Monday, July 31, 2006

Please go away; my brain is full today

The e-mail’s subject line was “Jason’s newsletter.”

Great. E-mails called “Jason’s newsletter” usually contained things like, “my wife and I really enjoyed this month’s newsletter,” “congratulations on the new baby,” or “forget that $20 you owe me.” And, even better, I rarely get called an idiot unless the e-mail’s from my family.

I opened it.

“My wife and I really enjoyed this month’s newsletter.”

Good so far, but the e-mail suddenly turned into something like a letter for jury duty ­ I paid just enough attention to know I didn’t want anything to do with it.

“Has anyone ever talked to you about this neat new thing called HTML code?”

HTML code? Yeah, I’d heard of it. It’s a type of language for people who talk to computers instead of getting dates. Using HTML code in my newsletter would make it more attractive and include all sorts of little buttons for readers to click.

What caused my mind to scream “now’s the time to panic” wasn’t that this guy used an acronym I wasn’t comfortable with. What bugged me was the first thing that rushed through my head ­ slamming and locking doors along the way ­ is that I didn’t want to know anything about HTML code.

This fear of the unknown could be attributed to cowardice (possibly), ignorance (quite probably), and maybe even global warming (most certainly).

Or, it could simply be the fact that I’m now 41 years old and that qualifies me as a stodgy old fart who don’t cotton to them new-fangled idears.

Yeah, that was it. HTML code was just something to learn, and I didn’t want to learn anything else. Learning broadens your view of the world and I like my world just fine, thank you.

My son was 6 when Pokémon was big ,and he wanted to be a Pokémon Trainer. He had Pokémon games, Pokémon cards and Pokémon bed sheets.

He was so engulfed in Pokémon, I wanted to share in his interest because my parents, although they sat through “Planet of the Apes” with me, didn’t really appreciate the subtle social commentary of a gorilla shooting a man in the throat.

So, for my son, I learned all there was to know about Pokémon.

Then, one day, he didn’t like Pokémon anymore. He liked something called Yu-Gi-Oh! He put a deck of nightmarish cards in front of me.

“You wanna play?” he asked.

“Wait a second,” I said. “I can finally recite from memory that Charmeleon evolves from Charmander, that Bulbasaur’s major attack is vine whip, and a water type is best to use against a rock type, now you want me to forget all that and learn something else?”

The Boy shrugged.

“Guess so,” he said. “Now are you ready to play?”

“Nope. I can’t learn anymore,” I told him, then stuck my thumbs in my ears and made “na-na-na” noises.

Sitting in front of my computer, looking at the e-mail encouraging me to learn HTML code, I stuck my thumbs in my ears and made “na-na-na” noises.

Is this it for me? Is my head full already?

Friday, July 14, 2006

A less-than-neighborly greeting

July 1973

The corn was tall as Dad drove through the river bottoms looking at crops. That's what farmers call drinking beer all afternoon looking at crops.

We drove past the fields on the Lafayette County side of our ground. The soybeans looked nice, too, he said, but I really didn't know. I just sat on my side of the pickup drinking a Pepsi as we drove around a lake that sat in the middle of the field and Dad talked about how good the soybeans looked.

I liked these trips with Dad. I always got a Pepsi, and a Slim Jim.

Dust poured from the back tires of the pickup like contrails from a jet plane as we drove down the gravel roads. You could always tell when someone was coming toward you on a gravel road, but you had to make sure you rolled up your windows when you passed them.

Dad hit the brakes and dust billowed over the truck like fog in a vampire movie.

"What's the matter?" I asked, wondering how much dust found its way into my Pepsi.

Dad looked past me and down a dirt road that ran atop a levee. A car was there, a Camaro. A few people wandered around the car, disappearing into the thick bank of green weeds that covered the levee.

"Hippies," he said, turning his wheel and driving onto the levee.

Marijuana grew thick in the river bottoms. Dad always said it grew so much better than corn or soybeans he'd grow it for a cash crop if that was legal ... but it wasn't. Too bad. I might have gone to college free.

Dad pulled his dirty red Chevy pickup next to the Camaro, giving it enough room to leave if the driver wanted to, and got out of the truck. The hippies, in their tie-died shirts, bandanas, little round sunglasses and whatever gunk built up on them between baths, came out of the weed.

"You all lost?" Dad asked.

One of the hippies holding an armload of marijuana plants smiled at him.

"Yeah, man," he said, in a slow, anti-war, college professor voice. "We're all lost."

Dad reached into the truck and pulled his deer rifle off the gun rack then he cocked it.

"Then you'd best find your way," he said. "Now."

There are times when people in your life do amazing things, unexpected things, things that make you almost wet your pants. For me, this was one of those times.

Holy moly, I thought. Dad just pulled a gun on hippies.

The Dad I knew didn't do things like this. He'd threaten to spank one of us and never do it. He'd listen to Mom gripe and just nod his head. But would he pretend he was Clint Eastwood? Never.

The hippies dropped the pot and ran to the Camaro. Dad fired a shot into the air as the Camaro's tires tried to tear into the hard, grassy ground on the levee. The car shot off the levee road and fishtailed on the gravel.

I laughed, but I wasn't sure why. In everyday situations, violence was usually wrong I learned that in church. Hippies were generally timid, sheep-like creatures I learned that from "ABC After School Specials." And gun-toting farmers were just stereotypes I learned that from cartoons. But I couldn't shake the fact that Dad scaring the crap out of a bunch of doped-up kids was just funny.

Did I learn a lesson?

Yeah, that I liked these beer-drinking, Slim Jim-eating, crop-looking trips with Dad. I didn't care how many fields we drove past or how much dust I had to swallow, as long as there was a chance someone other than me was going to wet his pants, I was happy.