Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Five-Star Bastardson Family Thanksgiving

[The unexpurgated edition]

Darn it, out-of-town vacations with the whooole family just bring out the best in me. You can ask anyone. It’s common knowledge I always shine during the Christmas season in general, not to mention visits with the entire family (mine or anybody else’s except The Mainiacs). Add in the stress of making it a working vacation with the extended family on the biggest travel weekend of the year and holiday miracles are almost guaranteed to occur!

First the good news. Thanks to my brother’s new girlfriend, we stayed at a five-star resort in the chichi foothills north of the fetid, festering hellpit that is Tucson, Ariz. It was so swanky (the resort, not the town) we’re actually pining for a chance to go back there on the sneak, when there won’t be wall-to-wall family obligations to attend to, and avail ourselves of the amenities. As it was, it was just the really nice place where my wife and child slept between racing back and forth to compulsory family events before hopping on a plane at 6 a.m. Friday to head back to Christmas Island.

Even the trip out was engaging. The Boy chose the day we flew out to deliver three particularly spectacular diaper dumps. Dump number one occurred immediately after we boarded the first airplane, so we spent 90 blissful minutes looking for creative, discreet ways to staunch the ungodly stench in order to avoid having to change him in the vertical-coffin-sized airplane rest room.

At the Phoenix airport, while we waited for our connecting flight-

Holy crap!! This India shit is fucked up! (I always write my blogs in MSWord and post them when they’re done, so it’s Wednesday afternoon and I’m writing about Tuesday morning). Suddenly the most unreliable internet connection in the world here at our fabulous five-star resort seems kind of a petty concern… except my job depends on me being able to successfully upload some rather large files and I’ve been dicking around with network preferences and tech support for over an hour now, while my deadlines get farther and farther away in the rear-view mirror… The Missus tells me that that’s the rule – the nicer the hotel, the more totally fucking worthless the internet access. She’s right. Awesome hotel, worst internet access in the world.

Getting back to my narrative… at the Phoenix airport where we changed planes for the second leg of our trip to the Bastardson Family Thanksgiving Reunion, while we waited for our connecting flight, The Missus hustled The Boy into the bathroom and changed his diaper while I stood in the Line Eternal at the Burger King for some fries for The Boy. Long story short, when the fries ran out, so did The Boy’s patience with the travel experience. Big hilarious scene. “FRIIIIEEESSS!!!” Screams of indignation, howls of protest… you know. Lots of Burger King customers praying they weren’t on our flight.

The next leg was literally a 20-minute flight. Up and down, welcome to Tucson. We go to claim our rental car – whoops, the company has gone out of business in the week since we made our reservation. Thanks, Bush economy! Okay, Thrifty Car Rental is gonna step in and hook us up. While The Missus haggled with the counter help, The Boy dropped Dump #2. Into the men’s room we go, no changing table so we do it standing up. I pull the diaper off – no excreta. In the time it takes me to go “Huh?” I hear a “plop” and The Boy points to the floor and announces triumphantly, “Poo!” After I get done detailing the bathroom floor and proceed to the wiping of the lad’s affected area, the usual deafening screams of “No! No! OWIE!! OWIE!! DADDY IT HURTS!” ensue. When we’re finally wrapped up and exit the bathroom, every pair of eyes in the tiny rental car shack is on us. I smile and wave to the crowd because I am a whore for the spotlight and announce that we’ll be doing another show at 11.

If only. After a grueling 30+ minutes of wrestling the baby seat into the American-made piece-of-shit rental car in the muggy Tucson heat, we’re just about to load The Boy into it when he looses his most extravagant Number Two of the day. Our tears of frustration melt tears of tears of utter, unbelieving resignation. We note that we’ve just used up all the wipes we packed for the four days and have to stop at Walgreens on the way to the resort to pick up some more.

The rest of Tuesday night is a blur. I don’t remember the details, but I was such an asshole to The Missus (because all of this stress is her fault of course) that she was barely speaking to me by the time we made it to my mom’s. Short visit, then it was back to the resort.

Oh wait, I’m remembering some of the details. Tuesday was a work day for me, I had people waiting on me to deliver new proofs on one of my publications and they didn’t know I’m ‘in the field’ and I’d really like to keep it that way. When we first arrived at the resort 90 minutes past deadline already, we had to park about (literally) a half mile from our suite, then be golf-carted to our destination by some inbred local cowpoke who had a spiel about every last infinitesimally inconsequential detail about the resort, a spiel that that never ends, and I’m just counting the minutes more late he’s making me. He’s going on and on about the amenities, saying ridiculous things like, “…one of Tuscon’s finest restaurants is right here at the resort…” and I’m thinking “You backwards hillbilly fuck – saying something is ‘Tucson’s finest anything’ is like saying ‘and this is the finest sewage treatment facility in all of Paris…’” I finally lose it and bark at him when he asks if we’d like to detour to go see I don’t remember what. “No, just take us to the room!” I snap. Jesus!!

Then the hit-and-miss internet connection just pushed me completely over the edge. Kablooey. (In my defense, it turned out the room phone wasn’t broken, I just accidentally switched lines when I repeatedly replaced its receiver at mach 3 from six inches away.)

I redeemed myself slightly at the end of the night when I worked my daddymagic on The Boy, who had long since hit the wall but wouldn’t/couldn’t go to sleep. (One casualty of the fucked up day of traveling is that he missed his usual 3-hour midday nap.) I dialed up the lullaby playlist on iTunes I created when he was a baby and was relieved to find that it still had the mojo. By the third song his head was nodding on my chest, by the fourth song, he was out like a light. Thank you, Kris Kristofferson.

Anyhow, Wednesday is a new day. I’m not well-rested because no matter how nice the accommodations are, unless I sleep in my own bed on my own weird schedule, I don’t sleep well. (Here’s a fun fact that always adds entertainment value to any vacation I take. When I don’t get enough sleep, by the second night I develop a debilitating case of mushmouth. Verbal acuity goes right down the toilet and I can’t get a half a sentence out without stammering; and I’m not talking Ayn Rand-length sentences with multiple clauses and parenthetical phrases either, I’m talking Hemingway sentences. This trip was no exception.) But I’ve promised The Missus I’ll try to stop being such a complete prick and for the most part, delivered on that promise, even as the day’s carefully calculated schedule fell apart in pieces in slow motion around me the way they always do when family is involved.

Finally at the end of the day, I caught up with my old high school best friend who has recently moved back to Tucson with his wife and 10-year-old daughter to care for his ailing mother. Haven't seen him since we went out shooting in the hills around Frazier Park, Calif. with his closet-full of guns six years ago and it was like I just saw him yesterday. He was in his cups by the time we arrived and peppered every sentence with six or seven f-bombs (the way I talk when The Boy’s not around, or when I’m blogging). I kept punching him in the shoulder and he’d laugh and say “Sorry!” and say frigging for about 30 seconds before reverting to form again. It was hilarious (well, I thought so).

And yes, you read that right. We went out shootin’ guns a few years back, lots of different kinds of guns. I felt as a left-winger it would be bogus of me to snipe about guns but then pass on the opportunity to experience the other side of the issue first-hand. The result? I fucking loved shooting the things and could easily see myself slipping down that rabbit hole. Somewhere there is a video of me turning to talk to the camera and both barrels of the 2x-barrel shotgun I was holding going off in my hands accidentally. Ah, the good life...

Thursday, Thanksgiving came and went mostly agreeably, even as sleep-deprivation was doing its usual thing to my ability to My brother and his awfully swell new girlfriend arrived, I cussed out one my sibs up and down again for daring to wake me during a rare nap, we had a nearly-formal (The Boy attended attired in his usual bright red Superman cape) five-star smorgasbord with the entire family — less Marine One, my nephew currently on loan to the US government to aid in its efforts to battle international terrorism and his efforts to get the hell out of Tucson — then everyone relaxed in my sister’s suite for drinks and told old family secrets for a few hours. It was the first time a number of us had actually met some of the others. The Boy immediately took any edge off that might have existed by grabbing the spotlight and not letting it go for the duration of the gathering.

The trip home the next morning was another grueling marathon. None of us liked getting up at 3 a.m. local time to make our 6 a.m. flight out of town, but The Boy was the only one to throw a 45-minute before-dawn meltdown at the almost-deserted Tucson airport United concourse. It was a beauty, the best I’ve ever seen him produce. He didn’t have the language to express “I’m so fucking tired I can’t think straight, why are you people torturing me?” so instead he became Mr. Contrary. Everything was unacceptable and an outrage. No idea we had was less than an egregious insult and the moment we agreed to any of his demands, he reversed them. If Mommy was coming to get him, he had to go into the men’s washroom. If Daddy was on the job, the women’s restroom was the only place he wanted to be. The trail mix we bought him was shoved back in our faces then demanded to be returned at maximum volume. And so on.

In our exhaustion, it was a miracle we ever got him settled down in time for boarding. And then he threw another fit about half an hour before we landed on Christmas Island (he kept pointing at nothing I particular and insisting, “I want thiiiiis thing, this thiiiing..!”) that was only resolved when a more-seasoned parent poked me in the shoulder from a few rows behind me. “Sir,” he said, handing me a packet of Jelly Bellys, which I gratefully accepted. We mixed them in with the trail mix we had picked up in Tucson that morning and the remainder of the flight was made in relative peace and quiet.

Actually, that whole plane trip was an ordeal. On the first leg, I was squeezed in next to some morbidly-obese young woman who was sneezing and sniffling the whole trip (I can already feel her cold coming on me, seriously), the plane was warm and stuffy as hell and some chick a couple rows back had her iPod earplugs turned up so loud probably the only people on the plane who didn’t hear her shitty music was the captain and co-pilot behind the blast-proof cabin door. The second leg was arguably worse. In addition to containing the Boy’s midair meltdown, there were ten other kids under 5 years old; all four of the idiots in the first row required extensive, obvious drawn-out instruction from the long-suffering flight attendant on everything from how and where to stow their bags to basic airplane etiquette; an airsickness case in the seat behind mine; and a belligerent dad about half-way back that was offered the option of cooperating and continuing on to his destination or being kicked off the plane before it took off from Tucson. I would hire that flight attendant (“John”) to run my Fortune 500 company, if I had one. On the way off the plane, I shook his hand and complimented him for his outstanding work under extremely trying circumstances.

After the air-travel portion of the trip, everything else went so smoothly neither one of us could believe it was happening to us and before we knew it, we were home at last.

The Thanksgiving trip ended shortly thereafter with a most splendid parenting breakthrough when nap time rolled around. As usual with these things, it started with a crisis narrowly averted.

What it boiled down to was, I wanted to watch the final episode of “The Shield” and it had been sitting on the TiVo waiting for me since Tuesday night. The plan was to put The Boy down for his nap shortly after we got home and The Missus would take her nap and I’d watch “The Shield.” Well in spite of being light-headed with exhaustion, The Boy got his second wind as soon as we arrived home. The Missus was still down with the original plan, but he most definitely was not. After a good half hour of his mother’s best efforts to put him to bed, I came in and we tagged off. She went to take her nap and I went to convince our beyond-tired, wild-eyed three-year-old to go down for the nap we all so desperately needed.

He was out of control, screaming his face bright red, trying to run past me out his bedroom door, and I was getting plenty irritated. He’d been out of control in bursts all day, but now his misbehavior was jeopardizing my TV–watching plans! I kept lifting him up kicking and pitching and carrying him back to his bed, trying to hold him still long enough to talk sense to him. No chance.

At some point in the wrestling match, I noticed that he was not phoning it in anymore, he was genuinely upset. He threw his whole body into his howls of protest, the cries took on a kind of keening quality that was coming straight from his heart… and suddenly I was looking at myself at that age, and I realized, I understand exactly where he’s at right now. I’m watching my own childhood through my mother’s eyes and reacting exactly the way she had… and I’m doing it for a TV show? One that I’m not even in!?

I decided if “The Shield” had to wait another day for me to watch it, it would just have to buck up and wait for me. What the hell had I been thinking?

I leaned back and took a less domineering posture. I stopped trying to talk over his screaming, and when he batted my hands away from him when I tried to comfort him, I let him. He kept repeating “Mommy Mommy Mommeee, I want Mommmmm…

As corny as it sounds, I started talking to him instead of at him. Explained Mommy was tired so she was sleeping. We were all tired and we should all be asleep. He said, “It’s light outside. I don’t want to sleep. I want Mommmmeeee…”

I told him I was sorry I had been pushing him around. I told him I knew exactly how upset he was and that I was really sorry for making him feel that way. He looked at me with his ringed, red-rimmed eyes to see if I was playing him, then said “okay” so quietly I almost missed it.

And for the next 25 minutes I decelerated the situation slowly, letting him take the lead and set the pace. Not suggesting he do anything (because that only provoked him), but asking him what I could get for him till Mommy got up from her nap. First he wanted some peanuts. I said we don’t have any peanuts, “honestly.” He got all upset again, looking at me like I was Lex Luthor waving a kryptonite turd under his nose. And then I remembered – shit, we did have some peanuts, they were in the trail mix we got him at the airport and he knew he hadn’t finished them. Liar, father!!

So that mistake took me a while to undo. Gain back his trust. After he had eaten a couple of peanuts and a handful of Jelly Bellys from his snack container – at a snail’s pace – he asked for a Kleenex (“Nose…”), which he was by then sorely in need of. I went and grabbed one and he took it and began wiping his nose. And wiping and wiping and wiping… after a while I became curious and grabbed my glasses and a flashlight and took a closer look up his nostrils, after goofing with the flashlight under my chins and making monster faces. It was good to hear him laugh again.

Finally, we were both at a place where we could have a civil discourse. I’ve never before had the kind of linear, in-depth conversation with him that followed. I asked him questions and he answered them, and when I couldn’t make out what he was trying to say I asked him to repeat or clarify himself (gently, gently), and it became clear to me that his understanding of what I was saying was a great deal better than my ability to understand what he was saying to me. Still, I could talk to him in simple terms about oblique concepts in complicated sentences and he knew what I was saying. And then responded with the vocabulary and syntax skills he currently possesses. And with just a little patience on both of our parts, we had a better talk than we’d ever had before.

At one point near the end of negotiations, I was emphasizing the family’s tiredness because of the full day of travel. Mommy was tired, I said. I was tired. He was tired. “I’m tired,” he agreed. Then he added, “The plane is tired.” Yes, I said, the plane was tired too, it had been flying all day, just like we had. Then he added contrarily, “I’m not tired.” I said, Yeah, actually you are, son. I really need you to at least try to take a nap. Can you do that? Just try and see, okay? He paused then said, “Okay, I’ll try.”

He climbed back onto his bed of his own accord and seemed to be regretting already the stinker deal he’d just made. He stayed sitting up and looked at me skeptically. Then he looked over at his wall of toys. “Lots of toys,” he observed. Yeah, you can stay in here and play with your toys if that’s what you’d like to do, I told him. But you’ve got to do it quietly because Mommy and I will be sleeping, I half-lied. Okay? “Okay,” he said, without enthusiasm.

I gave him a kiss and said good night and left the door cracked. I checked back in five minutes later, and he was fast asleep. I covered him with his blanket and crept out the door, shutting it tight so he wouldn’t hear the horrible nastiness of the final episode of “The Shield” about to be blasting from the front room.

Usually, whenever he spends one of these few-day trips away from home with his extended family he comes back having made a quantum leap forward in his social skills. This time, I think we both came back bigger boys than when we left. Just the same, I can’t wait till we’re in a position for the family to come to visit us some holiday.

I’m a whole different daddy when I’ve got more than four hours of sleep a night under my b-b-b-bbelt.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“Two Presidents” my ass

I’m starting to hear TV pundits and commentators belly-aching about Obama’s surfeit of press conferences and complaining about us having “two presidents.”

My ass! We finally have ONE president, even if he hasn’t been sworn in yet.

And I’m thankful for that. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This lady deserves more hits!

She kinda reminds me of the chick in “Say Anything” who brought her guitar to a party, announcing, “I’ve written 67 songs about Joe and I’m going to play them all tonight!”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Liveblogging “Chinese Democracy”

There’s a difference between waiting 17 years between albums and working on one for 17 years. If an artist takes forever between projects, as a fan you’re delighted that they’ve just put anything else out at all. Tom T Hall, Rush and AC/DC come immediately to mind. The new AC/DC record isn’t great, but it doesn’t suck, and that’s all it has to do. It has a low bar to hurdle to be greeted with open arms by a grateful public.

But if you’ve been fine-tuning your new album since Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, the results had better be pretty fucking mind-blowing or your decades-worth of effort is going to be found lacking no matter how many overdubs, samples and sound effects it boasts.

Axl’s been streaming “Chinese Democracy” on his myspace page for a few days now, so I headed on over to where the cool kids hang out to see what was going on for myself. I love this idea of giving your music away for free. I know I’ll buy an official copy if I like it, but will the cool kids? What Would Fonzie Do? I guess we’ll see when this thing finally goes on sale tomorrow, in stores exclusively at Best Buy (another certified Axl Dick Move) and online.

But I don’t care so much about the ins and outs of Axl’s business model as I do whether or not the music is worthy. What could he have possibly done for the better part of the last two decades to justify that kind of investment of time? How much of it was twisting knobs and turning dials and how much of it was spent on songwriting?

My test is, would Song A stand up in a solo acoustic treatment? Are the hooks there? Is the song about anything, or is there at least clever wordplay in the lyrics? Everything else is, if you will, just lipstick on the pig. And it’s well-known that Axl has added a lot of lipstick to his pig over the years.

And away we go…

Oh my Gawd, the first minute of the first track could be the first minute from a Rush mini-epic. I’m not sure how to feel about that. Oh wait, now he’s doing Trent Reznor. If that was the chorus, this song’s in trouble. Okay, yeah, that chorus is weak. I’m sure Axl insisted on putting this track first.

Second song and I’m still hearing a lot of martial-beat Trent Reznor shit. I love Trent Reznor, but we already have one. Maybe it’s because one of his guitarists played for awhile with Nine Inch Nails (Robin Finke?), but it was probably a calculated move on Axl’s part. He probably wanted a more accomplished technician than Slash and maybe he found one, but Slash’s melodic heart was always a necessary counterpoint to Axl’s banshee wail. Without it, the first two songs are pretty anonymous sounding. They could be any band’s NIN imitation.

Every time I hear one of the squiggley guitar breaks I just get all sad imagining what Slash would have put there instead. It would be integral to the song instead of just a series of snazzy flourishes leading back to the chorus or the next verse.

Let’s see, third song. More guitar noodling. Scootely-doot! Bwip-bomp tweedle…

This one’s kind of a mid-tempo thing – oh, more guitar noodling – but it’s built around a riff that I don’t find that compelling. Okay, Axl’s screaming now, that’s what I’ll be paying my money for when this goes onsale. Alright, this third song, I’m thinking Dokken. Axl’s rockin’ with Dokken. But he does bring on the scream for a bit. I don’t know. I was reminded recently that I didn’t like ‘Appetite…’ for the first couple of spins so I’ll probably look back on this post with shame one day.

Oh good, the first overblown ballad. First line doesn’t sound like Axl at all (very smooth, almost croony), the second line does, third line not, etc. You wouldn’t know it was the same guy if he didn’t hop back and forth between voices in the middle of lines. I just love this guy’s voice.

I gotta tell you, back in The Day, I saw Guns & Roses twice in one week. The Tuesday show was awful, at an outdoor amphitheater in Southern California. The band was ragtag, I remember being bored, and Axl stormed off stage a minute or so into the first encore. After about 10 minutes of audience yelling and stamping, Slash came out to the microphone, apologized and slunk back offstage. Lights up. I almost didn’t want to bother with the hassle of seeing them again that Friday. But I did and it was one of the hardest-rocking, most ass-kicking shows I’ve ever seen. In the Top Ten for sure. They were touring behind the Use Your Illusion albums that hadn’t even come out yet – and this was well before internet leaks – and every formerly-unknown song that night kicked my ass. Between Tuesday and Friday that week I saw one of the worst shows of my life and one of the best. And Axl was responsible for both.

Anyhow, getting back to the first big ballad… This song again, is boring, but builds in pace and racket as it goes along as re: the classic Guns song structure. What it lacks is “Rocket Queen’s” thrilling arias and sense of, I don’t know, purpose. It’s also nowhere near as hook-ey, and I personally like me my hooks.

Okay, next song has some exotic flavors. I think I’ve read about this one. Ooh, I love the vocal it opens with. I’m sure it’ll be gone in no time – yep, down four octaves for the next verse. High smooth voice again. Geddy Lee could sing the shit out of this part of the song. This tune sounds like the first fully-realized song on the album. Well, the acoustic guitar coda is nice, but like most of the rest of the album, I just didn’t find the melody memorable.

Hey, what the fuck? My ‘stream’ just cut off. Well, I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t have time to figure it out. I’m supposed to be working right now. Probably just as well.

This report is a work-in-progress. Perhaps I’ll post an update if my opinion changes upon repeat listenings. But for my money, this is definitely at least worth capturing for free off the live stream at Axl’s myspace page.

Okay, I’ve listened to it now, the whole thing. The one question I kept coming back to was, Why am I listening to this?

It’s big and ballsy and rich and layered but it’s just not special, like the way GNR tunes used to be special. Like this is the second time Axl’s sampled the same lines from “Cool Hand Luke.” It was cool the first time, but here it sounds more like repetition than motif.

His piano ballad, “This I Love” sounds like a Lloyd-Webber knock-off, maybe a number cut from “Phantom…” after poor early audience response.

Most of the lyrics are classic Axl. He’s pissed at the world and none of it’s his fault because it’s everybody else’s fault. Mostly women, bad women, the only kind he’s attracted to. Stupid women! He comes off as the kind of guy you’d cross to the other side of the street to avoid if you saw him coming your way down the sidewalk. “Oh Christ, that guy. Quick, get the muzzle on the dog and dial 911 but don’t push ‘Send’ yet…”

Next time I’m in the mood for mindless grandiosity for its own sake, perhaps I will spin this disc up. How sad is it that I’ve waited 17 years for a great album to do housework by? I already had one of those anyhow, and “Chinese Democracy” is no “ABBA: Gold.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Arnie’s Bucking For An Upgrade

He can’t be president, but...

Just caught him on ABC’s Sunday morning politics show with that cute little Leprechaun from Clinton’s first term, talking all kinds of centrist nonsense. The Last Boy Scout is peeved because Schwarzenegger wants to raise taxes over there in California. The Governator’s tacking way to the center as publicly as his celebrity status will allow him at a time when President-elect Obama is head-hunting for cabinet positions and potential Supreme Court nominees.

Did you hear it here first? I don’t know, but I think Arnie thinks he’d look pretty good in black.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tom Waits: 82nd Greatest Singer Of All Tiiiime!!

Proclaimed as such by no less an authority than the bright boys and gals over at Rolling Stone magazine.

I wonder how Johnny Cash did... (#21 - fuck yeah!) ... Axl Rose is 64 - do we still need him, will we still feed him...? We’ll know in the next couple weeks, I guess...

Only one complaint: Where the hell is Leonard Cohen on this list??!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursdays with Fang

God do I love my Thursdays. Only two deadlines to hit, and easy ones; practically a day off!

And the rest of the day is all about kickin’ it white-trash style (usually involving Big Box Store shopping sprees and chain restaurant lunch destinations) with The Boy, who takes the day off from daycare to slum it with the Old Man. It’s like a weekly check-in with the state of his childhood. And it’s always a revelation.

This morning he said to me, in a patient tone of voice, “Let me finish this first, okay?” (I was talking bath and he was talking “Monsters, Inc.”)

What’s remarkable isn’t that he didn’t want to take a bath, it’s that he declined my offer with a complete sentence that included a reasonable counter-proposal. I’m sure it’s a perfectly normal little milestone and ought not be any great source of pride, but it was so cool to be fobbed off by my son just as one guy to another. It actually did buy him the time he asked for, I was so pleased.

About a half hour later, he walked into my office covered head to toe in the red, white and blue streamers we had only just taken down from last week’s election party, looking like some unraveling patriotic mummy. It was all fun and games till I noticed that his mouth was also smeared red and blue. “Did you put this stuff in your mouth?” I demanded. He admitted that he had and we spent a while in the bathroom cleaning up and talking about stuff to eat that’s bad for you, like anything that isn’t food but stains your mouth red and blue.

I decided to step away from the computer shortly thereafter and take in the second half of the movie with him. He came out of his zombie-tv-stare and started talking about the events in the film, then he started building a very architecturally sound Lego skyscraper – Howard Roark would have approved of his Spartan, form-follows-function aesthetic – before pushing it over and kicking the Legos enthusiastically around the room for about ten minutes.

A trip to the park down the street followed after the movie ended. Neither one of us knows what to say to the other parents and kids we find there. The Boy is kind of shy with new people, and I fit the profile of Creepy Single Man With Child In Park In The Middle Of The Day so I don’t even try. I smile, I speak only when spoken to, I make sure none of the other kids are in the background of any of the photos I’m taking of The Boy… There are rules when you fit a profile, and you stray from them at your peril!

Anyway, he’s gained a lot of gumption since the last time we went stag to the park. Hitting the high slides first instead of working up to them, and then turning around and climbing the slide back to its top. It’s one of them long high twisty ones and it scared the crap out of me the first time he did it. He wanted to go on all the gizmos even the spinny ones and I swung him on the swings till again I was scared crapless and he was whooping with joy. I kept stopping him to ask, “Okay, you done yet?” “Again!” And away he went. Part of me squirmed at the metaphor I was acting out of pushing my son away every time he came close to me. I knew I was overthinking things, but I’m making a concerted effort to pay attention to The Boy’s childhood as it flies by, and sometimes that spills over into overthinking.

We came back home and I made us a lunch of Safeway Meat Loaf and Green Giant frozen corn kind of mixed up like a stew. We ate it while watching the only “South Park” episode I’ve seen in years that would be fit to watch with a three-year-old, parodying the “High School Musical” phenomenon. Had a lot of fresh pineapple after that then watched some “Superman” cartoons together in my office while I hit one of my deadlines. After that, it was nothing but nap (for him, not me).

I mentioned he’s tentative around new people. A little backward socially, perhaps, even. You know who he has mad game for? His babysitters. One’s over right now and their peals of laughter could power all of Monstropolis well into the next century. He just came running in breathlessly, Superman cape flapping out behind him. “Daddy, come on!! Stacy’s here!!” The message clearly being, I’m a fool if I don’t get in on some of this Stacy excitement. He’s a charming bastard when it serves his purposes.

Anyhow, I know these are the kind of details my mind will soon purge to make room for, say, the track listings of Rush’s new live CD/DVD set (and the setlist differences between formats therein) or something equally useless, so I’m taking a few minutes tonight to write Future Fang a reminder of how much we used to love Thursdays when The Boy was still a boy and everything was Mountain Dew and roses.

Monday, November 10, 2008

#43 Places 43rd In New Poll

Confirming what a lot of us have suspected for awhile now, our current President is offically not held in very high esteem by the vast majority of his constituents. A new national poll today found that 76% of respondents failed to approve of Dumbleyou’s on-the-job performance. That’s a really big number. That means out of every four people you meet on the street, slightly more than three of them think the former “Texecutioner” has done a pretty shit job of running the country.

For context, you have to understand that Richard Nixon had higher numbers when he quit to avoid impeachment.

After eight years in the suspended reality of the Bush administration, my world is upside down. Things don’t make sense because suddenly things are starting to make sense again. Somebody competent is being feted for his competence by the press and “real America” alike, and the obvious dolt who’s been Presidenting and misrepresenting us for the last eight years is finally getting his public comeuppance. I mean, his numbers have been shit for ages now, but they keep finding new depths to plumb.

Historic depths! And it’s a good thing, too, because the judgment of history is all Bush has left to redeem his sorry tenure. Obama’s already said he’s getting ready to rescind some of the more stoopider Bush “executive orders” as soon as he takes office (like re-funding stem cell research – yay!).

Actually, as I hack away at this post, Obama’s about to be received at the White House for the official post-election meet-&-greet – I can’t wait to see the pictures that emerge from that. When that photo of them comes out, shaking hands, both with shit-eating grins on their faces, Bush is gonna be grateful this latest poll was taken before the photo-op with the President-elect. Can’t you just imagine the serene, inscrutable Obama slapping skin with the grinning, winking monkey in the nice suit?

The reason it’s hard to imagine the two men together in the same room is because it’s hard to imagine them sharing the same time/space continuum. It’s like somebody in a space suit shaking hands with a union soldier in a Matthew Brady tintype. I remember feeling this way when W took the office from Clinton, but nowhere near this much.

Oh I so can’t wait for January 20th to come. These last two months are going to be an excruciating ordeal… not leastly for still-President Bush, who has sixty more days for people to compare him with his successor and find him even more wanting. At this rate of decline he could hit single-digit approval ratings before he’s ushered out the door.

There may yet be a couple of historical milestones left in the old boy, after all.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My Wife’s Dog

It’s official, I’ve thrown in the towel. He used to be my dog, but if he was still my dog he’d be out on his ass. This weekend alone he tried to bite both my mother-in-law as well as my father-in-law. Fortunately, I had ceded responsibility for Obi before this weekend’s incidents occurred.

But he’s bitten a couple people already and lunged at several more. I banged my shoulder up a good one once tackling him so he didn’t get a faceful of cowboy boot from my dog-savvy neighbor.

Most of the time he’s sweet as pie, if you overlook the recidivist chewing of all manner of everything, mostly The Missus’ gardens, The Boy’s toys, some of my hardcover book spines, paper towels, anything that’s in the garbage, holes in the carpet in my office… But still, I took the long view. I was willing to tolerate property damage. Stuff is only stuff, you get too attached to it at your own peril. But potential lawsuits are whole ‘nother proposition entirely.

Plus, I’ve always hated violent, unpredictable dogs on principle. My whole life, I was so proud that my dogs (Doolittle and Woody, bless their hearts) were never like that. And Obi didn’t come on like that, either. He was all sweetness and light till that first time he lunged at a houseguest…

Having a dog like Obi is actually worse than not having a dog at all. He’s a constant reminder of the quality of the dog we lost this year as well as this inextricable mess I’ve managed to get myself into: The Boy likes Obi at least 1/3 of the time. What kind of psychological damage might I accidentally inflict teaching him the lesson that all relationships are transitory and fleeting and in the end, most of them usually meaningless to boot? He’s only just 3. Do you think that’s too soon for the Nihilism Talk? “Son, I’d like to talk to you today about entropy. But first, let’s change your diaper.”

So I can’t imagine explaining what happened to him if he came home from daycare one day and this time Obi was gone. He’s at the questions-asking stage. We’re not at “Why?” yet, but this could push us right over into that.

Plus, The Missus has taken Obi under her wing. She’s commenced fairly pricey private “dog-whisperer” type lessons from a local specialist (see photo above), but I am not what you’d call confident. We don’t care that he’s too goddamned stupid to walk on a leash, or stop eating the furniture or chewing our hands when all we wanted to do was pet him, and that seems to be the direction this training is taking. I think we need to provoke a violent incident in front of this lady so she can see first-hand the real problem that needs addressing. Not the window-dressing of the hyperactive mixed-breed.

So for now, he stays under lock and key when company comes over, which sucks because as the family dog, if he’s not able to be part of the family, he’s not fulfilling his part of the social contract. He’s not pulling his own weight… he’s become a drain on the ticket, as we say around here.

I think I’m keeping him around this long because like Jimmy Stewart’s character said in Frank Capra’s immortal “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” sometimes the lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.

And my wife’s dog is one lost-cause sonofabitch deluxe.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Keep On Baracking In The Free World!

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Debunking the myth of “The Real America”

Disclaimer: If McCain pulls out a squeaker tomorrow, I’m right back to believing America contains more Tiny Brains than there are the rest of us… but today, I still have hope.

After 8 blissfully-almost-over years of George the Lying, Short-Sighted Cretin, I think the GOP will lose this election as much on account of the ugly tenor of their campaign as for the country’s desire to repudiate the stain left on our national honor by the bumbling, malicious mediocrity that characterized W’s tenure.

The way McCain/Palin have run this campaign in these closing days, with nothing left but a bag of punchlines and baseless accusations — a brown bag of flaming poo they leave on America’s doorstep at every rally and with every speech — makes me wonder if they wouldn’t govern the same way if they were to be elected. And I think that will have a lot to do with their loss, too, because if it’s occurred to me (a Medium Brain at best), it will have occurred to lots of other people, too.

“The Real America” my ass. If I believed what they’re peddling was the real America, I’d hang my head in shame.

All the Grand Old Party’s intellectuals, George Will, Chris Buckley, etc., are either distancing themselves from “The Real America,” or decrying it altogether to the press, seeking public absolution for their party affiliation. The only ones who are lapping up the specious allegations of socialism and Other-ism McCain/Palin are selling are the racists and the rubes in the hinterlands. The Tiny Brains. By turning their backs on McCain/Palin, the intellectual, old-school Conservative with a capital “C” wing are trying to stand up for the Republican party that existed in their minds before W came along and made it impossible to pretend anymore.

I just watched a half hour of Fox and Friends with The Boy now (he likes to identify alphabet letters in the text at the bottom of the screen) and it was nausea inducing. All this pumped-up outrage about the silliest, most trivial, overworked talking points from earlier in the election. It’s like on the day before the election, two anchors and some pretty Asian girl at a remote location (with not one, but two websites) were working a “Best-Of” package from their campaign coverage this year and presenting it as BREAKING NEWS. The ethical disparity between the words and actions of the thinkers of the GOP and the talking heads on Fox morning TV and the McCain/Palin campaign are so out of step with each other, they seem to be coming from two completely opposing orthodoxies.

Look at the caliber of the people McCain/Palin are focusing on as their standardbearers – people long-since exposed as being “all hat and no cattle” like they say down in Tejas — like Joe The Alleged Plumber. Sarah Palin. The official promoting and sanctioning of these mean-spirited (let’s be honest) twits are not playing to the better angels of human nature. But that’s okay, because that’s not who their audience is. Not George The Pulitzer Prize Winner, but Joe The Alleged Plumber.

Here’s a quick sitrep on what we know about JTAP: He’s not a licensed plumber; he has no discernable plans to buy his boss’s business which only makes $100,000 per annum anyhow; Joe only made $40,000 in 2006 himself so is eligable for Obama’s proposed tax break; and is the son of a major Republican donor. My read: Joe was looking for his 15 minutes of fame with a quick ambush question for Obama and John McCain has given him a telethon. Seriously. And they’ve stuck with him as all his prevarications have been revealed precisely because the people they’re preaching to – The Tiny Brains — don’t read or watch any of that journalism or internet shit, anyhow (except for porn and bombmaking tips). McCain/Palin have done everything but talk cabinet post for this dope, and the day is far from over.

But their audience, if you believe the poll numbers and I do because hope feels so much better than dread, seems to be dwindling. In order to remain stupid enough to get psyched up about the McCain “message” these days, you’d have to work at it, and Americans just don’t want to have to do that much work where it comes to politics.

Future generations will watch the footage of John McCain sharing the stage at rallies with this pair of inarticulate, disingenuous, meretricious buffoons and wonder what the fuck went wrong with the Republican party in 2008. I already know and I’m happy to tell you: Former military man John McCain, who ought to know better, is waging this campaign using the tactics that won the last campaign, and if there’s one piece of military strategy that even the lowliest plebe knows, it’s that you don’t fight the current war with the last war’s tactics unless you want to lose. The irony of ironies, of course, is that McCain hired the same people to help him lose as Bush hired eight years ago to help McCain lose.

In a couple more days, McCain/Palin will exit the stage, leaving the Republican party a smoking ruin, a scorched-earth landscape littered with angry legislators with formerly promising careers (Fox won’t be able to afford to hire them all); more importantly, though, it will leave serious a power vacuumin the GOP, a political anything-can-happen place like Baghdad after the fall of Saddam and potentially as dangerous. We’ll need to keep a wary eye on what emerges, especially if it walks, talks and quacks anything at all like Sarah Palin.

In a couple more days, the McCain/Palin campaign’s imaginary “Real America” of hillbillies and racist rednecks will be nothing but a memory… except in the parts of the country where it isn’t. And that dichotomy lies at the heart of the success of the actual real America.

But that is another post and I’m about to be late to work.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


This year’s creepy Halloween photo. Boo!