Saturday, July 18, 2009

Birthday Boy’s Birthday Party

Kenyatte looking African Last night was The Legend’s birthday party.  In a big improvement from last year, he actually showed up.  He arranged a fun night out at a club in San Francisco.  The party was small, but it was a good group of people.

It was a lot of fun.  Up until about midnight, maybe 12:30.  By then, people were starting to crash, hard and I had had it with being pushed, shoved, stepped on and generally assaulted.  (And Mr. Trizzle, don’t even give me the ‘battery vs. assault’ lecture.  I mean the word in the general everyday way, not the legal way.)

This club was very different from any I’d ever been to before in two ways.  First, I’ve never been in a club that packed.  Clubs with packed dance floors, yes.  But clubs where the whole place is so packed you can hardly stand still without being jostled, let alone wiggle a little bit, no.  I was starting to think Kunte Kinta had more personal space on the Lord Ligonier.

Second, I don’t think I have ever been in a club with so many white people!  Ok, maybe that’s not quite accurate because I’ve been in bigger clubs.  I guess what I mean is I don’t think I’ve ever been in a club with such a high percentage of white people.  Now, in general, a club full of dancing white people really isn’t a big deal.  However, this club was too full. 

You see, white people have this thing, especially common when the DJ plays their favorite hip hop songs, where they just have to do whatever is being talked about on the song.  This results in most of the room attempting to “back that *vampire* up,” “drop it,” or throw their arms up and jump at the same time.  Suddenly, all these people are taking up twice as much space as they were before because they’re bent over, squatting down or flailing around like maniacs.  Splendid.  Cuz I wasn’t getting shoved or pushed enough before.  Mr. Trizzle reprimanded me for throwing ‘bows, but 8ft-Red agreed it was a good move.

And yes, the DJ played quite a number of songs from that favorites list linked above.  He did a lot of weird stuff too, like playing the Beatles “Come Together” split up with Biggie’s “Hypnotize” so that it altered between the two.  He also took out the good dance beat in “Grillz” and replaced it with some weird electronica beat that did not match the cadence of the rap at all, but he left on the beat for “A Milli”!  That is the worst beat ever in the history of Lil Wayne and hip hop, and you sure as heck can’t dance to it.

Luckily, it seems The Legend doesn’t mind being bumped against or whatever.  (And I’m convinced guys really don’t know how annoying it is because they have almost no bare skin in the clubs, unlike girls.  So when that fat, sweaty girl brushes against their arms, they don’t even realize their shirt is all wet, whereas I’m left with a greasy arm and an overwhelming nausea caused by the gross violation of my body.)  The Legend was having tons of fun, chatting it up (in a club, I have no idea how!), dancing with girls, buying drinks for girls… oh wait, for himself because she disappeared… and generally having fun.  He was having so much fun, he didn’t even seem ready to leave when the club closed.  And that’s good, cuz it was his birthday.  Happy Birthday! :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Daddy

As we get older, we look back and realize there are things we didn’t do enough of, things we should have done, things we shouldn’t have done.  Not necessarily regrets, but more like lessons learned.  Now that I’m big - no Mommy, I am not going to say ‘grown-up’ – and far away from home, I’ve realized one of those things I never really did enough of growing up.  I didn’t appreciate my daddy enough.

Daddy and I are a lot alike.  Mommy says two peas in a pod.  Both stubborn as a mule.  And, boy, can we slam doors, throw shoes and stomp our feet!  As you can imagine, this didn’t always make for the most pleasant home environment for Mommy and my sisters.  Mommy used to tell us to stop fighting just so she could have some peace.  She didn’t care who was right, she didn’t care who was wrong, she didn’t care what we did, but she wanted us to just be quiet.

Despite our occasional outbursts, driven more by our Aries’ fire than any real disagreement (and my insanely high aversion to being called a liar when I’m not lying), we actually have a lot of fun together.  Well, at least I have fun.  You’d have to ask Daddy if he has fun.

Daddy’s a great daddy.  For starters, he was – and is – always there for us.  I never really thought of that as anything special, but I don’t have to look far through my close circle of friends to see that having a Daddy around isn’t the norm.  But even if it was the norm to have a Daddy who was always around, there’d still be few to compete with mine.

When Alfred and I were little girls, Daddy used to help us get ready for school.  Eat breakfast with us, get us off on our way or drop us at the day care center.  It was the mid ‘80s and in Mr. Mom fashion, it took him a little while to get used to all those little things peculiar to little girls.  Pigtails don’t just do themselves, and tights don’t come with built in underwear.  But he learned.  And you know what, we don’t really remember that stuff – that’s the stuff we know about cuz Mommy told us.

What I remember from those mornings is breakfast in the kitchen nook with Daddy.  Oatmeal with brown sugar from the yellow tupperware containers.  Daddy would show us how to make neat little patterns in the oatmeal with our milk and brown sugar, swirling it around.  Sometimes it’d be Malt-o-Meal, sometimes cereal. 

And Daddy would tell us stories, usually something about how he met Mommy or how she broke his heart a bunch of times.  And of course, the best part of breakfasts, and the most memorable, was how Daddy would sing to us at breakfast.  “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small….”  “I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can….”  “…see her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean…” 

The best songs were the ones he wrote for us,  “I used to love my girls when they were all curls…”  (There’s more, and it’s quite good, but if I put the whole thing up there, Daddy will probably claim copyright infringement and I’ll get in trouble.)

Music is very important to my sisters and me; I think Daddy has a lot to do with that.  He and Mommy shared their music with us.  They let us blast the stereo – of course, after Daddy blew out the subs on the speakers playing Frisbee on the front yard at Grandpa’s house, those speakers didn’t blast that much – and had music on pretty much all the time.

Some of my fondest memories are of being in the black yard while Daddy’s paint splattered little yellow radio blasted KLH as he worked on some project, painting the house, trimming the birch tree, mowing the grass, and Mommy hung up the laundry.  Daddy would have on short cut-off shorts and a T-shirt, his white socks with the single colored stripe near the top pulled up as high as they went, far above the tops of his red Chuck Taylors.

He built us several sandboxes in that back yard (and in the back yard of our ‘new’ house) and showed us how to make sandcastles.  He put in an above ground swimming pool at the old house.  (2, I think)  Then he would get in the pool and take up the whole length, and Alfred in I would make a game of trying to get over, or under, Daddy.  And he would let us – sometimes making it easier, sometimes harder, sometimes balancing his large plastic cup of iced tea on his knee.

Daddy taught us to play games too, like cribbage and sheepshead.  Even though Mommy won’t play with him cuz she says he remembers everything and harps 5 hands later about how Mommy shouldn’t have taken the queen to the prom, we still like playing with Daddy.  You just have to know what to do.  For example, never agree to a trade with him in Monopoly, it is not in your best interest.

Outside, we’d play Frisbee; Daddy managing to never spill a drop of his iced tea (or beer if it was a family get together).  He’d even play T-ball or catch with us for a little while, until he got to dizzy and motion sick and had to sit down.

When we were really good girls, Daddy would give us a special treat and let us go shopping with him!  Mostly, it’d be grocery shopping at Pick N Save or possibly Piggly Wiggly.  Grocery shopping with Daddy was great cuz we’d get to be the coupon holder and help pick out which of the ‘any four varieties’ we wanted.  And, we got to help pick out the cheese flavors, or maybe even plead for some cheese curds.  On especially fun trips, Daddy would take us to Goldmann’s Department Store to shop for clothes for one of his clients (and a relative of ours) who lived at a nursing home.

When I was a young teenager, Daddy would take me to the hobby shop and help me pick out new model cars and airplanes to build.  We’d walk up and down the aisles of the big store, looking at all the neat stuff, and stand squinting at the tiny jars of paint, looking for just the right colors.

In high school, during the summers, Daddy would come home from work at lunchtime.  We looked forward to it all morning (most of the time, sometimes we were doing something secret and didn’t want to get in trouble).  He would make his lunch and sit at the table to eat it, clean the pool for us and take a nap.  We didn’t always go in to sit and talk with him, but it felt good just knowing he was home and there.

Even as I get older, Daddy’s right there whenever I need help.  Taking me to visit schools, helping me draft my Will, doing my taxes, sending me important documents.

But you know what one of the best things about Daddy is?  He shares the things he loves with us.  As far back as I can remember, Daddy would tell us about Milwaukee, the city’s history, how our family fit into the picture, what things used to be, why the roads were where, the ships that sank and the men who made the bridges not line up.

He took us on the most fascinating and fun vacations all over the place, to tiny museums where we were the only visitors.  Those vacations were always so well planned, and Daddy knew so much about all the places we visited, having researched and read about them before we left or in the hotel room.  Piled in the car with our soon-to-be-half-melted crayons, our stuffed friends and all the enthusiasm little (or big) girls can hold, Daddy would drive us down long stretches of highways to childrens’ museums and zoos, through the cities to Presidential monuments, and along dirt roads to city with a special, and very pretty, name.

At dinner, he would always share with us some interesting tid bits from the books he was reading.  Explaining to us how throwing a broken teacup into a black hole wouldn’t destroy the evidence of its being broken, but preserve it forever.  Or about how some Civil War general did the most amazing thing to win some battle.  Sometimes he’d just pull an encyclopedia off the shelf and share with us random facts about whatever was on the page he had opened up to.

There’s so much more I want to say, but this post is very long already.  And I’m getting sleepy.  I better go to bed now.  Have to get up early.  I have a flight to catch tomorrow.  I’m going home to give my daddy a big hug .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Yogurt, Sandcastles and Physics

I don’t consider myself a health food nut (that’s my Daddy) – I just eat what I find yummy - but today, as I opened my lunch box and pulled my light blueberry yogurt out from under my rice cakes, I had to wonder if anyone else would agree with me.  Oh well.

Yogurt, it’s a fun, nice little treat.  One of those things I only buy on sale.  This particular one was my favorite brand, Yoplait.  I remember Daddy often buying Yoplait when I was a little girl.  Back then, my favorite was the custard style, banana.  Now, my favorite is the pineapple coconut with the pieces of fruit and crunchy little coconut shavings in it.

I was always fascinated by the shape of those Yoplait containers.  I remember once carefully washing out my empty Yoplait cup, being careful to get all the yogurt out and not break the plastic.  I took that little Yoplait cup into the back yard, to the sandbox Daddy had made for us.  I thought it was going to make a really neat sandcastle, cuz the top would be bigger than the bottom.

It didn’t work.  Cuz the top was bigger than the bottom.  I packed my sand into the container, mixed with just enough water to get a good, strong castle, and I flipped that Yoplait container over exactly where I wanted that piece of my castle, and I pulled up the container, and …. nothing.  The sand was all still inside the container.  Cuz the top was bigger than the bottom (when the Yoplait container was upside-down in sandcastle mode).

I tried to help ease the sand out, as if it could squish through the smaller opening and come out in the proper shape – like Daddy Bunny in a suitcase.  The sand came crumbling out of the Yoplait cup into a big pile of, sand, just a big pile of sand.

No neat little Yoplait shaped sandcastle for me.  Boo. :(

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tennis in the Woods

All day Thursday I was excited about Mr. Trizzle cooking dinner.  As the bus bumped along on the way home from work, I smiled, thinking about how wonderful it would be to get home and relax for a change.  Then, 3 stops and 4 blocks from home, my phone rang.  I’m so hood… and I wear my pants.. "Hey. What’s up?”  It’s Mr. Trizzle.  He says he’s going to play basketball with The Legend and 8ft-Red.  “I probably won’t be home for dinner,” he says.  “Oh, and if you’re not home in the next 5 to 10 minutes, I’ll probably be gone before you get here.”  Gee, thanks.

The bus inches forward at the red light. Turns the corner. Welcome to El Cerrito, I pull the cord.  Off the bus, four blocks I’m walking, trying not to fume.  After all, Mr. Trizzle should be able to go play basketball; it’s not his fault his friends picked the day he was finally going to try cooking dinner. 

Well, I know Mr. Trizzle only moves at one speed, the speed of Trizzle, and that’s not very fast.  So, as I figured, I was home before he left.  Giving him vampire  a little (in a very joking manner) for having to play basketball only when he had other duties.  Then I found out, they were playing at Cordonices Park.  That was all I needed to know, I was going too!

Cordonices has this amazing, giant, concrete slide.  It’s so fun, and so scary, I’ve only gone down it twice.  Once each time I’ve been to the park.  And that includes this trip.

But, I didn’t start at the slide.  I started in the rose garden on the other side of the street.  I don’t know if it’s because everywhere in California is running out of money, or what, but the rose garden looks less like a garden and more like the surroundings of a fairy tale castle.  Thorny bushes rise up above my head, stretching and drooping into the paths.  In some places, the weeds rise up taller than the roses.  In others, the paths are so overgrown with weeds, they’re really no longer paths.

I wandered through the rose area and then into the woods.  Taking thin trails that wound around half buried steps leading nowhere, I ducked under tree branches and side-stepped overgrown vines.  The gentle roar of traffic came down from the street so near, above the trees.  Yet, the sounds of birds chirping and animals running under leaves was so close, it could almost drown out the traffic.  I continue along the paths, feeling lost in my own enchanted forest, and then, came abruptly upon a fence, a backyard with a swingset and house.

The park is completely surrounded by residences.  Each house I stumbled upon seemed to have its own gate, clearly marked private, leading directly into the rose garden forest.  The backs of buildings pressed up against chain link fences really ruined the whole ‘lost in the woods’ feel of the park.  I turned away and headed down a path further from the edge.  Stopping at a giant tree, I contemplated climbing it for awhile.  Deciding against it, I headed back into the rose area and wandered around the shambles.  I stopped to rest on an old wooden bench next to the tennis courts.

Whop.  Whop.  Chirp.  Flutter.  Sh sh sh shh.  The sounds of tennis balls bouncing intermingled with the beautiful blue bellied birds hopping in the leaves behind me.  The cool breeze blew past, fluttering the rose petals on the arbor high above me.  Sweet smells drifted in the air.

Whop.  Chirp.  Whop.  “Daddy, there’s one open.”  A little boy, about four years old ran down the steps under the arbor, past me, to an open tennis court at the bottom of the sculpted hill.  He was carrying his father’s full size racket and his own little racket with a tiny handle.  “Ok.  We can use that one.”  The father followed far behind, helping his two year old daughter down the steps. 

“Daddy, I wanna go this way.”  The little girl tried to go towards the garden area.  “No.  We’re going to play tennis first.  We can go there later.”  “Can we go in the secret paths?”  “Yes, we can go through the secret paths after tennis.”  I wondered if to the little girl, those paths really were secret.  The same paths I had wandered on before stopping to rest on this bench.  If to her, her father was the only person in the world who knew about them.  And he had shared this special knowledge with only her and her brother.  The way Alfred and I felt about the mud path near our old house when we were little.

It was only a small path that ran along the ridge high above the railroad tracks, lined with trees and thick bushes.  Much closer to civilization than we ever realized.  Daddy showed us the path once when we went walking somewhere.  It connected the two through-streets next to our dead end.  After that, it became our secret mud path.  We would spend hours exploring it, this 2 block stretch of woods.  Sometimes, we would travel very, very far, venturing all the way to the great field opening, a whole block away!

As my sister and I emerged from the woods in my mind, the family was beginning their tennis game down below.  I sat on my bench, my back to the courts, listening to them play.  “Daddy, I can do it!”  “You want to serve?  Ok.”  I turned to look.  The boy took a golf like swing at the ball he held in front of his racket.  Whop.  bounce, bounce bounce.  “Matilda, can you get the ball.”  Ah, so that’s how the two-year old’s included, she’s the ball girl. 

As I listened to them play, my mind began to wander.  I pictured the father and son, here, playing tennis 15 years from now.  The boy, a strong tall teenager.   The father with streaks of grey in his long, wavy, black hair.  They’d just finished a game.  Lots of running, sweat coming through their t-shirts, hair a bit wet.  They were done for the day.  Carrying their rackets and heading toward the gate, the son threw his arm around his dad, laughing, he teased him.  “Remember when you used to always beat me, Dad?”  The dad smiled.  “Looks like I’m catching up on you old man.”  The son still chuckling, the father pretended to look a little hurt, but inside, he was proud of his son.  His mind wandered, back to today.  He was thinking about the little four year old boy with his tiny handled racket yelling “Daddy, I can do it!” and taking that lobbing swing at the ball already almost on the ground.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yes, I’d Like that Broken Vase in the Window

I’ve been reading Roots lately.  I’m up to the part where Kunta’s been bought, but not yet renamed Toby.  I don’t get it.

I’m not talking about the whole slavery thing.  Slavery was around long before the first black man was taken out of Africa.  All you need do is look through your Bible to find stories of slavery stretching back almost to the dawn of man.  African tribes even had their own slaves.  I’m not trying to get into the whole morality of slavery thing.  Cultures change, ideas of what’s right and wrong change, whatever.  What I don’t understand is this whole boat thing.  How on earth did these slave ships make any sort of business sense?! 

The traders thought of these people as chattel, so we’re speaking in terms of ‘stuff’ here.  - Again, I am not getting into that whole moral debate. – Now, when a tradesman is transporting stuff to sell, stuff that can be valuable, he’ll want it to arrive in sellable condition, not destroyed.  What the vampire is the point of beating and killing your merchandise?!

If a goat seller at the local fair has goats… you know what, forget the goats, we don’t even need to be talking about live animals; it could be any products.  Say I have a computer parts store (I’ve been hanging around Mr. Trizzle too much).  Am I going to do around dropping all the pieces on the floor, drop-kicking them, bashing them into the walls whenever I get mad, leaving some barely working and others needing to be thrown out?  No.  Am I going to cut the casing on the wires open to expose the inside copper pieces and figure the buyer can just patch it up with some black tape later?  No.  Of course not.  I’m going to store my goods in a way that protects them, with minimal cost to me, so that I get the most value from them.

I just don’t understand why these slave traders, who went all the way to Africa, who risked their own lives and plenty of investment money to capture people from their homes would then show complete and utter disregard for the well-being of those captured on the journey back.  Not because of any moral sense of obligation or the humanity of it – we’ve been told time and again the slave traders didn’t regard their captures as human – but because of the pure illogicalness of not taking care of such a large investment.

We know the traders didn’t have compassion; they don’t seem to have had much logic either.  I bet even Posner* couldn’t explain this stuff!


*Posner’s a judge in IL, and one of my least favorite because the man things people act as machines.  He’s of the law & economics field where everything is explained as rational choices and cost-benefit analyses.  I know lots of people, and I only know one who goes through life that way, but he thinks he’s part Vulcan, so not sure he counts.