“Why do you call him Uncle Go Paul? He’s Uncle Paul because his name is Paul and he’s our uncle,” the older said to the younger.
“He’s Uncle Go Paul because we go places with him,” the younger replied.
I was touched. But not enough to get let them get a second thing of candy in the movie line.
Frequent readers of my exploits might notice a few recurring characters over what’s becoming the years.
There’s the ladyfriend, “who stole my fancy and one of my old hoodies.” There’s Nathan, sometimes Knathan, stalked through Chicago by a man named T-Shirt and who once almost burned down a Blockbuster. There’s Krystle, who snuck me into a speakeasy video game arcade and whom I once beat to death in a no-budget horror film.
And, of course, there are the honorary nephews Milo and Roland.
When you readers last saw the boys, the three of us and their father (my friend) Rob were chittering away happily at the Billy Goat, the site of some of my most impressive early 2000s debaucheries.
Now 9 (Roland) and 6 (Milo, named for Milo Aukerman of the Descendents because, yes, my friends are that cool), the boys and I were catching a flick together because a sitter canceled at the last minute, both parents had to work and, well, they’re awesome kids and that sounded like a fun way to spend an evening.
But I was now the caretaker for two live human children in the middle of downtown Chicago on a Saturday night.
An alternate title I considered for this piece was “Milo. Milo! Get down from there!”
We started our evening running around the fountains next to the Trib Tower.
“Why’s that guy sleeping there?” Roland asked, pointing at a beggar.
“Because he’s homeless,” I said. “He doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”
“A hobo or a hippie?” Roland asked.
“…” I said, before just giving up. “A hobo.”
“Oh,” he said. “What’s a hippie?”
Approximately 18,000 “Guys. Guys! We’re going to miss the movie if you don’t get over here!” later, we got to AMC River East 21, where they each got one concession item. Milo promptly put his on his head.
“Look, Uncle Go Paul, I’ve got a Skittles hat. Skiiiiiitles haaaat!”
“I’ll get it off, Uncle Paul.”
“Roland, don’t take your brother’s Skittles hat.”
Then “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” a bit of Disney tripe that had a character named Windlifter, a Native American helicopter who told long, insane stories about Coyote and whose helicopter blades were decorated like feathers.
I let this pass without mention so the boys would learn to accept casual racism as a natural facet of life. Between this and the hobo thing, I was really shitting the bed on cultural sensitivity here.
Then, the Billy Goat, where we got burgers and I ran into writer Dmitry Samarov, who has done illustrations for the past on this site.
“I didn’t even know you have kids,” Dmitry said.
“I don’t,” I said as Roland tried to eat his hamburger at the condiment counter and Milo shot me with a straw wrapper.
“Can I have some of your beer?” Milo asked. “I’ve had a beer before. I had a whooooole beer.”
“You can’t have any beer until you finish your scotch,” I said.
It was a good evening, full of running, fountains, movies and hamburgers. No one fought too badly, no one ran into traffic, no one started crying (least of all, me).
I didn’t cure racism or satisfactorily explain what a hippie is, but it was a solid night the boys enjoyed. It was a solid night I enjoyed.
Someday Milo will put down his Skittles hat and try to be cool for some girl from homeroom. Someday Roland will know what a hippie is and that the condiment counter is not for dining. I’m looking forward to seeing who these two weird little beings will become. I’m looking forward to seeing who I’ll become myself.
You might notice a few recurring characters over what’s becoming the years. These are two of my favorites.
The Nathan/Knathan stories:
The Krystle stories:
- Dolly Parton Kicked My Ass
- Humboldt Horror
- Death and the Warehouse
- Stripes and Solids and Barack Obama