You can tell a lot about a person by watching them at breakfast. If they butter their toast by mashing it into the bread, they might be aggressive. If they cover the entire surface of the bread, they might have OCD, if they watch others buttering their bread and think it means something, they might be unhinged.
I love when this kid calls me, it’s always funny:
Him: Hi dad it’s Jared (my 11 year old), did you happen to take the leftover pizza slices for lunch today?
Him: [Silence….] Oohkayyyy […silence…] Were they good?
Lot’s of laughing from both of us recognizing oddness of the moment.
Me: Yeah they were. Sorry. Maybe you can have something else.
Him: Yeah OK, have a good rest of your day.
“Why does google maps show me slower alternate routes while we are driving?” my wife said.
It’s being defensive,” said my son. “Speaking as a defensive person, it’s assumed it knows you are about to go somewhere it doesn’t want you to go, and gives you reasons why you don’t want to go there, even though you gave no indication of wanting to go that way, and probably never intended to go that way.”
We had to fly somewhere fast. We packed quickly, and my wife found herself with not enough underwear. She asked me to go to Target and buy a pack of Hanes Her Way in her size. I went to Target and found the Hanes section and while there were dozens of cuts, not one said Hanes Her Way. To add to the confusion, there was Hi-Cut, Low-Cut, Bikini Briefs, Hipsters, Classic Briefs, Boy Briefs, The Boyfriend Cut, Cheeky, etc. etc. etc.
Our circumstances meant I didn’t have the luxury of calling and asking like I often do when at the grocery store. Suddenly I was hurled back to a time without cell phones when I’d have to make my best guess, but unlike the grocery store, I was not going to be able to ask other customers to help me. My presence alone had already driven away the other young women shopping in this aisle.
I was on my own.
I picked the one that seemed the most normal, and when she opened the package, she simply said, “I can’t wear these.”
My sister-in-law said, “what did you do? Did you get some sexy lacey thing?”
“No, quite the opposite,” I said. I have not bought my wife underwear for two decades, and when given the chance (at her request no less!), apparently, I got granny panties.
“I’m not there yet,” my wife said. “I’m getting close, but not yet.”
EDIT: Hanes Her Way is now Hanes for Women:
Reading Mark Twain to the kids, the word “jackass” came up, so for the benefit of Jared, the 11 year old, I thought to explain, “So a jackass is another word for a donkey.”
“Oh, I thought it was about the penguin,” he responded.
His older brother, my wife, and I were all incredulous, “what?!” Laughing we asked, “where did you come up with that?”
“It’s a real thing!”
“I don’t think so,” someone said.
“Look it up. I’m pretty sure.”
“I’d be surprised,” I said, “but lets see.” I typed into Google and read aloud the Wikipedia entry that appeared at the top:
“The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), also known as the jackass penguin and black-footed penguin is a species of penguin…”
After we got over laughing at that, I wondered out loud, “I wonder why they call them that?”
“Because they make a noise like a donkey does,” Jared said.
I read further, ” It is also widely known as the “jackass” penguin for its donkey-like bray.”
“Well,” I said to my son, “good job, knowing that. And not just that, but also why. I’m blown away, how the heck do you know all that?”
“Books dad. I read it in a book.”
I occasionally get to work with interesting people at the university. This year an old guy came in looking for training on the course management system. He said he’s a new part-time instructor here to teach a class in cartoons. So of course I told him I love cartoons. He said, “well it’s about all forms, editorial cartoons, animation, comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, etc.” So I started talking about how I’m a fan of all those things, and it turns out for everything I mentioned, he was acquainted with the authors: Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes, Pearls Before Swine, Loony Tunes (he was friends with Chuck Jones) and so on.
Suddenly I realize I know his name. He’s Pulitzer nominee Bob Englehart, a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, and I even have one of his cartoons in my desk. It was one where he used Pac-Man and ghosts as an analogy for CT state schools, Pac-man representing one that would absorb the others. At the time of its release, I commented online with critical feedback for depicting the ghosts in their normal colors, him not realizing that they were more dangerous to Pac-Man in that state, and for the analogy to work, they should have been depicted blue, reflecting their vulnerable state. I admitted to him that said feedback came from me, though only a geek my age would know that. Anyone older than me wasn’t hanging around arcades in the 80s and anyone younger had home games better games on home systems. It’s a very small section of the population who’d even notice. He says, “well where were you when that went though editing?”
So we have a laugh and start talking details about Looney Tunes. At one point he opens up his book and asks how to spell my name. After it, he scribbles “cartoon expert” and says, “I might have to have you come speak to my class.”
Like most people, my brain has its unique little quirks. One rather annoying one is this inability to drop certain associations or subjective opinions (particularly ones created by media or some perceived authority at the time), or else some random commonality that connected them in my mind but doesn’t really hold any value.
For example, in the 80s, I saw Lea Thompson in Red Dawn, and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In my mind they looked somewhat similar, and then there’s the similar sound of Leigh and Lea. Since then they are forever connected in my head, I can’t see or think of one without thinking of the other. Here’s another example: as a kid I read a blurb in some magazine about Bob Seger’s new album where he was described as the hardest working man in music. At that age I had not yet heard that expression, and while I now know that it’s just a common phrase thrown around willy-nilly by marketing people, back then my brain took it as some kind of researched fact. Obviously I know better now, but I can’t hear a bob Seger song without hearing that blurb in my head.
As you can imagine, it gets tiring having to repeatedly remind myself to disconnect unrelated associations and readdress all the unwelcome “laws” and “facts” created by these impressions time and time again. They hardly ever get replaced by new info, but rather new info is added and compiled with the first. So while do I know the truth, or at least my own opinions about certain topics, I still have to hear the first opinion I subscribed to about it in my head when the topic comes to mind, and then apply the new information immediately after.
It’s tedious in my head.
But every once and a while this flawed synaptic brain fritz does something not entirely tedious.
Not long after Carrie Fisher’s death, I caught a video of her on Ellen where she was asked about her love of coca-cola. And she described how much she enjoys the cold sharp crispness of a fresh coke and how once it gets a little warm she can’t even finish it. As a long time lover of coke (and Fisher if I’m being honest), I could relate. I’m not as bad as her, I don’t open 16 cans a day and not finish them, but I have noted the pleasure of the cold sharp crispness of a freshly opened can and so her quirky anecdote resonated with me.
Now, every time I open a can of coke I think of Carrie Fisher, and it’s not unwelcome.
My mother texted me today,
I though her phone got hacked.
My mother is in her 60s, retired, and wasn’t really into comic books, or a big geek-culture fan. But she was an avid reader of classic science fiction, Bradbury, Asminov, Verne, etc.
And she loves movies.
I think my first inkling that I had a “cool mom” was in the early 80s when one evening she couldn’t get anyone to watch me while she went to her literature class at Stonybrook University and I had to come along. After class, while talking to the professor, he asked me if I’d ever read Tolkien. I hadn’t at that age, but my Mom had, “We have it at home, you’ll love it,” she said. She was right.
As kids, Mom took us to the movies for birthday parties and when Dad brought home our first VCR, we were able to watch certain movies over and over again. We wore out the tape on Top Gun, though she’d only watch until the shirtless volleyball scene was over and then moved on to housework, errands, or other responsibilities. I guess she didn’t want to keep watching Goose die.
Sure, Dad schooled us on the value of the Godfather, as any good Italian would; Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. But Mom saw the love story in King Kong, the fun in North by Northwest, and the beauty in The Princess Bride. Dad took us to Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, Mom introduced us Arsenic and Old Lace and Murder on the Orient Express.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I tried to call her after that text, and she texted me back,
While I was more confident that it was, in fact, my mother, I briefly wondered if she was now texting in a theater. However, I knew full well that once the movie got going, she’d be too engrossed and therefore must have done her texting during the previews. Later she texted me,
(as if her geek son needed such advice). She continued,
And I believe her. There’s no volleyball scene.
While reading a story to the kids, I mispronounced Barney as Blarney. The kids had never heard that word before. After assuring them it was a real word, I told them all I knew. “In Irish tradition or superstition they have something called a Blarney stone, and kissing it is supposed to bring good luck.”
Before I finished, the older kid had looked it up on Wikipedia, “The Blarney Stone is a block of Carboniferous limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, Blarney…”
After reciting the introduction, he noted that the article was last modified 3 hours ago. “I wonder what could possibly have changed in the history of the blarney stone in the last 3 hours.” We all laughed.
We don’t get much reading done this time of night.