Thursday, June 28, 2012

15 Years Ago

I am always fascinated by the stories of how couples met. Was it chance? Were they set up? Was it love at first sight? Was it a Sliding Doors type of situation, where if the slightest smallest thing would have changed would they have never met?

I think about it all the time with the night I met my wife.

June 28th 1997.
I just got finished performing in a community theater presentation of Much Ado About Nothing. It was closing night and the cast was going out for a few drinks and some snacks to celebrate. Everybody (about 12 people) decided to go to an UNO Chicago Bar and Grill. We decided on this place because there were a few younger kids with our group.

I was working in a nightclub in downtown Philadelphia and knew I would have to get to work around Midnight. I arrived at UNO around 10:00, before the rest of the cast, so I could place my food order, have it served, eat it and get out of there by 11:30 so I could make it to work. I sat at the bar and ordered Pizza Skins and a club soda. The rest of the cast was trickling in and were taking seats at a large table next to the bar. I knew I was not hanging for the night so it was easier for me to stay at the bar and socialize there. I watched the bartender take orders for all the people at the table (since it was his section). Someone at the table ordered Pizza Skins.

One of the cast, PJ, sat with me at the bar and we were talking about the show and I can’t remember what else when a waitress came out with an order of Pizza Skins. “Who ordered Pizza Skins?’ she asked.

Someone at the table responded and the waitress placed it at the table, with no other food for the rest of the cast.

I turned to the bartender, “I think those were for me.” I said.

The bartender looked up and said something about they would have a runner bring up my food.

“But don’t you think the waitress would have brought out the rest of the food for that table? Besides I ordered mine about 15 minutes before everyone else.”

“Good point. She is not the waitress," said the barkeep referring to the woman who dropped of the food.  "She is the manager.”
“Listen” I said, “I have to go to work in a little bit why don’t you just cancel my order.”

The bartender agreed but needed the manager’s approval to void the guest check. The manager/waitress asked me if everything was okay and I explained the situation to her. She insisted that she could have my food to me in 5 minutes and there was no need to cancel the Pizza Skins.

“As a matter fact they are in the oven right now." she assured me.

At some point during this exchange another waitress came to the bar area and started to change one of the “Tonight’s Special" signs. She had her back to me but she was on her tippy toes, reaching up to write on the slate board. She was wearing a tucked in, denim blue collared shirt and perfectly fitted black pants. She was holding her apron in her hand so I knew she was just getting off her shift. The slate board was black, with an impressive chalk/pastel drawing around the border of a mug of beer and a slice of pizza. There was also a Killian’s Red logo on or near the chalkboard. I know all the details because I was staring.

The manager left and I could not stop myself from staring at the waitress writing on the board.

PJ, sitting next to me, nudges me with his elbow and gives me the Man-to-Man, silent, raised eyebrows, head nod, secret guy code that is not so secret, that indicates “She’s hot”.

I called her over. “Excuse me, I was wondering if you could check on an order of Pizza Skins for me.”

She smiled, and said something that I didn’t hear because I was captivated by her eyes, which were smiling as well. She left.

I turned to PJ and said something about her body, her looks, and her smile.

She returned and told me that there were no orders of Pizza Skins in the oven. I asked the bartender to cancel my order, which again needed the manager’s approval. The manager came over to ensure me the food would be out soon. I told her that the nice hot waitress (I didn’t say “hot” but that is what I was thinking) told me that they weren’t in the oven. The manager looked peeved. I realized I may have gotten the hot waitress in trouble and I explained to the manger that I also managed a club and that I knew that manager’s don’t always tell the truth to customers. The UNO manager was not happy.

The Hot waitress came back into the bar area. I felt bad and I informed her that I may have gotten her into trouble. She explained that it was okay. At some point here PJ became the perfect wingman by not making me look like an idiot. The hot waitress and I talked about the beer mug drawing on the chalkboard. She was the artist. I was impressed and told her so.

She walked away to get her things as she was done her shift for the night. PJ and I talked about whether I should ask her out. She was hot, talented and seemed to have a good personality. She had to have a boyfriend. PJ insisted that I at least check.

The hot waitress came back. I started talking to her about nothing really. I told her that since she was done her shift she should come down to the club I managed. I handed her my business card.

She looked at it. "Bill Meakim? Are you related to Mike Meakim?” She asked.

“Yes. He’s my brother?”

“I went to school with him. “

In the back of my mind I was hoping that Mike was nice to her in high school.

Since she was an artist and I took art classes in high school we talked about the teachers and the school. We knew the same teachers. It was good conversation. Familiar.

“What’s your name?” I asked.


“Well, Lauren, why don’t you come down to the club tonight?”

“I can’t. I’m tired and it is all the way in the city.”

“Okay.” I said. “Well maybe you and I could go out sometime.”

She hesitated. “I don’t know.”

This is where the begging started. I started babbling. “Look let me pick you up for lunch tomorrow. Or you can me meet for a cup of coffee somewhere. I can meet you here. Or wherever you like. Where do you live? We can meet somewhere close to where you live so it is convenient for you.”

Lauren rolled her beautiful eyes, “I live in Abington.”

“So do I." I said matter of factly. "Where in Abington? So we can pick a place to meet.” I added so I would not sound creepy.
Lauren said, “I live on Horace.”

“Get out!” I shouted. “I Live on Horace too.”

She got a freaked out look on her face. Like I was a stalker. Horace Ave. is only two blocks long. How was it possible that we could both live on the same street? She must have said something like “No way” or “That’s strange”. I knew fate was on my side.

“I live at 1847. Right on the corner.” I said.

Lauren looked at me in disbelief and muttered, “I live at 1828.”

I was quite excited. There were too many random, strange coincidences to pass this up.

My mouth was going a mile a minute, “That’s like 5 houses down. How come I’ve never seen you before? Look you can’t say “NO” at this point. I know where you live. Let me pick you up for lunch. I will WALK down and pick you up for lunch. It is only lunch. If you don’t like me or I don’t like you it doesn’t go any further than that. Just lunch. Look, I am not crazy. You know my brother. Just lunch. I am picking you up tomorrow.”

“Okay” she said. “What time?”

And that is the story of how I met my wife. Sometime during our talk my Pizza Skins came out and I ate, maybe,  two pieces.

I was also late for work.


I always think about that night the smallest of things that night.

What if my Pizza Skins were delivered to me on time? What if PJ did not sit next to me? What if the manager voided my check the first time? What if Lauren just left without stopping back? What if she said no to the date?

15 Years Ago.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Parenting in Public

Even after 8 years I find Parenting in Public (PIP) to be one of the most trickiest aspects of raising children. Lets face it, we parents know (even though we are not supposed to) that we judge other parents. We also know that other parents are constantly judging us. Most of the time I can takes the stares, the head shaking and the "tsk-ing tsk-ing" of other parents in stride. Sometimes I think the judges out there keep some parents in check, which is a good thing. But I am fairly confident in my parenting that I do my best to make sure the judges do not affect the way I handle myself with my kids.  I believe kids know parents get embarrassed and they try to exploit this weakness to get their way. Kids know other parents are judging. I try not to get embarrassed by tantrums and other public displays of meltdowns. I try my best not to give in.

I try.

The other evening I took the three boys to the swim club pool in an effort to give Lauren some peace and quiet as well as to wear out the kids before bedtime. My plan seemed to be working until it was time to leave. I instructed each of the boys to go to the showers, rinse off and get into their summer time pajamas, which is basically shorts and a T-shirt. They argued with me from the shallow end of the pool, the 30 foot walk to the grassy area where our towels and bag were, back around the pool past two lifeguard stands, across the 50 feet of deck, past the pool office and into the boys changing room. There was a cacophony* of whining, bickering, moaning and bellyaching the entire way. I was clearly frustrated during this walk and may have barked a few orders at the kids while trying to avoid any real parenting in public.

After 5 minutes of arguing over who got to use which shower and then complaining about why so and so got to use the striped towel "which was not fair because he got the striped towel last time and no one likes the towel with the seahorses and Jackson sticking his tongue out at me and I don't know why we need to leave yet the sun is still out which is not fair and Wyatt hit me with his towel and Max is shaking his butt at me and Jackson gets to wear the Batman shirt which is not fair because it is my Batman shirt even though it does not fit me anymore and it is not fair", I lost my mind.

We were the only people in the changing room and I did not feel the Parenting in Public stress nor the judging eyes. The changing room at the swim club is a small cinder block structure with a raised roof. Wrapping the building, between the top of the walls and ceiling, are sections of 2 to 3 foot screening vents. The venting provides ample circulation to avoid mold issues in the damp environment. I forgot about the venting when I lost my mind.

Through gritted teeth I started with my parental tirade."I have had enough of the bickering. Quit your bellyaching and put on your clothes...stop shaking your but....I swear to you if you shake your penis at your brother one not snap the towel at him...get over here so I can put this...God help God help you if you snap that towel one more...stop running in circles...I will never take you here again..."

I was getting louder and louder with each word until I was at a full on yell.

"I am not going to tolerate this behavior one more...Jackson get your heinie over here...both of you sit down right now..Jesus, Mary and Joseph...I am going to...knock. It. Off." I realized at that moment my voice bouncing off the cinder walls and out to the pool area.

I heard someone enter the changing  room.

Just at that moment Jackson slipped in a puddle on the floor and banged his head. He started crying.

The person who entered the changing room turned the corner. It was a life guard.

"Everything okay in here?" he asked raising his eyebrows.

"Yes. He just slipped. He is fine." I said.

He looked over at Max and Wyatt who were both half naked shaking their butts at each other. There were clothes strewn all over the place. The life guard rolled his eyes and gave me the slightest bit of a judgemental head shake.

I hung my head and sighed. The kids won this round.

*Cacophony is one of my favorite words from  Mrs. Dunn's, my High school English teacher, word of the day.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wyatt 6

My middle child, middle boy, turned six today. Wyatt is my first kid born when I had a blog. Max my oldest was born a year before I started blogging. The picture below of Wyatt Blue received a ton of feedback on the blog. I asked Wyatt to recreate the photo. He was not happy about it.

Wyatt makes me laugh every day.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Reverse Bucket List

I have read, though blogs or Facebook, many people's Bucket List, you know the list of things people want to do before they die. I have never considered creating a Bucket list of things I want to do. I don't know why I just never have. But I do have a list of people I want to meet before they die. Kind of like a reverse Bucket List. Some these people on this list I have already met but only briefly. My reverse Bucket List consists of people who, due to the influence they have had in my life or who I have only met in the Internet world, I would like to meet and have a conversation with over dinner. A dinner of a Bucket of beers and Bucket of wings. In no particular order these are the people on my Bucket List.

April and Brandon Richter. They have not really had any serious influence on my life but I met them (April really) through blogging. April always used to leave funny and positive comments here and her posts at her blog were always fun. April and Brandon recently started a business venture call Mischief Brewing Co. I have been following their story on Facebook. They have a Kickstarter Program going to raise some of the initial capital they need. It takes guts to do what they are doing. I wish them luck and I hope one day I can drink one of their beers with them.

Neil Gaiman. I actually met Neil at a comic convention back in the early 90's. I was standing with a comic shop owner that had a VIP pass to a special signing meet and greet. I was kind of ushered into a back room with another group of VIP people. Neil was ushered in through another door and started shaking every one's hands. He muttered a "hello" and I muttered a "I love your work" when someone realized I did not have a VIP pass. I was quickly ushered out of the room. Neil Gaiman, as a comic book writer, was one of the first people to make me feel less like a geek for reading comics. I would have to say that his comic book work lead me to his novels which got me reading books. Neil Gaiman's blog is also one of the first blogs I ever read and it influenced me to start blogging. I would love to be able to meet him over a few drinks or dinner and just talk. Check out his commencement speech at the University of the Arts. It is almost impossible to not like him.

Michael Smerconish-He is now a nationally syndicated radio talk show host but I started listening to him when he was just a local Philly guy. Unlike other talk show radio hosts Smerconish is just right of center on the political spectrum. He does not tow any party line. He presents interesting stories with a focus on facts and offers his opinion not based on political ideology but more on his gut instincts. He has written a half dozen books on various topics with the same approach to his radio show. He has changed the way I view politics, the government as well as the media. I met Michael once at a book signing which I wrote about here , again me just mumbling something. I would like to hang out with Smerconish at a Phillies games with a couple of beers and shoot the breeze.

Nils Ling-Here is a person I met only through the blogger/Internet thing that I would love to meet in person. Even though he is Canadian (Inconceivable) Nils is one of the most clever and wittiest people. He is a writer, a performer, a musician, an actor and has an attitude that I would love to have when I grow up. His style of writing on his blog Truths and Half Truths influenced the way I wrote and still write on my blog. I crossed paths with Nils through various blogs and their comments section including...

Susie's What Was I Thinking. Susie is also on my Bucket List. During the blog explosion of 2005 and 2006 Susie's blog was one of my daily visits. I was living in Florida with very few real life friends that her blog became a great source of community for me. Her outlook and positive attitude also influenced the way I approached my blog writing.

Adam Duritz If there was a soundtrack to my life in the early 90s it would have all been done by the Counting Crows. When I think back to that time as I entered adulthood, the people I hung out with, the jobs I had, the decisions I made, the Counting Crows were always in the background.  The albums August and Everything After, Recovering the Satellites and This Desert Life (The cover of Desert Life is also the cover of a Neil Gaiman book, how is that for a weird coincidence?) are so ingrained in my psyche that if I hear a song from them I cannot help but be transported to a certain time or situation. I would want to have dinner with Duritz just to see what makes him tick.

Michael Keaton. He was Batman. He was Beetlejuice. He was Billy Blazejowski. He was Hunt Stevenson, He was Mr. Mom. He was Dogberry. He was Johnny Dangerously. Keaton is my favorite actor of all time. Are there better actors out there? Sure. But Keaton is still my favorite. I think he is extremely talented but even more importantly to me is that he never took himself too seriously. I quote more Michael Keaton lines from his movies on a regular basis more than any other actor. If I had an acting idol it would be Keaton. If I had a chance to have dinner with him I think I would be a blubbering mess.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I know lots of people have a "geek crush" on Fey but for me I would want to have dinner with these two  just sit and watch them talk to each other. Two of the funniest people of television with excellent writing and improv skills. I would love to see them a bit tipsy and going at it. Hey now,  I mean verbally sparring.

Who would be on your Bucket of Beer list?