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At the very least I’ve always attempted to demonstrate a grain of critical thought. Not that my blog subjects are always worthy of it. But I try to be capable of doing so.

Blog or not, we could say that critical thought is pretty big deal, right? Without it we do exactly what we’re told. We blindly follow the first cult leader we meet. We heed the advice of Dr. Phil to the T. We go to McDonalds every day. By the end we’ve become fat losers, sitting on the commune couch, doing our Dr. Phil affirmations, eating Big Macs as we’re about to drink some funny-smelling Kool-Aid that we’re told tastes like transcendence. I’ve always been a worst-case-scenario kind of guy.

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It’s not fair.

We could even say that critical thought is, in part, that which separates us humans from the golden retriever in the back yard chasing the nearest squirrel then the nearest squirrel then the nearest squirrel…

What am I without it? I’m starting to learn.

I began writing this in an effort to figure out why I have not done a blog in a while. Pretty sure I know the answer and that critical thought, or lack thereof, has a lot to do with it. But before I reveal the culprit, I have to point out that I’m writing a blog about why I haven’t written a blog, which in and of itself is a testament to how far off track I’ve veered. This act is only half a step removed from the clichéd writer who writes a story about a writer writing. I’ve fallen so far, and I didn’t even start that high. My standards are gone.

Q: Why no blogging lately? A: I got no critical thoughts for latching onto. It’s blank up there. Emotion and instinct echo through otherwise empty space. And there is, in fact, a singular source of my brand new simplicity of mind. She’s an unrelenting, crazy-haired force, drool strings emanating from her mouth, and occasionally the origin of a funky odor.

It’s my daughter’s fault.

I can’t help it. I can’t overcome the fact that she is six months old, and she is undeniably, insufferably cute. Amazing. Everything, EVERYTHING, she does is lovely. And this cuteness cannot exist side by side with any degree of scrutiny because everything I see, every thought I have, every analytical inkling that crawls across my brain disperses and circles back… to… cute.

I am the proverbial putty. I am the blathering mess.

She peed on me as I held her the other day and smiled while she did it, and I found it perfectly adorable in every way. After enduring a moment like that, how can I expect myself to ponder some labyrinthine literary theory, as I am often wont to do on a Saturday night, maintain the criteria I set for myself, or just write a simple blog about why WWE wrestling is more entertaining than musical theater?

I’m in trouble.

Cuteness is a close cousin to emotion, and as far as I can tell, emotion is incompatible with critical thought. Imagine a chess master furrowing his brow, about to sacrifice his knight in order to capture his opponent’s queen. If he let’s cuteness wander in, he suddenly changes course because he feels bad for killing the horsey. Who knows, the royals may turn it into dog food.

The cuteness wouldn’t be a matter for discussion if it took a rest. But it’s relentless. It envelopes everything, it surrounds me – a big pink bubble gum force field that itself simultaneously generates more cuteness and holds it in. Recharging, perpetual cuteness. Cuteness on top of cuteness. I can’t disregard it. I can’t question why it’s there. This is what it feels like to be mauled by kitties.

The strangest part is when I remember I used to have standards, standards that were based on my moderate reasoning talents. Standards for my writing and my interests, standards for myself, my ways, my blah blah… I don’t know. All I know is that I ate a mushy apple the other day even though anyone who knows me knows that if there’s one food I can’t stand, it’s a mealy, mushy apple. I’ve always been good at thinking about my apples, good at chucking them across a parking lot in disgust, cursing them out of my life, being irritated at them. I’ve been good at getting wrapped up in the criticism that reinforces those standards – criticism of apples or otherwise. But now these protracted moments pop up, moments in which the world is quite round.

Sigh.

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Here we go. I can feel it creeping in as I watch her attempt to chew on her own foot. It’s like the captivation of daydreams, being led helplessly through curves. What was I saying? She’s babbling, imploring her toes forward, squealing at them for being so remarkable. Those toes. She’s explaining in jabbers that she feels bad for the slobber bath that’s about to befall them, but they’ve brought it on themselves. It’s what happens when one loves ones toes so much – the way of the world. She gives me no choice. I’m a goner. Adios. And in a moment that’s coming up more frequently, I think how we ought to get a dog someday, a poorly behaved dog that does silly things. We’ll play with him in the back yard, running crazily through the trees, and we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.

-MC JLight and Loretta

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Yesterdays ago you were tired of wondering. Now you’re downright exhausted, but it’s all you think about anymore. Maybe today is The Day. No, maybe today is The Day. That’s how it is–The Day always hovering like the hope of a rest stop bathroom around the next turn when you’re too prude to pull over and piss on the side of the road.

Painful as it is to admit, the greeting-carders may be right, i.e., The Day will feel like lollipop color and blinding epiphany. Shining glittery swirls, dew drops, a tasty salad, lustrous hair, and digestive harmony. But today you could barely stomach your coffee or the day-old Danish you found in the teacher’s lounge. Anyway, today feels like yellow eye crust. You pop a couple of antacids and wonder if you put chalk in your mouth if you’d even know the difference.

Greeting-carders. Kenny Griffith’s mom is a greeting-carder, which means Kenny Griffith is a greeting-carder in training, which must be what feeds his alphabet-soup disposition. Last year the class slowly migrated away from his corner desk. Whatever it was—the Kenny Griffith aroma, the clicking jaw, the allergy snots—you don’t know. But through it all Kenny Griffith continued to tour the school like a cruise ship social director oblivious to the fact that no one cares about the Electric Slide or animals made from dingy cruise ship towels.

Your parents took you on a cruise last Christmas. It didn’t go well.

Five minutes to bell hell. You make a fleeting deal with yourself, something about enthusiasm. Moments later, as if he could smell your lukewarm attempt, Kenny Griffith waddles in. The first kid of the year, even earlier than usual.

“Morning, Mr. C,” he says.

“Hi,” you respond.

Kenny Griffith vibrates the floor, rippling the puddle of coffee in your Styrofoam cup. You wonder how many sandwich cookies you’ll watch Kenny Griffith sneak out of his desk and into his face today. The record is twenty-three.

He says, “You look different than you did last year, kind of—what’s the word—peppy.” Then he says it again as if a higher intonation will get you to buy it, “Peppy. Florescent pink. Did you lose weight?” That’s another mark of a greeting-carder: he sees what he wants to see.

“No,” you say.

“You’re just excited about the new year.” Kenny smiles and sits at his desk.

“That has to be it.”

“My mom got a Botox injection this summer. She says it tightens her turkey neck.”

Odd for a greeting-carder to get Botox. But you never know what they’re capable of. Case in point: you had Kenny Griffith last year and gave him a charity grade so he could move on to high school, but the greeting-carder asked for a special meeting where she said she thought that Kenny Griffith needed to do the eighth grade one more time and that it would be a “neat challenge” for him to be with a new class, make new friends, and on and on. She had the principal puckering his lips like he was releasing a particularly joyous fart.

You stand and rest your head against the blackboard, knowing all the while that you could walk out at this moment right here. Or this one. You could saunter to an amusement park for the day, have a corndog, charm a female carney into giving you extra time on the Tilt-a-Whirl, fall in love, have baby carneys, open your own amusement park, watch the sunset with a mouthful of cotton candy. But that’s awfully unnatural. Hell, that kind of self-determination only led you here.

If you don’t write something on the board, then the kids will think you’re an idiot. Only one thing comes to mind. As you write, the chalk squeaks like a door slowly closing.

You leave the chalk dust on your forehead.

“Nice, Mr. C,” says Kenny Griffith. “Back to school. Great way to start things off.”

“Kenny Griffith, why don’t you read something?”

To honor the boredom this year will hold, you sit and create a kind of haphazard chalk sculpture: the pink lying on the desk, the white propped against it, and the green watching nearby. When you pull your hand away, the white wobbles back and forth, and you find yourself hoping it will slip off its prop, it will succumb and run away because a single force has dictated that it shall be so, that it’s right. And if it does fall, you quickly bargain as you have many times before, you’ll take this small reaction as fate itself, as if a voice were whispering into your ear, This is it. Go.

But the rocking slows, the white sits on the edge. Stuck and untouchable.

“Would you say I’m the classroom captain this year?” Kenny Griffith waits for an answer. “It feels like I am since it’s my second year. So, can I do anything to help you?” he offers with greeting-carder concern.

You scoff. But it should be so easy. And though everything else has abandoned you, right now you have Kenny Griffith.

“Do you need to go to the bathroom?” you blurt. “I know you have a bladder the size of a breath mint, Kenny Griffith.”

He smiles. “Good one, Mr. C.” You stare at him. He wavers then says, “Well, I did have an extra glass of milk this morning.”

Kenny Griffith rises. You actually root for him as he tromps down the aisle toward the door, the vibrations immediately strong like menthol drops. Your nose burns with quick breaths, and you focus on the white chalk wobbling back and forth, creeping ever close to the edge of the pink. Clop, clop, clop. It trembles in your socks. And the sight of the white about to topple—it almost reminds you of confidence.

So you close your eyes, ready to hear the click of falling. Maybe you go somewhere else for a moment. Maybe you go to that amusement park, dizzy and giggling. Whatever the place, it’s nice, suffused in sunset orange. And eerily, uniquely quiet.

That’s what jolts you back, the stillness. Your eyes open but slowly. When the blurs clear, there are no colorful jumbles moving past you. Not at all. Only Kenny Griffith standing right there as still as can be, his gummy half-moon smile, his stubby fingers steadying the chalk on your desk, leaving it still there. The white leaning against the pink.

He cants his head and says, “Is this some kind of game?”

It must be.

-MC JLight

So I’m doing something new. Thought it would be fun to mix things up. The title pretty much explains it. Stock photo. Story to follow.

-MC JLight

The wind tossed her hair into scatters. She tucked it behind her ears and looked, but he still hadn’t turned away from the ocean. Like this, the two sat on separate beach towels for a moment.

Squint wrinkles in the corner of his eye flexed into a W. Through the small space between his face and his sunglasses, she could see his stock-still eyelashes in profile.

Doesn’t that hurt your eyes? she finally asked. They get dried out when you don’t blink.

I don’t really think about it. Why is it always the little things with you? he said.

I’m a noticer, that’s all.

He shook his head.

She slid off her wedding band, put it in her jeans pocket for safe keeping, and felt the beach. The wind blew some sand onto his blue towel; he looked down and brushed it away.

The sand’s just right for it, she said and smiled. And it doesn’t have to be a sand castle. It could be a sculpture, she smiled. Kind of like the kids used to make. Remember the time Brendan made that baseball field in the sand? It had dugouts and players. It had everything.

That was a long time ago, he said. And it looked like a triangle with dots.

The tide was out. Small breakers, like white party hats, played peekaboo out in the deeps. It wasn’t altogether impossible to ignore the early winter temperatures and allow the other four senses to say, Summer, in unison.

She pushed up her sweater sleeves, exposing a few small sunspots, and took one of the granola bars from her pocket. While she chewed, she held the wrapper above her head, let it flutter for a moment, and released it. It rose and dove in the breeze then skittered along the sand. The further it got, the more it looked like someone walking away from them.

So we’re littering now? he said and jumped up, chasing the wrapper down. He nabbed it and fell sideways into the sand.

She giggled. It’s only one wrapper. Trash can be quite pretty sometimes, she said.

Dammit, I got sand in my pants, he said while walking back. And one wrapper is one too many.

You should take your shoes off; it’s easier to walk that way, she replied and waited. He sat back down, again focusing his attention straight out, past the beach and the water and the horizon. All I’m saying, she continued, is that we can make anything. Remember those amazing sand sculptures we saw at my parents’ that time?

No, he said.

She played with the frayed edges of her pant legs.

It was Thanksgiving and we watched my dad’s old sixteen millimeter movies. There was one of me and Mom down at Santa Monica beach surrounded by all these beautiful sand sculptures. Sea turtles, mermaids, cars. Poking up all around us. The film color had faded to orange, like it was sunset all the time.

He smiled but didn’t face her. She stopped fidgeting and waited. I don’t remember that, he said.

She pulled herself up and grabbed each of the shovels she’d brought: the red, the green, the yellow, the blue. She fanned them out in the sand together, all pointing the same direction, toward the hope of a buried treasure X.

The point is we could make something cool for us to remember. She looked down, watching the sand sting her feet. I mean we could make a dog or a pirate ship… Or a stethoscope, for you.

He grabbed a granola bar and fought with the wrapper. His knuckles cracked.

Get it? That’s doctor humor.

Yeah, he replied.

Or something funny, she said and drew an outline in the sand with her heel. He gave up on the granola bar. She asked, What about a big, open book?

We’re not professional sand sculptures, he said. Ours would look like a square. Or just a mound in the sand.

That’s okay, she said.

No one would like that.

We have to leave something behind.

It’ll get washed away.

But that’s what you do at the beach. You leave something behind, something in the sand. And even if it washes away, you know it was there. She paused. I brought the camera.

She stopped and looked at him and the wind stung her eyes.

Couldn’t we try? she asked, the sound coming slowly like her last bit of voice.

He tousled the edges of his grey-tipped hair. Sure, he sighed. Why don’t… Why don’t we leave the shovels right where they are? That’ll be our contribution. It’s like a work of art, one of those abstract sculptures you enjoy so much.

She wiped the sting from her eyes and said, Okay, but we have to get pictures. She pulled out the camera. First, we’ll get one of the shovels alone, then we can take some of us. Okay?

Yeah, he said. She smiled and he smiled. Their smiles looked the same. Then we can go, he added.

She cradled the camera in her hand, guiding the focus ring. She tried kneeling and standing, moved near to far, angled high and low. Coaxing the shutter speed and f-stop just so. Waiting for the sun to clear a cloud. And eventually, everything overlapped and the shot was the best it would ever be. With her eye pressed against the camera she whispered, Okay, let me get this picture.

Then she depressed the button, and the camera went click. By that time he was halfway to the car.

In sixth grade, I was Tom Cruise. Five days a week, weather permitting, I was Tom Cruise. Between 8 am and 8:15 am, or as long as it took me to walk to school, I was Tom Cruise.

I wasn’t trying to be a fighter pilot; this wasn’t about a boyhood aspiration. My Tom Cruise moments weren’t even about pretending to engage a flurry of befuddled MIGs, and I didn’t imagine myself in the kind of dogfight where the ground and sky zap into a single blur. No. It was simply about being and feeling cool, Tom Cruise Cool. My experience on those walks to school was a sixth-grade, approximated version of the feeling that followed the heinous dogfight, came after the aircraft carrier landing, after the cockpit high five. It was a taste of the coolness that was a fortunate symptom of being a fighter pilot. As far as I was concerned, this version of me radiated an aura identical to the one Maverick projected as he rode his crotch rocket into the fiery Jerry Bruckheimer sunset, knowing all the while that he was a complete badass.

Careful, Charlie. You might get burned by the cool. (He even looks like me.)

I didn’t even walk to school; I floated an inch above the ground accompanied by my own bass-heavy theme music.

This was my sixth grade cool.

Mom and Dad bought me the jacket for Christmas. It was a classic bomber jacket from Burlington Coat Factory made with fake leather, adorned with fake military patches, and finished off with a fake fur collar. But it was the sweetest thing I’d ever worn. It still might be. I mean, I slid my arms into those sleeves and my biceps grew, my mind a flutter with memories of hard battles, carbon-stained teeth, and the women who helped me clean them. I’m pretty sure that jacket accelerated puberty. It was wearable testosterone.

There were also the accoutrements of my Tom Cruise Cool. Hair gel—I used enough to choke an Iceman. Combed it down into a nice clean part, the comb leaving evenly spaced rows in my hair like striations on the barrel of a gun. You’ve got to wear jeans with a bomber jacket, which I did, or a sweet pair of camo green cargo shorts, just in case a tactical situation arose. Never knew when I might need a bunch of pockets. Finally, since naval aviators didn’t eat breakfast, neither did I. I was much cooler with an empty stomach.

L.A. Looks: The gold standard in aviator hair products.

You’d think that glasses would have been a necessary piece, a nice mirrored pair of aviators. But I was smarter than that. After all, how would my flock of female admirers see into my hardened, yet benevolent soul if they looked into my face and only saw their own reflection? Thanks, but I’ll leave the glasses at home. In doing this, I even out-badassed Maverick.

During a walk that spanned a single Strasburg block, I was the guy.

Authentic cool.

Sixth grade was when coolness started to take shape, when I knew the feeling and could name it and understood what it meant for me—confidence, rightness with the world. In many ways, cool is and has always been comfort. I was a twitchy goober in sixth grade, but those walks to school allowed me the comfort of being less goobery for about fifteen minutes.

The feeling of cool is an important one, so are its cousins: phat, groovy, funky, happening, fly, chic. And we all have our own bomber jacket, our own artifacts that catalyze the emergence of cool or uncover the personal phatness residing always somewhere inside. Those artifacts, if only for a little while, help us to brush aside airport lines, bills, empty gas tanks, debt crises, poor cell reception, and chirpy Starbucks baristas, with a feeling of… cool. For some, maybe it’s the sound of a basketball that triggers the memory of the time in high school they scored at the buzzer the feeling of which generates a moment of crowd-cheering cool. Someone else might feel their cool creep in as a hip-hop drumbeat reaches their ear. Even the still-goobery thirty-something me feels a tickle of cool at the memory of that jacket.

What awakens your cool?

-MC J Light

P.S. The quirk of my cool is this: it’s often tied to movie character types that I imagine as very cool. I have never been these characters, but I have felt their particular brand of cool.

The Guy Who Knows the Band – This is the guy who has the pull to get backstage. He may not have the musical aptitude to be in the band, but he’s the guy all the band members with they were. He is, in a sense, the wind beneath the band’s wings. His traits include; street smarts, shrewd business sense, and music industry pull.

The Cowpoke – This guy shares drinking water with his horse. Happy on the open plains with nothing more than a harmonica and the soreness from riding all day. His traits include: really good at chewing toothpicks, believes the saloon girls deserve more respect than they get, tough but only when provoked, happily eats beans and cornbread.

The Kung Fu Master – Similar temperament to that of The Cowpoke, quiet, compelled toward the way of peace, speaks in nature-centric metaphors. Traits: Good posture, baggy clothes, wiry, makes would-be aggressors look stupid without laying a hand on them.

The Guy Who Girls Find Undeniably Cute but Won’t Approach Because They Think He’s Out of Their League Even Though He’s Actually Pretty Down to Earth – No explanation necessary.

Others: The Sports Star, The Werewolf Sports Star, The Comedian, The Rap Star, The High-Powered Lawyer, and The Mountain Man.

My dad. Looking for that change I was supposed to give back.

If Mother’s Day is a sonnet, Father’s Day is a bullet point list. Dads don’t need the fancy words or deep sentiment (although it’s me, so I can’t guarantee a sentiment-free post, try as I might). Just a simple, straightforward shock-and-awe campaign of thanks. I will shock and awe you with my thanks because I’m glad you’re my dad! Sounds aggressive, but I’m pretty damn thankful. So here we go… I present the Father’s Day Bullet Point List of Dadness Day Listings Day of Dad Awesomeness:

 

  • If, as I mentioned in my Mother’s Day blog, mom is the original Jedi, then dad is the original Han Solo: less of the touchy-feely force stuff, more gumption, mechanically inclined, weathered, experienced, can always get you out of a jam. Han Solo dads may not always be so elegant and light-sabery, but they get the job done. Just like Han, dads tell you to toughen up. They act tough. Sometimes dads take you to sketchy bars where you cavort with bounty hunters.

 

He may not look like Han Solo, but he's done the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Way faster than your dad.

  • So you’re in a bar cavorting with bounty hunters. You ask, Dad, why are we here, in a bar with bounty hunters? And he says, It’s good for you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. And at the moment he’s never been more obtuse. You scrunch your nose like something stinks and it does because you’re confused out of your small mind. You can’t imagine why he would utter such a thing. Eventually this moment passes, but there are others throughout your life. They are always uncomfortable or annoying or just plain maddening. Maybe it’s not always bounty hunters and bars like it was with my dad. Maybe it’s making you paint a fence against your will or pressing you take the heat for a ball through the neighbor’s window or making you read some boring, esoteric book. It’s always, he says, good for you. You still don’t get it. Time passes. After a while you come to expect his insistence on certain things. You oblige with less resistance. Then one day when you’re older it hits you: Dad was right. It was good for me. You still can’t fathom exactly how he was right or how he knew or how this forced apology or that chore helped you, but it did. It made you responsible, resilient, and capable. And Dad knew it would.

 

  • Dad gives good advice: move your thumb away from that nail, always check the oil, keep your hands off that girl, if that boy touches you then kick him in the balls, save your money, take it easy with the lighter fluid, check your mirrors, work hard, always be honest.

 

  • Dad gives the craziest advice: if you’re thirsty just suck on a rock, don’t ever ask for permission to play golf, if the ball is coming toward you lean into it and go to first, open it with your teeth, if it smells okay it’s okay to eat, always be honest.

 

  • Let’s be clear about one thing: golf is the most irritating game ever conceived. Sometimes I wonder if it was a joke that a few Scots dreamed up to see how stupid mankind really is. I’ve invented more creative cussing combinations on the golf course than I have anywhere else. All this and I continue to play this ridiculous sport. Why? Because I grew up playing it with my dad. He taught me everything I know and each time I go out—even when he’s not with me—I think about playing golf with him. I think about Dad trying to putt on the sand greens at the old Byers course and his congratulations after the first, and only, time I hit the ball straight. I think about watching the US Open with him on Father’s Day. So through all the discomfort of playing golf, there is a great deal of comfort because it’s Dad’s game. And though I may be an idiot for playing, it’s reassuring to know that there’s another idiot who I regard in high esteem with me.

 

  • Dad takes you on adventures. A few samples from the Bill O’Dell collection: canoeing in a gator-infested swamp (the canoe turned over), taught me to drive a manual transmission when I was about 10, careening down more the Strasburg overpass sled hill, whitewater rafting adventures, more hikes than I can count, an ocean liner gambling binge, several ill-advised ski runs, and many seedy restaurant visits because said restaurant has a “good patty melt.”

Me and Dad on an adventure.

  • Dads keep you safe. As a kid I would wake up in the middle of the night. I could never get back to sleep. So the drill was for me to go get my dad and wake him up. He would sleepily grab a blanket and pillow and take up a post on the living room couch while I tried to go back to sleep in my room. Being alone just didn’t feel right. It was dark. The house was creaking. Something in my overactive brain wouldn’t let me sleep when it was just me. But when Dad was there it was okay. Every so often I would call out, Dad? Yes, he’d say, patiently waking up. I’d pause for a minute, Just wanted to make sure you were still there. And he was always still there. So I fell asleep.

 

Dad,

  • You’re an awesome dude.
  • You have always put your family first and I admire you for that.
  • Thanks also for making me do things I didn’t want to do. I’m a better man for it.
  • I hope that I have it in me to be the same amazing father for my daughter as you have been for me.
  • I will need some more good/crazy advice.
  • You’ve done a great job raising four pieces of work. I mean that in a good way. We love you. Happy Father’s Day.

One of my favorites.

A snapshot of our society sans moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all. I wish each of you madres a day full of ham omelets and showers of freshly squeezed orange juice. Enjoy the cornucopia of beauty products and jewelry that have been bestowed upon you. I also extend to each of you a heartfelt thanks because without you the world would be filled with idiots—we’d all be bumping into walls and sticking our fingers in electric sockets.

Moms, you make the world classy.

As an expectant father, I need to think about my place on the parenting ladder. Yes, I will be good at certain defined things. I will be in charge of assembling various items and handing down financial advice. If the kid plays golf it’ll be up to me give them fundamentally weak swing lessons. Down the line I’ll be counted on for the quintessential father’s job, i.e., stinking up the bathroom. Amongst all this, I will attend to emotional and physical scrapes. I will say, It’s okay and You’re alright and make up silly alter egos to entertain this child. But I will never be able to replicate mom powers.

And that’s okay. Mom powers belong with moms.

I need to be prepared, is all I’m saying. As I’ve already experienced with our momma’s boy of a cat, David Letterman, I could be relegated to the role of 1A. Scottie Pippen. Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Jackie rolled into one.

__________________________

My mom could kick Darth Vader's ass and then wash my mouth with soap for saying so.

Mom, as we all know, is the original Jedi. She is the mind-reading master of the Mom Force. It seems effortless and she’s always on.

Mom, for instance, knows your thoughts and your feelings. She knows you’re disappointed about not being elected 3rd grade treasurer before the votes are even tallied. Mom is able to bend your view of reality—the vaunted Jedi Mind Trick. She somehow convinces you that the girl you want to ask to prom really isn’t out of your league (even though she is). Better yet, she convinces you that you convinced yourself (even though you clearly didn’t). This is cool.

My own experience with the Mom Jedi Mind Trick was during junior year of high school. I had this pair of shorts. They were… different. Plaid with shades of pink, yellow, and green, which made coordination tough. Truthfully, they belonged on a Ft. Lauderdale retiree. But I found them undeniably cool. I wanted to march into Strasburg High School with those shorts blazing. I wanted to start a fashion revolution. But revolutionaries are first viewed as madmen and I already felt the insults popping in my head.

I don’t recall how my fashion concern arose. Truthfully, Mom probably already knew. And there in our kitchen, while I sat at the breakfast table wearing my shorts she said the words that made me the fashion plate I am today, It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, as long as you like them.

I wore them. There were insults. It was awesome.

Surely my mom knew those shorts were ugly, but the Mother Jedi doesn’t always tell you the truth. She tells you what you need to hear in order that you might be a better version of yourself.

Mom’s Jedi powers are in her voice—a mixture of softness, gentle encouragement, a firm dedicated intonation, and that lingering tinge of the amazement she felt when she first met you. A mom’s voice is anesthesia for the nerves. She says that everything will be okay and you believe it but you don’t know why. In this, she gives you hope.

Kind of like this but less girly. My mom really loves me.

Jedi Mom detects lies. Actually, she just knows the truth. And though she may ask a question—Did you shoot out those windows with your BB gun?—she is not searching for the answer. She already knows it. She is merely gauging your level of stupidity at that exact moment and taking an inventory to figure out how much work is still ahead before she can release you into the wild as a responsible member of society. The options: (1) If you (the kid) fess up immediately, then she knows there’s hope around the corner. (2) A few lies then a confession: This means you thought for a moment that you could outsmart her. She is offended by this, but understands you can be converted. (3) You lie the whole way through even though you know that she knows that you know that she knows you’re lying… She is amazed that her child could be such a blockhead. There is still work to do, so she hunkers down. She punishes accordingly.

My favorite part about the Jedi Mom is that she just happens. No Yoda seminars required. It’s simply a light switch. It’s an association that’s free of biology and independent of rational thought. The Jedi Mom—whether she’s a mom, aunt, teacher, mentor, grandmother, friend, foster mom—makes a connection for whatever reason and that’s that. The rest just happens. And we’re all better for it.

So, I sincerely thank all the women in my life who have kept me from being a moron. I love you all.

Mom, I’ve been with you for a long time and watched you and Dad raise four pretty awesome people. I’ve also watched you love foster kids as if they were your own without a hint of hesitation (sometimes several at a time, sometimes with a broken arm). I know that you fret about many things, but you should never fret about your ability as a mother. We are awesome because you are awesome. There’s still a little moron in us, but just enough to keep things interesting.

… That reminds me, Mom, since I couldn’t get a card to you on time… I got you an Amazon gift card for $100. The gift card code is E345-DY1W-GU71-9IU6. If for some reason it doesn’t work, just give them my credit card number: 3467 5918 3401 4981. Exp. Date 4/14. Lovsies.

Finally, a very special 1st Mother’s Day to ALO. I am worried about many, many things in regard to that little critter you’ve got in your stomach. I have no idea how it’s all going to go. But I’ve been studying Jedis my whole life and I can say for sure that you are going to be one of the best. And if I can do this parenting thing with a real Jedi, there’s a lot less to worry about.

May the Force be with you.

-MC JLight

For starters, I’m irritated because I had a lot of things planned. I was finally going to learn the Chicken Dance. I was going to make my signature brownie & peanut ice cream this summer. I was going to teach myself the sweetest slap bass solo ever right after I learned how to play the bass. More importantly, I had a party all planned for the night of December 20th, 2012 (The Eat-Like-A-Fat-Pig-Before-The-World-Ends Party), which was supposed to be Judgement Day Eve, followed two days later by the Why-Did-I-Eat-A-Cheesburger-Baked-Inside-Of-A-Cheesecake 5K Fun Run. It was going to be awesome. I was going to invite Lance Armstrong.

I’m even more irritated about the beginning of the world’s end on May 21st, as this group claims on their website, because that’s the exact day of Dave the Cat’s birthday. Let’s face it, he’s not a kitten anymore; he’ll be six in human years. That’s about 40 in cat years. Middle age, David. On this birthday he should be taking out a second mortgage to lease a Porche and cruising for co-eds, not dancing around crevasses and avoiding lava flows. It’s a real bummer when a meteor crashes onto your butter cream-frosted birthday cake. And, yes, he will have a birthday cake, but not carrot cake because David hates carrots.

This isn't Dave, but you get the idea. He would look much cooler and have a least three gold chains around his neck.

 ___________________________________________

So I saw this story on CNN.com a while back. I also read the bible passages they cite and did some of their calculations. These folks have conviction in their conclusions and that’s fine. I cannot say that this group should be faulted for believing in their beliefs. Their right to do so is not in doubt. Their actions, though…

Check this out:

Study this picture for as long as you want, but this is still a custom-painted, doomsday Winnebago. This RV and others like it are currently touring the country. Its drivers wear t-shirts and hats that are no less garish. They hand out pamphlets and talk to those who will and won’t listen. Apparently we’ve come a long way since the old “The End is Near” sandwich board. But with such a loud delivery you’d assume there’s a constructive take-away message, something worthwhile and beneficial.  There must be a call to action. Repent. Find God. Go to church. Be a better person. Something. Right?

Not exactly. Actually, their message goes something like this: a) the world is ending on May 21st, b) your status (chosen or forsaken) has already been decided by God and was actually determined before you were even born, c) there’s nothing you can do to improve your odds, d) but, hey, we just wanted to let you know cause that’s the kind of people we are, e) so, uh, have a great next four weeks.

Okey dokey.

 __________________________________________

If someone wielding a hammer asked you to put your hand on a table then said, Hey, in five minutes I’m going to smack your finger with this hammer and you can’t do anything about it, what would you be thinking about for those five minutes? You’d be thinking about how much it’s going to hurt.

So… is that it? That’s what they want us to take away? We’re all out of luck. Don’t start stocking up on batteries and potable water because it won’t matter. Oh, and it’s going to hurt.

I suppose my apocalypse anxiety is my own fault. It’s not like I have to listen. After all, the world is saturated with people willing to share their opinions. And it’s easier than every to disperse those opinions with youtube, podcasts, recreational vehicles, and ridiculous, long-winded blogs. I could always choose to ignore this as I do every other piece of wannabe propaganda and opinion—be it offensive or insightful; stupid or smart. But I’ll admit, I’m antsy about this sort of thing. I have trouble brushing it off. A big part of me finds this threatening, pre-destined, resistance-is-futile prediction a little disturbing. Call me weak or gullible if you will because I’m probably a little of each.

So I guess what I’m really asking is: why can’t these people be more considerate of me? (Perhaps selfish, but I think it’s okay to ask for baseline respect from the world around us.)

Possible answers: Could be plain old egotism at work or fear mongering under the guise of virtue. The RVs are part of a quest to be the smartest people in the room, the ones who said, I told you so. They want to be the ones laughing when the hammer finally falls.

Maybe there’s a fame factor here too. I can see the temptation behind religious-oriented fame. If you’re a fame connoisseur it’s probably the awesomest kind of fame because it lasts for a long time. Way longer that Paris-Hilton-famous-because-you’re-famous fame or Kerri-Strug-sticks-the-landing fame or William-Wallace-they-cannot-take-our-freedom fame. Then again, if the world ends on May 21st, no one’s going to care about who predicted it. There will be no sitting on Oprah’s couch, no 60 minutes interviews, no action figures. No reality shows.

Jesus: more famous

Kerri Strug: less famous

And maybe I’m missing the point completely; I’m not enlightened enough. Perhaps this is supposed to be a good thing, whether you’re one of the chosen or not. They do call it The Rapture. But that’s a tough pill to swallow.

I just want there to be some good in this message for people like myself. My hope is that this group just wants us all to live better while we can, to reorganize things. Not a bad message at all. But why not just say it. Keep the hammer out of it and paint the sugar-coated version on the side of your RV for me, would you:

Start living better. Skip work and go to a baseball game. Drink a chocolate shake. Pray. Eat nachos your recliner. Love. Kiss your family and your pets. Sit on the porch. Be nice. Help someone. Laugh at bad jokes. Watch your favorite movie twice in a row. Tolerate. Meditate. Learn something new. Be spiritual. Go to your place of worship. Read. Don’t watch Jersey Shore. Take pictures of things that don’t make sense. Take a minute to not talk. Run really fast. Keep pretending you’re cool.

If we do only have a few weeks left, I better get going on more blogs.

-MC JLight

Adios

Dear Colombia,

My sister, Keely, is a wonderful person. You shouldn’t deport her. She’s funny and smart. She works with orphans. She is the wind beneath my wings because she knows that children are our future. See, her secret is to teach them well and let them lead the way and, in doing so, show them all the beauty they possess inside, thus giving them a sense of pride to make it easier. But in your infinite wisdom, you’d prefer she didn’t spread goodwill throughout your country. You’re not really into the whole “working with orphans” thing. You don’t see the point of “helping kids with developmental problems.” Allowing one to use one’s very expensive education to “better the lives of others by offering free physical therapy” isn’t your racket. Interesting, Colombia. Very interesting.

Love, Josh

P.S. I do find it a little funny. Thanks for the material.

———————————————————————————————-

As funny as it is, before I get into the aforementioned postscript material I’m obligated to come to my sister’s aid the best way I know how: with my words. Being a natural complainer who is unwaveringly intolerant of all things stupid, I will take up this cause for one entire paragraph. Why? Because in her own blog my sister the transcendent one has refused to go on complaining about being deported. Blaming the government would be counterproductive. Like a duck, she lets the water, or the orphan tears, run off her back. That’s nice and I respect her position. However, someone’s got to address this. I’m not saying that my banter is or will be any good, but it’s all I have.

So she didn’t have the correct paperwork. She had a tourist visa when she should have had a volunteer visa. But isn’t there some leeway for a do-gooder from Colorado? It’s not like she requested a volunteer visa as a front for selling Colombian mail-order brides. In fact, she went the other way; she positively expanded upon the activities typically expected of a tourist. I mean, what is a tourist visa anyway? It’s just the government giving permission for one to lollygag. So by helping orphans and personifying the greatest love of all, she’s being punished for not puttering. No, Mr. Colombia says. No, no, no. You promised us you were going to dilly-dally and you, Missy, are not. We want tourists, tourists who take pictures of crazy Colombian toilets and fill rolls of film with photos of every McDonald’s they encounter. We expect tourists who mock the misconceptions about our drug problem by posing in front of a Welcome to Colombia sign with a handful of baby powder. You are trying to teach about the greatest love of all? Please leave. Don’t let the puerta hit you on the way out.

C’mon, Colombia.

(This is where I’d lean in, whispering into Colombia’s ear.) She can be like that sometimes. She’s always going a step beyond. She did, after all, decide long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. Maybe she had it coming and needs to learn that she can’t go around selflessly helping other people willy-nilly.

The doctor's robe. The glowing aura. Need I say more.

She couldn’t even lie about her good deeds to Mr. Colombia when he questioned her. Of course, it’s hard to lie when you’re a do-gooder. But it could have been as easy as this:

Mr. Colombia: What is your business here?

Keely: I’m learning to salsa dance and I’ve fallen in love with a Colombian man without whom I am lost. I am drinking a lot of coffee. Also I took fifty three pictures of the Iglesia.

Mr. Colombia: Which one?

Keely: The one in the city.

Mr. Colombia: And that is all?

Keely: Yes.

Mr. Colombia looks at her suspiciously.

Keely: I do have one question. Where can I find Columbia Studios?

Mr. Colombia: (smiles) You’re just the kind of moron we want here. Enjoy your stay in Colombia.

Mr. Colombia emphatically stamps her visa.

Instead she probably shared her whole plan, talked about the special equipment she built for the orphans. She must have gone on and on about the greatest love of all happening to her. Defiant, she marched up and said, “If I fail, if I succeed at least I’ve lived as I believe. No matter what you take from me, you can’t take away my dignity.” Yeah, yeah.

———————————————————————————————-

Los Stupidos.

Come to think of it I’m might need to thank Colombia because I’ve been looking for something to hold over her head for a while. Back off. I’m not trying to be mean. In fact, I can write this because I love her dearly. But you have to understand that I am a selfish person and she’s been making my brothers and I look like a bunch of sideshow doofuses for 29 years. Granted, some of that is our fault as the level of stupidity to which the three of us have fallen is truly staggering and could fill a year’s worth of blogs. (Frankly, we’re lucky we have all our limbs.) On the other hand, Keely—or as we call her, The Mailman’s Kid if the mail man was a bongo-playing, Matthew McConaughey-resembling ex-Peace Corps worker who dabbled in organic chemistry “just for fun”—has always set a high standard. But now I have a comeback. Next Thanksgiving when Mommy and Daddy are scowling at me for slapping my brother with a piece of breast meat I can simply point across the table at Keely and say, “El Deporto.”

Of course, they will respond by pointing at me and saying, “El Stupido.” Then they’ll make me go to my room. Darn.

Los Stupidos II.

If any of my three readers are worried, fear not. She will almost certainly find a way to make the best out of Colombian Deportation 2011. She will convert this turd of a situation into glittering fairy dust. She told me the other day that she’s going to spend some time in Peru while she waits for the correct Colombian visa. Figures. She’s going to visit Machu Picchu where she will almost certainly make a discovery of particular worldly significance—a new species of flower, the petals of which can be used in lieu of gasoline in any internal combustion engine and whose only emission is love. She will stumble upon a band of never-before-seen Incan orphans who need help with their motor skills. She will write a book about her experience. It will be titled, Thanks, Deportation. I’ll open the book’s cover and hear the binding crackle as it does on any new book. On the dedication page I’ll see my name. It’ll say:

To my brothers, Josh, Jack and Andy, For every right, there is a wrong. Thanks for being my wrong.

You’re welcome. I’m going to chase my tail for a while.

-MC JLight

Rollin' some steam.

Many of the cool things I think up—and there are many, even if they’re only cool in my own head—seemingly come too late.  Still, I believe that the following must be addressed. Besides, I don’t want to wait until next year. So here we go.

It’s something I must address because it surfaces every year around the holidays like an annual case of explosive diarrhea. What I am referring to is in no way festive, as it ought to be. Rather, it is scary. It does not recall holiday goodwill or thanks or abounding love or wise men. It recalls a scrap iron processing plant: sheet metal grinding upon itself, sparks, carbon-stained machinery, hydraulics. It does not produce anything close to a feeling of warmth. It, instead, gives me the scary kind of goosebumps. Of course I am talking about the robotic stylings of Mannheim Steamroller and other “holiday” music of its ilk. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes me mad too, but I’m going after you in this blog, Steamroller.

Unfortunately, I remember this garbage from my childhood. The blare of synthesized trumpets echoed between the ceiling and our hexagonal orange kitchen tiles before tunneling into my skull like a Martian truth ray. Steamroller’s screeches contradicted the smell of cinnamon and sugar cookies and pine needles. Such forceful music produced by a computer, lacking the hominess and nostalgia of an actual Christmas carol in favor of an ethereal orchestral entity that, I imagine, was conducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger circa The Terminator. “I’ll Be Back” was one of their most popular songs.

The Mannheiminator

And I use the word “their” here, but I can’t say for sure if there’s an actual band involved or even a group of people or even a single person. As far as I can tell, Mannheim Steamroller’s songs are the result of a drunken lab rat bumping into maze walls that have been outfitted with a series of pressure plates. The rat bumps the plate and completes a circuit, which produces a sound. Put a year’s worth of these chirps together and you have The Steamroller’s version of Deck the Halls.

I pose this question to The Steamroller: Huh? Yes, remakes are okay. In a sense, we remake a Christmas carol every time we sing it. But while I don’t mind Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” The Steamroller’s remakes border on butchery. Sure, you can keep cutting a New York Strip, but cut too much and it turns into hamburger. Furthermore, if an already existing work is complete in the truest sense then I wish people would leave it alone, or at least be respectful. Take Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho as an example of remake hell. The film is perfect already, what is one to do that might make it better? Granted, Hitchcock movies and Christmas carols are vastly different. The point is, why screw around with songs that have been decades in the making, have been sung and have been the same for a long, long time? If you want to invent some new carols, be my guest (see Mele Kalikimaka). But I don’t see the point of remaking time-tested carols so drastically. You can’t sing along to this stuff. You can’t enjoy a cup of cocoa or give gifts with The Steamroller blaring the background. You can’t look your children in the eye while it’s playing and say, “Sweetie, this what Christmas is all about,” because you’d be lying.

In fact, the best part about The Steamroller is the name, because nothing describes such irreverent, aggressive music better than a piece of paving equipment. Actually, if you listen to a Mannheim CD for long enough the odor of freshly-melted tar will permeate every room in your house. But don’t worry, nothing’s on fire; it’s just the smell of your eardrums frying like thinly-sliced pancetta. And if you close your eyes, you’ll see it. You’ll see the steamroller mowing down everything, flattening the Christmas tree, blowing out the Menorah (because it’s so bad that Hannakah is affected too), and chasing all eight reindeer into the night. That red sparkle you see on the carriage? That’s the remnants of Rudolph’s nose. Say goodbye to Jimmy Stewart and St. Nick’s jolly hue and candy canes. Not even fruitcakes will persevere. And I know what you’re saying, “At least angels will survive.” That’s true… But they’ll never get wings because no one can hear the bell ringing because The Steamroller is too damn loud.

Yes.

This said, The Steamroller isn’t a total loss. I propose a couple of alternate uses. 1) Rave music for senior citizens. The Steamroller has that industrial sound, without being offensive (in subject at least). So get some glow sticks and an abandoned warehouse and let’s party until 8 pm. 2) The aforementioned Angela and I prefer this option—use the term “Mannheim Steamroller” as an expletive. It’s fun to say, but no one will get offended. Suggested uses: a) Surprise. “Mannheim Steamroller, that deer came out of nowhere.” b) Exaltation. “This bratwurst is Mannheim Steamrollin’ delicious.” c) Frustration. “I can’t believe you cheated on me with the limo driver. You’re a real Mannheim Steamroller.” d) Ridicule. “You play Dungeons and Dragons? What are you? A Mannheim Steamroller?” e) Open-Mouthed Awe While Viewing The Aurora Borealis. “Ooh, Mannheim Steamroller.” f) Expressing Pain After Hitting Your Thumb With A Hammer. “Mannheim Steamroller!” g) Excited Fear When Going Down The First Drop On A Roller Coaster. “Maaaannnnheeeiiimm Steeeeaaammmrolleeeeer.” h) Crying (So Hard You Can’t Breathe) On Account Of The Simultaneous Pain And Rapture Of A Justin Bieber Concert. “Man…Mann…nnnn…hei…heim…mmm St…st…ste….steam…mmm…mmm…rolllllll…er…er…er. Justin, I love you.”

Boycott The Steamroller. Save Christmas.

-MC JLight

I’ve been away. And to all three of you who read this blog, I will try to be more consistent with my entries.

In the last few weeks I have: A) Had my wisdom teeth removed, which was a lot more fun that I expected. It’s not often that I get to wake up with a mouthful of gauze, discuss my apparent desire to visit a Taiwanese strip club with my wife, make goat noises, get reprimanded by a nurse, then go home and watch crappy movies while I suck down lemon Jello. B) Started a non-profit corporation. In doing so I am deep into IRS forms that I have no business looking in the eye. C) Gotten another tattoo. Apologies to my mother. D) Finished a couple of screenplays. Anyone got a few hundred thousand dollars, an iron stomach, and a morbid longing to be an executive producer?

There’s one more thing. I wouldn’t say I “did” it; it just happened—I’m pretty sure my biological clock started ticking. This is without a doubt the girliest thing I’ve ever thought, said or written.

Wait. I ought to start with an apology. Several weeks ago I spoke with my cousin, Katie, over the phone. Now, Katie is one of my favorite people. She’s fun and hilarious and considerate. Just an all-around good person. She’s married to a really cool dude named Mike. She’s also younger than me, quite a bit younger. Young enough to be called “my little cousin Katie.” Young enough that I remember burping her when she was a baby.

Katie: Hi.

Me: Hi.

Katie: So I have some news.

Me: Great.

Katie: I’m pregnant.

(Weird pause because I’m thinking, Oh boy, my little cousin Katie is pregnant which means I’m way behind and she’s much younger and way more put together and what’s wrong with me? and this is certainly a selfish thing to be thinking right now and wow, Katie is pregnant and I better get my act together and say something right now.)

Me: Bleh.

Actually I’m not sure what my response was and, while I’m not an interesting person, I hope I responded interestingly. You know, I hope I said something supportive. Not something pseudo-cool and laid-back like “Great work.” That sounds like a red-inked comment on the top of a 1st grade spelling assignment. And it’s weird. Work? Something pun-laced: “This is mom-entous news,” or “What pregnant occasion.” Maybe I just went with sheer excitement. “Holey moley!” Regardless, what I should have said was this: Katie, I’m hugely excited for you and Mike. You are going to be a wonderful set of parents. Congratulations and sorry for the lame reaction.

I was preoccupied when Katie broke the news because at that exact moment I had a birth of my own. Right then I welcomed into the world my newest schizophrenic personality. 316 lbs. 7 oz. 5’4”. Balding on the crown of his head. His messy three-piece suit doesn’t help his sweating problem. He even came with a tattered brief case. He is Keith, The Age-Calculating Mathematician. Keith is a jerk.

Keith's weapon of choice.

(Keith and I sit at a rickety, folding card table in a cement room. Keith is out of breath as a result of walking into the room. Keith pulls a loud adding machine from his brief case. He smiles at me like an IRS auditor would.)

Keith: Okay… How old are you again?

Me: Thirty-three

(Keith elongates his bottom lip and breathes in the corners of his mouth.)

Keith: Ouch.

(Keith punches numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: Read WebMD much?

Me: No.

Keith: Interesting.

Me: What?

Keith: Nothing.

Me: What?

Keith: It has information… Lots of good information about having kids after your reproductive prime.

Me: Reproductive prime?

Keith: I can give you the website.

Me: I know the website.

(Keith looks at me awkwardly then punches more numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: It’s w-w-w-dot…

Me: Shut up, Keith. Just run the numbers.

Keith: Right

(Typing.)

Keith: Okay… (Looks up) When are you going to die?

Me: Excuse me?

Keith: Ballpark.

(I stare at Keith for a while.)

Keith: Let’s go at this a different way. Let’s say you have a kid by thirty-five, just to be safe. (Punching numbers.) That means you’re fifty-five when he or she… Boy or girl?

Me: I don’t care.

Keith: We’ll just say a girl because girls are more likely to embrace an older-than-average father.

(I sigh.)

Keith: So she’s twenty and you’re fifty-five. (Typing on machine, the printer paper is getting longer.) How many kids?

Me: Let’s say three.

Keith: All girls then… Say you have them all by the time you’re forty… That means you’re sixty when the youngest is twenty and you’ve also got a twenty-five-year old and a, say, twenty-three-year old. And you keep in pretty good shape so you should be able to keep up when they’re kids: play basketball with them, clown around in the yard, et cetera.

Me: (Smiling) Right.

Keith: And sixty’s not that old.

Me: Exactly.

Keith: It’s the new thirty.

Me: That’s what they say.

(Keith starts frantically typing numbers in the adding machine. His brow furrows. He sweats. The tape gets longer. Keith suddenly stops; he puts on a fake smile. Keith is a bad liar.)

Me: Spill the beans, Keith.

Keith: How important is the whole grandfather thing?

Me: Pretty important.

Keith: On a scale of one to ten.

Me: Ten.

Keith: Cause let’s just say, hypothetically, that your oldest doesn’t have a kid until she’s thirty-five, cause the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This puts you at seventy when you become a grandfather. When did you say you’re going to die?

(I burn a hole in Keith’s face with my eyes.)

Keith: Anyway, by then life expectancy should be up around seventy-six for an American male. So a solid six years with the little ankle-biter… Did I mention WebMD?

Me: Shut your trap, Keith.

Keith: Cause they have an excellent Life Expectancy Calculator. It’s free.

(I slouch into my chair. Keith pulls a package of Tic-tacs from his briefcase. He offers me one. I shake my head.)

Keith: And look on the bright side. All these figures are dependent on whether or not you even have the ability to conceive.

These do not make me feel better, Keith.

Talking with Keith drives me up the wall. I want to slap his face, but that would mean slapping my… Perhaps I should try it anyway.

Seriously, what the hell have I been doing with myself? It’s not like I’ve had huge career success that would force me to delay having a family. I’m 99.5% unsuccessful! I don’t even have a career! True, I wanted to be married before having kids and I didn’t get married until I was thirty. Problem is I dilly-dallied with the wedding thing too. That is, Alex and I were together for many years before I finally bought the ring. We wanted to wait because of school.

Wait a minute. Couldn’t have kids earlier cause I wasn’t married. Didn’t get married earlier cause I was an older-than-average graduate student. Didn’t go to grad school earlier because…. Oh, dear God. There’s only one logical explanation: I’ve got a debilitating condition that retards my maturity level by five to ten years. This is also known as being a screw-off.  What if this is nature’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be having kids? What if I ignore the signs, have kids anyway, and in doing so I create a tribe of screw-offs? Forget zombies or a catastrophic asteroid event or alien lasers. I might trigger the apocalypse just by having kids. WebMD has a fantastic article about this, I’m sure.

It’s weird, too, because I can’t exactly give a reason why I feel the need to multiply. So maybe I’ve waited to have kids in the hope that I’d come up with an answer. There’s the standard reply: I want to have kids so I’ll have someone to forcefully push toward excellence at the things I was never good at in the hope that I can live vicariously through them and somehow redeem myself for my own failures. Other than that, why do I want to have kids? I have no idea. I know that all you forward thinkers out there will say that I’m just falling in line with the status quo and maybe you’re right. Biology majors will say that such a need is ingrained in my DNA in order to propagate the species. Also true. Frankly, I’m not afraid of either of these reasons, but they’re so general. I’d still like to find something else, a solid personal reason why I should have kids. So far this is the best I’ve come up with: I think having kids would be neat.

Whatever my reason for not yet being a father, the bottom line is that I feel behind. Behind and old. Behind and old and panicky. And, yes, I’m aware that thirty-three isn’t that old. It’s just older than I thought I’d be when this type of thing came up and that makes me itchy. Compounded with Keith and all his numbers and sweating and statistics and WebMD and the fear that maybe I missed my window—this is a bad combination. So what’s a screw-off, wannabe rapper, wannabe father to do?

Shut up, Keith. It’s a rhetorical question.

-MC JLight