Thursday, May 31, 2007

would you?

I'll spare the reader - assuming the reader has not already written me off as dead - all the standard window dressing and excuses for giving this blog the red-haired, step-child treatment in recent weeks. I can say that the absence has made my heart fonder and that in said absence I have chicken scratched and stashed many post ideas onto various scraps of paper. Once I get around to collecting those scraps and, assuming the hand writing is legible, I'll whip them up with some special sauce and pour them out. What follows could be considered preheating the oven...

Last weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, the family unit kept a pretty low profile and stayed in town. (Actually, the Jackal and I went to the beach Sunday and Monday, but that's another post for another day.) Saturday morning we quelled a minor temper tantrum - the terrible twos are certainly upon us - by suggesting a bus ride to the National Zoo. Talk about doubling the pleasure - taking his favorite mode of transportation to see the "rillas" (gorillas, obviously) sealed the deal, and he was miles of smiles.

By mid-morning, around 10ish, it was already Africa hot outside. Two blocks into the walk to the bus stop on Connecticut Avenue, I regretted the hell out of my decision to wear jeans. On top of that, the pits of my gray t-shirt were dark with sweat. In other words, I felt really sexy. Oh well - at least the Jackal's mother looked really good, not that any of that matters...unless you have vanity issues. In any case, we eventually reached Connecticut and grabbed the L2 to Woodley Park. As expected, the Jackal's face was a perma-grin the whole ride down. The only objectionable part of the trip was some street hustler sitting behind us for a few blocks, farting up the most foul of storms. Maggots gagged, I swear.

When we hit the mouth of the Zoo it was a virtual stroller derby. At least 30 strollers rolled into the place with us, which initially gave me a mild case of angst since I have a tendency to buy into the whole Jean-Paul Sartre concept that "Hell is other people." I don't discriminate, so in this case, toddlers fall into the category of "other people." Maybe it was just the heat and humidity gnawing at me though. Either way, I got over it and pushed through the crowd into the urban jungle where we clocked all the usual suspects: elephants, donkeys, pandas, birds, zebras, and of course the gorillas.

My favorite spots on that particular day were the buildings that house smaller creatures, such as the Small Mammal House. Strollers are not allowed in these buildings and the A/C is absolutely cranked. It's a nice respite from the sweaty rat race on the main avenue...

A little back story should be shared here before I get on with the rest. I know, in terms of literary style I could probably provide a more subtle or effective vehicle, but my editor is in the BVI getting drunk on Dark & Stormies, so I'm left to my own inept devices today. Okay, my friends and I share many inside jokes. You could almost say we have our own language. Rhetorical questions seem to comprise most of it. Perhaps the most common question, in case you haven't deciphered from the title, is Would you? The root of this question falls into a rather inappropriate concept - a very attractive woman strolls by, so you turn to your friend and mutter Would you? The implied question, to which the answer is obvious, making the question rhetorical, is Would you sleep with her?

I hate to call out the male population on this one, but it's a common practice. Even if men don't vocalize it, they tend to think it. Well, in the name of immature humor, my friends and I have played out this question and extended it to just about anything - animate or inanimate. Now that I think about it, perhaps we are satirizing ourselves for using the question in the first place. Nah, that's giving us too much credit. We are just applying it more liberally for the sake of being able to say it over and over, much to the chagrin of our wives, who don't hesitate to roll their eyes.

Jesus - this back story is turning into a post of it's own. Enough said, I think you get the concept. Back to the Small Mammal House...

The inhabitants of this particular house included howler monkeys, black-tailed prairie dogs, naked mole rats, sloths, tree shrews, bats, etc. The mammal that gave us the longest pause, however, was none other than the golden lion tamarin. Clocking this thing was like rubber-necking at the site of a car accident. I was simultaneously disturbed and intrigued, unable to avert my eyes as one inserted his long skinny digit into a tree stump in search of some insect or another. They looked like little drag queen refugees from the Land of Oz.

When I managed to pull my eyes away for a second I soaked up the adorable look of enchantment on the Jackal's face. Then, with the most matter-of-fact tone and straight face, he turns to me and asks, "Would you?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

28 years later

28 years ago, when I was 5, my old man took me to see my first horror flick at a movie theater – Halloween. Naturally I was terrified and spent much of the experience hiding under my seat, asking now and then if the victim was dead yet. As might be expected, this was the genesis of some real fear issues in my childhood. Hell, I still occasionally scamper up the stairs after turning off the lights and calling it a night because I think Michael Meyers could be on my tail with an 8” Wustoff. And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack they played over and over when the boogeyman was stalking his prey. Jesus, it gives me chills just thinking about it.

This begs an obvious question that might be even more terrifying and disturbing: why the hell would a father take a 5 year old to see a horror film?

If he and I cross paths again, it’s on the list of questions I suspect I’ll ask him. Needless to say, he wasn’t exactly a stand-up dad. Who knows – people change, so maybe he has evolved. I’ll leave some room for the benefit of that doubt. That’s neither here nor there and not the point of this post.

Oddly enough, I developed a real taste for horror flicks in my adult life. You might expect that a guy who, as a kid, carried a steak knife in his back pocket when his parents left him home alone would want nothing to do with scary movies. For some reason, that’s not the case, as I generally make it a point to catch as much of that genre that I can.

I paid a visit to my shrink about 6 weeks ago to take an inventory of myself. Too much mental and emotional debris had begun to clutter my cellar and weigh me down, so a psychoanalytical spring-cleaning was needed. It absolutely helped, but some of my follow-through on his suggestions could be occasionally called into question. His primary recommendation was that I have the nanny stay late two nights each week so I can have a couple of hours here and there to round myself out with activities other than work and parenthood, the only catch being that I don’t spend these “off” nights drinking and smoking. My wife tends to work long hours, which lands me in the Mister Mom role 5 nights a week. While I absolutely love the Jackal, that song and dance on the heels of every crazy work day was wearing me thin. Okay, enough said…

Today after work I decided to catch the post-apocalyptic horror flick,
28 Weeks Later, at Mazza Gallery, which is right across the street from my office. I walked away satisfied, not demanding those two hours of my life back. The first installment, 28 Days Later, was more artistic – what I’d call a “film,” if you can buy that. The sequel was more of an adventure in sensationalism and gore, which I expected and accepted. As I took in various scenes showing infected psychos bashing skulls, gouging eyes, or munching flesh, I caught myself wondering if this was the kind of therapeutic use of my time the doctor had in mind. It is kind of odd that today’s refuge from the world happened to take the shape of some ultra violent, bloody, horror flick. Here’s the thing – I never said I was not odd.

An email from a close friend I told about my plans hit my blackberry during the flick: How scared are you right now? More scared than mature?

28 years later, I can’t come up with a straight-faced answer to a question like that, so I just laugh my ass off and continue to not take myself too seriously. Maybe the minute I start taking myself seriously is when I develop an aversion to flicks like 28 Weeks Later.

Now that, my friends, is a thought that scares me

Sunday, May 13, 2007

on the lam again

A sinkhole swallowed me last week. Fortunately I didn't sit well in the catacombs of its stomach, so it retched and retched until it managed to spit me out. Back above ground, most things seem the same as I left them. Some things have changed......

The world is jaundiced. An even blanket of yellow dust covers everything around me and gives me a miserable sinus headache. Every time I get behind the wheel of my black SUV, I curse the ever present pollen that paints the hood and plasters the windshield. Spraying the washer fluid and jamming the wipers into gear only makes it worse - a sludge that resembles some one's urine after a heavy night of drinking and failing, yet again, to properly hydrate. It's nauseating, so I usually squint through it from point A to point B.

What else? Oh, the bee population appears to be in decline. Perhaps admitting this will not make me any new friends, but I have contributed to this factor. You see, I'm anti-insect. Ironically, I also loathe spiders. You'd think I would like or at least tolerate spiders since they rid the world of most insects, but no. The whole lot of them can go to hell for all I care. If I spot a bee (or a spider for that matter) at my house, I drop everything and make it my sole purpose to destroy it. Every once in a while I pose this question to myself - what if there were giants roaming the earth who decided at random to snuff out little humans like myself? And for a second, I empathize with these pests, but the empathy is fleeting, and next thing you know I'm wielding a tennis racket, shoe, or rolled-up newspaper. There's this crew of bumblebees loitering in my back yard. They hover in certain corners of the yard, occasionally coming over to the patio to buzz me or the Jackal. I mean, these pricks are coming into my yard trying to intimidate me with absolutely no clue about my vicious backhand. Two or three of them learned the hard way when I slammed winners and sent them to the afterlife. As for the rest of them - their days are numbered. Naturally my wife chalks this up as yet another demonstration of my insanity. But seriously, I'm amazed by the whole bee issue. Fast forward about 10 years and Whole Foods will be stocking its shelves with free range honey and activists will be raising hell over bee farm and other mass methods of honey production. Maybe not, but stranger things have happened.

Suddenly so many people are shocked about this Alec Baldwin voicemail message to his 11 year old daughter. Did I miss the memo about celebrities having their shit together in the personal life category? I don't see how this makes people shudder. If anything, it brings them down to earth with the rest of us where yelling at kids or veering off the path of perfect parenthood happens every day. Now this cat feels the need to apologize to the world and says he wants to give up acting so he can pursue more philanthropic goals in the world of parental estrangement? Alec, most of us never really pegged you for dad of the millennium or a saint. Your absolutely stunning and beautiful performance in Glengarry Glen Ross, when you ripped apart a gang of two-bit real estate salesman, demonstrated your ability to dig deep and bring the anger. It was too good, too real, so we knew you had it in you. Look - I am not saying it's cool to say that kind of stuff to your kids, but it happens now and then when you are human.

Speaking of being human, I have a story. Friday I managed to leave my work baggage at the door and got home with the idea of taking the Jackal out on a bus adventure. Mom would be getting off late, so what a way to kill some time! Naturally he was thrilled about this plan. The trip would require two legs, which was no problem. One of the bus lines goes right by our house, so we grabbed that bus and smoothly rode to Connecticut Avenue where we got off and waited for our transfer - the L2. At the bus stop, the Jackal pointed out birds, cars, people, coffee shops, strollers, bicycles and every other obvious thing that surrounded us. It was so cute, and I soaked up every bit of it. Then my cell phone interrupted - a work call. So much for edging into the weekend unscathed.

About 5 minutes into the call, the L2 bus pulled up, so I gathered the Jackal in one arm, collapsed stroller in the other, and wedged the phone between my shoulder and ear as I approached. Somehow, I have no idea how, the driver didn't see me behind the three other passengers who boarded and essentially closed the door in my face, eliciting an "Oh no!" from the Jackal. Since I had no hands free, I kicked the bottom of the door, and cracked the window. Well, this didn't seem to get the driver's attention because he edged the bus along to the intersection. Naturally I was pissed but couldn't react because of the work call in my ear, so the Jackal and I planted ourselves back at the bus stop. That's when I noticed the bus I just inadvertently vandalized with my child in my arms had stopped and passengers with scowls on their faces were pouring out the door. As it happened, the driver decided his vessel was "out of service" due to the broken window and ordered the passengers off. I learned this from one crusty old man who ignored the fact that I was on the phone and howled, "You broke that window, so he kicked us off." Then the driver approached me and pointed out what happened in what sounded like the form of a question: "You broke a window?"

At this point I decided it would be a good idea to scram lest I find myself talking to cops, so I shrugged my shoulders and slowly sauntered away from the scene. In my wake the disgruntled commuters probably cursed me. I have to admit I giggled as I pushed Jack in the stroller through nearby alley ways en route to another bus stop further down the line. Always the bus system loyalist, the Jackal was naturally pissed and confused and asked several times about the bus and its whereabouts. "Forget that bus." I explained, though he could not possibly understand. "We're on the lam, my friend."

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

where's win

I'm in between days, about to jump out of my skin. Despite how much I try to ignore it and no matter how spread thin I feel, this blog keeps calling and I eventually answer, for better or worse. I am underwater busy at work, which is a good thing at the end of the day, but also a bad thing when I mostly find myself dying for the Jackal's bedtime to show up. I can't be the only parent who occasionally just wants his kid to go to bed, right? At least I'm not spiking his juice with Benadryl, yet.

Okay, enough pissing and moaning. Life is a box of chocolates, at least this week. The Arcade Fire show at DAR Constitution Hall is looming large on the event horizon. The anticipation has been sizzling through my entire being for months. I've played the shit out of the new Neon Bible and the breakthrough Funeral the past month. The Jackal has not complained for a second; he just absorbs the whole wall of sound and giggles. To sweeten the pot, my best friend JT, CEO of a mental health facility in Middle-of-Nowhere, Ohio, is rolling in for the weekend. The sum of all these parts is one beautiful disaster. JT expects to get so old school, it might be decrepit school. I am so down with that.

As the variables line up and the weekend approaches, I find myself engaging in the familiar debate over which is better -- the anticipation and build-up to a major event or the experience of the actual event itself? At the peak of Friday night, I'll hit the pause button, soak everything in, and let it all wash over me like some spiritual tidal wave. When I press "play" again I still won't have resolved that debate, but that's not the point. The debate itself seems to mean I am alive and electric.

Last night I read a great review of Neon Bible in Paste. One quote from Win Butler, possibly my latest non-sexual man crush, on the topic of fear really grabbed me:

"There are two kinds of fear: The Bible talks a lot about fear of God -- fear in the face of something awesome. That kind of fear is the type of fear that makes someone want to change. But a fear of other people makes you want to stay the same, to protect what you have. It's a stagnant fear; and it's paralyzing."

I am still wrapping my mind around this idea, but I think I can identify with the concept of vacillating between two poles of angst or fear or whatever you want to call it. Or, maybe I am just romanticizing anything this cat might say because I'm excited about the show.

Possibly a review on the show to come next week, assuming there are sufficient words to convey and assuming the moral, physical, and emotional hangover doesn't spill over into Wednesday, which it just may.