Monday, May 7, 2012

Best Dad Evar's Legacies #gbe2

Today Best Dad Evar can be found in the midst of blaring music, 20-somethings with bare shoulders and tight shorts, heavy breathing and the smell of sweat. Over the noise of his own pounding heartbeat, Best Dad Evar hears the soft voice of his conscience, er, personal narrator.
“Best Dad.”
Best Dad’s head shakes involuntarily at the intrusion. It’s as if he’s in his own little world, his zone, his… perfect elliptical stride. “Go away!” he mutters to the voice in his ear buds.
“But Best Dad, I’ve been thinking.”
“So what?!” Best Dad is exasperated now.
“Thinking about our last conversation, about religion, heaven and hell…” the narrator refuses to give up, continuing to butt in on Best Dad’s gym routine.
“All right, out with it.”

“In light of your beliefs-”
“Or lack thereof.” Best Dad intrudes, rudely.
“Yes, that. In light of that, you have a problem to think about.”
“Just one?” Best Dad replies, a bit nastily.
“One in particular.” the narrator goes on, undaunted.
“Yeah.” Best Dad replies, his sarcasm turned down several notches.

Best Dad Evar shifts uncomfortably on the pedals of his personal training machine, not saying anything for a long time. “Don’t remind me,” he mumbles finally.
“What are you feeling, Best Dad?” The narrator keenly identifies his pained expression and body language.
“When I think about death,” Best Dad replies carefully, “I immediately get a pit in my stomach, an uncomfortable sensation-”
“I believe you’ve just described paralyzing, debilitating fear,” the narrator.
“Well, that might be going a bit far, but when I have those thoughts, I get shaky. I have to change the subject. Take my mind away from it.”

“Every time?” the narrator wonders. Best Dad Evar nods.
“Wow.” The narrator pauses to assess. “So how do you deal with this fear?”
“I think about my plan.” He says with a quick, certain nod, the kind of nod that only those who actually lack certainty can manage.
“Your plan to cheat death?” the narrator responds in a tone that suggests a smirk, that is, if Best Dad could see the expression on his face, which he can’t.
“No, no. No one can cheat death. Even the religious know that.”
“So what are you planning?”
“I’m planning to use whatever time I have to leave a legacy.”
“A legacy.” The narrator says with no question implied this time. It’s as if he’s letting the idea sink into his head. “Your writing?” He finally wonders.

Best Dad Evar smirks himself at the thought. “My writing… hmph. I don’t know what kind of legacy that will be. It feels like a parody of my real life.”
“Well, even if it is, it’s something that could survive after you’re gone.” Best Dad scoffs. The narrator continues undaunted. “It could even last a long time-”
“I doubt it!” His scowl quiets the narrator, but it fades as he realizes that a blonde young woman, who was probably born after his hairline started receding, has looked at him with her eyebrows raised slightly. Best Dad looks back at her for a second, maybe a second-and-a-half, but just as quickly turns his eyes back to the green digital numbers that display how many calories he’s burned tonight.

“All right, Best Dad. What’s your legacy plan then?” The narrator’s question prevents Best Dad from dwelling on what kind of impression he’s made on the pretty young thing.
“Okay,” Best Dad’s mind is now completely back on the subject, “Number one is to have my DNA continue to live on in our species.”
“Yes, you have two children, so you’re off to a good start.”
“Uh, huh.” Best Dad’s face displays just a hint of pride as he nods.
“And you’re giving them a very strong foundation-”
“Of course it couldn’t hurt to have a few more.”
“What?!” The narrator is downright doubtful, “your wife has other ideas.”
“Yeah, but there are other ways…” he says with a slight smile. He sneaks a peek over at the young blonde nearby. “I have a lot to offer fertile young women, don’t you think?” He says with a devilish grin.
“Best Dad Evar!” The narrator scoffs disgustedly. “You’re going to sleep with other women just to pass on your genes?!” Best Dad peers over at the young woman again without answering, openly admiring her figure, at least as long as her eyes are turned toward the magazine in front of her.

Finally, the left corner of his lip turns upward and he slowly says, “Of course, I don’t have to sleep with them to pass on my genes, do I?”
The narrator makes a sound that’s akin to a pirates “Aargh!” as he realizes he’s been had.
“Gotcha!” Best Dad smiles broadly, showing off the crow’s feet aside his eyes.
“A sperm bank.” the narrator says in a small voice.
“I haven’t actually done it, but it’s a thought I had.”
“That seems ethically… ambiguous.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s something I have to think through before I do anything. I just haven’t had the time.”
“What else is new,” the narrator says knowingly.

“I have other legacies to pass on, though.”
“Right, your family trees.”
“Not just family trees. I’m also making digital copies of family photos, collecting and organizing our written history and I even have a digital audio project that I plan to work on.”
“Wow, now that’s a legacy you can be proud of.”
“Yes, I already am proud of what I’ve done so far, and I feel like I have a lot more I could do.”
“A life’s work.”
“Mmhm.” Best Dad replies.
“But one life’s work isn’t enough for you.” This is not a question, it is a statement of fact. Best Dad’s head drops a bit and he chuckles softly. The young blonde is looking over at him again, but he just smiles ever-so-slightly and nods at her while slowly turning his eyes back to his machine.
“Nope, it’s not enough.”
“Nothing is ever enough.” This is an accusation but BDE just smiles through it.
“No, but I’m not so dissatisfied that I’m going to jeopardize the good work I’ve done so far…” he cocks his head toward the pretty young thing without looking at her, “while I pursue my next project.”
“You’re wise beyond your years, Best Dad.”

Eventually Best Dad must leave the comforting, simple throb and beat of the gym and its music and embark for home. Home typically means a completely different kind of noise, and today is no different. Even from outside his front door, Best Dad can clearly hear the caterwauling of two … what, cats? No, screech owls, maybe? Oh, no, it couldn’t be crazed, hungry or injured animals, it’d have to be his daughters. He opens the door and is almost blown backward again by the volume from within.
“What are you two doing?!” He yells immediately upon crossing the threshold.
Two sets of eyes turn toward him and the noise stops. Then just as quickly it begins again as both run full speed toward him yelling “Daddy!!” and “Best Dad Eeevahr!” at the top of their lungs.
“Ooof!” he says as they both crash into him, giving hugs and chattering incoherently.

Shortly he steps back and looks at them suspiciously. “Why are you calling me ‘Best Dad Eeevahr’” he says emphasizing their deliberate mispronunciation, particularly eyeing older child, who is fond of the name.
“We’re making up a song, Daddy!” Younger child shouts loudly, then dances away, her feet pounding mercilessly across the stained carpet.
“A song about you, Best Dad Eeevahr,” older child says, while tilting her head and pouting her lips in that way that she only does when she’s proud of herself.
“A theme song for Best Dad Evar?” He asks, raising his eyebrows in amusement.
“Yeah! Yeah! A theme song!” They’re both shouting over each other again.

“All right, let’s hear it.” He says, shaking his head. Not knowing quite what to expect, but sure he will have to listen to it. Older child makes a huge production of setting up a stage, and moving (shoving) younger child into just the right position. It takes several moments until she’s convinced it’s just right. All the while younger child’s hands are wagging around and her fingers are dancing, so excited to get to perform their little song.
“Ooookay.” Older child says, waving her arms. This is her way of letting her audience know she’s ready to begin. She begins to sing in a style that’s reminiscent of a middle school cheerleading squad:
“Best Dad Eeevahr’s good, no, great!
Best Dad Eeevahr serves food on a plate
He’s so great that he makes me cheer
He makes me cheer right outta here!”

There’s a pause, and then older child turns and whispers into younger child’s ear. She quickly sings her part:
“A bootie too and a la la loo
Rallay loo to the foo lay roo!”

Immediately older child starts up on her next verse:
“The children are my sister and me
I like to copy his family trees
Best Dad Eeevahr’s hilarious, too
He helps my sister pee and poo!”

Best Dad waits to see if there’s more. But then the girls are both bowing and asking how he liked their song.
“Is that how we’re going to end my theme song?” BDE asks, his eyes questioning, but his lips making a slight smirk of distaste. The children are oblivious.
“Yes, Dad, that’s perfect,” older child beams. Younger child claps and laughs heartily.
Best Dad Evar can’t help but smile and nod. “You’re right, girls, it’s perfect.”

“You’ve got a lot of work to do.” The narrator comments after Best Dad has made his way back to his closet to change out of his workout clothes.
“Hey, don’t be insulting my legacies!” Best Dad Evar replies sharply.
“I was only joking, Best Dad, take it easy.”
“Ha! This time you got me.” He says with a chuckle, tossing down his sweaty shirt and sweat pants in an all-too-familiar heap on the floor.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stranger in America #gbe2 #religion #life

Best Dad Evar sits in silence, laying flat on his back on a threadbare sofa after the rest of his family has been successfully settled in bed. He is using his remote control to flip through his pre-set favorite channels, pausing only briefly on sports highlights shows, on reality shows in swamps, storage lockers and mansions (where contestants are forced to fall in love and/or bitch at each other mercilessly), on shows about outer space and aliens from the past, on movies from the mid 1980's, and on news that's always bad. He's cycled all the way through all of his channels once and a scowl is evident on his face as he is scurrying through his second go-around when his screen lights up with once of those "real history of the Bible" shows. Best Dad Evar can't resist and his remote finger pauses. His head settles back on the throw pillow nearest him almost imperceptibly.

Soon, he is nodding, murmuring "Yeah," and "uh huh" and even "that makes sense."
"Best Dad Evar, do you believe in this stuff?" the narrator asks doubtfully.
"What, the Bible?" Best Dad Evar answers without taking his eyes off the screen.
"Yeah, God, Heaven and Hell, all that stuff."
Best Dad Evar is silent for a moment. He slowly, carefully answers, "No. God, Heaven, Hell, no, I don't believe in any of that."

"You hesitated." the narrator probes, thinking there might be a wellspring of belief under there somewhere.
"No, I chose my words carefully. I always do that when the subject of religion and beliefs come up."
"Why's that?" the narrator asks, though he surely knows, doesn't he?
"Do you really have to ask?" Best Dad replies. It's his turn to probe, testing the narrator's ignorance.
"Apparently so," the narrator replies, now irritably.

"Well, I live in America, where those of us who don't believe in the traditional god or gods are scorned and distrusted."
"Yes, ask around and you'll find out."
"Well, I can't really do that. I can only talk to you."
"Then you'll have to take my word for it. Being a non-believer is about the worst thing you can be in America. I'm a stranger in a strange land when it comes to religion."

"That's unfortunate for you."
"Yes, well, I guess I shouldn't call myself a complete non-believer. I do believe in one amazing power in the universe."
"Really, what's that?" the narrators asks, obviously concerned for his mortal soul.
"Life." Best Dad replies with just a hint of a smile.

"Human Life?" the narrator replies, puzzled.
"No, all life."
"Oh," he replies, but sounds like he's still not sure what BDE means.
"Life is magical. The fact that you can create an entire brand new human baby from two single cells - that's incredible, isn't it?" Best Dad has sat up now and finds the pause button on his remote with a smoothness that borders on automatic, as if pausing live television is as natural as breathing.

"So incredible that a higher power must be responsible for it?" the narrator asks provocatively.
"No! Why would you immediately go there?!" Best Dad Evar is angry now. "Well, it doesn't matter for me because I was never trained to believe in a higher power."
"In other words, it's too late for you to come to believe a higher power is responsible for anything."
"Yes you've got it." There's a pause, but Best Dad continues. "But I can believe in a lower power."
"What?!" the narrator is confused now.
"Never mind. For me life is the power. It's magical regardless of who or what created it."

There is a long pause as the idea sinks into the narrators formless noggin. "So all life is magical. Humans, and worms and even plants?" the idea is sinking in, and the narrator is shaping it.
"And spiders and ants..." BDE continues, leaving the thought hanging.
"Is that why you're so careful to save even spiders when you can?" He's really catching on now.
"Of course. Why kill them when they're magical?"
"And yet, death is part of the magic of life." the narrator counters.

"Yes, yes it is. But being a cold-blooded murderer of life doesn't have to be. That's a choice." Best Dad says seriously.
"Many people choose to be murderers then."
"Yep." He shakes his head sadly.
"So, then you must be strongly pro-life then... politically, I mean."
"Well..." Best Dad hesitates.
"Choosing words carefully again."
"Ah," the narrator responds knowingly this time.

BDE slowly enunciates, "What I'd say is that if get to choose, then I choose to preserve life."
"That's cagey."
Best Dad smiles, "An excellent word."
"So, you're not a fanatic."
Best Dad laughs softly, "No."
"That also makes you a stranger in this land of fanatics."

Best Dad Evar shakes his head at that thought. "Maybe there aren't as many fanatics as you think."
"You don't think so?"
"No, I think most folks are pretty middle-of-the-road. But the fanatics get most of the air time."
"Don't you want some air time, Best Dad Evar?"
Best Dad smiles broadly, "My fifteen minutes? Sure I do."
"So maybe you're not such a stranger after all."
Best Dad laughs loudly, but when he stops, he nods and winks at the space where he imagines the narrator's voice to be coming from, now chuckling softly as he drifts off to sleep. Another back-ache waiting to be.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When They Sing It, You Feel It. #Adele #u2 #nirvana

Best Dad Evar's room is dark, except for the princess nightlight way off in one corner of the room. Best Dad Evar is laying motionless in bed, despite the music playing from the alarm clock radio near his head on the dirty, many-times-repainted dresser that does double duty as a nightstand.

A quiet voice questions him from the dark, "Best Dad Evar, isn't it time to get up and start getting ready for your day?"
"Hmmm." He replies, "Leave me alone," he says quietly.
"Are you waiting for this song to be over?" the narrator probes.
"Yes, you gotta problem with that?" Best Dad says without moving.
"Best Dad?" the narrator can't keep his trap shut.
"What!?" Best Dad is getting annoyed now.
"Are you crying?"

There's a pause as Best Dad fails to answer while the song reaches its end. "I'm not crying." He replies drily as he reaches over and runs his fingers across the buttons on the small clock, feeling for the correct button to turn the alarm off.
"So why are there tears in your eyes?" The narrator won't let this go.
"Can I help it if I get a little misty?" Best Dad replies, having successfully turned the machine off, but failed to lever himself out of bed.
"What gets you misty, Best Dad Evar?" the narrator says with a chuckle barely suppressed.

"Songs, you know, music." This is as much verbage as Best Dad can manage first thing in the morning.
"Any songs?" the narrator is incredulous.
"No, not just any song." Best Dad replies, and gives a great heave which propels his legs out of bed and his upper body into a sitting position. He pauses there. "Songs with emotion."

The narrator pauses now, considering this. "Not just any songs with emotion, though."
"No," Best Dad concurs. "Somehow the singer manages to convey the exact feeling of the song in their voice."
"Well, isn't that the point of music?" the narrator responds.
"Perhaps it is, but very, very few singers or songs actually succeed."
"The one you just listened to succeeded." The narrator surmises.
"Yeah, it's called 'Someone Like You'."
"Adele, right?"

"Yeah, when she hits the line about 'don't forget me' there's a raw emotion that's just.... well, it can't be explained can it, it's just there, it's evident in her voice. I don't know if she suffered some kind of heartache that caused her to write this song and then sing it, but I'd be willing to bet she did."

"That note's not the prettiest note-" the narrator starts, but Best Dad interrupts.
"No, but emotion isn't pretty. Sometimes it's painful."
"Okay, but-"
"Trust me. If you want pain, loss, despair even, I challenge you not to feel it when you hear this:"

"Johnny has sounded better." the narrator continues.
"Yeah, but has he ever been more real?"

The narrator pauses as Best Dad moves to the mirror and turns a bright light on to look at himself. He's looking older, with a droop around the eyes and under the chin that he can't hide. He eyes are still a bit misty. "Take life, getting older, looking back. How did I get here? Why am I like this? Try this one:"

"I think you're making a list in your head of songs with emotional connections for you." the narrator has picked up the track of Best Dad's thinking.
"Guilty as charged. Maybe another Ipod Playlist."
"Okay, so what's next on your list."
"Well, when I think about disappointment and how to pull yourself up from rock bottom, I think of:"

"I bet you feel like you actually can pull yourself up and out from the bottom when you hear that one."
"Yeah. But some people never do. If you want to hear the place where you go when you've hit the blackest part of your life and there's no coming back, listen to Kurt Cobain:"

"Wow, that gives you chills to think that people didn't realize that he had hit that point."
"Oh, I think they knew, they just didn't know how to help him."
"Now, Best Dad, I know you're saving one group for last, I know who your favorites are."
"The absolute best group of all time at infusing emotion into their music."
"U2." The narrator says knowingly.
"Ah, but let's be clear, My belief is that the raw emotion of U2's music got watered down as they became more successful and perhaps as they became better musicians."
"So you want to narrow down the time frame."
"Yes, and you have to get a song early before they started adjusting it to fit their extensive touring schedule."

"Bono couldn't sing some of those songs live with the emotion that they started out with."
"His voice couldn't have survived it. And some of their best songs don't have music videos."
"No, so you have to catch performances like this one:"

"But again, you're saving one for the grand finale."
"Yes, one more, the coup de grace. The one that makes me cry every time I hear it."
"And you have a very personal heartache associated with this one."
"Yes, my first puppy love, who broke my heart. So perhaps the emotion I feel when I hear this one is not U2's, but mine."
"And I see you picked a version of the song that's very particular."
"Yes, you have to get one where he shouts 'Wide Awake!' as loud and as high as he can. That's the note that made me cry when I was sixteen and still does now:"

Best Dad is still staring into the mirror. "But Best Dad, you aren't still feeling the heartache and loss that these songs represent now, are you?"
Best Dad looks at his reflection and his teary eyes. "No, no, not all of it. But just a little tiny bit is still there. It's not painful any more, but it reminds me that I'm alive."
"So, is that your whole list of emotional songs, Best Dad?"
"No, no, there are a few others I probably could have included. But since I'm getting older now, I can't think of the others off the top of my head."
"Another project for your 'to do' list, then." the narrator replies knowingly.
"Yep, maybe I'll get to it on the weekend." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Or not." the narrator replies with Eeyore-like doom.
Best Dad looks up one final time and heads to the shower, chuckling. He mumbles as he stumbles, "Or not, you're right, narrator, as always. Always getting that final stab in, right between my shoulder blades..." He's still mumbling as the hot water hits his face, drowning out any further response.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Best Dad Evar's Shenanigans #dad #blog

It’s a Sunday, so, like every other weekend day for as long as he can remember, Best Dad Evar is in the midst of an endless string of chores, tasks and events for other people. In this case, he’s in the car, returning from a big box store with a lone box of very convenient, but very expensive “pull-up” diapers. “Day of rest, my ass!” Best Dad mutters to himself.

“Best Dad Evar,” the narrator’s voice calls out, as if on cue, “I want to ask you about something.”
“Yeah, what.” Best Dad Evar replies with lazy dread.
“Well, I was listening in on your job interview this week and I heard you say something.” the narrator’s voice has just a hint of a scold that’s about to occur.
“I’m sure I said a lot of shit, that’s what you do when you’re trying to get someone to hire you.” Best Dad rolls his eyes as if this should be plainly obvious.

“You mean a lot of bullshit?” the narrator replies sharply.
“Not necessarily.” Best Dad answers warily. “Just ask me your question already, what did I say that you objected to.”
“You said you’d been someone’s ‘right hand man’ in the past and you’d be happy to do that again.”
“Yeah, so?”
“So, I don’t believe you,” the narrator lays it all out on the table.

“Which part don’t you believe, that I’ve been someone’s right hand man or that I’d be happy doing it again.” Best Dad Evar’s eyebrows are raised. It seems he might be avoiding answering the question.
“I know you’ve done it before. But I also know that you believe you’re meant for greatness…. That you have important things to do in your career.”
“And you think that I can’t do that without being the man out front, the principal, the big cheese.”
“No, I think you think you can’t do that without being the big cheese.” Best Dad pulls into his driveway and ponders the thought as he navigates a winding path through the toys, bicycles and random lawn furniture that inevitably park themselves on the concrete walkway leading to the front door.

He opens the front door, finding the nearest flat surface to toss down his box-‘o’-diapers; whatever end table, bookshelf or whatnot happens to be just past the doorway. He continues talking, oblivious to whether any of his family members happens to be in the living room he’s just entered, “Well, you know what, I do think I have important work to do, both in my career and in my life.” He thinks a little bit further, and then continues, “But at some point you have to figure out who you are as an individual and play to your strengths.”
“What does that mean?” the narrator is doubtful.
“It means that if being a support guy to someone else’s big cheese is the best role for me in the business world, I shouldn’t look down my nose at that role.”
“Hm.” It’s clear the narrator still doesn’t quite believe what he’s hearing. “But will you be satisfied in that role long term?”

“Well, yes, I think I will, as long as I’m helping build something great for my team. At the same time, I need to find other outlets for my inner big cheese.”
“Like your family history and family tree research.” the narrator is getting it now.
“And my writing.” Best Dad says with a smile of triumph.
“And your writing.” the narrator murmurs in reply, as if considering whether these things could possibly satisfy Best Dad’s ambition. At this moment, a shadow appears behind Best Dad Evar. It looms behind him like a ghost emerging from the fog, but Best Dad doesn’t see it. The narrator lets out a gasp as the shadow seems to rear up out of the depths of the sofa and then….

“Bounce!” the shadow yells and leaps onto Best Dad Evar’s shoulders and back.
“Aaack!” Best Dad yelps like a girl, but he quickly realizes that the arms that are just this close to strangling him and the body that is draped onto his back are those of his older child.
“Got you!” the girls shouts directly into his ear, causing a ringing that will last for several minutes.
“Jeezus, you scared the sh-” Best Dad stops himself from using the expletive in front of the child, or perhaps even children. The other one may be around here somewhere if this one was sitting on the sofa listening to him talk to himself. Actually, it’s more likely she didn’t notice him come in at all, at least until she thought of jumping on his back.

“Piggy back ride!” She shouts again.
“Damn, you’re heavy!” He says, smiling now. Luckily she’s not old enough yet for a comment on her weight to sting. “Where to?”
But before she can reply, another shadow streaks out of a nearby hallway and immediately launches itself toward Best Dad Evar’s legs. “Oof!” the air puffs out of his lungs as the full force of younger child’s charge strikes. Somehow he manages to stay on his feet despite the blow.
“Hey, you can’t jump on me like that!” Best Dad says to the little one, but kindly. “You could knock us both over. Now, if you were to climb up onto the sofa, you could jump from there and balance out your sister-”

A head peeks around the corner from the kitchen. Best Dad’s wife’s face is countenanced with a scowl and eyebrows pinched together in the middle. “Hey!” She says in the unmistakable mommy disapproves voice that all mommies seem to have. Three sets of eyes turn toward her sheepishly. “You know I don’t like these shenanigans!”
Best Dad and both girls stand stock still, as if they’re not sure what to do now. Older child speaks up first, “They’re just pick up tricks, Mommy,” she says with just a hint of a pout.
“Yes, but someone could get hurt!” she continues, but softens just slightly, providing Best Dad just a little bit of an opening.
“Just one time around the house, okay?” He pleads with her, “I promise, no one will get hurt.”

Her lips scrunch up and her eyes roll just a bit as she gives in. “All right. One time.”
“Yay!” the little one shouts and somehow she’s already leaping from the sofa, launching toward Best Dad’s chest. Surprised, he lets out another gasp and barely gets hold of her as she bounces off of him.
He whispers to her, “I almost dropped you on your a-… on your butt.” he chuckles. “That wouldn’t have been good.” Older child laughs heartily in his ear, still clinging on tightly. The thought of her sister getting dropped is perfectly raucous humor for her. The possibility that the little one might be hurt doesn’t really enter her thinking, at least not until the crying starts.

Best Dad’s wife is still standing there with her hands on her hips but she doesn’t say anything. Her facial expression says it all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Best Dad Evar on Confrontation #GBE2

It is just past nine o'clock and we peer over the shoulder of Best Dad Evar, hunched over in an uncomfortable chair in a darkened corner of his bedroom. The dim light in the room mostly emanates from the screen of a laptop that sits upon, well, it's not a desk, more of a cart. Best Dad's house has a variety of modern devices, but all of them are hand-me-downs or purchased long ago when they had money. Best Dad is staring at the screen and lets out a guffaw which he quickly stifles. Best Dad can feel his wife's disapproval of this violation of the hour-after-bedtime cone of silence even though she's out of sight and in another room. Still, Best Dad's expression remains incredulous.

"What is it, Best Dad Evar?" the Narrator says quietly, his voice inaudible to the other members of the household.
"Someone responded!" Best Dad whispers back.
"To what?" the Narrator is out of the loop.
"To my idea about continuous power!"
"Um, what do you mean, 'responded'? 'Responded' to what?" Clearly he's still not sure what Best Dad means.

"I posted my idea on one of those message boards." Best Dad replies excitedly.
"You did?" the narrator is duly shocked.
"Yeah. After we talked about it, I got to thinking about how to make sure someone heard about my idea. So I posted it on some random solar power forum and someone actually wrote back." He still sounds excited.
"Well, what did they say?"

"Oh." Best Dad's face falls as he reads the response. "They say, 'Newbies always come on here asking about connecting cars to the grid. Why didn't you read those threads, dumbass'."
"They called you a dumbass?!" the narrator is horrified.
"No, it doesn't say 'dumbass', I added that because that's the tone of this guy's post." Best Dad's expression reverts to its typical low level annoyance.
"Good, 'cause that sounded pretty harsh. Are you going to respond?" the narrator places the ball back in Best Dad's court.

"No, I don't want a confrontation." Best Dad raises the white flag, as usual.
"You're not really one for confrontation are you?" The narrator responds knowingly.
"No, I don't feel like confrontations solve anything."
"Or you're too chicken to get into it with someone," the narrator deadpans.
"Hey!" Best Dad sounds wounded but indignant. "You should know better. You've seen me get into it with my daughters."
"Yeah, but that's different, you're in a position of authority."
"I am?!" Best Dad responds with overdramatic, wild-eyed surprise. "You could have fooled me!"

"You don't give yourself enough credit, Best Dad Evar." the narrator responds, softening his tone this time.
Best Dad isn't finished, though. "In what way do they respect my authority?" Confrontationally, he adds, "Name one, I dare you!"
"That's the spirit." the narrator responds, and he doesn't back down from the challenge, "They, uh, they do what you say sometimes."
"Only when I threaten to take away their stuff." Best Dad says sulkily.
"Well, that counts." the narrator hands it back to him.
"Does it? To me, that's not authority. That's a power play on my part. That's not respect."

"What would respect for authority look like to you, Best Dad?" the narrator asks, as if he really wants to know.
"I make a request and they do it without resistance."
"Dream on!" the narrator replies sarcastically, but then his voice changes. "Seriously, Best Dad, you know sometimes they do what you ask without a confrontation."
"Hardly ever," Best Dad grumbles.
"You're hopeless." the narrator mumbles quietly.

"Oh, wait, there's another response." Best Dad says hopefully.
"Well?" the narrator says expectantly.
"It asks if the car really talked to me."
"You mentioned that, too?" the narrator is just shy of appalled.
"I just said, 'If my electric car could talk, it would say it wanted continuous power.'"
"Oh, okay." the narrator is relieved.
Best Dad continues. "The guy says he's been working on artificial intelligence and he's been curious to know if a complex, integrated computer-operated system like a modern automobile could take the next logical leap to some form of intelligence." The glow of the computer screen doesn't illuminate Best Dad's face quite enough to reveal whether he's amused or wondrous.

"Is he pulling your leg?" the narrator pipes in like that annoying parrot in Aladdin.
Best Dad smirks. "I don't know, maybe. I guess I could message him separately and find out." He begins to type.
A few minutes later, there is an audible beep that makes Best Dad Evar's heart leap and a he lets out a girlish yelp. He sheepishly recovers himself and says, "Hey, he responded again."
"Go on, read it." the narrator prods.
"He wants to know if I have noticed anything out of the ordinary with the car. What should I say?"
"Tell him the truth." The narrator responds.
"That I have an all-seeing, all-knowing 'narrator' who talks to me and tells me what my car is saying?" Best Dad Evar says with just enough seriousness to give the narrator pause.
"No!" the narrator responds in kind, with a hint of exasperation. "Tell him about any messages or signals the car has given that aren't typical."
"How am I supposed to know what's typical and what's not? It's not even my car."

"I think you know what I mean," the narrator scolds.
"Hmph. I guess so. Anything that doesn't seem to fit." There's a pause while he thinks this over, scouring his less-than-perfect memory banks for any clues he could give this AI maven. "The problem is, there really hasn't been anything like that."
"Well there you go."
"Well, can you tell me anything the car would say... You know, about this artificial intelligence idea?" Best Dad pleads, grasping at straws.
"It would say that it doesn't have any way to send messages to you."
"It can't send a message through that fancy cockpit display thingy?"
"Not any message you'd recognize. It's limited by the parameters programmed into its computers to analyze and optimize the car's systems."

"It can tell me the battery is low on power."
"But not that it would love to chuck the whole battery."
"Hm. So this guy's whole artificial intelligence theory is off base." Best Dad says with finality.
"I didn't say that." the narrator says playfully.
"I just said it doesn't have a way to communicate with you, whether it has intelligence or not."
"Hmph." Best Dad grumbles and pauses to think for another moment. "That still leaves me with nothing to tell this guy."
"Yep, you're probably right. Does that bother you?"
"Yeah, it kinda does."
"Well, get used to it," the narrator says like only a parent can.
"Now we're going to have a confrontation!" Best Dad Evar exclaims.
There's no reply.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Big Ideas - #GBE2

It’s just after bedtime at the Best Dad Evar household. Best Dad is in the family garage seizing a few moments of quiet. The remnants of a massive shoving-aside project are evident all around him, with boxes, books and piles of stuff stacked to eye level on every available flat surface on either side of the borrowed electric car and its charging station. The clearance on either side of the vehicle suggests that Best Dad will have to back the car out of the garage and into the driveway before loading anyone else into the car. Best Dad is also squeezed into place next to the car, which is far nicer than any of the stuff that surrounds it. He’s checking tonight’s charge-up.
“So, you’re analyzing how much this power-up is costing you, right?” the Narrator voice ends the silence.
Best Dad’s face displays its ever-present slight tinge of annoyance, “I always think about how much things are costing me.”

“So, how much?” the Narrator asks the next logical question.
“Huh?” Best Dad plays dumb, or was he just not paying enough attention?
“How much is this costing?” the Narrator shows the ultimate in patience.
“Well,” there is a long pause, “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.”
“So what are you really doing out here?” the Narrator asks pointedly.
Best Dad Evar chuckles softly, “Honestly?”
“Mm hm?”

“I’m thinking.” Best Dad says, as if that answers the question.
“About?” the Narrator is now curious.
“Sometimes I have philosophical thoughts.”
“Really?” the Narrator is genuinely surprised. “Like what?”
“You know, like ‘What are we here on this Earth for?’ and ‘What does it all mean?’”
“And staring at this car and its charging station help you figure those things out?” the Narrator asks, with a bite of sarcasm.

Best Dad laughs, but not bitterly. “No, not really.” He sighs deeply. “Sometimes the ‘meaning of life’ questions are too deep and I end up thinking about random stuff.”
“Like, if this car could talk, what do you think it would say?”
There’s a long pause, which Best Dad could interpret as the Narrator taking a moment to carefully consider his response. “Well,” the Narrator starts, pausing for effect, “You know there are certain benefits to being an all-knowing, all-seeing Narrator.”
“What, you mean you can talk to cars?” Best Dad is incredulous, but clearly he’s going to press the issue further.
“If the car could talk, I know what it would say.” the Narrator says cryptically.

“Well, can it?” now it’s Best Dad’s turn at patience with the Narrator’s coyness. Best Dad’s not big on patience, in general.
“No, not hypothetically, actually!” Best Dad is annoyed now. Perturbed even.
“Well, I didn’t say I would tell you if it could talk.”
“You are a fucking tease!” Best Dad is shouting now. “Just tell me what it would say!”

“Continuous Power,” the Narrator says simply.
Best Dad’s mouth curls up into a puzzled smirk. “What does that mean? The car wants to rule the world?” Disbelief and disdain are evident on his face now.
“Think about it.” the Narrator leads.
“Not political power.”
“No.” the Narrator’s voice suggests he should go on.
“Power, as in electricity.”
“It is an electric car,” the Narrator now indicates that he’s caught on.
“It would want a continuous power source.”
“If it could talk.”
“Right. But that’s-”
The Narrator quickly cuts in, “Don’t say ‘That’s impossible’!”

“No, I wasn’t going to say that.” Best Dad has now caught the thread, his hand rests on his chin, rubbing it in the classic manner of a thinker. “I was thinking that’s not what this car was designed for.”
“Nonetheless…” the Narrator is going to let him puzzle this through.
“Huh.” Best Dad continues to think this over, he’s clearly interested in this line of thought. “How would you bring continuous power to a car like this one?”
“I know a lot, but I can’t see the future, Best Dad Evar.”
“Good to know,” he says, but clearly this conversation is going further.

“Okay, but you said you could speak hypothetically.” Best Dad picks up the thread again.
“No can do.” the Narrator replies. “It seems like a pretty simple problem to solve, though.”
“Simplicity isn’t my strong suit. I’m more of a big idea kind of guy.”
“Yes, you are, aren’t you. You’re long on big ideas but short on the nuts and bolts.”
“That’s me.”

“Well, maybe continuous power is another big idea that you’ll think about for a moment but leave to someone else to figure out how to solve the problem of actually doing it.” the Narrator says sadly.
“Maybe so, but you said it’s simple.” For once, Best Dad is going to play the bulldog and not give up on this one.
“It seems simple. An electric car that’s surrounded by appliances and devices that are continuously powered.”
“The seemingly simple solution would be to somehow connect the electric car to the same grid that powers that other stuff.” Best Dad is on a roll!
“That’s what I was thinking.”
“But the obvious problem is that the car is moving.”
“Aha! Yes, that’s the rub, isn’t it.”

“And that’s where I usually give up.” Best Dad says sadly but not dejectedly.
“You sure?” the Narrator nudges.
“Well,” there’s a pause as Best Dad convinces himself to take the next logical step. “There could be an electrified track that the car could connect to.
“Not an unprecedented solution.” The Narrator points out helpfully. “The buses in San Francisco still use a system like that.” There’s a pause. “Or?” The Narrator nudges again.
“Or, well, we have a wireless charger for that portable tablet thingy.” Best Dad holds up a finger as if to forestall the end of the discussion. “Maybe the technology will someday advance to a point where that kind of system will deliver enough power to keep a car moving.”
“Now you’re talking.” the Narrator sounds impressed.

“Yeah, but all of this is just idle chit-chat.” Best Dad throws in the towel.
“Why?” the Narrator sounds crestfallen by this turn of Best Dad’s mojo for the worse.
“Because I’ll never have the money or the position to even experiment with the possible solutions to these technical problems.”
“No, you probably never will. But every big advance starts with an idea, right?”
“So?” Best Dad clearly doesn’t see the point any more.
“So, maybe just having the idea is enough.” this smacks a bit of desperation.
“Not if no one ever hears of it.” Best Dad heaves himself away from the box labeled ‘Extension cords’, but which might actually contain Christmas dishes or ten year-old papers still left unfiled, and turns toward the door that will take him back into the maelstrom, er, the house.
“True, so how could we make sure at least a few people hear about continuous power, Best Dad Evar?” the Narrator shouts after him as he walks away.
Best Dad Evar throws up his hands but doesn’t turn around. “I have no idea.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Perils of the Road #GBE2

Today, Best Dad Evar is doing errands around town in the aforementioned electric car. His two children are strapped into their car seats behind him, noisily announcing to no one in particular (certainly not to each other, god forbid) that they exist and they have interests and ideas and, you know, stuff going on in their heads. All the while, Best Dad is gritting his teeth, trying not to rear end today’s slow poke, a white minivan with bumper stickers he can’t help but read.
“Oh, what the hell is this moron doing?!” He yells suddenly.
“Who are you talking to, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator softly asks.
“Just this b-” he stops himself from saying the expletive out loud; too nasty for little ears, but he gestures at the minivan in front of him, which has now come to a complete stop in the middle of the block for no apparent reason.

In fact, the door of the minivan has abruptly swung open forcefully and the driver has jumped out of the vehicle.
“Oh, you’ve got to be frigging kidding me!” Best Dad slumps in his seat. “Some of us have to get where we’re going!” he yells, but not so loud that the woman could possibly hear him through the window seals and metal frame of his little Northern California dream car. It looks like she’s got something else on her mind anyway and wouldn’t have responded if she did hear. She takes off running toward a gravel walking path that meanders away from the avenue they’ve both been driving on.
“Where the hell is she going?!” Best Dad says, not even yelling any more. This is more of a helpless lament than an angry blast.
“Dad, don’t you know her?” Oldest child says from the back.
“Who?” He asks dumbly.
“That woman.” His daughter says, now pointing so he can’t possibly misunderstand who she is referring to. The woman is about to disappear up the path, but he now realizes…

“Oh, shit, yeah. That’s Jane.” He rolls his eyes. Better not to say aloud the description of Jane that first comes to his mind.
“Don’t say it.” The narrator whispers in his year, this time a beat behind Best Dad.
“I know.” Best Dad says disdainfully. “But I better help her, I think she may have finally completely lost her mind.” He begins to pull the car over to the shoulder and park it safely out of the flow of traffic.
“No, it looks like-” the narrator starts, but is interrupted by younger child.
“Daddy, she jumped into the creek.” She says in the matter-of-fact voice only a four-year-old can manage with a straight face.

“She what?” Best Dad asks.
“Do you have wax in your ears, Best Dad?” The narrator asks bitingly.
Best Dad sighs heavily. “Come on, girls, we have to help her.”
“Your enthusiasm for this rescue could be a little higher, Best Dad.” The narrator chides him. But whether he has any enthusiasm or not, the process of getting both girls unstrapped from their car seats (he can’t very well leave them there, can he?) ensures that he will be, at best, the fourth or fifth responder to what he still believes to be a mental health emergency.

As they run up the creek-side path, the father and daughter come upon a scene that’s quite different from what Best Dad had imagined. “What the-?” he says lamely. A handful of people are shouting from the bank as Jane holds onto a very large branch along the opposite side of the creek. She is struggling with something under the water with her other arm. She heaves that something out of the water, it’s… a boy! He surfaces with a giant gasp as if he’s been under a long time.
The crowd cheers as they believe the boy has been saved, but then they gasp again as the boy is pulled back down under the surface. There’s something down there, pulling him down with a force equal to heroic Jane’s efforts. Best Dad Evar’s facial expression is a mixture of surprised appreciation and sheepishness. So much for the crazy b- he’d berated for slowing them all down!

No, that crazy b- is gathering herself. Jane’s face contorts with effort and she gives all her strength to her next heave to try to pull the boy out for good. In the next moment, the culprit makes its appearance, it’s the boy’s bicycle and it surges up out of the water. Unfortunately, Jane doesn’t know her own strength and the bike whips around, the rear wheel catching her square in the face. The gathered crowd groans with dismay and sympathy. A great gash of dark red appears on Jane’s face, but if she’s disoriented or in pain it doesn’t show. Instead she continues to fight to keep the boy above water.
“Aren’t you going to do anything to help, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator quietly pushes
“Well, my girls are here. I can’t leave them…” he trails off, realizing the weakness of his excuse.

There’s a splash as a young man, a teenager perhaps, jumps in to help. He latches on to the same branch and after a couple of failed attempts, manages to get hold of the handlebar of the bike with his free hand. With this second pair of hands helping, the bicyclist also manages to grab the branch and seems able to hold himself just far enough out of the water to be out of mortal danger. He does, however, gasp in horror as he looks over at Jane and spies the gash on her face, which is oozing blood. She still seems oblivious to her own injury and continues to work to free the boy’s clothes, which have clearly gotten caught in the bicycle’s chain. There’s another splash as a third rescuer jumps in. This man is large, he could be a fireman or lumberjack. With some quick work, he frees the boy’s pantleg from the chain and the foursome begin to head for shore.

Best Dad Evar’s daughters begin to cheer for the heroes. The gathered crowd, at least those that aren’t trying to pull the wet four out of the water, also clap and shout. Best Dad simply stares. He finally remembers himself and says, “Come on kids.” He and the girls approach Jane.
Best Dad removes his shirt and offers it to Jane. She looks at the garment as if she has never seen anything like it before, and her eyes flash at Best Dad as if she wonders what kind of pedophilenut would take off his shirt when he sees a young boy rescued.
“For your face.” He says, recognizing her confused expression. She still seems not to understand what he means, though it seems she has also recognized him, at least.
“You’re bleeding like crazy, Jane.” He says, pushing her softly back to reality.
“Uh, I am?” She takes the shirt but doesn’t lift it to her face. Best Dad gently raises the shirt to her face and presses it to the wound, which is definitely going to require stitches.

“Is the boy okay?” She asks, still in a shock-induced trance.
“Yes, he’s going to be fine.” One of the bystanders says.
“The boy’s not your son?!” Another asks incredulously.
“No, I just saw him fall from my car.” She says, now holding the shirt to her face independently. He sheepishly backs away again, holding his girls’ hands, realizing how harshly he’d judged her and doubting that he would have done the same had he seen the boy fall himself.

“Is that your car?” Another asks, pointing toward the street, where a tow truck is backing into position to move her minivan out of traffic.
Best Dad can only stand and watch as the two bystanders run back toward the street, flagging down the tow truck driver and the policeman who had called him to clear traffic. He watches long enough to satisfy himself that they’ve saved her van from the impound lot.

“I think we’d better get on home now.” He tells the girls quietly. They are smiling at him.
“Good job, Dad.” the older one says.
He looks at her with a puzzled expression. “For what?” he asks.
“You helped a hero.” He still looks at her, not quite believing that she thinks he actually helped in any way. “You gave her your shirt to stop all that blood.”
“I guess we all have to do our part, Best Dad.” The narrator softly says into his ear.
“A very small part.” Best Dad replies, still clearly a bit disgusted with himself.
“You prob’ly saved her life, Dad.” The little one says. She smiles her finest Daddy-is-the-best smile at him. He smiles back broadly. “I don’t know about that, but Jane certainly saved that boy’s life.”

This post is dedicated to Jane and her new scar.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Do-Over #GBE2

Tonight we catch up with Best Dad Evar in the kitchen. If he’s in the kitchen, it means either he’s washing the dishes (which he isn’t), or it’s one of his two nights in charge of dinner. It also means one of two types of dinners will be served: microwave-from-the-freezer or oven-baked-on-a-cookie-sheet (also from the freezer). He seems to be fretting a bit, his mind lost in thought.
A voice interrupts his train of thought, “You seem to have a lot on your mind, Best Dad Evar.”
Best Dad Evar sighs heavily. “Change… again.”
“Wow, again?” The narrator seems to know exactly what type of change he’s referring to.
“Yeah, again.”
“Wow, that’s five times in what… five years?”
Best Dad Evar counts out the job changes in his mind. “Yeah, you’ve got it.”

“Do you ever wish you could go back and change any of the decisions you’ve made?”
“A do over?” Best Dad Evar responds with what would best be described as amusement.
“Yes, if you prefer, a ‘do over’.”
“Well, my theory is that every decision you make and everything that happens in your life is on a continuous path that led to where you are now. Change one thing and the path is disrupted. Everything changes.”
“So?” the narrator responds expectantly.
“So, I wouldn’t wish for everything in my life to change. I don’t want to have different people in my life, like my wife and children. I don’t want to live in a different place or-”

The narrator interrupts, “But those things wouldn’t have to change.”
“No, not necessarily. But I prefer to think of it that way.”
“Huh, interesting.”
“What?” Best Dad responds, immediately his guard is up, knowing he’s being psychoanalyzed.
“It’s like you’re validating all of your decisions by saying your life would be radically different and almost surely worse if you hadn’t made them the way you did.”
“No, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not saying I made the right decisions. I’m just saying once they’re made, they put you on a path and there’s no looking back.”

“Do you ever look back?”
“Well, of course I do.”
“Do you ever think, ‘This isn’t where I want to be or where I should be’?”
“Yeah, especially with my career… or lack thereof.”
“So, couldn’t you envision going back and changing things that would place you on a different path career-wise, assuming everything else would stay the same?”
“That’s just it, though, everything else wouldn’t be the same. Even if I was with my wife, I’d have different children because they would have been conceived at different times or places-”
“I get it.” the narrator says, sounding irritated.

“Just let it go, I’m not playing the game.” As he says this, Best Dad Evar’s two girls appear in the kitchen, as if drawn to the spectacle of their father talking with his imaginary friend. He chooses to sit at the kitchen table with them, shuffling his aching feet to find a comfortable position.

“What about your children, Best Dad, would they want any do-overs?”
“Well, let’s ask them.” Best Dad says with a devilish grin.
“Older child,” he asks, “is there anything you’d want to do over?”
“Yes, I would like to do over the fight I had with younger child today.” The girl is unfazed by the use of the generic ‘older child’ and ‘younger child’ monikers. There’s a soft chuckle from the narrator as he notices this.
“Really?” Best Dad Evar seems genuinely surprised.
“I want to start from the beginning and pretend the fight never happened.”
“Why do you want to go back and change that?” Best Dad asks her.
“Because it wasn’t something I liked.”
“About yourself?” Best Dad asks hopefully.
“About both of us.”
“Well, you can’t change your sister, you can only change yourself. Right?” Best Dad is now in recognizable parent mode. The girl sees right through it.
“Right Dad,” she rolls her eyes as if she’s heard this one a hundred times before.
“But I can ask her to change.”

Best Dad Evar chuckles and shakes his head. “That’s my oldest child.” He says to the empty seat across the table where he imagines the narrator to be.
“Younger child, would you like to have any do-overs?”
“No, I’m a good girl,” the younger one says with an impish grin, but in a tone of voice that suggests she fully believes what she’s saying.
“Well, there you go.” He says to the space across from him. “One of them wants the do-over to change what the other one did, the other thinks everything’s honky dory and wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Well, she did say ‘about both of us’.” the narrator puts in helpfully.
“I guess so. But where is the specific? What does she want to change about herself?” At this point, Best Dad Evar seems to notice that the girl is still sitting there, looking at him with an expression that is a mixture of anger and exasperation.
“Daaaaaad! You’re talking about me again with…. NOBODY and I’m right heeeeeere!”

Best Dad Evar looks embarrassed for a split second. Then he quickly recovers himself, and growls at her, “Well, answer the question: What would you change about yourself or your behavior?”
She looks embarrassed herself, as if she’d made a mistake. Then she pushes the chair back roughly and runs off.
“See,” Best Dad Evar says, his mouth twisted into a smirk, “I never get a straight answer out of that kid.”
“Well, what do you expect, she’s seven.”
“Yeah she is!” He stands up and wanders over to needlessly check on the dinner that’s being cooked by his automatic appliances. “Luckily we won’t have to do seven over.” He smiles to himself, enjoying his little joke.