Archive for November, 2008

A Tale of Two Nannies

Emma is one lucky little bug. She currently resides in a beautiful home, has plenty of food to eat, and enjoys the privilege of having many toys to play with on a daily basis. She possesses a colorful and stylish wardrobe that, when worn, illicits nods of approval and occasional catty glances of envy from the other infants congregating around the milk dispenser at the local pre-pre-pre-school. She even has a dedicated and devoted father-slash-publicist who seems intent on reporting her every milestone and caper to the information-craving masses out there in cyberspace.

While the aforementioned items are all tantamount in terms of importance, I believe that Emma has been most fortunate in the area of day to day, minute by minute, one on one supervision. For the first two and a half months of the Bug’s life, Fehmeen was on maternity leave from school and thus able to stay home with ol’ Tomato Face twenty-four seven while I finished up teaching algebra at La Entrada. The three of us then spent the summer together (an excellent perk when both mama and daddy are teachers), bonding as a family.

As the days got longer and the calendar flipped from July to August, we became acutely aware of the dilemma we were about to face in a few short weeks time. With the advent of the new school year barreling towards us at full speed, we needed to secure a daycare provider for Emma post-haste. Fehmeen and I (and Emma) had gotten accustomed to the one to one baby to caregiver ratio and if we were to go the more traditional daycare route of several babies to one provider, it was highly unlikely we would be satisfied with what we found.

We decided that it would be in our family unit’s best interests to find a nanny who could arrive at our condo around 6:15 am before we left for school and take care of our baby girl the entire day until we arrived home from work sometime around 4:00 pm. Specific duties would entail several feedings, occasional outfit changes (depending upon relative messiness of said feedings), numerous diaper changes, a morning and afternoon nap (for the baby and the nanny), and hour upon hour of exclusive Emmabug entertainment (again, for the baby and the nanny). Did I forget to mention the five days a week part? Oops. My bad.

Now that we had our parameters squared away in terms of the job requirements, all we needed now was to locate someone willing to fill the bill. Much to our excitement and delight, we were blessed not only to find a candidate who was completely capable and fully interested in doing the job AND already knew and was liked by Emma herself, we found two. By the time the first work week of school (for the teachers) arrived, Emma had herself two nannies: my Mom, Judy, would work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Fehmeen’s Mom, Maheen, would work Thursday and Friday.

My Mom would arrive to our Sunnyvale condo, like clockwork, at 6:15 am on her days to watch the Bug. I think the only time she deviated from her usual arrival time was the one instance that there was an early morning accident on the freeway which set her back about five minutes. Other than that, I could always count on the sight and sound of the front door opening at precisely quarter after. Fehmeen and I would then take off for work around 6:30 am, after which time Emma would typically awaken sometime between seven and eight o’clock. Judy would then change the baby’s soaking wet diaper, followed by a few minutes of playtime which then turned into breakfast time for the Bug. After another hour or so of playing with every toy in the house, at exactly 9:30 am, it was naptime for Emma. When the baby woke up from her morning nap, my Mom would change her diaper, play with her for a while, and feed her. Then she would…

Now, before I continue with the story, does anyone see a pattern or a routine or a schedule going on here? If you said yes, then you should understand why Fehmeen and I bestowed upon my Mom the nickname of the Boot Camp Nanny. My Mom has done everything in her considerable power to ensure that Emma stays on her nap/change diaper/play/feed/play more/nap again schedule. And truth be told, the Bug has really thrived in this setting; she is happy, healthy, and content thanks to the tireless efforts of the Boot Camp Nanny. In addition to having the Rolex equivalent of an internal body clock, Emma has also become quite the fan of Giants baseball, Wimbledon tennis, and ESPN Sportscenter NFL highlights. (Thanks Mom, I owe you big time for that).

On Thursdays and Fridays, Fehmeen’s Mom, Maheen (perhaps you’ve read her loving comments on this here blog), arrives for nanny duty, typically around 6 am, in order to beat the East Bay to Sunnyvale parking lot-like traffic jams on 880 and 237. She never fails to meet us with a smile and a warm, good morning greeting when we emerge from the back of the condo as we prepare to leave for school. When Emma finally arises to greet the morning, Maheen is there to welcome her right back. They play together for a while, eat a bit, play some more, and then get ready to take on the world. And when I say take on the world, I totally mean it. With Maheen, Emma has attended business barbeques with her homies from Cal Coast Financial, roamed the aisles of Target (twice in one day), and met a woman who hails from Suburbia (which we later found out to be Serbia and not Siberia). It’s no wonder that when Fehmeen and I return home from work we often find both Emma and her Nanny McFree (nicknamed for her lack of a rigid baby daycare schedule structure) looking exhausted and ready to turn in for the night after an off the hook evening of drinking spiked formula.

In addition to showing off her darling granddaughter to friends and strangers alike, Maheen loves to feed our baby. In fact, one of the most oft used tools in her baby-nannying arsenal is the baby bottle. Emma is crying, feed her. Emma is fussy, give her milk. Emma is playing online poker with her friends from condo 205 while she’s reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, get her a bottle. Maheen enjoys feeding the Bug so much that when Emma went for her six month pediatrician appointment, she grew in weight from the 60th percentile to the 80th percentile (which of course facilitated a nickname change from Nanny McFree to Nanny McFeast). All jokes aside though, it is very apparent that Emma has thrived in her time with Maheen. Maheen taught her how to clap on command (and when she hears music), has reinforced her love of music (McFeast sings to her constantly; even Maheen’s adult conversations are done in an operatic style when she’s holding the Bug), and has even fed Emma her first muffin (just crumbs, of course).

While her two nannies’ babysitting styles are vastly different, it is patently obvious to anyone who has been around that Emma loves them both very much. Her little face lights up whenever she sees and hears them. You can tell how comfortable she feels around them by her calm demeanor and her pleasant, at ease attitude when they are together (except when she’s overdue for a nap). Fehmeen and I are so fortunate to have you two not only as nannies, but as grandmas as well. Emma’s life is that much better and more enriched with joy and love because of you guys. Thank you for everything. Ah wahs (kisses) to both of you from Emma and from us.


Read Full Post »

The End of My Radio Silence

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Nothing too severe or even outwardly noticeable but I have sensed a subtle change in myself. I’m not sad and I’m not depressed because I have an amazing core of family and friends that have dedicated their lives to making mine easier. I haven’t suffered any setbacks in terms of the disease’s progression so I’m not feeling weaker, stiffer, or feebler. I grin from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat and laugh the proverbial milk right out of my nose when I see my see, hear, and hold my precious little Emmabug. So what the hell is my problem?

After spending the better part of the week attempting to figure out what my major malfunction was, I came to the following multi-faceted conclusion: when you combine a dash of laziness with a spoonful of lack of motivation and then add a heaping helping of a feeling of being overwhelmed, you get a recipe for an unproductive ALS Boy. And an unproductive ALS Boy is not a happy ALS Boy, hence the funk.

If you knew me pre-diagnosis, you would have known me as an efficient, hardworking, driven, focused, autonomous, goal-oriented, and productive young man. In other words, I was a workaholic. It was not at all uncommon for me to work seven day weeks, twelve hour days for months at a time. And my focus didn’t merely extend to work but rather to all aspects of my being, be it music, exercise, reading, and collecting comics, to name but a few. If it was something that needed to get done, I did it. The funny thing was, the more I took on, the more I accomplished. In other words, if I wasn’t overloaded, I didn’t really feel the pressure and I was therefore prone to bouts of procrastination until I reached that certain critical mass of spinning plates and juggled bowling pins and then, and only then, did everything get done.

But that doesn’t happen so much anymore. Because of the ALS and it’s symptomatic effects on my body, in particular my hands, legs, and mouth, everything I do takes a whole lot longer than it did before. It is prohibitively challenging for me to write by hand these days so everything I write, I type. Sorting items by hand, items such as pills, papers, and cards, has evolved into a psuedo-strenuous endeavor that I reluctantly engage in. Even moving myself from one room to another requires a sizable effort and a carefully schemed plan to pull it off.

I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just venting in order to get to the bottom of why I have been so unmotivated and lazy these past few days.

In light of all these new-fangled restrictions placed on my ability to accomplish things these days, there is no shortage of items on my to-do list, projects such as blogging, writing thank you notes, returning and sending emails, getting back to friends on facebook, editing videos of Emma, outlining and writing a memoir, writing a children’s book explaining to Emma why her Dad’s the way he is, finishing my already started novel, converting old tapes of my former bands to an mp3 format, and scanning old photos to change them into jpegs.

So basically, I am as busy as I ever was, except now, I have more time AND less time to do all these things. I have more time because I don’t have a job anymore but I have less time because the shelf-life of a person living with ALS is measured in years as opposed to decades. (Lucky me, I get the opportunity to deal with my lifelong productivity OCD while grappling with the time-sensitive issue of my own mortality. Yay!). Granted, there is no guarantee of living an abbreviated life with ALS, much like there is no guarantee of living a long life without ALS, so I am optimistic about my chances of getting everything on my list completed, along with dozens of other projects I haven’t even thought of yet.

As I draw to some sort of conclusion here, it has become evident to me that this post has been a therapy session of sorts for me. I do my best thinking in print, albeit after a few rounds of proofreading and editing. Even though I have not been particularly productive (to my personal standards) lately, I am okay with that. (Jeez, I sound like Stuart Smalley). In some strange way, it felt good to get that out on the table and I am most certainly in a better place than I was before I wrote this.

Thanks for listening. More stories to come soon, I promise.

Read Full Post »

Hey everyone, and welcome to another installment of Rants and Raves Revisited. I’ve really meant to get this post out sooner but I have literally been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Between all of my various appointments, my seemingly never-ending Spite and Malice card games with Dorian and The Hen, and my watching other people move my things from one place to another, I’m downright exhausted. Either that, or I have been extremely lazy. Irregardless of my excuse du jour as to the tardiness of this here column, I will quote Izzy Mandelbaum by saying, “It’s go time.”

Countdown to San Carlos. Negative five. The reason why this number is negative is because we’ve already moved in this past Saturday (which was five days ago, hence the negative five). And when I say we, I mean the royal we because yours truly, ALS Boy, was whisked away to see Dr Sarah for an appointment followed by a thirteen person screening of Zack and Miri Make a Porno (I should have waited for the DVD; the only memorable line was Dutch Rudder) and lunch at the Mexicali Grill. Thank you, Janet, for accompanying me; Ameer, Jason Number Two, Iqbal, Farah, Alia, Rob, Mike, Adam, Sarah, Mike, Nancy, John the WD, and Judy for lugging countless boxes and several furniture items; and to Nanny McFeast for babysitting the Bug. I especially wish to thank the lovely and amazing Fehmeen for almost singlehandedly packing and organizing our move from Sunnyvale here. We all would still be  sitting around twiddling our thumbs if it wasn’t for her. I love you, babe. And it’s not like I  neglected to mention you in the first draft. 🙂 All that I can say is now that the Picetti’s are in town, the City of Good Living (the town motto of San Carlos) will never be the same.

Missing the ‘Vale. Having resided in Sunnyvale for a little over three years, I finally felt like I had the town wired. I knew how to get from here to there in the shortest amount of time (a process which took me all three years to get down, of course), where I could get free wireless internet (Bean Scene on Murphy Ave), and where all the cool record stores were (Streetlight and Rasputin’s; though not technically in the “Vale, they’re close enough). I will miss driving by such awesomely named businesses as Dry Clean Best, The Furnitures, and Daily Donut, as well as never quite having the guts to actually sit down for a meal at Crazy Buffet (we got as far as the front door once and bailed). And even though they’re a quick ride down 280 to 85 to 237, I will miss having such delicious spur of the moment restaurant options as Kabul, Tau Tau, Gumbas, and Frankie, Johnny, and Luigi’s now that we reside further north. Thanks for everything, Sunnyvale.

Tales of My DVR. I am officially one more disappointing and unfunny episode away from jumping off the Kath and Kim bandwagon. Maybe my once lofty standards have plummeted. Although I’d never quit watching it, The Office has been subpar this season as well. Let’s get over all the relationship drama and get back to what made this show worth watching: the supporting cast. I would never admit this in public, but I am sort of bummed that Army Wives is over for the season. And, yes, I am quite aware that the show airs on Lifetime. One last thing: I am Jon and Fehmeen is Kate on Jon and Kate Plus 8. If you know us, you know it’s true.

Just How Low Can I Get. It doesn’t get much more pathetic than this. While waiting in the Embody Spa waiting room for my QiGong appointment a few weeks ago, I actually tore out a page from Us Weekly magazine because it had an article about Lauren and Audrina’s feud over Justin Bobby on it and I wanted to show Fehmeen. I’m conflicted about which is more sad: that I destroyed someone else’s property or that I give a crap about LC and Audrina.

And then the Wheels Came Off…Twice. Last month I had the honor of participating in a Walk to Defeat ALS around Lake Merritt in Oakland. My friends Traci, John, Marci, Tim, Alex, Barbie, and my Dad comprised Team JP Rocks (you could spot us a mile away by our spiffy red t-shirts; photo at bottom) for the three mile trek. Billed as handicapped accessible, the path around the lake was mostly paved except for the patches of tanbark and grass, the jutted and cracked concrete, and the countless exposed tree roots sticking out everywhere. Now, I’m not complaining here or anything but when the tires came off the rims of my wheelchair for the second time as we made our way around the track, it may be time to rewrite the accessibility label. Even though I wasn’t able to finish the course in a physical sense, the rest of Team JP Rocks crossed the finish line for me in spirit. What a great day, thank you.

Faceplant. I woke up Sunday morning, as the sun shined brightly through the sliding glass doors of my bedroom and the birds chirped and cooed as they feasted on assorted nuts and berries. I felt incredible after my first night’s sleep in my new sleigh bed in my new home in San Carlos. All was right in the world. Three small steps later, I tripped on the wooden base on my (did I mention it was a new and unfamiliar) bed and faceplanted the beige carpet. The entire weight and force of my being hit that carpet flush on my lip below my right nostril. It kinda hurt. For my troubles I earned a fat lip and several small cuts on my face. When I had to explain the swollen state of my face to my family several hours later, I lied and said that I got into a fight at an ALS support group meeting. Needless to say, no one believed me. In all seriousness, though, it usually takes a while to regain my confidence with regards to my walking, so if you are behind me, please be a bit more patient than usual.

Quote of the Week. “My parents were the thieves,” said Fehmeen to Thomas the security guard at our condo complex when she finally figured out who had mysteriously opened our garage door and took four dining room chairs as we slept at 11:00 pm. We had given them our remote and assumed they would return for the chairs in the morning. We were wrong.

Golimar. Emma recommends that you watch this video on youtube. Don’t ask me how I found it for her, it just happened. She goes nutty with glee when she hears and sees it. For fans of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video with a twist.

As the Bug Turns. It has been a real renaissance here in Emmaville lately. Maheen taught her how to clap so now Emma claps when she hears music or even when you ask her to (provided she’s in the right mood, which is most of the time). Emma is also rolling around all over the house and sitting up on her own for steadily increasing lengths of time. Finally, the Bug got to experience her first Halloween and her first rain drops falling on her face, all in the same night.

Thank you for reading and enjoy the picture of our little Pea in a Pod.

pea-in-a-pod2 jprocks1

Read Full Post »

Halloween with Willy Wonka

We’ve lived at our condo complex in Sunnyvale now for a little over three years this past August. We didn’t know anyone here when we moved in and we don’t know anyone here now. Maybe it’s the neighborhood, maybe it’s our society in the twenty-first century, or maybe Fehmeen and I are just anti-social weirdos who can’t make friends. Regardless of the reason, we didn’t necessarily put ourselves out there to become friends with our neighbors and our neighbors certainly didn’t make any gestures, subtle or overt, to befriend us, either. And after Willy Wonka came to town this Halloween, I’m going to go out on a fairly sizable limb and predict that there won’t be any olive branches extended in our general direction any time soon.

It all began at 5:00 pm on October 31, 2006. That was the time we arrived home to our condo from a hard day’s work at school. Because we entered our crib through the garage door, I always made it a habit (can you say OCD?) of opening the front door and checking for packages, phone books, flyers, or general debris. Although I found none of the aforementioned items on my doorstep, I did however see something that caught my eye directly across the hall. As I approached my neighbor’s door, I was able to read what was printed out in twenty-four point font: Sorry. Ran out of candy.

I stood there in the breezeway for a moment processing what I had just read. Then I glanced at my watch. Five o’clock in the afternoon. I thought to myself, ‘How is it possible that this guy has exhausted his supply of candy already? I mean, it’s not even dark yet.’ I chalked it up to either extreme lethargy (too lazy to get off the couch and answer the door), major frugality (too cheap to buy a bag of candy), or a combination of the two (sprawled out on the couch eating the candy himself). An hour after our second and last costumed child of the evening trick or treated us at 9:00 pm, I looked out the peephole on my door and noticed that the sign was gone.

Fast-forward exactly one year in time to October 31, 2007. Upon our arrival home early that evening I conducted my usual (OCD) visual check of our front door area and I noticed a sheet of paper taped to my neighbor’s door. I was shocked to see, in the familiar twenty-four point font, the message, Sorry. Ran out of candy. Incredulously, I walked closer to the sign for further inspection. Much to my surprise/chagrin/delight (it IS possible to exhibit all these feelings at one time), I realized that not only was this the same message as last year, it was in actuality the exact same sheet of paper as well.

My mind reeled with the sheer absurdity of this realization. In addition to the distinct likelihood that my across the hall neighbor was a lazy cheapskate, it was highly possible that this foolio had a file cabinet full of holiday related excuse notes. I first considered removing the note in order to force the Halloween Grinch to face his adoring and candy-seeking public. I then pondered tearing down the note, wadding it up into a little ball, knocking on the door, and throwing it in his bah-humbug face. I finally chose to do nothing and stew about it.

And stew about it I did. All year long, in fact. Even through the ALS diagnosis process and the birth of my daughter, both fairly momentous, life-changing occurrences, I never once forgot about my stingy and slothful across the hall neighbor and his recycled candy-denying declaration to the world. I plotted for hours the various ways to send this cheapskate a message that someone had caught onto his game and was willing to expose him to all the world (or at least the condo complex) as a fraud and a prevaricator.

Around July of this year, I hatched the perfect plan to avenge all the sugar deprived youths of the southern Sunnyvale area. Having the million dollar idea is one thing, but it’s another thing entirely to actually carry out said nefarious scheme. In most cases, people lack the sack (guts) to carry it out but one valuable lesson having ALS has taught (is teaching) me is to live in the present. My problem wasn’t having the balls to pull it off but rather not having the physical capabilities to do it.

So I asked for help. And my friends responded. Another thing about having ALS is that I have discovered that people are more than willing to lend a hand and assist me in a wide array of tasks and endeavors; even if the tasks are not necessarily morally upstanding (but right in oh so many ways). Even though I wasn’t physically able to punk this clown, I count myself blessed to have accomplices, I mean friends, who were.

Here’s how it went down:

The day before Halloween, I asked my coworker Su to use a Sharpie and create a special sign for me. The message read: Great news, kids. This year I planned ahead and I have more candy than Willy Wonka. Come early, come often. I carefully transported the sign from school to home in the safety of my rolly backpack. As Fehmeen served me breakfast at 6:00 am on Halloween morning, I handed her the pre-Scotch taped-up sign for her to stealthily place on the neighbor’s door as she took out the trash. When I knew the dirty deed was done I asked her Mother, and one of Emma’s nannies, Maheen, to check it out and tell me how it looked.

She opened up the door and the sheet of paper rustling about on the ground. It had fallen off the door. Without a seconds hesitation, Maheen swiped the roll of tape from the kitchen table and made her way to the windswept hallway. Not only did she pick up the sign, the proceeded to fasten the note to my neighbor’s door. Loudly. Nothing in the world is quite as loud as the sound of Scotch tape being dispensed at 6:05 am in the silent hallway of a condo complex.

I then heard Fehmeen loudly whisper, “Mom!” when she returned from her trash run followed by them both returning inside as the door slammed shut. Mission accomplished. We all sat around laughing hysterically for a while until I worked up the courage to peek out my door to admire our handiwork. It looked awesome. The letters were large (and in charge) and the tape job was masterful (and bountiful). It was a work of art on so many different levels. It was a shame we had to leave for school.

In the end, I have no idea what happened after that. The sign was gone upon our arrival home at 4:00 pm that day. Maheen said that the sign was gone by 9:30 am. Whether or not my neighbor tore down the sign in a fit of rage or laughter or indifference or utter cluelessness, I will never know. All that I can say for certain is that his old stand-by, the recycled declaration of candylessness, never got put up this year. I have one word for you: Victory.

Read Full Post »

I pissed my pants the other day. A lot. It wasn’t a dribble here or a trickle there, either. I’m talking about a full-on, soaked from crotch to ankles kind of accident. And it all happened so quickly, too. Except the peeing part. That seemed to last for hours before it finally stopped.

Ever since the beginning of the year, I have developed a certain urinary urgency. Before this whole ALS thing, I could make it through an entire teaching day without ever once feeling the need to take a leak. But now, that’s a completely different story. I’ve learned from experience that when nature calls, I don’t have a whole lot of time to respond with an answer. If I don’t make it to the restroom within minutes of the initial alarm bell ringing out, I increase my chances of having an unfortunate incident almost exponentially.

Take the other day, for example. As I was riding home from school in the family CRV with Fehmeen, I noticed around halfway there that I had to go pee. I figured, hey, I just went a few hours ago, I’ll be fine until we get home. And I was fine until I got to the bathroom. As I stood there trying to take down the zipper on my boot-cut jeans, I started to think about, and subsequently feel, how badly I had to go. I tried to take hold of the zipper again but the forefinger and thumb on my right hand could not complete the required task.

It’s not like I hadn’t prepared for this exact situation, either. For weeks, Fehmeen had been threading thin, plastic, computer cord zip ties through the hole in the top of the zipper on all the pants I wear with any degree of frequency. She then created an index finger sized loop with the plastic tie to aid me in the process of raising and lowering an otherwise nearly impossible to grasp tiny metal zipper. I had used this tool for a few months with nary a messy mishap.

But for some reason, on that particular day and at that particular time, I could not make that zipper go down. The more I tried, the weaker my fingers got. As the seconds ticked by, I began to panic more and more. All I could think about was peeing in my pants and about how embarrassing that would be. I tried to unzip again but to no avail. I was sweating now and doing my own (can’t move much because I have ALS) version of the pee pee dance as I focused every last iota of my mental energy into the solitary thought of “Don’t pee, don’t pee, don’t pee.”

In a flash of brilliance, I decided to change tactics. Rather than fight this seemingly impossible battle with the zipper, why don’t I try to undo my belt and unbutton my button and then unzip the zipper. Well, I got the belt off but I hit a major snag with the button. Unbuttoning a button on a pair of pants is about a million times more strenuous for me than unzipping a zipper. Perhaps I forgot to mention that I was wearing Bad Idea Jeans at the time. (Google it if you want).

As soon as I came to the conclusion about the futility of my efforts, I just let go. All the stress, all the panic, all the wasted muscle straining, everything, was released the moment I just let go. And it wasn’t like I tried to stop and salvage anything from this experience. The relief was so pure, so comforting, and so warm (eww) that I probably couldn’t have stopped peeing if I tried. As I stood there in my suddenly darker blue jeans, I thought to myself, “When was the last time I really pissed my pants this badly?”

About ten years ago, I used to go to O’Neill’s Irish Pub in San Mateo every Wednesday night. A group of us would meet there around seven, order hamburgers from Jeffrey’s next door, and put away a few pints of Guinness or Sierra Nevada or Bodington and wait for Quiz Night to begin at nine. For the uninitiated, Quiz Night (also known as Pub Quiz) is essentially a team trivia contest that takes place in a pub or a bar. In this particular case, Liam, the quiz master, was contracted by O’Neill’s to be the emcee of a weekly, seven round trivia contest.

The Quiz was open to anyone who wished to participate and in order to sweeten the pot (and to guarantee attendance), the owner of the pub, Eoin O’Neill, announced that the team that had accumulated the most points at the end of ten weeks of competition would be rewarded with an amazing grand prize: flight and bed and breakfast accommodations for four to Dublin, Ireland for a week.

Teams, big and small, came from near and far to compete in O’Neill’s trivia contest. Our team, comprised of Matt Berry (sports, politics, history), Mike Beusch (movies, James Bond, everything really), Andy Grass (general knowledge), Lee Howarth (all things European), Andy Smith (drank a lot of Sierra), and me (music, technology, general knowledge) competed valiantly for the first nine weeks but ultimately trailed in the overall standings. I don’t know how it happened during week ten, but our ragtag team of trivia misfits pulled off the mother of all comebacks and we were rewarded with the (nearly) all expenses paid trip. We celebrated our victory and once all the hoopla died down, we began to plan for our voyage.

Our actual intercontinental vacation, however, got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. Upon arriving at our bed and breakfast, the four of us (Grass and Lee graciously bowed out) were informed by a rather polite and cordial gentleman named Pat that our reservations at his establishment were apparently never made on our (Eoin’s) end. Being too early to call back to the US, Pat suggested we spend a few hours in the local pub (okay, twist our arms) and he would put in a call to our booking agent as soon as they opened for the day. Approximately two hours and several pints later, Pat explained what he was able to do for us: being booked solid at his place for the next two days, he took it upon himself to find us lodging at another b and b until space opened up at his place. And then he drove us there. I’d always heard about the hospitality of the Irish, but this was ridiculous. Thank you again, Pat.

Now that our living arrangements for the week were squared away, we were able to focus our collective attention on what we came to this beautiful country to do: check out the sights and drink some beer. We toured the city, we toured the country, but mainly we toured the pubs. No sooner did we exit one pub than Andy, who earned the nickname Captain Steamy on this trip, would exclaim in his signature high pitched bellow, “Dude, let’s get a pint!” And we did. Every single time. Without a doubt, I drank more beer in one week in Ireland than I ever drank either before or after the trip in my entire life. I do have to admit, though, that you have not had the perfect pint until you’ve had a glass of Guinness at the end of the Guinness factory tour at St James’ Gate in Dublin. It’s truly the nectar of the Gods tapped directly from the source.

As cool as Dublin was during the daylight hours, things really got hopping in the evening. The streets teemed with young people looking to get their swerve on and the pubs were jam-packed with revelers actually getting said swerve on. When the pubs would shut down for the night, people would gather in the closest after hours club to continue the party until the sun came up.

Personally, I have never really been all too comfortable in the night club social scene. Either a product of my own insecurities or one too many dance floor rejections or a serious lack of game, I would typically count the minutes until my departure upon my arrival at a bumping disco.

But for some unknown reason, my usual socially introverted attitude changed one night out in Dublin. Perhaps it was the right combination of Guinness and Budweiser (named import of the year that year, wow). Maybe it was the fact that we started out at a small pub, mingled a bit, left for a slightly more happening bar, mingled a bit more, left for a ‘get your hand stamped at the door’ club, and stayed until closing. But whatever the reason, I was en fuego that night; I was socializing and talking to girls and having the time of my life.

When the club closed down for the night, my friends and I walked/stumbled through the streets of Dublin in search of an open convenience store in order to satiate our intense desire for sandwiches and crisps. Feeling a bit lightheaded and somewhat inebriated, I told Matt and Steamy to carry on in the crowded store without me and that I would be waiting for them outside when they were done. They took my order and vanished into the corner shop.

I leaned against the wall of an adjoining business for a few minutes watching the waves of people drunk walk by me (apparently lots of clubs had shut their doors for the evening around that time). It wasn’t until I heard the sound of someone heaving up their dinner that I realized I desperately needed to take a piss. I strategized in my mind what I should do. Since there were no public toilets anywhere in sight and there was no chance that I could find a club or restaurant open at that time that would allow me to use their water closet, I opted for the only sensible choice that I could think of at the time: I would piss in a darkened alley.

Now, if I could only find a darkened alley. No matter what street I walked on or turned down, I encountered endless hordes of humanity. Finding a deserted street in Dublin at 2:00 am that night was the equivalent of finding a four leaf clover in a field in the County Cork. The harder I searched for a quiet spot, the greater the urge to urinate a bladder full of beer. I began to walk faster and I found myself lowering my personal standard for privacy. At this point, a doorway would do.

But the people kept coming and going and I suddenly found myself at the point of no return. I stopped walking and wheeled around to face the window of a consignment furniture store and attempted to unbutton my fly (I wore 501s at the time). As fast as my drunken fingers were that night, the loss of control to hold in my piss was that much faster. The guy that didn’t want to be seen urinating in public was now pissing in his pants. It felt so good to finally be pissing, it took me a few seconds to rouse myself from the warm (eww) reverie I was experiencing and unbutton my pants and properly water the cement at the base of the window of the used wooden table and chair shop. To my horror, I heard several people call out to me to stop pissing in public.

When I finally finished emptying my beer-swollen bladder, I took a look at myself in the reflection of the shop window. From my now slightly less buzzed vantage point, it appeared to me that the soaked-in urine on my pants created the illusion that I was wearing chaps. Not the kind of chaps made from leather and fringe, mind you, these special chaps were crafted from the pee of me; piss chaps, if you will.

A feeling of self-consciousness suddenly overcame me because I knew that I had to brave the streaming rivers of inebriated humanity in order to find the friends I left back at the all-night corner shop. I acted quickly and removed the long-sleeved shirt I was wearing over a t-shirt and tied it backwards around my waist. I then slowly slogged my way through the streets of the city, retracing my steps back to the place where I last saw Matt and Steamy.

Unfortunately, after fifteen minutes of fruitless searching, I gave up looking for them. Exhausted from the spent adrenaline rush, I stopped right where I was and sat down on the curb next to a woman pushing a cart. It took me a moment to realize that I’d seen this woman earlier in the day. It was the statue of Molly Malone that we’d seen on our bus tour of Dublin that afternoon.

Before I had a chance to ponder exactly what she was statue-worthy for, I heard my name being called from the street. Steamy and Matt had found me. I explained to them how I ended up wearing piss chaps and we began to devise a way back to our b and b. We tried to hire a cab but they had a strict twenty pound soiling charge posted in the rear seat of the vehicle. The driver sped off when I asked him if we got a discount if I was already soiled before I entered the cab. In the end, we decided to walk the two miles back home, chafing be damned.

As I compare these two seemingly embarrassing incidents of my recent adult past, I realize that there is no reason to be ashamed. In reflection, I think back to something I learned my freshman year in college as a pledge of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Simply stated, piss happens, and more importantly, piss washes off. I personally take those statements to mean that no matter what goes wrong in life, pick yourself up from the ground, dust yourself off, and get back in the game. In my specific case, it meant living with and liking the nickname Chapman after I told all my friends about my public soiling in Dublin. It meant graciously accepting Molly Malone postcards from friends that have visited Ireland. It also meant having no qualms about publicly disclosing both deeply personal episodes in such a public forum as a blog.

At this stage in my life, I have no secrets to hide. I have no situations to be ashamed of nor do I have any reason to be scared of judgment. I love the life I am living, I’m proud of the life I have lived, and I am privileged to continue to live my life in both the near and far future, warts and all. As I sign off and press the save and publish buttons on this massively long missive, I would like to quote the Grateful Dead song He’s Gone and know that the words of Robert Hunter are apropos to this and many instances like it: “Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.”

Read Full Post »

Fehmeen and I took Emma out to eat last night at Black Angus in Sunnyvale for the Bug’s seven month birthday celebration. Even though it was her seven-twelfths birthday dinner, I ate prime rib, Fehmeen had shrimp, and Emma drank her usual Earth’s Best organic formula. We never fail to be impressed by our baby’s behavior and demeanor in public; no crying, no fussing, no screaming. She just plays with her toys and smiles at all the people that stop and say hello to her.

At the conclusion of dinner, I exited the booth and hopped onto my motorized wheelchair. Fehmeen gathered up the Bug and together we headed for the front door. The lobby of the restaurant, which was practically deserted when we arrived at 5:30 pm, was now standing room only. We carefully navigated through the hungry masses of humanity that had gathered in the waiting area of the restaurant and we stepped/rolled/were carried across the threshold, ready to brave the elements of the season’s first massive rainstorm in an effort to make it to the covered shelter of the inside of our car.

Because it was pouring down rain, Fehmeen concocted the plan that I was to wait in relative dryness under the building’s awning while she carried the birthday girl in her covered car seat to our Honda that was awaiting our imminent arrival in one of the parking lot’s many blue handicapped spots. I was instructed to sit tight until she had snugged the Bug in the rug (meaning put Emma in the car) and then roll my way to her so she could load me and my collapsible set of wheels into the CRV.

Everything about the plan was going according to Hoyle except for one tiny little detail: some jerk/loser/piece of dog doo parked right next to us on the wheelchair ramp. Do you know the one I’m talking about, the cross-hatched space that’s not a space with the ramp-like feature for people that are in wheelchairs to use? Oh yeah, that one. Through the drenching rain, Fehmeen and I looked at each other incredulously as we attempted to figure out our next move.

With the conviction of a commanding officer in the military, Sergeant Khan screamed at me though the howling wind to roll myself towards her. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, she instructed me to park my chair behind our car, stand up, and walk with her down the slippery and narrow corridor between the two cars to the passenger door of our Honda and ultimately to my dry salvation. Once she was satisfied that I had safely reached my destination, Fehmeen beat a hasty retreat to the rear of the vehicle and my now sopping wet wheelchair.

Left to my own devices to open and enter the passenger door by myself, I did what any annoyed, wet, and pissed off dude would do when faced with a too close, illegally parked car: I attempted to inflict maximum damage to the offending vehicle. I “accidentally” pushed the side view mirror as far backwards as it would go and I “accidentally” slammed my car door into theirs about four or five times.

By the time Fehmeen and I were reunited in the front seats, we were soaked to the bone, frustrated, and furious. After several profanity laced exchanges extolling the lack of virtue of our discourteous parking neighbor, I asked my wife if she still had Emma’s dirty diaper from earlier that evening when she went out to the car to change her. Surprisingly, she said yes. (It was a surprise because Fehmeen usually disposes of poopy diapers immediately).

Her quick response to my query was a terse, “Why?”

I said, “I want to leave them a little present, that’s why.”

Begrudgingly, she reached behind her seat and tossed the foul-smelling little white package on my lap. I rolled down the window and considered throwing it but quickly realized that I probably couldn’t hit water from a boat. I shot her my most pathetic puppy-dog eyes and asked her, “Can you throw it for me, babe?”

“No”, she said, “I’m tired and wet and I just want to go home.” I agreed with her and began to roll up the window when she grabbed the diaper off my lap and threw it at the windshield of the car. Unfortunately, it bounced off the side of the car and hit the pavement with a wet thud. We commiserated our rotten luck and Fehmeen started to back up the CRV.

What occurred next surprised even me. Never in a million years would I have guessed that this would have happened. If you were to stick a label on Fehmeen and me as people, I would be a rule breaker and my wife would be a rule follower. She feels physically ill when confronted with an opportunity to even bend the rules so you know what she did next was either a product of my bad influence on her or she loves me more than I could ever imagine.

Halfway through backing up, Fehmeen put the car in park and exclaimed, “Forget this!”, and leaped out of the vehicle into the torrential rain. She raced over to where the soiled diaper lay inert on the ground and stealthily picked it up and deposited it on the base of the windshield. She then ran back to the car and continued exiting the space.

It was at this time that I spied a rain slicker covered figure emerging from the restaurant with a to go bag. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this person was headed to the car that had recently incurred the wrath of a handicapped parker scorned. I filled in Fehmeen as to the status of our current predicament and she hastily finished reversing and quickly made a right turn onto El Camino and we stole away into the night.

Once we were free and clear of the immediate danger, we high-fived each other and laughed nearly the entire ride home. I told her how much I loved her for everything she does for me all the time and I also informed her that the Bug was an accomplice to the “crime” because it was her dirty diaper. She then (correctly) surmised that this incident was my next blog topic. She begged me not to do it and when I said that it would be good for her bad-girl image, I thought I detected a hint of a smile on her face in the darkness.

Read Full Post »