I¹ve been celebrating Father's Day for well over 50 years now. In its earliest incarnations, I'm sure gifts and cards were bought on my behalf, but eventually it was time to take the reins and handle the responsibility myself.
For a long stretch, my go-to present for my father was the lastest Bill Cosby record, partly because he truly enjoyed Cosby's work, but mostly because I wanted to hear it, too. Some might look at that as a selfish act, but I prefer to look at it this way; it was something that we were able to bond over, and at least it wasn't an ugly tie he¹d pretend to like and never wear.
My relationship with my father has always been complicated. I'm sure he loved me, although it was many years before he actually voiced the sentiment. The problem was that my mother, who likely would have been the perfect bridge between us, died when I was not quite 4 years old. My father's grief and depression were all-consuming and because he was afraid his emotional state would degrade my own, he left me with my grandparents (my recently deceased mother's parents, which, considering their own overwhelming grief, was an interesting paradigm of its own) and moved 30 miles north, removing himself from everything that would remind him of her.
Thus began our 12-year routine. He would arrive on Saturday afternoon, pick me up, take me back up to his apartment for the night, then we'd hang out until Sunday evening, when he would return me to my grandparents. It never really mattered what we did, I just enjoyed being in his company. He had a sense of humor that ranged from cuttingly dry to wildly inappropriate, largely dependent on the amount of scotch in his system, but he was always good for a laugh. Until he wasn't, of course, but that's another story.
The defining characteristic of our relationship was its short term nature. He was my actual, hands-on father less than two days a week; sometimes our weekend consisted of going to his friends' parties and me hanging out with his friends' kids all night, then watching TV for a good part of Sunday while he nursed the next in a series of monolithic hangovers. But there were lots of movies and restaurants and plays and a couple of girlfriends and a couple of stepmothers and extended families.
Sundays in summer were mostly spent on golf courses as he tried to teach me the game. Sundays in winter were for watching football, sometimes skiing or ice skating. Fun is where you find it and we found it everywhere. My grandparents were of sturdy Methodist stock and involved me in church as much as possible, while my father was a card-carrying hedonist.
When I was 5 or 6, after we'd been doing the weekend trip for some time, my grandmother was concerned that I wasn't attending church on Sundays and asked Dad if he could find a church and start taking me. My father took a long drag on his unfiltered Camel, exhaled slowly and said, "Molly, if he can't find Jesus in five days with you, he's not going to find him in two days with me." That unassailable logic ended the church discussion.
I was maybe 12 or 13 before my father really talked about my mother to me. To this day, he finds it generally impossible. I've asked if I could tape him telling stories about her so that I'll have some concrete memories to draw on, as I don't remember a single thing about her, but it is beyond his capacity to bring it all out. Occasionally, he'll get expansive and let things go, but at this point I only see him twice a year so the information comes in fits and starts.
As long distance relationships go, my father and I had a pretty good one. And as it turned out, it was something of a blueprint for my relationship with my own son. Just before his second birthday, my troubled marriage finally crumbled and my wife informed me one night when she got home from work that she was moving and I was not. She moved into her new apartment with our son, and I moved back in with my grandparents for three weeks before I made the decision to move to Cincinnati to look for work. The relative stupidity of moving from Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate, to Ohio, which had the second highest unemployment rate, was not lost on me, but I didn't want to be impossibly far from my son. I wanted to be a presence in his life.
I found work within a couple of months and went home for my son's second birthday in April. I hadn't seen him since January, but I talked to him constantly, at least as much as you can communicate with a toddler on the phone. He was asleep at my grandparents' house when I rolled into town, and I wound up going out with friends that night, coming home at maybe 3 a.m.
When Josh woke up the next morning, my grandmother went to get him while I waited in the living room. She brought him downstairs and sat across the room with him on her lap. He rubbed his eyes and clung to her, looking at me like I was a stranger. She kept saying, "That's your daddy, that's your daddy," and he kept hiding his face in her neck.
I've never been shot in the chest, but I'm fairly certain I know how it feels.
After the longest four minutes of my life, his face slowly lit with recognition, his eyes brightened, he shouted, "Daddy!" and then climbed off my grandmother's lap and launched himself at me. I can still feel that endless, exuberant hug to this day.
The distance between us was 10 times greater than the 30 miles that separated my me and my father, so my trips were once a month, rather than once a week, but they were regular, and we both came to depend on them. I was determined to remain a father figure, not the once a month sugar daddy who shows up for an anything-goes weekend, and that was clearly the right strategy, given our excellent relationship both then and now.
We had a few bumpy patches along the way, including a stretch when he was 8 where he got a bit bored with the weekend trips; although my feelings were slightly bruised, I cut back to every other month for a couple of months until he realized how much he missed our regular time together. We maintained the monthly schedule until he was a teenager, when he started having an actual life with parties and school events and things he needed to work around. By then, I had my own issues; a full time design job, part time writing gigs and my first shot at being an honest-to-God full-time father with the arrival of my daughter, Isabelle.
Josh was absolutely ecstatic about his new sister (he actually snapped at his mother when she correctly but thoughtlessly used the term "half-sister"), and although their time together was fleeting, he was a doting big brother.
In 1998, Josh left to attend Reed College in Portland, Ore.; given his tenuous relationship with his mother, my favorite joke at the time was that he had gotten as far from her as he could without swimming. We talked by phone quite a lot those first few weeks and kept up a regular email exchange as well. It was one of those messages that forced me to question the state of our own relationship.
It was about two months into his first semester. Josh had emailed me with a rather non-descript account of his days — classes, roommates, school environment — but as I scrolled to the bottom of his message, there was this brief sign-off: "Oh, and there's this guy in one of my classes that I¹m interested in, and I think I might be bi."
It wasn't a complete surprise; Josh had two girlfriends in high school, but both were damaged in fairly significant ways (OK, one was batshit crazy), and I had wondered if maybe he was having trouble with his relationship radar. Turns out he was picking from the wrong gender pool, so it made sense.
The timing of his announcement was odd, though; a good friend had just died unexpectedly at the horrifyingly young age of 36, my boss had informed me that I was in danger of losing my position and my wife had mentioned casually that she wasn't sure if she wanted to be married anymore.
Josh's coming out was the best news I'd had all week.
My problem was with the way he chose to tell me. Not in a phone call where we could talk about what he was going through, and not in an email with an appropriately portentious subject line like, "I have something serious to discuss with you." His rather life-altering news was tacked onto a laundry list of activities like a pork barrel project attached to an unrelated bill.
I was a bit skinned that he had resorted to this kind of subterfuge to enlighten me about his sexuality. And then there was the issue of tentatively identifying himself as "bi." I was sure he had used that terminology in an effort to cushion any potential shock with a switch hitter gambit, giving him a fallback position in case I reacted badly. It reminded me of the episode of Friends when Phoebe lost her singing gig at the coffeeshop and wound up playing to kids at a local library. She started off trying to sing children's songs but she ran out of material quickly and started making up songs about life in general, and in typical Phoebe fashion, the songs were brutally honest, relatively inappropriate and, of course, exactly what kids should probably hear.
The one song that I remembered from that episode had some relevance in this situation: "Sometimes men love women. Sometimes men love men, And then there are bisexuals. Though some just say they're kidding themselves."
I didn't respond to Josh's email, partly because I was slightly hurt and partly because I was busy. The weekend after his message, he called and we talked about fairly innocuous subjects for an inordinate amount of time. I waited for him to broach the subject, because I felt as though he should, but he never brought it up.
He finally noted with a sigh that it was getting late and I knew he was ready to wrap up the call without addressing his news, so I decided it was up to me. Being my father's son, I chose the inappropriately direct method (my particular genetic curse is that I rarely require alcohol to be inappropriately direct and lack a distinct filter to avoid it).
"Oh, by the way," I said casually, "I understand you're sucking cock."
There was an extremely long pause and finally Josh said, "So you did get the message."
I gave him a loving earful about our close relationship and the trust and love and responsibility that came with that bond, and gently upbraided him for the rather cloaked method he had chosen to come out to me.
He stammered in complete agreement, saying, "I was afraid of how you would take it."
"Joshua, there are plenty of things in the world to be afraid of and I am not one of them," I said. "I may not agree with the things you do, but I will always love the boy doing them. In this case, this is who you are. It's not a choice you've made, it's a discovery. It's bloody hard to find love in this world, and you've taken a first step toward finding it for yourself. That's fantastic. My only advice to you is the same, straight or gay; be careful. Sex these days can kill you. Wherever you poke it, wrap it up.
"I just had to bury a friend," I continued. "If you make me bury a son, I swear to God I'll dig you up and kill you again."
He laughed a most relieved laugh and that was that. He was out. He pursued a couple of different relationships with guys at Reed which didn't pan out. After two and a half years, he returned to Michigan to enroll in the forensic psychology program at Michigan State, where he met Sean. They've been together for over 10 years now. We love him like a son-in-law because, even though they can't make it official, that is what he is to us.
These memories and God knows how many more come around each Father's Day, a good many including my grandfather, who was as much, if not more, of a father than my own father. I'll get a wonderfully skewed card from my sons and dinner and a card and something sweet from my wife and daughter. I'll send a funny card and a golf-related book to my dad and call him on Sunday, just before I get a call myself.
Life may be complicated sometimes, and God knows the complexities of family relationships can be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of the White Album cover, and yet there's a fairly basic — and rewarding and maddening and beautiful — simplicity in being a father and having a father.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards were Sunday and I didn’t watch that low-budge mess, but here are the winners if you care. America’s girl crush, Jennifer Lawrence, nabbed an SAGy (?) for her role in Silver Linings Playbook (I know I’m late on this, but that movie is just great. Go see it.) After a non-wardrobe malfunction, JLaw accepted by citing the first job that got her the ubiquitous SAG card: an MTV My Super Sweet 16 promo.
Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase to most but forever the Drive Me Crazy dude to me) tweeted big news for Entourage fans this week: the movie spinoff has been greenlit! Mind you, Entourage may follow in its sister Sex and the City’s footsteps by glossing over anything cool about the series and pooping out a 2-hour douchey bromance, but fans will certainly still flock to theaters to check it out.
Adapting TV shows
for the big screen
is nothing new — just look at Star Trek.
In Entourage’s case, a successful show on HBO for eight seasons, a movie will
provide one last chance for fans to see Vince and his buddies...and one last
chance to squeeze any last profitability from the series. But what about
adapting shows that weren’t necessarily successful on TV in the long term? Party
Down was an excellent Starz comedy from 2009-2010. Adam Scott, Lizzy
Caplan, Ken Marino and a bunch of other hilarious familiar faces from TV comedy
portrayed a crew of kooky caterers, each episode following them to a different catered event. It got a lot of late-in-show life love from Netflix viewers (because who
watches Starz?!) but was cancelled after two seasons. Ever since, there have
been hopes and rumors of a film version from fans and cast members
alike. While the crossover is still unconfirmed, here’s an awesome faux
trailer, made from clips from the series, with a horror twist:
And because everyone loves Mrs. Doubtfire, check out a creepily realistic look at what the family film would look like if it had taken a dark turn.
If you’re like most theater kids or women between the ages of 10 and 110, then you can quote Mean Girls and Les Mis like a champ and you will love this.
Tonight is a night
that myself and Lizbeans everywhere have been dreading for some time — the
series finale of 30 Rock. You can
read my full eulogy here, but I have to say while I’m happy the show is going
out while it’s still good (Tina Fey and Alec Bladwin both snagged
aforementioned SAG awards for their performances in the show), I’m really going
to miss my weekly dose of Ms. Bossypants.
From the beginning, 30 Rock has been
a writer’s comedy and I will cherish every quote that has been ingrained in my
brain over the past seven seasons (ex. "Live every week like it's Shark Week." - Tracy Jordan). On this momentous evening, I leave you with these
life lessons from Liz Lemon.
My feelings are best described by this Claire Danes supercut:
Gangnam’s latest incarnation? Mitt Romney Style!
Who’s down for a rousing game of “Steak House or Gay Bar?”
Kanye West stripped us all of our daily
affirmation source by deleting all of his previous tweets last week. He has since returned to Twitter, but just to mourn the one-year since Steve
Jobs’ death. Riveting stuff.
Vomiting onstage is the new black. Lately, high-profile performers across the globe have proverbially sniffed the milk carton, shrugged and took a sip anyway, all ending up tossing their cookies on stage. Now, if you’re like music editor Mike Breen, watching people experience a retaliating digestive system is disturbing and you'd rather not see that shit. Otherwise, here’s Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber barfing at their recent respective gigs. Thank goodness for HuffPo, who compiled a gallery of “Stars Who’ve Puked During Concerts.”
When Heidi Klum and Seal broke up, I was crushed (mostly because it meant no I’d really never be invited to one of their epic Halloween parties or themed vow renewals). When Amy Poehler and Will Arnett split, I was angry and confused. (Can’t they just laugh it off?!) Well, now I know there’s no such thing as love because after more than 30 years together, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have separated. Maybe people grow apart after decades together. Perhaps DeVito’s role as Frank on Always Sunny began rubbing off on him. I don’t care — Matilda’s parents were supposed to stay together forever.
Thankfully, Amber Tamblyn and David Cross got hitched this week, giving us all a final shred of hope for humanity. Check out Questlove’s Instagram (the coolest way to peep wedding pics, ever) for photos of the Esty-fied Tommy Hilfiger ad starring Joan of Arcadia and Tobias Fünke.
Obama kicked off the night with a dig at his recent “hot mic” incident, and
continued by poking fun at other politicians, odd celebrity guests and other
of diminishing journalistic integrity, how ‘bout the rise and (immediate) fall
Gawker’s Fox News mole? Earlier this month, Gawker announced
a new column by a Fox News employee, who was prepared to share the deepest,
darkest secrets from everyone’s favorite conservative channel — or something.
Two days later, the “mole” (revealed as O’Reilly
Factor associate producer Joe Muto) was found out by the network and
subsequently fired. So that’s the end of that, right? Not quite. Muto
was served with a search warrant early Wednesday morning. New York’s District
Attorney’s office seized Muto’s laptop, cell phone and some notebooks as part
of an open investigation. Fox News is accusing Muto of conspiracy and grand
larceny, according to this warrant.
The best/worst part of the whole debacle is that Muto only managed four Gawker
posts, which included juicy Fox dirt like a photo of a bathroom Bill O’Reilly
uses and a clip of Mitt Romney talking about his horses to Sean Hannity. Yawn. UPDATE: Muto apparently grew up in Cincinnati. Represent!
Pizza Hut’s new pies with cheeseburgers instead of crusts to the Heart Attack Grill
living up to its name, junk food on ‘roids is all the rage right now! Las
Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill is known for its over-the-top diner grub, including a
“Quadruple Bypass Burger,” so should anyone be surprised that eating there
could potentially be harmful to one’s health? For the second time this year, a guest collapsed at the restaurant, which boasts the Guinness World Record for
highest calorie hamburger (9,983 — about five times the calories recommended
for one day).
People go to Vegas for the thrill of a gamble — the Heart Attack Grill just
offers a unique spin!
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Pizza Hut is finally solving that boring pizza crust problem (what are we supposed to do — just eat plain dough?!) by swapping it for cheeseburgers and chicken sliders. This came just weeks after we were introduced to The Hut’s hot dog-stuffed crust, which is now available in the U.K. The most shocking part about these pizza monstrosities? They aren’t served in the States (yet)! Are we becoming a healthier nation or is our fatness just rubbing off on other countries?
In movie news, a 2007 viral comedy short is now becoming a star-studded smorgasbord. Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse starred Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogan as friends confined to an apartment during the end of the world. Filmed in just four days immediately following production on Knocked Up, the short is only available as a trailer on YouTube:
After the success of Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and other Rogen comedies, the crew is remaking the short into a feature film, currently titled The End of The World. In the film, James Franco (playing himself) hosts a party at his apartment when the world begins…to end. Party-goers will include Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari, in addition to Rogen and Baruchel. It’s an Apatowpocalypse!
While these dudes are taking something scary (the apocalypse) and turning it into something funny, this bitch is turning something from my youth (dolls) into the stuff of nightmares. Meet Valeria Lukyanov, “human” Barbie!
Also, this Craigslist ad:
On March 15, DHL announced that $47 million would be invested in a new facility at its CVG hub. This new sorting facility will help meet international customer demands and add close to 300 jobs over the next 12 months. The date given for the facility to be operational is Nov. 2012.
DHL has been thriving compared to the downward spiral that is Delta. DHL has gone from 1,600 jobs to 2,000 in the span of three years and has invested around $105 million in the Cincinnati location since it was established in 2009. Not everything that happens at CVG is bad.
During my two years as a baggage handler I experienced a little bit of everything. From holding on to the wing of a plane to keep in from tipping during a wind storm, to seeing a drunk little person getting taken off a plane in handcuffs, to destroying a few bags. There is more to an airport than what passengers see in the concourses. Have you ever wondered where that guy in the orange vest was going when he disappeared behind a door? Ever thought about how your bag was being handled? Well, hopefully with a few of these stories those questions and more can be answered.
During my time as a baggage handler, I saw some incredible things. At the same time, there were weird events that took place. These would occur like lightning; they happened quickly and would never strike the same place twice.
One of those events is about a worker stealing. He wasn’t stealing from the company, but stealing from passengers’ bags, more specifically, female passengers’ bags. As baggage handlers, we would load the bags up into the cargo bins of aircraft. These bins were only big enough for one person, and at times that one person would be in the bin for extended periods of time. Normal workers would write random sayings on the bin walls, or play a game on their phone, but this guy did something different.
When he was up in the cargo bin, he would go through the bags until he found women’s panties — clean or dirty. To show the high caliber of intelligence some of the people at the airport had, he kept all the underwear in his locker at work. There was no attempt to hide anything in his car or house; the underwear was in a bag in the break room. I’m not one to call someone stupid, but he deserves it for this one.
Did he get caught? Hell yes, he got caught. When our supervisors went through his locker, sure enough, there was the underwear. His explanation of it is comical on its own. “It’s for my girlfriend.” His girlfriend, if he had one, fluctuated in weight a lot because the underwear was different sizes. This doesn’t reflect on every baggage handler but it shows there are some strange people touching your bags.
The job of a baggage handler is a dirty one. I came in contact with bags full of unwashed clothes, shook hands with people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom and cleaned out the restrooms. Ever wondered who cleans out the lavatory on an aircraft? Well, at CVG, that job falls to the baggage handlers. This task is worthy enough for Mike Rowe and then some.
When an aircraft needed to have its bathroom dumped, a handler would drive up next to the plane in the "lav cart." Imagine a blue electric cart that has never been washed, excrement has been spilled on it, it has a tank full of shit and the sun has been cooking its contents all day. I felt like I should have been wearing a Hazmat suit whenever I was around the damn thing. It made me throw up a little every time I was in the driver’s seat.
When a baggage handler dumps a lav, he or she drives the cart up to the aircraft, hooks up the foulest smelling hose to the aircraft and pulls a lever. What comes out, I’ll leave for the imagination. Once all the lovely contents are inside the cart, the “blue juice” is added, which is the liquid solution that you see when flushing an aircraft toilet.
Some handlers would dump a lav, not wash their hands and then go straight to loading bags. A person fresh from coming in close contact with human goodness would go right on touching, quite possibly, your possessions.
In the movie Fight Club the narrator tells of a policy about holding a passenger’s bag if it is vibrating. At CVG I never once saw a bag being taken because it was vibrating. What we did do was either slam the bag on the ground in hopes of shutting off the razor or toothbrush — not the smartest idea if it really was an explosive. Another way we handled a vibrating bag was to call the passenger down to the ramp where we would proceed to open it to find the cause of the vibration. If you have seen Fight Club you know what is coming next. Sometimes the bag would belong to a female passenger. When her bag would be opened a certain product would be rattling around on the inside. That happened to me once and while the passenger was red-faced, I had to walk away before I began to laugh in her face. Movies can teach you something every now and then.
There is a side to an airport that most people don’t know about. Sure, there are those zoo-like windows in the concourses that allow passengers to see outside, but that is just a glimpse. Does everyone want to know about what goes on behind those doors? Probably not. I’m not trying to scare people away from flying. In a way, an airport is similar to a restaurant. Taken at face value everything is great and everyone has a smile on their face, but behind closed doors disgusting, depraved and weird things are going on.