Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Odd Banter We Share

I spent what there was of Emerson’s college fund on draught beer and Woodford Reserve this past weekend. Dalton’s ought to name a fucking bar stool after me. I go there because it is a comfortable—albeit strange—little place and it’s the closest thing I’ve found to sincere in this little slice of West Nashville. I like walking in, being greeted with a smile, a cold draught, and hefty shot of Woodford without having to ask for it. It’s the little things. Always the little things.

The weekend started Friday at 4:20 at The Saucer with a small after work gathering on one of the front couches. The waitress was not a day over 11 but had breasts to weep over. They rested on her collarbone like safe houses. Between beers I pondered crimes severe enough to send me to such protective custody. I never arrived at the perfect caper and spent the rest of the evening pretending to be clever and trying to convince myself that her breasts were not simply sublime. I make it a habit to not stare and I did a fairly decent job once I allowed myself that she was at least a year too young for me.

Young Master Emerson was in Aiken, SC playing rich at the annual spring Steeplechase. I’ve yet to find that mechanism that allows me to fully relax when he’s out of my sight. Actually, I’ve yet to find that mechanism that allows me to fully relax, period. And so I merely played the part coming ever so close to winding down—which was a good thing for me. As it turned out, Em had a grand time and even won $12 on two races. Yeah, Baby, the college fund is back to where it began. These things always tend to work themselves out, eh?

I ended the evening alone at Dalton’s, people-watching on the sly and wondering just where the years had gone. Whiskey, draughts, and take-out. (Perhaps a side of self-pity.) It all went down relatively well.

Saturday evening found me back at Daltons on a familiar barstool as a sea of people washed back and forth behind me. An elderly woman sidled up to me and asked if I would mind moving down before I had the chance to offer. I did so gladly and she and her husband took the two seats to my left. They were grateful. She ordered iced tea; the husband was presented with his “usual,” which turned out to be a vodka martini. They were pleasant enough, remarking on the crowd and the evening, planning their menu choices. She, I noticed, did most of the remarking. The husband, I realized, was running on an auto-pilot likely installed decades ago and dutifully nodded his head in the affirmative. I doubt, truly, if his head was capable of going back and forth at all. The woman, in that wonderfully unique and vicious Southern manner that takes one a day or so to realize they’ve just been called an asshole, let E. know that she had not received her iced tea. The place was fucking slammed but at that moment she was the only patron. I began to grasp a vibe. Belatedly, as usual. In such moments I have to force myself to pause, reassess, and return to my own business. Her dance or issues had zero effect on me or mine. But I caught myself making value judgments and beginning a slow wallow in hypocrisy. I don’t abide it in others and so must refuse it for myself. I ignored as best I could her calling the proprietor over to personally go and check on her food order. My infamous smirk, I know though, could not be denied and waltzed across my broad face as I watched the basketball game. When a fresh draught appeared in front of me, the woman sincerely intervened on my behalf, leaned in close, and said, “If you drink that, I’m afraid we’ll have to carry you out of here.” She had witnessed me finish the remnants of my Woodford and one beer. E. overheard her comment. Using his bar towel to mop up an imaginary spill, he said, “He’ll be just fine.” He was not curt, but matter-of-fact. He is aware that I am not one who needs protecting; but I sincerely appreciated his taking exception to this superior woman imposing herself on his clientele. Her point was clearly not to show concern but to exert control. I finished with those days a while back and have little interest in revisiting them. I stood for a trek to the restroom, put my hand lightly on her shoulder, and in my best conspirational voice said, “I really think I’ll be ok. But you might want to keep an eye on me just the same.” She agreed. And did.

I finished the night with a couple more beers and a take-out order identical to the one from the night before.

I made it home safely, ate, crashed restlessly on the sofa.

My dreams were peppered with Em’s return and the odd banter we share. And, of course, hugs and kisses. Soon, he will be too big for such. I turn a blind eye to that for now, even in dreams.

In a whiskey slumber, I thought of Friday’s girl and her grand unnatural figure, my perpetual unease, and an unsettling old woman whose husband would likely have killed for a second martini, but who would never dare scandalize his wife by ordering one.
A Close Shave! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Flashin' the Blues! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dragon Park on a Sunday Afternoon

At the Dragon Park near Vandy, the sky was a distant, sweet, deep bruise. The taunt of a thunderstorm that never came made everything more perfect. The sun danced on my shoulders, warmed them through my thin tee shirt. The Boy’s head damp with the sweat of young activity. His running, climbing person a thing to behold. Upon arriving, I had failed miserably at parallel parking the Jeep—a task at which I normally excel. I abandoned the effort and parked further up the street. The old me would’ve been embarrassed having put on such a display for the parkgoers casually lounging on blankets and looking at the road. The me of the past few years—the near middle-aged me—couldn’t have cared less. There’s no shame in foolishness—only in being a fool.

The Dragon Park often strikes me of an awkwardly defined Bohemia—its visitors equal parts ugly and pretty. The children perfect and then filthy. The over-attentive parents as nauseating as the ones who appear unaware that they even have children. It is wonderful—truly—and I wonder that we don’t go more often.

On one wall of the concrete tunnel that runs through the center of the rock-climbing hill (an impressive draw of the park), someone had crudely drawn a penis and added some equally brilliant text. On his third pass through the tunnel, the Boy fixed on the image, studied it with curiosity bordering on appreciation. I was irritated at the image. Primarily, because the tunnel caters to the younger boys and girls at the park. Their audience seemed to me unnecessary. As was the image itself. I encouraged the Boy out of the tunnel and helped re-focus his attention.

I wondered briefly if the congregation of young, pale, and shirtless skater kids in a far corner of the park had drawn the dick, laughing to themselves at how cool they’d been. What is adolescence if not the ability to entertain oneself with all things phallic? I likely did the same some 25-30 years ago when I too was a skater punk. I certainly do the same thing now.

It occurred to me then. Who was I to make the stereotypical assumption that these wayward kids were the guilty ones? Why not a Vandy professor with a thing for tunnels? Or a yuppie taking a break from his cell phone and privileged toddler soaking up the day in her Maclaren stroller? And just as I wondered why I cared, I ceased to.

And so Em ran the Good Run, climbed the Good Climb, reveled in being a child on a warm gift of Sunday afternoon. I got to watch. I got to feel the sun on my face. I got to mingle in Bohemia and distance myself at once, wondering just where I fit in.

And the skater kids I’d blamed for the graffiti zipped noisily down the cement paths on wheeled boards, stopped, grouped to the side, and smiled and laughed and enjoyed the all too rare good days of adolescence. They seemed unfazed by the world, its rules, and its assumptions.

And I was glad for them.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Broken Ears and Fallen Fences

Em is back in the land of “broke-eared boys.” After several months of good hearing health, he’s had infections in November, February, and now March. Depending upon the outcome of this second round of antibiotics, I may have to have him put down. I’ve grown attached to him and would, of course, miss him but I can’t bear to see him suffer or have “Whatcha say, Daddy?” become his catchphrase. It simply won’t do.

Supposing he makes it through the night, he has his second soccer game tomorrow afternoon. His performance in his first game last weekend was just stellar—and for the moment I am free of sarcasm. My little Pele’ scored four goals (two of them for his own team) and mixed it up like a four-year-old pro. I could not have been more proud. Not just because he did well and behaved and tried hard, but because he seemed to truly enjoy himself. It made my heart swell. What a difference a year makes. Last March, he’d strike a Rubenesque pose and lay like a model in the middle of the field while the other kids competed all around him; he kicked the dirt; got his head stuck in the net of his opponents’ goal; sat down at the edge of the woods and counted sticks; pulled his shorts up to his chin. In general, he made me crazier than the norm and caused me to restructure my levels of patience. This year though he is participating. He is trying. And that pleases me. I certainly am not one of those over-the-top sports dads who tries to live vicariously through the freakish superstardom of a young child. I do, however, take tremendous pride in my son doing a thing well. I take particular pride in the fact that he is beginning to recognize the benefits of camaraderie, structure outside of the home, and the self-discipline that can come from having others depend upon him and vice versa. In general, I am not a fan of “organized” anything. But when approached and appreciated properly, I do believe organized sports can bolster lessons I have already initiated. We shall see.

So I will run him like a greyhound tomorrow and then see how adept he is at helping me dismantle what’s left of the rotted fence that blew over during Thursday’s killer storms. If he proves capable, I’ll have him replace the nonexistent roof, the hanging gutters, the equally rotted and listing deck, the ceilings in the computer room and bathroom, rebuild the central air unit, and then maybe mop the floors. Either that or I will ignore each of those daunting and upsetting tasks, and go by the library, swing by the Germ Pit at the mall, contemplate the growing, ignored stack of correspondence, figure out something unhealthy for dinner, and wrestle with the Boy until we are both exhausted.

Either way, it’s win win.