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Cooking with Steve Whippo

Last night I was working with a fellow cook who's having his 60th birthday party later this month, a co-party with three other guys who are having birthdays around the same time.

"So, you're hitting the big 60 soon, huh?"

"Yeah! Yeah. Yeah I am."

"How do you feel about that?"

"It feels weird, man. It sounds old! Sixty sounds so old! There are times when I still feel like, well not only a 20-year-old, but a 32-year-old, and a middle-aged guy ... you know."

We talk a little more about it. The whole time I'm chopping tomatoes on one side of the room, and he's on the other, prepping piatas de carne and cutting beef on the slicer.

I'd like to interject here that Beatrix just brought me Little Red Riding Hood, recently acquired from the library, so I'm going to read it to her now and get back to you people later.
That was fun. Lucy joined in and it was good family story time. I'm a good character actor. The Wolf is fun to voice.

So Steve, my lead cook, he and I are prepping for the next day, and talking, right? He's a great conversationalist. We had 70s radio going on Spotify, and were both singing along to "The Sounds of Silence" and other standards. He's also a great singer, and comes up with ideas for my band all the time.

He wants my band to play his birthday party. He thinks it would be hilarious. I think he wants us to do covers. I think he wants to get up there and sing one or two, too. Hm. Maybe I should do a solo show? Bring my electric and acoustic guitars and bass and play along to some easy drum lines? Hmmm ....

I just texted my drummer friend. Hee hee. Gonna take him out for drinks and see if he wants to do it. A one-off covers show. Maybe get his band to be my backing band...

Alright, Steve and I are cooking last night, and here's the crux of my story right here:

I got a blister on my right index finger from where it rubs against the top of the knife blade from chopping so much. It still hurts. Lots of chopping yesterday—celery, cilantro, and buttloads of tomatoes. I like to do it by hand, too, instead of using the large slicer–I have more control over where the seeds and stem ends go and can keep a cleaner station. Although they do stain my white cutting boards red.

So here's the real crux of the issue, and how this long meandering rambling story belongs on a dad blog written by a daddy blogger:

Oh, look, a butterfly.

Okay, here it is.

Mm, sip of coffee.

So after Steve and I are done talking about ages and how old he is and his friends and our families are, we sing along to a few more songs on the radio.

I say to him, "So Lucy's going into kindergarten this Wednesday. I'm nervous, man. Nothing in my life, in many years has made me this nervous."

I told him about the two stress dreams I had this past few months, where I dreamed that Lucy was going into school tomorrow and I was completely unprepared.

Then Steve said something that is still sticking with me right now. It really stood out. It was the total golden nugget of wisdom from our conversation.

He said, "Well, you know, Glenn," taking on the mock voice of a guidance counselor or a father figure, "this isn't all about you."

It isn't about how I feel. Fuck me. It's about Lucy and how she feels.

"I mean, if you're really worried about it, you could tail her behind the school bus or something."

He's also good at deadpan.


Lucy's Going Into Kindergarten

I've got two kids, 5 and 3. The older one is going into kindergarten in two weeks, and it's almost all I can think about lately.

Late last month, I had a stress dream that she was going to be starting school in a week and that I was totally unprepared. I lay awake for a few hours as I realized September was over a month away. Maybe I'm a jumble of nerves? My kids mean a lot to me, I've worked long and hard to guide their growth.

I'm nervous, but trying not to be. Lucy has never had the structure of anything resembling school, not even day care. Megan and I have always been too broke to afford it. So I hope it's not too hard for her to get settled in.

Then again, I can imagine that some part of Lucy is anxious to get out of the house and experience more than what her immediate family, the surrounding neighborhood, and our homely (and deeply ingrained) routines offer her. She needs more of life than I've been able to provide, and that's why I'm very excited for kindergarten to start.

One thing I'm learning is that there's only so much you do to prepare someone for large, imminent life events and game-changing routine shifts. An adult equivalent would be starting a new job, I suppose. Going back to college as an adult doesn't last nearly as long as kindergarten and elementary school for a kid.

Routines for Bibi and myself will also change. It may well be a difficult transition for the younger sister. She'll be watching big sister get on the bus every morning, walking back home with me, and realizing the emptiness (not necessarily a bad thing) that comes when a standard member of the household is no longer there all the time.

I know it was hard for my family when I left at 18 years old for the east coast and stage production life. The experiences I had were life changing and they helped me grow up so fast, but part of me will always regret putting that distance between my family and I.

But as I try to remember back even earlier, when I was getting walked to the bus stop by my mom in first grade, it was ok. Everything always worked out fine. I remember her encouraging me to make the trek alone, and me being all scared and asking her to come with me, and she did, for a few weeks or so. It was snowy and cold and dark in the mornings during those northwestern Michigan falls and winters. Once my dog Bro followed me onto the bus, and it was a topic of great conversation in my house for a long time afterwards. He was so excited, the young puppy suddenly in the cramped aisle of a school bus, surrounded by all these squealing kids. I was really happy to be able to share my dog with everyone else.

Snowy, sleepy old Eastlake. What a great place that was to grow up. I miss it. The forests that used to surround the place mostly still stand, but the ones in which I used to ride my bike are mostly gone. My parents still live in that house, across the street from the post office, Manistee Lake past it, down the street, through the small field, down the hill to the train tracks, and beyond them, through the marsh. I'd play there almost every day as a kid during the warmer months.

Remembering further back, in kindergarten, my family had just moved to Michigan from California. It was a rental house in Onekema. It was huge compared to our previous apartment, and right on Portage Lake. You heard me, we lived in a lake house, in the middle of a bunch of woods, with a great, quiet, cozy neighborhood around us. It was so beautiful, and as a young city boy it was strange and wonderful. I learned to ride a bike there, to sled, to have houses with other kids to go to, to explore by myself. To feel my first real independence.

I'm sure my mom was glad to be able to let me out of the house to go play wherever I wanted without supervising me. The San Jose neighborhood we were in before was definitely not conducive for that, as isn't the Seattle neighborhood my family lives in now.

Onekema was sort of perfect for me. I started kindergarten there. But when I'd get on the bus, it wasn't a bus. It was a dark blue van. It would stop right in front of my house. My mom probably didn't even have to wake up my younger brother Ian to help me get on.

I remember my first day of school. I remember it quite well. Being nervous, but not scared, and surprised at that. Everything was new, and it was hard to fall in line, but I tried. By God I tried. My mom crying as we stood inside the living room, the blue van outside our house, waiting for me to get inside. I remember I didn't cry myself. I saw my mom doing it and it just looked kinda weird. The way the blue van looked inside, with six or so other kids seat belted next to one another, not knowing each other at all, knowing vaguely where we were going, but not the route there. Getting off the bus, being distracted by the actual big school busses and tons of other kids, that weird small hill which is an image still implanted in my mind, and a woman's voice saying something like, "Oh! No honey, over here!" and turning me around and corralling me with the other kids.

The classroom. The playground outside. The huge hill out front. Once I fell off a slide and was knocked fairly unconscious, or something. I remember sitting on top of the slide, and then I remember being walked inside the school hallway by a very nervous office worker. I was fine.

Once I was out playing on the playground, with the tether ball, and I remember hearing the bell ring but not paying attention. Then all the other kids were gone from the playground, and I was all alone out there. It was an oh-shit moment: 'I need to get back inside!'

Kindergarten was great. Onekema was great. I had a great year there. I realize that now, since I'm accessing and assessing all these memories. I was a five- and six-year-old kid without a care in the world. I remember making lots of drawings inside our living room. The nasty taste of the well water from the tap. The way it all looked, felt and smelled. My room, the storage room at the end of the upstairs hall, my parents' room, the bathrooms. Watching Transformers and Airwolf. My Aunt Joy teaching me about silent e's when spelling the word "maze" as I stared at the word on the crayon I was holding. My uncle Brad helping us all dig a woman's car out of the snow in front of our house. Walking with my dad and brother on the frozen lake in front of the house. Making huge snow forts. The song La Bamba—some neighbor kid was obsessed with it, it must have just come out. Exploring the swampy woods way out behind the house. My friends Angie and Allie's house—they had an Atari or Nintendo or something—those were the first video games I ever played. Sitting on the floor of their yellow room, three of us. I was playing with girls, and it was pretty cool.

First grade was a bit harder. We moved to Eastlake the summer previous, where I'd stay till the end of senior year. I remember recess was tough. As the new kid, I had no friends, so I'd walk around the playground slowly, not talking to anyone, waiting for the bell to ring. These were the same classmates I'd have until graduation. Some of them I still talk to on Facebook, but most of them I would rather forget.

It was hard for me to make friends in 1st and 2nd grade, but I did eventually do it. I remember having some size 4 shoes that were enormous on my feet, but I loved wearing them cause they made my feet look bigger. In 3rd and 4th grades I gained some good, steady friends. Justin Marquardt. He was a good guy, until 5th and 6th grades when he changed alliances.

In 5th grade David Eddy was my main bro, big tall lanky joker that he is. We got in trouble once going into the woods behind the school. He started playing basketball with the other boys and we drifted apart. Adam Rybicki was ok, but mostly a dick, always wrestling me and making fun of me in front of the other kids.

In 5th and 6th grades Brad Wilburg was my other homie. We'd lean on the fence at Kennedy Elementary, and across the way, Angela Onstott and Karen Revolt would lean on the brick wall of the school. We'd just look at each other. I had such big crushes on both of them. Summer Rapphun, too, and I think that last name spelling is wrong, but she's not on any social media. I liked her more than any other girl back then. I haven't heard hide nor hair from her since she moved away around 6th grade.

I was really into Megadeth and Metallica back then and the other guys respected that about me. I was probably the most rock-and-roll-type kid in the school. I'd have my Walkman and tapes all the time. Big, clunky headphones.

I met Josh Simmons in 6th grade, he was a new kid in my class with Mr. Petersen. After he'd been there for a while, we started to hang out. In 7th thru 9th grades we were inseparable. Josh and I grew apart when I turned into a stoner and he started dating Jessica Hewer. It was a bizarre love triangle then. Everyone loved Jessica, and for good reason. She's one of the most beautiful people I've ever met. I drew a Radiohead logo on her notebook in 7th grade chemistry, Mr. Northrup's class.

Matt Perski was a dick and a terror back then. People called him Dirty. He bullied Josh and I for years.

Stephen O'Sicky. That beautiful motherfucker. I'm so glad I met him. Big, gumpy, and a great drummer, we hung out a lot and played lots of music together. Then we moved to Hatboro, PA together after high school was over. We always had our differences, but we're still good long-distance friends to this day.

Jessica Hojnowski. I'll never stop loving you. What more can I say. It was long and convoluted, and full of drama and so many emotions, and it never would have worked long-term, but you taught me a lot, and I'm glad you did. So did your mom and dad. I'd like to see them again soon. Tell John the Firefighter and Barb that I love them, too. You and your family were anchors for me in those days.

Lucy, my daughter, is going to have all of this. I've given her life. She will have her own experiences learning, making friends, falling in love. Now I'm crying. It was all so real for me, and I'll never have it back again, but I shouldn't, nor do I need to. Lucy will have all of this, a wealth of experiences, a richness that comes over years of development. The beauty of a full life, lived with gusto, learning every day.

It makes me happier to be alive today. I realize I have a lot to yet teach my daughters. Though I haven't reached my full personal potential, my goals, I'm still a person. And my daughters and wife are people. We all have lives just as rich and full as my own. I was never wealthy, but it never mattered. My life is as perfect shining crystal, and everyone else's are exactly the same.

Kindergarten. It's essential.

I have to remember: perspective. The perspective of my five-year-old is so far removed from my own. I must remember what it was like for me as a kid her age, and she's got my hard wiring, so it's gonna be similar. I must remember to empathize with her as I do the five-year-old in myself.

School—how do you prepare for it? It's impossible, and useless to stress about. You just have to do it. Parents must let their kids do it. There are people working for the school who are paid to wrangle the children, make sure they don't get lost, and keep them entertained, exercised and educated. It's gonna be totally fine, and maybe someday Lucy will get in trouble. It happens to the best of us. I will love this girl till the end of time.

As I try to pinpoint what I'm stressed about, I come up with nothing. Why worry? It's cumbersome to all involved. I think it can be pinpointed as the animal instinct of keeping them safe, in case some larger animal tries to eat them. Are the chances of that high? What do I do, chaperone her at school? No, I trust other people to take care of her, and I trust her to be responsible. I let it go. I can finally let it go. It's been five and a half years.

This song just came up on my Spotify queue. Destroyer, School, and the Girls Who Go There. Beautiful medlies, nice relaxed vocals. And a gr8 flute line.