Friday, February 24, 2017

Bowling With the Work Crew (A night of losing)

I got this email from one of the contractor companies we work with.  It said keep a certain Saturday clear so that we can do something as a group.  This excited me.  I love doing things as a group!  It doesn't happen often here, so this was a welcome event for me.  I responded immediately that I would clear that Saturday.  Even more exciting was the fact that the event that evening would be disclosed at a later date.  What?  This was getting better and better.

A week or so later we got word that the event would be bowling.  Even better!  I'm not "great" at bowling, but I can hang with other novice bowlers.  Not to brag, but when I was 12, my brother and I got bowling balls for Christmas.  They came in their own bags, too!  Like professionals.  For context, we never so much as got holes drilled into the balls.  I don't know what ever happened to those bowling balls.  I hope someone found them and used them properly.  Back then my mother taught us how to bowl.  It was fun.  100 was always my measuring stick.  If I bowled over 100 I would be happy with my performance.

I didn't bowl very often throughout my life until I got to Turkey.  The bowling alley on base was a fun hang out.  My friend Marco had a technique that I really liked.  He would release the ball and it would make a curving motion down the lane.  I had been bowling in a straight line.  I wanted Marco to teach me his cool trick.   He explained the technique.  A step over to the right, two fingers in the holes, ball rested in your palm, release with thumb pointed upward.  I tried it.  STRIKE!  No way!  I tried it the next time around.  STRIKE!  Wow.  Marco was impressed as well.  Had he created a monster?

Of course my performance regressed a bit.  But I felt this new way of bowling was perfect for me.  The spin of the ball was cool and the way it looked like a gutterball, but turned into a good pickup was appealing.  This was my new way to bowl.  I bowled the most I had bowled in my life.  I was never spectacular, but I was better than before.  Now I'd be utterly disappointed if I bowled under 100.

I have only been bowling three times in Sweden.  Once when I was here visiting that cute girl I met on vacation in Turkey.  Once with that girl (Swedie)'s family and once for a friend's birthday.  I don't know how well I did on those outings.  I never took it too seriously anyway.  Standard for me is to try hard the first game, get better the second game thanks to alcohol and then try different tricks the third time around.  I was never the best, but never the worst.  Bowling was what it's supposed to be.  It was fun.  No pressure.

I figured it would be the same with my work family.  I was sure I'd be rusty, but I'd shake that off and then get back to my regular fun bowling and finish hopefully over my measuring mark of 100.  This would be fun. Especially after a few beers.

We got there and hovered around the people that were finishing up at our lanes.  It was so passive-aggressive that I almost got Swedish citizenship.  Don't say anything to the people.  Just hover and chit-chat amongst yourselves.  Then act as if you're accidentally in the way when the people grab their jackets and push their way past you.

       - Oy! Sorry, is that yours?  Am I in the way? Sorry.

Knowing damn well we're there to pressure those people to leave.  Oh, Swedes.  You're hilarious.  I digress.  We got started.  I could tell everyone was sizing each other up.  It's funny how things are unspoken competitions.  I told myself I wouldn't buy into it.  I was here for the team building.  I'd have a good time and probably win anyway because I'm decent at bowling.  I sent my first ball down the lane.  My release was okay I thought.  Maybe it would curve too much.  The ball slid all the way across the lane from right to left into the gutter.  I was shocked.  A gutterball?  I turned around to all the Swedes watching and judging.  A couple of them were laughing.  Some felt sorry for me.  You know what?  I'll bowl a strike to pick up my spare and show them.  The ball curved a little less this time.  I hit ONE pin.

Now I was the laughing stock of the night already!  My confidence wasn't shaken.  I'd bowl a turkey (three strikes) tonight.  I was sure of it.  I came up the next time, then the next, then the next.  Basically the same shit.  Now I was walking back in shame and hearing tips from these average bowlers that I was SURE I was just as good as.  I was having fun, but I was determined to show that I wasn't as bad as I looked.  Eventually everyone was telling me to stop spinning the ball.  I hadn't bowled straight since that magical night in Turkey.  My best bowling had been using Marco's Curve.  I was going to either go down in flames with it or rise like a Phoenix with it.

I went down in flames!  My first game I bowled a 25.  I watched little awkward children with the athletic ability of a newborn deer bowl better than me in other lanes.  It was just gutterball after gutterball.  Halfway through the game I realized that we were on TEAMS.  I was DESTROYING my team.  Now I felt pressure to switch to bowling like I was 12 again.  Somehow that would be more of a loss to me.  I had too much pride.  Plus I KNEW I could meet those pins with Marco's Curve.  The second game I bowled a whopping 45.  Not even a damn 50.  Not even HALF of my goal at the AGE OF TWELVE!

I wanted to prove myself.  I wanted to have a third game and show that I know how to bowl for real.  I looked behind our table and saw the next group of passive-aggressive Swedes quietly chatting amongst themselves just like we did the last group.  It was over.  And yes by "it" I mean life. I was at the absolute lowest point I could think of.  Everybody felt sorry for me.  My boss was trying to negotiate a scoring curve for us since we had a "special bowler" on the team.  Somehow through it all I still had a good time.  We would have dinner and play more games tonight.  Maybe I'd redeem myself.

Next up was shuffleboard.  My team lost (yes because of me AGAIN).  We'd play the losers from the other board.  Cool, we got this... No we don't.  I knocked my partner's potential winning marker off the board on my last try.  Good one, Jon.  We lost to the losers.  I don't know how my confidence remained in tact.  I did win a "Whack-a-Mole" type of game against one of the contractors.  That's my consolation prize.  I also out-punched another guy on this punch meter game.  Great, I was a fucking neanderthal.

I went to pee away my sorrow.  I looked in the mirror as I washed my hands.  I reassured myself that these were just games.  It meant nothing.  It was fun hanging out with the guys from work.  The night was awesome.  Keep having fun, man.  It's not like you said bowling is your thing.  You'd kick their asses in something like basketball.  THAT'S more your thing.

I walked up to the group.  It was time to go to a bar.  They were standing around a basketball game.  They had been shooting.  The VP pointed at the game and put money in.  It was my turn.  They told me the score I had to beat to not be the complete loser tonight.  This is my game.  I can play some basketball.  I'll spare you the drama.  I fucking lost.  Again.  This just wasn't my night.  That's alright. It was everybody's night.  We went to a bar far away from any games from hell and had drinks together. It was a great night out just as advertised.  Now I have to live with random comments about how I suck at bowling.  I can't wait to prove them wrong at the next outing.  Until next time...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Went Ice Fishing!!!

I'm standing on frozen water!  I still can't believe I caught these

If you would have told me at the age of 15 that I would one day walk out on a frozen body of water and fish through holes in the ice I would have said you're out of your mind.  I would have laughed until my stomach hurt.  This southern city boy would never do something crazy like that.  That's what we would call "white people shit".  I wasn't down to do white people shit.  I like life.  As a matter of fact, very high up on my list of worst ways to die is falling through ice into a freezing cold lake and then swimming back to the top only to not be able to find the hole.  Drowning because of a bad decision is one thing, but throw in the embarrassment of having a bad sense of direction and that double whammy is top (or bottom) five ways to go.

However, I'm not 15 anymore.  Adult Jon understands that life is a playground and ice fishing just might be a fun game.  Some of my favorite lifetime memories involve fishing.  As a kid we would go to Grandma's backyard and use bread as bait to catch the little fish near the dock.  The little I remember about her husband "Pop-Pop" is all about fishing.  I remember my mom falling in the water at Alligator Alley and using shrimp as bait with Grandmother and Renee.  A salmon fishing trip with my boy Bobby and Pappa Hutch in Alaska is unforgettable.  Another trip in Alaska that involved driving, biking, hiking and fishing stands out.  Fishing is fun for me.  Ice fishing should definitely be fun.

I found out that we have an expert fisherman at my job.  We played a gift exchange game at work and both of the gifts he gave were fishing accessories.  This guy is the Fish King!  He's a fun guy as well, so I always commented that I would be down to go fishing whenever he went again. I never expected him to take me up on my request.  He's the Fish King after all.  I'd only get in the way.  He probably thought I was just saying it as small talk or something, but I was really down.  I wasn't bluffing.  I know how Swedes are about not letting new people in their lives, so I figured my chances of actually fishing with Fish King were slim.  Boy was I wrong!

One day Fish King came in to work with an extra pep in his step.  He said Saturday would be the day.  He was going ice fishing.  He invited me along.  I had been saying I would love to go ice fishing, but now the moment was upon me.  815 reasons not to go ran through my head.  Why be a chicken, Jon?  Go ice fishing, man.  You may never get this opportunity again!  I asked Fish King to give me a few minutes to call my wife (and maybe my therapist).  I called Swedie to see if she worked on Saturday.  I suspected she did, but I wanted to make sure.  This phone call was going to suck because she was going to act annoyed that I NEVER listen to her and she told me her schedule A MILLION TIMES.  Here goes.  I called her.

       - Hey, do you work Saturday?
       - (angry ass pause followed by a deep sigh) Jooooon... I toooold you... I work... Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

I acknowledged my annoyance with a quick eye-roll, but I was too excited to be annoyed for real,

       - That's what I thought.  I just wanted to check.  I might go ice fishing this weekend!  I'm going to ask your wonderful and amazingly sweet mother (she reads my blog) if she can be the darling that we all agree that she is and watch Bash for a few hours.

Swedie wished me luck and I immediately called Mom-in-Law.  Mom-in-Law said it was exciting:

       - SPÄNNANDE!

And agreed to hang out with Bash.  Now it was official.  This kid from Miami was going to go on ice with the Fish King and try to catch some fish.  I told Fish King it was a go.  He showed me some cool pictures of frozen water with holes in it.  This was going to be fun.  He described the plan.  We'd cut a few holes in the ice and put some live bait on the lines.  We'd drop the bait down in the water and connect the line to a wooden stick with a spring-mounted hammer on it.  Whenever the line jerked, the hammer would be released from the spring and smack a small bullet which would make the sound of a gunshot.  POP!  That's when you run over to the hole and start pulling!

This shit got better and better!  The Friday night before, my boss decided to join us.  He was going to bring his son.  Now it was an official guy trip!  Fish King had all the necessities.  I just had to bring some clothes to stay warm and my excitement. I dug out all of my Alaska winter gear from my Air Force Days.  I woke up at 4am Saturday morning ready to go.  We wouldn't be leaving for three hours!  I watched some replays of football games until Swedie woke up to go to work.  Oh yeah, she works today.  I almost forgot!  Bash and I had breakfast and then headed to Mom-in-Law.  Now it was time.

Fish King picked me up and we drove down to Boss Man.  He loaded his truck up with gear (including an air rifle!) and we hit the road.  The ride was fun.  Fish King is a cool cat.  Laid back and low-key hilarious.  He does good impressions and had me laughing the whole ride down. Sweden is a beautiful country, so the ride didn't disappoint. We stopped on the way down to grab some munchies and then hit the ice.

Getting geared up was interesting.  Fish King handed me a tool to put around my neck in case I fall in.  What?  There's a risk of falling in?  Apparently you're supposed to reach up and remove two ice picks from the tool and stab at the ice around the hole that you fall in.  That way you can pull yourself back up.  This felt too real now.  As Fish King explained how to use the tool, I imagined freezing and hating my life as I try not to stab myself while fighting towards ice from hell.  Now let's go have some fun!

We followed Fish King across the ice.  He was certain that if we make it far across the lake the fish would be plentiful.  He had a long spike that he stabbed into the ice as we walked.  This was to see how strong the ice is.  He stopped once to drill a hole in the ice.  He showed us how thick the ice was.  It was comforting to know that we were standing on about three inches (8cm) of ice.  It looked thick.  The whole time I kept thinking to myself "This some white people shit", but I was here now.  Pulling a sled full of fishing equipment across a sheet of ice while following a man who is stabbing at the ice.  Great!  Then Fish King stabbed the ice and a crack shot across the ice.  Fish King jumped.

       - Oh shit!

He ran the opposite direction.  I'm pretty sure that outside of Basic Training, I've never changed directions so damn fast in my life.  I was ready to cancel the trip and ride back home.  But not Fish King.  He guided us back in the other direction and kept stabbing at the ice like what just happened didn't just happen.  He found a good spot and drilled the first hole.  It was cool watching the master at work.  Slush from the hole was used to keep the wooden stick in place.  Then the bullet put in place after the bait and line was set up and attached.  We had nine more to set up so we couldn't stick around to admire the work.  On to the next spot.  Fish King went straight to work.  He drilled the hole, started setting up the...


My hood instincts had me almost drop to the ground for cover.  They do drive-bys in Sweden?  No, we had a fish!  The line had been dropped less than ten minutes and we had one!  We shuffled over (I wasn't trying to fall in front of these people) and Boss Man started reeling it in.  A huge pike!  It was amazing.  Fish King really knows what he's doing!  This would be a fun afternoon.

The gunshots kept coming.  Some false alarms and some the real deal.  I caught my first one about an hour in.  An even bigger pike!  Fish King had said these were harder to catch, but we were bringing these bad boys in.  It took me a couple of minutes and I needed help from Fish King, but we got that big mofo up.  It felt so good.  He asked if I want to keep the fish.  HELL YES!  Then he smacked the shit out of the fish to stop its misery.  That's how successful Fish King is.  He releases the fish he catches.  Not me.  This big baby was gonna end up on a plate!

Boss Man on the hot dogs
We finished all of the holes and grilled some hot dogs.  This was such a cool adventure.  The sun was shining on us, which made me certain the ice was going to crack and I would die my embarrassing death, but that didn't even matter anymore because I caught a BIG ASS PIKE! I ate my hot dogs with a smile.  Why couldn't we do this every weekend?  We had some snacks and more hot dogs and just as we got comfortable...


Another one!  This one got away.  A few got away, actually.  There were also some false alarms. The excitement of it all was worth every shuffle to every gunshot sound.

After lunch, Boss Man had to head back home.  His son didn't want to leave, but they had to.  Just as they were getting their stuff together another gunshot went off.  They ran over so the young buck could pull up a fish.  This one got away too.  Too bad, I really wanted him to get one too.  They ended up leaving with their big pike from the first shot.  Fish King and I decided to start breaking down the lines.  I had my fish.  It was time to...


No way!  We shuffled over to the hole.  Fish King was there way faster than I was.  He told me to hurry as he gave me the signal for "something is on the line".  I knew the signal because I was a pro now.  I shuffled faster and grabbed the line.  This one didn't even have a fishing rod attached.  I was gonna pull this up like a neanderthal!  I pulled my second fish out of the ice.  Another big pike!  Fish King asked me that rhetorical question again.  Yes, man.  Yes I'm going to keep and eat that fish!  Smack!

The day was done.  We gathered up all of the equipment and freed the bait fish.  Good luck in life little buddies!  I felt accomplished.  I know Fish King's expertise is what got me my two fish, but I was still a champion!  I called Birgitta.  She's the expert fish gutter around these parts.  It had to be done that evening to keep it safe to eat.  It was SO MUCH FISH that I we couldn't possibly eat it in one sitting, so she would gut and clean both right away.

Birgitta is the best.  She cleaned and gutted both GINORMOUS fish when we got there.  We had mashed potatoes, peas and applesauce with our baked pike.  She had a recipe that called for lots of butter and for it to be breaded.  It was crispy and delicious.  I thought about my grandma Booster as I ate my dinner. She always warned us about bones in our fish that she prepared after a day of fishing.

       - Ball up some bread 'case you get a bone in ya throat!

I removed the delicate bones as I ate my delicious fish that I pulled through a hole in the ice that day.  Who would have thought this city boy would have a day like this?  Life is good.  I hung out with Fish King, Boss Man and Young Buck for a day on the ice that I'll never forget.  I can't wait for my next fishing adventure.  Until next time...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bash is going to be a big brother!

Oh yeah, it's that time again!  The Rollins family is growing.  Bash doesn't get the concept yet, but I'm already certain that he's going to be good at big brothering.  I'm more excited than I expected to be about this new addition.  There was a time when I went around saying I'd be cool not having any kids at all.  I'm sure I would have been okay with it, but life with Bash has been such a blast that I can't wait to see this next little star.

We decided not to find out the gender this time.  That adds a layer of excitement.  Not to be all hipster condescending, but it will be awesome to quench that curiosity after a labor battle.  It's funny that after almost three years of parenting I feel like I'm some sort of parenting pro.  I've only accompanied Swedie through labor once.  That means I pretty much don't know shit.  I walk around with an unwarranted confidence and I'm sure a rude awakening is coming.

Bash was a pretty reasonable and respectable infant.  I can only recall two night where we sat up with him screaming his head off.  Those were frustrating nights, but even on those nights we reminded each other that he NEVER does that.  We took comfort in that fact and smiled as our perfect child screamed.  We didn't get that challenge that we hear about when a kid cries through the nights and no matter what, you can't calm the child down.  Bash has spoiled us.  I'm convinced that life as a movie is a comedy.  The writing is on the wall for this next baby to be a rude awakening.  Just as we have parenting "figured out", Baby 2 is gonna be a much less reasonable and blatantly disrespectful little bundle.

But that's what I signed up for.  Swedie was ready for #2 and what was I gonna do, stop having sex?  Yeah right.  I wasn't surprised when she told me, but I was more excited than I would have imagined.  It's not about me like it was when Bash was the size of a peanut.  It's about the family now.  I can't wait to see what kind of brother Bash is gonna be.  I can't wait to mold him into a better big brother than I am.  I'm excited to pass on the good things my parents passed on to me as well as the things I've learned over time.

The gender thing is interesting this time around.  I want to have a girl, but I really don't care about the gender.  It would be cool to have one of each (and then stop!) but it would also be cool to have two boys.  The world is a scary and unfair place for women and I don't know if that will change sufficiently by the time my child born this summer is a teenager.  That's a sad truth that I will personally fight to change.  It also makes me want to raise a bad-ass, take no prisoners queen. That would be amazing.

All in all it feels good that our family is growing.  Swedie's belly is growing.  Bash is growing.  My heart even feels like it's growing.  This journey is getting better every day.  We look forward to meeting this sweet baby angel that's on deck.  July can't come fast enough.  Until next time...

Friday, December 23, 2016

I Did Stand-up At My Job!

I have to start off by saying that I love my job.  Everyone has been very welcoming there, I like my coworkers on my team, my boss' style goes great with my working style and I LOVE the general corporate environment in Sweden (at least the part of it that I've experienced).  There's a lot of freedom here.  It's like you're trusted to do your job, so no one is breathing down your neck and adding a new layer of stress.  There are no TPS reports. It's been great to apply my skills and knowledge to a new company.  There's also this feeling that I can be more of my "off-the-clock" self when I'm "on-the-clock".

I got my job because of a contact created through "Yrkesdörren".  It's an awesome program that I blogged about here that was created to help integrate skilled immigrants like myself into the seemingly impenetrable Swedish work force.  I like the program so much that I agreed to be a part of a commercial they were doing about their success stories.  Our work website did an article about the ad.  In the article was a picture of me looking silly on stage.  My boss Håkan suggested I comment that if my article gets over 100 likes then I would do a standup show in the restaurant.  I looked at other articles.  Most had under 30 likes.  Seemed like it wouldn't happen anyway, so I posted the comment.  100 likes, free comedy show starring me.  Bam.

The next day a gentleman from the marketing department wrote me an email titled "Grattis på 100 likes".  I went to the website.  103 likes.  How. The. Hell?  In his email he suggested that I do the show around the time we have the Christmas lunch or mingle.  He didn't even ask if I was serious or not!  I was reeling.  They really were going to go through this.  Where was their sense of humor?  Where was my sense of humor?  How was this happening?  Thanks Håkan!

I regularly ask fellow comedians about their worst gig.  It's like gathering around a campfire and hearing a horror story.  They put the flashlight under their chin and ALWAYS SAY:

       - It was this corporate gig...

Everyone's worst gig is a corporate gig.  It's at some Christmas party or year-end event and the audience had no idea it was a comedy show.  In a lot of these stories the comedian comes out and interrupts people eating and socializing, then asks for their attention while trying to tell dick jokes or whatever.  Then the audience is supposed to laugh in front of their boss.  These stories scared me every time.  I'm a slave to laughter.  I don't want to stand their while people don't laugh and at the same time want me to leave the stage.  AND I have to keep telling jokes because I've been paid to go through this torture for 30 minutes or whatever.

Now I had PUT MYSELF in this exact nightmare scenario.  Why did I type that stupid comment?!  But I was here now.  There was no turning back.  I had made that dumb ass promise and the guy from marketing was full steam ahead with this "show".  I have had a few corporate gigs and none of them have been nightmares just yet.  Well, one was close, but I blame the booker on that one.  Adult comedians probably aren't the best choice of entertainment for a rec center full of pre-teens.  Hire a clown.  Anyway, my goal was to make this work gig feel like a successful corporate gig.

I remembered a gig that my friend Ato "The Champ" Karlsson had set up.  It was at a church for an audience between 13-19 years old.  Sounds scary, right?  I took it for the experience.  Another friend of mine, Daniel Sanchez was going to join us to complete the show.  In my head, this was enough for a good show.  These guys are funny.  When we got there, Ato was like a bossy tour manager towards the guy setting up the show.  He was very particular about everything.  Stuff I wouldn't have thought of.  How would they sit, what they needed to know before the show, lighting, sound, mics, EVERYTHING.  In the end, I understood.  The person setting up doesn't know about what makes a comedy club a fun place.  Sure, the comedian brings the laugh, but the mood has to be right.  Everything matters.  It was a valuable lesson I learned from bossy ass Ato.  That show was a success.  Everyone had a great time.  I made teenagers laugh at stories about my homeless uncle and my son calling me a pussy.

I took that same approach to the work gig.  If I was going down, I was going down swinging.  People had to know that this was going to be a comedy show.  No surprises.  Marketing helped out with a flyer that was put on the website.  We got speakers, a microphone and some pallets from the dock to make a stage.  We dimmed the lights and used a photography lamp as a spotlight.  We rearranged a section of the restaurant to look like a comedy club.  I called up my friends Ato and Daniel and they agreed to perform with me.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a comedy show!

I was more nervous about this than I was about my first headline gig (milestone for me). Bombing on that night would just mean I wasn't ready. I'd be sad until the next gig.  It's not like I'd see that audience again.  Bombing at work means I'd see THAT audience again.  And they'd see me.  The guy who thought he was funny.  I'd see them.  The motherfuckers that wouldn't laugh.  NO!  Why did I agree to this?  Thanks Håkan!

The nervousness subsided on the day of the show.  I knew it had to happen, so whatever.  At least Ato and Daniel would be there to go down in flames with me.  Setting up the restaurant provided a good enough distraction.  Then a fire alarm went off.  Almost EVERYONE that walked past me made a comment about the show and how I set off the alarm.  Ha ha.  Little did they know, I wouldn't have minded if the show got canceled.  Oh well.  I tried!

The show went on as planned.  Once it was showtime (as usual) the nerves were gone.  I'm comfortable on stage.  I warmed up the crowd for a few minutes with some stuff about work.  I was funny.  They were laughing.  I may have even found a new joke to add in due to that few minutes.  Now I was feeling good.  Thanks Håkan!  The crowd was warm and ready for the show.  I brought up Ato.  He did his thing.  I came back up and brought up Daniel.  He did his thing.  Ato came up and introduced me.  The crowd/my coworkers that I see everyday was ready.  I was ready.  I went into my material and it worked.  I got laughs throughout.  After a year and a half of doing this, I still can't accurately explain how great that feels.  Laughter at something I came up with.  It's the best.

I won't forget making the people laugh that work in the same building as me.  The combination of the laughter and the relief of them laughing was amazing.  They normally see me at lunch or talk to me on the phone as I try to express myself in my second language.  There's always a barrier there.  They didn't get to see me.  This was me.  I was speaking my native language and revealing a side of me that none of them knew about.  My material is personal to me.  They got to learn a little bit about me in a unique way.  It was just me telling jokes to some employees at my job, but it was also a snapshot of how cool diversity can be.  This silly immigrant enriched the workplace a little bit more.  Thanks Håkan (he filmed the clip below)! Until next time...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Our First Handshake!

Hey! Yes I still blog.  I just took a month off because I didn't have anything nice to say after what was for me a very disappointing US presidential election.  I won't delve into that subject now.  I'll write a bit about something that makes me feel better about everything.  BASH!

Handshakes are one of those things a parent teaches their child about.  It's a part of the first impression.  Make it firm.  Establish respect right away.  Look the person in the eye and smile.  I'm not quite there with Bash just yet, but I'm already prepared for that conversation.  He'll never have a "dead fish" handshake.  Nor will he be that guy that squeezes the fuck out of your hand while staring intently into your soul.  That person is actually worse because they make YOU childish and you start trying to squeeze back while trying not to show the pain.  But you're already at a disadvantage because that asshole started squeezing first!  Or you try to wither out of the handshake as the squeezer crushes your knuckles.  What a jerk!  Bash won't be the guy that grips only your fingers only either.  That's awkward.  Pay attention to hand placement, son.

First things first.  Handshakes in non-professional settings are what we learn early on.  We thought it was so cute when we got Bash to actually return a high-five.  It's a go-to move for most of us when we interact with kids.

        - High-five kiddo!

My buddy Adam taught Bash the wonder of "down low, too slow" and it was all Bash did for a month.

Then come the handshakes with friends.  My brother and I had the dumbest handshake.  My dad (of course) orchestrated the whole thing.  We would stand on opposite sides of the room with our arms crossed (b-boy stance).  Then we'd strut across the room and give each other a high five (up high, arms fully extended) as we passed each other.  Then we'd stand on the opposite sides of the room again and resume our b-boy stance.  It's embarrassing just thinking about it.  Why Dad?  Why?  I remember people coming over and Dad showing off this brilliant invention of his.

       - Jon, Jason, show them your handshake.

I'd be so proud.  Then I'd walk over and get into my stupid stance and do my stupid walk and give a stupid high-five.  All with a stupid smile on my face.

Though the handshake was silly in hindsight, I get the whole thing.  It was nice to have something with my dad and brother.  I know how good it feels to execute something that makes your parents proud.  It's a good thing.  It's cool that Dad stuck with it when he must have known that we looked like twin idiots as we strolled across the living room.  I look forward to those moments with Bash. 

Our first handshake is actually underway.  It was Bash that made it up.  I always kiss him when we depart.  It's important to me.  One day I noticed that he would wipe his mouth off after a kiss.  It bothered me a little bit.  I'm over here putting a roof over your head and you have the nerve to wipe my saliva (less saliva than he leaves on me, mind you) off your face?  How dare he?! I decided to not hide my urge to wipe his nasty spit off of my mouth whenever we kissed goodbye. I started wiping my mouth with each kiss.  It was a protest of sorts.  You wipe, I wipe.  Take that you little ingrate! 

One day Bash gave a particularly dry kiss.  I didn't have anything to wipe off.  He wiped his mouth like normal and then looked up at me as if he was disappointed.

       - Daddy do this *wipes his mouth*
       - Oh, I'm sorry *wipe my mouth*

Then he ran off like children do right after they melt your heart.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  We... have... a handshake together.  I was so proud.  I wanted to kiss him 100 times and then wipe my mouth 100 times.  Our first handshake was official!

Daddy and Bash's handshake

The best part about it was it came naturally.  I didn't have to orchestrate something that will make him cringe when he's in his thirties.  He has just as much creative rights to this thing as I do.  

The worst part about it is he's two years old.  His attention span isn't the best.  I wipe every time.  It's our thing.  When he doesn't wipe and I do, I just look like the asshole parent.  I just stand there after wiping my child's spit off trying to explain to strangers that we're both supposed to do it.

       - Hey Bash you didn't do OUR thing and wipe your mouth like WE DO!

The strangers just shake their heads at my dumb, child-hating ass.  The other day I left Bash at daycare and he was so excited that he did a half-assed wipe.  I did a good wipe and one of the teachers called me out.

       - Oooh, you wiped your mouth!

First of all, how childish is this lady?  Who over 11 years old says "Oooh"?  How can I trust her with my child if she's obviously childish herself?  But I found myself explaining (in Swedish).

       - No, it's our thing.  We normally both do that, but he didn't.  He does it too.

She didn't believe me but she felt bad.

       - I'm just kidding. (it's okay to hate your child)

I felt like my broken Swedish wasn't doing it any justice.  I decided to just walk my terrible-parenting ass home.  It doesn't matter anyway.  They don't know what Bash and I have.  I love my son more than anything and we have our own secret handshake and it's amazing.  Until next time...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Gender Norms

If you would have asked me six months ago how I would react to Bash wanting a pink toy or wearing nail polish I would have proudly said it is no problem for me.  I'm a progressive and enlightened man, right?  I know that the color pink has nothing to do with femininity.  I don't buy into that tired old way of thinking.  My child will grow up knowing that whatever he likes, he likes.  It won't affect the way his father loves him.  In the end he will be secure in himself and he'll truly have the trust a child should have in their father.  That all sounds good until that time comes.

Well that time came for me.  My progressiveness was recently tested.  Swedie and I have discussed this topic at length.  We agreed that if we're out toy shopping and Bash likes a "girl toy", Bash gets that toy.  So I was surprised when Swedie called me one day asking if it's okay to buy this chair Bash wants.  I rolled my eyes.  Here we go again.

       - How much is the chair?
       - It's not expensive.  But the one Bash wants is pink.

Easy answer, right?  Get it!  What are we, neanderthals? Just say yes and go back to playing Madden.  But it wasn't that easy.  I felt a twinge in my body.  MY SON?!  A PINK chair?!  What does this mean?  What would people think?  Why did he have to pick pink?  But pink is just a color.  A girl color?... I stopped my mind from racing.

       - What do you think?
       - It's the one he wants.  Sooo...

She was right.  I heard in her voice that she was hesitant, but she was right.  A little part of me was glad that it wasn't just me in this parent team that was scarred by societal gender norms.  This was the ultimate test.  We could have easily made a decision to get another color.  Swedie could have talked Bash into blue (grunt! grunt!) or yellow.  Or even say we can't get it now and then Bash would get over it.  But who would that decision be for?  That would be for us.  I audibly rationalized the whole decision.  I told Swedie that she's right.  It's the one he wants, so let's get it!

       - You sure?
       - (short pause) Yeah! Fuck it!

Ha!  Oh, the internal struggle.  It's funny how much I learn about myself as a parent.  Bash won't remember this moment at all, but I'll never forget it.  That small step opened a large door for me.  I was able to confront some internal stuff I didn't know was in me.  Gender norms had done a number on me.  I was setting myself free.  It's just a color.  And a nice color at that!  I have pink shirts (yes, more than one).  Do those shirts say anything about me?  Am I any less of a man?  Are any colors off limits for girls?  It's all so ridiculous.  My mind was open.

Then I came home to Bash with fresh nail polish on.  I felt a lump in my throat as I put on a smile.  He only had the patience to get a few nails polished (and his big toes), but still.  Nail polish?!  And when it dries, hes going to skip (okay maybe not skip, but you get it) over to his recently purchased pink chair and sit there in his progressiveness.  All of this stuff is happening so fast.  I must say, I didn't like it.  It had nothing to do with Bash at all.  This was about me.  I didn't like how I reacted.  I thought I would be more accepting when my son came over excited about something.  I used to think it was cool when I saw young boys come in to my job with nail polish on (I worked in a hipster neighborhood).  Even cooler when the father and child had on matching polish.  A big "fuck you" to gender norms!

So why was I in this place?  I never thought to remove the polish.  I'm glad about that.  I told Bash it was nice.  I never even mentioned my internal struggle with Swedie.  Frankly, I was embarrassed about it.  I'm glad I had to go through this.  It will only make me a better father.  Bash will be exploring the world forever.  He's going to need all the love and support he can get.  I'm going to keep my focus on raising a respectful and productive member of society.  I'll nurture his talents and build his confidence.  Pink or polish has nothing to do with any of that.  This kid is making me a better person. What more could a father ask for?  Until next time...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Daddy's An Idiot

People ask me if I speak English or Swedish at home with Bash.  Obviously I speak English to him.  I do so in part because I want to be able to fully express myself to him.  Me searching trying to translate my thoughts into my second language for him would be frustrating for the both of us.  I also want him to learn English like I speak it.  Here they learn the queen's English in school.  That's not exactly Miami talk.  He would benefit from learning Daddy's language from Daddy.  Another major factor is my confidence in my Swedish.  I understand just about everything and can make myself understood, but my Swedish grammar is far from perfect.  Bash would certainly pick up bad habits from me if I spoke Swedish to him.  Furthermore, he would realize at a way earlier age that Daddy is an idiot.  I'd rather he figure that out as a teenager or so.  Like we all do.

Recently Bash and I went to the park.  I like spending time together just Bash and me.  Father and son.  It's like a storybook or a movie.  I saw it all the time as a kid and I even remember it from those times when my father chose to be engaged with us.  Back then he was my hero.  I want to be Bash's hero.  If he has half the adoration for me that I had for my father, I'll be a happy guy.  I was insanely "Daddy's Boy".  Actually, if he has more adoration for me than I had for my father, I'll be a bit worried.  I don't think that would be healthy.

We have fun at the park.  Bash likes it when I go on all of the stations with him.  He doesn't quite understand size yet.

       - Daddy's too fat for that, son.  Everything at this park would collapse if Daddy got on that.

He takes it in stride.  Maybe he thinks I'm lazy.  I just don't want to break something.  That would be embarrassing and likely expensive.  Bash is good at park playing.  My completely unbiased opinion is that he's very smart and very strong for his age.  I guess he's my hero now since it didn't pan out with my first hero (Dad).

On this day Bash was excited about the park.  He went through his annoying routine of "I'll do it myself" faster than usual.  Independence is cute and all, but not when we have somewhere to be.  Kids have ZERO concept of time.  Plus... you're not even really using the shoehorn properly!  We weren't in a hurry anyway, so it was all good.  Bash did it all himself and wasn't the absolute stubborn perfectionist that he tends to be.  He REALLY wanted to get his park on.

Then when we were walking over, Bash pointed towards the big park area.  He was really excited.


Now I was lost.  He was very excited, but I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.  I assumed it was something from Masha and the Bear or one of those shows he watches on Netflix.  Dammit Netflix show!  Why would you have a character named Rutschkana?  I decided to do some parental investigating.  This was a chance to talk to Bash and teach him a bit about the real world and make-believe world that exists in fantasy and Netflix series.

       - Rutschkana?  What's Rutschkana?  I don't know what that is.

He pointed more aggressively now.

       - Rutschkana!

I tried to follow his point.  I've never been big on imaginary friends and the like.

       - I'm sorry, man.  I don't know what you're talking about.

I kept walking.  Sometimes you have to disappoint with the truth.  This was like tough love.  Daddy was showing Bashie that Rutschkana is some TV shit.  But we're living life right now.  Life is real shit!  Bash stopped walking.  Probably pondering this life lesson that I dropped on him so delicately, yet ingeniously.  He cocked his head to the side.  The kid was in deep thought.  I stopped a step or two ahead of him and waited to bless him with more worldly insight.  He pointed again.

       - SLIDE!  I want SLIDE!

He was pointing at the big slide!  How didn't I know the word for a freaking slide?  That's some elementary stuff there, Dad!  And that's when the sadness hit me...  Oh no...  He already knows that Daddy's an idiot.  I guess it doesn't matter what language I speak.  Until next time...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hole Day Ruined!

It's summertime in Sweden.  That means EVERYBODY leaves.  At work it's basically a skeleton crew.  Mainly me (the sucker that took vacation early in the summer) and another guy who is waiting until the fall.  Mother nature hooked us up this year with a beautiful summer so far, so that makes it a little less fun to be cooped up at the job.  The good thing for me is learning so much on the fly.  Sometimes I HAVE to find answers on my own because I'm the only one there.  Learning by doing is the best, right?

Friday was a super crazy day.  There was a buzz about the office.  The mood was pretty much brink of insanity.  My counterpart forewarned me that at 2:45pm at the latest he was going to be getting out of there.  He had some summer stuff to do.  My brain immediately did a poop/lunch schedule check.  I could poop at 5, but I'd need to grab lunch at around 2ish.  Thankfully (and unfortunately) there is a Burger King across the street from my job.  The universe has tested me every work day since February.  I have failed that test more than I'd like to admit.  The people at BK know it's me because I'm the guy that REFUSES to call the FISH KING a "Fisk Meny".  You know why?  Because on the freaking poster it says "Fish King".  So stop fucking correcting me in your condescending way.

       - Va sa du? (What did you say)
       - Jag ta en FISH KING!?
       - (pauses for true asshole effect) Aaah, en Fisk MENYYY!

I hate all of them there.

So 2pm snuck up on me.  Now I knew this would have to be a true working lunch.  Things weren't slowing down by any means.  I figured my colleague would hang around a bit until things settled down.  He handed me some papers.  Great, a task.  I'll do this and then run over to BK and be back by 2:45.  I did the task while handling some other things (I'm getting good at this).  Now it was 2:25pm. I turned off my phone and waved to my colleague.  It was now or never.  I got out of there and headed to Burger King (cue heavenly music).

I'd like to take a moment to explain my love for Burger King.  They do burgers better than that clown establishment that I won't name.  The flame broiled taste is a winner.  I like the thickness of the fries.  It's just an overall better fast food place.  Couple that with the fact that Stockholm has a clown establishment damn near on every corner and only a handful of BKs and you can understand why Burger King holds that special place in my heart.  Of course it's not as popular, but it's an underdog with a better product.  Gotta love it!

My journey to BK entails me walking through a tunnel under a busy street and then either stepping up onto a hill as a shortcut or walking around the path to the sidewalk.  I was in a hurry, so I took the shortcut.  I stepped up onto the concrete slab and felt my pants constrict.  As I put weight on my right foot to lift my body up, I heard it and felt it.  The rip was like a release.  My pants exhaled.  Finally!  My office is inside of a refrigerated warehouse.  I was reminded of that fact when I reached down to feel the damage.  I knew it sounded bad.  I had looked around already.  A Swedish man was doing their patented walk without looking at anything in the world.  At least he didn't see my drawers.  My fingers were cold!  My hand was cold!  How big was this hole?

So many things ran through my mind.  I didn't have time to go home because my colleague was going to do some summer stuff.  I was going to have to just suck it up and work with holey pants.  I stood in line at BK feeling 10% fatter.  It felt like everyone was looking at me and shaking their heads.

       - What a greedy man.  He was in such a hurry he ripped his pants to get here!

I practiced the "why I have a big ass hole in my pants" story in Swedish.  I would need that.  I ordered my food with my legs pressed together tightly.  I backed up to a wall while waiting.  I grabbed my food and walked what now felt like 500 miles back to work.  I walked into the refrigerated warehouse.  Guess how cold my right upper thigh felt.  I just missed my colleague. It was up to me to run the show now.  I dreaded every time I had to get up from my chair.  Not only because I was eating so fast that I looked like I was somebody's inmate.  But also, my confidence was shot.  It's amazing how little confidence one has when one has a giant hole in one's pants. 

Long story short, I survived.  I ended up telling my "why I have a big ass hole in my pants" story twice.  That's not so bad.  They laughed and said they felt sorry for me (stackars...).  I worked through what was the most insane work day so far.  I came out on the other side knowing a bit more about my job and caring a bit less about my swag.  If I had one guess, I'd say it was the universe punishing me for not planning well enough not to "have" to go to BK for lunch.  Maybe it was payback for rushing at the last minute.  Or maybe... just maybe... it was that damn clown from that other establishment.  I'll go with the last one.  Until next time...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Now that the jet lag is gone...

I'm back!  I know I've been back for a while and haven't updated this, but I'll explain later...

That vacation was real!  I had no idea it would be so awesome.  Swedie and I make a great team.  We (by we, I mean she) planned it all out well in advance and we (now I mean we, but still mostly she) executed it well.  We began in Florida at the Holm Home as my previous blog detailed.  We love them and miss them already.  The rest of the Florida leg of the trip was awesome.

Bash and Ava
I had my fill of conch salad during my trip home.  Moonk really does know how to hook up a conch salad!  I got to see my younger cousins (can't call them little anymore) and hang out a little bit with them.  I spent so much time in my youth trying to be the loudest and funniest and wittiest that I never realized how funny my cousins are.  Reggie and Julius had me cracking up!  Grandmother is still rocking her raccoon wig in public.  She's fun and I hope she gets the courage to make that flight over here some time.  Renee as well.  She's my favorite auntie and I'd love to show her around Sweden.  I just don't know if Sweden is ready!

We went shopping and ate at some of our favorite spots.  I was proud of myself for not forcing the list I had made beforehand.  We didn't go to Red Lobster or any breakfast chains (IHOP/Denny's) like we thought we would.  My pancakes are better anyway and who has time for finding a Red Lobster?  As for sushi, I regret missing out on that.  The mall was more tempting, so we never made it downtown.  We did however go to The Grill on the Alley in Aventura Mall!  Great food and an awesome manager.  We ate like Lannisters!

I was sad to leave Miami.  It never seems like long enough.  It was great seeing Latonya, Tiffany and Marlon from high school.  It's like we never missed a step, except now we all have kids.  I got to visit my second family (the Burleys) and that was a treat.  We even went to a club!  The entire time we worried that Bash was going to wake up and freak out (of course he didn't).  I feel bad that Eliza had to keep assuring us that everything was okay in the middle of the party.  Then we left early as a group on account of Swedie and me, well Bash.  Blame Bash. That night out summed up the Miami leg of the trip.  Short, but action packed.

Virginia Beach
Now it was off to Virginia Beach.  It was time to visit a military brother of mine.  He and I have been tighter than a frog's ass since our first military assignment in Alaska.  We've got STORIES together from those days.  We have a specific brand of humor and once we get together it multiplies and becomes magically awesome.  Obviously, since getting out and moving here it's been hard to see each other frequently, but brotherhood is brotherhood.  It would be the first time Bobby got to meet Bash, so I was really excited.  By the way, a woman in the airport stopped us to tell us that Bash is the sweetest child she's ever seen on a flight.  Duh, lady!  That's my son.  Our flight was early because of a change that Bobby didn't notice in the final message to him, so they were late.  No biggie.  I'd just charge my phone... oh snap!  Justin rolled up out of nowhere!  Justin is Bobby's old friend that became my friend years and years ago.  He fit right in with us and that's been great over the years.  Bobby and his family (Kim and Isaac) walked up holding signs.  Just like old times!

Bobby and Kim have a beautiful house.  He grew up in VA Beach and is stationed in Virginia.  He's got it good.  Family and friends close while he serves in the Air Force.  Isaac won't have as turbulent of a childhood as many children in military families have.  I'm glad for them.  It was Bobby's birthday weekend, so the turn up was real.  Well we're in our thirties now, so it was a grown up turn up.  We walked in to a pool party preparation.  There was good barbecue and side dishes under a tent.  The food was covered in foil and neatly presented on a table with a TABLE CLOTH.  Music was playing (not blasting).  I can see Bobby and me ten years ago preparing for a birthday by taking shots and talking shit until we created an impromptu octagon.  Then we'd get up, get dressed, take shots and go to a club.  I'd probably get black-out drunk and piss Bobby off at a McDonald's drive thru because I keep ordering a "SANDWICH MEAL".  My how things have changed.  I got unpacked and put on some trunks so I could sit poolside and swap jokes with Bobby and Justin while our kids played in the pool.

It was so good to catch up with everyone.  I had a mixture of pointless and introspective conversations with members of Bobby's family.  I was even surprised with visits by "Yosys Fire" and "Chuck".  Two other friends from back in Alaska.  Everybody is all grown up now.  It was fun to have drinks and reminisce.  In classic fashion, the guys would ask if I wanted to help move a counter.

       - Move a counter?
       - Yeah man.  Come inside and help us move this counter.
       - Okay... I guess.

We went inside and a few minutes later all the other guys came in.  Next thing you know Bobby was pouring shots.  I wasn't going to turn that down. We toasted and drank our shots.  Then everyone dispersed.  I turned to Justin as I walked outside.

       - What's up with that counter?
       - Counter?  What counter?
       - They said something about moving a counter.
       - Oh yeah.  Hey Bobby, we gotta move that counter.
       - Alright, I'll be in there.

We walked back in.  I shook my head.  How did they forget so fast?  Bobby came back in and started preparing shots for us.  The light bulb over my head went on.

       - Oh!  The shots!

Bobby explained how the running joke began.  I love these guys.  Needless to say, we moved a lot of counters that weekend.  Some of the most fun was watching the trio of Isaac, Bryce and Bash.  They were having a blast the whole weekend.  One morning they even had their teddy bears join them for poolside breakfast.  So sweet.  I also found out that Bash has my back big time.  Justin threw me in the pool (we're not THAT grown up) and Bash had a fit.  He stomped his feet and yelled at Justin at the top of his little lungs.


I had to assure him that we were just playing.  He was so upset.  Note to self: Never get beat up in front of Bash.  He will be devastated.

The trip was full of reminiscing, shit talking and witty wordplay.  It's what we do.  We had a heated political argument (they're wrong) and the return of a years-long prank that Yosys and I used to pull on each other.  It was great.  An updated version of the old days.  We extended our stay an extra day and it still felt like not enough time.  It never is.

Westley and Bash
Now it was time to see my sister.  We hadn't made it to the US in 2015 so I hadn't met my nephew yet.  I was excited about that.  It would be cool for Bash to see the people he had been talking to over FaceTime for the past year.

The drive up wasn't so bad.  We went directly to probably the shittiest little rental car center I've ever seen to drop off the car.  I hadn't peed on the trip, so I was able to get a good look at the shittyness on my way to the back.  It looked like they tried to turn an old mechanic shop into a rental office, but said "Fuck it" halfway through it.  At least they didn't try to throw any sneaky charges on me.  It was literally rented for four hours.

My brother-in-law Curtis picked us up.  It was great to see him.  He's been committed to working out which really means he's been committed to making me look fatter when I stand next to him.  Thanks Curtis!  We loaded up the SUV and headed to their lovely home.  It still shocks me every time I walk into their mini-mansion.  I fight off the urge to rub my hands along the wall and talk with a southern belle's voice.

       - My, my, my look at that chandelier. I wish grandma was here to see this here bannister!  Is that marble tile?

We got settled in and almost immediately started laughing and reminiscing.  That's basically all my family does.  Bash LOVED playing with Zoë in the basement.  He felt like he was in heaven down there.  Toys and activities.  So many activities.  I wanted badly for Bash and his Nana to get along well.  I could tell she was hesitant due to the perceived language barrier.  I told her don't worry.  Just speak in English to him.  He understands.  I left them down in the basement for a few minutes and then I heard panic in her voice.

       - Jon, what is he saying?!

I ran down and heard Bash asking about "jordgubbar".  Apparently he saw some toy strawberries upstairs that he wanted to play with now.  How does he remember that?  I told Nana that he wants strawberries.  Bash looked straight ahead.  The wheels in his little head turning.

       - Shraw-burry

Mom threw down!
I went and got the toy strawberries.  Nana spoiled us with some good food.  Curtis tried to kill me with his stupid and uncalled for workout routines.  I stopped after two days!  It's rude as hell to have your guest in your basement doing a leg workout routine made up by SATAN; knowing damn well that your guest has to ascend and descend STAIRS multiple times per day.  It's simply not what a gentleman should do.  For two days I considered living on my stomach.  Just lay down on the living room floor - on my stomach - until my body no longer hates me and my legs work again.

Besides that pain we took the kids to the park a few times.  They loved it.  Swedie had a little bit of shopping left to do, so we went to the mall.  Curtis and I chilled while Bash and his new best friend Zoë burned energy in the play land.  They rode a carousel and then wanted to ride it again and again.  We found a futuristic car ride that they should like [read: we would like], but they didn't and that was a waste of a dollar.  The part of the visit that brought tears to my eyes was when Mom made a cake with Bash.  I know it's simple, but it was beautiful.  He was so into it, just like I knew he'd be.  She showed him how to sift flour.  Then he sifted flour and slapped the side of the sifter just like Nana did.  It's the small things.

Zoë and Bash headed to the cereal aisle
Some of the beautiful small things were in the cereal aisle.  I rotated American cereals that you can't find here into the Rollins-Taylor household.  I had my fill of Raisin Bran Crunch, Lucky Charms, Crunch Berries and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Man I miss those cereals!  I went a little snack crazy with Oreos and granola bars and Oatmeal Cream Pies.  I wish you could see the drool run down my chin as I type.  By the end of the trip Bash was expressing himself very well in English.  He and Zoë were little chatterboxes.  I miss the way she hums as she eats her food.  Makes it sound delicious!

I had missed American television (there's like unlimited channels) so much.  I would wake up each morning and watch a documentary (On Demand is the shit!), then watch a standup comedy special before I went to sleep (I repeat... On Demand is the shit).  I met a guy from Boston a couple years ago that told me how he watches his sports teams through a thing called Sling Box.  I had read up on it, but never considered pulling the trigger on buying it.  I finally relented while on this trip.  I ordered the Sling Box.  It came a few days before we left and I set it up on Zoë's TV.  Now I have access to my sister's cable from anywhere in the world!  I recommend Sling Box to any American living abroad.  It's a nice slice of home.  Election season is important for me, so it's great to get good coverage of one of the most important elections in my lifetime. I still can't believe that Donald Trump is a nominee for president.  Even more disappointing is that I know smart people that will vote for him.  I won't get into it now (just wait), but that was a main reason I got the Sling Box.  Which in turn is the main reason I haven't made time to write a blog entry.  TV is so good in America!

One highlight of the trip was me actually doing standup in the US.  I was able to get on at an open mic in DC.  It was interesting to see comedians on the grind.  The club runner gave me five minutes and I made the best of my time.  My cousins came out to the show and I'm glad they got to see me perform.  Especially Andre.  He's been supporting me since I started.  Now he could actually see my progress.  It went pretty well.  I was nervous at first, but then got really comfortable at the first unexpected laugh.  I was flowed right into it.  I'll never forget that experience.  Here's the set:


One last hug...
It was so fun.  I'll be back and better in the future, America!

Mom sent us away with a box of 15 homemade cookies.  Just what I needed after hiding from Curtis' workouts for eight days.  A final addition to my love handles.  Bash and Zoë hugged one last time before we drove off in the HUGE Expedition that I got upgraded to (rental tip: book online to increase the chance of upgrades on site).  Now it was off to New York...

... But before New York we made a stop in New Jersey to see our friend Natasha.  Natasha is a fun, beautiful and talented young lady that Swedie used to train.  We met at Bahama Breeze (also on the list) and had some delicious Caribbean food.  Natasha had brought some makeup for Swedie and a toy for Bash (nothing for me, but I'm not bitter).  It was nice to catch up with her over some good food and drinks.  It was oddly reminiscent of our last hangout before moving to Sweden.  She was the one to take us to the airport then.  It's great that she's doing well now.  The last time she saw Bash was when she did his 3D ultrasound.  Now he was alive and out of the womb flirting with her!  It was a great, but unfortunately short visit.  Now to drop off the rental bus and hit up "the city"...

New York
We decided to splurge on a nice hotel in Manhattan.  I thought I was going to be doing some standup there as well, but it didn't work out.  It was cool though.  The first morning was odd to see Manhattan in such a quiet state.  5 Ave wasn't really 5th Ave without all of the brisk-paced New Yorkers flocking across intersections.  We found a charming French restaurant (Le Pain Quotidien) with an amazing breakfast.  It was so nice we ate there twice!  Fresh croissants (read that with a thick French accent), orange juice and salads.  So good.  We took Bash on a nice stroll around Central Park.  Buying that stroller turned out to be an awesome idea.

I reached out to our good friend Gary.  It was short notice, but he made time for us.  It was so good to see him.  Of course he was late as shit, but we managed.  Bash was quite the trooper as we trekked around Manhattan.  We met Gary and got pretty tipsy off of $6 mimosas and glasses of wine.  This was in preparation for the main event.  Gary joined us for what would be an amazing dinner.  Swedie was personal trainer for a pastry chef (Hi Stephen!) and he was nice enough to get us a reservation at Colicchio and Sons where he is in charge of desserts.  First off, I'm a huge fan of Tom Colicchio, so that was enough, but Stephen's dessert... OH MY GOD!  This was our second time eating there, and he does not disappoint.  He put together an amazing assortment of desserts that topped off just how sweet this trip was.  Gary Ubered us back to the hotel and bid us farewell.  It was great laughing with his crazy ass. I can't wait to see him again (come to Sweden man!).

The final day was a winding down of sorts.  We checked out of the hotel and met some friends from Jersey.  The Pride Parade was going on, so that was cool to see.  Music blasted and people danced as they expressed excitement in being proud of who you are.  It was beautiful and I was glad to be in there at that moment.  The shootings in Orlando hadn't happened so long ago and I'm especially glad the parade went on with no tragedy attached to it.

Our friends fought through the crowd and walked us back to our hotel.  We talked and caught up.  I was excited for them and the prospects of their future.  It was good to see them and wish them well.  It's great to see that friendships last over time.  That's what this trip was all about.  Now it was time to leave home and head home.  On to the airport.  Until next time...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bienvenido a Miami!

Eliza and Bash
For the first time in a year and a half I'm back home!  We didn't go at all last year, so now I was extra hype to get back.  This trip would be all about Bash.  I was concerned that there would be a language barrier that got in the way of the bonding I longed for between him and his American relatives.  He understands English, but would he understand that no one else understands his Swedish?  It was time to find out!

Of course with our luck, Bash came down with a fever the night before the flight.  He was in good spirits (as always) so we just gave him some medicine to get the fever down.  Everything would be fine.  We got to the airport and almost missed the flight because for some reason the airport officials thought boarding early was a good idea.  Don't they understand the concept of CPT?  We had to get some food.  If the flight leaves at 2:55pm, why would they board at 1:55?  Who does that?  The lady came out all mad at us and rushing us onto the plane at 2:30.  I refuse to run if I'm not being chased.  It's not that serious lady.  We got to the plane only to be told that the departure would be delayed. 
Bash had his favorite stuffed animal Björn with him.  He buckled Björn in for the flight and we were off.

Bash has recently been enamored with airplanes and helicopters.  He gets excited to see them and was extra excited to know that we were on one.  I don't think he fully understands the concept that we were going to leave the ground and travel across the Atlantic ocean to the hot and humid place where Daddy comes from.  He looked out the window at the clouds and said his WOWs.  That worked for me.

Bash had a cough that sounded pretty bad, but now it was sounding worse.  It was weird because he wasn't acting sick at all.  To the contrary, he was in a great mood.  He played his games and watched his videos.  He charmed people around us all throughout a fever.  We have the best kid.  Side note: it was funny as hell watching Swedie try to "comfort" Bash as the plane took off knowing damn well that she was scared.  Loosen the grip on his jeans, Swedie!  You're gonna cut off the boy's circulation.

It was great to see our hosts.  Every time we walk into the Holm Home it's like we never left.  We can't ask for better members of our extended family.  Bash warmed up quickly to everyone.  This trip is going to be fun!  Bash's cough sounded worse and worse.  I don't think the flight helped.  He woke up crying from the cough.  After some medicine he would slowly calm down and then doze off again.  It really breaks a parent's heart to feel so helpless as your child cries in pain.  Swedie is the best mom.  She rocked and comforted him throughout the night.  The combination of the time change and the apparent sickness was quite a load for little Bash.  He was powering through it.

The next morning Bash was up and at it before 5am.  Great.  We distracted him a bit and he eventually fell back asleep.  Thank goodness.  We ended up waking up again just before 9am.  When you're up and on vacay... make pancakes!  I feel guilty about how much I missed Walmart.  Seriously, what don't they have?  Breakfast/brunch would turn out amazing.


Pancakes, bacon, cheddar cheese potatoes, eggs and a new invention we call "pancakon" (strip of bacon cooked into pancake batter; try it!).  Oh... and don't forget mimosas.  What's vacay without mimosas?  The day was a lazy Sunday.  Bash was having a blast.  We took him to Eliza's mother's so he could play in the pool.  At first he was clinging to us like a starfish, but by the end of the afternoon he was going in and out of the water with his little floaties on.  There was cold beer, jello shots and delicious hors d'oeuvres.  Summer was here and I was loving it.  What I wasn't loving was this humidity.  I always forget how humid Florida is.  It's nostalgic and that's nice, but I can't help but wonder how I grew up here breathing through my nostrils.  It feels impossible to do it now.  And it's only THE BEGINNING of the summer. 

We went to my aunt's later for a barbecue.  I forget how much louder my family is than Swedie's (and probably every other family for that matter).  I heard the music from the street.  I walked in and poor Bash was terrified.  Music blasting, Spades trash talk and unfamiliar people in his face.

       - HEY BASH!

Bash got scared and started to cry.  I was afraid of this.  He was also sick and extremely tired.  This wasn't going as planned.  Finally someone turned off the music so we could watch the NBA Finals game (ass whoopin' if you want to get technical).  Side note: it amazes me how many people are all of a sudden Golden State "fans" now that they're the best team in the league.  NOBODY cared about them three years ago.  Especially people in Miami that were still Heat "fanatics".  I was so annoyed by all of these people screaming at the TV with passion. So fake.  We decided we'd leave at halftime.  Bash was knocked out.  It was fun joking around with family and friends.  I got a kick out of my Uncle Willie annoying people.  He's very good at that.

We were saying our goodbyes when Bash began a terrible-sounding coughing attack.  Everyone became concerned. 

       - He sounds bad.  He needs to go to the hospital.

Swedie had suggested that earlier.  I had resisted.  He had been in such good spirits.  My instincts were to not go to the hospital.  That would be expensive and a hassle.  Swedie contacted the insurance folks in Sweden.  They'd find the nearest authorized hospital and text her when we were good to go.  A few minutes later they texted a nearby hospital name and address.  The insurance company sent them verification and all we had to do is show up.  What?!  Another win for Sweden.  Woop! Woop!

We signed in at the urgent care center and a few minutes later we were holding a hose in front of Bash while gas crept into his lungs.  I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the financial side of things.  It was like first things first, are we gonna get paid?  Then once that was squared away they put focus on Bash.  The care was fast and great.  We felt the x-ray was unnecessary, but whatever.  Get your money.  Bash got his antibiotics and we were out of there in no time. 

Bash felt a little better the next day.  He still got up at about 4:30.  We had to get out of the house before the Homls hated us.  We went to the park, Walmart and Dunkin Donuts (home sweet home!).  Bash was loving it all.  We saw some ducks at the park and decided next time we'd bring bread.  A HUGE iguana ran towards us and that's when I found out that in an emergency I would probably forget that I have a family to protect.  I screamed and was GONE!  Swedie didn't know what happened. In my defense, the way that iguana's arms were rotating as it ran was completely unnatural and terrifying.  Swedie should have picked up on my social cue and run with me.  I am certain that that poor iguana was left at that man-made lake by a student at the nearby college.  It probably saw humans and thought we were there to rescue it, only for me to run from it.  Poor iguana.

This morning Bash was back in action.  We started the day with some duck feeding.  Turtles came out and the iguana did his creepy wind walk as well.  I wasn't freaked out this time. Then it was off to breakfast at Grandmother's.  Fish and grits hit the spot! I had two plates.  Bash destroyed a serving of eggs.  My aunt Renee came over and it warmed my heart when Bash decided to go on a walk with her WITHOUT us.  He actually told us not to go.

       - Mamma stanna här!  Daddy stanna här!

We obliged and watched them go look for ducks by the lake.  It was beautiful.  Bash was getting to know Daddy's side of the family.  He laughed and played with Daddy's grandmother, aunt and great aunt.  Yesterday he played around with Daddy's favorite uncle.  There's more family to meet over the next two and a half weeks.  Seems like Bash is just getting warmed up.  I can't wait to watch with pride. Until next time...