Saturday, December 22, 2012

Off Season Post: God Rest Their Little Souls

Hello, Readers.   Welcome back to this week’s installment.  I have to confess that I had plans this week to attempt to create an exceptionally witty post.  I even had what I thought were a few creative ideas with which to stimulate your collective fancies.  Like the boxes of ornaments in the attic, I planned to dust off a few of my usual Christmas-time jokes.  Let’s see, there’s my seasonally updateable “how do you get an elf pregnant” joke and my favorite holiday joke; you know, the one where I show off my colored balls and put on my mistletoe belt buckle.    

Over the past few years I’ve always written about what comes easily for me to write.  I suppose a person could rightfully accuse me of laziness in that regard.  However, the truth is that I am only capable of writing what comes easily for me to write. 

Normally, my hectic work schedule and my just-as-busy personal life account for the gaps in between my posts—particularly the off-season ones.  Many times, though, those gaps are created by what is commonly referred to as writer’s block. 

So what’s my point?

As a male well into his adulthood few things either impress me or capture my attention anymore.  In fact, that’s a big reason why it’s easy for me to write about the inane content of The Bachelor each week.  As small children we were all once enthralled to the point of uncontainable fascination by the face of a parent simply popping out from behind the cover of a blanket and declaring “peek-a-boo” before themselves dissolving into the same fit of laughter on our toothless faces.  Very few, if any, things like that remain for us as adults.  That’s why we bungee jump or take exotic vacations, I suppose.  Unfortunately—like it or not—boredom is a consequence of experience.   

Like most of you reading, last Friday, December 14, began just about as normally and uneventfully as any other day begins.  I awoke, showered, dressed, and headed to work.  I left for my usual lunchtime trip to the gym and deadened myself to my surroundings with the help of the Pandora App on my iPhone and began to run.  In front of the treadmills at my gym is a long line of television sets, all of which are tuned to different stations so as to maximize my overt attempt at sensory over saturation which, of course, leads me inevitably to my Zen place until the pain in my knees and back jerks me back into reality like that giant cane they used to use on the Vaudevillians. 

Five minutes into my run I began seeing the footage from the Sandy Hook Elementary School and as I read the captions below the pictures I experienced a visceral reaction that I frankly have not experienced since picking up the phone on September 11, 2001, and hearing my father tell me that my two cousins (a New York Fireman and a New York Policeman) were at Ground Zero. 

I am sickened physically and exhausted mentally over the gratuitous and unabated coverage of these events.  I am appalled by the overwhelming speculation by reporters and various other talking heads.  I am flabbergasted that children as young as 6 years old were interviewed at the site of the shootings and asked to recount what they saw inside of the school.  I am horrified that the shooter was in a very real sense a child himself. I am angry at the opportunism spawned by this event on both sides of the political aisle.  I am saddened beyond measure by the death of the 7 adults, many of whom probably knew what fate awaited them but nevertheless remained to face it in the name of protecting the children in that school.  But most of all, I am devastated at the loss of the 20 children—all between 5 and 7 years old—who did nothing but go to school that day.    

In a way, I have no choice but to write about this today.  JP and Ashley’s wedding special was a meaningless, ridiculous event prior to Friday.  Today, it barely deserves acknowledgement. 

So here we are.  I’d like to share some of my thoughts about the shootings.  I’m sorry if many of you came here looking for an escape from the coverage, the faces of those children, and the immeasurable loss inflicted upon the parents and families of all of those who died.  If you’d like to stop reading, I understand.  Come back next week. 

I’ll start—appropriately enough, I think--with a book that is ironically required reading for school age children. 

“But while I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written 'fuck you' on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them— all cockeyed naturally— what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever'd written it.” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, himself obsessed with the idea of staying young in order to preserve the time before he lost his innocence, knew through his own experience that freedom from the world’s “fuck you’s” is a thing that deserves to be prolonged as long as it can be prolonged—perhaps longer.  Yet, Holden himself discovers that it is impossible to prevent the children from running innocently through the metaphorical rye and falling off the cliff. 

From a parent’s perspective, all a parent knows is the protection of his child.  Inherent in every parent is Holden Caulfield’s desire to keep his child safe.  Said another way: 

“He knew only that the child was his warrant.  He said:  If he is not the word of God God never spoke”  --Cormac McCarthy, The Road

As “deep” as that may strike you, I’m not certain it fits neatly into what happened at that school last week.  Those children—the ones who died—died as innocent as the day they were born.  They were not escapees running unwittingly and unknowingly through the rye.  They were victims in the purest sense of the word and perhaps that is the most horrific part of this entire “thing.”   

“Nature where everything comes from, nature where everything falls back,
leaves, nests, soft branches that the air does not dare rustle,
don't make noise around this tomb;
let the child sleep and the mother weep!” wrote Victor Hugo. 
Indeed, those mothers will be weeping for a long time.  What’s worse is the relentless media onslaught and the mind-numbing political opportunism of the “gun control” and “mental health” advocates.  What happened to civilized debate and respect for the dead, I ask myself every time I turn on the television to see the latest reactionary response or self-aggrandizing political speech about “doing something” in the name of “our children.”  It’s obscene, really. 
One of my close friends is an Emergency Medicine doctor at the busiest high trauma hospital here in Austin.  I often meet him for drinks or dinner and, in the right moment, he opens up about the desensitization required in order for him to perform his job.  He once told me that aside from being rarely and momentarily bothered by “good people in bad situations” he is able to completely remove himself emotionally from his work—with one exception. 
“There is nothing worse than telling parents they’ve lost their child,” he once said before getting up from the table and immediately changing the subject upon his return from the restroom.  I suppose the doctors and first responders who were forced by the sheer coincidence of being scheduled to work during the hours of the shootings will carry the weight of carrying out that horrific responsibility forever.    
Look, this blog is many things, but it’s never been political and it sure as hell is not a vehicle for social statement.  I suppose this is as close as I’ll come before retreating into the safety, stupidity, and ease of armchair quarterbacking a meaningless reality show (please pardon the redundancy).  If you’ll humor me for a bit, however, I have a few more things to say.  I promise to be brief.   
First, regardless of your personal stance on guns, the Second Amendment, mental health, or any other hot button issue grabbed by whatever opponent and defended by whatever advocate happened to pick up the phone when Nancy Grace or Bill O’Reilly called, I think it’s worth noting (this, I confess, is the attorney in me) that all of the facts of this crime are simply not known. 
My own opinion is that Mr. Lanza would have found a method and a means to do what he did regardless of his access to firearms and ammunition.  Picking up a gun in the heat of the moment is one thing (ask Marvin Gaye’s father, for instance), but planning something like this is another.  The two largest attacks on this country were perpetrated with fertilizer and box cutters and both were planned for years.  I suspect (unfortunately) that regardless of the outcome of this particular series of events, others will inevitably follow. 
On a side note, I waited until after December 21 to post this just in case the world ended like the Mayans predicted.  It struck me after midnight on that day that if the Mayans were smart enough to predict the end of the world then there would still be Mayans.  Back to my rant.
Still, I understand that basic human need to “do something” rather than wallow in the realization that we are all, in a real sense of the word, helpless to prevent these sorts of things from happening.  I suspect that’s what’s really going on in the minds of those holding signs in front of buildings or hurling profanities at other temporarily insane, just as passionate people on the other side of the street.  It’s difficult to have an open mind when something like this happens.  Unfortunately, that’s the only way to reach any semblance of a solution.
Likewise, I’ve seen a mountain of articles, interviews, and blog posts (I’ve been interested in this quite a bit) declaring that God was (or wasn’t) there or that He caused (or didn’t cause) the deaths of the children or, in the alternative, that he permitted this to happen.  I’ve read that gay marriage and abortion law are the cause of this and that the taking of innocent children is God’s way of getting our attention. 
My response to all of that is (again, this is the lawyer in me speaking) is that it is impossible to know the mind of another person much less the Creator of the entire Universe.  Any attempt to espouse His real intent, involvement, indeed, even his presence at the event, is simply speculation on our part.  We’d all do better to believe quietly what we believe and to simply yet deliberately put those into action.  The parents, siblings, grandparents, family members, and friends who lost someone in that school need help not a lesson. 
I’d like to end this by reminding all of you that Christmas is upon us.  Whether that’s a secular holiday or the most important religious holiday of the year for you, it’s a time when the world tends to slow down long enough for us to reflect on the goodness in all of us.  Even during the worst time in my life when I was marred by cynicism (and a few other –isms) there was something about seeing the Christmas lights along the neighborhood streets or coming home to turn on the television to see the Peanuts gang singing Silent Night around that famous Charlie Brown Christmas tree that always made me smile.  Keep that in mind for me, would you?

Shakespeare wrote about the loss of a child in the last act of Hamlet. 
Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end

Let’s all hope that an end eventually comes to the abject suffering of the survivors of the Sandy Hook shootings.  If not, let’s hope they all find enough peace to live their lives.  In spite of the miss of the Mayans, I doubt there is enough time left in the lives of the survivors with which to make true peace.  Perhaps some meaning will come of all of this. 
However, in the likely event that meaning refuses to show its face, let’s all take the time to notice a child and to appreciate the laughter and the smiles that radiate from within them.  Let us all take an extra second to notice the look on their faces when they open “Santa’s” gifts and may we all laugh hysterically at the icing on their Christmas cookie-filled faces---all the while appreciating the fact that those priceless gifts were stolen from 26 sets of parents on December 14th, 2012, for absolutely no reason at all. 
Jane Austen wrote, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

For now, I will talk about it no more. 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.  Be safe.  I’ll see you back here in January.   DP

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bachelor Sean's Season: DP Rates the Ladies

Hello, Readers.  That’s right, it’s time to kick off the next season of the show I’m completely sick of watching but personally obligated to review for you.  It’s time to put the substantive topics and sophomoric high school antics stories away for a while and dust off my Bachelor speak in preparation for yet another (boring) Texan’s amazing journey to find the sugar in his tea or the spurs on his boots or—in Sean’s case—the gel in his hair. 

If you’ve been sticking around and putting up with my unpredictability over the past few months, thank you.  If you abandoned me in order to spend more time on Pinterest, Reality Stan, Pioneer Woman, or whatever alternative blog tickles your collective fancy then welcome back.  Now let’s get to it. 

Sean.  Sigh…  Ok, so he surveyed well after getting dumped on his “aw shucks, I’m such a nice guy even though I squint uncontrollably” ass by Emily in favor of the filthy rich Mormon with the sweet ranch in Utah.  Oh yea, and Jef had a personality too.  Look, I don’t want to be too hard on Sean . . . yet.  He’s clearly built for the obligatory three shower scenes per show, seems like a nice enough guy in spite of his oculocutaneous albinism, and was sufficiently interesting enough to stick around for the final three last season.  We all know that’s enough to overcome ABC’s aversion for the risk of actually going out and searching for a new guy to assume the helm of the S.S. Bachelor this season.  In short, we’re stuck with this guy for the next few months.  We might as well begin by giving him the benefit of the doubt.  But first, let’s run down the ladies. 

DISCLAIMER:  I don’t know any of these broads.  My comments here come strictly from two things.  First, the head shot.  Granted, they’re air brushed and polished more than the Queen’s silver teapot, but that’s all we have go by in the looks category until the big show airs.  Second, the woefully inadequate profile featuring such earth-shatteringly insightful questions as “If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?  How would you use it?”  (Riveting) and “Do you consider yourself a romantic?”  A more useful inquiry would be “do you consider yourself crazy?” 

Let’s see what Sean has to work with this season. 

1.         Amanda—Blessed by a fortuitously alphabetical-ordered name, Amanda makes it clear right out of the gate that this year’s Ubiquitous 30-foot Scarf is the Statement Necklace.  I have it on good authority (see SLF) that over sized, colorful necklaces are trending upward.  Amanda seems cute enough and, while the ages of the ladies are conspicuously absent this time, appears to be one of the younger ones in the bunch.  She has an affinity for writing in second person and would choose teleportation as her superpower because it’s “easier than traveling.”   Someone over at ABC needs to explain to her that teleportation is, in fact, a form of traveling.  Maybe Sean could use that as an ice breaker.

PREDICTION:  Amanda and her Statement Necklace will make it past the cocktail party.

2.         Ashlee—Again, riding the happy accident that her parents chose the letter “E” rather than the letter “Y” at the end of her name, she ranks alphabetically first in a series of Ashlees this season.  Also  failing to distinguish herself by attempting to distinguish herself with a Statement Necklace, Ashlee smiles pensively through her thick brown hair and subtle highlights doing her best to not look like Fergie.  If she could have lunch with one person it would be (brace yourselves for this one) Adele.  Just in case my instincts were incorrect I Googled “Adele” praying that there was some historical figure who shared the same name as the portly singer.  Nope.  If Ashlee would have lunch with any person in the world, she’d pick Adele.  As I’ve said before, “Sigh. . .”.  PREDICTION:  She gets the boot. 

3.         Ashley H.—Remember when I referred earlier to Sean’s oculocutaneous albinism?  I’m not sure this combination would fly over at Kensington and Smith’s mansion of a playhouse at Sean’s brother’s place in Plano either.  On the up side, I’m sure Kensington and Smith will ask her if she’s there to clean the playhouse. 

Alright, perhaps those comments are in poor taste.  However, in context, I find it disturbing that ABC caved to the pressure of having a politically correct amount of diversity in its selections.  Look, if Sean was involved in the process and picked all 25 of these women, then I’m wrong.  Ashley H. is very pretty and her profile is straightforward and simple.  She also has one hell of a Statement Necklace.  Sean would do well to give her some one-on-one time at the cocktail party rather than wasting his time with some of the others.  PREDICTION:  She’s a top 5 finisher. 

4.         Ashley P.—This season’s first hermaphrodite and definitely the least attractive of the Ashlees.  Again, I’m just going by the head shot but her features are a tad on the masculine side.  In her profile, she alludes to the fact that all of her friends are married which means she might be a bit older than the median age of the bunch.  That could mean that she’s taken the time to learn and mature in her life.  It could also mean she’s got more baggage than the Samsonite store at the local outlet mall.  PREDICTION:  She’s more attractive in person and makes it past the cocktail party. 

5.         Brooke—You know what would have worked better than those feather earrings?  A Statement Necklace.  Her favorite “holiday” is her birthday.  Apparently, Brooke not only has poor taste in earrings, she’s also a rampant narcissist.  Normally, a person has to either discover a new continent or be assassinated in order to have his birthday designated as a holiday.  My favorite holidays?  Christmas, Labor Day, Easter, New Year’s Day, and Brooke’s Birthday.  Sort of a non-sequitur, isn’t it?   PREDICTION:  She’ll drift away like feather earrings in the wind. 

6.         Catherine—My initial reaction upon clicking the forward arrow on my screen and seeing her picture come up was, “she’s cute.”  That’s not a word I use often; however, I think it is the perfect one here.  Pleasant face, pleasant smile.  Rather than going with Oprah (or Adele), Catherine chose the more vague, infinitely inclusive “anyone who can look beyond themselves and unselfishly help others” for her Who do you admire answer.  Presumably combining a trip to her half-homeland with her bucket list, she tells us that she wants to ride an elephant in Thailand.  If she plays her cards correctly, she’ll likely get to ride a beefy albino in Dallas.  Now that’s what I’d call a happy ending.  PREDICTION:  She’s either certifiably crazy or she’ll make it to the Fantasy Date.

7.         Daniella—A clearly more “mature” woman with “blonde” hair and a gift for dirty come hither looks and brevity in her profile answers.  PREDICTION:  Like her Statement Necklace and her profile answers, her stay will be unremarkable and brief. 

8.         Desiree—Her name is exactly one “E” too long.  She’s a brunette with pretty eyes and an average smile. “Eat, Pray, Love” is her favorite book because she characterizes it as a “personal journey of overcoming and finding love.”  I’m not sure how a person overcomes love.  I have to disagree wholeheartedly with Desiree about that book.  It’s about a rich woman who goes on a self-indulgent trip because she can afford to do it.  The only “journey” in it is the one where she runs away from her own responsibilities in the name of eating and sleeping her way across several continents.    Desiree also doesn’t like a guy who tries to impress her, which should serve her well when it comes to Sean’s personality.  PREDICTION:  She’ll be sent packing after the cocktail party.

9.         Diana—Puppy-eyed girl next door type with a plunging neckline and an obvious affinity for tanning beds.  She’s physically attractive but I can’t get past her profile.  She wants to be “treated like a lady,” which is fine provided it doesn’t mean “I want my ass kissed all day.”  She also wants to be Taylor Swift for a day to know what it feels like to be “extremely talented.”  Good Lord, where do they find these people?  PREDICTION:  She’s Never Ever Ever Ever Going to Win.  (Props to me for the Taylor Swift tie in.  I’m horrified that joke came so easily to me.) 

10.       Jackie—She’s my favorite.   Granted, her picture is air brushed to the point of not looking real and the lighting makes her eye makeup look more like war paint, but I love her profile.  It’s honest and—unlike the majority of the rest of them—doesn’t scream “I’m trying too hard to impress you!”  She also forwent the Statement Necklace in favor of a simple gold locket.  Bold, considering her peer group, wouldn’t you agree?  She not so subtely tees up this season’s first suffering parent story, so I’ll have to reserve judgment until I see how that’s positioned.    PREDICTION:  She’ll stick around for a while.

11.       Kelly—Another “blonde” with a lot of make up.  She looks like Carmen Electra’s younger, sluttier (if that’s possible) sister.  Like David Bowie, her eyes are different colors.  She characterizes herself as “Adventurous” (read, promiscuous) and her profile is rife with clichés like “first and foremost.”  She also admits, albeit subtly, to reading self help books.  She’s either really cool or really nuts.  We’ll see.  PREDICTION:  She’ll be around for a few shows. 

12.       Katie—Pretty brunette with Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons hair.  She’s very pretty and is also a member of the Statement Necklace Team.  She loves “The Southern Region,” which might prove advantageous for Sean if he keeps her around for the Fantasy Dates.  Ah yes, I’m back.  We’ve gone from race stereotyping all the way to anal sex references.  I’ve missed doing this.  PREDICTION:  She seems normal.  She’ll fly under the radar for a while and might even be a dark horse.   

13.       Keriann—Ho Hum.  She loves salsa dancing and has an unbelievably naïve definition of marriage in her profile.  PREDICTION:  She’ll make it past round one.

14.       Kristy—She’s another one of my favorites in the looks category.  She loves “Father of the Bride” and “Dirty Dancing” which means she’s overly romantic and wants to be swept off of her feet.  Considering the fact that Sean threw that giant log so hard in his kilt until it eventually broke last season, it appears that Sean is capable (at least physically) of performing that act.  She also loves “exotic places,” which (say it with me) might prove advantageous for Sean if he keeps her around for the Fantasy Dates.  PREDICTION:  She’ll make it far.  

15.       Lacey—Another “mature” and “blonde” woman.  She and her stripper name like “being mysterious,” which is good because she’s going to have to lie about her age.  PREDICTION:  She should book a return ticket to Cougarville right away.

16.       Lauren—She’s my favorite for Sean.  In fact, she’s perfect.  She’s blonde, perky, and likely a dunce.  She’ll fit in perfectly in Uptown Dallas.  She uses “My brothers and I” incorrectly and tells us that the best book she ever read (on tape, no doubt) was written by that literary titan Katie Couric.  PREDICTION:  Fantasy Date.


17.       Lesley—She looks like Nicole Ritchie if Nicole Ritchie took up eating.  Her favorite memory from childhood is “the whole thing in its entirety”.  In fact, her childhood was “perfect.”  Run, Sean.  She’s either spoiled rotten or her expectations for a man are unattainable.  Apparently, her childhood was not that perfect.  She failed to learn English grammar.  PREDICTION:  She’ll make it past the party. 

18.       Leslie—She wants to be homeless.  Attractive but unremarkable.  PREDICTION:  Sean will drop her off under a bridge after the cocktail party. 


19.       Lindsay—Another favorite—She’s the “party starter” with the best head shot.  Her horrible date story is that she once got set up with “an old man”.  He was totally like almost 40.  She’s hot and fun.  PREDICTION:  Top 5.

20.       Robyn—Attractive, but an oddly creepy smile.  She admits to stalking her friend’s ex-boyfriend. The jury is still out on this one.  PREDICTION:  She’ll make it past round one.

21.       Sarah—She’s the aging college drop out who went to art school.  She also refers to her dog as her son, which is one of my pet peeves (no pun intended).  She’s  Gwen’s age for crying out loud and it appears that she borrowed her Statement Necklace from her bestest high school friend, Nefertiti.  Google it.  That’s a good joke.  PREDICTION:  She’ll be in her home town well before the hometown dates.

22.       Selma—Very easy on the eyes.  She’s apparently mastered the head tilt cutesie smile pose.  She wants to be Oprah but I won’t hold that against her in light of her appearance.  She’s “sentimental” but not “romantic” which might mean that she’s got a solid head on her supple shoulders.  Sean should definitely stand up for his rights and stage a big march on Selma.  He should judge her not by the color of her skin but by the content of her character.  MLK and Selma references.  See what I did there?  PREDICTION:  She’ll go far. 

23.       Taryn—Another aging “blonde.”  She has a gift for sentence fragments and looking like Olivia Newton-John.  Other than that, I find nothing worth noting.  Time will tell her fate.  PREDICTION:  She’ll get expelled from Rydell High School.

24.       Tierra—Her name means “land” in Spanish; however, this Tierra is not del Fuego.   She has a bit of a naughty look to her orange tanning creamed face and body.  I’ll bet Tierra can’t wait to get plowed.  I’ll bet she can’t wait for Sean to survey her acreage.  I’ll save the rest of my Tierra land jokes in hopes that she makes it past the cocktail party.  PREDICTION:  Pray she makes it.  I’m warehousing jokes as you read this.   

Yes, we're missing 25.  Gee, I can't wait to see what the surprise is.  Well, there it is.  My rundown.  The big show starts January 7.  I have an off season post or two I’ll be getting to between now and then. Enjoy your holidays.  In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be shopping for Statement Necklaces.  DP

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Word About My Father

Hello, Readers.   I trust everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a meaningful and restful holiday weekend.  It was nice to have a few days free from the cluttered pile of work on my desk and--as is always the case--it sucks to be back. 
I ate more than a fat kid in a candy store.  I feel like Kirstie Alley for crying out loud.  I'm so bloated I've resorted to taking Midol and water pills.  Late-70's Elvis would look at me and say "Man, you look bloated."    
I'm like a terrified puffer fish. I sneezed earlier today and gravy came out of my nose. My six pack feels like it's been vigorously shaken. I'm as blocked up as the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour. Mt. Vesuvius was less angry than my digestive system is right now.
I trust you're beginning to get the picture so I'll stop beating the dead horse--although, as I type that sentence it occurs to me that a bloated farm animal in extremis is perhaps the most accurate metaphor for my post-Thanksgiving condition.  At any rate, I ate a ton and I had a good weekend.    

I awoke early this morning, a rare exception to my biologically imposed status quo and an amazing feat for me in the absence of an angry alarm clock.  Some Guy is a bona fide night owl with diagnosable insomnia and I have been since perhaps the age of ten or so.  I have vivid memories of my father literally dragging me out of bed for 8 a.m. soccer games when I was a child.  In fact, the majority of the posts on this blog have been written between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.  In law school, those were also my most productive study hours. 

After reading my current literary choice for a bit (I won't bore you with the title), I grabbed my iPad and began to peruse the news.  Let me restate that.  I went straight to my TMZ App in order to see who was arrested last night.  I guess that's "news."  LiLo and behold I was shocked to see that, yet again, Lindsay Lohan had been arrested in GASP! a New York night club and charged with assault.  Frankly, I don't know how that self-entitled little brat has stayed out of jail as long as she has, but she's apparently going to have a bit of time to contemplate that in her new cell for 6 months to 1 year very soon.  The up side for her is that she'll have nothing to do all day but smoke.   

Amazed, I got up and jumped in the shower thinking about poor LiLo's (I hate the new trend of abbreviating celebrity names, by the way) run ins with the law, which inevitably lead me to the topic of personal responsibility.  At this point it is difficult to argue that she is anything but responsible for her own situation.  However, between Dina and Michael Lohan, her "parents," it's almost impossible to ignore the deplorable example they've set as human beings.  It's incredible that she made it past adolescence although I suspect that has something to do with the fact that she's been a cash cow since she was a child.  It's sad, really. 

Inevitably, my thoughts wandered to that aforementioned rude awakening by my own father who, from the first time I stepped on a field, court, diamond, or track coached every sports team I was on until those duties were wrested from him by junior high and high school coaches.  I have a vivid memory of my father running from the parking lot late for soccer practice with clipboard and whistle in hand still in his work boots and jeans after getting stuck at work because of the 1983 phone company strike.  My father didn't believe in unions or in strikes and he was one of very few people to cross the picket line and continue to work.  His reward?  90 hour work weeks, little sleep, and the same gold watch he would have received anyway when he retired.  In hindsight, those were probably insignificant things to endure in exchange for keeping his principles and integrity.  I digress. 

With the exception of one high school basketball game on a Tuesday night that was a 3 hour drive from home both of my parents attended every single event I, my brother, and my sister ever participated in as children.  I've often reflected upon that feat as an adult trying to manage his own unbearably busy life and there is no other explanation for it other than the fact that my parents unquestionably and without hesitation always made us their first priority, often (very often) to their own detriment.  I'd like to share with you some thoughts about my father.  In the spirit of brevity and clarity, I'll save mom for a different post.

There is something inherently odd about reaching an age (my birthday is this Tuesday) that I have a clear and distinct memory of my father reaching when I was in my early teens.  When I think back to my earliest memories of my father I remember his hands.  I can't explain why, however.  I look down at my own hands now and I see his hands and I am forced to compare myself to my father not just physically but in every other way as well. 

I have many memories of my relationship with my father from my childhood through my early adulthood.  Few, if any at all, are negative.  My father was a consistent model of hard work (he began climbing telephone poles at the age of 16 for the phone company and eventually worked his way into management), dedication to his family, self sacrifice, and practicality.  We lived frugally not, as is the case with many people from immigrant parents like his, out of an unwillingness to spend money but rather from a constant shortage of money.  We certainly weren't poor, but--as I learned in an offhand comment my father made many years later--we lived literally paycheck to paycheck and, thanks to my mother's liberal use of the local mall, sometimes beyond that.  

My parents made significant financial sacrifices so my siblings and I could grow up in a safe place with an excellent school system that would prepare us all for a college education--neither the former nor the latter were afforded to my father who had both the intellectual capacity and the desire to attend college. 

While most of my friends' fathers came home with fresh shoe polish on their shoes and a sharp crease in their slacks my father came home with fresh mud on his work boots and fresh grease on his jeans.  On many occasions he shared that he regrets allowing himself to be talked out of his first semester of college by his parents and extended family in order to "find a trade" and "put money away for the future."  Not everyone benefited from the Depression mentality. 

As short sighted as that advice may have been it's understandable considering it came from uneducated, Italian-speaking immigrants who arrived on Ellis Island with nothing and who had sacrificed greatly in order to establish themselves.  My grandfather's name was "Faustino" until his first American teacher declared it "too silly for a little boy" and began calling him "August"--the month he began school.  He was "Grandpa Gus" for the rest of his life and, in fact, into eternity because his gravestone bears that rather than that silly other name. 
I am fortunate that my father realized the value of both education and environment long before I was born and I am even more fortunate that he was unselfish enough to do whatever it took in order for me to have access to both after I was born.  
There's a point to all of this and I'll get to it . . . eventually. 

I recall being dragged out of bed on a Saturday morning in order to play a soccer game.  I was probably around 10 years old.  We got in the van and my father drove through our neighborhood and picked up a couple of the other boys who played on the team with my twin brother and me. 

Assuming the roles of both coach and bus driver were things I took for granted at that time.  It never occurred to me that the reason that both roles were available for my father to assume was because the other fathers weren't clamoring at the doors of the gymnasium on registration day in order to assume them for him. 
On the way to the field, we stopped at the local Shell station for gas and headed to the field where my father coached the game.  An hour later we loaded up to head home and dropped all of my friends off at their houses.  Incidentally, I recall pulling in a one of those boy's driveway and seeing his father sitting in a lawn chair reading the morning paper with a cup of coffee and waving to my dad as he dropped off the man's son. 

My brother and I were playing the requisite game of grab ass in the back seat when the van stopped.  I remember looking up and expecting to be in our driveway.  However, we were back at the Shell station and my father was inside talking to the cashier.  He quickly returned, put the van into gear, and headed home.  My brother asked, "Dad, why did you go back to the gas station."  My father looked calmly in the rear view mirror and said, "because I realized at the soccer field that I was in such a hurry this morning that I forgot to pay for my gas."  "Oh," we responded in unison. 

In retrospect, I don't believe I could have been given any lecture, textbook definition, admonishment, or any other form of lesson that would have so succinctly and cleanly illustrated the concept of honesty.  In fact, I cannot think of any other instance in my life since that day that has. 

As formal as I've made him sound, my father also has quite a sense of humor.  Indeed, both of my parents are inherently funny people.  I have to admit that my saltier side comes almost exclusively from my maternal roots; however, the clever side may be traced back squarely to the paternal ones. 

From the time I was old enough to assist my father insisted that my brother and I help him with the yard work.  In retrospect, our yard was a standard sized corner lot in a suburban neighborhood but to a kid saddled with the duty of mowing it, it seemed much larger.  Yard duties consisted primarily of 3 things:  Mowing, Edging, and Sweeping.  When we were big enough to manage the mower my father gladly surrendered that chore in favor of edging.  My brother and I (never without a fight) would switch from week to week between mowing and sweeping.  Invariably, my father would be the ultimate arbiter on "who's turn it was" to mow or sweep.  This was usually preceded by 15 minutes of "did not", "did too" followed by a fist fight.  Boys. 

Now, in my neighborhood yard work was a standard burden for all school age boys.  Like Toughskins jeans, it was passed down from older generations to younger ones.  However, if you'll recall earlier I listed among my father's greatest attributes "practicality."  While the majority of my friends mowed their own yards with the Holy Grail of lawn mowers--the self propelled, self bagging, super efficient Lawn Boy--my brother and I were relegated to the cheapest model my dad could find at the local Sears store.  Another important fact to mention for those of you reading this in far away places is the fact that Texas is rife with St. Augustine grass.
It looks like this:

Remember Toughskins? They looked like this:

St. Augustine grass is used for a few reasons:  It's thick as hell, impossible to kill, and outgrows weeds.  In short, if it's left to it's own devices it will be thicker than spray tan on Snooki.  Add in a good rain and it gets mushy and squishy to walk on--also like Snooki.  Whenever my brother and I would bitch about it being too difficult to mow due to the aforementioned qualities, my father's response was a canned "tough" or "Can't means you're not trying hard enough"--one of his favorites.  In retrospect, his refusal to assist me forced me to figure it out--albeit while cursing his despotism.  That skill--figuring it out--has been innumerably applied throughout my adult life.   
One Summer evening, I recall my father standing in the driveway with my mother talking to our neighbors as I struggled tremendously to push the mower across the lawn after rain had soaked it the day before.  I failed to mention that the average high temperature in Houston, Texas in the summer is around 98 degrees, which much to my chagrin, is also the average humidity. 
As I pushed and pushed I succeeded in getting the mower to go five to ten feet before stalling under the suffocating thickness of the wet grass.  Frustrated, I'd clear the mower, restart it and push some more.  After stalling for the fifth or sixth time I remember my neighbor, Nancy, looking over at my father and saying, "You really need to get yourself a self-propelled mower."  My father, without hesitation, replied, "I have a self-propelled mower.  I put a kid behind it and it propels itself."  Oddly enough, I found that neither humorous nor practical at that particular time.  I still don't.   
I mentioned my father's propensity for dispensing wisdom to me with a single word or a simple phrase.  As annoying as those bits of wisdom were to me at the time, their repetition has permanently embossed them on my brain.  Below are a few of them.    
  • The saddest thing in life is wasted talent
  • Always do your best
  • You don't get rewarded by me for doing what you're supposed to do in the first place
  • Education gives you options
  • Can't means you're not trying hard enough
  • If I told you to jump off a bridge, would you?  (His response to "He told me to do it")
  • Were you raised in a barn? (upon seeing my disheveled room)
  • Get out of my chair
  • Apply Yourself (this in response to a poor progress report or difficulty with homework)
Am I plagued with the impression that my father is perfect? Absolutely not. Like any human being, he has flaws and weaknesses.  He is, however, by any measure an exceptional person.  Time has proven him to be a consistent, moral, humble, dedicated person.  Indeed, I have been be direct beneficiary of all of those things in my lifetime.  However, there is a bitter side to that realization as I approach the date of my birth.  I do not have my father's habits nor do I have his integrity.  I have often fallen short where he has succeeded.  I have wasted the precious talents I was given.  I haven't always done my best nor have I tried my hardest.
I think it might be comforting to a person who grew up with a disinterested or abusive father to realize that he has overcome his father's faults and has emerged a better person than his father.  I, on the other hand, have become less than he was at my age and am less than he is now.  That realization makes me admire him more and it makes me want to do better in the years ahead of me.  I'm thankful I have access to a good set of blueprints in order to try and make that happen. 
Thanks for reading this week.  Take care of yourselves.  In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be shopping for a self-propelled mower.  DP