Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Walkway over the Hudson

Nine years ago (God I'm old), my roommate and I got chased off by the cops when we tried to get onto the old railroad bridge that crosses the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie (I had an old guidebook that said you were allowed on it, which was apparently a few decades out of date.)

Since then, the Walkway Over the Hudson organization has been doing this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

So that the bridge would look like this:

(All pictures above stolen borrowed from

This weekend, that ratty old railroad bridge is turning into the longest elevated pedestrian walkway in the world. The frickin' world! What's up now, places that aren't Poughkeepsie?

I've been reading the Poughkeepsie Journal articles on the bridge for years, and I'm really effing stoked that it's opening up. The bridge is 1.25 miles long and stands 212 feet over the water, which I'm guessing would make it really fun to pee off of.

Here's our little family out by the bridge a couple of weekends ago:

And here's a better shot I stole stole from the Poughkeepsie Journal:

I think we'll probably stay home this weekend and wait for things to settle down -- they're talking about shuttle buses (public transportation is fantastic for other people) because there won't be a single parking space anywhere near Poughkeepsie for the grand opening, maybe not even at the Ames that's been closed for ten years.

But this is a freakin' excellent development, and the people who made this happen deserve some serious karma coming their way. Living in Greater Poughkeepsie (a phrase that Google just informed me I did not invent) is about to get a whole lot cooler.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Land of the Lost Sanity

With nowhere left to look, I started rummaging through my son’s things in the nursery.

“Do you really think you left the good headphones in his dresser drawer?” my wife Kara asked as I turned to face her, elbow-deep in a formerly neat stack of jumpsuits.

“There’s nowhere left in the world to look,” I replied. I’d already checked the trunk of the Civic three times. The refrigerator. Under the couch. I’d searched every nook and cranny of the house, and I didn’t even think our house had any crannies.

One would have expected the search to go fairly quickly. With a baby in the house, Kara and I have pretty much been staying put. I’ve only been like three places in the last year. But somehow, the only pair of headphones in the house with the advanced feature of functioning in both the left and the right ear had managed to evade capture since the last time I’d mowed half the lawn.

Stringing together forty-five minutes to mow the whole lawn in one shot has become nearly impossible. As the days grow shorter and the baby grows longer, the mower will often sit for days in the middle of the yard like a rusted-out Trans Am, right at the border between the cut grass and the grass in which one could easily lose a golden retriever.

The thought of mowing the lawn iPodless was almost too much to bear. You might think that a new father would appreciate the time to be left alone with his thoughts, but when I’m mowing the lawn, the sum total of my cognitive achievements is usually singing “Barbara Ann” in my head for the better part of an hour, and I only know the part that goes, “Bah bah bah, bah Barbara Ann. (Barbara Aaah-aaah-aaaan).”

“Hey, careful. You’re getting his clothes all wrinkly!” Kara said.

“He’s three months old! He doesn’t have any job interviews coming up,” I replied.

It’s tough not to get snippy when things are lost that shouldn’t be. I recalled putting the headphones somewhere I’d remember, so I was angered on the very principal that my own brain had fooled me. To make matters worse, Kara had recently decided that we weren’t allowed to swear around the baby anymore, which, while a wise policy, made it very difficult for me to properly celebrate Swear Like a Pirate Day, a holiday I very much felt like inventing right then.

You have to start behaving like a parent at some point, though, so it’s just as well that we can’t swear anymore. The thing is, once you have an infant in the house, there’s so much more to cuss about. Unless you live in a fraternity house, there’s a good chance that, as long as you don’t have a child around, nobody is going to projectile vomit on you today. Parents don’t have that sort of assurance.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard the term “projectile vomit” many times before, but it’s a term that is very difficult to fully appreciate until someone does it on you.

The first time it happened, I was unable to speak for the first few seconds, experiencing the kind of mild shock you get after jumping into cold water, except that I was actually swimming in Kara’s breast milk. It looked like I’d been trying to defuse a cow when it exploded in my face.

Our son Evan was equally drenched, though he actually seemed to be enjoying himself. As I held him up by his armpits, he looked at me as if to say, “Dude, it’s the weirdest thing. I’m hungry again.”

“Here, here, I’ll get you a towel out of the diaper bag,” Kara said, rummaging through the giant purse. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot I put your headphones in here.”

You can wash Mike Todd’s mouth out with soap at

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Painting the town powder blue

There comes a point, a few months after having a baby, when you start to wonder if Netflix can really replace the friends you used to hang out with. The answer of course is no, unless you have some really good HBO shows in your DVD queue, like Deadwood, or maybe True Blood. What I’m trying to say is that there’s no substitute for true friendship, at least not on network TV.

While we’re still basking in the glow (and wandering through the fog) of new parenthood, my wife Kara and I have missed interacting with people who don’t make a habit of peeing on us. It has been especially tough for Kara, because while I still have one mature adult in our house to spend time with, she doesn’t have any. For the first few months after you make that last adrenaline-fueled drive to the hospital to deliver your baby, as far as your friends are concerned, it probably seems as though you flew off over the horizon and disappeared with Amelia Earhart or Ricky Martin.

So when we were able to finagle our way to our friends’ engagement party last Saturday night, courtesy of some clutch baby-sitting from the in-laws, Kara and I hardly knew what to do with ourselves. Usually, when neither one of us is holding the baby, our son Evan passes the time by trying to punch a hole in the ceiling using nothing but his vocal cords. But this time, as we got dressed upstairs with Evan downstairs cooing for his grandparents, the only screaming in the room came as I held up a hand mirror to check the status of my bald spot.

Evan’s cooing continued as his grandparents tickled his tummy and played peek-a-boo while Kara and I headed for the front door, which raised an interesting question: Does it count as baby-sitting if the babysitters don’t notice that you left?

At the party, we reunited with friends and did our best not to be the first to bring up breast pumps and dirty diapers. As new parents, it can be difficult to remember that graphic descriptions of the seamier sides of parenting, of which there are many, can easily transform polite conversation into something else altogether. Besides, we want more of our friends to have babies, so we have to be careful not to scare any of the amateur creators from going pro.

All in all, our first social engagement outside of the house since becoming parents was a success, and we felt fortunate to have had the chance to celebrate Julie and Sergey’s engagement properly. Still, even if you manage to escape the house and leave your newborn in capable hands for just a little while, it’s impossible not to be reminded that your life is not at all the same.

At just before 10pm, Kara turned to me and said quietly, “I’m full. We need to go home.”

“What?” I replied. “We don’t need to be home quite yet. Just don’t eat anything else if you’re full.”

“No, I mean they’re full,” she said, pointing to her chest. “I need to go pump.”

I’ve had to leave parties for many reasons in my life, usually due to the lack of an invitation, but this was a first.

I remember back in my late twenties, when I started getting concerned about the continuing and stubborn advancement of my age, I decided that you weren’t truly old until the parties you attended got smaller after 10pm. It seemed like a solid hypothesis at the time, but now I’m not so sure. At any rate, it’s impossible to test it out on myself, since I have no idea what happens to parties after 10pm. Who can stay out that late?

You can drink the rest of Mike Todd’s beer at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

5:00am is the new 8:00am

“Oh look, another sunrise,” I said to my wife Kara yesterday, as the black sky turned to gray outside our bedroom window. “Wouldn’t it be a shame if we missed one of those?”

Our newborn son Evan is quite the sunrise enthusiast, though unfortunately he’s not a big fan of watching them alone. Some parents dream of their children someday showing up on a box of Wheaties, but I think Evan has a much better shot at replacing the rooster on the Corn Flakes box.

Every morning just as dawn begins to break, he crows, “Waaaaaaah!” which is baby for, “cock-a-doodle-doo!”

At least Evan is cuddlier than the actual rooster that lives in the woods behind our friend Christi’s house. Presumably having escaped from a local farm, the rooster prefers to announce the arrival of each new day from the top of Christi’s shed.

“After a few months, you don’t even hear it anymore,” Christi told us. She called the local animal control officer, a person that I didn’t think existed outside of Marmaduke cartoons, and found that the plucky rooster had been evading capture and generating phone calls for over a year.

“We’ve given up on catching it,” the officer said, probably whilst absent-mindedly twirling a giant butterfly net.

As Christi described the story of the escaped rooster surviving in the wild, thwarting its potential captors and crowing triumphantly every morning, I began to wonder if perhaps, instead of telling the story to us, she should be trying to sell it to Pixar. Or one of those companies that makes movies like Pixar, except bad.

While Evan won’t be voiced on the big screen by Billy Crystal anytime soon, he does a fine job of vocalizing for himself.

“I think we need to carpet the walls,” I said to Kara, wincing as Evan screamed while his bottle warmed on the bedside table. One thing fatherhood has taught me, besides the incredible variety and velocity of things that can come flying out of the human body, is that if you don’t want anyone screaming in your face, you shouldn’t sign up to be a referee or a parent.

“It’s good that he’s crying,” Kara said. “It’s his job to let us know when he needs something.”

“Why does he have to be such a workaholic?” I asked.

“If his crying wasn’t loud and annoying, you could ignore it,” Kara said, waxing scientific. “If babies didn’t scream in your face, maybe you wouldn’t be as driven to give them the kind of care they need.”

“Yowch!” I replied, as Evan reached up and grabbed a fistful of my shirt, ripping out the chest hair behind it. With his recently discovered pneumatic grip, Evan has become the scourge of jewelry and body hair everywhere. Kara stopped wearing necklaces last week. If she hadn’t been too wimpy to ever get her ears pierced, she would have had to stop wearing earrings, too.

You’d think someone who had been through childbirth from the stirrup end of the transaction would scoff in the face of the piercing gun, but Kara still won’t even think about getting earrings. It’s too bad Piercing Pagoda didn’t have a shop set up in the maternity ward; Kara might have had enough drugs in her that day to consider it. In any event, after nearly ten years together, I’m running out of ideas for presents.

Also, since my pro wrestling career never took off, I thought I might get through life without ever having to shave my chest. That it took the arrival of our son to make me seriously consider manscaping is just one of the many surprises that parenthood has held. And one of the few that didn’t arrive at 5am.

You can press the snooze button with Mike Todd at

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Your weekly Evan

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Don’t finish what you can’t start

It’s never really a good idea to invite a vampire or a salesman into your house. You have only yourself to blame when your blood gets sucked.

My wife Kara and I made this unfortunate mistake last week, when we invited a (certified!) Basement Designer into our home. We thought we’d made an appointment with a contractor, the kind who actually does things, but as it turned out, the company we’d contacted sent us a high-pressure salesman instead, perhaps because we’d wronged them in some terrible way.

Since we had our baby a couple of months ago, Kara and I have been talking about how nice it would be if our small basement could be a playroom instead of a concrete slab surrounded by concrete blocks topped off with exposed insulation, the kind of insulation that drops little pink particles into the air so that after fifteen minutes down there, you’ve inhaled enough fiberglass to legally register yourself as a Corvette.

Originally, I was going to finish the basement myself, using my weekly fifteen minutes of new-father discretionary time, along with my complete lack of relevant experience.

“I’m going to go down there and start finishing the basement,” I said to Kara, marching down the stairs with the confidence of a five-year-old who’s going to build a castle out of sticks and kite string. I stood in the center of the concrete floor and turned in circles, looking at the tangle of exposed pipes, the radon remediation tube, the humming boiler and the hopper windows.

“Done already?” Kara asked as I came back upstairs five minutes later, shaking my head.

And so it was that the salesman came to our door carrying two briefcases full of samples. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call the salesman Barf, because his real name was Ralph.

Barf was very interested in selling us a complete basement system that used his company’s proprietary materials. Our dog Memphis sat on his feet, trying to eat the crown molding samples that he pulled out of his bag, begging intently as Barf waved them over her head. If Memphis was a Catholic Church, the sign out front would say, “Our Canine of Perpetual Hope.”

“Do you understand that drywall should never be used in a basement?” Barf asked. We nodded gamely, but without the level of enthusiasm that he was looking for.

“No, really,” he said, zeroing in on Kara, “Do you understand that? Because if you don’t, we can go over it again.”

Kara nodded slowly for a second time, and because Barf hadn’t been married to her for five years, he didn’t realize that the intensity of her gaze at that moment might very well have been sterilizing him.

After taking some measurements in the basement, Barf wrote an estimate down on a piece of paper and handed it to Kara. There’s no need to wrap any jokes around the number on that page, which was a punchline all by itself: $38,500 to finish a 500 square-foot basement.

I gave Barf the only rational response I could think of, which was to splash holy water on him, hoping he would melt.

After he saw the shock on our faces, the price magically dropped to $29,000. I realized then that we were in the midst of a haggle. Haggling is my favorite thing to do, when I can’t find anyone to give me a barium enema.

Ninety minutes into what we thought was going to be a quick estimate, Kara and I didn’t feel like playing ball.

“What can I do to get you to sign up tonight?” Barf asked. “This price won’t last!”

And it very well may not. But somehow, spending the next five years in the basement with my sticks and kite string is starting to sound not so bad after all.

You can give a garlic necklace to Mike Todd at

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A corny photo