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A nice vacation (part 1)...


Where was I?

Oh yeah, the vacation.

I was all fucked in the head because of work and I needed a break. Right.

So there was the road trip to Oklahoma City and visiting friends I hadn't seen in a while (except for the ones who visited me just a few weeks ago for a mini-housewarming! Yay, you guys.)

There was a great moment, on the way there, perhaps at one of two (I counted. There were two.) Czechoslovakian convenience stores between Austin and Dallas. One of them is called the "Czech Stop." That is infinitely better than the original name, "The Stopped Czech," which aroused all kinds of legal problems. On the way there, I had this great moment where I saw the vacation stretching ahead of me like a giant, rubbery, stretchy thing; an egg of Silly Putty, perhaps. It stretched out, sticky and pliable, far off ahead, and was able to absorb Sunday comics. My vacation was like that: Seemingly endless, egg-like in its perfectness and sticky.

You have that great moment where you realize you don't have to step foot in your place at work for at least another eight days, and the thought of that fills you with derring-do. If you're incontinent, it may fill your pants with actual-do. All I knew was that I was excited. And, blessedly, wearing clean underwear.


The Babies


Several of my friends have decided that it would be a very good idea to further colonize the Earth with reproductions of themselves. They've taken a novel approach: Having babies.

The first of my couple friends to have a baby several years ago had a boy named Jack. Jack has grown up to be a beautiful-eyed youngster with a love of toy tools and a penchant for that cartoon show about the roly polys that I've never actually seen.

We visited Tiffany and Taylor, and another couple, Michelle and Brad, came over with their baby, Ryan. We listened to their stories, and there was wonderful overlap, where Michelle would tell us a little bit about something Ryan did recently and Tiffany and Taylor would nod their heads, remembering when Jack did that very thing, or something like it.

Screwdriver, drill, wrench, hammer, jacksaw and lumber not included.

We didn't get to visit with my friends Adam and Lori, but they also had a baby, who I imagine is going through many of the same developments.

It made me wonder how many of those experiences parents have in common; whether there are these little milestones that are common to every child's development. The first time the kid realizes they hands with Actual Moving Parts(!) that the can use for picking up things. The first time the child picks up a swear word a parent used by accident.

It filled me with a mixture of fascination and horror. I'll call it "Fascinorror." Fascination because I really do want to have kids and the enormity of their development and the speed of their growth is just impressive to me. Also, the ability to be a parent who doesn't drive off one day or pull out all of one's hair under all the stress equally makes me envious. The horror part comes in when I think of my life and imagine putting a child in it. It just seems huge and scary, unmanageable and impregnable. (Oh. Bad word choice. Sorry, there.)

Mostly, it's horror in realizing that I'm not ready for it. And that if (by some accident/evil comedic turn of events) I were to suddenly become a parent, it would require a shift in lifestyle akin to those crazy Amish kids that get turned loose on the wild world of sex, drugs and rock and roll, then have to decide whether they want that life or the one without electrical sockets.

So, parents? Good parents out there? I envy you. And am frightened for you at the same time.


The Graduation


When I was returning from Oklahoma, we got some bad family news; sick relatives. It turned out to be all right in the end, but for some scary moments on the way back, there were hastily booked flights, plans for a possible funeral and a terrible holding pattern, waiting for a news about a dangerous surgery.

In that time, during the scariness, my brother graduated from high school.

The graduate (Circa 2002).

We arrived at the Alamodome where roughly 730 kids in his graduating class would be sent out into the world. Let me tell you something. If you're going to a graduation where 730 graduates are going to get called up individually, you need to bring a book. Not just any book. Don't bring the first two Harry Potter books because you'll finish them before they even get to the D's. Bring a Stephen King book, one of his verbose ones. Bring some Stephen Hawking or a John Adams biography. You're going to be settling in for a while.

P.J. got up there a few hours after his girlfriend read the Pledge of Allegiance. When they called his name, the listed off the four scholarships he's been awarded and at his school, when someone has more than one scholarship read out, the kids would call out numbers. After the first two, they yelled out, "Three! Four!" as the rest were read.

Afterward we posed for pictures, and told him how proud we were. We went home, gave him his graduation gifts and ate some yummy cake.

I can't always read him anymore. He's developed into an adult; one who has his own life, his own friends, his own loves and heartbreaks, his own computer, his own taste in music, movies and TV, his own track in life.

That makes me sad sometimes, that I don't know all there is to know about him, when at one time I felt like I did. It's a good thing, though, that he is his own person, a man now (he's 18! How!?!) who is learning, in that painstakingly long process that happens between 18-22 (if you're lucky) where you begin to learn to start taking care of yourself.

I keep wondering how much of being an older brother is leading the way and how much is just watching, sitting back and letting him make mistakes on his own, maybe even mistakes you were lucky enough to avoid or that you never had the nerve to go through at such an early age.

He makes me laugh. He's smart and he's got crazy skills he hasn't even discovered yet. That part makes me happier. The part where I get to look forward and see where life takes him.


The Rest


And that was the primary excitement. The rest of the vacation was purposely kept open, light and with very little activity. I watched the excellent Dogtown and Z-Boys which flooded me back with all kinds of memories of my old skateboarding days back in Germany; watching Bones Brigade videos and ruining my ankles forever with jumps off a tiny quarter-pipe. I saw the not-quite-so-excellent Undercover Brother, caught up on some TV and mowed the lawn.

On Friday, I got really curious about work, so I stopped in for a bit, announcing, "I'm not really here!" to anyone who greeted me. Sometimes I get goodies in the mail, and the U.S. Postal didn't disappoint; there was a stack of packages on my desk, enough to get me through the weekend.

And it was for those 20 minutes, that I was actually glad to be back, seeing those faces that only a week before had been driving me crazy in their familiarity.

I knew that all I had was a weekend left, but that it was fine. By Monday, I'd be ready to come back, ready with a tolerance to the stress built up by a week of inactivity.

I was ready to get back to work.

I left that day, like a lot of the people leaving early on a Friday afternoon, ready to make the most of the two days remaining.


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