Music to blubber by

Two nights ago I was reciting the lyrics of a Dawes song to my wife, and I began to blubber.  The next night I took Zach and Asia to see Dawes and Josh Verbanets.  Josh has a song that also brings out some powerful, albeit strange emotions.  When I listen to:

I feel like I’m 80 years old, laying on a bed surrounded by my kids, weak, but content, having led a life that was full in every way.  That is not an emotion one feels every day.

As we sat in a park listening to Dawes and playing Boggle, I got a text saying that after 5 days in the hospital, my wife and new daughter Katt would at last be coming home.  The intestine that the surgeons accidentally nicked had healed.  She was ready to eat again – no more failed IVs would be bruising up my wife’s arms.  Meanwhile my Pirates were choking the life out of the Cincinnati Reds.  The good old days are happening right now.

It’s a croc!

While in Austin, every day I found myself on Guadalupe Street.  Once to chauffeur my woozy BIL to get his teeth yanked, multiple times to buy overpriced records, and once to look at sordid pictures of my wife’s uterus.  Apparently we are expecting a girl alligator:

My father-in-law, where we stayed, lives 40 minutes (sans traffic) from Guadalupe Street.  When you consider that one of my top goals in life is to no longer own a car (or a house for that matter), you can see why Austin and its highway mania make me weary.

Before BIL lost all four wisdom teeth and became a vegetable for the remainder of the week, he gave me this fab idea:  For three months, do something you’ve always wanted to do for an hour a day.  At the end of the quarter, start over with something new.  Here are my four:

  1. Learn and practice foraging
  2. Record one story/day for my languishing podcast
  3. Write a new song or song fragment every day
  4. Write a novel

What are your four?  Also, since I am for once soliciting your input, which of these pics would make a better Christmas card for next year?

My Libyan kids visit Austin

Ah yes, another end-of-the-year spent in Austin, TX.  Never been to Austin?  This picture pretty much sums it up for me:

Bulgogi burgers?  Wow.  Sounds weird.  Sounds fantastic.  What a combo!  Too bad it’s kind of terrible.  And just like this fab purple building, Austin has mile after mile of funky one story sprawl.  Fun, but no matter how much lipstick you apply, sprawl is still a pig.  What I DO like about Austin is the cheap food and the live music.  There is something to be said for eating good food while watching a master of his craft play a show on a Tuesday night.

For Christmas, my brother-in-law outfitted the family with clothes from his new neighborhood.

I’m pretty sure BIL is trying to get us beat up.  Last year he bought me a “Who’s your Bagdaddy?” t-shirt from his old neighborhood in Iraq.  Someone took a family photo (I don’t have it yet) of my whole family wearing Libyan garb.  It’s sad that our only family photos consist of these types of hi-jinks.  (Like this and this.)

Oh, and one more thing.  Mrs. Neill and I are expecting a baby girl in June.  So there’s that.

Good girl and the mean janitor

Today Asia was telling me about a game she made up called “Good girl and the mean janitor”.  She says she used to play it with her friend Lydia.  “Lydia always tries to get away from the mean janitor and go to Candyland, but she never makes it.  She usually ends up in Smallville.  You never want to be in Smallville because in Smallville you can get smushed by the mean janitor’s broom.”  Grasping for a point of reference, I asked, “Do you have a mean janitor at your school?”.  “No”, she replied, “Just a man named Tom that everyone calls Bob”.

So there’s that.


There’s a golf course literally two blocks from my house.  It’s not a game I play, though perhaps one day I’ll join the ranks of doughy geezers trying to prove that they “still got it”.

Today I read in the paper that the local golf course has closed for the season.  I’ve often heard locals making fun of the course saying it was all ghetto and whatnot, so I thought today might be a nice day to take the dog for a highly illegal walk through the course, just to see what a ghetto golf course be lookin like.  Here’s a pic I snapped.  Straight outta Compton, right?

Things I saw:

  • 9 turkeys hanging out together.  Nine!
  • Massive shrooms.  I wish I knew which ones were good to eat.  Mmmmmm, turkey and mushrooms for dinner.
  • A tree full of cement.  Who knew this was a thing?

Thing I wish I hadn’t seen:

  • My dog rolling in deer poop.

Such a wonderful dish, Mr. Neill. What’s your secret?

In the foreground is a pot that one of my kids decorated, probably back in kindergarten.  It holds no significance to me.  But it’s not broken, and it seems heartless to throw it away.  So I put it on the ledge.  When it gets knocked over by a basketball and smashed to bits, I’ll gladly sweep the fragments into the trash bin.

In the middle is some sort of weed/herb that grows unchecked beyond my usual bi-monthly mowing.  It tastes like a combination of oregano, mint, and basil.

In the background is a window that is enjoying its last week on earth.  Structurally, this corner of the house needs (my) help, and as much as I hate to lose any natural light, I’d also hate to see my house collapse.

A triumphant return to an awkward scene

Geez I’m tired.  I shut the water off yesterday morning.  (One must flush wisely in these situations.)  14 hours later water once again flowed through the fully re-routed pipes of my house.  Let it be known that I am indeed a plumbing phenom.  After one month of toil, and $1000 worth of copper, I am finally done with this pipe raising business.

Working 14 hours left me no time to do my main job, which is to be a dad.  With Mom at band practice, the kids were left to their own devices.  This morning I let them sleep-in, since they had gone to bed at an unspeakable hour.  I don’t know what kind of nerds I’m raising, but nothing makes them more angry then being allowed to sleep-in and miss an hour of school.  Kids these days!

Last Friday I returned to the site of this awkward scene where a band called Old Man Markley rocked the United States of America.  Maybe it’s just an Old Man thing, but I do not speak in hyperbole when I say it was one of the top 10 shows I’ve ever seen.  No YouTube videos seem to capture the raw mayhem of their act, but if you focus on the washboard playing in this video, you will get the idea.

Tonight I play my first-ever game of pick-up basketball.  Indeed these are the salad days of my physical resurgence.

Diet orange Faygo gives me the bad man blues

Every day, amid the splendor of fall’s magnificent colors, my fancy dog and I stroll the rolling hills of West View, Pennsylvania.  My favorite day of the walk-week is Monday, because Monday is recycling day.  That is, I get to see what my fellow citizens have been drinking.  While I strive to live a life free of judgment toward my brethren, recycle bins overflowing with empty cans of Diet Orange Faygo and Natty Ice expose the supercilious wickedness hidden deep within my soul.

In other “news”, Asia has a new doo, and has taken up the trumpet.  Her venerable songwriting skills have been on display of late, as she recently penned several future hits: “We’re the gangstas, the preppy gangstas” and “I got the bad man blues”.


Just before Labor Day, Mrs. Neill jetted off to Nashville for a business trip to do whatever modern women do on their business trips.  Lacking a better option, I took the kids camping, something of which I generally disapprove.  If you’re “trying to get away from it all”, then I don’t see the point of sleeping several steps from a community salted with loud boozed rednecks up all hours of the night.  But a weekday just before Labor Day?  I was pretty sure we’d have the place to ourselves.  And we did for about an hour.  That is, until a gentleman and his three young daughters set up shop RIGHT NEXT TO US.  After grilling the intruders at length, I learned that they were far from home (NYC!) and that they were half-way through a 120 mile bike-trek along the Great Allegheny Passage.  (Which would explain why they didn’t have a car.)  Before long, my kids were having a great time with our new neighbors.

For three days, we hung out with our new friends, biked (18 miles), hiked (jungle-like and with lots of waterfalls), and whitewater rafted (guess who did almost all the paddling for 4 hours) our way around Ohiopyle, PA.  If camping was always that awesome (and mosquito free), I would live in a forest.

Sorry Paris, Ohiopyle was the highlight of my summer.

A hot one and a cold one

Culinary quadfecta occurred yesterday when all four Neill family food critics enjoyed their meal at a restaurant.  Oddly enough, each critic ordered exactly the same dish: four number #14’s – raw beef pho.  For dessert, the Neill’s enjoyed a hot one and a cold one, as in:

Waitress (owner):  You done?

Father critic:  Sure.  What’s for dessert?

Waitress (owner):  We have a hot one and a cold one.

Father critic:  Then I will take one hot one and one cold one.