Archive for August, 2013
I have just returned to Prague after a month holiday at my parents’ house in Langhorne, Pa. As after any extended hometown and family visit, there are a lot of emotions swimming around my head. Here they are. As you read, please keep in mind that I am jet lagged, and this particular strain of jet lag has been fortified with the free pouring policy of the service staff of Lufthansa Flight 403.
When I visit, my generous and wonderful parents spoil me as though I’ve been locked in a Nepalese POW camp for three years. I am greeted with dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and the month of indulgence continues from there. Aside from the diners, restaurants, and family parties (not for me, but I reap the gastronomical benefits) my mom cooks my favorite meals.
There are unforgettable evenings with family and friends. Hanging in a beach bar with my sisters and getting hammered on Jägermeister. There’s watching baseball with my dad, doing puzzles and watching Harry Potter with my brother, and visiting old haunts and stomping grounds with old high school and college friends.
It was a perfect month. And getting on that airplane was very difficult. But I’m also…
Whenever you visit your hometown there are bound to be places which evoke a strong memory or a blazing sense of nostalgia. There have been so many for me on this trip to Langhorne, Pennsylvania. There are malls, schools, parks, people, and streets.
Today, driving down a small road in Feasterville, I fell into a memory so vivid and realistic that it might qualify as hallucination.
It was October 16th, 1986, and my dad and I were heading home from a Thursday evening football practice. His Bonneville was the same as every time we sat in it: smoky, monotone sports talk on the radio, avid conversation about our next meal. I bet pork chops, he bet spaghetti. I had just turned 12-years-old and was cultivating a peach fuzz mustache that had sprouted a few weeks earlier. Life was pretty solid.
We were moseying along when we became aware of a beautiful woman in a miniskirt so short it was more of a fanny pack. We had never discussed women before, and my dad shot me a couple looks which unsettled me. The result was a heavy fog of discomfort settling in the Bonneville. When my dad turned the radio down I knew I was in trouble.
Whenever I get back to the U.S. it becomes informal reunion season. This summer there have been bartender reunions that have lasted until 11ish, at which time we all took some Advil, a Prilosec, and called cabs.
There have been reunions with childhood friends which ended in a rehash of bitter ancient arguments (Destro was too a bad guy, you son of a bitch!). There was a family reunion to celebrate my grandmom’s 90th birthday, a wonderful occasion after which surely 37 psychologist appointments were made and 254 Xanax were swallowed.
This coming weekend there are two.
Things happen down the shore. And the way it’s in my head today – as I flip through a book on basic seamanship – is that it’s sort of like having a midlife crisis. There’s a euphoric rejuvenation process, which leads to a dangerous thought process, and ultimately, to an unrealistic fantasy of your future.
Don’t feel bad, you are not the first to be beckoned by the sea sirens.
The immediate attraction of the shore is the delicious atmosphere. There is the salty air and the constant, perfect breeze. There is the unmatched feeling of swimming in the ocean under a brilliant blue sky and finding yourself tired after a day of activity rather than sitting in front of a computer. There is wearing a sweater out on a cool evening, eating fresh seafood, and an overall feeling of healthy living.
You start to feel like the least attractive person in an L.L Bean catalogue.
There are girls flitting about in the tiniest bikinis and everyone has a (momentarily) healthy tan. Then there’s looking in the mirror to see that your face has color, and you might be surprised because you haven’t just eaten Mexican or argued with your asshole neighbor. Your worry lines seem to be receding, your back doesn’t hurt as much, and you say things like ‘my legs haven’t looked this good in years.’ In short, you feel younger.
And lo, the fantasy has begun.
“Oh, I’m going for the foot exfoliation. Look at these things.” I present my feet to my sister and her friend, A, and they both frown and shake their heads.
I nod in agreement and tick the box next to hot towel foot exfoliation. And then I rejoice, for Gay Day 2013 has officially begun.
I have spent 38 years as a happily straight man and everything about me bespeaks this reality. I dance like an epileptic penguin, can’t match a belt with anything, and on the blue moon that the situation arises, I love sleeping with women. Furthermore, I am chubby, sloppy, and incapable of combing my hair without leaving a cowlick.
But, like most straight men, I am not without a gay side. I collect messenger bags and shoes the way Madonna collects stupid fucking accents and stupider fucking hobbies (Kabbalah, my ass). I took to the European man purse with disturbing immediacy and I once cried at a Deborah Winger film.
It is my opinion that every straight man should locate his gay side and spoil it occasionally with a Pink Lady or a coconut butter nipple massage. So once a year, just once a year, I indulge in what Gamien (Gay Damien) would do if he was let out of his cupcake lined, pizza crusted, bourbon smelling closet.
I want to write about sharks in honor of shark week. However, I am in the land of the annoyingly PC and fear that I might mix up the hammerhead with the silver tip and end up in sensitivity training. I mull over my predicament as I wait for the start of the next shark week movie, Dinoshark. Finally it dawns on me that while I have seen ten commercials, I have seen no Dinoshark, and then this post happens.
In the last week or so I have learned a lot just by watching daytime television in the United States. In the first place, if there is a hell, and if (when) I go there, I will be forced to watch daytime television with Roseanne Barr for eternity. If daytime talk shows represent the average American, then A. I am never moving back here, and B. this country is totally fucked.
Oh yeah, and there is not one person on television in this country not trying to sell me a car.
We are having a family party and that means I am in a house surrounded by my two arch enemies: complex carbohydrates and children. I find myself trapped at a kiddy table with a bottle of Mexican beer, fruit salad, my sister and her kids: my niece Quinn (4), and my nephew Fred (2).
I decide to make the best of it – and besides, I love the little rugrats – so I settle in, wash down some cantaloupe with limed beer, and jot down some observations.
My first observation is that toddlers are like a mixture of aggressive wasps and the drunkest person at a wedding. They buzz a table as though it was a rival hive. Then, after recon, they come back and destroy something, throw another thing on the ground, smash that thing, pee themselves, and then stab themselves with a utensil. After the shrieking and hysterical wailing, they cram a waffle in their throat and pass out.
The remainder of my observations center around my sister’s kids, especially my nephew Fred. Full name: Frederick Jennings Dickinson, thus guaranteeing an occupation as either a war correspondent (“Live from Baghdad, this is Frederick Jennings Dickinson signing off.”) or a middle linebacker (“Can you believe the hit that Fred Dickinson just laid on that poor receiver?”)
The characters in this book are fine. I don’t hate them. They aren’t very nice people but they are in a Shirley Jackson book, after all. Still, they are not too offensive. This book has most of the stuff I like: a eunuch librarian, a premonition of Armageddon, pie, unattractive shrubbery. But I crawl through it with a listless malaise that I haven’t experienced since I accidentally took nighttime cold medicine at 8 a.m.
I blame J.K Rowling.
In keeping with my trend of being seven years behind every trend, I have just now finished the Harry Potter books. J.K Rowling spent seven books ingeniously developing several story lines, several subplots, and – most importantly – several characters, and we all (some sooner than others) spent seven books loving them.
After spending so much time with Harry Potter and his talented companions, it’s sad to leave the land of Hogwarts and come back to the land of, well, other fiction. I trundle through this book with the sad knowledge that Hermione Granger is not going to apparate at The Three Broomsticks and say something very logical.
And every year, my interaction with them is exactly the same. This year is no different. It’s Tuesday and I am suddenly overwhelmed by one idea: Get a haircut. Today. Now. Next, I sit up – I am usually prone on my vacation – and put down my fattening drink. Then lie back and go over the two barbers in my head.
There is the good barber. The good barber is busy and has the ability to cut hair. The good barber has a full barbershop all the time. The people wait there in glee, their overgrown locks begging to be shorn by a competent hairsmith. The good barber has technology, magazines from this century, and a mirror not covered in wallet sized high school graduation pictures. He serves drinks. I love the good barber.
The other barber stares out his window all day long. The other barber cleans his combs for two hours a day and organizes his table covered by Field & Stream and Highlights issues from the 1980s. The other barber has an ‘all or nothing’ approach to cutting hair. He talks about his medical problems, he points them out. I do not love the other barber.