Monday, April 26, 2010

The Far-Away Home

That’s what The Boy refers to the impending move as. “The Far-Away Home.” It sounds more like something out of a fairy tale instead of the militia-laden Red State full of white supremacists that it actually is. The Red, White and Crazy Home is a better name for the place.

But what the hell. There’s no avoiding it. The Missus got offered a great gig in the sole liberal bastion of this otherwise vast untamed wilderness of intolerance and Tea Party enthusiasts. But in this economy, I’m strictly a go-where-the-job-is kind of guy, even when the job is taking you down the rabbit hole instead of to the Wonderful Land of Oz.

So we’ve started talking to The Boy about it. Showing him maps and talking vaguely about timetables. Sometimes he understands it’s many, many days away, sometimes he thinks it’s today. “Is Mommy going to the Far-Away Home?” No, she’s just going to work.

I don’t know if my work-at-home job is going to follow me to the Far Away Home and I just found out that The Missus and The Boy are going to need their insurance covered for ninety days after her job switch. So I’m in the precarious predicament of needing to not get fired under circumstances that could easily lead to my firing. And all that’s on the line is my wife and son’s (and mine, come to think of it) medical insurance situation for three months. The kid alone is at the doctor’s at least once a month with a new ear infection.

I’m even getting nostalgic about this awful town I’ve lived in and complained about for so long. I walk my kid home from preschool along a tree-lined path bordered by community gardens and chicken shacks. It’s Shangri-la. These are exactly the kind of memories one dotes on in their old age. I won’t be able to go back then, so I ought to try to enjoy it now.

I don’t think the serious panic/fear/sadness will set in till after the Lost finale a month from now. The calendar fills up pretty quick after that. It’ll be a time of life transitions—which I’m bad at—but also meticulous planning and obsessive attention to detail, a couple of my strong suits.

But everything is on hold till Lost is over. It seems like a convenient, not-altogether arbitrary moment to embark upon the next big mystery/adventure in my otherwise dreary, workaday little life. As one series of made-up mysteries is (hopefully) resolved, I will dive head first into a new, scarier set of real-life mysteries (complete with real-life consequences) with embarrassingly little baggage left over from my decade on Christmas Island.

Like it or not, the Far Away Home gets a little less far-away every day. Reckon I’d best get to liking it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bringing back the hat

By popular demand (specifically The Missus, who is very popular with me), here are a few photos I took of The Boy today, rakishly handsome in his Johnny Cash t-shirt and white Fedora. Because The Boy understands that as an internet celebrity, he is a role model, he graciously consented to allow me to Photoshop-out the cigarette originally between his fingers in the last picture.

EXTRY!! Here’s a special bonus picture from a miniature golf outing the weekend before. Note the relaxed, confident body language... I taught him that.

I burned my thumb!

It actually looks even worse than this now. This was taken during its "divot" phase.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Treading water in the town where dreams go to die

I’ve mentioned before, my nephew Andy is in the Marines. He ships out to Afghanistan in the next couple weeks, so we had what I called a Deployment Party for him in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona last weekend.

I took The Boy, but all three of us going would have been even more prohibitively expensive than just the two of us going. Plus I’ve been promising The Missus some Alone Time for herself for a while now.

Naturally, The Boy went over gangbusters with everyone back home. He was very outgoing and fun and funny and he didn’t have single “accident” the whole trip. Or as I call them at this point, Accidents-My-Ass.

Funny aside: I walked into the living room this morning to find The Boy on The Missus’ lap and her scowling at me. “He seems to think ‘crap’ is a perfectly acceptable word to say. He said it to me three times just now.”

 What could I say? I told her, “Saying ‘crap’ scratches the Naughty itch for him without doing any real harm.” And he doesn’t connote it with feces or use it as a verb. It’s simply a funny word that gets adults’ attention. If I can help channel his baser Fang-inherited instincts down benign paths, I’m gonna do it, even if society frowns. What has society ever done for me!

Anyhow, back in Tucson, my friend and homeopath The Best Man drove down from Phoenix, charmed the family then gave me acupuncture, a (rough, manly) massage and a typically brutal, unrelenting intake.

Oh, and I slept great both nights because I’ve gotten used to sleeping in reclining chairs since the last time I was there (my back is all fucked-up as I’ve detailed in other posts), and my Mom’s new La-Z-Boy is a beaut. And The Boy slept the night through, too. Last time at my Mom’s he really resisted sleeping alone in the huge king-sized bed in the spare bedroom. This time I spent about fifteen minutes the first night removing my Mom’s bric-a-brac (piece by piece, at his direction) before he declared the room no longer scary, then all was cool.

The Deployment Bash was held at the rented apartment complex clubhouse of my nephew’s young bride, weight room and pool access included.

A nine-year-old skinny blonde girl clutching a bathing suit came with her hard luck-looking Dad and latched onto The Boy immediately. I heard her ask when she arrived, “Are there any other kids here?” I thought, “Yeah, but you’re going to be disappointed.” I mean, The Boy is only four, and he was it as far as other kids in attendance.

But they hit it off great in spite of the age difference, and before long, The Boy was begging me to let him go swimming in the clubhouse pool with his new friend. Except he can’t actually swim and I didn’t bring anything to wear into the pool. But of course I relented and took off my socks and shoes and rolled up my jeans to my knees and sat with my feet in the water on the steps. The Boy stripped down to his skivvies, he’s completely comfortable...

On the plane ride in, he had to empty his bladder so we went to the loo in the front of the aircraft. When he was done, with his pants and underpants still down around his ankles, he opened the door of the cramped compartment and stepped into the galley of the 737, facing the aisle while I struggled with the toilet flusher. I scooped him up and pulled him back into the bathroom and got his drawers up, but we were celebrities after that.

Back to the pool... They went into the water, The Boy tentatively, she confidently, and before I knew it, she had him hanging on for dear life in the 4-foot end, over his head in every sense. She repeatedly assured me that “if he drowns, I’ll save him.”

And he showed more guts with her in the pool than he ever did with me all last summer. Whatever crazy thing she wanted to do, he was up for. Even after she deposited him short of the steps early on and he sank like a rock until I leapt into the pool and pulled him up, spitting out pool water and gasping for breath. A minute later, he was letting himself be pulled back into the deep end, trying more new stuff.

Afterwards, he explained to me, “Boys can’t teach me to swim. Only girls can.” He was quite adamant on the point and returned to the subject frequently for a while. The community pool here on Christmas Island opens again in less than a month. I think this may be the year he learns to actually swim. If, of course, we can find the right girls to instruct him.

I’m so glad I brought The Boy. It might easily have become a mordant affair without him. Andy’s shipping out to do a job with one of the highest casualty rates in the Marines because of IEDs.

His Mom is distraught and all the bleeding-hearts in the family blame ourselves for not giving the kid any better options. He didn’t join up out of some long-standing patriotic drive or in the wake of 9/11. He signed up to get the hell out of Tucson, the way kids all over the country sign up to get the fuck out of the dead-end lives they’re staring at in their own failing home towns.

They’re going overseas to fight to preserve the style of life practiced in the home towns they were willing to risk their own lives to escape. And the hell of it is, the best-case scenario finds him residing with his wife back in Tucson when his term of enlistment is scheduled to be up.

When we said goodbye Sunday, what I wanted to say was, “Come back in one piece, I still remember changing your diapers motherfucker.” Instead, I gave him the only word of advice I could think of to offer: Don’t do anything John Wayne wouldn’t do.

But really, if you could, please come back in one piece.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Year Christmas Came Early

Or: Johnny Cash back-catalog legally available online for the first time!

Don’t know why, don’t know how, don’t know why now, but some of Johnny Cash’s ’70s & ’80s albums are finally being released digitally. I got an email from amazon alerting me to this fact and couldn’t believe my eyes when I clicked through.

There they were: a dozen previously unavailable (except at used record stores where I got mine, and probably ebay for an arm and a leg) albums, full of original material that hasn’t seen the light of day since their initial releases 25-40 years ago.

It answers the question I’ve been asking for years: WTF?? Forty years? Really?

I also noticed right away that they held back albums from that period, including 1971’s seminal “The Man In Black.” Not one of the thousands of greatest-hits collections released under that name since then, but the original, containing the first official release of the song, “Man In Black.” (Cash had performed the song a couple of times as a work-in-progress on his ’69-’71 television show, but didn’t record and release it until after the show got canceled.)

Hopefully, enough people will buy some of these albums to motivate whoever is controlling these things to release the rest of them. At the moment they appear to be available exclusively through amazon; iTunes doesn’t have them.

If you just want to buy a couple albums (and you really should buy the whole albums; Cash albums from this period are all very ambitious affairs containing discrete suites of music. The songs are designed to work together to underscore each album’s theme), I would recommend starting with “Any Old Wind That Blows” and “Thing Called Love.”

And then treat yourself special because you deserve it! and buy the legendary (and heavily bootlegged) 1975 “Live At Osteraker Prison” concert album, a worthy bookend to his wildly successful Folsom and San Quentin albums in 1968 and ’69.

Cash was on an amazingly fertile and fruitful creative streak for almost 10 years, from the late-’60s to the mid-’70s, and “Any Old Wind That Blows,” “Thing Called Love” and “Live At Osteraker Prison” represent some of his finest work from this period.

Finally—finally—“Welcome Back Jesus” is available to the general public again! Deck the halls, baby, Santa Claus snuck into town this year when we weren’t even looking.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

What’s wrong with religion in a nutshell:

Woke up this morning, went to like I always do, and at first glance I honestly thought they were running a close-up photo of a victim of the latest middle-east suicide bombing at the top of their home page.

But of course, they wouldn’t do that. That would be in poor taste, running a photo like that on their home page, where anybody could see it.

Unless, of course, it’s a photo of guy only pretending to have been beaten to a bloody pulp and dying. Now that’s tasteful.

Especially if the guy’s pretending to be the deity you worship and reckon runs the world.

That, apparently, is the spoonful of sugar required to make such a hideous representation palatable to God-fearing Christians and their young children. I was raised Catholic in the 60s and everywhere I went, there were effigies of that same mutilated dude nailed to a tree. Then like now, it was just part of the landscape.

I could be wrong, but I think Christianity is the only major religion in the world that iconizes the murdered body of their god over his body of good works. Quick, can anybody out there tell me how Buddha died? Or Mohammed? L. Ron Hubbard?

Probably not, because no matter what other flaws they share with most every other religion (a whole different post), they choose to celebrate the life and teachings of their holy men and women, not their bloody carcasses.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: In the time of Jesus, the Romans handed out crucifixions to Jews like the Gideons hand out Bibles at Holiday Inns. It was no great feat for a trouble-making Jew to get savagely tortured then hung on a tree till he or she bled to death or suffocated.

The trick was surviving it. Which they say Jesus did, which seems to me to be the whole point. Not the torture and murder preceding the resurrection.

No wonder Christianity has been responsible for so many horrible things since they delivered their savior to be hung on a cross, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the current pedophilia scandal threatening to bankrupt the Catholic church.

For 2,000 years, they’ve focused on the wrong part of the legend. And no surprise, that’s the part of their founding story they’ve exported to the world for the same period of time.

I’ve read the gospels and am of the opinion that if Christians were more focused on the life and teachings of Jesus, instead of his gruesome and grisly death, it might be a whole different world today.