I’ve had feelings, or sensations of dread whenever I’d be confronted with a fatty cut of meat for the last couple of months. I felt in my core that a dark time was coming, heralded by a malevolent being who would rain down fire and ennui from his teats. This creature would reek of barbecue and gristle, with outstretched arms and a disconcerting, tight-lipped smile that didn’t mask his grotesque desire to consume the world entire. After months I thought I had uncovered who would be the herald of this evil time.
And then Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign and I went back to the drawing board.
More accurately, I celebrated with a bottle of sake and some raw oysters. One less person to challenge the obvious Simpson/Hemstead candidacy. But when I went to sleep I had a dream. A dream of that same sensation of dread. In that dream I saw in the smokey, barbecue teat-fire a face. It was the face of this herald of doom, a long and oddly snouted face for a biped.
And he whispered to me.
“I love you.”
“We’ve only just met,” I said in return, in as demure a voice as I could muster when confronted by such a beast.
The beast mistook my tone for coquettishness, “Soon you will know me, my love. Soon you will all know me.”
I was taken back, and even slightly off-put that the herald of doom was so quick to reveal his polyamory. “Who are ‘you all’?”
Was I jealous? Of the beast that had been tormenting me for months? I didn’t have time to think through my emotional state, for the beast bear down on me with his wide-set and oddly vapid feeling eyes that glowed red like the forge of Hephaestus.
He narrowed those eyes at me and said, “Every beating heart will soon beat for me.”
I was taken back. One, that’s just scary. Two, it’s a helluva great pickup line for a swingers convention.
I stammered my response, “Wh-who are you?”
The beast chewed at something emptily in his mouth and then hissed his response.
No, not hissed. Something else. Something more guttural.
“I am Moocifer, and I am nigh.”
I woke up already sitting up in bed, called the ScienceWerks and described the creature I saw.
Going to repost what I wrote for mom last year. If you know her, give her some love today. In addition to all the things that make this woman pretty darned great that you’re about to read, she’s added taking in my 95 year old grandmother and caring for her as well. If you don’t know her, but you think she’s pretty groovy, please repost/link/press/digg or disperse through your social media of choice. Hell, just leave a comment below. Happy birthday Mom, I love you.
Today marks the launch of the HTC Vive, an exciting step forward in consumer-level, room sized V.R. simulation.
Personally I’m beginning a journey into content creation for V.R. and it’s the Vive that has most grabbed my attention. Each of the platforms has its plusses and minuses, but the Vive has been transcendent in a way that the others haven’t thus far for me. I’ve spent hours painting in the cleverly simple, but infinitely playable Tilt Brush, shot down aliens while skittering across a room, and stood on the edge of virtual cliffs as my very real stomach tightened. The content is already so interesting as these technologies begin their consumer infancy, I’m very excited to see what comes next, and very excited to be a part of the advance.
Having spent a few days exploring the environments available under the visors of HTC Vive, Oculus, the Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard, this is about the only way I can sum up my experience in this exciting new world.
The first lady and I were sitting in bed talking about virtual reality last night and the following conversation happened:
First Lady: We need virtual reality company names that sound more immersive. Like the opposite of virtual reality so that it feels more real and amazing.
Me: Okay. what’s the opposite of virtual reality though?
FL: Tangible… Fantasies.
Me: That sounds like an escort service for cosplayers.
FL: Either way. This is also a viable business venture.
Coming soon from Vote Simpson/Hemstead ScienceWerks: Tangible Fantasies.*
*No word yet on whether costumed escorts will be available at this time.
We’ve been trying out many of the “meal in a box” services and have discovered one commonly overlooked first step to preparing any meal.
Is it pop culture profiling if I’m inherently distrustful of people in airports dressed like Travis Bickle?
Well, here we are. Day 10. I’m so glad this is over and at the same time I’m sad that once again Dad and I are at “The end.” I’m posting this from Dad’s gravesite right now, at the exact minute of the 10th anniversary of Dad’s death.
It seemed appropriate to let Adam32 wrap this up, since he’s the one who picked the site where Dad is buried, and he delivered Dad’s eulogy. He knew without question what Dad sounded like, and he’s the one who sat in Dad’s apartment with his body, feeling his chest go slowly cold and just touching his face and hands and chest, and marveling at how different he felt without those little imperceptible twitches of living skin.
Here’s the eulogy Adam32 delivered at Dad’s funeral, and Adam42 would deliver today.
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 too, Dad. And I love you too. Happy Anniversary. Today I’m going to play extreme croquet with the guys who came to your funeral, and then I’m going to my very first quinceanera. And then I’ll be having a really cheap beer and a cigar with you in the back yard. We’ll watch a little Laurel & Hardy, and we’ll listen to some Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra. And then, before I go to bed, I’ll finish up with perhaps the most trite and overplayed father/son song in history: Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In the Cradle.”
Around day 03 I was talking with my girlfriend about the experience of this endeavor, and I mentioned in passing something that was bothering me a little, and now bothers me a little more and more every day I write these posts. My memories of Dad are slipping.
I’ve talked with my mom since starting this and she’s offered me some insight from her perspective. And that’s one of the great things about the community of family, we can share stories and perspectives and keep our memories honest. With how reclusive my father got in his life, it rarifies the number of people who can offer those insights, so I’m seeing more and more value to this series as a way to keep my memories of right now honest. But there’s something worse than that.
I’ve looked at photos of Dad while I’ve been researching this, and I don’t remember him looking the way he did. Usually they are closer to end of life photos, where his appearance changed a lot, and quite quickly, but it still took me back a few steps to see photos of my father that looked foreign to me. I’m glad I have these photos, so I can keep my memories of what Dad looked like honest. But there’s something worse than that.
I’m beginning to forget what Dad sounded like. Well, let me be more specific; I have his voice very clearly in my head. I could pick it out of a crowd of a thousand people. But there is no way to know if my memory of my father’s voice is accurate or not. Dad’s voice as I remember it could be only a piece of what he sounds like, with the rest filled in by some generic, catch-all male voice, like one of six preset character voices in a video game. The scary thing is a voice can be discussed amongst people, but the nuances of it that make it real are specific to the listener and impossible to describe.
I have lots of 8mm film of him, but that has no sound. I’ve got precious little videotape of him (he died before the tapeless formats became the norm), and of that videotape, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a camera to play them.
I know that somewhere in my garage, on either an 8mm or hi-8 tape is at least 2-3 seconds of my father’s voice. And that might be it. There might be some of his voice on the originals from my sister’s wedding, but I don’t have those anymore, I gave them to the couple. I don’t know if they have them. I’ll need to ask. But this is the thing that is most terrifying to me, that I’ll lose what Dad really sounded like forever.
So please, if you have footage of your parents and grandparents, capture it digitally. Save it on a durable drive. You’ll want it someday. Some day you’ll be as thirsty for the sound of someone’s voice that you’ll drink even a syllable over and over again.
And for the love of all that’s holy, if your children or grandchildren want to videotape you, don’t tell them no. Don’t get self-conscious that you have wrinkles, or the twitch of Parkinson’s disease, or less hair than you used to have. The gift of you being you in that moment is something that they will treasure far after you’ve passed on and have no more ego to defend.
I hope I find even a sentence of Dad’s voice.
P.S. This is the photo of Dad I mentioned earlier that gave me pause.
Until tonight I knew that lyric as a Ray Charles song. It’s a song Dad would listen to a lot. He’d listen to Ray Charles a lot, not just this song. Ray, Mahalia Jackson, Ben Webster, Louis Armstrong, are you sensing a theme? He loved Frank Sinatra, hated Dean Martin, had an appropriate 1960’s socially acceptable racism in his genuine sense of love for Sammy Davis Jr. But this one song has stuck with me after his death and typifying how I feel Dad thought about his life.
The photo above is from my sister’s wedding. Mom and Dad were 10 years divorced at this point, and this day was only the third day since they separated that they were seeing each other without the presence of a lawyer. It was a wonderful day for us all, and one that we had honestly not thought would ever come.
But that was my sister and I underestimating our mother. It’s a mistake we didn’t often make after the wedding. If you didn’t read yesterday’s post about Mom, for gad sake, go back and read it. Share it. Click the link in it. Share THAT. The woman is a superhero.
I didn’t know what to write about tonight. My girlfriend had a lot of wonderful suggestions, she said to talk about what he would have thought about today, things that make me think of Dad, or things we liked that we both could have shared in. I liked all those ideas, but it was what she said after that I stuck with, “Don’t worry about it, something will hit you.”
And something did.
To start, I answered one of my questions posed in the very first post in this series. Sadly, I already knew the answer. It was obvious, I just had never thought through it before. Would Dad and Adam32 have been friends?
In hindsight, it’s a stupid question to ask. They were, of course, beyond friends. Adam32 is the person my father trusted with his power of attorney. He was the person my father asked the opinions of regarding decisions as serious as to whether or not he should go on hospice or not. He trusted Adam32 with his life, and by extension his legacy. That the question had to be asked shows how far removed from that time Adam42 really finds himself.
Now that I think about it, we’ve really answered the question about whether Adam32 and Adam42 would be friends back on day 06. So that leaves one thing: if Dad and I knew each other today, would we be friends? That’s a tough one.
I can tell you what I can pretty honestly say about what he’d like. He’d be interested in my job. He’d LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my girlfriend to a point I should be slightly worried. He’d hate popular music, he thought music in the 90’s was, “caterwauling noise,” he’d probably not take to Fun, Rhianna, or Kanye. He’d probably like the popular music return to some gypsy jazz roots, but he’d say that hipsters, “just don’t get it,” and are, “half-assing life.”
He’d wonder why anyone would pay two dollars and forty cents for a cup of black coffee just because it had the word “organic” in front of it, and as much as he’d really love the proliferation of microbreweries, he’d laugh at anyone paying more than a dollar-fifty or a beer. My father was enormously frugal, and when he was alive, he lived his time in an often shocked time-warp.
He once bought a bag of socks for ninety-nine cents. Not a pair of socks, but a BAG. A goddamned BAG OF SOCKS for ninety-nine cents. If you’re younger you’re probably assuming that’s a normal price. Trust me, it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Dadn’t thought on the whole matter was, “What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks?” The line has become a joke between my sister and I that continues today.
What could be wrong with ninety-nine cent socks? Turns out the answer is, “a lot.” No two were the same size. One of them was, as my father put it at the time, “fits like it was cut for a German Shepherd’s foot,” while another was, “designed with gorillas in mind.”
His grandchildren would have much thicker skins if Dad was alive. The salt he peppered his jokes with became increasingly personal as he aged, I can’t imagine how he’d be now.
He’d be disappointed that I worked so much, but happy I had a job. He’d have spent at least 10 days at my office by now, sitting bored behind me asking, “is this really what you do?” Then I’d show him that I knew how to composite his eyes to be smoldering white-hot orbs and make his Parkinson’s-wracked fingers shoot lightning and he’d be pretty okay with it.
He’d be glad I lost weight, but he’d be irritated I was so weak. He repaired garage doors for years, and had giant Popeye forearms my entire childhood. That weakened when he became a postal carrier, but he was still out walking a route for a full day 5 days a week. The only thing that slowed him down was the cancer and Parkinson’s.
He’d be impressed I have a work ethic. He’d then complain about hipsters and milennials and misquote something he’d seen on daytime television about how they are lazy and self-oriented.
He’d love that I was swing dancing again. He’d make me pick him up so he could go watch us swing dance, and listen to the live bands play every week we danced. He’d come hang out in our room for the duration of Camp Hollywood on the balcony of our hotel room and talk to people. He’d probably also make a few admirers of the female variety, he was surprisingly smooth for someone who had no interest in dating after he and my mother separated.
He’d love my girlfriend’s dedication to an early bedtime, call her a “real woman” for drinking her coffee black, and would probably at some point tell me, “it’s about time.”
My sister’s wedding, waiting with Mom and I while my sister gave birth to his first grandchild, and holding that baby were three of his favorite days. He’d be asking the girlfriend and I when we were going to give him a child so he could decide who makes prettier babies.
He’d let me know I was older than he was when he had me. I’d tell him that Mom had me and he’d tell me to go screw off.
He’d have learned to smoke cigars by this point just so he could sit and smoke cigars with me when he came to visit. (and he wasn’t allowed to have cigarettes anyway)
He’d love that drink scotch but think I’m being cheated by the prices I’m willing to pay for a good bottle.
You know what? I think I get it now. It’s a ludicrous question to ask, would my 10 year deceased father and I be friends? You can’t separate who I am without acknowledging that I’m his son. You can’t define who he was, both good and bad, without branding him as my father. If he hadn’t gotten sick he’d be 82 now, and I have no idea who that man would have been. He doesn’t exist in this instance of the universe.
If he hadn’t gotten sick we wouldn’t have shared the relationship we came to have, which was stronger and more evolved than it had ever been in our lives. We would have found our equilibrium as adults sure, but it would have been a lot more dancing around and not as profound.
By the time he died, Dad and I weren’t father and son. We weren’t even brothers. That sick and old man was in every way an extension of me. An extra-physical organ of my own body. Our co-existence was brief but spectacular.
I was wrong. Adam32, Adam42, and our father aren’t an atom. Adam32 doesn’t exist anymore, and Adam42 can’t exist in the same world as his father.
By the time my father met Adam32, they were a bonded pair. They’re not an atom, they’re quantum particles. When Dad died, it was like one of those quantum particles getting caught on the bad side of a black hole’s event horizon. He disappeared forever, and Adam32 screamed off into space to become the Hawking radiation that is Adam42.
As Hawking radiation I won’t last long either, but life is short, isn’t it? Too short. Whether you’re 25, 32, 42, 72, 92, 102, our spin on this unstable little blue rock is awfully short in the scheme of things. As Hawking radiation it’s also my job to make my presence, and by extension the presence of my lost companion particle, well known. That feels about right.
And as a quantum particle, I exist in a number of states simultaneously. That would mean Adam32 still exists in me. It would also mean I’m in some ways my father, and they both only disappear when I try to observe them. They collapse into me as the devil and angel on my shoulders, familiar and yet far away voices in my head.
I think they probably alternate jobs.
I’m okay with this arrangement.
Shit. I’ve got two more days to go.
I’ve always loved that lyric. It was coincidentally the quote I chose for this day a few days ago, but becomes more timely since the passing of George Martin, the longtime producer of The Beatles. Also coincidentally he produced a tribute album several years ago with celebrities singing Beatles’ tunes, and they’re mostly somewhat lackluster, but for this song he had Sean Connery do a dramatic reading. And it was quite powerful for me. It might have something to do with the fact that Dad was often compared to Sean Connery later in life, or perhaps that he is the one and only James Bond and I was raised with his voice in my head.
All these posts have been done in one way basically, I would think of a quote, or get lead to a quote that interested me, and write on that subject completely by the seat of my pants. But as I’ve said, today was different. I had today planned out from the beginning. Or at least I had the bones of today planned out. I’ve been talking a lot about the guy on the left side of that photo, and also quite a bit about the fella writing these posts. But today I knew I wanted to talk about the pretty blonde girl on the right of frame. That’s my mother.
And today is the 10th anniversary of when she was diagnosed as “cancer free.”
That’s right, three days before we lost Dad, we were celebrating that we weren’t going to lose her anytime soon. And that seemed to be Dad’s button on a running joke.
He had a penchant for inadvertently stealing her thunder. She’d get diagnosed with cancer, he’d go into the hospital a couple of days later. She’d finish radiation treatment and he’d get put on hospice. She’d be given a clean bill of health, he’d die immediately after. As my mother and I were sitting with my father’s body in his apartment, waiting for the funeral home to come pick him up she said through some tears, “You couldn’t give me a week, huh Bob?”
I’ve talked a lot about mom, and she wouldn’t want me to rehash the way I have been with Dad, but I urge you to read this to find out more about her.
As it turns out she’s been reading these posts, so I guess I was WAY WRONG when I said she doesn’t internet very well. I found out this morning when she sent me an email talking about Dad and me and my sister. It was beautiful and heart-wrenching. I’d love to share it, but it’s not mine to share and would require too many annotations to make sense. But I don’t have the words to compete with what she wrote this morning. And I’m not going to try to.
She’s an amazing woman, and I’m damned lucky to have her in my life. So PLEASE, click on the link posted above and honor her on this day. Share it. Celebrate those that not only lived, but who do so with grace and style. If you know her, drop her a line of congratulations. She’ll probably be mad at me later for embarrassing her, but suck it, ma. I love you and I’m so damned happy you are around.
As for you Dad, I’ll get back to you tomorrow. Today’s about Mom. You owe her that and a thousand percent more, so shut your trap about it.
Besides, you’ll get to steal her thunder again tomorrow.