Category Archives: America

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 03

“You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil MUST be lead.”  Stan Laurel (One of Dad’s favorite quotes)

My God the day got away from me.  This one will be a bit brief, only because I find myself chasing a clock to midnight.  Sorry Dad, you got back burnered a little.  But we’ll go into that in a more real sense in a couple of days.

I had mentioned in Day 2’s post that my father would have probably picked on me if we were children at the same time, and that this was something I would discuss further today.

I don’t think Dad picked on me in a real way, I want to clear that up first and foremost, but I do think he had some issues understanding the power of some of the things he said to me.  But I do know he would have been mortified to know how long they’ve stuck with me, even though he would have understood.

When I was around 8 years old I remember sitting at our imposing and round dining room table opposite my father, his head encircled in a wreath of cigarette smoke, talking about something.  I honestly don’t remember what.  But we got talking about how hairy he was.  It’s a family trait amongst the fellas, the possibly sweet/possibly murderous eyes, and a healthy amount of body hair.

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A Simpson man on a naked stroll in the woods.

Okay, not really that bad by a long shot, but more than is the societal norm.  The cruel joke in all of this is that Dad was reduced to a horseshoe of hair around the back of his head.  He went bald, or at least balding fairly early in his life.  I wish I remembered how Dad and I got on the subject of body hair that day, but I don’t.  I only remember what he said next.  “Well, by the time you’re 40 you’ll be bald and hairy and won’t be able to find a woman who loves you.”  And then he laughed.

I did too at the time, but it was more because I didn’t know what else to do.  That scared me.  Was I going to be some big, hairy monster that would hide like Quasimodo in a tower somewhere so as to not offend the population?  It’s a comment that stuck with me.

Sticks with me.  I won’t lie, I still fight that sentence in my head.

In high school I physically dreaded P.E. for two reasons: I was pathetic at most sports, and I was terrified I would be put on the “skins” team of a shirts v. skins game.  I usually would fake a stomach illness when I found myself on the wrong side of that coin flip, or if I was lucky enough to be in a class with a friend on the other team, I’d convince him to swap.  I don’t go to the beach, I don’t swim in pools, and I can’t wear tank tops.   I’ve never gone skinny dipping and I’m so uncomfortable in my own skin I can’t do something as simple as hang out in a jacuzzi with friends.  I’ll sit on the side, fully clothed, and talk until I feel like I’m just creepy.  And then I’ll excuse myself.

Take a look at that photo above again.  I KNOW it’s not true.  I could side by side the photo with a photo of me and see how different they are.  But you know what?  That photo is how I feel.

I’m 42 now, two years past Dad’s prophetic, throw away date.  How am I doing?  Well I’ve never been married.  I don’t have any kids.  The longest relationship I’ve had in my 42 years is just over 5 years.  On the surface it doesn’t look so good.  Maybe we should change the perspective some.

I’m not bald.  Thinning?   Sure.  I could build a phase 2 of some tiny, theoretical housing development on the lengthening expanse of my forehead, and there’s a little bit of scalp that pokes through my crown.  But I’ve got my hair.  Strike one.  I’m hairy.  Nearly a body double for my old man. Complete with the nice and manly hair on my forearms that has overstayed its welcome and crawled up my triceps, across my shoulders and then cascading down the front and back like black cotton candy.  I’m even greying in the chest in the same way he did.  You hit that one out of the park.  Sure my longest relationship is 5 years, but it’s 5 years AND COUNTING, and she’s amazing.  Pretty sure she loves me, too.  Sorry pop.  Another strike.For a while I thought I had “beaten” him by not fulfilling all his prophecy.  And then I started thinking about another story he told me.

When he was in the Air Force, he found himself with some down time on a hot summer day and made his way to the enlisted men’s pool.  He was doing laps when an older woman (probably honestly a little older than me, but context is everything) walked in and laid out her book and towel on a chaise near the pool.  She asked my father what he was doing there.

He said it was the enlisted men’s pool, and he was an enlisted man.

She said, “go cover up, you’re ruining my appetite.”

He reminded her it was the enlisted men’s pool.

She said, “Not today,” and introduced herself as a general’s wife.  It seemed the officer’s pool was being drained and cleaned.

She then ignored my father and summoned some nearby MPs who were escorting her, “Will you boys please take this hairy animal somewhere he belongs and out of my sight?”

He was then escorted by two armed men, out of the pool area he had every right to be in simply because he was too hairy for a general’s wife.

This story was one of the things I would cling to while I was growing up as proof that I was going to be a monster.

It wasn’t until just a few years ago, when I had begrudgingly accepted the good, bad and societally unacceptable parts of my physique that I saw the story for what it was:  My father was crying on his 8 year old son’s shoulder.

It was everything he was afraid of.  It was the mirror he held back on himself.  Sure, he was comfortable taking his shirt off at the beach when I was a kid, but it was also the 70’s.  Lots of things were hairier back then.  But I don’t think he was ever really comfortable in himself.

I look at that photo of Bigfoot again.  And I understand it again.

He hadn’t meant to cause the stress for me that he did.  He needed someone to commiserate with.  Unfortunately he chose someone who wasn’t yet in the same boat.  I wish he had told me the story about the pool when I was a teenager.  I would have understood it so much better I think. I COULD have commiserated with him.  I could have taken power from it.  Had I been older, I could have been a good friend to listen.  As it stands, I’m a pretty bad friend.  It took me until years after his death to understand because I couldn’t see past myself.  But our timing was off.

Poor timing was an odd theme in our relationship, up until his death, and now I find it to be a trait I’m carrying with me.  I’ll get into that tomorrow, I’m already over my word count and past my due date.

Part 04 will be coming later today.

Goodnight pop.  I hope you’re somewhere carefree and happy, shirtless and basking in the sun.

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 02

“Faust complained about having two souls in his breast, but I harbor a whole crowd of them and they quarrel. It is like being in a republic.” -Otto Von Bismarck (according to GoodReads.com*)

That quote by Bismarck, if it truly is from Bismarck, sums up rather eloquently the position I find myself in trying to reach an intellectual consensus on my thoughts regarding yesterday’s post.  While at first I could pass off this notion of 10 days to talk about my relationship with my father on the 10th anniversary of his death as gimmicky, I’m a bit concerned now that I won’t have any answers after so little time.

I find myself standing in a senate of voices, comprised of friends, family, movie characters, characters from literature, philosophers, and of course my father and Adam32.  But unlike the half-circle amphitheater of the Roman senate, mine is more like courtroom in Superman.  Just a circular, down lit, antiseptic disc of white surrounded on all sides by giant, disembodied holographic heads shouting their cases at me.  A din of opinion focused solely on who I am.  And at the center, I stand alone in a groovy kinetic sculpture of hula hoops as they hold their mirrors of bias out for me.

Superman78Trial

Sadly I’m more Non than Zod.

I’m still trying to cut through the tide of opinions and make sense of it all.  This endeavor is turing out to be less straight-forward than I had hoped.  Maybe I need to take things back to an even playing field.

That’s us.  Dad and the two Adams.  Roughly the same age, dad a little older.  But I think I’ve always skewed younger than dad.

We were born 40 years and one day apart.  Dad on November 15th, 1933.  Me on November 16th, 1973.  We both had round faces with half-moon eyes that look sweetly innocent or capable of unspeakable evil depending on your interpretation, a trait we would carry into adulthood.  And that’s where the similarities ended.  Dad came from a family of siblings deep enough to run a co-ed basketball team with an ample number of subs, while I have but one sister.  His family did the whole “Grapes of Wrath” thing out of the Arkansas dustbowl when dad was just a boy, while my mom still lives in the house I was brought home to from the hospital when I was born.

Simpsons&cactus

Steinbecking the hell out of this place

Dad was something of a loud mouth and a punk, I was quiet and shy with aspirations of being a loud mouth punk.  Dad alternated between brilliant and dumb as a box of rocks, and would later in life boast about “winning” contests when he was a kid to see who could keep a beam of light from a magnifying glass cooking their skin the longest.  He would always go first, and all the other boys would give up immediately after his heroic time.  I still remember the look on his face when I told him, “Dad, you burned yourself for the amusement of other children who only pretended to play the game.”  He was not pleased.

I alternated between cunning and gullible.  I was a quiet instigator, and would come up with schemes that I’d have others do while I watched, but would also fall prey to simple traps.  Dad got into scuffles, I reasoned with bullies.  I was known to put myself into trash cans up through high school, stare a bully in the eyes and say, “There is no dignity you can take from me that I won’t take from myself first.” I had a lot of mustard and mayonnaise stains on my pants, but I never took a punch and never got robbed.

As he got into his teen years Dad continued to walk what Spinal Tap once defined as “the fine line between stupid and clever.  His mother, a diminutive firebrand of a woman named Myrtle, would wield authority over the household of towering teenage boys she found herself up against with the use of a broom handle.  My father decided one day when he was 15 that she would have no power without the broom, so he devised a plan to take it. He was being a particularly salty punk, and Myrtle cocked her broomin’ arm back threateningly.  Dad used his reach advantage and snatched it from her hand, cocked it back behind him and said, “who has the power now?”  My grandmother Myrtle responded by evoking the power of crusty Ozark Cherokee and in a single deft move snatched the broom back from him and began to beat him mercilessly about the head and shoulders with it until he dropped to the ground and apologized.  He crossed the line back into clever and never tried to take the broom again.

family sitting

If the baby was making moonshine in old family photo it would not have surprised me.

To juxtapose that, at this same age I was a member of the Latin Club, the Marching Band, and began to wear ties and short sleeves to school because I felt someone should be wearing ties.  I lived more for my own oddball style of self-amusement, but followed every rule to the letter.

I don’t think my father would have liked me as a boy.  I think I would have either been convincing himself to burn his hand with a magnifying glass, or more likely, he would have been intimidating me into servitude.

I haven’t ever put that together before, that my father would have likely been one of my biggest bullies, but it does speak with some volume as to what I’m going to write about tomorrow.

Perhaps a voice is cutting through the din after all.

But the answers are still lost in cacophony.

Until tomorrow.

I miss you Dad.  Thanks for spending the time with me.

*It is strongly against my nature to post a quote that I have not first verified, but time is short.

JIM UPDATE – 24 Hours With the Toughest Honkey I Know

 

**I found this in a draft folder from 3 years ago after visiting Jim in the hospital following his stroke.  It never got finished due to my schedule when I returned.  I felt it should be posted as a celebration of how spectacularly Jim has fought back from his affliction.  So with only the ado of love and admiration…**

I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend with Jim in his therapy facility.  I was on the ground in Washington for only 24 hours, but I felt like I experienced a month of life and I managed to do so much more than just visit my dear friend and running mate in the hospital.

Washington

I babysat the kids for a few hours, and got to see how much his two year old had grown since I last saw her at a month old.  I got to see Jim’s mother, who has held the job of keeping the kids happy and normal while mommy and daddy are away at the hospital; and with an 11 year old, a 5 year old and a 2 year old that is no simple task.  I can assure you she has done it beautifully, and done it at the sacrifice of being by her son’s side as much as she would like.  None of us who wish Jim well should ever overlook the contributions of those people who are so tirelessly supporting the family.

Two other such people are Casey’s sister and father.  They flew in, from Minnesota and California respectively, to help Casey get prepared for Christmas, and just to check in on the family. They took Casey out to do some basic shopping for the family and managed to get 10 large boxes of Christmas decorations put up in just over two hours.  They also made a cracking pulled pork, I can’t stress that enough.

I was fortunate enough to stay the night in Jim’s room with he and his wife.  She sleeps on an inflatable mattress next to his hospital bed, the place she’s been since he was first hospitalized, and does so with plucky aplomb.  She’s adopted the new normal their lives have found with the same forward-looking tenacity of the 13 year old girl I met so many years ago while working together at Camp Frasier in Irvine nearly two decades ago.  She’s always had an enviable ability to slog forward through any situation, with the finish line always in sight.  I’d call her a strong woman, but she’d beat me senseless for doing so, so I’ll simply call her what I feel she is: a pretty cool chick.

It was about 2 pm when I arrived underneath a thick cover of ash grey clouds that threatened at every moment to open up into a light autumn drizzle, and kept the early afternoon lit with the diffuse light of early evening.  The artist in me loved the lighting scheme, just a little melancholy and possibly forbidding, but the prospect of the sun’s resolve to punch through the darkness.  As Washington residents, I’m sure it was simply another day for Jim and Casey, but for this Southern Californian it was far more poetic.

Jim’s Room

Jim’s room is spacious for a single, like a dorm room with one bed and desk set removed.  The room is populated with get well cards and Muppets naturally, with the occasional Star Wars action figure donated by his 5 year old son to keep an eye on daddy.  There’s a small fridge and a private bathroom, a recliner and a picture window with a nice view that looks over the facility’s courtyard.

_MG_5742

Jim’s eyes were alive and smiling, even though he has some temporary facial paralysis on his left side from the stroke.  He was sitting in a wheel chair, his left arm resting on an attached tray, across the midline of his body.  His children had painted his nails on his affected hand a wonderful shade of Kermit green when he first went in to the hospital, a visual cue to help him remember to engage that side of his body.  It had been a couple of weeks and that nail varnish was chipped from wear while Jim idly stroked, poked and prodded his affected hand with his right hand.  It had become habit it seemed, partly to keep the nerves in his affected side stimulated, and partly I feel due to the same impulse we all have to casually poke at a limb that’s fallen asleep.

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I watched Casey do a bed transfer with Jim while I sipped my coffee feeling a bit useless and noted to myself that for a wee speck of a thing she’s staggeringly powerful.  We talked about how he’s been, what his therapists are doing with him, and lamented the food.  It was mostly just jibber jabber, three old friends catching up while one of them reclined in bed, unconsciously poking at an uncooperative hand.  Then a quick couple of hours later, I was called out to watch the kids back at the house so Casey and her family could have some time together and do some shopping for Christmas, and of course give Jim’s mother some very rare uninterrupted face time with her son.

The Guy Time

When I returned from my quick jaunt babysitting and shooed Jim’s mother away to the house for some pulled pork and beets, I got my first alone time with my best friend.  We talked about the future a lot.  The financial uncertainty, and the options they have, and decisions there are to make.  We talked about how amazing the family has been.  We talked about Casey getting laid off in the middle of this exercise through the American medical system.  And then I asked a question I had been dreading to ask, because I didn’t know how he would answer; “What is the hardest thing about… this?”

It’s a loaded question with so many rightfully selfish answers that would be reasonable, understandable, but hard to spin.  Walking, sitting up, picking up something with two hands are just a few examples of possible answers.  I was ready for one of them.  I wasn’t ready for the answer I got, but in retrospect it was the only one I should have expected from someone like Jim.

“My kids.  I miss my kids.”

Jim, as most of you must know, has been the primary caregiver – stay at home dad if you will – for his three children since Chloe was born 11 years ago.  He’s spent the last decade wiping noses and bottoms and catching frogs and coloring; while getting a culinary degree, working in wine shops, and learning the intricacies of wine making.  He suddenly found himself only seeing his three children in short visits here and there.  Without his children, Jim was finding himself without three of his best friends.

A group of well-wishers had donated a new iPod to Jim while he was still in intensive care to replace his old and broken iPod, and not only did it give him his music library for the boring times, it gave him a window to his children through Skype.  He lights up around his kids, even on a screen, but it was palpable how much he wanted to be around them in person.  I don’t know why I didn’t expect that answer from him; possibly because I don’t have children of my own

It doesn’t easily sleep three who aren’t – special friends – but it is possible.

To be continued later tonight when I get home.

***Nothing further was written***

My Ultimate Form

Here’s a thing about me:

I pee a lot when I’m stressed.
I pee a lot when I drink coffee.
I drink a lot of coffee when I’m stressed.

One very bad day, these traits will reach a singularity, my conscious mind will go in stasis, and I’ll become an entity that only exists as an uncontrollable and constant urea vector.

That should be a fun day.

The Multiverse and How It Relates To Top Gun

Let me recount a conversation with the first lady during breakfast this morning.  Pandora was playing the hits of the 80’s and Kenny Loggin’s “Playing With the Boys” starts playing.  She looks up after about half of the song and then this conversation happens.

First Lady: I don’t know that I’ve seen Top Gun all the way through.

Vote Simpson/Hemstead: What do you mean you don’t know if you’ve seen Top Gun all the way through?

FL: I thought I’ve seen Top Gun before, but I’ve never heard this song.

VSH: This song is kind of attached to a memorable scene for women.  It’s pretty much the scene every girl remembers from the movie.

FL: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen the movie all the way through.

VSH: All the way through?  That scene happens like 35 minutes into the movie. (Edit: it’s 46 minutes)

FL:  Maybe I think I’ve seen little bits of the movie maybe online or in pictures so I feel like I’ve seen it.

VSH: (vehemently) Yeah, but It’s the scene where all the pilots are shirtless and oiled up playing volleyball at the beach.

FL: (Casually) Not ringing a bell.

As someone who was raised on a strict diet of pop culture not knowing if one has seen a movie or not is something I can’t wrap my head around.  She wasn’t and is often confused by the depth of my pop culture trivia knowledge, and subsequently confused as to why I can do that, but not math.

I personally love these conversations, they are those great moments where it seems like you are living in two tangental universes that are brushing up against each other, allowing us to communicate.  https://screen.yahoo.com/census-taker-000000855.html?format=embed” target=”_blank”>This video is the best analog I have for the experience.

Except each one of us is Christopher Walken, and each one of us is Tim Meadows.

Anyway, we’re watching Top Gun tonight, so at least my universe will know that she’s watched it all the way through the next time her universe forgets.

Slider is ready. I hope she is.

Slider is ready. I hope she is.

Drinking Poison

Another shooting.  Another hate crime.  Another day of watching popular blogs push up their click-through traffic with a photo of an odd-looking man-child on their front page.  Glamorizing the words Spree Killer!  Racist!  Murderer!  Another day of watching my facebook wall explode into a digital lynch mob.  Watching fingers pointed at one another, at society, at the law.  Watching people repost imperfect analogies to rage/shame support to their belief.  I watch the world fall apart in anger, rage, and misery.  I watch the name and face of a man-child become burned into my laptop screen simply because there is no way to escape his face, his name, his instant celebrity.

I’m not going to post a photo, or speak his name, I won’t give him that power.  I’m not going to write about race.  I won’t write about what should or should not be done about the law.  I’m not going to feign authority on gun violence by using a story from my past.

I’m going to introduce you to a man whose story changed my thoughts on how we process grief, Hector Black.

I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Black perform this story at a Moth event at UCLA, and how he forgave the man who murdered his adopted daughter.

He expresses, with a voice thinned by age and and years of struggle, what forgiveness means or CAN mean to a person forgiven.  And more importantly, to the person who grants forgiveness.  I felt that those years of struggle on stage with Mr. Black through his retelling of his story, and I saw that same struggle today in the eyes of families who had just needlessly lost those closest to them.

I’m not posting this as an analogue to the events splashed across the media, both popular and underground, I’m posting it as a thought experiment about how we CAN behave in the wake of tragedy.  Perhaps as an alternative to the digital lynch mob that has occupied our collective consciousness since the dawn of social media.

Hector illuminates how the unseen fingers of emotional debt can strangle those who have been wronged, choking the spark of life from the eyes of the living for the rest of their days.  He also illustrates beautifully how difficult forgiveness can be to understand, even to the person granting it, and how forgiving is never synonymous with forgetting.

Unfortunately the performance I witnessed, one that had all eighteen hundred seats Royce Hall at UCLA breathlessly silent for nearly twenty minutes, is not available.  So I’m posting two other retellings of his tale.  I’m posting two, because each has elements of the story he told to us.  To me. Different Moth Event, and RadioLab Interview.

I highly recommend you listen to them both.

In all of his harrowing tale, one line always sticks out for me, and I’m trying my damnedest to hold it close to both my heart and my head.  “When you hate, you drink poison and expect the other person to die.”

I don’t know that I could ever have Hector’s compassion in the same situation, and I certainly don’t ever want to find out. But knowing that there are men and women alive like Hector and the families I saw today gives me hope for myself, and for each of us, the righteous and villainous alike.

I wish Hector, and all families brutalized by inexcusable violence, everlasting peace.

Photo by Eli Goldstein. Used without permission. I hope Eli forgives me.

Photo by Eli Goldstein.  Used without permission.
 I hope Eli forgives me.

VSH-PSA: Parking Brake

Don't make our mistakes.  The empire you save, just might be your own.

Don’t make our mistakes. The empire you save, just might be your own.

Tax Season

Quick post from the Vote Simpson/Hemstead accountant Stephanie Munnyloz, to all of our subscribers and supporters:

“To: VSH Supporters and Dependents

From: Stephanie Feindur Munniloz, U.C.P.A.D.D.S.

Re: Taxes

Please tell your hordes of followers (yes I’m using that term sarcastically to represent the 4 simpering morons that buy in to your bullcrap) that they are running out of time to file their taxes.  In fact they are down to two days here.  Get on it.  Also let them know that if they need help, my team of nearly certified accountants and dog walkers are available for last minute hail mary tax preparations.

Thanks,

Stephanie Feindur Munniloz, U.C.P.A.D.D.S.

P.S. This applies to you two knuckleheads too, you know.  Simpson, is it possible for you to write a password down for your retirement account?  I know people “make you edgy” but for God’s sake can you PLEASE call customer support and get this resolved by E.O.D. Monday the 13th?  Hemstead, I looked it up, and this thing you call “Mr. Bungle” is not a registered therapeutic device, nor is it doctor prescribed and therefore I can’t deduct it no matter how many times you underline it.  Please tell me what it is so I can see if it is deductible in some other column.

P.P.S. Just a reminder that you jackaninnies ARE NOT TO COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE!  I cannot stress this enough.  DO NOT COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE.  Do you remember what happened in 2010?  What am I saying, of course you don’t.  Suffice it to say that you do not want a repeat of 2010.  DO NOT COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE, just let your increasingly unamused audience know about tax day on the 15th of April and that we are available to help.  That’s all.  NOTHING ELSE.”

Stephanie also sent us a photo of herself she thought might be helpful for our TL;DR group.

Tax2

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm.

Good friend of Simpson/Hemstead finds herself fighting with her body and her own mind when she discovers she has an aneurysm in a tricky place.

As you know, Hemstead has suffered from, and rallied back against a stroke in recent years, so this looming fear of WhatIf is close to our hearts.  A good read, from a good woman.

Why Simpson/Hemstead Never Gets Elected: 06/13/14

Here is where I’ll muse over the 13 year failure that has been the Simpson/Hemstead campaign, starting on Friday the 13th, 2014.

I tried entering “boomoy” into my phone, and the predictive text changed it to “vomit.”

Even after I had it learn the word “boomoy.”

"My smartphone might be trying to smarten me."

“My smartphone might be trying to smarten me.”

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