Thursday, March 26, 2009


Michael bought a 42” plasma flat-screen television with surround sound and all the amenities that promised to make his life wonderful, but the goddamn thing never worked right. Now he found himself with a serious dilemma; should he take it back and save the world or just keep the annoying thing and hope that everything turned out okay? Michael wasn’t the type of person who returned something when it didn’t work correctly. In this day and age he understood that with electronics you were bound to have some difficulties, but he wasn’t about to be bullied either. He wasn’t going to put up with crap like that.

You see, the main problem with it was that sometimes the goddamned teevee had a mind of its own and when that happened it often let Michael in on some of its secrets. The most vital of these being wild aspirations to destroy the planet. It was extremely rare to find such desires in a normal household appliance, no matter how advance the technology was. Michael had an alarm clock that didn’t wake him sometimes and a toaster that always burned one side of the bread, but never anything as catastrophic as this. The crazy part about it was that he waited for Circuit City’s annual sale to buy the damn thing even though he could afford it at the regular price. He was a thrifty fellow, that’s just the way he was, which was the main reason he burned at the thought of returning it to those bastards!

It all began a few weeks earlier as fate intervened and forced him to procure alternate viewing scenarios. While watching a pre-season game between the Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers, a team he hoped would finally take the championship, his large bulky rear-projection dinosaur of a television had a meltdown and began to give him a triple-vision red-green half-assed poor-man's substitute of an image. Five hours later, after a television repair guy informed him that it would be cheaper to replace the monstrous thing than to fix it, Michael found himself nursing a beer and showering curses at the obscured in-triplicate survivors of a plane crash as they tried to discover the meaning of a small island located somewhere in the middle of the twilight zone. Not only was he thrifty, but stubborn as well and for a couple of weeks he suffered through headaches and nausea while watching sitcom celebrity Martians from hell. It's a wonder he hadn't been on a date in a few months.

It was shortly after he went out and bought the new, evil plasma teevee that all the real trouble began. It had been working fine for about ten days when a shudder ran through the image, followed by an abrupt noise that oddly sounded like a sneeze. Michael was just sitting down with his Healthy Choice Fettuccine Alfredo to watch Prison Break when the incident occurred. It was one of his favorite shows and he was eager to find out what was going to happen next with Dr. Sara Tancredi after she and LJ were kidnapped. You see, he was secretly in love with Dr. Sara and often imagined himself as Michael from the show instead of the regular old Michael that he was in real life. When the preview flashed across the screen two years earlier and he noticed her for the first time, he knew that an obsession was in the works. Forty-five episodes later, Michael had yet to miss a moment of screen time with his girl and he sure as hell was not going to miss one now. He jumped up from his seat and went to make sure that all of the connections were secure.

That's when his television began to speak to him.

“Hey, don't touch me there?” It said in a voice that sounded a bit like Fred Sanford on acid, which basically sounds exactly like Fred Sanford...but more omniscient.

Michael turned and looked at the front door, thinking that maybe one of his buddies had busted in and was cracking on him. His neighbor Gregory held one of the largest Sanford & Son collections in the world and loved to imitate the great patriarch but the door was locked, of course, like it always was since that day his ex barged in on him while he was playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour on his Wii dressed only his chonies. She left without a word and, though it was a bit hazy later from all the gin and tonics he'd been drinking that day, he knew that she wasn't expecting him to call either. Needless to say, no one was about to come in through his door anymore but he was about to entertain a very interesting house guest.

“You know that she's going to die soon, right?”

He whirled about, searching for the joker but all that he managed to see was another shimmery wave spread across the television screen that seemed to coincide directly with the question mark. He leaned in real close because, though he knew that plasma indicated liquid in some format, he was pretty confident that the picture wasn't supposed to come with a ripple effect. Michael was about to touch the screen with an outstretched finger, not really knowing if he had reached the point where it had become clear that he'd lived alone for far too long.

“Hell yes, I'm talking to you fool!”

Michael squealed and stumbled backward, unfortunately knocking over his Pacifico cerveza into his bowl of fettuccine. There was no getting around it. His teevee was speaking to him. His first thought was that extra terrestrials had harnessed his satellite dish and sent down transmissions into his living room. He thought of himself standing before the giant spaceship with bright colored lights reflecting a rhythmic classical order feedback into his brain just like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encount...

...wait a minute, did it just say that she was going to die?

His television began to chuckle at him. The Prison Break intro, that he'd come to know and love, shook like a leaf. The chuckle grew into laughter and eventually expounded into a full gale burst of jest that rattled the screen so violently until it abruptly stopped, the teevee blinking into nothingness. That's when Michael knew that he was doomed. There would be no Prison Break that night.

The television, appropriately named Pan, began to tell him of the overtures of Armageddon, which could be found throughout historical creative expression and that the time of the rapture foretold through the ages was finally coming to fruition. Michael eventually grew tired of the pedagogical rantings of the doomsday simulacrum and after cleaning up the Healthy Choice disaster, he ordered a pizza and went to see if he could find some images of Dr. Sara on the internet to get him through his depression. By the time he went to bed, he could still hear the damn thing shouting away in the living room. Yes, he tried to lower the volume and even pulled the plug out of the wall, but it was definitely possessed by some sort of demon.

That's how it went for awhile. Whenever he sat down to enjoy something that he really liked, Michael would catch the image jostling and before a groan could pass from his lips, Pan would start asking him questions about random societal issues that he knew nothing about. Who had time to think about what was happening on the stock market or greenhouse gases or the president of Venezuela? It was enough to drive someone mad and it definitely brought about the most excruciating headaches. There were more important things to think about after all, like the first round of the Major League playoffs or the first round of American Idol. Couldn't this stupid teevee understand that?

Of course, it didn't interrupt him when nothing was on. There were days when he found himself surfing through channels, hoping that he could bide some time with anything halfway interesting until Sportscenter started and he suddenly would wish that the damn thing would start talking to him. Michael would have eagerly answered any query that the bastard wanted to send his way but no, he had to suffer through old episodes of Remington Steele and he hated Pierce Brosnan. One day he even found himself calling out to the screen during a really bad James Bond film until he realized what he was doing. He never imagined that he would be shouting loudly and trying to start a conversation with his television. He figured that if he stayed inside that house any longer, he would completely lose his mind. He needed to ground himself, so he called one of his buddies, hit the bar, got really drunk, picked up a hooker and spent the night in a motel. It was the first time he'd felt normal in quite awhile.

One day he couldn't take it any more and decided that it was time for his television to answer some questions of his own. Michael interrupted a rather vitriolic train of thought that Pan was dumping on him with a severe now looky here!

“Where do you get off wishing for the death of humanity?”

“Well, I suppose that it's a little cosmic conviction, a wager of sorts between the Gods.”

Michael was intrigued, mostly because Pan had finally responded to one of his questions but he wasn't one to turn down a little roll of dice, as well. Vegas was a first class sort of place as far as he was concerned and he had spent, literally, many fortunate hours within its lovely confines.

“What kind of wager?”

“Hmmm, let me see...” the 42-inch screen flickered at him, “...first there was a good bet going around on whether or not you'd even make it out alive once you left the ocean for land. You had a fighting spirit and the universe is a tough place, after all. Then most of us thought you wouldn't last long during the Jurassic era but Vulcan gave you an extra life with his heinous volcanic eruptions. He did have an issue with bloating back then, you know. But it wasn't until you became human that we knew for sure that you were doomed. We immediately got an office pool together and everyone gave their best estimate for Armageddon Time and put it down on the calendar. Now were all just waiting to find out.”

“You call this waiting?” Michael said, annoyed.

“Well...” embarrassment edging into Pan's voice, “...we're allowed a small amount of dallying to help move it along, if necessary.”

“I suppose your guess is coming along fairly soon.”

“Well, I suppose you could say that,” Pan said, a bit sheepishly.

Michael was beginning to find this amusing.

“How do you plan on doing anything from inside a television?” He asked.

There was long, empty pause from the screen and Michael started to assume that the thing had disappeared, that he'd stumped it with such a minor question. He was about to feel rather proud of himself when the voice came back to him suddenly.

“It's the fastest way to get my message across,” the teevee said to him.

“Well, I don't know about where you come from,” Michael explained to him, “but shouting out mantras as loud as you can and jabbering insane thoughts as much as possible doesn't get you a whole hell of a lot in this place.”

Pan began to chuckle. Michael sighed. He knew what was bound to follow so he reached for the remote and flicked off the power before the bombastic gut wrenching laughter cut the program short with a snap. For some reason, he always felt like the television was causing damage in there with its wicked sense of humor and now that the thing was starting to grow on him, he really didn't want to have to replace it again.

“Don't tell me that you have that much faith in your fellow man, Michael,” Pan said jovially once it had settled down.

Well, of course, thought Michael. He wasn't about to give in to visions of catastrophe, Jimmy Swaggert be damned! The human spirit was still alive and well, after all, and they would thrive until the end of time. Humanity couldn't be fooled by no two-bit God who sabotaged satellites to distract them into ushering along their own demise. There was more to life than getting caught up in some crazy sche...

“I wonder if Kate and Jack will finally hook up tonight?”

The screen wavered to life and the word, Lost, shimmered for a moment before revealing a sweaty pretty face. Oh, Kate is looking good tonight, Michael thought to himself as he settled into his most comfortable chair, his cold beverage still half-full.

That night he had a most strange and vivid dream. It couldn't be called unpleasant though the circumstances weren't ideal. He dreamed that he was incarcerated and, after getting into a fight in the yard, he ended up in the infirmary. Dr. Sara tended to him and she was scolding him, but he could feel tenderness in her voice and there was a sparkle in her eye. Deep in his heart he knew that they were falling in love and that, no matter the foreboding walls that closed all around them, somehow they would be able to discover that magical realm where all perfect couples inhabit. He awoke the next morning scrambling to hold onto that precious feeling, completely losing train of the reality that he was locked in a prison of which he was supposed to break free.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

14 Months (the second)

It's such a strange twist when your child suddenly stands up on two legs and starts walking around. It took some time for Quinn. It appeared that she thoroughly examined the issue before setting sail on that wonderful voyage on the biped ship, like she was waiting for the exact moment to cause the most damage. Does she ever love it! Scrambling around here and there on her unsteady gait, chasing after Xtimu's skirt-tails and my rolled cuffs with enthusiastic vigor and standing up tall next to Lucas whenever she can. This girl was born to walk and jump and scream and love. She is a wonderful delight and such a pure presence in our home.

I was a bit surprised that it took so long for her to walk. If you would have asked me six months ago to put a wager on whether she would walk before Lucas, the slap of my money would've been heard loud and clear. Quinn doesn't let anyone hold her back. She doesn't even hold herself back most of the time. For instance, our little one has already conquered the ladder and slide at our favorite park. She actually climbs up the six foot ladder by herself and trundles over to the slide and hurtles herself off into optimum gravitational bliss. Both Xtimu and I stay close so that she doesn't kill herself of course but if we weren't there she wouldn't miss a beat. Now, usually she'll approach the entrance to the slide and plop down on her behind so that she can slide right down like most normal people but this one day, as her wonderful parents were preparing to position themselves for the best catching vantage point, Quinn went down on her knees, launched forward like she was diving into a swimming pool and slid face first down the slide on her belly before either one of us could even think about grabbing her. Somehow she managed not to shoot off at the bottom and mangle her face. My heart was in my throat for a few seconds until we were sure that she was going to be allright. I thought to myself, "Okay, just get used to it old buddy because, by the look of the smile on her face, she loves doing things like that."

It's so funny watching them move around at this age. They walk around like little leprechauns and I often find myself catching her tiny frame in the corner of my eye. I'll turn and watch her meander around the corner with such fragile confidence and can't help but smile. Their magnificent growth just makes you feel the wonder of human endeavor. If we approached our lives the way that these kids embrace their lives, the world would be an amazing place. The love pounds so steadily in your chest and all that you want to do is go over and scoop them up and smother them with as much affection as possible. That's what I like to do at that moment, anyway.

I think Lucas really likes that Quinn is getting more confident in how she chases after him, as well. He used to grab her when she wasn't moving fast enough for him and drag her around the house. It wasn't the most thoughtful thing to do and would infuriate both Xtimu and me. It's been a long while since he's done something like that and Quinn is an eager pupil. She wants Lucas to teach her stuff (can be both good and bad) and she wants him to be her best friend, but she doesn't put up with any crap either. Some mornings Xtimu and I will lie and bed and listen to the two of them in the other room, talking and playing and Quinn will put her foot down if she doesn't like what Lucas is doing. She has a forceful way of telling you what she wants. It's just another lovely part of her nature, just like her mom and in the same way, she's just as adorable.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

53 Months

We went to the snow a couple of weeks ago and it was very relaxing. We took Lucas to Big Bear when he was eighteen-months-old and though it was fun for us, he doesn't remember it. He really enjoyed it this time. We went sledding and threw a few snowballs (no one dares pick an actually snowball fight with me if they don't want a face full of snow) and even made a snowman. We napped and watched movies and spoiled ourselves. Getting away like that for a couple of days always gives you time to breathe, allows for life to snooze awhile.

Now, Lucas has a tendency to whine a bit when he's reached the end of his little rope. We always know when he is getting tired because he noticeably becomes a little brat. He either gets super antsy, rushing around without thinking, or he becomes an irritating little slug, moaning and groaning and putting off everything that we need from him. The reason that it's so noticeable is because he otherwise is a fabulous kid. He is so extremely capable that his violin teacher told Xtimu just the other day that his concentration is as good as an eight-year-old. Needless to say, I was a tad bit shocked to hear that story because there are plenty of times during the week that we have to ask him fifty times to do something and that fiftieth time isn't really asking and it's never requested pleasantly.

Well, we were up in Big Bear and Lucas was reaching that tone, the one that tells us to get him in bed as quickly as possible and my dad asks him why he's being so wimpy. Now, I didn't actually hear it but I did get this from a reliable source. I really don't know what I'd do if I actually heard my father say that to my son. It's a strange feeling to be a dad and hear my old man treating my son the way that he treated me. It's because my dad has very little tolerance for people who either complain a lot or feel the world owes them something. He wants everyone to express their potential as frequently as possible even when that someone might be a four-year-old. Let me tell you, it's a burden to live under the thumb of someone so rigid and demanding.

When I had children, I never wanted them to feel that type of pressure but I'm sure that there are times when I treat Lucas that way. There are times when I am extremely frustrated with his loafing attitude and I demand that he do it because, gosh dern it, I know he can do it. But then I have to remind myself that he's only four, he's only just learning how to express himself thoughtfully and he's a lot like me. I don't want to push him down so that he becomes afraid of the rigid oppressive parent that we all have inside of us. I want him to learn how to express his emotions as they jump out of his heart, whether it be fear or love or sadness. Right now he's having trouble doing that when he's tired and is that really so wrong. I see people melting down all the time and acting like little children, without the excuse because they're supposed to be adults.

I'm learning that I feel better about myself and that whenever I help him instead of harass him, then our connection grows stronger as well. I love having him look at me with love shining in his eyes rather than fear or misery. He's such a beautiful and capable person, but he's only four and sometimes he needs us to be flexible as well. I'll keep trying because, to this day, I still don't have a warm and caring relationship with my own father and that's only because a long time ago, he wasn't compassionate when I asked him to be.

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