A No-No in NoCal

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)


I don’t know how often I’ve ever used the phrase “lose my sh*t”.  It doesn’t really feel like me, nor something I’d share loudly with my wife and kids in a car outside of San Francisco.  But after several days of driving and family time merged with a sinus infectious that made my head feel like the house at the end of POLTERGEIST, I couldn’t deal with it any more.  Not the brain-grinding whining over playing a trivia quiz where there were no points or competition.  Not when each kid will pick from a multiple choice answer, then when they find out it’s wrong, they angrily shrill, “No!  I meant the other one!”  Then the other kid will argue that the other one didn’t and is cheating.  Then on the next question, the other one gets it wrong and the younger one goes at him like he did before and it repeats itself into the most annoying infinity loop ever.  It’s like WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF with talking kid wolves that refuse to kill you and put you out of your misery.

And to make confined long road trips with my family in an unfamiliar locale even more challenging, I also had to deal with a sinus infection that was kicking my head’s ass.  A sinus infection that struck so bad that, while sleeping, I actually sneezed myself awake.  I’d never done that before in my life.  To go from my peaceful slumbering fetal position to snapping wide awake is like chewing gum and blowing a bubble out your ear.  At least, this nasal terror ONLY happened several times a night! 

On top of that, during my awake periods, when I would blow my big fat nose, the missus would come in from another room and ask if I heard someone scream. 

Nope.  Just my nose blowing. 

Then another time I blew my nose, she came into the room and asked if I was talking to her. 

Nope.  Just my jalopy sinuses and the aural apocalypses that my requisite snot-blowing can create.  Ben Burtt should come record my snot-blows to be the language of a new STAR WARS creature.  Or maybe just Jabba the Hutt with a cold.

Me after blowing my nose for three days straight.

Me after blowing my nose for three days straight.

So, I wasn’t at the top of my game physically.  Wasn’t sleeping well. 

To be terribly honest, I have immense difficulty being a human being dealing with humans as it is.  Thus, when my kids' incessant braying of cheating rose to a level that punched the balls of my brain repeatedly while I also tried to navigate through some sludgy slow-ass San Francisco claustrophobic traffic surrounded by giant semi’s and trailers (and even a pick-up truck suspiciously hauling a giant fresh-off-the-boat trailer behind it like it was stocked full of plutonium and sadness), it was much too much. 

All families argue on trips.

All families argue on trips.

Whiny kids whining over the nothingest nothing, crappy traffic in a foreign land of Day Five of family fun time travel, and a sinus infection so bad I thought my eyes would pop out like Schwarzenegger’s in TOTAL RECALL, it was just too much for me.  I know as some kind of grown-ass man I should have been better.  But I wasn’t.  And that silence that I achieved after shouting like an idiot was actually… nice.  Quite nice.  Quite nice with a tangible amount of embarrassing guilt.  But it was peaceful.  I knew I had to apologize later.  (And I did.)  But it was the bubble of mind space needed to get through that moment.  Which there should be for everyone all the time.

There should be an iPhone app that puts a bubble around you where everything around you slows and a sense of calmness surrounds you as Enya sings and gently combs your goatee.  In fact, it’s a down right shame that programmers everywhere have not spent EVERY moment making such an app happen instead of provoking birds with anger issues and allowing fingers to swipe their way to instant courtship.  

Perhaps that’s one of the problems with our modern world not being modern enough.  We’re not having A.I. / EX MACHINA robot kids yet and so these biological wonders don’t do everything you want them to do when you want them to.  They’re unpredictable and not prone to wait until you’re really ready to deal with them when your brain is less snot-filled and there’s less traffic. 

Plus, there are no emotional sneeze guards for kids.  They sneeze emotions on you all the time, making you feel their feelings.  (Not to mention all their real sneezes that cover you no matter how many times you tell them to do a vampire sneeze.  Back in my day there were no "vampire sneezes".  You just covered your nose with your hand and then that hand carried the germs everywhere you went spreading sickness around the world like the dirty booger-wipin’ animals we are.  But in this modern future, you sneeze into your anti-elbow area like you’re the Count counting all the chocolate marshmallows in Count Chocula.)

(In full disclosure, I am a Frankenberry man myself.)    

(In full disclosure, I am a Frankenberry man myself.)    

But the kids get under your skin in ways you can’t ever imagine.  Because you love them more than you do yourself.   But they also remind you of yourself more than yourself.  Their immaturities are yours.  Their foul behaviors learned from you.  They do not do what you say, but they do what you do and when you do do bad do’s they do so in a way that’s the emotional equivalent of the ultimate “Why are you hitting yourself “conundrum. 

Basically, it’s our inappropriate education system that gives us Spring Breaks where we have to actually parent our kids that’s at fault.  School is the place that keeps your kids for a few hours to make you like them more when you see them later.  It’s like an emotional depressurization chamber. (Oh, and they possibly learn something there, too.  Hypothetically.)  And school helps foster that whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because it does make your kids fonder to you. 

Because once your reality kids head off to school, your reality kids turn into abstract kids.  They’re your kids but in the abstract (and in their absence), they become idealized and perfect little beacons of cherubic bliss.  Because your abstract kids are always doting and listening and cheerful and funny and not like reality kids.  Reality kids have those moments, but they also have moments of yelling, crying, whining, pooping, peeing, arguing, blaming, screaming, puking, and talking endlessly about Minecraft in ways that make you scream “Pong!!!” to the heavens with a greater sense of revenge than Kirk ever did shouting: “Khannnnnnnnnnn!!!”

So basically traveling has taught me I’m still growing.  That I’m childlike in ways that aren’t great.  But that in the end, I can only do what I’ve done so far.  Try my best.  Apologize when I’m a dick.  And every once in awhile, lock myself in a cone of silence until I can deal with everyone again once more and they can pretend to stand me.

Episode II: The New Dads

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

Growing up in the 70s & 80s, I got to witness when dads were being called upon to start doing more than they had.  Beginning of the end of the era where men could easily have virtually nothing to do with actually parenting their kids.  Before, they could drift off to a living room with a drink and watch baseball in silent masculine machismo misery.  But back then it began to change, maybe thanks to progress like Gloria Steinem, burning bras, and the Equal Rights Amendment fight. (By the way, it still boggles my tiny little mind that the ERA didn't pass.  Of course, at that time, Congress was even more filled with men than it is now.  In fact, it was 200% men in Congress.  Basically almost all men and each of those men had at least two dicks, all the better to dick the American people over with.)  Along with society, pop culture was changing things with songs like Cat Stevens "Father and Son" and John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" and dads on TV went from being brusque domineering wife and child beaters to being kind and somewhat understanding.  

However, it still wasn't a time where real life dads did a ton more with their kids than before or shared their feelings or didn't mostly just communicate primarily through sports.  (There might be a double negative in there, but don't go all negative on it.)  But that was then and this is now and even if I was back with Don Draper, I couldn't be Don Draper.  I'm an oversensitive, whiny baby and I overthink things.  This might be good traits in a writer trying to find emotion in characters, but in a dad, it can get complicated. Because I overthink things, there's not virtually anything that I do as a dad that I don't think will do damage to them in some way.  

If you don't show them enough attention, they'll grow up and turn into raging pricks.  If you show them too much attention, they'll grow up and turn into entitled douchebags.  There are 5 trillion studies that prove all of this and that EVERYTHING you do is wrong.  I'm not an expert in raising kids or child psychology, but I do know when I see my kids emulating me in various ways, I'm not all full of yippees.  I don't want them to be the man I am, I want them to be so much better.

Driving in Los Angeles, my kids get to see me at my worst.  Once you get in a car in Los Angeles, each driver is in need of an exorcism as things take over our mouths and bodies in ways that would never occur.  When you get cut off in the supermarket by an old lady's cart, you aren't a flurry of middle fingers and shouting offensive words.  (Which is because that would be rude - and she's probably very close to death, so who cares?)  So you behave like a decent human being when dealing with people in person.  But once you get in your little moving box of glass and metal and plastic, you are in a very expensive tank that everyone should respect, just as you respect their moving tanks.  

Despite those unrealistic hopes though and trying to model good basic human behavior, you drive on to the freeway and all bets are off.  Immediately words and gestures come flying out of you.  Most of the time you remember you have ears in the backseat, but sometimes not.  And when you don't, you realize they're these little snitch sponges that soak up everything and regurgitate it out when you least expect it.  They also can pick up on things you don't think they can pick up on.  

Years ago, when driving down the street and a guy walked right down the middle of the street as though it wasn't for cars, I muttered to myself, "Out of the way, dickhead."  From behind, I heard my three-year-old ask, "Why'd you call him that?"  Without missing a beat, I answered casually: "Because that's his name... Richard Head.  Dick's a nickname for Richard."  And to be honest, I didn't know that guy's name wasn't that.  

So the key to me being the kind of me dad that I can live with, I have to reconcile my being an okay dad.  And with a lot of dads not being present, merely by showing up I'm probably ahead of the curve slightly.  I start the dad game with house money just by being around.  By waking up with my kid in the middle of the night and rocking him back to sleep.  By not spanking them or belittling them.  By listening to them talk about Minecraft and Terraria and Plants vs. Zombies as if it makes sense to me and pretending to be terribly interested.  By trying to understand that I need to just be the best I can be and hope that therapy in the future will cover the rest.

My TCM Week

(I love DVR-ing random films off TCM.  Here are some things I recently watched, probably a long time after they initially aired on TCM.)

This past week of what I've been watching on TCM from my DVR are two films that are part of their Female Directors series.  The first I watched was VALLEY GIRL.  I'd seen it before a few years ago and it didn't do much for me then, but this time it was pure magic. The music is beyond spectacular with a ton of hits of that time.  One of the key songs is the constantly cheerful, "I Melt with You."  But the real find for me this time was this song by Sparks that played during a romantic scene.  Immediately I had to go and find it and now I've been doing nothing but listening to Sparks songs for the past week.  

Here's the song I dug and it's a delightful earworm of the first order.

(The odd thing is that my favorite song of the summer is a surprisingly chirpy song called "Piss Off" by FFS, which is Franz Ferdinand with this band Sparks from the 80s.  And I had no idea because I put the "idea" in "idiot".)

And it had Nicholas Cage with some very weird V-shaped chest hair, so there's that, too.

Also, I watched FIRST LOVE with William Katt and Susan Dey, another of the female directors series.  So in it, basically, the Greatest American Hero and the L.A. Law lady have a fair amount of sex, Katt calls her the c word you're really not supposed to call a lady, and he asks her if she has an orgasm.  

Now, I loved THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO so much as a kid that I shout-sang crazy-"Let-It-Go"-FROZEN-style the theme song during my elementary school music class like a deranged person.  (I might have even been weeping.)  Thus, years later, I turned my love of that song into a bedtime lullaby for both my sons when they were babies.  And now that I saw this film, I'm not sure I'll ever look that superhero or sing that song the same again.  Once you hear Ralph Hinkley ask Ms. L.A. LAW about orgasms, it's all a bit tainted.

Also, Dey is involved with a much older Robert Loggia.  And she's choosing between a young soccer-playin' William Katt and a mid-40s cheatin' Loggia.  Because why would you choose Katt when you can break yourself off a piece of Robert Loggia.

What's amazing to me is that this film came out in 1977.  The same year a film William Katt auditioned for a character called Luke Skywalker came out.  How things could be so different with the smallest of changes.

So that's it for now.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a brilliant week!

So long,
Patrick T.
the T stands for Machismo