Thursday, March 18, 2010

When I Think About It, I Cry Like a Baby

I remember where I was when I heard that Alex Chilton had died:
reading the news at lunch yesterday, skipping over the article because I didn’t recognize his name.
I remember where I was today when I finally read the story:
back in 1967, attending the Wednesday night Crozier Junior High School dance.

I don’t even have to hear the song to be transported; I just read the words, “As the (lead) singer for … the Box Tops, Chilton topped the charts with the band's song ‘The Letter’” and I am back at the Inglewood Recreation Center, doing an awkwardly flailing dance, with Linda.

I can hear the song. I can see Linda’s brown eyes looking up from just below mine. I can feel the cool chill of the Southern California evening. I can taste the paper cups full of fizzy fountain Coke that I bought for the two of us. I can smell the petrified, sweaty stench of puberty.

I remember that Linda loved “The Letter”, so we kept requesting the DJ to play it; I guess others did too because I remember we danced to it at least 5 times. I remember having no clue what to do with a girl at a dance besides dance to “The Letter” and then buy Cokes and mill around the lobby. I remember guys trying in vain to help me out.

I remember my friend Kevin, during the third time through “The Letter”, leaning over and whispering to me, “dance better,” and being bewildered as to how I would accomplish that by just wanting it. I remember Mike Maris (a semi-thug who was not even a friend of mine) telling me to “take her outside and kiss her,” and being bewildered as to how I would accomplish that by just wanting it.

I just can’t quite remember her name. I’m 99% sure about the Linda part. For the last name, “Smith” keeps popping into my head. However I think her parents were, or at least her father was, Mexican, so “Smith” seems wrong. Her possibly-Mexican father was very strict, she told me, so, after the dance, I couldn’t stand with her and hold her hand while she waited for him to pick her up.

I clearly remember, though, what happened a couple days later. She asked me to walk her home after school. Her house was in the opposite direction of mine. I would miss my bus or possibly spend hours finding my way back from whatever mysterious paradise she lived in. I don’t know if it was those fears or fear of her strict father catching me with her that caused me to turn down her invitation. Maybe I doubted that she actually liked me.

It was Linda who initiated the conversations we had in English class that got us in trouble. It was Linda who suggested we meet at the dance. It was Linda who asked me to walk her home. It was me who blew the chance to have a girlfriend. I probably blocked out the obvious conclusion that she liked me because I didn’t know, if a girl likes you, what’s the next step?

Whenever I hear “The Letter” the entire experience oozes back, in a bitter-sweet sludge of stomach acid and nostalgia. I want to return to that day, smack 12-year-old me in the head and scream, “Idiot! The next step is to walk her home. The next step is to learn a dance. The next step is to step outside and kiss her.” (PDA would get you kicked out of the dance, so kissing had to occur behind the building, with the smokers.)

I don’t remember anything about Linda after that day of not walking her home. I know I never got another invitation. But mainly I don’t remember her being in our school any more. I have this feeling that her family moved away. Maybe that’s just how I resolved my whole stupid, pathetic behavior in my head.

Give me a ticket for a time machine,
I must go back and change that sorry scene.
Although those days are gone, they still live on
Every time I think of “The Letter”.

Monday, March 15, 2010

If You Think of Counting Me, Count Me Out

Every day I come home and ask my wife if it has arrived yet, more antsy than Ralphie Parker waiting for his Orphan Annie Secret Decoder. Finally today it arrived: the United States 2010 Census Form.

I ripped it open, grabbed my favorite pencil and sat down to fulfill my civic responsibility. I ended up more disappointed than Ralphie Parker finding his Orphan Annie Secret Code message was "Be sure to drink more Ovaltine."

I can't get past the first question.

The form came with a message from the Director of the US Census Bureau himself, dated March 15, 2010. That's today! He must have personally dropped it in my mailbox. Because it is urgent. His message, which he put in bold letters is, "Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today."

Today! I had to hurry. I grabbed my pencil, ready to start writing answers, but wait, there were instructions: "Before you answer Question 1, count the people living in the house.." Oh, geez, I don't have this kind of time! The Director needs this back today. I looked around the room. I checked the bathroom and under the couch cushions. I found only two people. Wait, it says, "count all people, including babies". Damn it! I started over, but found no babies. Okay, ready for question 1.
1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?
Stupid, stupid, stupid me! Why have I never watched "Lost!" or "Fast Forward?" or any of the current TV shows which might have given me insight into time travel? Long ago I saw every episode of "Time Tunnel" and "It's About Time", but I can't recall the details of the process. Where is Doc Brown when I need him? I could use his DeLorean right now; or at least some of his creme soda.

I have to fill this out and mail it today, I can't wait until April 1, 2010 comes around again to find out how many people were living here then. I'm going to say that the same two I see now were still here then.
2. Were there additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1?
_ Children such as newborn babies or foster children.
Whoa, slow down! Time travel is tough enough, now I have to grasp the concept of children? Whew... and these "babies" they speak of. Since when are they people?

Other people you might not have counted as "living or sleeping here most of the time":
_ Nonrelatives, such as roommates or live-in baby sitters
Seriously? When is someone who lives here not someone who lives here? My brain started to throb ... on April 1, 2010.

Let's skip ahead a bit:
4. What is your telephone number? We may call if we don't understand an answer.
Who the hell do I call? I don't understand one bit of th ...

Hold on.
April 1, 2010.
April 1.
April first!
I get it now. Oh, Mr. Director, you had me going. Riley Girt's got nothing on you. I'll go home and wait for the real census form.
(US Senseless Survey name and image belong to Kevin Wolfe and Riley Girt)

I'm Content With Self Gratification

My father didn’t live with us, my mother was at work, my sister was with her friends, I was playing Risk by myself. I was only nine but displayed an intense code of honor and integrity as I fairly represented the interests of each color army in turn. I had an internal dialog about each army’s strategy, which I kept confidential from the other players. I was a solitary kind of guy. Look it up: solitary is not synonymous with lonely.

One year in high school I ate lunch every day with the same kid. Just the two of us. He did not like eating. He ate a tuna fish sandwich for lunch. Every. Day. All. Year. I thought about how, at least, I wasn’t that guy. I told my daughter about that recently and she nearly cried. I had never thought there was anything sad about it. My part, that is.

I took a creative writing class in college. For fun. For one assignment I wrote a satiric piece in which I severely disappointed the muse assigned to inspire my writing. The subconscious moral to myself, according to my internal shrink, was that it’s not really failing if have pretended you have no goal.. The piece also included a paragraph subtly mocking the writing of one of my classmates; he was compelled to laugh and so could not hit me.

I loved creative writing but I majored in economics because it was fascinating and also a better career path. I never missed an “early-Friday” Thursday party in the dorm or a Friday party, for that matter.. Consequently I had a lot of b-pluses in my econ classes. I joked with my advisor about how that hurt my feelings, so on my next term paper he gave me a B +++++++. That was pretty funny. Right?

Sometimes at a party I may be sitting by myself. It may look like I’m thinking about how hard it is to meet people or make small talk. Possibly I’m just making up parody lyrics to whatever song is playing. Interactive communication is hard. At a comedy club though, I can talk to people. From the stage. When they laugh, it’s a heady concoction of approval and acceptance that makes people willing to jump off that cliff and risk rejection. In that moment, I understand drug addiction.

This blog doesn't have much of a consistent theme but i try to be humorous. I joined HumorBloggers dot com to, admittedly, try and expand readership. that group was a nice social network who all supported each other and wanted to write quality humor. I am just not much of a joiner and eventually dropped out. It wasn't them, it was me.

Many months ago I saw this site called “Ask and Ye Shall Receive”; it’s a blog review site. I submitted my blog. I didn’t really care that much what they thought. I was just curious. I read a lot of their reviews of other blogs over the intervening months. They like stuff that is different than what I write. More revealing. In fact, they have now reviewed this blog and found it funny, but lacking in personal, visceral exposure. It’s a great review, though; amounting to a grade of B++++++++++

That’s pretty funny. Right?

I’d say I was pretty happy about it but, you know, it’s not that important what people I don’t know think about my writing.

(I don't quite understand what AAYSR has against HumorBloggers - or had. HumorBloggers has disappeared which I fear was not because i left them, but may be because of extended illness suffered by founder, Chelle. I really hope she's doing okay and I think there were a lot of nice and funny people in the group).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Glenn Beck and the Secret Codes of the Social Justice League

Christians are lashing back at Glenn Beck over his radio and TV broadcasts in which he begged his listeners to leave churches which are in favor of social or economic justice. Some of the renegade Christians dispute the fact that “social justice” and “economic justice” are code words for Communism and Nazism as Beck so eloquently explained.

Such criticism just rolls off Mr. Beck like poop through a goose. “Social justice is just one of the phrases to watch out for,” Beck might have said. “If you check out your government’s Constitution or Declaration of Independence and find the words ‘liberty’ or ‘equality’ you need to leave that country. Why? Look at this. This is a banner that reads ‘Liberte – Egalite – Fraternite’. Now I have done some reaserch and I found out that that these words actually mean ‘Liberty, equality and brotherhood.” Now, we all know who the brothers are and why Obama would support that,” Beck never commented.

"But,” he didn’t continue, “here’s the really scary part. Here’s what ought to make you run screaming from any country whose government uses these words. Down here at the bottom of the banner, it says ‘Republique Francaise’. It turns out that that is code for the Republic of France. So, let me diagram this for you on the blackboard. ‘Liberty, equality and brotherhood’ is the motto of the Republic of France. Any government who uses those words is using code for Francism and they are Europeanists!”

Beck might have begun to weep at this point as he said, “Some churches have said that social justice is not a Communist Facist secret password. These are the same churches who fill their web sites with talk about a fellow named Hay-zoos. Hay-zoos is a Mexican name. If your church is using his name they are supporting illegal immigrants. Get away from there. Go to the Pope and tell him you don’t want foreigners in your religion.”

“I’m being signaled that I need to go to commercial. When we come back I’ll explain how my bosses’ talk about my ‘commitment’ is not a code word for having me put away.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Building a Life

My daughter didn’t play with blocks the way an average child does – the way I did when I was young. Oh, we would start out that way: building some kind of structure, seeing how complicated and tall we could make it; then gleefully knocking it down.

What happened next was what intrigued me. Four-year-old Allie would start arranging the fallen blocks by size, shape and color. She had formed an imaginary company and the blocks were her inventory. She proceeded to define for me her business plan:

"You have to call me and order blocks. Then you bring your truck and pay me.” She never endured the building/demolition phase beyond one round. The buying and selling game might go on for an hour. Clearly she had no intent of becoming a laborer; her future was as an entrepreneur.

And she was a tough businessperson; I had to have money when I arrived to pick up my order of blocks. We had a container of coins that became part of our games – indeed it was often a game itself. “Let’s play ‘money’,” she would command. I don’t remember how that game went exactly but it did involve sorting the coins by denomination.

To express her creative side, Allie would dance. We had CDs of classical music that, as we had been advised by “parenting experts” we bought to stimulate our infant's brain. Now, after a year of dance classes, Allie used the CDs as the sound track to her home dance studio. She would choreograph her own dance and guide me in following her steps. When I was not spinning or lumbering in the opposite direction, I would catch sight of her rolling eyes and disapproving expression. I was a poor but indulgent dance student.

Thirteen years later I was moving her in to her dorm, freshman year at The Ohio State University. She began hanging her extensive inventory of clothing, sorting them by color, style and type of garment. I was still bringing and giving her all my money.

Next week she graduates, Summa Cum Laude, after less than 3 short years. She will not be selling things, her degree is in psychology, but she will be an entrepreneur; she intends to have her own practice after grad school. I am not going to make any jokes or analogies involving mental blocks or stumbling blocks because she would think that was stupid and tell me to change it.

You see, I am still ready to dance to her tune, willing to do whatever she asks if I possibly can.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shut Up And Listen

Linda Holmes posted on her NPR blog about people talking in movies. Her point is that it ruins the movie for other people so don’t do it. That’s one sentence, which is all she needed. She might have added a clause saying, “; so just shut the f… up!” but that would be too confrontational.

Holmes spends about 1,300 words equivocating and mincing around. She goes so far as to suggest there are situations where talking is okay. She tries to get into the head of the a-hole interrupting the movie and understand the reasons someone might act out that way. Maybe they were drinking, maybe they forgot their manners, maybe they are starved for attention.

Maybe, Linda, they are just rude, ignorant morons.

Linda is absolutely justified in her opinion and should regard the talkers as miscreants; but she’d rather apologize for them than possibly make them mad at her. She couldn’t actually ask the people nicely to stop talking, the words would not come out of her mouth: “they were still at it. Loudly carrying on like they were in their own living room … so I leaned over and said, ‘Okay, the movie's starting, so.’” Come on, Linda, just try it . Shut yourself in the bathroom and practice completing that sentence. “… so, shut the heck up.” Good. “If you don’t mind.” No!

What Linda needs to do is run for Congress. As a Democrat. You can totally see Nancy Pelosi doing precisely the same thing in “confronting” Republicans about health care reform. “They were still at it. Loudly insisting that a public option was communist and lying about the polls showing that people want it. So I leaned over and said, ‘Okay, we Democrats have a majority, so.’ And John Boehner looked at me in a mean way so I quickly offered to drop the whole bill if he would stop looking at me. It freaks me out.”

Harry Reid would do the same in the Senate. “I don't want to be a bad sport. I've taken money from drug lobbyists. You're not a bad person for being a hypocrite and wanting to get rich and ignore the needs of the public. But please, seriously, choose your moments. If you promise to play nice, we’ll concede everything.”

Linda, the title of your blog post reveals why you will never get the quiet you crave. “Why It Matters When You Talk During Movies.” They are not going to listen to your explanation. You can’t reason with idiots. Just tell them what is going to happen – loud enough for them to hear over their own conversation. “I am watching the movie. You are going to shut up.” Nancy and Harry, are you listening?