Monday, December 31, 2007, posted by Q6 at 3:25 PM
My kids receive several holiday presents from me each year, and in the tradition of my family the last present is always a big finale. This year, however, the "finale gift" for my daughter had to come first (scheduling required that, this year), and only a few hours after she got off the plane. She's read the book, Wicked, and fell in love with the hoopla that surrounds it, the music, even the color scheme. But no daughter of mine was going to have a thing for it without seeing the musical itself, so we got back from the airport, changed clothes, and headed to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.

This was her first trip to a musical, or a large stage production of any sort. That, in and of itself, was special for me (and, hopefully, for her). I've become quite a fan of going to musicals and plays in the last few years, and my hope is to include my kids in some of these excursions (but not all of them--I don't want to pierce the bubble of magic such outings have become for my fiancee and me). It's my duty, I'm sure, to pass on a love of the arts to my children. In fact, I made a point of taking my daughter to the front of the theater before the show started to give her a close-up look at the stage, the set, and the orchestra booth. (In an age where so much is technology-driven, I wanted her to see that the music is, in fact, played live at these events.)

She had a wonderful time--we both did, and in retrospect I believe that part of this gift was the time we spent together. Again, something I'd like to do more. As the kids get older, there are more and more things that we can do together as adults, and I'm very much looking forward to that.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007, posted by Q6 at 10:58 PM
My son had a video project due for his weightlifting class today.* His group didn't really put it off, but they had some technical problems that could have easily been avoided (dead camera batteries, bad scheduling timing--that kind of thing). Long story short, the three of them were filming in my garage at 6:30 this morning, one full hour before the project was due. (They even had a groupie looking on--the girl my son once had an interest in some time ago--remember her? She showed up and was just hanging around, watching.) By 7:00 my son was at his computer, downloading clips and cutting the movie together. Thank God he spent part of last night getting the sound clips and most of the title graphics done. He started burning at 7:20, and fifteen minutes later we were in the car. He was 20 minutes late to school; I was 45 minutes late to work, the project got turned in, and it wasn't half bad (pretty good, actually, for a kid who's only been tooling around with Windows Moviemaker for a week or so.

I didn't get on his case about it--we've all been there, I guess. As long as he doesn't make a habit of this sort of thing (and perhaps learns how to avoid certain such problems in the future), I don't see the need to browbeat him. In fact, he handled the pressure pretty well, all things considered.

*Although I work in education, and like the idea of a video project, the concept baffles me. Sure, we live in a technological society, but not all households have video cameras or video editing savvy, so making a video project a requirement seems a little cruel to me, in a way. Making a video project a requirement in a weightlifting class, that's a whole other bucket of weird.
Sunday, December 16, 2007, posted by Q6 at 10:40 PM
Among the many weird things that happen to me, looking at the clock is often one of them. No matter where I am, or what I'm doing, I always seem to look at a digital clock when the time is exactly 10:40. It doesn't matter if it's AM or PM--I'll manage to look, see it, and feel a sense of remembrance and, at the same time, a cold shiver. 10:40 seems to haunt me (not in an entirely bad way). Think about it for a moment: what forces in the universe have to be working to get me, several times a week, to see that particular minute? It only happens twice a day, it only happens fourteen times a week--and I manage to catch about half of that.

When my father died (25 years ago today), I was only thirteen years old. I was bitter about it--the reasons aren't important--and it took me years to finally accept the situation for what it was and move on. He had been ill for about two years, and he spent roughly eight months at UCLA Medical Center. The last thing he said (well, spelled out) to me was "I am very proud of you." Although I didn't realize at the time that these were his final words to me, I have recalled them often. I can remember with great clarity the period of his illness as well as the years prior. I can remember UCLA Medical Center and its layout (at the time) in great detail, and I can close my eyes and picture his hospital room. His room number?

1040. Weird.
Sunday, December 09, 2007, posted by Q6 at 11:19 PM
About four weeks ago, my oven died. Despite the fact that I'm a single father, I used my oven a lot. To have a kitchen without an oven proved to (a) strain my "eating out" budget more rapidly than predicted, and (b) leave the food in my freezer largely untouched. Ordering a new one proved easy (my fiancee helped with this, since she uses it too and will be living here in less than a year--thanks, sweetie); having it delivered was something of a chore, however, since the one I chose needed to be backordered. Finally, it arrived. The delivery men from Best Buy (who did an awesome job of the installation and not ruining my floor) gave me a chance to clean the floor underneath after moving the old one out.

This was like a little domestic archeological dig for me. The old range had been there for ten years, and there was quite a lot under there, despite how hard I try to keep this place clean. Here's what I found:

  • two fists full of dust (naturally)
  • a paper towel (folded)
  • two plastic clips that hold plastic bags closed (one white, one green)
  • two nails
  • a cardboard playing piece from a kiddie board game
  • a broken rubber band
  • a small plastic gasket (which, for all I know, is the part that caused the oven to stop working)
  • a wooden scrap of wood
  • a sanded wood dowel (very much like, but not, a Lincoln Log)
  • two refrigerator magnets
  • two beans (one kidney, one unknown)
  • fifteen cents (one dime, one nickel)
  • a piece of chipped plaster from the wall (oops)
  • five Mancala stones
  • three lego pieces
  • three kernels of popcorn (unpopped)
  • a dried lump of Play-Doh (lime green)
  • a dried lump of something else entirely, and God only knows what it is
  • a dreidel (in pristine condition, and lost only the day before)

No dead bugs, no million dollar check made out to me, no Lost Ark of the Covenant, no Japanese people who don't know the war's over, . . . just a bunch of "floor junk." If I'd thought about it ahead of time, I might have placed something under there for the next family in this house to find . . . then again, the only thing the last family left me was an empty gift box in the attic, so . . .

, posted by Q6 at 10:51 PM
In an attempt to better bond with my son at his own level, I have finally conceded to do something I've put off for as long as possible: we're now playing video games together. One video game, actually. We're playing HALO in two-player mode.

It's a daunting experience for a guy like me. I was around (albeit very, very young) when Pong was invented. For the first part of my adolescence, video games were played in pizza parlors and bowling alleys using quarters (creating the motivation for things like allowance and mowing lawns). Later, my home was blessed with Atari's first home unit, the 2600. It had, for a controller, a joystick with a single red button. Ah, the joystick: simple, elegant, . . . simple.

The original X-Box controller, by contrast, is a pathologically complicated device: it has six buttons, three joysticks (each of which can also act as a button), two triggers, and the thing vibrates at various points. It's an IQ test for your hand, to be honest.

I'm getting the hang of using it, although my son hasn't quite figured out that one of the purposes of a video game is to learn as you go. He's already completed HALO 2, so this game is almost second nature to him, as evidenced by the fact that I spend a great deal of the game following him around, getting lost, and catching up right after he's killed all the bad guys. My getting lost does us little good, as he already knows where to go and what to do. We're having fun, though.

I probably have to find some time to practice solo, without him around, so that I can keep up; but at some point, I think we should purchase and play a game he's not yet played so that we can explore it together. I may even get to take the lead once in a while. Finding a game he hasn't played on X-Box will be difficult, and will probably be his justification for advocating the X-Box 360. Guitar Hero, and all that.

My God: another controller.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007, posted by Q6 at 8:51 PM
I tried. I really did. I don't feel badly about it not working out, either. Sometimes the effort makes the statement, not the result.

My son had an activity at school this evening (of course, this was preceded by a 2pm school dismissal, a screening of "Superbad" at the dollar theater, lunch at Carl's Jr., and a round of Guitar Hero III at a local Best Buy). His event was from 6pm to 8pm, and we were on-again off-again about whether I was to pick him up at 8, or wait for his call. Being the parent that I am, and wanting to be there for my kid, I left the house about 8:05, drove to the school, and sat in the parking lot until the call came in. I brought my book, and sat under one of the lights. No rush.

I parked about a hundred yards from the school's theater (I hate parents who hover, and didn't want to be one of "those" parents)--far enough not to be immediately seen, close enough to see. From my vantage point I could see the dark, empty quad; I could see kids coming from the music room as practice ended; and I could see a small huddle of teens outside the theater, just hanging out and enjoying the company of friends. There was a time my son didn't have that many friends; now he has plenty, and that includes those in the Improv Troupe at the school. I looked up from my book long enough to see them all howl with laughter at some joke, having a good time being young. I smiled just a bit . . . my son was growing up, but he seemed to be enjoying it.

Then the phone rang. "Where are you?" he asked. He asked a little expectantly, too, like I was late or something.

"Where are you?" I countered. Don't take that tone with me, young man.

"I'm here, and you're not. I'm upstairs." He had grabbed a ride with one of his friends. What he didn't say--and seemed to want to--was that he was trying to impress me by taking care of his own needs, all the while not knowing that I was trying to impress him by meeting those same needs.

Like I said, I tried. So did he. Neither one of us succeeded, . . . and yet, perhaps we both did.