Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Something I saw this morning

Like an ant drowning in a drop of rain,
Freedom closer than I know.
Lost and gasping for something so near,
Yet farther than I can go.
Through the lens of my prison,
Magnified for me to see.
All the things that I yearned for
But will never be.
Soon the struggle will be over.
Waving, swimming soon will cease.
Soon the drops will run together
And my soul will find release.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ray Charles and Life as We know it.

saw the movie "Ray" the other night. For all intents and purposes, Jamie Foxx is Ray Charles.
My purpose here is that this biopic relates what I’ve come to recognize as some greater truths, perhaps greater questions that I see repeated in the stories of "Successful" people:
Great Art often comes from great suffering, usually over time.
What causes certain individuals to not only overcome, but excel as a result of a handicap/injury/devastating event? Was the talent always there, was it "blind luck", were they exploited, were they driven by it, or ??
(The answer is, it depends. I’ll save my theory for Ray, for the moment).
Successful individuals are usually driven, beyond conventional restraint. This, of course, is what sets them apart.
They (alive or not) are recognized and enabled by another. This relationship typically ends poorly once success is achieved.
There are always others looking to exploit the talented. It colors and poisons all of their relationships.
They are usually lonely people, alienated by the same abilities that make them singular, including their appetites, which often defy convention as well. Addiction is a remedy for loneliness, which in turn ultimately serves to further their isolation.
Fame begets or intensifies isolation. Intense feelings of love and approval from thousands, followed by the absence of same when offstage.
Those who choose to live with these individuals must either accept these appetites and behaviors, or risk rejection. As this is not an option for children, their lives are usually dysfunctional by nearly any definition.
While their legacies influence, comfort and please millions, their own lives are fraught with tragedy equal to or greater than their power, influence, and stature.
So, what do I want from this life?
Ray Charles was a very lucky man, and for these reasons:
He had a Mother who was willing to put his life ahead of her own happiness, to the point of her own heartbreak and isolation from him. She, according to the movie, was the drive for him to succeed, as well as to conquer his addiction to heroin.
He had the intelligence to recognize and learn what he needed to know – how to hear, how to navigate.
Someone taught him how to play the piano.
He learned to imitate the styles of the times – to make a living making music.
He had someone to help him find his own voice, and supported his doing so.
He found an extraordinary woman to love him.
He was able to overcome an addiction that has killed so many in their prime. This movie could have very easily ended where it did, with his death.
I do not admire him any more, or any less as a result of this movie. His is an extraordinary life. The fact that he was famous is only part of it. That he could face his demons and conquer many of them sets him apart from most of us.

Happy Birthday, Sam!

Chuck E. Cheese is one of those one-of-a kind places, a formulation of design and implementation that has heretofore not been duplicated – although many have tried. Most adults do not understand it, but those who do have created a gold mine that exploits children and families for the maximum profit imaginable. The promise of a stress-lessened, provisioned party has been proven, once again, to produce a logistical nightmare akin to standing in the midst of a cattle stampede – holding a birthday cake. Although the warning signs are clear to those that would observe them, this appears to be a lesson that each nuclear unit has to experience for itself. This assures the CEC franchise a long and prodigious future.
We were victimized last Saturday, and the fact that we did so willingly and without reservation – actually we had reservations for 10 kids, a cake, party favors, pizza and tokens – makes it all the more disturbing. My duties as Dad consisted of policing Sam’s little sister and taking a few pictures, which was exhausting enough. Mom bore the brunt of the inattentive, immature, and at times, incapacitated staff. Her aplomb never ceases to amaze me when it comes to taking care of our children. I was ready to get back in the car and drive it into the ocean, before we even got in the front door.
I do not know what reason could possibly compel you toward another "Rat Palace", as my brother-in-law calls them, after reading this. IF YOU DO, please understand that probably every other grandparent and divorced dad with his kids for the weekend is going to head there WHEN IT RAINS. I am not the type of person who loves crowds to begin with, and I would rather eat rolled tacos in my car than wait in line for more than 20 minutes outside any restaurant. I digress – back to our story.
Our plan was simple: invite our young guests a half an hour before our reserved table at the feet of his Chuckness was scheduled, allowing them to "be a kid", as promised. We, arriving even earlier, found a line trailing out of the front door. As the manager explained, they were at capacity, and, because there was and is no time limit – he did not say that the limits lie only in one’s bank balance and ability to absorb noise - that no one was to be admitted until some of those inside had had enough. He attributed their success to the rain that, fortunately, had passed through earlier. When pressed by those of us holding cakes, presents, small children, and reservations, he admitted that we would be admitted 15 minutes prior to our pre-arranged time. This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. "Being a Kid" in a parking lot isn’t nearly as much fun.
Shifting your attention, I would just like to say that I was filled with gratitude that I had not selected the career of managing one of these franchises as my life’s work. I do not know what that poor man earns; my sincere hope is that he’s involved in some short of profit-sharing program. "Middle Management" only begins to describe his predicament on this, the anniversary of my son’s birth. Caught between irate parents and the befuddled youngsters in his employ, swirling in a sea of token-toting midgets with tickets trailing, lines inside and out, door alarms sounding, shoes littering the floor, beer-swilling post-adolescents to keep an eye on. . . I have to admit it brought a cruel smile to my lips every time I saw him bustle by.
The kids got in, they got pizza, cake, goody bags, tokens, and I think a decent time – 7 and 8 year olds kinda thrive on the chaos for a while, anyway. I took pictures, helped serve a little pizza, got to hug my Mom &Dad a couple of times, and exchange a few sentences with the inlaws and outlaws. All of the hassles of putting on a party at home or the park were just crammed into an intense 3-hour melee in a big, noisy room with 10 other families and their closest friends. I did get to see Sam’s face when he got the present that he wanted, and it made it all worthwhile.
We just won’t ever do this again, unless, of course, Emma wants one. On a Tuesday. In July. Maybe. If we can’t talk her out of it. I’ll even offer Legoland. Please just don’t make me go back there.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I Don't Know

I had a bit of an epiphany today - well not exactly, more like an epiphonette, epiphonista. I was attempting to tell one of my co-workers something, and he finished my sentence for himself and me, with a completely different ending from the one I was going to put on it. I was trying to provide him with information that was in his best interest, but, because he had already decided what I was saying, I smartly drew my own conclusion to our social intercourse. Communicatus interruptus. I was, well, not pleased.
It dawned upon me how often I do this to other people, more often than I'd like to admit, and probably most often with those I love the most. I don't know why this has occurred to me so clearly on a Tuesday morning. We weren't even talking about anything important. I guess in my own, selfish thinking, finishing someone else's sentence was evidence that I was engaged in the conversation. What I was being was impertinent.
I resolve to make my best effort to let you finish your sentence. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it, but I will try. I realized, maybe for the first time, today, how important it is to let you say it, even if I think I know what it is. I wonder how many sentences that I've finished the way my co-worker did, and the other person just let it go at that. As Bugs Bunny says, What a Maroon."