Thursday, August 6 2020

monster trucks, bluetooth, and dinner at the malthouse



banners/2020 08 06

Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Thursday. How does the coffee taste today? Last night, while catching up on evening chores, I decided to love up on the coffee machine and give it a thorough cleaning with the Moccamaster birth control kit. The long time reader may remember that the descaling and sanitizing solution I keep in a bin underneath the coffee bar earned the silly nickname "coffee birth control" from their very clinical looking packaging and respective pink and blue colors. Last night was the sanitizer - the pink box - and I'd like to think that the coffee this morning tastes extra sanitary. As long as a pandemic is going on, that's a good thing.

I'm having a good morning. While enjoying extra sanitary coffee, I've been cleaning up the kitchen, sorting family photos, and fixing up the configuration on my plex server. This burst of productivity must be my natural reaction to going back to work a mere few weeks from now. I feel a deep frenzied need to squeeze as many hours out of my free time before returning to a proper day job.

Sip. But with so many fun IT distractions to pick from, I think I've done a pretty good job sticking to my commitment to set aside at least an hour every morning to play with Rodney. "From the time we eat breakfast to the time Momma comes down the stairs with Miles, that's your time dude," I explained yesterday while Rodney polished off a cereal bar. "So what'll it be? Want to play hockey? Go for a walk? Maybe build something cool with k'nex?"

"I wanna watch blippi," said Rodney, still chewing his food. I wasn't really expecting that answer.

"Blippi it is," I said after a second to recollect myself.

"Wanna watch on the couch with me?" asked Rodney, almost like he felt a need to soften my sense of rejection. "Bring your coffee... and computer?"

"Sounds like a plan dude," I laughed. Rodney and I set up on the couch, and soon bright primary colors and loud, pacifying music flooded the living room. Rodney gently clinked his plastic sippie cup to my porcelain coffee mug - a toast to a quiet, lazy morning.

After about a half hour, Rodney had his fill of Blippi and asked if he could take me up on my k'nex offer. With a half hour remaining in his reserved morning playtime slot, the two of us trotted up the stairs and dumped his k'nex on the floor.

"What are we building?" I asked. Rodney spun in a circle with his finger to his chin.

"A... monster truck!" he shouted.

We got to work on a monster truck. With only four small knobby plastic tires to work with, it would hardly look like an authentic interpretation of a monster truck as anyone would picture it. But I did my best to make the frame high and boxy, making the wheels seem bigger, like an optical allusion. And just in case that was too subtle, we also lined the car with long, fearsome spikes. We completed the art piece with a menacing roll cage. Rodney slipped his little rubber dinosaur inside the makeshift cockpit. Our monster truck, which more resembled something out of Mad Max, was good enough for a quick round of play racing around his bedroom.

Marissa emerged from our bedroom with Miles, and Rodney and I followed her downstairs with our caravan of homemade motorcycles, let by our newly crafted monster truck. Marissa set up a small frame project at the dining room table.

"Would you mind taking a look at the computer?" asked Marissa. "I couldn't get the bluetooth to work."

Pouring another coffee, I took a seat at the dining room computer. "No bluetooth device detected," I muttered, reading the words off a greyed out settings panel. I rebooted the machine, sipping my coffee while studying the text that streamed on the monitor. There was a small stutter just between the BIOS splash screen and the OS greeting. I rebooted it again, this time mashing the F2 key, sending me to an unsightly BIOS settings page.

"When in doubt, turn it off and on again," I said, ticking the 'enable bluetooth' option. Two reboots later, the stutter went away and the bluetooth settings panel sprung to life. The speaker chirped in the corner.

"That was probably the biggest surprise this week," I laughed. "I feel like normally a problem like that would have stolen the rest of the week out from underneath me."

I resumed cooking dinner, and after packing a cooler with pork, mushrooms, a green bean salad, and warm bread, our family shuffled across the street to the Malthouse patio. Marissa picked us up a pair of beers from inside while I set the table. Being only across the street from the bar, we usually just bring our own metal silverware and nice plates, which can garner some funny looks from other people.

The patio thinned out while we ate dinner and drank our beers. A single group of middle age guys remained a table over from us. Dank cigarette smoke hung in the air while they discussed politics. Marissa and I rolled our eyes, overhearing tired cliches like the new normal and unprecedented times.

Under her breath, Marissa started to hum the words of Three Problems in America, poking fun at how quickly they were jumping topics. I grinned, impressed at the distant and obscure TV reference.

"Don't worry," I chuckled. "Those guys have got it all figured out for us."

"What is he smoking?" asked Marissa. "That smells so bad."

"It smells like a wet cigarette," I added sarcastically. "Or maybe he's just smoking some tobacco in a rolled up piece of toilet paper."

After finishing up dinner and dropping our dishes off at home, we jumped in the car to take a quick evening errand out to the west side to pick up beer and wine. Rodney's head was fixed staring out the window while Marissa and I talked. Over hearing the well-liquored college bro's breaking down world politics spurred our own thoughtful reflection.

"I'm kind of at a place of acceptance," I said, pausing to think of a good analogy. "I feel like a potted plant that's been moved to a smaller pot. There was a period where I was angry and anxious and everything felt like a steady readjustment, but now I feel like I'm growing into a smaller quarantined life."

"I'm not sure you can move plants to a smaller pot, can you?" laughed Marissa.

"Eh, you would know," I shrugged. "How are you holding up?"

"Well," replied Marissa. "If I'm like a potted plant, then it just feels like I'm watching leaves turn yellow and fall to the ground little by little every week."

I frowned, sympathetically. "You are missing a big chunk of your social circle. I get that," I said.

"Momma look!" said Rodney from the back seat. "The lights!"

"What," I asked. "The... lights from the condo?"

"Yeah," said Rodney. "So beautiful. And look, the traffic lights! So beautiful."

"He hasn't been out in a while," laughed Marissa. "They are beautiful dude."

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day.