My morning began, as it usually does, with a bout of irritation: I had fallen down the rabbit hole whilst watching YouTube, and found myself faced with yet another person who doesn’t understand the meaning of the term, “decimate.”
He was discussing theories for the upcoming Avengers film, and described how Thanos had “decimated” the MCU, whereas the plot point, the actual stated intent of Thanos was to halve the universe’s population. That got me wondering about the state of the English language, and the stupidity of those who voluntarily venture before a camera’s lens. I can’t remember the first time it began to bother me when someone confused decimation for devastation, but it’s got to have been several years now. Needless to say, this got me thinking about lawns, and how I’d like to have one, if only so that I might have the opportunity to shout at the youth of today to get off of it.
This isn’t like the anal tampon vodka shots or the Tide Pod challenge, or even the razor blades in Halloween candy or Satanism scare. This is a genuine concern from an older  American, who frets over the future of communication in the world. I mean, hell- we’re back to hieroglyphs. And on that subject- an eggplant?!!! Really? Am I missing out on something, or am I merely inadequate?
I took to Facebook to vent my frustration, when I came across an article I’d seen floating around for a couple of days, mentioning FDA approval for the use of Ketamine in bi-polar patients as measure against suicidal thoughts. Throw the news that psilocybin can push back depression (or at least its symptoms) for up to six months, and the massive push for medicinally legal marijuana throughout the country, and a disturbing realization began to dawn on me:
All the things I used to do recreationally are now being introduced as therapeutic measures to treat my illness. For the life of me, I can’t decide if this is a positive development, or the loss of edgy counter-culture to the forward march of banality. And seriously, where the hell’s my lawn?
I mentioned all of this to my best friend, Fed, who responded to my assertion that getting older wasn’t really for me: “It’s an unfortunate ride.”
And speaking of unfortunate rides, apparently my step-dad has to go to Yakima today to get his… I want to say eyes or ears or something head-related, at the very least… checked out. I apologized for his unfortunate ride, and my mom answered on his behalf that Yakima was, and I quote “not so bad.”
Did you know that Yakima’s slogan (and I am not making this up) is “The Palm Springs of Washington?”
I wasn’t sure about the placement of that question mark, but I like as part of the official slogan. So yeah, it stays.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in his epic retort to yet another Dan Quayle misstep, “I’ve been to Palm Springs. I know Palm Springs. Palm Springs was a place I’ve been. Yakima, you’re no Palm Springs. “
My mother then asked if Palm Springs described itself as the Yakima of California, to which I responded that not even Yakima described itself as “The Yakima of Yakima.”
“But they have a Panda Express, and I like that,” my mother interjected.
“Great,” I shot back, “now I’m going to have to go to Yakima and vandalize every instance of their Palm Springs nonsense to reflect a more accurate advertisement:
“‘Yakima- It’s Not So Bad. I mean, it’s no Palm Springs, but it’s alright, I guess, and we’ve got a Panda Express, which people kinda like.'”
Of course, now that I’ve posted this, I absolutely cannot go and do that, and absolutely cannot be seen to be advocating this sort of vandalism, so let me be perfectly clear:
I am in no way suggesting, nor endorsing the vandalism of Yakima’s official signs, placards, and letterheads to reflect a more accurate portrait of this Eastern Washington (boom)town.
I mean, if it happens, I’ll be tickled pink, but don’t do it on my account.
Normally when one says that they are “Mad as Hell,” and that they aren’t “going to take it”, they are referring to anger. When I say it, I find myself discussing my mental illness, but it a humorous fashion. Oh god, it going to be another one of those posts.
That’s right, Inner Monologue! It’s time for another belly-jiggling installment of What’s Lurking in Tex Batmart’s Brain? or What Makes Batmart Tick (Like a Bomb)? It’s been a bit since I’ve tried to be funny, and since nothing else seems to be working at the moment, I figured I’d give this another try. I’m also going to see what I can do about keeping to shorter paragraphs because apparently I’ve got a problem with that.
So what brought about this topic for today?
Well, it all started when I sat down to write a couple of things, and got to thinking about how inept I am when it comes to other people (especially of the feminine variety). It’s not so bad these days, as I’ve no skin in the game, so to speak, having been married for nearly eight years, and with the woman unfortunate enough to have become my wife for almost eleven. To be fair, I’m still convinced that most people are trying to flirt with me (regardless of gender), but I’ve chalked that up to being mentally unsound. When I was single, it was probably an unrealistic suspicion to imagine that there was interest in me, but as I have been with someone for over a decade, it appears to be slightly more plausible.
Not, of course, that I am looking. Even if my marriage were to dissolve tonight, I don’t know that I would want to get right back on the Relationship Horse (similar to a Unicorn, but anatomically… rearranged). But having had someone who, for some reason, purports to have loved me for so long has made me dubious about one of the most fundamental foundational neuroses I have: that I am inherently unlovable.
So I see interest where none exists, and feel flattered where umbrage might be more appropriate. In the absence of my lack of self-esteem, my ego has been left in charge, and it is known for its inability to make good decisions on my behalf. Inevitably, however, my self-loathing realizes that I am feeling something other than despite for myself, and forcibly regains control of the mess which of which I am comprised, reminding me that I’m no good, and that everyone and everything will leave me in the end. For the most part, this manifests itself as hearing tones of insults where none (most likely) exist.
Obviously, there is the rational part of me which wants to get better (something remotely akin to approaching healthy), wants me to be capable of sharing human moments with people which take place outside of the confines of my head. This is the same part that has, in the past, tried to remind me that not everyone wants a piece of this (metaphorically speaking, of course). The problem with that is it’s sometimes too similar to the soothing voice which begs me to just burn it all. So there’s that.
I wish I wasn’t the type of person to notice when the magic goes. Nothing (aside from brain damage brought on by blunt force trauma) would make me happier than to be content with all of the successes which I’ve been forced to suffer. But, to make matters worse, I seem to be the obnoxious type of artist who was born to be a hopeless romantic.
It wouldn’t surprise me to find that, in another life, instead of settling down in domesticity, I had remained a vagabond, surfing along the couches of this country, who knows what sort of mischief I might have been able to accomplish. A dear friend of mine once voiced their surprise that I’d chosen to settle down, as opposed to throw myself wholeheartedly into the lonely debauchery of the tortured artist. I understand what they were trying to say, but there is something slightly unnerving about imagining an army of little Batmarts around the country (or, perhaps, the world), following in my wake by a distance of nine months.
Hell, one kid is more than enough for me (although I don’t think the point of their assertion was that I would be anything more than a genetic donor). I’ve got so say, though, that the way they put it: Hell, it’s almost enough to make me give it some serious consideration.
But also getting older, and the time for sowing my wild oats has most likely passed. Then again, depending on my life expectancy, it might be almost time to start on my mid-life crisis. I think that this year I finally became middle-aged.
See how easily I get lost in my own head? This whole thing began when I pointed out that people and I have a mutual misunderstanding of one another. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. In all honesty, I’m locked into a mutual misunderstanding with myself. My cognitive dissonance had juxtaposed itself into the moments between moments in which I am alive, so that in the middle of answering the sum of four and four, I find the total to be purple.
There are times when I just want to wander off into the wilderness and hide out from the world, eschewing all of humanity in favor of becoming mildewed. And there are others where I want to remember that first spark of a new romance, to feel the infatuation fill me with unreasonable hope and certain stirrings most frequently felt by the young. To my amazement, there are yet even a few select instances where I look back at what I’ve got, and feel kind of lucky to have ended up where I am today.
I just wish that I knew which of these desires was the one which I was meant to follow. ‘Spose that would be too easy, though. I guess the best that I can say us that I’m Mad as Hell (and should probably start medication).
It’s way too late at night, and I cannot get to sleep. I don’t mind going ’round the bend if I’m creatively insane, but this wandering around in apathetic madness is for the birds. It just feels so blah. So I’ve decided to perform a little experiment to measure the effects of sadness on the insomniac psyche. I would much rather be fine-tuning my short story, but unless something changes in my head before I go to sleep, the best I can do is pound out some abstract nonsense and say that it was done on purpose. It used to be a matter of just altering perception, but I’m a father and grandfather now, so how would that kind of narcissistic, hedonistic behavior look? I miss going on adventures, both in time and space and within my mind. I miss staying awake until the wee hours and making candles dance, chasing off the Beasties with a magick word or two. I guess what I’m trying to get across is that the world just seems so two-dimensional now that I’ve grown older, the colors are all muted, and vibrancy is something which I barely can remember. It’s too bad they changed the formula for NyQuil, or I could relive my glory days once more while stumbling through the streets of Not Quite Richmond, California.
I guess what I really miss is feeling like I am tapping into something larger than myself. I remember wandering around the Island late at night with Fed beneath the purple skies of clouds sailing o’er the Witching Hour. We used to walk miles, with no thought of aching muscles, or tired feet, and just talk for hours until we finally passed out. We drank shitty beer in graveyards with my girlfriend, and wrote songs which I was convinced would be my ticket out of obscurity, but which don’t even exist outside my mind anymore. We gave a demo tape to one of our friends, but she lost it soon after. Not that we would have made it as a live band. Fed was good, but I could barely find a steady rhythm, let alone keep it, and the two and a half chords which I could play still required thought before I could change between them. I did love recording with him, though. I remember when we were working on one of his songs, Compass Rose, and he made me take a walk outside because he felt self-conscious about his voice. I never recorded with Bad Leon, though we’ve talked about instrumental backing to my angry love poetry.
What am I doing here? I’ve managed to accomplish exactly nothing in my time since I left work, at least nothing which will make me any money. It wasn’t so bad being destitute when I was living on my own, but as I said just a few days ago, that’s not really going to cut it with my wife and son. I just hate the dichotomy of being me. I shut off this artistic part of me for so long that I don’t know if he is ever coming back. I suppose that until November of last year, I could have described my artistic self as Schrödinger’s Wordsmith: both extant and extinct. But now Pandora’s Box is open, and I’ve had the misfortune to peek inside. What terrifies me most is the thought that it’s not just institutionalized apathy; that it’s simply a matter of me not having what it takes to do this for a living. That my lifelong dream is never destined to be more than just a hobby. I think of all the stories which are running around inside my head, and I am screaming silently at myself for not doing a damned thing about them. Every time I try to write, I go in with the notion that I’ll only screw everything up, and then manage to stay true to my word.
I can feel the fires burning just beneath my eyes, and the anxiety throbbing beneath my skin. And yet it’s all held down snugly beneath a blanket of exhaustion. I want to touch the energy of youth once more, even if it’s only for a day. To have the knowledge that the world is mine, and there’s nothing that can stop me. I used to know that I would change the world, but somewhere in my twenties, I managed to lose sight of that. And now, because I cannot even encourage myself to do what I love most because I lack the discipline required to work for myself, I’m going to have to shove myself back into that tiny box without even the reassurance that I’ll unpack myself again. This was my shot. This was the last batch of courage I could muster, and I couldn’t get it done. I was so excited when it dawned on me to rewrite that bloody story. I thought that if it was good enough, if I was good enough, I could use the momentum I had built and hop tracks to something of a slightly longer format. If I cannot even get excited about the crap that I am writing, what makes me think that someone will pay money for it?
Welcome to the Pity Party. If I ran for office, I would have to run with them. We’re not much to look at, but we’re sort of attached… to us. Is it like this for everyone? Do other writers get halfway into something which they’re pouring themselves into (enjoying it along the way), and then just throw their notebook down, and scream, “Bullshit!” at the walls? Not that it really matters. Reality, it seems, has finally caught up with me. Who thought that this could last forever? What is it going to take for me to get this figured out? I wish there was a desert I could visit, or rolling hills which I could roam at night while screaming at the wind, and howling at the moon or clouded sky. More than anything, I want to have a little garden where I can grow tomatoes and chili peppers. I want to find excuses not to write so that I can just hang out in the garden and dig my fingers into soil and pretend that I’m alive. Which, to be honest, is a little weird, because I’m not that into vegetables. I guess I just like to see things grow.
I’m looking at the word count and realizing that if I could have just gotten in the flow while I was working on that stupid story, I might almost be close to done by now. I don’t know what the holdup is, to be completely honest. I know the story, almost like I was actually there. Almost. And even if it wasn’t burned into my brain, I have the story which I wrote half my life ago, which kind of lays the whole thing out for me. I even managed to solve the roadblock in the text which had been bothering me since I started to rewrite it. It was an elegant solution, altering the exposition slightly to turn it into dialogue. Maybe what’s killing it is that I’m trying to do too much. I remembered that I’d also written a story called Nic Buzz around the same time, though not a single copy of the original remains, and that since that revelation, I’ve been trying to figure out how to squeeze it into what I’m already trying to do. I would just jump right back into where I’ve left off, setting aside that notion for a little while, but every time I try to get myself back into it, I find that story which I have no idea how it went has left a giant hole just beyond the words which I have written. Like always, my cardinal sin appears to be overthinking everything.
So what’s a boy to do? I’m beating back exhaustion with silken bat wings thrumming in the dark of night, and only my tenacity is driving these words from within the whispers in my head through my fingers, and onto the screen before me. I want to just curl up into a little ball of safety, and sleep until the necessity of the real world has expired. There has never been a problem too large, in my opinion, that it cannot be slept away. But I know that this time I cannot simply ignore the demands of my responsibilities. This time I have got to make it work somehow. Both Bad Leon and my wife think that the answer is in brain-dead work, like a cashiering job or line cook, which I can leave at the door when my shift is over, and then come home with enough energy to write. But I have been in management too long to think that that’s an option anymore. If I’m going to work for someone who isn’t me, then I need to be in control of at least some of the variables in my working life. I despise working for people less qualified than me, and if I’m going to climb the ladder, I’d prefer to start somewhere closer to the top. It’s not that I haven’t worked my way up before, just that there’s a limit to just how much crap that I can deal with while I’m trying to get ahead.
Maybe I’ll stop writing this, and work on something more productive, like a love letter to Death. Courting the Grim Reaper has always been my secret ambition. Well, I don’t know if it’s still a secret if you tell everyone you meet, but I haven’t, until now, broadcasted my desire to the entire world. Some thought experiment that this turned out to be. More like a convoluted pep talk for someone who isn’t listening. But at least that I know that words are flowing once again, and though it’s true that the narrative voice between the story and the blog are slightly different, tonally, it’s still me who’s rambling on, and that should count for something. Maybe I could pop in the part about Applesauce and Abby, or that time when Crys and I almost died because she was way too drunk to drive. Or how her daughter stole those beers from us, which we had stolen first (or so the story goes, if I’m to retain plausible deniability), just so that she could share them with her stupid friends that weren’t us. Of course, if I get in too deep, I’ll just have to go ahead and write the book that I know that I’m not ready to tackle yet. I should probably get started before too long, before all my memories have dissipated, but there’s something which I want to do stylistically, which I know that I’m not quite good enough to actually pull off. At least, not yet.
I can’t believe I’ve written almost two thousand words in just an hour and a half. Turns out that when I’m typing at almost the speed of thought, I can get something accomplished. And now the thought has bubbled up which I want nothing more than to ignore, which is that I should really sit down and read this for the podcast version. Except that the calm and collected voice which is narrating this between my ears won’t sound nearly as impressive if it has to pass my vocal cords. I guess the audio version of this will just have to wait until I get around to it, which, knowing me, is probably somewhere close to never. And here I thought that I would wind up arguing the point with a little bit more passion. I suppose that the time has come for me to get back to work on that thing which I really wanted to be doing. Now if only I could manage saying that with even a modicum of sincerity, I’d be set. Just one more thing before I go: In the comments for this post (or on Facebook or Twitter), please let me know which of these photos you prefer for the cover image.
Sometimes I just need to psyche myself up before attending a baby shower. Like I’ve been saying, they’re not really in my wheelhouse. I mean, I have helped bring life into this world, but I’ve never been a human incubator, so I guess I’ve never felt like I really needed to be thrown a party. As a matter of fact, I’m not terribly all that into parties in the first place. I think that the only party which I’ve truly wanted to attend was one that never actually happened: For my thirty-fifth birthday, I wanted to rent a limo, and go out for a night on the town to celebrate my “Very Good Year”, but it all sort of just fell apart, and I wound up doing absolutely nothing, which to be fair, had been my backup all along. When in doubt, I always say, mope about the house.
When I was seventeen, it was a very good year. I moved out of my mom’s place and struck out on my own. I fell in love, and lost my virginity. I got to practice being a dad, write some tunes and my best short stories, start a business, and generally play at being an adult. It was one of the few times in my life when I can remember being so wholeheartedly happy. That, of course, would all begin to crumble within the next couple of years, but I didn’t know that then, and I honestly thought that it would last forever. Also that summer was soft, and we frequently hid from lights on the village green. And the Island was still kind of a small town…
When I was twenty-one, it wasn’t that great. I had a massive nervous breakdown, and spent a week in the hospital. I broke up with my girlfriend of the past few years. I moved from place to place, dating ladies so that I could have a couch to sleep upon. Eventually I wound up crashing in the woods behind the local Safeway. I did move to the city that year, however. My friends called me up at work, and rescued me at the end of summer. But really, the only thing that resembles the song is that, when I was twenty-one, “it came undone.”
So when my thirty-fifth birthday was approaching, I wanted to do better. I was happily married (as happily as a married man can be), so there was very little chance of hooking up with blue blooded girls of independent means, unless you could interpret it to mean that my wife had her own source of income and one slightly varicose vein. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had to work with. The only thing that was missing was the limousine. Plus, it would have been an excuse to get dressed up fancy and have a night out on the town, and I’d had to buy a suit when I’d attended my friend’s wedding just a couple of weeks before. Sadly, it was not meant to be. I guess there are still a little over seven months to make it happen, but as I’m broke, and my wife doesn’t go for that sort of tomfoolery. Maybe I’ll just put on the least crappy pair of jeans I own, and we’ll have a date night down at Weinerschnitzel. Yeah, that’ll go over well.
In just a little while, everyone else will begin waking up. I had the fortune to be woken by my son, who rose before the dawn. That’s like the third or fourth night in a row that I’ve managed to wrangle less than six hours of sleep. At least I’ll have a fog about me (mental- I’ll be hopping in the shower as soon as I feel up to it) to protect my fragile psyche from the abuses of the dreaded Party Games. If I was going to be smart about it, I’d take a shower now, while everyone else is sleeping. No pounding upon doors, no waiting for my turn. Ten minutes in the bathroom is all I really need (there are benefits to being bald), and then the only thing which I would have to concern myself regarding, would be herding the Minkey toward his fancy party clothing after using a moist towelette to scrub his face and neck. But that would mean admitting that it was time to finally start doing productive things today, and I don’t know if I am ready to face that.
What I would like to do, more than anything, is to just curl back up in bed, and take a nap until the adrenaline of being late launches me forward like a juggernaut. This plan has some obvious merit. First and foremost, it means that I get to go back to sleep again. And secondly, by the time I’ve fully woken up again, I’ll have already arrived at the party, and been taking pictures for at least an hour. By then, the alcohol will have been flowing freely, and I can drown down my self-awareness with the help of my old my old friend, Tecate. That’s something that I always love about these get togethers: no matter what the occasion, there always seems to be almost enough beer to make it all a little more bearable.
So I’ll go and snap some photos, and drink a brew or five, and then before I know it, we can all go home. If I can get a good night’s sleep tonight, I’ll praise the mattress gods. I remember that this lack of sleep was one of the reasons why I quit my job. Of course, my commute is much shorter now, and it costs me significantly less.
Okay, it’s time to start getting it together. Just a few hours left before the festivities begin. If I time it just right, I can be in the shower or getting dressed when the rolling meltdowns begin.
Here’s to babies! And here’s to the people who incubate them, sacrificing form and figure to feed their unborn child!
I’m going to be a grandpa once again. All family politics and volkswagening popes aside, I’m pretty stoked about this. For the past two years, I’ve gotten to enjoy the benefits of grandfatherhood without having had to wait for my son to come of age. And I can see what my own grandparents were talking about when they were saying how much better it was, in comparison to parenthood. With David, I am constantly stressed out, as I know that I am responsible for making sure he turns out more or less okay. But with my precious little Cream Soda, all the pressure goes away, and I can just enjoy him for who he is, and sneak him ice pops on the side. I get to interact with him in a way that I never could with David, free of the burden which parenting provides. For my grandson, I’m the guy who spins you around, takes you outside, and listens to your ramblings. And it is because of this that I have begun to try a little harder with my son. It’s hard sometimes, because he is so smart. I find myself forgetting that he’s still a little boy. And it’s been so long since I was one, that I’ve lost my frame of reference.
Cream Soda is also the brother whom David would otherwise never have. After the Minkey was born, both Flor and I decided that we were out. She had a matching set, and a twelve pound baby tends to spook any mother. And then our grandson came into being. For the first time, we could just enjoy a baby. There were no dirty diapers for us to change, no breast pumps and mangled nipples to endure, no trying desperately to sleep around a miniature tyrant’s schedule. We got to have him when he was at his most precious. Needless to say, David was not impressed. He went from being the center of attention (not all of it pleasant), to standing on the sidelines while everyone went endlessly on about his newborn nephew. And from what he could see, there wasn’t anything terribly impressive about the little poop machine. Now the same fate is about to befall my little grandson.
Since he’s been mobile, every deference has been made to him. Any time he erupts in tears, it’s always David’s fault, even if he wasn’t anywhere near his nephew. Like a fútbol star, my grandson knows just how to work it for the refs. And while I tend toward the role of disciplinarian in regards to my monkey man, I am usually quick to come to his defense when the aroma of injustice, like a dirty diaper, comes wafting in my way. Sure, there are times when David can be an asshole, but that’s true of everyone. I call him out when he’s done wrong, but at the same time, I will defend my son if he is not at fault. There are also times when toddlers can be absolute little shits, and it’s obvious that they know exactly what they’re doing. Sometimes kids just fall, or get upset, and there’s nobody one can blame. Toddlers are constantly testing out the boundaries of their physical abilities as well as the social tolerances of their parents. But my grandson’s days in the light of guaranteed innocence have come almost to their end.
Like his uncle before him, Cream Soda will see himself knocked out of his family’s spotlight in favor of a usurper. She will be small, and cry a lot, and demand constant attention. Though his parents have not yet admitted it to themselves, A&W will no longer be an agent with free rein. The first time that he makes his baby sister cry, or throws a temper tantrum over absolutely nothing, he will see a side of his parents that, up until this point, only his uncle has ever seen. He isn’t used to being wrong, and gets away with almost everything. And it’s exactly because of this, that I’m glad he’s got his uncle to fall back on. David has been through all of this, and yet still loves his nephew more than anything or anyone (outside of when his mommy isn’t grumpy). They will keep one another company in the shadows of little Jenny’s radiance, which is good, because we will all be completely transfixed on the new addition to our family.
Actually, I think that this will be good for the three of us: myself, Cream Soda, and the Minkey. My wife and daughter will be fawning over Jenny, like only mother and grandmothers can, and Nerdenn Events will be sucked in as well, doing what he can to help my daughter rustle up a moment or two of sleep. And honestly, I’m really not all that interested in tiny, newborn babies. I mean, sure, I’ll hold them, but they are altogether too fragile to for one to truly enjoy. That, and they don’t really do anything interesting in the first couple of months, at least not that I can really help with. My nipples are for decoration only, and I don’t change diapers anymore. And someone will need to dedicate themselves to being there for our little boys. I suppose that means that I may have to change my grandson’s diaper, but at least that’s easier than dealing with a baby girl. With boys, it’s a fairly simple process: wipe affected areas and re-wrap before being peed upon. With girls there are rules, like front to back, and so many places where it could all just go so terribly, terribly wrong. Better, in my opinion, to leave that sort of thing to the professionals. And hopefully, A&W will be one of the potty-training superstars who gets it right away, and throws off the tyranny of diapers with a shout of independence. One can only hope.
So even though we’ll be packed in like Reader Digests in a hoarder’s hallway closet, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I was the Only Child of a Single Mom, and the closest things I had to siblings were my best friend who lived just up the hill, and second cousins who I really couldn’t stand. Eventually the kids will leave, and we’ll have some breathing room, but for now I get to be a live-in Grandpa, and I have to say that it feels pretty swell to me. To be honest, I prefer the company of children, as they are just insane enough to be really kind of fun, much like my friends in times long gone, under the influence of hallucinogens. Summer is coming up, and that means no more school to fret over, and increased opportunities to go playing in the park. Maybe I’ll set aside a day or two to take the boys out for some fun. I’m sure that we could use it, and will need it soon enough.
But now I realize that I’ve written all these words, having been inspired by my granddaughter-to-be, and yet barely mentioned anything about her, except as a comic foil. The fact is that I cannot wait to meet her, and breathe in that new baby smell. I want to tell her how much her Grandpa loves her, and watch her grow up before my eyes. I want to help her throw off gender stereotypes, and be all that she can be, to help teach her to demand the equality which she absolutely deserves. She’ll have other people to teach her how to do the “girly” things, and a father to intimidate her future boyfriends. I want to be the one whom she can count on to always tell it to her like it is, the one to encourage silly dreams if they make her happy. Grandfatherhood isn’t about crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, it’s about helping your grandchildren find their voice amidst uncertainty and arbitrary rules. At least, that’s what I always got from the both of mine. Even though I haven’t met her, I already know how much I love her, and I look forward to the day when she first spits up on me to say hello.
I think that it might be time for me to seriously consider getting into shape. It hurts when I have to tie my boots, and there are places that I haven’t seen for months when I am standing up. As it stands right now, I also need to buy a couple of pairs of jeans, as my ass seems to have increased somewhat, and I’m running out of pants that fit me. It kind of makes me wish that I was into that whole baggy pants craze, as I still wouldn’t have to worry about any of this for at least another few months. But I know that once I’m working, the pounds will begin to melt away, as being on my feet all day, and walking to places outside my apartment will burn the calories that writing has not. I’ve been tempted to try those “supplements” that supposedly “melt the fat away” while you are sitting on the couch, eating Doritos, but I really don’t want to go down the Upper rabbit hole again. I mean, sure, I only weighed a buck and change, but the side effects (not to mention the type of people always hanging around) were something so horrific that, even all of these years removed, I still get agitated just thinking about them. Which means that if I want to lose some weight, I’m going to have to do the old-fashioned way: diet and exercise- two of my least favorite things.
We don’t have a scale in the house, as we’re not masochistic monsters, but I imagine that, after hanging around 200 for the past few years, I’ve managed to erupt into the next weight class. And I have boobs. No matter what I do, I will now probably always have them, at least to some extent. Hairy, scary man boobs. That alone should be enough to inspire me to be more active, but it’s easier to just get down on myself for being a tub of lard, and eat my feelings with a bag of jelly beans. I want to eat more healthful food, but it’s cheaper to load up on crap. I can buy a giant box of Hot Pockets for a third of the price of what I spend when I buy up the ingredients for the food which I’m actually required to cook. And I do like to cook. One of my favorite dishes to prepare is my Mexican Rice dish, which I’ve been playing with since I was seventeen, and evolved from me following directions on a box of Rice-a-Roni to hearty meal made from scratch with fresh vegetables and meat. I’ve even started making it as a pasta dish now, as I really like the colored spiraled pasta, and the way they add just a little bit more color. But those veggies and meat do not come cheap, and even though I make enough to last a couple of days, it’s still a bigger commitment to my checkbook than something I can just toss in the microwave.
If we had guts as a nation (pun intended), we would subsidize nutrition and tax the hell out of junk food. Let’s go after high fructose corn syrup like we went after tobacco. We have the technology to deliver fresh produce all across the country, and yet we insist upon cramming garbage down our throats because the up-front cost is cheaper. The poor among us should have access to the best food we can offer, if only to offset the health risks which their environment provides. Change is never easy, especially when it comes to the subject of our vices, but this is a matter of public health, and we absolutely must do better. We’re hardwired to seek out fat and salt and sugars because in the wild they’re few and far between, but when hunting and gathering only requires a quick trip to the market, maybe we should look back toward moderation. I’d actually like to see a Junk Food Prohibition, wherein all the crap which we consume becomes black market commodities. I’m envisioning back-alley dealings for a box of Twinkies. And it’s not like with alcohol or narcotics. Gangs of obese and over-tired people hardly pose a threat to a police department running off of something besides coffee and doughnuts.
I don’t know. I’ve been a fat ass since puberty, and until recently, was indistinguishable from the pod of beached orcas from whence I came. Aside from those couple of years long ago when I was happy looking skeletal, I’ve always packed a little reserve to get me through the winter. Ironically enough, the one time that blubber might have come in handy was when I was in the process of auditioning for the role of Skeletor. There’s nothing like camping through a winter in the Pacific Northwest when you weigh 8 stone. Hell, if I didn’t have a family I might consider something drastic like that again. As long as I could get a bare minimum of calories in me, the constant cold and movement to keep from freezing solid would make me bikini-ready by the time that spring arrived. I wouldn’t want to put my wife or son through that, though. My wife could never take that level of frigidity, and my son seems to possess the genetics of a skinny person, despite the appearance of his parents. No, I don’t suppose that plan will ever come to pass. Which means that if I want to ever stop being such a fat ass, I guess I’m going to have to just start somewhere.
I’ll have to give up all the candy which I’ve justified eating because I’m a grownup and can eat whatever the hell I please. And all the soda’s got to go as well. I should probably give up caffeinated beverages, as stress can pack the pounds on, and nothing screams “Fight or Flight” like going a million miles an hour (or, as I call it: Surviving Monday). That also means no chips or crackers, or salsa con queso dip. And I’ll have to substitute the butter in my recipes for extra virgin olive oil. The upside is that I’ll finally be justified in buying buffalo instead of beef, but I will miss consuming the majestic pig. Ughh… just thinking about this is depressing me. I think I’ll go and see if we’ve still got any cookies.
Mind over matter, never mind that I can barely think right now. I had been working on a piece which I may eventually finish, in the unlikely event that I ever get some sleep. But right now I am just holding on to what little threads of consciousness remain, dreading the moment when my wife comes home, for that will mean that laundry time has come. If only I hadn’t built up a tolerance to caffeine, the industrial strength Red Bull which I drank earlier might have had some sort of effect. As it stands now, however, I am locked into a battle of wills with my computer to see if I’ve got what it takes to do this thing on autopilot. That’s not to besmirch the quality of my automatic functions; I am disturbingly efficient when I cut out my higher thinking. I just hope that this makes some kind of sense to anyone who reads it, as I can make no promises about quality control. I’m pretty sure that I used to be able to function almost normally on little to no sleep, but those days have long since passed, and now I’m lucky that I don’t have to figure out how I’m going to operate heavy machinery.
I apologize if any jokes included seem a bit… deflated. I’m at the point where everything seems funny. If you were to put me in a room with my son and grandson, the epic stream of nonsense that would pour forth from that room would cast serious doubt upon my mental health. But the joke’s on you: My mental health is already suspect! Ha! It’s difficult to be amusing when you know that you can’t tell what’s funny anymore. I’m sure that I can make a couple of people chuckle, now and then, but I don’t know that I’ve inspired belly-shaking laughter, unless it involved the removal of my shirt in front of other people. That’s assuming that they don’t go blind. I’m a fairly pale-skinned individual, and as I tend towards ruddy pain when in the presence of the sun. That means that when I remove my top, it’s like staring at a hairy moon, full and reflective, capable of piercing the defenses of even the most sober of individuals. I mean, it’s dangerous enough when I remove my hat, as the glare from most light sources collects upon my noble skullet, pooling all together, exponentially reflecting outward at the speed of apathetic light.
But what really brings me down, besides my inability to grow hair upon my head, is the knowledge that I seem to be experiencing a second round of puberty. When I was younger, I never really had a pair of boobs, but over the past decade, I have grown into at least a B-cup, and as the amount of hair upon my head decreases, the size of my chest increases. I’d like to think that they are follically inflated, but the truth is that they are of a more natural composition. If I don’t do something soon, I’m going to have to go bra shopping, and I don’t even know where to begin. I mean, sure, I’ll need a certain level of support, but I’d like it if I could still look pretty too. Wow, down the rabbit hole am I. I mean, I’m not interested in dressing like a lady (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I do have a fondness for kilts, and my silk boxers do feel pretty awesome. Maybe they make pectoral support devices that come in… more masculine designs. Like something that depicts explosions or something. Yeah, no. I’m just not feeling it.
I’ve gotten to thinking that this might not be the best idea that I’ve ever had. I am just a little bit eccentric, and even I manage to take my statements out of context when it suits me. Breaking News: Tex Batmart admits to dressing up like women! You see? I don’t know. It’s hard to judge someone based upon a lack of desire to wear pants. I mean, when I was living in the PNW, pants were slightly more of a necessity. It can get a little cold up there, and I’ve an image to maintain. But I live in California, and most of the time, I only put on clothing to keep from turning into a man-sized lobster. But if I could finally feel the freedom of a kilt, I might learn to relax. Having a soothing breeze upon my nethers couldn’t hurt, either. Mind you, it’s not that I feel a strong desire to run through the world while fully on display, it’s just that I’m not really all that big a fan of pants. I do like wearing suits, though. Weird, right? Exhaustion is a heady vice.
As I was typing up that last paragraph, I noticed a couple of spiders creeping toward me to feast upon the shattered bodies of the mosquitoes which I’ve slain today. Normally, I have no problem with spiders carrying out their necessary tasks, but all I ask that they do it where I cannot see them. That’s actually my rule for all insects and “lower” beings which may make their way into my home: They have just as much right to live as me and mine, but if they stumble into sight, I will take them out. The spiders normally do alright, whereas mosquitoes, ants, and roaches creeping in from their home base in the apartment directly above us all seem to be feeling just a little down. Seeing that they’re suffering, I do my best to end their pain, but I just wish that they would find somewhere else to spend their dying moments, as it can be a little hard to bend sometimes.
But I am Death, the Destroyer, and I shall not be stopped. I like to think that they have made up legends about me, and live in fear of the day that the other shoe will drop, as is prophesied in their holy texts. Perhaps I am tempting fate, and summoning a shoe much greater than myself which will come to fall upon me as retribution for my hubris. But what can I do? I’ve laid out the rules quite clearly for them, and if they choose to violate the Neutral Zone, their deaths rest solely upon themselves, not me. For I must defend the boundaries of my own sovereignty, and all which lies within. I guess that I’ve finally found some common ground with my family after all. Of course, I’m talking about bugs, and they’re talking about dirty foreigners, so maybe not. All I know is that one day I will be featured on the local news as that crazy dude running around in a skirt and bra, chasing after tiny creatures and smashing them with my shoe. I just hope that my tan lines aren’t obvious, or I’ll never live it down.
Last night, the three of us went to the birthday party of the daughter of my wife’s co-worker. Normally, I pass on these types of events, as most of the time, I am the only one who speaks English, and my wife and son are the only people who I actually know. But when I saw that Flor had gotten all dressed up (with makeup and everything!), I decided that I should probably tag along, at least for the sake of appearances. I threw on a suit, and was ready to go when our ride arrived. Years ago, when I started working mornings, I had the perfect excuse of needing to get up early, and normally Mexican birthday parties keep rocking until well after midnight. Actually, based on my experiences, they don’t even really get going until the sun’s gone down. I’m not implying that Latinos are some sort of vampiric entities, but I’ve never seen a birthday party happen in direct sunlight. Putting aside all of my misgivings, I hopped up into the car which came for us, ready for the evening, and knowing that I had a decent chance of getting enough sleep. There are always bouncy houses at these parties, and I knew that if David played hard enough, he might be so exhausted upon our arrival back at home, that he’d sleep a proper number of hours, and perhaps not wake up at the crack of dawn. Sadly, he did, but that is nothing new.
For those of you not intimately familiar with children’s birthday parties in Latino culture, let me run them down for you:
First, the mother spends an ungodly amount of money on the rental of the bouncy house, chairs and tables, and a DJ (This is not because the fathers do not care, or feel that it is women’s work, but rather, they have made the argument (and lost) that there is no need to spend upwards of $200 just to set the stage for a party for a toddler).
The mother then spends most of the day of the event preparing enough food to feed upwards of fifty people, and calling on her friends to make and brings several other dishes as well.
She will begin to grow agitated when no one shows up at the time she has announced, fretting about social standing until her guests begin to trickle in, in what I can only assume is an attempt to arrive fashionably late… to a children’s party.
The mother will then proceed to not sit down for the remainder of the evening, flitting here and there, always rotating through the crowd in an attempt to make sure that everyone is having a good time. Just like small child to whom the party is ostensibly dedicated, she will not remember anything about it.
There will always be too much food left over at the party’s conclusion, so everyone will have a doggy bag thrust upon them.
There is a disturbing trend toward alcoholism at these events. The budget for beverages is usually around $10 for sodas, and $40 for beer, and there’s always that one dude who drinks an entire box of Corona all by himself. The first time I ever came to one of these, I was shocked at how much alcohol was being consumed. At a party for a kid.
No matter how exhausted the hosts have become, they are honor bound to keep the party going until the final guest has finally found a clue, and decided to depart.
The mother will then look out upon the chaos that once was her backyard, and suffer a moment of paralysis at the sheer magnitude of work facing her when she wakes up in the morning.
You may have noticed that I was only writing about the mothers. This is because most of the fathers I have spoken to, would rather spend the money on gifts for their children, instead of competing to win the title of Event of the Season. I’ve had this argument with my wife, every year that my son has been alive. Every year, she almost kills herself making everything absolutely perfect, just to see an underwhelming turnout, an overwhelming mess, and a checkbook that is reduced to whimpering for mercy. And every year she tells me that she finally sees what I was going on about, and how next year, she’s going to do something smaller, for just the family. But I know that her convictions will begin to fade by April of the next year, as the weather warms, and she begins to feel that she needs to show the other moms just how much better of a mother she is. I’ve learned my lesson, after all these years, and now just shut my mouth, and offer what help I may provide. There is nothing that I can say which could possibly change her mind, so I’ve decided that I’d rather not get into a fight with her when passions are running that high.
For me, I’d rather just buy a cake and a goodly amount of toys, and tell my son that I loved him, and then hit the sack at a reasonable hour. I’m trying to learn all the ins and outs of the culture which I’ve married into, but there are so many levels to everything they do, that I feel like watching telenovelas is a form of basic training. I am not cut out for all of this political posturing, as anyone who’s ever worked with me will readily attest. I have neither the time nor patience to play politics, especially when dealing with the nebulous dance of social status. I appreciate the family aspect to the Latin culture, but I also like small, non-mandatory events which end on the same day in which they began. I like getting dressed up and going out with my wife, but not if it’s only to hang out in someone’s backyard to be bitten by mosquitoes.
I don’t know if I will ever truly understand where my wife is coming from. As she is so fond of saying, we are from completely different worlds. But I love her, and every time we do something, it’s an opportunity to learn something new. I moved two states away from my family, and enjoy the distance, but Flor is an entire country distant, and I can see that these little get-togethers are her way of beating back despair. And showing all her friends just how a party should be done. Oh, and if you will be in the Bay Area this summer, please drop me a line. I have a feeling that the Event of the Season may be happening toward the end of June, at least that what my instincts tell me.
Today I was reminded of just how old I truly am. A little boy who I once helped to raise has just turned 28. And another little boy whom I have known since the day of his birth just asked me if there were cars when I was younger. It seems that I cannot escape the march of time, or the inevitable karmic payback of things which I once said when I thought that I was being clever. My youth keeps coming back to poke me in the eye, and I can only sit and watch it happen with a little smile across my face. It’s times like these that make me think that maybe my time has come and gone, and that perhaps the moment has arrived for me to shelve my old ambitions and look forward to the future. And then I think that The Boy isn’t really all that much younger than myself, only David’s age difference between us, and he’s too busy being an amazing person to want to change the world. He is the type of person who will lead by example, which is the change for which I’ve advocated, but I don’t think that he’d like all the attention that comes with starting a cultural revolution. And David can barely make it the length of a commercial break without losing all focus entirely. But enough about my failed dreams and lack of accomplishments.
When I first met The Boy, I was coming over to hang out with his sister. This was just before I wound up calling in a favor, and changing my permanent address to that location. Here came this little kid, though I suppose not so little as I saw him at the time, running up the driveway and demanding that I pick him up and swing him around. I’ve never understood what it is, exactly, that makes kids love that particular type of play. I myself shrink back in terror at the very notion of someone grabbing me and swinging me around, robbing me of control over myself, and the gentle tug of gravity. And yet The Boy could never get enough, nor David, nor my grandson, for that matter. They all kept demanding that I play until the moment that I physically couldn’t anymore. That time is coming for my grandson far sooner than I’d care to admit, but at least for a little while longer I can still scoop him up and spin him wildly until we both feel just a little green.
But what strikes me most, is are memories of a conversation that I once had with The Boy regarding his homework, and how he wasn’t doing it. I’ve been having the same conversation with my son lately, and, like The Boy, he also has been diagnosed with ADHD. It seemed odd to me that I was the one, of all people, to have to lecture another human being about the necessity of bowing to the pressures of the busywork. I was the kid who would blow off weeks of homework and then stroll into the classroom to ace the test. I knew the material, but I never had even the slightest inclination toward wasting my time on repetition. Time has taught me that me that there was more important lesson hidden somewhere in the rows of nonsense, and I would have been better served to learn just how to ignore the boredom and get the homework done. I hadn’t figured that out the first time that I had to sit somebody down and try to convince them to do what I could not, but I know it in my bones this time.
All in all, though, The Boy didn’t turn out too bad. He’s living life more beautifully than I ever had the courage to even truly begin considering. Sure, I’ve moved hundreds of miles away from where I once ran free, but I fell into the trap of doing all the things which I was supposed to do, and setting aside what mattered in favor of another dream. I had the chance to have the family which I never could when I was just a boy, and I took it because I’d finally found out what it was that I was after. I don’t think that the couple of years that I spent with The Boy when I was learning how to be a man, and practicing to be a Dad, could have influenced him all that deeply, but it is my hope that a little of the dream which I once dreamed might have inspired him just a little to seek out the man he would become, and never sacrifice himself to for anything that wasn’t worth it. I’m not saying that my sacrifices weren’t of value, just that I never seemed to have made a bargain which had unexpected consequences.
Am I happy? In so many ways, I must admit that I am indeed. But there is a part of me that misses the freedom that I once had to go and see the world, not that I ever really did. I have what I have always dreamed that I might have: a family. I grew up in a home torn apart by the statistics of divorce, and I swore that if I ever married, it would last forever. That means, however, that I cannot run off on wild flights of fancy whenever the mood may strike me. I am needed here at home, and, more than that, have no desire to disrespect the bonds my wife and I have forged together. So instead, I settle for a little thrill in hearing of The Boy’s adventures as he travels across the country in search of what it means to be alive. I don’t believe that there is just one answer to the questions life is asking. I’ve found several, both as a father, and as a husband. And these past few months, I’ve rediscovered what my writing has always sought to tell me.
On this day, the twenty-eighth anniversary of my good friend’s birth, I wish him nothing but the best, and hope that his travels might lead him back here once more, as I’ve found that I kind of miss him. Like a blur, the memories are overwhelming, but of him, they are all pleasant. As I look toward the man my own son may become, I have no better example of a good and decent human being to show him than The Man which The Boy has become. Happy Birthday, Homunculus! Be well, and try to do something fun.
I’ve thinking of how best to describe how I’ve been feeling lately, and that’s been leading me to think back to one of my favorite movies of young adulthood: American Beauty. I remember the first time I watched it, and how it resonated with me then, how Annette Bening managed to capture the frustrations and drives which I could see in my girlfriend, and Kevin Spacey became my personal hero, the embodiment of a man who truly no longer cares, which was something that I had been desperately attempting for at least the past half-decade. And then there was Ricky Fitts. I never sold drugs in High School, nor did I have to worry about a father such as his (or, for that matter, any father at all), but I got the whole photography thing, albeit in a more static format, and the scene when he’s describing the magic of the plastic bag managed to define my artistic sentiment for years to come.
“It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”
-Ricky Fitts, American Beauty
Maybe it was a side effect of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, but I felt such a connection to the beauty all around me, and since I had taken up photography, I’d learned to try to focus all that beauty through frame of the viewfinder. And maybe it was just a common sentiment among disaffected youth, desperate to find some meaning, any meaning, for the pain they couldn’t help but feel each and every day. All I know is that in the moment that I saw that plastic bag dancing in the wind, I knew that, despite the pain, and despite the seeming hopelessness of the mundanity of the world around me, there was something that made all of this worth it, and I just had to find out what that was.
Even today, encased, as I may be, inside my concrete tomb, I try to hang on to that ideal, to strive to see the beauty just behind the meaningless atrocities of trying to get by. And even though it’s hard to see it through the smog-filtered sunlight of the San Francisco Bay Area, and in the actions of a populace worn down by the iniquities of life, every now and then I can see it poking through, like an overeager child who wants nothing more than to play peek-a-boo with you. And then I blink, and the joy has gone; the vibrancy of life has been replaced by a Polaroid from the 70’s, where everyone is washed out by ennui and yet still manages to look ridiculous upon proper retrospection.
“Both my wife and daughter think I’m this gigantic loser and they’re right, I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.”
-Lester Burnham, American Beauty
I’m not sure where I lost that special something which defined me in my youth, whether it was being beaten down by poor decisions, or simply the inevitable outcome of growing older. One of the reasons why I quit my job and set out to make myself write every day was because I knew that I had lost something- something visceral and vital within me- and I knew that if I didn’t do something, I’d never get it back. I had been worried about the things that other people cared about, running after money, selling pieces of my soul one hour at a time just to pay the rent and keep up with the Joneses. Since I was a little boy, the only future which I ever sought involved me changing the world with the words which only I could write. And yet, here I was, almost three decades later, doing everything except anything I enjoyed. There are necessities which must be attended, but the world the would be a poorer place if no one tried to live their dreams. I knew that I couldn’t afford to let my son grow up in a world where all the magic had been lost, and so I took a chance, and changed my life completely.
“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about.”
-Lester Burnham, American Beauty
Of course, the afterglow has long since faded, and I now face the future with more uncertainty than I think that I can bear. Despite the fact that I’ve been writing almost every day, and even gotten back to where I now feel comfortable in doing it, I’m not writing anything of value, at least not by the standards which I have set for myself. I thought, back in December, that I would have until Mid-January to find some form of gainful employment. I thought that, knowing myself, it would mean that I wouldn’t begin to write my masterpiece until the night before my interview, or worse: first shift in the morning at my new place of employment. But neither of those moments has arrived, and so the desperation for lasting glory has now all but completely faded. I’m still doing something similar to what I’ve always dreamed of, but I know that I need more. There are stories in me, just begging to be freed, and I’m an idiot if, through fear and my own inaction, I allow them to just fade away.
“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”
Lester Burnham, American Beauty
And there it is: the philosophy which snuck its way inside me when I began to cry. Beyond the plastic bag, and the beauty which it hides within, there is the knowledge that the only thing which stands between myself and perfect happiness is only myself. I wish that I could step back a little from the nonsense of my life, if only to just let the moments stretch into infinity, so that I might stand a chance to feel just one more moment of unbridled wonder. Somewhere within the pain, both physical and spiritual, there is something which I cannot see which will make everything seem worth it. The look of contentment on my son’s face as he figures out the world. The way my wife is so full of life that it radiates out from her, threatens to consume her from within. How my grandson laughs as we share a private giggle at the jokes that only toddlers and elderly can hope to understand. The fierceness of my daughter as she rages at the world just as I once did, when I was younger. The joy of setting words to paper which once existed only in my mind. I am spoiled for happy moments from which to choose; I just wish that I could see them.