Friday, March 24, 2017

Dorito Trip

Last Saturday, our front door rang at 8am, sending Grover into an apoplectic fit. Luca triggered our home security system to see who it was, sending me into an apoplectic fit. It was a crew of Elijah’s pals. The chubby one, the athletic one, the nerd, and some kid I didn’t know. It was a little 80’s movie cast shuffling on my stoop.

I informed Eli he had visitors, but he felt the process of actually putting on underpants and regular pants would take too long, so I told the crew Eli would catch up to them at the park. Unfortunately, by the time the whole pants issue was rectified, the kids were off on an adventure. Probably to go walk on train tracks and find a dead body.

Wait, is Eli allowed to have adventures now? He’s been under lock and key for almost 10 years. And now his pals were off doing stuff unsupervised. What’s the official parent policy on this? Don’t you get arrested in some cities for letting your kid do stuff? At the same time, I didn’t want Eli to grow up watching the world go by from a sad little room while he practices violin, occasionally waving his bow at kids playing stickball while I demand a cup of tea in my drawing room, dressed in my ratty old smoking jacket. Man, this got 1800’s really fast.

I decided at the next adventure opportunity, Eli could go. And that opportunity came the next day when his little pal came over for a play date.

“Dad, can we go to the store and buy some snacks?”

I agreed, but not before totally ruining it. “Cross only at crosswalks. Do not speak to anyone. If you see anyone doing anything remotely scary, run. Do not accept a ride from anyone. If you see someone with an assault rifle, run.”

Eli’s friend looked on in horror and secretly reminded himself to thank his parents for not being nuts.

After they left, Diana stared out the window and clutched her breast. “My baby,” she cried.

I tried to busy myself building some Ikea thing Diana purchased to busy me, but I kept checking the time every 43 seconds. Were they gone too long? Was that a siren I just heard? Is that smoke in the distance? Are those Godzilla footsteps?

Eli and pal returned with a collection of salt and sugar poison and I resisted the urge to hold him in my arms and beg him never to leave again.

I did what any dad would do. I ate all the Doritos.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Speech



We share an alley with a national government official. She’s pretty nice and doesn’t cause a lot of fuss in the neighborhood. Occasionally a group of protestors will chant in front of her house and shake anti-abortion signs, but that just gives me the opportunity to take my middle fingers out for a spin.

A few months ago, Diana spotted an old, gross government toilet in the alley behind the official’s house. Knowing the city would never take away this official throne, Diana hauled it away to toss out in her Wine Goddess industrial garbage.

We had her right where we wanted her. In the Chicago way, all we had to do was ask. Turn a blind eye to our constant nudity? Take care of my lone parking ticket? Have the local skunk taken out? She was ours. Diana opted to cash in her governmental chips by having the official speak at The Wine Goddess during one of Diana’s events to overthrow the government.

The event was a postcard writing party where women wrote notes to President Trump like, “Show us your taxes!” And, “Seriously, show us your taxes. My note was, “Бросить, пока вы может.“ “Quit while you can” in Russian. Thanks Google Translate!

The government official swooped in, scanned the crowd and immediately launched into her go to speech for angry women half drunk on Prosecco and civic duty.

About 45 seconds into the speech, Elijah decided it was the perfect time to use the power hose to wash dishes in The Wine Goddess kitchen. Without a beat, the official simply raised her volume to drown out the roar of water and the subsequent Diana shout whisper to knock it off.

Luca’s protest was a little subtler. He positioned himself at the wine bar behind the official as she spoke. Any photograph taken during the event would come with the caption, “Local Government Official Endorses Local Child Alcoholic!” Luca also mockingly mimicked the official’s speech, rolling his eyes and silently mouthing her words.

By the time Diana dragged the boys to the front door, I was already packed and ready to go. We spent the rest of the event playing video games. Our civic duty.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Dectector


Sometimes, late at night, I fantasize about my response if we were ever to have a fire. What’s my first move? What’s my most heroic move? Mostly I just envision climbing down a blanket rope with Elijah, Luca, Diana and Grover on my back. Plus all my Star Wars guys.

Well, my fantasies took a beating the other night when our fire alarm went off at 1am. Thankfully, there was no real fire, which would not have been great given my response time. My initial reaction was to put my blanket over my head and hope the fire would consume me before I had to put sweatpants on. But Diana eventually roused me.

This particular smoke detector was an original that came with our house, wired directly into the ceiling. However, this detector was positioned over our new staircase. It was two floors of empty space straight down. 

Oh, did I say beeping? Not just beeping. This relic also included a pre-Siri disembodied voice that repeated, “Fire! Fire!”

The only way to access the detector was to position a ladder on our landing and then stretch way out into the void. Diana held onto the ladder with all her might and I extended like a middle aged Cirque Du Soleil acrobat. If I really put myself at death’s door I could just brush the bottom of the detector with my finger.

“Fire! Fire! Fire!”

At some point, Luca emerged from his room to say, “Turn that off. I’m sleepy.” Thanks for the tip. Eli never did come out of his room. I made a mental note to rethink our fire escape plan.

Finally, I managed to extract the 9 volt battery from the base and the noise stopped. Diana looked around for a 9V replacement, but since it wasn’t 1977, we didn’t have any. Exhausted, I suggested we all go to bed. Diana asked if there was a chance the thing would go off again since it was technically still attached to our wiring. I said no way.

CUT TO 3am.

“Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!”

Back to the ladder. I stretched out as far as I could and Diana calmly handed me a hammer. I smashed it to bits.


-->
It was one small, and probably our last, victory against the machine uprising.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mummy Bonus



I am one of the worst gamblers in the world. Lifetime, I am in the hole around $500. Which is not terrible in the scheme of things, but I have only gambled $500 in my life. Gambling unleashes a rage in me that I cannot control. I have only told two people “I hate you” to their face and both of them were blackjack dealers.

Because I project my insecurities onto my sons, I want them to be good at gambling. So I take them to Nickel City.

Nickel city is this amazing throw back in the northern suburbs. It’s located in a crumby strip mall, sandwiched between a Chinese food place and a hobby store. For $5 you can get a little sack of nickels, which may or may not add up to $5.

It features a bunch of super dated games from the 90’s, which take, you guessed it, nickels. Well, increments of nickels. They feature some of the grossest pizza in the world and watery Cokes, but the real beauty of the place is gambling.

Nickel City is crammed with games that deliver tickets to the winner. There is ski ball and basketball and other skill based games, but the boys’ favorite are the games of chance. Spin a big wheel for the opportunity to win 1,000 tickets. Hit a button, releasing a rubber ball onto a series of holes for a chance to win 20 tickets. Also, no limit Baccarat.

Our absolute favorite is “Pharaoh’s Treasure.” Drop a nickel into the top and it falls onto a big pile of other, less happy nickels. If you knock a few nickels into the trough, you get tickets. Drop a lot of nickels into the trough and you get lots of tickets. Dumping nickel after nickel into oblivion prepares Elijah and Luca for having their own sons. Bam!

Last Saturday, we were dumping nickels overboard when Eli’s machine lit up. “I got a Mummy Bonus!” Apparently a Mummy Bonus involves moving a little plastic mummy across the board with your nickel pile. If the mummy reaches a certain point, you get, like, 50 tickets. Eli was ticket rich.

I desperately wanted Luca to also be Mummy ticket rich. Mostly because I didn’t want to deal with ticket inequity at the end of the day. So we scoped out a machine that looked like it would pay off soon (a precarious Mummy). Luca dumped a handful of nickels in with little luck. He began to get frustrated, so I told him we could use my nickel sack. I keep a personal stash of nickels so I can play racing games and also to supplement Eli’s nickel stash since he burns through nickels like a desperate man bailing out a leaky life boat.

I pumped nickel after nickel into the machine and watched as the Mummy barely moved. This undead jerk taunted me with his greed. I grimaced at the sternly worded warning from Nickel City management about shaking or tilting the game. I did not want to force the clearly stoned front desk guy into having to bounce a 44 year old man.

After almost reaching my last nickel, or rather the last of my tolerance to touch dirty nickels, we hit the Mummy Bonus. I was Luca’s hero. He was a ticket twentyfiveionaire.

And then we visited the unhappy man at the prize booth. Luca told me, “This is going to be a while. I am only buying small things.”

I played my favorite game, Antibacterial Gel Dispenser.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Deal



Planet Earth is currently hurling itself towards the sun in a bad action movie apocalypse scenario. It’s the only explanation for the unbelievably beautiful 60+ degree weather we’ve been experiencing. I think the boys’ generation will survive, but we are actively sterilizing them with video game exposure to spare future generations the horror of burning up in the sun.

In the meantime, we had a ton of outside fun last weekend.

On Sunday, Diana found a forest preserve way out in the northwest suburbs that boasted lakes and fauna and miles of well-groomed hiking trails. It took us twice as long to convince (threaten/cajole) the boys to go than it did to actually drive to the preserve.

The place was awesome and reminded us that there is more to nature than the skunk that currently lives under our neighbor’s porch. After a few trips around the lake and a visit to a staggeringly horrifying men’s room, we decided to take a walk on one of the aforementioned trails.

We chose the red trail loop because it was red. I hesitated at the mileage (1.5 miles) because our children are not known for their endurance. But I figured we could always turn around if the complaints got too loud.

It was simply lovely. We saw huge trees, horse tracks and neat little wooden bridges. Friendly dogs allowed me to manhandle them. The only disappointment was the lack of giant piles of horse poop, which we were hoping to see after the tracks.

After an hour or so marching, Luca decided his legs didn’t work. He began to complain about his body aching and he was hungry. I was surprised we hadn’t finished the loop by then. We were slow, but we weren’t that slow.

I checked the next trail marker. Instead of bright red, the sign was an ominous black. It read “DT.” What was DT? Death trail? Doom Town? Dumb Tramp?

A middle age couple approached wearing matching vests. I feared them, so I shuffled to the side and let them pass. Diana, on the other hand, is a functioning human so she asked them for help.

Vest Man consulted his phone. He pointed us out on his map. Then he explained we were on the Des Plains River Trail. A beautiful path that will take ya all the way to Wisconsin. Then he scrolled his phone to where the red trail meets the DT. It was a long, long scroll.

We had a massive walk ahead of us. Luca knew he had us dead to rights. He informed us that our punishment for getting him lost was we had to take them to both McDonalds and Taco Bell for lunch. Feeling the gaze of the Vests, I said, “Oh no. That food is terrible. We would never…”

Once the Vests were out of earshot, Diana and I agreed to Luca’s demands and made our way slowly back to base. Diana carried Luca on her back. I chastised the dogs for tricking me into getting off trail.


My Taco Supreme Big Mac combo was delicious.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Boats


Our Mexican hotel butted up against a lovely beach the locals described as, “No longer where we dumb our sewage” and, “Rumors of sewage are exaggerated!” The boys and I loved it. They would tumble around the waves and I would warn them about the vicious butt biting Mexican Carp. And then pinch their butts.

One morning at breakfast, we met a very nice American couple, who described walking around Chicago dressed as Klingons when they heard where we were from. I made a mental note to avoid them.

The man, Jim, suggested we take the boys out on the hotel provided kayaks later that day. “You don’t gotta sign them out or anything. We’ll each take a boy and paddle out to the big rocks. It will be great!” Elijah and Luca burned holes into my brain with their eyes.

There was no way that was going to happen. But I was interested in a solo kayak mission with the boys. For no other reason than to prove to them I was willing to put my sons in danger like Jim.

I convinced Luca to go with me first. Eli was a little more hesitant because boating would cut into his Youtube time. We dragged the plastic kayak out to the waves and I plopped Luca on top. It suddenly dawned on me that I had never actually been on a kayak before. And had zero idea how to: a) get on it. And b) pilot the vessel. I looked out at the waves crashing on the rocks and thought, “This isn’t how you die, Hamann. You are meant for a heart attack.”

After capsizing our ship so many times it became more interesting to the beach vendors than selling their grains of rice with your name on it, we managed to put out to sea. I demanded total stillness on Luca’s part, so I could have complete concentration. But after a while we hit calmer waters and both fell in love with our tiny blue boat.

We then talked about our lives. I told Luca I was kind of scared about my new job and he described in detail this terrible video game he was obsessed with called Robloks.

I would press him for more details about his life. “Tell me one secret you’ve never told anyone, Luca. I promise not to reveal it to anyone.”

“Well, this one time on Roblocks…”

This became our daily ritual. I would paddle out into the ocean and beg Luca to tell me about his life and he would regale me of stories about this one time on Roblocks.

Finally, after days of cajoling, I managed to get Luca to tell me one non-Roblocks secret he had told no one else. It was so lovely and silly and the epitome of what a seven-year-old would consider a secret I simply can’t reveal it to you.

I did get Eli out on the kayak one time, where he told me the secrets of this funny Youtube video he saw one time.