Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Little Man Blues

…or maybe it’s just the weather.

No, I think it’s mostly The Boy. Gonna have to start calling him The Little Man soon, since that’s what he’s becoming. Which was the plan all along. An unfortunate side effect of The Plan is heartbreak, however. (Ah geez, I’m pretty sure I’ve written this line before, maybe even this disclaimer.)

We only have the one kid, so we only get a single trip to the circus. And what a wild ride it’s been.

The son of a bitch is old enough to read now, so I’ll skip over the first year or so of his life, when he was a hilarious delight who did everything you’d want an infant to do except sleep and defecate.

But those were the nights that he and I sat together and watched then-newly acquired episodes of “The Johnny Cash Show” until sunrise, hours later. After a while, when anybody but the host would show up onscreen, The Boy would point accusingly at the TV and insist, “Cash! Cash!” It was one of his first words. So was “Daddy.”

(Of course every kid’s first word is “NO!” Little bastards.)

Year five was magic. The Missus and I both recall feeling especially blessed when he was five. I’d have to go back and read blogs from that period to tell you why, but that would smack too much of research. I think it was because five was the last year of purely unconditional mutual love; as soon as we started putting conditions on our approbation, the drama began to occur.

Thus it was that year six was a relative rough ride. It was then that we discovered we’d dropped the ball on making sure he was keeping up with his peers, both skills-wise and socially. I mean, the way we raised him would have been ideal for my generation’s childhood, but then, I did not have homework in first grade or metal detectors at school, either.

So we kind of screwed the pooch on that one, but upon discovery of our mistake, took immediate action to bring him up to speed fast. He learned to read in no time. The bike was slower progress, but there was a much greater chance that he would fall and hurt himself on a bike than lounging on the couch, reading “Henry Huggins.” We took him to swim classes every year we’ve been out here, and he can now stay alive in the water. The Missus plans to teach him to swim properly this summer and I’ll bet they do it.

The best thing we’ve done, though, is enroll him in taekwondo. It took two tries, but the second time it stuck. Now he’s got a green belt and a black dobock and looks pretty damn sharp:

He’s demonstrating courage, moxy and resolve that so far is limited to the taekwondo mat, but is a happy revelation nonetheless. He not only wants to do his own classes, he’s itching to get out there and help with the lower-rank belts’ classes. The instructors are terrific with the kids and he and I both feel welcome and happy there.

New first-grade behavior includes going ballistic almost every morning when directed to begin preparing to leave for school. Things get thrown around, foot-stomping occurs, veiled and open threats are hurled, he’s even pounded on me a few times when I couldn’t stop laughing at the spectacle of this very even-tempered child completely losing his shit. (Hint: It only makes the kid angrier when his tantrum is laughed at instead of addressed with the disrespect and volume with which it is issued.)

But it’s all been good. He’s always been good. More than good, loving. He only stopped blowing kisses goodbye this school year (damn you, first grade!). All of his first written words consisted of variations of his name and “love.” He’s so damned loving he’s completely passive and reactive, and an outlier among his peers. That’s why we got him into martial arts.

Tomorrow is his last day of first grade. It’s no big deal to him, but to us it’s another page turned, another step on his journey to not needing nor wanting to be with us.

[It’s The Plan. Must stick to The Plan! The Plan is everything…]

I hate change even when it’s good. If I won the lottery, I would resent the hell out of having to leave the house to accept the giant check. Anyone ever heard of direct deposit? Good Lord, it’s 2013.

Change when it’s hard is especially disorienting. I go to pieces. This time it should pass more quickly than usual; a few days after school ends, The Missus is going on a business trip and I’ll have 10 days alone with The Boy. Just like last summer, we are going to establish a regimen that involves a laundry list of self-improvements (for him; my ship has sailed) and personal victories to accomplish that will hopefully have become routine by the time The Missus returns and will continue throughout the summer.

As of tomorrow, The Boy will be a first-and-a-half grader and another day closer to the first time he tells me to go fuck myself. My cup is full of equal parts gratitude and dread.

But the cask in the cellar is all gratitude, baby.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Chris Christie comes around

“I have a friend” who is packing at least 2x her recommended body weight. And like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used to, she champions it as a reasonable “lifestyle choice.” She’s kind of militant about it, going so far as to share photos of lavish, heaping, lovingly-prepared meals that otherwise distributed could feed a family of 16 Tasmanian beet-pickers for a week.

By all accounts, she isn’t running from her Brobdingnagian appetites either, she is embracing them. Like I said, she sees it more or less as a civil rights issue. And I guess, cast in that light, she would be correct. We do have the right to let our bodies go to shit. I did for years (and years?) and The Missus was the only who ever said anything. And now when I see pictures of fat me, I wish a lot more people had said something, anything. Anyone. My God, I look like I’d been stung by a swarm of bees.

Putting themselves in a class that includes cutters, smokers, alcoholics and people who masturbate while choking themselves with a nylon, these are intelligent, otherwise clear-headed taxpayers who make the informed decision to take out their personal issues on their bodies. And if anybody gives them shit about it, they whip out the “I have a dream” speech and talk about their freedom to eat like they’re defending against alQueda planting roadside bombs on the Disneyland monorail rather than the fact that it won’t be long before someone is prying a Big Gulp from their cold, dead fingers.

And they hang on to any piece of data released, however spurious or questionably-sourced, that suggests a new study has found that morbid obesity actually isn’t bad for you like FOX is hanging onto Benghazi. (I have provided a link for readers who are non-FOX viewers and have no idea what this last reference refers to.)

Former militant fat-guy Chris Christie has apparently had a change of heart before he needed an actual change of heart. Recent reports are that he had tummy surgery a few months ago to get the ball rolling. And if he wants to remain a viable contender in 2016, he’s gonna have to rewire his ‘lifestyle’ from top to bottom. From daily 16-course bacchanalia at the Boom Boom Room to staring down a sparse plateful of wan-looking vegetables. 

I don’t envy him.

Maybe he should ask Bill Clinton how he did it, although Clinton could have his own reasons for not reaching out to help.

Of course, Christie is deflecting questions about the surgery by repeating the same line politicos use for absolutely everything, “I’m __[fill in the blank]_ for the good of my family.” And that’s cool, too. It’s the game, man, and that’s how the game is played. It’s always about your family; it’s never about your mistress, the indictments, your drug/booze/weight problem, the guy in the stall next to you going to the press…

Personally I’m happy for him. Although I don’t agree with most of Christie’s policy positions (pretty run-of-the-mill old school conservatism), he also doesn’t strike me as a vainglorious madman just waiting to fulfill his role as foretold in the Book Of Revelations. As Republicans go, he’s a fairly level-headed fellow. If one of them is going to take up residence in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next election, I’d hope it would be him. Not indebted to FOX News or the Tea Party, this guy could actually chase the hard-core assholes out of the body of the Republican party proper and do the GOP, and the country, a real service.

But this isn’t even about him. It’s about my friend. I can’t talk or even write to her. I don’t know her that well, and she would be well within her rights to tell me to fuck off thank you very much.

At the same time, as someone who at one time or another had myself convinced that almost any deviant, self-destructive behavior was fine as long as no one else got hurt, I’ve been down that road before. Except I was never an advocate of my unhealthy lifestyle, just an eager participant. (For years before I stopped drinking, I would meet new people in social situations with, “Hi, I’m Fang [beat] and I’m an alcoholic.” Oh my God, it threw everybody off their game.)

I’m beginning to drift. Must focus.

I’m still engaged in what some would consider to be an unhealthy lifestyle, but those parts of my life, I’m not necessarily proud of and I’m certainly not an advocate for. I owned my guitar for about 3 years before I ever picked it up. I have a stationary bike in my office that’s been gathering dust for over a year now. sigh

All this stuff I’ve put off or am putting off, at least I’ve always been honest enough with myself to admit that what I was doing was not/is not an intelligently arrived-at, commendable decision. Even if I found an article tomorrow on the dangers of stationary bikes, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I would categorize it as an outlier and look closely at its source, not run it up the flagpole and stand beside it, saluting.

What to do about my friend, then? I got nothin’. I’m a pretty shitty example of making smart lifestyle decisions. Pot, kettle. Kettle, pot. (The hilarity of that unintended, doubly on-point pun is causing a brief delay in wrapping this up.)

I can’t talk to her about it, we’re not close enough and it’s legitimately none of my beeswax. But it’s hard sitting on the sidelines, watching the Titanic sail dreamily toward a date with an iceberg that should have been easily predictable but was overlooked until it was too late. And being too damned cowardly to do anything but write about it in a blog that statistics prove nobody even reads. (Spellcheck doesn’t even recognize ‘blog’ anymore.)

If Chris Christie can man up, cut down and recant all his earlier statements about his weight not being a health issue, certainly someone who’s not in the public spotlight—who is not not-running for president in 2016—can be convinced to do the same, right?

Titanic, iceberg. Iceberg, Titanic.