Thanksgiving in 2016

Generations from now, when historians look back on 2016, they’ll agree that it can eat a bag of dicks. This year’s harvest was a steaming pile of crap. Regardless, we’ll give thanks tomorrow and celebrate with a feast.

As a nation, we normally gather on Thanksgiving in large diverse groups of friends and family. We smile and nod at racist uncles and Fox News repeaters, indulge vegan cousins and ignore goth nieces. A large enough dose of tryptophan makes everything a little more tolerable. This year, however, many will gather in smaller like minded groups. Some won’t join any gathering at all. The weeks’ old wounds of election day are still too raw for tolerance to be allowed back in our homes.

I often wonder about Thanksgiving in 1963. President Kennedy was killed on the Friday before Thanksgiving. He’d already pardoned a turkey. Right before Thanksgiving is a shit time to die. What’s worse is he was on his way to lunch. I’m very structured about meal times. I would have been thinking about what I was having for lunch at that time of day, and at that time of November, I’d have been daydreaming of the coming feast. Maybe presidents have more to worry about, but maybe they don’t. Maybe the personal tragedy of November 22, 1963 is that a man was robbed of life, lunch and Thanksgiving feast. I’ve heard stories of some pretty horrible things said in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. That must have been an uncomfortable year to share a table with people who had wicked words in their mouths.

There’s no moral to this stream of consciousness. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you don’t need to make a point. Also a bag of dicks is a lot uglier than anyone could have dreamed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Love and Marriage and Friends and Food and Booze

The Inn at Craig Place

Lisa and I are driving to San Antonio tomorrow, or as they say in Larry McMurtry novels, Santone. (I’m not telling you this so you can rob our house while we’re out. Only seven people ever read my blog. So if we get robbed, it’s going to be a pretty short suspect list.) We’re going for the wedding of one of my oldest friends. He and I both come from Fort Worth. He lives near San Antonio now. The place he and his fiance chose for their wedding, coincidentally happens to be the same Bed and Breakfast Lisa and I were married in mumble mumble years ago. When he told me they were getting married at a B&B in San Antonio, I asked which one, just out of curiosity. When he told me, I had to search my mental records to be sure it was the same place. It was a it’s-a-small-world moment. (Not the ride… that would be a crappy moment.)

I’m actually looking forward to this wedding. I usually hate weddings, but I prefer them to graduations. My preference for social gatherings goes in this order from most to least preferable; adult parties, weddings, funerals, graduations, children’s birthday parties. The ranking is influenced by the presence of alcohol, cake (wedding cake is far superior to birthday cake) and children. If you’re weird enough to want me at your child’s birthday party, you’ll be required to host an open bar and significantly decrease the number of children attending. You’ll also have to live with the knowledge that I’d rather be at your funeral.

Going to San Antonio is always a treat. If I can’t be at home, and I can’t be at Disney World, I’d like to be in San Antonio. If I was going to live any other place it would be there. Lisa and I used to go down there a few times a year. I proposed in Gruene, and like I said already, we were married in San Antonio. We’ve been to the Alamo a few times. We got drunk at the bar in the Menger Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of his Rough Riders in 1898. And we’ve spent hours on the River Walk and in the Mercado.

I’m also looking forward to is seeing two of my oldest friends. We’ve put some miles between us, so we all get together very rarely. And as we get older the occasions of our reunions aren’t always happy ones. It’ll be nice to see them at a celebratory time, to share a few meals and a few drinks and a few days. Speaking of meals and drinks, Lisa and I have been living la vida low carb for a few weeks. So it’s going to be blissful to binge on carbs and booze for three straight days. I intend to get diabetes and cirrhosis by Sunday.

Most of all I’m looking forward to hanging out with my wife. I know, weird, right? I work with a man whose job requires him to be at work from  8 to 5 weekdays; however, he comes in as early as 6:30 or 7 and stays until 6:30. He mentioned the other day that he gets up at 3 every morning to go for a short run on the treadmill and do his other morning stuff (without knowing what else he does, let’s assume it’s chronic masturbation) and get to work early. His wife works from home and they have no children. His self imposed unnecessarily onerous work schedule would indicate he doesn’t like to be around his wife. He’s up and out the door so early she can’t possibly be up yet. And if he’s getting up at 3 every morning, he can’t be staying up late. So he’s getting in nearly in time for bed. Did I mention he golfs? Yeah, he goes golfing on the weekends. You’re wondering what this has to do with me and Lisa hanging out together. It’s this, my life couldn’t be more different. Lisa is my best friend. I look forward to seeing her every day. I look forward to hearing about her day. I like hanging out with her, whether it’s just around the house, on the town or in a car for five hours. I get excited when she texts or calls. We joke all the time about how we don’t have any couple friends. She says it’s because we’re antisocial. Just reading that sentence, you know that can’t work. We can’t be antisocial. Our love of each other disproves that. The fact is we’re a couple of happy introverts. Yes… and I’m antisocial.

What I wish for my friend is a marriage like mine. I hope this weekend that he says his vows to his best friend. I hope he rushes home from work to be with her. I hope he looks forward to their routine trips to the grocery store. I hope their love fills every hole in his life. Also, I hope the cake is good.

Finding my Mojo

I met Lisa  in the summer of 2002. Jacob had just turned three. I never had any children of my own, and I had no real experience with kids. I was about to turn thirty, and outside of my first marriage, which lasted four years, I’d mostly been independent. For the purpose of this blog post, independent means single and self absorbed. Picture Hugh Grant in “About a Boy” only uglier and with a smaller budget. I was an island.

Mojo Jojo
Mojo Jojo

What I didn’t know about kids at the time could have filled a library. One of the things I didn’t know was they’re always chucking their most beloved possessions out of car windows or into animal habitats at the zoo. Then they’re devastated because they’ve lost whatever item they just threw away. Even back then I was wise enough to know toddlers aren’t smart, but that kind of behavior indicates a special level of not smart.

One day, shortly after we started dating, Lisa called to tell me Jacob had tossed his stuffed Mojo Jojo toy out of her car window on the way to daycare, and he was heartbroken. Now we’re into comfortable territory for me, problem solving.

Problem: Toy has been tossed out the window of a moving car.
Challenge: Replace toy.
Risk of Failure: Low
Reward Potential: Huge
Difficulty Level: 5

Challenge Accepted!

The next day was Saturday, and I set out on my journey. I went to Toys R Us to buy a new Mojo Jojo. FAIL. I tried Wal-Mart. FAIL. So I called Lisa and probed a little on the origin of Mojo Jojo. It turns out one of Jacob’s grandparents had pulled the toy from a claw-machine while on a road trip.

Revised Problem: Tossed Toy came from a claw machine in another town.
Challenge: Find the same toy in a claw machine locally.
Risk of Failure: Medium
Reward Potential: Still Huge
Difficulty Level: 7

Challenge Accepted!

So I hit every pizza place, family-friendly restaurant and bowling alley within ten miles of my apartment. I’d park, go in, check the claw machine contents and leave. FAIL. FAIL. FAIL.

Mojo Jojo
My Mojo

That night I picked up Lisa to take her out. I asked her to show me where Mojo met his fate. We drove to the place, and there in the gutter was the beat up, wet, stuffed little green monkey. We had found Mojo Jojo. I didn’t want Jacob to be reunited with a filthy toy. So after our date, I took Mojo back to my apartment and ran him through the washer and dryer. The next day I brought him to Jacob. I handed the toddler his long lost friend and awaited my reward. Imagine the joy on a child’s face on Christmas morning at finding a puppy under the tree. Jacob’s reaction was the polar opposite of that. He couldn’t have cared less.

So I kept the damn toy, and Lisa and Jacob kept me. We’ve all been together more than a decade now. Jacob has called me Dad for most of that time. We are a happy little family. And I keep Mojo Jojo in my study to remind me of why I left my island.

“Every man is an island. And I stand by that. But clearly, some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean they’re actually connected.”

For Jacob on the Occassion of his 13th Birthday

Jacob

As you take your first weary steps into adulthood, I feel the overwhelming need to lay down the ground rules for you. As puberty will continue to dull your mind for the next several years, you may want to print this out, keep it in your wallet and refer to it often. It’s going to be a lengthy list so you may want to look into getting a bigger wallet. Maybe one of the big fold over kind that men used to carry in their coat pocket.

The Rules of Life:

Education

  • School is your job. Right now, and until you graduate from college.
  • Average is not acceptable. This rule applies to everything, not just schoolwork.
  • You are solely responsible for your success or failure in all things. Sometimes this means you’ll have to work harder because you have a bad lab partner, bad teacher or bad boss. Those people aren’t responsible for your success or failure. You are.
  • College is mandatory. In the Game of Life you get to choose college or career. Real life is not a game, so you don’t get to choose. 
  • Make a lifelong commitment to learning. Learning doesn’t end after college, and for some people college doesn’t even end after college. It’s okay to stay in school forever. As long as you can make a living, go for it. Once you’ve left school, keep learning. Travel, read, research and grow.

Relationships

  • Your mother is the most important person in your life. If you don’t have a healthy loving relationship with your mother, you will never have a healthy loving relationship with anyone else, ever. The same is true of other people. Don’t get involved with people who don’t like their mothers.
  • It’s what you like, not what you are like, when it comes to making friends. Don’t get this wrong, strength of character is important, but for making new friends, it’s good to start from common ground.
  • You will be judged by the company you keep. Pick your friends wisely. Avoid people who make bad or dangerous choices.
  • Women aren’t mystical creatures. They’re just like men; manipulative, emotional men with boobs. They’ll try to make you think they can’t be understood, or that you can’t even pick out your own clothes without them. It’s a trick. Don’t fall for it.
  • Sex is not for only after marriage. If you wait, you’ll be sorry. I know you don’t want to hear about this now, but in ten years, you’ll thank me.
  • First marriages are for practice. If at all possible, try to avoid making babies with your first wife. To nullify this rule, wait until after you’re thirty to get married.
  • Be Faithful to your wife. The rules on fidelity are thus- If you’re the married one, it’s cheating. Don’t do that. If she’s the married one, technically you’re not cheating, but you’re also not bulletproof, so advance at your own peril. Also, no good relationship ever started with one of the parties cheating on their spouse.
  • The first girl you love is not the girl you’ll marry. You’ll fall in love in high school and think it’s special that you found your one true love on the first try. You didn’t. Trust me on this.
  • The greatest gift you can give your mother is to love your wife.
  • You’ll never outgrow the family you grew up with. If you believe “a son is a son till he takes him a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter the rest of her life,” you don’t know your mother. She’ll destroy any woman who tries to take you away.
  • The greatest gift you can give your father is to be a good father yourself.

Career

  • You will hate most of your first jobs. You just have to push through those times. You’ll need the cash to do all the relationship stuff above. These experiences also prepare you for later, less crappy jobs
  • Job satisfaction is more important than high pay. If you can score both, you’ve done well.
  • Pick a career that interests you. Find an employer you believe in. Don’t spend your adult years hating your job.
  • Anything worth having is worth working for. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. These are called truisms for a reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit. All that hype about not being a quitter is bull. Dedicating time to a losing prospect is much worse than quitting early.

All the other rules (in no particular order)

  • Rinse your dishes immediately after use. This will save you more work later.
  • All IT problems can be solved by turning the device off and turning it back on again.
  • Don’t slam doors or hit things unless you mean it as punctuation to a crappy mood.
  • Always judge people. This is contrary to what everyone else will tell you, but trust your instincts where people are concerned.
  • Don’t exercise in pajamas.
  • If at any point, you find yourself in jail, there is a very real chance you have failed completely up to that point, and your life will require a reboot.
  • Say what you mean, mean what you say, or don’t speak. Words are powerful. Use them wisely.
  • Learn to be self sufficient. There will be periods in your life when you will be completely alone.
  • Be weary of anyone who claims to profess the one true religion. For that matter, never trust anyone who claims to have conversations with an invisible deity.
  • In your late teens you’re going to discover alcohol. Don’t drink to excess or in public until you’re 21, and don’t ever drive drunk. Call me or call a cab. (#TAXI or #8294 from any cell anywhere).
  • Nothing good ever happened between Midnight and 5AM. Always be in bed under the covers during those five hours.
  • The toilet has a bowl, a lid and a seat. Each has a function.
  • Toilet paper should unroll toward you, not toward the wall.
  • Replace the TP roll when it’s used up. An empty cardboard tube on a spool may be of use after the apocalypse, but for now when the roll is empty replace it. (I know I just rattled off three rules about the toilet, but you’ll start every morning there, and you don’t want to start every morning of your life wrong.) 
  • College, marriage, babies. In that order!!!
  • Deadlines are due dates, not start dates. Plan accordingly.
  • Question authority. But first be sure you’re in the right.
  • Wear nice shoes and drive cool cars.
  • Caffeine cures depression.
  • Avoid the victim mentality. Don’t let impersonal things affect you personally.
  • Barney on “How I Met Your Mother” is not a role model. If you have to pick a role model from a TV sitcom, use one of the guys from “Big Bang Theory”.
  • Everyone loves a smart arse, but no one likes a jerk. Know the difference between sarcasm and meanness.
  • Use Social Networking responsibly. Be sure you don’t accidentally share a post with the world that you only wanted your best friends to see. If you want to share your most intimate thoughts with the world, start a blog… like this one, where I share our private conversations with anyone interested in reading them.
  • Avoid hypocrisy. Be who you are.
  • Honesty is always the best first option.
  • Spellcheck – Yes. Auto correct – No.
  • Variety is not always good. It’s okay to pick something you like and stick with it. It’s called consistency.
  • You learn from failure. So don’t be afraid to risk and fail.
  • Be resilient. Don’t get hung up on the losses life will deal you. Dust yourself off and move forward.
  • Confront your fears within reason and where possible. Don’t go out of your way to walk on the wing of a flying airplane or anything like that, but don’t let fear of rejection or fear of failure prevent you from doing things you want to do or having things you want to have.
  • Try to find the humor in every situation. Laughter will save you from the dull monotony of every day living.
And Finally…
  • Break all the rules at least once.

Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my High Holy Day. Lisa’s family will come over and we’ll once again blend our traditions, each person carrying a ghost from their own childhood in the form of a platter of food. It may be the stuffing their grandma made or the pie their favorite aunt used to make. Some new traditions may start tomorrow, and some old ones may vanish forever. This is only the most recent incarnation of my favorite holiday.

I’m not someone who likes to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. I am very good at compartmentalising my life, and tmy parentshat includes keeping the past in the past, where it belongs. But at this time of year, it seems like the veil separating the past from the present is so thin I may fall through. I feel like I could be driving home from work, sitting alone in my car, and suddenly find myself sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner at my Mema’s house thirty years ago. It may be seventy degrees out, but I can feel the chill of the last Thanksgiving before my mom passed away. It was 1993, and it snowed and iced on Thanksgiving. I almost skipped it because I was scared to drive on the ice. Only a handful of people were able to make it that year. I’m glad I was one of them.

I’ve shared the Thanksgiving feast with representatives of every generation of my family who lived in my life span, from my great grandparents, who were born in the 1890’s, to my son, who was born over a century later. Some day I’ll eat the feast with my grandchildren, and maybe someday with my great grandchildren. Those future feasts will be as different from tomorrow’s as tomorrow’s will be from the ones in my memory. But each will carry with it the joyful memories of all that came before.

Tomorrow, the memory of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents will share a table with us, as though they were still here. And hopefully, years after I have moved through the veil, the memory of me will live on to share Thanksgiving with the generations I will never meet.

Thoughts From Anna

My cousin Anna has a great blog that she updates almost every weekday (http://annah40.blogspot.com/). I admire her dedication to maintaining it. Even more, I admire the thoughts she shares in her blog. It’s all very personal. The topics range from the mundane to the deep. She’s covered topics from her love of Easter hats to her waning spirituality. Early on she blogged about the death of her father. He was a huge influence in my life. I keep a picture of him on my shelf at home even all these years later. That blog entry hit me hard. It brought back so many feelings and memories, that it took fully a week for me to get back to normal.
Her blog has made me think about my smart-assy poorly maintained blog. I wonder if these are the thoughts we leave for posterity. When we die, will they somehow be maintained by ancestry.com or whatever archive we’re using when that time comes? Will our children, grandchildren or future decendants read our blogs to find out what we were like at this moment in our lives? Do I want my message to the future to be a list of things that make my ass sweat?
The short answer is yes. I do want my great great grandchildren to read about the things that make my ass sweat. I hope they get a chuckle out of it. But I also want to say more. I am going to try to do a better job of updating my blog. Five days a week is never going to happen, but a few times a month is a commitment I can probably keep. It may often still be things that make me laugh, but I won’t avoid covering other, more personal topics.

For the faithful five following my blog or those who browsed here from Facebook or Twitter, every entry may not be for you. Going forward, I may only link the funny ones to Facebook. For those in the distant future reading this, I hope your robot overlords don’t catch you slacking. If Ray Kurzweil is right, then I am probably one of your robot overlords, and I promise vengence on anyone caught screwing off. For my lovingly tolerant wife, this may be as close I am able to get to sharing my thoughts and feelings… so stay tuned.

Couple Friends

I’m certain most married men can relate to this. My wife, Lisa, is frequently trying to find us couple friends to hang out with. This involves starting with a woman she is already friends with, usually someone from work or from high school, then introducing the husbands into the mix. In order for this to be successful, the husbands (me and the other guy) must become friends. Ideally we would become the kind of friends who would hang out without our wives around, thus creating a sub-group within the couple friend dynamic. The statistical probability of this formula working is approximately 285:1 against. The obstacles to success are abundant, but I’ll pick off a few obvious ones.
Social Science. Men don’t quickly bond with other men. The bonds among men take years to form and are often shaped by shared tragedy or at least shared adversity. I’m pretty sure this is true of most male mammals. If you need examples, check out monkeys, lions or elephants. The herds, or whatever, are made up of females and babies. The males are either off somewhere alone or with males with whom they grew up. If a new male is introduced into the pack of males, it is summarily humiliated, beaten and assigned a lesser position in the chain of command or it takes control of the pack by ousting the current leader (this might happen in human groups if The Rock showed up).

Social Disorders. I used to think I was introverted, but now I’m certain that I’m antisocial. I’m comfortable in crowds, and I’m okay being openly antisocial. There is a quote in the new BBC “Sherlock Holmes” series where Sherlock says, “I’m not a psychopath. I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.” I get that. As Lisa has tried to bring her friends’ husbands around, I have picked them off, one by one, as unworthy. I am willing to admit that if I had a problem with one man or two or even three, it could be them. But if my problem is with every man (or, let’s face it, every man, woman and child), it may be me. I remember when I was much younger, choosing not to ask a girl out because she had a bunch of friends, and I really didn’t like them. It seemed easier to just not try, than to start a relationship that would end with me telling her that everyone she knows is an asshole.

Offspring. We have a twelve year old son. If the other couple has a child of similar age, then they must also get along. If the other couple has a baby or toddler, then it’s just never going to work. I am past the point in my life where I want to make social arrangements around a little child. I don’t want to double date to a Pixar film or have to work around naps or listen to tantrums. Sometimes Lisa, who is a Labor and Delivery Nurse, will meet people at work who are having a baby and who seem like a perfect match to us socially. All I can think when I hear this is, “do I really want to spend a lot of time around a baby?”

Alcohol. We like to drink. I like it a lot. I drink in crowds. I drink alone. It’s one of the only ways I am able to function socially. That Lisa also likes to drink, and is okay with my constant drinking is one of the magic bonds that hold us together. Trying to be couple friends with people who don’t drink is a deal breaker. If their reason for not drinking is religious, all the more so.

Humor, politics, and religion. I have a very dry sense of humor, and a caustic wit that is fully engaged 95% of the time. If you look up caustic wit, you will probably find sarcasm as a synonym. If the other couple is not of a similar demeanor, this could be a problem. Lisa and I are both quite liberal in our social politics and in our religion. Of the two of us, she is the one you would describe as having a religion. Any one of these factors if discussed openly can make or break a friendship.

So if you’ve been friends with my wife for years, and your husband and I are on an equal socio-economic plane, and we have shared a trauma together, probably brought on by being drunk, funny and antisocial in a public place, then this could work. If it’s not a perfect fit, but you’d generally describe yourself as a secular humanist and you’re willing to let your husband narrowly avoid being arrested or beaten up in a bar fight then it may be worth a try. Provided you don’t have small children.