Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Promises To Keep

Forgive me a little self-indulgence as I subject you all to an open letter to my newborn daughter.

Hi Sam,

This is your Dad. But feel free to call me Deni, we don't hang our hats on titles in this family. "This family," what an odd new thing to be saying. With you here I guess that's what we are now.

You'll have to let me know eventually how you like your nickname we created by giving you the initials S-A-M. You don't have to use it but it is there if you want it. Your mom's idea, to make sure you had options for what you want to call yourself. Between this, your real first name, the first name shortened and your middle name you can pick whichever you want.

I'm writing this and you are only a few hours old so you probably can't read it yet. I'm not sure when you'll read this, maybe when you are a teenager and wondering why your father is such a freak and can't be normal like everyone else's dad.

Sorry about that. Not really much I can do. Ask your mother, she's known me since I was 18 and can vouch for my inherent weirdness and that it is not a purposeful thing meant to embarrass you in front of the cool kids. Those kids aren't your real friends anyway. Trust me.

I wanted to talk to you now so that we can lay down some ground rules. Not for you, for me. See, I'm just as new at this fathering thing as you are at being a human. I'm going to make mistakes. Oh boy am I going to make mistakes. But hopefully I can keep them to enough of a minimum that you won't end up spending your 30s on a therapist's couch.

So to that end I thought maybe we should have a little social contract between us. Not to worry, there will be nothing demanded of you in this, these are promises I have to keep. You're too young at this point for your signature to be legally binding anyway. Except maybe in Mississippi, where I think you might already be of legal marrying age.

I guess I want you to be able to have expectations of your dad, not just have them demanded by him. That seems to be the one-way street of most parent-child relationships.

I guess I'll start with what most parents tell me is an easy one. I will love you unconditionally. As someone who just became a parent this is still not too easy to grasp. I suppose that it's true. Frankly, it is hard to imagine loving you unconditionally if you become a serial killer, (highly unlikely since you're a girl) Republican, Jesus freak, racist, Wal-Mart shopper or a gay-basher. Or show up in a Girls Gone Wild DVD. But I'm sure I will stick to this one.

I won't try to fake you out for my own entertainment. There is no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy or Jesus. As a child you are perfectly capable of making up your own imaginary friends, you don't need me to do that for you. I'm sure yours will be a lot more interesting than the ones any adult can think of. You may need to keep this one to yourself or you'll be the most hated kid in your second grade class and I'll have a lot of angry parents calling me.

"Because" is never the answer to any question. Don't ever accept that from me if I ever dare to pull that on you.

"Because I said so" is not a reason for things to be done my way. Sure, there will be rules. But you are a person and you deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. If you want to know why we have a certain rule for you I'll tell you. If I don't have a good reason then it's not a good rule to begin with. For instance, you'll probably want to know why we don't let you camp out in front of the TV like most of the other kids get to do. This one will be easy, as all I'll have to do is ask you who you'd rather be like. A smart, hard-working, successful physician like your mom? Or your father, who can tell you the difference between Cylons, Ferengi and Sleestaks?

No matter what disagreements we might have, the phrase, "While you're living under my roof..." will never pass my lips.

I'm kind of hoping you'll be a little bit of a tomboy. If you instead turn out to be one of those girls that wants her dad to wear a tiara and sit in a little chair to have a tea party with all your dolls, I'll do that. I'll probably hate it, but I'll do it.

The day I raise my hand in anger or punishment to you or say something I know will be hurtful to you is the day I pack my bags and remove myself from you and your mother's lives forever. One thing you should never have to experience is the same kind of violence and emotional abuse that was thrust upon me as a child and teenager. That family tradition stops here.

I absolutely will not abdicate my responsibility of talking to you about sex and defer to someone else. I will look you in the eye and give you honest information and answers to your questions. There will be no embarrassment or agonizing from me because you are my "little girl" and I'd rather not think about you having sex. That father is the kind that ends up with a pregnant 16-year-old. I'm not saying I think it will be easy. But it is your mother's and my responsibility and it is too important. We won't let you down.

I will try like crazy to get you to love music because it is one of my passions and I hope it will be something we can share together. I'll do my best to not force my favorite music down your throat, just expose you to it and let you decide. This might be difficult for me to accomplish, just ask you mother. If you decide to say to me one day, "Deni, I just can't stand Robyn Hitchcock or Billy Bragg," it won't kill me. I'll cry myself to sleep that night, but I'll grudgingly accept that you like what you like. This would probably be my biggest test of that unconditional promise listed previously.

To that same end, if you come to really love your generation's version of Debbie Gibson, Hannah Montana or *NSync (shudder) and want to go see them in concert, I will take you and sit there the whole time, dancing if you want me to. I'll probably spend the whole evening fighting off both my gag reflex and the urge to make snarky remarks about this future teen idol, but I will deal with it if it makes you happy.

I won't freak out about the haircuts you get or the clothes you wear. Well, within reason. I'll probably draw the line at skirts that show your butt and tank tops with "slut" or "juicy" declared across the front. But if you come home with a Mohawk one day, big deal. It's just hair. Lots of parents worry too much about their kids dressing weird or getting crazy haircuts. I'll be worried if you go through your teen years and don't try to do things like that. I'm not going to sweat the small things, and teens dressing weird is most assuredly one of the smallest.

I won't try to relive my childhood through you. There will be no pushing you to do the things I liked to do or wanted to do when I was younger. You don't have to be in drama club. That would make me happy if you want to do that, to be sure. But it will never be about me. You also don't have to go to prom or march in graduation if you don't want to. Those are the two most overrated things in high school anyway. Seriously, my first bit of advice to you is that prom is a stupid school dance that costs a lot of money to drink punch and listen to a bad cover band. It will not give you the memories of your life they say it will and you won't have some empty hole in your life for missing it.

I will not see it as my job to scare the boys, or girls, who come to pick you up for dates.

You might like boys. You might like girls. Both your mother and I are cool with either way you turn out. You'll be raised to know that both ways are normal and healthy. Though I must admit, that part about not scaring your dates will probably be easier for me to live up to if it's girls you're bringing home.

You will see more of the world by the time you are a teenager than I had seen by the age of 30. We want you to be exposed to different cultures, places and people to give you a wide view of the world. We don't want you having to play catch-up in your late twenties and thirties like me. We promise to take you to many, many different places around the world.

When you are old enough, after high school and during college, you will be given the opportunity, means and encouragement to strap on a backpack and see part of the world by yourself. I may even insist. This means a real international trip, like backpacking through Europe while staying in hostels or doing volunteer work in a village in Cambodia, not spring break in Cancun with thousands of frat boys and sorority sisters. That, I can assure you, your mother and I will not pay for.

These are my promises to you little one. I will probably think of more that I need to add to this list over the years as I figure out this whole fatherhood thing. But no promises can be renegotiated by me no matter how hard to keep they might turn out to be.

I hope I do not stray from these vows I make. I'll do my best.


Deni - aka "Dad," "Pops," "Daddy," "Papa" or whatever you want to call me.

Anything but "Father." Please.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Hate

I'm really reaching this week, with nothing really itching at me to rant about. There is just this one thing I have to bitch about right now, but I was reluctant to write about it since it is a little too close to a post my buddy Joe wrote less than a week ago.

But fuck it, he's so loopy from being up for the last three days straight, because he's dancing on the cloud of new fatherhood, that he won't notice.

I have got this damn zit on my nose. Now it is not what you think. Unlike Joe's demonstration of girl-like vanity, I'm not worried about how it looks. In fact, no one can even see it. I guess it might not even technically be my nose since it is on the bridge between my eyes.

And that's the problem. It is a somewhat painful little zit that is situated perfectly for my eyeglass nose pads to sit right on top of it.

It is really irritating and there is not much I can do about it. I haven't owned a pair of contacts since I was about 20-years-old. So the two options are to deal with the annoying pain or have blurry vision.

Now I know what Sophie must have felt like with that no-win choice. It's tragic I tell ya.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big O

I was perusing the on-line edition of the Chicago Tribune last week, I tend to keep up with the newspapers from the places I've lived, and I came across this story. I wouldn't have even clicked the link to the story had I not recognized the name of the person it was about.

It is about a project by a woman, Robyn Okrant, I did a play with several years ago in Chicago, a long-form improv parody of the TV show ER. It was a big hit in Chicago for many years, running for I think almost ten years. We were involved in one of the later incarnations.

When I saw the article I thought, "Robyn Okrant? Hey, I used to know Robyn!"

Having done theatre in several cities over the years it is not uncommon for me to run across names of people I know in newspaper articles or see faces I recognize in commercials, TV shows and movies. It is usually fairly minor - a bit part in a commercial or movie, a mention in a review of a play - though sometimes there is some real meaty, high profile stuff.

Too often it seems to happen only with completely unlikable and untalented self-promoters, like that douche bag Mike Daisey (who I knew in my Seattle days) with his vacuous monologues that he's convinced so many hipster theatre-goers are deep and artistic.

But seeing the attention Robyn has been getting got me so psyched. Not only is she one of the nicest and most genuine people I ever did a show with, she is also one of the most talented and original. And funny as hell. Honestly one of my absolute favorite people from my former theatre career.

After reading the article in the Trib I found a bunch more media attention she has been getting for a while that flew under my radar. She has been interviewed for a bunch of radio shows, including All Things Considered (I don't always get a chance to listen) and many media outlets have written about it. I would have discovered this a while ago when the New York Times ran a story, since I read the Times every day, if not for the fact I was in Taiwan in the middle of August when the article appeared.

And the project? Well, she decided to live for an entire year as Oprah advises people to do in her various formats (show, magazine, website, etc) and write a blog about it. One of the articles I read mentioned that she already has a deal with a publisher to write a book about the experiment.

Like I said, I wouldn't have even read that article had I not seen Robyn's name. I'm bored by pretty much anything Oprah. I just don't get why people like her so much.

But with Robyn Okrant doing a take on it I know it will turn out fantastic. She has a brilliant mind for both analysis and comedy.

I'm truly happy for her and I'm posting this really just to let all of you know about it. Because, you know, with her coverage only coming from pipsqueak media outlets like NPR and the New York Times I need to do all I can to help out an old acquaintance with my myriad of readers.

I haven't had too much time since I heard about it to really read her blog, I'm just now starting to weed my way through it. I think I'd rather wait for the book to tell you the truth, to read the whole thing when she's done. Hard to create a story arc with daily blog postings.

You should check it out. Living Oprah.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Hate

Time once again for a trip through what my brain is hatin' at the moment.

I woke up today with nothing to write about, but on my walk to work toward Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue I was reminded of what today is. So I've got one item today:

People who still celebrate Columbus Day. I mean come on! Really? Even after all we have discovered about that monster, the stuff they didn't tell us in school, we still have a parade in his honor being set up this very morning on 5th Avenue.

I don't know if it still the same today, but if you are around my age or older, and went to public primary and high schools, you more than likely were told the usual heroic sounding story of Columbus "discovering" the "new world" and that's how the founding of America began. Period.

This is the moral equivalent of schools teaching that Adolph Hitler was this guy who designed the Volkswagen Beetle, bringing affordable transportation to the working class.

It wasn't until I got to college that I finally got to discover the truth about the barbarian that enslaved and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of human beings. It is estimated that his actions caused the death of over half the population of Haiti in just one two-year period. And the long term effect of enslavement and slaughter led to complete disappearance of the original population on Haiti by 1650.

Think about that. There are parades around America today in honor of a man who is responsible for the eradication of an entire race. Not even Hitler accomplished that, try as he did.

The parades are not as big as they were in years past, thankfully a lot more people are aware. But the Italian-American community in so many cities still stick to celebrating the man. This kind of ethnic pride is sickening.

They may as well have a parade for Mussolini.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Hate

Not too long before my blogging will almost assuredly slow down for a while with the child soon to appear. I imagine at that point my weekly hate list will consist mostly of items like "poop" and "spit-up." I'll try to do more than just these Monday hate posts, but most of my on-line attention is being given to my other blog for the time being.

But until Out Of Tune becomes nothing more than bitching about lack of sleep and colic, enjoy these precious moments we have together, just you and I and the things I'd like to beat with a stick.

This week's things I can't stand:

Kirk Cameron. I know, why would I even waste the energy hating a bad, has-been actor? Well, I'm reading my New York Times this morning and I come across a story in the Arts section about some crappy religious propaganda movie about a firefighter who saves his marriage by "turning to god." It stars the former teen actor and current religious fanatic star of the bizarre Left Behind movies. There was this section included in the article:

Mr. Cameron, who has been married for 17 years and has six children, also said that his faith had helped him survive in Hollywood. “As a teen idol who makes it to 37 without being a crack-smoking transvestite stuck in a drug-rehab center over and over, I’d say, wow, those values have served me pretty well,” he said.

I'd say, wow, you're a dick Kirk. So what about the rest of the "teen idols" who made it to adulthood not being addicted to crack? You know, the majority of them? Just because a few from basically one show (Different Strokes) had some issues over the years, people forget that that doesn't represent the whole of people who were ever famous teen actors. Lots of actors can keep their wits about them without having to turn to ancient fairy tales you smug jerk.

And what the hell is wrong with transvestites? You god-loving types just can't make a comment without taking a dig at gay, transgendered or any other people who are different from you, can you? You homophobic, hate-mongering piece of shit.

Miley Cyrus. Disneyland was shut down for a private party, Miley Cyrus' 16th birthday celebration. Guests paid $250 to attend. Need I say anymore?

Boston Red Sox. As I'm typing this they just beat the Angels to win the series and go to the ALCS against the Rays. It reminds me how annoying I remember Red Sox fans being and what a god-awful place Boston is to live. The Red Sox were a lot more likable when they tragically lost in the postseason all the time.

Sarah Palin. I try to keep the political stuff over at the other blog, but I just can't help this one. I really thought it wasn't possible for my hatred of this woman to get any bigger, but the more and more I get to see her the more I cannot stomach this sorry excuse for a human being. Nothing would please me more than to see this woman get beaten with moose antlers by a group of gay environmental community activists from Planned Parenthood on their way to buy some arugula.