Moving is tough enough. Moving cross-country is pretty rough. Moving halfway across the US to your mother’s place with baby, the breadwinner (ie not me) looking for new work and a new place? The reason why I haven’t posted in a while. We are back in IL. At the time I write this, we’ve found a place between Ravenswood and Lincoln Square in Chicago. We’re moving there soon, next week or the week after.

I’ve brewed twice, once with my father-in-law: the first attempt at a ‘House’ beer. I’m pretty big into Belgian sour-farmhousey things, so that was the first stab. It’s got Rye, Wheat (unmalted and malted), pilsner, and two pounds of Michigan born honey. I pitched the first runs of what could be my ‘house’ yeast – the alluring White Labs Farmhouse Blend. From first samples, it’s nice. Second beer was with brother-in-law (sister’s husband), who will likely be my brew-bud from now on. My efficiency was garbage both times, so the tinkering shall begin.

Finn is growing up so fast. He’s been a crazy good kid, safe for the instantly-throwing-something-when-done-with-it phase that has plagued us for the past month and a half now. Playing at the park well, being really independent, and always keeping us laughing.

We’ve fixed my mother’s place; replacing overhead lights, painting two rooms (soon a third), putting up ceiling fans, (as a boss/prof used to say) opening a can of whoop-ass in the garage, donating used items, throwing away unneeded items. I’ve worked as much as I can, pushing sleep back, pitching to a new client, and generally kicking butts.

I’ve got more, but I’ve got to get back to cleaning and dry hop the house beer. Expanded posts on each subject soon.

You start at zero, basically. For those old enough to either have children or really appreciate what it’s like to have them you understand. No one really knows what the hell they are doing, and if they say they do – they are lying. I’ve felt like running down a too-steep hill – that clomping almost-falling barely catching yourself kind of way – for the first year. Just when you feel like you have a remote semblance of understanding, a new milestone is reached and the proverbial wrench comes wading in.
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Thing is, I’m not a terribly spectacular dad. We don’t do flash cards, or spend an hour here or there hammering lessons on what color a horse is versus a zebra. I don’t push him to speak to me, and usually find myself mumbling whatever nonsense back to him. We speak in fart noises and “mab mab mab”s. Fun cut with the danger of bodily harm is routine.

But I do care for my son. I watch what he eats. I make sure he’s as safe as possible while still being adventitious. We go on walks, and allow him to find his own fun at the park. We learn how to pick up after ourselves, and how to treat animals. I like to have fun and play, but also drive a hard-line when it comes to doing things he shouldn’t (stay out of the GD cat water). So while I’m not force feeding him lessons on the growth patterns of butterflies, or hung up on his inability to speak, we find and work out other ways to progress. He’s walking and running and playing on his own, puts things away when he’s done, likes to read (so much as he can), in a class with kids twice his age, and loves to watch out the windows.

And look, I’m an okay person. Not super great, but I don’t want him to think my slouching mediocrity is a life goal. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I’d rather instill some kind appetite for success. It’s never interested me, and I’ve been horribly lucky on not becoming a slug – but I’m more of a remora. Gliding along not causing too much a stir and living off the hard work of others. Those who I attach myself to don’t mind me, so I skirt along. Maybe that is why I feel like I’m so hard on him, or why I want him to so independent. Because when you couple that I feel like I’ve not done anything to stake my claim and my daily fear of passing on my flooded pessimism, ADHD, mild depression – it’s hard not worry. I want him to be better.

Maybe I’m a ‘Bad Father.’ I always go to sleep wondering how I can do better. I’m bad at it sure, but as with everything – it takes time to get good. If you’re a dad reading this, know that you are bad too, everyone is – just learn from your mistakes and lament on your pitfalls. Make things right, be honest.

Maybe by the time he’s tucking me into bed I will master it.

It may not come as a big surprise to many. I’m an asshole. Well, I can be. For some reason a previous co-worker and growing dear friend of mine brings it out in horrible, crude ways. The flood gates open in my brain where I keep my brash thoughts locked away. Normally it splashes the shoes, but neither of us end up hating each other. A verbal push and shove, who can go farther.

I ended up a massive, cavernous billowy anus one afternoon.

“When do you give up Travis?”

“What man?” His smile broke at its edges. His eyes lock mine the way a brother locks on when it’s grown-up time.

“Ya know, like when you give up the dream being an actor.” A desperate scoff floats out.

I know he was boiling, a ‘huh’ puffed out – he couldn’t process it. He walked away, saying how I was a dick or such an asshole over his shoulder.

Why was I suddenly so cruel? I had seen him in a show that was well done. He was active and always doing work. Going back now, I wanted to know for myself. When was it okay for me to give up my dream. When do I know I didn’t make it. I needed to know where someone else’s unbroken finish line was strung.

We’ve only gotten better friends, but that question digs at me. A slow screwing into my subconscious, I’m reminded every time I see my accordion binder full of old college work,when I was in love with a dream. Now it’s a cloud, looming that I’m no closer than before and I’m nearly this close to thirty. Travis is happy as a clam working on Million Dollar Quartet as a relief to some of the headliners. I write about food, and get paid to do so.

I guess we both answered that question.

I haven’t written here in a while. Part because I’ve been busy and doing other things to fill my time and part because I’ve wanted to move this thing to the ‘ja.’ sub domain, but after a failed late night attempt midweek and some more reading I’ll take another stab this weekend.

Baby world: Finn and I have really clicked. He listens really well, is happy most of the time and very loving.

Beer world: Have a handful of yeast I would like to plow through, but the cloud of us maybe moving in late May has put it to a halt. Rye Pilsner, Orange Wit, and Berliner all kegged.

More soon.

A simple question. 11 years ago (at least), it was a passing question from a dental assistant before the father of a long-time acquaintance and my dentist poked around in my mouth. I had never thought about it before. Never once had I wrenched my jaw open after a night’s sleep and rubbed my bulging jaw muscle. Never once had I noticed the fluffy pain resonating around my teeth like a pillow well into the late-morning.

“No, I don’t think so.”

Of course I was wrong. My mother grinds her teeth. My sister does, although both mostly show whilst enraged – it conveys exactly how their stress shows itself, manifesting in a crunching not unlike that of tectonic plates, mountains falling into valleys and the hills smoothing themselves out with time. How did I not know I was along for the ride? I’d been taking psychostimulants since the middle of third grade; slow release, low dose – I’d had it all. When coming down from a long day of Ritalin you move from one being to another. While on it, you are this other person, so when I was asked if I had ground my teeth – I didn’t know it wasn’t ever a focus of mine. As soon as the pretty smock-clad woman left the room, it all came flooding in. I’d been grinding my teeth for so long I didn’t know it was irregular – all the while brooding over it, I caught myself milling my enamel.

And so began my internal fight on was or wasn’t I grinding my teeth. As I aged it came and went. My stress displayed itself in other ways: throwing up, stomach pains, obsessive tongue-to-tooth rubbing, and the like. But now it’s back. In a time when I have to show restraint, where I have to go from happy and sad just as fast as my almost-toddler son, it’s back. After naps, my molars are locking, my teeth feel as though they are being pushed into their Silly Puddy-feeling gum-bed. I’d never had a dentist comment after, but – strangely – I’ve wanted them to, to confirm my insanity. I want them to notice the smooth topped molars my ever-searching tongue does. During my waking hours I try to keep my jar apart – in fear of unknowingly grinding away and for relief of last-nights clinch-fest or the inevitable bear-trap wrenching when my son climbs on his toy chest one more damn time.

I still come back to that question.

Where I’m laid back in the dense pleather foam chair, floating three feet from the floor with a woman’s hands in my mouth asking me if I grind my teeth. I think of that break. That ever-lasting dead air between her question and my stuttered answer: did I?

This is the first of a series of reflections where I pick up a piece of my brain and follow the string back to where either I or someone else effects either I or someone else.

Where have I been? Oh lord. Usually I’d try to do some writing after Lis has fallen asleep, but recently I’d been working on learning code better. Adding and clarifying a lot of things I’ve partially known, or skirted by until recently. Codeacadamy is super easy and straight-forward, I dare say even my mother could plow through the html and css lessons there.

What else?

Finn turned one. I brewed a few beers. And not much else really.

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We, of course, have got a ton of snow this year. We’re more than double the average for season, getting most of that in one storm. Finn is playing by himself a lot more, being really independent as well as knowing when he’s been naughty or doing something he shouldn’t be (doesn’t mean he won’t do it). Another ‘fun’ thing he’s taken to is not letting us feed him which can be intensely frustrating, likely the most we’ve dealt with thus far. Yeah, sounds whiny, and I’m sure we’re super lucky for this to be the hardest, but giving him finger foods basically amounts to hot dog slices, peas, corn, pretzels, and packaged baby snack foods. He barely eats when he feeds himself too, so getting is tummy to hit ‘F’ has been a trial. Besides this speed bump, he’s a super happy kid and I’m forcing myself into walks for his and my mental health as well as a bit of my physical health. This Winter has been tough on getting out, feeding myself on time, and even hygiene has taken a some-what of a back seat to parenting, work, and quiet time.

As far as brewing is concerned 2013 is revving up to be a huge year. The year’s first brew, the Blonde/Pale is kegged and I’m inching my way through it. The coriander may have been slightly overkill, as I’m getting a lot of ‘pepper’ spice and grass with less of the lemon I had been looking for. Recently moved my first lager into secondary for cold storage at a buddy’s place, A Rye Pilsner – the second beer brewed this year. The most I’m excited for is the Berliner Weisse that is currently fermenting, brewed mid last week – this beer will be getting its own post here soon so I’ll keep it brief. Just yesterday, in conjunction with a group brew of 45 gallons of Oktoberfest (which I didn’t want into), I brewed off the orange laden Wit; with the rinds of 6 blood oranges added to the boil and 12 skins going into a “tea” and added after fermentation, I think it’ll have a nice bright flavor. During my brew day, a friend and homebrewer in the club made a collaboration brew, a Gratzer – a 100% oak smoked wheat beer, we even scored traditional polish ale yeast to ferment with – another super exciting brew I cannot wait to open in early spring.

More soon, keep chugging along.

Twenty-something is an impasse of immaturity and adulthood. There is a good reason people say “early twenties” or “in their thirties.” There is a good reason categorically, we’re placed between “early,” “something,” and “late.”

At each decade of our lives we’re stuck in this ‘get old’ or ‘seem too old.’ It’s the same reason a fifteen year old hates the world as much as a twenty-five year old wants a fancy things as much as thirty-five year old wants to be recognized at work as much as a forty-five year old faces their grim future. We aren’t who we were five years ago, but we don’t want to be who we will be in five years, so we end up conflicted. It’s the same reason a thirty year old at a college house party full of undergrads is awkward  or a new-hire never truly looks comfortable in their new dress slacks.

But twenty is awkward. Filled with messy childbirths, clumsy marriages, and elbowing at the edges of self-sufficiency. Are we actually adults or are we just playing one in real life? This is what grown-ups do right?

The older I get the more convoluted the insult “just grow up” seems.

In the crumbling walls of Hubble Middle School (now flattened), I was the shaky smirking irritating guy in class with stretched rubber bands connecting my top and bottom braces. I was as charming as a cloud of gnats, and just about as interesting. I made seventh grade English teacher cried multiple times, my social studies teacher pushed my desk over seconds after class started, and stacks of write-to-pass papers, projects, and the like were left undone. I was awash in self loathing, painful awkwardness, and struggling with the worst bouts of ADHD I’d ever experienced. I wore the same fraying boxers most of those three years, my pants were mostly the same ‘might-as-well-be-glued-to-my-hips’ dark colored corduroys. I was dirty too.

Just to paint a picture, that was me. I was the giggling snide side kick but without the chubby face-punching lead-man.

Through the luck of having a friend with a date, I place myself in the good graces of a girl – a date – to a dance. The details are lost in the ether of time, but I’m sure I never mustered the courage to ask her straight out, and merely passed along the message through the lines. I bought a pair of pleated khaki pants, and a flowing dress shirt and tie – like a sprouting kid wearing dad’s hand-me-downs.

The day of the dance, my mom was due home just in time to take her and I to the dance. Of course, being the permanent slouch, I was running behind. I took a shower and had to dry my hair – fast. So I pulled a dry towel over my head and rubbed it fast. Now the hair was too dry and the chunky gel would only make things worse. My head only fit somewhat underneath the sink, and the cold water washed down and onto my beige striped Sears dress shirt. Instead of a towel, this time I whipped my head – clung to my legs above the knee and head-banged a few times into the fluffy bathmats. It was still damp and dripping, more drops of water falling on my skin-toned shirt. I placed my hands on my hips and flung down to draw out the water. My head didn’t clear the counter.

The off white plaster was not forgiving on my squishy body. I went to the dance, meet my date, and sat in the darkened gym when the power went out with a throbbing red mark on my forehead.

I think her name was Lauren, she was just about as interested in me as any girl would have been, she was doing a friend a favor. We didn’t see much of each other at the dance.

In fifth grade, my teacher scared the shit out of me. I was a horrible student and didn’t do my homework. So my teacher belittled us in front of the entire class and told us we weren’t allowed to go to lunch and were being forced to finish the work we were supposed to do the night before.

The girl, who would later get her period on the way to gym class later that year, and I were ashamed and kept quiet, doing our work. The lumpy hispanic kid did nothing of the sort. He cried. Sobbed is more accurate, and protested in the only way a helpless fifth grader would, saying their parents were going to sue her.

Mrs. Smith had always been a little strong in the emotion department. She memorized lines from books we were reading in class and dressed in character – even going as far as adorning a nazi uniform, swastika and all – shouting at the top of her lungs that she was going to find the jews. Needless to say she was a bit heavy-handed, but a passionate teacher none the less.

Something in the way this tubby kid was crying, complaining, and even threatening the employment status of our teacher just broke her. She was a heavy woman, built shoulders first in the hands of god, and when she sauntered her way over to you – with the same authority she called out Penelope’s suitors – like when she overturned my desk mid-class, you knew what was coming. This time though it was rough and jagged like a hurricane hitting the shoreline, she came screaming down his desk row and squared her face with his. She pointed at his chest, deep into his soul and he didn’t waver anymore than he had. I sat with my jaw against my collarbone as my teacher told this child how good he had it, what he was going to amount to, and how much of a shit she gave about his threats. I can’t remember if she swore, but I’m sure she did. All of the garbage, the back talk, the chatter and disturbance an elementary classroom can birth rained down upon this kid. He left, under whose order isn’t clear, but the girl a row over and I were praised for how good we were for working quietly and Mrs. Smith went back to mashing her thick green salad between her wide jaw.

For three days there after I ditched school. My mother forced a teacher conference with the powers that be. As my mother tells it, she scolded my teacher and those who employed her, but I just remember being in the room and not much else.

I ran into Mrs. Smith years later when she came into my grandparent’s bakery and asked how she was doing. She was still teaching, but at a different school.

I almost inexplicably hate review shows about the ‘previous year,’ although I do love year-review for albums. That’s really it. Music is kind of the only thing deserving of getting reviewed in reflection on an annual basis. Maybe top internet searches just to give perspective. But this isn’t like those, I’m not rating my year, I’m simply laying it out like a newly washed rug and taking a step back to see how it fits in the room.

Finn’s Birth

This may not have been the start of the year, but it’s hard to bookend a year without talking about the 28# baby in the room. He was born in February, pulled from the clutches of Lis’s interior on the 15th. We spent three days building up, then Lis got sliced open, I saw a tiny human being yanked through a hole in my wife’s stomach and got to tell the sex of said tiny human. I cut the cord too. I listened to the placenta being ram-fisted with a gut push like the world’s worst fart.  I held him before Lis’s arms were released from the crucifix-like spread of the operating table. Everyone says it’s a super happy moment, and part of it was, but I wasn’t sure if I was only suppressing my fear of now having this responsibly and feigning overjoy or if I was actually elated. Sleep deprivation, emotional roller-coasters, over caffeinated, fear, happiness,  shock, joy, horror – all played their part in making me feel the most disconnected from myself than I had ever felt in my life.

People say that was the easy part – thus far, it’s been the hardest.

Adding Another

It may sound strange – but, emotionally, Finn didn’t feel like a part of our lives until about two or three weeks after getting home from the hospital. Having family visiting was fantastic, but after plowing through the most stressful, beautiful, horrible, wonderful thing in your life the last thing you want is to ask your mother if she wants some more tea. I am glad Lis was off as long as she was. Sharing the load of diapers, bottles, and emotional weight made the transition to my solo tour that much easier.

I still snap awake from work or reading to the mysterious cries from the next room – oh right, I’m a dad.

Weddings Suck

Let me be clear, I like going to them. It’s like prom but the older people tell much dirtier jokes and the alcohol consumption is much more explicit. Lis and I held our reception more than half a year after getting wed. We had it at SPG. Our thought was great food, very small group, and little hassle. Oh whoa, how those aspirations of the uneducated in such a space are placed in the mire; of rude in-laws, of pushing family, of a tired baby, of unforeseen havoc in the most obnoxious sense. All I wanted was to eat some lobster rolls, show off my baby, shake some hands, and relax. Last time we will ever attempt something like that.

Short Trips

The fancy food show in DC. A few days in Chicago. A weekend here or there in Boston. A drive up the coast. A hike up a local Mountain. A visit to crashing ocean waves. A visit with family. A holiday. Funerals in Chicagoland. This year was like a roll of film from a long vacation. Snapshots of finally really enjoying a new state and enjoying our baby. We traveled a lot, we were on the move a lot, crossing half the nation via car, flying, being inundated with family and just getting round.

Brewing Along

2012 was sort of getting to a place where I could be comfortable with brewing. It will slowly tilt from obsessive hobby to zealous unstoppable venture in no time flat. Resolutions aren’t quite my bag but I made an exception – I’m going to take this much more seriously. I can keep it fun, but let’s try to get something more out of it. Many homebrewers are complacent, this one is ready to go. Spreadsheet updated, recipes slotted, gobs of malt ordered, yeast lined up. From finding my way to building a ‘house brew,’ this will be a touchstone year for my beer.

Breathing in

This past year, I could have been truly living life. Maybe that is the underlying theme to my year  – breathing it all in, from ocean air to hop aromas to ripe diapers.

Happy New Year.