Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pop, or memories in shades of blue

My antipathy for bumpersticker and t-shirt wit and wisdom begins with my father. He loves that kind of thing, although never had humorous bumperstickers or t-shirts at all to my recollection.

But he collected and repeated the ideas, sometimes even trying to refine and improve the ideas... if one's of a mind, it's not a bad idea, too often these phrases get jammed together in what seems to have been a hurry and become cliché without ever being, er, perfected. Bumperstickers and t-shirts with political ideas seem particularly bad about this, having a phrase that a slight tweaking would make really perfect, but...

You see, I can actually talk about that stuff all day, such is my bred-in fascination.

But then its not that which bothers me so much. The analyzation. That's part of the "joke" thing. My dad collects and attempts to perfect jokes all the time.


I could probably explode out a parade of punchlines similar to the one on the Modest Proposal episode of Night Court, but never mind... But if forced to tell a joke to lead up to them, I'd have to wing it with something that may or may not be the way the joke goes.

I'm not sure if that's my makeup from birth or reactionary.

It's not the jokes that make me angry. They're simply one of those amusing peccadillos of a loved one.

It's the clichés and joke advice.

I think my brother Nathan was three or four at the time...

(Forgive my memory, that would have made me eleven or twelve. As it goes, however, I've found, unless it involves something a child can't properly understand or contextualize, the memory of the person who was a kid at the time something happened is almost always better than that of a person who was an adult. I have no explanation.)

... and he fell down, as I recall. My father, trying to be comforting, said, "It'll feel better when it quits hurting." My brother, being three or four, accepted this.

I remember my father realizing what he'd said like a revelation. His mind reeled at the brilliance of this phrase. It was less a feel as if he invented it, but like a discovery he picked out of the air, that had forever been waiting for someone to discover it.

Y'know, like the feeling of finding a twenty in a pair of old pants. Sure, you may feel glad at your wisdom to look through the pockets, but mostly it's a satisfaction at the Universe for having left it there.

Suffice it to say, no one of us had any bad feeling, physical or emotional, without being given the cold comfort of that bit of wisdom ever again. What may sound like comfort when you're three becomes more and more your father merely insulting you as you get older. Suffice it to say, it was always insulting to me. I had heard him discover it and discuss its discovery.

But then, as years pass, I realize that he most likely didn't have more than that to give or say. Everything we say to comfort people in pain is just as vapid, but we work so hard to cover it up. His phrase was just the unmasked version of what we all stand hopelessly trying to say. At once brilliant and ugly.

This weighs more heavily on my mind, as his birthday is coming up. That's always a hard day for me. It's just the one day a year that I can't blame our not speaking on the fact that he doesn't call me. It's mostly the truth. I mean, I could continue my puffed up outrage at the fact that he doesn't call my younger siblings, but then I can't say I'm doing too well in the calling people department either, to speak kindly. I suppose that offers me some empathy to how he likely feels about himself as he doesn't call.

I understand for now I am he.

Mind you, I'm not actually wishing he'd call. That's a hundred kinds of awkward. Over the years, I've come to understand, or just believe, that he's probably not capable of understanding the hurt he caused me. And I'm certainly not emotionally up to the idea of dealing with the hurt I've undoubtedly caused him.

So, to avoid having to cross any dangerous ground where either of us would have to deal with these things, we'd talk about Star Trek or something. The kind of lazy thing people talk about, using the last thing you remember sharing as an interest.


I remember seeing Highlander and House as a double feature with him at the Lynn Four Theater. It was a good night. Spoiled a few years later with he wanted to see Highlander II: The Quickening and I bowed out. You see, Highlander had resonated as beautiful to my fifteen year old brain. They were Philistines to make a sequel, and he then was a Philistine for wanting to see it.

I still don't understand how people can claim to have loved or liked the first movie can cope with, and even celebrate, sequels, but that's a notion for another day. Frankly, I can't even feign the feelings I expressed then over this issue anymore.

My dad really is a Philistine. I suppose that part mattered more when I was fifteen and twenty, but it is more than I've noted here.

He and I watched movies together all the time, mostly trash. He'd still have inconsistent ideas and try to moralize on random occasions.

Note to fathers of the world, once you've watched, enjoyed and discussed Barbarian Queen with your child and not raised any objections, you sacrifice your moral authority to object to nearly any future choices.

But, I suppose it's his contradictions I understand the best, as well as find most confusing.

I understand for now I am he.

Yeah, I know, "Cats, spoons and blah, blah, blah, Neil. Seen any good movies lately?"

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