Friday, December 30, 2005

Airing a Grievance: FWTBGTH

Yes, Festivus is over, but I am airing a grievance anyway. A very special grievance.

Let me begin with the following premise: the parent of a child is entitled to a certain degree of respect and deference to said parent's wishes when it comes to babysitting. That is to say, if the parent says "Don't feed the child sugar", the babysitter should not feed the child sugar. If the parent says "bedtime is at 8:00" then the babysitter should make sure the kid is in bed by 8:00. Are we agreed on this premise? Are we agreed that no matter who the babysitter is, whether a friend, grandparent, or paid sitter, that the child's parent calls the shots? I hope so.

When Melissa and I broke up, my parents, realizing that there were 800 miles between Montreal and Philadelphia, promised to help me take care of Sam when he visited. The reasons were valid and mutually agreed upon: private day care is prohibitively expensive, with long waiting lists. "We are there for you."

Unfortunately, my mother did not feel bound by the baby-sitting premise stated above. Usually this wasn't deliberate, just the result of not paying attention, such as the time I came home and realized she'd been giving Sam juice sweetened with Splenda. On the other hand, quite a few incidents can be chalked up to plain old laziness and the attitude that "I will do things the way I want to."

"Mom, since it's such a nice day out today, I'd like you to take Sam to Clark Park and the playground."

"Yeah, well maybe. We'll see."

"No, I mean it. I want you to take him to the park."

"Well, maybe. It's just so far away. Maybe I'll take him to the park across the street."

"Far away? It's 5 blocks. Don't take him across the street, I see kids smoking blunts there all the time, and there's broken glass and paraphernalia all over the place. Don't bring him there."

"I don't know if I know where Clark Park is though. And it's so far away, so we'll see."

"Mom. It's 5 blocks away In a straight line. You know exactly where it is."

"Well, well see..."

And so on. She challenges me at every opportunity. If I wanted her to feed him at 6:00, she would feed him at another time and point out, as if she was proving something, that "he was hungry then". If I said naptime was at 2:00, she'd put him down at 1:00. Every. Single. Thing.

It's frustrating and it undermines my authority. I have had to remind my mother more times than I can count that I AM THE PARENT AND I MAKE THE RULES. It is not that hard to understand (except perhaps for Byl who claims that ultimate authority is vested with the parents' parents, and even HE admits that this philosophy is inoperable in his household).

The result was that my mother and I exchanged words a few times over the course of lat summer and fall. And so it was that two weeks before Sam arrived in Philly, my mother told me that she was unavailable to take care of Sam. The first week of unavailability was plausible enough: her coworker in the cleaning bsuiness had a nervous breakdown and my mom was pickign up all the slack. The second week was a swamp of lies. Tommy Flanagan-style lies. She might as well have tacked on "yeah, that's the ticket" at the end of every sentence. "Yeah, I'm just going to be... too tired. Yes too tired after the holidays. And, um, your father and I have plans for our anniversary. Oh and plans with Floyd. Yeah, that's the ticket" Floyd is my nephew. The real reason, my father told me, was that my mother felt "put upon" and didn't care for having her child care criticized.

The next two weeks were a scramble to arrange child care for Sam, making deals with my brother and his girlfriend, as well as other parents in the neighborhood. "I'll take yours if you'll take mine", that sort of thing.

As this melodrama played out, my mother managed to instigate two major fights with Melissa. The first occurred before I got screwed on child care: the old lady flipped her wig when she found out Sam wasn't going to be here on Christmas Day itself. We're talking the whole nine yards, bitter recriminantions and accusastions about Melissa and her family, tears, hysterics, the kitchen sink. I called up Melissa to try to work something out and to defend my mother's position, and the result was an enormous screaming row. A week later, Mom decided that "it's not such a big deal" that Sam wouldn't be here for Christmas after all. "We'll celebrate whenever he gets here." Thus, I spent a good deal of political capital defending someone who turned out to be be fickle and disingenuous. [Speaking of spending, because of my mother's failure to follow through on her promises, I had to spend almost all of my accrued vacation time taking short days at work so my impromptu babysitters wouldn't be overwhelmed. Thanks Mom!]

The next fight came when my mother backed out, and it looked like arrangements were going to be impossible. When I told Melissa I might not be able to take Sam at all, she went into a rage (probably justified). "I've spent $1500 to go to these coaching seminars. I've taken the time from work. You can't back out on me now. In the end, she told me that when she got back from training camp, she was going to sic a lawyer on me. I had to beg her to consider mediation instead, and there went the last of my political capital.

So let's review shall we? My mother refuses to respect my wishes when it comes to babysitting my son; instigated two fights between my ex and me; and in the course of one of these arguments got my ex so mad, that I will probably have a lawyer sent after my ass for a formal custody arrangement and a formal support order (which will cost me about $100-$200 more than I currently pay, since it will be decided by state or provincial guidelines).

Most of you know me as a contentious, arrogant bastard, but for once I decided not to be a royal asshole. I considered denying my parents any chance to see Sam, as well as spending Christmas at home in Philly volunteering at a soup kitchen, but decided it wasn't worth the hassle. My parents were coming to Philadelphia on December 28 to take my nephew to see Stomp! and we decided we'd all get together to watch Sam open his presents and go have some pho.

It was about 2:00 when the phone rang at work.

"Hi Brendan, it's your mother. Just wanted you to know that we're at your brother's house, Sam just finished opening his presents, and we're waiting for you to get here so we can go for dinner."

"He open-- what do you mean he opened his presents? I thought you were going to wait for me."

"Yeah, well we're not going to be around after the theatre and we..."

"What do you mean you're not going to be around? That's not true at all. You JUST SAID you're waiting on me so we can go to dinner."

"Well," she said, "We left you one present to open with him."

"ONE PRESENT? ONE?? You couldn't wait another hour?"

"Well, it's just not that imp--"

"He's MY kid. I haven't had one holiday with him and you just.."

And she hung up on me. Isn't it funny how things work out? When my mother doesn't get what SHE wants, when her feelings aren't considered and acted upon, it's the end of the fuckin' world. When it's someone else's feelings, the attitude is well, who gives a shit? I called my brother and told him to let my parents know that Sam and I would not be going to dinner with them after all. "We're too tired. Too tired after the holiday." Two can play the Tommy Flanagan game.

Email to my father, December 29:

To: Skwire, Steve; Steve Skwire
Subject: next time wait for me to get there OK?

Next time, do you think it would be that hard to wait
until i get there to let sam open his presents?

Jeesus christ. And yes, I AM really angry about this.

Email from my father to me, December 29:

Subject: RE: next time wait for me to get there OK?
To:"Brendan Skwire"

You are absolutely right Brendan. After we got there I realized Sam
opened one of his presents and I said, "Wait a minute. We should
wait for Brendan to be here before Sam opens his presents", and
agreed. For some reason or other, Mom is unable to simply say something
accommodating like, "Oh, I'm sorry Brendan, what were we thinking?"

So I will say it. I'm sorry Brendan. What were we thinking?

Email to my father, December 29:

To: Skwire, Steve
Subject: RE: next time wait for me to get there OK?

I don't know what you were thinking. Probably no one
was thinking anything at all, because everyone was
caught up in the excitement of watching Sam unwrap his
presents, and probably no one thought anything of it
until I was informed and got angry.

Your apology is accepted. But listen: after all the bs
I had to go through surrounding this visit, you're
lucky you got to see him at all. If I'd known I was
going to be excluded from what was billed as a family
get-together to watch him open his presents, I would
have followed through with the schedule that made
visiting impossible. Maybe I'll do that next time.

"For some reason or other, Mom is unable to simply say something accommodating like, "Oh, I'm sorry Brendan, what were we thinking?""

Well, she said "I'm sorry" but I've learned that when
Mom says "i'm sorry" it's usually a lead-in to some
kind of excuse. This time the excuse was "we're not
going to be around" which was a load of hooey, seeing
as the plan was to get dinner together AFTER the
theatre. "we left one present for you." Well that's
par for the course I guess: I only get to see him for
a fractionof the year, and so I guess it follows that
I only get to participate in a fraction of special

It's not in her nature to admit any error. I've
learned that as well.

You know, with Kate no one knows what's going to set
her off. With me, it's quite simple and has been
explained clearly: when it comes to Sam I am extremely
touchy and possessive. It's not that hard to

It was about this time that my friend Wendy offered to fly me to the Isle of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela for a week-long vacation (Wendy has a trust fund). I can't go because all of my vacation time is used up.

I have decided that from now on, there will be no special concessions made for my parents. I hope this visit with their grandson was pleasant and fulfilling, because it's the last time they're going to see him for awhile, whether he's in Philadelphia or not.

I have been fucked with for the past two years, and I will not take it anymore, especially from those who are SUPPOSED to have my back. Fuck with the bull, get the horns. NO SAM FOR YOU!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Like Father, Like Son Part 2

Last night, after a steady two-year diet of old-time, country, and bluegrass, I introduced Sam to speed metal. He LOVED it.

He's always obsessed over my subwoofer (another budding bassist?), and was entranced by the rumbling Satanic introduction. But when the drums and guitars kicked in, he went totally bonkers, running around the room, waving his arms, and jumping up and down.

Here, Sam is doing his best to make the devil sign.

Image hosted by

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Like Father Like Son

Sam has a new word. I didn't teach him this word. I don't know where he picked it up, but Melissa warned me about it and it's very funny.

Sam is at the age where he is noticing, and pointing out, the difference between men and women. He explains this new level of consciousness by pointing at women from his stroller and merrily saying "Boobies!"

Heh. Indeed.

My name is Nazir Ahmed

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Jesus Fucking Christ

It's time for my holiday rant.

I HATE Christmas. I hate every singe thing about it.

First of all, Jesus wasn't born on the 25th of December. The date is wrong, just a reflection of early Christian missionaries co-opting a pagan holiday.

I hate the whole "War on Christmas" nonsense I have to listen to every single year. You want a creche? Put it on your own property. National, state, and municipal propertuy belongs to everyone and is NOT the appropriate place for you to display your precious personal religious icons. This year, if I see any inappropriately placed mangers or menorrahs, I'm taking them away and depositing them at the local landfill.

Furthermore, it is totally gay that the Christians have a screaming hissy fit if the stores don't prominently display "Christmas" inconography, but they don't want Christmas commercialized either. Shit or get off the pot, gang. Really.

I hate the whole "Don't Make the Jews Feel Unwelcome" bullshit, equating a minor holiday like Hannukah with the big one for the Christians.

I don't like the way the supposedly more inclusive "Happy Holidays" is wrapped exclusively in the images and trappings of Christmas, and a WASP Christmas in particular: decorated trees; sleighs; wrapped presents. Fuck that shit.

Give me Thanksgiving any day. Fuck Christmas. Nothing but a stupid ass excuse to pressure people into buying shit they can't afford for people who don't deserve it. The holiday makes me feel depressed and isolated, especially when I see people loaded down with gifts who step over the homeless people begging for spare change outside the K-Mart. Very Christian. Assholes.

Someone will doubtless contact me and tell me to stop being a Grinch, and for whoever that is, I have an extended finger.

You wanna celebrate Christmas? Here's what to do:
Spend the day volunteering at the homeless shelter or the soup kitchen instead of supporting sweatshops and slave labor in Communist China. Don't buy gifts for anyone.

I'm spending a few hours at my parents' house this year, and then I'm going home to get as drunk as I possibly can without succumbing to alcohol poisoning.

Thoughts on a Christmas Day

Bah. Fucking. Humbug./

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'm Afraid To Jump Into Festivus

All over the blogosphere it seems, bloggers are celebrating the Festivus tradition, "The Airing of Grievances."

Courtesy of Crooks and Liars, here's John Cole, one of the only conservative blogs I really enjoy.

I don't know if I should even wade into my airing. It could turn into the 17 days of Festivus. But hey, why the fuck not? In fact, I'll make it a challenge and avoid the obvious, and perhaps more personal, topics I've gone about recently.

Philadelphia: Why do you have to be such dirty litter bugs. You throw your trash everywhere. My neighbor told me he saw a hole in the street left by the water department filled with trash, including a broken refrigerator, within hours. This summer, I spent about $30.00 on patch kits and tubes because the fucking city is littered with shattered bottles and windows. Have some fucking dignity, you fucking slobs and pick up your goddamn mess. Oh, and no fair sending it to Haiti.

WXTU 92.5: Due to lax FCC rules, you have a stranglehold on country music in Philly. You abuse this monopoly by playing only the worst contemporary country I have ever heard, and more commercials than nay other station I have ever heard. I'm not an unreasonable man, WXTU and Beasley Broadcasting: if you could just mix in some of the legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams (Senior, Junior, AND III), the Lonestars and Rascall Flatts of the genre woulfd be MORE than tolerable. If modern rock stations can pull out the Van Halen and Aerosmith on a regular basis, you can give your forebears some respect too (and give long-suffering listeners a break).

And speaking of rock radio, what the fuck is wrong with you and your nearly complete lack of support for local bands? Why don't I hear local bands like the Capitol Years, The Brides, The Teeth, and others on your stations mixed in with the modern and classic rock? Why must we have a steady diet of garbage? And yeah, that INCLUDES you too WXPN, although by comparison you're head and shoulders above the rest. It's embarassing: for such a big city, our radio sucks. The only truly community station I know is WRDV out of Warminster and it barely comes in.

The Republican Party and especially Arlen Specter, who knows better: Your irresponsible and selfish vote to cut Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, student loans. and child support enforcement funding in the face of historic deficits is disgusting enough. The fact that the cuts cover only about 2% of the deficit, while needless and damaging tax cuts that favor the ultra-wealthy, flies in the face of decency. You suck.


And I will leave it at that for now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Free Verse for a Dead Mouse

the mouse has left this mortal coil.
i deposited his little corpse in the waste basket
this morning, via snow shovel

(I'm always afraid the rodent will wake up
and attack me in a fit of fear, revenge,
and rabies).

I had nothing to worry about:
his little skull was crushed,
and his beady little blank eyes stared at me.

Well, It Looks Like I'm Back, But Not For Long.

Well, it looks like I'm back on blogger after two weeks of getting ignored by theie customer support people.

You're probably wondering where I've been. That's a damn good question; I have no idea what happened either. That Friday I was doing some blogging at work (my last post actually), logged out at 5:00 PM or so, turned off my computer and left for the day. I arrived home, went to bcftu and copied that picture of Sam on the swing to my desktop wallpaper, and had a beer with my hou, and logged into blogger.

Everything was gone. Brendan Calling was gone from my dashboard. So were the links to phone calls, letters to the New York Times, and everything else. I tried to open bcftu, and where the blog had just been ten minutes ago, was the message File 404" site not found.

I wrote to blogger immediately; you may remember earlier posts in which my couldn't be found. I didn't hear back from them until Monday. The new problem, like the old problem, was answered with a form letter that didn't answer the question. So I wrote back. I got the same form letter on Tuesday morning. I wrote back, and they never responded. Nothing. And so I began frantically scouring google's cache for important posts like "Ties", "Hello, I must Be Going", "Filth". I was lucky to have found them all, but the prospect of plowing through three years' worth of political pontificating and ephemera was too daunting, and I decided to sacrifice less important stuff. Most blogging is such off-the-cuff stuff, hardly worth saving to a word processing file. I continued to write to blogger and continued to hear nothing in response. I BEGAN WRITING EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS, BUT AT THIS POINT I WASN'T SWEARING.

Apparently, other people had been losing blogs too. Phillybits was gone for a few hours. Americablog went down. Eschaton went down. Byl's blog went down. They all came back within a few hours, a day at the most. Not me. I was still gone. I continued to write to blogger.

And yet there was no answer. Until today when Andrea at blogger customer support responded to an email from December 5, my third email, to tell me the blog was back on my dashboard, and once again available online.

So for the time being I am back on blogger.

I bumped into the guy who runs Row House Logic this wekeend, and he offered me free bandwidth. I think I'm going to take him up on that offer. So blogger, please take this as a hearty


, fuck you very much. I will never speak a positive word about your company again, and will give you bad publicity whenever I get a chance.

I'll let the rest of you know when I have new digs.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Right on Time

As mentioned in other posts, about a week after Sam heads back to Montreal, I get walloped with an aluminum baseball bat called Depression.

This morning, almost a week after I dropped him off with his other family, the depression has come swinging for the fences, and my head's the ball.

So today I am down and out, having trouble concentrating on work, and putting curses on a few people who really really deserve it. In spades.

During the last drop-off, Grandpa-In-Law (who prefers the title "Puppa", which I won't use since it sounds an awful lot like "Papa", the job Grandpa- and Grandma-In-Law decided to usurp) shook my hand. I wanted very badly to refuse that hand, but I am as tied to social rituals as anyone else and shook it as quickly and limply as I could. I wanted to wash the scum off immediately. Next time I'll refuse that fucking hand I tell myself, but I know that next time I'll do the same thing. Maybe next time I'll squeeze his hand as hard as I can and see if I can break a finger or two. And maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass...

Melissa, who for some reason is surprised to be caught in the middle of this, is hoping for some kind of reconciliation between her parents and me, but the odds of that occurring are slender to none. Some things can never be forgiven, nor should they be. The hatred I have for those two people is always simmering to some degree, and it doesn't take to much to bring that simmer up to a full boil. There isn't much they can do to ever end up in my good graces again. In fact, earlier this week, I learned they were criticizing my parenting skills because Sam was acting up after his visit with me. Gee assholes, maybe it's because bouncing back and forth between two different families tweaks his little brain, ever think about that? Or maybe he's wondering where his dad went, and why he only gets to see him every two months?

I hope you burn in Hell, motherfuckers. I hope Satan himself rips your innards out through your assholes like sausage links and then crams them down your shrieking throats. Burn, motherfuckers, BURN.

The drop-off was a piece of work this time around. Sam and I drove up solo, no co-pilot this time, and he was a great little trooper. I brought plenty of toys and books to keep him occupied. I forgot crayons, so i stopped at a rest area to pick some up, to the tune of $8.00 for a box of 6 crayons and a small pad to draw on. The box was covered with pictures of Elmo, which added to the cost, but every parent knows what you're paying for is peace in the backseat.

We arrived in Syracuse right on time, and the Gruesome Twosome were there to meet me at the McDonalds at Cicero and Baldwin; Sam doesn't eat Mickey-D's, but they have a very large play area for him to blow off all the excess energy from sitting in a car seat for four hours.

"Hi Brendan, how's it going?" Grandpa-In-Law asked with a grin, and I muttered "fine" as briskly as I could. I wouldn't look at him, took his offered handshake with the all the vigor of wet spaghetti, and began unloading Sam's stuff as fast as I could from the back of the van.

"Here's his stroller. His clothes are in this bag; be careful, there's a new Leap Pad in there. Here's his snacks." I was practically throwing his things at them. "He ate well. Ok good, everything in there? Good, OK." I reached for Sam. "Goodbye buddy, Daddy'll see you in another few weeks." I gave him a quick kiss, got in the van and drove directly across the street to the Arby's where I sat down alone and ate some shitty fast-food. It was a "Big Beef with Cheddar" and my shits later that day were as black as ink. I don't know if Thing 1 and Thing 2 saw me pull in across the street, as they were already escorting Sam into the McDonalds, but it's a good bet they did, and I hope they know how much I hate their guts.

Have I always been this hateful and full of spite and bile? I don't think so. It's a permanent change though: I wake up feeling bitter, and it progresses through the day. There is always a chip on my shoulder, and it doesn't take much to set me off. I would so like to get back to my normal, sort-of-happy self again, but I think that person is gone for good. Thanks Melissa!

Sam comes back to Philly in about three weeks. I have to get on the stick about setting up day care, which I can't afford, for him. I still have to spend some money on holiday gifts for him. I fucking hate this time of year: all the goddamn Christians come out of the woodwork with their hypocrisy, celebrating their deity who told them to give away all that they had to the poor by buying tons of shit made by slaves in China. My particular favorite is the "They're Doing Away With Christmas" hysteria; happens every year, same dumb Christians. They complain when stores don't hang explicitly Christian decorations all over the aisles, and then when the stores finally buckle, they accuse them of "commercializing Christmas." You can't win with these jack-offs.

You wanna get me something nice for Christmas? Get me some heroin, so I can sleep through the whole fucking thing, wake me when it's over.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Letters to Sebastian and Fred

Why is Mallaby calling Kerry a traitor?
To:, "Washpost Letters" ,

To the best of my knowledge, Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby has never served his country, either in time of war or in time of peace. Mallaby has earned no decorations for valor, no purple hearts, no any other military decoration. Furthermore, Mr. Mallaby has never held elected office.

So why, without any backing evidence, and completely unrelated to his topic, does Mallaby gratuitously call Senator John Kerry, a decorated veteran, long-time public servant, and presidential candidate, a "Benedict Arnold"?

Sebastion "Loiters in the Men's Room" Mallaby (funny how gratuitous name-calling works) should either provide the evidence that Mr. Kerry is a traitor to our nation or issue a retraction. If I were Mr. Kerry, I would sue for libel.
Brendan Skwire
Re: mallaby
To: bskwire
CC: "Deborah C Howell"
From: "Fred Hiatt"
Dear Mr. Skwire,

Thanks for your note, which the ombudsman forwarded to me. The reference to
Benedict Arnold was not to suggest that John Kerry is a traitor. It was a reference to his frequent application of that term, during his presidential campaign, to CEOs who move jobs abroad. It was meant to underline the surprisingness of a Kerry adviser now finding virtue in one of the leading globalizers of our time.

Fred Hiatt
Re: Mallaby

Dear Mr. Hiatt,

If that was Mr. Mallaby's intention, he certainly didn't make that clear. "As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist" is what
Mallaby wrote.

If, as you claim, the reference was "to his frequent application of that term, during his presidential campaign, to CEOs who move jobs abroad", Mallaby should have written "...Furman advised John Kerry, who famously referred to CEOs who outsource American jobs abroad as 'Benedict Arnolds' in the 2004 campaign..." or something similar. Intentional or not, Mallaby smears Mr. Kerry's reputation. I do not know if I
believe your defense of Mr. Mallaby, and I don't know if YOU believe it either. At best, Mallaby is still guilty of lazy, incoherent writing.

However, I have come to see the Washington Post, and especially the editorial page, as little more than apologists for corporatism, and thus your remarks are taken with a ladle of salt. After all, you're the guys who claim to have known all along that the WMD stories were poppycock, and went along with it anyway.

Have your kids enlisted yet, Mr. Hiatt? Or are we still fighting your war with other people's kids?

Brendan Skwire
PS: could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE retire Richard
Cohen already? the guy makes no sense at all anymore.

I never heard back from Fred. Go figure. is hould have also pointed out that "surprisingness" is not a word, and it's embarrassing that that Hiatt, who manages the op-ed page, would employ it.