Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Great, America

A few weeks ago, Luca and Elijah returned home from an amusement park with friends and said breathlessly, “Great America changed me.”

And then began a relentless campaign of badgering me to take them to Duff Gardens, I mean Great America. It just so happened that Diana had an upcomming trip planned to watch a band she followed around in her youth. So I agreed to take the day off and conscripted Tom and Steve and their kids to join us.

Because God likes a good joke, a massive heat wave hit the week we were going to go. I tried to explain it might be too hot to safely visit Great America. But the only words they heard were “Visit Great America.” There was no getting out of it.

Last Saturday, we plowed our car through the humidity and ignored the radio DJs pleas to stay indoors. As we waited for the gates to open, I realized if you want to beat the long lines at the amusement park, a dangerously hot day was just the ticket.

Eli and I peeled off from the group and went to his number one target: The Superman Rollercoaster. This is that ride where you dangle, Superman style, from the coaster instead of sitting like a human being.

As we inched closer to the front, I noticed kid after kid getting bounced from the line for being too short. I instructed Eli to measure himself against the little Red/Green stick. He was in the red by about an inch or two. I could tell from his expression that he really, really wanted to do this. So I told him to stand on his tiptoes as we approached the ride.

I shoved him to an inside position and with a static-y garble, the safety arm swung down over our heads. Eli said, “Daddy?” and I regretted my decision to skirt the rules. He was absolutely swimming in the apparatus. He seemed secure. But was he really? I almost raised my hands to the operator to get us out of there. I remained silent because causing a scene was way worse than my son’s safety.

As we clicked our way up the first hill, I instructed Eli to hold my hand. I was pretty sure I could hold into him through the 9 Gs we’d be experiencing if he fell out.

I screamed, “I love you!”

Eli screamed, “This is great!” Those are some pretty fine last words.

After the ride, Eli begged me to go again but I refused, saying it would never be as good the second time around.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last Ride

On most Saturday mornings, Elijah, Luca and I go on little bike riding adventures down to the lakefront. We ride around looking at all the old women who stake their claims to picnic tables for family reunions hours later. I let the boys leap on the graffiti rocks and give them the choice of any restaurant they want for lunch. They always choose Potbelly's. Always.

We have a pretty good safety routine. At every intersection, I will shout, “Straight!” or, “Left!” as loud as I can. Then Eli will shout, “What?” I’ll shout back the answer and Luca will shout, “What?” This goes on until we are through the intersection.

It’s all very fun and I’m 50% sure I am giving the boys some great, sepia toned memories that will compete with all the memories where I yell at them for something dumb.

But I felt like we were missing something. A certain wine-goddess something. Ever since she saw a young Asian girl get hit by a bike on the lakefront path and her bone stuck out of her leg, Diana has been anti-bike. She simply thinks bike riding is too dangerous. 

A couple Sundays ago, it was gorgeous outside and the path was calling to us (me). I shoved the boys at Diana with their cutest faces on and made them beg Diana to join us.

Diana was unconvinced. “I think my tires are flat.”

“Nope. Just filled them.”

“I think my brakes are broken.”

“Nope. We fixed them.”

After 30 or 40 minutes looking for the same helmets and bike locks we misplace every single week, we hit the road. I went very, very slowly so Diana would get comfortable with our system.

We rode downtown and stuck to the big green bike lane. Nothing too nutso. I think I even heard Diana say, “Whee.”

I led us to a stop at Davis street, single file and waited for the light to turn. Diana said, “Eli, you can go up by dad.”

But what Eli heard was, “Eli, you can go.”

Eli darted out into traffic. I shouted, “Stop!” over and over with increasing volume in the hopes that would make a difference. Luckily, the only car on the road saw this debacle a half mile away and slowed to a stop.

I took this opportunity to scream at Eli about looking both ways. Our family clustered in the intersection and the car waited patiently for the terrible father to finish yelling.

I ushered us to the other side and we rode in silence. At the next intersection, Eli lost control of his bike and he slid into the street, where a giant white SUV turned right. I screamed again and Eli slunk his head into his shoulders.

Diana mouthed the words, “Never again,” to me.

Eventually we made it home and I apologized to everyone for losing my temper. We put our bikes in the garage and leaded Diana’s up against the wall, where it will remain forever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I was sleeping in Luca’s room and Grover was doing that thing where he shoves his wet, cold nose in my face to wake me up and take him outside. This should enrage me, but I love it more than anything. Life is so stupidly complicated, I wish all communication could consist of shoving our noses into each other’s faces.

As I slipped into whatever pair of pants I would occupy the whole weekend, Luca sleepily asked, “What’s that scratching on the window?”

 I said, “Probably tree branches,” as I opened the shade.

Nope. Not tree branches. It was a little bird. A little bird that had somehow gotten stuck between the storm window and the screen. It was flapping its little arms in a desperate attempt to escape. But no luck.

Luca, understandably, freaked out. Not scared. He was just really enthusiastic about this animal. But more importantly, enthusiastic about me saving it.

This went against my initial instinct just to close the shades and never, ever open them again.

“I’m not sure what to do here, pal. Maybe he wanted to commit suicide and this would go against his wishes.”

“I’m going to name him Jack,” Luca said. Now it had a name.

It’s time like these that I miss my dad. I desperately wanted to call him. Not because he would have any advice whatsoever, but I imagine he would have really enjoyed making fun of me.

Diana appeared in the doorway and Luca excitedly got her up to speed. The bird’s name is Jack and I was right about to save him. Any minute now.

Diana informed us that she would be closing the door now, so when our solution inevitably released the bird into Luca’s room, it would be trapped in there with us.

My painfully full bladder inspired me to find a solution fast. I slowly raised the screen a few inches. In a panic, Jack immediately evacuated his bowels and latched on. I inched the screen slowly, but surely. Jack rode the screen elevator, peeing and pooping his guts out the whole time.

Luca loved this. And I think he actually looked at me with a tiny bit of admiration.

Eventually, Jack reached the top floor and he flew away. I like to think he went off to tell his bird friends the story of how a hu-man saved his life. And one day when I’m cornered by wolves, Jack will swoop in and return the favor. 

But more likely he got eaten by a cat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


On Sunday, we packed up our camping tent, our sleeping bags, our 3 Kindle Fires, our 3 iPhones and another couple electronic devices and headed to Diana’s Dad’s place for some 3rd of July camping.

Don Jacklich lives a block or two away from the big “Eyes To The Skies” carnival. Eyes To The Skies features a cavalcade of hot air balloons intended to cram the air with goofy shapes and heated helium. In the past 11 years I’ve attended Eyes To The Skies, I have seen exactly zero hot air balloons actually leave the ground. There is always some lame excuse like the safety of the occupants. Diana’s brother dubbed the event “Lies To The Skies.”

But that never seems to deter Elijah and Luca. They are there for the carnival rides, plain and simple. The boys have been inching closer and closer to scary rides* over the last few years. But I was still convinced they would stay in the kiddie area with the little cars that went in a circle or the little boats that went in a circle.


They wanted to ride “The Gravitron.” You’ve seen this thing before. It’s a cylinder of sorts. Kids climb in and then it goes round and round real fast and everyone gets pinned to the wall.  This is a ride we had to wait to experience as they hosed off the vomit.

I tried to convince them they were both much too short to ride. Unfortunately for my lying, there was a little measuring thing right next to the entrance that proved me wrong. I suggested this would be a great opportunity for their mother to bond with them both. Sensing they would see me vomit, they insisted I go. 

Inside this monstrosity, I leaned up against the wall and a teenager very politely asked the carney if it was okay to “go do tricks.” What? What tricks?

The ride started and within seconds we were pinned to the walls. I immediately thought I had died in a Gravitron related heart attack and was currently occupying the fifth circle of Hell, also called “The Gravitron.” Centrifugal force caused children’s faces to take on demonic grimaces. The teen who wanted to “go do tricks” was suddenly upside down. Another kid was horizontal, along the roof of the Gravitron, crawling around like a cargo short wearing crab.

Deep from within me came an animal-like shriek. I screamed, “I don’t want to be here! I want to go home! Please let me go home!” I also could hear Eli and Luca screaming, but in utter pleasure.

As the ride drifted to a halt, my boys led the chorus of, “Again! Again! Again!” I informed the ride operator that I would use every penny of my vast Hamann fortune to sue him if he started it up again.

Instead, the boys went immediately to the end of the line and rode The Gravitron again. Thankfully, they found riding without me to be even more exciting. I clutched Diana, shaking like a leaf.

We had officially separated the men from the boys.

*A couple weeks ago, Luca rode “The Zipper” with our friends Kitty and Joe. Right before the ride started, he soberly admitted he stepped in dog poop once and didn’t tell anyone. He needed to clear his conscious before what he assumed was certain death.