Daily Operation, The Byford Files

RaisingElle Moving…Don’t Cry…Dry Your Eyes

Sometimes it’s easier to make a decision without thinking much and this one needed very little thought. Lemme put it to you this way…

Once Ellison was crawling, she was walking. Once she was walking, she was running. Once she was running, she was finding the quickest route to trouble and heading in with her forehead first. I’m writing this behind one half-empty (half-full) bottle of pale ale at 11:00pm on a Friday night which is precisely the first opportunity I’ve had to write all week. Once Ellison got up on her hind legs, the writing game changed forever.

I started in the blogging game back in over six years ago at The Root Down. It became a daily outlet for misdirected creative energy that would find light like a fart you tried your darndest to suppress. Eventually, it’s just gotta find it’s way out. That was The Root Down. It became a five year fart that ended with me attempting to countdown the greatest hip hop recordings ever. Never made it to number one on that list. Not because I didn’t know what number one was, but because my lovely wife got pregnant and we changed the format. Over the last year plus, I’ve been operating two blogs…Raising Elle, which you’re currently reading and IKnowYouGotSole which was originally intended to log my marathon training runs. Turned out that IKnowYouGotSole became The Root Down 2.0. The dual lives, however have become simply too much to handle and perform as a dad. And the last thing that I want this writing thing to be is a job or anything that resembles such. I already got a job and one that takes a ton of energy and, frankly, the last thing I wanna do at the end of a long day is to sit down and disappear into another computer at another desk instead of getting to know my sweet Ellison. Raising Elle, by it’s very design, was intended as an all-week, all-day, all-hour account of Ellison’s come-up like some sort of blogform of The Truman Show.

Ellison Jayne’s getting older and this fatherhood thing is getting better everyday…and more involved. I’m never short of material, but the “blog” format was just too long-form for a dad on the run. You need to be able to post-up in five minutes and be on your merry way. Like a good graffiti artist…do your damage, pack up, take a picture and be out before the law comes around. Blogs are great for people writing about astrology, literature, how to remove warts at home, but for a dad who only has two cups of coffee to write, the blog is way too involved. And my cups of coffee go down quick. I would consider blogs for the leisurely reader. It’s for people like the Keatons and the Seavers that go to work at like 10:00am after you get the kids to school, get a nice breakfast, maybe go to the supermarket and post office. That ain’t real life.

Real life is filled with diapers, light sockets, puking beagles, flat tires, cold coffee, crying co-workers and unresolved expense reports. The expectation that I could sit down and write 1000 words a morning is not only unrealistic, it’s downright ludicrous.

So we’re moving on. Raising Elle will still be open for business, but just no new business. Also, IKnowYouGotSole is no more. I’ve taken it down and in its place I’ve created a Tumblr site named NoSleepTillWolflin. This will be the location for all activity moving forward. Call it a “much needed, much anticipated downsizing.” The intent is to marry both the Ellison Jayne element of my waking life and, well, everything else. And a little tip for my mother and others who could care less about everything else, just save this link: http://nosleeptillwolflin.tumblr.com/tagged/Ellison_Jayne and that’ll take you directly to only the Ellison-related content.

We needed a site that was easier for quick posting. We need new posts to be somewhere between a tweet and a blog entry. We needed a site that was easier to read on mobile devices. We needed a site that was easier to post up on from mobile devices. We needed a site that had better mixed media functionality. Again, all for the dad on the go. These are things that Tumblr offers much better than WordPress. The new site, I believe, better positions us for future expansion too.

So why not RaisingElle.tumblr? What is this NoSleepTillWolflin crap? Change in direction, I suppose. I wanted to liberate the concept a little. I’ll put it this way, if you had 200 channels on your satellite offering, but I told you could you only watch the History Channel, I would imagine the amount of time you spent watching television would dramatically decrease. It’s not that don’t like the History Channel, but to be restricted to watching just one channel all of the time is ultimately going to result to less television. That’s what was happening at RaisingElle. I felt it was necessary to not deviate from one central concept. Problem was, I wasn’t always in the mood to write about Ellison. And I rarely had the time and energy to write at great length about Ellison. So, instead, I wrote less.

Well, we got our 199 other channels back now. Doesn’t mean we’ll watch all 200 channels and, trust me, we’ll still watch tons of the History Channel. And I ask you to trust me. I’ll be your guide through the entire transition. So, now, I present to you:

And, to welcome you for making the trek over, there’s an exclusive video of Ellison…and a doggy door. Enjoy.
The Byford Files

An Epic Post About the Red Sox and Ellison

If you know me, you know I’m a Sox fan. There’s many other things of which I’m a fan, but when it comes to baseball, I’m a Sox fan. Exclusively. I don’t watch the Rangers. I don’t root for the AL in the All-Star Game. I don’t even really root for the game. I don’t care if it’s good for “the game.” I care if it’s good for the Sox. Everything is in context of the Sox. Which is why I found playing fantasy baseball as a particularly frustrating past time because, all of the sudden, I’m having to give a crap about other players in the league. The only time I care about someone else in the league is when either I went to high school with them, the Sox are playing them or the Sox are thinking about trading for them. Other than that, I don’t really care.

So, in case you happen to be one of the five people in the free world that didn’t see that the Sox set a new low for late-season failure, let me quickly rundown what happened. Sox were picked by every writer in America and across the globe to, with very little challenge, win the World Championship because they went out during the offseason and picked up Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez…two acquisitions that apparently automatically made them the best team baseball has ever seen. One writer wrote that they could likely win 110 games. Another asked if this was “the best team baseball had ever seen.” The superlatives were nauseating. Most of the hype was generated out of the outspoken Boston press and sarcastic NYC press outfits. But they should’ve just handed them the World Championship right then and there because, even though they hadn’t played a single game together, it was clear they were the best team anyone had ever seen. Baseball had never seen such an assembly of talent in one locker room. On paper, they were unstoppable.

On paper.

They start the season atrociously because no one knows each other. The pitching was off the mark. No one could stop the bleeding early. Then, they turned the ship in the right direction and played some beautiful baseball. They went on an absolute tear in June and July. Then, there was a little slide in August. And then September came. When September dawned on the Sox, they were knocked out of first by the rival Yankees, but still had a comfortable 9-game lead on the wild card, a position that the Sox are quite familiar with. Let’s put this thing in cruise control and win the wild card, right.

Well, Sox would have an insanely disastrous September. The likes that no one could comprehend. They’d only win seven of their last 27 games. The lead in the wild card disappeared and, on the last night of the of season (game #162), they’d relinquish their playoff spot to the Tampa Bay Rays who, once again, everyone was rooting for because they spend no money on talent and still win and the Sox spend tons of money on talent and don’t. Everyone hates the Sox. Everyone loves the Rays. But no one shows up to their games. And no one can name anyone on their team except Evan Longoria. Okay, it’s really that everyone hates the Sox. Watching them lose brings great satisfaction and harmony to the world. That’s right, we’re the new Yankees. The Yankees are just, uh, the old Yankees. And everyone seems to forget that the Phillies stockpile as much as the Sox and Yanks do, but they’re in the NL and no one in Texas cares about the NL. In fact, most Texans forget that the Astros even exist anymore.

There was no editorial content in that last paragraph. It was all fact.

I knew it was coming. In fact, I was hoping it was coming. You want your team to do well, sure, but this team wasn’t championship ready. They had no leaders on the field. They had leaders in the locker room. They had leaders in the bullpen. But there was no leader on the field of play during the game. Everyone was an individual star. There was no glue that held this team together. It was all dumb money. Built for speed. Built for endurance. But no cohesion. The second it started to go south in September, there was no stopping it. Only a Sox fan would tell you with a 9-game lead on the wild card in September that “this is gonna be tough.” I stopped watching for the better part of the month. Bigger things to tend to. Like Ellison. My lovely wife.

I went into “wake me up when October arrives” mode. Passively watching. Avoiding sports radio. Dan Patrick. Conversations with friends about baseball.

Then it all went south and the inevitable happened. In all defense of the Sox, September was like murderers row all month long. An astounding 24 of their 27 games within the month were divisional matchups. If you lose just ten of those games, it’s gonna be tough to hold a lead. The Sox lost 19 of those games. The AL East, again, proves to be the premier division in all of baseball. The Yankees held the best record in the AL and then two teams underneath the Yankees are the only real contenders for the wild card (unless you want to count the Angels). So 90% of our remaining games are against the AL East. Of the top five teams in the AL in home runs, four of them are from the AL East: New York, Boston, Toronto and Baltimore. The fifth? The Texas Rangers. Who were are three non-divisional games against in September? Damn right, the Texas Rangers. There was no breathing room all month long. How I longed for a series versus, hell, the Oakland A’s. The Minnesota Twins. The Cleveland Indians. Anyone other than the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Rays or the Orioles. And we went into Youk-less, with a battered piecemeal pitching staff and, in result to the frankenstein pitching staff, an exhausted bullpen. It was the perfect storm. We’d throw Wakefield out there and he’d pitch up five innings of BP to some of the best long-ball hitting teams in the league. Beckett was beatable and complaining about something else again. Think it was his ankle this time. Jon “Birthing Hips” Lester couldn’t beat a junior varsity squad. Busses were burning up the Boston-Pawtucket highway with call-ups to help stop the bleeding. It just got worse and worse.

I said that losing over an entire month was like watching your dog die of parvo. It gets sicker and sicker and then you’re thinking, “Geez, just take her peacefully, God. Have mercy on the poor pup.” She dies and you find consolation in the fact that the suffering is over. Thank God. That’s not anywhere near as scarring as the 2003 ALCS where Aaron Boone would walkoff versus Tim Wakefield against a team that seemed like the best team the Sox had ever formed. That was the Sox’s year to win it all. Then Grady Little left Pedro in too long. It all unraveled and the Sox lost in truly “epic” fashion. That was like watching your dog get shot in the head. Seriously. It took two championships to help rid me of that horrible night and it still haunts me. Worst. Night. Ever.

I went to work that next day crawling. It was back then that, as a Sox fan, people actually felt sorry for you. Then you start winning championships and it turns to absolutely unrelenting bloodlust. I get it. People hate winners. You can win one, but win two and you’re hated. I remember in 2004, it seemed like everyone in the world was rooting for the Sox to beat the Yankees. You’d be watching the game wondering where did all of these Sox fans come from? Well, seven years removed from that championship and a historic collapse to boot, I think we’ve officially shook the bandwagon. Good. Back to being a lonely Sox fan in Texas.

Of course, it feels like that. I know that’s not true. I’ll be back to wearing my Sox hat this weekend. I was frustrated in my team yesterday, but I’m glad they didn’t make it to the playoffs because then they would’ve gotten swept by the Rangers and I would’ve had to hear it from “act like you been there before” Ranger fans for weeks afterwards. Yeah, no thanks. They get to worry about the Rays now.

“Epic collapses” are offset by “historic comebacks” like the 2004 ALCS against the hated Yankees. Of course, like then, it was more about the Yankees shriveling up and dying more than the Red Sox and their incredible comeback. It’s about the Sox and their collapse and not the Rays and their comeback against seemingly insurmountable gap in the standings. I’d agree, it was a collapse. One headline read a week ago: “Sox try not to lose three games in Baltimore.” Not “Sox try to win three in Baltimore.” It was not lose. Yeah, that about says it all.

I’ll probably watch a bit of the playoffs, but with little interest. I got Ellison now (my mother was probably wondering where in the hell I was gonna tie this into Ellison). Before, I would obsess about baseball. Everyday was a ritualistic preparation for game time. Ellison keeps me busy enough these days. Games are taped and watched in fast forward between the hour of 8:00 and 9:00pm. Everything is secondary to Ellison and my lovely wife at this point and I like it that way. Boston gets knocked out of the playoffs? Who cares. Less to worry about. Sure, I love watching the Sox win. Everyone loves watching their team win, but it’s no skin off my back if they don’t succeed. Except that I still have to endure the jeers and snide comments from the fan of every other team in the league. “Daddy, why does everyone hate you?”

Because daddy roots for the second most hated team in baseball. They don’t hate me, they hate my flag. It’s just one of those facts of life. They hate you when you’re ahead and stomp you when you’re down. Man, how’s that for uplifting life lessons? Okay, mom and Grandma, here’s your picture. I’m sorry I’ve neglected you.

The Byford Files

Next Thing You Know, You’re Sitting at a Street Light…

I think in the transformation from husband to father, we all have a vision of what kinda father we would like to be. Sure, you want to be a father, but what kinda father. You start to develop an idea of how you want to appear to others in the supermarket or in photos that they’ll find in a drawer decades from now, maybe long after you’ve gone. How will you keep your hair? Are you slicked back, well-kept or more gruff and dragging your beard in you dinner? Do you smile or scowl in family photos? Are you gonna be the kinda father that smokes in photos?What you’ll sound like when you talk to your baby, does your voice sound closer to Mr. Ed or Mickey Mouse? What about when you sing, do you sing sincerely or playfully? What kinda cologne or fragrance will be your signature scent, musk or something more leathery? How will you accessorize? Do you have a baby bag picked out that fits your personal style? Do you have your personal style determined? Do you get a tattoo of your daughter’s name on your shoulder blade? Do you expose the tattoos in photos? What kinda music are you gonna raise your kid on? When do you stop swearing? Do you stop swearing? Maybe you want to hit the sweet spot between Brad Pitt and Alan Thicke. You want to be the intellect, but at times appear too cool for school. You want to be strong dad that’s got that single-arm baby sweep move down where you swoop down and grab the baby from a crawl and throw her over your shoulder with just one motion. You want to start a crafty blog charting and recording all of your experiences as a new father from the “unfrozen caveman lawyer” narrative. Do you carry photos around with you in a stack four-by-sixes or do you strictly stick to the iPhone because you want to be technologically savvy dad? Do you put photos up at work? Only the newest ones and no more than four? Do you scold the child in public or employ jedi mind tricks where you just stand there ominously like Darth Vader trying to will the baby to silence? Will you spank or do you categorically disagree with physical punishment for philosophical and/or psychological reasons? Do you tuck your shirt in or let the tail hang out? Do you start getting your eyebrows plucked? Do you use the word “poop,” “doo doo” or “caca”?

You build these characteristics in your mind of what you want to become in your metamorphosis into father…rules, if you will. Standards to which you will diligently strive to uphold. And all are, for the most part, completely superficial. They’re all about appearance to others. You can’t break character. You can’t let others know your weakness. You can’t cry. You can’t yawn. You can’t sound broken or defeated. You are father, hear you roar.

Then, next thing you know, you’re sitting at a street light trying to pacify a screaming toddler in the rear-facing child seat by belting out “Hakuna Matata” and, what’s worse, you’re clapping too. And, what’s even weirder, you’re clapping sixteenth notes. Now, clapping on the first and third beat is funk. Clapping on the second and fourth beat is more rhythm and blues, reggae, rock and roll. Clapping on all four means you don’t discern between the two at all. Clapping eighth notes is pretty intense. It’s also known as the “soul clap” in certain circles. Clapping sixteenth notes, which I’ve never found myself doing in my entire life, is a complete loss of your way. The system has failed. Syntax error. Reboot. Restart. Reload the software.

**It was later noted that, as a bassist and son of bassist, I shouldn’t even be able to identify sixteenth notes, but rather refer to them as “dem tiny notes that violins play.”

The guy in the car next to me looked over and saw me blasting “Hakuna Matata” and clapping sixteenth notes and likely thought, “That man has lost his way.” And this would be a false assessment. I didn’t lose my way. I’m finding it. Because when the rubber meets the road (or the pacifier meets the pavement), you do what you do to get by. It wasn’t a huge meltdown that Ellison was having, but I’m in traffic, she’s getting fussy and the usual tricks weren’t working. There’s a point where you abandon the superficial make-up of a father and you get down to the nitty gritty. You break character to push through and make it work. You break out the daddy duct tape and whoop that ass (my apologies to my mother for that last comment).

We gotta walker in the Wyrick household. More on that next time.

The Byford Files

Solving “Toddlers and Tiaras”…

Normally, I try to stay away from topical items here at Raising Elle (Mom, if you wanna stop reading now, I’d advise it). I try to resist scratching that itch…the one that networks try to provoke you into by luring you into public discussions about their deliberately unreal and contrived programming so that the next zombie in TV land will watch and buy more soap and pillows that look like animals. Even The Learning Channel which was originally intended to be, uh, a network dedicated to learning is shamefully the largest culprit in this game of creating programming around sad and desperate humans embracing absolute absurdity. Turn up the controversy, package it with around twelve to fifteen minutes of advertising and you have the formula for astronomical revenue generation. Of course, not every show can win. Apparently, the mindless audiences that pump ratings for these shows are a discerning group that can recognize real from fake real. Shows about exterminators, repo men and aged and boring television stars don’t always make the cut and are destined for the scrap pile. But they’re cheap to produce and easy to kill. And the failures are so numerous that you can’t even keep up and that’s good for the networks. Their mistakes and miscues are easily swept under the rug and forgotten forever. They’re like blogs. Some cat wants to start a blog about his favorite flowers or ceramic collectables (but with a political lean). He or she writes five posts and, when there’s not the fanfare or emails of validation they were expecting, they stop writing and their blog of failure is left out there in the blogosphere to remember forever as that really good idea that ended badly or even the dream that went completely unfulfilled. There’s virtually millions of these hunk of crap blogs out there. RaisingElle is not one of them only on the fact that I update it regularly. It might still be the worst thing ever written, but I keep it semi-current.

But there used to be more accountability in television. Remember “Cop Rock”? If a show failed, someone was losing their job. Some might have even lost their career. Now, you could probably still make a decent haul and not even ever have a successful show. Just Cheetos for the brain. Filler. Noise. I wonder what it feels like to be a television producer that failed in the 80s or early 90s watching television today. They gotta be pounding themselves in the forehead and crying themselves to sleep. Or their the criminals producing this stuff now to get back at the masses that rejected their concept for “Broadway meets the police drama.” The most successful programs are the ones that need little advertising because of the very organic and effective method of marketing called “word of mouth.” And if the Today Show does a segment on your show, for good or bad reasons, you’re golden. Yeah, that’s news. Good job, NBC.

(just made the most watered down coffee ever…going back to the well for a second shot…it’s Monday…you can’t go soft)

One such program that’s been maintaining a bit of traction for the last few seasons is “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a show which follows pageant moms and their Barbie-dolled mascara queen daughters from pageant to pageant. You know, the kind that spell names with “y’s” instead of “o’s” and always say their daughter’s names “with a ‘y'” and leave you to guess where the “y” goes (see photo at the top if you’re having a hard time understanding what I’m talking about). “Toddlers and Tiaras,” like all great reality television show, takes a swipe at the reality of a subculture and popularizes it. Mainstreams it. No one would want to sit around and watch a show called “Just Another Day at the Plant.” Sometimes reality can be too real. “Toddlers and Tiaras” helps the audience experience toddler pageantry without having to use your own poor daughter as the pawn in your game. Voyeurism at it’s very best.

The key focus of the program is the parents, most predominantly, the “pageant mom.”These obsessed, consumed and often obnoxiously gluttonous women sadly use their poor daughters as the wishing well for their failed lives. Like slave drivers or drill sergeants, they crack that whip on the back of their children until they just submit, paint the smile on and execute to a tee. Now, obviously, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, obviously, there was absolutely no editorial lean there. Again, I’m not trying to stir controversy here.I’m just a dad of a beautiful baby girl who’s trying to provide the best life for my baby too. If she wants to go out there, dress in a bikini and dance like a stripper in front of strangers at some hotel conference room, who am I to stand in her way? Like some dreamcrashing buzzkill? No, I should be the facilitator of all of her dreams. I totally understand.And I also have failures in my past that I’m not very proud of. I think Ellison could very well be my salvation in those mistakes. She could help me realize my own dreams and help me achieve those. She’s like my little dreamcatcher that I can hang from my rear-view mirror. Okay, maybe not. Let’s turn down the sarcasm here. It’s not one of my better writing qualities anyway.I have a solution on how you could basically end the pageant industry. One mom-blogger suggested that you take these women, lock ’em up and beat them. I’m not sure physical violence is the answer here. In some cases, yes. But not here. I think there’s a much safer and humane way in dealing with these women (sure, and the dad’s too). I only think it’s fair and balanced to ask the parents who force their daughters to wrap themselves up like a sequined sausage and gyrate like a go-go dancer while pouting their lips like Marilyn Monroe to ask the parents to have to firstly endure the same thing.So I’m recommending that we not beat these women, but simply ask them to do the same thing. I think that, in order to qualify for a pageant, the night before the pageant, each parent in attendance for the event should be required to participate in a very simple and harmless role reversal where they would be asked to dress in a tiny midriff and form-fitting pantyhose then dance around on the stage for a room full of gazing and judging eyeballs. And, yes, they’d have to be sober. I mean, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much to ask of a committed mother to simply go one step further in their pursuit of fame and fortune as TV stars to simply do the same thing they’re asking their beautiful daughters to do. I would like to think that I wouldn’t push Ellison into any circumstances that I haven’t first checked for hazards or any safety concerns. Seems like if I’m asking her to go into a cage of crocodiles and demand her to wrestle them with her own hands and feet, I should first be willing to show her how to do it…not just stand on the outside of the cage and yell at her like, “No, not like that. Like this!”So, the let’s add a qualifying round to pageants for toddlers where the parents can show us how dedicated they are to the success of their little ones. And just your participation doesn’t qualify you. You have to be good and convincing. There’s no “sportsmanship awards” for the parents. Only the best three get to move on. Everyone else is assigned a social worker to stick to you like white on rice.

This would solve epidemics like “Toddlers and Tiaras,” force The Learning Channel to actually apply thought to their programming and keep me from having to write crap like this (exposing myself and bracing for the backlash from my lovely mother, Nana, for writing scathing societal commentary instead of posting cute pictures of Ellison…which is, yes, what I should be doing with this space). Here, Mom, this one’s for you. Love you. Enjoy your vacation.Man, that coffee’s on point.













The Byford Files

More Network Fear-mongering: Portable Pools

And in the immortal words of my Daddy Boot Camp coach:

When you’re bathing the baby, never leave the baby alone in the tub. If you have to do something in the other room, pick up the baby and take him ) and go to the other room. A baby can drown in only an inch of water. NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY IN WATER. Any one have a pool in your backyard? Never leave a baby near a pool. THEY WILL DROWN.

Yesterday morning, NBC and partner MSNBC.com ran a story on the dangers of portable pools and that kids are drowning in these pools at a rate of one every five summer days. I know, shocking. Kids are still drowning. Kids still don’t know how to swim from the day they were born. Please, do not misunderstanding me before I proceed. One lost life is as significant a thousand, but statistically significant? News-worthy? Now, about a year ago now, in a post titled “Drinking the Bacterial Soup,” In that post, I detailed a news report by the same organization which spoke of FECAL MATTER IN THE BATHTUB WHERE YOUR CHILD IS BATHING. Yeah, it’s true. And, guess what, it was true three decades ago when I was bathing in the same bathtub playing with the same squeaky bath toys. Nothing’s changed. Just because NBC covers it doesn’t mean it’s new news. My brother drank the bacterial soup. I drank the bacterial soup. You drank the bacterial soup. Fecal matter for everyone! This and yesterday’s report are a practice of redundancy…topical reminders of the dangers that your child faces on the come-up.

But is this report as much about pools being dangerous as it is parents who are negligent? It reads: “‘Parents need to be aware that these pools can present the same risks for drowning, especially for young children, as in-ground pools,’ which are typically thought of as a greater safety hazard.” So am I believe to that portable pools are more dangerous than they were before or they’re just dangerous because people generally don’t believe they are? It’s the same freaking pool that I played in when I was a kid, right? There’s no design flaw or recall I’m unaware of?

Research showed that, in children under 12, there were 209 deaths and 35 near-drownings from 2001 and 2009. Most children were under five and 81% happened during the summer months. Firstly, I don’t know how many millions of kids there were that were under 12 from 2001 to 2009, but let’s just say for the sake of example, there were 20,000,000 children who meet the criteria of “under 12” during these years. 209 out of 2,000,000 is .01045%.

Do we need to proceed?

And I don’t count the 35 near-drownings because without defining what a “near-drowning” is, I could say that every child experiences a near-drowning. If you’d like to throw that into the 209, I’ll give it to you. That makes .0122%. I’m no statistician, but that’s a pretty small percentage. Don’t you think if it was really worth a news story, that it should first reach “recall level” pandemonium? If they’re not recalling portable pools, do we need the news story? Is 209 deaths during an eight-year span an increase? Decrease? Average? No one’s telling me what I need to know!

94% of them involved kids under 5. Why? Because kids under five are less likely to know how to swim, I would presume.

And 81% of them happened during the summer months. Why? Because kids don’t swim in the fall and winter. C’mon. That’s a lay-up.

Both the broadcasted version and the web article are just longwinded and frustratingly distractive ways of telling parents to pay attention and learn CPR. That’s it. You can dissolve all this fear-mongering down to that simple lesson. It’s not about portable pools. It’s not about water of a certain depth. It’s not the design of the pool. It’s not the ladder. It’s not the cover. It has nothing to do with the pool at all. If it did, this would be a recall. It’s about parents. It’s about not turning your back on a child in water.

You don’t need the statistics to tell you that kids can drown at any time. NBC presents those statistics like they’re incredibly significant and, if you boil it down, they’re not significant at all. It was barely worth the keystrokes to calculate it. This is like Cheetos for the brain.

Shame on NBC for even letting this crap get on the air. We baby our parents with news stories like this instead of talking straight to them like my Daddy Boot Camp drill sergeant. He gave me all I needed to know in one hardcore air-splitting declaration: Never leave a baby near a pool…they will drown.

If there’s one thing I can respect about him now over a year (and a baby) later, it’s he didn’t pussyfoot around with advice. He had an hour and a half to teach how to or how not to kill your baby. And that’s what he did…with flare. I think NBC should book this guy for the same two minutes on the Today Show and let him rattle off the twenty ways that your baby might die or become paralyzed. That’d be TV worth watching. I think of all of the people that went into the production of that garbage news story…the people to generate the crafty graphics, the producers who went and got the stock footage of kids in pools, the on-the-spot reporter poolside somewhere in the Midwest, the make-up guy, the guy who holds the light, the boom mic, the camera, the guy who had to open the pool so the Today Show could film there, Matt Lauer’s credibility, the researchers and number-crunchers.

I think they should just go live to Amarillo, Texas where my not-so network-ready drill sergeant is standing in front of a blank wall in a hospital basement somewhere with no make-up and no teleprompter. Just give him two minutes to run down his list and could replace the next decade of these horribly drivelous news stories…and go! 

Don’t leave your baby on the changing table unsupervised…they will fall off and die. Don’t let your baby crawl near steps…they fall down one, they fall down all and they will die. Don’t let your baby sleep with too many blankets…these are a suffocation hazard and they will die. Don’t let your baby near a pool in the backyard…they will fall in and drown. Don’t let your baby near unprotected electrical sockets…they will jam something in there and die of electrocution. Make sure you put latches on your cabinets…a baby could open a cabinet and climb up to the countertop and then fall off and die. Keep all your chemicals out of a baby’s reach…they could drink something and die of poison. Don’t let your cat near the baby…he could smother the baby and the baby would die. Make sure that you use the wheel locks on strollers…a stroller with a baby in it could roll out into the street and be stuck by a car and the baby would die. Don’t let your baby chew on small toys or toys with small pieces…the baby could choke on something and die. Never let a baby try stand up in a bathtub…they could slip and fall, hit their head and die. Don’t let your baby bungee jump…ever. Never leave your child unattended in the yard…they could eat something they shouldn’t become ill and die.

Then a wide-eyed and pale Matt Lauer: And now here’s Al Roker with the weather.

Happy Tuesday, parents. Enjoy the Louis Armstrong wonderful world. It’s not as scary as the networks and their advertisers would like you to believe.

The Byford Files

Angry Dad Club

A couple of weeks ago, my lovely wife and I dropped Ellison off one evening and went to a local Italian place for dinner. To call it Italian might’ve been a little generous, but it’s West Texas…looks like Italian, tastes like Italian, it’s Italian. We get ushered to our table which sits just a hair off the middle of the dining room. Nothing fancy. I’m enjoying a beer and my lovely wife a modest glass of wine. And breadsticks. As it always seems to go on our dates, despite our intentions, we start talking about Ellison. You try to avoid it, but it always happens. It’s not a rule necessarily to not talk about Ellison, but when every waking hour revolves around her, you try to talk about something else when you’re out on a date with each other. Last time we successfully made it through dinner without talking about Ellison, I ended up trading in for a Subaru the next day.

About fifteen minutes go by and we’re just gabbing about our baby Ellison and I see my lovely wife’s attention catch a snag over my shoulder. She begins peering towards the door as patrons begin filing in. I give a half look over my shoulder. Quite a party entering in apparently. I try to refocus my lovely wife. We were busy talking about our first trip to Fenway with Ellison. Refocus. Refocus. “Must be prom,” she says. I whirl around in my chair (along with everyone in the dining room) to a party of about sixteen or twenty sharp-looking high schoolers that high step through the dining room like some catwalk. So much for an inconspicuous entrance. The girls slithered like serpents and the guys galloped like stallions. It was like a fashion show. The guys in their cheap rental tuxes worked the room with the flare of Bart Conner in Rad and the girls, one of which was wearing a hand towel as a “dress,” flirted and winked their way to their tables which lined the western-most wall of the dining room.

Now, realizing that I’m sometimes an irrational and completely unfair person who doesn’t give situations and, sometimes, people a good chance, I saw the future as these kids danced their way through the restaurant like some beer commercial. Now marks the first chapter in a sixteen-year training stint where I’ll prepare myself for the battle that undeniably awaits me. Build your alliances. Secure the perimeter. Exhaust all resources. All hands on deck because we’re heading toward a high-stakes battle that will strip us as parents down to the very core of our being. We will fight like hyenas. We will lose our humanity as we defend our home base. I circled the date on my calendar that night: Ellison’s first prom.

Editor’s note: Notice above that there’s six girls and seven boys. Now, either pick the dude going to the date by himself or the girl who is going with two guys. Ick.

Also worth noting that you can’t go anywhere in this town without running into the ever-pervasive white trash. You try to go out on a date with your lovely wife or your girlfriend the night of prom and, never fails, two tables over and only about ten feet away, there’s a guy rocking a now-sleeveless Nascar shirt featuring the animated M&Ms and jeans tucked into his boots. And he’s wearing his ballcap at the table. Never fails. I haven’t found one place in this town where you’re safe. It’s like they just strolled in from rounding up the last calf. Go home. Shower. And take off that freaking cap at the table.

For these kiddos, if everyone gawking at them like they were zoo animals didn’t kill the moment, Cletus probably did as he sat there behind four empty beer bottles chuckling creepily.

The girls have their backs to us and the guys are on the other side of the table facing us. Perfect. Now I can size these guys up. My eyes start at the right hand side of the table and scan left. I’m an oddball like that. I read backwards. There’s the cat who’s likely not to tip. Not that he doesn’t have money to tip, just looks like the kinda guy who would fail to tip because he doesn’t recognize hard work deserving of a tip. He’s a jerk. He’s smacking his gum and looking at me like Val Kilmer in Top Gun. He looks actually like he’s already old enough to drink legally. Not boyfriend material. The next guy is silent. Creepy. There’s one thing on his mind and it’s not the ravioli. He’s looking to have sex tonight. You can see it on his face. Somewhere between projectile vomiting or dancing like a happy little girl. Yeah, nice poker face, dude. The next guy has already begun shoving breadsticks down and he’s talking with his mouth open. Fail. Sorry. The next two were quiet. They looked like deer in the headlights about to be used as paint the highway red. I don’t know about quiet guys. I find it a little spooky. Probably prude. And, if so, probably for the better. I just saw one’s adams apple dribble up and down. Yeah, nerves. Been there. Scan more to the left side of the table and, spontaneously, a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” kicks off a few tables away. The kid on the end joins in and starts singing “Happy Birthday” with the most genuine and undeniably adorable smile on his face. Like he was really happy for the birthday boy at the other table. That’s our boy. He even clapped at the end. The only kid at the table not too cool for school and not too cool to sing along. Probably a good choir boy.

My lovely wife was playing along too. Another couple walked in and the kid was wearing a white tux with one of those Gucci-print Yankee hats on backwards. Why don’t you just show up in your boxer briefs and a shirt reading, “I wanna sleep with your daughter.” Creep.

I must disclose that as a high schooler, I never went to prom. I went to a couple of banquets, but nothing as high stakes as prom. I wasn’t such a hot commodity back then. Acne-ridden bassist. Drove a stationwagon…a Dodge Aries stationwagon. My diet consisted of a daily double-dose of Arby melts and a steady stream of sodas. I didn’t play any sports and was endlessly socially awkward. I’ve seen video footage from those days and am never surprised why I rarely was asked to dances. If I was ever asked, it was usually at the tail end of the eleventh hour. I was the impulsive pack of gum at the registers…not the reason you came, but it’s cheap and convenient.

We thought about Ellison. I told my lovely wife, “I hope she’s picky.” My lovely wife returned, “I hope she gets picked.” My fear was that she’d have too many options and only a couple of good ones. My lovely wife feared that she’d not have any options at all. Not that either are really reasonable. A little presumptuous to think that Ellison will have boys lined up around the block and a little unfair of my lovely wife to think that no one will want to take her to the prom. It’s even likely that we have both submerged both of those fears and are secretly devising different contradictory attack plans to ensure that, in my lovely wife’s case, Ellison gets picked on prom night. I, however, am planning for something else. I’m planning to protect my daughter from all the freaks at her high school.

Before long, I’ll be formally organizing the neighborhood chapter of the Angry Dad Club. We’ll aim for, let’s say, quality control in the dating field. Someone’s gotta ensure that these girls don’t end up getting knocked up or slapped around by some cat destined for either a cruelty to animals conviction or cameo on “Too Catch a Predator.” We’ll be a lawless vigilante group committed to weeding out all of the chumps from our daughters’ social circle.

I started putting myself in the role at the restaurant. First thing I’d do is shake these cats down once they arrive the house. Check their person and their car for lighters, condoms or flasks. If either or all are found, end of date. No questions asked.

My lovely wife suggested that you take everything from him when he arrives and leave with only enough money for dinner and gas. I’ll be a little generous and up it to a $100 bill. You keep in exchange for your daughter, all credit cards, debit cards, checks and cash as well as his drivers license. His drivers license? Damn right. But what if he gets pulled over? Don’t get pulled over, homie. Watch your speed. Don’t swerve. Stop at all red lights and stop signs and you won’t have anything to worry about. Yes, even his drivers license. He’d still have enough to treat my daughter to a nice dinner, but not enough to get a hotel room. Either way, he ain’t getting a room without an ID.

I envision the Angry Dad Club to be like a governing agency and we govern by force, b’lee dat. There’s me under a single light and the back wall is lined with fathers in cargo shorts and t-shirts. All of them smell a little like whiskey. One on the end is twirling a crowbar in his hand. His face is unrecognizable from the shadows. I conduct the interrogation. I make this kid cry and then send them on their happy and merry way. We’d tattoo approved boys with an insignia kinda like the Better Business Bureau. You’d know the kid was choice if you saw that marking on his forehead.

Perhaps I need counseling (Mr. Obvious says, “Yeah, perhaps.”). Eh, Sox are over .500 for the first time this season on a game-ending two-run double by payroll PacMan Adrian Gonzales. Perhaps that’ll dull my edge down a bit. Yeah, perhaps.

The Byford Files

What Have I Freakin’ Done Now?

I brought the most precious and beautiful baby into this world? This world? It’s unusual for me to be über vocal and opinionated in a public forum (seriously, it is), but on the tail end of my lovely wife going to a seminar about violence in teens and then having my eyes and ears opened to what the kiddos are up to these days and I just sat there and thought, “What kinda world did we bring this baby into?” I guess, in all likelihood, it’s the same questions my parents asked when Ice-T recorded “Cop Killer” or Ted Bundy was arrested. Maybe it’s just the collision of too many things all at once.
The world looks a lot different through the eyes of a dad. More agitated. More leery. I sleep with a weapon under my bed (a baseball bat). I’m protective. I’ve got too much to lose now with my lovely wife and beautiful daughter. The stakes are high. I never wanted to walk through the world scared. And I don’t want Ellison to think that I’m a fearful dad. I want her to know that I see the best in people. That I’m naturally accepting. But this is a twisted world we live in. And, if anything’s true, it ain’t the same world I came up in.
My lovely wife schooled me on everything from guys who filmed their brutal murder of more than 40 people and put them online to what the Insane Clown Posse calls certain female anatomy. She gave me the lowdown on everything you didn’t want to know about today’s teens. If I was knee-deep in it before, I’m buried to my eyebrows now. For the first time in my life, I’m becoming tremendously less curious. I don’t really want to know anymore. I’d just rather be naive, live under a rock. I want to tune out and just take my family and go far away.
I believe there is good in this world. I try desperately to do good in this world. I’ve failed. I’ve sometimes tried with the best intentions and ended up making matters worse. Sometimes I look at Ellison and think that she is the good I’m eventually going to leave behind. Maybe my single greatest accomplishment. Of course, she doesn’t have to do much. She’s perfect in my eyes. But there is so much in this world out there to attack this precious child. This world is violent. Perverse. Anxious. Skeptical. There’s a darkness to this world that’s frankly a bit frightening. Maybe I watched too many horror movies as a kid. This morning when I was stretching on the curb getting ready to run before 5:00am, there was a Jeep Cherokee down the block that kept flashing me with his lights. On. Then off. On again. Then off. Then on. Then off. I become fearful. I think someone’s out to kill me or, even worse, the car’s going to come to life like in Maximum Overdrive or Christine and run me down in cold blood. I think later that maybe it was just a car with some sort of short in the electric system or it was having battery issues. A logical explanation. Why was that my second thought? Have I polluted my mind so deeply over the years?
I look at Ellison and think, “Here’s my fresh mind. I can pollute it. Destroy it. Build it up. Strengthen it. Educate it. Exercise it. The world, for the earliest part of her life is what I give her.” Osama Bin Laden is killed and everyone now wants proof through the photo of his bloodied head. We want to see the bullet wound. We want it on our home page. If we don’t see it, then did it happen? If I’m not the family member of someone who was killed in the terrorist attacks, do I really care? Is killing Osama avenging something? Does it really get rid of evil? They’ve already appointed a new leader, folks. Evil is always in stock. I feel kinda like when Saddam was hung. “Okay. So what exactly does this mean again?”
They say if we don’t have photos, then it leave it open to conspiracy theorists to say he’s still alive. You don’t think someone could doctor photos too? Where does it stop? You have to poke his dead body? The truth is we’re just morbid and obsessed people. We want to see his head for our own satisfaction. It’s not for us to identify the body like a family member. “Yeah, that’s him. Go ahead and bury him.” We want to see it because we’re sick freaks. That’s all it proves. And that’s a fine line, huh? Ellison, don’t kill. Unless it’s this guy and you can definitely kill him and, in fact, you can kill him and then put his photo on the wall like a pinup girl. Even if he doesn’t have a weapon on him. Definitely kill him. And celebrate his death in the streets. I’m just not a “party in the streets” kinda guy, I guess. I suppose that I don’t live under the impression that killing one ends the game. Osama wasn’t even first in command. My bigger concern is who in the hell is first in command?
Every morning with Ellison is like living on an deserted island. I play with her. Drink coffee. Answer emails. Watch a little news. Usually just the weather really. Too many politics. Too many news stations and not enough news. More obsessive news about drunk celebrities, bacteria, defective airbags that led to fifteen deaths worldwide. I’d rather not know. I don’t care. I’d rather stare into little Ellison’s wide eyes and just marvel at what’s going through the head of a little baby when she looks back at me. I lose track of time. I lose touch with reality. Just me and little Ellison talking in single syllable grunts and blurts.
It’s when I go into the world and am reminded about how freakish everything is. Like this morning, I’m driving Ellison to daycare on my way to work singing “Wheels on the Bus” and, in just a fraction of a second, a guy blows by me and, in a fit of road rage, almost plows into another car which leads me to yell a series of different of exclamations…no obscenities. Not around the kiddo. But in less than a minute’s time, I go from living on a deserted island with my beautiful daughter to morning traffic. Reality. The rut. The necessary evil…morning commute.
I realize that, in time, I’m gonna have to explain the world to Ellison. The real world. The way it really is. Kinda like pulling back the veil. Fess up. Like I’ve been harboring a nasty habit. “Well, Ellison. This is how the world really works.” Yeah, those won’t be easy conversations. The world’s vicious. Greedy. It’s not who’s best, it’s who’s first. We’re trained to chase the best deal, the most money, the biggest profit. We look out for ourselves first. I lied about war. I lied about sports. They really do only do it for the money. We like to think they do it for the love of the game, but it’s all about money. The Beatles did a ton of drugs. Government is not your friend. The Sox bought that championship (2007, not 2004). Your idols are criminals. Criminals are idols. Tom Brokaw is a smoker. Al Pacino has had plastic surgery. Manny was taking steroids. People kill. Sometimes without reason. Rap music is all fake. All that glitter’s not gold and that those tattoos rub off.
It’s a weird world. I’m raising a child in it. It’s kinda like walking through the zoo. Look but don’t touch. Touch but don’t feed. Take it in. If you have any questions along the way, I might be lying to you. But I’m doing it to protect you from the world I brought you into.
We gotta protect our kids. It’s not just your legacy, but it’s our generation’s collective legacy. I’ll work on Ellison. You work on yours. We gotta take the power back, folks. Sox still in a rain delay.