Sunday, November 12, 2006

Childhood Dreams

At 8:51 this evening, the last resident of my home, besides me, fell asleep. That resident was Shack. Eleven minutes earlier, the Jawa went down, still holding the Deltora Dragon book he had been reading. Twenty minutes prior to that, Sandra Bullock lost consciousness on the couch, 49 minutes after she announced, as we drove home from Ken Dunque and Yo Ma Ma's house, that she could "probably fall asleep right now."

I would undoubtedly be following closely behind them into slumberland had I not been lulled into a refreshing afternoon nap by today's Oakland Raiders - Denver Bronco's game. Fortunately, a quick 30 minutes of sleep gave me the energy needed to outlast the rest of my family, leaving me with something that has been in short supply this weekend: time alone in my own home.

This week, as discussed earlier in these virtual pages, was bookfair week at our school. Along with Jenny from the Block, I am the co-chair, for the third consecutive year. And as I noted earlier, my 30-year-old childless and wifeless DJ boss was wholly unimpressed by the resulting absences from work the bookfair produced. I did, however, manage to squeeze 11 hours of work into my week, in addition to the 40+ I spent at the bookfair.

My responsibility at work this week: something called "status forms." These forms are required for each piece of equipment used by the company. I have, so far, made a little bit short of 600 of them. This week, I made status forms everywhere but at work. I made them while watching the Warriors defeat the Mavericks Tuesday night. I made them while waiting for the Jawa to complete his saxaphone lesson on Thursday. Finally, on Friday, I made them at work.

Add all of this to the massive task that was the bookfair, and the result was one fatigued lefthander by week's end, which did not stop me from covering a football game Friday night, then playing host to my sister, Noodle's Mom, her husband the Rocket Scientist, and their children Noodles and Count Burpalot. Plus a guinea pig that the Jawa brought home from school for the weekend in an unprecedented show of poor timing.

Are you interested in knowing who is protecting our country while you (and I) go blithely about our business? My brother-in-law the Rocket Scientist has committed his best earning years to he United States Air Force, as a result earning perhaps 40% of what he could make in the private sector (so sayeth Noodle's Mom) and taking his family on a continental odyssey covering ground from Anchorage, Alaska to Virginia, Ohio, and, presently the middle of the godforsaken desert, 80 miles Northeast of Los Angeles.

This is where the big shots go, the guys with The Right Stuff. And their families, who have, at last count, removed 14 mice from their government-issued digs.

The Rocket Scientist loves coming to San Francisco, despite the intolerant political air that smugly envelopes our burgh. Mostly, he loves going to the cheese store in our neighborhood. This weekend, sometimes accompanied by Noodles, sometimes by Count Burpalot and sometimes by Shack, The Rocket Scientist took three separate trips to the Cheese Boutique, returning each time not only with several cheeses but also with targeted cheeses to buy on his next trip.

It took my several years to understand, let alone appreciate, the Rocket Scientist's exceedingly dry sense of humor, but now he cracks me up. Like Sandra Bullock, he knows exactly who he is and has very little use for the things that distract him from his mission in life; which was, for many years, to be an astronaut.

Think about this for a moment, those of us who have carved out careers in software development, customer fulfillment and/or corporate communications: an astronaut.

What did you want to be when you were eight years old?

When I was eight, I wanted to be a car designer. A few years later I realized that what I really wanted to be was a first baseman. At the same time, I remember, Noodle's Mom wanted to be a forest ranger, and I'm pretty sure that my dad, who was 35 at the time, still wanted to be a general, even though that avenue had already been shut off from him for 17 years.

And then think about the age at which you gave up on that goal and moved onto something more feasible. The day I walked off of the field at Santa Clara after bouncing fastballs to Mike McFarlane in the bullpen (they bounced because my elbow hurt so much that they weren't reaching the plate) was the obvious day my baseball goal died, but that was always more of a dream than a goal. The original one -- car designer -- which was actually pretty realistic for an eight-year-old, was buried under a large stack of baseball cards by the time I was 10. The drafting table in my bedroom suddenly became a storage unit, little league started, and even though I was pretty awful the first couple of years, that was it.

And yet the Rocket Scientist carried on. He got an ROTC scholarship to pay for MIT, then entered the air force the same time that Noodle's Mom, in a move completely at odds with her life up to that point but in the end life-changing in ways she hadn't planned on at first, finished officer training school (or something like that. All I know is that it was in Texas and by the time she graduated, she could iron shirts better than anyone I'd ever known ... until I met Sandra Bullock a few years later.).

His childhood goal stayed alive until just recently, and died more because of politics than for any Puff the Magic Dragon or Langston Hughes dream deferred reasons. He did all he could, excelled at everything, brought his family to the desert so he could outshine the other hotshots, but was denied entry to the space program repeatedly until his original career goal quietly fizzled out. He found other space- and flight-related areas of interest, committed to the egghead path instead of grabbing one of the cushy "this is your captain speaking" airline jobs that many Air Force pilots take.

No, the Rocket Scientist has never been one to take the easy path. It may be hard to swallow for good San Franciscans whose highest moral calling is to prevent military recruiters from appearing at high school career fairs, but in his own way, the Rocket Scientist has followed the road less travelled more than the hipster web 2.0 kids often seen scarfing down burritos for lunch South of Market. Call him stubborn, call him incapable of taking any other path, call him white and nerdy (but not repeatedly, as it will hurt his feelings), but give him some props for not taking the easy, completely uncontroversial way out.

Just don't get him started talking about cheese. Unless you have about an hour to spare.

10 Comments:

Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

warriors, hmph...go twist an ankle and miss another 25 games, baron. i could totally see an....err rocket scientist, on the moon, it is made of cheese isn't it?

10:31 PM  
Anonymous zelda the total insomniac said...

although i have never met him, i feel a kinship and a profound sense of respect for the Rocket Scientist as i, too, wanted to be an astronaut. my dream died much much earlier than his, however, when i was probably about 4 and my grandmother and i were driving down kishwaukee road in dekalb, illinois, on the way to her hairdresser. we were talking about what i wanted to be when i grew up and i told her i wanted to be an astronaut and she said, "zelda, please--don't ever be an astronaut! do you have any idea how much i would worry about you?!" she's not even jewish and knew to play the guilt card on my preschool outer-space-aspiring self. fine.

on an unrelated note, i cannot thank you and jenny from the block enough for all of your hard work on the book fair--it was as ALWAYS truly awesome! we are so very lucky to have you both. my favorite part was when my class was in there and the two of you were hiding behind the Fiction table, sitting on the floor with your laptop, checking your email or bids on eBay or just plain hiding from the crazed mania of my students. my least favorite part was when you so generously came in to my classroom on thursday right before parent/teacher conferences started to bring me the book one of my students had bought me and, because i was completely unprepared to meet with anyone about any kid at all plus my face was a riot of random unexplained splotchiness, i snapped at you. that was overwhelmingly unkind of me and i am sorry and the fact that i was freaking out was no excuse considering all the hard work you did for our school.

on a *completely* unrelated note: dude, it's saxOphone. seriously. i'm trying to be respectful about this but come on.

4:15 AM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

The Rocket Scientist is most definitley marching to his own drummer...and he is doing it wearing blinding white tennis shoes and a goofy red jacket. But it is an admirable and succesful march, one I certainly can't keep up with but am lucky enough to benefit from.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Lefty said...

saxaphone is the new wierd.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

I believe SB is planning her own home version of wine and cheese post-arrival. I like that triple cream cheese. Not that god-awful stanky cheese.

Also, Butter Goat is apopletic that we are not going to the Seahawks game.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

we were actually hoping the rocket scientist would have his sweet telescope out. if he still has it. that thing is awesome, i totally wish i was smart enough to operate one, cuz i would have one pronto. space is cool!
m

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