Sunday, August 16, 2015

If You Like Piña Coladas...

Please understand—I understand.

Sitting through a vacation slideshow can kind of suck.

Who doesn't remember those Saturday evenings at your Great Aunt Pedreen's house, bored out of your gourd and anxious to get home in time for Mary Tyler Moore, or at the very latest The Bob Newhart Show. You've already spent four hours trying not to stare at Great Uncle Odgar's unrepaired hernia flap and you're ready to purge their chipped-beef-smelling Davenport from your teenage memory bank.

Your aunt feverishly clears the dessert dishes, boosting your spirits with her apparent desire for an accelerated end to the evening's festivities. You arise, hopeful that but one final obstacle lies ahead: the inevitable bosomy grind and slushy smooch from Pedreen's frustrated spinster sister, Latreena.

But alas, even before the kitchen sponge's snail trail can evaporate into the musty air, Uncle Od enters the room and lowers the slide projector onto the dining room table—gingerly, lest his hernia distend his tender abdomen another belt hole. At the sight you lower yourself back into your chair, pissed and discouraged that you'll be lucky to get home for the last half of Carol Burnett.

I'll try to keep things brief since that memory is apparently a bit tarter than I had thought.

My family and I are back from two weeks in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Here's where the place is in the big picture:

And here's it is up close:

Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo is situated atop the Los Amnesias Aquifer, Earth's only known natural Tequila spring.

I don't expect you to feel sorry for us, but as KISS famously said in two chords or less, it was hotter than Hell. Seriously, I'm typing this post so obnoxiously sunbaked, I look like a blackened pot roast with glistening teeth and slowly-diminishing intestinal distress.

Our fifteen-day excursion to Los Cabos was divided into two segments: the first week with friends and the second with family. Here's the initial group:

Left to right, that's me, my wife Terri, Becky, Isabella, Pete, Lauryn, Zoe and her friend David.

We've known Becky and Pete since the days of Bartles, James and Glass Tiger. As soon as the four of us were convinced that Y2K wouldn't cause locust infestations and permanent Windows-based computing:

Izzy and Lauryn came along.

The first week we stayed at a place called Villa del Palmar. If you're familiar with these timeshare facilities, you understand that upon check-in, you're assaulted by the sales department. Okay, maybe "assault" is a little tough. Let's go with "violation."

We've lodged a few times at these types of places, but never agreed to attend one of their "seminars." This time, however, lured by the ambrosia of two hundred dollars in free adult beverages, a complimentary breakfast and fifteen percent off everything merely to sit through a ninety-minute tour and sales pitch, we capitulated. After all, how bad could it be?

Bad. How can I describe this? First of all, I was super hot from the get-go, just embarrassingly sweaty. My body irrigated itself with increasing gusto as the tour droned on, ultimately settling on a sultry hundred and three Fahrenheit. We toured all sizes of units from one-bedrooms to penthouse suites overlooking the Sea of Cortez.

Finally, like a Slurpee after hot yoga, our family was ushered into an air-conditioned room, packed with people sitting at tables and drinking alcohol in all imaginable forms. We settled into our own table with our own sales woman, a spritely imp half my age who used the word "awesome" like she owned freaking stock in it. Sporadically, the hollow "bolp" of a popping cork would fill the air, announcing another condominium purchase and two tickets to paradise for a lucky, albeit debt-saddled, couple.

Two-and-a-half hours and several offers later, our blond tormentor brushed back her bob, straightened her specs and looked at us.

"Okay, I understand you don't want to pay $52,000 for a unit here. That's awesome. Just tell me what you want."

My wife is a straight shooter. I am not, and that's one of the reasons I love and admire her so much. "What we want is for your presentation to be done," she said, looking Sally Jessie Raphael, Jr. dead in the eye. "The only reason we did it is to get the stuff and we told you that from the beginning. You told us this would be ninety minutes. It's now two and a half hours."

Silence engulfed the air around our table. Finally Barbie's little sister took a deep, uncertain breath."Okay," she said. "Awesome."

Phase Two was family week and here we are. At the edge of the infinity pool are my brother-in-law Andy, my sister Ann, niece Holly, Lauryn, Zoe, Terri and me. We spent week two at Hacienda Encantada, a few more miles down the coast from Cabo.

We quickly became acquainted with Pam, the woman in the floppy hat. Prior to knowing Pam's name, we called her Hurricane Sandy, since she told us within minutes of meeting her that she'd been though Cabo's Hurricane Odile last September. She was enjoying a free stay after enduring the Baja Peninsula's most destructive tropical cyclone in recorded history.

Here's how it looked coming in:

Not sure I've ever seen a storm with actual teeth before. Holy shit.

Okay, let's not wrap things up on a bad note, because Cabo San Lucas is a fantastic place. I've never known lamb to resurface so quickly after a major natural disaster, but like a beacon in the darkness...

On another note, Zoe was so thrilled that these guys knew the whole Neil Diamond catalog.

And I finally found the time to show the amazing fit of my new Speedo. 

Trust me, okay? 

Great to be back!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Seeing the Ocean for the Macaroni.

What's a good term for my situation?

Existential crisis? Nah, too dramatic.

It could be more of a midlife malaise, only that would imply I'll live to be 104, which would be fantastic. Problem is, if I'm currently peeing every morning in five languid installments, by the century mark I'll need a tasteful prostate pram to wheel around that leathery gland that partially popped free of my body in 2038.

No, I'll just assess this situation using a system to which we grew accustomed back in the Bush years—Irrelevance Alert Level Orange, or more formally defined as "a high risk of becoming paternally insignificant."

When I started keeping this journal six years ago, my children were ages fourteen and nine. I was fully immersed in nuclear family Americana, rarely poking my head through the surface in an ocean of macaroni, cheese and hot dog pennies.

Year after year, the fatherly importance threat level hovered at its lowest stage—Green—and only occasionally would it elevate to Level Blue, or "guarded." This slightly higher risk of irrelevance occurred only when one of my daughters did something unusually independent, like replacing toilet paper.

I coached soccer, I went on field trips; Costco wasn't a place to hit up real quick for a few odds and ends, it was a destination rivaling only the IKEA ball pit in kid curb appeal. Nearly every visit, after watching my grubby cherubs stuff their rosy cheeks with enough fro-yo to illicit unfettered shivering, I'd wrap them in their pink or purple jackets as we cruised the aisles looking for enough Gogurt and Goldfish to make it through another week.

My younger daughter was a bubbling aquifer of verbal treasures:

"I'm sorry. I just feel fragile today."

"When can I drink coffee? I want to try a crappuccino."

"You don't know how I feel! You're not inside my heart!"

Sure, life had its routines back when I started writing this weblog, but with kids in the house, the mundane could explode into the insane in the blink of a pink eye. Ever had someone vomit in your slipper...while it's still on your foot? Ever pulled a Barbie out of your coat pocket on the bus and wondered if you should try to explain it to the lady next to you?

Anyway, I think you get my point. I'm obviously still a dad who does a lot of dad stuff, but now I'm more the key grip than the director. During those days of high energy and overwhelming fatigue, I yearned for a future that allowed for a bit more breathing room. It happened. And with it came an abundance of time, and a heightened fear of irrelevance.

The Mayo Clinic defines empty nest syndrome as "parental feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home." I disagree, since it's still another three years until my younger daughter goes to college.

I'm feeling it now, maybe not as severely as I will, yet still I never could have imagined the meaty chunk of my personal identity that's permanently and irrevocably embedded in my dad self. And currently, while it does make me sad, this is not yet the time to step aside.

After all, while the nest may be half empty, it's also half full.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Creamsicles and Copperfield.

Hi! Holy Crocs-in-the-mud, it sure has been a while, eh?

For me, writing is one of those deals that, when things are rolling, when I've got lots of ideas, can be very, very, very, very fun. Yet for every muse that whispers fragrant gifts of inspiration, a lazy Lucifer lurks. He taunts me with Netflix series, reality shows and naps, and it is under this douchebag demon's spell I have been moldering these past thirty-eight days. This must stop.

So let's review—how much do you remember about what's gone down in the last month-and-a-half? Actually, don't worry about it, because I looked it up, and let's just say that fortunately it's closer to the Bellagio buffet than Roy's Chuckwagon. So, just to refresh your memory:

On June 6, two inmates at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York David Copperfielded their way out of the maximum security facility and stayed on the lam for over three weeks. One of them ended up with a tap-tap to the temple while the other was shot twice in the torso, survived and was recently remanded to Supermax to spend 23 hours a day in a box for the remainder of his life.

Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo's casting call/cocktail parties continued every Thursday evening in the governor's mansion. Whomever is going to play Cuomo in the ABC Monday Night Movie of the Week is still too close to call, but so far, Alan Thicke leads after killing it in his press conference monologue. Hasselhoff, desperate and trying to show his chops by summoning tears, blew it in Cuomo's stern eyes. You could tell the gov's frowny grin that The Hof had blown it.

Remember the Rachel Dolezal affair? Spokane's NAACP leader was outed (by her own parents!) as being whiter than my brother's calves. I'm not going to judge this woman. I don't doubt what she says is true—that the situation is complex. But inevitably my mind strayed. Every time they showed those split-screen before/after photos, delicious Creamsicles hijacked my consciousness.

On the political front since June 3, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Donald Trump have lobbed their greazy top hats onto the rug of presidential candidacy, joining an already crowded field. I'll save the jokes for later posts—so many possibilities—but I did hear that Christie is still undecided. He actually showed up thinking he was in the line for maple bars.

Seriously, let's face it, good or bad, we can't have a president who wears his pants like Homer J. Simpson.

But shit got real on June 26. In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed same-sex marriage legally enforceable in all fifty states and Florida. Amazing, isn't it? Especially for this fiftysomethinger who grew up in an era when the other F-word was tossed around with the frequency and ease of a Nerf football.

Oh, yeah, and chalk up another "W" for the good guys during June. In another 6-3 vote, the black-robed priests of the Temples of Syrinx upheld the Affordable Care Act, ensuring health insurance for ten million newly-insured Americans.

For all the messed up stuff that happens in this nation—the shootings, the religious and political polarization, it feels like together, we still seek a more enlightened society, which is heartening.

Next stop: fracking. Hopefully, we're able to become fully enlightened prior to becoming fully submerged.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Together at Heart.

What's your earliest memory? How far back can you go?

At a staff meeting in my accounting days, the managing partner (I'll call him Dave) sat at the head of the long conference table. That day's topic was choices.

"Some people believe," he said, his Otterpop-blue eyes drilling through bushy Scandinavian eyebrows, arched and challenging, "that we choose our parents in the womb."

I remember thinking, "Okay, what? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, and he's the head guy here?" And judging by the faces of my colleagues, I wasn't the only one thinking that. After a bloated silence, Jill, a tax attorney from Canada, propped her elbows up on the table.

"Dave," she said, "these people... are they friends of yours?"

It was one of those situations where one person laughed and it spread to three, then seven, then twenty-three, then forty employees in a small conference room, as Dave, ever the sporting chap, sat grinning and blushing.

Yet his question lingered. What is my earliest memory? After spending a little time ringing out the spongy, fifty-two-year-old grey matter, I've a vague recollection of propping myself up in a crib. It was a dark room in my grandma's house. I remember the fear of the dark in an unfamiliar place and the irritation at missing out on whatever was happening in Adultland: Place of Light and Stimulation.

But consider this: what if your first conscious memories emanate from the arid plains of the West? 
The winter wind stings your face and the sweltering July sun scorches your back. The images are blurred, but you remember looking down at your shoes in the dust, kicking rocks. It's home, and you are cherished. Everyone is within a few footsteps—cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents—your older brother. 

It's a good life.

This is the story of my friend Michel Kuwahara, whose first memories are as a toddler living at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming.

Here's Michel, in his own words:

The location of the former concentration camp at Heart Mountain is barely more than the piece of local topography shown on Google Maps. A few decrepit barracks and a chimney stack are the only physical remains. The physical changes wrought by the camp's having been there are more obvious: the fact that it is now verdant farmland, while in 1942, when we were deposited there, it was arid wasteland. Internees from the Yakima Valley, who knew about farming in such unfriendly country, built an irrigation system that still serves the needs of the farmers who took over the site after the War.

Michel, at left, sits with his cousin Chico (Alan Kumamoto).

In February, 1942, all Japanese and their descendants who were living on the West Coast, were taken into custody on short notice. Many people lost much, or even, most of what they owned, including farms, other property, houses and cars. Thanks to the fact that my parents had many non-Japanese friends principally through my father's work, friends rallied round and agreed to hold property and possessions belonging to my family.

When we learned that multiple families from one address would be housed in close proximity wherever they were taking us, our extended family gathered at my grandfather's house the night before. We were recorded as residents of that address when they came for us, then taken to Santa Anita Racetrack to live for the six months it took to build the camps.

Then, after a long train ride, we arrived at Heart Mountain. The Camp's living quarters were divided into twenty blocks, of which we lived in Block No. 24. It's probably some kind of military logic. Each block had twenty five barracks divided in two, each half with a unit of six and one unit of seven barracks. I assume that the odd barrack was for "bachelors". Single women, I suppose, were expected to stay with "family". Each unit shared a mess hall and a toilet, bathing, laundry facility. The barracks had no water supply. As a toddler, I was bathed at home and I realized when I learned of the lack of plumbing, that someone had to carry my bath water from the laundry room. The same must have been true for watering my grandmother's garden.

Yet with all the ingenuity and resilience shown by your family and the other internees during those three-and-a-half years spent in exile, the topic was rarely discussed during the ensuing 70?

Very rarely.

Why do you think that is?

Two reasons: the first is cultural. We don't discuss unpleasant things. The second is personal. For many people, it was the great humiliation of their lives.

Your brother Denis (at left) was eight at the time. Had the two of you ever talked about it?

As a small child, it was natural for me to talk about the Camp. My parents and brother would answer my questions, but I would never have thought to ask them about their feelings.

So after all this time, what happened? What changed?

The Interpretive Center opened.

In 2011, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation opened the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center. Michel and Denis participated in the 2014 annual gathering known as The Pilgrimage. Those two nattily dressed folks in the middle are Michel and Denis' grandparents, two-dimensional museum greeters. 

In the cut-out, my grandmother, newly arrived from Japan, is wearing her first Western-style dress made by my grandfather, a talented and able man. He was a physician, delivering 240 babies while he was at the Camp.

My grandparents had a traditional, arranged marriage. My grandfather agreed to marry the sister of one of his friends before leaving for the US. The friend sent my grandmother across the ocean when she had reached the right age.

Talk about your father—was he born in Los Angeles as well?

My father emigrated with his family to the United States in 1910. This would not have been possible, because of the "gentlemen's agreement" between the Governments of Japan and the United States which severely restricted emigration from Japan, had his older brothers not arrived in this country prior to the "agreement". The family was only allowed to emigrate because they were family of already established immigrants.

His name was Shin Rokuro Kuwahara. When the man at Immigration heard Rokuro, he told my father that his name was Robert Kuwahara. Professionally, my father took the name Bob Kuwahara and, for some time after the War, the name became Bob Kay, so that readers of his syndicated comic strip would not recognize him as Japanese.

And your mother?

She was born in San Francisco in 1904. In 1906, the building in which she had been living with her younger sister and her parents, was destroyed by the earthquake. Their temporary home, immediately after the Quake was the city's Presidio, where the Government had set up a tent city for victims of the disaster. They eventually moved to the East First Avenue section of Los Angeles which, by that time, was known as Little Tokyo which, by the nineteen-teens, had the largest immigrant Japanese population in the country.

My parents were married in 1933. This photograph was taken on the grounds of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, then property of the Los Angeles Art Institute. Since my father was an artist for Walt Disney Studios, he was able to use the location.

Goes without saying that Disney was a considerably smaller operation in 1933, yes?

Yes, but growing. During the mid-1930s, my father became involved creating concepts and storyboards for the studio's first full length feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

I think I've heard of it. And Mr. Disney was a hands-on manager, from what I understand. 

He personally approved or rejected every idea.

Here's an example of a sketch created by Bob Kuwahara for a scene in the witch's lair. In this case, the finished product doesn't stray much at all from the original:

Mr. Kuwahara left Disney in 1937 and joined MGM Studios, remaining an employee until February of 1942, when the west coast of the United States was deemed a "military zone" by Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and subject to the immediate evacuation of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Nearly two-thirds of those interned were U. S. citizens. Here's Michel again:

Upon arriving at Heart Mountain, my parents and I were chosen to appear in propaganda films meant to show the "good" face of The Evacuation. Having lived in a Caucasian area of Los Angeles, it must have been apparent that my parents were well-assimilated. And as a cute baby in my mother's arms, I was the perfect finishing touch. My eight-year-old brother would have been a cumbersome extra body, so he was left out.

We were shown arriving at our new "home." A later scene showed my mother reading to me in a pleasantly set-up room. I suppose that these scenes were shot in simulations. The reality was a single room with unfinished walls, a pot-bellied stove and a single light fixture.

That had to have been devastating to your parents, helping to perpetuate a lie while also excluding your brother.

I'm sure it was, but as I said, it was never discussed.

Here you are again, second from the right.

This has always been one of my favorite photographs. Notice how the photographer has perfectly framed Heart Mountain inside the baby swing. It also gives you some idea of the barren terrain of the place.

On December 17, 1944, President Roosevelt announced the end of the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, thus allowing the return home of the internees. Did your family return to southern California?

No, we moved to Larchmont, a small town in Westchester County, New York. My parents had decided not to return to the racism of the West Coast. Although our new town was entirely Caucasian, they accepted my family for what we were and I did not experience prejudice in growing up there. Here I am at a birthday party. I'll let you guess which one is me.

That TV in the background is awesome, by the way.

Larchmont's ethnic mix was predominantly Anglo-American with healthy Irish, Italian and Jewish populations. There was a working-class section of town, predominantly Irish and Italian, but social division was based on economics rather than race. There were as many Irish and Italians living in the better sections of town as in the working class areas. 

Of African-Americans—"negroes," in the parlance of the day— there were none. It was the result of another "gentleman's agreement," whereby realtors simply agreed not to sell to blacks. When I learned, in my late teens, that a house across the street from our church was not sold to an African family—the father was an ambassador to the United Nations, no less—because of opposition particularly from the pastor of our church, it caused me to rethink my opinion of my adopted hometown and led me to leave the Church. 

My father's first post-War work was Miki, a comic strip based upon me as young child and my imaginary Uncle Harry:

Also occurring during that period, I discovered my aversion to authority in all its forms. I spent many ensuing years never looking into the photographer's camera. Here I am around age fifteen:

Apparently, teenagers aren't a heck of a lot different now than they were then. Did your father ever return to animation?

Yes. In 1950, he began writing and directing for Terrytoons Studio (Deputy Dawg, Hector Heathcote) For Hashimoto-san, he created the characters and directed 14 cartoons prior to his death in 1964.

What did your future hold?

I attended Fordham University and the School of Visual Art, both in New York City, followed by a year living in Paris. Here I am during that period.

I spent my most of my adult life living in New York City. I worked in the music management business, working primarily on publicity for classical artists. Later I became a freelance graphic artist, which I remained until retirement.

Which brings us back to Heart Mountain and August of 2014. How did you expect to feel returning home, so to speak?

I looked ahead to my visit to Heart Mountain with mixed feelings. I initially found the word "Pilgrimage" uncongenial because the word implies something spiritually profound and the meeting that was described sounded like an ordinary convention. I was wrong; it was a pilgrimage and I came away from it with profound feelings.

Reviewing the Camp through the eyes of the older detainees opened my own eyes to a view of the experience that was new to me. The things I had seen in films or read in books were at a remove. Being with fellow inmates, even though I had never met them before, enabled me to realize that, oblivious as I had been as a three-year-old, I had been surrounded by people, including my parents and brother, who were hurting badly from loss and that nothing that they could do would ever make this place the home for them that it had been for me.

Since his retirement, Michel has honed his skills as a talented gardener, musician, writer and poet. Here's a piece he recently created about the Pilgrimage, written in a Japanese poetry form known as Choka:

Returning to Heart Mountain
Took a courage now
That I am older and more
Susceptible to
The kinds of hurt that the young
Shrug off like rain drops

Could these green fields and meadows
Be the arid plains
That blew up gritty dust storms
And when it rained
Pooled up lakes of sticky mud
Sucking at your feet
My brother’s recollection
Horizontal snow
My father remembered his
Hair frozen solid
My mother refused to have
Memories at all

Returning to the Camp site
Took me beyond all
My family’s hurt and pain
I felt a kinship
With perfect strangers who had
Been inmates with me
What kind of feeling is it
When there is a bond
With those you have never met
But whose feet once stepped
Into the stream of that life
That only a few
Of us had ever shared and
Always remember

Ambiguous feelings wake
These mixed emotions
Returning to the place of
Why should it feel so like
Finally returning home

Thanks, Michel. Welcome home.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lying Lord Silverbottom

It’s been three months now since my Seahawks forfeited governance of their bowels on the one-yard-line of Super Bowl XLIX.

And I have to admit, not one of those ninety-five days has passed devoid of a mental reunion with that sorry-ass finish. It’s like raking your elbow knob against metal. It’s a pain that stabs with intensity, then slowly ebbs, but not before muted oaths are spat about to whomever created my mouth in His image. 

My heretofore healing Hawk hematoma was infused yesterday with a fresh helpin’ of sour blood. Tedd Wells, an independent attorney hired by the National Football League, issued a 243-page report concluding that “it is more probable than not” that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady conspired with equipment personnel to under-inflate the Patriots’ game balls, thereby allowing Brady an easier grip and giving New England a competitive advantage.

Brady, when initially questioned in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, replied, “I didn’t alter the ball in any way. I have no knowledge of wrongdoing.”

Liar, liar, hair blow dryer. Yo, GQ, no one likes a lying patriot, because while you refused to cooperate with the investigation, the other parties to the caper rolled over like Kim Kardashian putting on a dress. 

According to Wells’ report, the following text exchange occurred between equipment handlers Jim McNally and John Jastremski, after Brady complained about the ball pressure following a game with the New York Jets:

McNally: Tom sucks… I’m going make that next ball a (expletive) balloon.

Jastremski: I have a big needle for u this week.

McNally: Better be surrounded by cash and new kicks… or it’s rugby Sunday. (Expletive) Tom.

From the looks of things, the entire report could have been condensed down to that three-line text trail. It’s apparent that Mr. McNally was counting on some quid pro quo from Brady in the form of money or shoes, lest he inflate the football to the size of its rotund cousin, the rugby ball.

It’s hard to blame the superstar quarterback for lying back in January. He had to, or else risk disqualification from the big game. But now, with last season a speck in the rearview mirror, we’ll see what the NFL does to punish Tommy Football for his “more probable than not” bullshit story. Perhaps nothing.

For those of you nice enough to have read all the way through to this point in my essay, I’ve got a little treat for your troubles. Don’t ask me how I got my hands on this; suffice it to say it involved combining the Patriot Act with a few loathsome yet invigorating favors. I’ve obtained a partial manuscript of a conversation between Tom Brady and his Brazilian supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, just after the allegations surfaced. 

Is it authentic? More probably than not. The following conversation allegedly took place during a helicopter ride between their three-car garage and five-car garage:

Gisele: Oh, Tom, I am so tired of all these ball jokes. Hmph. Americans. It is so hurtful to the person who actually has a relationship with your testicles… and that person is me, Tom.

Brady: Baby, Gronk sees mah balls all the time! Heh! No, really, ahm not ashamed of the old giggleberries. Ya’ll shouldn’t be either, Baby.

Gisele: I think you know what I mean, Tom. So it is now that I must ask you this. You are my husband and because of that we are married. I need you to be honest with me, Tom.

Brady: Of course, Baby.

Gisele: Are you sure, Tom?

Brady: Sure as shit, Baby.

Gisele: Good, my Tom, good. Because if a man cannot be truthful with his wife, their marriage is nothing more than a feeb.

Brady: Feeb? Oh, a fib! Yeah, Baby, yeah. You know ahm a straight shooter. Go ahead, ask me.

Gisele: Well, okay…here goes…

…My abs—do they look nice today?

Damn. Thought we were on to something.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's Not All Good.

The bus was already crowded when it stopped at 3rd and University. Passengers poured in and out, front and back, many eager to leave downtown after a long Monday. As I sat scribbling in my notebook, folks settled into their positions for the ride back to West Seattle. 

Without warning, a shrill noise bellowed from the speaker above my head, shooting through my torso and jolting my bottom into a pair of convulsing Bundt cakes. 

“Will the woman in the pink scarf sitting by the back door please come to the front and pay your fare?” It was so loud, the driver’s voice contorted like Motörhead in a Tuff Shed, somewhere between one-and-a-half and two chainsaws in volume.

"This isn’t the Rapid Ride! You must pay the fare to ride this coach,” the metallic shriek continued. "Please come to the front, pay your fare and it’s all good.”

My ears rang. All good? Really? I thought. Not for those of us just bludgeoned by your bountiful tweeters, and definitely not for the lady in the pink scarf. 

Sitting just a few feet away, the woman gathered her purse and stood, her head bowed. Fifty sets of eyes watched the shamed moocher as she weaved her way slowly toward the front, surely destined for one last admonishment from the captain.

Well that was bullshit, I thought. Come on. Sure, the lady didn’t pay her fare, but you, King County Metro driver, took it upon yourself to hijack your riders’ attention in the most invasive manner available, just so we’d all be present for the awarding of the scarlet letter. 

Moments later the woman returned to her seat, her face still pointed at the grainy floor. Passengers surrounded her but all ignored her, their eyes glued to their smartphones like Mrs. Butterworth to the Sunday sports section.

Most of us have encountered our share of bullies, especially growing up. But have you ever observed an oppressive adult and wondered the extreme: 

What if that bus driver was on the other side in 1940s Nazi Germany? What if she were given free reign to intimidate, to manipulate or worse?

Would she? Nah. Maybe.

Your brain may not perform these types of pointless exercises, but every so often I’ll run across a fellow American who makes me a little happier that the Americans came out on top in World War II. 

I’ve always liked the term, “It’s all good.” A friendly, positive phrase, it’s one used most effectively when diffusing an awkward situation. 

This time it created one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

She's Fifteen. Wait, What?

She’s fifteen today. 

Holy sweet mother of Burt Reynolds, I feel old. My little girl—all those years such a wee, giggly tot—has shot up like a gull durn beanstalk in Zoo Doo. And, might I say, a hard-working, smart, awesome beanstalk at that.

How about you; do you remember turning fifteen? How about just being fifteen? I’m asking because…I kind of don’t. Sure, I’ve got some fairly sturdy memories of the larger milestones of that era—thirteen, sixteen—but my recollections of Year XV are overcast at best. 

Based on the day’s teenage mindset, I can deduce what I may have asked for. Perhaps a pair of these:

I doubt I received HASH jeans though, since it cost around thirty 1977 dollars for the privilege of hiding your shoes and flaunting your loin rimple. Chances are I picked up a cheaper imitation at the Clothes Fair down by the railroad tracks. 

I probably requested slightly smaller ticket items, like this:

Or maybe this:

Or perhaps a subscription to this:

I can tell you with near certainty that for dinner, I went here:

After which, my family and I returned home, sat back on the couch and flipped on this:

Yep, from what I’ve observed, teenage birthdays are quite a bit different now. By the time my daughter arrives at school this morning, a large swath of freshmen will already be digitally clued in. Upon her entrance, she’ll be engulfed in a million gentle hugs—each with one hand lightly patting the birthday girl’s back and the other clinging to its smartphone like a mountain goat to a mossy boulder.

In 1977, most of my friends didn’t even know I’d had a birthday until they noticed my annual Milk Dud-sized forehead zit from eating chocolate cake for breakfast all week.

I’m not bitter. Digital attention is shallow. Wait, forget I said that. 

I suppose when the rubber hits the road, teenagers haven’t changed all that much. Allow me to illustrate.

Here’s a recent photo of my daughter:

Here I am, also at age 15:

And of course, James:

See what I mean? A youngster’s a youngster’s a dork. 

Fifteen can be a tough age, a time of awakening and with it, one of elevated uncertainty and angst. Thankfully, our kid seems to be navigating the waters well; in fact, she’s doing great. 

And just between us, or as the kids say, "TBH," I love the girl so much, sometimes I feel like I could just cave in. But knowing how she’s loathed being the subject of my long-winded posts over the years, I’ve decided to bestow upon her the greatest gift a father can grant on this, my baby’s fifteenth birthday:

I’ll stop talking.