Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I Hate the Winter Olympics

When the Seattle Seahawks annihilated the Denver Broncos earlier this month in the Super Bowl, among other things it meant that self-proclaimed “Football Widows” received their spouses back until training camps begin over the summer. What I personally didn’t anticipate was becoming a Sports Widower myself less than a week later.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a big sports fan. I’m also a long-suffering one as I grew up a Cleveland sports fan. If you’re not a sports fan, I can best explain being a Cleveland sports fan like being the punchline in a nightmare. Anything that could go wrong inevitably does in the most publically embarrassing way. But I’ve grown to live with that. And now that I live on the West Coast with two young sons I seldom make time to sit through many games these days that aren’t Go Fish.  

So how did I come to find myself in the position of asking my non-sports fan wife approximately every 15 minutes every night for the last 2 weeks “is this almost over?” Two words: Winter Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be any more pro-American if I had a pet Bald Eagle named Uncle Sam. I just can’t get into the Winter Olympics, no matter how half-heartedly I try. As I mentioned, I grew up in the Midwest, about 20 minutes from a place where I could have gone skiing every winter for 20+ years and opted to never do so. Intentionally. Unlike Elsa from Frozen, the cold always bothered me anyway.

Over the decade-plus my wife and I have been together, I’ve tried watching some of the Winter Olympic Games with her. However, beyond that I have a hard time recognizing it as a sport, spending time watching sequined couples “Ice Dancing” just doesn’t do it for me.

From what I’ve seen the primary objective of at least half of the Winter Olympic events could be listed as “not dying”. Hell, there’s a sport where the “athlete” lies face down on a tiny metal sled going 80+mph down a curvy icy chute, which is actually called “Skeleton”. Foreshadowing much?
This Skeletoner is laying still like a corpse.
How is this a sport?
Then there’s the Biathlon which combines that natural duo of skiing and shooting a rifle which so many people seemingly do every day. I’d call that Polar Military Training before I’d call it a sport. What about Cross Country, which most people who live in cold weather places refer to as “walking on snow”.

And don’t even get me started on Curling, a “sport” which my housekeeper could likely medal in based on her expert-level proficiency at removing piles of Cheerios from the floor with a broom.
As if their "sport" didn't make them look silly enough...
I was sitting with my wife the other night while she watched the 1st of something like 86 rounds of some skiing event and kept hearing the announcers mention Rosa Khoutour, which I assumed was some sort of Russian fashion brand. Turns out it’s a mountain. Who would have known?

The centerpiece of the Winter Olympics is always the Figure Skating events, and those have eaten up a big chunk of my TiVo for the last 10 nights. No interest. I didn’t even like Blades of Glory and that starred Ron Burgundy and Napoleon Dynamite, two of the funniest dudes from the last decade.

Part of my ancestry actually stems from Russia and I still couldn’t be less interested in a “Homeland vs. Birthland” story line if NBC created one specifically about me, like the packages they show about athletes suffering from hangnails, misplaced iPhones and other tragedies.

The truth is that the most interesting part of the Olympic coverage to me so far has been Bob Costas’ Pink Eye, which would be a great name for a punk-rock band. Bob’s Oozing Oculars (another good band name) has kept me wondering what kind of medical attention he’s getting that he couldn’t work at an event he’d probably be preparing 6 months to a year in advance for. Who is his MD, Dr. Frankenstein?

The good news is that the games will be over in a few more days and I’ll get 4 glorious sequin-less years until they resume. How long until baseball season begins?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dad 2.0: Quest for the King

Shuffling zombie-like through the damp cloud-covered streets of the French Quarter, I had one last critical goal to accomplish before heading to the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans last Sunday morning. After an inspirational and aspirational weekend at the 3rd Dad 2.0 Summit it was going to be a race against the clock to complete my mission. 

As one of only a few dozen attendees of all three Dad 2.0s, I had different objectives this year than during the two previous. The first year I was just a newbie blogger who really had no clue why I was there. The second year I went seeking something intangible and as a byproduct stumbled onto something quite tangible. For this go around, though, I had two key objectives and I knew neither would be easy.

New Orleans has special meaning to my family, even though I’d only been there once before this trip, as that’s where Mrs. Dude went to grad school. Just a few months after she graduated and moved back to L.A., we met and 11 years later, here we are now. So when I learned the location of this year’s conference it was with great hesitation that I dared even mention going to her favorite place without her. And being the saint she is, she knew there was a greater purpose and encouraged me to go.

The most unique aspect of this 300-person congregation, unlike any other I’ve ever been to, is the warm inviting feeling conveyed by every single person there. I got to reconnect with old friends and finally meet face-to-face friends whom I’d only known online before. That’s what this conference is all about. Camaraderie. Brotherhood. Empathy. Everyone at Dad 2.0 is in the same boat, even though some are dinghies and some are yachts: every person there wants to be a better parent. Honestly.

For me, the last year has been both wonderful and exasperating. As a result some facets of my life have suffered, like my blog. Trying to compose 700 pithy words when I’m falling asleep in my reheated dinner at 9:00pm has been much more difficult than I expected. Since the Littler Dude arrived, I’ve had a very hard time juggling all the chainsaws I have in the air. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but also uber-challenging. So my chief mission at Dad 2.0 this year was finding that inspiration again, that spark that helped me spit out witty blog posts like peanut shells at a Dodgers game when I started Dude of the House nearly 3 years ago. Little did I know that I’d get my mojo back within 2 hours of the event’s kickoff.

The first morning opened with an inspiring video showing the progress Dads have made in the media over the last 1000 days since Dad 2.0 was first conceptualized:
Jim Higley and Jason Katims

That video was followed in short succession by a welcome from Rob Candelino of Dove Men+Care, one of the few mainstream brands that truly gets us; then an opening keynote conversation with Jason Katims, Executive Producer of NBC’s Parenthood and Bobblehead Dad himself, Jim Higley. The insight into Jason’s creative process and how his own challenging experiences as a father greatly shaped the direction his show has taken was inspiring to a wannabe TV writer like me. 

At last year’s conference in Houston, Brene Brown spoke about vulnerability. This year in New Orleans, Lorne Jaffe exemplified it. It’s hard to put into words how inspiring he truly was.

It was later that first afternoon when I was able to cross Critical Mission #1 off my list: an intimate roundtable discussion with Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, where I learned more about writing in 25 minutes than in the last 2.5+ years I’ve been blogging. I won’t divulge Carter’s storytelling secrets here, rather I hope they’ll add life and color to this blog in the very near future.

Among other important lessons I learned in ‘Nawlins:
  • Getting my butt sketched was much more cool than I thought it would be.
  • Lee Jeans not only still exists, they actually are pretty awesome.
  • Holding an alligator is not something I hope to do again anytime soon, even though my having done so totally delighted the Little Dude.  
  • It’s possible to be away from 2 sons for 3 nights and sleep even less than I would at home.

Feeling guilty about leaving my wife with 2 kids meant I could not return home empty-handed, which is why I was roaming the Quarter’s broken beer-scented cobblestone early last Sunday morning. I was on a mission to bring Mrs. Dude a King Cake as a token of appreciation and a fond reminder of her, and now my, time in NoLA.

After consulting Yelp for the best/closest King Cake joint open that early, I headed out for breakfast at CafĂ© Beignet, only to discover they had just sold out which meant I was likely going home empty-handed. Thankfully a kind eavesdropper who’d overheard of my quest guided me to a local market about a half-mile down the street.

Speedwalking down the blocks as my glasses fogged up from the mist, I searched frantically for the correct address and prayed they’d have one little King Cake with my name on it. Entering Rouse’s nervously, I was back on the street in 30 seconds with a giant frosted cinnamon sweet under my arm and 8 hours until home. Mission Complete.