Friday, December 29, 2006

Last Year At This Time

Today, I give you my journal entry from one year ago.
29 December 2005: Last night, I went out to the Dark Horse Saloon to throw back a few with Brandon, Tony and Flatscreen. Got home at around midnight. Wasn't drunk. Wasn't really too buzzed either. After only three beers in about five hours. Climbed into bed with Lisa who was already fast asleep. She was snoring like a beast so, after about twenty minutes, I grabbed my pillows and headed out to the sofa. M*A*S*H was on. It was the first episode with BJ in it, which would have made it the first episode of season four. I fell to sleep in the middle of it.

I awoke at 2:00 am to Lisa, standing in front of me, claiming that her water had just broken. I jumped up and called Jeannie, the nurse midwife. The contractions started at about this time. I was trying not to freak out. Jeannie told us to go to the hospital. I was a nervous wreck as I crammed everything I could into a small suitcase. By 3:00 am, we were at the hospital. Lisa was going through unbearable pain until she received an epidural at about 9:00 (finally!!). I left at about 9:30 to get some coffee and something to eat at the Bread Company across the street right after she fell to sleep. I had gotten a message from Brandon. I spoke with Mom twice, Dad once and [Papa] Jim about three times. He and Karen are on their way. I left a message with Matt. I've been reading the biogaphy of Paul Klee by G. Di San Lazzaro and am at the point in his life where he and his wife, Lily, have just welcomed their first son. Cool.

9:55 am: Matt just called. While talking to him, Karen called. Then Lisa called while I was talking to her and Matt was still on hold. I'm a nervous wreck. The time is now 9:59 and I have no idea what we're having and people won't leave me the hell alone. It's either going to be Audrey Elizabeth or William James but I haven't a clue as to who.

12:20 pm: Jim and Karen arrived a couple of hours ago and sat for a while. I gave them the key to the house and told them they could go back and take a nap. After they left, I went outside to make some phone calls on my cell phone. After about ten minutes, the nurse came out and told me to come in quickly. It seems that the baby keeps losing oxygen and there's a strong chance they may need to perform an emergency C-section. Seems like whenever I leave the room, I leave bad luck behind. I intend on not leaving again until a baby makes an appearance. Now we sit and wait. Things are looking normal again. At last measurement, Lisa is dilated 7 cm, which is two more than an hour ago. Before the oxygen scare, they estimated the pushing would begin at around 7:00 tonight. Now if a C-section is needed, it will be much sooner.

1:18 pm: I grow more nervous the longer I sit and stare at this damn heart monitor. Its beeping haunts me. I decide to try to get some sleep. However, I jump at the sound of the smallest noises. I get up to pee at the same moment the nurse enters the room. She jokes that her threat to order a C-section apparently scared the baby because he or she is "cooperating again." I'm afraid that if I fall to sleep, I'll let my guard down and another crisis will arise. I want to listen to music, but am afraid I'll end up sleeping through something bad that might happen. I also fear that that damn phone will ring as soon as I climb aboard the Slumberland Express. I think I'll call Mom and head her off at the pass....

1:39 pm: I made a playlist for the baby on the iPod. The theme began as any song with the word "baby" in the title. This expanded to "kid" and "child."

The playlist:
01. Babe, I'm Going To Leave You -- Led Zeppelin
02. Babe, You Turn Me On -- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
03. Babies On The Sun -- Sparklehorse
04. Baby Gonna Leave Me -- Tom Waits
05. Baby, Now That I Found You -- The Foundations
06. Eyeball Kid -- Tom Waits
07. I Can't Quit You Baby -- Led Zeppelin
08. It Ain't Me Babe -- Johnny Cash and June Carter
09. Little Fat Baby --Sparklehorse
10. Mama Had A Baby And Its Head Popped Off -- Atmosphere
11. Mother And Child Reunion -- Paul Simon
12. My Baby -- Emmylou Harris
13. Ooh Child -- The Five Stairsteps
14. Please Call Me, Baby -- Tom Waits
15. Problem Child -- AC/DC

I decide to stop with the mix when I realize that I'm really stretching it. Especially with that last one. I also fear that several negative and/or demented song titles may bring bad karma. I'm considering deleting them from the playlist if any problems persist.

2:43 pm: Several people have called to check on Lisa's progress. Mom arrived a short time ago and, to my surprise, only started crying once. At 9 cm, its looks like this baby is going to be delivered much sooner than anticipated. Dad is on his way, as are Jim and Karen. I've given up on trying to sleep. Too much excitement, I guess.

3:15 pm: Lisa started pushing at this time and went until about 3:50. Audrey Elizabeth Teel came into the world at this time and is beautiful!

30 December 2005: Neither one of us can believe we have a little girl. Last night they moved the three of us to a regular room with two beds (one for us and one for Audrey. Just kidding!). The parents stayed for a while. Dad was his usual zany self, making jokes about me wetting the bed and how the nurses had to put plastic sheets on it because he told them to. At one point, he wanted to turn on the TV and, thinking my iPod was some sort of remote control, he picked it up and pointed it toward it, trying to turn it on. He wasn't trying to be funny but, rather, again found himself bewildered in the face of modern technology. Ellie and Jeff were here for a while too.

I'd had an appointment to meet with a police officer to have the carseat installed in the CR-V. Brandon showed up as I was leaving so, after seeing the baby and talking to Lisa, he went with me. The officer asked "what's your daughter's name?" and I had to think for a second before telling her. The exchange just seemed unusual. Then I had to fill out some paperwork and it asked for her name and I wasn't sure how to spell it and asked Brandon what he thought it was. Thankfully, we were right on the money. After we got back, everybody had left in time for Jimmy and Kelly to show up with flowers and a balloon that actually kind of looks like Audrey. Jimmy also had his new camera and took some awesome photos of the three of us.

Sleep was sporadic. The baby slept a little but woke up crying in the middle of the night. I changed diapers for the first time after waking up this morning and am proud to say I'm quite comfortable with it. It's 10:48 am as of this writing and the groupies should begin arriving at any time now. Speak of the devil, Karen just walked in. Hello, Grandma.

9:57 pm: Audrey is a popular girl! Today, she had several visitors--Renee and Jim [Tharp], Brandon (again), Jeno and Kevin, Larry and Grandma. The Flatscreen came last, bearing flowers. He actually tried to get me to go across the street with him to Birdies for "just one drink" after visiting with us for a bit. I told him no and he didn't push it. This morning, I had to get away for a little bit so I went by the health department to drop off some paperwork for Lisa. Some of the women came out to ask about Lisa and Audrey. It's been a long day and we're both exhausted. We asked the nurse to take the baby to the nurse's station so we could get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow we go home and the real adventure begins.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Old Man

When I was young, I feared my father. The reasons are obvious as anybody who's ever met him can tell you he's a very large man. At six and a half feet, imagine growing up in a household where this gigantic creature wandered about, striking fear into the hearts of me and my brothers. To this very day, I still draw him as if you were looking up toward him and the sun was behind him. You have to squint and look directly into his eyes to see him, but his towering stature makes the sun appear as if it were coming up over a mountain. His eyes you could see, but a large shadow cast over his face. His hairy thumbs were as large as my head.

But, no, anybody who knows my father can attest at his gentleness and warmth. Growing up in the eighties, beating your child with a wooden hanger was still the thing to do to keep him on "the right track" into adulthood. I can remember hearing stories from my fellow classmates in regard to being beaten within an inch of their life by their father. Hearing these tales always made me nervous at the possibilities of what the Old Man was capable of doing. It's not that he would have done anything like that, but the fear was still there. In spite of this fear, I still got into my fair share of trouble as a lad. And, in spite of my behavior, my father never hit me.

The Old Man--or The Eliminator as we have always referred to him--was a ghost when we were growing up. As a teenager, he took up employment at Santa Fe Railroad, where he ended up working for thirty years. It was because of this job that he would be subject to long hours consisting of days, evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Often times, the Old Man would work his shift and then be scheduled for the shift immediately following it. This led to long hours at work and often times having to sleep during the day when he WAS home.

Finally, about ten years ago, the Old Man took an early retirement from Santa Fe when they merged with Burlington-Northern. I wasn't living at home anymore, but I remember my mom calling me up and being excited that he was going to be around from now on. It appeared that his "golden years" were upon him, and at a young age. He's since then gotten into the car business, which is what we all believe he was destined to do. My brothers and I take pride in telling people that he's "the only honest used car dealer you'll ever meet." It was with this honesty and integrity that all of our friends, and anybody who knows him, can attest at how great a human being he is.

I'm glad to say that we've all made up for lost time over the past decade. As an adult with a family of my own, I have a better idea of what he went through all those years. I realize how hard it is to have to drag yourself away from Christmas get-togethers and birthdays because duty called. Not a day goes by where I don't think about all the long hours he spent away from us and realize that he was exhausting himself for our benefit. He's the greatest man I know and I can only hope to be just like him.

And, Dad, I just want to let you know that I would never throw you under the wheels. Happy birthday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post-Xmas Exhaustion

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Wishes For All

I wanted to send out holiday wishes to everybody before heading out to St. Louis for a few days. I was trying to come up with a story to tell. Perhaps something with a message. Then I received this special greeting from the Super Villain himself, MF Doom, on behalf of Stones Throw Records and Adult Swim. I think what he has to say here sums it up well. Thanks, Doom!

As for Jenny, I haven't forgotten your request for a shoutout regarding the Annual Teel Family Christmas this year. As usual, there was plenty of drama to be had among the alcohol, buffet table and this year's crop of children. And for the record, I don't think you look anything like that girl from TV. Or that country singer.

And don't think I forgot your birthday. Happy 34th as of 14 December. And, while I'm at it, the same goes out to Amy Fish. For the rest of you, enjoy celebrating whatever it is you celebrate.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Perfect One

"The Perfect One"..."The Golden Boy..."Mr. Wonderful." These are some of the nicknames that Matt and I so affectionately gave Jeff as we progressed through our childhood. I don't think he necessarily liked being called these names, but he sure did earn them. Look at him with his rock-hard abs and symmetrical face. His perfect ACT scores and his spotless driving record. How does one achieve this greatness constantly throughout his life? The answer is simple: as the youngest of three, he watches what his older brothers do and he takes notes. When I spent my sophomore year in high school grounded the entire time--literally--Jeff saw me sulking about the house and said to himself, "I'm not going to let that happen to me." When I blurted out to my father at the dinner table one evening "What's YOUR problem anyway??" Mr. Wonderful abandoned any pre-notions of doing anything similar upon seeing The Old Man reach across the table and snatch me up with nothing more than his index finger and thumb as if he were plucking a dandelion. And thanks to me, Jeff never got fired from any jobs or ended up in jail. I can't speak for Matt, but I'm sure he has his own crosses to bear.

Jeff has always been a real dynamo. He sees what he wants and he goes after it. During high school, he found the time to perfect the guitar while leading the elate South Fighting Falcons to football victory. Part-time indie rock virtuoso, part-time football captain? Yes. And with this he ended up doing what had not been done too many times before: he bridged the wide gap between the jocks and the indie rock kids. He brought them together because he was equal friends with both sides. I've always admired his ability to see his goals in tunnel vision and with such drive as to not let any outside barriers get in his way. This drive took him all the way to Arrowhead Stadium during his senior year to play in the Kansas All-Star game. He was the only player who represented elate South High School on that day.

As I grew older, I began to see Jeff as more of a friend than anything else. This was evident six years ago when I asked a close friend to be the best man in my wedding instead of Jeff. I don't think Jeff thought anything about it, but he was the one who went from helping the best man, to actually taking over the best man duties, over the duration of the wedding planning. If it weren't for Jeff, I wouldn't have had my bachelor party. If it weren't for Jeff, I wouldn't have had any help during the reception since my best man decided to ditch us after dinner. Not declaring Jeff my best man always seemed like a mistake to me, but it was confirmed after the night of the wedding. But then it was too late. If you look at the program from our wedding day, there's another name listed next to "Best Man," while Jeff is reduced to "Guy Standing Behind Best Man," or whatever the title is.

I realized that Jeff was, indeed, the best man. "Officially" or not. There was no doubt about it. I told him this soon after the wedding. Jeff just shrugged and said "it needed to be done and I did it for you. It was my pleasure," then he changed the subject to music. For the past six years, I carried this regret around with me. I wanted Jeff to realize that, not only was I grateful for what he had done for me, but I wanted nothing more than to turn back time so that I could officially give him the job, in title, that he ended up with. I always wanted to repay him, and I got my chance this past summer when he asked me to be his best man at his wedding. I was not only honored, but grateful at the chance. If he hadn't have asked me, that would have been okay, just as it was okay with him six years ago. But as it happened, I was given the chance to make things right.

Over the past several years, we've grown much closer. And so much has happened in the past twelve months. The birth of Audrey, Jeff and Gaby getting married, my trying to find work, and more family-oriented issues. It makes you realize how special your family really is. And it makes you thankful that you have a sibling who just happens to be your best friend.

Happy birthday.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


An acrylic glass reverse print that I made from a black and white photo taken by my friend, Leslie Thacker.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Groundhog's Day Chili Cookoff

Two rejected illustrations for a local company's promotion for the annual Groundhog's Day Chili Cookoff.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today Is Tomorrow

This chalk pastel portrait is based on a character from the novel "Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates" by Tom Robbins. This shaman from the Kandankero tribe has an unpronounceable name that roughly translates to "Today Is Tomorrow." What really makes this character remarkable, other than his knowledge of consciousness-expanding herbs and seeming ability to place taboos on people, is his head which is shaped like a pyramid.

I've always been fascinated with the outlandish freaks from Tom Robbins' books. Most of them, it seems, can only be imagined by the reader since their descriptions are too outlandish to actually physically create. After reading this book, five or six years ago, I felt compelled to draw this portrait, as it seemed to be a rare possibility.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Li'l Doom Keeps It Real

Study for what would become an acrylic painting. The image is of the under-ground rapper MF Doom as a small child. Doom is best known for wearing a metal Dr. Doom-style mask when he performs. The piece also hints at his two biggest and most obvious influences: the Fantastic 4 (naturally) and sixties avant-garde jazz musician, Sun Ra.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Boxer

White india ink on black bristol board.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Another Day That's Easy To Remember

It must have been fate that my brother, Matt, met his wife, Kathy. Just the notion that my older brother--who adored Gershwin tunes at a very young age--would catch the eye of an attractive girl during his junior high years, was unfathomable to this writer. Not that I find it odd today, but I must admit that the twelve-year-old me was in somewhat a bit of shock and envy on the day that I met this girl he had been talking about for months beforehand. "She must be a real troll," I would say to Jeff under my breath whenever Matt went on about this girl, Kathy, at the dinner table. "Or in a coma," Jeff would add with a laugh. We fought the good fight that all siblings endure during those pubescent years.

But all kidding around came to an end one evening when Mom and Dad took us all to Haywards BBQ for dinner. It was there that a cute hostess walked past our table, which caused Matt's ears to perk up. It was for a reason, but we thought nothing of it at the time, as Matt was an actor and always finding reasons for his ears to perk.

"I think...that was...Kathy," Matt said in his most serious of tones.

The next time she came back by the table, Matt flagged her down and she was surprised and happy to see him. Introductions were made and I distinctly remember her saying "hello, Brother," to, both, Jeff and me when we were introduced as such. It was after this night that the ribbing came to an abrupt stop. To make a long story short, Matt and Kathy began an on-again/off-again relationship throughout their junior high, high school and, yes, college years. During this long period of time, it seemed like a teen TV drama that had long run its course ("get together already!" the audience would say), but everybody in both of their lives knew they were meant to be together and would end up that way.

Matt and Kathy married on 23 October, 1993. This, along with my own, is the only anniversary I can ever seem to remember for some reason. The two went off to seminary, had three beautiful children and ended up in Mt. Vernon, Missouri. I can't imagine my family without her and have always thought of her as my own sister. I know that's a typical thing to say, but it couldn't be truer in my case, as Kathy has been around for about as long as I can remember. And I know that the same goes for Jeff, as she presided over his and Gaby's wedding this past summer (I can't remember the date). She has been very supportive of me, and my family, over the past twenty-something years. I guess it's because she's one of us.

And the drawing up there? I was going through sketchbooks, trying to find an image that would remotely go with this text. I wasn't looking for much, just something that reminded me of Kathy. As I flipped through the pages, this drawing caught my eye and I went back to take a look. For some reason, it made me think of her. Maybe it's the whole angel thing. Who knows?

Today is Kathy's birthday. She's 25 years young. Which would've made her about four when I met her.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.