the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘family’

what my baby boy has taught me about writing discipline…

In humor, observations, parenting on July 30, 2012 at 6:25 am

this isn’t easy, but it’s necessary–at least mom says so…

If you are a parent, then you probably know what Tummy Time is. If not, it’s basically torture for babies–at least it is for mine.  Every morning, while my wife tries to catch up on her sleep, I hang out with The Boy and at some point, I put him on his play mat face down.  The baby development books all say this is good for little ones because it helps them develop the neck and arm strength they need for crawling. I know this. But still, if it were left to me, I wouldn’t do it to my kid.  I like hanging out with him as he plays on his back.  He smiles when he’s like that and he tells me the latest, greatest news from Babylandia.  But when turn him over, he becomes monster-baby–red and crying.  My wife insists that we do this.  And she’s right because The Boy is getting stronger and as a result, he’s hating Tummy Time less and less each day.

There’s a lesson here.  Actually, there’s a few. As a parent, I’ve learned that I’m going to be the softie, which I guess makes my wife the hardie.  This probably means that in the future, I’ll be the go-to parent, whereas my wife will be The Enforcer.  That said, I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t question my wife, but that’s a lesson I already knew even if I forget sometimes.

Apart from these family lessons, I think that Tummy Time also presents a lesson for writers.  How many times do we all start our writing sessions in pain?  I mean, we wake up ok, maybe smiling even, but then we get in front of the computer and it’s all sloppy sadness.  We might not yell, but on the inside, we want to.  We want to yell and scream and kick and maybe even slobber a little.  Why?  Because writing is hard–just like Tummy Time.  And yet, and yet, it’s only in the doing that the difficulty abates.  Our creativity muscles grow because we are flexing them every time we put words to the page/screen, and we need to try to do this regularly.

Look, it’s not easy. But you don’t want to be a baby.  Even my son, who is a baby, would tell you that if he could.  So, if you’re reading this post instead of writing your stuff, I want to thank you, but I also want to scold you.  Go forth and do your writer’s Tummy Time.  It’s good for you.  And if you don’t, I’ll tell my wife to pay you a visit.  She’s tough, so don’t mess.


writing through the fear..or is it riding?

In humor, life, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on July 9, 2012 at 6:31 am

Lately, I’ve been getting panic attacks on the freeways.  I’ve never been in an accident; knock on wood, I’ve never even been close to being in one.  But along the way, I have developed this lack of ease on highways.  This experience has made me wonder if this is the beginning of fear taking over.  I say this though as this weird fearful cloud is enveloping me so is a realization that I don’t get to avoid things just ’cause I’m afraid of them.

Is that a duh-statement, or what?

It’s not like I didn’t have fears before.  I certainly did.  I remember this one time as a kid.  I was supposed to compete in a track meet, but I woke up the day of so scared that I was going to fail, that I told my mom I was sick, which wasn’t a lie, not exactly.  I quit playing basketball in high school when I was a sophomore out of fear that I’d bring my team down.  To put it simply: I’m scared. I’ve always been scared.  And if you ask me what I’m scared of, I guess I’d have to say it was failure–of letting people know I suck at something.

Which brings me to writing and to making a career of it somehow.  Last week,  I met with a film producer here in San Fran.  He’s young, successful, very cool dude.  I asked for the meet-up because I wanted to get his advice on next steps–what can I do to get to a next level in storytelling–whatever the medium.  If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I’ve been reading books about branding and trying to implement a strategy to makes me some dough, but truth is the plans these books set out are not very useful. The authors make it seem like if you follow a set recipe for success then soon, you’ll be feasting on a nice, warm Success Pie.  But recipes for success are nothing like recipes for pie.  There is no set order of steps, and more times than not, you have to break the rules in order to break through.

I know this, and still, I came home from that meeting feeling a little bit sick in the stomach because this producer told me to break one of the rules I’ve set for myself. Basically, he told me that the way to making money for creatives in this city is for them to get jobs making commercials/ads/mini-webisodes for the tech companies up here.  He gave me amazing tips to that end, and I’m thankful, but I felt a little sick, as well.  Why?  I could say that it’s because I’m an artist, because I don’t want to work for The Man….YAWN…because The Man is evil and will eat my soul like a well-baked Success Pie, etc.  But truth is I’m scared.  Writing has always been a solo sport for me, and the idea of creating narrative within a company structure when money is on the line, scares the bejeezus out of me.  Or, to put it more accurately, I’m scraed to put myself out for that kind of work because what if I find out I suck?

I kind of want a blanket or my son’s binky right now.  But I don’t get to have either.  I need to get writing, not only the fiction or the scripts I want to make, but also the emails, letters, texts and tweets that will get people to hire me to write them some kind of story.  Fear be damned. I’m hungry and I needs me a slice of that Success Pie.

some thoughts from a new father

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on June 17, 2012 at 7:03 am


My father is crazy.  And by that, I do not mean that he is certifiable and needs to be locked up.  But I also don’t mean that he is a harmless eccentric, either.  The word, “crazy,” is often thrown around.  I hurl it at people all the time, often playfully.  Can’t say the same for my dad, though.  He is crazy, and that craziness is harmful. But where does it come from?

I am new father, my own son will be two months this week.  That and the fact that it is officially Father’s Day as I write this, has made me pensive about what it means to be a dad–well, both of these things combined with the fact that last weekend my father came up for a visit, and it was one of the more disappointing experiences I have had in a very long time. In the grand scheme, my father was a good role model for me.  I was a sensitive kid, some might say soft.  But my dad, a man who grew up fending for himself on the streets, was ok with my softness.  He encouraged me to be who I am.  If I think of one gift my father gave me it was that permission to be who I am, to define for myself what it meant to be a man.  I hope to teach the same lesson to my son–hopefully in word and in deed.

In general, I try not to change the people around me.  My father’s acceptance of me taught me to be that way.  But there are limits.  So, like I said, my father came to visit last week, and it was odd.  No, it was sad.  Yes, sad is the right word, and crazy, too.  My father-in-law who lives across country, flew in the week after my son was born.  My father waited nearly two months to visit though he lives in the same state.  This is disappointing.  More so after his visit, which was short and odd and…crazy.  When he arrived, he sat down in the kitchen with my mother, and he seemed tense.  I know this because he didn’t really talk, and when my mother asked him what was wrong, he got defensive.  “You two are talking English, what do you want from me?” He asked in a voice too loud for the situation.  My father’s been in the US since 1964.  He has college degrees from schools in the states.  He’s a smart man.  Yet, as he’s gotten older, he speaks less and less English.  He’s also hard of hearing but refuses to wear a hearing aid.  So, unless you are willing to scream in Spanish, communication is difficult.

My mother absorbs the difficulty.  She always has.  Which means that like a snowball, he keeps growing as he rolls on.  So he comes to the house, gets pissy that my two-month old son is nursing and not “ready” to receive him.  He goes out back and sits in the garden.  He acts like a child.  He acts like…a crazy man, by which I mean, he acts in a way that seems contrary to what he should be: a joyful father and grandfather.

I know how my father is, and I have always tried to accept it, as he accepted me. I guess I had taught myself not to expect joy from him.  But last week, when he acted like a sulky child and sat in my backyard instead of talking to me, and when he repeatedly wanted to leave early even after my wife brought my boy out, a sense of disappointment hit me hard.  I imagine it hit hard because though I can accept my father’s joylessness regarding me, it’s an insult when pointed at my boy.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but I think my father’s biggest problem, the root cause of his unhappiness, is that he expects too much from life.  This might sound…crazy, but really, don’t they say that the flipside of every romantic is a cynic?  I think my father enters every situation with an idea of what should happen.  Most times, life doesn’t work out that way, which is especially true in my dad’s case since he probably is always being a little too unrealistic.  So he gets disappointed and hence, he misses the joy in front of him.

I’m sure that my mother was telling the truth when she told me later that he had been excited to come see my boy.  But when the reality hit.  When the boy was nursing in the bedroom instead of cooing in wait of him, the disappointment was too much to recover from.

Does this sound crazy for a grown man?  Should he just grow the fuck up?  Yes, I’d say.  And yet at the same time, I am also aware enough to know that the apple doesn’t fall far.  I spent the today, the day before Father’s Day, quietly with my wife and the boy.  I napped. I ate. I held him. I walked around the neighborhood with him and his mother.  The day was great, but there was this part of me that wanted to gnaw away at my contentment.  It wanted GREATness.  It asked me if I wouldn’t be better off doing something else, something less domestic, more dramatic.  I can’t tell you exactly what that other more dramatic thing would’ve been. And though it’s true that going to Whole Foods at the end of the walk with all the other yuppy dads and ordering an ice-coffee is ver ordinary, not GREAT at all, it is great all the same.

I think today was a microcosm of what I hope for with my son.  I hope that we will have a great relationship.  There will be disappointments and there will be moments of amazing happiness, and there will hopefully be joy throughout.  But more important still, there will be joy for the all those middling moments in between.  I guess I can thank my dad for that wisdom, too.  Even if he doesn’t follow it himself.


All-Day Birthing Classes–Where Irony Goes to Die…

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 6:23 am

Irony and parenthood–they don’t mix.  God, I hope that’s not true.  Yesterday, I spent the day with my wife at an all-day birthing class. You can say a lot of positive stuff about technology, but one thing you cannot deny is that for all the steps forward, we do take a few back.  Artisanal cheese and bread and soap, these overpriced things are what our grandparents called bread and cheese and soap.  Now, we celebrate people for doing things the hard way, the old-fashioned way.

The same idea is at play with birthing classes.  As the nurse-instructor said a million times yesterday, we have classes like this because we do not have community.  So, my wife and I and about 15 other couples got together in a hospital basement to talk about stuff that the instructor said is natural and cannot be taught.  We were celebrating the fact that even with all the virtual communities we have in our lives, there is only one way to learn about birth–the hard way.

There is some irony there to be sure.  You pay a couple hundred bucks to hear a nurse tell you that she can’t teach you what you paid to learn.  You just gotta go through it.  That’s irony, but it’s not the amusing kind.  The other couples were very serious.  Still, I know the class was worthwhile for my wife. We broached those topics that no one wants to discuss: the pain of childbirth, and for some unfortunate families, the potential difficulties/problems that accompany that pain.  So, in the end, I will say that I’m glad we took the class even though, I can’t really say I learned anything, except that I’m serious, too.

But what did I expect?

Well, I’m glad I asked myself that question because one thing I didn’t expect were the videos, which were serious, as well.  This blog is a family production, so I will not go into details, but there were some graphic scenes.  We’re talking NC-17 stuff.  I write this and I know it sounds juvenile. I am sounding like an adolescent boy squealing at the sight of stranger’s vaginas.  I know the birthing process is life and it’s serious.  I will also admit, quite surprisingly to me, that mixed with the shock of watching a person come out of another person who I don’t know, was true feeling.  I was moved more than a couple times by what I saw in the videos.  As hard as some of these women had it, and as awful as some of the voice-overs were (some were done by the fathers of the children after the fact, and there’s nothing worse than genuine feeling scripted out), when you get right down to it, there’s something truly touching about a baby just born being held by his/her mother and father.  Jesus, I’m getting a little weepy just thinking about it.  Really.

I don’t like snark, let me say it now.  I do try to be amusing in my blog-persona and in my life-persona, too.  I like laughing, not so much at people but at situations.  The older I get, the more I feel like the only quality in people I really can’t abide is humorlessness.  (I’m glad that’s a word, by the way.)  But as you get older, you kind of have to temper the chucks and the wucs.  You can’t push it.  Sometimes, they’re just not there

I started this post off with the intention of showing how silly a thing like a birthing class is. Though there is a part of me that wants to hold that there is something kind of ridiculous about the concept and its execution (and I haven’t mentioned the fact that, as always is the case, there was an overly-serious, overbearing, teacher’s pet in the group) the reason behind such a class is not worthy of laughter.  And that reason is, and I know this is hack, mystery and wonder.

Jesus.  That’s pretty serious, isn’t it?  Well, as the good actors of Downton Abbey (a very serious show, I might add) say, Lump it.  It’s life.

my brush with primal machismo…

In humor, life, observations on February 23, 2012 at 5:23 am

don't flirt with my pregnant wife or her 70+ year old mom...OR ELSE

OK, so I’m not what you’d call macho, I’ll admit it.  My wife laughs at me when I get angry.  But every once in a while, I have these moments when I am very much a guy.  Yesterday, I took my mother-in-law and wife on a small road trip up north.  My mother-in-law lives in South Florida and though she was born and raised with the ocean (she’s originally from Jamaica) she’s not seen rock formations like the ones we have up on the Sonoma coast.  I think she was really moved, and I was moved by her movement.

On our way home, feeling great, I decided to cap the day off with a short stop in Port Reyes Station, a cute village where every other store is an antique shop (antiques are another thing my mother-in-law likes.)  In the town, there also happens to be a nice bakery that I’d heard of. (Besides rocks and old things, my mother-in-law has grown especially fond of sweets of late.)  The bakery was small and there was a long line, so I decided to wait outside. But even down the street, I could hear this dude talking up a young lady inside. I didn’t see him talk her up, but I have heard enough lines to know a pick-up in process. The guy was shameless. “You’re from Melbourne? Really? What’s it like there? I have a friend who lives in Australia, but he lives in Melbun.  Oh, it’s the same town? Melbourne is called Melbun in Australia, really? That’s so cool.”

The guy, as I would find out later, was a park ranger. I’m sure that helped his sense of confidence.  This small village was his stomping grounds, his village to be a fool in.

Because of the line (the actual line, not the ranger’s) my wife and her mother were taking a while, so I went off looking for a public bathroom and for reception for my phone. I found the bathroom but AT&T blows everywhere, and beautiful coastal villages are no exceptions. When I walked back to the bakery, I see the dude, Ranger Rick or whatever his name was, talking up my wife and her mother. I don’t know where the Australian woman went, but she had fled the scene, and now, the Mr. Shameless was hanging with my wife and mother-in-law, telling them some joke or something.

I’m not ridiculous.  I know he wasn’t really talking up my 70+ year old mother-in-law or my 7-month pregnant wife.  They are both beautiful women, but it would be hard to believe that even this letch was trying to woo them.  AND still, when I walked up on them, I am sure I pumped my chest and stared him down as if I were some kind of alpha-ape warding off an interloper.  I don’t even know where that came from. I mean I smiled. At least, I told myself to. But that’s just it. I had to actually tell myself to smile so as not to grunt or beat my chest or something.

This experience has made me glad that my first child is going to be a boy.  I’ve always laughed at those overly protective fathers. I tend to think they’re kind of ridiculous. But I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m one of those hard-ass fathers-in-the-making. God, I hope not. But how can you tell? How can you know what you’ll be at any given time until that given time comes when you turn out to be that person you otherwise laugh at. It’s scary, I tell you.

That said, it’s nowhere near as scary as my pumped chest.  Did I mention that Ranger Rick slinked off after I gave him the look?  That’s right, I’m bad.  That’s right.

My Crime Against the Rich and Famous

In humor, life, observations, writing on February 20, 2012 at 6:41 am

I’m old. It’s official. It’s not just the achy back or the sore legs after a long run. It’s the little mental habits I’m inheriting from my parents, namely my dad.  The latest mental tick is my complete and utter disdain for litter bugs.  My anger at seeing litter is context-driven, admittedly.  I certainly don’t like seeing litter on the beach or in the redwood forests that I have been forced to hike through with my wife.  But I don’t feel angry when I see litter in those places.  My anger, my wrath, comes out when I walk to work in the projects. Often, I see some young guy in a hoodie walking ahead of me eating something, and when he’s done, he just tosses the wrapper down onto the ground like it’s no big thing. He probably thinks that his neighborhood is already full of trash, so what’s one more wrapper?  Or maybe he’s not even aware.  Probably the latter.

Either way, I can’t tell you when this feeling took over, but at some point, I started feeling it. My father is a neat-freak. When I was a kid, he had this habit of walking into my room at random times with two cards in his hand.  One had the word, “cosmos” on it, the other had “chaos” written on it.  He’d drop the former on my bed when the room was neat enough, the latter when my room wasn’t.  I almost never got the cosmos card. What can I say? My dad is nuts, and I’m not that neat and orderly.  But still, I get pissed when I see people litter where I work, so maybe I am.

My father, I’m sure didn’t think he was being nuts. He’s told me that he wanted to instill in me a sense of appreciation for neatness.  Maybe that’s at play for me when I see the young guys littering.  And then again, maybe it’s just sadness—sadness that the young men I see don’t care or haven’t been taught to care for their neighborhood.  It may not be the most beautiful place in San Francisco, but it’s a hell of a lot more beautiful when it’s not covered in trash.

Which leads me to my crime against the rich and famous.  It’s not really a crime. It’s a silly thing on the face of it, a minor act of rebellion.  (My dad was also a bit of a minor rebel.) As I’ve mentioned previously, I spend much of my weekends working in some very wealthy neighborhoods.  Another habit I should mention here, though no one inherited from my father: I always chew gum while teaching, and I always chew the same gum—DoubleMint.  When I leave a house, I often, not always, but often, throw that piece of gum out onto the street.  It’s tiny. Another habit: I only chew half a stick of gum at a time.

So I chuck the tiny piece of gum, I litter in my own way, in these very beautiful neighborhoods. And I’m not being absent-minded. I’m intentionally doing it.


I can only imagine that I’m seeking revenge for the young men in the hoodie. I’m evening the playing field.  Trash in the inner city, trash in the suburbs.

I said my dad was nuts, right?  I also mentioned I’m becoming him in my old age, so what do you expect? At least I’m not showing up with index cards and Greek words printed on them. At least, not yet.  For now, I’m fighting for social equality one half-stick of Wrigley’s at a time.

Was Yoda a Wimp? Will My Son Think Me One?

In humor, life, media, observations on February 9, 2012 at 6:45 am


Recently, AlvaradoFrazier kindly left a comment on this blog making note of a question I kind of threw out without much thought. In that post, I asked whether or not Yoda was a wimp. That wasn’t really the point of the post, but I appreciated the follow up.  She thought it would make for an interesting post, and as they say (though I couldn’t say who they are) I aim to please.

So here’s my answer to the question: Was Yoda a wimp? No. Of course not.  The guy/not-really-a-guy wasn’t always whipping out the ol’ light saber all the time, granted.  But he had skills.

I’m not sure why he didn’t take on Darth Vader—probably because like most spiritual/martial masters, the guy knew that it wasn’t his destiny. There was another who The Force wanted for that task, and Yoda, not being a ball hog, was ok with the assist.  So, he wasn’t a wimp. He was a team player.

Have I convinced you?  I really don’t have much more to say on the matter, but if you want to take issue with my mastery of Star Wars knowledge, then have at it.  Please argue away.

While you’re coming up with your points of argumentation or if you just don’t give a two-penny damn, then here’s something else to mull over: yesterday, for the first time, I felt my son kicking/punching/dancing/swimming in my wife’s belly. Pretty amazing.  I know people say that. I know people have told me that a million times. But it’s different when you feel it with your hands. I like to think of myself as being imaginative, but I think I’m only good when it comes to stories about people I make up. When it comes to my life, I’m kind of like a rationalist—WAIT, I am remembering a fancy term from grad school for what I am—oh yes, I’m a radical empiricist.  That sounds so lame, but it kind of fits my situation. If I don’t feel it, hear it, smell it, I don’t get excited about things. I’m the kind of guy who when going on a trip, doesn’t think about the trip or about packing until the night before—unless I were going to Paris. But that’s because I’ve been to Paris.  Get my pain?

So, anyway, somehow in this brain of mine, when asking myself if Yoda was a wimp, I thought of my unborn son and I had a scary thought: what will my son think of me? Will he think of me as a wimp?

I have no idea. I hope he will be proud, but that’s vague. Specifically, I hope he will think of me as a model of manhood/anti-wimpyhood by which I mean not that I am never scared, but that I try to get up and face those fears.  I hope I live up to that ideal. I have to admit that I also hope my boy will appreciate that quality as I do, as my father taught me to.

But manhood has its flashier side. I am not a hunter. I was a decent athlete, but I don’t like football or lacrosse—manly sports. I was a basketball player and when I’m not being a lazy-ass, I run.  I am not a fighter, never have been.  I got into one physical altercation in my life, and I was bailed out of it by my older sister.  I still remember the event, and I remember that the real fear I felt was less that I would get knocked on the head and much more that I would hurt Paul—I can’t believe I remember his name.  The event made a mark, I guess.

Another childhood memory that made its mark: I remember going to a little carnival at the church my mom used to make me go to. I won a little statuette of a Viking who had a shield that said, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”  Fitting for a carnival at a Catholic church.  Kind of fitting for me, too, though honestly, in school whenever the possible fisticuffs came my way, my motto was more like, I’m a joker, not a fighter.  Humor can get you out of a lot.  Also, I am 6’3”—that helped.  Will my son appreciate that—the humor not the height? Or will he be a bruiser? Someone who likes getting into it with people?

I get that impulse, too.  One of my favorite movies is Fight Club, and I get it when Taylor Durden says that “you can’t really know yourself unless you’ve been in a fight.”  I imagine there might be some of you who don’t get that, but I might even agree with the sentiment to a point. Not to get too weird about it, but there is something about stepping into someone’s space that changes you—it’s a type of intimacy.  There’s a beauty in it. That is why I think a lot of people like boxing or MMA. That is probably why the Ancient Greeks didn’t divide the notion of man-love and fighting prowess.

On the other hand, I work in a neighborhood with young people who get shot for getting into it.  Respect is the currency on the streets, and in the heat of a fight, when winning is everything, there are times when kids pull out weapons instead of dealing with a loss.  I pray my son doesn’t like the “beauty” of fighting too much, but if he does, I really pray he will not go up against someone who doesn’t realize that a fight is just a fight.

Can I say it now? I also hope that regardless of what my boy is like, that he will not dismiss me and my views of manhood. Odd, I am seeking validation from an unborn child. Maybe when it comes to it, maybe then, I will hold my ground. My views are my own, and he will have his. My strength will be to allow this to happen even if doesn’t appreciate that.

But what if he is a bully? I hate bullies. I can honestly say that the few times I have pierced through my fear of pummeling a person’s face, those times that I have shaken with anger, that I have been willing to harden and strike another, it has been when faced with a bully. It’s not nobility, on my part. It’s just something about the bully that makes me want to call bullshit with everything I have.  God, I hope my boy is not a bully. How would I react then? Would I bully him into non-bullying.  Eye for an eye makes the world go blind. Bully for a bully—what does that do?

I know these hopes are secondary. I know that I should really hope for my boy to be healthy and happy. I do. I do. But I have these concerns that have snuck up on me, that I would not have if I were having a girl.  I guess I can be proactive. As soon as he’s able, I will put him in front of the TV and play him Star Wars, and I will teach him the way of the world and the galaxy not so far away. Yoda is not a wimp.

I Am Going to be a Major Pain in the Ass for My Unborn Son…

In humor, life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on January 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

i am spratacus, I am.

OK, so I teach adults–young adults, mainly–and I do this because I don’t love dealing with parents, or at least, I don’t love dealing with the fear of parents complaining because I assign too much or too little homework. I taught high school for a year, and beside the irritating nun who was my department chair, the only thing I really hated about the job was the way my vice-principal worried about our parents. It was a Catholic school, so it was private, which meant that parent-money supported us, but sometimes I felt like I was working a retail job where the customer was always right. We were never officially told how to run our classrooms, but if a parent complained about excessive assignments, or if a student felt her grade was unfair and her parent said as much to our VP, then he would “conference” with the teacher in question to get at “best practices,” which then lead to a “best practices” meeting for the whole staff. Let me say this now: the phrase, “best practices” with its corporate smell and its pedigree in powerpoint presentations has no place in a school setting. I would even go as far as saying that curse-words, which are a complete no-no at the high school level, are nowhere near as dirty as the words, “best practices.” Principals of the world, be principled. I would advise you all to let out a collective FUCK before you ever let even one corporate-lingo-lame-o word escape your lips. Come on, the future generations need some guidance here.

Professionally speaking, my feelings about trying to please parents has limited my job possibilities. It’s why I teach alternative adult education in an nontraditional setting–how’s that for corporate-speak? But personally, I might not be able to avoid the bullet. The son my wife is currently carrying is in for it because his pops is on the loose. You see, I am going to be one of those parents I hate as an educator, but not for the same reasons. I don’t think I’d ever complain about a teacher’s grading policies or about the amount of homework assigned. As a teacher myself, my position will be to make the best of the situation and to help my boy do the same. No, my problem will probably be with the administrators.

Let me explain why: one of the centers I work out of is housed in a middle school. Usually, I don’t get there until evening when the kids are gone, but a few months ago, I had to go in during the school day, and that’s when I saw it, the reason why when my son has his first teacher-parent conferences, my wife is going to have to put me on a leash and tether me to a pole outside. I turned the corner and saw a teacher walking in front of a group of students walking single-file with a teachers-aide bringing up the rear. Most people would think this makes sense. It teaches order, keeps the kids from disrupting other classes. I get it. I remember having to walk in single-file formation as a kid.  But as an adult, I see that and I think, jail or chain-gang. Can you see where this is going?

I had the same feeling teaching high school.  I remember filing into the gym for pep-rallies and watching the administrators stand on the gym-floor hands behind back, walkie-talkies at the ready, scanning the room for potential disruptions. Like the other teachers, I would sit in the bleachers with my kids, but unlike them, I didn’t want to just sit there and watch. I wanted to lead a revolt. I wanted to let out a rebel-yell to the Deans of Discipline and to the Best-Practice-Loving VP and to my annoying nun and tell them all that they weren’t the bosses of us. Mind you, I was in my late-20s at the time, a responsible adult, and yet I was fancying myself a modern-day Spartacus leading the slave-adolescents out of tyranny. What’s my name? I am Spartacus, bitches!!

Now, do you get it? Do you understand why I fear for my unborn son’s future principal?

Listen, I know I’m probably the only one in that gym who wanted to rise up. The kids didn’t care. They took things in stride. Except for the real hard-asses on faculty, they were indifferent to us and rightfully so. And that’s the only thing that’s going to save my son, apart from wife muzzling me. Every evening, I’m going to fuming in some corner of the house, asking my boy if he is ok with the police state that is his elementary school, and he’s going to be looking at me like I am a lunatic. Still, I will be vigilant. If I sense a principal is a little to into the whole control thing, if she likes her walkie-talkie and single-file lines a little too much, I will speak my mind. I will lead the children on a walk-out.

What’s my name? I am Spratacus, bitches!!

The Monster Inside Me

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 16, 2011 at 5:17 am

It’s happened more than once lately. I’m sleeping and off in the distance, I hear something. It’s not me. It can’t be. It’s just too horrible. So, being human, I do the same thing we have done forever as a species when faced with the incomprehensible: I have tried to come up with stories, reasons and causes, to help me make sense of the frightening thing that’s making the racket in my room. One time, I heard this pinging sound and I imagined that the plumbing in my Edwardian flat was going bad and that soon, a flood of sewage would be washing my wife and I away. Another time, I imagined that the low, vast murmur off in the distance was some kind of beast, like a giant toad, bellowing its war cry just as it was about to attack. Most recently, I imagined that the percussive beat that was engulfing the room was coming from some traveling German rave scene that had chosen to camp out right next to my bed. I can still see the giant Gunther-looking dude DJ’ing and his head bobbing aggressively to Kraftwerk. (If you’ve ever heard the song, Autobahn, then you know that this is the most frightening images of all.)

The sounds, of course, were not caused by any of these things.  As much as I don’t want to admit it, the sounds were all in my head–literally. I am snoring. My wife has said this for some time, but I wouldn’t accept it. She had to be wrong. I just don’t do that. Why I react this way to the idea of snoring probably has to do with the fact that for me, snoring is just such the cliche of the old, bald, cranky man. I don’t see myself that way. Bald and cranky, I’ll cop to that. Maybe I’m even a little proud of those qualities, but old? Me? I think the traveling techno party in my room or the giant toad makes a lot more sense. At least I did until recently.

Now that I’m actually hearing it myself, actually hearing all that volume in my sleep, what can I say? Guilty as charged. (And guilty is the right word because every time it happens, every time I catch myself, I sit straight up and look around to see who’s noticed what I’ve done, which basically means, I look to see if my wife is looking at me with a little smile, as if to say, Yes, dearest, that giant alien-vacuum cleaner you’re imagining–that’s no alien appliance. That’s you. I’d love to film my reaction. She never is awake. She’s used to me snoring, I guess. I know this, but still, I seem to forget every time I go to sleep.

I know I must look nuts jumping out of bed, attempting a furtive glance as the reality settles in on me: I’m just getting older. In one more way, I am becoming my father.

Thanksgiving Chronicles, part 2

In life, observations on November 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Sitting here in my parents’ house, my mom’s pet bird tweeting around and staying away from my father who invented some kind of rubber pipe that he thinks will give Chica, the bird, a sense of security.  Obviously, dad thinks that the bird is autistic and needs security at all times.

I will admit that I felt a little lazy yesterday to leave my house and my wife yesterday to come down to LA, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen my folks and I kind of know that this will be the last Thanksgiving I can come home for some time.  Starting next year, I assume it will be turkey with my wife’s people since they live in SF.  This means one less occasion for my family to get together.  It’s part of life, to go out on one’s own and create new traditions, but then again, where else can I be entertained watching a tiny bird flee my father’s well-meaning and insistent hands?

There’s no place like home, even though technically, this is my parents’ home and not my own.

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