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Monday, November 24, 2008

Of Bilge Water and Franksgiving

A quick post this morning for all Captain Jack aficionados:

On Friday, yours truly took a half day at the Hard Labor Camp to ferry the skipper, Her Majesty, and first mate Belle (and their accoutrements, which filled about 175% of the cargo hold) over to the Port of Mobile by way of New Orleans in HMS Tahoe. JackBaby was a good sport for most of the ride, which, as is customary, was plagued with 5 knot traffic in no less than 4 spots. Don't get me started on the infernal French and their sticky marzipan hands crowding the sea lanes. The Cap'n, irritable by that time, was nigh on to lighting up the eight-inch guns to make a path through the rabble.

We arrived late to New Orleans, where I was hastily sent off to get changed into a full dress uniform for Uncle Jay's First Annual Bachelor Party. All of his very best people were there (of course), including brothers, cousins, friends, current and future in-laws, well wishers and hangers-on of all sorts and stripes. Meanwhile Her Majesty was trying to weasel out of the grim task of sailing Jack on to The Admiralty in Mobile by herself. It was a risky move, but I shoehorned her into it anyway. I'm told that Jack went all-in Hiroshima about 30 minutes out from port. Another instance of jerky E.C. dodging a major catastrophe.

I got the story last night of Jack springing a leak in church while Bebe was holding him. I reckon his stuffing box leaked and the bilge pumps somehow failed. Everything in sight ended up dripping wet. I'll bet the preacher was glad the pulpit was on higher ground. Jack's blatant disregard for church surroundings continues to concern me. I head back towards Port of Mobile on Wednesday to meet up with the family for Thanksgiving. Or Franksgiving, since we seem to be reliving the New Deal these days.

In local news, the renovation in Port of Houston is almost finished. Her Majesty and Jack were very pleased last night with the news of Home Port 2.0's new coat of super slime-resistant antifouling marine paint. We're now considering the title The House of Many Colors. Ask Melanie about the closets.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Rookie

Plague and pestilence! Your correspondent is ill, Her Majesty is exhausted, and the Captain is a bit snotty (literally, not socially). Dr. P, our ship's doctor, had scared the bejeebers out of us with menacing statistics about infant mortality from influenza. She ordered that the crew be inoculated immediately, and yours truly was the first to succumb. I mean comply. Did I mention that the crew dubbed her The Tigress? You don't go mouthing off to tigresses or you end up sliced extra rare on a banana leaf. But the blasted shot got me sick, I'm sure of it. Stupid modern medicine. Give me quinine and leeches any old day. Next time I'll be properly bled like a rational person. If I get the Cap'n sick, it'll be better if I don't recover at all...

The skipper has been quite well this week apart from dodging virulent germs from me in a constant game of immunological Frogger. The fleet actually had a very auspicious weekend, entertaining both the Top Brass AND the Admiralty at the same time. Top that, Spanish Armada! Jack was handed around so often between the grandparents the whole thing ended up looking like a squaredance. Or maybe a hootnanny. You get the idea.

On Saturday night, the crew was given their liberty to go ashore in dress uniforms for the Medina Children's Home Benefit Dinner. I'm not exactly an old hand at the charity circuit, but I'm told it's customary to have a well-known speaker, well, speak.

Her Majesty and I were very happy indeed to have landed ourselves in front of Jim Morris. No, not the singer for The Doors. If you saw the great movie, The Rookie, that's Jim Morris. He's the smalltown baseball coach that lost a bet to his high school team and ended up a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Rays. Devils. Or whatever they call themselves these days.

Some neato highlights: After a major shoulder surgery sent him packing from an undistinguished turn in the minors, and by his own admission, 50 pounds of gut later, Jim found himself trying out in front of a real, live big league scout. When asked if he wanted to warm up, he responded, "To embarrass myself? I don't need to warm up!" His first pitch was clocked at 94 mph. At one point, he ends up throwing 12 consecutive 98 mph pitches as a crowd gathers around the 2 radar guns at the plate. He's signed to a Major League contract in a matter of days.

OK, I get you. How does this relate to Jack? Since I'm learning this whole fatherhood gig, I'm not shy about stealing good ideas. And I think I found a good one. Jim's basic topic had to do with a person's dreams and things or people that prevent them from being fulfilled (he calls these "dream killers"). Long story short, his point was that when he was trying like crazy to fulfill his own dream, playing baseball, he was doing that for himself. It was all about him and it fell apart when his arm did. But ironically, after he gave that dream up completely, when it was long dead, something happened. He accidentally used it as collateral on a bet to motivate his high school kids. So the lesson was, when he chose to serve others, his dream was given to him.

I'm not arguing for, and I don't think he would argue for a quid pro quo, that we should somehow try to deftly engineer our own successes by involving others out of false charity. But his is an awfully powerful object lesson for how you should use your life. Do you use it for your own gain? Should it be used for the profit of others? Is doing the latter really a better way of doing the former? Jesus said it better, of course: "But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."

It was a lot of stuff to think about over the dessert course.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Bye Week

Even the mighty Jack takes a bye week. Just basic developmental stuff to report, and while very cool, and darn fun to watch, it doesn't generate much copy. The reactive smiling and cooing (yes, great captains of men coo) that Jack's able to do now makes the 27 times he spits up on you worth it. For the family as a whole, this week's most memorable non-Jack item was picking out paint colors for Home Port 2.0. Sal-ute to all you interior decorator types out there. That job gave the crew tired-head in the extreme.

I find myself learning some arcane bit of information, having never seen or heard it before, and then every day thereafter finding mention of it everywhere. I assume we filter and ignore things that are unfamiliar. Suddenly, when they're not unfamiliar anymore, they pop up constantly. At least, so goes my theory. Along those lines, some random thoughts on fatherhood from E.C., since I'm noticing a heckuva lot more instances and portrayals of fatherhood:

I flipped across Guess Who's Coming to Dinner yesterday. Of particular interest to this neofather was a scene in which Sydney Poitier's on-screen dad gives him a legendary tongue lashing. The old man, evidently a former golf-caddy, has tallied up the distance over which he carried golf bags to provide for his son: 75,000 miles. Sydney's well-articulated, angry response is something along the lines of, "I don't owe you anything, because you did what you were supposed to do!" He pours gasoline on the fire with, "You've got to get off my back. GET OFF MY BACK!" Again, I'm paraphrasing, but he finishes with a reassuring, but resolved "You are my father, and I am your son. I love you. Always have. And I always will. But you see yourself as a colored [sic] man. I see myself as a man."

It made me think a lot about the possible mistake of seeing this fatherhood gig as an investment, or a pension plan. So many times it's presented that way, joked about that way. I should be a good father to Jack, a great father, even, because I'm supposed to be. Not because I'm building up parental capital with him to use at some future time. One hopes Jack will respect me for being a good dad, and value my advice. But even if he doesn't, it was still my job to be a good father. Period.

Another thought, here. I'm trying to understand that Jack will see himself as a different kind of man than I see myself as. He won't be constrained by some of the bonds that hold me. For better or worse, he'll have his own to deal with. Wrapping my brain around that is probably impossible at this early stage.

For lack of a better term, GWCTD is a mother of a film. And not just for the hot-button 1967 subject matter. Spencer Tracy's monologue at the very end is worth seeing on its own, the last golden nugget of a golden career (he died just 17 days after filming).

Gosh, I feel like a really rotten film critic. Enjoy your week - I'll be in the shower washing this off.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Featuring... The Human Pincushion!

In proportionate terms... imagine getting jabbed in your thigh with a two foot long needle. Three times. That's exactly what happened yesterday to our hero, again, speaking proportionately, here. The Captain roared with furious anger, ordering the thorough lashing and immediate execution of every man jack present. To add insult to injury, he was compelled to drink the very nasty and technically-named Polio Goo Part One. In the same vein (sorry, couldn't resist) he discovered cherry flavored baby Tylenol was quite nice, and then passed out. What a day. The skipper has been cranky ever since. Her Majesty is still teary-eyed. We'll keep you, dear reader, posted on all these goings on.

This Sunday, a few of our very best people came over for a little get together to quietly celebrate my rapid aging/decline. It seems truly fitting that I tore my hamstring about an hour before the soiree. Jack snoozed inconsiderately in his cabin during most of the festivities. Being a powerful and feared Captain of men can make one a bit rusty with one's manners, it would seem.

Oh, back to the details. The current standings improve to: 3 months old, 25" long (85th percentile, thank YOU Mendelian Genetics!) and 13.3 lbs (50th percentile) and 40 cm head circumference (25th percentile) if memory serves. I apologize for mixing metric and English, but welcome to the United States. Just be thankful I didn't give everything in knots and leagues.

I'll have to leave it there for now, as I slowly remember the happenings of this past week. Ah - almost forgot: Your Captain duly presented his voter registration card (thank you, ACORN!) and did his duty. Now go do yours for King and Country. -E.C.