Friday, April 23, 2010

Conversations with Siblings

There are six of us siblings. A nine year span from oldest to youngest. Though between the six of us there is more than nine degrees of thought separation. Yet we all get along. More or less. It's a slight danger to society to let us out together in public. You never know if someone will end up scaling a brick wall (we played The Spiderman Game as children -led by our father, naturally enough. He also made up the game), threaten to start a fight if people don't quit staring at the kilt-wearing males (who unfairly look better in a skirt than I do), hang spoons off noses at a restaurant (most often our own) or burst out into song and/or dance. Because after all, life should be a musical like The Pirates of Penzance or Everyone Says I Love You. When we're together, anything could happen. Add my parents into the mix and then I truly do mean anything

Now that's action. I live 700+ miles away from 4 out of 5 of my siblings (and from my parents). So the actual potentially dangerous times we're all together are limited to holidays. Praise be (I'm sure someone is saying). I owe a great debt of gratitude to modern technology. Mostly to the cell phone. Reach out and touch someone. Stay Connected. Can You Hear Me Now? The cellular phone allows me to bond with my family in a way that's much safer than actual face to face interaction, ie., Conversation.

Here's a small sampling of what my life of conversations with my siblings is like.

My younger sister calls me all the time. Our conversations should be taped and aired. She's hilarious. Plus she's a talker. Often times the conversation is pretty one-sided. I mean it's spoken by her and only interupted by my choking laughter.
Recent comment regarding our family:
Younger Sister: "We're good people. We have morals. We don't always follow them but we have them."
Yes, true. It feels a little like a Alfred P. Doolittle kind of morality. Too bad we can't get paid for it. Where are rich American moralists when you need them to die and leave you an inheritance?
Another time the phone rings and I answer, "Hello?"
Younger Sister: "Are"
Me: "Hippopotami."
Younger Sister: "Are hippopotamuses mammals or amphibious?"
Me: "Mammals means they have live young. Amphibious means they can live both in and out of water. I think you're confusing amphibious with reptilian."
There upon follows a heated argument where she tries to convince me I'm wrong even though I've just looked up amphibious in the dictionary to be sure and read the definition to her.
Younger Sister: "Okay, so maybe I got amphibious confused with reptile. Well, do any other animals besides humans have sex for fun?"
Hold up. There's a gear shift. But I suddenly feel like the all-knowing. First because she'd ask me something like that at all. And second because I know. I'm not sure if I should be alarmed or glad that I know this.
Me: "Dolphins do."
Younger Sister: "Really?"
Me: "Pretty sure."
Younger Sister: "Well, (ever the skeptic) google it tomorrow and let me know for sure."

The next day the phone rings and I answer, "Hello?"
Younger Sister: "I googled it after we talked and dolphins do have recreational sex. Also they have homosexual tendencies."
Me: "That's interesting. I think I'd heard that."
Younger Sister: "We should start a church against the dolphins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Empty the oceans until they mend their wicked ways." I imagine her pounding her fist into the air. The conversation only got crazier from that point on. Somewhere in the midst I nearly died by guffawing. Before hanging up we both agreed that maybe we shouldn't be allowed to talk with each other anymore.
That resolve lasted less than 24 hours.
She and I both have this fear that our conversations are monitored by the government. Mostly due to something regarding a passport and a microwave. But I plead the Fifth on that. Neither wild horses nor homosexual dolphins could drag the story out of me.

My youngest brother also calls me frequently. Most often when he's bored. I'm like the boredom buster for the White kids. Or maybe I'm just a last resort. "I've reached the end of myself. What else can I do but call my sister?" Some gene was activated in the younger sibs which makes them highly entertaining. My brother should have a stand-up show or something. I'd watch it. I'd pay to watch it even. Often times I write down the things he says and put them in a short story later on. He loves that. He also says that helps him talk with me at his top game. At his funniest because he knows there's the potential reoccurance of his words.
A recent conversation:
Me: "I wrote some lyrics and I was thinking that maybe you could do some rap on it once I've got it worked out."
My Youngest Brother: "You already do the beat?"
Me: "No. I figured I'd write the music or if you wanted to you could, but it has to be sung by a woman. That's the point of the lyrics."
My Youngest Brother: "I can't do beats. Everytime I try to do a beat it sounds like something the devil is gonna pop out of."
I nearly fall of the couch as I envision the devil popping out of a beat. Of course, he's wearing red and carrying a pitchfork. This is not an Angel of Light devil. Beat popping devils are horned and mustachioed. Obviously. I wipe the laughter spit from my chin as I write my brother's words in my handy notebook. After my spasms have died down I tell him, "Okay. I'll write the music then."

My older sister and I have a great enduring relationship. Mostly united by movie, book, and inside joke quotes. We don't need a lot of sentimentality or constant connection.
She and I talk mostly by text or when I'm in town. Occasionally by email. Word to word conversations only happen when we've really got something to say.
Our conversations go something like this [by text]:
Older Sister: "The Intercostal Clavicle!"
Me: "Ha! I can't give you anything but love, baby."
It makes a lot of sense if you know the movie Bringing Up Baby. Which I promptly went online to buy so that she and I could watch it together when I came into town. "Look, David, I was born on the side of a hill."
Older Sister: "I just had a george mcdonald goblin princess moment. Now i need 2 read it again. Remember mom readin it 2 us as we drove thru the virginias?"
Me: "Absolutely. I haven't read that in forever. What kind of goblin princess moment?"
Older Sister: "Just a feelin. Sittin on da bus listenin 2 music. I thought thats da goblin princess and had a sudden stronge desire 2 be a goblin."
I remember making some weird allusion about her and I being two old ladies living in a haunted house and having lizards for pets instead of cats. I'm not really sure how I got to that but what can I say? We have a connection. She understood.
Older Sister: "Why i wanted 2 be a goblin i don't kno. I think they were the bad guys. Yes?   But i like ur idea."
Which means I'd better find a cool, creepy house to buy so we can live out our lives in peace with our lizards.

My Second Youngest Brother goes through long batches of silence. He's a quiet one. But not quiet enough. He lived with me for a year and a half and was always thoughtful enough to keep me in my place.
A roughly reinacted conversation from an era gone by:
Me: "I'm going to bed."
Second Youngest Brother: "Your mom is going to bed."
Me: "Dang it. No, your mom is going to bed."
His silence is enough to prove that my arguing skills really suck.
The next day while we're driving some place he snaps his fingers and the traffic light changes to green.
Me: "You don't have magical powers."
But I really feel like he does. Every time my car approaches a light it turns red. And he has this ability to override that. I should pay him to ride with me every where. I know I'd save on time. After all time is money. So there you have it.

Then there's my other brother. Even though he's 16 months my junior I always have to stop myself from calling him my older brother. He's really not even that bossy. To me. He and I recently had a really great conversation. All about politics and ideals and the current world order. About the current world order--we're four-square against it. So we're gonna the change the world. Through conversations and blogs and emails and sheer goodwill.
Says my Not-Really-Older Brother: "It reminds me of Enders Game with the two siblings blogging about politics and changing the world. It's the least we could hope for."

I think you can expect good things, if not from the both of us, at least from him.
As for the rest of us and our conversations--Oy vey, is possibly the best expression to use.

Friday, April 16, 2010

An Irrational Love

I have an irrational love for Baseball. Yes, baseball. There's something about baseball that is just so right. It transports me back to my childhood. My mom says she played softball while I was baking in the womb. I realize I'm deviating a little from baseball to softball but the idea is the same. Bats, gloves, socks pulled up to the knees, caps pulled down over the eyes, diamonds, bases, the smell of hotdogs, 9 players on the field. My older sister and I attended many games when we were tow-headed little tykes. Catching sun, getting windburned, cheering with pride and gathering a love for the sport in our hearts. At least mine. My sister might not care at all.

Now my mom was a badass player. Her team was that team all the other league teams dreaded playing. They were that good. Mom played rover and had a killer sidearm throw you wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of. Believe that. One time a fly ball soared out of reach of the base[wo]man and mom, running fast to get under it, dove for it. She caught the ball in the edge of her glove as she turned a front somersault to return to her feet. Then she rocketed that ball to the catcher who tagged out the player sliding in to home plate. The best double-play of all time. I'm sure I saw it. I wish I remembered it. Yeah, that was my mom.
My mom also drank Mountain Dew while she was pregnant with me which resulted in my not being able to sit still for the first decade of my life. But that's a while other story all together.

Baseball evokes summertime. Can't you just smell the fresh mown grass? Feel the subtle grit of the sand collect on your upper lip as the umpire wipes home plate clean with the special brush he keeps in his back pocket? That's baseball. It has everything. Fencing, fighting, torture, true love, revenge. Oh heck, no, wait, that's The Princess Bride. But baseball has an essential element: Suspense. I hold my breath as the batter steps up to confront a 3/2, grinds his cleat into the dust, sticks his elbows out, wipe-grips the bat between ready hands, turns his head to eye the pitcher, and, if he's Moonlight Graham from Field of Dreams, he winks. Then the pitcher gets pissed and tries to put the ball into his ear. God, I love baseball.

Baseball embodies the essence of Americanism. Because after all wasn't America founded on Baseball? I'm sure the Founding Fathers played baseball to unwind after long days of debating which words to insert into The Declaration of Independence. Just hometown boys playing hometown games. Children playing using sticks for bats in the city streets, playing barefoot in parks, going for just one last inning past dark. Baseball kindles a sense of community, it unites where other things divide. There you are on the bleachers sharing a homemade sandwich with your neighbor as you talk ERAs and RBIs. You nearly explode with pride when one of your players hits a homer, pound your neighbor on the arm and laugh together when you realize he's nearly exploding with pride too. Somehow the baseball diamond reminds me of a time when America was made up of people, of mom and pop stores, of soda-fountains, of star filled nights where a ball gets lost in the gleam of the field lights--not of corporations or the rat race, something other than taxes and governmental interference. It's the land itself, it's a place, it's a home.  

Then there's the tactile thrill of the sport. The smell of a leather glove held up to your face. The sharp thwap of a bat connecting with a ball. The heat of the sun against your back while you stand at the ready in the outfield. The heat of the sun hitting the bill of your cap while you sit in the stands chanting, "Hey batta, batta, swing, batta, batta." The sound of cheers drowning out the dirt gouging shuffle of a succesful slide into third. The weight of the ball against your fingertips as you nod to the catcher's signals and wind-up for the pitch.
Are you there yet?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Dreamchild Moneyhands McGee, I never loved any zygote the way I loved you. You turned out to be more like a dream than anything else. But what'll always be true is that you'll hold a place in my heart, a special locked away place, like a hidden cache covered over by a secret panel. Always precious, always loved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Miscellaneous Mutterings and Math

Each week day morning a little before 6:00 my neighbor leaves his house. And by leaves his house I mean he slams his door causing a tremor which probably registers a 7.2 on the Richter magnitude scale. A quake of that magnitude is a major one and can cause serious damage over large areas. Which means it wakes me up and causes me serious dream damage over the large area of my sanity. I figure I'm losing approximately 5 to 13 minutes of sleep each morning. If I take the average of these two numbers I estimate that I'm being jolted out of about 45 minutes of sleep each week. This adds up to 180 minutes per month. 2340 minutes per year. Which, if my calculator is handling these numbers correctly, means I'm losing 39 hours, hours!, of sleep a year. Sheesh.

My solutions: (a) Write a ranting blog about it. (b) Talk with my neighbor about the value of gently closing the door instead of slamming. (c) Participate in a sleep-deprivation study. (d) Wake up even earlier and bang vigorously on his front door to tell him, "You can't control my sleep habits if I control yours, yo." (f) Move out of my townhome into a secluded, reclusive, quiet home. (e) Get therapy for my noise pollution issues.

Speaking of Noise Pollution Issues I've got them big time. When my brother lived with me he used to say, "It's just noise," as if that would somehow make the pounding walls and indoor thunderstorms less bone rattling. Somehow less offensive to me. It worked occasionally. But you know, every now and then I'd like a nice blanket of silence. In my own home. At one point I looked into soundproofing but it's a little out of my budget for the time being. And soundproofing usually works better if it's done on the noise side. I researched it. A lot.
This brings me to the idea of Utilitarianism vs. Deontology; the struggle of good for the most people at one time or good for self (If you know these terms and I'm using them incorrectly please just give me credit for using big words, pretend I know what I'm saying, shake your head at my ignorance and keep reading).
Because you see, when my neighbor is enjoying his music at mach number levels and breaking the sound barrier with sub-woofing objects of sound, it infringes on my ability to enjoy the solace of silence or even my own music at sub-mach levels. This seems drastically unfair. Now, my neighbor is a nice guy, and several times--driven to the Extremity of taking action--I've asked him to turn his music down and he's complied. Maybe he thinks it's unfair to not be able to enjoy his music at a decible level capable of mulching tree branches or vibrating small mammals to death. I don't know. Maybe here we're just dealing with the eternal struggle for a balance between two individuals. Dominance of my rights or his? Community living is all about give and take. Live and learn. Live and let die. I'm all for peaceful living but at times I feel like challenging the neighborhood noise makers to mortal combat. If I win, more silence for me. If I lose, I guess I get a pretty permanent silence. So it seems like a win/win situation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Disturbance in the Force

For a moment I thought I'd been transported into another dimension. Not so much because I looked around and saw weird things like space monkeys. But rather because I noticed my dad's Tweet that said, "Butler won. Woohoo!" At first I was like, "Who the heck is Butler?" I figured it was an American Idol or Reality show contestant. I don't watch TV so I find out about these things from the social media sites I follow. Or from converstions from people loitering around my desk. Or from the front page of the newspaper which is about all I can stand and sometimes not even then. Or from Google.

After I Googled it I discovered Butler was an NCAA basketball team. Now if you knew my dad you'd know he's not a beer-drinking sports maniac. About the most sport team following he's done was going to my siblings basketball games when they were in junior high and high school. Not that he wasn't supportive it's just he's more of an ale drinking metrosexual. He color coordinates his clothes, can consult on interior decorating or hair styles, makes his dinners into fantastic art pieces, and sometimes cries during movies. This isn't to say my dad isn't a tough guy. I mean, he was a boyscout. He can probably light a fire--if not with flint, then with duct tape and a coat-hanger. He can orient his way across mountains. He could probably chart out the orbit to the moon and build the rocket to take the trip. He could deadlift the entire Butler team. Well, plus or minus a player or two.

All that to say, when I read his Tweet it shook my world a little. I thought maybe the dad I knew and loved was redefining himself (Now he does redefine himself often (as in frequently) just usually not in the area of sports). After I talked with him he assured me he'd just been haphardly in a sports bar next to a woman who was very excited about Butler's win. So he thought he'd post it for the world, or at least for me to see. Now if you want the rest of the story of why he was in the bar and who the woman was... well, I guess you'll just have to ask him about it.

Also my grandfather who turned 80 last year recently began reading. Books. This is monumental. I'm talking about novels. Real live books. With bindings. And pages. He's never been a reader. Not in all the years that I've known him have I ever seen him read. My grandmother has had the whole reader bit covered for the both of them their entire marriage. So when she told me he'd actually read a book and gotten two more from the library I figured The End of the World was Nigh. But I was happy. Not about the end of the world but about someone--my grandfather in particular--discovering the joy of fiction.

Yesterday I related both these incidents to my brother Noah. After he got over his own shock he promised me that he would never ever read unless he absolutely had to.

I breathed. If he wants to watch and record basketball team wins, that's one thing, but let him never read. The balance of the earth teeters on that promise. Teeters, wobbles then catches. If Noah decides to start reading when he's 80 years old, let him. By then I'll probably be running rocketship (designed by my dad) tours of the moon. So you see, once again all is well with the world.