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ASK A STRAY DAD: SELF-DEFENSE

Q: So, uh, what the hell, man?

A: Wow, thanks for asking! This stupid blog started as a way for me to figure out how to write about being away from my family while living and working in (and making fun of) New York. And then the world went to hell and, well, we all went back home (in my case, back to Oregon) and stayed at home and locked our doors for a while, didn’t we? So suddenly I wasn’t stray anymore, and writing about silly shit didn’t really feel like something worth doing anymore. It felt like a time to be serious and somber; a time to turn inward towards the family I’d been away from so often, and in the process keep my ridiculousness to myself. So I paused. 

Meanwhile, life went on a bender. Much of it hurtful, and none of it all that great, you know? Looking around for things to make fun of while everyone within earshot was in pain didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And the last thing I wanted this to turn into was some kind of affliction-measuring contest, because everybody—you, me, all of us—had enough to worry about. So I went from pausing to full-stopping, an equal but opposite reaction to all the events unfolding for our family. Our older daughter had gone off to college and we were all still working and going to school remotely in March 2021 when we came down to Albuquerque to check on my wife’s dad, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and had not seen a doctor of any kind in over a year. By then we’d already sold our house, and were just living there, rent-free, until the end of the school year. Seeing his deterioration first-hand prompted us to reconsider the easy way out of just moving to a different home within Portland. We drove around streets with names like General Kearny or—egads—Confederate Drive, rubbing our arms after our first dose of Pfizer vaccine and looking at homes to buy that were within emergency distance of Mike that didn’t look like the inside of a watered-down burrito joint.

Miraculously, we found one, and moved down shortly after school ended for our youngest. In a hair over a year, I’d gone from New York to Oregon to New Mexico. And not written a word about any of it. 

(Note: Something feels wrong about having Oregon sitting there awkwardly between two “New” states. So for the sake of symmetry and in honor of the Lewis and Clark expedition’s St. Louis origins, from now on we’ll be referring to Oregon as “New Missouri.”)

There was, in all honesty, plenty to write about. Plenty to make fun of—including myself, a duck so far out of water in the Land of Enchantment that my webbed toes cracked open and bled. (Seriously, have you ever spent more than a week in a place where the humidity tops out at 10 percent?) But by the time I regained the itch to verbally vomit every Albuquerque observation, this blog had become the equivalent of the friend I’d taken too long to call. So I did what I always do in these sorts of situations and chickened out while pretending that I wasn’t feeling like an utter failure. 

It’s time to admit, though, that this thing I deemed stupid five paragraphs ago actually served a purpose. For me, above all else. It was, when it came down to it, really a way for me to figure out why I couldn’t seem to be happy no matter where I was. And if I could figure that out, maybe I could convince my brain how to be ha—

Q: I meant what the hell did you do to my Silverado?

A: But I didn’t—

Q: Like hell you didn’t. I parked it outside of the Applebee’s, and when I came back with the leftovers from my 2 for $24 meal, there was a scratch down the driver’s door right at the same height as the side mirror of your Honda Fit. Same color, too. 

A: Wait. Which Applebee’s?

Q: Lomas and Hotel Circle.

A: Couldn’t be me. I only go to the one on Academy and San Mateo. 

Q: The one by the Boot Barn and the Arby’s?

A: That’s the one.

Q: Oh, sorry Man. There are, like, 10 of them in town. 

A: Don’t I know it.

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3 thoughts on “ASK A STRAY DAD: SELF-DEFENSE

  1. thanks for not ghosting us… I just started following you right as you stopped posting. I was within days of giving up on you. Welcome to the desert. There’s a reason they put aloe in every bottle of lotion.

    Like

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