Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CNN made Larry King sad!

Last night, he announced he’s leaving his Larry King Live show. And even though he gave all the correct lip service, up to and including “wanting to spend more time with his wife and kids,” he was clearly quite sad the whole hour.

I’m sure CNN is shoving him out the door because his very name has become a punchline for things that are synonymous with being old.

And truth to tell, I never wanted to watch him drop dead on the air, which is where he and Regis Philbin have been heading for decades now.

I just wish they could have found a way to ease him off the air without making him look so sad.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Everything keeps moving up...

These damn moving companies are fucking up my life. I didn’t understand what the first moving estimator was saying when he told us when he could guarantee to have our stuff to us in Boise. It wasn’t till the second one said the same thing that I began to grow suspicious. The third one confirmed my suspicions.

I’m screwed.

The reason being, back when I had an unclear idea of how moving companies operate, I lined up all the gizmo people—phone company, TV and internet providers—to come out on the same Monday morning between 8 and noon and get everything going at once. It was the very model of efficiency.

Now it turns out, in order to guarantee all our gizmos are actually there to be powered up by the arriving professionals, we have to be outta this place the Monday before. It’s a one-day drive to the new city and these goddamned bozos need a week.

So it turns out I took the wrong week off from work. The actual moving and frenzied house-cleaning of the old place will occur concurrently with my usual week’s workload; the vacation time off will occur the week after.

But I’m still not freaking out yet… well, okay, there was one quick moment there where human feces almost did get flung, but it passed without anything overtly scatological occurring.

How many days left? I have no freaking idea.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Timetable just got moved up! 14 days to go...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birthday Party Mission Accomplished!

Although the turnout was less than expected—blame the first triple-digit heat day of the year on Christmas Island and the fact that we were having a party in the park because our house is a shambles of empty walls and moving boxes—the major invitees all attended and the day was saved!

Of chief importance was the appearance of the Birthday Boy’s old daycare pal Kelly. When she showed up, I watching The Boy’s face, and it lit up like a kid catching Santa sneaking out of the chimney on Christmas Eve. The rest of the day was Kelly, cake and presents for The Boy. Everything and everybody else was just a distraction.

The Last Boy Scout showed up with his whole family, bless their hearts. One of his daughters was the picture of stoic, stiff-upper-lipped misery (which I remember so well from my own childhood—is there anything more boring than a party where you don’t know anyone there’s no one there your age?) and his wife is physically allergic to our sweltering little hippie town; the city council ought to establish patchouli-free zones here like rest stops on the freeway. In this economy, we can’t even afford to turn away the non-hippie tourist dollar!

But they were here and we were all drinking Pepsi products, so I was happy.

And The Missus’ pal The Local Celebrity showed up with his two boys, so she was happy, too.

At the end there were presents and relieved attendees beating feet for the comfort of their air-conditioned familymobiles. Clean-up went by in no time and we made it home before I stroked out from the heat, with a playdate for next weekend with Kelly already in hand.

18 days to go…

Countdown to Life #7: 20 days to go

All is a frenzy of activity here.

Today we did The Dreaded Yard Sale in the sweltering summer heat.

Man, do I hate yard sales. There’s just something inherently undignified about selling off years’ worth of hard-collected crapola for pennies on the dollar. It’s not even so much the crap I mind losing, it's all that return on investment I’ll never see...

And it’s worse now that we have a kid, because suddenly there is sentimental value attached to even the most patently worthless shit. A lot of the stuff we got rid of this time was baby clothes. And every piece that went out, I remembered a picture of him wearing it. Or a day he was wearing it that we did something special.

His large plastic slide that was so intimidating to him when it first arrived, he summited with a spring today, just before somebody walked off with it on their shoulder.

Fortunately there’s always the professional hagglers to keep me from wallowing in melancholy. I hate those guys. I would rather throw something away, donate it or hang onto it for the rest of my life than sell it to someone who is trying to rip me off for sport. One joker waved four CDs at me—three of them still in original store plastic wrap and all priced at 50 cents. Among them were Leonard Cohen Live, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, a Phil Ochs best-of collection and something else—and this bastard goes, “I’ll give you a buck for all four.” Then I caught him studying my reaction, so I gave him something to think about later, after he got home. I calmly explained who the artists were and that his offer was an insult to them and that for him, those four 50¢ CDs were going to be $5. He passed.

Do not come to my yard sale and disrespect Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen.

We also failed to sell The Boy’s My Parents Are Big Gay Liberals t-shirt. It’s a shame he ever grew out of it because he wore it proudly here in this big, gay, liberal town.

Tomorrow is the birthday party in the park. Temperature should hit triple-digits, but The Last Boy Scout and his family became available at the last minute, so The Missus should have plenty of help in seeing to it that I keep myself out of trouble and don’t ruin the day for our son.

His day care inamorata is expected, and apparently they ran into each other in the park today and the old spark is still there. Should be tragically heart-breaking but it promises to make for good picture-taking.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Meg Twitman

Dang it, I wanted to like her, I did! It would have been really cool to like two GOP governors in a row, even though I’ll be long gone before the office changes hands.

But I accidentally just caught a campaign commercial where (among other things that didn’t raise red flags) she’s selling “streamlining regulation.” After the mortgage crisis and the Wall St. bailout? After the continuing Gulf Coast nightmare? After all kinds of highly publicized, expensive clusterfucks whose unifying theme is the lack of responsible oversight caused by their industry’s deregulation?

Even if one still somehow believes deregulation is a good idea, it seems like a bad time to bring it up. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, do you have any comment on the Second Amendment?”

Oh Meg. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Zombie-Ninjas at midnight

The Boy passed some kind of milestone tonight.

I was up late, trying to catch up on some Larry David Show reruns. I hear one of the bedroom doors open behind me, then nothing.

My hackles go up. I leap to my feet and jog down the hall. The last thing I expected to see was The Boy, looking at me irritably, saying, “I have to go pee,” like this scenario was something we played out every day.

We’ve been talking about it for a while. That last step on the potty-training autobahn. Getting up at night by himself to hit the head and losing the pulls-ups for good and all. He decided a while ago, by himself, that we would begin to implement this big change when we moved to the far-away home. I guessed I was all right with it. If he switches this behavior as quickly as he did with the thumb-sucking—ie: overnight—I can do a few more months of dragging him, zombie-like, to the bathroom every middle-of-the-night to help him lighten his bladder in the approved manner.

But he really is a zombie. Some nights, I don’t think he’s awake at all. He walks like both legs are asleep and his eyes are closed. I have to guide him by hand so he doesn’t walk into doorways and walls. It would be hilarious if the stakes weren’t so high.

Last week one night I had pulled him out of bed and to his feet and turned briefly to attend to some other little detail, and he went over. Like a board. Only his hands, seeming to throw themselves out on instinct alone, saved him from a nasty bloody nose or worse. I could watch it happen, but by the time I turned back to him, he was headed down, away from me.

He was so out of it, I was able to raise him to his feet and walk him into the bathroom without complaint, or even comment about his harrowing escape from a frightening fall. He just caught himself before he hit the carpet, ninja-like, then never spoke of it again.

Tonight, though, was the first time that I can remember, certainly since we’ve started talking about taking that final step, that he’s gotten himself out of bed to use the bathroom.

Now admittedly, it was because he was up because he was thinking about his upcoming birthday party that he was able to pull off his feat. But I take nothing away from his accomplishment. I was so pleased to see him and he was looking at me so suspiciously… Later on, he asked me what I was still doing up, like it was some really weird secret he had just uncovered and couldn’t wrap his mind around.

It was right after that he confirmed that he was indeed finding it hard to sleep because of thinking about the party he’s having this weekend. It’s ostensibly for his birthday (a couple months from now), but it might just as well be a farewell party too. I think it’s about as close as we’re likely to get. But we’re the ones—Okay, I’m the one—who never forged roots in this community. I’ve already promised I’ll give it a better go when we get to the far-away home. It’ll be easier this time; this time I have a four-year-old under my wing and that automatically admits me to the community of Dads. He’s my passport to passing as a regular joe.

Yesterday, he goes to The Missus, “When we move, this will be the far-away home.” Extremely cogent reasoning for someone who hasn’t made his peace yet with the fact that that his pal from down the street isn’t going to be making the move with us.

I think he’s finally gone back to sleep. He’s counting down the days until his party by how many “naps” (nights’ sleep) there are between now and then. I think he woke up tonight thinking he had scratched another off his list, only to be disappointed to discover it was still deeply night-time, and his Daddy keeps suspicious hours behind his back.

Next: Attack of the Zombie-Ninjas!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Man, do I love my new Costco chair.

I know, on paper, it may look like a reckless extravagance. In my office, it really looks like a reckless extravagance. I tried every lighting combination I could think of, but all the photos came out with the chair bathed in the same bathetic glow (see above). I wonder it wasn’t originally a prop from the last scene of Lost.

It’s the chair me and my aching back have been waiting for.

With one tiny adjustment for lumbar support—the pillow rolled up and wedged into the crack where chair back meets chair seat—it is perfect. It should pay for itself in physical therapy appointments I won’t have to go to in just a couple of months.

Our first night together I spent a straight six hours sleeping on it, and woke up with no back pain whatever. I felt miraculously cured, except like anyone with back pain knows, the shit always be coming around again no matter how good you may feel at any given moment. Back pain is like people with bad luck. Even if they hit a good spell, you know they’re headed back to calamity eventually.

I wanted to wait to get it till after the move had been completed, but thank god The Missus talked me out of it. Having it now is already making a world of difference.

I can’t let the old chair, below, go without mention, though.

It looks scuzzy now, but it wasn’t when I got it. Most of that scuzz is me. That’s about nine years of me, as a matter of fact.

But it’s also me and The Boy, back when he was The Man Cub. That was the chair that we sat in together from four in the morning—after he’d already been awake for a while—and watched The Johnny Cash Show for a year and a half. He learned to speak in that chair. One of his first words was a demand, “Cash!” “Cash,” he’d yell, pointing at the TV screen when anyone other than the then-amiable Man In Black would appear onscreen.

He grew from a peanut to a sapling in that chair, watching quality TV together with me. It’s the chair he was in when he learned about Superman through some old Fleisher cartoon shorts, and how to discern the Good Guys from the Bad Guys by orchestral cues.

But ever since my back started going all twitchy, it’s been on an inevitable trajectory to the junk-heap. Also, The Boy and I have ceased to fit very comfortably together on it for a while now. And as The Missus pointed out, when this new chair is fully reclined, it’s like a twin bed. A super-soft twin bed with amazing Rube Goldberged lumbar support.

May god bless and keep you, Costco. You’re the Frank Capra of box stores. Mmmm-wah!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Travels with Fang, Day 3

Woke up at 6:30 Boise time. Took a look at my last blog entry and decided it needed some art to spice it up. So I grabbed my cell phone and drove back to the Anne Frank Memorial. This time I was careful to stick to business and not get distracted by thoughts or feelings or, God help me, ruminations on the human condition.

Cruised back to the hotel…

You know, I should mention that my maximum time away from home before system degradation begins is two days. Not usually two days. Not approximately two days. Two days.

Typically, my verbal acuity is the first thing to abandon me. The Missus informed me on the ride to the house tonight that it began to fail me right after my interview. (I can always pull a command performance out of my ass when the situation requires it.) She said I did well with her Boise friends, and I explained that what I do is compose what I want to say in my mind, then picture it and read the text aloud. It makes me look intelligent (and interested), pondering my response when in fact I have it at the tip of my tongue but my tongue just isn’t working quite right.

So anyhow, it’s now Day Three and the dark rings under my empty eyes look like twin dark crescent moons. Except this time, I’m pretty cool in spite of the sleep deprivation. So far things have pushed all my right buttons, from Anne Frank to the day care guy to the cool rental car with the bitchin’ turning radius.

But due to an error in our reservations, we didn’t leave Saturday morning as we thought we were going to; in fact, we weren’t scheduled to depart until 6 p.m. So we had concluded all our compulsories and had a whole day to kill before coming home. We decided to go to the big gay-rights rally on the steps of the state capitol. The Missus because she hates discrimination, and me because in addition to hating discrimination, I love people watching. And unlike, say, whole-earth festivals with ersatz hippies, a gay-rights rally is always exceptional people watching. And most of the people have come there to be seen.

For instance, this young lady was happy to pose for me:

Actually, everybody was happy to pose for me; I’ve always found the gay community to be the same as any other community—endlessly accommodating when treated as, you know, people.

The turnout at the rally, however, was disappointing by Christmas Island standards. If we had thrown this shindig, there wouldn’t have been a bit of lawn visible:

We maneuvered next to the head of the Idaho ACLU and introduced ourselves. I mentioned that I had just applied to her organization a couple weeks earlier. I told her my name and she turned to The Missus and began discussing items of mutual interest that we hadn’t mentioned in our brief conversation, but had disclosed in my job app cover letter.

So (we discerned), she must have read my application and remembered it. I was stoked. How cool would it be to work for the ACLU?! I could be like The Last Boy Scout, getting paid to advocate for issues already near and dear to my heart. I mean, I would love to be offered the position at the printing company, that would be a great job. But working for the ACLU would be a lifestyle. And yes, it would really piss off my Mom!

As we were leaving the rally, an older woman came up and asked us if we had a cell phone she could borrow. She was obviously in growing distress, having lost her car keys and no one answering her phone calls to come pick her up. In situations like this I ask myself two questions: What would Elvis do? And what would Johnny Cash do? Since we couldn’t afford to buy her a new Cadillac, we went for the Johnny Cash option and offered her a ride home ourselves.

Because of the rally and the ensuing parade, the packed Saturday street market and I think even some road construction, it took us about a half hour to traverse the six blocks to the freeway. We could have crawled the distance on our hands and knees over broken glass and made better time.

Our passenger (Sue) took some convincing that we really didn’t mind the hassle; our flight was still six hours away. Plus it turned out she lived in the vicinity of the airport. So we got her home and made sure she was able to get in her place (keypad garage opener) and took off for a nearby theater to catch Toy Story 3.

[SPOLER ALERT!! – this paragraph only.] I love it when a movie lives up to its hype. Toy Story 3’s themes of the difficulty of change and the tumult of transition were not lost on me and their analogy to my own situation. At the end of the film, I felt both like the boy playing with his toys for the last time, as well as the toys who were being told they were essentially expendable. I thought it was a stunningly gutsy move for a modern G-rated kids’ movie to make. Our toys may indeed become expendable over time, but this film will not.

Afterwards, when we arrived at the airport, we found out our flight had been delayed, making our connecting flight a suddenly iffy affair. We discussed calling my most excellent sister Connie—who had sacrificed the better part of the week to come up and stay with The Boy—and finding some out for her in a worst-case scenario. I ended up calling her and accepting her protestations that she was good with whatever happened, schedule-wise. I decided this would be an ideal time to suspend disbelief and take her at her word.

The United Airlines Arrivals/Departures board wasn’t much help as it steadfastly failed to reflect the reality that our flight was already late and therefore not “on time” as it insisted. United Airlines also failed to supply any personnel—not one person beside the janitor—in the terminal to interrogate during a subsequent search to discern WTF.

On the other hand, when our plane finally did arrive, we sat uncustomarily close to the front—pretty empty flight—and ended up chatting up the flight attendant at length. (We earned her trust by sympathizing with her plight, having to tell trapped plane passengers there was going to be one tarmac delay after another. The poor kid next to us, a 16-year-old traveling alone between divorced parents, was near apoplectic because there was no way this latest delay wasn’t going to cause her to miss her connecting flight to Honolulu, and the next flight with open seats wasn’t scheduled for another 24 hours.)

Anyhow, the flight attendant had just gotten back from her home along the western Florida coast, and she had hundreds of images on her camera of the devastation to the water down there, and the land and the animals. She choked back tears when she spoke of one species that she didn’t think would survive because their sole habitat had been destroyed by the spill in the Gulf.

It was a more than sobering conversation and it put our good luck in the new home town, as well as worries about missing our own connecting flight, into a larger context. (The girl no longer headed to Honolulu that night didn’t seem as easily distracted by the attendant’s horrifying show-and-tell.)

When our first leg finally ended we bolted from the plane and literally ran the whole way to our connecting flight in a distant terminal, which flight was scheduled to depart one minute before our plane actually pulled up to the gate. Apparently they had been paging us by name in the terminal about a minute before we deplaned and began our mad dash.

Last boring detail: the flight out took 45 minutes, the flight back—covering the same distance and geography—took 20. Can anyone explain that me? Jeff Johnson? Mather?

Now all that’s left to do is everything else. And thank God, too, or this post would be even longer.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Travels with Fang, Day 2:

I always like to start with a complaint, so here you go: The bathtub floor in our room at the TownPlace Suites is slippery as polished glass. No sticky strips or hand rails, just the assumption that every guest will have a mountain goat’s uncanny sense of balance. This old fart damn near took a header cleaning up for dinner tonight.

So, a double-dumbass on you, TownSuites. Somebody’s gonna break their neck and take your corporation to the cleaners. And I will feel validated. Hell, I still have to take another shower tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be the lucky quadriplegic.

Otherwise, it’s weird. I don’t feel like myself tonight, and believe me, that is a good thing.

Registered The Boy for preschool today. Managed to rub the school administrator the wrong way, hope he doesn’t take it out on my kid. And seriously, I was on my best behavior. Some people you just can’t satisfy.

Then we went to check out the Anne Frank memorial across the street from campus.

See, Idaho has all kinds of angry, well-armed white supremacist types up north, so somebody with money to burn built a little tolerance park, for lack of a better description. It’s got all kind of slabs of concrete with excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary inscribed on them, as well as various similar sentiments by other noteworthy historical figures.

One of the inscriptions that  moved me most was by Sojourner Truth. I had never heard it before. The quote in the park read as follows:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Anyhow, the whole affair left me extremely emotionally drained. I did not find the park even remotely uplifting. Its intentions notwithstanding, it seemed like a memorial to man’s inhumanity against man. Tell me something I don’t know, right?

The next few hours I was one depressed Bastardson. On the way to dinner with The Missus’ Twitter friend and her husband (whom I actually liked, both of them!) I told my wife that I expected my last words would be, “Man, am I glad that’s over.”

Red Flag on the play!

But somehow over the course of the next few hours, something clicked over inside me. Even though this stupid state doesn’t get dark till after 10—for which I will never forgive it—and the fact that its legislature is actively anti-gay rights and politically conservative in all the ways that piss me off the most… for some reason, I feel comfortable. At ease.

My job situation is still extremely up in the air and the move promises to do very bad things to my back, but sometime today I got comfortable with the idea of living here.

I think I may finally be ready to follow some excellent advice I received years ago from my long-time spiritual advisor, which was, “Fang, you don’t have to be dragged through life kicking and screaming.”

I know it sounds simple, but it runs counter to every instinct that has kept me alive up to this point. At the time, I recognized its veracity but it didn’t fit in with my lifestyle. I didn’t think I’d ever be in a place to implement it—emotionally, psychologically or physically.

But here I am in Boise, Idaho, feeling at peace for the first time in I really couldn’t even begin to guess how long.

I think maybe part of it is the prospect of marching in a gay rights rally tomorrow before we fly home. Living on Christmas Island, all this equal rights shit has long been settled, or is well on its way to being ironed out. We don’t have rallies and protests anymore, just celebrations and paid days off work (thank you, Cesar Chavez!).

On the other hand, Idaho, for instance, doesn’t even have a Martin Luther King Day; rather they call it “Idaho Human Rights Day.”

Unless, of course, you happen to be a gay human Idahoan. Then you’re on your own.

I think I’m stoked that in this new land, I will finally have a opponent as formidable as my own self-loathing to rail against. Turn some of my bottomless well of righteous indignation away from (however well-earned) self-criticism and toward an even more deserving target.

I also like the fact that on the drive back from dinner, we drove through a residential neighborhood where I saw a little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, walking alone down the sidewalk. As culturally advanced as Christmas Island considers itself, nobody in their right mind would let their little girl walk home unaccompanied there as dusk was falling.

And in the end, that’s what it’s all about. I’m excited at the prospect of raising our son in a town with neighborhoods safe enough that a little kid out walking alone as night is a commonplace event. I've always loved Norman Rockwell paintings.

Civil rights battles to negotiate and a safe place to raise my kid... This old hippie dad couldn’t ask for anything more.

Labels: ,

Travels with Fang, Day 1:

A couple of observations on our trip to Boise to secure lodging for everybody and schoolin’ for The Boy.

Observation number 1: Flying on a turboprop airplane is scary as shit, even if one doesn’t ordinarily care much if one lives or dies. Climbing onto one of these fuckers will get you off the fence right quick. Nothing like staring your mortality in the face to make you decide you’d like to live after all. Worst moment: When the flight attendant went up and down the aisle before take-off, asking people to switch seats to better balance the plane. When we reached our destination, I commented that I was grateful to have survived the first leg of the trip on an airplane the size of a spacious coffin. Our fellow passengers did not seem to appreciate my analogy.

Observation number 2: Doubling down on the daily dose of anti-anxiety meds and muscle relaxers just before bed means a hell of a swell night’s sleep. Literally the best sleep I’ve had in years. It’s a shame I’m only on the muscle relaxers for the period of the move. I could LOVE getting strung out on this shit.

Observation number 3: Thanks to a Twitter friend of The Missus, house-hunting took us no time at all. She found the place, did a walk-through with the landlord and proclaimed the domicile livable. All we had to do was show up on time and sign paperwork.

Oh Twitter, where would we be without your tweetifications?

Observation number 4: It gets dark crazy late this far north. We stumbled back to the hotel at 9:30 p.m., and the sun was just starting to go down. The Missus promises me the days are as short in winter as they are long in summer, but I’m not living in winter right now.

Observation number 5: Job interviews are much less stressful if the applicant isn’t currently unemployed at the time of said interview. There’s a kick-ass gig available up here for someone with my specific, rapidly becoming quaint and antiquated skill set. I think I did well at the interview. Didn’t stutter or make inappropriate remarks and I think I asked some intelligent questions.

But ultimately, it’s a crap shoot. I’m gonna inform my current employers about the move today or Monday, depending on when I muster the intestinal fortitude. I work from home, but they could just as easily decide to cut me loose rather than deal with the hassle of having an out-of-state employee. That would put me in a pretty pickle, which is why I didn’t try to learn my fate before the trip. If I’d gone into today’s interview knowing I was facing unemployment if I didn’t get the job, I would have reeked of desperation, and desperation is not a quality an employer is looking for in a potential production manager of a very successful printing company.

Observation number 6: We were in town one day and drove past some major daylight, guns-drawn police action. I lived in SoCal for 20 years and never witnessed the like. Only red flag all day, but it was a hell of a red flag.

Observation number 7: Idaho is militantly anti-gay rights. Very much so, me-hate-you-long-time opposed. Coming from Christmas Island, where this battle is in its final stages, I find myself compelled to attend the Gay Pride rally they have thoughtfully scheduled on our last day out here. I’ve never rallied in protest before (I always show up to the controversy after it’s been settled), but I will be happy to raise my voice in this one. Discrimination of any sort not based on a person’s informed decision-making makes my blood boil. People are people, and to my way of thinking, we’re all born equally flawed and remain so unless and until we decide to rebel against our baser nature.

Observation number 8: I’m addicted to The Boy. We both are. We miss him like crazy. My sister is staying with him (God bless her; we couldn’t convince his Grandparents to overnight in our messy, moldy house for all the wine-tastings in Napa), and except for his hoiking in her car on the way back from the zoo, they’ve been having a high old time. Thanks to The Last Boy Scout for taking a moment from his band’s concert at the zoo to spend a couple minutes to schmooze my family.

Speaking of The Last Boy Scout, thanks too for hooking me up with Boise’s coolest comic shop. I was gonna try to kick the habit, but kicking habits has never really been my strong suit. I’m glad there’s plenty of room in the garage for new purchases…

Observation number 9: The drugs are really beginning to kick in. I’m typing slower and slower and most of that time entails going back and fixing typos. Bleah.

The  next day and a half all we have scheduled is signing The Boy up for preschool. The Missus wants to spend the rest of it acquainting herself with our upcoming home town; I want to see The A Team.

So that was Day One. I’m gonna hate leaving TLBS behind, but otherwise, I think I might actually like it here.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Angry Snail Trail

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arizona: The state where liberty goes to die*

Not confident yet with their ranking as the country’s number one laughing-stock on immigration issues (no small feat, that, when Texas is among your competition), Arizona next plans to turn its attention to the most vulnerable people of the wrong skin color, babies.

I used to joke about illegals having the temerity to have been born in the wrong place, now even that well-worn punchline is in jeopardy.

Seeking to go where no state has gone before—since before Reconstruction—a law proposed by Arizona GOP Representative John Kavanagh would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents.

Arizona—it’s the Old South of the new west.

(Full disclosure: I barely survived my own teenage years in that awful state so I have first-hand knowledge of that which I am criticizing. If not for one sister’s assistance, I probably would have been the fat, greasy doofus scooping up your French Fries at McDonald’s today, still sporting a 30-year-old ON PROBATION nametag. Or like my other sister, still in Tucson—a barnacle on the ass of society, getting by on government handouts and the occasional proceeds of scurrilous lawsuits.)

Anyhow, it already doesn’t look like this trial balloon is gonna go anywhere. But just the fact that it was raised is a snapshot of the mindset of the bill’s supporters. And the fact is, as out of control as illegal immigration admittedly is at our borders, so far it’s not terrorists sneaking over the state line, it’s maids and leaf-blowers and cherry-pickers. Women who will go on to raise to raise rich white peoples’ babies for them.

They are not exactly coming over here and stealing the cream of the crop, jobs-wise. Is the real problem the common belief that so many are receiving subsidies from the U.S. government in the form of E.R. visits and the like? Because their no-goodnik American employers pay them shit and don’t provide any benefits? If that was the case, you’d think the fiscal hawks would be trying to cut off all the poor people, not just the brown ones.

The fact that Kavanagh’s bill seeks to deny citizenship to persons actually born here, regardless of their parents’ immigration status, runs contrary to the U.S. Constitution and popular sensibility on every ground, from moral to tactical to legal.

Ever since we became a desirable destination for people fleeing poverty and persecution in their native lands, your basic immigrants’ main goal has been to have their children born in America. Because then they would be Americans! We were like the church the world’s persecuted fled to to receive sanctuary. If you crossed the goal line and popped your kid out on American soil, that kid is—it’s a squeeze play at the plate, it’s gonna be close, holy cow!—safe!

That invisible goal line—U.S. citizenship via being born here—has always been sacred ground. The fact that so many still consider it their Holy Grail is testament to that. If we were to change that, it would change our image of who we are as a people, which could prove to be the last straw for our little experiment in democracy. I would categorize us as “teetering” already.

The fact that the 14th Amendment, which the Arizona “anchor baby” bill is designed to negate, was enacted to rectify the injustices of slavery only adds another layer of juicy irony. Having definitively lost the battle to keep the Black man under its thumb (that’s President Obama to you, Mr. Tea-partier!), the angry white man and woman have refocused their inchoate indignation on the brown man.

There seems to be a common denominator here, but I’m not quite clever enough to put my finger on it …

Ironically, if we begin willingly discarding our rights in an imagined attempt to shore up our security, we will become a less desirable place for foreigners to seek refuge by doing so.

We will basically kill one bird with two stones, which might not be efficient, but it would promise to be effective.

* Thanks, and a tip of the hat to Hamlet 2, which coined the phrase, “Tucson, Arizona: where dreams go to die.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Taking issue with Bill Maher

I love Bill Maher. He’s like the ACLU; even when I don’t agree with him, I applaud his courage for saying some of the crazy shit he does.

But he posited a critically flawed question this week on his HBO show and for what it’s worth, I’d like to correct his error.

He asked genius/whack-job director Oliver Stone, “What’s wrong with America? Why do we seem to need an enemy?” Then he went on to cite all the cultural boogeymen of recent history, from the USSR on.

Half of his assertion is correct. People do need an enemy to coalesce around. Whether it’s opposition to the sports franchise from the next state over, or a couple of kids conspiring to keep some mischief secret from their parents, nothing unites people like a common enemy.

But Maher is incorrect when he ascribes this attribute solely to Americans. It’s human nature, Bill, like all your other well-known hedonistic indulgences. Although I’m not arguing that “everybody does it” is an acceptable excuse, it kind of is when everybody does it because it’s hard-wired into our nature.

The world over, people segregate themselves into smaller and smaller sub-sets with the specific agenda of opposing people with whom they disagree. Singling Americans out is small-minded and unfair.

If he had asked, “Why aren’t Americans better than that?” at least it would been an arguable premise. (The answer is: because Americans are people, too.)

But he didn’t ask that and I think it points to an innate prejudice on his part: He deep-down believes that America ought to be better than that, and that preface to his question was meant to be inferred. Which is charming and quaint, especially coming from as well known a cynic as Maher.

But throwing it out there and leaving it hanging invites false discourse at a time when America—and the world—needs to pull together on crises of real substance. Realize the common enemy we’re fighting is ourselves and turn that energy and our resources to fighting something worthwhile, like climate change or global poverty.

I mean, seriously, how much ambition do you have is famine and global warming aren’t enough to challenge you to put aside petty differences and work together to resist them?


Friday, June 11, 2010

“Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage” review

Did I mention that I have to move to the Hinterlands in a month? I checked, Roger Waters’ The Wall tour isn’t coming anywhere near us. Neither (was) U2, Bruce or anybody else, except a handful of B-Listers and I-Thought-They-Were-Dead nostalgia acts. For instance, Jackson Browne will be there when we are. If Jackson were the type to traffic in irony, he might consider doing his Running On Empty album in its entirety this time around.

Why not? Everybody else is doing tours centered around performing whole albums; even Canadian power trio supreme RUSH, who will be mounting a summer tour with no new album to support, but will be playing its seminal Moving Pictures from beginning to end. (Hint: That’s the album Tom Sawyer came from. If that doesn’t ring a bell, you might as well stop reading now.)

It will have the distinction of being the first RUSH tour I’ll have missed since 1980. It hits Christmas Island a month after we move, and isn’t going anywhere near Boise. I guess Jackson Browne will be playing the local entertainment coliseum the night RUSH needed it.

Fortunately, even though I already have one foot out the door, The Last Boy Scout is still looking out for me. The award-winning Rush documentary, Beyond The Lighted Stage played for one night in our town yesterday and he made sure we were there. I even met a friend of his, a local celebrity with a hit radio show who couldn’t be nicer. And Troy, who gave me better parking instructions than TLBS did. Thanks, Troy.

I didn’t even know the band had participated in the movie until after arriving at the theater downtown. I thought it was going to be a fan-propelled geekfest with a few big-name fans tossed in, adding their endorsements. I heard that it won a prestigious film-fest award, too, which made me worry that it would suck.

If rich hipsters like it, how good can it be?

Fucking great is how good it could be! The hoi-polloi got it right for a change.

The film is a straightforward, linear chronicle of the band from awkward teens in Canada all the way up to the awkward international superstar rockers they are today.

Celebrity testimonials include A-Listers Gene Simmons; Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins; the scary, devil worshipping-looking dude from Metallica; and both guitarist Alex Lifeson and singer/bassist Geddy Lee’s moms. Even famously-reclusive RUSH drummer Neil Peart speaks extensively.

Moreover, there’s actually grainy color footage from Lifeson’s teen years of an uncomfortable moment at the family dinner table where his future—or rather the perceived lack of same—is being discussed, and his look of sulky petulance, dark angry eyes glaring out from under weird blond bangs, is iconic. What other rock star of Lifeson’s vintage—before videoing every waking moment of one’s life became commonplace and reality TV passed for entertainment—has tape of his teen years getting all angsty?

Great moment. The documentary is filled with them, and with the band’s full cooperation, including access to previously unseen/heard early performance footage, is a treasure trove for RUSH fans and casual cultural historians alike.

The band members, two of whom have been friends since junior high school, even throw a few jabs at themselves, mostly over questionable fashion decisions over the years. I guess discussion of Lee’s evolving mullet through the ’80s got left on the cutting room floor.

The thing I came away with was what regular guys these three were, and how much they love each other. I know that’s the goal of any kind of effort like this, but this one felt earned rather than manufactured. The moments of casual interplay backstage are hilarious in their adolescent banality, and mirrored by their onstage personal interplay. If a band was going to put on a persona, it wouldn’t be this one.

Gene Simmons complains that on an early tour together, they shared hotels, and while the KISS boys were off enjoying being proper rock stars with their female fans in a Caligula-esque bacchanalia, the lads from RUSH were in their rooms, watching TV. Or in Neil’s case, reading.

I also admire how they edited the film in such a fashion that I was half-way home before I realized the movie had divulged no personal details of their current personal lives. An early mention of getting married and starting families, then the requisite examination of the tragedies that befell drummer Neil Peart, then bupkis. It further painted them as regular guys, who don’t want to drag their loved ones into the limelight with them. Lee’s parents were both concentration camp survivors; I can’t help but think that some of that protect-your-family-first ethos proceeds from that history.

Love these guys. Their music, if it ever appealed to the listener, still stands the test of time. The movie is generous with both their time and their music and was a lovely final RUSH show to go to with the guy who’s been my RUSH-buddy since I moved up here in 2001.

Future columns will focus more exclusively on feeling sorry for myself and how much I hate change, but for one night, my head was pulled out of my ass by friends both old and (relatively) new. Thanks you guys.

(The movie is out on DVD at the end of the month.)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

We are dead to our current landlord

We gave notice on our rental two weeks ago, and since that time haven’t been able to do anything to persuade him to have our grass cut. Or answer his phone or reply to an email. I picture a sodbuster Tony Soprano looking at his phone’s caller I.D. and muttering to himself, “Fuck you. You’re dead to me, you hear?”

The back yard is so ridiculously choked with grass & weeds, the dog is afraid to venture out into it to do his business, so there’s a swath of grass just outside the back door that is yellowed and dead. And smelly:

Everywhere else it’s like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. The plastic slide, pictured at top, is being swallowed by what used to be our lawn. With all our shade trees cropped to shoulder length by the landlord’s sadistic brother-in-law a few months back, and the people behind us having their big shady tree removed just a couple weeks ago, there’s no relief from the sun in the back yard at all except for about an hour a day, currently between around four and five p.m., created by the one tiny clump of trees that still remain in the otherwise blazing expanse.

I feel so White Trash, and not in the good way. The Boy is starting to socialize with a classmate who lives a few doors down the street. When he goes over to the classmate’s house, they have all kinds of swell summer adventures in his friend’s shaded, neatly-groomed back yard. Water balloons, sprinklers, all that Norman Rockwell shit you take for granted until you lose it. Then they come over here and I have to be the Bad Dad who says, “Sorry kids, you can’t go out and play in the back yard. Because our landlord has control issues, we are not allowed a lawn mower of our own and our grass is currently taller than you are. Additionally, the dog has mined said impenetrable veldt with piles of poop that can’t be seen until they’re affixed themselves to the bottom of footwear and been dragged back and forth a few times across our living room carpet.”

Today the neighbors put up a back cabin in the place where our beloved shade tree used to be. Which really upset the dog who, even at only five months old, is already exhibiting a fairly Zen personality most of the time. I haven’t heard him bark like that, come to think of it, since the tree-cutting people let themselves into our back yard a couple weeks ago to raze the neighbor’s shade tree.

The grass was tall even then. We definitely should have had the landlord cut it before we wrote him our Dear John letter.

The Boy dressed himself for school today

That puts me one step closer to complete obsolescence.