The root beer raised nipple dial

Loren’s brother Alan is a philatelist and remarks on my root beer raised nipple (watch) which I didn’t know I had until Alan called it that.

A philatelist collects stamps, and Alan works for an auction house in San Francisco that organizes events for collectors to meet and buy stamps — a combination of art, ego, and money he says.

Three kids + Alan, Loren and me trying to scratch out a meal in Portland, by foot. Some place called Laughing Planet which is a chain but doesn’t act like one, not completely, though the staff (even tattooed and bearded) still has the trappings of a chain — this unspoken thing they’re all aware of, what could be a bad diagnosis.

I’m stubborn about using technology to navigate but my paper map doesn’t have enough detail and I don’t know exactly where I am, somewhere near the convention center, and it’s right as you’re arriving at your destination on a roadtrip the kids start to unfurl as do I, and Loren hears me launch an F-missile to the backseat as I’m trying to get them to quiet and ask in a not-so-obvious way how to get to where Loren is and I don’t really ask because I should be able to figure it out Portland’s not that big, and he says let’s meet at Laughing Planet but when I type it in, about seven locations pop up all over Portland, not the one on Woodstock like he said.

For a while, we just drive. It looks like we’re going the right way, I can let myself believe that. We’re following train tracks that must lead somewhere — and they do, but not where we need to be, so I get back on the 5 and wind up right where we started, and go a few more exits this time, and find our way to Holgate, then Cesar Chavez.

The restaurant has plastic dinosaurs in the windows and our kids have gathered them all up, like they’re supposed to be for all kids in the restaurant and there are many, they’ve commandeered the dinosaurs in armfuls and initiated some plot premise they’re dramatizing now and the grown-ups have all gotten beers.

Anything for 30 minutes, if that, of harmony with kids, trying to eat in public. Trying to pretend you’re not the slobbering, screaming, in-the-pants pissing monsters you really are behind closed doors, keeping the lid on the boiling water of all your childhood problems from bobbing and bubbling over when you address your kin, suggesting limits in a non-limiting way that still allows their mango-sized brains to blossom unfettered by bad conditioning — like what we all got, it seems.

They have salty, bland things, and my girls are ecstatic, like I’ve finally heard them for the first time, I understand their needs. And sometimes a hot meal tastes better than it should because you can just sit and breath and eat, and so you wolf it down while you can because it will turn on a dime, at least with three-year-olds, which is Loren’s, named Arthur Heron. They are like wizards at that age practicing spells, blowing shit up just because.

There are the same, familiar scenes to the day. The waking up ritual, the feeding / sometimes napping rituals, educational moments with books, games — then feeding again, and the going-to-bed ritual.

The going-to-bed ritual lasts too long with a three-year-old. It’s the longest day of the year and feels it. My girls settle into the bed where the three of us will sleep later after I crawl into it discreetly, after many hours of talking and drinking in the backyard with Loren and his brother, listening to difficult music, listening to Loren get stuff off his chest, spinning webs of the past and far-away places — how he learned to drink Scotch the way the Scots do, stories of unmarked bottles brought by old men to the study, where they gathered and talked about books and drank Scotch for hours, mixing it with water.

When I wake, I hold each of my kids in the crook of my arm and they settle onto my chest and we just lay that way for a while, for what’s not long enough it seems.



Categories: travel

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Control to chaos and back again. Such is life.
    I’m GPS and cellphone free, as you know. That moment of thinking your lost as it slides into knowing for sure you’re lost, there’s kind of a primal switch that happens, even if you are safely inside your Hyundai Accent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is primal and funny, that feeling. And yet (maybe OK it’s a male thing) we continue making the same error time and again, thinking it will be different. Like I thought I could just intuit my way there, by way of the rivers and the bridges and the signs, but it’s more complicated than that, even in Portland. Loren said ‘you’ll cross a bridge’ but that doesn’t help with so many bridges. Let alone the figurative ones.


  2. sounds like you avoided a hit from the big asteroid this time, and made it through another day in the time when dinosaurs ruled.


  3. Being part of a chain shouldn’t be something you’re ashamed of. When did that happen? Do chains automatically = poor quality?

    Google map/directions are a miracle of technology. An unfortunate one. It’s so thorough and accurate that kids will never experience the panic/fear/thrill of being lost without a map. Some of my best discoveries occurred accidentally.

    Best Father’s Day post ever.


    • You’re right, on the chain thing. Chains can sure be more reliable and higher quality than indies, but it’s not good to generalize of course. I was trying to get at something really subtle in the demeanor of indie types working at a chain, as if they were self-conscious of it in some way that felt like a form of compromise to their coolness. Perhaps it’s so subtle it’s not there, ha! Had an English teacher who said ‘you’re reading between the lines so much you’re not reading the lines.’ I think in psychological development there’s a phase called Place Learning, where you learn how to orient yourself to your surroundings. It’s that kind of awareness I fear we’ll start to lose as we rely more on the GPS — but you’re right, they’re so accurate it’s like why wouldn’t you? Are you some old Luddite fool? I’m glad you liked the post and happy belated Father’s Day to you Mark.


      • I lived in the Lower East Side for years amongst rabble rousers, malcontents and anti-establishment types who would never work for The Man. They thought they were bucking a stereotype but all they were doing was embracing a different stereotype. They’re a dime a dozen down there.


      • I hear that — it’s funny, defining yourself out of stubborn refusal to be something you think is bad. “A dime a dozen.”


  4. I get lost WITH a GPS and phone. My husband is on constant stand by for extraction situations. Your description of the 3 y/o is spot on–problem is with boys, they never really outgrow the desire and call to blow shit up–as evidenced by the look of sheer glee on the faces of my 3 males this past New Year’s Eve as they were lighting bottle rockets into the Copenhagen sky. Eating out with kids though…never fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could get lost with a GPS too. My phone is so old it takes forever for the pages to load, even in the back country when I need it most, and I don’t have the patience. I’d rather get lost I think. Yes, my friend’s son is at that age he just tears books off shelves in the book store…that whole episode, timeless. I’m really glad we have girls. I think you have boys if memory serves correct. Regardless of gender, they’re a kaleidoscope of wonders and horrors, all in the same tube.


      • Ah yes, but will you be thankful you have girls in 8 or 9 years? ;-). A kaleidoscope of wonders and horrors in the same tube. Perfect description. They drive me up the wall but I would be bored and lonely without them.


      • Amen to that. Something to complain about other than ourselves.


Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: