Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. “Stop!” cried the groaning old man at last, “Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.”
It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Fathers and Sons
Joe Bell, 48, was walking cross-country from Oregon to New York to memorialize his gay son, who killed himself after being bullied.
Bell’s journey began April 20 and ended this week on a two-lane road in eastern Colorado, where he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer whose driver had apparently fallen asleep.
I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me, a miracle, something more than a miracle. You may not remember me very well at all, and it may seem no great thing to have been the good child of an old man in a shabby little town you will no doubt leave behind. If only I had the words to tell you.
A commercial for Cox Communications comes on the TV, the gist of which is that no one knows what the young woman in the ad likes. A sushi chef, for example, serves her an oddball concoction that she doesn’t like, and I forget the rest, but you get the idea.
“But here at Cox,” the ad goes on to say, “we know what you like.”
I say, “She likes Cox.”
My kid gives me a look.
“C-O-X. Cox. Come on, man.”
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“If it’s not your tail,” he told me, “don’t wag it.”
When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing . . . And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.
The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.
My son (age 19) and I are driving to Staples Center to see the Lakers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, listening to the pre-game show on the radio. Because the Cavs are basically a one-man roster, and that one man is Kyrie Irving, there’s a lot of talk about Irving on the pre-game.
One of the analysts offers up his opinion that Irving is as good as he is at such a young age (he’s 20) because Irving’s dad was hard on him as a kid and pushed him and didn’t let him take breaks.
As always, when the topic of someone’s dad bullying him to greatness comes up, the boy gives me a melancholy look to say that my lack of abusiveness as a parent is the reason he’s not a professional athlete. “You let me take breaks,” he says.
“You know,” I say, “I think for every guy who says, ‘My dad wouldn’t let me back in the house until I made 100 layups with each hand and now I’m in the NBA,’ there’s 900 other guys whose dads tried the same shit and these guys got nowhere and now they’re extremely angry about it. You just never hear from those 900 guys because they’re nowhere, as I just said.”
My boy, a college sophomore, and I are watching the Lakers play the Charlotte Bobcats on the TV . . .
“Did you know,” he says, “that I’m a full two months older than [Bobcats forward] Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?”
“Hmmm . . . really?”
“He grew more than me.”
Kidd-Gilchrist is 6’7″, 232 lbs. He turned 19 in September.
My kid calls me out for wearing white socks with black sneakers . . .
“Thanks, Mr. Blackwell,” I say to him.
Then it occurs to me that a 19-year-old is not going to get the Mr. Blackwell reference.
“FYI, Mr. Blackwell was a flamboyantly gay fashion critic.”
My boy and I are buying sodas at the Chevron station . . .
I notice they’ve got the place plastered with breast cancer donation stickers . . . donate a buck to breast cancer research and you can put your name on a 3×5 sticker with a pink car and a Chevron logo and they’ll stick it up on the wall.
I object to that. Let Chevron donate their own damn money instead of shaking down the customers.
“Would you like to donate a dollar to breast cancer research?” the attendant asks.
“No,” I reply. “Shouldn’t Chevron make their own donations? They’ve got more money than I do.”
It takes the guy a few moments to pick up on my theme, but as we’re wrapping up the transaction, he grabs the ball and runs with it.
“Yeah,” he says, “and the price of gas keeps going up.”
“It does, although I have to admit it’s down a little bit in the past week.”
“They bounce it,” he says, “but in the long run, it always goes up. It’ll be five dollars, then seven dollars. And they control everything so there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“You’re exactly right,” I say to him.
When we get outside, I say to the boy, “Chevron should fire that guy. Not a good company man.”
The author, a Russian, displays great heart and insight in this philosophical novel, but at 900+ pages, he needs to learn how to get to the point.
I look forward to his next project, perhaps with a better editor.
“Where’s John Wall-do?” he says.
Ha ha. I get my comeback opportunity a few minutes later when his game player passes to a teammate, who scores, but his player doesn’t get credit for an ssist.
“HOW CAN THAT BE ANYTHING BUT AN ASSIST FOR ME?!” he shouts in disbelief. “That’s bad programming.”
“Oh I doubt that,” I say. “The people who program video games are a lot smarter than the people who play them.”
I picked up a red striped T-shirt on sale at Old Navy. My son saw it and it seemed to me that he chuckled a little bit.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
“Where’s Waldo?” he said.
After this debacle of a basketball game, my son, a college freshman, says to me, “I should have gone to USC. I could probably walk on to basketball and make the team.”
“Are you kidding? You could probably walk on and start,” I said.
NEWPORT BEACH A man accused of becoming angered at his 7-year-old son and tossing him off a boat during a harbor cruise pleaded not guilty Monday to felony child endangerment.
Sloane Steven Briles, 35, of Irvine, is accused of being under the influence of alcohol and poking his son in the chest and repeatedly slapping him in the face before tossing him about 10 feet off the boat and into the path of oncoming boat traffic.
Prosecutors say he made no attempt to save his son and jumped off the boat only to avoid angry passengers on the Queen.
A boat had to maneuver to avoid striking the boy, who treaded water before a captain on another boat tossed him a life ring, according to prosecutors.
In interviews with television reporters following his arrest, Briles said he and his son were just playing around and that they both decided to jump into the harbor for fun.
If you put all your eggs in one basket, it’s easier to keep an eye on that basket, but it hurts when you have to let go of it . . .
One of the highlights of our Berkeley visit was a trip to The Cheese Board for pizza.
We parked on a side street and when we walked around the corner I saw a line of people down the sidewalk.
“What’s that line?” I asked.
“That’s The Cheese Board,” my kid said. “Don’t worry, it goes fast.”
He explained that they only make one kind of pizza per day — always vegetarian — so all you can do is order a slice, a half pizza or a whole pizza and be on your way.
Yesterday’s selection was fresh corn, feta cheese, mozzarella, and cilantro pesto.
Because they serve so fast and the shop is small, there’s not not enough room for all the patrons, many of whom repair to the median on Shattuck Ave. and enjoy their pizza in the shade of the Keep Off Median signs.
It’s Sunday night. We moved the boy in yesterday, had dinner with him tonight, and tomorrow morning, we’re going home without him.
I’ve had some emotional ups and downs this weekend as I cross the gulf between youth and old age. I almost cried five or six times.
I feel great about Berkeley. It’s a college town all the way. Men, women and children are decked out in Cal gear for miles around.
We live in Irvine, which also has a UC campus, but it’s not the same atmosphere at all. “That’s because no one wants to go to UC Irvine,” the boy said.
I feel good that he already knows some people. His best friend from high school is his dorm roommate. We met a couple of other high school classmates, one at a pizza place and one in the parking lot of the guest house. We met friends of friends, brothers and sisters of friends . . .
I feel good that the boy is not the same kind of mopey misfit that I was at his age. That’s really what I feel the best about. He’s polite and confident and his confidence rubs off on me that he’ll be able to handle things.
We dropped him off at the dorm tonight after dinner. I’ve been saying things to him for 18 years, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to him that I hadn’t already said.
I hugged him one last time and he went inside . . .
My boy leaves for college tomorrow, so this is my last day as a live-in dad.
I’m happy for him but I’m sad that something I’ve enjoyed so much is ending.
It’s one thing to say, “I’ll be able to deal with that day when it comes,” and it’s another thing to find yourself at that day, dealing with it . . .
Borders, unable to find a buyer willing to get it out of bankruptcy, plans to close its remaining 399 stores and go out of business by the end of September.
“When Borders started up 40 years ago,” I explain to my son, “there was a certain percentage of the American public that bought books and read them.
“It wasn’t nearly as large as the percentage who preferred to sit on their fat asses and watch television but it was there. There was a profit to be made from it.
“Today, if I tell someone about a book I’m reading, they look at me like I’m confessing a perversion. Reading a book?!
“Not only does no one read books but if anyone does get a notion in their head to read one, they’re likely to buy it online and/or download it onto a device.
“The market for people who walk into a store and buy a book has dried up like a raisin.”
“Books, schmooks,” the boy replies.