Friday, June 27, 2014

Guns

So, I was at my son's soccer game recently, and I brought up guns. And every guy within earshot, from approximately 30 to 85 years of age, chimed in. I don't know shit about guns, but my father-in-law has given me a few. So these guns are about 60 years old. And I figured since I accepted them, I should know something about them. I've never fired either, but maybe I should know how to clean and maintain them. And make sure my kids never get their hands on them. One of these guns has some nice engraving, which some gun enthusiasts to whom I showed them to went crazy about. Ok, old guns, nice engravings, surely some collector would try to rip me off with respect to them. So, relative to home protection, well, I have a German shepherd who goes ballistic at the slightest provocation. Isn't that enough? So far, yes. And I keep the ammunition way separated from the firearms, lest a child find one or the other. But, guns, let's let everyone within earshot gather around.

Friday, April 11, 2014

School Days

Recently I visited the Catholic school I attended for grades 6th, 7th and 8th. The reason for which arises from my son's middle-school experience. Despite his steady academic performance, he has had difficulty adjusting to a large, public middle-school environment with a diverse demographic that draws from a large swath of our township.
Some people say we never really get out of the high-school mode. To some extent, I feel like I've never really gotten out of middle school. So, K-5 I attended public school. For 6th, 7th and 8th grades,  Catholic school. I served as an altar boy. In fact, I was pretty much like the captain of the altar boys, until I quit. The priest who was in charge didn't molest me physically, but, alas, psychologically. At any rate, now my kids want to attend the same Catholic school to which I went. So when I recently visited that school, emotions came to the fore. Some three decades-plus later, I find discomfiting the thought that that I haven't fully progressed beyond the time I spent there. After having visited, or, rather, revisited, the school I attended, I'm still partially caught in the same mind-set.
After we went there, I dug up my yearbook from that school (yes, I still have my middle-school yearbook), replete with all the messages from the girls about how we became such good friends and how they wanted me to visit them over the summer and how much they loved me.  I imagine that the girl upon whom I had a crush, all these years later, would be the same person. I've even had dreams that I was back at that school, and Sister Luke, having aged not at all, was there to greet me. It was her brother, at the time a priest,who most messed with me psychologically.
I've read articles that say kids these days spend too much time with their parents, depriving them of taking risks of their own, and I've read articles about people who home-school their kids because of the damage inflicted by the school setting itself. Primarily high school. Apparently, studies have revealed that most people on Facebook connect with their high-school friends.
Perhaps I should have learned something from having encountered, a few years out of middle school, that person upon whom I had a crush and treated badly: She didn't appear to have much recollection at all. Such is the curse of memory.
So now my own kids are at or approaching the stage that I feel I've never completely escaped. Do, experiences at this stage of life disproportionately affect who people become? And what do I do about it? Should I be supportive and engaged, or should I give them more latitude to become the people they were meant to be? So far, I've tended to be involved, largely because they seem to want me to be.
One article addresses self-perception versus the perceptions of others. I was a jock and a good student, but I never considered myself as self-assured as others did. Apparently there are ramifications that carry through to adult life. I struggle as much now as I did then, but nobody really knows. And for my own children, how do I decide when I haven't escaped middle school myself?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Creek

Much of my youth revolved around a stream that ran through the woods in which we rode our bikes on well-worn paths, smoked cigarettes after school and tried to thumb through illicitly obtained Playboys, some of whose pages stuck together after being left out in the elements, requiring delicate page-turning and the reward often turning out to be an unsatisfying one breast.
We hid our cigarettes in drain pipes. We rode our bikes on what eventually would become I-95 but was then just hard-packed dirt before contractors put down the asphalt. We would venture down to the train tracks and place pennies on the rails, which would melt into copper dots, blemishes on the silver, as the train passed.
We always just called it "the creek." We fished and shot BB guns and collected crayfish. The creek wasn't the stuff of my adulthood, the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone trout rivers that I have fished, with pelicans and eagles and bison and bears in the vicinity. Or the rivers of northern Maine, where the moose seemed ubiquitous. No, the creek sustained catfish and carp and eels and sunfish, which I exalted in catching in my boyhood as much as I do trout rising to dry flies now. There we collected garter snakes.
Now my association with the creek involves driving over it on the long-completed interstate, but it still runs through my blood nevertheless, since there was born an unflinching fascination with nature. Parts of the creek, as seen from the roadway, appear narrower now than in my youth, and I'm unsure if that results from a changing perspective with age, since, in retrospect, everything to a me as a youngster seemed grander than the reality, or an actual overgrowth of vegetation. The house in which I grew up, the street on which we lived, our backyard, all seem relatively smaller to me now than before. Part of that might stem from my living in a bigger house on a wider street now. I can say with some confidence that areas of the creek have shrunk, with the vegetation beginning to clog it like an artery.
The cornfield that abutted the woods through which we traveled has long since disappeared, having given way to an AMC multiplex, at which I took my kids to see Iron Man 3, which sucked. Along with the movie theater, restaurants and an ice-cream parlor have displaced the cornfield. We used to steal ears of corn from that field, particularly in anticipation of Mischief Night, the Halloween eve on which one engaged in mischief. We would remove the kernels from the ears and, I think, throw them at houses and cars. We also used to write on car windows with soap. Such was our mischief. All the while we feared the farmer, for legend held that he rewarded such pilferers of his crop with buckshot in the ass.
On occasion I drive through the neighborhood in which I grew up, wondering what has become of some of the people who lived in those houses. Some of them I know about. My best young-boyhood friend lives in his parents' old house. My next-door neighbor growing up lives in my childhood house. But chain-link fences now block the entrances through which we used to access the dirt paths in the woods that led to the creek. Why I don't know. To prevent the nefarious types of activities in which we used to participate, like smoking cigarettes and leafing through Playboys?
Part of the creek passes by softball fields. After my mother had her first stroke and lived with my brother, and he let her wander off when they were grocery shopping, the police and my older brother and I drove around separately looking for her. The grocery store sits on the other side of the creek from the softball fields. I pulled into the lot at the fields and saw a few police officers driving through and flagged them down to ask if the were looking for my mother, also. They said they were. I asked them if anyone had checked the creek. They hadn't. So I did. I imagined finding my mother face down, dead in the creek that provided so much of the lifeblood of my youth. The circle come around, the mother who birthed me drowned in the creek that nourished me. The police eventually found her alive, wandering through the rainstorm.
Sometimes, though, I wonder what it was I sought as I sifted through the sticker bushes to the creek's muddy edge.


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Note

To readers who have suggested that I should write a book or write more frequently, thank you for the interest. And for those of you who come across this blog and don't realize, there are currently more than 100 posts overall covering a span of a few years. The blog archive exists on the right side of the screen through which one can navigate to older posts.
For me, writing can be anxiety-inducing, gut-wrenching, challenging and sometimes cathartic. The subject matters I touch upon sometimes dredge up emotions that I often would rather keep compartmentalized. As with many endeavors, I find getting started to be one of the more challenging aspects. And I want what I write to be worthwhile, and I want to maintain quality. The inspiration doesn't always arise. I also question whether what I have to say contains any value. That self-doubt creeping in on me. But apparently the subjects upon which I touch do hold value for at least some people, and that's something.
I have a Twitter account but don't post. I don't often consider such relatively short declarations to be worthwhile: "Saw 'Iron Man 3.' It sucked." Who cares? But when presented with an opportunity to elaborate with some insight, perhaps therein lies value, or at least mildly entertaining content.
Some writers take years between books. And those who don't generally involve the mainstream, less sophisticated types. I don't begrudge people reading that stuff. Who am I to judge? And sometimes, albeit infrequently, I read those kinds of books myself because they can be entertaining. But then I find the prose nauseating and return to books about the history of the American West or the Civil War or the Revolutionary War. Or guys like Ivan Doig or Tom McGuane or Cormac McCarthy. I recently read "The Count of Monte Cristo," since that book has endured and is a "classic." I did find the story entertaining, but the writing disappointed me. Maybe something got lost in the translation, but apparently, even in its day, the book wasn't considered weighty, like "Les Miserables."
"The Count of Monte Cristo" started out as a serialization in a French newspaper, according to the foreword of the version I read. Sometimes writers got paid by the word or the line or whatever, so they had incentive to pad their works. Hence, a "condensed" 600-page book with small print. That ain't no Hemingway.
So much clutter exists in today's information-technology-saturated world, and I have done nothing to promote myself. I generally don't tag my posts with keywords that will get Google hits (Pam Anderson nude). The thought of it brings me unease. So I figured I would rely on word of mouth, meaning that if someone found this blog and read something they considered worthwhile, then they could pass that along. Some days the hits on this blog spike, other days next to nothing. Maybe that's a function of not writing frequently enough, but sometimes I have nothing worthwhile to say, or I'm just too blue to summon the energy, or I have an idea that has been germinating for weeks or months that I haven't quite pulled completely together in my head. I get solicitations from people asking to have my blog on their websites, which are compilations of blogs or whatever, and they say I'd get thousands more hits. I also receive solicitations to write about depression for websites.
First of all, I consider my blog to consist of much more than a vehicle to provide insight into depression. Am I a depression expert? I write about what I see through my prism, and if someone can relate to that, then that can be gratifying. But I also write about family and life as I see it in general. And about how wondrous precocious kids can be. And the agony of seeing them struggle. And the guilt associated with not being a good enough person or parent. Or just about how "Iron Man 3" sucked and Robert Downey Jr. owes me money for the price of admission. Or about how I'm sick of goose shit or people texting while driving. Or religion. So, that said, I'm going to start working on another post, the rudiments of which have been chipping away at the periphery of my mind for weeks, or months, or perhaps years.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Black Dog

That's what some people call depression. I can't speak for other people, but the self-image that accompanies depression, that perspective of myself as flawed, makes me feel unworthy of others' affection. I've always had difficulty trying to understand why other people would want to be around me when I didn't want to be around myself. A certain torment exists in being unable to escape myself, to get out of my own head. Others have told me to let them choose if they want to be around me. Maybe that's why suicidal tendencies always have been so present. How else to get away? A friend recently told my wife that, at a gathering years ago, she was introducing me to people and I told her to stop because I didn't have anything to offer. On the contrary, she thought, I was one of the people present who actually did have something to offer. So a disconnect exists between self-perception and outside perception. Then I come across as aloof, a loner, antisocial, someone who just doesn't like people. Not entirely true. It's just that I tend to like fewer people than most other people do. I have a low tolerance for ignorance and rudeness, of which no shortage exists. Maybe that stems from such a longstanding inability to accept my own deficiencies.
Do the feelings of inadequacy come from within, or do they arise out of impossible expectations from, say, a mother. My mother never made a secret out of the fact that I was her salvation. Redemption through the youngest child. I've worked through the feelings of inadequacy in stages. First, a sort of denial, the gnawing feeling inside of me playing tug of war with the knowledge that I could accomplish. I thought accomplishment might lead to redemption, but no.And always guilt. As a younger man, achievement was to be the balm. Hence, good grades, good athleticism--self-worth through these accomplishments and validation by my mother. A good job. All a coverup, a facade. Nothin'.
Eventually the weight, the cumulative effect, and a crash. Electroconvulsive therapy. Too much to bear. The terrifying realization that you might not survive on your own. Your life lies in the hands of someone coursing electricity through your brain. Then shame. Shame in facing people who know the truth. My cover blown. Then an odyssey of prescription drugs that continues and likely will never end. Then the weight begins to build anew, and I struggle to keep it at bay. The job, the house, the kids, whereas previously I couldn't even hold myself up. The cycle repeating itself. So, how to deal?
The medications that don't really work all that well. Then there's alcohol as a lubricant. I tend to lubricate to excess. It killed my father at 49, and seeing as I'm in the proximity of that age, and a father myself, I'm forced to consider the wisdom of taking the slow route to suicide and the ramification that it has on others.
I wonder if alcohol is a symptom of the depression or a result of the depression? Alcohol in unsustainable quantities. Alcohol that makes my kids see me in disturbing ways. John Hiatt says "drink ain't no solution, I ain't had one in 17 years."
For Pete Townshend, however much he boozes, there ain't no way out. Kris Kristofferson talks about chasing the feeling. And Nick Lowe sums it up.
Here's a horrifying article from 1995.
And here's another, more recent.
People suffer. People bear weight. People cope differently.
A common refrain heard from people who have suffered from addiction refers to "hitting bottom." I don't know what my bottom is, but I haven't felt like I've hit it. I don't see myself as an AA-type guy. Hey, I've already said I like fewer people than most. And my experience with Adult Children of Alcoholics didn't go so well while I was in college or thereabouts. First, an older guy invited me back to his place. I thought, well, he seemed sympathetic, so, what the fuck? At his place, a younger, male friend of his showed up. Now, my weirdness radar wasn't going off yet, but then the older guy started playing French love songs on his piano. Ok, a little weird, but I was new to this kind of thing. And apparently naive. Finally, I got out of there, physically unscathed, but perhaps not psychologically, for when I related this experience to and older friend, he told me I was a "mark." As in, those guys wanted to fuck you. Aw, shit. I went back to a few meetings, and, naturally, a variety of different people attended. But for the most part, I got tired of listening to the whining. So, fuck it, I stopped going.
A friend asked me recently why I haven't been writing. I said I have been, just not publishing it. But, really, the truth is that the self-examination required to compose disclosures such as this can be daunting. Instead of being cathartic, the thought of it can be dread-inducing. And if it's not helping anybody else, then what's the use? Ok, I don't always write about, 'Oh, I'm depressed and I'm drinking too much.' Sometimes I just write about oddball or funny shit. But that stuff doesn't come along every day, and lately this kind of stuff has been occupying my mind. As they say at AA meetings, take what you like and leave the rest. As I write this, on the TV in front of me (NAT GEO WILD), some kind of African fox-like creature is trying to kill a vulture-like creature. (The fox wins, but the vulture put up a good fight). Then I think, hey, that's like me, one thing always tearing at the other.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

RAK'D

I left work recently and saw, as I approached my vehicle, something on the windshield, held in place by the wiper. Expecting to find an advertisement for somebody to clean my house or remove the leaves from my yard or some kind of handyman pitch, I instead discovered that I'd been RAK'D. A card attached to a pack of Sour Patch Kids said so. Someone's idea of a random act of kindness involved leaving what in all likelihood was excess Halloween candy on my car. Cash would have been better, and, really, I'm not going to eat anything left on my vehicle. Birds shit on it, after all. Or they could have washed and waxed my car. No, just Sour Patch Kids.
So I put it on the car next to mine and left. Then I considered the possibility that someone could be trying to poison me, after which I thought, shit, I could just be poisoning someone who had the misfortune to park next me if that person was stupid enough to eat the candy. Then I thought, fuck, if the package was poison-laced, there were cars of specific people I could have put it on, especially the vehicle parked next to me leaving me virtually no fucking room to open my own door. And, right, when they park that close, they're careful not to ding my door with their own? Opportunity blown. It could have backfired, of course, and I might have ended up giving someone I don't like the opportunity to have candy on their way home. Or they could have given it to their kids, which would have been all right, except for the possible poison thing.
I once worked with a woman who had a sign on her desk that read something like "Perform Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty." She was one of the biggest backstabbing bitches with whom I ever had the misfortune to work. So that's what this "random act of kindness" did for me--it made think of her and just pissed me off. But, hey, maybe someone was just trying to be nice here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2b or not 2b

Hamlet might have texted this had the technology existed, FYI. LOL! LMFAO ROFLMAO FWIW IMHO BFD BTW WTF? :(
So anyway, I found out recently that a boyhood friend who died about a decade ago committed suicide. I mean, I knew he had died, I went to the viewing. But I didn't consider it appropriate to ask his brother what happened. Also recently, I learned that a onetime class mate and subsequent acquaintance also killed himself.
So that brings to five the number of people I knew who took their own lives. I wonder where that ranks. Does everybody know somebody who has committed suicide? Is five high or low or average? I'd suppose psych-ward workers stand a better-than-average chance of surpassing that number. Or people who hang around with habitually depressed people. But the five I knew didn't appear to fall into those categories. Some of them I knew better than others. One was a longtime teammate and classmate and friend. I would see him intermittently after we'd both gotten out of school. His chosen profession: butcher. He told me he loved it. Not enough to sustain him, as it turned out. I lent him money in high school that contributed to an abortion, an act with which I wrestled then and have wrestled with since. But loyalty, or at least my teenage notion of what constituted loyalty, carried the day, so I ponied up the funds. I don't know how he killed himself, and I'd rather not want to know. But I do wonder if the particular technique says something about the level of self-loathing or despair or whatever serves as a catalyst reveals about a person.
Another person I knew hanged himself. He was a real-estate agent, and from what I heard, distraught over the dissolution of his relationship with a stripper. I don't know the veracity of that information. What I do know is that I've had to see his parents and children consistently at the Little League field ever since. His father apparently remarked once that people didn't say anything about it. What's to say, other than I don't think your son should have left behind two kids? Your son who also survived an organ transplant. On the other hand, nobody can gauge the depths of someone else's despair.
Another was a high-school teacher. Apparently struggling with alcohol and finances. He had kids. Jumped in front of a train. Finality. But to me he never fit the profile of someone who would commit suicide. Blustery, outgoing. Maybe such a profile doesn't exist. We don't know which people possess the most vulnerable characteristics. The butcher who loved his job, the in-your-face teacher. Most people put up a facade, anyway, it seems.
Yet another person, that onetime classmate and subsequent acquaintance, served as a veterinary technician, last I knew. He got kicked out of our high school for stealing a wallet from someone's locker. He allegedly had above-average mathematical skills. His brother previously attempted suicide, so perhaps a familial predisposition existed.
Another guy I knew slightly, from the gas station where he worked and the local bars, hanged himself, I heard. That came after he got arrested for burglary. Could that one traumatic event have provided the motivation? Or was it the final straw? This from Lucinda Williams:

Was it hard to finally pull the plug
Was it hard to receive that final hug
Did evil triumph over love
Was it hard to finally pull the plug

When did you start seeing black
Was it too much good you felt you lacked
Was it too much weight riding on your back
When did you start seeing black

The people I knew were all men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost four times as many males as females die by suicide. Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by far the most common methods of suicide, the NIMH says. Women use guns less than men but poison themselves more frequently. Suffocation is nearly even. I'm thinking hanging falls under the suffocation category. Pills would be an example of poisoning, I guess. Older Americans are more likely to die by suicide than the population at large. But the ones I knew wouldn't be considered older. Some men probably kill themselves because their significant others (SO's) bitch so much (IMHO).
This book talks about how George Washington wanted liberty--financial independence, but also freedom from "involuntary passions." Involuntary passions being addictions or the like, I would think. Failing that among the living, does suicide provide liberty, the ultimate independence? Perhaps independence lies in the capability to commit suicide.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

There They Go

I'm named after my godparents.
My godmother died about a month ago, three days after her husband of about 59 years. I suppose a case could be made for this being an example of when a longtime spouse expires, the other follows suit. As one might expect from a relationship of that duration, they sometimes encountered a rocky path. She apparently told him at one point that if he didn't stop drinking, she'd leave. He stopped. But that brings to mind an enduring image from three-plus decades ago of him walking down the street to their shore house holding a bloody towel to the side of his head. He left the house astride a moped and returned needing plastic surgery. I didn't make the connection at the time between the Budweisers and the blood. I chalked it up to a perilous turn on a sandy shore road. When we took their boat out on the bay, he would let me dictate the speed, much to the chagrin of his wife. I remember him from that time as jovial; he became more subdued after he stopped drinking.
She, on the other hand, appeared to possess a pathological need to know everyone's business. To such an extent that they had a scanner in their living room that monitored police radio traffic. I didn't think much of it, until I did. 
I spent much of my early life, and into adolescence, with these people. My mother and I. Church, Christmas, down the shore. Church. They always had a shore house, and we always went there. Slept there. Played hockey on the frozen bay, which doesn't freeze anymore. Winter, summer, whatever. My "cousin" and I playing our Coleco videogames, which consisted of vertical hyphens of red flashing lights on simulated football fields or basketball courts. 
When we irritated our parents, they told us to "go play in traffic." At which point we'd go out and do something like spray-paint a basketball court on the street. 
Our parents had an affinity for a particular newspaper cartoon called "The Lockhorns." Clippings adorned the refrigerators. I didn't really get it at the time, the locking horns representing the spousal tug of war, the man often depicted with a drink in his hand or in various states of inebriation. We had a live-action Lockhorns playing out on the stage right in front of us.  
While down the shore, our parents ensured no dereliction in our religious obligations. According to my mother, attending Catholic mass before 4 p.m. on Saturday didn't count against the weekly quota. Apparently a window existed in which one had to profess one's piety and, well, you rang up another strike on St. Peter's scorecard if you fell outside the window. Don't fuck with God's tight schedule. You had better get to church between 4 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. No matter if you organize your coupons during mass. 
Uncle Frank, a onetime contractor, built our boyhood church. The church in which my cousin and I served as altar boys. And he built my childhood house. Someone used to call that house around Christmas each year saying he was Santa, and my mother told me I would get off the phone and say that Santa sounded an awful lot like Uncle Frank. Well, that's when he was drinking.
I think I was choking on a lifesaver once, and he pulled the car over and hung me upside down and slapped me on the back until I was free and clear. I can't ask him or my godmother or my mother anymore if that was how it actually went down. We were riding in one of their Lincolns at the time. They had the cars of the moment, they had the shore houses, they had the boats. They gave us a color TV once, to replace the Zenith black and white. A big deal.
Somewhere along the line my mother and Aunt Fran fell out. Perhaps because they both worked together in a doctor's office. Too many women in too small a space. Alliances form. Alliances fracture. Does it matter now? Dead. The posturing and the cattiness no more. The picture that emerges from their deaths involves a generation taking its leave. I guess I can understand a little more now why older people obsess over obituaries and funerals.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Me and Cleve

"Me and Cleve was both hittin' it at the same time in 7th grade." That's the most memorable quote. This was a kid on a train, probably 15 years old. I've taken a few train rides recently. Actually, I'm on trains way more than I'd like to be. And while I consider myself ecologically conscious, I've become less of an advocate for public transportation.
The aforementioned friend of Cleve, or whatever he was to Cleve, was talking to another young man and two young women about a different girl with whom the the two were having intercourse, if not necessarily simultaneously, then, well, at least while they were both in seventh grade. A natural topic of conversation on a 75%-full train car.
Then there was the subway ride to a baseball game. At one stop, a trio boarded: two boys in the 16-, 17-, 20-year-old age range, along with a kid who looked to be about 9. They had an amplifier of sorts, so I figured perhaps they were on their way to a DJ gig. But, alas, the venue for the gig was the subway car itself. So they cranked the music up to an uncomfortable level after proclaiming, "It's show time."
I immediately told them the music was too loud, and here's what ensued: The one kid did a few forward flips and some break dancing. The little kid did a few handstands. The ringleader and punk in chief swung around a few poles. And, I guess since I had said the music was too loud, they would look at me after performing the moves. Like, "Take that, bitch." So picture it, a kid swinging around a pole in a subway car and then puffing his chest out. Snap.
And I was actually engaged in some friendly banter with the one kid, which the punk in chief apparently misinterpreted. So he tells me not to run my mouth.And I was like "Shut up and leave me alone." I mean, what's up with train-car etiquette?
Anyway, I can see how people get shot and stabbed routinely. On the subway, if it hadn't been one adult and a punk, as opposed to two punks, the situation could have escalated. Don't be dissin' me, man. My perception was that the disrespect lay in jumping on a crowded subway car, cranking the music and then wanting money for subjecting people to your antics. And they weren't even that imaginative. This was no Cirque du Soleil. 
* * *
Somewhere I have a picture of myself, circa age 6, in a cowboy getup. My friends and I used to play cowboys and Indians. I watched "The Cisco Kid" and "The Lone Ranger" religiously. I still like that stuff. Read books about the West and Indians regularly. I've made up stories and have been writing since I was a child. I've always liked fishing. And dogs. I wonder if it's that way for everybody--you just like what you like, and it sticks with you.
At any rate, I recently read this article panning the new "Lone Ranger" movie. Too bad. I saw previews for it when I took my kids to see "Iron Man 3," which gets me to my point: "Iron Man 3" sucked. I can suspend disbelief for the sake of watching clever entertainment, but Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce should personally apologize and refund my money. Not Ben Kingsley, though. There are some spoilers here, so if you're planning to go see "Iron Man 3," you might not want to read on. Of course, I did already say it sucked.
So Robert Downey Jr.'s character taunts a terrorist. The next thing you know, the terrorists are descending on his seaside estate in helicopters; they then proceed to blow the shit out of this thing. No military jets scramble or anything. I mean these guys deployed helicopter gunships with impunity. They could have wiped Malibu or whatever off the map. Though he does bring down a helicopter or two by, if I remember correctly, throwing part of his iron suit at them. These iron suits apparently have minds of their own, since they can fly to him wherever he is. Like on the opposite coast.
Then there's this other aspect of the movie that's unintelligible. Well, the whole fucking thing is unintelligible, but what they call Extremis in particular. The president of Marvel Studios explained it like this: “Extremis taps into human DNA and is able to regenerate limbs and enhance strength.” The people look all thermal and stuff. I can't do it justice by trying to explain it; I guess you have to see it to understand, or not, the absurdity. I get that movies like this take a lot of license, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. But this one's just a nonsensical ripoff with a lot of stuff blowing up. The kids loved it, but it ain't no "House of Sand and Fog."
At the other end of the creative spectrum, albeit on the small screen, we have "Breaking Bad," which is as good as "Iron Man 3" is bad. This one I won't spoil, because if you haven't watched it, you should. It's right up there with "The Wire" as one of the best shows ever. I know it has been around for five years or whatever, but I just watched the first 4 1/2 seasons. With Netflix, you don't have to wait a week in between episodes, and you can follow the arc of the program while previous episodes remain fresh in your mind. Impressive writing and acting.
* * *
Seems like we might be approaching the end of days here. We have fires, glaciers falling apart, flooding, superstorm Sandy, Miami going under, etc. And now, I fear some kind of "Day of the Animals."
There's this bird, a robin, that has taken to flinging itself into the sliding glass door on the back of my house. With a little observation, I've determined that the sequence goes something like this: Bird flies into door, retreats to arm of chair on deck, takes a shit, gets fecal matter on feet (claws, talons, whatever), flies into door again. Bird repeats steps one through five. Dog freaks out. So now bird-shit footprints adorn the sliding glass door. And a window on the side of the house, for that matter. It's like perverse avian performance art or something.
* * *
I held baseball in obsessively high esteem as a young man, like a religion. On the Circle Line cruise around New York, at about age 10, I asked the tour guide if we were going to pass Yankee Stadium. She said that we would and then singled me out as we approached it. I just wanted to see the thing.
I used to spend time outside at my house hitting a Nerf ball with a Wiffle bat. We played pickup games every day in the summer. Rain would send me into a tailspin.
Now my kids might be through with the sport. One of them has trouble hitting, which poses a problem, and sometimes I would have preferred having a branding iron pressed to my temple to watching his games. Would have been less painful. He hits perfectly well when I pitch, but he had to face kids in games and couldn't get past the psychology that they might not have pinpoint control.
The other one can hit, throw and catch, and he's fast. But he gets distracted by, say, an airplane passing overhead. And he does little dances in the field in between pitches. And takes his hat off. And his glove. And flings his arms around. So, while he has the tools, baseball might not be dynamic enough for him. 
I'm not living vicariously through my kids' sports endeavors. I accomplished enough on my own. I think the problem parents are the ones who didn't do enough on their own. But it still kind of breaks my heart.
Like Gibran says about kids:
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dust

As a somewhat younger man, I gravitated toward home, like a dust particle pulled in by some magnetic force to an ostensible safe haven that instead harbored the potential seeds of my destruction.
Recently I related to someone, matter of factly, some nuggets with respect to that environment: drug dealing, violence, alcohol.... The response? "Man, I thought I had a fucked-up childhood."
I was so much older than my 11-year-old when I was his age, and, while watching him and his friends develop, I sometimes have to step back and take a breath and remind myself what the world looks like to an average child, one whose frame of reference isn't so skewed.
That said, I've thought recently, likely prompted somewhat by my mother's death, about why I found myself so inextricably tangled in the orbit of home. My neighbor's mother even admonished him once to hang around the house more, like me. Considering the age gap between me and my siblings, I grew comfortable spending time alone, mostly occupying myself by devising sports-related games. And with the occasional joint or scotch or gin or whatever. Considering how suffocating and domineering my mother tried to be, the lack of oversight confounds me. Her paradox. Partly that stemmed from a generational perspective, I think, but, in turning a blind eye to the drug dealing and drug abuse, she afforded me an entree into a more sinister environment.
My brother who sold the drugs never could escape my mother's orbit for long. I managed to at least physically distance myself. At her viewing, he sat a bit apart from us, dressed like a pauper, blamed by my other brother for culpability in my mother's demise and estranged from me because of too many hurtful episodes. He speaks oddly now, as if maybe he has brain damage from one too many pills or reefers or drinks. Or maybe one too many punches to the head or falls to the sidewalk. I did have to identify him once as he lay in a coma, after all. He wasn't aware of that until I told him, as my mother lay dying.
But anyway, that was the environment, and it took me longer than I would have liked to extricate myself from what had increasingly become more and more about them.
Even as an angst-ridden college student, I sometimes would leave the dorm and sleep at home, like a rabbit surrendering himself to the rattlesnake. I suspect a combination of factors bore responsibility, such as my anxious and depressed self's desire to find a familiar place. Plus the psychological effect my mother had had on me since birth. I retreated to that house the night before I entered the clinic for electroconvulsive therapy, like a homing pigeon somehow programmed to fly into helicopter blades. For a stretch I would drop my dog off there on my way to work so they could watch him. I'd pick him up after work and train him in the backyard and eat there.   
I remember, as a child in that house, slapping the couch cushion and watching the dust particles float along on the shaft of sunlight that streamed through the window. Maybe we're all like that, dust particles floating along on a river of sun streamed through a window.
And there's no place like home, where the heart is.
A song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa2E6w4wt6c
An article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-and-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-to-help.html