Thursday, September 30, 2010

Belting The Boy

This is footage of The Boy receiving his white belt from the local Taekwondo place.

He demonstrated an interest in taking some “fighting lessons,” so we dropped $60 for six classes.

Unfortunately, he seems to be the only “Tiny Tiger” who doesn’t have all the moves, oaths and customs committed to memory already. As a result, his enthusiasm for the enterprise is flagging.

I’ll be honest with you: I’m only posting this to show to him, to remind him of how much fun it was when he was the center of attention. Because I refuse to be one of those pushy parents (like I had), forcing my kid to endure one hated extracurricular activity after another. But bailing after one class? When I paid for half a dozen? That would be a terrible fiscal example to set.

Besides which, I’m convinced that if he sticks with it for the full initial six visits, he’ll have figured out the Program by then and it’ll start being fun again. To get from here to there, though, I’m probably gonna have to drop some more cash on a private lesson with one of the Jedi Masters who run the place.

I started thinking about all those other little kids and how suspiciously proficient they were and it occurred to me, I’ll bet many if not most of them also had parents who sprung for the one-on-one instruction to get them over the hump.

What a racket.

But it’ll be worth every penny if he decides he likes it again and wants to continue to pursue it. He’s a damned good kid, and I think with some martial arts under his belt (no pun intended), he not only won’t get beat up on in school, but he won’t have to stand idly by while his friends take their licks from the school bullies, either.

Stop me if I’m overthinking this…

Guitar 101—The Master Class

In my ongoing effort to assimilate to my new lifestyle, I have signed up for a Guitar 101 class in our new hometown. Figure maybe I’ll learn how to strum, play barre chords or maybe even meet a new Friend Of Walter. Plus since I took a 101 class a couple years ago, I’ll have a bit of a leg up on my fellow adult-school students.

Last night was my first class, after another typically grueling Wednesday with my nose to the grindstone for 12 hours. I was wiped, but the school, like everything else in this town, was only five to seven minutes away.

So I dusted off my guitar as best I could, packed it up and headed off to class at about the same time I’m usually eyeing the clock, thinking about putting Daddy down for a nap. I wrote down the directions to the school, even the address, but failed to note the room number. Much hilarity ensued. Eventually, I led a few other confused duffers down the halls of the local Junior High till we found a room populated by apprehensive-looking codgers awkwardly cradling friends’ guitars.

The instructor looked like he’d fallen off the back bike of a Hell’s Angels reunion ride. Just a few minutes before. Grizzled grey facial hair, black bandana tied over the top of his head ala Little Steven, black t-shirt… all he needed was a can of beer in one hand and a woozy trollop flashing her sagging breasts on the other arm to complete the picture.

He told us, “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna teach you how to read music—you don’t need it!” The class of creaky newbies, as one, breathed a sigh of relief. Then he proceeded to spend the next two hours talking to us about music theory, his band and his head injury, and playing sizzling blues riffs on the electric guitar he’d brought to class.

My fellow neophytes and I stole glances at each other to the effect of, “Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be a beginner’s course?”

Here’s how green we are: One guy brought his brother’s 12-string guitar that only had five strings on it. Good thing no one but the instructor played guitar all night.

Bear in mind, we only have five two-hour sessions with the guy, and he’s promising us we’re going to be playing 12-bar pentatonic blues shuffles by next class, despite the fact that no one but him picked up their guitar all night.

He said he’s done a lot of training, but it’s all been one-on-one.

 He also detailed his dislike of acoustic guitars, which all his students had shown up with, and told us that, contrary to popular wisdom, we wouldn’t have to worry about using our pinky fingers to make chords. I wanted to ask him, “Well then, how do you propose we play a B7?” But that would have revealed my non-total-beginner status.

The book he assigned us specifically states, in the foreword, that it is a book for guitar players with some experience. The course description, however, is pure 101.

Plus, he kept talking about mastering rock and blues, when all I really want to play is old-timey folk and country, even if it’s distorted or sped up or what-have-you. Just three chords and the truth, baby. I am not interested in producing shred-a-riffic guitar pyrotechnics and it didn’t seem anybody else in class, besides the teacher, was either.

On the other hand, I dragged a couple of answers out of him to questions that other guitar players have tried to explain to me and I have failed to understand. I can’t say exactly what yet... Well, one thing I finally “got” last night was how tabs are read. I raised my hand and asked him to explain it. So he drew a diagram of a guitar neck on the white board and indicated where each finger went. I said, “No, that’s not what I mean. What about those things with six horizontal rules and the lines of vertical numbers stacked up over each other, usually four rows to a measure? I see ‘em all over the internet but can’t make heads nor tails of them.” Then he explained it. The little number on the line indicates the fret, and the line it’s on indicates what string. Ah hah! It’ll be like cracking a brand new code each time for a while at first, but now that I get the concept, I’m golden.

So I feel like it was time well spent, although not as good a match as the instructor from my previous Guitar 101 experience back on Christmas Island. A lot of my fellow classmates looked bewildered and expressed everything from gnawing doubts to open regret at having taken the class with this instructor (during the break, when he went to pee). I figure by the time I come back in two weeks (I’ll have to miss next week when we all become blues masters for a swellegant university affair with The Missus), the class will be down to a more manageable number of gluttons for punishment like me.

But the thing is, I hate the blues. He’s going, “Once you have this 12-bar progression mastered, you can play any blues song with any blues band in the world!” Like it’s a good thing. And I’m thinking, “He may be right, but that’s what I hate about the blues.” He might as well be telling me he’s about to impart the secrets of mastering the jazz kazoo.

Still, he was undeniably great at a form of music I just happen to be bored to death with: White Boy Bar Blues. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen a million such similar outfits; five or six downscale-looking white dudes riffing endlessly on 12-bar blues progressions between set breaks. He kept dropping the name of his current band and my brain kept slipping it right out the back door. But there was no doubt he knew his guitar-playing backwards and forwards.

His mistake, teaching-wise, was in not making it any fun. My last Guitar 101 instructor, Nokes Kelley, had it right. He taught us a couple chords and a simple song—the execrable “Achey-Breakey Heart”—that first class, and we all had fun and came back for the Theory the week after.

I reckon by the time I mosey on back to class in a couple weeks, if my read on my fellow class members last night was anywhere near the mark, it should be pretty much a private lesson by then. Then we’ll talk some barre chords, in between demonstrations of dazzling arpeggio runs that would make Yngwie Malmsteen weep.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Right-side up

I taught my son to write his last name yesterday. The family name. His Granddaddy’s name. It felt awesome and right.

The Missus had primed the pump by working hard with him on his first name for a while now. I have too, but she has by far spent the most time with him on things that could be considered book-learnin’ down the road, writing his name included.

But he hadn’t been taught his last name yet and I took advantage of the opportunity. The fact that he follows instructions well (“Draw a stick. Now give it two bumps that meet in the middle.”) was a definite plus. Before I knew it, quicker than I had expected, he was writing it out in rows.

We were already in the midst of a bunch of tests his preschool sent home. Can he count to 20? Does he know his name, what city he lives in? Can he stand on one foot and hop for five seconds? Can he cut a straight line?

All that shit. It’s like a field sobriety test for kids. My first reaction was outrage. I’m way opposed to testing kids at his age. He has his whole life ahead of him to stand on one foot and jump through hoops for The Man. But The Missus eventually sold me on the program, explaining it was more to measure The Boy’s developmental milestones than to fast-track him to the gifted toddlers’ program at the local Montessori school.

The last thing I want to be is the Rick Moranis character from “Parenthood.” We agreed on that before he was even conceived.

But upon reflection, this didn’t smack of that so I decided to play along.

Turns out—after skimming the directions—it’s also a test for the parents, because after we administer and record the results of all the items on the test, the teachers will duplicate our efforts with The Boy. So I’m not sure what the real purpose of the test is. To measure our honesty in grading our beloved progeny? To actually measure The Boy’s developmental progress? To compare how he scores on the test when administered by his parents as opposed to how he scores when tested by his schoolmarms?

Still, it gave me something interesting to do with him yesterday afternoon when he walked into my office and asked, “Will you do something with me?” (Ordinarily, that kind of question draws an immediate and sharp rebuke—and, if local custom permits, a good caning—but coming from The Boy, I make exceptions.)

The Missus had already polished off more than half of the challenges on the preschool’s work sheet, but there were still plenty of interesting ones left. And by “interesting,” I mean tests in which I thought The Boy would excel.

One of the assignments I was eager to administer was “Can your child draw a person?” (I laughed on the inside; give us a hard one!) I sat in my recliner, with an album cover on my lap as a drawing board. The Boy was facing me over the album cover. I put a blank piece of paper on it and handed him a pen. “Draw me a person,” I told him.

He drew a big loop and said, “That’s the head.” Then he added eyes and hair (“That’s hair,” he said), eyebrows (“eyehair”) and I began to notice, he was suffering from some sort of visual dyslexia; everything was upside down, from the smile at the top of the figure’s head to the scruffy hair underneath. Even the eyebrows were placed perfectly under the eyes.

Then he paused and looked up at me. “Body?” he asked simply. I nodded and he began sketching in a torso—upside down.

He proceeded to finish the drawing, adding arms and legs, everything just where they should be, I realized with a shock; upside-down to him, but right-side up for me, his audience.

Factor that into your stupid test, damned meddling preschool test-takers! Good luck finding a cozy category for our boy...

…oh shit.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Space ship (with aliens)

These days, when The Boy wants to watch super-hero cartoons, I always assign a task to earn the privilege. Today I instructed him to make something for me. He produced the following without further instruction:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An open letter to Lindsay Lohan

Dear Ms Lohan,

You are young and cute and (based on my recollection of a single screening of “Mean Girls” years ago) talented. You even have freckles.

The world is your oyster. Do you have any idea—at all—how lucky you are?

You’ve also been in trouble for years for fucking around with drugs and alcohol. You’re so out of control, I hear the cast of SNL led an intervention attempt. That would be like Axl Rose pulling you aside and telling you to see someone about your anger management issues.

It’s a big red flag. Big big.

And now you announce on Twitter, “Regrettably, I did in fact fail my most recent drug test,” then immediately affirm you’re “working hard to overcome” your drug problem.

No, you are not. If you were working hard, dear, your pee-test would’ve come out clean.

You can’t both be working hard to quit something and be continuing to do it at every available opportunity. You can be one. You can be the other. But you can’t be both.

Take it from me. I’ve quit some shit in my time, myself. Right now I am wrestling with shaking the fabulous, life-giving products of Pepsi® off my back and it is a bitch.

But no amount of spinning is going to convince me I am working hard at kicking caffeine. Caffeine is working me hard; that is a true statement. 

When you’re trying to get clean, it’s important to know what is true and what isn’t. That’s why God invented 12-step programs, so when we start buying our own lies, there are people sitting around in a circle, chain-smoking like their lives depended on it, to call us on our shit.

I never went the 12-step way to rid myself of my demons—or neutralize their effect on my day-to-day life—but honey, they could save your life.

Most celebrity rags-to-riches-to-rehab stories don’t end like Robert Downey Jr.’s, they end like John Belushi’s. With a bloated corpse and a toe-tag and everybody saying “Lindsay Lohan, huh? I’m not surprised” before clicking to the next headline.

And I really doubt there is cocaine in the next life, whatever belief system you’re operating on.

As I see it, you really have two options; choose to live and stop doing the cocaine, or choose to die…at which point you’ll have to stop doing cocaine anyhow.

So if you’re gonna have to quit the drugs one way or the other, why not do it while you’re still alive? That way sex and rock & roll, at least, are still on the party menu. Oh yeah, and fame and fortune and every creature comfort modern science can pull out of its ass and offer up to our highly-valued celebrity caste.

It all starts with you admitting you are not “working hard” at all on your sobriety. Once you admit that are not working hard, the real hard work begins.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tea Party Candidates Elected, Comedians Rejoice

In answer to Jon Stewart’s query last night regarding the Tea Party’s unexpected sweep of down-ballot elections, “How are the Democrats going to fuck this up?” I’m going to go with “overconfidence.”

But then I had to turn off his show because the host and actor Jon Hamm were beginning a spoiler-heavy interview I didn’t hear before I saw the movie they were discussing. So I switched back to the TV and there was a documentary on the life of legendary Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Elie Wiesel, including interviews with Wiesel himself. Wiesel was talking about the pre-war years; going to college, falling in love… yes, I was about to turn the channel.

But then he mentioned an experience he had on the street of the European city he was attending college in. I backed up the program and wrote down what he said:

“It was a speech of Hitler on the radio. Before he came to power. And [out of] all the windows, on the street, came this speech of Hitler. I said, ‘Ach, this impossible. This man cannot have a chance, in a country of philosophers, of thinkers, of inventors.’”

Okay, first, I am not comparing any Tea Party candidate to Hitler, or the party to Nazism, either. Let’s get that out of the way.

The only comparison of Hitler and Palin that isn’t breathless hyperbole is that, come on, both are really shitty choices of people to sit at the head of your government. Alaska gave Palin a chance and she rewarded their trust by bailing half-way through her first term. Whatever her reasons were, if you judge a candidate by their track record, you’d be a pure fool to vote for Palin again. What if she became President but then American Idol called and offered more money and an easier schedule to be head celebrity fuckwit on their freak show?

If I was running the corner McDonald’s and both interviewed for the same fry-cook position, I’d hire my little sister before I’d hire Sarah Palin. Figure at least she’d show up to work till she and her mouthpiece decided what to sue me for.

Oops. Major digression.

My point is—and I had one when I started, anyhow—is that almost all the left-leaners I know are rejoicing at the sudden lunatic-fringe tilt of the GOP and I think they’re making a HUGE mistake. That’s why I picked “overconfidence,” above, as the manner in which I’m wagering the Dems will shoot themselves in the collective dick this year.

I’ve been reading up on Reconstruction-era America recently, when all the big-city big-thinkers scoffed at the lunacy of the notion of the President letting the Old South re-form in the aftermath of the Civil War, but that’s exactly what Johnson did. (Fucker deserved to be impeached.)

My point is, we elect crazy motherfuckers all the time! The best we can do is hope they’re crazy on our side. If Obama, like Carter before him, has a key failing, it’s lack of crazy. Bush had plenty of crazy and got lots of shit done. Mostly awful, unhelpful shit, but history will not soon forget the name of George Walker Bush.

And that’s the problem with Tea Party Crazy is that, like Bush Jr., it’s an empty crazy. Just waiting to be filled with policy and program agendas put forth by their deep-pocket donors, just like Bush was.

Because most of these winning candidates have literally no platforms at all, only sweeping bromides based on gut-checked but un-thought-out ideas. And stuff they’ve heard Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity say. Or heard in a sermon on Sunday morning.

The Tea Party candidates also have rock-solid fan bases, whipped up by the scary times we live in and the megaphone Fox News gives those scary times. When even Karl Rove says one of the Tea Partiers is “too extreme,” my Mom just tells me that Karl Rove is out of step.

The Tea Party base has not only drunk the Kool-Aid, but put little red, white and blue cocktail umbrellas in too because it makes it look classier. Come hell or high water, they can be counted on to show up at the polling place on election day.

So remember, historically speaking, we elect crazy people and idiots all the time. The Founding Fathers were considered crazed idiots (and worse) in their day, till they won the Revolutionary War. Lincoln was supposed to be crazy, too, till he won his war.

We laugh off these lunatic-fringe loose cannons at our own peril. The fact that their political fortunes are rising just as the fall election approaches isn’t the sound of a rim shot that accompanies a punchline, it’s a tolling bell.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just another self-indulgent post about my kid

I am so proud of my son

I know, who cares? Who isn’t? Proud of their own son or daughter, I mean.

Probably some poor bastard, but not me.

The Boy continues to impress in ways that are uncalculated and just happen to push my particular happy happy/joy joy buttons.

Besides his recently renewed interest in drawing—which delights this former pen and zip-a-tone artist to no end—tonight he sparked to some music that I was playing for a guest of The Missus’.

There’s a bit at the end of the U2 360° Tour DVD that I just love, so I was playing it for this visitor, who was kind enough to indulge me. After the really cool part I had described to him came to pass, we all agreed that it was indeed pretty cool, and I released the houseguest while the DVD was still playing.

With The Missus gone to take our dinner guest back to his hotel, I tried to put The Boy to bed, but he was having none of it. He kept assuring me that they [the band] were gonna do another one after this one, and sure enough, he kept on being right.

I decided to blow off his bedtime in exchange for this unexpected opportunity to contribute to The Boy’s cultural education. Man cannot live on museums alone.

At first he just got up and danced around to the bombastic but heart-felt arena-rock. But then he ran back into his room and emerged a moment later with his maracas, which he proceeded to shake around in rough time to the music. Which was plenty cool enough, but then he a) asked me to turn up the volume, and b) ran around the house and turned off every light. Following his cue, I pulled the front room blinds on the mostly-set sun, and we proceeded to rock out together to the last few songs of the set list at ear-splitting volume, bathed in the colorful, writhing glow of the TV screen.

He was so good, I even acceded to his subsequent demands that we forgo flossing for the evening. People that much cooler than me have always intimidated and impressed me, and my son is turning out to be no exception.

Monday, September 13, 2010

He's already moved on to Pop Art

Good God!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

...and then there were torsos.

 "Broken Robot"

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Why we have pets…

Wait a minute, I meant to write, “Why do we have pets??”

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Five years goes by like nothing

Five years ago today, The Missus and I were getting ready to wrap up what would turn out to be a 40-hour birthing marathon. The midwives were just about to break out the jaws of life when The Boy finally popped into the world. I’m ashamed to say the first thing he saw was his father bursting unexpectedly into tears, but I suppose it was good preparation for parental embarrassments yet to come.

And for the first year, the drama continued. He was a healthy child, thank God, but the little bastard was wound just a touch too tight to sleep through the night, and when he finally did, his reveille still came around 3, 3:30 a.m.

He kept us way too tired and fidgety to pause to reflect on the changes taking place in our lives. On the plus side, he and I discovered The Johnny Cash Show together in those pre-dawn hours that first couple years. On the minus side, I fell hopelessly behind on my chosen industry of web design and the technological advances that feed the beast. I look at websites today and am convinced actual wizardry is at work.

He’s too old now, and has too much dignity for me to discuss the other thing—beside sleeplessness—that characterized his first few years of life. So anything having to do with chronic constipation is off the table.

He started day care at 16 months. I’m sure it was too soon and I feel like a selfish bastard. I’m also sure we waited too long and have forever stunted his social upward mobility.

He loved it there and flourished. He’s loved it and flourished wherever we’ve sent him. He’s like neither one of us that way, certainly at his age.

He’s a remarkable little man, this son of ours. Reticent around strangers (bonus!), he forms attachments to kids his own size maybe too quick. Every new boy (seems all our new friends have boys about twice his age) whose parents’ house we are invited to… becomes his new best friend. I mean, ever, in the world. Yesterday it was one kid, today it’ll be another.

And because The Boy is so tall, these other kids start out under the misassumption that our kid is about their same age. So they eye his child-like behavior suspiciously at first, wondering if he is what their parents refer to as “special.” Then they find out he’s only four and they begin to understand the circular, pointless (and often subject-less) statements he pronounces repeatedly with great authority.

Like I said, he has enough dignity for both of us, which is fortunate.


He’s also an artist. I’ve posted his work here frequently over the years, and have thrown in a couple of his most recent compositions to break up the damnable, endless text of this morning’s post.

He’s also crazy perceptive. Unless he’s in a mood, his bullshit detector is eerily precise. He can always tell when I’m having him on, no matter how straight I keep my face.

Ever since he started daycare, I’ve taken a weekday a week to spend with him. We usually just hang out around the house watching superhero cartoons, then we’ll run a couple of errands that end us up at a “fry place”—a place which sells French Fries, Burger King being our favorite—for lunch, then back home for more cartoons and lately, an outdoor physical activity like riding his bike before kicking it in the back yard, me with my guitar, him with his shovel and bucket (or box of percussion instruments) and the dog with an ever-increasing pile of sticks and branches to show off, chew up and have trouble crapping out.

That’s another thing, The Boy has already had three dogs in his life, and he remembers all of them, even the one, Woody, who died when The Boy was two. And I don’t mean remembered as in, “Responds affirmatively when questioned,” I’m talking about him recalling specific details and events in Woody’s life that had slipped my mind till he reminded me.

And bless his heart, even his opinions of the dogs dovetail neatly with my own. He still remembers Woody as the greatest dog ever—certainly of his lifetime—and likes the current mutt in spite of the fact that Jake the puppy is 80 pounds of unguided enthusiasm and a constant threat to every vertical object in the house, us included.

Six years ago today, I was living a pretty satisfying life. I had just talked my way into a work-from-home job, my creative hobby-type endeavors were humming along smoothly at last and I had a freelance client at the time who rendered money problems a thing of the past. Life was good. It was set. The Missus would get her PhD, the job offers would roll in and we’d be on Easy Street. Depending on what job offer she accepted, I might even be able to quit my work-from-home gig and concentrate full time on my creative efforts.

Then one day she floated the idea of having a kid. I gave it some serious consideration, then told her I was equally split; between maintaining our cushy, low-stress, low-maintenance lifestyle, and having the kid I’d always dreamed of having but had finally given up ever hoping for. I left it up to her and will be eternally grateful to my beautiful wife for making the right decision.

Because shit didn’t work out exactly as we planned. The economy went into the toilet, the job market dried up, my industry begin to shutter its doors and suddenly “hope” was only a glib, political slogan. The Missus and I have said it again and again, and meant it every time: We don’t know how we would have weathered the last few years of professional disappointment and financial discouragement if we hadn’t had our son to force us to keep our shit together, even if just on the surface.


I don’t know if there’s any synchronicity to my Dad and my kid’s birthdays being only a few days apart. But I’ll tell you, it sure puts me in a mood. I wish my Dad could have known my son and I worry that I’ll never get to hold my grandkids—the downside of marrying and parenting late, just like my Dad—but as I’ve told him on many occasions, “Son,” I say, “I wouldn’t trade you for Labor Day or Easter.”

And he laughs, because he’s always known when Daddy is talking nonsense.

I absolutely love being his Dad, even being almost-solely responsible for the icky stuff, like the latter stages of potty-training. And booger-retrieval. Today he came up to me and asked me if I could remove a booger that was stuck way up in his nose. I had to turn him upside down and point his nostril to the open window. But sure enough, there it was, way back there, and it was huge. Its dimensions were impossible to guess, I could only see the tip. I had The Missus fetch me a tweezers and had The Boy hold very still. If he had flinched we would have spent the afternoon at the local E.R. instead of a nearby lake. But he held strong, didn’t move a muscle and I eventually removed a booger the size of Cincinnati. Yes, we took photos, but no, The Missus would kill me if I posted one.

He took a deep breath and smiled and announced, “Now I can smell again.”

Which, I have to tell you, was more rewarding than you may be able to imagine.

We’re having a little get-together today, with his once and future best friend Mason and Mason’s family, the good people who selflessly hooked us up with everything we needed to make the move to Boise a smooth transition. (A Twitter friend of my wife’s, I swear to God. The Internet is a fickle mistress; killing my livelihood at the same time as it enables what would otherwise have been a nightmarish move.)

Happy birthday, son. Thanks for everything, from the useless-but-diverting childbirth classes to the year-long experiment in sleep deprivation, all the way up to this afternoon’s booger the size of Cincinnati.

I wouldn’t trade any of it for Labor Day, Easter or all the uninterrupted ZZZZZZZZZZs in the world.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Father Of The Year candidate, I

Watched the last part of Alan Parker’s The Wall with The Boy tonight, from Comfortably Numb up until the end, from goose-stepping hammers to psychedelic talking anuses and everything in between.

He loved it.

We had been watching David Gilmour Live at the Royal Albert Hall, but I’m sorry, David Bowie’s guest-vocal turn ruined that performance of the song for me. The album version of Comfortably Numb is etched in granite in my memory, like the Ten Commandments; you don’t change one of them to Thou Shalt Not Tickle just because you’ve booked Elmo to deliver a guest homily.

So I put on the The Wall DVD and cued it up to Comfortably Numb, intending to watch only that. But as we were discussing the imagery in the song when it ended, it carried over into the next tune, and The Boy got agitated with me when I tried to fast-forward through it (I was looking for the cartoons at the end). So we ended up watching the whole rest of the film and talking about it along the way.

I mean, I see nothing wrong with that. After all, he’s not going to be four forever.

After that we accomplished all the usual bedtime compulsories; teeth brushed, bladder emptied, etc.

When I tucked him into bed, he demanded a bedtime story of me. Except, as he knows, I don’t do bedtime stories. I’m still new enough to my failing eyesight to resent the hell out of my glasses, no more so than when they come between me and my parental obligations. So I won’t strain my eyes in the dim glow cast by the night-light or spoil the mood by turning on the overhead light. Fuck that. A good bedtime story is all about mood.

So what I’ve done instead is memorize a couple of poems and recite them to him when he’s finally under the covers. At first there was only I Have A Little Shadow which I remember from the third grade, and Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter, but tonight I added Tom Waits’ The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me to the mix.

For some reason, I was reminded of it when The Boy took his flashlight with him to bed. I snatched it from him and held it up under my chin, giving me the requisite Creature Features effect, and acted out Waits’ macabre spoken-word piece like I was auditioning for Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater:

The ocean doesn’t want me today
But I’ll be back tomorrow to play
And the stranglers will take me
Down deep in their brine
The mischievous braingels
Down into the endless blue wine
I’ll open my head and let out
All of my time
I’d love to go drowning
And to stay and to stay
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
I’ll go in up to here
It can’t possibly hurt
All they will find is my beer
And my shirt
A rip tide is raging
And the life guard is away
But the ocean doesn’t want me today
The ocean doesn’t want me today

Again, The Boy seemed to respond very positively. Only the fullness of the evening, however, will reveal whether I am indeed the Father of the year candidate I think I am, or have instead made a horrible, horrible mistake that will entertain and enrich psychoanalysts for decades to come.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Michael Douglas on David Letterman

This is why Dave remains Dave and nobody else can touch him. Not competitors with better writers or who can play guitar (did Jimmy Fallon do a great job hosting the Emmys or what?!) or are younger and more hip…

Jimmy Cagney used to say of acting, “Hit your mark and tell the truth.”

And it’s that quality that elevates Letterman’s show on a nightly basis. Jay Leno is a consummate showbiz celebrity knob-polisher, which is great, because that is the job description. I always thought Conan had the best writers. I’ve never really watched the Jimmys except when they had a guest on I was interested in, but both seemed affable and likeable and quick on their feet; again, a good skill-set for a late-night talk show host. I’ve never watched Craig Ferguson but I like him a lot based on just having finished his autobiography, American On Purpose.

But only Dave is Dave. Only Dave could articulate the national outrage after 9/11 the way he did. Only Dave still turns on the sexy young actresses like Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts the way Dave does. Dave even handles messy personal scandals better than most, and it all comes down to the same thing.

Dave is Dave. It’s not a front or a feint or a fugazi… If Dave is having a bad night, his show will suffer and he’ll spend the 60 minutes castigating himself on-air for the travesty unfolding around him.

If he has a politician on, he’ll skip over the small-talk and jump right to the hot-button issue that he can’t get off his mind. He asks the questions that you or I would ask if John McCain or Al Gore dropped by to have a beer with us without their handlers.

And honestly, I cannot imagine a stage-four cancer-stricken Michael Douglas asking Jay Leno for a hug. It had to be Dave.

I know this post should be about Michael Douglas, but what’s to be said? Cancer is a motherfucker and I hope the odds really are in his favor as he seemed to imply on the show. I’ve always loved his work and thought he was a cool guy with a prescient knack for picking projects that would dovetail with the national zeitgeist at the time of their release. The movie that comes immediately to mind is China Syndrome, which was released concurrently with the nuclear melt-down at Three Mile Island, but a quick scan of his filmography reveals far too many of such coincidences for them to all be coincidences.

Godspeed, Mr. Douglas. I hope to see you back on Letterman in the near future feeling as good as you looked last night.

Happy Birthday, Daddy

He would have been 97 or so today, depending on what story he was telling and who he was telling it to.

I hope they have cigarettes in heaven.