Monday, January 12, 2015


Friday morning, after she dropped J.P. off at school, Jude flew to Charlotte, NC, to meet her new niece for the first time.  That left the boys with me for the weekend in, as we like to call it, "GUYTOWN." 

It's a running joke, especially between J.P. and me, that in "Guytown" we do things quite a bit differently than normal.  For the past couple of weeks, at breakfast and dinner, J.P. and I talked about all of the things we were going to do in "Guytown."  Watch Monday Night Raw ("wrestling"), eat cold pizza for breakfast, not brush our teeth, crank up the music and rip the knobs off, stay up late and wear short outside no matter how cold it is.  You know, "Guytown" things.

Friday afternoon, I left work early and picked up Joe at school (West End Methodist Church) at 2:15 p.m.  Joe and I stopped by the house to change his diaper, then went to pick up J.P. at school (University School of Nashville).  We drove to REI in Brentwood, so I could buy a backpack (men don't carry diaper bags in "Guytown").  Next, it was off to Centennial High School, so we could watch my niece, Kaitlyn, play a JV basketball game.

J.P. and Joe had a great time at Kaitlyn's game, as they always do.  Actually, attending a JV game was nice, because the varsity games we attend are more crowded, and the boys were able to interact with Kaitlyn during the game a bit when she was resting on the bench.  After the game (an Independence victory), Matthew (Hearn), J.P., Joe and I grabbed a couple of basketballs, walked on to the court and played a little basketball while we waited for Kaitlyn.  It was fun watching Matthew rebound for J.P. while J.P. took some shots.

J.P., Joe and I drove home, but not before stopping by Brown's Diner to pick up takeout.  The big news was that J.P. and talked Joe into trying a grilled cheese from Brown's Diner and he liked it.  Shortly thereafter, it was off to bed.  Well, sort of.  As we had previously agreed, J.P. waited 10 minutes or so until Joe was asleep, then sneaked downstairs with me to watch television.  In what may have been the highlight of the weekend for me, J.P. and I stayed up until almost 10:30 p.m. watching the Golden State - Cleveland NBA basketball game.  It was a real father-son moment.

Saturday morning, the three of us went to breakfast at Sylvan Park, one of J.P.'s favorite breakfast and a place we haven't been to in a while.  We had a "Guytown" breakfast, for sure, as J.P. had toast, bacon, pancakes and orange juice.  He even tried my sausage, which he liked.  Joe tried "real" pancakes and liked them, which was cool. 

After breakfast, I surprised the boys with a trip to the Boat & RV Show at the Convention Center downtown.  J.P. (more so than Joe) loved climbing into and out of the RV's, as he has in years past when we've attended the show.  Joe was a little tired by the time we headed home for lunch. 

Next, it as off to J.P.'s first basketball game (WNSL) at Eachin Elementary School.  J.P. played his best game yet.  I was pleased because he played aggressively, which is something I've encouraged him to do.  He had a couple of steals and mixed it up with the other boys under the goal as he tried to rebound the basketball.  Best of all, though, was when he brought the ball up court one time, then drove the lane all the way to basket.  I didn't care that he missed the layup because he took the ball to the rim.  It was awesome!

From basketball, I drove J.P. to Bounce U for a birthday party.  We arrived a little late, but J.P. was able to get some playtime in with some of his classmates, not to mention pizza and birthday cake.  We arrived home, packed up and drove to Cool Springs (with Jude's parents following us) to go to Sportsmen's Grill to celebrate my mom's 75th birthday party.  The boys were great and we had fun at dinner with my family.

Back home for the night, I got the boys to bed.  J.P. was so tired, he fell asleep and didn't sneak out of his bedroom for some more late night television watching.  Sunday morning, we all slept in, then had a leisurely breakfast at Bongo Java.  We picked up donuts, then went to church, where Jude met us, having driven straight from the airport.  The boys were glad to see her, which was sweet.

Even better for me, though, was when J.P. told Jude later Sunday afternoon that he was sad "Guytown" was over.  I don't get much time alone with the boys, so I treasure the time that I do get with them.  It's nice to know that the three of us can make it on our own, when Jude is gone for a few days.  It's good for her to get away every now and then, I think, and it's good for me to get some alone time with J.P. and Joe. 

Like Christmas (or so J.P. and I joke), "Guytown" is a place in your heart. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sand Through the Hourglass

After a late night grocery store run, I'm sitting at a corner table in the back of the 12South Tap Room, having a quick beer before I head home.  Once upon a time, the Tap Room was one of my regular haunts, before the 12South building and population explosion.

In fact, between six and seven years ago, when J.P. was in infant, he and strolled to the Tap Room almost every Saturday afternoon while he napped in the City Elite.  More often than not, he and I were the only people in the bar on those lazy Saturday afternoons.  While he slept, I read the New Yorker, worked crossword puzzles or just relaxed.

For a while, I arranged for special guests to meet us at the Tap Room on Saturday afternoons.  Among those who made cameo appearances were Mike Matteson, Rip Pewett and Peter Klett (w/his son, Cortland).  It was the beginning of my fatherhood ride and for the most part, a blissful time in my life.  With two boys and with J.P. starting school, playing sports, etc., things are more hectic now, for sure.

I miss the early days.

When J.P. and I first started dropping by the Tap Room on Saturday afternoons, I got to know a bartender named "Sweeney."  As we chatted amiably one day, I realized I had played softball against him in the law league a few years earlier.  He had hit 2 or 3 home runs off me and I hadn't seen him since that game.  It turned out his father is a lawyer I know and we had a few laughs about him coming out of nowhere (seemingly) to hammer the (self-proclaimed) best softball pitcher in the history of the law league.

Over the next few years, I saw Sweeney less and less as I stopped coming into the Tap Room as often.  I lost track of him, for the most part, until tonight, when he happened to be working.  He told me he's down to his last two weeks working at the bar, as he's leaving to work as an "outfitter" (whatever that means) in New Hampshire.  I  remember talking with him after he got married and bought his first house, but perhaps that didn't work out.

Great guy, great personality and a bit player in Act I of my life as a father.

Good luck, Sweeney.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve 2014

It's Christmas Eve, Jude and the boys are in bed and the stockings are hung . . . well, not necessarily hung, but filled with goodies and set carefully on the floor amidst a plethora of presents at the foot of our Christmas tree.  So there.

I'm having a glass of wine and listening to a Christmas music playlist on Spotify.  Willie Nelson, Nora Jones, Tim Reynolds, Ricky Skaggs, etc.  It's nice.

As always on Christmas Eve, I'm a bit melancholy, as my favorite time of year draws to a close.  October 1 - January 1 is my favorite time of year.  I love fall, football, the temperature dropping, Halloween, Thanksgiving and, most of all, Christmas.  I love everything about the Christmas season and now it's over, or nearly so.

It doesn't improve my mood to have the Elf on the Shelf staring accusingly at me with his sidelong glance.  The boys have has so much fun getting up each morning and trying to find the Elf.  Today, as the Elf sat quietly on the mantle above our fireplace, looking at our Christmas tree, J.P. wrote him a note telling him he would miss him.

It was touching and a bit sad, mostly because I suspect that before next Christmas, J.P. will learn the truth about Santa Claus and, of course, Elf on the Shelf.  He's at that age and in school, where someone will spill the beans and tell him something he or she learned from an older brother or sister.  I dread that day, because the real joy of Christmas is experiencing it through a child's eyes.

I'm also feeling a bit nostalgic, because this Christmas, our 11th if my math is correct, is almost certainly our last one in our house on Elliott Avenue.  We've outgrown this house, plain and simple, and after the first of the year, I think we'll resume looking in earnest for a new house.  This house has been so good to us, as we've celebrated holidays and birthdays in it.  It's hard to imagine leaving the house and the neighborhood, but it's time.  More - a lot more - on that later.

For now, though, Merry Christmas from 1906 Elliott Avenue in the heart of Nashville.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Last Ride?

I'm sitting in the back of Bongo Java, at my favorite table, finishing a "mood elevator" made just the way I like it by Hunter, a longtime barista here.

It's such a gorgeous day for late December - temperature in the low 50's - that I decided to take Joe for quick walk in the City Elite before I take J.P. to basketball practice.  As always, Joe fell asleep before we were 2 blocks away from the house.

That's the magic of the City Elite at work, I suppose.  So many hours of napping, for Joe and J.P., have taken place in that stroller.  It's very nearly a thing of the past, as I've mentioned in previous posts.  By the time spring is here, Joe may well be too big for the City Elite.

There's kind of a "Puff the Magic Dragon" feel to it all, really.  Like the song, one day in the very, very near future, Joe won't want or be able to be strolled for his nap anymore.  And I'll be like Puff.  Sad and nostalgic for the innocent times that will be gone, never to return.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Photographs and Memories

J.P. and Joe, watching the wild animals from the balcony of our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

I took this photo from the balcony of our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Joe, for the first time ever, sleeping on the bottom bunk of a "big boy bed" in our room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  He fell out of bed early Friday morning, but survived to enjoy the rest of the trip.

The petting zoo at Animal Kingdom.

The petting zoo at Animal Kingdom.

More petting zoo.

J.P., getting a sticker in his wildlife book at the Animal Kingdom.  As you and can see, the staff were amazingly sweet to all of the children.


J.P. going native!

Digging for dinosaur bones at Animal Kingdom.

Entering the Magic Kingdom.

View of the castle as we entered the Magic Kingdom.

J.P. and Mickey Mouse.

J.P. w/Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  Joe was too scared to get his photo taken with Mickey and Minnie. Go figure.

Speed racers.

J.P. loved the shooting gallery.  Old school.

J.P., fighting off the enemy from the fort on Tom Sawyer's Island.

Joe and J.P. on Tom Sawyer's Island.


J.P.  I love this photo.

J.P. and the Mayor.

J.P. and the old man, preparing to enter the Magic Kingdom Saturday morning.

J.P. and Finn, Saturday night.  

A Vacation to Remember

Our vacation with the boys at Disney World was damn near perfect.

We had so much fun as a family.  It really was the trip of a lifetime and, hopefully, we have a lifetime's worth of memories to keep with us.  

For the boys, anyway the memories will fade away as they get older and experience so many other things in their lives.  For Jude and me, though, I think the memory of taking them on their first trip to Disney World will always be special.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think even the small details of the trip will be etched in our minds for all time.  

Highlights?  Too many to capture, but I'll give it a shot.

  • J.P. turned into a real "world traveler" for the first time, as he carried his own suitcase through the airport.  More importantly, for the first time ever, he didn't vomit on the flight to Orlando or on the return flight to Nashville.  Progress?  I'd say so.
  • Expedition Everest.  An error in judgment by Jude and me to let him ride it with his old man, as I think we ruined all roller coasters for J.P. for a long, long time.  Afterwards, he was almost catatonic for an hour or so as we walked around the Animal Kingdom Thursday morning.  If only that damn "yeti" wouldn't have torn up the track!
  • The safari at Animal Kingdom.  A true highlight of the trip.  It's well documented that I don't like zoos, aquariums, circuses, etc., because I'm bothered by the animals being caged up so far away from their natural habitats.  It seemed different, somehow, for the animals on the safari, because their was so much open space in which they could roam.  I realize it's just a bigger cage on a certain level, but it felt different.  Really cool.
  • Being able to watch, from the balcony of our hotel room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, as the giraffes ambled over to the pond for dinner each evening was awe inspiring.  Such graceful, peaceful animals.
  • Joe, being Joe, delighted in screaming out "yeti" throughout our stay, having heard J.P. and I talk about the "yeti" on "Expedition Everest."  It became a running joke, as each time we returned to the hotel and disembarked from the bus, J.P. and Joe would run ahead, hide, then jump out and scream "yeti!"  Jude and I looked at each other and smiled as the boys laughed uproariously together.
  • J.P. loved, and I mean loved, "the Hall of Presidents," of all things.  We watched the 20+ minute historical film on Friday and Saturday.  On the return visit Saturday, we sat in the front row of the large theater, so J.P. could see for himself whether all of the presidents who appear "in person" at the end of the film were actors or robots.  He had convinced himself after our Friday visit that the presidents were actors, so he was a bit disappointed to learn otherwise on Saturday.
  • J.P. and I laughed (as did those around us) Saturday afternoon and evening, as we took turns calling out an obscure president's name (i.e. Millard Fillmore), then slowly nodding our heads like each presidential robot did when his name was called out after the film at "the Hall of Presidents."  I don't know why we thought it was so funny, but we did.  Cyndi (Baines), Cyndi's mom (Sue) and Jude laughed right along with us.
  • J.P. and Joe loved the Peter Pan ride.  It was old school, nice and slow, but I think what the boys liked was "flying" slowly over London.  Not at all like "flying" backwards down Mount Everest through dark tunnels with a "yeti" chasing you.   
  • I'm not sure why, but J.P. fell in love with the old time "shooting gallery" in Frontierland.  4 quarters for 35 shots at various "targets."  It was so unlike Xbox, Playstation, etc., which I why I think I liked it.  Well, that and the look of horror on Jude's face as J.P. held a "rifle," grinning from ear to ear.  
  • Tom Sawyer's Island was really, really cool.  J.P. and Joe loved exploring the fort there.  Keeping with our gun theme, J.P. got a kick out of firing the guns on the top of the fort, as imaginary attackers tried to sneak up the riverbank.  Jude just shook her head sadly.  Boys, indeed, will be boys.
  • The Swiss Family Robinson tree house was also cool, for a lot of the same reasons the fort on Tom Sawyer's Island was.  
  • J.P. and I rode "Pirates of the Caribbean," which he enjoyed after I convinced him it wasn't another roller coaster.  Boys, pirates?  Always a winner combination.
  • We all rode "It's a Small World" on Friday and Saturday.  An old school ride for sure, but the boys liked it (especially Joe).  I'm pretty sure it hasn't changed a bit since I was a kid. 
  • It was great to spend some time with Cyndi Baines, Finn, Sue Debula (Cyndi's mom) and Jake (Cydi's 6 year old nephew).  They drove over from Jacksonville/Neptune Beach Saturday morning and we had dinner together Saturday night at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney.
  • For me, the highlight of the trip may well have been arriving at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning in time to line up and wait for the official opening of the park.  More on that later, but it was great to feel the anticipation build in the crowd outside the park until "the mayor" finally walked out and made note of the approaching train carrying Mickey, Minnie and their friends.
  • J.P. loved "the racetrack."  He "drove" a car with me working the gas peddle and him steering once on Friday and 3 or 4 times Saturday morning.  In fact, we were the very first drivers on racetrack Saturday morning, which was awesome.

We'll got back to Disney World, of that I'm sure.  But we'll never go to Disney World together for the first time, again.  

The Magic Kingdom really is the happiest place on earth.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Just Plain Magic

I'm sitting in the bar at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, day 2 of our Disneyworld adventure in the books.  The boys are asleep in the room and Jude is licking her wounds after I smoked her 5 or 6 games in a row in iPad Boggle.  The bar seems to be populated by parents, relaxing without the kids after a long day marching through the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, etc. 

We're having a great time, even better than I imagined we would have.  It really is a magical place.

After a surprisingly easy flight in Wednesday night (as in no vomiting!), we checked into or room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The Lodge is a pretty amazing place, insofar as we can look out our window and see giraffes, zebras, ostriches and many other animals roaming around the grounds.  Pretty cool for parents and children alike.

Yesterday, we left early for a 10 minute bus ride to the Animal Kingdom.  First up, "Expedition Everest," which Jude had booked for us via Fastpass (no waiting in line for the ride).  J.P. and I almost skipped up to the ride with absolutely no idea what we were in for.  In short, it's a roller coaster that travels up "Mt. Everest" through a series of caves, only to find that a "yeti" has torn up the track, as a result of which the roller coaster rolls down hill through a series of twists and turns at breakneck speed. 

It was terrifying. 

At one point during the ride, J.P. looked at me and said, "I knew I wouldn't like this," followed by "you made me ride this."  Of course, neither of those statements was true.  Still, he was not a happy camper. 

When we safely disembarked from "Expedition Everest," J.P. and I both felt like we were going to throw up.  For the next couple of hours, he was quiet, subdued even, I think because his stomach felt queasy.  I felt the same way.  Fortunately, though, he rallied after we ate lunch and was his normal self the rest of the day.

J.P. and Joe particularly enjoyed "the safari," during which we saw a variety of exotic animals.  White rhinos, elephants, giraffes, hippos, gnus, etc.  It was really cool. 

Last night, we had dinner in a restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge, then put the boys to bed.  Today, really early, it was off to Magic Kingdom.  More on that later.