Thursday, April 30, 2009

Something New

It's that time again, kids! Time for me to recommend another band that you will all hate. I know you look forward to this occasional series.

I was pretty fired up when Emet secured pit tickets to see Kings of Leon in a couple weeks. Festival in Santa Barbara. Outside. 4500 capacity. Not sure it's reasonable to expect to see them in a similar-sized venue ever again, what with their soaring popularity. It being a festival, however, there are a number of other bands on the bill, so I figured I'd check 'em out to decide whether to watch them or rest my feet in the beer garden (I'm assuming there's a beer garden; there'd better be a beer garden).

I gave cursory listens to the bands lower on the bill. Tar, I'd heard of, due to their moronic re-imagining of Ginuwine's "Pony." Aside from that, they seem watchable. Remind me a bit of Helmet. But it was the penultimate band that has me in a tizzy.

I was instantly attracted to them because of their name. I've read DeLillo's "White Noise," (from which the band takes their moniker) and consider it one of the finest novels since the invention of words. If you've not read it, I highly recommend it. Also, you are a Jipperbrains (I may have called a fellow motorist a "Shit-for-brains" recently with AJ in the car, prompting him to ask, "What's a 'Jipperbrains?'").

But I'm not here to inslut you further, unless you don't like The Airborne Toxic Event. I can take or leave the single ("Sometime Around Midnight"). But I love (love, love, love) "Wishing Well" and "Gasoline" and "Happiness is Overrated" and, especially, "Something New."

Groovy. Soulful. Literate. Purchasable.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I've been pretty lackadaisical about the working out lately. Convenient excuse of being busy. Plus, it's not like I'm as slobby as I was a year ago when I started the Speaker Body Revolution. While I've put back on a few pounds, I'm still gliding around the pristine pitches of Fontana with little resistance and the non-smoking continues to improve my health every day.

On the other hand, Emet and I go out a lot and drink beer and eat mexican food.

So I've been noticing the expansion, but it really didn't come home to roost until this weekend. AJ was laying on me, as he frequently does when we watch TV together, when he started poking me in the stomach. Soon, he was adding a soundtrack to the pokes, almost chanting. What he was saying was,

"Squishy belly. Squishy belly."


As a result, there was nothing but fish and chicken and fruit and vegetables in the grocery cart on Sunday night. Monday's post-little league dinner was grilled (boneless, skinless) chicken with steamed veggies. AJ groaned a little.

"Do you know why we're eating healthy?" I said, ready to drop the bombshell that he was the catalyst.

"Because of the swine flu?"

Better answer. I let him stick with that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pet Sematary

Today's lesson in How Things Work is brought to you by our dead goldfish, Rascal, aka Rasky, aka Rasco de Gama. Two days of searing heat in the desert killed the little fella (I'm assuming; reasonable cause and effect there, but it could very well have been conjunctivitis or an airborne pathogen), who was a happy and healthy member of our home for nearly seven weeks, or six weeks longer than I told AJ he might live when he acquired him via precision ping ping ball tossing.

There were tears. Sure. And a proper burial in the toilet where I asked AJ to say a few words.

"You were a good pet, Rascal, and I'll miss you."

Which smacked me much harder than the tears. As did his repeated sad face as he broached the subject numerous times, including this morning. Then, there was this:

"Rascal is living in the sewer."

"He's not living, AJ."

"But he's in the sewer."

"Yes, and soon he'll be dumped in the sea."


"Yep, that's where everything we flush eventually goes."

"Like pee?"


"And poo? Gross!"

"Yes, but first it goes to a water treatment plant where they separate it and clean it with chemicals."

"What about diarrhea?"

"Same place."

"What about when I pee on the toilet seat?"

"Daddy wipes that up. Or it evaporates and leaves a yellow stain that Daddy has to clean later."

At which point, he'd forgotten about Rascal.


Appreciate the comments from y'all last week about AJ's behavior. Many are right on. He does get easily bored. He will, however, bend and commit to a task he finds interesting. Like on Saturday night, when he spent nearly three hours putting together his new LEGO kit (Star Wars tank vehicle somethingorother) without pause or diverted attention. More than 400 pieces and I only helped him once.

It used to be that I spent three hours putting these things together. Er...okay...usually more. I was pretty impressed with his effort. Those directions aren't the easiest to "read." I was also humored by his repeatedly referring to "Master Yoda," instead of just "Yoda." Wish I merited the same respect.

Anyways...I'm skeptical about putting him in "gifted" classes (he's taken the test; results expected any day now). My own parents refrained from placing me in similar environments on the advice of the tester. Back then, the exam was an oral one (and we wrote our answers on the walls of caves) and the instructor suggested it would be a crime to force me into a socially homogeneous and awkward environment because I was "charming."

Swear. Unless my Mom's lying, which she probably isn't. And yeah...I don't know what happened to that charm, either.

AJ is definitely charming in his own way. There's an underlying sweetness behind his shenanigans. There has to be, or he'd spend all his time in the principal's office. His teachers stress how much they like him and how much he brings to the class when he's on good behavior. It's just the other times. And both X and I like how he's exposed to all manner of kids, socially.


One of his duties at school is to go fetch Jack. Jack is developmentally disabled and AJ chaperons him when he moves into the regular classroom for a couple hours a day. His teachers say AJ is not only very patient with Jack, but that when he goes into Jack's classroom, he talks to all the other kids, asks what they're working on, etc.

I can't explain how that makes me feel, though it mitigates nearly every concern I have about my child's behavior. He may act up WAY more than I did ("You had respect for authority," Mom says), but he's a good boy.

He deserves another pet.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mouths of Babes

AJ told me yesterday that he no longer wanted me to cut up his granny smith apples that I include in his lunch. He wanted to eat it whole. I balked, because I've seen him attempt that maneuver several times and it takes him a couple hours to finish. He pecks at the fruit in small increments, barely breaking the skin. Considering he only has 50 minutes for lunch and I assume he uses at least 40 of those to run around and rip holes in his pants, I thought my slicing was in the best interest of all.

So I asked him why the change of heart. He wouldn't tell me. I began by offering reasonable explanations, hoping to find the answer.

"Is it because sliced fruit is for babies?"
"Do you get too much juice on your hands and spend the rest of the day sticky because you have no use for water or cleaning products?"

He answered each with an inflated "Nooooooooooo," and a whimsical smile from across the breakfast table. So I leaned into it. I'm not above absurdity for my own, or AJ's, amusement. I turned it into an exaggerated interrogation, pointing at him accusingly,

"Is it so you can pretend it's a martian planet?"
"Is it so you can sell it on e-Bay?"
"Is it so you can put the apple in your underpants and walk around the blacktop saying, 'It's naht ah tum-ah.'?"

He kept giggling, but I had to cut it short. He'd have sat there 'til Thursday. But I finally wriggled it out of him. "Why DO you like the whole apple, son?"

"Because the sticker is still on it and I like to eat the sticker."

Oh. I suppose my guesses were not so absurd.


That's pretty much life at the Speaker Compound. AJ says weird things ("Hey Daddy, wouldn't it be funny if a person had whoopee cushions for feet?") and I pretend what he says isn't weird. Don't want to stigmatize the kid, though one of his soccer teammates dropped the dreaded 'W' word on him once and he simply confirmed the diagnosis.

He's a handful and a half. At his recent parent-teacher conference, his teachers gushed over his smarts--the best vocabulary they've ever encountered in a 2nd grader, they said--while also noting that his classroom behavior has gotten worse. I was telling my mother this, how his "listening" had gone from Satisfactory to Unsatisfactory in the second semester when he shouted at me from the other room, his hearing apparently fine at that point,

"It's not my fault! You should have raised me better!"


Mom laughed at that. I couldn't. Not outwardly. But it was funny. Then it bothered me for several days. Was there meaning in that statement, or just a child's desire not to be held responsible for anything? Subtext, or simple acting out?

Doesn't matter, I suppose. What matters is that is surely a harbinger of things to come. As he grows older, he will more frequently question his elders. Considering his situation, some of those queries are bound to be difficult, are certain to hold his mother and I with a degree of contempt. Why did he have to grow up in this segregated life?

I know the feeling. I've come to work the clutch pretty well, switching gears as the changes come. But I am armed with these years of experience, the maturity (ha!) to problem solve and communicate truth, regardless of how painful it may be.

I want everything in the world for that little boy. To keep him filled with spunk and spark, wonder and inquisitiveness. I straddle the line between keeping order and letting his energy and intellect express itself. I have no desire to dim that light. To render his thoughts to the margin because they come forth unedited. I don't want to shush him when he speaks out of turn.

Because he might have something very important to say.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Not Fair

Wednesday night, I watched the A's play the Angels. One baseball game of 162 this year, of thousands I've watched in my lifetime. Most of them disappear when they end. Somebody won, somebody lost. Other times, you remember certain events. At one point in the game, the Angel pitcher, Nick Adenhart, threw Jason Giambi a 2-0 changeup. It was the first change he'd thrown in the game, in the 5th inning. It floated up there, looking fat, before it dove down and away, Giambi a mile in front, flailing like he was trying to hit a hummingbird. I had a reaction something along the lines of "Whoa!" That pitch was not fair.

It was Emet who told me about the accident. I had stayed at her house Wednesday night and she'd dropped me off at the train station so I could go to work. Except there was a derailment and I had no way to get downtown. She came and picked me back up and told me. Nick Adenhart, and three others, not one of them past the age of 25, had been killed by a drunk driver, just blocks from where we were, just hours after Adenhart pitched six shutout inning against my A's.

The news hit me hard. Harder than I'd have expected. Working in newspapers, you develop a certain cynicism. We report bad shit every day. I research obituaries. You become numb or you'd go crazy having to wade into sad news with such regularity.

More than anything else I am in this life, I am a parent. And that was the nerve that was struck. This is not tragic because Nick Adenhart was a baseball player. It's because he was someone's child. Because he was on the cusp of success in his chosen vocation and I can't imagine the pride his parents must have felt. Just as I can't imagine receiving that phone call.

Unable to get to work, I sat and watched the news all day. Read the stories. "Senseless." All the reactions you'd expect, all the ones you feel. I love baseball. Love my A's. Hold the Angels in a certain contempt as a geographical and competitive rival. I even taught AJ to call them the "Stupid Angels." I'm the first to admit I sometimes place too much emphasis on my fandom. Sports are often more than just a game to me. If you have a team you feel deeply about, you know what I mean.

I feel stupid writing that. Useless. What am I trying to say? Come out with it.

Fucking asshole drunk drivers.
I grieve.
It's not fair.

I called AJ on Thursday night. To hear his voice. Somewhere, deep inside, simply to know he was okay. He was busy. A video game or a TV show or something. I asked about his day. He kept saying, "Okay, Daddy. Bye." Four times. Five. But I held him on the line. I was scared.

I don't know how the Angels went out and played baseball last night. I don't know how Adenhart's parents sat in the stands and watched their son memorialized in the pre-game. I don't know how anyone could have watched that and not been touched to the point of tears or held their children tightly.

I'm glad the Angels won last night. I hope it eased their burden. And I wish them well.