Monday, July 1, 2019

Baby’s First Concert Pt 2


When we last left our heroes, they had just fended off a couple glasses of bourbon and a slightly exaggerated attack from a homeless person and found themselves in the historic Chicago Theatre for a YouTube stars show.

I was still operating under my secret agreement with myself not to poop on Elijah’s fun, despite my severe reservations about the YouTube stars. As we settled into our seats, having purchased many candies and a t-shirt, I was struck by the crowd’s enthusiasm. I assumed the attendees would sit slack jawed and dead eyed, which is the proper expression for watching YouTube stars. Dang it, Rick. Stop being a cynic. The kids, and they were 99% kids, were diverse, positive and happily queer-supportive. This was a club I was happy my son was part of.

The curtain rose and the capacity crowd went nuts. Like Beatles on Ed Sullivan nuts. Screaming. Shouting. Whoo-hoo-ing. So much screaming. This, despite a performance by the YouTube stars that was not exactly flawless. At no point in the show did all four YouTube stars’ mics work at the same time. And I like to think if you gave me and my pals $2,000 and an afternoon we could have written a funnier show. Dang it. Sorry. I’m doing it again. Eli loved it and that’s what counts. Plus, I found a few moments to enjoy, mostly around the self-described “gay one,” who was appropriately fantastic.

About halfway through the show, one of the YouTube stars performed a multi-media presentation about being a dad. He then asked if there were any dads in the audience. Not thinking through the possible consequences, I stood up and shouted, “I am a dad!”

Next thing I know Eli and I were being ushered onstage.

I had never been onstage at The Chicago Theater. Nor had I ever been screamed at by thousands of children. As someone with anxiety issues, I don’t recommend it.  

We were there to play a game. This game involved three dads dancing for the love of their kids. Dancing. I do not dance. I don’t dance at weddings. I don’t dance at funerals. I don’t dance at YouTube star shows. I briefly considered just walking out of the theater and not stopping until I reached the shores of Evanston. But the look on Eli’s face was, dare I say, pride?

So I danced. I Dabbed. I Flossed. I Robot-ed.

Unfortunately, the…eh…Rubenesque gentleman next to me played to his strength. His size made his dancing hilarious to the crowd. To which I say, not cool, crowd. I could sense my impending loss looming large, like a 280 pound bearded man in a trucker hat. I had to throw a Hail Mary.

I had to do the Worm.

Had I done The Worm since 1987? No, I had not. Did I know the proper technique for The Worm? No, I did not. But there I was, flopping on the filthy Chicago Theatre stage for the enjoyment of absolutely no one. Blood was pumping in my ears so loudly that I didn’t actually hear myself loose to the fat guy.

As the YouTube stars sent us on our painfully long walk back to our seats, Eli held my hand. His expression was still…almost pride? Mixed with a little pity.

For the rest of the night, kids would stop and shout, “You’re the dad!” In line at the bathroom, waiting for a beer to steady my nerves, out on the street. You’re the dad! You’re the dad!

And for a couple minutes I did feel like I was the dad.
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Friday, June 28, 2019

Baby’s First Concert Pt1



This is one of those rare HamannEggs posts that is so long and strange and hilarious that I’m going to break it into two parts or risk missing the really embarrassing stuff.

As you all know, I’m increasingly panicked that Elijah is going to stop wanting to hang out. He barely spends time with me as it is, and I usually have to bribe him with R-rated movies and root beer. Imagine my surprise when he asked if I would take him to a concert in the big city. Or a comedy show. Or something. It was for a Youtube group who is insanely popular. So popular, that they sold out the beautiful Chicago theatre.

I immediately said yes because I am desperate and pathetic for his love but also asked if I could watch a few videos to at least see what we were in for. They are four guys who do dares, I guess? Or eat weird things. Or stunts? I’m honestly not sure even after watching them with my dad squint face on. I just felt old. I silently agreed with myself to be enthusiastic about the show because I need Eli to like me for a few more months before he discovers girls. Or boys.

Because I was born under a bad sign, the show was the evening I returned from a marathon crisscrossing of America on business trips that included a woman pouring an entire cup of coffee in my lap during a 6 hour flight. I said to myself, “Rick, if you act nice and aren’t a gigantic grouch, I’ll buy you a nice bourbon at dinner.” That was enough for me.

Before the show, I took Eli to an expensive steak place. You know, for bourbon. The ladies manning the host station flirted with us because a 12 year old boy and his 47 year old father represent the least sexually threatening duo on the face of the earth. We split an order of lobster deviled eggs, a $20 burger and some ribs. Eli breathlessly told me it was simply the greatest meal of his life. I had to agree.

As we walked to the theatre, we noticed an insane person across the street. He was the kind of insane that was pretty scary for a little guy like Eli. This poor soul was dressed in layers of rags and was screaming at the top of his lungs, swinging an imaginary blade at passersby. I tried to explain to Eli that some people are just troubled and broken and there isn’t much we can do in these situations. Especially 10 minutes before the show starts.

Suddenly, the man locked eyes with Eli and came racing across the street, wielding his imaginary sword and screaming incoherent threats at us.

I did what any protective father would: I shouted, “Run!”

Eli and I ducked into Macy’s department store and hid in the Men’s Underwear Section. Among the boxer briefs, we found two women also hiding from the insane man. The four of us debated which of us the man really wanted to murder. We all agreed it was Eli.

We walked across Macy’s and peeked out the door, hoping no one was waiting to imaginarily stab us. The man was gone and we dashed for the show, which was about to begin.

And that, my friends, was not even the weirdest part of the night.

Stay tuned for part 2.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Video Game Paradise



Luca went to a pal’s birthday party and came back a changed man. The party was located at a place spoken about of in riddles, hushed rumors at baseball practice and clues found in Fortnite lobbies. It was…gasp…a video game lounge.

Luca was so whipped up about this place that he kept telling the same story over and over, like a glitch in the Matrix. “…and then you’re like, boom, pick up the controller.” I won’t bore you with the details of his story, but I heard, “…and then you’re like, boom, pick up the controller,” told to Elijah, Diana, Steve, Liam from next door, our mailman, whomever was unlucky enough to call our house, etc.

Because Mother Nature and Luca are great pals, it dumped rain on Evanston last Saturday, ruining our plans to go to a professional baseball game. Luca, casually picking a bit of lint from his shirt, suggested maybe, perhaps, perchance we could go to the video game lounge instead.

Perchance we did. And it was amazing.

Imagine giant room filled with clusters of state of the art nerd chairs. Plus state of the art nerd monitors. Plus nerd headphones. Plus every violent video game ever created. Plus snacks. Plus servers with green hair and exotic contact lenses. Plus hand sanitizer.

Plus BEER.

I bought us 3 hours of game time because there was some kind of deal, but we all assured ourselves that we couldn’t possibly spend 3 hours in a darkened room playing Fortnite. We emerged 3 hours later, half blind and filled with vague regret for all the violence we committed. My brother and his kids showed up at some point, but I can’t tell you when or how. We stumbled to my car, our skin pale, our eyes burning and fingers raw from hand sanitizer.

This is most likely 100% coincidence, but the boys reached a new level of affection ever since. They start and end every sentence with “I love you, Daddy.” They demand to kiss me before they go to bed. They offer to clear the table. Who knew we could reach a new level of love in a room with cement floors and exposed wiring everywhere? Maybe it was the shared experience of something so stupid, so unnecessary, so kick ass?

Eli has been all over me to go back, but I’ve resisted. I’m worried I won’t be able to recreate the magic of that first time. Plus I’m pretty sure the place gave us the Black Plague.



Thursday, June 6, 2019

Cupcakes


Elijah is the sweetest boy ever. Yes, he has his naughty moments (check the HamannEggs archive for details) and is occasionally brutal to Luca. But in his gooey center he is simply the nicest child ever.

Case in point: He wanted to make cupcakes for his class for the last day of school. This was not an assignment. Not a thing you sign up for at the beginning of the year and regret. Eli simply wanted to do something nice for everyone. Because it was a nice thing to do.

Who does this?

These cupcakes were no Pillsbury box effort. Eli wanted to make them from scratch. Apparently, this involves purchasing a giant Amazon box filled with measuring cups, sifters, cake pans, digital scales, and ten of those little things you squeeze icing through. But we gladly okay any Eli purchase that doesn’t involve weapons.

I arrived home the other night to a giddy Luca, who said, “Dad. Wait until you see what happened with the cupcakes!”

What happened with the cupcakes is Eli had a little measuring mishap, resulting in the bubbling over of much batter all over our oven. There was thick, burned goop everywhere. On the grates, the floor, the door, the neighbor’s roof. Everywhere.

“Whelp,” I said. “It’s the thought that counts.”

Eli had the same look Diana gets when she wants to bomb every tick in Michigan. There was no talking him out of it. Since the cupcake stuff was all used up, he wanted to make sugar cookies and decorate them.

Okay. But first, he had to clean out all the burned goop from the oven so the fire department didn’t pay us a (another) visit. Eli suggested I take goop duty. I informed him when he became a world famous chef with a hit TV show, he’d have a whole staff to clean up his messes. Until then, there’s the steel wool.

He did his best cleaning up. But the goop was angry and did not want to move. It was almost 10pm, so I said let’s just throw the cookies in there and hope for the best.

For the next 20 minutes of baking time, we raced around the kitchen, feverously guiding plumes of thick black smoke away from our smoke detectors. We had every window open and ran around with dual kitchen rags whipping over our heads like helicopter blades.

Thankfully, Evanston’s bravest didn’t have to come over and the cookies turned out pretty great. I ate several to make sure they weren’t poisonous.
The cookies were a hit and possibly influenced his teachers to give him all A’s. Which meant I had to hit the ATM on the way home.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Ticks


When we bought our Wisconsin cabin, they connected us with a local handyman, who is incredibly knowledgeable about the town, the cabin, the local fauna. Plus, he is one of those guys who wears sleeveless shirts. Not a shirt that he cut the sleeves off. A shirt that was purchased with the expressed detail of no sleeves.  

When I see him, our conversations go like this:

“Hi! What do we do if a bat gets in? What do we do if a mouse gets in? What do we do if a deer gets in? What do we do if a badger gets in? What do we do if a tick gets in?”

 “You live in a forest.” I don’t think he likes me very much.

Last time we were at the cabin with our awesome Evanston neighbors, we spent a lot of time talking about ticks getting in. Our handyman says they are just part of Wisconsin life. But ticks hold a special horror for those of us used to living in the cement and manicured lawns of Evanston. Ticks looks weird. Like slightly angrier spiders. Also, they SUCK YOUR BLOOD. Oh, and if you don’t extract them correctly, their heads will be lodged in your scalp forever. Did I mention Lime Disease?

My brothers and I spent summers in Colorado, where ticks managed to stick their faces in our bodies at least once a week. I vividly remember my grandmother holding a lit match next to my fluffy 1980’s hair to coax a tick out of my skull.

As a result, we require everyone who frolics at our cabin to be dipped in a full body OFF! bath. Plus wear a hat. Plus a mosquito net poncho. Plus chainmail. Plus a jacket for dinner.

After some overcooked burgers and undercooked corn on the cob, we retired to our couches for a friendly game of Charades. Did you know I am the world’s worst Charades player? I didn’t either until that night. My version of “Urgent” was to simply bug out my eyes and shake my hands as if I had just finished washing at a truck stop.

Elijah, surprisingly matter of factly, pointed at his leg and said, “Hey, is this a tick?”

Yes. Yes it was. We sprang into action. We killed, tortured and dismembered the offending tick. Diana opened up a bottle of whisky. We then picked through each other’s hair and orifices. Everyone was clean.

Except Eli. He had what looked like another tick embedded in his scalp. Our neighbor Chris, who was slightly more sober than I, heated up a nail with an open flame. I stuck the red hot nail onto the black little thingy. After burning his skull, I realized it was not, in fact, a tick. It was an old scab from some other injury. Oops.

Eli surprisingly took it all in stride. The parasites, the burning nails on his scalp, the parental screaming. I was impressed.

I was also impressed by Diana’s fierce desire to destroy every tick within 400 miles of our cabin. I imagine Diana riding inside a Huey helicopter while “Flight of the Valkyries” blasts as she rains fire on our indigenous tick villagers.

When she asked the local exterminators what could be done, they said, “You live in a forest.” But they’ll still take our money.




Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mr. Mime

Remember Pokémon Go? It was that phenomenon where kids walked in the actual outside and caught adorable digital monsters on their parents’ smartphones.

They made a Pokémon movie in a crass, marketing attempt to bring back all the kids who abandoned their parents’ smartphones for Fortnite violence. The boys were interested in it enough to allow me to pay for those nice, cushy seats that recline two suburbs over.

I took this movie opportunity to take a nap. Maybe top five naps of all time. I slept hard and deep, with gallons of drool. Elijah kept poking me in the face so I wouldn’t miss any of the good parts. I sleepily explained I was sure there were no such parts in that particular movie.

One face poke scene involved a Pokémon called “Mr. Mime.” As you can see from the attached image, he’s, well, a mime. I have no idea what his Pokémon powers are or what he does besides be a mime. But I thought he was hilarious and thanked Eli for poking me in the face.

Inspired by the movie (nice work, marketing guys), the boys jumped passionately back into Pokémon Go. Diana and I were all for it because of the whole not sitting on your butt aspect of it.

Cut to last weekend. I had to leave for a series of meetings in Germany with a super cool client of ours. The boys begged me to catch some European Pokémon. I guess there are some adorable monsters you can only catch on that side of the pond.

I said sure. Grabbing them some digital critters sure beat having to hastily purchase a fist full of Kinder chocolates from duty free on my way home. Plus, they told me the only place to catch my favorite Pokémon, Mr. Mime was in Europe.

Every time I fly to Europe I pretend I’m international movie assassin Jason Bourne. Every. Time. Every passport check in, I pretend “Richard Hamann” is my alias. Every bar, I check for suspicious looking guys with pistol shaped bulges in their leather jackets. Every time I make a call, I expect the person on the other line to exclaim, “Oh my God, it’s Jason Bourne!”

I did a little Pokémon hunting while I was there, but one of the casualties of working on a super cool client is they take your phones a when you're looking at super cool things. I also felt weird about pulling out my phone to hunt down adorable monsters at client dinners.

But there is really no sense in naming this post “Mr. Mime” if I didn’t nab the little jerk.

It went down extremely Jason Bourne-esc. I was alone, at night, on a rainy German street (my real purpose was to run to the ATM to get beer money) and crossed under an extraordinarily German commuter train. The tunnel was drippy, cold and grey. Some shady dudes lurked a few blocks down. They were totally assassins. In hindsight, I may have been slightly in danger. I pulled out my phone, booted up the app, and there he was. Mr. Mime. Doing…mime things. I won’t go into any more details about how Pokémon Go works, because this post has been enough of an ad for them already. Needless to say, it was a battle of Bourne proportions.

I immediately texted the boys, who were giddy at my success. I think they were genuinely proud of their old man.

24 travel hours later I came home a hero, a jetlagged, stinky bad breathed hero. Just like Jason Bourne.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Afrienders Assemble!


A few months ago, the topic of Elijah’s birthday party came up at the dinner table. Where to go? What to do? Hibachi restaurant? The salt would kill me. Medieval Times? The dorkiness would kill me. Hire a clown? The clown would most likely kill us all.

Eli decided on taking a few friends to see the new Avengers movie. Seemed like a choice everyone could get behind. Did I manipulate him into this choice? Since I am the sole author of HamannEggs, the answer is no.

The day of the party came, and Diana announced that instead of wrangling 12 tweens, she would be staying home to order pizza. I congratulated her on her ability to get out of stuff and recruited my brother to take her place.

My mission was the usual when interacting with Eli’s friends: be the coolest, raddest, phattest dad ever. I turned my dad joke dial all the way to eleven. When each kid showed up at our door, I serenaded them from the piano with a custom song based on their name. I gave out copious high fives. I swore, because cool dads swear.

Eli pulled me into the dining room and asked me to knock it off.

Fine. I took the opportunity to ask him if any of his friends would be mad if I had a beer during the movie. He said if it would shut me up, I could drink 10 beers. BTW, I did not drink 10 beers.

Steve and I carted the kids to the theatre and made our way to the concessions stand. I gathered everyone together and said, “Okay. Let’s try not to bankrupt rad dad. Maybe you could all pair up and then you can have one popcorn to share. Sharing is rad, right?”

The scene immediately devolved into tween social complexity the likes of which I had never seen. Who was friends enough to share, but not boyfriend/girlfriend share? Were they best friends or second best friends? What if you wanted to sit next to someone but not share popcorn? What if you had braces and can’t eat popcorn but still wanted to sit next to someone? I stared longingly at the beer stand.

I finally just said forget it. Everyone gets their own snacks and drinks. Go nuts. Who needs to save for college, anyway? The cashiers gathered around to see the total bill, which was staggering. But your son only turns twelve once.

We made our way to our seats, which thankfully were assigned. But they were in two rows, which caused its own tween complexity. I eventually snapped at Eli in front of his friends, which ruined all the dad-radness I had built up over the last few hours.

The movie was great and fun and the kids had a good time. I managed to regain some of my dad-radness on the ride home by singing along off key to the radio.