Thursday, April 27, 2017

Don & Besters

In a fit of boredom last winter break, we carted the kids and my pal John to a huge arcade/bar downtown. Since naming real places can get me fired from my fancy advertising job, let’s just call it “Don & Besters.” I’m not 100% sure why we decided on D&B. I think it was because they don’t let kids into off track betting facilities.

For those of you who have never been to a Don & Besters, consider yourself lucky. According to its website, you can “Play the newest arcade games, enjoy chef-crafted creations, sip innovative cocktails & watch your team in the sports bar that crushes the competition!” However, I think the description is missing the edgy, recycled air and vague threat of violence of a Las Vegas casino without the prostitutes.

The kids loved it.

Our pal John, who is a video game savant, won 5,000 tickets at a single video game and gave them all to Elijah, who turned them into a pair of shiny disco headphones and probably some gum.

Needless to say, Eli chose Don & Besters for his birthday party.

Because D&B is prohibitively expensive, we limited the guests to a handful of cousins and pals. Eli briefly considered inviting John, in hopes the ringer would deliver another 5,000 ticket bounty, but ultimately went with this friend Gabe.

We arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday and the clientele was decidedly rougher than our winter trip. I think some customers were there as part of community service.

I laid down the rules. You must have a buddy at all times. No one goes to the bathroom, billiards area or Champagne Room by themselves. The kids immediately launched into an insane ritual of picking who would be buddy to whom and it devolved into fighting and hurt feelings. Diana canceled the rule and said, “Just don’t get kidnapped,” and that was that.

We ordered a giant pile of food and 6 drinks with battery powered ice cubes. I inquired about their largest beer and the kids raced off to play screaming games. Our completely lovely, yet utterly overworked server tried to juggle her duties of busboy, server, bartender, host, TV repair, bouncer, fry cook and bomb disposal. She was the recipient of a massive tip.

Games were played. Plastic things were won, saturated fat was consumed. Each child walked away with a few nice trinkets, some nice memories and probably hepatitis. I walked away with swollen fingers from all the chicken fingers.

We will never do this again.

Thanks Don & Besters!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Ants

In the weeks leading up to Easter, Elijah and Luca contemplated the big religious questions like “What are you getting us?”

Diana threatened to buy children’s bibles and that shut them right up.

Unlike Santa, The Easter Bunny is a little harder for the boys to wrap their heads around. Luca even went so far as to ask what a rabbit had to do with Jesus. He said, “I guess it’s just like a mascot. Like advertising for Jesus.”


I didn’t have a ton to do for Easter Eve since the Easter Bunny is totally real and handled all of the egg hiding and Lego purchasing.

Our neighbor Lexa, on the other hand, was hard at work. Because she is the greatest neighbor in the history of the world, Lexa decided to throw an inter-yard egg hunt. She even went so far as to purchase enough different kinds of plastic eggs that each child could have their own color, eliminating any hard feelings. She even woke up at 6am on Easter morning to personally hide all the eggs and apparently clean up the 4 pounds of Grover poop in our backyard.

Did I mention she is the greatest neighbor in the history of the world?

Easter morning came early. So early that Eli spun our bedroom clock around so we wouldn’t see the godawful time they were bouncing on our heads.

Legos discovered, candy devoured, coffee consumed, we all adjourned to the yard for the hunt. We discussed the rules (No pushing. No fighting. No pointing out the horrible state of our sod) and then they were off!

There were immediate shrieks of joy upon finding the little plastic eggs. Followed closely by shrieks of horror.

In the short time between Lexa hiding all the candy filled plastic eggs and the actual hunt, the eggs had become infested with millions of ants. So instead of colorful delights, the children found black, writhing terror.

Luca simply brushed off the insects and chowed down. The other kids were a little more grossed out.

We rinsed off the eggs and tried it again later inside, which resulted in slightly fewer candy and ants. But in the end we rested assured we had done our part for childhood obesity.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


In the days leading up to Elijah’s tenth birthday, I realized not all of his presents would arrive in time from Giant River Megacorp. I explained this to him and without looking up from his screen said, “I already saw everything in your cart.” TouchĂ©.

Eli’s official birthday extravaganza is next weekend, because most of his little pals would be otherwise engaged with Christ’s rebirth this weekend. So we kept yesterday fairly low key.

He chose Chili’s for his birthday lunch, despite my pointing out of every single other option on the walk over. I actually like Chili’s because it is so delightfully out of place in Evanston’s organic valley. They print the caloric count of each menu item just to see the look on our liberal faces.

Afterwards, we went to see the movie “Boss Baby.” In the weeks leading up to his birthday, Eli would gush about the commercials for the movie and I would say things like, “Over my dead body,” and, “This feels like a Schuyler outing.” The kids thought it was the greatest movie ever made and seemed genuinely disappointed that I didn’t like it. I extracted my best passive aggressive dad move, saying, “I’m just glad YOU liked it.”

The night ended with a trip to The Little Mexican CafĂ©. This restaurant holds the record for being Eli’s favorite and Luca’s least favorite place in the world. After several hours of threats, Luca sat quietly in front of his coagulating crispy tacos while Eli wolfed down quesadilla after quesadilla.

Diana asked Eli for his goals in year ten. What did he want to accomplish? What were his hopes? What here his dreams?

Mouth full of guacamole, he simply said, “I want to just live my life.”

I could never ask for a better wish for him. I want him to live his life. Without worry or pain or anxiety. I just want him to live his life. Whatever life he wants. I want him to live HIS life. Not the life I think he should live or not the life Evanston wants him to life. His life.

Eli followed up by saying he wanted to accomplish going to the ice cream shop after dinner.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Part of the military complex of hotels on our vacation included a “Dolphin Experience.” There were little brochures everywhere featuring a woman in a tiny bikini kissing a dolphin on the mouth. What exactly where they selling? Whatever it was, Elijah and Luca were not leaving Mexico without experiencing it.

I felt a little bad about signing up. Were we paying for a Black Water style torture chamber for nature’s most beautiful creatures? While convenient, the other attractions at the hotel complex were, at best, cruddy knock offs of the real thing. At the Benihana style restaurant, the “chef” nearly took of the head of a 10 year old tourist with a slippery cleaver.

I really didn’t get a chance to voice my concerns. Unless the Dolphin Experience included eating vegetables or reading a book, the boys were going.

We arrived at the giant pool and waited for our turn. I peered into the water and saw 4 dolphins in warm up mode. They slowly crossed back and forth, getting into the zone. They looked happy enough. But I couldn’t really tell since their mouths were always in that weird smile shape.

Eventually, our group was led to a little shallow lip of the pool and we met our dolphin friends. I immediately fell in love with Alex and Dolphin Whose Name I Can’t Remember (DWNICR). We got to scratch their bellies and hold their hands and learn factoids.

Diana broached the subject about how the dolphins arrived there and how they were treated. Our Dolphin Guide simply recited her pre planned speech from management: “What To Do When An Upper Middle Class Woman Starts In On The Sea World Stuff.”

At some point, Eli had to pee and I explained that we were currently getting covered in Dolphin urine, so he was welcome to give as well as he got. Diana opted to take Eli to the nearby restroom out of respect.

At last came the moment where I got to kiss the dolphin on the mouth like the three quarters naked women in the brochure. I think Alex was into it. And I believe he lingered on my kiss a little bit longer than everyone else.

Some of the other kids in our group paid extra to get dangerously dragged around the pool by the mammals, and Eli looked at me like a cheapskate. I reminded him that he was in a pool with a dolphin and there were children all over the world who would never get the same opportunity. He seemed satisfied when one of the other kids almost got ejected from the pool in his add on.

After we rinsed off the dolphin wee wee, they led us to the room where you got shaken down for overpriced snapshots. Diana, sensing my building anger, opted for the cheapest package, which only allowed pics of Luca and Eli.

I wandered back to the pool and looked down at Alex in the pool. I kind of wanted a memento of our embrace. But my cheapskate-ness had overruled.

When Diana emerged, she told me she had ponied up the extra money for photographic evidence of my bestiality and I was happy.

Now that we are back in the states, we have a lovely CD ROM of our adventure and no actual way of accessing the photos inside. That's why you get the above photo.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Teen Zoo

Last week the family went to Mexico for Spring Break. And because of some work junk, I had to join them late. Because she was outnumbered, Diana chose a massive all inclusive hotel an hour outside Cancun.

The place was like a military base built to keep out any sense of Mexican culture except for the cheerful, yet constantly abused staff. Busses would shuttle white people from hotel complex to hotel complex to visit the water park, Benihana knock off and the most misplaced haunted house in existence.

Oh, and the place was crawling with hammered 18 year olds.

Yes, it was Spring Break and maybe I’m getting old, but something seemed weird. The undulating mass of arms and legs and boobs and butts at the swim up bar seemed too familiar with itself. Too friendly for a group who was most certainly giving each other Herpes. They also seemed to be there with chaperones, who created a separate, more wrinkled drunken mass at the opposite end of the pool. We later learned they were all from the same Michigan high school, and this parental/teen sexcapade was semi sanctioned by the administration in a bizarre, “Well at least we know what’s happening” logic.

Elijah and Luca, understandably, were both intrigued and horrified by the teens. They would occasionally shout out, “Teens!” and then go back to their business.

One afternoon, Diana and Eli opted to stay in our room which left me and Luca to go visit the teen zoo.

I caught Luca staring at the mass and asked him if he wanted to sit right in the middle of it. He didn’t know that was an option. When he demurred, I told him he could get a smoothie at the swim up bar.

As we swam over, I gave him instructions. “Let’s steer clear of the Bros. They tend to be the most aggressive. On second thought, the ladies seem pretty aggressive too.”

“Can I kick them?” He asked.

We arrived at the bar and ordered drinks from a bartender who mouthed, “Kill me.” to us. I wondered if I was causing Luca to abstain from alcohol forever or turning him into a future Bluto Blutarsky.

Luca asked why one girl was kissing three boys. And why they were all shouting. And why that boy fell down. I explained that they were drunk from drinking too much alcohol. Luca asked if I had ever been drunk.

“Never,” I lied.