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Archive for January, 2011

FIRED AND RE-HIRED…

“I am so stressed!” she yelled, hair askew, snot running from her nose, eyes heaving with tiredness and dishevelment abundant.
” ‘Stressed’? You’re five and a half bloody years old, that word isn’t even part of your vocabulary!’
“Yes it is. And if I had my mood ring, it’d say ‘stressed’.”
“Good heavens above, how absurd! You need to stop thinking about that word and focus on being a kid.”
“I HATE HAVING TO DO EVERYTHING EVERYONE TELLS ME! I WISH I NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER HAD PARENTS!”

My reaction was instant, the words having hit me like a laser beam, searing my flesh with their ferocity, their hot, stinging intention having shot through the air like a red-hot platinum arrow. It wasn’t nice and it wasn’t right.

I laughed.
I laughed a lot actually.
Which didn’t do much to appease the five-and-a-half going on 14 year old dilettante.
My wife looked up from her book, cast a sigh, and returned promptly to the pages.
The amateur dramatist sniveled.
And I tried to figure out when we got fired. Not five minutes earlier I’d been engaged as the potential story-reader for the night, but here I was, unceremoniously given the old tin-tack* simply because I had told her to put on pyjamas, wash her face and brush her teeth.

I took stock of the situation. Unemployment actually didn’t sound so bad. I could go off and watch the football highlights. I could go across the street and see my buddy. I could go downstairs and play music loudly. I could do nothing. I could relax with my hairy therapist*. Oh the freedom!
“OK!” I announced, “I’m not your Dad anymore, right?”
“Right!”
“OK, sounds fine to me.”
“Fine!”
“Yup.”
“Hmmph.”
“OK, I’m off now, no story-reading – ”
“BUT YOU SAID YOU’D READ THE STORY?!!!!”
“Hang on a minute, I just got sacked from being your Dad so no, I’m no longer the story reader. You can read it for yourself. And you can go into your room and do that, no further instructions.”
“Really?”
“Yup. And guess what? I won’t even remind you to pee right before you go to bed. Because if you have an accident because you didn’t pee right before bed, I won’t get up and strip the bed or find clean sheets. You can just crash on the couch!”
“But what about blankets?”
“Good grief girl, there’s three of them out here, pick a couple, you’ll figure it out.”
“But I want a story Dada, you said you’d read it!”
“Remember, I’m fired.”
“Daaaada!”
“Ahhhhhhhh…are you now saying that you sort of want a Mum and Dad?”
“Well…I want a Mum and Dad sometimes and I don’t want to do everything I’m told!”
“So you want to re-hire me to read a story?”
(smirking) “Yes!”
“And then fire me again when it’s bedtime?”
“YES!”
“Hmmm…not sure I want to take the job under those conditions…I’ll tell you what…you can have no Mum and Dad between the hours of 8pm and 8.30am.”
“What’s the time now?”
“7.45.”
“Yay, so at 8’oclock I’ll get up and come out here and watch TV!”
“But we’ll be in here so you won’t be able to.”
“But you won’t be my parents so you can’t tell me what to do!”
“We might not be your parents then, but we’ll have been here first and that means we have first dibbs.”
“I’ll turn it off then.”
“And I’ll yell at you.”
“But you can’t because you won’t be my Dad.”
“But I will be someone else living here who also gets a say in what happens, and what will have happened is that I will have been here first so you’ll have to find something else to do.”

She screwed her face up and threw me a stink-eye right down the middle. Clearly this ‘sacking your parents’ thing was not as easy as it sounded.

“Well, I’ll just stay up all night then.”
“OK.”
“Really?”
“Sure. But just know that in the morning, you’ll be getting your own breakfast, get your own lunch and get to school by yourself.”
“I’ll drive!”
“No you won’t. They’re my keys and you can’t have them. I’m not telling you that as a father, I’m telling you that as the car’s owner.”
“Well how will I get there?”
“You can walk. Or find a ride from across the street. Figure it out! You’re the one without parents. in fact, stop asking me questions all the time, it’s not like I’m your Dad or anything!”

There was a long pause as she surveyed the scenario. She was, at that moment, 5 minutes from being a free agent, but it was becoming clear that such agency came with other rather more troubling issues. Doing things for yourself. Having to think about things other than fun things.

“Daaaaddy…my feet hurt. Will you rub them after you read a book?”
“Does this mean I’m re-hired?”
“Yes!”
Thank goodness…I didn’t fancy unemployment really.

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“…and then Chloe looked at Rachel and said, ‘we’re back home, we’re not in fairy land anymore, so the LARGE DOSES OF ACID WE TOOK TO GET THERE SIX PAGES EARLIER MUST’VE WORN OFF!’
‘Oh bugger!’ whined Rachel, ‘well I know where can get a couple more hits in seven pages time and go back to fairy land and fight the giant Jack Frost, but not until we’ve had the obligatory giggle and dinner with Mummy and Daddy where we snigger about what we’ve been doing all day but our trusty pooch Jacko knows because, well, he’s a dog and far more intuitive when it comes to our drug-taking than stupid M & D!'”

As I read the 122 page chapter book to my daughter, about two friends who keep on stuffing a magic fairy in their pockets, grow wings and take off to fairy land to tackle evil in the skies (not United Airlines, Jack Frost) that was the version I wanted to read out. Instead, I ploughed on with the most mind-alteringly aggravating story it has been my displeasure to read to her. I know we’re all meant to love reading to our children, but let’s tell the truth, sometimes it is just one big pain in the arse, especially when the story holds about as much weight as saturated rice-paper.
“Do you really want to read all the way to the end?” I asked (or begged)?
“Yes,” she replied with a twinkle in her voice, enjoying the story but also (I suspect) enjoying my increasing aggravation at reading it. She always gets a few stupid voices in such moments, and deep down I know she expects nothing less from me.

Thankfully she’s more than a sedate absorber of shit novelettes at bedtime. She’s a pistol and gunpowder too, a firecracker with a built-in fuse, she never stops smiling and laughing and sometimes, just sometimes, her mind is moving too fast for me to keep track, so I have to slow her down. But it’s a good challenge, a glorious challenge, and because of it’s constant presence, I know that once we leave the house, the unexpected could always occur.

Which is how we found ourselves leaving San Francisco to drop her brother back down in San Jose for work (at the Tech Museum) and college, only to casually run into literally tens of dozens of people wandering around in giant furry animal suits. I wondered if the teenager announced ‘this is the sort of random,crazy shit that happens down here’ and my daughter started laughing and asking if she could get her photo taken with some of them. I then spotted someone in the most magnificent of wolf-beast costumes and hared over to this 7ft creature for a photo myself! It was bizarre, weird and pretty exciting, in the way that if you turned a corner and suddenly ran into a full Medievel village scenario only involving midgets you’d be both entertained and amazed. And the best bit was I had absolutely no idea WHY this was happening. WHO the hell WERE all these people? I naively thought it was a convention being held by the manufacturers of mascot suits, but whatever it was, I didn’t really care, it was cool, it was fun and everyone was very very accomodating and friendly.

We decided to go across and check out the Bodyworks exhibit in the Tech Museum. this is the work of Dr. Gunther Von Hagen who has via plastination managed to preserve, and display, human bodies in all their organic glory. he is either an ammoral nutter who procures his cadavars from dodgy sources or a genius who has allowed us greater access into what we really look like in there. I plump for the latter (though he must be a bit of a nutter given the way he has flayed the flesh of some of these corpses). I allowed my daughter to lead me to her points of interest; brains were high on the agenda, as were posed dancers. She was engaged by a set of lungs and a heart, the blood vessels were interesting, and nerves/nerve-endings were fun once explained.
“Dad, I’m hungry!” she announced with comic timing as we passed a gentleman with his guts hanging out, his penis split in two and his eyeballs popping out on stalks (this gentleman was, by the way, an exhibit) so off we went, back outside into the now nighttime air, where we were once again in the thick of fake fur and giant creatures as we made our way to Johnny Rockets. Inside were even more of them, in various stages of costume, some with masks, some refusing to remove them until their food arrived. I wondered briefly if I’d somehow ingested some acid myself, only to realize that she was seeing the same as me and that unless the milk in our fridge had been dosed by Horizon, then we were both clear as bells.
“Can I take a photo with that wolf?” she asked, pointing towards a lupine-in-wheelchair who had since removed his mask to reveal eyes filled with hunger and a slight derangement (although in fairness this could equally be because he did, in fact, have a lazy-eye). I pointed out that I felt it was not be good etiquette to disturb a de-masked, and dining, wolf.

Thus she contented herself with another flurry of photos as we made our way back to the car, where I suffered one late scare as she spotted an ice-rink upon which some of them were skating.
“DAD CAN WE…?” she pleaded, her voice trailing off as My hand came up to gesture a big ‘no’.

I later learned that we had run into a huge Anthropomorphic Convention, that is a convention for people who like to dress in fantasy animal suits and interact, either in online games or at such gatherings, with each other. They have somewhere garnered the reputation of being driven by sexual deviancy, which from what I saw is just a pathetic lie; in general, it appears that when an creative underground movement springs up, it ends up being tarred by mainstream observers as something to do with sexual deviancy. Says rather more about the onlooker than those engaged I’d say. Anyhow, thanks to this convention, we ended up with a bizarre-yet-entertaining few hours which could never have been planned. So thanks to the Anthropomorph Convention, and special thanks to all those who kindly posed for photos with my clearly-delighted daughter…and to the giant wolf-beast who sort-of impressed the old man too…

p.s. a worrying thought crept across my mind…I’m sure this sort of thing happens at Burning Man these days (been many years since the original Ocean Beach days for me)…and I like it! And I like the neon in Tron…and I like the idea of neon Tron headphones which flash in sequence to the music…and I love trance music…and I like silvery Puma sneakers…good God…am I suff…is it happeni…I’ll be 44 soon…is it…a …fill in the Faith No More song title…if it is, you see, I might just be ready to abandon ship and roll with it…in which case life the little lady (not to mention the big lady and the late-teenager) are going to find me even funnier and perhaps weirder than ever? Help, advice and answers on an electronic postcard…

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TURDS ON A PLANE…

My good good friend Francois recently told me a story of such toe-curling horror and anger that I have no alternative but to share it with you, in the hope that you will share it with others, in the eventual hope that those about whom we are about to speak both hear it AND get a big fucking clue.

Over the holidays, Francois and family decided to visit Disneyland. All four of them. Mother, father, 5 year old boy and nearly 3 year old girl.

It was, as you (and I for that matter) might imagine a long and busy trip with little rest, much excitement and late late nights. As these things should be, complete with shocking amounts of sugar and schmaltz (whatever the pediatricians and hairy-armpitted experts tell you, THOSE are the memories your kids will cherish, not carrot-sticks and incessant flower-spotting). A couple of winter colds wound their way into a couple of younger chests, and in the particularly young, that can be rather taxing when a plane is about to take off.

For a start, the geniuses at VIRGIN AMERICA AIRLINES (yes, the one with colorful zippy-zappy logos and seating) split them up. At first to four individual seats. On a one hour flight. Terrific. It took an argument for Francois to get 2 and 2. For the record, on a plane with one aisle and three seats either side, you seat a family of four in 3 and one right across, kids buffered by parents. This is not rocket science.

The little lady, tired, cranky, not feeling well, had a meltdown.
It happens.
Anyone who’s had kids and been on planes will have dealt with it, further, anyone who’s had kids, been on planes and dealt with it will know that EMPATHY (that is spelt e-m-p-a-t-h-y) is critical. A quiet friendly word, a quick sympathetic glance, a whispered ‘if I can help let me know’, any of it can make things much much better, because believe me, you ALREADY FEEL SELF-CONSCIOUS AND LIKE AN ASSHOLE! You already KNOW that there is a PERCENTAGE of the plane looking at you wondering when you are going to remove the staple gun from your child’s legs, or if you are going to stop pinching them, or whether you will ever become a good parent because this is all, OBVIOUSLY, happening due to the fact you are, in fact, a useless parental unit. The REALLY evolved members of society who find themselves in a position where they can help the family achieve 4 across (given that VIRGIN AMERICA PROVED AS SOCIALLY EVOLVED THE TEA PARTY) would’ve offered to swap seats to make that 60 minutes a lot more pleasant for the small ones to whom 60 minutes IS a long time.

What you do NOT need, are loud, tutting queens, disparaging stares from frumpy windbags and the total INACTIVITY OF THE VIRGIN AMERICA FLIGHT CREW to help the situation mellow.
“He kept on bitching and moaning about the noise and his seat-back,” said Francois, “I had apologized and offered, by way of explanation, the fact my daughter was not feeling well, and it was obvious I was trying to do something about it. But he kept going on.”
As he told me this, my mouth fell open. I was appalled, disgusted and getting angry just hearing about it.
“And then, this woman pipes up and starts telling the people behind her that she’s a mother, and we’re doing it all wrong and need to be both better and more considerate!”
Are you still with me, reader?
“And THEN the guy in front turns around and starts talking with this woman, agreeing and complaining!”
Francois then told me something which made me happy.
“I told him, without shouting, that if he didn’t shut the fuck up, I would beat the shit out of him when we landed.”
The quiet sniping as replaced with pissy-flicked looks, until the plane landed.
“I happened to be standing next to him at the baggage claim, and when he caught my eye I stared at him really hard; he quickly sort of shook and moved away.”

I relay this story because I think it’s very, very important for any parent of small children having a fit to know that SHOULD you be met with the sort of responses Francois received, you absolutely MUST stand your ground in the way he did.
You MUST know that EVERYONE who has had kids has been there.
You MUST know that the majority of people who react like those turds on the plane did are absolutely worthy of any, and all, retortful abusiveness you can muster. I don’t care if it’s ‘not politically correct’ to react, it’s human, and by God you MUST threaten these selfish moronic imbeciles in order to at the very least shut them up.

And if you have it in you, look at them and loudly spell out the word ‘EMPATHY’…if they say ‘whuuut’ then tell them to look it up before hurling a final bit of abuse back at them. Trust me, you will
a) feel empowered that you stood up for yourself and
b) perhaps save a parent in the future from suffering their moronic assholism.

As I always have, I will continue to defend parents in such situations from these cretinous globs of human excrement, and furthermore, I’d like to formally award my good good friend Francois both a gold star and a shared bottle of J at some point in the not-too-distant-future…

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I was thinking about the column I just wrote whilst eating porridge and beginning the working year with something resembling enthusiasm (no, really, I mean it). I had passed comment that one of the reasons I had neglected to write in this space for such a long time was the internet. I even referred to it as a vaccum. Indeed. Indeed indeed, in-deed.

I now believe that the internet is where middle-aged people ‘go out’ in lieu of babysitters, energy or vibrant youth. Think about it. Rather than get dressed up and go out to, say, a bar to meet some friends and then onto who-knows-where, the middle-aged worldwide have become Facebook’s silent majority. You don’t have to get dressed up, you don’t have to leave the house, you can behave like a genius or a dick and what’s more, you can interact with ‘friends’ worldwide. Worldwide! Whoo-hoo. You can even peak into the lives of teenagers, who you will note don’t even have the time to form sentences, and as such write stuff like
Iz goin dn in a G-style dawg
before sloping off and doing whatever it is they do.

You usually trawl around the same 10-12 places, and then, as the grip of electronic addiction throttles your subconscious, you return minutes later to see if there’s been a transfer between clubs or if anyone’s died or if some horrific central European pervert has been discovered or if the weather’s disasterous in Idaho. Somehow you skirt around imminent genocide in the Ivory Coast (probably because it’s not an original member of the dirty dozen you visit regularly) but there’s always time to pop over to Arsefacebook and let the world know exactly HOW fucking FANTASTIC your cheese and Branston pickle sandwich was as you sat scratching your balls listening to Daft Punk (this actually happened). And in turn, your ‘friends’ will tell you (well, maybe one or two of them but that’s ALL you need) that what you’ve said is amazing. They will ‘like’ it whether adopted on comedic or literal basis, and this is ALL the encouragement you need to continue posting USELESS bits of trivia about yourself whilst hoping others do the same about themselves.

Be very clear; I am not bemoaning or criticizing any of it. This is observation of simian-patterned behavior (although chimps don’t use laptops so hey, they’re ahead of the game) and no-one’s a bigger internet monkey than me. You’ll probably see this column via Arsefacebook, and somewhere around it will be some scintillating commentary on exactly what I thought of the referee last night around 4pm.

I suppose the real point to all this is that after a day’s work, after making sculpy Quorras with the wrong sculpy, putting them in the over to bake and retrieving big blobs of melted Quorra, after walking gently but firmly through the subsequent valley of tears and trauma at having killed the little lady’s cyber-Queen in your oven, I slip off to the sofa, put the cans on my head and slide away into the laptop. I immediately put the music on, I stretch out and then I’m gone, gone, gone, perhaps not to come back for hours. I’ll watch things on it, I’ll listen to things through it, I’ll make sure I don’t check e-mail after 7pm but I won’t disengage because, well, it’s comfy and warm and all-immersive. I read somewhere that each new search/page popping up gives the brain a little shot of dopamine; in which case I have spent an imbalanced amount of time doped up to the eyeballs, and as such unable to actually ‘do’ anything, like write this sort of stunning repartee.

Of course, I have to again chuckle at how much a part of everyone’s life Arsefacebook has become, for despite my ridicule I am a hopeless supporter and participant, plus I can keep up with the young man via it’s addictive pages. His life recently seems to revolve around Ice-T on Law & Order and the wds ‘txt me’.

Funny thing is, I’ll probably check in again later today to see what he’s been saying…don’t worry, I’ll call him too, but middle age won’t allow me to give up t’internet just yet…

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I am sharply aware of how little I’ve been writing in I Am Father recently. The reasons are pretty straight-forward, and by way of reasoning, I shall offer them as follows:
1) I was adjusting to the young man being gone.
2) I was adjusting to the young lady taking over for both of them.
3) I was traveling.
4) I was busy…
5)…wasting time on a myriad of things I shouldn’t have been via that wonderful vaccum of brain and body, the internet.
6) I was tired.
7) I was lazy.
8) Because I developed a new attitude which was basically…
9) …who gives a shit what I’m wittering on about, certainly not…
10)…me.
11) I needed to recharge this clapped-out documentation battery.

I think that covers it. Oh no, wait a second. I was also in Europe and Australia a couple of times each, a few other places as well, Spurs have been FANTASTIC this season and I’ve been spending too much time on Arsefacebook telling the world and their mother about it and I’ve been more obsessed than ever with my therapist, with whom I’ve spending an inordinate amount of time. He’s a about three feet long from nose to tail, 18.5 lbs and likes to chat. He also sits on my chest, falls asleep and allows me to sniff his side and belly as I rub his head. No you social ingrate, it isn’t midget love, it’s my cat, and he’s an even greater reason why I quite frankly couldn’t be arsed.

Aside from all that, I have actually been quietly (and sub-consciously) dealing with the young man’s college acclimation until right around now. Oh he’s done some things, not the least of which was announce to me within weeks of being at college that he was joining a fraternity. My thoughts on fraternities stretched not much further than branding people on the arse with red hot pokers, shoving heads down toilets whilst wibbling underwater and force-feeding beer to newbies via plastic trumpets, straws and bellows. That and a series of weird handshakes. It’s fair to say this was as scary a piece news as I could’ve received, and to be honest, something deep deep down inside told me that if I wrote about it ‘then’ I’d regret it forever.

Some months later and I have learned a lot. This fraternity is not about branding arse cheeks or force-drinking (of course there’s much drinking, but it’s voluntary). There’s no wibbling in toilet water and there are no sick initiations leaving scars and attitudes. No, there are openly gay members of this fraternity, and all colors and creeds are welcome. They require a passing grade to remain within the fraternity, and they help willing members find jobs and contribute to the community.

More than anything, it’s given him a structure and identity which he apparently needed more than I knew. It’s been the making of him in college. and as such, he’s passing his classes, got a decent job and having fun. We have the odd weekend here and there, but he is (quite rightly!) living his independent life, in his own place with his own rules.
“Passing classes was his Christmas present to you,” someone said to me, and I swiftly corrected them. He passes classes for himself, to preserve (and maintain) a lifestyle he’s enjoying. It’s not for me. It hasn’t been for me since he was in his early teens. It’s all been for him. Important to recognize that…

Meanwhile, Miss Quorra has blown my doors recently. Aside from all the usual touchy-feely great things I could say, this holiday season has seen her finally break out of deep kid movie mode and into the world of future/sci-fi and beyond. She has wigged out on TRON-THE LEGACY, and it just so happens that this glorious bit of neon-encrusted fluff captured me too, and so here we are, two neon-encrusted sci-fi folk loving this film but equally clicking into the soundtrack’s groove; she’s always been one for music, and Daft Punk’s score for the film literally spoke to her, painting pictures of a film she said she wanted to see. In all liklihood this probably all started when we zombified for Halloween, and I know she knows I’m delighted she’s a convert. But I know she likes it all too…she’s my daughter after all…and as such it’s in her DNA.

So this holiday season has been about electroboys, neon lights, mince pies and dedicating myself to doing next to bugger all. And it’s been deliciously great. But now it’s time to wake up and get on with things. Maybe get on with this a bit more regularly too, even if that will likely mean more waxing on about the comfort and beauty of acquiescing to middle-aged grumpiness whilst also observing the stupidity of both the modern world and the modern parent.

It’s going to be a busy few months for me and my spleen will certainly need venting, so apologies in advance but I know that you’ll find some nutritional value (if not empathy) in this space as 2011 marches forwards…and regardless of how wonderful it was to sit vacantly picking my nose, scratching my arse and watching apple TV with not the slightest inclination to write a single fucking word here, now that I’m lurking I must say it’s nice to be back.

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