Tag Archives: love

The Comfort Of Bitter Laughter

Someday I will be capable of looking back at all of this and laughing. Normally, this isn’t an impediment to getting an early start, but I’m not sure exactly what the punchline is this time. I’ve always said that failure is a better teacher than success, but I have no idea what’s going on right now, and I can’t think of anything in particular that I am doing right. Sure, I’m inflicting my words on literally tens of people on any given day, and my beard had regrown to a respectable Ewok-Wookie hybrid length, but I’m also much more massive than I was before, and I seem determined to push the limits of just how far mopiness can take me. If I were forced to commit to a metaphor to describe my life, I would have to say it feels like a fairly unfunny sitcom before the laugh track has been added. Everybody is just waiting for the laughter which they hope will come, and praying that they don’t fall flat in the moment of truth, yet knowing that script just isn’t all that funny. It would be okay if this was just a pilot, but we’ve just begun our tenth season, and it really feels like we should have worked all of this out by now.

Batmart judging Batmart. This should be amusing.
Batmart judging Batmart. This should be amusing.

Have you ever woken up and felt like you might have slid one dimension down while you were sleeping? It’s hardly noticeable, but there’s just that sense that something just isn’t quite right. On the good days, if you can call them that, the differences are more pronounced, and it’s easier to believe that you might be a pilgrim on his voyage through the looking-glass. But on mornings such as this, with only five hours separating the moment of slipping into slumber and final surrender to the alarm which rings out to shatter the wall of sleep around you, there’s nothing at which you can definitively point to make your case that this is not your world, beyond a nagging sensation just behind the bags beneath your eyes. It’s either that, or I read entirely too much Speculative Fiction, and have lost the ability to view the world as anything but a metaphor for my internal struggles to find my place among the stars.

I suppose that if I had gotten into Westerns, I would be prattling on about cattle rustlers and a Frontier Spirit, and if I’d somehow been caught up in Romance novels, I would be able to describe this crisis as the irreconcilable difference between the billionaire who wanted me to be his trophy wife (thereby providing for my ailing, widower father, and the son I’d had with my the love of my life who had been claimed too early by some exotic disease he’d caught from treating underprivileged patients in the third world), or my secret, burning desire for the rough, lower class day laborer who loved with a burning passion which I never could resist, but couldn’t hardly provide for himself, let alone my son and father. And if that seems mean, please keep in mind that I have been subjected to telenovelas, on a near-daily basis. I used to be able to ignore the soapy melodrama altogether, but as my Spanish has improved, my ability to just tune it out has plummeted. That doesn’t mean that I am mocking those who indulge in romantic fantasy (any man who has that many Star Trek novels is in no position to judge another’s tastes in literature), just that I find that particular genre unappealing. Now if you’ll excuse me while I reverse the polarity, adjust the Heisenberg Compensator, and make the jump to Hyperspace.

Maybe I should get to work on a telenovela; it’s not like I don’t know the formula by now. I’m just afraid that this hopeless romantic poet will fall in love with the characters he’s written (especially the villainess), and be unable to return to the real world. Leave it to me to be worried about creating not the perfect woman (who exists fully within herself and yet compliments the best things about me, so that when we join together, there is no power in the world which might stop us), but the perfect nemesis: someone perfectly crafted to dig deep within me and destroy the best parts of me. I’m sure that it speaks volumes about me, but there is nothing more alluring than woman who wants nothing more than to destroy you. Yeah, I’m guessing that I’m not nearly as well-adjusted as I thought I was, and I wasn’t really confident in even that.

Truth be told, I’d love, one day, to be the hero. Not somewhere buried in the written word, but in the life I live. I’d settle for being remembered as fair and just man, but I would love to stroll into a situation where hope had long ago been forcibly extinguished, and discover that the key to fixing everything had been forged in the crucible of my suffering, and filed down by bitterness and blindness to hope itself. My ultimate dream, of course, would be to do all of that, but somehow die in the process, thereby elevating the mundane muddling of my existence to a burning light which would withstand the bitter winds of time. Hey, to each his own.

Sadly, I have an amazing wife (who I’m fairly certain I do not deserve), a son capable of moments of sheer brilliance, a daughter so much like myself that I find it difficult to believe that we share no D.N.A., and a grandson who is so full of love that sometimes I think that I may just break down in joyful tears the next time he embraces me. And I’m about to have another grandchild. This time it’s going to be a little girl. I don’t stand a chance. I’m going to wind up beaten down by all the love around me, and, if I’m not very, very careful, wind up a happy person. Who then, I implore you, will make sure the neighbor kids know the rules regarding my lawn? A sad day, indeed. I’ve spent my life carefully cultivating misery, only to have it tossed to the wind every time I see the love in the eyes of those around me. And then I remember just how lucky I truly am, and how far I’ve come, and the anger builds again because they’ve stolen my bitter tears from swollen cheeks, and left me with laughter in their place. How am I supposed to be complete if I’m not completely inconsolable and an utter killjoy?

That Time Of Night

I should be asleep, but I’ve learned that after days like this, it’s best not to chance it. I woke up feeling not quite right with the world, in the gastrointestinal department, and by the time that the afternoon had come, my stomach issues had cleared up, but an old man pain within my head had taken hold. It comes on just like a migraine, but this type seems to be inspired by a change in weather, and I can still cram food into my face. It’s been chill and windy all day long, which is a turnabout from how it’s been the past couple of days. Or it could all be because I always feel like crap after spending the night on the sofa because the three of us, Wildflower, the Minkey, and myself, do not fit comfortably in the bed we must all share. David used to have a bed, but it suffered some crippling structural attacks and is no more. And this problem of ours has only been plaguing us for a few months now. Before, when my wife was working nights, my son and I would split the bed, and then I’d give up my forty percent to Wildflower when I went off to work. But ever since she’s been working mornings, it’s been a challenge to our marriage.

I don’t know if you all know this, but it’s hard to get along with your significant other when you have to share a bed with your child. Worse is when you never actually get to sleep with the person whom you married because there are too many distractions in the living room for your child to manage to fall asleep (never mind that he weighs almost nothing, and the sofas he has jumped upon and warped don’t bother him at all). Spend too much time without a little hanky panky, and you wind up with a roommate. Leave it like that for too long, and suddenly you don’t have even that. No, I’m not saying that my marriage is falling apart, though it has certainly seen much better times. But with the both of us in some sort of pain most of the time, and stressed out about finances and the number of people crammed into our two bedroom apartment, there’s not a lot of room for us to pencil in some much-needed quality time. Hell, the last date night we had (outside the apartment) was when we went to see Apocalyptica last month. And the time before that predates this blog by three weeks. I can’t actually remember the time before that, but it has to have been sometime between our third anniversary and last November. Right?

All of this has begun to take its toll. We still make each other laugh, but not as much, and the arguments usually take longer to resolve. And when we do fight, instead of building to the Climax of the Unspeakable, we oftentimes will just start there, and then not speak to one another for a day or two. The thing is, it’s not really anybody’s fault. We both sort of just let it get this way. There are just certain things that aren’t going to happen when I’m stressed out and exhausted, and she is constantly focused on everything which must be done to keep our home remotely livable. Times like this, especially in the dead of night, are what terrify me most. What if this is it? I ask myself, rubbing at my temples, What if we’re not coming back from this one? I sometimes wonder if we stay together out of love, or some sort of dedication to Mutually Assured Destruction. For myself, I can say that, barring domestic violence or infidelity, there will never come a time when I might have had enough to call it quits. What scares me is knowing just how much of a pain in the ass I am while resting in my natural state, and wondering if I’ve managed to destroy her love, just like I’ve done with every other woman whom I’ve dated.

And now those of you who were wondering when I’d bring my mental illness into this can whisper to your friends that you told them so.

Meeting and marrying Wildflower is most likely the best thing which could have happened to me, and I have a nasty tendency to want to get revenge on my happiness. I will find every reason to be unreasonable, and be able to back it up with facts and logic, just so I can drive the wedge a little bit further between us. To the age-old question of being right or being happy, I simply smile a twisted frown and declare that I’d take happiness, but I’m never wrong. I don’t want to think about what that kind of obstinacy must be like to share a marriage with, and if Fallen Catholics could be nominated for sainthood, I’d put up my dear wife’s name. I just wish that I could show her what I see when I tell her that everything will work out fine. I mean, I do have a track record (second only to the Phoenix) for full recoveries (and then some) from ashes of my failures (or, as I like to call them: reminders of why I like to live indoors), but I can understand why she might balk a little at the prospect of putting our future in the hands of maybe.

I just wish that this pain would go away. I know it is nudging me toward explosion, and when I blow, that will be the end of it. Maybe if we had enough money so we wouldn’t have to worry about the little things (like food, shelter, and clothing for three people), I could show her.

Why does it feel like I’m still waiting for something? Like there’s at least one more piece which I am expecting to fall in place. Someone I haven’t met. Something as of yet I haven’t done. I feel closer than ever to life I should be living, yet it seems just out of phase with the reality in which I’m currently stranded. I just wish that I had someone to talk to about all of this, not that I don’t enjoy the company of all of you. I wish that I knew, with the certainty of foreknowledge, exactly what the hell it is that I’m supposed to do. In retrospect, all of this angst will have been pointless, of course. The decision which I make will have been the only one available under the circumstances. I’m just missing the final clue to changing my perspective, so that I can see the bigger picture.

I wish…

Reflections On Grandfatherhood

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.

David's expression upon meeting his nephew for the first time. He wasn't all that terribly impressed.
David’s expression upon meeting his nephew for the first time. He wasn’t all that terribly impressed.

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.

The Disenchanted Kingdom

I’ve been working on a couple of other posts, and they don’t seem to be getting anywhere today. One of them seems too frivolous, and the other far too serious. I’m sort of going through a period of apathy. It’s probably a swing to the depressive, if I’m being honest, as my temper has grown shorter, and the laughter has grown quiet. The majority of my conversations are held up my grunts and shrugs, and, while rather noncommittal, have been viewed of late as aggressive and rude. When I express my apathy, I’m not trying to start a fight. Rather, I’m merely trying to inform anyone who might come near me that I’ve run completely out of fucks to give. This is the hardest part of me for my wife to understand. On the outside I seem no different from before, aside from a deeper frown and lack of self-care. But there are no open wounds for her bandage, nor broken bones for her to set; my pain resides within me, and there’s no easy fix. I’m tempted to say that she has given up, and written me off while looking forward to the day when she might rid herself of me and my entourage of nonsense. The fact is that she gets frustrated at her inability to help, or even predict my swirling moods from one moment to the next. I know that I am stubborn, and an impossible man to be around when I get this way, and it is only because of her overly generous nature that we have endured so many years with one another.

These are the days when I want to run away, when the responsibilities seem overwhelming, and I feel that I am drowning beneath the onslaught of my failures. It is during these periods that I think that maybe I’m not cut out to be the man who I once hoped I’d be. That maybe everyone would wind up better off if I just put them out of my misery. If I were to simply fade into the night, leaving an apology for all my sins upon the nightstand where my Wildflower would see it in the morning, I feel that I might spare the ones I love from the monster which lurks inside me. I’m not patient, and my kindness comes and goes. I love my family, but sometimes feel burdened by affection. I always seem to go after the happy things which once sustained me, and if I stay, that only puts them at risk. To clarify: I’m not talking about violence of a physical nature, but the way my psyche twists itself to poison and sharpen the words that I fling out in all directions. It takes so much effort to keep up this facade of sanity, that I fear the day is coming when the wires inside me snap, and I fly apart like a supernova. There is nothing which I want more than to find a way to disappear, find a way to end it all, and rest, at last, in peace. Reign forever in my Disenchanted Kingdom.

2866779705_0357d27d1c_bSo I stay. I stay because I know that if I left I would be dead. I know myself too well to think I’d leave open any avenues by which I might survive. I know that if I can just hold on a little longer, this darkness which has wrapped itself about me will begin to weaken and then fall away. Any time I talk to someone about how I’m feeling, they always tell me that I have to stick around to see my son grow up. Of course, in the moment, this only irritates me more: Just another heap of pressure piled up upon me. But it’s true. The reasons why I’ve stuck around are counted on a couple of fingers. I do want to see my son grow up, and my grandson as well. And now I’m due to meet a granddaughter. I think about the years ahead, stretching out in front of me, pushing me further back with every birth. I want to see them, and to know them, and I want to be remembered, but some days I think it might be better to pass off into legend. I could be the family’s epic cautionary tale. Make sure to see a doctor, so you don’t wind up like Grampa Batmart.

I’m torn.

I grew up without a dad, and I know just how that feels (though I never knew the pain of losing one I knew). But I am so afraid of crushing David beneath my bitterness, that there are times I think the only answer is to rid him of me entirely. It will hurt now, but someday he will understand. He will understand, won’t he? That I sacrificed myself to save him from the pain? Or would he lay the blame upon himself, and spend his life trying to figure out what he did wrong? It’s so confusing right now inside my head. It seems that every part of me is whispering that the safest course of action is one that cannot be undone. But I’ve also learned that these desires are the same I’ve always known. The same parts of me that will not rest until I have permanently done so. I get angry sometimes that I’ve got people around me who love me. They make it so that I cannot simply fade away. They bind me to them with their open hearts and scorching love, and make me feel as if I’m spinning, spinning, spinning.

This is the real battle. Even now, I know how to free myself from all the pain. Words to utter, and in which tone, to drive them all away. Make them leave me so that I can finally get it done. I’m not sure if my hesitation is an act of bravery or cowardice. In these times it’s hard to tell if I’m doing more harm by staying. I’m so used to knowing everything, that it’s almost impossible to push that all aside, and rely on the clearer thinking of my wife. I’ve had so many bad experiences that it’s been hard to trust her, been hurt so many times that it’s difficult to make myself believe that she’s not just out to do the same. But we’ve got nine years together, so something must be working. I chose her in a moment of clarity (though why she chose me is beyond me), someone unlike the women I’d been chasing after. Someone who might want something besides my blood. Even if I can’t trust anyone right now, I guess I’ll have to believe that I once knew what I was doing.

The shadow seems to have passed, at least momentarily. I guess I made the right decision. This is something that I must confront anew every time it falls upon me, and it seems to learn from past defeats, as nothing I’ve done in the past seems to have any effect.

Thank you for bearing with me on this journey through the darkness. I swear that I’ll write something a little funnier next time. Or at least die trying.

Water Wings

“Sometimes I just like to express myself in tears.”

-David William, 4/10/15

And, other times, he is... less profound.
And, other times, he is… less profound.

There are times when I am amazed by just how mature my son can be, on the rare occasions when it doesn’t interfere with his childishness. He has such a way with words sometimes that I find myself wondering just how he’s managed it in such a short amount of time. He’s almost eight years old, and yet he casually tosses out profundity without a second thought. I suppose it could be something in his genes, as I tend to do the same, or it could be that I’ve never spoken to him as though he were anything less than an adult. There are times when that hasn’t worked out so well, and I have to be reminded that he’s still a little boy, but his vocabulary is fantastic and he’s capable of reasoning which I’ve been told is significantly above his age group. Most of the time, he’s just this little kid, obsessed with playing Xbox, and vegging out in front of his cartoons. And yet… Like I said, there are times when he just lays some truth down on me, and I cannot help but think that maybe I am doing something right, and that I might be pretty lucky to have been able to be part of his life.

I’m just hoping that I manage not to screw him up too badly by the time I’m done with him. I’ve got just one decade left to try to help him to discover who he is, and what it means to be that man. And really, considering how close his teen years are, I’ve probably got less than that. I don’t want to turn him into a carbon copy of myself, as I’ve learned the hard way, living with my daughter, but I’d like to pass along some of the lessons which I’ve managed to learn over these past three and a half decades. It’s too early to get into comparative philosophies, but I’ve been focusing for the past couple of years on teaching him how to think. I figure that he’ll be flipping through beliefs like the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue soon enough, and at that point, the only influence which I’ll have on upon him will be to present a target to which he can focus his rebellion. Knowing that those days are coming make me preemptively weepy, but I’m hoping that by laying some groundwork now, I can minimize the damage in the years to come.

I’m glad he’s not reading over my shoulder right now, as I don’t want him to know just how impressed I am with him. I know that sounds a little weird, but please, hear me out. I tell him every day just how much I love him, and every time he knocks it out of the park, I make sure to let him know just how good of job he’s doing. But I don’t want him to get too full of himself, and think that can do no wrong. The best lessons I ever had were those which I managed to salvage from the burning wreckage of my failures. I never learned anything by getting it right the first time. That’s not to say that I’m not capable of doing it right the first time, just that it’s not really a learning experience. And now, whenever I learn something new, I’m more interested in the Whys than Hows.  The only downside to that is that no one really wants to teach me anymore, on account of the unending stream of questions pouring out from between my beard. I guess that I just want David to have to always think that he could do a little better, because that will always be the truth.

Now, I’m not saying that I want to be the type of dad who never gives his son approval. I just don’t want him to get so hung up doing a victory dance that loses sight of the bigger picture. There is always more to learn, more to see, more experiences under the sun (and moon) than can be checked off of any list in a single afternoon. Of course, if I’m not careful, I’ll drive him to try to touch the sun, and water wings are even less effective than those crafted lovingly from wax.

Pictured: without either
Pictured: without either

Not that he’s ever used water wings, however. No, he’s not a natural swimmer, we just can’t get him anywhere near a pool. He’s terrified of water, except for little puddles that splash safely around in. Hell, when we give him a bath, we have to debate just how important it actually is to get the shampoo out of his hair. I don’t know why he’s so worried all the time about the smallest things. That’s probably genetic, too. I don’t suppose that I’m really in all that great of a position to be mocking someone for their anxieties. I mean, despite my intelligence and unbearable awesomeness, it is still a major battle to pick up a phone and call someone I don’t know. To be completely honest, even phone calls to people with whom I share D.N.A. or, at the very least, a deep friendship, aren’t all that much easier. I mean, I only really call the man who I once considered my best friend if I happen to be in the same area code, on the way to meet up with him- and we live hundreds of miles apart. Even our text messages are few and far between, as I’m even nervous about simply wasting his time.

I hope that David William won’t ever have to deal with that. It’s one thing to be afraid of dogs, and cats, and water deeper than a couple of inches, but it’s another monster entirely to be afraid of other people. So far, he’s just like his mother, in that regard. He has no problem walking up to someone and demanding that they be his friend, although his rate of success is nothing to write home about. I guess what I like it is that it never occurs to him that he might fail. Now, when he does homework, or tries something new, I’ve seen him paralyzed by all of the What If’s regarding failure, but when it comes to other people, there’s no thought in his mind other than wanting to share a moment with another human being. Maybe I’ll wind up learning something from him, after all. I mean, the odds are that at least one of us has got to be a decent teacher.


Back To Normal (Once Again)

It was nice to have a little day off yesterday, even if I didn’t really get much of a chance to relax. I got to host a compulsory playdate for my son and his friend while all the other grownups were at work. Mostly they just hit each other, and then tattled on one another. This happened off and on for a few hours until I had had enough, and then I decided that what everyone needed was some sunlight and fresh air. If we were living on the Island, I would have just sent them off to play down on The Walk, but we live near Richmond, California, and there are times when even I don’t feel comfortable going out alone. Poverty and poor decisions (from a limited set to begin with) have a tendency to fold back upon themselves and hone a violent sort of survival instinct, and while I do not blame the victim, I’m also aware of my surroundings. And when it comes to kids under ten years of age, attention is not a quality they possess in any quantity, except for when commercials are blaring and they see a toy that they absolutely have to have.

I decided that it seemed slow enough of a Thursday that I might be able to drop off my son’s prescription without having to wait half an hour in a frighteningly static line, so we all got ready, and walked the half mile to Walgreen’s. And when I say that we all got ready, I mean that my son threw a temper tantrum for the better part of an hour, declaring through rage, streaming boogers, and tears that he didn’t want to go, and that we should just leave him here all alone. Surprisingly, it was his sister who wound up saving the day, finding a way to get him settled down and out the door. It was surprising, not because she lacks maternal instinct (which she does not), but because, in any given moment, the two of them are usually locked into some sort of screaming match. There is a certain jealousy, I think, which exists between siblings separated by over a decade and a half, although that animosity is usually felt most strongly by the older sibling. The younger one will usually shoot back with, “You’re not the boss of me!” or “You’re not my Mom (or Dad)!”, while the older sibling spends the quiet hours wondering what they might have done, and why they weren’t enough. It’s hard to go from the center of attention to taken for granted, and this dynamic can frustrating for everyone involved. It is nice to have some help, though.

See? They're so adorable!
See? They’re so adorable!

I don’t really talk a lot about my daughter. Usually, we spend our time sniping at one another, and jockeying for control of every little situation. Biologically, I am not her real dad, but in every conceivable way, she is my little girl. It is actually because of her that I am convinced that I will someday unlock the secrets of time travel, if only so that I can go back and date her mother in the fading light of the 1980’s, thereby tying up loose ends, and explaining why she’s so much like me. We’ll argue for weeks on end, passive aggressively engaging in a type of warfare reminiscent of Sherman’s March. I almost feel bad for my wife and son-in-law, as they are, for the most part, fairly normal people who don’t deserve this type of well-oiled insanity. But we are the lights which burn so brightly that we cannot help but singe the soaring wings of moths drawn to our flames. Also, and I have this on good authority, it turns out that crazy people are just fantastic lovers. Unfortunately, we also tend to be utter crap when it comes to the simple stuff that all you normals never give a second thought. But that tends to be the way of things.

I don’t think that I could make it through the nonsense of any given day without the grounded support of my wife, and I know for a fact that, despite their occasional squabbling, my son-in-law and daughter are good for one another. Life isn’t easy, and it’s important to find someone with whom you can just be yourself. My wife is my rock, my solid foundation upon which I may set down the burden of my crazy, if only for a little while, and I am the spice which adds extra depth to her days. But, like most spicy things, I tend to inspire gastrointestinal distress and I’m not nearly as much fun the next morning. I think that if I hadn’t found a way to draw out laughter from amidst the tears, we would have finished years ago. As it is, there are times that I can see something stirring just behind my wife’s Market Spice eyes that gives me pause, and makes me wonder if today is the day that the world will fall down around me. And then she’ll blink, and that shadow upon her soul will disappear, and life will return back to the baseline normal we’ve established over these past nine years.

In case you guys were wondering, we didn’t wind up making it to Walgreen’s. Their phone lines and registers were down, and their manager posted outside to turn everyone away. The worst part, however, was that I had a code for a free rental at Redbox, and the next closest kiosk was farther than I really cared to walk. There’s a limit to how much something free is worth, and honestly, $1.64 is not an amount for which I would do a whole hell of a lot. So we wound up meeting my wife at the Grocery Outlet on the other side of town (about half the distance to the nearest Redbox), and picking up some snacks to make a little picnic in the new park they just put in. It gave us grownups the chance to plant our butts on benches, and let the kids run wild in a moderately contained area. On the way over, of course, David and his friend practically jumped out in front of a car in the parking lot of a Mexican supermarket, and I don’t know who more freaked out: the driver or myself. I really wish that kids would pay even the slightest bit of attention, as is seems that they have no instinct for self-preservation whatsoever. They do seem to have a seemingly unlimited supply of dumb luck, however.

We managed to make it through the rest of the afternoon without incident, either traffic or temper related. Our friend picked her son up, and my wife, daughter, and grandson took off for Berkeley to check out some Dollar Store deals. I was left hanging out with David, so I cooked us up some burgers, and we hung together and watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? until it was time for bed. At this point, I’m just going to lie, and say that everything went smoothly on the slumber front, as I really don’t want to get into it (and my son is reading this over my shoulder). I guess I’ll just say goodbye for now, and that I’ll see you all tomorrow.


Spring Break!

Somehow my son gets yet another week away from school, which for him is the ultimate adventure, but for me is more akin to a contest of endurance. Today has been everything which I had imagined that it would be, from the temper tantrums to the unreasonable demands and a lack of desire to put anything in one’s mouth that wasn’t primarily sugar. And that’s just me. David managed to top my insolence, and transform it from the flailings of a well-practiced amateur to the finely-honed craftsmanship of a true master. My only hope is that some day my curse will fall upon his shoulders, and he will sire a son who tests his patience with a dedication that feels not entirely unlike “enhanced interrogation.” I realize that I have brought this upon myself, in so many ways, but it just seems so… unfair that I am forced to relive the highlights of my youth, but in the third person. I guess the main difference between David and myself is that, while we both wholeheartedly believe that we are always right, reality has shown that it is I who holds mastery over the never-ending bag of I told you so‘s.

I get another week of this, which means that I will probably need some sort of therapy by nightfall this coming Sunday. When dealing with almost anybody else with whom I don’t agree, I can simply cut them out completely from the fabric of my life. This has even worked on several occasions when dealing with my mother. But I cannot do this with my son, no matter how tempting it may seem at times. Even if I didn’t know exactly how it felt to grow up without a father, I would feel obligated to remain. It is my job to teach him how to harness his tendencies toward assholery, that he might at least superficially function somewhere deep within society. And if I am not here to face the whirlwind of his madness and help it to dissipate, then there is the chance that it never will, and he will be a hurricane of madness sweeping through all the lives thereafter which he touches, never really knowing why it is that no one has ever invited him to stay. I would say that there is a chance for self-containment upon his realization that girls (or boys, for I judge not) exist, but then I think back to how calmly I was able to navigate the streams of life whilst hopped up on a steady stream of hormones, and I suddenly feel pity for that spinning ball of energy: all alone and horny, with nary a couch to rest upon.

Of course, it’s my job to see the worst, while constantly keeping watch for signs of commendable behavior. I may call him out on bullshit with a whiplash’d frequency, but I also make sure to point out all the times he gets it right, so that he has third-party verification of his success. Inside that head of his, adorned by ketchup and so thick I wonder why his neck has not yet broken, is a mind that constantly amazes me, both in its agility and camouflaged ability. Fed has said of him that he is either “a genius or completely retarded.” My wife, and most people who don’t think we should go around referring to children as “retards” are offended by the comment. But I can see the truth of it. Like his father, David is in negative possession of an overwhelming quantity of common sense. He can grasp the most complicated concepts, far beyond his age, but cannot remember to flush the toilet or turn off the bathroom light once he has finished. Like me, he cannot seem to understand the most basic human concepts. The stupid things he does are not a product of any deficiency other than their own: if something is too simple, he will discount the obvious answer, and wind up overthinking everything until he breaks down in tears. Or I do.

"Well, you NEVER share with me SOMETIMES!" -David, right now.
“Well, you NEVER share with me SOMETIMES!” -David, right now.

Bad Leon is slightly more understanding, but I’m pretty sure that’s just because he’s trying to instigate a full-scale revolution with The Minkey at the head. Bad Leon is a great uncle for David to have around, as everyone should know someone who can easily add context to their parents’ delusions of control, and help a younger generation come to understand that grownups are full of shit. It’s a shame that Mr. Suave had to go and get himself stuck in the middle of Montana, as I think that it would be nice to have him around on various occasions. I would totally be willing to forgive a certain level of subversion if it meant that I could actually embark upon an uninterrupted date night with my wife slightly more often than every other anniversary (and a half). Well that, and I could finally unearth the Rock Band paraphernalia. Sadly, I am referring to the plastic guitars that wirelessly connect to my Xbox 360, and not anything slightly more befitting of a washed-up poet and the bass player from… I don’t know… some band or something in the middle of Montana.

What I’d like to know is when, exactly, do I get my Spring Break? I mean, besides the small vacation which I take between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Monday through Friday when school is in session. And the time I’ve taken off since Thanksgiving so that I could knock off all the dust and rust and try my hand at wordsmithing. But apart from all of that, when do I get mine? I need a vacation from my “vacation.”

Oh, what to do! At least my son-in-law, Nerdenn Events, is off tomorrow. Maybe he can take The Minkey and Cream Soda on a little expedition, and I can sleep in for a little, and then work on a couple of things. And if that fails, at least I have a show to go to on Wednesday night. I think that I’ve exhausted all my complaining for the day. I’m sure that I will have a whole new set of irritations to share with everyone tomorrow. Have a good night, everyone!


Rising From The Dead

I suppose that it’s not so terrible a thing to take a couple of days off from time to time. I’ve had a lot going on recently, and it was nice to be able to catch up on a little sleep. I just wish that I didn’t keep waking up in the Twilight Zone. It used to happen with more frequency about a decade and a half ago, but from time to time it appears that I am still vulnerable to a shift between dimensions. Before I fall asleep, everything is normal. but upon opening my eyes, I find that I’ve been transported to a realm which appears in almost every way identical to the one with which I have been living, aside from one minor detail: In this new reality, my wife and I apparently do not get along. It probably has something to with the fact that I’m a massive pain in the ass, but what really kills me is that tonal shift never occurs until after I have fallen asleep. At least I’m fairly well-rested when we get into the thick of it, although I would much rather wake to find that I have been transported to a universe where everyone agrees with me and defers to my authority. Of course, I would then face the problem of never truly believing that I’d woken up.

It could be that I’ve just gotten used to a certain baseline of misery, but I seem to always be able to find just the thing to say or do to make everybody angry. It could also be that, after having ridden atop a wave of brightly burning mania, I am now crashing back to earth, wings melted and streaking down my back. I just hate it when I argue with my wife. I love her more than I ever thought possible, and have come to rely upon her in those moments when mere apathy and anger are simply not enough to get me through the day. I just wish that I could convince her that I actually know what I’m doing, instead of having to wait half a year for everybody to catch up to me. For me, it’s enough to know that she is there, standing by my side, a pillar of perfection in the jumbled chaos of my life. But I can see how sometimes it can be hard to keep your head held high when you’re just trying to keep it above water.

I’ve always landed on my feet. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen some dark days, just that I’ve always managed to escape them more or less intact. But it has been a little harder to navigate the streams of uncertainty with a wife and child. It’s not like the three of us (and all our stuff) can fit comfortably on someone’s couch until we get our feet beneath us once again. I’ve learned to keep it at a distance, all this uncertainty and self-doubt. I know just how fragile everything can be, but I also know that all that worry will only tie me into knots. That’s not to say that I don’t know how to really sink myself into a pit of things I cannot change, just that I also keep in mind that things have a tendency to work out for the best. My wife, however, is not familiar with this crippling level of worry. She is an amazingly capable human being who consistently puts me to shame on any number of issues, but when it comes to surviving stress-wound muscles, erupting heartburn, and the sinking feeling that the world is falling down around you, I totally have her beat.

Money doesn’t fix everything, but it sure helps to mitigate the worries. I understand why she is worried, as I’m bound to fall on my face one of these days. Most people would love to see me on that day, as the deflating of an ego so large is something of a spectacle. But should it ever come to pass that my luck actually runs out, my wife will wind up being punished for the crime of having believed in me. I know that everything is going to be okay, and apparently the universe is on my side (although, who knows how it will work in this parallel reality?). I don’t want to get into a lot of details, but every time I think that time has just run out, I’m granted an extension at the perfect time, like a second chance unfolding through infinity until I’m ready to get it all just right. Yeah, okay, I can see how that could look a little crazy. I suppose that if someone else unloaded all of that on me, at the very least, I’d be a little skeptical. It’s a good thing to be in the driver’s seat of your own insanity.

I just wish that she would relax. She runs around, putting out the fires, all the while getting singed around the edges. At the end of the day, the fire’s still burning strong, but it helps her to feel that something’s been accomplished. Meanwhile,my focus has been on how my jeans have been shrinking. We don’t have a scale in the apartment, but I’m certain that I haven’t packed away enough to outgrown all of my pants. I know that I could handle losing a couple dozen of them (pounds, not pants), but to have grown so… large… that I cannot even wear the jeans that I don’t care for… What is this world coming to?

That right there is a perfect comparison of the two of us: She’s focused on the all the things we need to do to keep from going under, and I’m shedding internet tears regarding my descent into flabbery. I just wish that she would accept my assurances that everything is going to work out fine, but she’s too much of a perfectionist to take me at my word, and I’m too tired to argue anymore with her. I feel like something dead, barely registering above room temperature.

A shadow of my former self, from deep within the Twilight Zone.
A shadow of my former self, from deep within the Twilight Zone.


I just want everyone to realize that this is the first time since January that I have written something on the first day of the month. If you don’t believe me, you can check it out for yourselves. I didn’t really want to break the streak I’d had going since February 1st, but I felt that I should probably write something in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not going to try to convince you that I’m getting a divorce, or that my wife is pregnant again, or some combination of the two. Nor am I going to think up all the strange, yet strangely believable nonsense with which I might otherwise have fooled you. So no, I haven’t finished a book, and it hasn’t gotten picked up by a publisher. I haven’t settled on where I want to work in the real world yet, but soon I will have to choose. This week, probably. Sadly, the thing about the man boobs from the other day is still factually correct. No, instead of trying to think up funny tricks to play upon you, I’m going to take some time and actually share what has me kind of pumped.

Next week, one week from today, Flor and I will be going out to celebrate our sixth anniversary. It’s a little late, but there’s finally something happening that I convinced her she might like to do. And what is that thing? We’re going to catch Apocalyptica at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Wait, I can hear you asking, isn’t your wife a Mexican woman in her late forties? Why would you take her to see Finnish Cello Metal? And those are both questions, though neither one of them is all that good. The answer, however, is that we caught Apocalyptica when they came here on their 7th Symphony tour back… How long ago was that? It feels like it was… maybe four years ago? Five? Anyway, I convinced her to come with me for a night out on the town, and we went to a show together, and wound up with matching hoodies. I just looked it up, by the way. It’s been four and a half years. And the last time we actually did something fun for an anniversary was when we got tickets to the Whiskies Of The World Expo for out third anniversary. Sorry, got off track.

The fact is that I have been trying to figure out how to convince her to go out with me (just like high school- will it never end?!) for quite some time, and when I saw that tickets were still available, I cashed in my points from my Amex card, and snagged us an evening of diversion. Now, the last time that we went to see them, we were both a little younger, and didn’t mind getting back on the last bus of the evening. But this time, Apocalyptica is just a Special Guest, and not the headlining act (Sixx:A.M.), which I really have no desire to stick around to see. That means that we can go out, catch some tunes, and get back in time for bed. I know that’s not really all that metal, but I’m in my mid-thirties now, and I get a little cranky if I don’t get any sleep. That, and my wife will most likely have to start work around, coincidentally enough, 6 o’clock the following morning. None of that matters, though! We’re actually going to go out and have a good time! We’ll have the opportunity to reconnect, and maybe feel the butterflies again. I know that we both became a little weak in the knees when they were holding their cellos above their heads with one hand and bowing stuff of Kill ‘Em All with the other. I mean, I’m not into dudes, but that was kind of sexy. Just sayin’.

Actually, the only thing that has me a little bummed is that they have a full-time singer now, and it’s not the dude they had with them on their last tour: Tipe Johnson, former singer of the Leningrad Cowboys. That Robert Plant-looking dude could really wail, and I just hope that their new guy can handle all the styles of their previous guest vocalists with as much ease as Mr. Johnson. Actually, I hope that they play mostly instrumentals, but that’s just me. Actually, I hope they play a handful of their hits, and then they just throw down Metallica covers for the rest of the show. I would kill to hear what they would do with Orion. They’ve never done a studio cover of it, and I think if anyone could do it justice, it would be those guys.

All this means, of course, that I will be listening to their discography all week, immersing myself the best of their stuff, and trying to will away the aches and pains so that I might be ready for a mosh pit, should one suddenly appear around me. I doubt it will, though. Last time the vibe was more of a show I remember being put on at my middle school, when the administration was constantly admonishing that there was to be “no moshing” and “no headbanging.” Come to think about it, I think that was the first night that I ever checked out the Teen Center. Weird. Somehow I’ve managed to tie up all the themes I ran with in March over the course of a couple of paragraphs. And just to be clear, Apocalyptica did not play at the Old Commode. And there was decent audience reaction when the Finns took the stage. But after a particularly awful set by Dir En Grey (who should have immediately fired their sound guy for gross negligence, and then hauled him away to face multiple criminal charges of assault by way of godawful mixing- I mean, it was like we were getting stabbed in the ear by rabid, shrieking monkeys), we were all still trying to recover. But I still managed to make a Metal Face. And what a face it was.

That's my Metal Face!
That’s my Metal Face!

Anyway, I’m stoked that we are going, and next Thursday, I’ll have a write-up of the show!

Enjoy your April!




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.