Today's Featured Biography
In the cinema classic “The Spongebob Squarepants Movie,” there’s a scene about 10-minutes into the film, shortly after the titular character has publicly humiliated himself in front of a large crowd, where his boss, a “Mr. Krabs,” seeks to help Spongebob define himself at that time in his life. “There’s a word for what you are,” says Mr. Krabs, “and that word is…well, let me see…” As Mr. Krabs painfully searches for the word, a helpful audience member shouts “Dork!” “No, not a dork,” considers Mr. Krabs. “Goofball?!” calls another from the crowd. “Dingaling?” “Wingnut?!” “Knucklehead McSpazatron?!” “Douchebag!” And so forth, and on and on, right on through to David Hasselhoff in the dramatic conclusion to the film.
It’s a similar scene for me – minus the cartoon fish and the snappy dance remix of the Goofy Goober Theme Song – when I try and consider that kid that was the Me that graduated with the class of 1989. What a jackass. Eighteen years to get that way, another eighteen to teach that kid a lesson.
Though it can be hard to correctly recall one true thing that happened right up until the moment my then-future-bride was literally dropped into my lap on a cool spring night in 1996 at a party in Chicago, to follow the standard format of the Class Report, let us briefly consider College: it was the expected montage of bacchanals and jackassery, though for one brief, confused period of that time, I may have also worked at a DisneyStore. “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son,” they may have said, but we tried it out anyway.
A move to Chicago followed, to pursue a Career and, as it turned out, to date the Irish. The work was steady; the Irish were fickle, though entertaining – the sunny summer afternoons in assorted backyards getting smashed on gin-and-tonics with the family priests and arguing sticky points of theology and dogma had their charms, but eventually, even the most patient man can only see that goddamn “Riverdance” so many times.
A few explosions and a trip to the desert later, we’re back at that cool spring night and the future-bride, The Lovely Cindy. We meet cute, date aggressively, gamble frequently, fall in love, and marry delightfully in a weathered yet classic Chicago tiki bar. We travel, we buy a Jetta, we follow Wilco – at the time, we’re the very picture of 20-something urban white Chicago, only without so many afternoons at Wrigley Field, and with slightly darker hair.
Married as of this writing nearly seven years, Ms. Cindy and I have navigated the Chicago Public School System, the Internets (up and down again like Slim Pickens at the end of “Dr. Strangelove”), and the interstate to and from Minneapolis. We’ve seen tiki bars, rockabilly shows, Wayne Newton, our share of funerals and disagreements with extended family, and the wrong side of New Orleans too early in the morning. We’ve renovated one home from top to bottom in Golden Valley, MN, and we’re working on our second here in Park Ridge -- the house her Grandpa built after Iwo, the house she grew up in. We can make a decent pancake breakfast, a killer mai tai, and one hell of a sweet baby – two, in fact.
And sure, the Career keeps charting its own path, too. I’ve sold rum to college kids, and whisky to their grandparents. I’ve sold washing detergent to the third world, ice cream to monkeys, beluga whales to Chicago, and if you’ve ever been to Target in the last three years, I’ve reached out to you in one way or another. I’ve pushed toasted warm sandwiches, cereals you’ll never eat, beer you’ll never drink, cars you’ll never drive, and milk. I’ve made a man in cycling shorts jump on the back of a 500 lb. pig and taken photos of it. I’ve sold the opportunity to Die for Your Country to teenagers. And their Parents.
It’s a remarkably average life, I think -- an amiable construction, somewhere between Cliff Huxtable and Clark Griswold. Where does that leave me, exactly? Peter Griffin? Sweet.
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