Saturday, March 31, 2007

12 Months of Urf!

Urf! is one-year-old today. March 31, 2006, I wrote the first post Urf! as an experiment to see if writing a blog was something I would want to do, something I would actually keep up with. Twelve months, 243 posts and 17,447 hits later, I can safely say, “Eh, we’ll see.”

Truly, though, it’s been a hoot, and to celebrate, I decided to take Urf! out to dinner and discuss the past year. We went for steak because Urf! looooves steak, rare, and doesn’t give a second thought to spending lots of someone else’s money. After a drink at the bar, an appetizer, more drinks, the main course and still more drinks, this is how the interview went:

Me: So, how has your first year on the internet been?
Urf!: Not bad.
Me: But not great?
Urf!: Don’t push me, man.
Me: Why don’t you tell me what your favorite post has been.
Urf!: I’m not sure it’s been any particular post, as they are all wildly entertaining, but I must say that June of last year is certainly a highlight. That was followed up by July, of course, which is also brilliant.
Me: There were only three kids when Urf! began, The Trio, but shortly after that GK came along, turning them into The Quartet. How did this affect you and your work?
Urf!: Wait, there are four?
Me: Of course.
Urf!: Oookay.
Me: So it didn’t affect the flow of the writing? The themes? The comedic bent?
Urf!: I think you’ve been reading a different blog. Comedy? You know, I’m unwittingly attached to all these other blogs - Dining With Monkeys, Sassy Molassy, S.A.M. – maybe it’s one of these you’re thinking of?
Me: No, I don’t think so. That’s you.
Urf!: That’s the dumbest URL I’ve ever seen.
Me: Nevertheless, it is you.
Urf!: Oookay.
Me: Which is your favorite kid?
Urf!: Eddie Corbett.
Me: Eddie Corbett? I … I don’t believe he’s written about in the blog.
Urf!: What blog? I thought we were talking about television.
Me: We weren’t talking about television.
Urf!: But you’re always talking about television. And Pop-Tarts. And farts and old music and all your friends with all their blogs shouting, “Look at me, look at me!”
Me: I think you’ve had too much to drink.
Urf!: #%@&^% you.
Me: Thank you for your time. Have a happy second year.
Urf!: You’re getting the check, right?

On the drive home after dinner, Urf! became confused, perhaps due to the amount of scotch ingested, got lost and ended up at the wrong house where it crept into bed with a 47-year-old auto mechanic named Lloyd, originally from Baton Rouge. Urf! returned home the next morning, beaten and bloodied, but welcomed by The Quartet with one Pop-Tart, two fart jokes and three hours worth of television viewing. Everyone had a good laugh. Happy Birthday, Urf!

[A heartfelt thanks to everyone who reads regularly. --RJA]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happy Birthday, My Brother

Happy birthday to my little brother, David. He turns 14 today. Fourteen-years-old, can you believe it? Twenty-two years younger than I. I know one person who can’t believe it, our mother. If I’m dealing with a newborn at the age she was in 1993, then I’ll be dealing with that newborn during visiting hours at the asylum. But she and Steve have done a wonderful job. David is a good kid, good son and a great dancer. I hear he plays football and video games with all the gusto his age requires as well. I wish I could be with him today, but he’s way down in the swamps of south Florida, so I’ll sing Happy Birthday to him from here in my aged, gravely voice, with the accompaniment of The Quartet. That should have him, as the kids are prone to write these days, LOL.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


While digging around one of our closets this evening, I happened upon a treasure trove of something that defies explanation, but certainly deserves one, though I have none. I felt like a paleontologist who found a dinosaur bone where one oughtn’t be. I found cassettes. Cassettes of music from another era. The Quartet gazed on in wonder at these little plastic rectangles with their thin ribbons of sound winding throughout. I found an actual Walkman, too, which was like a piece of iLuggage to these kids of the 21st Century. And they laughed, my did they laugh at their Daddy washing the dishes, dancing around the kitchen to "The One Thing" like it was 1982 again and I'd just finished watching KITT whip some ass on a brand new show called Knight Rider.

This post isn’t for grandparents, or my parents, or anyone born before that sweet spot of 1968-1972, which would have put you of age to listen to music, to really hear what it was all about, just as it was all going into the toilet. That’s right, I’m talking about 1981 and the birth of MTV. Now some of you will argue that the 70s and Disco was when it began going downhill, and to those people I say, “Get your own blog.” And in deference to my peers, I’m going to build this post in a way that makes it easier for us to digest, in the style of our cinema of quick takes, MTV jumps and our literature of sound bites, I’m going to make a list. This is a list of the cassette tapes I found in my closet. It’s partly for you to gaze on and, possibly, laugh at, but mostly for my attorneys to have a record of in years to come as they settle my estate. The Quartet will one day fight over these and I’m going to let them because I won’t be around at that point to hear any of it. But you can all have fun with that, too. So put on your acid washed jeans and Vans, gel up your hair on one side only, and take a walk down memory lane with me. I’m not saying I’m proud of any of it, but here it is, a slice of the 1980s – early 90s for you:

(List does not include mix tapes. Oh, the mix tapes I found.)

  • Matthew Sweet “Girlfriend”
  • Melissa Etheridge “Brave and Crazy”
  • U2 “The Unforgettable Fire”; “Wide Awake In America”
  • Sinead O’Connor “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”
  • 10,000 Maniacs “The Wishing Chair”; “In My Tribe”; “Our Time In Eden”
  • INXS “Shabooh Shoobah”; “Listen Like Thieves”
  • Freedy Johnston “This Perfect World”
  • Paul Simon “Rhythm Of The Saints”
  • Arrested Development “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days In The Life Of … “
  • Live “Throwing Copper”
  • The Black Crowes “Shake Your Money Maker”; “Southern Harmony And Musical Companion”
  • Various Artists “Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ‘The Big Chill’”
  • Tracy Chapman “Tracy Chapman”
  • Judge Crater “Hope”; “ghost dance”
  • Camper Van Beethoven “Key Lime Pie”
  • Edie Brickell & New Bohemians “Shooting Rubber Bands At The Stars” ; “Picture Perfect Morning”
  • Lou Reed “New York”
  • Indigo Girls “Indigo Girls”; “Swamp Ophelia”
  • REM “Monster”
  • Gin Blossoms “New Miserable Experience”
  • Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet “The Juliet Letters”
  • Elvis Costello "The Best Of Elvis Costello"
  • Annie Lenox “Diva”
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers “Into The Great Wide Open”
  • Tin Machine “Tin Machine”
  • Two Faces “Herve’s Fantasy Box”
  • Michael Penn “March”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My Very Own Trio

I ran three miles today. This may not seem like a big deal to you hardcore runners out there, and it shouldn’t be to me considering I used to run that distance four or five times a week with a longer six-miler on the weekend. But almost a year ago I had back surgery and had stopped running several months prior to that, so it’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve done any kind of running. I spent that time, instead, smoking cigars. Two weeks ago I’d finally had enough and was ready to face my fear: that running might hurt so badly that I would have to admit to myself that I could never do it again. That hasn’t been the case. Just the opposite, in fact, as I feel better than I have in a long, long time. I started up again slowly, by walking, then running a mile, then two and today was my first three, which is a milestone for me. I’ve got my eye on a couple of 5ks coming up and am thinking about the St. Jude Half Marathon at the end of this year, but it’s still way too early to talk about that.

I know this isn’t much, a three-mile run. It’s not like I’m Lance Armstrong (though I’d rather have more disk taken out than, you know, what he had to let go) or Prefontaine, but maybe, if I keep working, I can be that 80-year-old man I see coming out of the gym every morning on the way to work. Thanks to sheer determination, the 18 ibuprofen tablets I chew every day, and realizing I was going to need to do something to give me the edge against The Quartet and their energy, I’m back running … for now.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Future's So Bright

I know I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I just can’t get over how much C looks like I did at his age. He and I just took a long walk together, just the two of us, which was really nice, but I just kept looking at him as though I were watching myself walking around Chickasaw Gardens. He’s a smart boy with a long life ahead of him full of choices to make and paths to decide on. It won’t be easy, but for now, at this moment, that is one good-looking kid.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What To Do?

Here's the situation: We just ate dinner and Kristy took GK to the grocery store, leaving me nominally in charge of the other three kids. Today's temperature took a noticeably downward turn producing a slight chill in the air, yet our bedroom windows are still open from the glorious spring-like weather we've been experiencing the last week or so, and I'm in bed with the covers pulled up, keeping tabs on what's happening out there in blogville. I'm very comfortable, with a belly full of food, comforter up to my chin and warm glow off the monitor of the Apple G4 keeping me company.

My dilemma comes with the statement I just heard from the living room. S said, to whom I'm not sure, "Let's get lotioned up." I know what you're thinking, I'm thinking the same thing. Now, do I get out of bed to find out what's going on, or do I trust that they're not in there getting into too much mischief? And by "mischief" I mean "any activity which will get me into trouble when Big Mama returns." I could shout at them, sure, and ask what's going on, but there is a high probability that I will be ignored or, if answered, will get only a feckless "Nothing!" Remember, I'm very comfortable where I am.

I'm leaning towards just letting them get on with the lotioning up. What's the worse that could happen? Improbably soft skin? A lack of chafing among the children? The aroma of coconut wafting through the house? I'll find out soon enough what's up, I'm sure, when one or all of them comes slipping and sliding into my room to tell me to call Mom at the store because we are somehow out of lotion.

Monday, March 12, 2007

S is for Splinter

S got a splinter yesterday. A big, wicked splinter in her right index finger. After much crying and arguing last night, Kristy was unable to extract the offending matter. Unable, in fact, to get near the digit. When I arrived home from work this evening, S showed me her finger with the splinter still in it, not so much upset about it as proud. Like some sort of tiny, wooden badge of honor underneath her skin. And then I made what was perhaps a poor parenting decision when I instructed her to go to the cigar box where I dump all my pocket things at the end of each day and bring me my knife and lighter and then bring the bourbon, the cheap bourbon. And she did it. She brought my pocket knife and Zippo to me, but no bourbon, we’re not a bourbon-drinking family. She brought these things to me, handing them over with all the trust of a 4-year-old, and asked what I was going to do with them. “The lighter is to sterilize the blade, and then I’m going to take your finger off at that knuckle right there, just below the splinter.” She ran away from me. I was only joking, of course, but I’m worried now that the little shard may be with her for quite some time. In my defense, I never claimed to be a doctor of any sort to these kids. I’m just a guy with a knife and the sense of humor to use it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

At some point the lessons I pass on to The Quartet are going to have to become more substantive. So far it’s mainly been music, books and movies. I know there are other things out there that they need to know but I’m just waiting for Hollywood or Oprah to tell me what they are.

So far we’ve covered the Marx Brothers, Superman, Spiderman, The Godfather, The Cohen Brothers, Star Wars, Warner Brothers cartoons, The Lord of the Rings, 1950s film noir, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane, Miles Davis, Monk, Billie Holiday, Elvis Costello, Jack Johnson, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Van Halen, Django Reinhardt, Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson, Brubeck, The Stax Museum of American Soul, R.E.M., U2, Scott Fitzgerald, Salinger, Michael Chabon, Dickens, Max Perkins, Paul Auster, Hemingway, crossword puzzles and the New Yorker magazine, among many, many others.

Last night it was time to introduce the kids to Indiana Jones, so with the help of Uncle Toby and his vault of DVDs, we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. Such a great movie. The Quartet agrees:

“C, what did you think of Indiana Jones?”
“It’s cool.”
There you go.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Did you ever have the feeling that you forgot something? I had that feeling yesterday as I left work, knowing there was something I meant to do but had forgotten, and began immediately planning on being angry with myself when I did finally remember. Well, I remembered about seven this morning. I had meant to grind some coffee beans at work yesterday and bring them home, so I had no coffee this morning. And then, while watching CBS Sunday Morning through a caffeine-less haze, I was made aware that the Iditarod began yesterday. That’s what I forgot. This was my year to race and it completely escaped me. I was disappointed to discover that even if I was able to afford a plane ticket to Alaska, find a sled and locate 16 dogs, I would be so far behind the field, all of whom began yesterday, that it would just be silly and pointless.

This is all too bad because I had my heart set on spending the week in places like Skwentna, Finger Lake, Nikolai, Anvik, Unalakleet and Safety, on my way from Anchorage to Nome. I knew I should write a note to myself and put it someplace conspicuous. I’m always forgetting things like this. No coffee this morning, no 1,150-mile dogsled race yesterday. Instead I’ll spend my week in such exotic locales as Work, The Bathroom, The Kitchen, The Car, The Schnuck’s and The Bedroom. My team of dogs will consist of four little people, ages 9-months to 9 years, with no sense of direction, a limited dietary regimen and no respect for my peace of mind. The weekly obstacles will consist of diapers, car seat buckles, creditors, zippers, baths and dirty laundry, but the upside is that the temperature should be in the 60s here this week instead of the zero degrees it is in Anchorage as I write this.

The competitors in the Iditarod got lucky this year because I simply forgot, giving them a better than average chance. My attention will now be turned to Le Tour de France for which I will write myself a reminder right now because I know the race begins … sometime … soon.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Father Knows Nothing

There has been a paradigm shift in power over at Castilo Urf! Or, in any perceived power, anyway. There was a time not so long ago, though some days it seems longer than others, when I had some time to myself. Not a lot, mind you, but a couple of hours here and there. Saturday night was my night. Dadurday, it would later be called, though too late, as the free time was gone by then. Dadurday consisted of the few hours between me closing the store and my family returning from the in-laws’ house way out east. It was a time I could spend doing things that I wanted to do, but usually just sitting quietly and reading, though there was the occasional movie or dinner with people. Just a little quality time with myself so I could regroup after a long week. But then something crazy happened and the in-laws moved to Midtown, thus ending the great Dadurday experiment.

Recently, other things have started happening. Kristy now goes to the gym at least two nights a week, leaving me alone with the kids. Then last night she went out for drinks with friends, leaving me with The Quartet and the friend’s kid. When I woke up this morning, I fixed breakfast for the family and our friends and, as I was cleaning up, Kristy left to run a 5k. It was all very gradual and subtle, but I’m beginning to sense that the revolution has begun.

I’ve never really considered myself in power at home because, well, I’m not. Never have been. In fact, I’m somewhere at the bottom of the chain of command most days. Oh, sure, I huff and puff and throw things around and growl, but that’s about all I’ve got. I’m all bark. And I’ve certainly never considered myself the stereotypical 1950s father. Nor have I considered myself the stereotypical 1950s housewife, either, until lately. But here I am in my high heels and pearls, doing laundry and dishes, changing diapers, and getting the kids ready for school or feeding them TV dinners while Ward is out for an evening with the girls! The kids are running around the house like wild animals, stepping on each other and throwing our decorative accent pieces at the wall, and all I can say is, “Wait until your mother gets home!” My ironing isn’t done, JP’s trousers still need to be darned and the cake has fallen, and I don’t know when she’ll be home because Larry Tate needs her to stay late and work on a deadline or entertain clients.

Bitter? No, I’m not bitter. I’m tired. And these heels are pinching my toes. I don’t begrudge Big Mama her moments away, we all need to get away from time to time. We need to get away from our jobs and customers or bosses and, as bad as it may sound, sometimes we need time away from our family. Not a lot of time, but just enough to get our heads right, have a drink alone or shop for a new apron at Macy’s.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What's In A Name?

This morning, on the way to school, The Quartet and I were discussing what everyone would be called if not by their original names. JP said: I don't want anybody to call me Ooa (oo-uh) anymore.

Me: Does somebody at school call you Ooa?
JP: No.
Me: Does anyone call you Ooa?
JP: No.