Yesterday was supposed to be one of those grand and glorious half-marathon days. I’d run the summer out and planned to enter fall with a PR for the half. It never happened. Two weeks ago arthritis and age kicked me to the curb to the point that I called it a season. Whiffed and missed. I awoke to the sound of crappy weather and thought about all of those times that I’d relished running in rain and muck. As I got up and started moving, my swollen knees told me “Thanks, you old fart. Let’s go have some eggs and toast.”
I brooded for a few minutes by watching some TV. ESPN’s 30 for 30: Jordan Rides The Bus was playing. I continued to mope until I caught the message within the short film depicting Michael Jordan’s early retirement in 1994 from the Chicago Bulls, and his brief stint as a minor league baseball player. One of the central tenants of his decision to leave basketball and play for the White Sox farm club was that he wanted to live the life of no regrets. Had he not taken the opportunity to pursue baseball, Jordan might have forever regretted what might have been. Life is full of might of “might have beens.” I am at least temporarily sidelined from running, but now is the time to live without regrets. I don’t regret running marathons. I want to see what else there is to pursue and conquer in life. The possibilities are varied and endless. Jordan read a great statement in a 1997 Nike advertisement, which I wrote in my journal as I waited for a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina after my left knee failed me during Marine boot camp that same year. I don’t ever regret going to boot camp, but consider it one of life’s great adventures. The statement from the commercial?
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
No regrets. Life is good. If I can’t run, I’ll find a new way to challenge myself. Success is in getting up when you’re not able to run and walking to the next challenge.
Those who know and love me, or at least friends and relatives who tolerate me, all learned long ago that they can’t take me anywhere. Scratch that. Friends and those stuck with me can take me lots of places, but leaving me behind proves to be the difficult part. Usually I show up at home or work within a day or two (or twelve. When people stop counting days is a great time to return). As I’ve often mentioned on this blog, there is a lot of embarrassing behavior that travels within my person. Since the behavior entertains me..it entertains someone. An indulgent loon, at least unto myself. One behavior that falls into this “can’t take him anywhere and drive off” pattern is my penchant for falling over. I just do it for no reason, other than for the pure joy of toppling sideways. Church is a fun place for this. Yesterday morning I was keeling over mid-service, because it’s become my go-to, poor man’s yoga. The sideways leaning shoulder flop, would be a fabulous name for this move, if only I had the desire to name it.
How I ended up married is one of the great mysteries of the universe (along with why geezers walk around beach towns wearing Speedos ). My wife was the first woman to not be fooled by the shoulder flop. During the less than magical years in which I dated, falling dead over like a tree being cut down was a way out of many awkward conversations. Sure, I got pretty bruised up falling out of restaurant booths and off of couches, but it worked. No more threatening conversation and only a little kicking from the beleaguered girl’s father. My wife Lori saw through this and would politely tell me to get my Bill Laimbeer flopping butt off the floor. The stable life is mine. All for the price of staying upright.
Sometimes within these blog posts, I’ll reference where I live. This is to give color and background to my life as a wandering mope. The town I live in is picturesque, which often prompts people to take pictures. Strange how that works. Visitors will just get out of their cars as if possessed by something that only exists in J.J. Abrams movies and take pictures of random people. And things. “Look honey! They got them weird birds that flap around on the sidewalk!” Never mind that the cameras are pointed at manhole covers. Who am I to correct tourists? It is with this welcoming spirit in mind that I don’t venture near downtown. I’ve had my picture take with enough manhole covers.
I had to sneak into town to visit our ancient music store and it’s equally ancient owner today. This isn’t ageist, but a fact based on several observations. His Social Security number is 3, and he only received that number after the Ark dropped him off on our fair shores. My daughter needed a gig bag for her guitar and the big box stores in our area don’t carry them anymore. So, after finding a parking spot (or, more accurately, running over a Smart Car with my own vehicle), I purposefully marched down to the old music pro’s lair. Sure, I had to pose for a couple of photos with lamp posts and fire hydrants, but eventually I got to the store. The wise old guru saw me from his desk in back but debated whether to get up. “Whadaya want, kid?” I explained my dilemma and the gentleman (puzzled) asked me “Fender? You mean electrified? Naw, we don’t carry that stuff ya’ hippie. Whadaya been sniffin? Glue? Ahbahahh.” I backed slowly out and onto the tourist filled sidewalk. The ancient is for real musicians, which explains the Stradivarius holding up one load bearing wall. Defeated, I called my wife who’d been smart enough to use Amazon. Then, walking a little slower, I stopped to have my picture taken with a park bench.
Over the past year, boxing’s former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has repeated to reporters variations on a story involving his ex-wife Robin Givens and actor Brad Pitt. Apparently, he arrived home one day in 1988 to find Ms. Givens and the soon-to-be world-famous actor in bed together. Moment of pause here while I stop to ponder how Mr. Pitt lived through that situation and managed to stave off the wrath of Iron Mike. Tyson was, after all, the undisputed king of the ring at that time. If there exists a modern ten commandments, this would be right at the top of them:1.) Thou Shalt Not Sleep With Mrs. Mike Tyson. The fact that the boxing legend is still lisping out angry regrets over the affair signals that he is not completely over his grudge with Brad Pitt. I’d love to have a time machine and take some updated commandments back to Pitt and Givens in 1988 so that they’d have been warned about Mike Tyson and his penchant for holding a grudge for 24 years. This is (unfortunately) not possible, so Mr. Pitt will just have to keep looking over his shoulder for aging, face-tattooed boxers. I’ve thought of nine other commandments that rank right up there with staying out of Mrs. Tyson’s bed if you enjoy living:
2.)Thou shalt not appear in advertisements in which you demonstrate the self-lubricating pocket catheter. No matter how much money Satan and Liberty Medical offer you to do the commercials.
3.) Do not make false promises to move out of your parent’s basement while dressed as a Hobbit.
4.)Your team shalt not pay Alex Rodriguez to sit on the bench and pass notes to girls in the stands next season (unless your team is in the public school recreational league, where players are paid in gum).
5.)Thou shalt not marry any stars of Head of The Class ( except for Arvid, from whom all knowledge of good and evil came).
6.)Thou shalt (okay, I shalt) stop using Thou shalt which was lame at least five references ago. Also: stop referring to Head of The Class (because nobody remembers it).
7.) No person should take a time machine back to the 80’s. For starters, the 80’s were boring, and there are over-the-hill bloggers to fill you in on the details, anyway.
8.)Do not speak French to the servers at the International House of Pancakes. Use of multiple languages only makes them more determined microwave your waffles and bring you coffee made from scalding restroom water and gym socks.
9.)Drinking Molson does not make you a hockey player. Actually, these days neither does being signed by an NHL team. After a few Molson’s we could all be professional hockey players. Gotta go. I see a tattooed face in the shadows.
There are times when I realize the only thing worse than being a moron is living as an excitable moron. Tonight’s thing I was all geeked up to do was download a book, something I’ve never done. For weeks I’d pushed the on/off button on my record player, but no e-books came out. No, apparently books come from the magical thing that lives in the iPad. I wanted to read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, so I went to download it. Several choices appeared. I could read Crazy Love, or Crazy Love*. * was five dollars cheaper, and despite my electronic naiveté, I know that I could buy a decent sandwich with a fiver. What exactly did I lose by saving the bucks? Well, the first line of the book went “C’est avec beaucoup de joie et d’honneur que je vous presente mon ami Francis Chan.” Hmmm…cheaper and French. At least I think it’s French, but I’ve been wrong a lot lately.
I should have studied the language when I had the chance. During culinary school, I took French courses. My academic counselor thought it was a bad idea, and pointed out my grades in the course as a reference. To me it made sense, for I didn’t know my Nicoise from my Nicorette, my a la Russe from Alan Alda. What sold French was the instructor. I used to stand out on the sidewalk and watch her smoke Gauloises. She wore high leather boots, and would sort of look down on my fat little peasant self with a mixture of disdain and pity. Not that it mattered. She could browbeat me in her mother tongue for hours and I’d just nod and gibber in my made up language which was about as French as yellow mustard. She might have been giving me electronics instruction. Now that I have the *Francis Chan book, I might actually have to learn some French. Bon Appetit!
I am a man committed to the written word. Once, while taking a painting course, the instructor pleaded with me to commit to the canvas. “I’m a word man.” I said before turning on my heel and never returning to the class. Nice stand to take for one’s own natural form of artistic expression, but that was a really expensive point to try making. I love to read as much as I do write. To read a book is to get inside someone else’s skull and walk around for a while looking through their eyes. The one form of writing I neither participate in, much less choose to read is the printed instruction set. I don’t like to be instructed on anything. The Bible is a solid, divinely inspired instruction book. I take instruction from God’s word. Every other insipid set of instructions can get bent (I need to read the Bible, because I think there’s something in there about not telling people or instruction manuals to get bent).
Our basement drain backed up, just as it does every spring. No amount of plunging coupled with suckage (sounds more fun than it is) helped. Draino didn’t budge the plug. I went to the hardware store to find muriatic acid, but ended up with a product that was said to be professional grade clog killer. Professionals use it. The jug had skulls on it. Skulls usually indicate that death is involved. The package came with 9 instructions followed by 9 sub instructions. I got several wrong in the process of dumping the gallon of smoking sulfur death juice down the drain. The other problem, I was wearing my homemade haz mat suit. My personal protective equipment consists of a stocking cap, rubber gloves, cotton gloves, a fishing sweater, a flu mask and my birth control glasses from Marine boot camp. I did read the instruction that said
Throw a bowl over the drain and run like hell!
Good advice, really sound. As soon as the drain started smoking I poured the Halloween candy out of the bowl, tossed it over the hole and got out. Bubble, gurgle and…nothing. A smoky, stinky nothing. I am reconsidering reading instructions. They were meant for people like me. Stinky, smoking, bubbling, gurgling people like me. At least I can finish the Halloween candy while I dial a plumber.
On the way to becoming a thirty something (something something) year old hypochondriac and curmudgeon, I also became a father. Well not became. Babies don’t just get handed out like cheese samples. There’s a whole back story about my lovely wife seeing fatherhood potential despite the constant babbling coming from me. Now, years later, the child and I babble away at the poor woman steadily. Our daughter Anna is 9 years old we couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s been having a great time performing with a local children’s theater group in The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley this past week. Mom and dad are in tow, volunteering to run concessions while she’s performing. Anna’s got no idea what goes on at the candy table in the lobby on show day and I’m not telling her. As long as the kid has fun and learns life lessons from the theater, I’m pleased.
Several times during Flat Stanley performances, I’ve had to make a mad drive to the local wholesale outlet for candy and drinks, hustling back by intermission. While not breaking any laws with my driving, I’ve bent the laws of physics. The immutable rule that says a Honda launched into the air off of a curb will eventually plummet earthward is always in effect. I pray that a Mary Poppins effect takes hold of my car and it just Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs over solid objects, consoling myself while waiting for traffic to part that Anna is doing great at the show. That’s really what it’s all about. Skeptics might say that we have children to care for of us in old age, but I look at it as a challenge given in order to make us think about someone else. Anna greets us at the concession stand after shows and I just smile, ever the proud daddy.
I don’t eat a lot of barbecue these days. Something about having a migraine induced by beef brisket and the Technicolor painting of downtown trash cans that followed scared me away from going back to barbecue. Sigh. This is a shame because I consider pork shoulder or ribs slathered in a deep red sauce proof that God loves humans and wants them to be happy. Obviously, He has some other higher (and headache free) purpose for my life. Barbecue recipes and techniques perfected over a lifetime and carefully handed down to ensuing generations are among the great gifts that bind a family together. I can’t even commit barbecue infidelity anymore and cheat with a McRib sandwich. The venerable McDonald’s special pork sandwich doesn’t qualify as barbecue any more than Manwich does, but McRib holds its own strange appeal. McRib is just…McRib. Today, I read that most Americans probably won’t get to enjoy another tasty pork mushlet before human history ends in December. Bummer.
According to the legend of the Mayan Calendar, the world will end in some sort of cataclysmic ball of death on December 21, 2012. Conservative pundits will blame this on the 47% of Americans who are left-wing freeloaders. I am not so much worried about the end of time, as I am the fact that McDonald’s Corporation is getting set to announce that the McRib sandwich will not make a return appearance in stores until after the purported apocalypse (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/mcrib-saved-christmas-mcdonalds-delays-173538794.html). I wish this wasn’t so. My only request is to ring out this old existence with a fiery, blinding McRib migraine. There are numerous reasons to choose the McPatty as my final meal. Most self-respecting barbecue joints will probably be closed, but McDonald’s will probably stay open at least three days after the end of the world. There is also just something deeply comforting about McRib sandwiches. Maybe it’s the preservative/smoke mix used in the pork, which is composed of TBHQ, BHA, TLC, BYOB and BOGO. Mmmm…pre-embalmed by a pork sandwich. How reassuring. If you compliment the sandwich with a quart of Dr. Pepper, than you’ve also taken on the blessing of something slightly medical sounding. If the Mayan alarm is a false one, I’ll take up vegetarianism. Maybe I can perfect the McVeggie sandwich. Nah. I’ll take my chances with the mystery patty.
The thought of reaching age forty never crossed my mind until the last year. I’d always made certain vague assumptions about how life would progress. As a child, I (wrongly) figured that at 23 years old, vegetarianism would take hold of my lifestyle. It was for that reason I explained to my mother how wrong eating vegetables was. There’d be plenty of time, I reasoned, for vegetable consumption as an adult. In college, I worried about a life of wandering the streets if I failed my classes and never became employable. Of course, I still regularly failed courses. Fear should have probably made me somewhat more fearful.
On the first Thursday in August, I’ll turn forty. A mid-summer, mid-week birthday is usually calm sort of fun. There will be work, followed by the possibility of pie and a walk on the beach. The air is usually pretty heavy at that time of year, but the nights are long and meant for sitting outside doing talking about nothing in particular. I thought of all the things that might be a fun way to exact revenge on a life lived in fits and fights. Maybe some ice cream, dancing monkeys, or some combination of the two. Then I thought about what would make a good memory. I decided to run a marathon at Lake Superior. The idea of running 26.2 miles is a strange way to celebrate any milestone. The body tends to shut down and function on inertia after about the 23, or 24th mile. I start to think about nothing so complicated as dancing primates and quiescent frozen dessert foods. I can only concentrate on “right foot up, right foot down. Left foot up, left foot down. Symbolic of life really. One foot forward. Then the next one. One day you wind up forty just by running and then running some more. I plan to celebrate my last weekend as a 39.99 year-old by running in Michigan’s beautiful “up north” for suicide prevention charities and depression awareness. Now I’m glad I came this far. There’s still even time to become a vegetarian.
My 10-year-old daughter Anna is possessed with a bit of self-awareness beyond her age. She’s known that strangers stare at her for too long and speak slower in her presence than is necessary. Anna’s always shrugged this behavior off as just being another part of her daily routine. Tonight was the first time she ever sat down and talked to us about the uncomfortable feeling of having people she interacts with treat her differently. To her credit, Anna maintains herself with the two traits that I always asked God to grant her: dignity and aplomb.
Anna, as I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, lives with the lingering effects of Crouzon Syndrome, a genetic malformation of the cranium and face. She has a beautiful face, made by the Lord Himself and coaxed into its current shape with the help of surgeons. Annabanana has dual hearing aids, in colors and designs she chose herself. Often, she’ll wear her hair up and let them stand out like any other accoutrement of rebellious pre-teenage fashion. The child acts in plays, sings and is comfortable in her own skin. Maybe it’s a generalization, but a lot of adults aren’t comfortable in the body, or the life, they’ve been given. Part of her dignity and aplomb comes from that level of assurance she maintains, part from the sarcasm and sharpness she inherited from her family (hey, I never said that I was the sharpest guy in the shed. Maybe it skipped my generation). There is a quick assumption when people first meet Anna that she can’t talk. The truth is that she won’t talk to people who make her feel less than all that she already knows she is.
I often tell Anna about how her grandmother went to school with Stevie Wonder. The example is a good one, because it reminds Anna that she has several paths in life. She can choose the wide, straight highway of self-pity, or take the little road of living out all of the promise God put in front of her. I play a good old song like I Was Made To Love Her or Superstition and ask her to consider the path over obstacles that Stevie chose. Anna will. Anna knows what to do. With lots of love from us, she can stare right back at pity, shrug and ask “What are you looking at?”
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Saturday nights can be so much fun for the wayward geek. Tonight has been a good case in point. I took a personality test to determine which type of marriage partner I am. Yep. Slipped into something comfortable, grabbed some water (really strong water, because it was time to get funky and fill in some circles) and filled out a personality trait profile. Oh, yeah. I’m the Barry White of Briggs Myers tests. I completed my test, but upon submitting my answers the website crashed. I could swear that the lights dimmed and there was a temporary brownout from the amount of electrical amperage it takes to process the group of malfunctions that make up my personality. When full informational capacity returned to normal, the results shot out of my printer in the form of crumpled paper projectile. The conclusion was “unique.” Oh. That again. The test didn’t know what to do with me.
The test said, basically, that I like to sit in the back of any room full of people and make absurd comments. Also among the results, were some cautionary notes. I am not a danger to others, but I shouldn’t be left near a clothes dryer because of my tendency to become trapped inside until someone comes along and frees me. The world, I fear offers very few accessibility options for persons exhibiting my personality traits. If it happens that you have any sort of impairment, modern life has been designed to meet your needs. Computers, elevators, Irish folk music, and barbecue grills are among the many redesigned amenities in life that have been made to accommodate users of all abilities. Sadly, life for the socially awkward, those of “unique” ability, is a test of will and ability. I get around okay. Much of the time I can make it the entire three minutes to my desk at work and back home without getting lost. C’mon, now. Everybody has ended up in South America on their morning commute to work at least once. One behavior I’ve learned to engage in might be a benefit to all unique people. Make friends with everyone. When I get coffee in the morning, for instance, the ladies at the stand put the cream in for me. They know that I’ll pour scalding coffee into my eyes trying to get half & half. If you fall into the undefinable unique category, just be kind and patient with the world. Try a little tenderness. Just don’t babble. Which ends another blog entry. Thank you for reading.
I don’t put much stock in my horoscope. Using the alignment of the stars and planets to predict my future is pretty hit-or-miss. I may as well just base my future on good luck brought about by the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West pregnancy (he’s pregnant, according to the announcement. She’s just bootylicious and confused). I also am betting that I’ll have a great day if no more than one of the kids on Buck Wild ends up with alcohol poisoning or head trauma on tonight’s episode. My horoscope for Leo read as follows this morning:
When someone reaches out to you today, stifle your shy, introverted side and reach back at them. Smile, flirt, and try to be open about how you feel. Even if you are caught off guard by all the friendliness, just try to relax and go with it. It’s fun! People find you very approachable, and you should get used to the unexpected. Start making small efforts to react more warmly and receptively … these tiny moves will be recognized and appreciated.
I am doomed if this horoscope is a representation of my day. First of all, if it weren’t for my shy and introverted side I wouldn’t be anything more than a cloud of noxious gas. As an introverted, stifled gas cloud, it’s hard for me to smile and flirt with people. I just look pained. Then there is the idea of relaxing and not being so caught off guard by friendliness. Many times I misunderstand friendliness and end up drooling on people. There are ways to compensate for the drooling such as wearing absorbent clothing. Needless to say, I don’t get a lot of second invitations to people’s houses even with my squeegee clothing. I do try to live out some of the horoscopes recommendations already. For instance, I make tiny moves to act warm and receptive to friendliness. Tiny, cat-like moves. I like to spring out from behind chairs at parties in an effort to be flirty. This is done, warmly, of course. I pay for a lot of dry cleaning and carpet shampooing, but my tiny, catty moves are always recognized. Oh, well. Horoscopes are fickle and inaccurate. Tomorrow’s will probably tell me to take on all the personality traits that would make a Kanye/Kardashian baby likable.
One of the wonderful things my wife did when we got married was that she made me stop dating. Okay, I honestly wanted to stop. I love Lori more than any other person on earth. Thank God for not having to go through the sham ritual of courtship anymore, though. I was never any good at relationships. Or personal interaction. Or speaking to people without gibbering and flapping my arms. Flirting was impossible. I just never got it. Maybe it was because everything I tried to say came out in 452 word bursts. Some people have a gift for nonchalant flirtation, some only manage to catch fire from zipper friction, because they wear cheap pants. I don’t flirt. There are times when I make the vain attempt at speaking casually and end up paying for it (and having to purchase new pants when the old ones burn up).
I went for a haircut. This is always a mistake, because hair stylists often are the best at making therapeutic small talk. They know nearly everything, because they’ve heard nearly every story conceivable. Once in the chair, I began to babble about how my hair always ends up looking like that of Sopranos tough guy Pauly Walnuts. The side wings just say I should put on a jogging suit and a Members Only jacket. The patient stylist asked me lots of questions about myself and I babbled. And babbled some more. The problem, I noticed after returning home, was that one side of my head is cut differently than the other. This always happens when I try to be funny and light. The rule before each trip out of the house should be: “continue to be a jerk, Andrew.” This is not my first brush with small talk induced failure. A few years before meeting Lori, I tried to practice being fun and flirty at a blood drive. When asked to choose between an older, veteran Red Cross associate to draw my blood, or a cute girl, I went for small talk and jokes. Unfortunately, practice outweighs pretty. I have veins that show like the Mississippi River on a map, but she missed on a half-dozen attempts. Signaling for the seasoned vet and another guy my age, nurse vampire had the three of them sit on my arm in an attempt to get blood from the part of my ulna the needle was bent and wedged into. My arm should hurt as much as it did that night every time that I think about trying to be friendly. It’s good to be married to a beautiful woman who doesn’t pay attention to my dumb attempts at small talk. Hopefully, she won’t ask about my weird haircut.
I recently went on a journey of the soul. Call it a search for substance. After two weeks I gave up, having not found anything. Oh well. This is what I get for sloughing around the house, laughing like Jabba the Hutt the entire time. At least I had work to keep me sane and focused during the last few weeks. Maybe sane, or focused. Having both would be too much to ask for.
There is a reason I never get out of the basement at work. Socially, I’m about as awkward as a person can be. My general demeanor is like President Obama having a debate with his note cards. I try to think of it as an advantage during moments of foolhardiness. Awkward, mumbly, focused on the floor when I talk. Little jokes come out every now and then. Good jokes at times, but you’d miss them through the downward mumbling. Every once in a while, I do get out of the basement and have some fun. Flu shot day was a good example of awkwardness in action.
Monday, I went to get my annual flu shot at work. This meant going all the way to the third floor of my building and experiencing daylight. You know, that part was okay. The daylight dwellers have good cookies. When I came out of the health office, having gotten my shot and neon orange bandage, some of the nurses still in line asked how it went. “Oh gosh, it was like The Hunger Games in there.” The nurses, who’ve seen all manner of barf and death, just groaned. Yep, awkward. I put my head down and went back to the basement. Not before getting coffee and cookies, though. One of the benefits of looking up and confidently joking with people is that there is usually food and beverage involved. Having said that, I do really want to put a coffee maker and a package of Oreos in my basement cubicle. At least until I overcome awkward shyness. Or retire. Whichever comes first.
The other night I attended a semi-mandatory outdoor meet and greet at my daughter’s elementary school. The trick is that in return for attending this event, each participant is given an ice cream bar and the chance to meet the child’s new teacher. These events are excruciating for me. While the ice cream social is always well executed and expertly put together, I find myself shuffling and stamping my feet. The kids in attendance have this kind of cool to them. They’ve met this year’s teacher, who is usually a rested looking woman full of the kind of energy that is reserved for amped up pageant contestants. The students themselves are a bit indifferent to the whole ordeal. They speak casually to each other, smile at their new teacher’s jokes and then inexplicably go and swing from tree branches. Within two weeks, they’ll be staring wistfully out the windows at those same branches and dreading the fact that they were yet again sucked in by the parade smiles of teaching professionals. During the social, though, the kids cling to a last bit of late summer casual and effortlessly mingle in a blase fashion while eating melted ice cream sandwiches in the schoolhouse courtyard.
As a parent, there is no cool, even from drippy Eskimo Pies. We have no casual attitude. Much of what we do is competitive parenting and semi-professional eye rolling. Mom’s and dad’s have a way of overdressing for these events. Yeah, I think the sequined halter tops and shirt/tie combos are neat, but unnecessary. I have no such desire to be a fancy dad. I can sort of manage to stand around and look like a schlub, before some ancient Miss America teacher slaps my wrist and tells me to stop picking my nose. We’ve spent every day since college looking out the door’s and windows of our workplaces wistfully for a tree to climb. Eventually, as often happens, my blissfully calm daughter will give me some ice cream, tell me to shut up and then smile beatifcally. Future teacher in the making, I suppose.
I am not a social person. For all of the bubbly, fun spirited, networky crap I put on the internet, my social skills are appallingly crude. To meet the real Andy, the one not hiding behind the keyboard and the Cookie Monster, is to meet a cave dwelling troglodyte of epically awkward proportions. Most of the time, I won’t look at you when speaking, and hugging is definitely verboten. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that I do. I’m not sure which is worse. The only thing I have a harder time with than polite human interaction and the genial hug is playing board games. Board games are the ultimate in socially awkward interaction. Part of my mojo derives from a strange aloofness born of not knowing what the blazes to say to you. My social coping mechanisms are completely broken down by having to spend two hours playing a board game with other people. Games mean eye contact and actively taking an interest in the mechanisms that separate humans from birds, or cattle. Games require cooperation and speaking in more than monosyllabic mumbles. Games require being able to gracefully lose, and to learn how to win without…I don’t know. Game playing never reaches that point with me.
When my daughter was little, she developed gamesmanship during family bonding times. Anna had a mechanized, magnetic fishing game, which I actually loved watching her play. At two years old, she developed a knack for clubbing the revolving, yap mouthed fish with a plastic pole until they bent to her will. This to me was a relatable game. Smackafish was great fun. In time, Anna adapted to the contraints of civilized society. She plays by the rules, because it preserves the entertainment value and integrity of the time together. I’m not there yet, although taping the Uno cards together in order to win has finally left my repertoire. The fun will eventually be in enjoying the closeness of friends and loved ones, and not poking them with magnetic fishing poles. We’ll see.