Monday, November 28, 2011

Ask the Spirit Wind...

(Some of you faithful readers out there are fellow dads in the Indian Princess program with me. Consider this a rerun. For the rest of you, I wrote this a few months back for the newsletter I produce for our local Indian Princess program, the YMCA father/daughter bonding club that Jessica and I are in. Yes, I'm repurposing content. Deal with it).

Homer Simpson once said, after having joined a mysterious secret society known as The Stonecutters, "Marge, I've never felt so accepted in all my life! These people look deep into my soul and assign me a number based on the order in which I joined." Well listen up all you first-year dads in the Indian Princess program. Much like Stonecutter #908, it is time for you and your princess to communicate with the Great Spirit Wind and come up with your very own Indian names.

Understand that this is an extremely important and delicate task. Your Indian name describes you. It lets people know the source of your inner beauty. It goes on the lapel of your vest, if you pay extra for the embroidery. The same is true for your young daughter's Indian name. And bear in mind that you might want to steer your little girl away from any names with "butterfly" or "rainbow" if you're going to be able to pick her out in a crowd. 

Think of some of the great Indian names of our past history. Cochise. Geronimo. Dances With Wolves. These great chiefs carried names of power. Of nobility. Of the ability to jump off things while yelling your own name.

Because you asked, I'm going to share with you the story of finding my own Indian name. It was Saturday night at our first father/daughter campout, and I was still struggling to come up with something meaningful. I had wracked my brain day and night trying to pull something from deep within. My youngster was of no help to me, as the best thing she could come up with was "Smells Like Feet". As the evening campfire approached I pulled our tribe's campfire torch from my car, and removed the plastic shopping bag that was wrapped around the top to protect the car from smoke stains. I took one look at the bag and had my epiphany. "Giant Eagle."

All was well and good until last Spring's Deer Valley campout. There, I found myself on the ceremonial campfire stage with a fellow tribal officer, also with the chosen name of Giant Eagle. And HIS name was embroidered on his vest. AND he was an actual Giant Eagle employee. He won this round.

So it was back to the drawing board. I came home, gathered my princesses (the older one graduated from the program a few years ago), and told them it was their solemn duty to come up with a new and more meaningful name for their dear old dad. The elder child suggested "Elephant Snout". I sent her to her room without dinner. My younger one promptly ran to get a children's book containing names for different animal butts. "How about Moose Caboose? Chicken Cheeks? Duck-billed Platypus Gluteus Maximus?" Again, no dinner. My wife informed me it was time to take the dog out for her daily exercise. It was then that we knew.

Your do-nothing newsletter writer, Runs With Terrier.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving at the Genius Bar

This week the family attended the usual Turkey Day festivities with my wife's extended family in Detroit. Lots of children, gushing grandparents, too much turkey, and Apple products. Lots and lots of Apple products. It was kind of odd, frankly. I counted six iPads, 5 iphones, an iPod Touch, and a Macbook Air amongst 14 people, half of which were under the age of eleven. Much of the weekend was spent showing off favorite apps, discussing how to copy DVDs onto the iPad for the long drive home, and competing against one another playing Words With Friends. I kind of felt I should be wearing a blue shirt with an Apple ID badge around my neck.

But the highlight of this strangely Jobsian Thanksgiving, was my wife's new toy. After years of surviving with a basic flip phone that (dare I say it) was ONLY good for making PHONE CALLS, I finally broke down and bought her a new iPhone for her birthday. For the first time in her life her technology is cooler than mine. And at long last, I have my revenge.

You see, I have occasionally been labeled "that dad", the one who is too busy with his head down and his eyes on his iPhone when he should b enjoying the world around him. Of course that time has long past, and it's rare that I'm distracted by it anymore. It certainly never makes it to the dinner table, and my wife hasn't had to say, "HELLOOOOO? ARE YOU LISTENING??" to me in a long time. well, at least not because of my phone. But yet, somehow the subject of the non-attentive dad will often come up in mixed company, and my lovely wife has always been happy to paste that label on my forehead. Well, no more. The tides have turned. Now she's the one with that Pavlovian reaction every time someone sends her a Facebook message and the phone gives off a little floop. She's the one eagerly awaiting that next turn against her cousin in California playing a week long Words With Friends marathon. And she's the one constantly asking Siri if she should be putting on a sweater.

Okay, perhaps I'm being unfair - she's only had the phone a few days, and it's all new and shiny. Of course she's going to want to play with it. And that Siri thing is just so freaking amazing. We'll give it some time, and I will report back in a few months. But back to the Thanksgiving family gathering, it really struck me as amazing both how much money we've all given Apple in recent years, and how our Apple products are constantly at our hips not unlike a six-shooter was always at the ready on the hip of a cowboy in the Old West. Its technology got us safely to Detroit, and allowed us to easily check the status of our hotel accommodations. We used it to check available showings of The Muppets and buy our tickets. We looked up recipes and the biography of Ernest Hemingway, and we kept our kids busy during any given downtime. We even used the GPS settings to see where en route from the park the kids and wives were, so we could prepare for the onslaught of a half dozen young children starving from an afternoon of fall playtime. And that infamous quote about the best camera being the one that's with you? Truer words...

The holidays always means getting together with people that often don't have much more in common than shared blood. Yet technology seems to have built on those bonds. No more seeing people once a year and having to catch up on what seems like a lifetime of stories. It's all been posted on Facebook for everyone to stay up to date. No more great stories of getting lost on the way there or having arguments with the grandparents over which bridge to take to the movie theatre. Just let the GPS do the job. This technology has done a wonderful job of making these annual visits easier to prepare for, travel to, and deal with. But are we better for it? Perhaps. I'll ask my wife. That's her texting me from the garage asking for help bringing in groceries.