Monday, May 19, 2008


When I Grow Up (A Random Anecdote)

I've been saving these for a special occasion. They lived for years in a manila envelope in my parents' house, but then the cats peed on them and I typed each of them into a Word file (errors and all) before incinerating the folder. And washing my hands in carbolic acid.

They carried different titles over the years, but the first one is probably most emblematic. And if you've been reading this blog for even a year, you'll understand why I'm trotting them out this week.

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I want to be a Super Hero. Super Heros go around saving the people and hepling the hepless and fighting for right things. They save peopls lives, which is the best thing you can do ever and that is what I want to do. They don't take any money for being a super hero because like mom says doing good is its own reward. Some Super Heros have powers but I probly wont have them. I will have to train like Batman but geezum that is a lot of work. Maybe I will get lucky and get hit by a lighting bolt.

By MM, Age 7

Oddly, in a class of 20, I was the only child who picked "super-hero" as a future vocation. Everyone else wanted to be nurses and firemen and the President, and for some reason I thought I might find job satisfaction fighting for right and rescuing people who were not hep. I especially liked the idea of saving people, like my good pal Jesus (although He obviously saved people in a different way. He saved their souls. I was perfectly happy to swing off a flagpole and catching a falling girl. Preferably a real pretty one like my third-grade crush Liz).

This little essay worried my 3rd grade teacher mightily. I think she thought I was going to tie a bath towel around my neck and jump off a roof and so she spent a lot of extra time with me explaining that super-heroes weren't real (as if I didn't know, ba-doi!) As usual, I thought too deeply into the assignment: I thought my teacher was asking me to relate my ultimate fantasy--the best possible thing I could be, if there were no restraints. If she had just phrased the assignment a little more succinctly--"Children, today we're going to write a little story. The title is 'What Lame and Pedestrian Occupation Utterly Ground in Reality Would I Choose On That Unlucky Day When I'm Forced To Take My Place Among The Drones?'"--I would have just written that I wanted to be a welder like my Dad, so I could set mean people on fire and whack them with pipes.

Eventually, I allowed my teacher to convince me that, instead of a super-hero, I would pick the compromise occupation of paramedic, who are of course heroic and save lives--and also have a whole complement of super-heroic accessories, including neat uniforms, flashy vehicles, special headquarters, and even a loud and flashy signal that alerts them to trouble in the city. My love of the TV show Emergency! and my deep and abiding admiration for the actor Randolph Mantooth (who played the ultra-cool Johnny Gage) date from this period.

And as I correctly prophesied, being a hero was a lot of work. I discovered this the very first time I took a first aid course in high school, and managed to break the Resusci Annie I was practicing mouth-to-mouth on.

So I was a washout as a rescue hero, and yet, like so much of my childhood baggage, for years I never quite gave up on the idea that maybe I might one day be a bona fide super guy, saving lives and everything. But recently, I've become increasingly aware that I'm approaching an age where it's perhaps the right and seemly thing to do to put aside certain childish things and get on with finally growing up.

Then last night, I was following the Éclair around (she is crawling like a mad bastard) and saw from a distance as she reached the door, discovered a pretty pebble sitting on the floor by the entryway, and promptly popped it in her mouth.

There were a couple of violently purple moments, between my language and the color of her face, but in about two seconds, I had the pebble in my hand and I know the Éclair had her lungs back, because she was howling at me with the World's Most Offended Look. In the end, Mommy had to take her away for some quiet time. But as I watched them walk down the hall, my aggrieved daughter swearing at me the whole way, all I could do was smile and say, "You're welcome, honey. Again.”

For a moment, while my heart climbed back down out of my throat, I thought about all the times I've prevented the end of my children: Thomas was forever crawling to the edges of stairwells only to have me snag him by a diaper or a collar button at the last possible instant. And when we put up gates at the tops of stairs, he threw himself upon them until they fell like the walls of Jericho. One time I came home just in time to catch him surfing down the stairs on top of one of these gates and threw myself into the stairwell, catching both baby and gate--mostly with my head--and tumbling into the coat closet at the bottom.

The Brownie, meanwhile, went through a phase of trying to eat things that would not have agreed with a carbon-based life form. The most recent example I can think of is the time she was 3 and poured herself a glass of juice and was about to drink it, when I happened to look through the glass and spied a solid mass at the bottom. A mass of clumped dishwasher detergent that had settled. Without a word, I smacked the glass out of her hand just as the tainted juice was about to touch her lips. She bawled righteously, not understanding why Mean Daddy had smacked her juicy away (But then, a few minutes later she learned a new word: milkshake, so it all balanced out).

And these are just two of countless examples, not even touching on the innumerable chokings, the near-electrocutions, the nigh-strangling by (yes, I'm ashamed to admit) catching a child dangling from a bed post with a towel tied round his neck.

And don't even get me started on Blaze.

Then it hit me, not unlike a bolt of lighting: I had achieved my aspiration after all. Yes, yes, I wasn't bounding off rooftops and leaving thugs trussed up on the police department steps, but, doggonit, I was saving lives. Okay, granted, I've been saving the same three lives (four if you count the dog) over and over again, but still...that counts.


Mission accomplished.


Superman never made any money / From saving the world from Solomon Grundy / Sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.
OoooOOoh, so the accident prone to personal injury persona is your cover, your alter ego - so to speak.
Just like what clumsy Clark Kent is to Superman.
Now I understand.
I forgot the Happy Birthday Dude! I'll be on vaca Friday, thought it best to get it out now.

I thought I was living your life yesterday, when I had my worst b'day eva What a kick in the crotch that was.
Happy birthday week, honey!

You are saving the world, every time you type one word here. You've put out so much happy kharma that I can't think of a more super hero than, you, on your b-day.
I'm sure you've probably saved your own life a few times too, right? Your stories are awesome, thank you!
You do sort of have that "The Shadow" vibe going, don't you? You're a magazine man by day, and by blog you become: MAGAZINE MAN! Shadowy writer from parts unknown!

And plus you save your kids lives and stuff.
You bet your life-saving antics count and your rescue of Blaze was truly heroic.

Happy Birthday.
I have been reading you for years and have always thought you were a dad that is full of awesome. Happy birthday!
Absolutely it counts. If you were out treasure hunting between semesters of professoring, you'd be Indiana Jones. Ok, he's not a super hero technically, but he is really cool, a bit accident prone, and has kept many a powerful item out of the wrong hands thus saving many lives.
HBD Mag Man! And Emergency! and Johnny Gage FTW!!! Several years ago, a buddy of mine with a similar fixation on bitchin' 70s TV shows (Buck Rogers, original Battlestar Galactica, etc.) and I actually found the real LA County Fire Station used in Emergency! We had taken pictures, but alas, they weren't digital and have vanished in the mists of time. Still, the station shows up on Google Maps Street View ( Good memories. And congrats on realizing that you have in fact achieved your 3rd grade dream. Not everyone can say that...
I think that it's the little things you do in life that make you seem super-powered in your kids eyes.

This is probably deserving of a blog post but I'll put it in here as a comment. As you know (but I've never gone into on my blog) I had a difficult relationship with my father, growing up. However, there was this one time...

For a reason that was partly my fault, my cousin and I had some high school jerks chasing after us. We were able to escape into a discount store, but they were waiting outside for us to leave.

I called my Dad and told him we were being hassled by some teenagers and needed to be picked up and he said, "I'll be right there" and hung up the phone before I could even say thanks. He was there within five minutes and we got away safely.

Some events kind of stick with you, and I'll always remember that as many issues as I had with my Dad, when I really needed him, he was there for me.

It sounds like you have been there for your kids and will continue to be there as they grow up, and I can think of no higher calling in life.
If you're going to continue making my eyes water in sequential posts, we're going to come to blows!

AND you were a boy detective, you retrieve lost objects, you see ghosts, and you just recently helped a pregnant woman and her overanxious husband (right after you were hit by their car!).

Not to mention the more negative aspects of being a superhero like crazed adversaries (nipple-biting bosses and the Witch Man), not being able to save the ones you love at times, being cursed with THE MARK (or maybe a third nipple is a superpower?), and weaknesses like a bad back, all household improvement activities, walnuts and Ass-strep.

I think your third grade self got WAY more than he bargained for ;)
Just have HLS hang upside down off the bed...and give ya a spidey kiss.

Clark Kent is WAAAY hotter then Superman. Always was...always will be.
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I tend to lurk...and forget things. So I'm posting my best birthday wishes to you now. May you not get hit by a car. Or get ass-strep. Or any one of the things that usually happen to you, you poor center-of-all-things-accidental man.

Wishing you a normal birthday. Well, as normal as any of yours might be.

(Also, the line that you've been saving the same three lives over and over again? Made me laugh out loud.)

(And you might be the best superhero ever, too.)
Happy Birthday, and nice post!
Summed up by my favorite moment in the movie "The Mummy" with Brendan Fraser.

He's just saved his son's life in the nick of time (again) and is lying in the sand, panting. He manages to gasp out "It's(gasp)hard(wheeze)to be(coff)the dad."

And his son looks up and says "Yeah. But you do a really good job."

And I cry every time, because that's what parenting is, especially for dads.

Just capes.
My favorite daddy-saved-me story is from a family vacation spent on the Neches River at my uncle's fish camp. Took about a 30 minute trip by john-boat to get there. Dad promptly threw right shoulder out of place and he is right-handed. While he was working on broken boat motor one-handed, a wild boar, tusks blazing, charged into camp. He picked up one of those old-school little glass Coke bottles and chunked it with remaining good arm. Hit that boar square between the eyes and it ran off squealing. I thought saving the family was just something all dads did. Keep it up! There's nothing more precious than a loving family! Dad's 90 now and not so spry, but still full of great advice and info. You will be, too!
On the NBC website, you can watch vintage Emergency! episodes.
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