Monday, August 11, 2014

My Father's Passing: First Thoughts


This is not the longer essay I’m writing on this.  This is just sort of an interim explanation. More like a small garden in which to display some first thoughts.

“My dad died.”

It’s a phrase that should mean something.  It’s a tree that should have deep roots, that should tear the soil in the action of saying it.  There’s a social transaction in the phrase. The sayer can utter it and the receiver acknowledges it and tries to suss out the okayness of the sayer. Death has weight and we pass the heft of it back and forth between us as if sharing it will lessen it, will lighten what we can’t hold onto.  And yet-

The phrase is empty for me.  And I wish it wasn’t.

My mom and dad split when I was 3.  He was an off and on again presence in my life.  A birthday present sender, a forced phone conversation.  Every few years I saw him in real life.  The acceleration of adolescence put him at a disadvantage.  By the time he tried to get to know the new me, I was already onto the next phase.  It was a losing battle.  Neither he nor I were ever great at correspondence or really thinking of people outside of ourselves.

The last time we talked was an accidental misdial on my phone six years ago.  The last time we saw each other was a decade ago.  By then, Candace and I were adults and we’d let go of the father concept.  I’m sure he wanted something.  But he was either too proud to say it or too hopeless it could be recovered.  Either way, I was over it.

And then he died.  On July 31st, my sister texted me that she had to talk.  I was worried that something was wrong with her new baby.  I called her.  She said, “Jimmy died.”  That’s how far from father he is.  Candace gave up on calling him ‘dad’ years ago.  I called him that still mostly because it was some anchor I’d left out in some harbor I thought I’d revisit someday.  But someday is gone now.

I didn’t even know how old he was until I saw his obituary today.  I scribbled in a fake birthdate for him on my marriage certificate.  Probably means Val and I aren’t really married. Oops. 

I didn’t know if he was living alone or remarried.  I didn’t know he was in bad health.  I didn’t know he had diabetes.  I didn’t know if he had friends.  I didn’t know if he was happy.  If no one had told me he’d died, I wouldn’t have wondered if he was alive or not.  It might have been decades before I found out.

We were that far apart.  And now we are much farther.

I’m not sad that he’s dead exactly.  I didn’t feel anything when my sister told me.  I’m more sad for the possibilities.  For what we missed.  The absence of a father is a robbery I’ve dealt with my whole life.  A missing piece of my psyche maybe.  It feels metaphorically like a cliff behind my right foot, a place where I could never rely on footing.

Even this chance has been taken from me.  I don’t get to feel this experience deeply.  I don’t get to miss someone and count the days until we meet again on the other side.  I’m sure we will.  But it won’t be a reunion.  It’ll be like running into your professor at the grocery store.  Maybe we’ll become friends then.  I’m a friendly guy.  I don’t hold grudges.  Another thing he never got to learn.

I'm, in all sense of the word, 'okay'.  At some point, I'll say to someone, when they ask about my dad, that he's dead.  And they'll feel sympathy for me, assuming that we were close, that I felt great pain at his loss and I'll have to decide whether or not to correct them.  And I probably won't.  I'll probably just let them believe I've suffered life's inevitable tragedy.  And that it felt and looked just like theirs.

But it didn’t.  And I regret that.  For me and my sister.

Safe journeys, dad. 



- Shamus

Friday, March 21, 2014

Craigslist Missed Connections I Wish I'd Written



For those of you unfamiliar, Missed Connections is a feature on Craigslist where people who never met or met briefly try to find each other.  Well, usually just one tries to find the other.  I don't know if anyone actually ever meets because of it.  M is Men and W is Women. The sections are: m4w, w4m, m4m, w4w.

But these are what I would have written if I'd ever used the Missed Connection section.


F Train Mystery - m4w

Friday night.  I was wearing a grey hoodie.  You had a turquoise cardigan.  That homeless guy fell asleep and his fifth of Vodka rolled out of his pocket and our eyes met and we both chuckled.  And then you picked it up and swigged it.  What's wrong with you?  Would you please email and explain? Did you have a really hard night? Are you into homeless spit? Are off the wagon? Do you not know what Hep B is? I don't understand and I'm real sicked out over here.


Smith St. and 9th - m4w

You were on the phone.  I was reading a book.  You were sassy and black.  I was nerdy and white. You said to your friend, "I'm looking for a hookup tonight.  And not Tyrell.  I'd rather %#$@^#* eat a cockroach covered in..." Then the train came.  In what?!  What would make a cockroach palatable?  Tell me!  Finish your hyperbole!


9th Grade Ghoster - m4m

Homecoming football game.  I was trying to fit in, act like I knew what sport they were playing.  I saw you from the corner of my eye.  Wearing that out-of-style Starter jacket.  Maybe you were jealous that sophomore girls were talking to me?  Maybe you saw something in me that stirred something inside of you?  Well, it stirred.  And came out of your backside.  And you bolted and those girls took one sniff and called me Zombie Butt the rest of the game. Thanks a lot, Ghoster.  We should meet up after all these years and let me kick you in your intestines.


You Shot First at My Heart - m4m

I've been sort of stalking you.  It's not a great way to start a lifelong relationship but I had to start somewhere.  When I first saw you, you were wearing these striped pants, boots and a smirk, and I thought, "Yeah. This guy is cool.  We're going to fit."  I just want to be up front.  I don't want us to be friends.  I want us to go way past that.  I want you to adopt me.  Yeah. Be my dad, Harrison Ford.  Hug me to your man bosom.


You Are Me Are You - m4m

Did you notice me?  Across the restaurant.  I was wearing a scarf, you were wearing a scarf.  My jacket was sort of communist shaped and so was yours.  Your hair was as purposefully mussed as I had purposefully mussed my own.  There's no way you missed me.  We both adjusted our glasses at the same time and then reached for our respective nachos.  I thought we saw each other then.  I thought we made eye contact.  Didn't we?  Why do you exist in this world if I exist in this world? There can't be two of me.  It was like a mirror.  A time travel conundrum.  Go back to your world, Doppelganger! I hate me for looking like you. I now doubt my own originality.  Maybe I'm the copy.  Maybe I wanted to ask you where you got your cool sweater.  Because I totally would have worn that cool sweater, too.  I wanted to ask you but I was afraid space and time would implode.  So I left myself to yourself and you/I went home to our/their wife.










Friday, January 17, 2014

Kids Shows Reviewed by an "Adult" - Curious George

The look of two lunatics loose in our society.


CURIOUS GEORGE

A Review by: James Best, full-time parent and part-time man


THE LIVING SITUATION

Anyone else feel hinkey about this?  Here’s a bachelor, a grown man, living with a very affectionate monkey in a swanky old Manhattan highrise.  No one’s calling Animal Control on this dude?  People are just like, “That’s cool.  Just a man and his monkey.”  Nope.  It's weird. Hinkey with a capital hink.

And their pad? The highrise plus the home in the country? What kind of bills is he pulling down?  I never see him go to work.  And whatever “job” Yellow Hat is working at has pretty loose hours.  Plenty of time for chasing that primate around and hitting their upstate vacation property.  What is this? The How The Other Half Lives Half Hour?  The Adventures of the Well Off Monkey and His All Yellow Sugardaddy?

I’m not saying I need a working class kids show but this opulence is offensive to most middle class kids. George spends half his time palling around with the doorman and his snooty purebred wiener dog and the other half hanging out with these Gold Coaster snobs in vacation town.  The kids watching this show are grubbing up their Osh Kosh’s with Kraft Mac N Cheese.  This is putting undue pressure on their parents to provide a Curious George standard of living.

“My Rich Monkey Life” is going to become new slang.  You saw it here first.

Obviously, his hat doubles as a flotation device.


THE YELLOW OUTFIT

What’s the deal with the clothes?  Is he a Safari guide?  Is he giving Safari tours in New York?  Is it a religious outfit?  I have no clue why this bozo keeps wearing this one color ensemble everywhere. 

Let’s say he was a Safari guide/hunter.  Like that was his past job.  Give it up, man.  It’s like he’s wearing his letterman’s jacket everywhere.  Dude, high school/Africa is over.  Take it off.  Put on some khakis already because that’s what lame dudes wear.  You caught a monkey in Africa. And you got it past customs.  Wow. We’re all impressed.

How does he get that hat through doors?  What’s under that hat?  Is he a Conehead? Does he want to look taller? Is it grafted into his skull? Is it a living fungus he picked up in Swaziland?  Is it a symbol of occult power?  I’m afraid there’s no explanation.  The Yellow Hat is like Stonehenge.

You're going to die, Yellow Hat.


THE MONKEY IN THE ROOM

Ooh-ooh, burying the bodies.
Okay, so Yellow Hat can sort of speak to George and George has a more than rudimentary understanding of the English language.  This pimp-suited Jane Goodall is missing how important his discovery is.  This monkey is freaking amazing.  If hat for brains was smart, he’d be making money off his super monkey.  But he’s stupid.  And he lets him wander New York and causes ruckuses.

But here’s the thing about monkeys.  They’re crazy strong. And they’re also prone to get crazy.  That dude is endangering himself.  George has no tail which probably means he’s a chimpanzee.  And a quick study shows chimps are about four to eight times as strong as a human. That means he can rip off human limbs.  George could snap from curious to primal in enough time it takes him to tear off his 
owner’s yellow clad arms and beat him to death with them.

I call my arms my 'Dismemberment Plan'.
And this curiosity excuse is bullcrap.  It’s just reckless endangerment.  That monkey is free on the streets.  And it’s not cute.  It’s frightening.  George is a one man Planet of the Apes uprising.  He could be running around, ripping off arms, stealing street meats, ripping off legs, hurting zoo attendance, ripping off arm/leg combos, making monkeys less funny and more pants pooping terrifying.


OVERALL

We're cuh-razy!
Yeah, this show is cute and all.  And George’s monkey sounds are sort of endearing.  But his grasp of language is outrageous, like let's put him in a lab and study this super monkey outrageous. And I stand by my danger monkey theory. That monkey is going to snap and when he does limbs will snap, too. If this got even a tiny bit realistic, cops would be gunning George down in Central Park.  And PETA would weep dairy-free tears.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Gettysburg 1863: Imagining How Andy Donkin and James Best Would Do In Old Timey War



GETTYSBURG 1863:  An Imaginary Conversation Between Me and Andy Donkin On the Battlefield

 



This is me and Andy near Gettysburg back in like 2011.  He had two knives that we could put on our belts and we looked awesome.  It's amazing this photo was able to be held steady because of Valerie's mocking laughter as she held it.  I started thinking about what it would be like if Andy and I were soldiers during that time and how Gettysburg would go down for us.  This is probably the most historically accurate thing I've ever written.










SCENE:  The Blues and Grays are charging each other.  Andy and James are charging and firing.  They both realize the flag bearer is dead next to them and the flag is now on the ground. 

ANDY
That’s our flag. You should pick that up.

JAMES
My arms aren’t as strong as yours.  The flag is yours.

ANDY
James, that is the symbol of our liberty. I am giving you a gift.  Do you not accept my gift?

JAMES
I want to accept it. I do. But I just feel like I’d be taking away something special from you.

ANDY
And I’m questioning your patriotism.  Now raise up the flag and show me you’re a patriot.

JAMES
You’re the only one questioning it then.  Jones, whose guts you’re stepping in, never questioned it.  Neither did Rutherford whose boots I was stealing while the charge was going on.

ANDY
Those are magnificent boots. I admire the accent stitching.

JAMES
They’re deer fat cured.  Fit me like a dream.

ANDY
And I have such workman boots.  Just another reason you should carry the flag.  You’ll look more stylish doing it.

JAMES
Ah, but General Grant said he wants working class men carrying the flag.  The men follow the working class better. I’d look like too much of a dandy.  I defer to you.

ANDY
Ah, but my features are too English for our conscripted Irish immigrant army.   You’re a bit more Mick than me.  I defer to you.

JAMES
Ah, but I’m a 16th Native American which is very evident by my thick luxurious hair. Racism is still so alive in the 19th century.  The flag bearing be yours.

ANDY
Ah, but I’m needed for funny quips when General Grant rouses the men.  I’m up for promotion for quips alone.  The flag bearing goes to you.

JAMES
But U-lys, that’s what his friends call him, needs me for missives to send back to Lincoln. I’m a smashing missive giver.  Too invaluable.

ANDY
Are you saying that you are scared to hold aloft our liberty?

JAMES
I am saying you are, sir.

ANDY
Don’t bandy my words, sir.  I am naming you a coward.  Hoist our standard!

JAMES
It takes a coward to know one.

ANDY
I think you should ponder what you just said.

JAMES
(ponders)
Oh, double damn!

ANDY
Can we just be straight arrows for a moment?

JAMES
I don’t know, can you ever be straight?


Andy and James both chuckle at themselves. A hail of bullets force them to drop to the ground.


ANDY
Holding that flag is like holding a death wish. 

JAMES
Yes! Why does anyone volunteer for it?  It’s like, “Look at me! I’m a slow moving target! Please put a thousand musket balls in me!”

ANDY
Whenever Grant asks for volunteers, I always pretend like I’m examining some jam in my pistol.

JAMES
I tell my commanding officer my dysentery flared up again.

ANDY
War is not the good time campout and rifle firing outing I thought it would be.  There's a lot more leg cutting off and maggot food.

JAMES
I know, right? War blows like the wind.

ANDY
I say we just bury the flag and get the H out of here.

JAMES
Thank you.  Let’s bury this tattered mother and flee to Canada.

ANDY
I’ve always wanted to be a mountain man.

JAMES
Can we live in a mountain next to a city? I really am a dandy.

ANDY
Like that's a secret.  Now I’ll get to burying while you smear us with Jones's blood.

JAMES
In case we have to play dead. Brilliant.

ANDY
Burying!

JAMES
Smearing!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Air Traffic Control and Alcohol Don't Mix



DIANA IS DRUNK IN THE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL TOWER AGAIN

“Hey, Northwest 1015, you’re flying in pretty gay right now.”

“Don’t call yourself a pilot when you’re just a co-pilot, Walter.”

“Good landing, Pilot.  Maybe next time leave the rubber on the wheels. Zing!”

“I’m mooning you right now.  That’s right. Butt flesh on the big window. Towards you.”

“That’s a sexy voice there, Pilot.  Do you have a wife?  In this state?”

“I’m not saying I want to see an airplane crash, I’m just saying statistically I should probably see at least one before I go to the big terminal in the sky.”

“Oh, look at me, I’m Jetblue.  I’m like the unjaded teenager of the airline world.  Wait until you hit US Airways’s age and then you tell me great your so called humanity is.”

“Oh, why don’t you cry about runway wait some more?  Maybe your tears will float you to San Fran.”

“Delta 425, why don’t you circle one more time and think about your attitude.”

“Wendy, you’re a lady, right? Taking the skies back from the men.  Good job, sister. Let me buy you a drink. Come on.  We air broads got to stick together.”

“LaGuardia? Honey, this is Logan.  You’re way off course. Oh man, are you screwed…I’m just joshing ya! Welcome to New York, sucker.”

“You’re cleared for landing on my futon tonight, Captain.”

“You don’t like my landing rules, Captain Sauerkraut, you can turn around and go back to Naziland!”


“No me speekee Eenglesh, Mista Air Bird.  No me undeestander “landing gear broken, need emergency landing.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kids Shows Reviewed By An "Adult" - Dora the Explorer




DORA THE EXPLORER

A Review by: James Best, full-time parent and part-time man


As I see it, there's only a few theories for this show.

A) Everyday Dora goes in her backyard and retreats to her delusional world of weird places and quests because her parents are crackheads so she chooses to live in her fantasy.

B) Dora's giant football shaped head has made her an outcast among her people so she takes solace in the arms of a talking backpack and monkey.

C) Dora's weird life is real and she's some sort of oblivious child god on her planet that spends her days solving her world's bonkers problems.

I can't pick one so let's examine all three.  Because this show makes no sense and Dora speaking to me creeps me the golly jeepers out.  Her unblinking psycho stare makes me think she's going to crawl out of my TV a la The Ring.


THEORY 1:  DORA THE NEGLECTED 

Where are her parents?  This girl's like 6 years old.  Did the streets make her bilingual? Was this just language survival?  I can only assume she plays outside because her parents are running a crackhouse or meth den.

Sadly, by the looks of her skull shape, she's a crackbaby but I'm proud of her for using her mind to escape the situation.  Is the monkey real? I don't know.  If Boots is real, it begs the question: How did these junkie parents get her a real live monkey?  Probably a drug trade.  Maybe a customer appreciation gift from one of their Columbian drug lords.  If the monkey isn't real, then why imagine a monkey companion?  Why not just imagine herself into the show Full House?  A nice family structure full of catchphrases seems more enjoyable than drug parentage.

This Dora makes me sad.  But it's probably the most realistic.  There's no way good parents would let her out their sight for this long every day.  I'm afraid she even dreamed up her cousin Diego.  Or worse, Diego is real, is totally in a gang and that's why you don't see him much.

I hope the series ends with a call to Social Services.


THEORY 2:  DORA THE OUTCAST

Or she has no parents.  She's like a box-car child.  If the box-car children lived in some wacky magic land with talking mountains and maps that won't shut up about what they are.  "I'm the map I'm the map I'm the map..." Try to say that inside a paper shredder, Map.

Dora lives in crazy world.  Bags have mouths but no discernible need to eat.  Monkeys wear boots and foxes wear masks.  Dora can always wear shorts and swamps cry and snails have feelings that Dora spends her indigent life saving.  Dora's so lonesome she sometimes plays a version of Russian Roulette with a troll.  If she solves the riddle, she lives.  If she doesn't, he'll smash her into a puddle of sadness.

And yet she never stops smiling. Hope looks good in a bob haircut.

Now, again, she could be imagining all of this.  Her rejection from society might only be bearable by imagining herself out of her own hell-world.  There's even an episode where her "Mami" rubs it in her face about how replaceable Dora is by having twins right in front of her.  Dora can't cry though because her giant head barely has enough moisture to keep it alive.

Dora wanders the globe in a sort of hypnotic haze, trying to impress everyone with her Spanish language skills. She's like an ambassador to crazy. She lives off magical food and sleeps wherever she can find somewhere to lay her map down as a bed mat.  Sometimes her "cousin" Diego drops by to rub it in how good his life is and how normally shaped his head is.  She keeps the monkey not for friendship but for warmth and maybe some monkey stew if things get real bad.  

Street urchins have no friends.

THEORY 3:  DORA THE CHILD-GOD

Ok, let's say Weird World is real.  Stars actually talk to Dora and Backpacks are sentient.  Anthropomorphic cows and trumpet playing bugs and Gooey Swamps and Candy Condominiums and whatnot are all real and Dora spends her whole day roaming around on self-imposed quests. Why? Because she's some sort of fickle child-god who rules over this silly world.



What else could be the explanation?  

1st)   She's creepily omniscient.  She talks to you from your TV.  There's no film crew following her so what is she speaking into if we're supposed to believe this narrative?  Portals through time and space, duh. Dora Demi-God knows you're out there and talks to you.  

2nd)  Have you noticed how like no time passes while she's on her adventure?  It's because she's bending time/space like a boss.  Have you tried to climb a mountain?  It takes time.  Not for Dora though. Suspect.  Unless you're a child-god.

3rd)  Swiper is the devil. Yeah, that's right.  Dora's world is clearly demarcated by good and evil.  Helping is Good.  Swiping is Evil.  Swiper is clearly a Satan archetype and he's punished over and over by Dora's omniscient knowledge of where all the crap he stole got hidden.  She calls him out every time, "BAD SWIPER."  Totally the devil.

Let's face it, Dora is a God.  The whole world bends to her will.  She's never hurt by lava or wild animals or child advocate groups.  Sometimes she has butterfly wings or swings through the jungle without tiring her tiny toddler arms.  Even weirder, her world doesn't speak Alien, it speaks English and Spanish.  She's too powerful and she needs to be down by another god.  I nominate Thor.


OVERALL:  It's not the worst show out there but it's annoying as crap.  Halfway into your second episode, you'll be praying for your tv to set on fire.  I'm sure it teaches stuff and yeah, it's great that there's a Hispanic role model for kids.  Oh wait, we already had one.  His name is Luis Guzman.  So this show has zero value.  Turn on some Luis.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Kids Shows Reviewed by an "Adult" - Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood




DANIEL TIGER'S NEIGHBORHOOD

A review by: James Best, full-time parent and part-time man



DISCLAIMER:  Let’s assume I don’t know this came from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and all the characters are homages to puppets and characters he created.  Let’s just assume I sat down having no prior knowledge and experienced this show for the first time.  As some parents probably will.


PEOPLE PROBLEMS

First off, what’s going on with the animal/human mixing in this town?  We have anthropomorphic tigers, cats, and owls and then a bunch of human royalty.  Let's just gloss over the fact that the only black man in the town doesn't even have a name.  It's just Music Man.  And then there's Mr. McFeely.



His name is Mr. Mc-Feely.  In this day and age, maybe we don’t name the Postman who hangs with the kids Mr. “Mcfeely”. (Again, I know the reference.)  Would you take your kid to a teacher named Mr. Grabs or Ms. Badtouch?  No.  The parents of this town need to get a new postman or pool their money to get his name legally changed.  Mr. McPostman would work.  Or Dave.



Now the animal people wouldn’t be bad if it was consistent.  If they were all animal people or all people people.  But the mix is off-putting.  Especially because of the varying clothing rules.  Tigers and Cats go topsies only.  Owls go buck apparently.  Do you know what is cute? Owls in swim shorts. Picture it.  And you're loving it and I'm not wrong.

Also, Daniel the tiger boy has a pet fish.  Which means there’s a weird hierarchy in the animal kingdom.  The pantless human/animal hybrids dominate the weaker non-jacket wearers.  The Tiger family are oppressors.  They're keeping the other animals down.  All their words are lies.

CRAZY TOWN

So the theme song says we’re riding along with Daniel in his make-believe world.  So is the town make-believe or is it real?  Because it’s got a lot of problems up front.



1.     ROYALTY – Prince Wednesday lives with his brother, Prince Tuesday and their ancient dad, King Friday and his lady, Queen Sara Saturday.  The only thing I can assume in this name/day progression is that there was a Princess Sunday and Monday but they’ve been exiled or beheaded.

So the town’s governed by a monarchy? That’s bullcrap. If I was a tiger family, I would eat those dudes and take over the castle.   How does that town even support a castle? There’s like five businesses.



2.     BUSINESSES - This town must exist on an outside customer base.  It’s like a tourist town. The Post Office and School are government run so basically the whole town’s economic structure is a Museum, Music Shop, and a Bakery run by a dude named Baker Aker who is obviously in the Witness Protection Program. He’s living in make believe if he doesn’t think the mob is going to track him down with a stupid name like that.

3.     TROLLEY – Have you seen the size of the town? I’ve seen dollhouses that need more public transportation.  That trolley is killing the town revenue. The King is running this place into the ground.  The Princes need to get their patricide on and get some franchises in there.  Then Daniel could have an episode trying to talk Bill the Sad Applebee’s Manager off the castle wall. It would be classic.




Yeah, it’s a great show and teaches lots of values but the elements are weird.  I always want Daniel to slash one of the Princes and yell, “You think you’re better than me?!”  And why does O the Owl live with his uncle X the Owl?  What happened to his parents?  Were they gunned down Batman style?  I hope so.  That town needs some vigilante justice.  And by “town” I mean Mr. Mcfeely.  Because that dude is the neighborhood villain.  I haven't seen the whole first season, but I'm sure that the's cliffhanger.