call us if the dog was bothering them. We received no calls on our 2nd beach day. Problem solved, right?

– Wrong. Instead, we received an even angrier note, with multiple exclamation points, carefully shaded in. Who does that? Who shades in exclamation points on anonymous passive aggressive notes?

– I talked to all the neighbors personally, offering to buy them a 6-pack and to call me if the dog bothered them. All denied writing the note. WTF. But after that, Note-Gate mysteriously ended.

– Wife came down with head cold.

– Baby came down with head cold.

– I came down with head cold.

– And for the grand finale, I fucked my car trying to turn out of a narrow alley parking spot, getting stuck and denting it/scratching it straight to hell.

But you know what? We still had a great time. And I’m so sociopathically committed to ENJOYING VACATION NO MATTER WHAT that my one sole regret is that I didn’t buy my son a beanie babies shirt.

I know what you’re thinking. I officially got sun stroke and lost my damn mind on this vacation. It’s possible. Very very possible.

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This is not the shirt I didn’t buy. This is just an example of what the shirt was. If it had been this shirt, I probably would not have been able to resist.

I love digging in the racks of the numerous t-shirt stores. The clearance racks in the back are always goldmines of stray long-ago printed 90s shirts. While I didn’t find any “MUST BUY” gems, I almost bought my kid a 90s Beanies shirt that said “This is my Beanies Shirt.” It was so perfect and so terrible.

The only thing was, if I bought this for him, was it because I loved him? Or if I didn’t buy it, was it because I loved him?

Ultimately I decided I loved him too much to dress him in twenty-year-old shirts saturated in roughly seven levels of postmodern irony that would be totally lost on him. One day he’d just take a picture of him in that shirt and hand it to the therapist wordlessly.

But damn it, it was only $2.99. I should have bought it.

50 Days of Summer: Guest Post

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Today I’m posting a very special kind of post. I’m posting a guest post. Except the guest doesn’t even know I’m posting it. But his or her comment deserves to be read by the entire world. Or all forty of you.

Approximately two decades ago on this blog, I was writing about a character from Jurassic Park: The Lost World. This character is named Eddie Carr. I know nothing about Eddie Carr. I know next to nothing about The Lost World. I’ve seen it twice and hated it twice.

Here are the things I know about The Lost World:

1. The family dog dies. Fuck this movie.

2.  There is a character named Eddie Carr in it. I only know this because I have an action figure of this character in my basement. I have two of them, actually.

One time, two or three decades ago, or maybe a million years ago, I wrote a blog post about my bemusement that Eddie Carr action figures exist. At the time I wrote dismissively, “in the film, Eddie Carr is the balding field equipment technician who is unceremoniously killed by a pack of raptors somewhere halfway through the movie. Kids will really want an action figure of this guy.”

Today, someone left this comment on that post. This is your guest post, insane, glorious, Internet-stranger:

“Unceremoniously killed by a pack of raptors”?!?

He died trying to save three people trapped in an RV hanging off a cliff.  He risked his life to get to them, his limbs to rig the winch, and he stayed in the drivers seat of that Mercedes SUV despite not one but TWO T-Rex’s baring down on him. He stayed at his post bravely mashing the gas pedal while in reverse trying to hold the RV from falling giving his friends the precious seconds they needed to secure themselves to the rope that EDDIE had thrown to them.

He also secured the little girl up in the high blind where she would be safe.
The man is a GOD DAMNED HERO. He saved both Vince Vaughn and Jeff Goldblum. His actions are directly responsible for saving the lives of four people.

Even as the T-Rex’s tore apart the vehicle around him he held his post and that gas pedal. He didn’t do that for himself, he did that to save his people because he was a beautiful, caring, selfless man.

I think he deserves a presidential commendation for his bravery and for sacrificing his life to save his comrades. It’s the only scene in a movie where I’ve openly wept for such a great characters death.”

Whoever you are, I would buy your book.