Ten Reality Shows I Want to Watch

Posted by jdg | Thursday, August 26, 2010 |

A few months ago some guy came from the cable company and told us if we didn't let him install the digital box he had under his arm, we would only get eleven channels. Now I hadn't seen a legitimate cable box since 1987 when my parents agreed to a trial run of premium cable and I believed the HBO feature presentation intro was exactly what it looked like to die and go to heaven.

We get free basic cable as part of where we live, and I guess this is digital cable now, which must have something to do with being able to see the names of the programs when I push menu or info or something. Before I used to just call everything that came on the television Who the Fuck Got Paid to Make this Shit. Now I realize these shows have actual names, which is helpful for recognizing when other bloggers are talking about television programs and not sexually-charged anatomy textbooks or actual angry advertising executives. I do appreciate that this function allowed me to find my new favorite show, American Pickers (which has nothing to do with boogers, it turns out). It's okay, but let's be honest: all TV's been shite since Estelle Getty died.

My wife still doesn't know how to use this newfangled remote, so while I'm searching through the channels for one of her beloved Law & Order derivations, I often see the names of various reality series and imagine they were just slightly different so that I could actually take interest. For example:

1. Kim and Chloe Take Milwaukee

2.  The Real Housewives of New Hampshire

3. Dog the County Coroner

4. Gene Simmons' Syphilitic Genitals
5. America's Next Famous Quilter* (alternatively, So You Think You Can Quilt?)

6. Eighteen Years and Counting: Duggar Girls Gone Wild

7. Last Urchin Standing

8. Extreme Combovers

9. The Cougar, Season Two:

10. The Cougar, Season Two Reunion Special:

After all the serious stuff lately, I figured it was time for some old-school lousy photoshopping (see here, here, here, here, and here for previous examples). New posts tomorrow.

Taking Care

Posted by jdg | Thursday, August 19, 2010

Your father was driving north along a country road at night with one beer sputtering in his capillaries, far from enough to create any real risk but just enough to get him thinking about danger. The road itself was lit only by his car's headlights for twenty miles. The occasional window on some hillside glowed warm and yellow, saying someone is in here; someone is home safe and sound when you are not. The high beams had been burned out since they bought this car but he'd never needed them: city drivers don't. Besides, he never had to drive so far at night when you were safely in your beds.

There were deer around, your father knew this. He sensed them watching him, sensed their kamikaze urges. He passed two bucks together in the southbound lane. Sometimes it all comes down to their blank-eyed whim not to take that sudden step. And to your ancestors, they would have been no concern at all, only food. 

Your mother lived in China once. Your father will tell you his side of the story: Every Sunday night, he would buy a $20 phone card from a man slurping ramen in the back of an Asian video store and sit on the floor with a rotary phone to hear your mother's voice for five minutes of her Monday morning. They were supposed to be broken up, but he lived all week for those five minutes. Nine months later, when she returned, your parents moved in together. They were 22. Your mother got a job waiting tables at a restaurant with too much Jimmy Buffet in the jukebox. Drunk old men would pinch your mother's ass when she walked past but she was young and poor enough that tips mattered more than dignity. Your father hated this. But he hated more the drive home she made every night, forty miles each way, out there on the road in the hours when all reasonable people were asleep. One rainy night, her pickup truck slid across a lane of oncoming traffic and ended up in a ditch. By some miracle of fortune your mother survived that night.

* * * * *

Your father had a place he would visit in San Francisco, a Victorian Columbarium filled with the ashes of the dead. It had large stained glass windows of the Fates: Clotho, the spinner; Lachesis, the measurer; and Atropos, the cutter. He found this place by fated chance one June while walking home from visiting classmates out in the avenues, friends stunned and mourning. They all got the same e-mail from the Dean of Students that day. A car crash, it said. It was a weekday afternoon and they all walked out of their offices. It seemed to them that Death had looked into a crowd of thousands, saw the best one of all, and said I'll have her. Your father used to walk with her after their classes, after meals during their first year of law school. When he reached his door she would walk on to hers just a few meters further, and when they'd part he'd always say, take care. "You're so silly," she'd say, and she was right: they hardly ever left the law quadrangle. Still he said it. He couldn't help himself. He still can't. By now you know this.

Two years later, after those buildings fell and everything almost changed, he moved a block or so away from that Columbarium with its Fates and faint smell of old flowers. It became important for him to go in there once in awhile, for all its reminders that life is not something that should be taken for granted, and that taking care is only part of it.

* * * * *

Sometimes your father can hardly believe that you happened.

Picture your mother on a motorbike in Cambodia two years before she married him, dust in the face of peglegged beggars, starving children; picture men on the street with automatic rifles; picture her in some NGO jeep driving deep into a red-light district where she visited brothels to see the conditions for herself. Picture her on small Asian airplanes, chickens under the seats. When her hand slipped out of your father's at the airport a month earlier, he'd said it:"Take care," even when his drive back up the 101 might have been more perilous than all her adventures combined. By some miracle of fortune he saw through those tears and made it back alive.

And there are things almost harder to imagine, things you don't want to know about: the many almosts that might have torn them apart. And all that distance, and all those real regrets and separations that only proved what they had was worth holding onto. And then there's you. The ultimate proof.

Think about it. You are standing on the shoulders of thousands. Immense have been the preparations for you. Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd you. An immigrant bricklayer. A homesteading widow. A long line of hard-working farmers. Schoolteachers. Shopkeepers. Fearful refugees. Persecuted Huguenots. Soldiers who survived wars and soldiers who did not. A devout carpenter. A thrifty newsboy. An auto-body man. Hordes of Vikings. A famous inventor. A murdered Sheriff. Adoptive uncles. An engineer. A golfing postman. A cinnamon merchant. Bakers. Fishermen. Daughters of the American Revolution. Revolutionaries. Highlanders. Low country peasants. Irish Catholics. Prussian seamstresses. Pennsylvanians. Metalworkers. Midshipmen. Deer hunters. Berry gatherers. Drovers. Ancient chieftains. Common slaves. And yes: at least two lawyers. They all dreamed about you.

All of them survivors. All of them surviving, to this day, in you.

You are the direct result of many millions of tiny miracles, an endless stream of fortune good enough to bring you out into the sun. What incredible people you are, already.

* * * * *

You were on my shoulders, half a mile from shore before you turned me back. Perhaps not half a mile, but far enough that your dog watching from the beach looked worried (before he turned into a speck bouncing on the shore). The shoal ended suddenly in a steep grade, and your legs were in the water as I stood on my toes to keep my chin above it. Once in the cold, your legs clenched around my neck. "Turn around," you insisted. "Go back."

We were ten feet from the boulder I was hoping to reach. I showed it to you, with the waves breaking against it. Your mother and I had been out there already, another shoal where the water would have been up to your waist. Someday, I thought, turning my torso back towards the shore and away from the endless water. Someday you will swim there yourself.

Up North

Posted by jdg | Monday, August 16, 2010 | ,

This is another post that's mostly pictures. Click here to see them all.

County Fair

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lots more, click here.

How Blogging Made Me Better

Posted by jdg | Thursday, August 05, 2010

I've been writing here for more than five years now. I do not like taking up this space to talk about it. I'm fairly certain that those of you outside our sorority of navelgazing windbags known as bloggers don't really care about our conferences, our free trips to the Caribbean, or whatever the hell we have to say about our blogs on our blogs. But I am going to say this anyways.

There's no way I could have quit my job in San Francisco and spent the last four years doing what I've done without this website. In becoming part of a community of men and women writing and reading about the experience of parenting online I gained the support and validation I needed to abandon the trajectory I was on and focus instead on the life I actually wanted. This is where I get mushy. I know for most not-yet-parents, websites about parenting must be more unappealing than lactating nun porn. Twenty-somethings must tremble at the possibility of ending up like me, a man who abandoned everything he spent his twenties working towards because he became a father and was suddenly seized with the delusion that everything he thought was important when he was 23 actually didn't mean shit to him anymore. I went through that same journey of fear and dread, knowing that creating new life brings unpreventable changes and new responsibilities. Of course, what I hadn't been prepared for was how much love it would stir up inside me, this primal, riotous love; the calamitous melange of fear, and pain, and hope, and awe that comes when you finally get to know these new people you made with the one person who first stirred up enough love inside you to make it all happen. 

And then I remembered my own parents, what they taught me about love, and that long, slow spacewalk they've watched me take since they cut the cord. I thought about the sacrifices they made. And I wanted to reach out and hold my kids as close and for as long as I could, before they slipped away. I have always spent my life living for the next decade: working hard, saving money, plotting out a safe career and a secure retirement. When I realized that continuing to live how I was living meant that I would barely get to watch my kids grow up, something snapped. I walked away. And I had this blog and the people reading it to help keep me from fainting. I learned to live for these precious years of their lives, and mine. And I know I'm better for it.

Here is something that's hard to admit: this blog is a performance. I know a lot of people like to complain online. There is a certain value in it: the job of parenting---whether stay-at-home, work-at-home, working, no matter what kind---is difficult, and writing about the difficulty is important to give others going through it a sense that they are not alone. But I worry that complaining about this life I chose with my kids would be like spitting in the face of all the fathers who must work away from home to support their families; the mothers whose hearts break every morning when they leave the daycare center; the men and women who would gladly trade places with me, but cannot. Sure, I have things to complain about. But because I have this blog to collect and share my thoughts and experiences, I have generally been able to live with more positivity and joy than if it wasn't all so public. When writing publicly about your life, I think there's a natural tendency to try to live a better one. You do fun things you might not ordinarily do because you have the privilege of sharing those things with others. You find whatever inspiration there is in an ordinary day (or an "ugly" city) and you share it with strangers. And you are better for it.

The elephant jostling me into the corner of this post, pressing my cheek against the two flashing skyscraper ads is that I have been damn lucky to have people reading this blog, enough to allow me to support my family through that advertising. Knowing that you all are out there, watching, has made me try to find more adventure and joy in life, for me and my kids. Realizing that you care enough about what I write to keep reading is so humbling, and it has given me confidence that, for the first time, I know what I'm doing is right for me. And for that, I cannot thank you enough, all of you: the people who've followed this journey since the beginning, those we've picked up or lost touch with along the way, and those for whom this site is a recent discovery. Thank you all. Seriously.

* * * *

And that brings me to what's next. I'm not quitting, but the time I have left to write about my life with my children is as finite as the days I have left with them in my charge. This summer has been an exhausting pleasure, without playschool or summer camps, all day every day with them. In the fall, my daughter enters kindergarten and my son preschool, and I'm going to have to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I have never been able to bring myself to use writer as a predicate nominative with I as the subject, but I am thinking of exploring some new kinds of writing. Again, I'm not quitting this blog---not even close---but it just felt like the right time to reflect a bit, to take a moment to thank you for helping make the last four wonderful years of my life possible. Thank you so much for reading.