Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pockets and Mr. Thomas Sawyer

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with – and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles,part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.
-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876.
There's a funny moment at the end of just about every mom or dad's day.  About the time when everyone's (probably) asleep, you sound the retreat head back into your room.   You're about to bail out of the clothes splotched with spit up and ketchup and dried yogurt and pickle juice.

But first you have to empty your pockets.  And that's the funny part.  Majestad and I started comparing notes a few days back as to what we'd unloaded over the last 24 hours or so.  Here are the results:
  1. Sea glass (blue)
  2. Torch from Playmobil siege engine rocket launcher
  3. Dental floss (used)
  4. Plastic jewels (various)
  5. Gingerbread man game piece from Candy Land (blue)
  6. Hunk of quartzite
  7. Mardi Gras necklace (gold)
  8. Baby bottle nipple
  9. Wadded up Band-Aid (used)
  10. Green cherry tomato
We didn't snag a window sash or any orange peel, but I think Tom would be proud.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Prince Caspian and the Adventure of the Rotisserie Chicken

Posting late may be the new normal round here.  We had a pretty good long Memorial Day weekend, and hope you did as well.  Ours decided to go careening right off the tracks yesterday afternoon.  We had a few friends over to help us battle the mountain of ribs I had piled on the smoker.  It was a noble effort, and everyone fought valiantly, but they whipped us.  Wasn't even close.

By the time the feed was over, I already felt pretty disgusting.  I was covered in smoke, sweat, grime, bug spray, and a three-day beard.  Jack was also winding down and pretty grumpy so I threw him up in his room to read a little (i.e. carefully setting him up for a nap).  After cleaning up, I strolled up there and read some Prince Caspian to him.  I could barely stay awake myself.  At some point I fell asleep during a song, best I can remember.

We both crashed, right there together, for almost two hours.  Not sure who looked like he had the worse of it, but there was some trouble generally in waking up and rejoining mankind.

Swimming was proposed, and seconded.  But Jack didn't much look in the mood or really the condition to swim.  We flipped on a DVD and watched some Sword in the Stone.  I was right there with him for a bit, but left to go get a snack.

Looking back, the little sputtering, yakking noise as I returned wasn't too much of a surprise.

I caught most of the sick before it hit the rug, a feat I'm still pretty darn proud of.

He got medicine for the fevah! STAT, and he was seated next to the well-known here's-a-bucket-if-you-need-it for the rest of the DVD.

Tylenol, curses be upon it, makes The Dude more hyper than middle schoolers on Red Bull.  So between the nap, and the Tylenol-Devil, there was pretty much no sleep till Brooklyn.  Brooklyn in this case being 2:05 am, when I dragged myself up there to administer some Motrin or whatever.

I've said it before, it's the unexpected stuff that I enjoy most about parenting.  In his room, I see this:  He had abandoned the big beach towel nest (with bucket) I constructed for him in favor of the other, cooler side of the bed.  His lamp is on right over him, and he's facedown in the pillow, probably suffocating.  Under the bright light, his skin radiating heat, he gives the impression of a big rotisserie chicken in pajamas.  He's clutching a kitchen timer and a little torch missile thingy from some knight or other's rocket launcher/siege engine.

I flip him over (not easy) and sit him up (really not easy), put the medicine up to his lips and he loudly drawls, 'I WANNA DO IT MYSELF."  He slumps forward and falls back to sleep, I guess ignoring my laughter.  I haul him up and try again, and he says, "AGAIN," and collapses.  Lights out.

Next morning, he greets me with, "PRINCE CASPIAN HAS ON LONG SOCKS AND A TUNIC!"

Now, if you were to look that up in a medical journal, it will say, "Diagnosis:  Patient physically sound, but mental state undetermined."  We've taken steps to quarantine him from The Other One.  We'll see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Growing Up, YouTube Style

Ever wanted to see a kid grow 10 years in 1 minute, 26 seconds?  Meet Natalie.  Her mom and dad took a picture of her every day for a decade.  I think my brain just exploded.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Musical Interlude

Man, reeeeally having trouble with getting the words out lately.  Bear with me.

Describing my little hometown (Fruitvale, Texas) to the uninitiated is difficult.  Usually in my case I end up talking about it to a Brit, with hilarious results.  But I try.  The Euros are especially caught up with this mystique of the American South, and of Texas as well.  They've seen all the same the movies we did.  "About an hour east of Dallas.  Middle of nowhere, take a left.  More cows than people."

I really value, inestimably, the raising I got in that little town and the surrounding area.  It's a wonderful, wonderful way to grow up.  Mom and Dad are still there.  But necessarily, growing up "out here in the middle" as the song goes, impoverishes you in other ways.  As with most things, it's a trade off.  And a good one.  One I wouldn't change if I could.

I worried aloud to someone recently that I won't be able to quite relate how I grew up to Jack and Caroline.  "I'm raising city kids for crying out loud!"

In the small towns, there's some really interesting interplay between all these opposite forces.  Independence versus isolation.  Pride versus desperation.  Continuity versus change and encroachment from outside.  Tight-knit, supportive communities versus rabid cliquishness.  Traditional ideals versus the near complete privacy to do whatever you want (cough, meth labs, cough).

I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on rural America.  Wouldn't leave?  Couldn't wait to get out?  Can't be more indifferent?  Drove through it one time?

There are probably no other genres besides country (and western!), and hardly any songs that really give the feel of where (and how) I grew up.  But there are a few that nail that beautiful (or lonely), wide-sky silence...  and the hopelessness (or security) of never leaving.  The feelings can be at once both wonderful and bitingly sad.

I've embedded a few really terrible music videos of some really un-terrible songs:  Steve Earle's Someday, James McMurtry's Levelland (James is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry of Lonesome Dove fame) and an awful concert recording of Tift Merritt's beautiful Laid A Highway.  I threw in the incomparable Chris Knight's Rural Route for one line alone:  I go back but I can't go home.

That's true for wherever you grew up, city or country.  You can go back... but then again, you can't really.

Bon app├ętit.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Had almost a complete post finished when it struck me.  "Dude, this seems pretty familiar."  I went back and looked, and darn it if it wasn't almost verbatim from something I wrote a long time back.  That's definitely a bad sign.  It indicates (1) senility (2) that I'm fresh out of stuff (3) senility and (4) the onset of senility.

You know what was worse?  The old one was better.  WAY better.  I can't tell you how much that depresses me.

Overheard last week:
JMW:  *Very seriously at the dinner table, with his foot on the table leg* "I've got my foot on the footpropper."
Parental Units:  *Dying laughing*
JMW:  "I told a joke!"
Okay, maybe you had to be there.  Next.

We had lots of family firsts this week.  I list those I can recall (senility, remember) in no particular order:

Jack went to our Cajun dentista.

Caroline went to Sunday School.  She'll soon be smarterer than any of us.  It's a good thing, too, because we're in desperate need for some effective and insightful leadership in this place.

Everybody went berry picking while I was catting around in Florida at a "conference."  For "work."  Nobody's going to be surprised to hear that Jack ate about 86% of what he picked.  I wonder about the observer effect with this one.  If we had never read Berries for Sal, would The Dude have eaten just as many?  We'll never really know.

First ballet.  Somewhere, there's grainy video of Jack pirouetting around on the amphitheater's lawn just dancing his little feet off while the Houston ballet did its thing with Giselle.  All of us were Googling what a male "ballerina" was called, because, y'know, first, we're uncultured and had no idea.  And second, we wanted to head that whole ballerina thing off at the pass before it got momentum.  Turns out one is called a danseur.  If you're great at it, and have the lead, you're the premier danseur.  That's free.  You're welcome.

First week of swimming.  Surf's up.

First cherry tomato of the year.  Let the war with the birds begin.  Somebody's gonna die.  AND IT'S NOT GOING TO BE ME, YOU TOMATO-EATING FEATHERDUSTERS.

And this was fun.  It's incredibly diverting to annoy famous people.  I've got some really nice video of Torre talking Barry Bonds.  Make me an offer.