Archives for June 2010

Dad’s Most Important Job

Shoveling snow, 1923

The childhood my children are experiencing is different from mine and that is ok. Different doesn’t have to be defined as a value judgment . It doesn’t have to be seen as better versus worse. Not everything is equal, but different isn’t always a measure of two similar objects.

It is not hard to list the differences. They attend a private school. I went to a public school. They are driven to and from school. I walked both ways in whatever weather we had. Of course it being Los Angeles I never did walk uphill in the snow, but I did experience some pretty heavy rainfall.

There are all sorts of comparisons that I can make between now and then, but there is really one that sticks in my craw. My father worked in civil service. In my life he had but one employer, different positions, but one employer. Worked for them for 38 years and then retired. Actually, that is not true, he also worked part time as a professor at a community college. Unless I am mistaken he did that for about 20 years or so.

That is not the world that my children are growing up in. Their father didn’t hold down one position for their entire life. Their father has had a number of different jobs. The father they know doesn’t wake up early in the morning and drive downtown and return just before dinner.

It used to bother me. I couldn’t help but compare myself to my father and wonder how it was that he managed to spend 38 years in the same place. Couldn’t help but look at myself and wonder why my experience was peppered with three years here, seven years there and two more over there. It felt a bit like I had failed.

But over time I came to accept that the world is different now. People really don’t spend their entire career with one company. Still, I found myself thinking about some of the other differences between my father and I. Because when I think about my childhood I don’t remember my father bringing work home with him. I don’t remember being shushed so that he could finish a conference call or finish some project.

I didn’t have to compete with a Blackberry or laptop. That is not something that I can relate to from a child’s perspective.

But my children know it, live it and I hope understand it. Because I have taken a different career path than my father. I have worked with start ups and run the gauntlet in more of an entrepreneurial fashion. I haven’t worked out of a standard office since my daughter was an infant.

She doesn’t remember the days I’d put on a suit and tie. She doesn’t remember that I’d call home and let mom know how much traffic there was. All she remembers is the father who works around the clock from home. All she knows is that her daddy has lots of jobs. I know this, because I have heard her talk about it.

The other day her brother came to me and asked me to list all of my jobs. So I ran down the list of companies that receive an invoice from me for work done. I didn’t explain to him what it means to do freelance work or what it means to be a consultant. He doesn’t really need to know that.

He looked up at me and asked me if I ever had time to play. I smiled and told him that I did, reminded him about the Monopoly game we played yesterday and how we wrestled. He said that he remembered that, but that he thought that I was always working. I sighed deeply, some of what he says is true. I am constantly connected, Blackberry or laptop close at hand. For the time being that can’t be helped, got to push hard now.

And then he asked me to tell him about my most important job. I asked him why and he told me that if I prioritized things I might be able to get rid of a job and have more time. That made me smile again. I grabbed him and pulled him close and whispered that being his dad is the most important job that I have.

I don’t think that he liked my answer. He was really hoping that he could help me eliminate something so that I would have more time to play with him. Later after he went to bed I thought about it some more. I am busy, but they have me more than they realize.

My father had a regular schedule, but he didn’t show up at school as often as I do. He came to the important events, but didn’t hit the optional performances the way that I do. He didn’t work early in the morning or late at night the way that I sometimes do. But he didn’t find an hour in the middle of the afternoon that he could use to take my sisters and I out.

The point of this is simple. I can’t compare myself to my father or my childhood to the kids. They are different. All I can do is continue to try to do right by them. All I can do is continue to work hard for them and hope that we get it right. The hard part is that you can’t see the results of parenting until a number of years have passed.

It is a crazy thing, this parenting gig. I can’t help but think of that line from Superchicken, “You knew that the job was dangerous when you took it.” Well… I suppose that I did.

Alas, A Blogiversary

Somewhere in the annals of history there is an award that is given out for the brave, the bold and the stupid. Don’t ask me what that means or why, I am a blogger. A blogger who for six years has run around writing about the serious and the sublime. A man on a mission who has produced more content than 27 ordinary bloggers could do while hopped on speed.

There is no real significance to that. No rewards to be reaped from such production other than those I give to myself. Not much to gather from any of that other than a measure of my own madness. Really, who spends six years writing all this crap and more importantly who reads it and why.

Ok, if I can allow myself to get by the self deprecation I’ll dip my toe into the waters and be serious for a few minutes. Every year I write a post celebrating my blogiversary and hope that I come up with something meaningful, something significant and noteworthy.

The real point of the blogiversary post is to be introspective and reflective about my blogging experience. It is a chance for me to take some time to evaluate my work. Not that I don’t do that anyway, but in theory this is the time for the yearly review. The time when I decide whether the blog deserves a raise or a written warning. The time when I think about whether I should change the focus.

Anyway, I have wasted enough words on this post. Thank you to all who spend time here, it is appreciated.

If you want to know what other nonsense I have come up with for blogiversary posts you can click on the links below:

A Blogiversary
Happy Blogivesary To Me
My Third Blogiversary- Not Quite a Farewell
My Fourth Blogiversary- What Do I have To Say
Happy Blogiversary Jack

Inside the Blogger’s Studio- A Dream, Er Nightmare

This had to be done again.

James Lipton and I were seated inside a dark auditorium. It looked no different than any other interview he had conducted, except that it was me on stage with him. I was being interviewed.
Normally I wouldn’t be thrown by such a thing as I am relatively quick on my feet. If you can handle the bad jokes and the non-sequiturs I can usually keep up with anything you throw at me. Or so I have always thought, maybe I was wrong. I did have one reader write me to say that he doesn’t think that I am funny.

Then again this particular reader is so anal retentive it would take a team of monkeys to remove the impaction. Ok, not funny, but I am tired and allowed to be less funny, as opposed to just funny. Funny garners a smile, less funny get’s a smirk and almost funny receives a courtesy laugh.

Don’t worry if you are unable to keep up, Cliff Notes and a complete transcript will be available following the show.

So there I sat, trying to be cool and to not just be funny, or a little funny, I wanted to be “snorting milk-through-the-nose funny” and was not getting it done. The questions were flying at me.

  • What is your favorite word? Monkey
    What is your least favorite word? chunk
    What turns you on? Electricity
  • What turns you off? A lack of electricity
  • What sound do you love? The Ocean
  • What sound do you hate? Vacuum Cleaner
  • What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Professional Athlete
  • What profession would you not like to participate in? Garbage Man

After each question Lipton would sigh and roll his eyes, the audience was restless. I am fairly certain that I could hear someone snoring. I desperately tried to come up with a funny story, or a witty insight, I felt so pedestrian.

Lipton asked me how I felt about Cookie Monster. I must have had a blank stare on my face as he repeated the question, “Did I steal his cookies?” As the shock spread I squirmed in my seat. My discomfort grew as suddenly my son stood before me asking if the accusations were true. “It is not nice to take things without asking he said.”

I sputtered out a lame response, “Cookie has no regard for other people’s property. He is the last person to accuse anyone. And besides he is fat!”

“It is not nice to call people names, daddy.” As I hung my head my son began to cry. I had hurt his feelings over a stupid puppet. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back , the lights of the auditorium stage radiating heat. I was in hell, a very strange and bizarre hell that only grew more strange.

There was a loud noise and I looked up to see that I was standing in a ring. I was involved in my own private kumite against a group of characters from children’s television.

I didn’t have long to consider my options as I was immediately assaulted by Barney. I took the purple dinosaur and punched him the snout. As he held his wounded nose I worked on his body. With a mighty blow I laid him out on the mat. He was immediately replaced by Dora the Explorer and Boots, her pet monkey.

It didn’t take a but a minute for me to give them the same treatment that Barney received.

The Wiggles entered the ring. I punched Murray in the mouth and took his guitar, which I then smashed over the heads of Anthony and Greg. Jeff took off running and the ring was empty.

They were followed by all of the Teletubbies. It only took a moment for me to snatch Tinky-Winky’s purse from him and the use it to knock out him and the others. I chuckled as they were replaced by more characters, all of them would fall, I could not be defeated and then reality hit me in the mouth.

I was incredibly fatigued and there was an endless line of fighters waiting for me. I needed a plan, a way to escape, the only question was how. Before I could come up with the an answer a new challenger strode into the ring.

A furry red devil named Elmo. We circled each other like gladiators searching for a weakness we could exploit. The little monster was clever, a cagey veteran of many wars. I knew that this would be hard. Sweat poured down my forehead and into my eyes, blurring my vision.

With blinding speed he took advantage of this and began pounding my head, working my kidneys. I was losing to a muppet, I couldn’t go down this way. With a roar I grabbed him and began to rain blows down upon him, over and over I struck him and then I realized that he was laughing at me.

That was when I realized that he was trying to use the
Rope-a-dope against me. It all became clear to me. I knew that my strength would eventually fail me and that without a new plan I would fall, a victim of muppetry.

With an effort I managed to scoop him up. I held him by the throat at arms length. I threatened to send him to live with Mr. Hooper, unless I was given a guarantee of safe passage to the Island of Sodor and transportation on Thomas The Tank Engine.

My demands were met by laughter and from the middle of the crowd a voice called out to me, it was the Kingpin, Grover. Grover the cute loveable blue muppet with the gay tendencies began to lecture me on my lack of leverage. He explained in detail what would happen if I didn’t give up.

The situation was dire. I knew that he spoke the truth, but still I searched for a way out. Suddenly there was a roar, the ground shook and a blinding light pierced the previously darkened auditorium.

A voice cried out to me, “Jack, we are here.” As my vision returned I looked up to see that Max and the Wild Things were next to me. I was rescued.

Strong arms lifted me up and I was carried out a thousand questions came to mind. Where was James Lipton, when would the show air, could I get a copy, was this all on television, would I be invited back and then nothing. I was asleep, exhausted from the battles of the day.

I don’t remember anything else from the dream, but when I woke up I did notice something. Lying next to me was my son’s stuffed animal, Cookie Monster. He looked at me with a big goofy smile and googly eye, mocking me as if he knew a secret that no one else did.

Thinking A Dangerous Occupation

People like to believe that their beliefs have a foundation in logic and rational thought. It is comforting to believe that our actions are guided by principles that come from carefully reasoned arguments that are based upon facts.

Prior to blogging it was something that I believed to be true about myself. But blogging and experience has convinced me that this is most assuredly not true. I remember teasing the Shmata Queen about how she was short, crazy and illogical. I told her that every time she tried to think she got herself in trouble. Suffice it to say that when she finished beating me over the head with that enormous black purse I had a large bruise and a revelation.

I realized that many of my beliefs were nothing more than arbitrary choices that I had made. The logical positions that I had assumed they were based upon weren’t always that. I’d like to say that from that moment on I vowed never to make a choice that wasn’t based upon fact. I’d like to say that since then I have never made a decision that wasn’t based upon logic, but that would be a lie.

There are a bunch of decisions that have been made because I was angry, sad or happy. Yep, I made choices based upon emotion. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. It really depends on the specifics. And I have long since accepted that some of my beliefs are based on faith or things that I can’t prove scientifically. I don’t care, at least I don’t about most of them. Although there are probably a few that would bother me. How is that for hedging. 😉

Anyhoo, I can say that I work hard not to make serious decisions based upon emotion. I make a point of trying not to react. I am not always successful. Sometimes I see/read/experience things that make me see red or shake my head at the general stupidity of others. The tweet below did that.

I responded to it and said that I thought that it was one of the dumbest things I have ever read. She didn’t reply. Can’t say why. Could have been because she didn’t see it or because she chose not to.

But it irks me. Irks me because it is a blatant distortion of reality and part of the attempt to delegitimize Israel. That affects me. That bothers me. I don’t like the double standards. Don’t appreciate those that wish to serve as apologists for the murderers of friends and family.

Some do it out of ignorance and some out of hatred. As a father I am very conscientious about teaching my children to judge people based upon their actions. It is the only fair way to make a determination about people. The only reasonable way to be.

But sometimes reason gets thrown out the window. Sometimes logic follows reason and all that is left is a potpourri of people and problems and it is anyone’s guess as to what happens then.

The flotilla was wrong. Peaceful activists engage in dialogue and don’t engage in violence unless they are interested in intentional provocation. The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994 makes it clear that Israel acted appropriately, but this will probably be ignored by much of the media and the world.

And so I find myself wondering what will happen in the morning. What will my children hear and how will I respond. What will I teach them. How do I prepare them for the lack of logic and the general nastiness. How do I explain the contradictions. It is a discussion that may not happen tomorrow, next month or next year, but it is coming.

I wonder.