Thursday, October 20, 2011

#6- Short but sweet but probably not sweet at all

I haven't made a post in a while!  Longer than I thought at least.  But I've had some good excuses: I've been sick with a sinus infection, my kids had a four day weekend last week, and most of my free writes have been kinda depressing and convoluted.  But I HAVE been spending some time working on an avatar! At first I tried to find a public domain pic of an old-timey brain anatomy pic that was crazy, but nothing really fit what I wanted.  So I've been working on making one myself and it's taking a long long time to get it right.  I feel like I'm almost there, so I'll finally have an avatar soon!  woo woo!

Since I'm having troubles coming up with thought provoking and hilarious posts, I think the next one is going to be about my top 10 movie favorites.  So that's going to be something for y'all to look forward to...Right?  Sorry guys, I'll come up with something good real soon!

Going to take some Sudafed's and feel sorry for myself.  I've had a couple of rough days, dammit! I have every right to retreat to my comfy bed with the Halloween candy I bought for the trick-or-treaters! Don't judge me!

To quote my favorite fictional bully: Smell ya later!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#5- It was a dark and stormy night, the rain was falling fast, and the captain said, "Anton, Anton! Tell us a story!" And Anton began thus: It was a dark and stormy night, the rain was falling fast...

I'm sitting at the dining room table in the dim light of the overhead lamp, with a window at my back trying its best to let in the gray sunlight that's passing through the overcast sky.  It's the first cold, dreary and soggy day of Autumn so far, and it's completely fitting.  I'm thinking about what this day means to me and trying translate it into words so that I can make a cohesive post.  It's tough going.  The words are being typed out in halting chunks, one or two at a time.  It's like I'm writing the way William Shatner talked in 'Star Trek'. This is not the way things usually go for me; most of the time I'm typing as fast as I can to try to keep up with the ol' thought-bag.  Writing on paper is just as insane, I can't even reread most of my hasty scribbles.  But this post, this one is different.  This one is important.  It's important to me anyway, and I need to get it right.

Today, October 8th, 2011, is the first anniversary of my dad's death.

As a person who writes things down, I've been thinking of this day for several months, trying to come up with something appropriate for the occasion.  I've written down specific memories I have of Dad, the good ones, of course.  As I'm sure most people do when they lose a parent, I have deified him a little bit, remembering the times when I was so small and he was so big (both literally and figuratively), and then the times when I was an adult and he was my Yoda, the weird dude that said wonderful things in crazy ways to help me with life's mysteries.  The period of time in between, probably when I was ages 12-26, are less pleasant, with both of us not behaving our most admirably, and I'm not ready to come to terms with that yet.  Makes me upset thinking about what an asshole I was to him someti- all the time, and how I can never get those years back and.... No, I can't do this part right now.  Good things, happy times, Goddammit!  Maybe some other day I'll bring that guilty, angry part up, hash it out with myself and move on with my life, but that won't be today.  This is often the problem with my good-Dad memories; they're covered in guilt foam and it makes them blurry.

I've also thought about trying to write his biography, not too detailed, mind you, but I could get at least a good 10 pages (not written even, by a word processing machine!).  A broad spectrum of what made Dad Dad: a hard-working, family-loving, slow-moving creature.  He had a smart, absurd, dirty and kind of offensive sense of humor, which, I feel, was his greatest attribute.  But, Dad was a man of his generation and talking about the why-comes and how-fors is not something he did.  So a biography would be either filled with dry, un-amusing facts, or with a lot of subjective, grief-filled speculations and inaccuracies.  Neither of those scenarios will be acceptable.

Option three is to talk about the way his death has affected my life this past year.  That one is a bit of a doozy, since I have since become an Atheist.  It's also a really loooong story filled with my personal experiences, expectations, research and deep thoughts.  And, it's not about my dad.  So we'll save that one for another day as well.

So where does that leave me? I feel the need to write something poignant and beautiful that's equal parts hilarious and moving.  Something that perfectly encapsulates who my dad was and how he left a Dad-sized hole in my heart that will never be refilled.  Is it possible to create a fitting tribute contained in a mere blog post? No.  What if I had millions of dollars and could finance some kind of large structure, therefore ensuring  it was named after him? Nope. What if I was the undisputed overlord of the world and made everyone get tattoos of my dad's face on their foreheads so whenever anyone looked at anyone else they would see him smiling his I-have-a-secret-smile? Although awesome, I don't think that would be enough either.

I guess I'll just have to write some kind of mushed up, unsatisfactory combination of all of the above. So here we go:

I think I'll peel back a tiny layer of my blog-onymity and reveal his actual name.  I think that will make things a little less convoluted without really giving anything away.  I do have a life to live outside this blog, you know!  If my parole officer knew about this, it'd be right back to the slammer for me, for some reason! And just think what my priest would say about me being an Atheist! The monastery would be in an uproar (Do monasteries and priests even go together?  I have no idea what's going on).  So, without further ado, our paterfamilias' name: Fredrick VonBaronstein Sanchez Elenore MacGillicutty.  Jr.

Yeah, I know what ya'll are thinking.  You're thinking, "Wow!  What a super common, boring and dull name Brainy's dad had! Holy crap, just imagine how difficult it was for him going through school; whenever a teacher called his name, five other kids in his class would raise their hands!"

Well ya know what?  That just makes you stupid then because my dad didn't even go to school!  So there! Dumbasses.

Jim.  His name was Jim.

Jim was born in a small town in Illinois in the early 40's.  He had a mom and a dad and an older sister whose name also started with 'J'. As the story goes, one day when Jim was a baby, his dad came home and announced he had enlisted in the Navy to help with the war effort.  I'm not sure if he left that very day or not, but leave he did, with a young wife and two little kids at home no less, to fight Nazis on a ship for awhile.  Hey, it was just what guys did back then: whatever they wanted to.

Dad had eczema really bad as a baby, and he's had other allergy related ailments pretty much from then on; namely nasal polyps that needed to be surgically removed several times.  Medical science sure has made some serious advances in my dad's lifetime. I was too young and don't remember his first sinus surgery, but I was told that he had to spend several days in the hospital and it was really brutal, hammer and chisel kinda shit.  The last one was after he was already sick, just a few years ago.  It was outpatient, all done with cameras and tiny lasers or something.  They still had to pack his sinuses up with gauze to prevent scarring, and removing them at the doctor's office a week later was spectacularly disgusting.  Allergies and sinus problems are one of the things I inherited from my father.  It's probably my least favorite parental trait I have. But I digress.

Jim was an average to below-average student, not for lack of intelligence, but because school is boring and lame.  There have been many third party insinuations within our extended family umbrella that Jim's dad, a strong-willed and important man within the confines of their tiny community, would attempt to toughen up his only son with the occasional black-eye, bruised rib and even a busted arm that one time, but these claims were never substantiated by any reliable sources, least of all, Jim himself.  He wasn't in the business of speaking ill of others (much to my chagrin sometimes I might add).  Jim graduated high school with no particular honors or future aspirations.  We always heard tell of how he spent that first summer after high school on the couch, making calls to stock brokers and raking in the cash.  Jim joined the navy like his dad did soon after summer was over. He always said he did it to avoid getting drafted into the army and going to Vietnam, but we've long speculated it was at least in part to escape his Dad's wrath for making more money in a summer on the couch than he did in a year toiling at the service station.

Jim traveled the world in the service and fell in love with Australia.  After his service was complete, he saved up some money and moved there.  Ballsy, right?  He met and married his first wife there, and then met Mom while convalescing from said marriage's destruction. Mom and Dad moved back to Illinois, got hitched and started a family.  Jim, like most other mid-westerners, had a strong work ethic, and put in long hours to feed his family.  He and his motley crew transferred to Colorado 15 or so years later, and ten years after that he got an amazing early retirement package and was freed from his laborious shackles.  Then what did the man do, you ask? I'm getting to it, dammit! Jesus, you're so impatient!

After he spent almost three decades working to provide for his kids, he began providing for his grandson, as a baby-sitter. Then for a granddaughter too.  They moved away five years later to live with their mother and my dad's heart silently shattered into thousands of pieces.  Luckily, my sister and I had begun our families, and soon there were two more grand-kids (girls).  Then he got sick.  The diagnosis was Parkinson's at first, then after about a year, it was changed to a type of atypical Parkinson's Disease called Multi-Systems Atrophy.  It does just what the name implies and there's no cure (It's a fucking terrible thing to watch someone you love die very slowly over the course of three years).  But right around then, two more grandies (girl and boy) were born! So he had four granddaughters and two grandsons to entertain him for a couple of years.  That makes six, by the way.  He had six grand-kids. I'm laying it all out there in case any of you are math-tarded or stoned.  Or both.

Then he died.

There's the biography part.  My dad's life summed up in a few paragraphs.  I left a lot out, but I suppose those would be the main points he'd want me to address.  Dad always wanted a family, and once he had one, he worked hard to provide for us, not necessarily emotionally but definitely financially.  That was, like it or not, the way he was raised and the only way he knew how to be.  A lot of Dads of Jim's generation showed they cared by giving their offspring a roof to live under and a hot meal digesting in their bellies.  They said 'I love you,' by working a double-shift.  This has been proven to be an ineffective parental technique time and time again, but hey, I can't change the past.  We can talk about gender stereotypes and the lack emotional transference from adult males to children later (that's right, bitches, I took Women's Studies AND Psychology in college!).

Here are some amusing memories:
Dad loved Halloween and dressed up in costumes long after he had age-appropriate children that makes such a thing acceptable and not weird.  He introduced us to Monty Python.  I remember watching 'The Meaning of Life' when I was just a kid and how Dad would fast forward through the sexy parts, but not the violence.  Or the swears for some reason.  We made up a song about him entitled, 'Butt crack Jim,' to the tune of an old sea shanty, and he found it as amusing as we did.  This very blog title is a reference to one of Dad's weird quips that we'd make him say over and over and over (or did he make us listen over and over and over?  Hard to tell).  There's the little ditty about Salerno Butter cookies, which was weird as none of us have ever partaken such a thing, and the infamous 'buckle-up for safety,' song; those are forever going to clog up my brain space and prevent me from learning quantum physics.   And I can't leave out the best game of all: I eight the dead dog in the road!  Get it?  'Eight' sounds exactly the same as 'ate' (also known as a homonym.  See that? I just educated you some)  Here's how it goes:  'There was an old, dead dog in the road.  I one the dog!'  Then the next person says, 'I two-ed the dog!', and so on and so forth until your unwitting friend has to say, 'I eight the dead dog!' HA HA HA!  Sweet baby Jesus that one is funny.  I play it with my kids.  The trick is to always act surprised and disgusted if you get eight.  Makes me laugh every time.  Classic Dad.

His favorite dinnertime toast was, 'To the Queen, wherever he may be!'  His favorite joke was... pretty racist towards polish people, so I'll skip it.  HE wasn't racist, mind you (at least, I'm pretty sure he wasn't), and you could substitute any ethnic group with the fine folks from Poland, and it was just a joke, right?  It certainly didn't make me hate polish people at any rate.  He was like an insult comic in that way: make jokes about the stereotypes you think are outrageous and lame, but if you believe it, even a tiny bit, then you're being a dick.  Pointing out ludicrousness by acting ludicrous, especially when no one's expecting it, is funny.  You either got Dad's sense of humor or you just didn't.  There was no middle ground.  Dad was either the most fucking hilarious, weird dude you'd ever met, or you thought he was annoying, and kinda creepy.

He's been many things to me: hero, embarrassment, enemy, teacher, confidant, cheerleader (when I wrote that, I totally pictured him with some pom poms and a tiny red and white pleated skirt with his hairy belly spilling over the top and I think my imagination went blind), the first dead guy I poked with a stick, the list goes on and on.

There's so many wonderful, insane, hilarious stories to share that I could go on and on forever, but I shouldn't because this post seems to be losing its structure and flopping all over the place, and also I need to post before midnight so it'll still be the right day.  But don't worry, my friends, there'll be more.  Peppered throughout this blog, and my life (and hopefully my children's lives), will be many recollections, anecdotes and plain old bat-shit crazy stuff that comes out of my mouth that is a direct result of the influence of my weird, dead dad.  That thought makes me happy.  Happy, and a little gassy.

See?  I'm doing it already.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#4- Cartoon-tastic!

As the parent of two young children, I watch a lot of cartoons against my will. Not awesome, grownup cartoons like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken (not technically a cartoon, I know, shut up!), Futurama, Bob's Burgers, and American Dad, I love those ones.  What about cancelled classics like The Critic, Home Movies, Dr. Katz, The Oblongs, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill?  Those were great too.  And to a lesser extent of awesomeness, but still admirable, you've got your Aqua Team Hunger Forces, Cleveland Shows, Space Ghosts, Metalocalypses, the list is endless.  Don't forget the 'kid' shows that are really for (immature) adults; some of my favorites from back in the day were gems like Dexter's Laboratory (la-BOR-atory), Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo. Following in those fabulous footsteps are current fun times like Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas & Ferb.  Almost all animated Disney features (the ones that are released to theaters, not the straight-to-DVD horror shows) and Pixar products are purely sublime eye-gasms.

Of course, we mustn't forget Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes!  Roadrunner & Coyote, Bugs & Daffy, or Bugs & Elmer Fudd, and the Bugs Bunny in space episodes, with Marvin the Martian and the crazy space-yeti monster (I will love him and squeeze him and call him George)!  Was it a space yeti or an earth yeti? Either way, it was marvelous.  Oh, oh, remember those Foghorn Leghorn ones with the tiny but determined chicken hawk?!  Or the sweet, insane rapist, Pepi Le Pew!  Tom & Jerry!  But that's Hanna Barbara, not Warner Brothers.  Hey, remember Jerry's uncle that had the huge-tiny mouse cowboy hat and played his tiny mouse guitar and sang all mumbly until he yelled, 'CRAMBO!!'? Holy crap, they were so classic, so wonderfully violent and included little to no dialogue so they could transcend age and language barriers. Everyone can find something entertaining about those oldies.

That was quite the cartoon-tangent I just went on.  I'd say I'm sorry, but... I'm not.  It was totally necessary.

Needless to say from that long list of proof that I've wasted my life in front of the T.V., I love cartoons.  I prefer the animated medium to live action, in fact.  Cartoons are just, prettier.  Better color palettes, more vibrant.  There's also so much more room for story telling.  Any genre, any time, any place, anywhere.  The writers and animators aren't confined by the rules of physics, there are no CGI budgets, and the actors don't have to age or get into horrible, eyeball-poking-out accidents or develop drug/alcohol/sex addictions.  The creators have much more control over every aspect of their characters' world.  I think I lot more creativity can be squished out of a situation like that, and that can make for much more entertainment opportunities.

Now, back to my opening statement.  Since I have said children, and I'm much too lazy to do something as ridiculous as not letting them watch TV, they watch a lot of 'preschool programming'. After so many years of watching these 'educational' shows, either while half-asleep, half-listening, or three-quarters-drunk, I no longer can stand the banality of this vast animated empire of sweet, cherub-faced, audience addressing demons.  I'm not speaking in generalities here, many cartoons aimed towards toddlers and preschoolers are wonderfully charming and actually educational to boot.  Some of them, however, SOME of them are just fucking awful.

I've seen crazy continuity issues, grammatical errors, random anthropomorphicalities and general technical inaccuracies have gotten to a point that it has melted my brain.  I have for many years excused these things as imagination allowances.  Kid cartoon characters playing make-believe don't have to accurately depict how long it would actually take to get to the moon., or that Saturn isn't actually small enough for a 'person' to sit upon it like it was a giant hippity-hop.  Or that its rings aren't really solid enough to bounce and flip around the planet like a... I don't even know, some kind of twirly-twirl-do-dah.  But when my six-year-old watching says, 'aren't planets supposed to spin around (i.e. orbit)?', I have to admit that they're just fucking awful, stupid and terrible cartoons.

But what am I do to?  Wage war against the children's entertainment industry?  That probably won't turn out well (anybody remember 'Death to Smoochy'?  No?).  It's a gigantic, indestructible industry that has some powerful players, from a bald, Canadian 4 year-old, to a personality-impaired Latina girl with a simian companion, all the way up to a shirtless, giant-eared rodent that is most likely in control of the Universe.  Shit, I can't even buy diapers without some brand name cartoon on it.

Why don't you just buy cloth diapers, you say? Or perhaps organic ones that don't lower themselves to commercial endorsements? Why don't you  just not let your children watch such television, and just not purchase the toys they want and instead buy them well-crafted, unique and brain stimulating toys from individual retailers and not soulless mega stores?  Because I'm not a fucking millionaire, that's why.  I live in the real world and have to worry about paying my mortgage and squeezing the very last drop out of the laundry detergent bottle.

I would love to have the time, money and energy to escape from the gelatinous children-centric media blob and its slimy ooze that coats everything it touches with smiling, vapid creatures from what surely must be the seventh-level of Hell.  But I don't.  So I remind the ol' offspring that fairy tales and happily-ever-afters are, unfortunately, just stories that aren't real.  I do stuff like talk to them about the human digestive system during dinner, complete with pictures from my old anatomy book.  I always answer their questions honestly, and walk the fine line between abetting their belief in magic and feeling guilty about tricking them with Easter eggs.  In short, I do the best I can with what I got.  And I watch a lot of fucking (good) cartoons to ease the pain.