I'd post here more often, but I have nothing to hide.
February 5th, 2010
I'd post here more often, but I have nothing to hide.
November 18th, 2009
As time continues its relentless march, we learn how to adapt to new situations and surroundings (or we do not, which is another, much sadder sort of story). And over the past few months I’ve learned a few survival techniques as an adult border in this home.
Small things. Wee compensations and artful dodges that have sprouted organically, even subconsciously rather than being the results of any intentional, intellectual planning on my part.
Take today, for example. Wednesday. You see on Wednesday, my familial landlords have an even more specific schedule than usual. While Wednesday joins Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday in its ritualistic To-Do list, Wednesday provides your scribe with more at least quasi privacy than any other day of the week. They depart by 11AM and do not return until approximately 3PM.
For the first couple if not few weeks, I would accompany them on their rounds today as well as on the other days that involved any leaving-of-the-house. But realizing that dad was still capable of driving (at least in the daylight, on surface roads) also made me realize, again subconsciously at first, that I was nuts. I should stay home. And be totally, blessedly alone.
I have adapted. I have learned thanks to a surprisingly well-tuned survival instinct to wave them a fond goodbye and, their car cresting the horizon, get down to some rare business of my own.
Nothing crazy. Just a long, hot bath followed by scrupulous personal grooming. Maybe cracking open a beer or three. Even hanging around naked for an hour or two (though “hanging around” in this case might be an unfortunate choice of phrase). While thusly cleaned, groomed, cocktailed and naked the only Kryptonite my Superman must avoid is the living room, with its front-facing wall nearly 100%, thinly draped window. Because believe me when I say there is no one or nothing in the immediate area that would inspire my admittedly exhibitionist tendencies.
The only trouble with this brief brush with personal freedom is that, like most good things, it comes to an end. So I sign-off now in preparation of that ending…
Specifically, my few but faithful Illuminaughties, it's time to get some clothes on.
October 26th, 2009
In another few days it will have been two months since I moved back here, to my childhood home, a causality of the Great Recession (as well as other things). And everything has unfolded, the good and the not-so-good, pretty much as I had anticipated.
But the experience has also produced an unexpected byproduct: a new appreciation of, even wonderment over my parents’ relationship.
Their utter devotion to one another is something I’ve been quite aware of since childhood, but it turns out I had to have a fair amount of relationships of my own to grasp what a rare and beautiful thing these two people share.
One of the very first, very memorable events to bring this unassailable togetherness and loyalty to my attention happened when I was barely in Jr. high. At a time and in a culture when it was not unusual to see my friends suffer purple asses and even black eyes at the hands of their own fathers, my dad never laid a hand on me…until the day I made his wife cry.
Who knows what happened that day; I think I had come home from school and responded to something mom said with enough disrespect that she had a melt down (please bare in mind she was in menopause at this same time, while I was in the midst of a hormonal storm of my own). When dad got home from work he kicked open the door of my bedroom, literally, used language I didn’t think he even knew and did his best to tan my skinny arse.
And I remember the post-whuppin’ epiphany as clearly as if it had happened yesterday: hey, that woman may be my mother, but she’s that guys’ girlfriend.
By now you’re thinking “Yeah, so what. That could just as easily have happened in my house back then.” But that little story isn’t the point, it was just the first of many tip-offs that these people are first and foremost a couple, and everything else comes in second (and NPR recently did a piece on a book or blog called “Bad Mom” that suggests that’s the way it should be; that the adults romantic relationship should never be subservient to anything outside it, including the kids).
Since their retirement from their separate careers, there’s been almost nothing “separate” about them. Except for one hour every day, after dinner, when she goes upstairs to watch TV and he stays down listening to talk radio. I’ve come to think of it as the Walking Hour because, with her up and him down, there’s nowhere for me to be but out. (OK, once a week he goes to lunch with the one or two buddies of his that are still alive, and she goes to the beauty parlor or her card club, but beyond that and the Walking Hour, their companionship is constant).
In our current age, when such nearly non-stop unity would surely be labeled “codependent,” when couples expect to maintain a relationship with each somehow remaining autonomous, when it’s common to hear people complain about their Ex because “they had to be up my ass 24/7,” my parents are a genuine anomaly. And by all accounts, a happy one. For the past 53 years of marriage, anyway.
People from broken or otherwise dysfunctional homes often look upon the failings of their parents as probable explanation for their own relationship problems later in life. And now I finally realize I can probably blame my parents for mine.
That kind of love, after all, is a tough heritage to live up to.
October 23rd, 2009
No, I'm not talking about love, I'm talking about this...
October 22nd, 2009
Today I made some effort to be useful around here. I’m learning that any confusion over when I should do the work v. when I should back away and let one of my parents handle it themselves is mitigated by my father standing next to something while holding a screwdriver. Limply. This morning, that something was the front porch light.
The existing light worked, but it was weathered, worn and, like everything else in this house, old. Mom wanted to replace it. Vince The Neighbor (also an octogenarian) encouraged this desire by sending his “electrical contractor” son by with an estimate just short of $200 (which even he acknowledged was ridiculous for the job at hand). So at that point I insert myself into the porch light proceedings.
I had taken them to Home Depot over a week ago to buy a new one, but whenever I’d suggest installing it, I’d hear “Oh no. No need today. It’s not like there’s any rush.” or “Oh no. Not right now. It’s too cold today.” and so on and such forth. But today was unmistakably The Day, as evidenced by dads threatening display of the screwdriver mentioned earlier. He even dragged out the step stool, lest there be any doubt.
I’ll condense this: up went the light. Took some doing, as the guy who put the last one up (read: dad) did one helluva’ hack job on the mounting plate. The kicker here is that he got all passive aggressive on me when I insisted on shutting down the circuit breaker before I did any wiring. “Well, I just use the black tape to keep the wires apart rather than doing that” and “Isn’t that more trouble than it’s worth?” and etc. Essentially, while I’m being justifiably allergic to hot wires, he’s apparently afraid of the breaker box. And I’d soon find out why.
The soul of this home’s electrical system must have been installed very soon after Edison got his first business license. There’s crap in that box made out of glass, paper and pieces of the true cross. But I mastered the beast and no lives were lost in the name of porch light improvement. Yet everything I did in the process was supervised, distrusted, second-guessed and eventually accepted only with a begrudging grunt.
Shortly after declaring Mission Accomplished on the porch, Vince The Neighbor appears for job site inspection and doesn't like the exposed sliver of hole to one side of the new, smaller mount plate. I can't tell him "That's because, Vince, about 30 years ago, my dad chopped a hole big enough to mount a fucking New York streetlight on that wall" so I just sigh and promise to patch it (which, for the record, I was planning to do anyway). Then the phone rings. It’s my aunt from across town and, bizarrely, she’s asking for me. “Oh Illuminaught, am I taking you away from your computer?” “That’s okay, aunt, frankly I wish more people would.” “Well, I’ve got a new phone and I’m trying to set it up, but for the life of me I can’t figure the damn thing out.” “I’ll be right over.” “Are you sure?” “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
So here we are, handsome young me and a baffled, bouffanted woman in her late 70’s pouring over the set-up instructions for a phone/answering machine system. And once again, everything I do along the way is suspect.
I help her record her voice greeting, but have to play it back no less than five times until she believes it’s actually recorded. I show her how to check messages and delete them, how to use the speakerphone and where to look for Caller ID. And all the while she’s grinning a bit like I must be making all this stuff up. I showed her how to turn on the answering machine, but had to call her line from my mobile to prove it worked. I inputted her speed-dial numbers as well, but had to have her call my folks using that feature to convince her of the soundness of my programming. Once again…
Now don't let me leave the wrong impression: my family (and their neighbors) are Good People and everyone concerned was genuinely grateful when the jobs were done. They just have a knack for making the doing of those jobs as joyless as possible for the doer.
Is it that old smartass Karma again?
With very few exceptions my life is now populated with older, rather cranky people who only trust their own ways of doing things, right-or-wrong, and don’t take kindly to any deviations, even in efforts to help them.
Now I know how my most recent Ex felt.
October 18th, 2009
She quoted Oasis:
There are many things that I would like to say to you
but I don't know how...
you're gonna’ be the one that saves me.
My response via The Police:
I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day
And ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way
But my silent fears have gripped me
Long before I reach the phone
Long before my tongue has tripped me
Must I always be alone?
Every little thing she does is magic
Everything she do just turns me on
Even though my life with her was tragic
Now I know my love for her goes on.
The Final Word courtesy of NIN:
Beneath the stains of time
the feelings disappear.
You are someone else,
I am still right here.
What have I become,
my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know
goes away in the end.
You could have it all,
my empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.
October 9th, 2009
I’ve always…what’s the kindest word…despised my mom’s seasonal and holiday decorations. Yes. Seasonal AND holiday. Because, you see, while there may be a Fourth of July to decorate for, even a Labor Day and a Memorial Day, there’s the whole fucking summer to decorate for in between.
Once the temperature crests the 70-degree mark, the simple truth that you live in the landlocked mountains of the northeast is no impediment to making the fireplace mantle boil-over with fake seashells and emblazoning the front door with festive “Welcome to the Beach” cling-film.
You can just imagine Christmas. But before we get there there’s Halloween and Thanksgiving to contend with, and the former just happens to be mom’s birthday so man-oh-man, you should just see Halloween at this house. It’s like half the plastic factories in China developed food poisoning (say, from freshwater eel) and blew chunks all over Illuminaught’s ancestral estate.
It’s certain that The Daisy thought me a misanthropic Scrooge, if that’s not redundant, at least before we moved in together. Because even Christmas—that High Holy Day of All Decorative Crap—was only acknowledged in my own apartment with a small artificial “tree” that could be unplugged, folded-up like an umbrella and stuffed back into the guest room closet on January 2nd. It was even “pre-lit.” Rock on.
Of course after we moved in together, at those times of year when she understandably wanted to Deck The Halls, she learned for sure I was a Scrooge. And my attempted, growled explanations aside, I doubt she ever fully appreciated why. For as in Ebenezer’s own story, I am proof that most Holiday Joy and/or Decorative Disorders are caused by traumatic past experiences. Childhood experiences that I happen to have the bad karma to be reliving at this very moment, Halloween being a mere three weeks hence and counting.
Now let’s be clear about this: we’re not talking about tasteful, opulent-yet-subtle Martha Stewart Living decorations here. We’re talking about the close-out bins of the Christmas Tree Shoppe, K-Mart’s finest holiday flare; we’re talking about those balsa wood mailbox signs that say things like “Best Witches” in October, “Reindeer X-ing” in December and “Bunny Trail” by, and well before, the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21st.
I’m talking about more plastic than all the tits at the strip club, more chintz than a Laura Ashley trunk sale and more wires, bulbs and plugs than a rich man’s death bed. And all of it has to be lugged down from the attic or up from the basement. Then (and this is important) back again.
And look who’s doing that lugging now.
To my utter amazement, those boxes and bags are heavy! After the first few trips up-and-down with the Halloween booty, I was convinced even Hannibal’s elephants would rebel. Can you perchance to dream how many filmy, flimsy, third world synthetics have to be assembled in one container to be heavy? A shit load is the answer you’re looking for. A shit load.
But it makes her happy, and I suppose that’s all that counts. It has also forced dad, for these past two decades of his retirement, to stand up and move his arms and legs every couple of months (an exercise, as you now know, that I have inherited and I wish he didn’t look so pleased about it).
I’m just sayin’, that’s all.
Next time you meet, fall in love with and ultimately cohabitate with someone who displays something less than enthusiasm about “putting up the decorations,” a visit to his or her mother’s house may be all you need to gin up a little understanding.
You could even develop, given an extreme case like my own, something like sympathy.
October 8th, 2009
I finally caved and got a “smartphone.” A BlackBerry, to be specific.
Now these things are called “smartphones” because, for at least the first several days of ownership, they make a person feel irretrievably dumb. There are more bells and whistles compressed into less space than a kindergarten talent show, and I’m pretty sure that every time I access one of those applications I’m being charged harder than a Pamplona tourist in July.
But it’s sick.
Now I don’t have to sit at the computer to discover that I have no email. Friends and associates can ignore me wherever I am, at any time of the day or night. I’m informed of every absent email on four different accounts, every text you don’t send me, every tweet I don’t care about and every piece of reliable spam that comes my way. Each identified by it’s own unique alert tone that I almost never get to hear. I can surf the dubya-dubya-dubya from the porch, the bed, the toilet. I can download and listen to sucky music (although for that specific task I am and will remain loyal to Mac), watch videos I don’t want to see, take crisp 3.2 megapixel stills of meaningless objects and even shoot long-form videos of events I’d just as soon forget.
And of course, more. Maps I won’t need until I host a cable survival show, GPS directions that snidely imply I should be going somewhere, MS Word and Excel to prep for the client meeting I don’t have scheduled and scheduling software with which to keep track of my unoccupied time. How could I have put this off for so long?
Thinking back to those halcyon days of the mid 80’s—when only show-offy assholes had mobile phones and those phones were the size of pro-grade power drills—I clearly recall thinking “Who would want a phone tied to their ankle all day?” After my inevitable seduction, I likewise remember thinking, “What’s all this other crap? I just want a phone.” Now I’m thinking…
anybody wanna’ buy a gently used desktop computer?
Now granted, even with a “full function QWERTY keyboard” typing remains a challenge on the 3G, and it will be a long time if not forever before I write something approaching this character count on a keyboard the size of an open matchbook. But hell kids, they do sell outboard, larger keyboards that one can plug right in to a handheld device. And inelegant as it may be, that's almost a solution.
It’s here. The Convergence. The orchestrated collapse of all our personal technology—from stereos to telephones, from computers to cameras to televisions to credit cards to even tape measures and books—into a single device that puts more sophisticated computational power into your pocket than was installed on the first few space shuttles.
Now you just have to decide whether to sell your ass to Comcast, or Verizon.
And hey, The Convergence? I’m not making that up. I’d post a link but screw it. Google it yourself.
From your smartphone.
It’s not like you’re calling, texting or emailing me, anyway.
OK shit, what’s that noise it’s making now…?...
October 1st, 2009
Just had a tremendous nostalgia rush.
I went to something like the modern equivalent of our neighborhood corner store to re-stock on my various vice-taxed consumables, and there was this little kid on premises. A fat little kid of about nine or ten who weighed approximately what I do, but with highlights in his hair so he was stylin’, you dig?
I had spied him as I walked in, tubby kid re-stocking his own tubby vices, prowling the Little Debbie™ and TastyCake™ display with a small armload of candy already gripped against his peewee football-jerseyed chest.
I’m done at the beer cooler in a heartbeat so up to the cashier I go, green money in hand. And there he is again: the only other soul in the store smack-dab ahead of me in the check out line, counting out dimpled fistfuls of change with which to pay for his delicious booty. He had mostly quarters thank goodness, but still the lady behind the counter rolled her eyes and shot apologetic glances my way. But I just smiled and was happy to chill as I watched the process. An unusual emotional posture for Type-A me, as anyone who knows me can forcefully assure you.
It took me back, that’s all.
Back to the days when “the corner store” really was, and a seven-year-old could buy a pack of smokes for his mom or dad because the store’s owner damn well knew the whole family. When there was a penny candy display that reached higher than your arm could stretch and you were in luck on a summer’s day if all the blue Popsicles weren’t already gone.
I’d get my grape Nehi and sour apple gumballs. Timmy Fallon his RC Cola and Reese’s Cups. On the rare flush day I could also spring for Mallow Cups and maybe even a pack of Topps® baseball cards, just for that powdery, thin, near-flavorless but somehow addictive tile of gum that came with them. Timmy, or Joe, or Frankie or anybody else could have the damn cards as far as miniature Illuminaught cared.
And how was this bounty paid for? You guessed it. With the pennies, nickels, dimes and occasional quarters that come a kid’s way as allowance or gifts, buttressed by whatever silver we might scrounge around the house that we thought our adults wouldn’t miss.
Personally, I had little luck in the “wouldn’t miss” department. My father could (and still can) account for every red cent in his house. And I’d hear him ask mom, “Where’s the darn quarter I had on the hall table? That was to pay the paper boy.” And I’d cower upstairs, but just a little; all the while secure in the knowledge he would soon abandon the mystery and just put another darn quarter on the table.
Besides, I had spent that quarter “up the store” in the friendly company of that very same paperboy. It was all a wash in the final analysis to my still forming, slightly klepto brain. And Timmy wouldn't mind. He had his own paper route. He was loaded by 4th grade income standards.
That store is long gone, and so is Timmy. After six years of somehow not getting killed in the Marine Corps he was finally out and on his way to see his hometown sweetheart for the first time in many months when a speeding car full of drunken teenagers ran a stop sign and struck his motorcycle.
Nostalgia. Unfortunately, it sometimes brings along more than just the G-Rated, freckle-faced memories. But I’ve made a decision, thanks in no small way to that not-small kid who was in front of me at the register an hour ago.
I’m going to Timmy’s grave for the first time since his funeral those many years past.
And I’m going to leave him a quarter.
Maybe even a cold RC and some Reese’s Cups.
My dad, of all people, would want me to make good on my debts.
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