Wednesday, January 15, 2014

With Great Power Comes Great Chance to Screw Things Up

Some things are important and some things aren’t.  (It is amazing the insight this column offers its dedicated readers.)  There is important like avoiding being run over by speeding vehicles.  There is important like saving infants from falling out of skyscrapers.  There is important like keeping Lindsay Lohan from marrying any or all family members.  There is unimportant like 99% of what is on Twitter.  There is unimportant like when a person whose opinion you have never valued in any instance says your tie is ugly.  There is unimportant like being made fun of by people because you choose to learn how to juggle at the ripe old age of fifty just because you always kind of wanted to (so there all you people who made fun of me…yes, I am a fully evolved human who doesn’t take things personally…much…okay that might be more important than I first thought.)

There are also things people think are terribly important even though they know full well they aren’t.  In my life I have to say this category is mostly populated by sports. 

I am not a superstitious person in any other part of my life.  I will brazenly walk under a ladder.  If a black cat crosses my path I do not alter my destination.  If I break a mirror I do not consider it seven years of bad luck I simply think I am now spared of looking at just how gray my hair as gotten and I can continue to pretend I am a strikingly handsome brown haired man.  (I said I was not superstitious.  I did not say I was not delusional.)  When it comes to sports I am terribly superstitious.  Actually, I take that back it is not superstition if it is a scientific, data supported, fact of life. 

Exhibit A - I refuse to wear anything bearing the icons of my favorite sports teams on the days they play their games.  Well, several years back I spaced off that the Kansas Jayhawks were playing basketball that very evening as I dressed for work.  I unthinkingly put on my Jayhawk necktie.  Halfway through the day it occurred to me what I had done but I thought I was safe because the team was playing the Colorado Buffaloes and we hadn’t lost to them in years.  That night the Jayhawks lost.  It was clearly all my fault. 

Exhibit B – There are times my very attention to the sporting event can cause bad things.  I was the general manager of the Dodge City Legend basketball team in 2005.  We were playing for the championship of our league.  I had taken to pacing the hallways of the Salina Bicentennial Center while my team was on the floor.  This seemed to have worked in the previous two games in the championship tournament.  It had even gotten around to the other teams.  The general manager of the Salina team, our opponent in the big game, approached me before the game and made a joke about having security keep me in the gym during the game.  So I am pacing, listening to the crowd noise to take my cues as to whether good things or bad things were happening.  At one point I decided this was ridiculous and I went through the tunnel into the arena.  The scoreboard showed it was a close game.  Standing at the free throw line was Roy Tarpley.  Roy was a former NBA player who had joined our team late in the year.  He had literally made every single free throw he had taken the entire time he had played for us.  I am using the word literally in its literal sense not the figurative sense my daughter always uses it for saying things like “I was literally freezing to death” in regards to being caught outside without a sweater when the temperature dropped below fifty degrees.  Anyway, Roy is standing at the line as I enter the gym and he throws up a brick large enough to bludgeon Paul Bunyan’s blue ox into submission.   I sigh, drop my head, turn on my heels and go back out to the hallway.  We won the game and I enjoyed watching the video tape later. 

I admit it is hard to believe a middle-aged man tucked safely away in western Kansas spending the majority of his time sitting in a twenty year old green recliner has such total power over things he actually has no part of.  But it is true.  As my other daughter would say, for reals.

Christopher Pyle offers the final proof – he was not watching the Chiefs play the Colts until halfway through the third quarter.  Chief fans can ask for his apology via email at

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Two Tales of Christmas

It is the week before Christmas and all through the house every darned thing is stirring and I wish they would calm down so I could get some sleep.   (I don’t think the poem would have become such a big part of the holiday season if it had started that way.) Even though at the writing of these words it is over 60 degrees outside it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  I take that back.  It has been beginning to look a lot like Christmas since October 15th if you count going into major chain retail establishments.  But I digress.  Christmas is nearly here and at my house much of the decorations are in place, many presents are under the tree and the bank accounts are properly depleted so let the holidays commence. 

This really is a Christmas story so stick with me to the very end.  You know how people tell the story of how Bruce Lee was such an amazing martial artist he had the ability to reach up into a person’s chest, pluck the heart from the thoracic cavity and show it to the person before their inevitable death.  (See I told you you’d have to wait until the end.)  Well, it is not just Bruce Lee who can do that.  I once had an eight-year-old do that to me. 

I was playing the part of Santa Claus.  If there any believers reading this column I was simply standing in for the jolly old elf due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict with the Macy’s in New York City.  You don’t mess with Macy’s.  There was a sizable line of hopeful children lined up to sit on my lap and make their demands, uh, requests.  After the usual number of requests for video games, electronic devices and the occasional throwback requests like dolls and BB guns, a particularly adorable girl approached me.  She perched on my knee and looked at me with brown eyes which may have been partially to blame for global warming.  She did not ask for a doll, a video game or straight cash.  She said her aunt was very sick and wondered if I could make her better.
Now, everyone who knows me knows I have no problem talking.  At this time I lost the power of speech.  I looked at her.  I then looked directly at my feet, the clock on the wall, the particularly ugly Christmas sweater worn by grandma number seven taking a few hundred pictures of the oblivious toddler in front of her and the stain on the carpet next to the exit because it is not a good idea to show dozens of small bright-eyed children that Santa can cry like a chronically depressed person watching Tommy Kirk shoot Old Yeller.
I don’t exactly remember what I said to her.  I think I tried to explain that Santa and his elves can’t handle that kind of thing.  I gave her a hug, more for my benefit than hers, and told her I would try whatever I could to help.  Then she walked away, a tiny Bruce Lee, holding my still beating heart in her adorable little hand. 
See, I told you it was a Christmas story.

As I said in my last column, I love Christmas.  Christmas has a lot of different meanings and messages.

Since I really see my role in this newspaper endeavor as more public goofball than teller of heartfelt stories, I need to end on a different note than my real life story of what is most important at Christmas. 

Every year thousands of people, if not millions, watch the 1964 animated Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, an endearing tale of a group of misfits finding their places in the world.  At least that is what we have been brainwashed to believe for years.  Take a minute to look more closely.  Rudolph is mocked, shunned and eventually driven to self-exile from home and family because of a simple abnormality, not because of anything he purposefully perpetrated on his Rangifer (the genus for reindeer – I looked it up) brethren.  It is only when the leader of the elfin sweatshop realizes Rudolph’s abnormality can be exploited for his own personal gain that our hero is accepted.  Isn’t that a perfect message for this season of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.  (Just not for Rangifer tarandus, the binomial name of reindeer.  Like I said, I looked it up.)

Christopher Pyle wishes all of you a wonderful Christmas season no matter your religion or your interpretation of Rudolph but he might mock you if you open presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.  He can be mocked back at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Powers, Both Super and Not

The following was a sign in front of chain store:  “Now Hiring Managemen”.  Now, I know full well the Kansas wind simply removed the final “T” from the last word but it made me laugh.  All I could think of was it was a whole new cadre of superheroes.   First there was The Justice League of America, The X-Men and The Avengers now the world is being protected by The Managemen.  

Their leader is Manager Man.  His powers include making at least one third of his staff unhappy no matter what decision he makes, the ability to be uncannily out when the most important things happen, and he can throw words like paradigm, proactive and brainstorm with such deadly vagueness his enemies are so confused he can, not so much stop, nefarious deeds as make the people looking to perpetrate them so crushed under protocols and bureaucracy they simply lose the will to perpetrate. 

Another member of this group of patriotic warriors is Middle Manager.  This may be the hardest working member of the team but he seems to be always behind.  The newest crime wave is thrown his way but just before it is taken care of the upper management team swoops in, finishes the task with only a tiny bit of genuine effort and takes credit for the whole thing while poor Middle Manager is given a whole new set of criminals to deal with. 

There is also Micro Manager.  This hero is able to infiltrate the criminal netherworld and get his hands into their different endeavors.  His chief power is to nitpick and annoy to the point everyone involved with the evil plot just becomes so annoyed they simply walk away. 

Finally we have Office Manager.  She is incredibly talented and gets the most accomplished in the least amount of time.  She multi-tasks with an efficiency truly terrifying to the lazy and incompetent evil doers of the world.  Her greatest nemesis is Glass Ceiling.  

I really think I am on to something.  Does anyone have Joss Whedon’s phone number?

The biggest money maker movies these days are all the gigantic scale superhero movies.  I admit I am one of the mindless movie-goers willing to plunk down my eight bucks to see good looking people in ludicrous costumes save the world from the less good looking people in less ludicrous costumes and their labyrinthine plots to take over the world. Some of these labyrinthine plots to take over the world are so convoluted the guys who actually wrote the script get lost about thirty minutes in. 

The biggest reason I go to these movies is I was a comic book kid.  I loved comic books.  Every time I walked to the convenience store or went to the grocery store with my mother I would get a comic book.  Now before the younger generation reading this column starts thinking I was some sort of Richie Rich (non-superhero comic book reference) comics didn’t cost four bucks a crack.  The very first comic books I bought were twelve cents apiece.  No, they were not painted on the walls of caves.  Those would have been a bear to store under my bunk bed.   (Also, when I bought bubble gum baseball cards there was actual bubble gum in the package.  The bubble gum and the cards tasted about the same but the bubble gum would not make the cool sound in your bicycle spokes.)

I still think comic books helped me develop the vocabulary I have to this day.  Think about it.  Would someone who only read the readers in school use the words I like to use?  The school books didn’t say things like:

This is Dick.  Dick has a ludicrous costume.
See Jane.  See Jane run.  See Jane run with her cadre of mutant companions. 
See Puff.  Puff plays with Spot.  Puff has a labyrinthine plot to kill Spot. 

I would have preferred books like that in school, especially one with Puff being an evil doer planning canicide.  (Yes, that is the real word for killing a dog.)

I think we all would like to be a superhero or at least have a super power. 

My choice would probably be the power of flight.  Let me add an extra requirement to that power.  I want to be able to fly really fast.  I would love to be able to travel around the country and still make it back to work on Monday.  See my kids at college each evening.  Fly to New York for a show.  Heck, even making a quick trip to Toledo would be great if I could fly there. 

Christopher Pyle considers his true super power to be confusing people with his words.  He can be contacted at  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Brushes with Greatness

It seems to be a common component of the human condition to be impressed by people because they are famous, even people who are famous for being as useful as Lindsey Lohan at a…at a…Lindsay Lohan pretty much anywhere.  I freely admit I am right there with all those other humans. 

The other night I was watching television.  That’s a lie.  I was watching a television show on my computer via (he says hoping the people at hulu will see I mentioned them and be grateful enough to send me a check for the unsolicited solicitation on their behalf – I am willing to lend my column out for flagrant begging).  The show had a scene which took place in a hat store.  I almost fell out of my chair when I recognized the store as the place I had visited in New York City.  The very place I went with my daughter and spent an unconscionable amount of money on two fancy hats was on TV.  I was so excited I had to tell people that one place on that one television show is a place I once stood.  How cool is that? 

Actually, not that cool at all.  It is a store in one of the most densely populated cities in the United States.  It is a store in one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country.  It is less than a block from the Empire State Building.  There have been thousands of people in that store.  I am far from special.  But I still texted people in a sad attempt to be associated with famous.  (By the way, the name of the store is J. J. Hat Center.  I am saying that in hopes they will send me a new Borsalino fedora – size seven and half – in gratitude for the plug.  See previous parenthetical for my explanation for having no shame.)

I once lived in one the epicenters of famous people, Los Angeles, California.  Really there were movie stars just walking around like they actually were people who had to eat and buy stuff and mundane things  like that.  Weird, huh? 

I worked at a bookstore and Jonathan Banks (a talented character actor in tons of things from 48 Hrs. to Breaking Bad) asked if there were any Ansel Adams calendars.  I hopped to it and went to the backroom to find what he wanted.  He was very nice and thanked me.  I responded that is it was the least I could do considering that very morning I had watched John Lithgow choke him death.  I had been watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and he had indeed been killed by Lithgow.  This started a conversation with him about how he doesn’t live through a lot of his movies.  He asked if I had seen Beverly Hills Cop and the guy behind him in line reminded him that Eddie Murphy had shot him in that one.  (Oh, yeah.)

There were two pinnacles of brushes with greatness at my bookstore job.  George Carlin came in looking for some sort of philosophy book.  I held myself together and took him to the proper place in the store and we looked.  We didn’t have it.  I said we really are just a top forty bookstore and he laughed.  George Carlin laughed at ME.  One of the first people to ever make me fall of the couch laughing released a small giggle at something I said.  I am never washing these ears again. 

The other one was Dick Van Dyke.  He stepped up to the cash register and I lost the power of speech and movement for a second.  Rob Petrie was who I wanted to be when I grew up.  Dick Van Dyke was a comedy god to me.  At first all I could muster was “That’ll be seven dollars and forty-eight cents.”  Then as he turned to go I blurted out.  “I am a huge fan of your work.”  He turned and gave me a big genuine smile saying “That is always so nice to hear.”  I think I fainted. 

I was in the store as a customer to get a friend a birthday card.  John Larroquette was there.  I approached him and asked if he would sign the card I had purchased for my friend.  He asked if I thought my friend would believe he had actually signed it.  I was too polite to say if I was going to make up someone to sign the card it would be someone more famous than him.  He refused the mere Bic I offered him and signed it with a fountain pen from his breast pocket. 

Destiny? Not so much...

People will point to major events in their lives as the turning points where destiny was fulfilled.  I think it is more often insignificant things which actually put people into the places they end up.  I love to tell this story which illustrates my point.

My father was the City Manager of McCook, Nebraska.  He had applied for the same position in Hutchinson.  McCook was celebrating some sort of centennial so most the men in town had grown beards or mustaches to look like pioneer guys.  This only worked so well as they still wore slacks and button down shirts with ties, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.  Dad had grown a mustache to be with the in crowd in McCook.

He goes down to Hutchinson a day early for his interview.  He drives around town to get the lay of the land and checks into a hotel for the night.  That evening he looks in the mirror and decides to shave off the mustache, a small decision for which even he didn’t have a real explanation for why he did it.

Flash forward several days.  My father is hired to be the City Manager of Hutchinson.  The vote to hire him was 4 to 3 by the City Commission so he was barely hired (the vote might have been 3 to 2, Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for this so I have exhausted my research capabilities).  Flash forward several more days.  There is a reception to welcome Dad to town.  One of those stand around with glasses of punch and balancing little smokies in one hand while shaking hands with people you know full well you will not remember their names even ten minutes from now because you have been unenthusiastically introduced to roughly seven thousand people in the last three hours, kind of receptions.  During this reception he mentions to one of the commissioners that he had a mustache the day before the interview but had shaved it off that night.  The commissioner tells him she would not have voted for him if he had still had the mustache at the interview.  (It was 1966, and only hippies and Dan Rowan had mustaches back the.) 

Think about it.  If my father hadn’t shaved I would not have moved to Hutchinson at a young age.  I would not have met the friends who shaped big parts of my personality.  It is because of those friends that I decided to pursue a career in the movie industry.  That is the reason I majored in film studies at KU.  That is the reason I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles.  That is the reason I hated living in LA and moved back to Kansas.  That is the reason I returned to KU.  That is the reason I ended up with a film degree from KU.  That is the reason I worked at a bookstore in Kansas City.  That is the reason I did an open mic night at a comedy club.  That is the reason I abandoned the dream of being a comedian.  That is the reason I had to go back to college years later to get a degree which led to an actual job.  That is the reason I became a teacher.  That is the reason I pursued writing as a hobby.  That is the reason I started writing a newspaper humor column which paid roughly thirty dollars a month.  That is the reason I became a principal.  That is the reason I made enough money to send my kids to college, well, not enough money, enough to go into mind numbing debt in order to send three children to college because mind numbing is required when you sign that master promissory note.   That is the reason I still kind of hope I will be discovered and whisked away to be a comedy writer.  That is the reason I wistfully ponder being whisked.  That is the reason I am writing this particular column.  That is the reason you are reading this column right now.  So if you hate this column address your angry letter to the Gillette Corporation who made it possible for my father to shave off his mustache.  Darn those activist razor companies.

Please remember this cautionary tale when you are thinking about doing something as monumental as facial hair removal.  It may mean your child will never become the next Johnny Carson like he always dreamed of being.  That is the reason we became stuck with Jay Leno.  That is the reason for the whole Conan O’Brien debacle.  Sorry…I won’t do that to you again.

No Skills No Problem

Okay, before we start our regularly scheduled column I have to share something.

Let me set the stage.  As many of you know I live in Dodge City and out here in Dodge City we understand wind.  Chicago, Illinois claims to be the “Windy City” but that is as full of beans as the large number of mayors and governors that city and state has seen indicted.  Dodge City knows wind.  So on this past Monday when the wind was blowing a consistent thirty miles an hour and gusting to forty-five we took it in stride.  Even though most of the topsoil from Grant County had taken up residence in my hair and between my teeth I just went about my day.  Sure some of the kindergarten kids at my school had to pulled back down to earth as I guided them to the bus and sure I had used a stapler to ensure my hat stayed on my head and I grant you the birds were white knuckling it on the tree branches due to a fear of flying I soldiered onward.  Even with all that being said I saw something which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that we hardy denizens of western Kansas scoff at wind.

I was driving away from my house at about 6:30 in the evening and the wind was doing its darnedest to not only separate hats from heads but was going for the naturally sprouted hair as well.  I go past a place of business with a large lawn and the professional lawn guys were cutting and trimming their little hearts out.  One of the minions of a well manicured lawn was dutifully wielding a common tool of his trade as he moved down the sidewalk.  He was using a leaf blower.  Holy unnecessary Batman. 

Now back to our regularly scheduled column…

It is a poor musician who blames his instrument.

I am a very poor musician and I have no desire to blame the instrument.  Even with a Stradivarius in my hands if I played the violin it would sound like a schizophrenic cat arguing with itself about who used up all the catnip. 

Different tools get very different results in the hands of different people.  Don’t get me wrong I have some skills in the handy man department.  I can use a screwdriver, but there have been times I used the handle of the screwdriver as a hammer because I couldn’t find the hammer.  Hey, it worked and truthfully, I hit my thumb less frequently when I do it that way. 

Whenever I have had “do it yourself” projects they weren’t totally done by myself.  I have to rely on the kindness of friends.  Sometimes I just need to borrow the proper tools.  Sometimes I need others to act as consultants as I use the tools.  Other times I need to borrow the person to wield the tools.  I always return them, the people at least. 

Truthfully, this lack of any useful skill set makes my life easier in many ways.  Think about it.  If you can fix plumbing issues friends will call you evenings and weekends to help them out because a plumber would cost roughly the Gross National Product of Finland.  If you have computer skills people call you when they have a virus, their e-mail won’t open or their uploads and downloads are pinging over 100 milliseconds. (I don’t exactly know what that last thing means, I Googled “common computer problems” in order to finish the joke.) Even just owning a truck means people call you when they have to move big stuff.  I am left alone because I have no discernible skills and my four door sedan barely holds my family.
I am probably being too hard on myself.  I do have some skills.  I have been a school administrator for about nine years so I can threaten to take away recess really well.  I can help a kindergarten kid find his or her lunch card in under 2 seconds.  I can be totally invisible to children as I try to slow them down when they are running for the bus as if Usain Bolt riding a cheetah was chasing them. 

I have some other skills. I can play the Jeopardy “thinking about what to write on your screen for the Final Jeopardy question” music on the ukulele (just don’t ask me to answer it for you the one time I had a crack at that I messed up).  Also, I have pretty much mastered juggling the three ball cascade pattern.

Now don’t everybody call out at once for my services.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Here's your money...wait...what?

You know how you shouldn't go to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  You’ll find yourself unloading the bags at home asking why on earth you bought three packages of Fig Newtons and seven varieties of Doritos but no toilet paper or bread. 

Well, I have a similar rule; don’t write your column when you are angry…

I am now going to break that rule.

How many gentle readers out there have a child in college at this very moment?  How many gentle readers out there became less gentle thinking about the process of dealing with colleges?  I like to think I am pretty even keeled but I have spent a lot of time with the demeanor of Bruce Banner’s big green friend the last several days, all due to the world of higher education.

Both of my parents, two of my siblings and I all attended the University of Kansas.  I look back on many parts of my life in Lawrence with positive nostalgia.  I am a huge Jayhawk basketball fan.  So, it was natural for my children to approach the university with favorable thoughts.  Now, my two daughters are going there this semester.  Not only are my daughters going there but large chunks of my once and future earnings will be going there as well.  It is ungodly expensive but that is not why I am angry.  I knew that part of the deal long before either child was even out of kindergarten.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong.  If you pay me I work for you but if I pay you then… You.  Work.  For.  Me.  This is the crux of my Hulk smash attitude.

The University of Kansas may have a whole bunch of eggheads working for them.  People with advanced degrees in all sorts of intellectual pursuits but they seem not to have learned that basic equation of customer and service. 

My children are often treated like employees.  Not just any employee but the kind of employee who is on a plan of improvement because he has shown the initiative of a plate of over-cooked noodles and the intellect of the plate upon which the noodles reside.  I understand there are expectations for fulfilling requirements like which classes should be taken and then the tasks within said classes.  I have no problem with that.  That is part of the expected covenant between the parties involved. 

Let me give you examples using other employer/employee relationships to illustrate my point.

Let’s say I am the CEO of a Fortune 500 business (I do not have the temperament for such a job but, hey, this is just for the sake of illustrating a point).  It is 8 o’clock Sunday evening.  I send you an email.  It is expected you will be checking your work email at such a time of the weekend.  The content of that email requires you to write a two page memo about a segment of the business which was never part of your job description.  I pay you so that is acceptable.

Flip to college.  My daughter gets an email from an instructor at 8:00 PM Sunday night telling her she has an assignment, an assignment heretofore never mentioned in any class or syllabus, due the following day.  Wait a minute, I’m paying you to do a service for me.  This ain’t part of the deal. 

If I pay you it is acceptable for me to expect a certain level of myopic focus on your part. 

Let’s say I am paying you to paint my house.  I expect while you are at my house, you paint my house.  Not spend time pursuing your hobby of raising parakeets. 

Flip to college.  My daughter is expected to myopically focus her life on a single aspect of her college experience by her professor.  Forego all the other stuff they pounded into her during orientation that she should get involved with a myriad of activities and groups.  As well as forego the things which feed her soul between working truly hard on the regular expectations from all of her other courses.  Once again, I’m paying you.  This ain’t part of the deal. 

I still have fond of memories of attending KU.  Two of my favorite memories ever are sitting with my father watching KU win the national championship in 1988 and sitting with my daughter watching KU win the national championship in 2008.  I have a hope Bill and Young Mr. Wiggins will give us a championship in 2014.  But I have to say I no longer bleed crimson and blue.  I bleed confused and annoyed. 

Christopher Pyle apologizes for venting his spleen all over your nice clean computer screen.  He can be reached at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not All Matriculations are the Same

Another big jump in the lives of the Pyle family of western Kansas is happening soon.  In a bit more than a week Kid #1 will be joined for the first time by Kid #2 attending classes at the University of Kansas.  There are a lot of different things going through my mind as I see them pack all their stuff in preparation for college life.  Since my chief goal with this column is humor I will not describe many of the things going through my head because I am a great big sap and having my girls leave home brings out epic levels of sap.  I’m talking Vermont in syrup season levels of sap.   
Therefore, in order to avoid tear stains on my keyboard, we are going to push Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman to the side, climb into the Wayback Machine and visit young Christopher as he wandered the streets of Lawrence and the hallways of higher learning at KU back in the mists of antiquity known to historians and scholars as “The Early 80’s”.

I was not a highly motivated college student (and for you kids heading off to college that was a big mistake, more on that later).  My older brother actually filled out my college application forms because he was determined to broaden my horizons whether I wanted to enlarge them or not.  He also went with me to Lawrence to enroll in classes and select an apartment.  Then he left and I had to actually do everything else myself, the heartless twerp. 

I lived in what we lovingly referred to as the student slums my entire college career.  This was great for the clinical introvert Chris, because he does do better when he can recharge in solitude but is was not good for the pathological introvert Chris who would go several days in a row without talking to another human being entirely too often. 

My first apartment was actually a single room roughly the size of your average maximum security solitary confinement accommodation with access to a bathroom and a kitchen down the hall.  Since I sprung the extra ten bucks for the mini-fridge (in order to avoid the awkward forty to fifty seconds of bumping into somebody else from the building as I shuffled to the kitchen for my nightly can of Pepsi) the rent was a whopping $100 a month.  Let me tell you the price matched the level of luxury it implies.
My second year at college was the anomaly.  I shared two floors of an old house with my brother and my best friend.  That year I was borderline social.  I had a part time job which required me talking to people, even pretty girls.  We even hosted parties.  The rest of my college career I lived alone in basement apartments, one of which was at the bottom of a dead street.  The symbolism was not even lost on me at the time. 

My girls have a lot more to take with them.  Some of it is because they are girls.  Some of it is because they are young at a time in the history of the world when there a lot more gadgets.  Some of it is because they wish to live like fully evolved humans.  When I moved to KU I had a reasonable amount of clothes, a portable black and white television, a cassette tape player, two each of spoons, forks, knives, plates and cups (eventually I had many more cups - about a gross of convenience store plastic cups) and some basic school supplies, not including a calculator because I hoped to be finished with math. 

This brings us back to the lack of motivation issue.  I didn’t really know what my passion was so when I went to college I mostly just fell into a course of study.  I majored in Film Studies which at KU during this time was just a bunch of classes on film history and aesthetics, no film making at all.  This prepared me for a cracking good career in video rental stores, and we all know how well that industry thrives to this day.
Actually, I get annoyed when people look at college as nothing more than a conduit to the workforce.  My lack of passion was the reason for the lack of career, not a poor choice of major.  If I had been fully engaged I would have gone to USC and made movies.  Now I want to go back to college and become a real writer.  Timing is everything in life.

Christopher Pyle will pretend the girls are just in the basement a lot the next few months.  You can contact him at

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Children Require More Changes Than Diapers

Father’s Day is over for this year so you can rightfully accuse me of not being very timely with the content of this column.  (Honestly, you can rightfully accuse me of a lot of things in regards to the content of all of my columns:  lack of timeliness, lack of relevance, lack of seriousness, lack of long form analysis of the works of Marcel Proust, lack of data approved by institutions of higher learning and an acute lack of nutritional value.)  Even though I am a tad late I am going to write about fatherhood. 

I am currently well into my fiftieth year of life so I have seen fatherhood as a spectator for nearly that long.  I wasn’t very attentive to anything other than food, sleep and hugs for the first several months and for the next couple years Bugs Bunny and Batman overshadowed my observations on the art and practice of being a parent. 

I have also participated in the experiment as a father for twenty years.  Kid Number One showed up in 1993 and since then two more moved into the house.  So I have some experience to draw upon as I come to my various conclusions. 

There are frequent times I wish I could be more like my father.  A man who exuded integrity.  A man who had earned the respect of so many people.  A man who was not expected to go to all of his children’s music programs and ballgames and art shows because he was the dad and he was allowed to sit in his chair, watch the news, read the latest Louis L’Amour western and only be involved in the raising of children in a manner of his own choosing due to the fact that Dads of the 70’s were still using the Dads of the 50’s as their role models.  The current paradigm of being “engaged” and “present” in the lives of one’s children is exhausting. 

When the kids were very small I was amazed about many things involved with being a father.  It was stunning just how much love I could feel for what was at first nothing much more than a blob of protoplasm but a blob which could smile.  It was unbelievable how easy I found it to put selfish things down the priority chain and focus on the needs of a helpless human.  It was downright astounding the things I was not only willing to touch but unthinkingly grab hold of and put in my pocket (by “things” I mean the materials exuded from the various orifices the child had not yet learned to control on his or her own).

Ever since I moved out of the toddler stage myself I have been a rather sedentary person.  I like stillness and quiet.  Then a set of toddlers appeared in my house and still and quiet were not their preferred modes of being.  I found ways to meet them halfway.  For instance when we went to the swimming pool they would want to play games in which we each pretended to be some sort of sea dwelling creature.  One would be a clownfish, one would be a dolphin and one would be a sea horse and I would proudly announce I was a barnacle and gleefully attach myself to the side of the pool. 

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my children very much.  Especially now that they are such complete human beings capable of driving themselves places.   I truly like them.  I’m talking not just the paternal love that is considered to be a requirement of the deal, but a genuine “I would hang out with these people even if they didn’t share a large amount of my DNA” kind of like. 

I often talk about how important it is to me to laugh.  My kids make me laugh often and with gusto.  Kid #1 is in college, engaged to be married to a fine young man and a fully capable contributor to society but she still likes to dance across the living room in a silly manner and try to engage me in a fight with her inner mongoose.  Kid #2 is heading off to college in August and has a stronger work ethic than the guys who got Apollo 11 to the moon but she spends time finding the cute and her wicked wit keeps the house lively.  Kid #3 is often ignored due to his basic hermit tendencies but he is multitalented and contributes such statements as “The Martian Manhunter is a boss.  He is the Swiss Army knife of super heroes.” 

Christopher Pyle continues to take on the role of barnacle on a regular basis.  He can be contacted at