Category Archives: Candidate Bios

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.

bfimage

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.

10 Days of 10 Years Later – Day 01

10 days from now, March 12th, will mark the 10 year anniversary since my father passed away.  It’s been looming a bit on the horizon for me, and I wanted to make sure I commemorated it in a way befitting the meandering course my relationship with my father took up until the day he died.  And the now 10 years that followed.

I think about those things quite a bit, our relationship up until that overcast Sunday morning he passed away, and the 10 years that have followed.  I think on who he was, how he became who he was.  I linger on who I was, and how I became who I was.  And inevitably I settle into thinking about who I am, and how fundamentally different I am from the 32 year old version of myself who had just lost his father.

I often wonder if 42 year old Adam would have tolerated 32 year old Adam.

As this date has gotten closer I’ve discovered that I increasingly wonder if 32 year old me would have liked the person 42 year old Adam has become, and I wonder if Adam32 would see his father when he talked to Adam42.

And how much would he see?

And in those things he sees, would they be those things he loved about his father, or those things he didn’t?  What has Adam42 learned from the experiences of Adam32, and the years since?  Did he keep promises to himself to evolve, or is there a genetic predisposition to collapse into some of our father’s less desirable quirks?

And then, most importantly, I think about Dad and wonder what he would think of Adam42?  Would THEY have been friendly?  Or are they too similar to ever be friends?

As it happens, there’s only 3 people in the entire universe who can answer those questions.  Unfortunately, of those 3 people, one is dead and another is ten years removed by a linear perception of time.

So that leaves me, Adam42 left to answer those questions and many more.  And what better way to commemorate my father than to try and make sense of those questions.  Perhaps an answer can be found.  Perhaps not.  But I invite you to indulge me in the hunt.

For the next 10 days I’ll post daily on some different aspect of these questions, the life of my father, and in a very real sense his death.  I’ll unpack some boxes buried deep in the back attic of my mind and try to answer honestly how the three of us would have felt about each other?  Is the nucleus of Adams within the probability cloud of Bob’s electron shell a stable atom, or would it decay into nothingness?

Giddyup, pop.  We’ve got some adventuring to do.

lilbobonhorse1

Lil’ Bob, Big Pimpin’.

Post Script:  You’d be proud of me Dad, I waited to start writing this until the VERY last minute, just like I did with your eulogy.  So now I gotta scramble every day for the next ten days to meet my own self-imposed deadline.  I partly blame your questionable decision to shuffle off this mortal coil during what would turn out to be a very busy season for me.  We always were a bit of an uphill battle, weren’t we?  I’m excited for this, Dad.  I hope I do you proud.

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.

_MG_5729

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.

Gender Stereotypes

What are they?  Are they dangerous?  Are they simply the brain’s way of collapsing data into quick to process nuggets for the fight/flight reflex?  Can they be overcome once the stereotype nugget has passed through the fight/flight barrier and made contact with the higher brain function?   Let’s do an experiment, shall we?

The Science Werks, in an effort to understand how stereotypes affect the brain and where exactly a stereotype becomes detrimental to human progress, have worked up this test:

Look at the images of an excessively hairy man with a pink mohawk, and then answer the questions below, keeping tally of your answers.

IMG_3658-3 IMG_3656-3 IMG_3653-2 IMG_3645-2 IMG_3643-2

QUESTIONS:

1: Do you find the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk’s poses to be gender appropriate?

           1 – Strongly Agree                                                             10 – Strongly Disagree

2: Do you find the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk’s poses to be offensive?

1 – Strongly Agree                                                             10 – Strongly Disagree

3: Do you feel the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk has no business posing like a 1940’s pinup girl?

1 – Strongly Agree                                                             10 – Strongly Disagree

4: Look at the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk.  After allowing initial gender stereotypes to pass into the logic centers of the brain, do you find the photos appealing on any level (alluring, comedic, zany), or offensive?

1 – Appealing                                                                    10- Offensive

5: Look at the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk.  Look at his legs.  Do you find his legs appealing or offensive?

1 – Appealing                                                                    10 – Offensive

6: Look at yourself.  Do you feel the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk is judging you the way you judged him?

1 – Yes                                                                               10 – No

7: Look at yourself again.  Have you accepted the excessively hairy man with a pink mohawk doing 40’s pinup poses into your heart?

1 – Yes                                                                               10 – No

8: Look at the excessively hairy man with the pink mohawk doing 40’s pinup poses, and gauge your opinion to the following statement:   “That dude is hella rad and cute as a button.”

1 – Strongly Agree                                                             10 – Strongly Disagree

Okay, add up your points and consult the chart below.

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Well crap.  Okay.  How about instead we throw away the other questions and just focus on your answer to number 8?

If you scored a 1-3, congratulations, you can look past little brain nuggets and experience a life not ruled by stereotypes and you have impeccable taste.

If you scored a 4-6, you are grappling with some internal issues, but likely will come out for the better for it and ultimately help shepherd others.  We have faith in you.

If you scored a 7-10, you can just go eat a Costco-sized bucket of unwashed wieners.

What have we learned here?  Well, I don’t know that we really learned anything, but I do know that I’m hella cute as a button.

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.

Father’s Day 2014

EDIT:  This was supposed to have posted yesterday, but apparently I’ve turned the corner in my life where I can no longer adequately operate technology so today it is.  Dad loathed tardiness, so I suppose it’s one more bit of grist for his cosmic mill.

It’s Father’s Day and I’m laid up on the couch nursing a sore back I inherited from the old man.  My dad passed away 8 years ago this year, in some ways it still hurts like he just passed away, but in most ways the pain and sadness have been blunted by the callous of time and put in to perspective through reflection of his life, my life, and how the two affected one another.  Since Dad’s passing I normally tend to just ignore the frivolity of Father’s Day, and use the day to laugh to myself at the moments I choose to remember and ignore those I have no need to recall.  But this year my own version of the genetically frail lower back that I watched lay dad out on the couch for days at a time when I was a boy has put me into a position of deeper introspection.

So here I lay, the smell of warm vinyl from a heating pad beneath my tailbone swirling through the air, mingling with the sound of Sean Connery’s contemptuously veiled Scottish brogue as he chews through the deliciously misogynistic dialogue of a 1960’s James Bond romp heightening my euphoric sense of nostalgia while deepening the small abyss in my heart since dad left.

As a result, I’ve found myself reading the eulogy I gave at his funeral, and looking at old I.M. conversations I had back then.  It feels alien, though the people are familiar and loved.  I apologize for the numerous grammatical errors, for even though I had 14 years to prepare this eulogy, I wrote it the morning of his funeral, a full month after he died, in roughly 45 minutes.  It’s a first and final draft, honest and without polish.  As I’ve aged I’ve found the list of advice to be more and more true throughout the years, and the sentiment at the end of his eulogy is the same today as the day he died.  I miss you dad.  I love you.

 

2006

I’ve had 14 years to prepare for today. 14 years ago Dad went in for a cancer surgery that he told me he very well might not survive. That was all I knew. I didn’t know what kind of cancer it was, I didn’t know what his prognosis was other than dad telling me it was very rare and thereby less survivable. 14 years and countless surgeries, ailments and ding dong ditches at death’s door later and I can tell you with no uncertainty; 14 years of near misses doesn’t prepare a person for a phone call saying “I think he’s gone.”

I’ve felt I knew my father well. I’ve spent nearly half of my life helping care for him in one capacity or another, and learned all the ins and outs of the way he thought. I could predict dad’s reaction to every situation, and provided him things before he vocalized that he even wanted them. Yeah, I knew dad probably better than any other person on the planet.

And then he died. Tari and I found pictures we’d never seen. I read letters I’d never read, and I’ve heard stories from so many people detailing my father’s life away from me.  Before me. This was a man I’d never met. He was full of life and laughter. He was the person everyone unanimously said could be counted on at any hour of the day or night to help a friend out. Lose your job and sitting at a bar at midnight drinking your lonely sorrow into oblivion? Call Bob. Not only would he come buy you a drink and sit until sunrise listening to you vent, but he’d drive you home, put in a good word for you for a new job, and still make it to work himself by seven. These sort of compassions I’ve heard over and over again. Need a ride? Car broken? In jail? Call Bob, he’ll fix it. A man who laughed and smiled and wasn’t crippled with disease or crushing fear.

I knew dad would give anything for Tari or me, but I never got to see my father strong enough for that selflessness to extend to anyone he called “friend.” For me, if I was asked to describe in a single image the visage of my father when I was growing up, the painting would be of a paunchy, bald silhouette slouched back in a sturdy wooden chair shrouded in a dense cloud of dirty orange, nicotine-soaked smoke glowing in the afternoon sun; a half-finished suitcase of beer holstered on the floor beneath his left arm, a half-dozen cans spread across the table, and the nasal, shrieking voice of Tom Leykis thundering loudly enough to drown out any attempt at conversation. That was the dad I knew growing up. His advice ranged from the practical, “be careful on the roads when it starts raining. We don’t get a lot of rain down here, and the drainage is bad on these streets, so that top layer of oil on the road starts floating and it’ll make the road slicker’n snot.” To the seemingly clinically paranoid, “Don’t wear shoes with white on them, because people in LA will stab you at any hour of the day for shoes with white on them.” Dad’s twilight years became a cautionary tale, a game of worst case scenario against the outside world, hermited in a dark condo next to the flood control. A condo that Tari and I spent countless hours trying to convince him SHOULD NOT be redecorated with chocolate brown carpet and burnt orange paint.

But the truth is, that wasn’t my father. Dad was a carefree, slightly thuggish boy, convincing his brother to swallow a life saver on a string so they could yank it back out and repeat ad nauseum. My father was a serviceman, fixing radios and playing practical jokes in the Air Force. He was an ambulance driver, rushing the helpless, and an occasional loaf of bread he’d mistaken for a severed head to the hospital. He was a beautician, full of charisma and charm and really great at an updo. He smiled all the time and made the ladies giggle. He was a garage door repair man, and so good at his job that even twenty years after he retired from the business, we’d still get phone calls asking if dad could come fix their doors. He was a postman, walking or driving the streets of the city he’d called home since the 50’s, and so loved by those people he served with, that today’s congregation is almost as thick with his friends from the post office as it is with family.

When I think about it… I could see who he was, if I had just looked. Every career he’s carried had one thing in common; he helped the helpless, even if it was in a small way. He kept pilots communicating, he carried the weak to help, he made you feel beautiful and special, he made the simple task of parking your car easier and more secure, and he finished off his career doing the same thing he started with, he kept people connected. 

Dad’s most tragic sin was the distance he kept from the people he loved. I think everyone here has a story they could tell about dad’s isolationist tendencies. Some moment they’ve bumped up against that thick headed and stubborn wall dad erected around himself. To my sister and I, the dad we came to know these last fifteen years was something of a paradox; at once hungry for affection, and fighting it at every turn. He was so afraid of dying in a convalescent hospital alone that the two months he was in one following his hip surgery I don’t think he got a good moment of rest. 

But dad, you didn’t die alone, and you weren’t in a convalescent hospital. You were home, in your bright and sunny apartment, able to keep an eye on the city you’d called home for half a century through windows that ran the whole of the wall and looked over the valley. And the people who made sure that everything you needed was tended to. Willy and Christian, two men of such compassion that they refused to sleep anywhere other than on the floor beside your bed so that you would never be alone and that anything you wanted, you would have immediately. 

The Sunday night before he passed away dad had a great night. He was lucid and he could speak well enough for us to understand him. He made jokes and laughed. We listened to Ray Charles and told stories for hours. The man who lived the last 30 years in such fear and trying to figure out how you were going to screw him was gone. I thought he was really loopy from the medication. He was so full of unabashed laughter. But now, after hearing this last week of stories, I don’t think it was the medication. I think, for that three hours, I got to meet my father for the first time. I will always see those three hours as the last and greatest gift he gave me.

At the end of the night he finally asked for something I think he wanted to ask for his whole life. He he said, “Do you know what would be really great? If someone could just hold me.” So I did. And for about fifteen minutes dad just patted the back of my head and cried softly until he fell asleep. Dad passed away on a Sunday morning. After the divorce, Sundays were the days that Dad, Tari and I would do something together. He’d always have us call him at 8 in the morning to make the plan for the day. Dad passed away at 8:15. We would usually meet at 11 to do…. whatever our plan was, almost without fail. The mortician arrived for dad at 10:50. Dad had one last Sunday adventure for me. He left us at at time when he wasn’t alone, but wasn’t surrounded by his family or the people who had come to care for him, it was the only way he could protect us.

So what have I learned from the lessons of my father’s life and his death? Well, I don’t think dad’s done teaching me, but so far I think I’ve learned as much from dad’s mistakes and shortcomings as I have from his strengths and soul. Here’s what I’ve learned, I hope I got them right

• Live life without fear. Fear steals your life quicker than any death.
• Love without compunction
• Experience everything you can in life.
• Tell all your stories, or better yet, write them all down. The narrative of you is a book someone will want to read later on.
• Listen to all your parent’s stories, no matter how many times they’ve told them or how bored with them you might be.
• Always be available for a friend, the best things to be remembered for are being that dependable rock of a person and being a great listener.
• Laugh unabashedly. Laugh at everything. No matter how sad a situation is, there’s something funny in it. Find that funny, it’s so much better than being sad.
• And perhaps most importantly, be careful on the roads when it starts raining. We don’t get a lot of rain down here, and the drainage is bad on these streets, so that top layer of oil on the road starts floating and it’ll make the road slicker’n snot.”

I miss you dad.
I love you

 

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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.”

Do You Know Who You Look Like?

It’s a question I get a lot.  I’m guessing it is because I have a relatively generic, not-unappealing face.  Add to this that I’ve also had weight fluctuations in excess of 70 pounds, so my looks have been somewhat… flexible over the years.  I tend to blend in to crowds easily.  I’ve sometimes compared it to the quality that is described to Matt Damon in Ocean’s 11, “You have to be likable and instantly forgettable.”

I concede that this isn’t the best quality when one is running for high office, which might account for our 10 year campaign for political relevance that still only yields 50-80 hits a day.*  But this quality does offer up a pretty great bounty when presented with the question, “Do you know who you look like?”  I’m often quite surprised at some of the epiphanies folk’ll reach in this regard.  Folk’ll have their opinions, and who am I to argue what pings a person?  Basically each time I get a new person, I’m given more ammunition to believe I’m possibly the most generic person on the planet.  The proverbial everyman, at least in terms of appearance.  I might very well be Darkman.

This all comes back to the surface because someone who reads the blog came across the article about resembling Harvey Keitel and took umbrage at the thought.  They actually wanted to debate me as to who I looked like, and felt I was out of my mind.  I wasn’t sure the end game in this debate of personal perception, but I happily unpacked a number of people I’ve been compared to, both flattering and boggling.  I figured it would validate my position of having no position in the matter.  But sadly the opposite happened.  By the end of this parade of characters my argumentative friend wished to debate all the options.

So I figured, what the hell.  So I sat down with the ScienceWerks and had them make a quick graphic of some folk I’ve been compared to since I was sixteen.  Keep in mind, I’m neither bragging nor lamenting any of these, nor  am I taking ownership of any comparison.   Each comparison was made in earnest, supported with descriptions, often fevered over fear of having insulted me, of features that sparked the resemblance.  None of the comparisons were made based on clothing or costume to the best of my knowledge, and dealt exclusively with my physical appearance at some point in my life.   It’s not comprehensive, but shows a pretty decent range.

 

Celebrities2

What ScienceWerks concluded was that I match the basic phenotype for white male with dark hair.  Possibly bearded, with an outside chance of a beak or a nose that might light Santa’s way.

So there you go.  Who did I miss?   Or better yet?  Who do you look like?   Can you beat the range of characters here?

 

*Vote Simpson/Hemstead realizes that Simpson’s generic look is not the sole reason behind their lack of political success.  The reasons behind their fevered mediocrity are many, including but not limited to: lack of a campaign platform, lack of initiative, lack of capitalization on Hemstead’s stroke sympathy, wanton ignorance of important issues, lack of public speaking skills, outright refusal to speak in public, obsession with Muppets, “unsavory snarky attitude”, refusal to pander, awkward social skills, “hygiene”, occasional unexplained flatulence, overuse of the phrase “hug it out” in official speeches, obsession with the phrase “hopes and dreams”, infrequency of website update, honest garbage sold in online store, referring to opponents as “dirty hippies”, lack of funds to effectively compete in a plutocracy, inability to spell plutacra- plutocris- plootacr- plutocracy without looking it up online.
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