Monthly Archives: January 2012

Yo

This is the lamest excuse for an entry, but what is the Internet if not an excuse to ask people things?

I am making a soup that uses plain non-fat yogurt as a garnish, which you can generally only buy in honking great containers the size of a D cup. I only need a spoonful or two, so for once I’d like to maximize my leftovers. What are your favorite creative uses for plain non-fat yogurt, besides, you know, eating a giant bowl of plain non-fat yogurt? Because I don’t think I can do that.

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind: 31-40

Halfway through, and I don’t think my mind feels much more free than before… we’ll see if that holds, particularly — SPOILER — when I get to question 40, or as I like to call it, “The One Where I Kind Of Want To Slap This Quiz.”

[For reference: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30]

31. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

Oh, I’m sure it was earlier today, when I wrote a terse letter to Melissa & Doug about how I  believe their kiddie easel, if intended for children, should actually withstand children for more than three weeks before breaking beyond repair. I do love a good angry letter. In a larger sense, any time we took the kids somewhere they’d never been, and watched their reactions to something I knew they’d love, it was great. They stick their little hands in yours and trust you to lead them around and show them the world, and they think you are part of the magic that holds up the giant sky trains. Now, saying, “The time I saw roller coasters through my children’s eyes,” is terrible and terribly trite. But it’s true that the explosive joy of these two toddlers is exactly the kind of thing that can make you appreciate things that seem mundane any other time. And is it weird to say that I felt passionate and alive at my father’s funeral? We were driven to make it a memorable one worthy of him, we wanted to tell stories and make people laugh through all the weeping, and we were driven to make my mother’s life that weekend feel a little bit less awful. And when I looked at the standing-room-only crowd before I delivered the closing eulogy, I felt a charge: Dad was gone, but look at all the people who loved him. What a testament to life, and to what can be done with it just through the force of being who you are.

32. If not now, then when?

I’m sorry, what is the question? I was busy typing up there. Zzz. This should have been 31a. I feel cheated out of a question.

33. If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?

Are we still on the passionate-and-alive kick? Are you trying to lecture me for not feeling more alive passion? Don’t judge me, survey. You don’t know my life.

34. Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?

No. That sounds like hokum to me. I’ve definitely had moments where eye contact said plenty,  but I never walked away thinking, “Well, hot damn, I am spiritually fulfilled and I believe we just transcended verbal communication.”

35. Why do religious that support love cause so many wars?

Because while many religions support love, I find that they are more interested in supporting being right. And anytime you have one thing trying to assert its superiority or correctness over something else, squabbles ensue. And escalate. Religion doesn’t really allow for there to be two sides to any story, or even three. You can’t really have compromise. You can, yourself, pick and choose things you like about them all and observe a cocktail of rites as you see fit, but that’s not going to be advocated by most religious elders or groups. Most Catholic priests aren’t going to sit down and say, “Well, kid, God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost are real, but I’m totes down with Vishnu, too, and I think half the Book of Mormon is real.” A devout Muslim probably wouldn’t sit down with you and be like, “Allah is fun, and all, but sometimes I prefer Xenu.” When you strip it down to the basics, the people running the show — the loud fundamentalists, who always feel like the majority even when they’re just the shoutiest — tend to discourage diversity of belief. So it always comes down to right vs wrong, and the lack of room for gray areas tends to be the problem.

36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?

Sure. Because it’s based on your convictions. If you have them, then you don’t have doubt.

37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?

No. Fortunately, I love my job. I’d rather have a million dollars AND then my salary. But also, let’s face it, a million bucks isn’t enough to chuck it all and spend my days traveling the world. You take out taxes, take out bills, take out college funds… I’m way too practical to see the word “million” and instantly kick up my heels.

38. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?

More work I enjoy doing, for sure. I’ve had jobs I didn’t like, and I’ve had slow days at jobs I didn’t like, and I find they suck at your soul even more than the busy ones because you have time to think about how much your soul is being sucked. I’d much rather be happy and busy. I’m used to that, anyway.

39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?

Yes and no. The part where I was laid up in bed all day feeling sick, and noodling on my laptop? Yeah. But the parts where I’m talking to other people are always fresh, and they give a nice new context to the other repetitive stuff.

40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?

That there’s some fancy language. Also, again, I feel like you’re judging me. Like if I don’t habitually march into the dark with only the soft glow of my convictions, I am a waste of space. I admit that I am not as much of a bold marcher. I will stand up for a conviction, but I rarely run screaming into the void. And I’m okay with that character flaw. Because sometimes glow-torch-bearers need a break from their darkness marching, and that’s where I come in: I write a Web site that gives laughs to the people who have been so busy changing the world that they just want to stop thinking for a second. Know thy strengths. Mine is not always finding my way through dim light.

Sickie

We had a pretty decent run of health toward the end of last year, which must be why I’ve spent most of the past month sick with three different colds, or allergy attacks, or whatever poison it is that’s crawled up my sinuses and laid its devil eggs.

Sick before Christmas. Sick after Christmas. Sick before the Golden Globes. If I’m burning off all my illness in one week, I can deal; if this is a nasty chain that takes me through Fashion Week to the Oscars, I might go insane. My nose is red. My nightstand looks like an F in origami class. I can’t sleep. And I have one of those really sore zits brewing on my cheek, although that has nothing to do with my disease. Unless it’s a mini-buboe, and this is the plague. You never know. But I’m sick of that stuffy, wet-eyed inability to do anything. This is where people go broke shopping online, I think. I don’t have the energy to do actual thinking, but if I’m on my computer I feel like I’m accomplishing something, and what could be better than ordering a bunch of shit I don’t need that won’t fit?

So I need to close the laptop, is what I’m saying. Maybe a crappy movie is on to distract me. Pray for Crossroads.

Christmas Managed

Well, we made it through. Christmas came and went, and Dad wasn’t there, and we still are.

It was hard. His ghost was everywhere, the absence of a person filling the room just as much as his body would’ve. His goblet, the one he used for Diet Coke and wine (individually; Diet Coke is not THAT magical), sat untouched in the back of the cupboard. We ate food with tomatoes in it. We listened to Christmas music. We didn’t watch endless loops of news networks, although the boys saw to it that we did put on the Golf Channel a bit. Dad would’ve loved having grandsons who, at two and a half, already love that station as much as he did.

 

We caught ourselves using present tense about him sometimes. We told stories, and laughed, but we also couldn’t escape thoughts of how much he would’ve gotten a kick out of certain things. Sometimes it was hard for Mom to play with the boys without getting emotional about how enamored Dad would’ve been with them. Mom often had to excuse herself for fifteen-minute periods. She wouldn’t sit on his side of the couch, the left side, until she got The Cold and then randomly decided that would be the day she tried to break that seat’s aura. I think it was because she felt lousy, and mentally, sitting on that cushion was like curling up on his lap. And weirdly, I was okay the whole time until Christmas Mass started. If I ever attend Mass it’s usually this one, and especially this year, I wanted to go with Mom. The choir — even the Pep Band, as I affectionately refer to the stripped-down group of ten that sings most Masses — is also unusually excellent for a small church in Encino. And when we stood up and they broke into “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and it hit me that Christmas was really here, and warmth and joy radiated around the room and the music soared and filled us, I started to cry. Figures: Standing in the place Dad may have disliked the most — church — is when I lost control.

I never knew my Dad’s parents. Granddad died before I was born, and Nan died maybe a year after. I’ve heard stories, but in most senses they’re blurry to me. Faces in photos. Ideas, not realities. Mom tells me that Nan poured a lot of her grief and loneliness into me, and that I brought her comfort and we had a really special bond. I love hearing that, but I don’t remember it. I was a baby. I love them because they gave me Dad, who was brilliant and hilarious and lively and unique and half of my DNA. I love them because that’s what you do with grandparents. But it’s a nebulous love. It doesn’t come from knowledge.

And I realized that’s what it’s going to be like for my kids, with Dad. They may hear about Dad. I will tell them how they used to run up to him and fling themselves at him, how they would climb up next to him and pick at his glasses, how he would sneak them sips of Diet Coke and then giggle at their “ew, gross, what’s that, I NEED MORE IMMEDIATELY” reactions, or how they’d sit on his lap while he played Snood. They’ll probably smile, and one day get sick of me getting misty over it, and they will love him because I loved him and because I told them he loved them and because that’s what you do with family. But it will be nebulous. It won’t come from knowledge.

So just as I yearn to have known them because it would fill in so much color around what I know of my father, so too will my kids be denied the chance to experience someone who is a HUGE part of who I have become. They would understand me if they ever met him. The connections would be so much stronger. A to B to C and so forth. There’s a reason we don’t jump in at B; the progression just makes more sense. But we’re missing our A.

Of course, I never knew the difference. I knew Mom’s parents but not Dad’s. That’s just the way it was. My kids won’t know any different. That may be a blessing — you can’t mourn what you never knew, really. Seeing it from this side, though, I understand how much that must have nibbled at Dad all those years, wishing his parents could have seen how we turned out and how he raised us. Just wishing they’d had more time. There is never enough time. And in the end he didn’t have enough either.

But onto happier things.

Aside from one limp nage I made, the holiday meals were all great, the colds we caught (and gave to a few people… sorry, y’all) finally went away, and the boys were cute and delightful and happy and made it easy for us to pull ourselves out of the darkness. They are such a marvel.

Liam woke up ailing on Christmas Day, so Dylan took up the present-opening mantle and carried it with aplomb. There were lots of OOOOOHs and YAYs, and nary a plea to go outside, which means they must’ve liked everything. They spent Christmas Eve gobbling down bangers and mash, our traditional dinner — as soon as the bangers came off the grill Liam took one look at them, eyes wide, and started chanting, “SAU-SA-GES. SAU-SA-GES” — and then boogying to my friend Amy’s Christmas mix (particularly amusing when a randy duet between Cyndi Lauper and The Hives came on, and they were dancing as blithely as if it were Yo Gabba Gabba). Then we snuggled up to watch Rudolph, and as soon as we saw the Bumble once, Dylan spent the entire rest of the time shouting, “UH-OH BUMBLE! WHA HAPPEN TO BUMBLE? OH NO! OH NO BUMBLE.” But not out of fear. To him, the Bumble was the hero of the piece. I think he must see similarities between Bumble and Liam.

We celebrated New Year’s at 9 p.m., so that we could watch MTV fete midnight on the East Coast, and let the dudes run around with noisemakers and poppers. And then it was over, and we all settled into another year, the first one my Dad will never see. Hopefully the first of many that we will, together, because as long as we do then he’s never really going to be gone. And over time that will stop hurting and start being a comfort.

And this photo makes me laugh. So that’s a start.