Friday, September 30, 2016

No such luck.

Last week I took our beloved five year old on her first daddy-daughter-double-date with a new friend she made from riding the bus. We dads did our best to not kill ourselves as we shook off the rust on our skates while we simultaneously tried to teach our kiddos how to not kill themselves also. The fear of falling that I have at thirty five as a man with a full time job, wife, and child surprises even me. While years ago joining the mosh-pit at shows was deemed reserved for only the most inspired of moments, falling off my wheels onto slick concrete littered with multi-colored-disco-ball reflections, seasoned speed-racers, and other bumbling parents with their first-timers raised my fear of getting injured to a whole new level. But we survived and ended our night with a jaunt to Red Robin. Burgers, manufactured Americana wall-bling, and photo-time with a plastic Lady Liberty was a nice end to a first of many Dx4 nights to come.  I arrived at the car to find someone in the parking lot had noticeably hit my car, smashing the tail light and severely denting the bumper. Fucking great. Fighting my learned helplessness, I checked the wind-shield, hoping for an apology note with contact info. No such luck.

Last Monday we watched two candidates for President of the Unites States each make a semblance of a case for why they're the better candidate. I watched in disbelief at how the more polarizing candidate claimed superior intelligence because he's managed to pay virtually zero federal taxes while building a multi-national, multi-million dollar company. This supposed champion of the working class, the guy who's saying 'everything that everyone is thinking,' admitted on the most watched presidential debate of all time that he's proud he doesn't pay into the system that his primary constituency of voters feel they're being screwed by. He's exempt, because he's 'smarter.' This disconnect is unfathomable, yet here we are. I'm no economist, no insider, no business-man at all, but from what I gather by steadily watching the sources that be, in order to run a business that has verified hundreds of millions of dollars, you must be a bit inclined toward sociopathy. Sociopathy is generally linked to a lack of empathy for the feelings or needs of others, which seems integral to most stories of wild and sustained success in Capitalism. On occasion my dad likes to remind us of the Ray Kroc quote: "If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth."  The idea that a 'good business person' should naturally be a leader of the free-world just seems like faulty nuts-and-bolts logic; a bad idea on principle because the owner's bottom line will always be his or her bottom line. In regard to Trump, as Rachel Martin's story, The Making of Clinton and Trump, tells it: "His father would tell his sons you're killers and you're kings and they were supposed to rise up in life as killers and kings and nothing was quite good enough." How could we expect compassion for those less fortunate after seventy years of living in the opposite direction?

Earlier in the year I did a series on my band's record, Mere Mortals, the opening track on the record is called 'Capsized.' Inspired by the photo of the Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, who washed ashore in Turkey, the song explores the idea of luck and privilege to be born to whom, in what time, and where I've been born. A line that still circulates in my head is: "I could've been raised knowing nothing but war, trafficked in a world we abhor..." To think, to imagine, as documentaries have shown me, that there are still people who prosper from enslaving and selling human beings to other human beings. I can only wonder about the desperation it must take to treat others so horribly.
The skeptic and optimist in me hopes that somehow they're doing this against their will, that somehow their survival instinct has been so triggered that they know-not-what-they-do. (Or is it simply biology? Are some people just more comfortable thinking of their own welfare over others'? I'll let you know what Andrew Solomon says about the criminal mind in Far From The Tree when I get to that chapter.)

We waited on making the insurance claim for the smashed tail-light and bumper, knowing that we were a month behind on payment. The day after the incident, I paid what I owed, making sure we were back on track. I consulted multiple friends about how they'd deal with the claim, admitting that detail - that we were behind a payment and may not have been insured when the H & R happened. We were encouraged to embrace the white lie by all who heard our story, fudge the timeline a hair, concede that the insurance company was sort of an enemy that deserved to pay out once in a while, that we deserved the break. A week and a half passed. Friday I made the claim. My wife and I had decided that to tell anything but the truth felt yucky. I was transferred a few times, eventually told the claim was filed and to await a claim-rep's call. Surely enough, he looked at the timeline, the date of the incident, and caught the red flag. Our insurance was suspended at the time of the smashing and our claim was denied. On the phone I managed not to say I considered lying, or express how ridiculously angry I was. I thought of Forrest Gump on his run, and said to the rep: "I guess this is why the phrase 'Shit happens' exists" and cordially said 'goodbye.' What case can I make when I know I was in the wrong? I'm sure there are fights I could try to fight, and I'm not telling you this for that sort of advice. I was wrong, but still stood for what is right by being truthful, right?

I'm not big on pride, not when I can regularly see my friend Kenny's photos of refugees lost at sea. So we'll pay into the system, and we'll pay to make our car pretty again, and we'll swallow our pride, and be thankful we're inclined to try and do right, even if it doesn't always feel right.

(image stolen from here.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Would it kill you to trust?

Today we sent our one and only child off to kindergarten for the first day of school. As the budding socialite she is, when given the option, she opted to ride the bus. I imagine her little brain waves lighting up at the opportunity to have more time with other kids, because seven hours at school simply isn't enough. She already made a couple friends a few weeks ago at orientation, one who uses a wheelchair. We pumped our fists when we heard this! We're now the proud parents of a kid who's not afraid of complications or differences. For now at least. She's in the beautiful stage of childhood where literally anyone she meets is a potential new friend. Her classroom is racially diverse in a way that mine never was as well. Mere exposure to other colors and creeds should go a ways for her. This beautiful innocence coupled with a teacher who settled our misgivings upon meeting her should also go a long ways. Though we didn't actively lobby for her as our teacher, my wife claims she willed it to happen . . . if you believe in that sort of thing. Our beloved came home all smiles, smiles that didn't last for long as she became irritable in her sheer exhaustion.

We're attempting to turn over a new leaf. Become more organized and more disciplined. More inclined to play games and less inclined to turn on the TV. Our time with her is now cut down to just over three and a half hours a day since she leaves at 7:31 am, arrives home at 3:45 pm and goes to bed at 7:00 pm sharp-ish. That's a huge change. The school warned us it will take about two solid weeks for her to adjust to the schedule. We're now entrusting her education and much of her socialization to a group of adults who aren't us, and more over a group of kids who aren't ours. We're conceding to the expectations of the system. A system both extremely familiar and completely foreign.

When we toured her school they took us to the library and proceeded to explain all of the sweet IPad programs they have. They mentioned the books, but only really in passing. That darned Dewey Decimal System I had a hard time learning might as well have been a figment of my imagination. But the tour also outlined their detailed system of how they help children express their emotions safely and appropriately, and in a public discourse model so others can watch the struggles and successes of this expression. We were floored. I'm nearly thirty six and still learning how to express my emotions accurately and constructively. My wife has memories of sitting in a corner almost an entire day as punishment for expressing emotions in a way a teacher deemed inappropriate. Our fears of over-exposure to technologies melted away when we learned of the focus on connection to feelings and self expression.

Today we enacted a few of our goals: we sat for dinner at the dinner table, we played Crazy Eights together, we did bath time at night. Knowing our beloved is already experiencing more change than she's ever had in her entire life we tried to employ as much grace as we could. This is our new life. From the moment she was born other parents have told us how quickly time passes, and now we're feeling and fearing it in a way that wasn't quite clear before. We're conceding to allow the world to teach her in ways we haven't before. We're giving up control in ways we haven't before. And so we crawl into the belly of the beast not quite sure what new thoughts and ideas she might come home with, hoping we have the words to help her understand, hoping to understand ourselves better in the process.

(Ps. My soundtrack to this writing is Low's 'Curtain hits the Cast' and as I wrote the paragraph above a line from "Lust" jumped out: "would it kill you to trust?" You can hear that here.)

(Image stolen from here.)