One of the guys who used to work for me turned out to be the world’s most obsessive clock-watcher. If I asked him to come in for a discussion at 4:45, he’d begin squirming and glancing at the clock before 4:46. And I’m not talking about someone casually checking the time; this guy couldn’t sit still for a moment as he focused on the approaching hour.
One day, I had to catch the 5:30 train on the way to a parent-teacher conference or something and we ended up on the same bus. I was already ticked at the work he hadn’t finished and the extra time I was needing to put in to keep the clients satisfied, but he was simply delighted to note that we were “a couple of Type As heading home.” Two days later, I fired him.
He was surprised, of course, because he thought he was doing great. In spite of frequent meetings and prodding to get the work out on time, he left people hanging and caused extra challenges for everyone on the team. The only deadline he could meet was the 5:30 train whistle.
Still, everyone is a hero in their own story. Whether you’re a cop in Uvalde or a Type A on a bus, you’re the story of America, the strong and capable leader who rises to the occasion. At least you know you would rise to the occasion if it presented itself, so you’re already a hero without having to do the work.
It’s like giving yourself a participation trophy without showing up to participate. I’m not saying we’re way too easy on ourselves these days, but, wait, yes, I’m absolutely saying we’re way too easy on ourselves these days.
We forgive ourselves for everything, or we would if we ever entertained the idea that we have any flaws. We’re late because we there was too much traffic, not because we left too late to allow for traffic. We got fat because the food companies hid so much sugar in our Twinkies, not because we ignored the label and ate a dozen in one sitting. We can’t afford a vacation because plane fares are too high, not because we’re spending $700/month on streaming.
We’re all victims of the powers that be, including the hidden, secret cabals who conspire endlessly to stymie our advancement. I guess it’s liberating in a way, but it's also a bit of infantilizing we do to ourselves.
I’ve always been self-aware enough to recognize when I’ve screwed up, even if it isn't the most comfortable feeling. I don’t have to look far for the person who’s causing me so much grief because it’s almost always me. It’s depressing, at times, to recognize how often I have built my own guillotine, but it’s oddly empowering.
If I’m the one who caused the problem, I can be the one to fix it. If I’m the victim of unknown and unseen powers, I can’t make any progress. I’m stuck until they let me go. Worse, I can’t even ask them to set me free when I don’t really know who they are or what they want with me.
That’s the choice, really: to shoulder the burden while retaining our sense of control or to reject our culpability by denying our own agency. We can be the heroes in our stories, but only if we give up our super powers.
Next time I screw up really badly, probably in the next day or two, I’ll tell our subscribers all about it. Click here and you won’t miss a single hilarious setback.
I’ll really miss those nipples. The sippy cups? Not so much.
I finally got around to clearing some old junk from the kitchen cabinets, which meant it was finally time to toss the relics of infancy and toddlerhood. The grandkids are older now and they’ve mastered the arts of fine dining, or at least the use of flatware. We’ve even made the last transition from those 50-pound car seats that can withstand both crashes and nuclear blasts, downshifting to the much lighter and, probably deadlier, boosters they can secure on their own.
It’s a rite of passage for each of them, of course, but it’s also another passage for me, one of those moments in life that announces the closing of a door that is almost certainly not going to open again. I love it when they announce that they can handle some task on their own and no longer need any assistance, with toilet training very high on that list, but it’s also another notch in my own timeline, a milestone on that other path.
Almost all the time, I take it in stride. I’m energized by their joy, their growth, their discoveries and achievements, and I really feel younger when I get a chance to join them on their much newer journey. There's almost never any melancholy as I give away their childish things, whether it’s toys or clothes or books or car seats. But the nipples are somehow more difficult, the symbol of a moment that is so precious, so overwhelming, that it's almost sacred.
Because I have never been as connected to another human being, never as absorbed in the miracle of life, never as overwhelmed by the possibilities of the future, as when I have bottle-fed an infant. I have never had someone look into my eyes as steadily and without affect, an eternal moment without distraction. I have never been as separated from the world, existing in a space where nothing else exists, as when I have lost myself in their gaze, and they in mine.
Maybe I’m overly romantic about it, assigning a meaning and a connection that’s far beyond reality. Maybe they were just staring at this big lump at the other end of the bottle and worrying that I’d leave before they’d had enough to eat, or that I would fall over and crush them. Maybe they were wishing they knew how to speak so they could tell me I was doing it wrong. But they couldn’t speak, so I get to be the one telling this story and I’m focusing on the sacred moments.
Life is filled with all kinds of great experiences, joyful times, powerful moments when there is nothing but the now, the connection, the infinite measure of a priceless memory. I’m not likely to have this experience again, so this memory needs to survive as long as I do. Even without the nipples, I’m pretty sure it will.
If I ever have an experience like this again, I’ll let you know, but only if you click here to subscribe.
One of our favorite restaurants caught fire last week and it’s like a death in the family.
The news stories describe the Palace Grill as iconic, but that’s a vacuous description for a place that became part of so many lives over the past eight decades. An iconic place is widely known, but the Palace is loved. It’s the center of a billion tiny moments over a million one-off visits that transform a not-so-flashy diner into home.
It’s the place we landed when we moved back into the city a dozen years ago, the place we met the kids and grandkids for weekend breakfast, the wobbly table where we posed with the Stanley Cup after the Blackhawks brought it to Chicago. It was the first restaurant our grandson visited, on the way home from being born, and it was the spot I was taking him before the Auto Show on Saturday, except that suddenly it wasn’t.
You gotta love the American diner, where the food is always decent, none of the servers are aspiring thespians, and the final bill isn’t much more than McDonald’s. You can order your food however you want it and nobody sniffs that Chef prefers it otherwise, because there are no chefs, only cooks with superhuman juggling skills and stress tolerance. It's the institution that invented comfort food.
And then, at this particular diner, there’s George, the owner, who stops by every table to thank people for coming, check that they’re being taken care of, and share whatever new joke he’s heard. George transforms a meal into an experience, and a lesson in marketing, as he connects with whatever cross-section of America has settled in that day.
George is the heart of the place, and it was heartbreaking to visit with him on the morning after the blaze. A handful of customers and family loitered outside, waiting to pay our respects and mumble a few words of comfort. We could offer a handshake and a hug like we would at any wake, but we have nothing to offer. We can’t tell others how to mourn, how to cope, how or whether to move on. Can the place reopen? Sure. Should it reopen? Only one person can answer that question.
One of these days, George will decide what to do next, if he hasn't made his decision already. Maybe he’ll rebuild and keep the place going until its 100th anniversary celebration. Maybe he’ll have a fire sale for all the Chicago Blackhawks posters and relics that survived the blaze. Maybe he’ll demolish the place and put up an apartment complex.
There’s no doubt he’ll be getting all kinds of advice about what to do, how to do it, what’s best for him, what the customers need, yada yada, but this isn’t our journey and we just need to STFU. All we can do on the periphery…all we should do…is wait and, whatever happens, tell him he’s made the right choice.
We’ll all be happier when AI eats our homework and we should all be nervous about liberals on the warpath, along with other thoughts you won’t be able to unsee this week…
Maybe just this once. The driver who picked us up at the airport is very excited about his future. He’s lost 61 pounds so far on Ozempic, which is good for his diabetes and also good for walking on his new knee. He feels better and he looks better, as proven by the photo he showed us, and life is great. As soon as he gets the second knee replaced, he plans to get back to traveling and enjoying his rediscovered mobility. Next stop, he says, is Chicago, for deep dish pizza. Clearly, all that hard work and suffering deserves an award.
An eighth deadly sin! I see that former Trump fixer Michael Cohen admitted to submitting an AI-generated court filing included a slew of fake citations, and I wasn’t surprised. Nobody checks their work anymore and nobody ever questions anything that comes out of a digital device. GIGO is the one immutable law of computing, but we’re about to see a zillion disasters as people sign off on AI documents they’ve never read and action plans they’ve never considered. Well beyond pride and envy and greed, sloth is the deadliest of sins.
Well, it's not gonna kill me, maybe. Speaking of sloth, a friend and I were commiserating about how hard it is to get anyone to revisit their assumptions about anything. This is a big surprise to nobody, of course. We give things a glance, make up our minds and move on, devoting our energies to more important matters like telling online strangers how to live their lives. I’d make light of it, but it’s survival instinct at work. We decide something isn’t a threat, so we stop paying attention.
Owning themselves. I was at a dinner the other night with a bunch of people who were complaining about immigration. Too many people are coming in, we have no systems in place to handle the surge, the immigrants have no interest in assimilating, they should turn around and go home, etc. Did I mention most of these people are liberals?
Never means never. There are a couple of companies that keep sending me emails with all kinds of incredible offers and they refuse to stop. I’ve hit unsubscribe a million times and sometimes send them to the spam folder, but they keep sending new messages from a seemingly unending array of email addresses that I haven’t blocked yet. And I can’t help but wonder, what’s the point? It’s not like I’m suddenly going to forget the carpal tunnel I developed in my fruitless efforts to block them. What genius in the marketing department decided it was a good idea to recruit people to the Never, Ever, Ever, Ever list?
Okay Genzer. It was once a mark of aging to start sentences with, “When I was your age,” but the newest batch of oldsters are people who begin a recollection with, “Back in the day…” Gen Z is rolling its eyes at you, Millennials, and I’m schadenfreuding like crazy.
Would we notice? Speaking of Gen Z, I’m a little bit nervous now that they’re old enough to run for Congress. With their work ethic, it’ll be nothing but recesses and live-texting from hearings and absolutely zero work getting done. On second thought…
She aged since then. Speaking of second thoughts, I really regret responding to those clickbait stories on Facebook last year. Now my feed is nothing but hilarious stories about texts gone wrong and invitations to ogle women who have been dead for 50 years. Even worse, I’m not getting any videos of cats playing the piano.
Maybe I should get into that whole clickbait thing by promising nude photos of cats playing the piano instead of a Dad Writes subscription if you click here.
Yes, the best wine is the one I’m drinking now and the best day is the one I’m living now and the best movie ever is the one I’m watching now, but the best time of my life is already long past. Of course, pretty much everything in my life is long past, even if I can still buy green bananas.
I was reminiscing the other day and it occurred to me that the best years of our lives go by without us realizing we’re at our apex. We’re too busy with the day-to-day, the striving, the deadlines and detritus, so we miss the moments we should savor the most.
I’m enjoying my life now, looking forward to what comes next, planning for the future, even as I look over my shoulder every so often for the Reaper’s hoodie…and all is right with the world, more or less. I wouldn’t want to go back and relive my childhood or high school or college or pretty much any other time of life…but there is one period I think I’d leap through time to experience all over again and that’s my 40s.
It goes without saying that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I’ll say it anyway to avoid hate mail and legal action. For a huge number of us, especially the people who decide to raise kids, the fifth decade is the absolute best and for many reasons:
Don’t panic if you’ve hit 50 and you forgot to savor the past ten years. There’s plenty to look forward to and no urgent need to jump off the roof. If you’re still in your 20s or 30s, though, make a note to savor every moment when your golden decade arrives. Trust me, it will be gone in a blink.
Yeah, you thought the best days were when you got your first real six-string, but you were wrong. Feel free to argue, though, right after clicking here to subscribe.
Quotidian miracles, the Ticketmaster Tax, and the inflation that wasn’t are all on our list of gripes this week. And how are you doing?
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.