Monday, June 21, 2010

Welcome to the rig!

Hi kids! Welcome to BP’s Thunder Gulp Boys Summer Camp! We’ve got an awesome summer ahead of us!

Show of hands: How many of you have ever spent an entire summer on an ultra-deepwater, semi-submersible offshore drilling rig? No one? Perfect!

OK, let’s try this: How many of you have ever tried to make the best of an historic catastrophe?

Yes, you – you with the three ears. Ha! Just kidding! Gosh, we’re going to have a good time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When things get out of hand

For review, the stages of evolutionary human:

We’ve allegedly progressed from something akin to a lobe-finned fish with pimped-out gills. We’ve inched out from the sea looking over our shoulders in the pre-dawn hours like a circus boss stealing off with the money.

We’ve been knuckle draggers, stooped as if searching for a lost wallet or something. Then, by means of supernatural block and tackle, our torsos have jutted upward like an open jackknife. Presently, we are vertical creatures, capable of walking from the country club and back with Madam Bovary balanced on our heads if we had to.

From here, our future remains an open debate. Those among us who either embrace the wondrous possibilities of slapstick or who consider themselves prescient, declare that our spines will eventually yield to the demands of gravity. We will become squinty-eyed readers of the small print of existence as our knuckles once again shamble against the ground like the suds-soaked swabs of a carwash. Our postures will take that great, downward-driving evolutionary escalator that returns us to slimy creatures. With wild memories in tow, we will say “Sayonora suckers!” and slip back into the sea like escapees from Alcatraz.

Or not.

But the hand of a child -- its palm, with its turkey-feather phalanges -- can get you thinking about these things. In its contact with a parent, it engages in a similar evolutionary bell curve. New to terra firma, it flails at the ground. Eventually, it flexes, pulls the torso to an upright position, brandishes itself with purpose, clasps the hand of a parent, and hangs on. Then, either gradually or abruptly, the hand of a child returns to a disinterested, boneless globule in your grip. It finally wiggles free and slips out with the current.

I can remember the first time I broke my mother’s heart. I was the youngest of four children. I was in first or second grade. Mine was the fourth and last set of tiny hand she could grasp with reciprocal firmness. One day while we were walking hand in hand heading to Kmart, the big release occurred. I was clueless of the metaphysics that explain how a tiny hand attached to a larger hand can uphold the weight-bearing load of a mother’s love.

She was holding firm. But my hand suddenly went limp. It had an inkling of a destiny separate and apart from that larger hand. So I went ahead and said it.

“Mom, would it be OK if we didn’t hold hands anymore?”

There was silence.

“OK,” she said after a moment. “That’s fine.”

She has since told me that moment was among the saddest in her life.

Still, this is what hands are duty bound to do under the laws of evolution. They disengage from the mother ship and father ship. They join their twin, and together the two hands disappear. They grip baseballs, shoelaces, tree limbs, handlebars, number 2 pencils, blow dryers, steering wheels, diplomas, job applications, the hand of spouse, and the hand of an offspring.

Speaking of our child’s hand, soon the damn thing is going to wiggle free.

We won’t panic. We’re prepared. Thanks to a pilot project recently initiated by my wife, she and I have already begun to repurpose our hands for a future that may very well revolutionize the evolutionary process. She either read about it or dreamt it or maybe God is speaking through her, but she has brought hand-holding back to our relationship. Mind you, not out of some Oprah-magazine-mandated plot to cloud-seed our skies with powdered sugar, but for practical purposes.

It’s like this: Say you and your spouse encounter a difficult situation that needs to be diffused quickly. Say money is tight. Say one of you (she) is still buying Legos by the tonnage. Say one of you is locked and loaded to verbalize something incredibly demeaning, thoughtless or hurtful. Maybe it’s a simple misunderstanding. These things happen.

But when they happen, do this: Reach out and hold each other’s hand or hands. I was skeptical at first. But you know what: It works! You can do this while driving, while eating, or with a frying pan clutched in one hand.

You’ll find that when hands are clasped, it’s very difficult for anger to spawn into a tsunami that sets you adrift in separate life rafts. Your heartbeats will fall into sync. Kissing may occur. I forget what I did the other day, but it was something, and she was ticked, and so I held her hand.

“Sorry,” I said.

“No, I’m sorry.”

“I love you.”

“I love you more.”

“Why won’t the boy hold our hands anymore?”

“Because he’s turned into a lobe-finned fish.”


“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“The heck with him.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Little rebels with a cause

Primal, unruly, goofy, and commendable, there they were, a couple of 7-year olds pounding their fists against the armrests of their car seats. They chanted what has become one of the rallying cries of their classmates:

“A, B, C, D!
Barney is our enemy!”