No Rest for the Weary

Wow, what a week it has already been.  I feel like I’ve been going non-stop for days and yet really haven’t accomplished much.

This week-end provided no opportunity for rest.  Saturday I had a special training to attend with regard to Big Brothers and Big Sisters and  some special circumstances in Little’s life.  Normally, I do my laundry at Michelle’s house on the off Saturday (that being the Saturday  opposite pay day).  The training was very useful and informative but it didn’t end until 3:00 and I didn’t arrive at Michelle’s house until 3:30 or  so. I only had three loads to do, but they were big loads so they took a while to dry.

I was at Michelle’s house until around 11:00 and then had to drive home and take the laundry back in the house and feed Mischa.  He was rather insistent on his need for food and I can’t ever come straight in the house and go to bed.  I am required to sit down for a little while and let him sit on me before I can go to bed (he’s not allowed in my bedroom.)  I went to bed around 1:00 Sunday morning and got up at 9:00 or so in the morning.

I did some household chores, like cleaning the kitchen and the floors.  I also started putting my laundry away while watching a very tedious episode of 90210 (If it doesn’t improve quick, it may get dropped) but I couldn’t finish because I had to get showered and ready to go pick up Little.

One of the things I talked about at the training was that Little doesn’t always answer me when I ask him questions or he’ll just say, “I don’t know.”  Someone suggested to me that the best time to really talk to the Little’s is when you first pick them up, like in the car on the way to  the activity.  I explained that I usually try but that he doesn’t respond and since he’s still pretty short (he’s only 7 after all) I can’t even see him in my rear-view mirror to get an idea of if he’s paying attention, or if he can hear/understand me.  Someone suggested that maybe he needed a booster seat in my car.

The law says he has to be 6 years old and 60 pounds or he has to sit in a booster seat.  He’s got the 6 years old part, obviously, but I haven’t been able to find out how much he weighs.  I asked his mother on the first outing how much he weighed but she couldn’t tell me. I asked her if he had to sit in the back seat and she said yes.  Then I asked her if he needed a special seat and she told me she didn’t have one for him.  So for the first three outings he road in the back seat of my Mitsubishi Endeavor without a special seat and without responding to much of  what I said.  I felt badly that we weren’t talking but I didn’t know what to do.

Saturday, after I started my first load of laundry, Michelle and I went to Target and I bought a booster seat suitable for 40-100 pounds.  I wasn’t sure how Little would react to having to sit in it but he didn’t resist in the least and in fact was noticeably happy to have it.

Turns out, he couldn’t really see out of the car before, and while I couldn’t see him in the rear-view mirror he couldn’t really see me either.  I’m not really sure what made the big difference, but this week he was so engaged and responsive, we talked the whole time we were in the car.

We went to Castro Valley to play Miniature Golf.  Little told me he’d never been and I remember it was one of my favorite things to do when I was a little kid (I still like it a lot, shhhhh!).  What I didn’t remember is how impatient I was when I played as a little kid.  The place we went had two 18-hole courses and we were only doing one.  I let Little pick the course and he headed straight for the one I hoped he’d pick.  It was 95 degrees out when we got there (something I hadn’t accounted for in my planning) and the course he chose had a lot of water features and fountains which helped to cool the air somewhat.  The problem was, it was the more popular course and a foursome of teenagers had just started that course when we arrived.  Little didn’t want to have to wait for them.  He wanted to get to the playing.  “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “I  remember feeling like that when I was his age.”

When the teens moved on to the next hole we started out.  He told me to go first on the first hole so he could see how it’s done and I did.  I told him that after each person putts his ball toward the green, whoever gets closest to the hole goes and keeps going till he sinks his ball and then the next player goes.  On the first hole, I got my ball closest to the hole and I told him I go until I sink the ball and etc., etc., etc.  Before I even finished talking he was putting his ball.  “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “I remember feeling like that when I was his age.”

We moved along to the next hole and had to wait for the teenagers again.  Little never got particularly antsy about having to wait but I could tell he didn’t like it.  About four courses in, Little decided to putt first.  Fine.  While I was putting my ball, he went ahead and started working on sinking his ball. Hmmm, that’s not how this game works, but OK.  By the ninth hole, he was running back and interfering with my ball and  trying to finish putting my ball too.  “Oh, yeah,” I thought, “I remember feeling like that when I was his age.”  I didn’t say anything for a few  holes but finally I told him to putt his own ball and let me putt mine.  I wanted to play too.

The score card shows that Little beat me by about 6 strokes.  It’s an estimation to be sure.  I couldn’t always see him playing and don’t know how many of his wholes in one (he got three) were really holes in one, and I reduced the number of strokes on my plays whenever he interfered with the natural progression of the ball.  Since he “beat” me, I don’t figure it matters too much that I was creative with the numbers.

“Oh, yeah,” I thought, “I remember feeling this way when I was his age.”

The score card also had a coupon on it for 60 tokens for the arcade for $10.00.  Without the coupon you only get 40 tokens so this was a  good deal and I had promised him we’d play arcade games as well.

As soon as we walked into the Arcade and before I could get the tokens he started running around the arcade.  I grabbed the tokens and found him by the ski-ball games.  I told him before we started playing games I wanted him to do a loop around the arcade and see what there was before he spent all the tokens in one thing.  He looked at the air hockey table, he looked at the Mrs. Pacman game, he looked at the  shooting games and he looked at the driving games.  Would you believe we walked all around that arcade and played several different games and never once did he ask to play the shooting games!?  Victory is mine! Hah hah hah!

No, really, I didn’t say one word to him about the shooting games.  If he had asked to play one, I would have let him play it a couple times.  I wouldn’t have let him spend all the tokens in it.  He never even asked to play it.  I was stoked!

Many of the games give out tickets and he ended up with about 420 tickets at the end of the tokens.  THE BOY SPENT EVERY ONE OF HIS TICKETS ON CANDY!!

I know this isn’t particularly surprising; only, Little doesn’t get a lot of candy and in fact hasn’t asked for it once in our time together.  I asked his mother when I picked him up the first time if she had any rules I needed to enforce like no candy, or gum or soda.  She said no candy and no soda.  Glad I asked.  Later, Little told me he was allergic to candy.  (So much for my idea to take him to the Jelly Belly Factory.)  I asked his mother about the allergy.  She said he’s not allergic; she just doesn’t let him have much.  “Sometimes I give him a little, but if he has much he gets a little crazy,” she told me.

So I stood there watching the boy spend all his tickets on candy thinking, “Oh boy, this should be interesting.”  All the candy went into a  plastic bag and as we were walking back to the car, he started digging in the bag.  I told him he could have one piece of candy and the rest he had to give to his mother and she could decide when he could have more.  He got in the car and strapped himself into the newly christened  booster seat and started digging through the bag.  While I settled into the driver’s seat he selected a candy package and I turned to him and said, “Here, let me take the bag.” (I’m not a total dummy!)  With about an hour to kill before he was due home I decided to take Little to the  grocery store so I could buy the few items I had written down earlier with the intention of going after I dropped him off.

It turned out that the “piece” of candy he selected was a three in one item.  It looked like a baby bottle and the nipple of the bottle was a  sucker.  The bottle part was two pieces, the bottom piece filled with what looked to me like Nerds and the top piece filled with a powder.  I didn’t realize he was eating the powder until we were at the store, but I think it was probably intended to be mixed with water as a beverage a la Kool-Aid.

By this time, the sugar was coursing through his veins and at the store he made a B-line for the giant Halloween candy display, saying, “Cooool!  Look at this candy!  Woah!  What’s this?! Cooool!”

I told him, he had enough candy in the car and we went on about our business.  He never got particularly rambunctious but he did act almost  like it was a drug he was addicted to.  Every outing we’ve been on he’s had popcorn and/or hot dogs at the movie theater.  He has drunk water even when other things were available.  He’s a pretty fun and even tempered kid.  But I made the mistake of introducing candy into his system and suddenly…  Well…  “One was too many and a thousand was not enough.” (I filed that away for next time!) I felt badly about it as we were heading back to his house and when I dropped him off I told his mother everything.  She didn’t get upset, just seemed a little concerned and  asked, “How did he behave?”  Fortunately, he was fine, but I will definitely be vigilant about what I let him eat.

Next week we’re taking BART to San Francisco and a Cable Car to the Cable Car Museum.  Little says he’s never been on BART or the Cable Car so these will be new experiences for him.  I’ve never been to the Cable Car Museum so this will be a new experience for me.  I can’t wait!

I was going to tell you about the emotional tumult that’s occurred as a result of my Healthy Selfishness post from Friday, and about the  unbelievably fun (sarcasm is implied) time I’ve had the last three days at a Safety Fair we’ve had in our building lobby, but the unbelievable fun (sarcasm still implied) has just plain tuckered me out and it took longer than I thought it would to tell the story of my week-end, so you’ll all  just have to wait for my next post to hear the rest.

Good night and good luck!

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As Ordered

My friend Terri has issued some strict instructions and when strict instructions are issued, smart people follow them. 

Therefor, I must post this picture:

Crazy tongue

Now, go do yours!

The Other F Word

There is a word in the English language that can hurt me more than anything else you could say.  Maybe it’s a mistake for me to make this known but, here we go all the same.

You could call me a bastard and I wouldn’t really care all that much.  I know what the word bastard means, and I know I am not one.  And if you want to call me a bastard to tell me I’m being a jerk, I will react with the knowledge that what you’ve done is minimized your own intelligence by using a word that doesn’t apply to more harshly convey something that may or may not apply.  Bastard?  OK.  Whatever.  Moving on.

You could call me an ass hole, but given that once again, I have a vocabulary, and I know what an ass hole is, it seems pretty clear that I am not an ass  hole.  Neener neener.  I don’t care.

Dick?  Dick head?  Fucker?  The list is never ending it seems.  All you’re really doing is showing me and the world that your vocabulary is limited and  you’re not really very smart.  The emotion behind it is hurtful and I probably will be somewhat effected by that, but the words?  They just don’t matter to me.

No, there is one word (and one derivative) in this language of ours that will cut me to the core.  That word is “Fag” (or “faggot”).  That word cuts deep  and leaves me bleeding for days.  It hurts me because a) its true (unless you’re British, in which case, no, I am not a cigarette), but more importantly, b) its  always used in a hateful, demeaning way, like being a “fag” is a horrible thing.

My brother once used the word in a conversation, not referring to me, in what he claimed to have been a joking manner.  I told him that word was offensive to me and I didn’t want it used in my presence.  He said, fine and apologized and we moved on.

My mother used that word once, with a tone of disgust, when we were riding the 38 Geary bus through San Francisco and a guy got on the bus that she  perceived to be gay (I don’t think he was, and in theory, I should know).  I told her I found that word offensive and I didn’t want it used in my presence and she said, “Tough.”

When used in this way it’s a hateful, ugly word and I can not accept the “we’re taking it back as our own” philosophy.  That F word is simply never an appropriate, acceptable word (unless you’re British and you’re referring to cigarettes and even then you better be clear).

Sidebar: I now have the Robbie Williams Strong stuck in my head, the first line being “My breath smells of a thousand fags.”  When he  performed it live in studio of my favorite radio show he had to stop there to explain to the Yankees that “Fags” were cigarettes in England.

I’ve just read an article on Edge on the Net about LGBT middle school kids facing more harassment than older kids and adults.  Without much effort, reading the article took me right back to my own middle school days and I realized I absolutely knew, first hand, how true this is.

The article says:

Part of the problem, the article said, was a perception that kids that young cannot possibly know whether they are gay or not, leading adults  to look the other way when anti-gay slurs are tossed around. But part of the problem, too, is that emotions run high at that age, and stigma  can cut deep.

It never ceases to amaze me how closed-minded, straight adults think when it comes to these things.  On some levels its true that “kids that young cannot possibly know whether they are gay or not” in that kids that young are still figuring themselves and the world around them out, but I believe if you talk to most out gay people, myself included, they will tell you that they did know at a very young age, even if they didn’t know they knew.  I couldn’t face it and as such couldn’t bring myself to admit it to myself, let alone anyone else, but some part of me knew it to be true.

And this is where the perception part comes in.  I may not have been old enough to know I was gay, but the kids in my class perceived it.  They assumed it.  And they responded to it.  Even when I was too young to understand what I was feeling and how my actions might betray my true self, my peers saw  it, and they were relentless!

For me to be a grade school, middle school, even early high school kid and have the people at my schools call me “fag” and push me around and threaten  me (and have none of the adults in the school – or my family) do anything about it, when I was convinced that I was not gay, was terribly painful.  How much worse must it be for a kid who has an inkling that he might be gay and those around him shame him for it!

Aside from the two instances at the beginning of this post, I haven’t heard that word used in my presence since high school.  I realized as I read the article that it doesn’t matter.  The absence of the word hasn’t made it hurt any less, hasn’t made me despise the word any less.

What is it going to take to change our society?  What is it going to take for “tolerance” to be more than just a buzz word?  What is it going to take for  “acceptance” to be something we do and not just something we talk about?  What is it going to take?  It’s time!

Healthy Selfishness

So much effort goes into being happy.  And I’m just talking about being happy for yourself not for anyone else.  Throw others into the mix and forget it!  Expectations will always be too high, nothing is ever going to be good enough and sometimes you’ll get bitch-slapped in the process of trying to measure up. Sometimes I think it’s all just too hard to manage.

I want nothing more in this world than to be able to live my life the way I see fit.  Be content with my existence, be content with the existence of others and have others be content with mine.  Why must we always concern ourselves with what other people expect of us?  Why isn’t it enough, just to be who we are?

There’s a question I struggle with about how to be, how to act in certain circumstances.  Through my process in therapy, I’m learning a thing or two about taking care of myself.  I’m learning to look out for myself, not myself only but myself first. Sometimes looking out for myself first, conflicts with “being there” for someone else.  So the dilemma I deal with is how to act when someone you care about wants something from you which you are not equipped to provide?  How do you behave when someone you care about wants something from you which would hurt  you to provide?  How do you behave when someone you care about wants something from you which would hurt you to provide, but you know  that person isn’t capable of hearing and understanding that?

There is so much contradiction.  The question I want to ask is how can we be so self-absorbed not to see when other people are hurting?  How can we be so wrapped up in ourselves all the damn time that we can’t see when our needs, as we foist them onto others, are hurting the person being foisted upon?  But then I wonder, am I just as guilty?  Am I inflicting pain on others by looking out for myself first?  Where do you draw the line?  I suppose in an ideal world, I’d be able to sit and listen until I can’t take any more and then be able to tell a person, “I’ve reached my fill.  I can’t hold anymore right now,” and that would work.  For that to work, though, both me and thee would need to be  emotionally healthy people, and clearly neither of us is.

For my part, I try to minimize the impact by not spewing my venom every moment of every day over multiple city blocks.  I know my life  sucks.  I know my work circumstances suck.  I also know that venting it on the unsuspecting (unwilling) continuously, isn’t going to change  that, and so I shut up.  I’m not perfect, occasionally a grumble slips out.  Occasionally, a small amount of venting happens and I appreciate  the audience.  I’m even willing to allow the same of others.  I’m willing to allow others the occasional vent.

But, look into my eyes.  Look deep.  Really see me.  Do you not see the shadow?  Do you not see the storm that rages on the horizon of my heart?  Do you not see the floods that are rising?  Do you not see that at any moment that dam will burst and the flood waters will pour down my face?  Do you honestly not see that I’m holding on by a thread?

I’m struggling right now, really struggling.  It’s different from before.  I don’t really know how to explain it except to say that I’m holding on for  dear life.  The baggage I already carry is too much and if I add any more, if I add any one else’s baggage, I’m going to lose my grip.  Maybe I’m being just as self-absorbed as the rest, but I simply can not take any more and I really think this should be obvious.

I’m not sure where to go with this and there’s something I’ve wanted to share for a long time and never had the right opportunity.  This feels like it.  I found this, of all places, in a Better Homes and Gardens calendar and it really resonated with me:

HEALTHY SELFISHNESS

Many psychologists see healthy selfishness as a higher level of mental function that can help you reach your full potential.  People who practice healthy selfishness have a zest for living, a joy that comes from savoring one’s accomplishments.  Healthy selfishness opens the door to a life of freedom – freedom from being ruled by the opinions and demands of others as well as freedom from the  voices in your own mind, often left over from your childhood that judge and blame you relentlessly.

Riggledo’s Story: The Ex-Fiance Question

I made a de facto promise not long ago to explain a reference I made in a post about my ex-fiancé.  My newest fan read my description of having found a picture of a significantly larger version of my former betrothed and questioned what this was all about  when she had read my blog and happened to know that “that is not how you swing dude.”

It is true, that is not how I swing.  But coming to that realization was a long and difficult journey, one I’d say, truthfully, I’m still in the middle of, but there was a time, when I was younger, that I thought I swung that way… Or at least I could swing that way, if I could  just find the right girl. Yes, this post is probably just for that one new reader, but if the rest of you find something new from this, so  much the better.

I was raised in a very conservative, Republican, Christian family, bordering on Fundamentalist in thinking.  It never felt like the right fit to me and I never really thought of myself as conservative or fundamentalist, but I didn’t know any better than to be Republican and Christian.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still Christian and am not ashamed to say so, but I see things differently now than I did then.)

Growing up, I had it firmly instilled in me that homosexuality was a thing that is unnatural and without question results in the eternal damnation of the individual who lives his life as a homosexual.  I really didn’t know any better at the time, than to believe these  things I was being taught and so even though I knew deep down that something was wrong with those beliefs, it never occurred to me that it was because I was one of those people.

I was very unpopular in school and as a result, pretty much of a homebody so it was easy to explain away my lack of romantic  entanglements.  I had one “girlfriend” in middle school, Jennifer, and, in truth, we were really only friends, but we were “going together” as they said back then.  I had gotten the idea in my head, because of my mother’s highly verbal scoffing at any other notion, that boys and girls shouldn’t kiss until they were serious with each other, that they should be sure of who they are and what  they want before taking that step.

After a few months, Jennifer broke up with me and she said it was because I wouldn’t kiss her.  Interestingly, the idea to plead with her to stay together and to offer her a kiss never crossed my mind.

I had one girlfriend in high school, Cindy.  It lasted about three months and then she dumped me to get back together with her  ex-boyfriend (the one who had dumped her right before I came around to pick up the pieces.)  I kissed her plenty.  I even enjoyed it, but mostly just relished the idea that I was somewhat normal, because I could get a girlfriend.  I was disappointed when she broke up with me but not devastated.

I had a friend named Bernie, who I was close to.  Bernie was a year younger than I, and we were in choir together.  We hung out a lot and she would ride with me to all the choir functions.  We went out on the week-ends a lot, but never as a date.  We were very  affectionate and flirtatious with each other but it was all in jest and we both knew it.  We had a third wheel friend, Amy, who spent time with us sometimes, but she was very sheltered (and if I was calling her sheltered, she was sheltered) and she found our behavior odd.  She would get upset and looking back I think it was jealousy.  The three of us sometimes hung out at her house and her parents  used to comment, that if Bernie and I weren’t dating, we probably should be because we acted like it already.  There were many  people who commented similarly about us and eventually, we started to listen.  We decided, collectively, that maybe they were right and we should start dating.  The only thing that changed was that we said, “We’re dating” (because we already went out all the time)  and we kissed.  Kissing Bernie didn’t feel right to me at all, and from the moment we kissed the first time, I avoided contact with her as much as possible.  It took less than a week for her to ask me why I was avoiding her and all I could say was I thought we’d made a  mistake and should just be friends.  She said fine, but I don’t think she was really OK.  She self destructed after that.  I’m not saying it was my fault she did, she had a lot of family and emotional problems, but regardless, that’s the night it started.

I went on one other date the entirety of my high school career.

However, while I was attending my senior year of high school, I was also working at the local grocery store, and I’m not kidding when I say local, it was built in the field that used to be my back yard!  Working there, I met and befriended someone who was two years older than I, married with a son, and worked in the cash office of the store.  Her name was Kerri (pronounced Kear-ree) and we  became friends fairly quickly.  Kerri offered to give me a ride to the company picnic once when she asked me if I was attending and I  told her probably not because I didn’t have transportation.  I met her husband and son that day and it was the beginning of our more-than-just-acquaintances friendship.

Not long after that, Kerri and her husband separated and we began spending more time together.  We talked about my plans for after graduation.  I didn’t plan on attending college right away, and then at the last minute at the end of the summer, I changed my mind  and decided to go after all.  Kerri was disappointed but encouraging.  She told me to keep in touch and we exchanged a couple of  letters.  In one of her letters she told me that she’d decided to get back together with her husband and give their marriage another  try.  I was happy for her and encouraged her to make it work.

The second to last day of finals week, my first semester, I apparently misread the turn signals and break lights on the back of a Ford  F-150 and ran my sister’s Geo Metro into the back left corner of the truck.  The truck was unscathed and the car was severely damaged.  I wasn’t hurt, but my father had only provided liability insurance on the car and the cost of repairs came out my pocket.   College was over for the time being (turned out to be a lot longer), and I went back to work at the grocery store in my back yard to  pay for the repairs.

Wouldn’t you know it, not long after I arrived back home and announced that I was staying, Kerri informed me that she and her  husband were splitting up again and that it was for good this time.  I felt badly for her and offered condolences.  We resumed our  friendship and spent quite a lot of time together.

One night as we were driving around Tulsa in the dark, she asked me how I felt about her.  I didn’t understand what she was asking  me; obviously, I liked her and enjoyed being her friend.  She asked me if that was all because, she said, she had stronger feelings for  me.  I can’t honestly say what the process in my mind was.  I remember telling her I’d never given it any thought because she was  married and that made her off limits but that if I thought about it, then yes, I supposed I had stronger feelings for her.  I told her that  if she weren’t married, or when her divorce was final, we could talk about dating.

We did start dating.  We spent every possible minute together.  We were in love (or at least we believed we were) and we were very  affectionate.  We kissed often, we made out frequently and being a 19 year old male, my body responded to the affection.  I wanted to make love with her and she refused, stating that she believed that due to premarital sex (and the unplanned pregnancy that resulted) God had punished her and her first husband and that was why their relationship didn’t last and she didn’t want that to happen to us.  But it was OK, because I’d finally met the right girl and everything was going to be great! I can’t help but think if she had agreed to have sex with me, I’d have figured myself out a whole lot sooner.

Kerri and I dated for almost a year.  While I never got down on one knee, we had discussed and long since agreed that we were going to get married the following year.

I was 19 years old.  I was naïve.  I believed we could make a go of it, even though I didn’t own a car, she had a son and between the  two of us we had three jobs.  I still lived with my mother and things were really bad between us.  My father offered to let me stay with him, and drive one of his cars until I saved enough money to buy my own.  The hitch was, he lived in Ohio and Kerri and I lived in Oklahoma.

We discussed the arrangement and agreed that it would be best for me to go, for six months, and then come back and we’d get  married.  I was gone for three weeks when she cheated on me with a random guy at a club.  Apparently, she is neither capable of  being alone, nor of being honest about her feelings.  Kerri has made an absolute disaster of her life and I can’t begin to express my  gratitude that I was not caught up in the middle of that storm.

Throughout my life I have had inclinations as to my true orientation.  It’s true that I always found guys to be attractive, but  convinced myself that I was just recognizing what makes a man attractive, not actually attracted to them.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I used to come home from school, when no one was home, and masturbate while looking at Undergear and International Male catalogs.  But I always told myself, I wasn’t gay.  I wasn’t turned on by the guys on the pages; I was turned on by the thought of being like them…  Yeah, right.

Every gay person has a process they have to go through.  A gay person who grew up the way I did, in a fundamentalist environment often takes longer.

First you must accept the idea of being gay and this is much harder than it might sound.  For me it took 30 years to stop lying to  myself and stop making lame excuses to myself for feeling the way I did.  After that I had to deal with my feelings and beliefs  regarding the apparent disparity between my faith and my sexuality.  It was difficult to do, in some ways I suppose I still am.  It’s hard when your personal beliefs are different from everyone you’ve known and respected as authority your entire life.  But ultimately, I realized that only I could decide what to believe.  I had to pray, and meditate and listen to my spirit and only then could I decide what I believed God was telling me.

Once you get over this hurdle, you have to actually accept, not just the idea of being gay, but that you actually are gay, and that it’s OK.  And then, if you’re really brave you start telling people.

Frankly, I don’t know what comes after that because I haven’t gotten past that point.

So, I could have answered the question with a simple, “I didn’t always know I was gay and yes I dated a girl.”  But really, it’s not a  simple question and it deserved a more complete answer… and now it’s got one.

Gooooo Joe! Go Far. Really, Really Far!

Last Sunday brought another outing with Little.  He wanted to see GI Joe and his mother said it was OK, so I set it up.  Our normal meeting time is 2:00 but because the movie started at 1:50, I arrived at his house at 1:15.  I have a pet peeve about cutting things too close and I’m kind of particular about where I like to sit in a movie theater.  I like to be in the top row whenever  possible, because there always seems to be a  little more leg room there, the next best option is the first row of the stadium seating area.  I knew it would take about 15 minutes to get to the theater, I figured there’d be popcorn and drinks to be obtained and I wanted to make sure bladders were emptied prior to the start of  the movie (particularly mine.)

When I arrived at Little’s apartment he was sitting on the living room floor with his brother playing a video game.  He was wearing track pants and a t-shirt and I thought he was just ready and waiting for me, (I was about two minutes late).  His mother said something to him in Spanish, but the only word I was able to make out was pantalones (pants).  I thought that was strange because he looked ready to go to me, but he paused the game, got up from the floor and ran off to his  room.  His brother reset the game so he could continue playing on his own (He  and his Big Brother go out on a different day).

That’s when I noticed it.  The game they’d been playing was set in a warehouse of some sort.  What’s shown on the screen is from the perspective of the character’s eyes.  So you see the room around you, you see the boxes and crates that are  spread about and you see the other characters in the game.  Off in the distance  you see a red cross-hairs and at the bottom of the screen is an assault rifle  pointing ahead of you.  The objective of the game is to put the cross hairs on the enemy characters and shoot and kill them.  I asked Little’s brother who was  winning and he shrugged and said, “I don’t know.  You just shoot people.”  The only thing that made me feel at all better was that twice as I watched him play the  game, his character was shot by the bad guys and he died.  Of course he just hit reset and started the game over so the consequences may not be really driven  home, but at least it’s not just him running around killing other people.

Little re-emerged from the back of the apartment, having changed his clothes to  blue jeans and a shirt with a zip up hoodie jacket.  He also had his hair gelled and styled.  His hair is cut such that he can have a “fauxhawk” and he wanted his  mother to style it for him, it’s actually really cute, and I’m a little jealous.  We got a late start because of this but we had plenty of time.

We arrived at the theater and there was a bit of a line, but nothing too bad.  I asked him if he wanted to get something to drink but he said no.  I asked him if he was sure and he said no again.  Once we finally had the tickets and were inside the building I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom.  He hemmed and  hawed about it a little bit until I said, “’Cause I need to go to the bathroom so we  have to go in there anyway.”  We both went and I was impressed when he went  straight to the sink and washed his hands without me saying anything at all.

We walked past the concession stand after we left the bathroom and Little said,  “OK.  I changed my mind.  I do want something.”  I asked him what he wanted and he said he wanted popcorn.  Last I checked you can’t drink popcorn, kid!  I didn’t mind, I was going to offer that as well.  So I got a small popcorn (In movie theater  terms, small is relative) and two bottles of water.  This was going to work out fine because I drink water more slowly than I do Diet Pepsi and I thought maybe I could make it through the whole movie without having to go back to the bathroom.

By the time we had our snacks and got to the door of the theater it was 1:52 and  the previews had already begun.  I was prepared to tell him to wait inside until our eyes adjusted to the dark but when we got inside there were only about six people in the whole theater.  I let him pick the seats and he did a pretty good job.

I don’t know what Little weighs but he is still small enough that he has to sit in the  back seat of the car.  He ended up fighting for his life with the seat as it tried more than once to fold back up with him inside.  I’m going to have to work out how I can help him with that.

We settled into our seats and started eating the popcorn while watching the previews and he was pretty funny.  He would pick up one kernel of corn and put it  in his mouth and immediately pick up the next one repeating this method over and over till his mouth was full and then he’d chew it.  Whatever. He was happy and  that’s what really matters.

Now, the movie…  The movie was really pretty terrible.  It was clearly all about the action, and there was a lot of action and I’m realizing that action isn’t enough for  me. I like an action movie as much as the next… not terribly macho guy but I need more.  K once told me she didn’t like a certain movie because, she said, “there  was too much plot.  I don’t like a lot of plot in my action.”  (And no K, I’m not  calling you a macho guy.)  I am different though.  If there’s no plot in my action the action isn’t worthwhile.

I’m honestly wondering if I have always been this way or if it’s a new development  but, given the concerns I’ve raised previously with Little and his preoccupation with guns, I found myself far more acutely aware of the gratuitous death.  It’s funny how we, as a society, tend to turn a blind eye to death and destruction in our  “entertainment” as long as it’s the bad guys that are dying.  Watching Fast & Furious, just the other day with Michelle, I actually cheered a little bit, at the end  when the bad guy died.  But in GI Joe there was a lot of the bad guys killing good  guys (extras though they may have been) and there’s a scene where they’re driving through the streets of Paris and the bad guys are crashing into and flipping cars right and left, if not killing then at least injuring innocent civilians in their  path.    Putting aside, for a moment, that I would not have seen this movie to begin with if not for Little, I do not know if I would have been bothered (or as bothered) by this if Little hadn’t been there.  In general, I felt that this movie was much too much for seven year old eyes.

But the plot, my God, the PLOT.  The plot was riddled with as many holes as the characters lying dead or dying on the ground.  I was left with so many questions and had I cared about the movie to begin with I’d have been terribly dismayed instead of just annoyed as I am.

Lesson number one for Kevin, when taking a seven year old to a movie, he will have to go to the bathroom at the height of the action.  Little spent most of the  movie staring intently at the screen barely speaking.  I suppose it could have been very different.  He could have talked through the whole thing.  Every once in a while he’d say, “Whooa.  That’s coooool!” but that was about it.  I glanced over at him a few times and as the movie progressed and got more intense I noticed he had his index fingers in his mouth and he was rocking forward and back in his seat.  I asked him if he was OK and he said he was.  I thought maybe he was nervous.  I didn’t know that this wasn’t just a thing he does, like sucking his thumb.  But I had my suspicions about what it meant, and sure enough just as we were reaching a pivotal moment in the “story” he leaned over to me and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.”  That was OK.  I did too!  But to this day, I do not know what happened to The President.

This week, we’re going to  see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which seems much more up my—er, his alley.  I’m actually looking forward to it and Little doesn’t know it, but we’re going to go see it in 3-D.

I had a check-in call with  Hadley, the Match Support Specialist this  week.  They require it in  the early stages of the  match, but I wanted to  talk with her anyway.  I wanted to know, from Big Brothers and Big Sisters  perspective if I was  over-reacting to the gun thing.  Hadley confirmed  what I already suspected; that I can’t really say  anything to Little’s mother or even to him as far as telling him that this is “bad”.  But she also agreed that it’s unfortunate that he’s exposed to so much of it and  that I should just keep an eye on it but make every effort to keep the focus of our time together off of such things.  So I’m on the look-out for other things I can do  with him.  Thanks so much to Jody for some great thoughts in the comments on  my recent post for things to do with Little.  It was a great help.  I’m open to more  suggestions from any and all of you if you’ve got some insight you’d like to share!

On A Lighter Note

I have very few truly good childhood memories with my father, unfortunately, my parents divorced when I was two, but I was reminded today of one of them.

When I was a boy, my father used to take us to the drive-in movies,  frequently to something  completely inappropriate for my age.  He took us to see Gotcha, a movie  about a Cold War era college student who gets wrapped up in a spy game while on vacation in France and trying to lose his virginity to an exotic woman.  From this movie, I learned that cool guys wear parachute pants and play paintball in the real world.  I also saw my first pair of boobies.  I was nine.

He took us to a double feature of Dragnet and The Untouchables.  I remember sitting and watching Dragnet, and there was a “morning after” scene when Tom  Hanks’ character rolls away from the woman in his bed and picks up a box on the  night stand only to realize it is empty and hearing my Dad say, “oops.”  I didn’t understand why.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a condom box.  The Untouchables is a violent movie about Mob gangs with a lot of guns and violence.  I was twelve.

I also remember going to a double feature of Bright Lights, Big City and Colors.  Bright Lights, Big City was a Michael J Fox movie so how bad could it be?  All I remember is Alex P Keaton running around the screen looking for his next fix. Colors is a movie about a couple of cops working in East Los Angeles, dealing with gangs.  The movies tag line was “70,000 gang members. One million guns. Two cops.”  I learned from this movie that real men say “fuck” a lot and that they have sex with the bad guy’s sister, or girlfriend, or something.  I also learned that when the real man has sex with the bad guy’s sister or girlfriend or something, he is supposed to be on top and the sheet is supposed to be just barely high enough to conceal ass crack.  Also, more boobies.  I was still twelve.

It might sound like these are bad memories when I clearly stated this was a good  memory.  They’re really not bad memories.  I sit here now, more than twenty years removed from these events and can clearly see what poor judgment my father had, but I enjoyed the movies well enough and clearly they had an impact on me for me to remember them so vividly all these years later…  Oh, wait…

But there is more to these memories.  What I remember so fondly, is not the  movies we saw.  There were others as this was something we did on a regular  basis, but it is everything else about the outings that has stuck with me.

This is not exactly what Jack looked like, but it gives you an idea.

Long before I was even  born, my father bought a  Dodge Ram pick-up  truck.  It was, as I  remember it, a monster of a vehicle (though I was  young and small and my recollection is probably  relative).

The truck was two-tone  blue with Navy Blue on  top and Baby Blue on the  sides.  Very apropos to the 1970’s I’d say.  For reasons I do not recall, and may  not have ever been aware, the truck had a name and its name was “Jack”.  I called it “Jack-Jack” long before The Incredibles was ever conceived of.  Jack had an  extended cab with inward facing fold down jump seats in the back, sliding window  in the rear windshield and a full length bed.

Our homemade pizzas looked much better than this!

One of our favorite “family” activities was to make  homemade pizzas.  We would buy crust mix and spaghetti sauce and big  bags of Mozzarella  cheese.  We’d buy  pepperonis and Canadian  bacon and black olives,  mushrooms and green  peppers.  We’d chop up the vegetables and mix  the dough, spread it out onto rectangular pans.  I’d pour the sauce (usually too much and Dad would have to scoop some back up) and spread it around on the dough.  Dad would generously sprinkle the cheese on top of the sauce and Erin,  always the meticulous one, would place the toppings, always with the edges of the pepperonis touching each other (she never wanted to have anything to do with the  Canadian bacon.)  We’d toss the vegetables on top (again, leaving the olives off  some of the pizza because Erin doesn’t like “little rubber washers” and they’d  bake.  I remember these pizzas being one of my favorite things to do at my Dad’s  house.

The great thing about movie night was we combined two of my favorite things.  As a “family” we’d shop at the store for the pizza ingredients.  As a “family” we’d build these masterpieces and bake them to perfection.  Then Dad would haul a huge ice chest out of the garage and while my step-mother, Georgia, would fill it with ice  and cans of cold soda, cut the pizza and cover it with foil and pack paper plates  and napkins and what ever else in a paper grocery sack, Dad would gather the  folding lawn chairs and toss them in the back of the truck while Erin and I gathered pillows and blankets.

We’d all climb into Jack.  I remember hating riding in the back of Jack, even then I was claustrophobic.  Dad would fold the vinyl covered seat forward and I’d climb up and over and into the jump seat with Erin on the other side, each of us holding a  warm delicious smelling pizza in our lap unable to dive in.  Dad and Georgia would climb into the front seat and we’d be on our way.

I remember in the early days, drive-in movies were still fairly popular and we’d have to head toward the back of the lot to park the monster pick-up.  In later years, we often got to park near the front of the lot.  I always enjoyed that; I was too young to recognize it for the demise of the industry that it was.  Dad would park Jack, facing away from the huge wall the movies would be projected upon and we’d set up  shop.  Dad and Georgia sat together in lounge chairs while Erin and I sat in upright chairs on the tail gate.  We’d settle into our seats, situate the blankets and dig into the pizza and sodas.

I remember sitting in those chairs chowing down on those pizzas and watching the movies with such excitement.  I always knew I’d never make it to the end.  We made these outings in the summer time when “dusk” doesn’t happen until around  9:00 at night.  By the time the second movie started at or after 11:00, there was no way I was going to last till it was over, and I rarely did, but it was fun all the same.

There is a company that runs a couple drive-ins in the bay area, one in Concord  and one in San Jose, and they’re having a special event tonight; free entrance to  the lot, therefore, free movies.  They’re even showing movies I haven’t seen before,  “Up” and “Night at the Museum 2”.  I’d love to go, I’d love to recreate a little of my childhood.  I’d love to take Little along, but alas, I do not have time to make a  pizza. I do not have access to a pick-up truck and a car or the back of my SUV just would not be the same.  And, it’s a school night.  Oh and Little has to go to  school tomorrow, too.

That home-made pizza sure sounds good though…  Hmmm.