Sleep does wonders for a guy (Part Two)

And now, the continuation:

On the return trip, he began sipping from his sports drink, and I advised him to take it easy, as we wouldn’t be in bathroom range for quite while to go. Amazingly, he didn’t argue. He just screwed the cap back on the bottle and, I swear I’m not making this up, he actually behaved himself all the way to Walgreens! But as we entered the automatic doorway of our local apothecary, I knew it had been too good to last. Almost immediately began the demands to look at toys and to be given candy. And when I picked out my deodorant, the primary reason for our visit (Christmas came early for my wife this year!), he began asking why I needed it. Luckily, before I would have had to improvise an edited version of The Birds and Stinky Bees, he asked if we were getting anything else from that section of the store, like nighttime diapers or… toys. Again, I told him that we weren’t getting toys or chocolates, and reminded him that if he couldn’t pull himself together, he would find himself without a snack. He led the way at a steady pace, head hung in resignation, toward the beverages and snack aisle.

I grabbed a couple snack wraps and bottle of Code Red, while David chose a Lunchable. He tried to convince me that he should get a soda too, since I was getting one, and then caught himself, and said, “You know what, Dad? You’re right. This comes with a Wild Cherry juice. Do you know why they call it ‘Wild Cherry’?”

Before I could respond, he blurted out, “Because the cherries are so Wild!” I stared blankly down at him, as the maniacal giggling had begun, and simply shook my head. I placed my hand upon his back, and did the best I could to guide him the the register before he had the chance to ask for anything else, or worse: attempt another “joke.” I glanced over at the Redbox kiosk on my right, but needed both my hands for what they were doing, and after paying for our stuff, I could use David’s backpack to free them up to browse. So we entered into the line, three back from the cashier. The photo department called out for the next in line, and we were left behind a woman trying to scrounge enough change out of the bottom of her purse to buy a bouquet of drugstore roses. Five minutes (no exaggeration), and a constant stream of my son schilling for the candy companies, later, we were finally able to buy our five items and be on our way. It took just under a minute (including packing everything into his backpack), and we were walking to the rental machine.

Like I said in Part One, Guardians of the Galaxy was Out of Stock (with prejudice) and I began scrolling through the options to find some cinematic delight acceptable to both my son and to myself. His eyes lit up at How To Train Your Dragon 2, but I’ve already purchased it for him as a Christmas present, and have, therefore, become on willing to spend any more money upon it. Most of the other films they had on display seemed wildly inappropriate for him, but then I saw that The Giver was in stock, and remembered just how proud I’d been when we actually got through that book together.

On a side note: From when I first read that book, many years ago, I could only remember the messages of the dangers of conformity and that adults are stupid and not to be trusted. I wasn’t prepared for how Old Man and The Massage it was. I guess if you’ve never experienced anything other than your childhood innocence, then everything is filtered through that lens. My son seemed only to be interested in the parts where Jonas discovers color and the meaning of life, skipping over, in its entirety, the mentions of implied pederasty and having children sponge-bathe senior citizens. Also, I realized that the Divergent series seemed to be nothing more than an expansion on the notions first put forth in The Giver (which I’m sure probably robbed from Dr. Seuss), but somehow made it sexier, and aimed primarily at teenaged girls. Rant concluded.

Redbox then offered me the chance to save fifty cents (OMG! Half a dollar!) if I rented a second movie. I figured, What the heck! and began scrolling through again. David felt this was his best chance to snag the film he wanted, but I decided on the new X-Men flick because who doesn’t enjoy watching stories about time travel, mutations, and Peter Dinklage. My son was, of course, disappointed in the films which I’d selected, but I reminded him of who was paying, and he backed down, just a little.

In all our walking and our haggling over the things which I would buy, we’d only managed to kill just under ninety minutes since the end of school. I allowed my son to talk me into heading to our cool, secluded lunch spot (just behind the Not-Quite-Richmond City Hall). We ate our prepackaged “meals” and talked about the weather. And squirrels. And whether or not he would be allowed to play the Xbox later, since it wasn’t a school night, and he’d been such a good boy that entire day. I told him that we’d see, and stole a cookie from his snack platter while he wasn’t looking.

We finished up and headed home, taking the back roads to heighten the sense of adventure. We played that we were elven scouts on the run from some bedeviled goblin army, and that we had to make it to our castle without being seen by their patrols. This game stretched out what would have been a ten minute walk into something closer to about twenty. I’d managed to buy my wife another couple hours of uninterrupted sleep, and could do no more, as the time had come that David had to use the restroom.

TO BE CONCLUDED…

Sleep does wonders for a guy (Part One)

I had a decent day today. I think I’ve caught up on all the sleep that I’d been missing, trying to transition into a more nocturnal rhythm, and balancing that against having to be awake at certain times throughout the day, because apparently it’s frowned upon to let your child wait an extra hour at his school after classes finish for the day. I have nothing but the utmost respect for my wife, who has been walking this tightrope for the past two years, in addition to entertaining our grandson, and doing laundry, and grocery shopping, and never quite getting around to actually sleeping more than just a couple hours in the predawn morning, and again after she brings the Minkey home from school. I thought that everything was going swimmingly, heading into Wednesday, and that I could keep up with the pace I’d set myself, but when my wife returned to work that evening, my writing couldn’t start until almost 10pm, and by then I was exhausted, having spent almost three hours trying to convince my son that it was bedtime. Yesterday was a complete wash, as I couldn’t even think straight, and everything I tried to write just withered on the page after about 300 words.

So to celebrate a good night’s sleep, I went to Redbox and picked us up a couple movies. Of course, Guardians of the Galaxy was out of stock (and will probably remain so for at least a little while), so I settled for X-Men: Days of Future Past (primarily because of the hilarious send-up Honest Movie Trailers did a while ago), and The Giver, which was my reward to David for letting me get through that entire book when I was trying to read it to him. I was curious to see his reaction to the way movies usually butcher the source material, and see if he would prove himself a true reader with the utterance, “The book was better.”

It was still fairly early in the afternoon, and I could only imagine how little sleep my wife had managed, as she was still awake when I finally had passed out, and yet never woke me up this morning when it was time to take David to school. I knew he actually went to school due to a noticeable peace and quiet in the room, save from the saw mill horizontally splayed upon the bed beside me, when I finally acquiesced to my bladder’s demands for action around 1:30 this afternoon. Knowing that she normally gets roped into volunteering at the school, or volunteering here at home, I figured she’d probably only just laid down to bed, and decided to just go get David, and then take him with me as I ran my errands, so as to buy my beloved at least a couple of hours more to dream.

His class is most often the last class to appear after the final bell has rung (although it’s really more of an automated buzzer that can be heard half a mile away with clarity), unless either we are somehow running a little late, in which case we are chastised for for having not been there since final dismissal, with no acknowledgement of early arrivals almost every other day. And so it goes. I told him we were going on an adventure, so if he had to use the potty, five minutes ago was really the ideal time. He said he was fine, so off we went upon our epic journey through the very heart of Not-Quite-Richmond, CA.

“Where are we going? he asked at least a half a dozen times. “Are we going to McDonald’s?”

“I told you already, David.” I explained for now, the seventh time, “We’re dropping something off at the Post Office, walking up to just past the Subway, and then coming back to get some beverages at Walgreens.”

“But then can we go to McDonald’s?”

I let him put the envelope in the collection box, noting that the final pickup was at 5 o’clock. One errand down and two to go. “Okay,” I said, “we’re going to my store now.”

“Is it far?”

“Just up past Subway, almost to your doctor’s office.”

“But I don’t have to go to the doctor today.”

“Didn’t you have an appointment this morning? Hey, how’d it go anyway?”

“Oh, no… they called Mommy and cancelled.”

“Um… okay, so then…” I paused, not really wanting to ask him any more about it, as his answers most likely wouldn’t get me any closer to the truth than my own imagination. “Well, you know we’re not actually going there. I’m letting you know roundabouts where we’re headed.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

We chatted about how his test in school went, and some of the trouble I got into when I was still in school. We agreed that math is easy, and that it probably wouldn’t hurt him to put a little bit more effort into his attempts at pen(cil)smanship. “So Mommy said that I’m going to get a computer for my birthday.” He said, out of the blue.

“Okay,” I replied, “You know that’s, like, half a year away, right?”

“Well, I was thinking that maybe I could have it for Christmas…”

“If it’s going to be a birthday present, why would you think that you could get it for Christmas?”

“Because I want it.”

“Well, okay then.”

“I also want LEGO Batman 3.”

“I know, honey, me too. But it’s still really expensive.”

“You said I’d get it for Christmas…”

“No, I said that you might get it for Christmas. But I really can’t afford it right now.”

“Maybe Santa can bring it for me!”

“You know he doesn’t do electronics or software, right?”

“What about a robot?”

“Is it a toy, or a real robot?”

“A real robot.”

“Then no, David, he can’t get that made for you.”

“Okay, it’s a toy robot.”

“I think Santa might be able to swing that.”

We arrived at our secondary destination, where I stocked up on cigarettes for my trip up to Seattle, as I’m not going to pay $3 more a pack for nicotine. I got him a Gatorade for going above and beyond the call of childhood, and not needing to use the bathroom even once in the past half hour since I had gotten him from school. Our second errand run, we turned around and headed home, with a pit stop at Walgreens along the way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Happy Friday, everyone!

So I’ve been working on a few things today, and nothing really seems to be coming together. I’ve written at least one column’s worth, but sadly, that’s the word count from about three stalled projects combined. I’m taking my time on my “Very Special report on Inequality” which I’ll be posting tomorrow, in addition to at least one other counterpoint, which I’m also polishing in preparation. Depending on when I get all my errands done today, I may have something to share in time for an Evening Edition.

I want to thank you all so much for giving me part of your day, and I hope that I’ve entertained or enlightened you, in return. As this Blog moves forward, I’ll try to include more timely responses to events transpiring around me, and even attempt a humor piece or two.

I look forward to your company again, and have a wonderful conclusion to your week!

-Tex

 

THE ADVENTURES OF MIND MAN!

I’ve touched upon it couple times, but never really got into any kind of detail about why it was that I decided at the age of seven that I wanted to be a writer. And, as I sit here, countless notions for a column flying through my mind, refusing to touch down, I thought I might remind myself just why, exactly, I fell in love with the written word and chose this life when I might have had any number of alternatives; to put forth what I feel it means to be a wordsmith, and why I think that it’s important. I’ve danced around the wherefores and the fallout resulting from my… my chosen euphemism of tenacity, but I’ve left untouched the genesis of this entire foolhardy affair.

I’ve been a reader since before I can remember. In every home in which I’ve lived, an overflowing bookcase was a sign of pride. Not a statement of elitism (hardly possible with all of the Star Trek novels upon the shelves), nor a trophied ostentation, but as a testament to love, a memorial to the lives we’d spent in the company of the protagonists within. During my grade school years, I always sought out books at least a year or two ahead, relishing not only the challenge of assimilating new vocabulary, but the exposure to more mature concepts and richer presentations of nuance. Around the time I fell in love with writing, I was reading Madeleine L’Engle’s classic “A Wrinkle In Time”. I read “Dracula” (Unabridged) for the first time when I was ten, and discovered Tolkien when I was eleven. Tom Robbins, George Orwell, and Douglas Adams ruled my High School years. I lived and died more purely and intensely with every tale than with anything which crossed my path in life, and I was a Bi-Polar Poet in search of Love, so…

I used to have that paper. I kept it close and treasured, like my Declaration of Independence and Constitution combined. That piece of paper stayed with me for fourteen years, and was the foundation upon which I laid down all my hopes and dreams, until one evening in December of 2000, when, in Port Orchard on the way to see my girlfriend who was locked up in the county jail, I managed to have it all taken from me in the space of about thirty seconds. I’d gathered everything I’d ever written, the original Vaults of Uncle Walt, and taken them with us to drop off somewhere safe sometime after we’d rendezvoused with [redacted]. It had sprinkled earlier that day, and the roads were just slick enough to counteract any friction that might have come to our aid as the brakes locked up on our descent toward the valley floor and the back of a rusted red pickup truck. The driver honked her horn, and I mashed my feet into the imaginary pedals before me on the passenger side. We were only going 35 when our vehicles collided, but as ours was a Mary Kay Pink Dodge who’d already seen far better days before today, and his was an American Pickup, fully stopped and protected by a cushion of rust, it was really no contest. A tow truck was called, and I grabbed what I could from the back of the car, assured that we’d go out to get the rest within a couple weeks. And there I was, stranded miles from home, having failed to even find the jail in which [redacted] was housed, and suddenly bereft of my life’s work.

My girlfriend was released, and, after a particularly trying patch of time living homeless in the Great Northwest in the prime of winter, we found a basement apartment which we could almost afford on the job I managed to acquire. It was a chance for redemption for the both of us, but by the end of January, the lifestyle I’d been so desperate to get us away from had returned. Turns out living on the straight and narrow was too hard a task to manage. Knowing things were coming to a head, but terrified at losing almost four years of love I’d lived with [redacted], we bumbled through until that day in mid-March when I announced to sanity that I’d rather like to start seeing other states of being. We’d gotten the information (after three months of curious reluctance from the driver), and driven out to the towing yard where every poem, story, photographic negative and drawing (save what I’d salvaged from the car that night) rested safely in the back of that wrecked automobile. Or would have been, if we’d arrived with $200 no later than the first week of January. Every ounce of passion I had focused into a single goal had been crushed and incinerated. Three days later, in the aftermath of a nervous breakdown, I checked myself into the mental ward of the nearest hospital.

It was a single-page assignment, twenty-five lines long, with the figures printed in the margins colored in with purple and yellow. My handwriting was nothing spectacular, but at the very least, years later, it remained legible to myself and others, something which cannot be said of the atrocities which could not be even generously compared to chicken scratch (without mortally offending scores of poultry), that I commit to paper regularly these days. At the top, in capital lettering, read “THE ADVENTURES OF MIND MAN”. On this page began a labor of love which would remain for twenty-eight years, returning and renewing with commitment and clarity every time I allowed myself to falter. Within these words, so awkwardly arranged, so hurriedly scribbled as not to do injustice to the ideas with which I could not, then, keep pace, within these words remain the faintly flick’ring flame of inspiration wakened within me by the simple instructions: If you could be a Superhero, what would your powers be? What would you call yourself?

I remember the revelation (if not the actual moment) that I didn’t have to wait for someone else to write the stories that I so desperately wished to read; that I could, myself put pencil to paper and allow my dreams to flow with the same force and validity as anyone who’d ever told a tale. I created a boy hero whose abilities were of imagination. And then I copied that idea onto the page as a Grown-up who would use the power of his mind to reshape reality in the face of evil. To be fair, that synopsis is far superior to anything I wrote before the age of seventeen, and I most certainly was not thinking about it in those terms. I had a feeling when I was little, that I wouldn’t be the biggest, nor the strongest. I didn’t know about the smartest, but I knew I was smarter than some, so that was where my fantasy was directed. An extraordinary man who didn’t need guns or gadgets, bulging muscles or super-speed. but used his ability to out-think his opponent.

Some of the highlights from the following years were “Who Killed Babyface Barbra, Jr.?” (a title I cringe at to this very day, as I have never met a woman with the suffix of Junior), “Nightmare on Oak Street” (a tale of horror written with a nod to movies I had never seen), and the Unicorn of my prepubescent writing career: “Mission: Titan”, a story which I would try to resurrect on at least three occasions over the coming years. Later I would develop a stronger style, oft times writing merely to show off or prove someone else inferior, but I lacked the gift to power through my apathy and found my salvation in Outraged Love, or The Poetry of Despair. And then the Dark Days came, and then the mere banality of life. But here I am, come through the other side, focused on the first lesson that I ever learned: I get to do this. No matter what may happen, I get to do this if I want to. Maybe not for money, and maybe not for fame, but something so simple even a kid could have it figured out: I write because I can, and because there are stories within me which I’d like to see now come to life.

I wish I had that paper still, but not for me. The irony of my life’s work (and I hope, my legacy) being the written word, is that my son is not too keen on reading, and his writing is, from a mechanical point of view, unreadable. I wish that I could show him a piece of who I was when I was his age, so that… you know what? I had a whole thing I was going to launch into about the magic of writing and the adventures hidden in the written word, but then I realized: I just wish he could see me as someone who was once his age, someone capable of understanding what he was going through, someone more relatable than the grumpy old man who drones on and on about homework and bedtime.

But beyond inspiring filial devotion, I’d to think I might have been able to encourage him toward his own moment of clarity. I have no idea what notion will eventually fill his head, crowding out the lesser calls to action, and leading him with unwavering certainty to the path in life upon which he decides his destiny has placed him, but I hope that I will see it. I’ve witnessed far too many people wander through their lives without any clue as to what they hope to accomplish within their fleeting time among us, chasing money, highs, or power, yet never knowing why they do it, beyond a vague assumption that something has been missing. Modern man is missing a clear purpose in the world, a sense that he’s important, a sense that he belongs.

Despite the years of their Participation Ribbons and Mommy’s Little Snowflake snuggles, children are reminded day in and day out they are not important, that they are best barely seen and never heard, that their goal should be to learn how to blend into the background, camouflage themselves in mediocrity. When they grow up, these children will have all but faded, and despite their protestations that they will change the world, they won’t have even the slightest idea why they should. I want something better for my son, though it might not be something that I understand. I want him to ne able to find some happiness of inner purpose, to find his place both in his heart, and out there in the world.

-Tex

Salmon Ladder

Though it was the siren song of “Dude, there’s palm trees” which enticed me to move down to the San Francisco Bay Area, my heart longs every year to witness an honest Northwest winter. My friend, and fellow contributor to The Vaults, Dave Banuelos, would mock the very notion of an “honest” Northwest winter as anything other than an adorable attempt at best. And please don’t get him started about his feelings regarding the “weather” here in the Lower Kneecap of California. I’ve been here for almost a dozen years, and while my body may confuse 50 degrees with chilly, my soul longs to feel the invigorating pain of the not-quite-freezing temperatures and ever-present tease of snow my hometown has to offer. But not that Billings stuff. That’s just ridiculous.

When he was just a little baby, we brought my son up to the Puget Sound so my mother could see him baptized. I’d been living in the Bay for half a decade, and all I wanted for my birthday was to have the chance to see it snow. Despite the forecast downplaying the odds of crystallized precipitation in favor of particularly chilling rain, I got my wish, and stood beneath the falling snow once more. My son wasn’t terribly impressed, but he was only just five months old, the only thing which truly impressed him was drinking milk straight from the tap. My wife, however, having spent all but a few years living down in Mexico, had only seen it snow within a television’s glow from the safety of her living room. Like a child who’s realized school’s been cancelled for tomorrow, she jumped right in and started making snowballs. The battle began shortly thereafter, and I honestly believe she enjoyed getting hit by exploding snow just as much as targeting my growing bald spot.

My reason for wanting to have a better life. Also pictured: My family.
She is finally feeling the cold. My son is still not impressed.

 

We returned back a few days later to our home in Berkeley, CA to temperate weather and the daily grind of working life. My son, of course, has no recollection of that visit, but I know it is a memory my wife will cherish always.

A few years later, shortly before I took the reins at the pizzeria where I’d been working for some time, I sent the two of them back up to my hometown to spend Christmas with my family. I’d planned to meet them shortly after the new year, but managed to swing an earlier departure, and surprised my wife in time toast her on her birthday, just hours before the end of 2011. Again, she’d fallen in love with the place where I’d grown up, and to sweeten the deal for her, it had snowed once more, shortly after her arrival. There was nothing left for me, of course, by the time that I arrived, the snow having been washed away once more by the incessant drizzle of the Pacific Northwest. But the two weeks she’d spent free of work, and in the care of family, had done wonders for my wife: a miracle more valuable than even Birthday Snow. Of course, trying to corral our son while on their 22 hour train ride home washed most of that tranquility away, and it was decided shortly thereafter that on any future visits to Seattle, our son would fly with me.

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Don’t let the smile fool you: He’s not nearly so adorable tens of thousands of feet up in the air. Or on a 22 hour train ride, either.

In about a week and a half, the three of us will be heading back up to the place of my birth to spend the holidays with my family (something that I, personally, have not done since I moved down here). Part of the reason that I left my job when I did, was to make sure that I could go this time, though I’m sure my wife would have enjoyed a small vacation without me. But like I mentioned a couple days ago in El Que No Podia AguantarI’ve come to understand the value of family, and the continuity which it represents. This may be my final opportunity to spend a Christmas with my grandparents, and I didn’t want to miss it because I had to put work first. That had been my reason for all these years I’ve spent away, but time and health are conspiring against me, and I dare not miss out on these treasured moments.

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Treasured Moments, indeed.

 

But there is another reason as well. It wasn’t only the promise of nice weather and exotic flora which convinced me to move on down the coast. The previous summer, my great-grandmother had passed away. For years, my mother nagged at me to go and see her, or at the very least, give her a call. But I was too busy trying to figure out my life, and was ashamed at all the countless ways in which I’d failed. I’d assumed she would be disappointed in me, and didn’t think that I could bear to see that reflected in her face. So I avoided Gram, telling myself that I still had time in which to make things right, to give her a reason to hope I’d wind up as something other than an abject failure. The news came out of the blue, at least to me. I’m sure that somewhere in-between the lines of my mother’s incessant call to familial obligation, there was a warning of Gram’s failing health. But it was so easy to put off, I mean, what twenty-two year old truly considers his mortality, or the fleeting flames of others’?

At the annual family reunion just a short while later, her absence was unbearable. All of her children (who’d given up tobacco years before) hovered around me, breathing in my second-hand smoke to calm the rising anxiety at the loss of their mother. For years, I’d been desperate to be regarded by the world as an adult, and now, seeing what could await me, I chose the quick and easy way out. I made my decision to go to California toward the end of November ’02, and that year, for Christmas, we were all doing our best to avoid discussing the tangible emptiness of the holidays without my great-grandmother. My entire life, until that point, we’d always spent at least half the day at her house. We’d listen to the same old stories (“So I says to this guy, I says…”), play musical couches as more and more family arrived, and I’d pop handfuls of candy corn into my mouth, just waiting for the moment when I could open all my presents, and then head home to wait for Santa.

I missed the entire point of it.

I’m not religious, and for me it’s not Judeo-Christian mythology that marks the day as special. That day is Holy, and has always been, because of who we share it with: those moments spent together, finding the rhythms forged in DNA and honed like use in forest trails, those moments remind us of who we are, and from whence we came, and why that’s so important.

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Finally having gotten over myself (mostly), I’m able to enjoy the wisdom of my grandfather. (circa 2004)

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She constantly threatens to “Rockabye me with real rocks”.

 

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I think my Mom is the most excited that we’re coming.

 

It’s taken me far too long to finally figure out what’s actually important, and that money truly can’t buy you happiness. This year I choose to make life count, to suffer painlessly through the tales of my embarrassments, knowing that the foolishness of youth can’t hurt me if I am surrounded by those who love me. My gift to David is a chance to make a memory or two of his great-grandparents that he might actually be able to recall in the years to come. And with my wife I share the template of our matrimonial success: The example of a daily love which has withstood the decades of excitement and banality, the deep and playful which both my grandparents still share with one another.

-Tex

Note: all photographs are used with the permission of Tex Batmart

Batmart: Into Dorkness

My first memory of Star Trek goes back to when my mother checked out a projector and film reel of “The City On The Edge Of Tomorrow” from our local library when I was a little boy. She drew the curtains, turned off the lights, and projected one of the best episodes of The Original Series upon the wall of the little house in which we lived. We later watched the weekly reruns on our little black and white television, and the movies on VHS, and I fell in love with the idea of a future wherein humanity has found a modicum of perfection. Well, back then I remember liking how cool the Enterprise looked (it used to be the only thing I drew), and thinking how awesome it would be to have a transporter room.

For the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, my best friend’s parents set up the living room in his grandparents’ house like the bridge of the NCC-1701 (No Bloody A,B, C or D). It was an event worth the expenditure of effort. And sure, even at that age, I could recognize that the first couple of seasons of TNG had some growing pains. But our patience was rewarded with a handful of good episodes in the second season and the show hitting an actual stride in its third. Finally the cast of the television show was giving the movie cast a run for their money (it didn’t help that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was so painfully awkward that the juxtaposition clearly favored the men and women of the 24th Century). Once more Star Trek was a cultural talking point. Almost everyone I knew, sci-fi fan or not, was tuning in on Saturday evenings to catch the latest adventures of the Starship Enterprise.

Toward the end of its run, the franchise running at full force, the Saturday night block increased to include Deep Space Nine. Again, there were growing pains, but this time the comparisons were harsher, as TNG was fresher, and almost universally loved. I remember tuning out DS9 right as the Dominion War arc was beginning, growing disillusioned by the seemingly desperate casting patch of Michael Dorn in 1995. Of course, I was well into my teen years, and disillusionment was kind of my thing. Of the Star Trek related shows in which he starred that year, I preferred Gargoyles, as it was almost a perfect TNG reunion, and a pretty great series to boot.

That was also the year that Star Trek: Voyager became the flagship program on the fledgling network, UPN (R.I.P. 1995-2006). We were back to traversing the galaxy in a brand new ship, being led by plot device from the “freedom fighters” of DS9 to the middle of nowhere due to Deus Ex Machina. The signature difficulties of the Next Generation era were again on display, as the show seemed to be a reaction against the season-long stories being showcased on DS9, returning to a series of stand-alone episodes held together loosely by a theme of Gilligan’s Island in space. Eventually, the show would find a balance between the weekly adventures of TNG and the season-spanning narrative arcs of DS9, but by then I’d stopped watching. Of course, I didn’t own a T.V. for its final couple seasons, but the addition of a “sexy” Borg drone didn’t really inspire me to find a way to watch. I did tune in for the finale, as I’d done for DS9, and found myself thankful that I’d gotten out when I did.

It had been a rough time for the Trek I’d known and loved. The Next Gen movies just didn’t have the pop that the Original Cast films possessed, and Star Trek: Nemesis taught us all that one should never attempt to remake The Wrath Of Khan (even as an homage) a lesson that was heeded for all of 11 years. Of course, Nemesis came out the following year. Our first glimpse of the future of Trek arrived just a few months after the end of Voyager. I speak, of course, of Enterprise.

It was a gritty reboot before we fell in love with gritty reboots. It was an almost universally hated prequel in the era of universally hated prequels. I wanted so badly to love it, and found myself rooting for it until they completely botched and then discarded the novel notion of a “temporal cold war.” Then it was a build-up to militarization in response to our Middle East engagements, and the show, while finally finding the elusive balance of stand-alone and season arc that Voyager always aspired to, sold its soul for a last-ditch grab to salvage fading ratings. I tuned back in to watch the final season, feeling, rightly, that the world had been oversaturated with mediocre Star Trek, and this was likely to be the last new content I would see. And something happened that I hadn’t expected. Finally freed from the shackles of the recent tradition of stretching out the show to seven seasons, the writers and producers realized that they had an immense backlog of mythology to pay off, and they decided to use their final season to tie it all up for the fans. It was no longer about searching for a safely neutral (at best) or patriotic tone, but about recognizing and honoring the very best that Star Trek had been. It was a science fiction space opera, a character-driven show that could be used to discuss the issues of the day (as opposed to taking on the party line). Full disclosure: compared to the best Swiftian examples of the Trek which had come before, this final season was noticeably barren, with barely two stories addressing anything of value. But they made the effort to tie the era of Jonathan Archer to the glory days of James Tiberius Kirk, and for me, at least, the effort was enough. I could have lived without the ending, however, taking place within the confines of the Enterprise D’s holodeck during the events of “The Pegasus”, rendering the lives of the crew of the NX-01 as mere object lessons for an ethically conflicted William Riker.

And so, on May 13, 2005,  Star Trek gasped its final breath and died.

And there was never any attempt to try and bring it back, merely for profit, utilizing time travel to undo decades of continuity just so they could retell the same stories, but at a lower quality and higher budget, cashing in on our emotional attachments to peddle a shoddy product. Nope. Never happened.

THE END

That’s it for the Continuing Adventures of Tex Batmart today. I’ll be back again tomorrow at noon!

-Tex

Conversations in Time

I sometimes wonder how my younger self might judge me if he could meet the man that I’ve become, usually envisioning a heated discussion between my teenage and current selves. It had never occurred to me to travel further back in time to have a conversation with the boy who fell in love with writing and set his future out before him, until a game my son and I were playing earlier this evening. He was imagining that he was himself, now, in possession of a time machine, and that he’d come back along my timeline to meet me when I was his age. I, of course, played the role of my seven year old self as best I could, substituting obstructionism when my memories could not be accessed. It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit that I might have been on to something with the whole “undivided attention” thing I figured out yesterday.

But having a blast playacting a prior version of myself, and interacting with my time-travelling progeny forced me to come to terms with just how many of my previous temporal incarnations just might take issue with the choices I have made. Explaining to the boy my son met this evening that it would take 28 years until I actually did anything with the ability he’d just discovered and to which he’d already dedicated his life would be a disappointment. At that age, people in their twenties seem so grown up, and anyone over 30 is positively ancient! To tell him that he’d have to live 400% more just to get a shot might have discouraged me from even trying. Or it might have motivated me to get an earlier start. Honestly, it’s really hard to extrapolate my headspace from nearly three decades past. And this is only the first of many highlights as we travel along Tex Batmart through the ages.

 

Tex Batmart

Through The Ages

Age 8

A year later, I would have been crushed to discover that the first girl I ever kissed would not go on to be my wife, and even worse: within a year, she’d be moving out of my life forever! My utopia was coming to an end. No more escorting her to the bus stop in the mornings on the way to school, no more races along the street with her slightly younger brother. No more running off into the woods and teaching one another how to kiss like the grown-ups do. In terms of romance, this would mark the beginning of a particularly long period of loneliness in my life which would go on for another half-dozen years.

Age 14

I’d met a girl on the way home from school, and asked her parents if she could keep me. Seriously. She was pretty, funny, and she lived down on the beach! For her birthday that year, she invited me to her party at Skateland. I didn’t skate, but was super into her, so went along, and earned some serious Dad Glances from her father on the trip out there. Trying to warn myself any earlier would have been met with boredom and rebellion, so I would need to pull myself aside somewhere near the arcade, strongly urging barely teenage me against accepting the affections of a different girl at the party that night. He would, of course, ask why I cared (not bothering to question the paradox of my appearance, as he would remember from my previous visits six and seven years ago), and proceed to ignore me, as it would be proof he would be kissing a girl again, and even seeing boobs! Never underestimate the power of breasts upon a teenage boy’s mind. He would go on to kiss that girl, and see his first real life boobs since infancy. And then lose that girl, and then another, and then a few more after that. Having seen the uselessness of trying to prevent an adolescent from foolishness in his quest for romantic shenanigans, I would have to wait another couple years until I did something desperately in need of stopping.

Age 16

Skipping over the most impressively rebellious time in my life (January 1995), a time when only Trent Reznor could have soothed my inner turmoil, I would see my next opportunity for self-redemption in the late Spring of ’96. Again, my present self would be easily disregarded should I attempt to prevent him from doing anything short-sighted. There were things that had to happen (the records of which were expunged upon my 21st birthday), knowledge earned, and the groundwork laid for major events which would transpire six months hence. But I would have told myself that what I was going through: the searing clarity of emotional pain, the bursts of insight and inspiration, the nights of writing when I could almost taste an enduring literary legacy, these were symptoms of something called Bi-Polar Disorder. That although knowing that it was a chemical imbalance in my brain didn’t mean that everything I felt was in my head. And to hang on just a little longer, things were coming that would change it all. I’d give myself a hug, and fade forward to the beginning of June 1997.

Age 17

If you could go back and change anything in your life, would you? Are you willing to commit suicide, to erase the very person that you are, that you’ve become? This is the moment in my life in which I would be tempted to interfere. It was the beginning of Summer, 1997. Having almost completed my court-mandated punishment, and won over my Probation Officer, things were degenerating at home once more. I was more determined than ever to get out as soon as possible, and was making plans to leave as soon as I wouldn’t be imprisoned for leaving home. Things came to a head, and, through very little fault of my own, I was suddenly free… two weeks early… and in violation of the terms of my probation. I ran the situation by my P.O., and was granted a reprieve, assuming I could find somewhere new to live.

That summer, I fell in love with a woman just one year older than I am now. What began as simple companionship of Mrs. Robinson developed into my first adult relationship. And for a while I had everything I’d wanted. I was free of the tyranny of my Parental Unit, free of The Law, and living a life of domestic tranquility. I even had the good fortune to meet a boy who would grow into a decent young man, who allowed me to practice being a dad. I can honestly say that I didn’t have a lot of success, but I also didn’t manage to screw him up too terribly. I was happy. I was an equal of adults months early. I should have known better.

I’m not going to get into the particulars here: Eventually I’ll write a book about it, and actually do it justice. I will say that no other point in my life has influenced the creation of the man who I became more than the three years which followed. My innocence fell away, and I was forced to reconsider who I was and what kind of man I could and couldn’t tolerate becoming. To spare myself the pain which would define the era, would I give up everything I have now, including the wisdom earned from moments of overcome despair? I doubt I would have listened, for even if I believed myself, I was doing it for true love.

This thought experiment has taken on a rather melancholy aspect, and that was specifically what I was trying to avoid. I figured I’d have a few laughs at the juxtaposition of myselves, and call it a night. Suffice it to say that I would be forced to leave myself alone to face the world and wounds to come. But we’ve got one more stop to make.

Age 21

It’s now April 2001, and I’ve been out of the mental ward for a couple weeks. My relationship is deteriorating, and even I, Don Quixote, can read the writing on the wall. I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to move out of my apartment and leave the love of my life behind. I’ll only ever see her once more. This is the point where I might actually be able to listen to myself, hear what I would tell myself. More than any other impossible wish, I would sit down with myself over a Big Ass cup of coffee and a cigarette, and tell him this:

“I know you’re hurting right now, and nothing that I tell you will change that. There’s no point in telling you to wait for it to get better. Only time can tell you that with any credibility. But please know that it meant something; that everything you went through was for something. You’ll make plenty of mistakes, and do some things you’d rather not have done, but I can promise you that it does get better. You’re too smart for your own good, and all of your clever attempts at evasion only make the lessons you need to learn come and hit you harder. You will find someone, and barely have the sense to date her. She’ll put up with you for a few years, and then you’ll have to marry her to make her stay. The road ahead is hard, and it will feel like it will never end. But I swear to you, you will be happy! You just haven’t earned it yet. Be true, and step forward into world with your eyes finally open.”

I would watch my future self begin to dissipate, mulling the notion that I’d have to put up with this for who knew how long, when I heard that fat bald bastard say, “Oh, and just watch out for the super-hot Panamanian girl, she’s nothing but trouble!”

And that concludes another trip into The Vaults of Uncle Walt. It was a little darker than I intended, so I’m going to make you all a promise to keep it light tomorrow. Thank you again for joining me on this Great Adventure, and I look forward to seeing you here again!

From all the versions of myself, I wish you a pleasant evening.

-Tex

El Que No Podia Aguantar

Spending another day at home in the company of my family has made me appreciate just how much I miss going anywhere else for work. Nothing says “Interrupt Me” like a desk in the corner of your bedroom with the T.V. set upon it. Well, that and football.

Growing up as an only child living with a single mother, I was ill prepared to cope with the sheer density of the family my marriage has assembled about me. There are six of us squeezed into a two bedroom apartment (my wife, our school aged son, and myself in one room; my adult stepdaughter, son in law, and toddler grandson in the other), and when we happen to all be home together I realize just how much I miss living alone. And that, of course, is when we’re all getting along. The rest of the time, I’m convinced we’re on some sort of reality show version of a telenovela, despite finding no evidence of cameras (hidden or otherwise). There’s screaming, accusations of infidelity, calling into question of various manhoods (menhood?), pregnancy, dishes flung against the walls and floors, and children running wild like Pablo Escobar’s decapitated chickens. My fantasies since marriage have been of a secret studio apartment where I can hide in perfect solitude and silence, free of the obligation to wear pants. Curse you, denim leggings!

The ringleader of our little group of shrieking wee folk is my seven year old, David. He runs around the house emitting a high pitched whine like a rapidly deflating  balloon, jumping on (and subsequently destroying) furniture, and then running right up to the face of his two year old nephew and shouting, “Boo!” That, of course, elicits a harmonizing gurgle from my grandson, at which point they run off together, tempting fate (and gravity) until it all comes abruptly to a halt when someone begins to cry. When I was a kid, I don’t ever remember anybody having ADHD: you were just a spaz, and needed to sit the hell down and shut the hell up. Now, as class sizes increase, and funds diminish, anyone even moderately more active than a stroke victim is referred to a doctor whose first instinct is to load the poor kid up on speed. God forbid the kid is merely bored, as the curriculum must always be targeted to the lowest common denominator.

***

My son and I just returned from the kitchen where I showed him (again) how to microwave a corndog. After going over times and basic safety precautions, he turned and asked me, “Why not hours?”

I was just as confused as you are now, and I’d been there for the entire conversation. “What?”

“Why not cook it for hours instead of minutes?”

“You know it only takes like a minute to cook, right? What’s it with you always escalating things?”

“I dunno… So why not hours?”

I sighed, “Because it would burn.”

“But then,” he smiled, “you could be The Statue of Liberty, but holding a….” he paused for effect, “… a corndog!” He then ran off, battered sausage on stick in hand, his laughter uncontrollable in light of his mad comic timing.

***

Of course, my grandson isn’t a paragon of rationality and calm himself. His big thing now is running full speed toward me and shifting from Extreme Hug formation to a There Can Be Only One! testicle punching attack. But a few minutes later he’ll come up to me, apologize, and give me a hug and kiss to make it all better. Then he’ll give me something of mine he’s scavenged from somewhere, as if I’d lost it, and he’s just completed a quest to return it to me. Like all toddlers, he understands the concept of “mine” as it applies to him, but has no real concept of other people and their possessions as anything other than props in what must be an incredibly psychedelic live action adventure. I’m positive that, were he to possess the ability, he would have quite the narrative to impart. His vocabulary is improving, though. He’s gotten up to two word concepts like “bad guy,” and “oh no.” However, the catchphrase that warms all of our hearts is his impassioned plea for a “coook KEY!”

As difficult as it can be sometimes, the lot of us packed in so tightly, it has opened my eyes to the wisdom of a multi-generational family. Here in the States, at least among us gringos, the dream is to do your time until you’re finally free, then move away to set your own rules applicable to those living beneath your roof. Each successive generation following a centuries’ old pioneer tradition to seek out somewhere new and tame it. Occasionally with blankets. To stifle that urge for primacy has been trying, but I’d like to think it’s taught me something: Unlike my mother, who can only see her grandson twice a year at best, I’ve been given the opportunity to watch my own grow since birth, seen him develop from a tiny defenseless fecal shipment facility to a force of nature in the form of a drunken leprechaun. He’s undergoing a lifelong process of becoming who he is, and I can say I’ve seen it since day one.

And then there’s David William, my one and only child by blood (unless I actually do come into possession of a time machine and become the biological father of my daughter, which I’m not discounting, as she’s too perfectly similar to me to be explained away by coincidence). I was there at the moment of his birth, staring on in blind terror as I got an object lesson in Cause and Effect. I knew I was his father when I felt that terror bubbling up once more inside me  upon the realization that I couldn’t protect him from everything in the world, and that it wasn’t my job to even try. I never knew my dad, so I’m figuring out most of this as we go along, he and I. I reckon that it’s not my job to save him from each and every hurt he may encounter, but rather to teach him how to save himself.

Beneath a gaze of adoration and exasperation, he’s grown up before me through the years (which slip by faster every time I try to hold on to a fleeting moment), become a little boy already seeking incremental independence from his parents. He has so much to say, and far too often I find it easier to dismiss him and his flawed (but well reasoned for his age) worldview than to give him the only thing he truly ever craves: A moment of my undivided attention.

With that, my first actual entry comes to an end. Thanks for reading! I’ll be back tomorrow with more tales from The Continuing Adventures of Tex Batmart.

On a side note: I’m really excited to announce that Dave Banuelos, long time friend and brother from another mother, will be doing a guest column here each week about Sportsball. I’ll fill in more details as they develop.

Thanks again!

-Tex

A Warm Welcome

I’ve put this off for far too long, and let myself get rusty. It is my hope to remedy that over the next few months, so that I might actually be able to do this for a living. I’ll be honest: for a while, this will be a moderately uncomfortable endeavor for us both. But I intend to keep coming back, day after day, inspired or no, and writing. I’m horrible with deadlines and amazing at procrastination. If I feel scared, my usual response is to run away and hide, in the hopes that the world might eventually forget me and pass on by. No more.

I’ve never had a website before (unless you count my Geocities page from the Bronze Age of the Internet), and never had a Blog (unless you count my infrequent and stylistically inconsistent ramblings on my MySpace page), so you may notice changes from time to time, as I play with all the settings and push the fancy buttons. Please bear with me. Throughout it all, I will provide you with writings: entertaining, thought provoking, controversial, or likely some mix of all three.

I made a promise to my son, my wife, and to myself that I would follow through on this lifelong dream, and I look forward to sharing this Journey with you as well.

-Tex

 

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