Saturday, March 28, 2015

My son is napping, and I am sitting here sipping Blue Moon beer trying to halfway watch a documentary on the great, misunderstood Sonny Liston. Unfortunately, my unfocused mind went back to earlier this week when I meant to write about the annoying usage of emoticons. The mind wants what it wants, so I will humor it.

Earlier in the week, one of my former co-workers hit me up on gchat, and let me know that she was on the prowl for a new job, and she was going to use me as a reference. I told her to I would be happy to oblige, but I needed her to send me both the description of this job and her latest resume. She didn't say "ok", "will do" or anything, she just sent me an thumbs-up emoticon which annoyed the shit out of me. You want to use me as a reference, which means at some point I will have to spend at least 10-15 minutes of my life talking about how great you are/were, but you don't think I'm worthy of words? That's no good, but she's not the only offender.

On a daily basis, I am subjected to smiley faces, thumbs, pictures of poo with smiley faces, HBD(instead of happy birthday), IJS (I'm just sayin'), and countless other abbreviations and emoticons. I brought this up to one friend of me, and she said to me, "Not everyone is an English major and good with words like you" but that's some lazy bullshit. English majors don't have a monopoly on words at all. In fact my three-year old son is perfectly capable of using the very words other people choose to truncate or animate via corny ass pictures. Words have sincerity and they show me you put some thought behind what you say to me. Hunting and pecking for emoticons does not make me feel special. And yes I expect people I am corresponding with to make me feel special to some degree. Don't judge me. Is that so wrong?

I have actually sat next to people who type "lol", when in fact they did not laugh, smile, smirk or even chuckle. They were as devoid of emotion as killer drones in Star Wars, but they misled the people they were chatting with into believing some laughter had taken place. As I am typing this, I realize that no one gives a good goddamn about this except me, so I will shut up now. I promise you people I am neither a snob nor an anal person, I just like a bit of structure, because without it, we will certainly have a Chinua Achebe situation on our hands, and no one wants that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The new season of Mad Men starts on April 5th, which means I'm doing my best to catch up on and each and every past episode (even though technically, I only need to watch the first half of the last season to air.) Last night I was watching, and came to the episode called, "Shut the Door and Have a Seat". In that episode Betty and Don Draper (the two main characters) are in the midst of splitting up, and they come to the scene where they have to explain to their children why they are splitting up (go to the 21:17 mark and stop at 24:03):

I have watched that scene at least four times since it initially aired back in 2009, and it makes me cry each and every time. I know having my son Nyles has made me significantly softer in the emotion department, but these tears were legitimate. My parents had that exact same speech with my brother and I in December of 1991. I was 16, and my brother was 13, so we were older than the kids in this clip, but it was equally as painful. I was a senior in high school and I had yet to hear from any colleges, so the prospect of my parents divorcing scared me because I didn't know where I'd live if I didn't get into school. And then in my head I thought if I did get into college, how would I decided which parent to spend time with, which one to shun, and would I let them down (something I still deal with to this day)? But most of all I worried that my foundation (to that point) was crumbling and I would never be the same again (which in some ways I'm really not).

My brother had a different set of concerns to tackle with the impending split of his parents. Not only was his big brother leaving for college soon (maybe), and not only was he starting high school a few months later, which meant he'd be bullied by kids who did not like his older brother, but now he would be forced to shuttle in between two parents (my mother stayed in Maryland, my dad moved to Cleveland) without ever truly feeling like he had a place to call home. That type of arrangement was an inconvenience for me, but it was traumatizing for my brother.

But just the raw emotion, shock and sadness of hearing your parents say that have to split, was just a sad occasion, and I will never, ever forget it. My mom was crying, my brother was crying, my dad was compassionate towards us but indifferent toward my mother, and I was just too shocked to react properly. My wife was also a product of divorce, and we both agree that you never truly get over it. You go to therapy, you move on and you deal with the new reality, because that's what adults do. But it is never the same as it was...and that's a tough pill to swallow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

I was watching my son in the barbershop this morning, and I was amazed at how friendly and innocent he was. Even at 9am, there are some hard looking dudes in the barbershop, and no one was feeling particularly chatty and up to chatting with an effusive three year old. Yet there was Nyles speaking to everyone, asking how they were, what they were doing, and the other rhetorical questions that kids have in their endless arsenal. No matter how young, or old the person was, they temporarily put aside their own problems or thoughts, and gave Nyles a smile, or a high-five or some type of acknowledging gesture. It was sweet, innocent and very unlike me. I don't speak to people unless I absolutely have to, and even then, I do it begrudgingly.

But Nyles' behavior in the barbershop got me to thinking about me and when I lost that child-like innocence. I'm a bit crotchety these days, and I have been that way for quite a long time. But in my younger days I was young, engaging and most importantly innocent. I think that ended when my parents divorced in 1994 when I was 19. I was still friendly on the inside, but when my parents split up, and then when my dad got engaged a few months after that, it just took me to a dark, withdrawn place. I became an introvert and I decided that it was easier to keep folks away (with some exceptions). I thought I'd change in 1997 when I had my first son, but his personality mirrored mine (post-divorce) so there was really no need to change anything. Even now at age 17, my son and I have the same personality--which probably means I'm immature and need to grow up a bit. I've gotten some wonderful things with the version of me, but I need to progress.

Nyles has the same personality as my wife. He's outgoing, he's chatty, he likes to interact with people, and he has the amazing ability to put me in situations which are way out of my comfort zone. He'll see another kid his age and start speaking to the kid and the parents, which means I have to do the same, which starts a bullshit conversation that doesn't end as quickly as I need it to. I noticed that while I'm talking to other adults, Nyles stares at me and my mannerisms, and I realized he probably is taking in everything I do and say--which he should do considering I'm his father.

All of this rambling, combined with some other events which have gone down at work, have made me think that at age 40, it is time to make some mild tweaks to the way I interact with other adults. There will still be some curmudgeonly ways, but I need to start peppering in some of the normal behaviors which adults display in normal interpersonal relationships. Who knows how long this will last, but I will give it a try..

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

So as I alluded to in my previous post, my son Carlton is headed to Old Dominion University in the Fall. I wanted him to attend Hampton University, but it always seemed like I wanted it way more than he did, which is fine. He wanted to attend George Mason University so he could be closer to his girlfriend (she lives in Woodbridge, he lives in Hampton) but his refusal to let me help him with his college essay, led to him receiving a rejection letter. He had three more schools he applied to, but ODU was his first choice and that is where he's headed. Now the wonderful financial aid, scholarship money game begins just as the child support part wraps up in August. It never ends, but this is the deal you make when you have kids right? You support them until they are 22 (give or take a few years) and then when you get old, they either take care of you or throw in a nursing home and willingly pay money for to go away. Win-win right?

But on a serious note, I could not be happier for my son given what he has gone through--both because of his parents and because of his own stubbornness. His mother and I were never married, and I've never had full custody of Carlton, so our relationship has primarily gone down via email, the phone, and visits that vary from a weekend to two weeks. We made it work with varying degrees of success. When his mother got re-married and moved to Japan, I was relegated to letters, the phone and the occasional phone call and that was tough. As he's gotten older and moved back to Hampton (and his mother getting divorced help) we have been able to talk and see each other much more, and as a result our relationship has improved tenfold. I doubt we'll be as close as me and young Nyles will be, but Nyles lives with me so that's to be expected.

Carlton also had some years between grades six and nine when he basically waved the white flag where academics were concerned. I tried to get him to see the short and long term consequences of his actions, but he was hell-bent on being cool and defiant. I do think the lack of a father in the home, as well his mother's numerous moves played a huge part in his lack of academic success, but ultimately, his work ethic sucked. Something clicked the second semester of his ninth grade year and he's been consistently rolling ever since, which lead to last week's good news. Now the challenge will be to keep him school. I know too many people who got in college, and then flunked out after one or two years. We can't have that and we won't.

For more of my views on fatherhood listen to this podcast right here. It features me, my main man Joe, and my main Jamal.

Friday, March 06, 2015

My first born son Carlton will be attending Old Dominion University in the Fall. I should and probably will write more, but for now, I'd like to let that sentence sit for a minute.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

There are two birthdays today. One I care about, the other I don't. I'm going to write about the one I don't care about. Sorry Janelle.

One of the few co-workers I can actually stand is having a birthday. His name is Victor, he's from El Salvador and he is an easy-going guy who in the past year has gotten promoted and lost a ton of weight. I like him because he knows a little about all sports, which is rare in my office, and he takes an interest in my Wizards-related articles. Some of our colleagues decided to go out and buy a birthday card for Victor, and thank God it hasn't come to me, because I wouldn't sign it. I'm against accepting or giving out birthday cards that basically are just slathered with signatures and corny phrases. My mother says that makes me ungrateful, I just think it makes me a snob, which isn't bad. You want to give me a card? Put some f**king thought behind and write words from the heart. I don't care if they are grammatically correct (actually I do) or how eloquent they are, I just want words with feeling. Is that so difficult?

Anyway, the guy whose office is next to mine was getting ready to sign the card, when he noticed some offensive things in the card. I'll remind you that Victor is from El Salvador:

Now, maybe there's an inside joke involved and those closest to him know that he loves Corona and tequila at the same damn time. Maybe Victor keeps a stash of both in his desk drawer, I don't know. But if that's a private joke, it should be shared on a separate card that is delivered privately. That card should NOT be passed around for signatures all around the damn office. Sadly, Victor is so nice and deferential, he probably will laugh it off. Perhaps I should ratchet up some anger for him.

Now you know what would have been a funnier joke? If they had given him this card:

Now that's me at least