Mischief Night

I’m on the checkout line in the supermarket when a teenaged boy comes up to me with an extra large carton of eggs.

“Excuse me, sir.” he says. “Could you buy these eggs for me?”

My shopping cart is loaded with stuff. “You have one thing.” I say. “You can go ahead of me.”

“Could you buy them for me instead?” he says, offering me a ten dollar bill.

“Why can’t you buy them yourself?”

“Uh,” the boy says. “Because tomorrow night is Mischief Night and they might not sell them to me.”

Realization dawns on me. “No way,” I say. “You want to do the deed you’ve got to take your chances.”

The boy waves the money in front of me. “You can keep the change.”

“Kid,” I say. “I’d be more understanding if you wanted me to buy you beer. But the answer would still be no.” I should be glad they didn’t ask me to buy them porn.

The boy is about fifteen, has braces, pimples and is wearing some kind of school uniform. Behind him his partner in crime is looking at me like I’m an clueless old man. He’s not far off the mark. I completely forgot tomorrow was Mischief Night.

Cabbage Night. Goosey Night. Mischief Night. Whatever you call it, I’m against it. My parents kept me locked up tight on the night of October 30th – forbidding me to participate in any youthful hooliganism. I never wanted to anyway. When I was small I left my Big Wheel in the driveway that night and awoke to find it buried in a mountain of shaving cream. I also watched my neighbors cleaning eggs off their cars, getting toilet paper out of trees and scraping the scorched remains of burned dogshit off their stairs. Not my idea of fun.

The next night I finish work at eleven o’clock and my wife picks me up. My car’s in the shop and I’m without wheels for a few days. As we drive home and see bands of kids wandering the streets I’m suddenly glad my car is behind a chain link fence. Maybe the owner of the shop has a German Shepherd on patrol. Or even even better, a retired Secret Service Belgian Malinois attack dog. Grrrr.

When we get home I change Natalie, give her a bottle and put her to bed. By the time the milk is half done she’s zonked out. Then I take the dogs outside, give old Buster his evening meds, tuck my wife in and grab my computer, Jim Beam on the rocks, a cigar, and head outside.

As I puff and surf the web, several police cars coast past. The cops in my town take a dim view of Mischief Night. They’ll have to be more vigilant. We passed a toilet papered house on the way home.

Listening to music, I tab through the days news stories and sip my bourbon. Then I realize I have a can of dog crap in front of my house. A few years ago I bought a miniature garbage can to hold all the poopy bags my two dogs produce. Unfair to leave it in the regular garbage and gross out my town’s sanitation engineers, don’t you think? But when I pick it up I realize it’s empty. My wife, fearing the poop could be used against us, is way ahead of me.

It’s a nice night. Not too cold, not too warm and bourbon’s making me feel no pain. Shifting in my seat, I feel my military grade Surefire flashlight jab me through my coat pocket. If any vandals come calling they’ll be greeted with a 500 lumen blast of eye searing light. That’ll teach ‘em. My cell phone is also with me; ready to call the local constabulary if any kid tries egging my wife’s car. Yeah, I’m turning into a cranky old dude.

Twenty minutes later, a trio of young boys walks past my house. Illuminated by my porch light they can see me and I can see them. Giggling to themselves they walk by and I give then a friendly wave. I see you little bastards. 

Then an evil thought hits me. Why don’t I call out, “Hey kids! Is this Mischief Night or The Purge? I get the dates mixed up!” That would send them running.

I’d probably end up only getting probation.

The Fires of Hell

“Stephen, dear,” Connie says. “Please refill my ice water.”

I don’t even look up from my chart.  “Connie, the water machine is right over there. You’re perfectly capable of getting it.”

“I’m too old. Be a nice young man and get me my water. A cup of tea would be nice too.”

Connie is in her seventies and has mistaken the psych ward for the Waldorf Astoria.

“Did you hear me?” Connie shouts. “I want some water! Make it snappy.”

“Why don’t you shut up already,” another patient says. “I’m sick of your yelling.”

“You shut up,” Connie hisses. “I am very rich! I demand respect. I will not be trifled with.”

I groan inwardly. Connie is imperious, vain, opinionated, and loud – a real diva. She’s also deluded. With her hair in disarray and wearing a hospital gown over adult diapers, no one’s going to mistake her for a long lost Vanderbilt. She’s also the worst kind of patient to have on the unit. The tongue-lashings she doles out sets off the other patients, making my life harder.

“Yo lady,” the aggravated patient says. “Cut the shit.”

“Roger,” I say, my voice brooking no argument. “Come over here.”

Roger shuffles over, smiling back at his clique of younger patients. “What up?’

“She’s an old woman,” I say. “Ignore her.”

“She gonna get in trouble talking like that.”

I look Roger right in the eye. “You will not bother her in any way.”

“Listen I don’t take no….”

“She’s here because she can’t control how she acts,” I say, cutting him off. “You can control how you act. Leave her be.”

Roger shrugs and walks away. He’ll be a problem eventually.

Connie explodes again. “Tell that girl to stop looking at me! I don’t want her near me.” The poor girl in question tears up.  Time to shut Connie down.

“Connie,” I say gently. “You will stop yelling at the patients.”

“You can’t tell me what to do. I can buy and sell you!”

“Listen to me, Connie…”

“No, you listen to me! I won’t be treated like this. I….”

I raise my hand. “Other people are hurting here. I know you don’t mean too, but you’re making them feel worse.”

My words hit home and Connie shrinks in her seat. “I know, I know. I’ll be quiet. Sorry.”

“Thank you Connie.”

I go to the break room and make Connie a cup of tea and get her ice water. When I place them in front of her she says, “I love you.” Connie probably has dementia or Alzheimer’s on top of a preexisting psychiatric condition. Life can be very cruel. I can only imagine what she’s gone through.

“When you’re done,” I say, “I’ll open the shower and you can get cleaned up. Get you a new gown. Fix your hair.”

“Thank you.”

“Just keep your voice down.”

As I walk away old words echo in my head. “When I was hungry you gave me food. When I was thirsty you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” The psych ward gives you ample opportunity to do all these things. I’ve forgotten that.

I’ve had a rough time on the psych unit. Last week I went home with blood on my clothes. There’s been violence, threats of violence and the patients never seem to get better. I lost my mojo, my edge. The patients became the enemy. I almost quit. Then I had a few days off to think about things.

I realized I had become complacent on the job, too confident in my skills. My co-workers often tell me they feel better when I’m working and I believed my own legend. My skills atrophied and when the storms came I missed the mark.  Suddenly I was no longer the rock, the one people turn to when the going gets tough. I felt humiliated.

That wasn’t the only thing that upset me. People who do this kind of work usually believe they’re good people. When I was in the seminary I noticed those who did “charitable” work for a living were often jerks. Being good 9-5 seemed to give people license to be immoral during their off hours, proven by the scandals which rocked the Catholic priesthood. But anyone who espouses worthy causes or gives to charity can fall into this trap. Altruism can be used as a drug to forget our shortcomings.

My complacency at work was a symptom that I had become complacent in my own goodness. An old theologian said there’s a possibility hell is empty, but we’re not sure. And while it’s good to hope for all men to be saved, never be too sure of your salvation. In the end it’s out of your hands. Hellfire should tickle your conscience and keep you humble. Otherwise you end up like that smug Sadducee praying, “God, I thank You that I’m not like other people–greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”

I try and take fatherhood day by day, but when I hold my daughter in the quiet early morning hours the enormity of my responsibilities overwhelm me. Now I think I know why. Natalie’s forcing me to accept that what I do now will have enormous repercussions for her later. “Don’t fuck it up, Dad.” I should always worry if I’m a good father. I should always worry about my goodness. I can’t be complacent. Thinking you got it covered leads to trouble.

Connie finishes her tea and I pop her in the shower. To my chagrin she hogs it for an hour. When she finally emerges a nurse gives her a new diaper, clothes and meds and puts her to bed. Within minutes she’s fast asleep, temporarily freed from the demons that haunt her.

Later, as I watch the patients milling around, I remember how bad things were a few weeks ago. I felt like I was working in a long-term hospice, managing the damage until these people died. Like that Sadducee, I was glad I wasn’t one of them. I had forgotten everyone is hungry and a stranger; everyone is thirsty, naked and sick. We are all in prisons. Standing in the dayroom I bask in the fires of Hell and remember hope springs from brokenness.

It’s good to get burned now and then.

Coffee,Tea and Pills

It’s 7:00 PM and I’m tired so I go into the staff room and brew a pot of coffee. Within minutes the smell of java fills the nurse’s station. Normally I take it black but, as I’ve gotten older, I like it with milk and sugar in the evenings. After fixing my cup I sit at a desk to write my notes. Then a hand flashes in front of my face and grabs my cup.

“What the hell!” I yelp, watching as a patient shotguns the coffee, sending rivulets of hot fluid coursing down his neck.

“I want more!” the patient says, tossing the cup behind his shoulder.

“Holy shit!” I say, still in shock.

“I WANT MORE COFFEE!”

“Marty,” I tell the patient. “That was not cool.”

Marty is a psychotic bi-polar patient with OCD and a raging hard-on for coffee. Every five minutes he asks for a cup, forcing us to limit his intake to four a day.

“Gimme coffee,” he says, seething.

“Not after what you just did,” I say. “You could have burned me.”

“C’mon. Just another cup.”

Psych wards can be boring places. The sole television is behind shatterproof plastic and there’s no access to computers, smartphones, WI-FI, tablets, or other digital distractions. There is also very little to read. Last year I donated thirty books to the patient library and within a month they were gone. I didn’t begrudge when patients took them home, but the guy who tried to eat one pissed me off. Because of the lack of stimulation food, sugary snacks and coffee take on outsized importance.

“Then give me tea,” Marty shrieks. “Hot water with lemon. C’mon!”

“What’s going on here?” Hubert, one of our nurses says in his clipped British accent.

“He leaned over the counter and snatched my coffee,” I say, awed by the depth of the patient’s addiction.

“You cannot do that!” Hubert says.

“Tough,” Marty says. “I can do whatever I want.”

Sighing, Hubert walks into pharmacy. “I’m going to give him something.”

“I don’t want meds!” Marty shouts.

“You’re flying high,” I say. “You need something to calm down.” We normally serve the patients decaf and Marty’s just guzzled eight ounces of hi-test. That’s not good. Saying he’s high-strung is epic understatement.

“You better call security ‘cause I’m not taking anything.”

I get up from my chair, trip the electric lock and walk out of the nurse’s station. “Let’s go to the quiet room,” I say. “You need to calm down.”

“No way.”

Jorge, another staff person, joins the party. “What’s up?”

“Marty needs to get some meds,” I say, surveying the physical postures of the other patients in the dayroom. When a patient goes ballistic you have to worry about other patients joining the fray. In this case they might want to help us. Everyone’s sick of Marty begging for coffee.

“Let’s go to the quiet room, Marty,” Jorge says. “No trouble, okay?”

Marty isn’t terribly large, but he’s hard, sinewy and, as he aptly demonstrated, very fast. He could pop me with a left hook before I could react. Seeing him tense up I nod to the Jorge and we rush him, securing his arms behind his back.

“Let me go!” Marty yells, struggling. “I want coffee.” Ignoring his request, we march him to the quiet room.

The quiet room is on the other side of the unit. With the exception of a chair bolted to the floor, it’s devoid of anything patients might use to hurt themselves with. After we propel Marty inside, Jorge and I take up position in in the hall.

“Dude,” Jorge says to me, “Your shirt.” Looking down I see coffee stains all over it.

“My wife just bought me this shirt.”

“Why you should wear scrubs like me,” Jorge says.

“I look like a beach ball in scrubs.”

“That’s ’cause your fat, asshole,” Marty says, giggling manically.

During my time in psych I’ve been punched, kicked, spit on, bit; had shit, semen and blood thrown at me, bleach tossed into my eyes and even got hit upside the head with a frying pan. I’ve also been called every name in the book. Marty making remarks about my weight don’t bother me. But I’m pissed about my shirt.

“Sit down,” Marty, I say, professionally shoving my anger aside. “Try and relax.”

Hubert arrives carrying water and a cup filled with pills.

“What are you giving him?” I ask.

“Everything.” Hubert says, dryly.

I’m not taking it,” Marty says, backing into a corner. Just great.

“Take the pills,” the nurse says. “Or I’ll give you a needle.” Hubert does not mess around.

“I want more coffee!” Marty yells.

“Hang on a sec, guys” I say. “I’ll get him something.” I return with a cup of weakly brewed, lukewarm tea.

“Take your pills with this,” I say, handing Marty the cup. The patient downs his pills and the tea with a single swig.

Hubert smiles and shakes his head. Sure, I gave into Marty’s bullshit, but I didn’t feel like holding him down and seeing his butt. Besides, the pills he just took will knock him out for hours.

“Stay here for half and hour,” Hubert tells Marty. “Let the meds work.”

“Can I have more coffee?” he says.

“NO!” we all shout in unison.

Half an hour later Marty is out cold on the quiet room floor. Considering all the nervous energy he cranks out he was due for a crash. For the first time in hours the unit is quiet. I cover him with a blanket and let him sleep. Then I go home.

The next morning I wake up to find my wife holding up my shirt. “I just bought this for you!” she says. I groggily explain what happened.

“Sound like you in the morning,” Annie says. “You’re a monster until you’ve had your first cup.”

“Give me coffee,” I groan. “Give me coffee!”

My wife returns with a steaming mug. “Already made, dear.”

Sitting up in bed I sip the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. Compared to Starbucks, Pablo Escobar ran a lemonade stand.

After the caffeine jolts me into sentience I help my wife load the baby into the car, eat breakfast, write for two hours, clean the house and shower and shave. Clipping my ID badge to my freshly ironed shirt I make the short drive to the hospital and clock in. When I walk onto the unit the first thing I hear is Marty shouting. “Steve! GIMME COFFEE.” God give me strength.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve never stopped being a waiter.

Carousel

I’ve got the baby all to myself and a Nor’Easter is blowing outside. If I don’t take Natalie outside for a walk she won’t take a nap. That means Daddy won’t get a nap. Not good.

When there’s a lull in the storm I load my daughter into the car and head over to the mall. Protected from the elements I can wheel Natalie around until she gets overstimulated and knocks out. I can also do some shopping, grab a snack and, if there’s a fecal emergency, utilize the changing stations the mall thoughtfully provides. Retailers don’t want diaper meltdowns putting a dent in their profits.

For two o’clock on a Thursday afternoon the mall is awfully crowded. Looking at the throngs of young mothers pushing baby carriages I realize we all had the same idea. As far as I can tell Natalie and I are the only daughter/daddy team. A mom with twins in a double stroller passes by and nods at me approvingly, probably wondering what her husband’s doing. I guess I’m a new age male.

Freed from having to go to any stores my wife likes, I head straight for the cool stuff – Brookstone, Art of Shaving, Victorinox, Tourneau Corner – and look at baubles I shouldn’t buy. Passing the hip clothing stores with their window displays of bare-chested Aryan supermen, I shake my head. I’m too old to pull off those fashions and besides; nothing would fit anyway. Their idea of large is a 32’ waist.

After a power-wheeling for an hour I stop outside a restaurant and look at the inviting bar inside. I love bars on a rainy day. There’s something about the sound of the rain and the tinkle of glassware that’s very relaxing. As I watch a bartender in a crisp white shirt mix up a martini I decide it’s too early for an alcoholic snack. Judging from all the men inside, however. I think I’ve found where all the other dads went. I virtuously walk away. Sitting at a bar with a baby carriage is a good way to have the Family Services SWAT Team ruin your buzz.

Stomach rumbling I change course and head for the food court. On my way I pass a carousel. The baby immediately perks up, gurgling and pointing at the flashing lights and spinning horses. My wife told me on the way over that Natalie loves to watch the carousel. Seeing a parental opportunity I decide to take Natalie on the carousel. It’ll be her first amusement ride. What could go wrong?

I plunk down my money. Two rides for five bucks. Since I don’t know how Natalie will react I decide to sit on a sedate looking bench. When the ride starts to spin Natalie’s eyes widen in surprise and she jumps up and down with delight. I spend most of the time on the phone with my wife who’s annoyed she’s missing the moment. “Videotape it!” she says, but I decline. Holding on to a squirming infant and being a videographer is beyond my skill set. Drop the kid and it’s back to dealing with Bad Parent Swat Team.

The first ride ends and Natalie’s unfazed so I decide to kick things up a notch and plop her on top of a wooden horse. When the ride starts again she’s on cloud nine. Laughing in the way only babies can laugh, she starts waving as the horse undulates up and down. The ride operator waves back. At this point I should be reveling in my daughter’s joy but I’m not.

I feel sick.

A cold sweat breaks over me and my stomach lurches. I don’t believe it. I’m getting sick on a kiddie ride. And I was worrying about my daughter puking. Maintaining a good hold on my child, I stare at the back of her head and fight down the urge to hurl. If I do everyone’s going to think I was drinking in that bar. Ugh. How will I take my daughter to amusement parks? After three minutes the ride stops. With great care I step off the carousel and head towards the carriage parking area.

“You don’t look so good,” the ride operator says.

“And I used to love roller coasters,” I groan.

Ten minutes later my stomach is still spinning so I forgo the food court and head back to the car. After I strap Natalie into her seat I decide to rest until my equilibrium returns. But before I can close my eyes a horn honks.

I wave the driver on but the horn honks again I scored a great spot in the indoor garage by the main entrance and this person wants it. Tough shit. Reclining my chair I shut my eyes and wait for the spinning to stop. The impatient driver responds by obnoxiously leaning on the horn. Looking out my rear window I see a massive SUV with a tiny middle aged woman behind the wheel. Yakking on her cell phone, she’s stabbing me with her eyes.

Anger displaces my nausea. When I worked in restaurants I dealt with legions of entitled people. Now another person who wants what they want when they want it makes an old bitterness return. I want to fuck with this lady until she strokes out from rage. Maybe I should get out of my car, pop the hood, check the oil, kick the tires, make Natalie a bottle and change her on the trunk of my car. That’ll teach the bitch.

Feeling my blood pressure build, I take a deep breath and shove the passive aggressive fantasy out of my mind. Ever since Natalie arrived I’ve has a short fuse with entitled assholes. A few months ago a driver talking on his cell phone almost clipped my wife in a parking lot. You could have heard me yelling in Connecticut. Chastened, the driver wisely drove off but, instead of congratulating me, my wife said, “That’s how people get shot in Florida.”

I’m hardwired to give entitled people a hard time. That’s good because I don’t let people dupe me or push me around. It’s bad because I get hot and bothered. So I struggle with maintaining a balance. At some point my daughter’s going to see me confront a person’s egregious behavior and I had better set a good example. Becoming as asshole myself isn’t a good strategy . And while conflict in life is inevitable, avoiding conflict is a fine strategy too. Some battles aren’t worth it. This woman in the SUV is not worth it. Drive away.

Leaving the parking garage I nose my car onto the rain slicked highway and head home. As the wiper blades beat in a steady rhythm I take another deep  breath. Despite my queasy stomach Natalie enjoyed her first carousel ride. I made my little girl happy. That’s the memory I want to take home. SUV lady’s not going to wreck it. My daughter is infinitely more important.

Fatherhood’s going to be an interesting ride.

Brunch Is for Jerks?

10-brunch-is-for-assholes-shirt.w529.h352.2x

A couple of days ago a friend of mine, an avowed foodie, texted the above picture to my cell phone.

“I disagree,” I wrote back.

“As do I,” he replied. “Sometimes that’s my only meal!”

I like brunch, but brunch done right. Post-waiter-stress trauma makes me leery of places that crank out fusion cuisine or Tex-Mex six days a week and then offer overpriced eggs on Sunday. Cooks making stuff outside their usual routine produce results ranging from bleh to disastrous. Did we forget Anthony Bourdain’s warning about chefs unloading the week’s leftovers by masking them with heavy sauces?  Most restaurants don’t do brunch well, it’s a punishment detail for waiters and the patrons can be jerks. If you want to see brunch done right go to the Westgate Hotel in San Diego. It’s a religious experience. My wife and I have been there a couple of times and we’re not assholes. At least I don’t think we are.

Then an article entitled, “Brunch Is for Jerks” serendipitously appeared in the next day’s New York Times. Its author, David Shaftel, delivers a blistering diatribe against brunch, decrying the “hung over and proudly bedraggled” affluenza zombies who’re wrecking the “pastoral” peace of the West Village neighborhood where he’s lived for twenty years in search of overpriced mimosas.

In the interest of full disclosure, the author readily admits he’s enjoyed many brunches, establishing his coolness cred by bragging about an epic fifteen-hour outing ending in a dive bar and some hedonistic affair in a Dubai hotel where he feasted on exotic foods and guzzled a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot. But now, he writes, “It’s over. I’m through with brunch,” complaining that these legions of young, childless and “well-off professionals” munching on Eggs Benedict are emblematic of the gentrification driving middle class families out Manhattan. “Unencumbered by children” Shaftel writes, they are “exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch.” Meow! Something tells me income inequality isn’t driving Shaftel’s rage.

“But now that I have a young daughter,” Shaftel writes. “Brunch is completely impractical…For me, having a child — and perhaps the introspection that comes with turning 40 — made me realize what most vexes me about brunch: Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood.”

Brunch means rejecting adulthood? That fatuous claim pisses me off. When I was single I hated parents who looked down on my childless status. Before fatherhood hit me at 45 I already knew some parents used their children as an excuse to tell other people how to live. Their incessant proselytizing reminds me of convicts who discover religion in jail. When these earth-mommy/uber-dads were single they were having coke fueled trysts in my restaurant’s bathroom. But once the stork arrived they suddenly couldn’t countenance any one else having crazy fun.  You know these killjoy hypocritical types. They’re like people who stopped smoking two days ago and start snapping cigarettes out of other peoples’ mouths. These are the self-important people who’ve brought us breastfeeding jihadists; wimpy slides on the playground and Park Slope mommies trying to ban ice cream trucks in their neighborhood.  Question their orthodoxy and they’ll scream you’re a kiddie hating Nazi.

I suspect sleep deprivation’s partly to blame but let’s be real – many parents are pissed their freedom has been curtailed. So after Shaftel finished taking his dump on brunch I figured he was suffering from a case of sour grapes. All this fury over brunch? Really? He’s also upset about being out-gentrified. Sorry man. The West Village hasn’t been “pastoral” since Peter Stuyvesant was in charge.

Then I realized Dave and I aren’t that much different.

My wife and I are looking to buy a house in the leafy Jersey suburb where we now rent, but escapees from NYC are driving up prices. Seeing  Zip Cars with NY plates clustered outside a realtor’s open house makes me wish I owned an anti-tank gun. “Jerks,” I usually mutter. “Is Brooklyn full? Stay out of my town.”  So I can relate to Dave’s pain.

The similarities don’t end there. When I forwarded Dave’s article to a friend he said he thought I wrote it. That surprised me, but shouldn’t have. I was a cynical waiter and spent years skewering foodie culture, pretentious customers and power mad restaurateurs. If you follow this blog you know I can be a world-class curmudgeon. After all the yuppie bashing I’ve done, faulting Dave for lashing out would be a tad hypocritical.

Dave’s also right about parents not having enough time in the day. Going anywhere with a kid is a logistical exercise akin to the Normandy invasion. By the time I’ve strapped my daughter into her car seat, loaded her diaper bag and stuffed the Baby Bjorn, carriage, bottles, sunscreen, hats and toys into the trunk of my car it’s taken me two hours to get out of the damn house. And, unless you don’t sweat the high therapy bills you’ll pay later, children require tons of attention. Kids make time a precious commodity. So yeah, brunch is sometimes impractical.

I don’t really think Dave’s jealous of childless people. He’s roughly my age and, like me, probably had his fun until it wasn’t fun anymore. I also don’t think he hates brunch –  he’s just projecting his anger on an often mediocre culinary pastime. How’d I draw this conclusion? I’ve detected the same anger in myself.

It’s nice if hitting your forties makes you introspective, but it can also make you a crank.      Realizing more days are behind you then ahead, a middle-aged myopia threatens to set in. You become territorial, parochial and start pining over a nostalgized past. It’s no accident people are more conservative by the time their AARP card arrives. Now young people are starting to bewilder me, forcing me to install an Urban Dictionary app on my phone so I can understand what the hell they’re talking about.

I’ve also become incredibly intolerant of bullshit. While that’s a good thing overall, it’s a problem when dealing with twenty-somethings. When I hear about their relationship dramas I want to vomit. If a guy doesn’t text you back for four days he’s an asshole! If a girl won’t let you crap in her bathroom after you’ve done the horizontal mambo she’s got a problem. Grow up! Then I realize I’ve misplaced my memory of what it’s like to be young.

It doesn’t help we live in a society that lionizes youth and marginalizes old age. We see teenagers becoming Internet zillionaires and are told youth is the fountain of innovation and genius. Didn’t you know artists and writers create all their masterpieces in their twenties? After that it’s all downhill. Bullshit of course, but when you’re doing late night feedings, worried about bills and terrified your house is conspiring to kill your baby, feeling the energy and enthusiasm of young people makes you wonder if time has passed you by.

So you bitch about it.

“Our youth now love luxury.” Socrates wrote. “They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” The old philosopher probably wouldn’t have liked brunch either. But bitching about the young is as old as time. Dave’s just another guy wondering where all that time went.

My wife often calls me to task for thinking like Socrates. Since my daughter’s formative years will take place in my forties and fifties that gives me pause. Everything is new for her. I’ll need immense reserves of spiritual and intellectual elasticity to keep up. I’ll have to reign in my cynicism and remember the sweet song the bird of youth sings. If I don’t I’ll be no good to her.

That doesn’t mean I’ll age regress and try being hip. My experience and perspective is hard won and I’ll probably continue bitching about stuff. But I’ll pick my battles. Brunch isn’t one of them. I understand why Dave got hot and bothered, though. Everything changes and sometimes that sucks. That’s the price of admission life charges.

Brunch isn’t for assholes, Dave. Its just that assholes sometimes go to brunch. So from one fortyish guy raising a daughter to another, I wish you the best of luck.

Just don’t move to my town.