Thursday, December 22, 2005

How One Relates to the Other

Em is on the verge of another ear infection so I let him sleep in my bed tonight. How one relates to the other in that sentence I’ve not a clue, but there it is just the same. I could tell last night he wasn’t quite right. Emotional. Belligerent. Just difficult in general. I knew he wasn’t due to start his period, so quick as a Kroger cashier, I deduced he was having ear trouble. He told me tonight on his own that his ear “hurt a little.” So, for now, it’s Children’s Motrin, ear drops at the ready, Daddy’s bed, and wait and see. He’s a good Boy. I don’t like seeing him uncomfortable. So I have simply stopped looking at him. It pisses him off a little, but I figure it is never too early for life’s lessons. I’m not certain which lesson this is, but rest assured it’s a good one. A real character-builder. Because of it, I expect his ACT scores to be through the roof. By the time he is 17, Stanford will be down here with offers of a free ride, cognac, and sexual favors. “To what do you attribute this early success, Mr. Em?” His reply, surely: “Well, when I was little, Daddy ignored me until I nearly fell deaf. That was a turning point for me, I think.” He’s such a modest Boy.

On a serious note, Emerson was washing his hands the other night after going potty. Since I figure at least one of us should follow this ridiculous rule of good hygiene, I was monitoring. Perched confidently on his step stool he began to lather his hands when like a feeding trout, the soap leapt from his grip and landed safely in the sink.*

“Goddammit,” muttered the four year old version of me, as matter-of-factly and perfectly placed as an old pro. In the three-second pause of recognition that followed, a cartoon “thought balloon” formed over his head. As he turned his wide innocent eyes to meet my own, the thought balloon populated itself with “Awww Fuck! Daddy is right here.”

This is not the first “Goddamn” incident we’ve had. I have written about some of them here. But it is the first in a very long time. Em understands it is not proper for young gentlemen of a certain age—oh, let’s say FOUR!!!—to use words like Goddamn. It is a touch vulgar. Unrefined. Tacky. Unnecessary. And an absolutely delightful manner in which to vent frustration.

But there are expectations of behavior and I do subscribe to a few of them. That a four-year-old child should not routinely say Goddamn is certainly one of them. Where the little fucker gets it, I just don’t know. But you can bet I will monitor his friends and telephone conversations more closely now. And quite possibly, I will confront the actual source—his Daddy—and be more mindful that an unintentional “Do as I say, not as I do” approach may not be the most sound in terms of child development. I am lucky that “Goddamn” is the worst I’ve had parroted back. Perhaps the Boy could benefit from a better example? Well, perhaps a more mindful one. Perhaps…

Though attempting to mimic holidays past, this Christmas will be different. It doesn’t feel different but it is. We’ll need to forge new traditions that will build memories. The holidays—with the exception of New Years—are not important to me. But I would like them to be so for the Boy. The tradition of non-tradition may be the way to go. It is my preference. Em is an adaptable Boy to be sure. A deep-thinking, sensitive, adaptable Boy. I cannot protect him from everything—nor should I. But I would prefer to spare him insincerity. It can be such a hurtful thing. And unnecessary.

And similar things are on my mind of late. Em has had some pretty mature and consistent God questions. I have been able to offer answers based on my extremely limited formal religious knowledge and my equally sincere belief system—but he deserves more. I have decided to look into services and/or Sunday school at the church where he was christened. I like the church, I do. But I have long been so actively disgusted by organized religion that I have the slightest hesitation. I will blink it away for now as I want Emerson afforded the experience. Hopefully, until he is old enough to decide for himself. I owe him the opportunity. And I do believe he is wise enough to discern true spirituality from phony, money-making bullshit. My God is o.k. with me not attending church. But he also told me he would be just fine with Emerson dropping by for some answers.

He also told me to ask Em not to say Goddamn anymore.

Seems fair enough.

*I will never not love mixed metaphors

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Apropos of Nothing

There is a purely poetic scene near the end of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset in which Julie Delpy’s Celine reaches a lover’s consoling hand to stroke the hair, head, and soul of Ethan Hawke’s Jesse. He is in monologue and emotional and looking out the window of the car they share. She pauses her hand midway, unsure, and pulls it back. The action takes less than three seconds and yet is the most poignant, chest-tightening moment of the film. It offers a measured portrait of an unsure character so stricken by yearning, heartsickness, and empathy, that she chooses to not commit the sin of showing it. Our vulnerabilities are painful enough without giving voice to them—without sharing them with those who cultivate them to begin with. The scene may or may not be as powerful as I’ve let on. But because the action is unseen by anyone save the audience, it is genuine and tastes metallic and permanent—like true heartache.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Randomness (or the world in which i live)

Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World (or Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog as I knew it as a child) plays raucously from the borrowed stereo and I am suddenly walking around the block in the rain with my sister. I am barefoot. And she is barefoot. My long hair is plastered to my forehead and to the back of my neck. I am eight or ten or 38 and I am a while from jumping the train at the end of the Big Hill and running away to places I cannot picture. I am an overly sensitive Boy, eager to please, and embarrassed by it. Thunder rumbles beyond the pines and we can’t tell if the storm is picking up or dying out. All we care about is the rain in our faces and the slap of our feet in puddles—Georgia steam rising from the asphalt like so many spirits. The rain is cold yet still we are in a steam bath. The immeasurable heat being one of the few good things about Augusta. We walk the length of Scenic Drive into Westfield and make a full circle back to Evergreen Drive. We go inside where it is dry. Pause. Wonder why we ever left the rain.

Uncle G. was in D.C. over the weekend. He called me from the Four Seasons to let me know he just met Dave Chappelle. He doesn’t call me on these occasions to brag. Not to really brag. He just knows that I absolutely marvel at his life. See, Uncle G. is a hybrid of Seinfeld’s Kramer and a C List movie star. His daily life is a full-fledged fantasy camp where shit just happens. Whether it be the band Lonestar buying him shots in a downtown Nashville bar; trying out for a walk-on role in Matrix 2 in San Francisco; or riding around Manhattan in a limousine with an unnamed Soap Opera star, shit just happens to Uncle G. The boy makes me smile on a regular. I will give him that. Whether he is calling me from backstage at Bonnaroo or getting kicked out of Coyote Ugly for acknowledging loudly and proudly that “THIS PLACE SUCKS!” he makes me smile. I’ll gladly take one of those now and again.

It is recent Augusta. And quiet. Everyone but Bo and a more merciful God than I deserve is sleeping. After walking six blocks at 3 a.m., I reach my sister and brother-in-law’s house on Heath Street. I go to the front door, nearest Bo’s office. I step to the side as I knock because I know he will have his .45 with him. Three knocks and an It’s me, Bo! He opens the door, his eyes rimmed with alert concern, the .45 at the half-ready. “Hey, Bo” he says. “You o.k.?” We’ve called each other Bo for over 20 years.

I stay the night.

And on a random night in random Nashville, I think of a watershed moment of youth, a fantastical friend, and a night steeped in good fortune…

Fade to black…

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sand Dollars over Starfish

Inspired by a great post at Soulfish Stew!

The Gulf over the Atlantic. Fall over Winter. Gogol over Pushkin. American literature over English literature. Sydney over Tokyo. Brunettes over blondes (typically). Mary Ann over Ginger (definitely). Aston Martin over Ferrari. Miller Lite over all other lite beer. Slides over sneakers. Shorts over jeans. Jeans over slacks. Boxer briefs over boxers or briefs. Bottles over cans. Cool Hand Luke over the Hustler. Boxing over hockey. The Masters over the U.S. Open. Coke over Pepsi. Diet Coke over Coke. Fox News over CNN. Barcelona over Tokyo. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups over Snickers. (Pez and Smarties in a dead fucking heat). Pistachios over cashews. Indemnity over HMO. The Coast over the Mountains. Edward Hopper over MC Escher. Black ink over blue ink. Draught over bottle. Peter Travers over David Denby. Todd Snider over Arlo Guthrie. Sand Dollars over Starfish. Richard Thompson over Eric Clapton. Paganini over Chopin. Hardback over paperback. Aisle seat over window seat. Gargoyles over dragons. Cherry wood over oak. Japanese Maple over birch. Friday over any other day. August over January. New Years over Fourth of July. Al Pacino over Robert Deniro. Heart attack over stroke. Vulnerability over arrogance. Confidence over vulnerability. Champagne over sparkling wine. Pinot Noir over Merlot (since long before Sideways). Jock itch over Dr. Phil. Crabs over Oprah. Saxophone over trumpet. Sam Cooke over Otis Redding. Chuck D. over all other rappers. Stealing over lying. Death over deceit. Rain over snow. Electric over gas. Cash over credit. Debit over cash. City Lights over The Gold Rush. The Kinks over the Rolling Stones. Hemingway over Fitzgerald. Jayne Mansfield over Marilyn Monroe. First Amendment over Amendments II through X. Popular vote over electoral college. Kidney stones over politics. Apples over oranges. Orange juice over apple juice. Subjectivity over Absolute. Black and white over color. A good bartender over a good minister. Shower over bath. The Connells over Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. Reality over fantasy. Movies over sleep. Coin collecting over stamp collecting. Silver over gold. St. Christopher over the Virgin Mary. Ceremony over improvisation. Nails on a chalkboard over Top 40. Steak over fish. Winnie the Pooh over Tigger. Charlie Chaplin over Buster Keaton. Buster Keaton over everyone else. A comic book over anything by Maya Angelou. Sunset over sunrise.

Then again—sunrise over sunset…

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Emerson Has a Zoo

Emerson has a zoo. It is in Chicago. It has a green door and admission is a flat $5.00 which he offers to loan me because he thinks I cannot afford it. Emerson’s vendors offer Diet Coke, punch, beer, water, and—depending upon the day—pickle juice. He employs “workers” to mind things while he is here in Nashville with me. Apparently his time in Nashville is nearing an end. He has informed me of recent acquisitions in the Chicago area. A new apartment (with stairs, of course) and a new car. Em’s decision to relocate to Chicago is serious business but also problematic. As I’ve explained to him, the responsibilities are immense. A zoo, apartment, and new ride can be pricey. Especially for a guy with no measurable income. In a recent attempt to dissuade him, I reminded him that the overhead on the zoo alone could be enough to break the average guy But, then my Boy is no average guy. When I say, “Em, if you were to leave me—I just don’t think I could bear it.” Before the words are out, he holds up both hands, shakes his head back and forth with authority. “Daddy! Daddy! It’s O.K. It’s, O.K. You can visit.” It is as if our ages are reversed. And really, he is right—there’s nothing to keep me from visiting. I mean, Fuck! I like a zoo as much the next guy. And with the fin I’ll save on admission, I can head straight for the beverage cart. “One draught beer please, for the owner’s Dad.”

So the night’s getting some late on it and I am eating Tootsie Roll Pops and drinking whiskey. Not as bas as you might think—not that I recommend it, but not so bad. It took 2 ½ hours to put the zookeeper to bed, He is certainly cursed with my sleeping habits it would seem. My patience held tonight—for the most part. There are nights when it doesn’t. On those nights I sit around and curse the ass that I’ve been. What am I if unable to indulge a sleepless son? What am I indeed? A day will come when I’ll long to indulge him just once more. He will likely be cleaning out the lion’s cage, or minding the housefly exhibit (ummm…yep, he has a housefly exhibit), or trying to explain to the patrons why all the zebras died and have no time to be indulged. For now, he and I have an agreement. I will work on my patience and he will work to curtail his tantrums. I mean he will work to minimize his outbursts (that sounds nicer if not nauseatingly PC). I think we are onto something. A compromise, if you will.

How can I be impatient with the likes of an Em? I mean the Boy knows all the words to Todd Snider’s Beer Run, Elton John’s Don’t Go Breaking My heart. And Cookie Monster’s C is for Cookie. He recites dialogue from movies that has nothing to do with the moment at hand—and I just love that. He aggravates the living shit out of older kids. And he owns a Goddamn zoo.

He is all the entertainment I need. You just can’t put a price tag on that. Or a limit to patience. He is a sharp little fucker. It just may behoove me to make sure he isn’t really moving away.

What in the world would I do then?