Cayden · family

Fine Standing Still

“Dude, we suck,” I say, gripping an orange ball and glancing at the scoreboard. We haven’t broken one hundred, collectively, and we’ve only a few more frames to go. Cayde’s even requested bumpers, though he’s twelve and should be able to bowl straight enough to avoid the gutters.

But it doesn’t matter. The lane keeps breaking down, enough so that we’re now bowling for free; we munch mediocre pizza in the green light of the East Village Tavern and enjoy each other’s company.

I’ve always liked non-sports sports. Pitch, scrum, gridiron: whatever. Hand me some darts, a shuffle-puck, or a bocce ball instead. The halfways sports that are about communion over commiserate broke-body battle; I’ll take a trip-twenty over a touchdown any day of the week.

“Shuffle-puck?” Cayde agrees and we slide spinning discs over an over-fast board back and forth. Thunk. Thunk.

“Do you want more sand on the board?” the register-guy asks.

“Naw—this is kinduv fun.” It’s like dancing on a newly waxed floor. Thunk.

Eventually we get the hang of it, throwing hangers and knocking each other’s pucks off the board. We’re better at this than bowling. It’s a delicate game where restraint is key—finessing the board like a jazz drummer brushes the snare, discs caroming into certain space, spinning on their axes.

I beat Cayden handily. But he beat me on the last frame in bowling AND decimated me at gin rummy last night. ‘Never let your kid win,’ I say, ‘Let them win on their own merit.’ When they win, you win, too. I mean, in solitaire there are no high-fives.

I danced with Finn earlier this morning, in the kichen, spinning centripetal while listening to Father’s Day music. I famously can’t dance: I’m the erstwhile maypole while all those dance around me. A disc spinning in place like on the shuffleboard table. Dizzy standing still.

Jenn and I went out last night to a restaurant where my friend Michael played jazz guitar, and people were whirling in close orbit, swing dancing, smiles on their faces, bows in their hair. I wish I could dance, but there is the interplay otherwise—bad bowling even—and letting others dip and sway. On this Father’s Day, I’m fine standing still.

Cayden · family · parenting

My Simon

“Dad, can you pick me up?” the text message read, “This is not my jam.”

This was a complete turnaround from an hour prior when, excitedly, Cayde triumphed: “This is gonna be the best birthday party ever! A bunch of sixth graders beating each other up with swords!” It even sounded fun to me: an anachronist society hosting a bunchuv of boys to ‘Lord of the Flies’ it out with cloth-covered swords and shields. I would have dug it as a kid. My cousins and I used to roam the neighborhood, after all, playing ‘guerrila warfare’ with toy guns and camo fatigues, seeking each other out in an elaborate game of hide-and-seek, replete with faux firefights and friendly snacks afterwards.

I honked the horn at the park, and Cayde came bounding over with a cup of Chex mix, barely turning over his shoulder to wave goodbye. Kids were wailing on each other with play swords in the background, ‘Tis but a flesh wound!’ and Black Knight tomfoolery.

“What’s up, Dude? Not your jam, huh?”

“Naw,” Cayde said picking through his cup to select the rye chips, “After a while it just seemed…”

“Seemed what?” I asked, pulling out of the park’s roundabout and clicking on the blinker toward home.



“Yeah—just didn’t seem right. I played for a little bit, then just sat out to watch.” He munched laconically on a Chex crisp. Cayde was not exactly bothered, but there was something nagging his heart, and I chose to let him work it out.

“I get it.”

“Just not my thing,” he repeated, which initially surprised me because he spends hours on Fortnite, with all its electronic glyphs of skins and guns and friendly combat.

There was a look in his eye, which spoke suddenly of his fast maturation, adult even, hair falling across his forehead in a weighty block. He shook the hair out of his eyes and contented himself sharing the Chex with me.

Cayde is growing up, and his empathy is growing along with his inseam. He is stubbornly a non-reader, but his emotional quotient is encyclopedic.

To wit: Matthew, his non-binary friend reveres him as an ally; Isaac his Lilliputian buddy on the playground came out to him as bisexual before even whispering a word to his parents. The friends he brings over are black, Latino, girls and boys—he gets along with everybody and eschews racism with the heart of a seasoned protestor. One night at bedtime, I had to assuage him when he found out MLK’s house had been firebombed way back in the Sixties.

“How could they DO that?” he cried, “MLK’s kids were in the house.”

Cayde is sensitive to cruelty. He asks me about Gandhi, he is aware of Stonewall; he worries about the bombing in Yemen and the loss of life.

“It just didn’t seem appropriate,” Cayden summarized, thinking back to the party where kids gleefully pounded each other with sticks and played out their aggressions. “I mean,” he said polishing off the last treasure rye chip, “It’s better to be kind.”

And I reached over and patted him on the knee, my heart swelling with infinite pride, with us pulling into the driveway where no hate exists.

“Indeed, Kid.” If Lord of the Flies was the du jour, my kid was definitely Simon. Peace on, my little bodhisattva.

Cayden · family


“Dad, let me ask you a question.”

“I’ve got an answer. Maybe the right one.”

We are munching pretzels and burritos.


“What about it, Kid?”

“Why is it so important in the Bible?”

I pause mid-pretzel. My antennae are up.

“Like how do you mean?”

“Like 40 days and 40 nights. Noah.”

“Hmmm,” I say to placehold the moment, “Hmmm.”

“You mean also like: forty years in the desert, the Israelites?”

“And Jesus’ expedition: forty days,” Cayden says.

“Oh—the temptation in the wilderness. Yes—forty days.”

And I ponder a pretzel.

“Forty days in the wilderness, forty years in the desert, forty days in the rain, forty days before the ascension, forty days SPIES”—and I say it with drama—“That espied the Land of Milk and Honey before reporting back to Moses. You mean that forty?”


“I dunno, Kid.”

“You said you had an answer.”

“I said I MAYBE have one. I’m not a numerologist.”

I continue crunching on pretzels.

“But I’m 42, which is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

“The what?”

“A good book. Never mind. I dunno, Kid. Forty’s a good number.”

“Is that it?”

I shrug. “Good an answer as any.”

We eat pretzels.

Cayden · neighborhood · people


orangeCayden confuses Roger, who like Michael Keaton, tips his head, tongues his lower lip, and raises an eyebrow.

“Huh. Good one, good one.” And he taps the railing of the sidewalk café, salutes with his bag of tacos, five salsas, and walks on.

“Nice to meet you!” Cayden calls after him, as we plunge into our food.

Roger was bartering earlier with the cashier: “I’ve got three dollars,” and Roger was dressed in one layer of clothing while it promised to be cold.

We ask if Roger got enough food, easily we could get him some more. He holds up five salsa cups and his bag: “I’ve got a burrito,” he says, “I’m good.” A burrito at this joint is an easy eight.

But he leans in, learns all of our names: “Tell me a joke, Kid. No wait, wait—I’ve got one.”

The punchline is not immediately obvious.

“So you got one, Cayde?” Roger leans against the fencing.

Cayde thinks, comes up with a riddle that either makes no sense or is something of Andy Kaufman brilliance.

Roger taps the fencing and laughs, walks away. We begin to eat—

Roger walks backward, back to in front of us.

“Wait—tell me that one again.” It is fifty degrees and dropping; Roger wears a t-shirt.

“What’s the difference….” Cayden begins, which is always a good way to start a joke. Roger cocks an ear.

“Right, right,” he says, following along.

Cayden repeats his riddle.

“Ha-ha!” Roger guffaws, and salutes with his bag of bartered burrito. I’m glad people are kind. It’s gonna drop into the twenties tonight.

“What’s the difference between an orange and a half-orange?


“The whole orange can be round.”

Roger does his Michael Keaton thing, and I’m either as enlightened or confused as he is.


Cayden · home · neighborhood

Hygge Home

hyggeWe’re walking back from the corner store, me and Cayde, and remark that the house next to the avenue brewhouse is being sold, which is of no surprise because living next to that kind of traffic and clamor and smoke must be hell on the serenity, not to mention that Trivia Night is of a volume undialable on the TV set. Mixing potent potables and the category named for them is a noisy affair; we hear the huzzahs a block and a half away and, really, maybe it’s of some encouragement that the pursuit of knowledge should rally such raucousness, but try living next to it: you’d probably wish for Team Solitaire Night instead, or Silent Charades Tuesday.

I’ll miss these neighbors, actually, and not because I know them but rather I know their cats, which are gargantuan toms that roam the neighborhood with aplomb, one and a half stone apiece, and they lend the neighborhood a sense of proportion. They make the small houses look their size as the felines sit fat cat on the various porch stoops, furry paperweights.

We live in a neighborhood of pre-War—meaning the first one—bungalows, none exceeding 1000 square feet, Craftsman by design if not Spanish. ‘Quaint’ and ‘charming’ are words used in the Classifieds, because these houses can’t be sold by an exaggerated number of rooms—5 ½ bedrooms! 2 ¾ baths! Nothing in our small corner of North Park is sporting more than 3 beds and a toilet; hell, our bathroom is a mid-century add-on. What must have been the old WC is now Cayden’s den, which barely houses his desk and all his Lego StarWars models. And the kids have to share a room and sleep in a bunk bed, my closet is in the kids’ room whereas Jenn duchesses the master closet, but we love it.

“Daddy,” Cayden asks as we pass the ‘For Sale’ sign, “What’s your dream house?” and I am quick to answer.

“Nothing too big. Then I’d have to fill it with stuff I don’t need nor want.”

Cayde is as quick to reply: “Me neither. I just want, like, a den with maybe a television,” and he goes on to describe a house of maybe 200 sq. foot proportion, like one of those mini-cabins you see at trade shows, else an Airstream he could tow around with a modicum of hp.

Cayde is my little goldfish. Goldfish are indeterminate growers, meaning they grow until they die, but generally they develop to fit the size of their tanks. And, Jenn and I think, maybe, that Cayden has grown to fit our house, that he really doesn’t think or want in larger proportion than what he’s used to. Sure he’s been to larger, more grandiose abodes, but they’ve never inspired money-lust in him, or an undue Veruca Salt desire for square footage. No house on the hill for Cayden. He’d rather a house in the valley. One, preferably with his brother, and maybe still with bunk beds.

It shows in how Cayden nests, and it’s always fun tucking him in because it’s hard to determine where Cayde ends and the blankets begin. He has no less than six throws on his bed and were he not eleven and checking everyday to see if he’s sprouted an armpit hair overnight, he’d probably still have a menagerie of stuffies, too. His two favorite Christmas presents—besides the Playstation—were an electric blanket and a whimsical unicorn onesie which he’ll often don in the nighttime, and he wears this to be absurd, for one, but, two, to fulfill I think, his natural cozying instinct. I used to cocoon myself in blankets as a kid, just shy of needing a bed snorkel, and Cayden does the same.

Hygge is the Danish practice of cozying up a house, and our haven is pure hygge: overstuffed living room, texture, hearth: everything to add intimacy to a space. There are books and candles and cast-iron pans; guitars and obliviously sleeping cats; quilts and throws and saffron pillows. My wife has done most the decorating and she’d done so fantastically, to where Cayden is the happy goldfish, and where I myself want nothing more than the humble space we already have.

“I think, Daddy,” Cayden says as we make our way home, bounty from the Mom n’ Pop pendulum-swinging from our respective wrists. We pass one of the gigantic toms who is splayed out and seemingly soaking up half the sun’s energy. “I think our house is just the right size.”

“We also don’t have to live next to the brewpub, so there’s that.” The ‘For Sale’ is bright pink, loud as the clamor next door where there is the incessant sound of clinking glass and sports on the television.

And when all you want is a right-sized life, it’s good to start with a right-sized house.

Cayden · family · home · parenting

School Pictures

My son Cayde sat opposite the couch from me mired in spiral-bound notebooks and three-ring binders. He had one ear bud in, the cord of which trailed to the computer, and there was the small tintinnabulation of EDM playing incessant 6/4 time while Cayde typed on the keyboard. His face was illuminated by the laptop screen, underlit like a boy playing with a flashlight beneath the covers, eyes and nose done up in alien shadow. I studied him from across the way, surreptitiously, so as not to interrupt him with my gaze. In between keystrokes he’d reach over and pluck a few grapes from a plate next to him, else crunch on a pita chip dipped in hummus: just a boy doing his homework, without rile. He could almost be described as inexpressive, which made studying him that much more an objective exercise; me tracing the lines of his face with my eyes; following those rounded cheeks down to the jut of his chin; remarking his brow, smooth, yet to be furrowed with the worries of age. The block of his hair fell weightily to the right and threatened need of cutting. Behind Cayde, the living room window reflected the night’s Spanish homework, now beyond my reading level, but Cayde’s eyes flickered along comprehendingly, and the window flickered as quickly, displaying flashes of light and color while Cayde parsed through the various screens.

It occurred to me suddenly, that though Cayden was wrapped in his custom makeshift nest of cushions, pillows and blankets, obviously at home and content; that though his mom and dad were in the room and reflected in the window screen as well; that I didn’t know exactly who Cayden looked like anymore, that I could’ve been looking at a stranger across the playground. Perhaps it was the under-lighting, the martian glow provided by the computer, but suddenly eleven seemed a world away from every myriad age Cayde had been up until this evening, back when his features were recognizable morphs: my eyes, Jenn’s nose, his grandmother’s cherubic cheeks. Now he was just Boy, caught somewhere in between features, on his way to something pre-adolescent and independent of his heredity, if briefly. As if his genes were unloosed and given free expression for a moment, allowed to rearrange to their own liking.

I cocked my head and tried looking at him from a different angle, trying to take him in. I was reminded of the time I visited the Grand Canyon when I was in high school. I was with my friend Ryan, and we were perched on the East Rim overlooking one of the canyon’s sprawling vistas. Unlike anything embossed in miniature on a postcard, the Canyon was immeasurable, irreducible, and no matter of perspective allowed the eye to capture it at once. So, too, looking at Cayde was like trying to minimize something far too expansive to take in at one time. I searched his face for something essential, something recognizable, that would frame him in the moment, as readily as the windowpane behind him squared his figure on the chaise, the reflections in the glass haloed his head in illuminative graphics. He continued typing on the keyboard, occasionally shaking the bangs loose from his forehead; I studied his mannerisms, still careful not to disturb him with my stare, and slowly Cayde emerged, by nature of his small movements. It was like watching a painting come alive, a two-dimensionality wrest its away into the unlikely third, and it was the gestures, the particular way in which Cayde reached for his grapes or the way in which he adjusted the laptop screen, that reminded me of my boy. Still, I couldn’t see myself in him, his mother for that matter either.

On cue, Jenn tapped me on the shoulder from her perch behind me on the orange recliner. “Take a look at these.”

“Hmm? What?” I asked, woken out of my reverie. “Oh,” and I collected a portfolio she had handed me.

“School pictures.”

I slid the photos from their sheath, and there was Cayde’s face in multiplicate, matte and frozen in smile.

“Doesn’t he look like my dad?” Jenn asked. “Like young pictures of him,” she elaborated.

“I dunno,” I said, squinting. “I was just wondering that I don’t know who Cayde looks like anymore.”

Cayde looked up from his screen, face still illuminated in silver light, and deftly held up his hands between philtrum and his chin. “From here to here, I look like Mommy,” he announced, before returning to finish his Spanish.

His self-awareness is sudden relief and once he closes the laptop, the light-show turned off so that there’s just the nothingness of the window behind him, I in part recognize him again, and he looks up at me which are my eyes, surely; headlamps are passing vagaries in the street and Cayde is occasionally silhouetted, and we look at each other with shared eyes and I slide the school pictures slowly back into their sheath.

Cayden · family · neighborhood · parenting

Think, Feel, Behave.

“Coach, two,” I say to John who’s barking at his boys in a Ugandan accent. He nods assent while I toss him deuces.

I sit against the chain-link behind Cayde who’s the itinerant goalie, pink shoes and leather gloves.

Cayde glances at me, then returns to the game, which—considering the practice lot’s vicinity to the street—is really just a keep-away game from the cars. He tugs at the thumb of his left glove with front teeth and readies himself for another drive.

“NOW NOW NOW!” and Coach John urges his mid-fielders forward toward Cayde’s cage. There’s the inimitable sound of a ball being punted, then the sound of Cayde crashing to the grass with an <oomph> having deftly caught it.

“Alright, Cayde. Let’s go. End on a good one.”

I shake the coach’s hand.

“Gotta pull him early, Coach.”

“Awight. YOU GO GOOD.” Coach has no volume button. I’m being instructed to leave early, well, though I asked permission. Story of my life. I have a deck of cards in one pocket, a pen in the other.

I show Cayden to the car, which is parked to the side.

“Where are we going?”

“Not sure yet.”

We drive.

“Why’d you cut seventh period, Cayde? And why’d you destroy your phone?”

(This is all my fault).

“I dunno. BUT they were the worst mistakes I ever did.”

There’s a green light on 30th, so I turn. I know about worst mistakes, so I take pause while the intersection clears.

“Lemme get this straight: you like photo class, right?”


“Why ditch it?”

“They’re only talking about how cameras are made and boring stuff.”


I look at Cayde and smile.

“That’s not boring stuff, y’know.”

The lights on University are Green and we circle aimlessly, like the universe is telling me to ‘go’ but I don’t know exactly where. It’s six p.m. and most the reputable coffee shops are closed.

I clear my throat.

“My friend Brad teaches photography, and the first thing he teaches his students to do is to make a camera out of a Quaker Oat box.” I downshift and park.

We exit the car.

“You see, Cayde,” I say, as we leave the car tick-ticking its heat, “It’s not about the instrument. It’s about YOU.”

We’re in front of the North Park Observatory, where Cayde and I saw one of our first shows. A Starbucks is built into its lobby. We’re going to Starbucks.

“Whaddya mean?”

“I’ll tell you. First you tell me why you destroyed your phone. Then we can talk.”

(A note about the Observatory: I took Cayden here when he was ten. Phantogram show. He was excited to be with his Dad. I remembered a TV episode from years back—Black Sheep Squadron—and, TV lieutenant to Major Pappy Boyington: TJ told Pappy he was unsure if he loved his dad, that it was getting in the way of his flying. Pappy told TJ that it was ok if he didn’t love his dad. Hearing that, TJ could fly again.

‘Love you, Kid—Jeezus, just settle down.’ And Phantogram came on, and we struggled to the midsection; Cayde fell asleep on my shoulder while the amplifiers played in clip, and I thought, ‘Fucking TJ. Just love your Dad already.’ Me and Cayde walked home, and Cayde narrated the entire walk back to make me remember why I’m a Dad , and why it is that he will never ever be a TJ).

“Why’d you break your phone?”
“I was angry,” we are dealing gin rummy over a hot chocolate and an Americano. We have met the barista. His name is Tomaso. I instruct Cayden to always introduce yourself to your ‘server’.

(“They’re not your ‘server’, Cayde,” scratching my beard, “You have no idea what they might be outside of serving you a drink or a movie ticket or your groceries. Introduce yourself, always. ALWAYS know their name.”)

“I was angry. It was stupid.”

“Thoughts become feelings become actions, Dude. I know it. You gotta stop at the ‘thoughts/feelings’ part.”

We play gin. The rhythm of the game allows me time to think. Cayde’s gotten pretty good, so I have a worthy partner. ‘Bout being a Dad? You make this shit up as you go, and no matter how smart you are, you need time on the ropes to wipe the blood off your face.

“I’m sorry you….”

Cayde lays down ten cards. “Beat you, Daddy!”

I have no time to finish.

“Yes. Yes, you did.” I swipe up the cards.

I quietly lay a pen down on the table. “What’s this, Cayde?”

“A pen.”

“What does it do?”

“It writes things and makes essays and stuff.”

I shake my head.

“Try again.”

“It writes?”

I shake my head again while I replace the pen in my front pocket.

“It does nothing.”



I re-shuffle the cards, and my Americano is getting cold.

“It does nothing. It sits in the goddamn store until someone buys it and uses it. THEN it means something. It’s why you probably shouldn’t have destroyed your phone; there’s a nice camera on there. It’s now like an unbought pen. Lemme show you something.”

It’s near eight at the Starbucks and the baristas are starting to stack chairs and express steam from the machines. The neon lights have come on.

I walk Cayden across the store.

“Look at our coffee cups.”


“Gonna teach you something. ‘Taught this in New Orleans. Look at our coffee cups. OK? Now let’s walk across the store and look at them again. They’re different, right?”


“Let’s walk here.”

“They’re different again.”

“Exactly. Now if I had a pen or a camera, I would take either which one and *note* how things are different while staying the same. I haven’t moved my coffee cup, but it looks different because we’re looking at it from a different angle.”


“Tomaso is cleaning up the floor. What color is his apron?”


“How does that make you feel?”


“No—gimme a word that describes green.”


“His apron is not a plant, but you called it a plant. That’s metaphor, and we’ve just seen how things can look depending on where you sit in the room.”


And I point to his forehead.

“That’s your brain working, Kid. Nothing in this room has changed, except that we’ve moved around it. Good thing I’ve got a pen to write it all down: the simplest, stupidest of all things.

“Don’t wreck your camera. It’s got worth, Dude. Learn how it works, but learn how better to work it. ‘S all important, every part of it. And—seriously—Think. Feel. Behave. In that order.”

I’ve not entirely lost Cayden at this point, though I’m in part talking to myself. We close out the Starbucks and we hold hands on the way to the car, cards neatly tucked away into my pocket.

Think. Feel. Behave. Think. Feel. Behave. Ad infinitum.

Cayden · food · neighborhood · parenting


goodGunslinger night.

Cayde and I just watched the rocket launch out of Vandeberg and have a date to play a few rounds of 7-card before bed. I never ‘let’ him win.

“Is there a strategy to this game?” Cayden asked me one time.

“Yeah, Kid. I’m using it right now, and you’re not gonna win until you figure out what it is I’m doing. By the way, I know you have a seven in your hand so don’t count on me giving up my eight.”


I think back to when Cayde and I used to play Connect-Four; Cayde was maybe five. Cayde would stick his tongue out and make the wrong Tetris time and again—we’d pull the lever and make the chips clatter to the tabletop.  Then, we’d reset and repeat.

I remember the first time he beat me at my own game, having finally learned to think at least two moves ahead (and play a diagonal board, dammit). Could’ve been embarrassing to lose to a kindergartner, but instead I was really proud.

“Let’s go get some food before we play tonight,” the rocket launch fading into the chambre sky, lights muted by a column of clouds.

We stop at the taco truck after stopping at the mom n’ pop for some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate.

“Dude—the taco diablo,” I say to the cook who’s leaning his head out the window, “’S spicy shrimp?”

“Yes, my friend: spring mix, cabbage, mozza, shrimp and pico.”

“How spicy is spicy?”

“Whatchoo want, one to ten?” I pause, so he just answers for me: “I give you a four.”

“Whoa, whoa—before we agree, whaddya use for spice?”

“Oh—there’s a spicy salsa on the side.”

“No, no—what makes your shrimp a 1-10?”

“Oooh,” he smiles—“Habañero, my friend.”

“Let’s make it a five to start then,” and we give knucks.

Cayde and I make rangetop S’mores when we get home, and I attempt the taco.

It’s a weak five, the cook having buried the shrimp in mozza to suppress the heat.

I return to the truck, Morricone music faintly playing in the background.

The cook smiles and leans his head out the window again, like Frank Morgan peering out the Emerald Gateway in Wizard of Oz.

“Heey—you’re back my Friend.”

“Dude—the taco was excellent, but sling me a nine at least. Less cheese.”

I pass the test: he smiles, retreats to his rangetop, and starts making me some real shit.

“There you go, my Friend,” he passes me a nicely wrapped tortilla. “I’ll see you next week.”

I love cooks—you just gotta know how to play their game.

“Alright, Cayden,” I say dealing the cards. “Didja figure it out yet? The strategy?” We play through half the deck before I gracefully play a five-card straight and lop-side the scoreboard, 100-10. Cayde twists his mouth. I re-deal.

“I go first, Kid,” and I start the game with trip fours. The game goes back and forth and I’ve got some kings and aces in my hand, am looking to go out with a flourish, like the rocket from Vandever, which earlier had sparked brightly in the sky before sneakily appearing further south on the skyline.

Cayde has seven cards in his hand, and I have five—he looks consternated and pretends to be frustrated at the discard pile. I just need an ace to run away with this one.

Cayde pulls a card, frowns. He rearranges the cards in his hand as if rethinking his straights and trips. Morricone music plays again. He discards a three and—just as I’m about to pick up a fresh card—he says: “Hold on, Daddy.”

He lays down a straight and a trip at once, depleting his hand. Like we were playing gin rummy versus seven-card. Card shark shit.

“You have aces in your hand, Daddy.”

I let my hand crumble to the carpet. Two aces, two kings. I’m down fifty points immediately.

Cayden smirks, and I’m proud as can be. He not only swept the leg, he guessed my hand.

“Nice job, Kid.”






Cayden · parenting


It was bound to happen. My long-standing title of ‘Daddy’ has shed a few letters, and now I’m simply ‘Dad.’ I’m lucky: I existed as ‘Daddy’ up till now, right up to the moment Cayde wiped his feet on middle-school’s doormat a month ago and started speaking the new slang. I can forever be Daddy in my heart, but—if I am to call Cayde to breakfast, or invite him to play a game—I’ll from now on be met with, “OK, Dad.”

“I’m feeling nostalgic, lately,” I told my old therapist Patricia. She smiled and nodded over the rim of a coffee cup.

“That’s nice. It’s a golden sentiment.”

I disagreed with her choice of crayon; nostalgia is not gold, it’s sepia. As in a faded photograph.

“Well—no, Patricia.” And I scratched my head while looking at the carpet. ‘Nostalgia’ literally means ‘the sadness of returning home’ and I feel it all the goddamn time.” I demand concision with words: nostalgia is bittersweet, like a fine chocolate that nonetheless discomforts the palate.

“I never knew that,” Patricia said, her own cup of bitter suddenly metaphor in a room where I was sad and happy at once. Nostalgia is an ambivalent emotion, the palate divided.

It’s Cayde’s eleventh birthday today. My kid, my first-born. I do feel nostalgic, but I’m preferring the photographs I have in memory, their substance and not their sepia tone.

I always think to a moment I had with him when he was three. We were sitting on the playground structure and I pointed out the Children’s Moon—the moon that’s awake in the daytime.

“That’s for us, and when you get older you’ll see the moon at nighttime.”

So many memories of my Boy, all of which I’ve written down. I’m no longer Daddy, the Children’s Moon is no longer the only lunar presence, and may my current sepia be his forever golden. I love you Cayden. All my writings belong to you. May you treasure them.




Cayden · neighborhood

Vignette Nine

My hand has developed a new crease from where it rests on the laptop, and a new callous.

Cayde’s mouth hurts; he stays home from school, where Jenn, too, is sleeping.

We go to Luigis for some pie and billiards. The table is out of order, so we play shuffleboard.

A police officer walks up and at first I think truancy, but the guy just asks if Cayde wants a sticker; I say ‘yes’ and he goes to his SUV and delivers Cayde a badge.

“Thank you for your service,” I shake his hand. Because my cousin-in-law is blue and has seen people crumpled accordion in their car and has also been tasked with finding decapitated heads down the freeway markers. He shakes my hand with a grip that is as hard as the grip I lend to him.

We play shuffleboard and Cayde comes back to beat me: 11-10. He is a whiz.

The veggie pizza is the best and we leave badged and better, pie in the belly and loving this place we call home, life precious.