Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Day Hope Arrived in my Mailbox

A piece of mail.

So often overlooked today, what is now frequently called “snail mail” for its lack of immediacy in a world that demands timeliness, I believe that Postal mail still has its strengths. And today a simple piece of mail gave me hope.

The truth is that I look forward to bringing in the mail every day, for who knows what wonderful surprises may be hiding in a pile of soon-to-be-recyclable bills and their antithesis, credit card offers. The mailman frequently drops off a stack of stress but I cherish the days when he doesn’t.

Sometimes the mailman brings greeting cards meant to elicit smiles, though the ones I received recently just made me feel another year or ten older. Another year has passed me by. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. Our financial tide is starting to turn, though a long road to recovery will come first.

I glance at the glossy postcards for European cruises that I’ll probably never take my family on and toss them quickly toward the recycling bin. I don’t want to torture myself over what I can’t give them today, no matter how badly I wish I could. The Little Dude turned 4 years old recently. His life is just beginning. I want him to have every opportunity in the world to make his life as personally fulfilling as possible, though I know my resources will limit him to some degree.  

So how can I enrich their lives without being rich? Sometimes amazing experiences fall into my lap. Just as this autumn began, I received an unexpected invitation to an LA Dodgers game. What used to be a several times per year activity that I took for granted suddenly hadn’t occurred in several years. The games start at challenging times, it’s too far to easily get to, it’s expensive – those are some of the excuses I’d conjured over the last year or two for why I hadn’t gone.

“Bring your family”, they said. “There’s nothing better than a father taking his son to a baseball game” they said, and my only response was “sure there is, it’s bringing two”. As the Los Angeles air began to turn crisp, I would take my family of 4 to our first baseball game.

After navigating through torrential LA traffic and parking headaches, we made it to Chavez Ravine. Dodger Stadium, home of so many legendary moments. Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley. Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak and so many more that I want to share with my sons. In due time, I told myself.

Sitting close enough to hear the catcher’s mitt pop as it swallowed myriad blazing fastballs, my sons’ eyes widened at the largess of what surrounded them. 50,000-plus people wearing blue and cheering toward a common goal, another victory for the good guys. We sang while we stretched and cheered every time the ball screamed off the long pine “toothpicks”. I was enamored by watching them take in the sights and sounds of the experience. Their first Major League experience. Those moments were joy.

The Little Dude wearing his Rally Cap.

Though the home team lost 1-0, my family won 4-0. And not only because of the Dodgers Snuggies the team distributed to all fans in attendance. The Little Dude was hooked on America's pastime. He sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame repeatedly for weeks afterward until I introduced him to John Fogerty’s Centerfield. He asked questions about the players and the game and eagerly wanted to learn more. All in due time, I told him.

With the year ending soon and rare frost in Los Angeles, I look forward to a new year filled with promise, joy and new experiences with my boys. As a frequently let-down fan of my hometown Cleveland Indians, we are often told to “wait ‘til next year”, for hope springs eternal and next year will surely be our year.

Today the mailman brought a catalog. Not for clothes or plumbing supplies or stereo equipment. For experiences. And in a few months the Little Dude will get one of his own when he steps onto a baseball diamond for the first time. Wait ‘til next year? I hardly can.

Disclaimer: The fine folks at Dove Men+Care offered me tickets to a recent LA Dodgers game as part of their "Big League Dads" campaign and it was epic. All opinions expressed in this post are solely mine, for better or worse. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lets Talk Bums and Make You The Biggest Winner

Throughout my life, I’ve never been a big winner. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t classify myself as a “loser”, per se, either. I’m referring to winning things*. It could be track meets or class presidencies or even the lottery. None of those things has ever brought me the big prize. My brother, on the other hand, was always a big winner growing up. He had such a knack for winning radio contests, (you know the type, “be caller 9 and win a pair of REO Speedwagon tickets…”) that he had to make up fake names to collect the myriad prizes he somehow won. But not me.

In the last couple of years, however, my luck has changed and I have won things. In 2012, I won a free pass to the Dad 2.0 Conference in Austin and in 2013, I won a free stay at the Four Seasons in Houston for the Dad 2.0 conference.  Oh, and did I mention that going to those two events changed my life?

Why am I telling you this? Because this is the final week for you to write a hi-larious haiku for Cottonelle’s Let’s Talk Bums contest. 2 more finalists will win $200 Amazon gift cards next Monday, November 4. They’ll be added to a pool with 5 others for a shot at the Grand Prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Dad 2.0 in New Orleans next January31-February 1, 2014. Even better than that, you’ll get to meet me there. What could be better than that, you ask? I know — REO Speedwagon tickets. 

Seriously though, here are the 5 winners so far. Think you can match wits with the best and the brightest of the Dad Blogger world these Dudes?:  

Please keep in mind that some of these winners are veteran bloggers and some are rookies just called up from the minors. Experience doesn’t matter. Humor does.

Keep the Haiku(s) clean, like the Cottonelle Care Routine does for your bum.  What’s that again, you ask?  The rad double wiping system to keep your bum fresh and happy. You start with dry paper and then cool down with some Cottonelle Fresh Wipes. Like Colt .45, they work every time.

So give it a shot. Tweet your Haiku now through Sunday morning, November 3 and it could be you flying the freebie train to NoLA, with extra cash in your hand to buy all your new friends Beignets at Café du Monde. I’ll take two.  

For full contest info, visit (Make sure your Tweeted Haiku have both the #LetsTalkBums and #Haiku tags to be entered!)

Disclaimer: I need to come clean (see what I did there?) and tell you that I was compensated by Kimberly Clark to participate in this campaign, but all opinions expressed in this post are entirely mine, for better or worse. 

*I did win a Chaka Khan album on a radio call-in once, but the winner had to pick the record up from the station and I was only 12 or so and couldn’t drive. No record for me. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Privatizing Public Pooping or How Cottonelle Saved My Bum

Many moons ago I worked for a very large company in a very tall building. It was one of those buildings where you needed a keycard to access different floors for security reasons. It was also the building used as Nakatomi Plaza in the original Die Hard movie.  And on more than one occasion after a greasy lunch in the commissary, I had a feeling that I might literally die hard if I couldn’t find some relief, pronto. 

But the awkward thing about handling your business in your place of business is that everyone around is all up in your business. On the long hikes to and from the restroom, one’s privacy can quickly dissipate. And given the odds that your cubicle-mate could also be your stall-neighbor, it can lead to very uncomfortable situations.

As someone looking to maximize the value of a job that I was bored with by noon on my first day, after a couple of these potentially embarrassing episodes I figured out a creative workaround to relieve my literal and figurative levels of discomfort. I started using my keycard for afternoon jaunts to the 14th floor. Being a dozen levels above my colleagues led to much more pleasant expulsion experiences for me. I intentionally chose a floor where I wouldn’t have to worry about running into anyone I might have to deal with professionally, and felt much more comfortable with my afternoon delights.

Speaking of comfort, public restrooms rarely leave you feeling either well-rested or entirely clean. The cheap perforated balsa wood they try to pass off as TP is something our military wouldn’t even use to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay because it’d be considered cruel and unusual punishment. One thing that I think the next Presidential campaigns should call for is mandating the Cottonelle Care Routine in all bathrooms.

 In case you forgot, the Cottonelle Care Routine is the way to maximize your post-poop comfort level via a two-step method of dry wiping with Cottonelle toilet paper and then wet wiping with Cottonelle Fresh Wipes. Your bum will thank you. No, I don’t mean Larry the guy wearing footie pajamas and suspenders hanging out in front of your local Starbucks. I mean your built-in bum that you use as a portable seat cushion every time you sit. It treats you well and you should reciprocate. Keep it nice, clean and fresh. I wish they’d had the Cottonelle Care Routine when I worked at Nakatomi Plaza. Then I truly would have been comfortable in the lap of luxury.

To help make you even more comfortable with this touchy subject, the rad folk at Cottonelle suggest we break down the toilet-talk taboo and are sponsoring a Haiku contest called Lets Talk Bums.

Three people have already won $200 Amazon gift cards for Tweeting a haiku about their bathroom habits and four more will win over the next few weeks. Here are the winners so far:
Winner #1: @dad_strangeland
Did you wipe? I ask 
/ My four year old shakes her head / Pants already raised.
Winner  #2: @jesteram
Cottonelle sheets, wipes— / like yin and yang for your butt: / Two forces, one whole.
Winner #3: @DeadTurkeyBlog
Please try Cottenelle. / Like wiping with a pillow. / Without the divorce.
As if that’s not enough, those winners are being entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize: An all-expenses-paid trip to the Dad 2.0 conference in New Orleans, February 2014.  And to top that, they (or you??) will get to meet me there.

Tweet your haiku (make sure to keep it clean, like your tush) and be sure to use the #LetsTalkBums and #Haiku hashtags to be entered. Visit for all the details, awesome haiku and more. Then come visit Cottonelle on Facebook and Lets Talk Bums. Larry won’t mind.   

Got any good bathroom misadventures to share? Please leave 'em in the comments below. 

Disclaimer: I need to come clean (see what I did there?) and tell you that I was compensated by Kimberly Clark to participate in this campaign, but all opinions are entirely mine, for better or worse. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cleaning Up in the Bathroom

Earlier this year, we finally potty trained the Little Dude. He’d already turned 3 and we’d talked about doing it about 8 months sooner, but life got in the way. After a whirlwind weekend of rushing him to the bathroom every 10 minutes, he quickly got the hang of things and was eager to move on to his next stage of life: wearing Big Boy Underpants.

I was ready, too. As his brother had arrived a few months earlier, buying diapers for two was not ideal. And when he refused to wear even a nighttime diaper on the second night of potty training, I praised his independence, even as I feared for his sheets. But my son didn’t let me down, and his sheets have happily stayed dry every night since.

But there was one little thing that I didn’t take into account independence-wise. Even though he was regularly using the toilet for both primary and secondary bodily functions, there was still the duty of cleaning up the doodie after he was finished. Yes, I’m talking about wiping. It’s a dirty subject and some  even consider it taboo, but the truth is everybody does it. (Or at least all men, as I’ve been told women don’t poop, but that’s a story for a different day.)

The Little Dude was under the impression that toilet paper is something to use as a way of hiding the evidence, before it’s flushed away. Truth be told, after trying TP on him a few times, I gave up. It never quite did the job it should have. So on one trip to the store, we picked up a packet of Cottonelle Flushable Wipes. I didn’t know such a thing existed. I also didn’t know that regular wipes weren’t flushable, but I learned that the hard way. I theorized that if “baby wipes” had worked on him to that point, why stop just because he was a “big boy” now?   Then I figured if he’s a big boy and he could use wipes, perhaps I should also explore the option, as a bigger boy with bigger, um, needs.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to recently discover an extremely logical system for bathroom cleanliness issues: the Cottonelle Care Routine. Simply put, the CCR says that you should first wipe with dry toilet paper and then have a second level of cleaning with their wet wipes.  It’s like how you wash your car with soap before you go over it a second time with a coat of wax. Doubling up leads to a far shinier end product.  The Cottonelle Care Routine, when executed correctly, also leads to a far shinier end product. And a cleaner feeling.

The truth is that I’ve already been a big Cottonelle fan for many years (I’m partial to the fluffy kind in the purple package), so I was thrilled when they asked me to spread the word about the magic of Cottonelle wipes & their “Let’s Talk Bums” contest. As a true believer in the magic of a clean bum, I want to encourage you to give it a shot, too. And what could make this more fun than a contest where we talk about bathroom activities? (In a clean way, both literally and figuratively.)

So what do you have to do? You’re going to put on your thinking caps and come up with some Haiku, yes Haiku, about how Cottonelle Flushable Wipes and the CCR do things like change the way you think about cleaning yourself, your bathroom habits and other formerly taboo subjects. Let’s keep it clean, but make them funny, witty, clever, punny and full of entendre. You are going to post those Haiku, with the hashtags #LetsTalkBums and #Haiku on Twitter, but you can also share them on Instagram, Facebook and all the other places you already hang out while pretending to check your email at work.

“But Dude, I don’t remember what a Haiku is?”

Here’s a little refresher course to go along with your refresher course (see what I did there?):

At its most simple, a haiku is a 17-syllable poem separated into three lines; the first and third lines comprise five syllables each, and the second has seven. In order to differentiate these lines, you can either add a line space (using your Enter key), or a “/” at the end of lines 1 and 2.

Here’s an example of my first Haiku Tweet:

So what can you win? Well, each week a panel of experts (me and a half dozen other Dudes) will select the best #LetsTalkBums Haiku Tweet and its Tweeter will win a $200 Amazon gift card. Not bad, right?

At the end of the contest, one of the 7 weekly winners will be chosen at random to win the Grand Prize of an all expenses paid trip to the Dad 2.0 Conference in New Orleans January 30-February 1st, 2014. 

That’s right, airfare, hotel and a conference pass to hang out with some amazing people, and yours truly, can be yours for thinking of 17 clever syllables. Make me and your 10th grade English teacher proud and Tweet away.

There’s also going to be a Twitter Party on Monday, September 30, 2013 from 8:00-9:00pm EST hosted by the inimitable @whithonea where they’ll be giving away an iPad Mini and some $50 Amazon gift cards. What do you have to lose? Let’s talk bums, and have fun doing so. Full contest rules are at

Here’s one more Haiku to get you in the mood:

Come join me, get clean / You could go to New Orlean / Everybody Poops

Disclaimer: I was compensated by Kimberly Clark to participate in this campaign, but all opinions are entirely mine, for better or worse. (And yes, I really use Cottonelle products that I pay for.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Got a Job (or How Going to Dad 2.0 Changed My Life)

I got a job.

Rather, I should say, I got a new job, as I already had several jobs both paid and unpaid. The most important and lowest paying one, Father, is easily also the most grueling and most worthwhile. But earlier this year, I decided to look for an additional new challenge.

Something that I could get excited about doing every day and be proud to share with people I meet.

Something that would get me back to being a professional people-person. And not just people in diapers.

Though overdue, I procrastinated the search knowing that it would likely be a major challenge I “didn’t have time for”. Or that’s what I kept telling myself. But then a magical thing happened. I found inspiration in possibly both the most, and also the least, obvious place for me: Houston, Texas.
One only eats things like this in Texas. 
Since I live in Los Angeles, what in Houston could make a loyal West Coaster decide to change his life? Beside good Bar-B-Que, of course. The Dad 2.0 conference. When I attended the second annual conference early this year, I wasn’t sure exactly why I went. Beyond the opportunity to meet and spend time with an amazing group of writers from around the globe, I knew there had to be another reason. Turns out, it was finding a new life path.

At that conference, I spoke to several great Dudes who each inspired me in their own ways. They are all tremendous writers and even better people. So I wanted to thank a few of them for their incredible support, encouragement and friendship of this Dude.

·         Jim Lin: Though I don’t remember the exact dialogue, I’ll never forget Jim’s “Three-Headed Dad” speech where he literally proved just how many hats Fathers really do wear.  Sure, we are parents to our children, and as I mentioned above, that is easily the most important hat we wear, but it’s the other hats we wear that shape us as parents, spouses, employees, consumers and more. Jim’s inspiration extended beyond the conference as I sought to blaze a new trail toward the future.

·         Alan Kercinik: I’d never heard of Alan’s blog before his address at the conference and was quickly blown away by some of the observations this advertising guru presented to a motley crew of Dads. Approachable and open-minded to helping some Dude he’d similarly never heard of before, Alan’s encouragement led me down the path to where I am today.

·         Ron Mattocks: Ron’s practical advice as a Social Media professional gave me the courage to look for new options and really try to find my way toward something great. Ron gave me great inside information that I was able to utilize in my search process. 

·         C.C. Chapman: C.C. gave an inspiring keynote at the inaugural Dad 2.0 in Austin last year and we became Facebook friends sometime after that. When I introduced myself in person this year in Houston, there were two things I wanted to talk to him about: a book and a tattoo.  Just before the conference, I’d noticed a picture on C.C.’s Facebook feed of a tattoo he’d recently gotten that said “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”. That quote was familiar to me from my days following the Grateful Dead, as I remember it emblazoned on t-shirts at Dead shows in the early 1990s. I discovered that it’s a J.R.R. Tolkien quote from Lord of the Rings, and is something I’ve thought a lot about during the last few months of my quest. 

      The quote was apropos when considered alongside C.C.’s book that had been recently published before the conference, Amazing Things Will Happen. I asked a little about the book and C.C. generously offered to send me a copy, which he promptly did and for which I am extremely thankful because I am happy to report that, just a few months later, amazing things have happened to me. Not only did I find an amazing new career, but I found one with a company that respects families and encourages its employees to be active parents via extremely flexible work schedules. For this, I am grateful. 

You  might be wondering why I am telling you about this stuff that really doesn’t fit into the greater parenting theme of this blog. The reality is, without this blog, I never would have gotten the job. When I started writing this blog 2+ years ago, the shoot-for-the-moon goal I had in mind was to parlay it into writing for television. A friend encouraged me to start a blog as a way to keep practicing my craft while building a portfolio. So I did, and subsequently discovered this incredibly supportive community which I’ve developed through Social Media. My blog’s Social pages are not the biggest, nor will they ever be, but they are strong enough that they have led to amazing friendships and opportunities, like attending the Dad 2.0 Conferences. And they led to a Management position for an established Social Media company that works with some of the largest corporations in the world, who I am already working with after just a few weeks.

To quote the great poet Robert Hunter “Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

It’s true, C.C., amazing things can happen.

I’m living proof.  

I highly recommend that you grab a copy of C.C.'s book. 

And if you don't already know the Dudes mentioned above, click the links on their names and check out their great blogs. Trust me. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I'm a Super MilkMan!

There was a period of time in the early 2000s when I wore black rimmed glasses and people often called me Clark, as in Clark Kent. My black frames and hair, not to mention my chiseled physique, were somehow reminiscent of Dean Cain who played Clark on some TV show I’ve long since forgotten. Though I can’t leap buildings in a single bound, or even three bounds, like the Man of Steel I have finally become another type of superhero: Super MilkMan.

When the great Dudes from Life of Dad asked me to participate in a contest they were hosting for the National Milk Board, I leapt at the opportunity, which is about the only thing I can surpass in a single bound. What’s the grand prize of this contest, you say? Um, just a trip to meet The Rock, yo. You know the badass former pro wrestler who has starred in a ton of shoot 'em up action movies. And as The Tooth Fairy.  He drinks milk, so I have to believe that if I do as well, I will turn out to be as big and buff as him. So I rarely skip a day of enjoying milk with my cereal for breakfast, and the Junior Dudes never miss a chance to snicker at my Milk Mustache.
My biceps are just a tad smaller. Guess I need more milk. 
But seriously, milk is a great source of vitamins, nutrients and protein. I have to admit, I knew about the first two of those, but was surprised to learn that just one glass of milk has 8 grams of protein. That was great news to me, because as the father of a super picky toddler I often struggle finding ways for him to get his protein. But one thing I never have to convince him is to drink his daily glass of milk. I have to believe that his regular consumption, along with inheriting my superhero-esque resemblance, have contributed to his off-the-charts growth every time he goes to the doctor. I bet he can smell what The Rock was cookin’, or at least drinkin’: Milk.

Here’s my entry into the #SuperMilkMan contest. If you don’t already follow me on Instagram, here’s your chance.

For more info, be sure to check out and follow @MilkMustache on Twitter. They’re good people.

DISCLAIMER: I was compensated by Life of Dad, LLC to be an entrant in the #SuperMilkMan contest. Unfortunately it was not with a lifetime supply of milk. All opinions expressed are completely my own, for better or worse.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Junior Dudes' First Movie

For the last few months, Mrs. Dude and I have discussed finally taking our 3.5 year old Little Dude to see his first movie in a theater. But with a newborn around, scheduling has proven tricky and frankly we just never made time. Though he loves movies, watching at home informally encourages him to take extended breaks during movie time. That contributed to my reluctance to take him. After all, taking a family to the movies is not cheap so I’d rather not drop $50 to see half of one.  So when I was invited by Target to go to the Red Carpet Hollywood Premiere of Disney’s Planes with my family, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

The Little Dude is an animation aficionado, having seen the Toy Story and Cars movies at least 50 times each. And ever since he first spotted a display of Planes toys at Target a few weeks ago, he’s become obsessed with the characters of a movie he didn’t even know existed.  To ensure he was familiar in advance, the rad crew at Target sent over a box of Planes gear for both Junior Dudes to enjoy before the event:

We headed to Hollywood earlier this week for the premiere at the legendary El Capitan Theater. Just like at the Oscars, which are held across the street, this was a high fashion event, so the Little Dude wore Dusty Crophopper and his brother was dressed in El Chupacabra.

Hollywood Boulevard was blocked off and decorated with the traditional red carpet, albeit with lines like you’d see on an airport’s runway.

Once we entered the Target Landing Zone for the pre-show party, my boys were overwhelmed by the carnival of fun that stood before them.

We surveyed the scene and went booth-to-booth, where the Little Dude got to play aerial-themed games and win awesome prizes from Target’s Planes collection. He went “Fly” Fishing:

Played The Claw game, (which he knew from Toy Story):

And took aim at a Balloon Pop:

There were plenty of snacks and drinks for everyone, including some cool Jamba Juice kids’ drinks and sliders so good that I ate 3. OK, 4. I meant 5. 

The sun was beating down, but luckily there were some cool spots to check out the complete Target Planes collection. I had to literally pry the Little Dude away from there a couple times so he could enjoy more of the party, though he would have been content starting at the scooters, toys, etc. for the duration of the event.

Our 10-month-old Littler Dude was along for the ride and had a great time with a Dusty Crophopper fan that someone handed him on the way in. He clutched it tight for 2 hours, as though it were the law.

Then it was time for the main event. We made our way into the theater, not knowing how either of our boys would sustain for the duration of the 90 minute flick. Once the house lights went down and the 3-D glasses went on, all four of us were quickly caught up in the tale of Dusty Crophopper, an underdog cropduster plane with a big dream of participating in an around the world speed race. If you don’t know much about planes, this would be like someone driving a 1972 Ford Pinto entering the Indy 500. But Dusty is determined and through hard work, and assistance from his neighbor, a retired jet fighter named Skipper, Dusty qualifies for the race. Along the way, he meets planes from around the world, like El Chupacabra, a Mexican plane desperately trying to both win the race and find a mate. El Chu and Dusty help each other while challenging the evil defending champion plane Ripslinger for the world title.

Planes is a light film that will appeal to most kids. Its tagline is “from the world above Cars”, which is explains why the visual styling of the film is strongly resembles both Cars movies.  The premise of Planes also appears to be a hybrid of the two Cars movies, featuring the naïve youngster, the crusty older mentor, and a big race featuring international opponents.

You might be wondering, how the Junior Dudes fared during the film. The Littler Dude sat through about half before needing to go into the lobby to crawl around. His older brother, however, was literally on the edge of his seat for 90 minutes, totally enthralled by the action before him.  Overall, it was a great day. The only issue is that no matter what we take them to see next, they will invariably be looking for the red carpet, games, food and endless toys that made up our wonderful Planes experience.

What's your favorite animated movie? Do you plan to see Planes? 

Thanks to Target for providing an assortment of Planes gear, as well as entrance to the party and screening. All opinions expressed within this post are mine, for better or worse.  I was compensated in kind in exchange for this review. My kids are thrilled. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why Tony Soprano was the Best Father in TV History

I took a poll on my Facebook page recently asking who readers thought was the best fictional TV father? While the responses ranged from Bundy to Brady, the greatest number of people said Cliff Huxtable, Bill Cosby’s beloved OB/GYN from The Cosby Show. One reader’s reasoning:

One father who never even occurred to me before this conversation turned out to be among the most popular choices: Tony Danza’s Tony Micelli from Who’s the Boss?  One reader summed Tony up perfectly to me:

Those two fathers, though seemingly polar opposites (one a successful physician, the other a baseball player turned housekeeper), were actually quite similar as the primary goal of both was to give their families a better life. And if you mixed those two dudes together, you'll get who I think is the greatest father in TV history: Tony Soprano.

As a die-hard TV fan, I was a rabid enthusiast of HBO’s The Sopranos throughout its entire eight year run, starting with episode 1 and ending 1 second before the show’s cut-to-black culmination in episode 86. Needless to say, I was shocked to hear of the untimely recent passing of James Gandolfini for several reasons, not the least of which is that he has a brand-new baby at home who is a couple weeks younger than my 9-month-old Littler Dude. A true tragedy. 

Beyond being a great father, Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano was arguably the most compelling protagonist/antagonist combination ever seen on TV. As both a doting father to his two kids, Meadow and AJ, and a godfather of the largest organized crime family in New Jersey, Soprano ruled two distinct households successfully, but never faultlessly.  It was the perfect dichotomy of “fathering” experiences and Tony managed to lead an atypical, yet successful, work/life balance.
The Soprano family, in happier times
You might wonder how I can say that a murdering, thieving gangster could be considered a quality father. The truth is that Tony Soprano is the only “real” fictional mobster, and one of the few "real" fathers, we’ve ever seen. He had issues with his parents, spouse, job and kids, just like pretty much any other parent. He battled endless temptation. His friends frequently let him down or double-crossed him. But he also sought therapy to deal with all of those conflicting ping-pong balls bouncing around his head.  I can’t think of another celluloid Mafia Don who has ever been as vulnerable as Tony Soprano consistently proved to be over the years.*

Tony's other family
Like most people, Tony’s family life was full of challenges. Living in an upscale New Jersey neighborhood, his kids faced the usual struggles that teenagers commonly must deal with regarding school, friends and substances. The Soprano kids became more withdrawn from family life upon learning, kind of, about their father’s line of business. Tony’s parenting philosophy was influenced heavily by his own upbringing, which was often the subject of his therapy sessions. While he was afraid to tell his friends about his therapy and use of anti-depressants for fear of being viewed as weak, I believe he did it for the benefit of not only himself, but also his family. He spent vast amounts of time with Dr. Melfi uncovering layers of damage that his parents, especially his mother who at one point tried to have him killed, instilled in him.

One episode that always sticks out in my mind about the kind of parent Tony was is an early episode titled “College” where Tony took Meadow to visit some schools in New England. In the long car ride up the coast, some big issues were discussed, including drugs, drinking and Tony’s alleged line of work. Tony and his daughter dealt with an uncomfortable line of questioning that went both ways, and that awkward conversation opened the lines of communication for them going forward. The episode later showed Tony being put in another awkward position when he unexpectedly bumped into a former colleague, who’d disappeared years prior into Witness Protection. Faced with the choice of spending quality time with his daughter and doing his “work” made Tony choose how to balance two very important matters, something most parents have to deal with every day. I won’t give away what happened, but will say that Tony was a great multi-tasker.

So while you may scoff at my choice for TV’s best father, and wonder why I didn’t choose Ward Cleaver, Father Ingalls or even Dan Conner, I selected someone who regularly showed the inner-strength to deal with extreme adversity for the betterment of his family. To me, Tony Soprano was that man. 

James Gandolfini, RIP.

Who do you think is the best Father in TV history, and why?

*=Don’t even mention Robert DeNiro in Analyze This, which was released two months after The Sopranos premiered, as he was just playing a hokey parody of a mobster.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Man with 533 Kids

Too often these days, media represents fathers as hopeless schlubs. I won’t get into the countless examples of “Mr. Mom Gone Wrong” that companies have used in advertising campaigns lately, only to be soundly rejected by the active community of dads who know exactly what they’re doing. As far as I know, most men/fathers are not perfect, but I also don’t know many as inept as the ones I see on TV and movies.

Needless to say, I was excited when I learned the premise of the forthcoming DreamWorks film Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn. In the film, Vaughn plays an aging underachiever named David Wozniak struggling with job and relationship issues, when suddenly those issues become trivial compared to some shocking news that shows up at his door one day.  In 1994, David was a sperm donor and due to a “mix-up” at the clinic, he became the biological father of 533 kids, who suddenly all want to meet him. (Ironically, David’s love interest is played by Cobie Smulders, one of the stars of TV’s How I Met Your Mother.)

As someone who is well aware I have 2 kids, I can’t fathom what discovering something of this nature would be like. And not surprisingly, neither can David. As a way of accepting this huge unexpected revelation, he sets out to find his children and figure out the best way to interact with them as he processes what has happened.  Along the way, David gets help, support and a lesson in what parenting is really like from his friend, played by Chris Pratt, who has 4 kids and knows how hard it is.

So why am I telling you all this? After all, Delivery Man won’t be released until November. Luckily for me, and you, DreamWorks chose me as one of 533 bloggers to debut their brand spankin’ new trailer for this movie.  So without further ado, here’s Vince Vaughn in Dreamworks' Delivery Man:

What would you do if you discovered you had 533 kids?

DISCLAIMER: Though I was not compensated for this post, I was given advance screening of this trailer. Hopefully I'll get to see the movie, too. Opinions contained in this post are entirely mine, for better or worse.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pop's Day Contest Winners

Hope you had a great Father's Day weekend. As expected, I spent Sunday at the beach with the family. The weather was perfect and the crowd was minimal, i.e. it was a fantastic day. 

That is until I once again burned the slab of beef ribs I tried to BBQ for dinner. (Side note: does anyone know how to BBQ beef ribs without them turning into charred sticks?). Dinner was followed up with my delicious homemade cookie cake, featuring Mrs. Dude's special frosting made from scratch. 

Yes, I ate most of it. Especially this most appropriate piece: 

And among our beach snacks were PopChips. This week was Salt & Pepper, one of my favorite combinations and quite complementary to our turkey sandwiches. 

But beyond reading about my eating habits, the real reason you're here is to find out who won the big Pop's Day Giveaway.* So without further ado, the big winner of a VIP 6-pack of tickets to the Eat See Hear screening of her choice with seats in PopChips "Fashionably Late" section PLUS a month's supply of PopChips is: @TheBigDebowski

And the 2nd prize of a month's supply of PopChips chips is @whithonea. Not too shabby. 

I will notify both winners via Twitter and they will have 24 hours to get back to me, or else another winner will be chosen.**

Thanks to @PopChipsLA for sponsoring this great contest and everyone who participated!!! 

*Winners were chosen by a random number selector: Mrs. Dude. She had no idea what she was picking, and chose the numbers from ranges I provided, assigned by when comments were left on my original blog post. 

**Even if you didn't win, you can still buy PopChips. They're really good. 

Disclaimer: I was sent enough PopChips to feed Luxembourg in exchange for organizing this contest. And I've eaten a ton of them. All opinions expressed here are entirely mine, for better or worse. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The First Last

I’m often nostalgic around this time of year because June is a memorable month for me for many reasons. June contains Mrs. Dude’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, my mother’s birthday and Father’s Day. And that’s just the first two weeks. But there’s two other dates that also always stand out in my memory: June 11 and 12.

Each of those two dates changed my life in a similar but very different way. June 11th was the day I graduated from college and June 12th was the day I graduated from high school. Only someone with a partial photographic memory (used most frequently to recall old completely random info) would remember those specific dates so many years after they occurred. For while the dates may have been insignificant relative to what happened on them, they stick in my mind as placeholders.

June 12, 1994 is a far more notorious date than just because I graduated from high school on that day. That date will live in infamy as the date O.J. Simpson allegedly murdered his ex-wife. But that event is obviously only part of what makes it memorable to me. It also marked my final time spent at the Richfield Coliseum, (where my school’s commencement was held), which closed a few months later. I’d spent countless great nights among my first 18 years at the Coliseum attending concerts, sporting events, and even an NHL exhibition game that had to be canceled midway through because the ice melted.  My final trip to the Coliseum marked one end of my childhood and a new beginning as I moved on to college a few months later.

A month after graduation I went to a Grateful Dead concert, one of many I attended over the years. This particular outdoor show was marred by a huge rainstorm that dampened the crowd, both figuratively and literally. But there was one moment in the second set that has stuck with me through the years. When the band played Saint of Circumstance and got to these lyrics: “Sure don’t know what I’m going for, but I’m gonna go for it, for sure,” I knew college, and the future in general, was going to be a mystery and an adventure. 

June 11, 1999 marked the culmination of my formal education and the official first steps of the rest of my life. At lunch after my graduation ceremony that afternoon, I told my family of my intention to move to Los Angeles later that summer. I didn’t know exactly what I would do when I arrived, but I figured I could wing it. I was young, smart and eager to get started on whatever I’d be doing next.

Cut to almost 14 years later and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going for. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Every choice I’ve made since then has led me to today. Some decisions have been great and some not so great. Obviously one great one was marrying Mrs. Dude, who collaborated with me to produce both Junior Dudes.

This year on June 12th, I was daydreaming in the car while cruising on another sunny L.A. day, and reflecting on my high school graduation that occurred so long ago and so far away on that date.  Though my ride wasn’t long, I had a lot of time to think about all I’ve done since then. And when I reached my destination, I parked the car, and then ascended a staircase I’d climbed a hundred times before and picked up my Little Dude from the last day of his first year of school. His journey is just beginning. 

Leaving Room 5 for the final time. . .