Wednesday, August 29, 2007


In my next life, I'm going to come back as a member of one of the cool bluegrass bands I see on GAC's "The Edge of Country." Though I will look as though I loathe all forms of country music, what with my pierced nose, ironic t-shirt and gloriously unkempt curly hair, I will pay homage to pioneers like Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe each time I pick up the mandolin I learned to play when I got tired of picking out various Pixies songs on the electric guitar I bought my junior year.

I will major in English at a large Southern university, say Clemson or the University of Georgia, where I will meet my bandmates -- the shaved head guy who plays the guitar, the other curly-haired guy on the acoustic guitar and, of course, our beautiful, beatific lead singer, Emily.

We will release a few albums on regional labels, play coffeehouses, and make one video, which will then appear on "The Edge of Country." This video will feature us playing our song on the porch of a dilapidated shack, overgrown with kudzu and other green southern flora, on a sunny day, interspersed with footage of us sitting on the same porch, rocking back and forth in porch swings, laughing and having a great time. Although Emily is undeniably great-looking, it will seem that we have a decidedly brotherly relationship with her. We will be the friends she comes to when her heart is broken, rather than the causes of that breaking. Except for the acoustic guitar guy. He will break her heart, but the band will soldier on.

There will be a point in the video where Emily is walking next to a river, with all of the trees, bushes and grasses impossibly green all around her. The rest of us will still be playing away on the porch, looking solemn, concentrating intensely on our instruments, though of the three of us, the mandolin is really the only one that requires great concentration.

I will wear my best ironic t-shirt for the video, along with some faded jeans and work boots. I will accessorize my look with a pair of small, round, wire-rimmed glasses. None of us men will have shaved for a few days.

In our video world there will be no problems, just music, hanging out on the porch, and Emily walking next to the river. It will seem like a world anyone would want to enter, one where the sun is an hour or so from its descent, and it's even money we will then barbecue or go into town for an incredible, inexpensive hamburger at some place we started to go to because it seemed ironic but then realized had the most incredible food in town. We found it during college. It was the only place open after the bars closed, and we would go there with Emily and compete to see whose poetry would get her attention. It was the guitar player, even then.

I hate the guitar player. He is supposed to be my friend, but instead he monopolizes Emily and tries to go all rock star on us everytime we tour, insisting that he needs to drive when Emily is riding shotgun, and then forcing one of us to sit shotgun when Emily is in the back, so he can sit back there with her and play his lame songs, singing in this atonal croon. It is amazing that he can harmonize so well in the studio and on stage, yet when left on his own sounds a bit like an off-key Barry Manilow.

That's not bluegrass at all.

Fortunately, in our video all is perfect. The guitar player -- alright, I'll give him a name, David. Never "Dave." Never something as pedestrian as "Dave." It's gotta be "David," because "Dave" is a good guy who doesn't mind watching a little ACC hoops in the motel after a show. Not "David," though; no. "David" absolutely HATES sports, even though he claims to have been an All-State cornerback in high school. Right. That story's as phony as his Southern Accent. When we first met, in Freshman English, he told me he was from Indiana -- anyway, "David" looks like one of us, stress-free, enjoying the warm Georgia afternoon. The day is perfect, and I have to admit, it's easier to handle David when Emily's down walking by the river, and that part where we're all hanging out and laughing is real, because Tony (the bald guy, who could go by "Anthony" but does not, even though "Tony" is hardly a bluegrass name) said something really funny just a second before.

Yes, if I could come back as one of those post-collegiate liberal arts major used to be in a punk band bluegrass guys, hanging out on the porch in one of those lazy Southern afternoon videos, everything would be great. There would be no problems at all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back From Camp

After we dropped the Jawa at Walton's Grizzly Lodge, it took a few days to get my feet back under me. After all, we'd spent something like 42 consecutive days together, and for all our mutual complaining, we'd gotten sort of attached.

To wake up Monday to a very, very empty and quiet house, well, it was unsettling. And naturally, despite the big plans S. Bullock and I had made, we spent the week doing basically the same things we'd have done had our Jawa been home. Except that we occasionally ate dinners while seated at the bar.

Okay, that part was different.

Eventually, I got re-used to being alone, and the few hours we spent each day worrying that our Jawa was having an Allan Sherman-type camp experience made the week pass very quickly.

A word about Walton's Grizzly Lodge: with the guidance of The Hammer, we sent our Jawa to Walton's on purpose, consciously avoiding the very popular (with the/our Jewish crowd) Camp Towanga. For this we are very glad, for while it is true that our child did not learn how to create peace in the world and embrace multiculturalism, he did spend and entire week without showering, played a bunch of frisbee golf, learned the chords D and A on the guitar, and made 11 out of 20 on the air rifle range.

A few years ago, that last detail would have horrified me, and the idea of me on the air rifle range still gives me the willies. I'm a pretty vehement anti-gun guy. But seven years of parenting in San Francisco (and a lifetime unavoidable urge toward contrarianism) has pushed me so far toward wishing it was 1958 that I'll take the air rifle as part of the wholesome Walton's Grizzly Lodge experience.

I am fooling myself, of course. As the Hamptons are just Manhattan in a different setting, so is Walton's Grizzly Lodge San Francisco private school culture set in the mountains an hour north of Tahoe. More than once did I silently thank the unwavering God of materialism and shallowness for forcing me to buy a Volvo last year, allowing us to roll into Walton's on a footing if not even then at least in the ballpark with our fellow campers.

Nobody there had to know that the Volvo was our only car. As far as they were concerned, we had three more just like it back in our garage at home. Oh, wait; we don't have a garage. They didn't have to know that, either.

Both Sandra Bullock and I cursed ourselves for being such class victims. "I hate to admit it," said my self-made bridge of almost 15 years, "but I kind of like this scene."

"Me, too." Mighty and judgemental lords of San Francisco groupthink, do your worst. We are guilty as charged.

Not that I didn't love the shabby, broken-down Pine Hill Motel, our layover point on the drive up. Equally boistrous in his love was the Man About Town, who met us there with his son and Man-About-Town-in-Training, Tony Hawk.

It is not easy to become a Man About Town. The more I see the Man About Town in action, the more I believe that, like champion spellers, Men About Town are born, not made.

Here's a scenario for you: You are driving through the mountains and come upon a town so small that if you blinked, you would miss it. This town is so small that you have to leave it just to change your mind. It contains a gas station. You stop to gas up your car. As you are filling your tank, a forest service truck drives up. The driver gets out and begins to fill up the truck's gas tank. Do you:

A) Nod and say nothing.

B) Turn in the other direction, suddenly take great interest in your thumbnail or get back in your car until your gas tank is full.

C) Engage the forest service woman in a detailed conversation about the difficulties of maintaining effective forest fire spotting coverage, given that budget cuts have affected staffing in the forest service.

If you answered A or B, you are me.

Quincy, California is the home of "single moms who are dirtbags," according to our server at Moons, the best restaurant in town. It has more single moms than any other place she had ever lived. Would I know this were we not in the presence of a Man About Town? No.

We are very pleased with our Jawa's experience at Walton's Grizzly Lodge. Weirdly, he returned home a much more polite version of his usually slightly rude self. Doors which previously slammed in our faces were suddenly held open with grace and elan. "Do you need any help," a phrase neverbefore uttered by our Jawa, has become commonplace. I don't get it, but I hope it is a while before it wears off. Next year he will have to go to Walton's Grizzly Lodge for two weeks instead of one. I will have to manage.

Call them tweens or pre-teens, and check this out: still young enough to use his camp dough to buy a Walton's Grizzly Lodge teddy bear, but hip enough to put said teddy bear to work scratching out the twin turntables drawn on the back of his new Red Hot Chili Peppers CD cover. "He's DJ Grizzly Lodge," says my Jawa.

Tomorrow is the first day of fifth grade.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Four Pairs of Sunglasses

This is not a sad story. It could have been, but it is not.

But first, a memo to the gay baby boomer across the street, who is very nice and friendly, but whose "Free Palestine / End the Occupation!" t-shirt struck me dumb yesterday. I realize that your support of this cause is probably just a component of the "Liberal Activist Causes" package you picked up at REI. The Palestinians do appreciate your support, and would be happy to show their gratitude. Right after they stone you to death because you're gay.

Back to the nice story.

This is the tale of four pairs of sunglasses. It could be about many, many more pairs of sunglasses, enough to fill an entire book. A very tedious book. So I will limit to four pairs, just enough to cover the past month.

As I have related, I am not allowed to own expensive sunglasses. An exception was made for the perscription ones, which cost all the money left in our "Flexible Spending" account for 2006. I have now owned them for approximately 240 days. Their per-day cost is now below $2, making them actually cheaper to own than the three pairs I've bought in the past month.

It could have been more. When the first pair, which I bought after two cheap pairs imploded on successive days, stayed behind in Orange County instead of coming home with me, I figured, I'll see Roger A. Hunt soon. He can just bring them to me.

And he did. I went a couple of weeks wearing glasses all the time. Then the much-more-expensive-looking-than-the-$25-they-cost Fossil brand sunglasses returned to me. All was good.

A week later, however, they snapped in two, without warning. "You know," I said to a nonplussed Sandra Bullock, "maybe it's not entirely my fault. Yes, I've lost several pairs of sunglasses," including the pair that legendarily fell out of my pocket as I ran for a MUNI train, then reappeared in another guy's hands as the train doors closed, leaving me no option but to wave good-bye as the train pulled out of the station. Could have been worse. People have had to wave good-bye to far more significant things and people while pulling out of trains stations, "but maybe I'm just jinxed. I mean, come on."

She nodded, unconvinced.

One time I went downtown for an eye doctor appointment. I wore my contacts, but figured I should bring my glasses with me, just in case. It turned out that my glasses had no interest in going downtown. They wanted to go to Pittsburg/Bay Point, where the BART line ended. Good-bye, glasses.

SNAP! Went the attractive Fossil glasses.

Two days ago, the Jawa and I went downtown to see "The Simpsons Movie," which he loved. The lights went up. We were surrounded by geeks, which is something I have to say I've always suspected about "The Simpsons."

I've never heard my Yu-Gi-Oh-loving son laugh that hard at a movie. What that says about his demographic, I do not know, or will not admit.

On the way out, as the Jawa argued non-stop about doing anything that strayed from his personal agenda, we ducked into Marshall's, where I bought a butt-ugly pair of sunglasses made by Champion, who also make workout gear that is not nearly as cool as UnderArmour, Nike or Adidas stuff. I have lots of it.

So I figured the sunglasses would match. Also, they were $7.99, and I kind of got a kick out of the fact that the Jawa was pretending to show interest in the whole project, not realizing how very obvious it was that he just wanted to speed things up.

I lie. He actually did like the reflective blue lenses. Had I realized that they had reflective blue lenses, I would've put them back on the rack. But then I would have had a whole new bag of problems, namely I would have been up to my eyeballs in impatient, sardonic Jawa.

It didn't really matter, though, because that particular pair of sunglasses erupted above my left ear the next day. Their timing was magnificent. Having spent an hour chasing Shack around the beach at Crissy Field while the completely oblivious Jawa built sand castles, I was already reaching a point of unattractive frustration when I tossed by backpack (yes, that backpack; I have not been able to give it up yet)in the passenger seat. Of course, its entire contents came spilling out. In my disgust, I grabbed a bag of pretzels that I'd been hoping to eat but found difficult on the beach because this stupid dog got in my face and its owner did nothing but chuckle, "Oh, I guess he wants some of your food!"

The bag was upside down. Despite Glad's excellent zip-lock design, the bag was also open. The pretzels somehow filtered out of my hand and down to the very obnoxious space between the driver's seat and the console, where they joined about $5.80 in change that I have dropped down there.

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!" I yelled, completely freaking out the Jawa, who assumed he was in trouble (again). As he braced himself for what he figured would be the inevitable pointed lecture, I jammed my hand into the space between the seat and the console. Sweating, I managed to get three or four of the pretzels. I ripped my glasses off to wipe off the sweat, leaving half of the left earpiece still attached to my ear.

This, I explained to the Jawa, who'd shown an interest in how business works, made these $7.99 sunglasses a much worse value than the $470 ones. You got it: their per-day cost was $7.99.

This morning, our first stop on the way to Raging Waters (we have season's passes) was Sports Authority, where I have bought several pairs of cheap sunglasses that have not blown up on my face. We settled on a nice $20 pair of "Boarders" and happily continued on our way to San Jose.

The second water slide we went on was unintimidating: just a small slide into a deep pool, followed by a faux-rapids float down a river. The Jawa went first. WHOOSH! Then I went, being careful to hold in my stomach but still unsatisfied with the results.

WHOOSH! Except I fell off my innertube, surfaced, and nervously tried to laugh it off. Then I realized my sunglasses were gone.

This was a new record. Two hours for $20. And I actually liked these sunglasses. What would Sandra Bullock say? Just the other day she'd warmed to the idea of me getting nice non-perscription sunglasses "after (you) get a job." Now she'd probably deny me any sunglasses, or limit my sunglass purchases to the sad circular racks at Walgreens.

I thrashed around for awhile, then stood in the water, reaching down blindly with my hands. Up the hill, the line had stopped. They were waiting for me. Embarassed, I moved on. "You can come back when the park closes," said the bored lifeguard, who'd witnessed the whole thing.

The sun is cruel. We wear sunblock to limit our exposure. When you've been wearing sunglasses for seemingly ever, suddenly spending 5 hours sunglassless is downright brutal. And every half-hour or so, I would think, "Oh, I'll find them. They're not gone." I checked back where I'd lost them. No dice. They were churning around at the bottom of that first hill, I knew it.

Funny thing is that when you're walking around shirtless and self-conscious, one of only a few middle-aged dads at the water park on an August Monday, a good pair of wraparound sunglasses can be almost as good as a shirt. Stripped of not only my shirt but also my shades, I was a pathetic figure, lacking even a cursory nod towards cool. All I had going for me was my proximity to and connection with this gorgeous child, so I made sure to never be more than 5 feet from him, which was good, because otherwise he'd talk the ear off of whomever was 5 feet from him.

Some guys can pull off fat and shirtless. There is a certain kind of guy whose heft can even look menacing. Give him the right facial hair -- AND THE RIGHT SUNGLASSES -- and you've got a guy you don't want to mess with.

That's not me. I'm more of a "boy, that guy looks uncomfortable, like his skin is too tight," kind of fat guy.

Today, as I stood in line for "White Lightning" behind a trio of negative body fat teenage guys, I vowed, for only the 5,807th time in my life, to get in shape, once and for all.

At five-thirty, I had a quandary. Though I'd enjoyed the water park immensely, I was tired of being wet. I sat on the edge of a pool (self-consciously) while the Jawa hurtled off of this short concrete slide again and again. The park was to be open for another half-hour, but I was ready to go. But if I waited for the park to close, I knew they'd find my sunglasses. I decided to take one more trip to the lost and found, and search their box of sunglasses.

And there they were.

I think. The Jawa later inserted a variable by asking, "How are you sure they're yours? You only had them for an hour. Do you remember what they looked like?"

Do you realize that you could just go up to any lost and found, look at their sunglasses and choose a pair you like? I do, now.

This pair of sunglasses is back, so it is a happy ending. Maybe this pair will be a pair for the ages. Maybe I will wear them to the Jawa's high school graduation. They will go nicely with the size 32 pants I promise you I will also be wearing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

200 Posts; is Anybody out There?

This is post #200, unique also in that it is my second post of the day. Sandra Bullock is in Seattle, the Jawa is asleep and I'm surfing MySpace music and watching "What Not to Wear."

I need to get more serious.

But before I do, let me share with you another moment of parental failure. This afternoon, the Jawa and I were hurtling down 101 toward South San Francisco. We were on our way to pick up S. Bullock, then take her to the airport.

Our Jawa is ten years old, and even though yesterday -- when I mentioned to him that the 10-year-old babes at the Mill Valley dog park might peak the interest of some of his friends -- he responded, "What do you mean," with absolute beautiful innocent confusion, he is still far past the clueless toddler phase.

Which explains the following conversation:

Me: (grumbling about the incompetence of other drivers)

Jawa: Dad? How come some guys' weiners get stiff when they're embarassed?

Me: Huh?

Jawa: You know. When you're embarassed, your weiner gets stiff. Sometimes in the shower, too.

Me: Uhhh...

Everyone wants me to be entertainingly embarassed at times like this. I am known for my preference that the human body be filled with nougat instead of organs.


I pride myself on the open communication that exists between my Jawa and myself. No topic is off-limits, and every question is treated with respect. That is, until I suddenly and completely run out of patience, usually after answering a series of questions about roller coasters and/or theme parks.

Me: Does that happen to you?

Jawa: Yes.

Me: When you're embarassed.

Jawa: Yes. Why does it happen?

Amazingly, driving a car and catching a fish requires a license. Parenting does not. I take this stuff pretty seriously, but I was caught completely off-guard by this one. That doesn't mean that, once I caught my breath, I didn't devote myself to giving him the best possible answer to his question.

Me: Well, biologically, this means that blood is running down into your, uh, penis. This makes it stiff.

Jawa: (Nodding) But why?

Me: This will all make sense to you in the future. As you get older, it'll seem less weird. And you might find that it happens when you see a girl you like.

Jawa: (very long pause) Huh? What do you mean?

Me: I have no idea. Different things will make it happen. You know, those guys have a mind of their own!

Failure. Utter failure. The first time we had a conversation about this particular body part, I came through like a champ, sticking to biology and closing with, "You're going to hear a lot of things about your pee-pee. Why don't you run them by me, and I'll let you know what's what."

This time, caught completely unawares, I dropped the ball so badly that he changed the subject. "I don't like talking about body stuff," he said. "I grosses me out."

I figure that sixty-second conversation will eventually cost me around $700 in therapy sessions some day.

I told Sandra Bullock, who said, "You've got to stick to biology! Explain that he'll get some thoughts that make the blood rush to his penis!"

Sitting here, surfing MySpace music, looking for some new stuff to listen to, I came across the second acts of all the people I used to know in Seattle in the 90s. Tired of writing for 10 cents a word and a spot on the guest list, I ditched the world of struggling musicians in favor of twice-a-year Banana Republic shopping sprees and bad jobs in downtown high-rises. They kept on plugging away.

So while I sit here, fingers crossed that someone will hire me to do something, anything, having something to do with something I'm good at, these guys all crank out album after barely-selling album, or collages, paintings and designs. They get jobs booking bands into nightclubs.

Well, I was about to go on a self-loathing rant about how Rusty Willoughby spends all his time playing music and painting, and I spent all my time looking at Rusty Willoughby's website and thinking, "Well, but for a few breaks, I'm just like him," when the Jawa tottered out of his room, rubbing his eyes, and said, "I had a bad dream that the world ended."

Much easier than our earlier conversation. All I had to do was say, "It was just a dream. Everything is okay," then walk him back to his bedroom and lie next to him until he fell asleep.

All of which, naturally, makes me feel like a punk for spending the past two hours wishing I was Rusty Willoughby.

As far as I can tell, Rusty Willoughby has no Jawa, no absent Sandra Bullock, no reason to have to explain the functions of male anatomy in childlike terms, no power to make the world seem safe after a bad dream.

I could say it puts it all in perspective, but I still think I should find something better to do with my days than surf the web and do laundry.

Poker Night

Why do all of these guys love so much to play poker? You put me in a room of guys who like each other, like to talk to each other, like to drink beer and eat salty snacks, why do you also need a distraction that will eventually cost me money?

Oh Yes, it costs me money. And that's supposed to bother me, I know, as I am sure each dollar lost costs me additional silent treatment time from S. Bullock. Since I don't actually enjoy playing poker, and have lost all of my money each time I've played, I've taught myself to think of the $40 buy-in as the cost of hanging out, drinking beer and eating popcorn.

Why now? Why do I finally play poker after 42 years of non-interest? Even when Ken Dunque asked me to play, I showed up but did not play. Instead, I hung around the table and heckled a bunch of guys I didn't know, endearing me to them forever. I was not invited back.

But now. A bunch of Brandeis dads I don't know very well -- I know their wives, of course, because I am a Nancy Boy with no job who hangs out with the other housewives ... oh, sorry ... "stay-at-home-moms" every day at our kids' school -- guys I wanted to hang around with, some Sun Devils, Mr. Confidence and a few other guys, asked me if I wanted to play.

And so, finally, I acquiesed. I showed up with my six-pack a month ago, sat down and lost all my money. But it took four hours, so it was okay. I figured I paid $10 an hour, which works out okay for me. I haven't yet done the calculations necessary to figure in the ancillary costs, i.e. the emotional cost of coming home and telling S. Bullock that not only do I have no income but I just dropped the cost of one saxophone lesson so I could make new friends.

But am I capable of making new friends? I've got to wonder.

Last night I returned to the Sun Devils' house for some more poker. Problem is, the one time in my life that I played poker was when I was on the baseball team at Saddleback College in 1983, and all the baseball players would play poker at lunch in the cafeteria. We played poker, but really it was just an excuse to heckle each other. That's how ballplayers do it.

Not to mention that I'm a dork who can't keep his mouth shut. So as the evening goes along I realize that I'm hearing my voice more and more, and though I'd say that at least 45% of what I say is pretty funny, that leaves a solid 55% open for interpretation. And I don't really know these guys all that well. Remember that.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm kind of strange, too?

Thank heavens for Mr. Fun, who I'd sort of figured as a guy who'd find everything hilarious, even a deconstruction of the eerie yet empowering effect that powerful bathroom lighting can have on the simple act of urinating. Even when my pop culture references became too marginal for anyone to grab onto ("What popular rapper's real name is the same as a character on a much-beloved TV show from our Junior High School years?"), Mr. Fun pretended like he not only got it, but found it hilarious.

Mr. Fun's courtesy laugh cannot be beat.

The truly interesting thing about a bunch of guys playing poker is that the game, the setting, the entire scene (or "gestalt," as a particularly bad boss I had once said) is a litmus test for how each of us interprets guy-ness, manliness, being male and grown-up. In this case, we're Jewish guys, hyper-educated guys (three JDs around the table, only one still a lawyer), guys proudly waving our San Francisco sensitivity around like a white flag of masculine surrender.

So when we lampoon our absent wives, it comes with hidden air quotes. Parady is the unspoken parameter within which we play. We do NOT discuss the cans on that bimbo, the time we got in that guy's face because he insulted our friend, and I have no idea which, if any, of these guys can burp the alphabet.

Good or bad? I have no idea. Completely out of place thirty years ago? Probably. It may be just because I don't know any of these guys well enough to know if any of them can burp the alphabet, or what their old bar stories involve.

What do I know? I'm the interloper who can't shut up, erratically careening between carefully keeping his mouth shut during a discussion of some other (absent) guy's politics, and then occasionally blurting out some weirdly inappropriate observation about the song on the radio. I mean, I've hung out with these guys' wives much more than I've hung out with them.

Maybe the glacier is moving, however slowly, and I'm heading toward a place where I can hang out with guys in something more than meta fashion. If only I can learn to keep my mouth shut.

I really wanted to chime in about that guy's politics. And the rapper 50 Cent's real name is Curtis Jackson, same as the guy in "The White Shadow" who got shot at the liquor store right before the team went to the city finals.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monkey Suit

Eventually, I would find the trend -- in which Sandra Bullock does the bills Sunday night and then does not speak to me until Wednesday -- unnerving. And eventually, though I'd rather not, I would begin looking for ... a (gasp) job.

I've said before that one of my least favorite things is when people act as if my underemployed state is part of a massive con job I'm pulling, wink-wink. Trust me; it's not by design. But I also say that, were money no object, I'd probably be fine writing my little magazine articles, covering high school sports for the San Francisco Examiner, and pretending that a really important novel and or screenplay was lurking just beneath the surface.

Given that money is not just an object, but, for the sadly overextended residents of San Francisco, the only object, the above option does not exist. I would like my wife to speak to me more than 4 days per week. And so, I have been looking for a job.

The possibility of a job dropped down onto me from thin air a few weeks ago, when my friend the Drama Queen, who is battling illness, took a leave of absence from her job, which involves "technical editing." She told her boss who I was, I called her boss, and so it is that I find myself trotting down Montgomery Street, completely overdressed and sweating, at 3:06 this afternoon.

Is it appropriate to wear a tie to an interview in the post-dotcom age? Sandra Bullock claims so. I don't think so. Given our relative career arcs, I go with the tie. Which is now flapping in the wind.

Bullock tells me to go with my best -- the green pants, light blue shirt and subtly plaid jacket I bought for Uncle Sam's wedding. Uncle Sam now has a 2-year-old. I have the same dress-up outfit. On a positive note, the pants still fit.

But that doesn't make me feel any less like a fraud as I lope down Diamond Street on the way to BART. For all anyone knows, I am a regular 42-year-old guy on his way back to work after ... lunch? The iPod I have on could be playing REO Speedwagon or some other 1980s hits. The bag I carry could contain important documents, not three copies of my resume, and the Timbuk2 bag itself could have been bought at a store, or given to me as a gift, not tossed my way by an electrician who'd gotten a load of them after doing some work at the bag factory.

I pass my reflection in a window: bald guy, sport coat, slacks, black shoes. iPod. Squinting, because my cheap sunglasses broke over the weekend.

I'm not listening to REO Speedwagon. I'm listening to Wilco, which relaxes me completely, so much that as I saunter up Montgomery Street, to the address I got from the company's web site, I feel as though I'm the protagonist of a music video, dressed like everyone else but really so very special, possessor of truths and emotions of great depth.

In some ways, I realize, I miss the walk from BART through downtown to some sort of job. It, along with Friday happy hours and the frozen yogurt place in the alleyway, was my favorite part of having a job, back when I did things like have a job.

Imagine my delight when I emerged from the fog and realized that my potential new place of business was on the 26th floor of the Transamerica Tower. How iconic!

Here's where the running and sweating begins.

The URS Corporation has three San Francisco offices. 600 Montgomery is the Global Headquarters. Technical Editing does not take place at the global HQ. 2:58. I don't even know where 221 Main Street is.

Have you ever run down a crowded city street, holding your arm out as if to hail a taxi that you cannot afford? Have you done it in 4-year-old dress-up clothes, sweating, an aged tie flapping from around your neck? Have you done it panicked, convinced that you have blown an interview for a job that seemed a slam-dunk? And you think, "Man, I've screwed up again. How many days of silence will follow this one?"

I have.

But the business world is so strange. Thanks to my cool new phone, I found out where 221 Main Street was, and arrived there at 3:16, drenched in sweat. I figured I was far from the first interviewee to make this mistake, but still would have preferred to show up on time, unsweaty. I'd prepared, after all, to approach this interveiw as if I were a very experienced, very busy writer/editor who'd deigned to look into this job only because my friend the Drama Queen needed someone to fill in. Well. That's out the window when you're disheveled and late. And missing your tie, which you ripped off and stuffed into your jacket pocket in a fit of anger two blocks away.

Now the truth is, I really need this job. I want my wife to speak to me. But I would have liked to at least pretend like I can pick and choose.

Of course, I showed up and the guy interviewing me had no idea I was late. And he wasn't listening when I mentioned that I'd gone to the wrong building. All he knew was that I'd shown up totally disheveled and sweaty, which didn't seem all that unsettling to him anyway.

I swear, the logic of the business world completely eludes me, almost as much as the aptitude for using power tools.

The interview itself went well, I think. It was pretty brief and pretty light, and he said I was "obviously very qualified," which I won't take as a comment on his fitness as a manager. He had a cool English accent and a ton of pictures of his kids on his office walls, and when the HR lady asked how I knew the Drama Queen, he commented, "They have the same parole officer." Very droll, which I like.

So cross your fingers. I need some income, now.

Then I limped home. The dress shoes I was wearing gave me blisters. Everyone who saw me on BART could assume that I was coming home from a long, rewarding day at work all they wanted. I just wanted to get into some shorts and a t-shirt, which I did effectively enough that my neighbor the Poet With the 40-inch Vertical commented, "You're looking kind of punky today," when I passed him on the way down to the grocery store.

This afternoon I mentioned to the Jawa that S. Bullock would be coming home early because I had a job interview. "A job interview?" he said. "Allright!" I guess the heart-warming father-son bonding period is drawing to a close.

Lets hope that I soon have a job. Some kind of job. Not one that hurts my square peg self so badly that I have to write cryptic messages on people's white boards or perform strange dances in the stairwells when no one's looking.

Don't laugh. It's happened before.

But I guess no matter how much time I spend reading the blogs of 25-year-old would-be filmmakers and their cool, counterculture friends, it won't change the basic fact that I am a 42-year-old father and husband with a butt-kickingly huge mortgage, who enjoys being a part of the mainstream enough to buy a Volvo the first chance he got. I spent my bohemian days playing volleyball, waiting tables and looking like a writer. The option to hang out with people who were actually sacrificing so they could take their shot at creating something cool was always there, but I chose to spend my time sitting on the fence, trying to sound convincing, instead.

Give me a job, any job, is a just reward for the decisions I've made.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Jawas Caught in the Seam

I am now the parent of a ten-year-old boy, with plenty of time to reflect on that as the Jawa and I lounge about in the rubble of his birthday weekend.

Ten -- at least as defined by pop culture mores of 2007 -- is a strange age. I was reminded of this last week, when I ran out to do some supplemental birthday shopping. Gone, thankfully, are the $75 lumps of plastic that littered his bedroom from ages 2-8. But what takes their place?

The Jawa has been saving his virtual allowance (it exists as a column of numerals on a spreadsheet, available for withdrawal on demand) for months. At first, he was saving for his own movie camera. Then he moved on to an iPod. Now, with the birthday finally here, he's changed to a Nintendo Wii. What he needed from us, then, wasn't more Legos; he needed cash. Which, naturally and exhaustively, is something available in very short supply around here.

Even though he would be receiving a big fat check in his birthday card, I felt badly that the Jawa would have nothing to open on the actual day of his birthday, so I ran out to Borders and grabbed him a requested CD (Green Day) and a Yu-Gi-Oh book, then sidled over to the greeting card area.

The Green Day CD has Tipper Gore PMRC sticker on it, warning us of objectionable language and/or subject matter contained within. It's been several years since I heard the first of the Jawa's friends blow out some objectionable language while hanging from a rope at Rachel's gymnastics birthday party (and I'll never tell who it was). When I was in fourth grade, Chris Graham cranked out swear words with the best of them, and in fact, Barry Colmery and I were considered freaks because we refused to join in.

So frankly, I don't really care what comes flying out of their mouths, as long as the adults don't have to hear it. Controversial, yes, but that's my stand.

But what kind of card do you buy a 10-year-old, to accompany his Green Day CD and Yu-Gi-Oh graphic novel?

Seems like the "You're 10!" card with the picture of the little kid in a baseball uniform would be a relic of a simpler age. Likewise, however, the campy 1950s photo of a woman happily presenting a martini to her man strikes me as somewhat mature for a 10-year-old Jawa.

I settled on a card with a color photo of a goofy-looking dog. The dog was wearing a grille -- one of his teeth had a diamond embedded in it. Inside, the card said, "DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK PHAT?" Hopefully, I struck the right balance of little boy and pre-teen.

Ten has become in-between, neither here (childhood) nor there (adolescence). I'm too old to remember if it was always like that.

I drew the short straw and got the car full of boys for the drive to Waterworld in Concord. Four of 'em -- The Shaman, the Jawa, Tony Hawk and cousin Count Burpalot --insisted that we listen to the new Green Day CD at maximum volume (adolescence), but self-censored the swearing when singing along to the songs (childhood). Much of their humor centered around the innate hilariousness that comes from having a penis (adolescence ... er, adulthood), and yet they all fell into a chastened silence when I told them that they MUST RESPECT people who are different from them, like, say gay people, who may not want "gay" to stand in as an adjective also meaning "stupid," "ridiculous," or "embarassing."

And Tony Hawk's dad won't let him bleach his hair white.

They are good jawas, caught in the seam that follows Tonka trucks and precedes "Dad, can I borrow the car?" We spent 6 hours at Waterworld, where only the Jawa was brave enough to go on the halfpipe ride and only Tony Hawk was brave enough to chat up the legions of 10-year-old girls also at the park. (Note to the Man About Town: your son is straight. And unlike the Shaman, who prefers to furtively check out the already-developed teenage babes as they stream by, Hawk lives in a world of reality; forget untouchable older women, man, there's a boatload of pre-adolescent babes out there, just waiting for you to glance over from your two-man raft and say, "And how are YOU doing?")

There were stretches where Sandra Bullock, Noodles' Mom and I would sit on our towels, aged, insignificant and ineligible, watching as the jawas wrestled with each other in the wave pool.

Four years ago, I realized with bittersweet clarity that I was no longer required to play a central role in playdates. Overnight, I'd gone from fun provider to caterer. Four years later, even that role is diminished. Now they just want money, so they can go buy their food themselves.

Fortunately, Holden Caulfield was right: there is no better job than to be the Catcher in the Rye. You stand on the perimeter of the action, making sure that no kid goes over the edge. They get to have their fun, take their chances, succeed or fail, knowing that if they get too close, we'll be there to scoop them up. I have no idea how long it will be before they take that responsibility from us, so I'm trying to enjoy it while it lasts. Too bad it doesn't pay.