Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Not Exactly Whiskers on Kittens...

..but I have recently been talking with a lovely and emerging good friend about my favorites. I confessed that I do not have many favorites of anything, ice cream flavours, movies, underwear preferences, books, food, etc. I frequently latch (pun!) onto whatever happens to be in front of me, and run with it to its logical or illogical conclusion. On the days that I am feeling unhealthy and dour, I consider myself scattered and unfocused, but since today is not that day, I consider myself capable of finding joy all around, willing to try new things, and adventurous.

Now, having disclaimed my lack of favorites, I would like to discuss one of my favorite books. Not necessarily my favorite story (though it is a cracker jack tale), but my absolute favorite tome that I own.

Harken back if you will with me, and take a peek all Ebeneezer style to a little boy named Robbyblog in the 5th grade. Ms T-- is teaching, and we are giving our book reports. I was doodling, as usual, and not paying any attention, drawing X-Wings and Tie Fighters locked in their epic struggle that continues on papers that fall under my pen to this very day. Some delightful raven haired little girl is up at the front of the class, and we barely listen as her book report really is just a feat of memorization, and she manages to rattle off all the dwarves' names in one big breath, ending of course, with Thorin Oakenshield.

She walks past our desk, and is she a little upset that I wasn't paying attention? No, that is just me now, projecting flirtation where there really wasn't any. I do remember, however, that some tiny bit of awareness managed to permeate my ray shielding, and that she was talking about a book that involved goblins, dragons, dwarves and elves, and that this might be something I could be interested in. I turned around (she sat directly behind me) and started chatting with her about her book. I don't know why we had downtime right then, but for some reason, I not only had time to talk to her, but I also absentmindedly doodled on the book itself, filling in the "O" and the fat parts of the "B"s with swirls and other designs. Yes, I know, I was defacing a book, me, childe of the town librarian, but I was really nervous, and this gave me something to do and keep me conversating. Back off a little, and give our hero some slack on the vandalism charge, and we can move the story along, okay?

Alright, thanks for quelling your outrage. As it turns out, this book was none other than The Hobbit, by our beloved J.R.R. Tolkien, THE hands down gateway drug to everything fantasy related. I had no idea, so much so that although I meant to get my mommy to bring it home from the library once the dark haired girl brought it back, I never followed through, and promptly forgot about it for years.

Those years were not idle, and that slight opening of the door to that fantasy world was soon blown wide open. We played Dungeons and Dragons, read all sorts of fantasy books, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I developed into the uber-dork that now ends this very sentence. Those were delightful years, coming home from school, spending a few hours in the library drawing, reading and creating our fantasy worlds, then walking our mom home. Fleeting years, to be true, only to be savoured now, like the remembrance of fine wines.

A quick fast forward, if you would indulge me. After middle school, we went by bus to the high school, and spent almost no time in the local library. I miss the smell of the books, the bones of the fossil in the well in the atrium, and the time spent among the stacks. It wasn't until the end of my first year of college that I returned to the Lincoln Park Public Library. I was amazed at how small it looked, the way the whole world, and especially your home town looks the first time you return from the "wide world" of college. I walked those aisles, pulled down some favorites, strolled the children's section, and checked out the used book sale tables.

As I write this, I am getting that tingly feeling I get before I cry from emotion, but there on the table of books for sale, books that the library was trying to get rid of, for $.25, was the very green fabric covered copy of The Hobbit that I encountered all those years before. I reverently lifted the book up, deeply inhaled the scent of old paper, ran my hand over the cover, the spine that had been torn and repaired many times, caressed the embossed letters, inexpertly filled in with childish doodled designs. I wanted to shout in triumph, an exultation of glee and joy, but had to keep it all in, the way you had to keep quiet while making love in your parent's house, that joy and pleasure somehow heightened further by the inability to express it fully. I bought this treasure immediately, and took myself outside to the "reading tree" as we called it as children, sat and devoured the book as the sun was setting, as if I were lounging in the waning light with an estranged best friend, only to realize that he or she missed you just as much as you missed them, even if neither one of you knew it. I imagine that we must have looked not quite unlike the opening scene of the Fellowship of the Ring movie, where Frodo sits beneath a tree reading in the Shire. Our re acquaintance was just as beautiful.

That very copy has been with me ever since. I have read the story therein to my college friends outside during a meteor swarm, have lent it (guardedly) to friends and lovers, and recently, read the story to my darling daughter Millie as she lay in the NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit. You ask me if I have any favorites, and now I can confidently say "Yes, yes I do."

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Synergy of Systems

Last night, I had the opportunity to weave many aspects of my life together into one lovely package. After work, I went with "other Robert (the O.R.)" to his house to play "My Two Dads". His own wyfe can be quite the world traveller, and this leaves the O.R. alone with his five year old daughter and two year old son from time to time. As one that has solicited DadAid in the past, I felt it was my duty, honour and pleasure to heed the call to partner up for the evening.

I love going over there. The children afford me celebrity status, and it is good "pay it forward" practice to see how folks handle older children. the O.R. may not know it, but he is the model of fatherhod that I aspire to.

The night really drove home the idea of "ordinary lives well lived". In fact, we had a bit of discourse about that self same fact. The odds that either one of us is going to fundamentally change the world for the better, that is, curing cancer or eradicating some huge social ill, are pretty slim (not compleatly nil, of course) but at the same time, we have rich and rewarding lives, like multifaceted jewels in their own right.

So many of those facets came out last night too....we did basic dad stuff, shopping, grilling, bathed and put the kids to bed, but then our own wonderful chic geekiness came to the fore. We hit his new and very well stocked bar, discovering the joy that is a well mixed cocktail, in this case, the Havana Sidecar. I am anxiously awaiting the discovery of the rest of the motorcycle, as this drink was like sunshine in a glass. I hope I have the stones to order one the next time I am out on the town.

We had cocktails, then played silly card games, the kind that I spent SO much time and money playing a few years ago, and most of which I recently (with a bit of trepidation) packed up into the attic believing that that era of my life was over.

Well, there it all was. Robert, family man and Rookie Dad, hanging out and playing silly games mere moments from reading fairy story books to children and helping to load the dishwasher. It was a lovely integration, and I thank the O.R. for hosting and giving me a forum to express all this stuff.

Going home was tough, but only because I realized that a whole day had passed where I did not hold my own daughter. It was around 11pm when I got home, and I didn't want to disturb her. Well, I WANTED to, but I didn't, and did a few chores and iPod updates, then went to bed. This morning, Millie and I had some quick cuddles, and Millie was all smiles for her Daddy, so that set a nice tone to the morning. She either didn't know or didn't mind that I was cheating onher with an older woman, as long as I came home to her. Speaking of which, I want to go home RIGHT NOW to her!

Cursed gainful employment!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

m17713 0f b0rg

Designated 1 of 3, Unimatrix 8008135.

Millie is home safe and sound from the hospital, brain surgery was completed expertly and efficiently.

Again, my trip to Children's National Medical Center was an eye opener. Millie gained a quasi cybernetic implant, and yours truly gained renewed persepctive. Yes, many men get to go through life without their children having to have brain surgery, but there were many, many children there that WISHED they had Spina Bifida. To them I wish many hugs, warm support, and hopefully good insurance.
In other news, yours truly is undergoing a bit of a pradigm shift, and I am kind of enjoying it. I say "kind of" , as the shift, like any change, comes with a bit of pain, and a bit of doubt. Why doubt? I am not sure, but it is how I roll.

The shift that is coming may finally reconcile some bits of me that were up to now, out of phase. You see, much like in the very dated movie "The Matrix"...I think we all carry an image of ourselves in our minds...in their parlance "a digital projection of our physical selves" or something like that. Well, The Robbyblog doesn't really see himself as being much past his early to mid-twenties. Perhaps this is why I look so youthful, it is definitely why I act so youthful...hopefully by "youthful" we imply "child like" and not "childISH".

the Goodely shares these visions...most times we feel like lunkheaded kids...pretending to be grown ups. We pay a mortgage, keep our jobs, but at the same time have hand me down furniture, eat ice cream for dinner and sit at the kids table. Alright, that last one is a stretch, but there you go.

Now, enter the MillieBorg. With Millie, I am home a lot more than I ever was, and I am starting to find myself in many "typical suburban man" situations, that is, acting like an "adult"...talking to the neighbors about this and that mostly, getting invited to neighborhood parties and social gatherings and hanging out in the park with the other parents. I plan little projects around the house, and have a naked lady calendar over where my home workbench will be.

Am I ready for this? Am I ready to offer up the sacrificial lamb of happy hour with the girls for backyard barbecues with the neighbors? Will gaming be the next to hit the abattoir of home life and daddyismhood?

Or will it be another bit of integration? Our model of parenthood is based on what OUR parents were, a whole other generation before, so naturally some new model, some new pattern must be created. Will there be an ice chest with wine and cheese in my stroller for when we visit the park? Will my "small projects" around the house be to install a stripper pole in our basement?

In the movie Dogma, the Metatron tells Bethany as she is trying to reconcile her new relationship with HER world, that she must be the person she always was, but she also needed to be this as well, from time to time.

So, what is the end result? I think I will become more than I ever thought possible as a result. Yes, some shifting may occur. I may go on fewer happy hour events, or play fewer games, but if I have learned anything from my eight and thirty actual years (regardless of my matrix image) is that there is always MORE of me that can happen. I CAN be all that I was before, and now be Super Father and Suburban Neighborhood Guy. I am hoping to be a nifty "Super groovy suburb guy for the year 2010 and beyond", so cool that Millie will have no choice but to roll her eyes and giggle maniacally with her friends at what a dork her father is.

but...being a dork is cool now, right honey?