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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.

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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.

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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

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