Saturday, January 1, 2011

Insert Clever Title Here

My dad spent Christmas here again this year, and every time he visits I get more excited about the possibility of him moving to the coast. This time we even looked at a few houses and found both the prices and availability promising. It's sad how many people are selling their homes - unless of course you're buying, in which case - awesome. Do it soon.

One night during the visit I told my dad I was going to stay up to do some writing, and he asked, very sincerely, "How do you do that? How do you start?" It was a good question, but there was no single answer. Sometimes it's obvious - a milestone, a birthday, a challenging experience- while other times it's more subtle - a feeling, a reflection, a compulsion to capture something that might otherwise slip away forever.

Today it's this...

How quickly becoming a parent has changed me. Twenty years ago, just six months out of high school, I left California holding the possibility that I may never return. My dad's alcoholism was culminating in failed relationships, legal problems, and a seemingly inevitable inertia towards something awful, while my mother was married to a drug addict/manufacturer/dealer and was cultivating a lethal relationship with cocaine. My brother was in his room with his bong almost as much as I was out of the house, and my sister was living in the San Francisco drinking away the pain of her first love's incarceration in England for trafficking drugs.

Good times. Good times. Life was pretty sweet back then.

The moral of the paragraph is that I wanted out. Badly. I worked twelve hour days, six days a week for almost seven months and saved enough money to get out of dodge for a year. I headed to Thailand then India and consequentially Europe. At first I felt guilty about leaving my dad, but the first taste of the liberation from family roles and obligations dissolved those feelings like and ice cubes in hot water. In the words of MLK, I was free at last.

When I landed in Amsterdam eleven months later, heart-broken from my first love affair, I found two jobs, an apartment, and started to imagine a permanent life abroad. My dad wanted/expected me to go to college and leaving to travel was the only form of rebellion I knew. He had gone to Spain for a summer after his first year of law school and returned seven years later with a wife, three kids, and a proclivity towards all things opiate. I think he feared I might do the same. In some ways I did.

My mother didn't pile the same expectations on me. Her hopes and guidance were more ambiguous and and even less helpful. According to her I was going to be a "very special person." According to her astrological charts I was going to pursue knowledge over wealth while my brother was going to be a millionaire. According to me, that kind of sucked, so I remained skeptical and took knowledge like I took everything else back then - with grain of salt and a shot of something strong. Instead of expecting me to return to college, my mom and her boyfriend decided to move to Amsterdam, too, throwing a wrench in my "as far away as possible" plan and prompting me to start researching other continents.

Ultimately, I returned to the States, to college, and in many ways to my family roles and obligations. My dad got better, got sober, got himself relocated and started a new life. Seven years later, when my life was falling apart, I ended up moving back in with him. I'm pretty sure it wasn't what he wanted in his life at the time, but he did it without hesitation, with love, and of course with a towel on the floor whenever I dared eat in the living room. I still wanted to be on the other side of the world somewhere, but I drank and used instead and struggled to find any direction in my life. Being close to my dad was probably what kept me alive.

A decade later and we're in different parts of the world again. I finally found what I was looking for and I no longer need to escape. I started a family and so did my dad. Now, although I can still relate to that anxious, itchy-footed teenager, I've become a very serene and sedentary adult. And now, I can't think of anything better than my dad spending the rest of his life here on the coast, here in our town, and even here on our street.

So, Dad. There you have it. That's how I write.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Calverts and we were discussing abstract art - specifically a piece in their bedroom that I think looks like it was drawn by their sixteen month-old son, Hunter. The question I asked, which Noah applauded was, "How does this guy know when he's done?" Melissa answered, "It's probably like you with your writing. He just knows."

I don't think that makes any sense at

How's that?

PS: I have the holiday video ready. It's set to a synth-pop version of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." I hope you all enjoy it. More videos coming soon.

PSS: I found an old photo of me with my dad where I could finally see that Amari looks a little like me. Or at least like I used to.

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