Thursday, April 18, 2013

Born With It

Preparing for childbirth has been an educational experience, to say the least. It has also been a time of quiet reflection…frequently interrupted by grizzly bear sounds emanating from the mound of pillows festooning the port side of the bed.

Too often men slide through life failing to reflect on how far they have come and what it took to get there. Not me - I know. I have not come a long way and getting here has not been hard at all. I just kind of wandered around in the desert then, Hey, look! There’s a water fountain! And I have been standing here ever since.

Despite lately finding myself married to a complete stranger; one who has been desperately smuggling a full aquarium around under her skin for 8 months - I number among the fortunate few who rarely, if ever, come under substantial spousal flack regarding my many outdoor pursuits. As a single person I guess I assumed that was part of life and the time and ability to do these things was just part of being me.

I now know: that is a terrible lie.

When I consider the time I spent as a child traveling around the state hunting and fishing and whatnot - I am amazed. I did something terribly fun and dangerous nearly every weekend, generally with Dad, and if not – then with an infinitely less responsible Uncle. I also realize now that those Uncles genuinely were not the least bit worried about me, my safety, or possibly dying. Back then I assumed all adults were bound to keep their nephews safe as a matter of course. In retrospect: I actually had that thought as a 6-yr-old while riding through the woods perched on the hood of a tractor like a chubby hood ornament with Uncle Buster’s admonition “Don’t grab that exhaust pipe – it is 800 degrees” ringing in my ears.

Mom was right to worry.

At the same time all that was going on, Dad raised two other kids, stayed married, kept a job, paid for a house and cars and got us all through expensive private colleges that we probably did not deserve.

Now, with the impending specter of fatherhood looming over me; it all makes sense: I didn't get to hunt, fish, and act like a Wild Boy on the weekends because I was born with it; I got to act like a Wild Boy because Dad was born with it - and more importantly; born with the ability to stay efficient during the week. If the water heater had still been out of commission at 5PM on Friday – nobody would have been going deer hunting. If Mom couldn't wash her hair – everything stopped.

Last week I considered my list of mandatory to-do’s for the week and this thought went through my brain: “I could just stay here and deck the attic on Saturday instead of going fishing” and in my mind, in that instant, that option actually sounded plausible.

It was a terrifying moment, so I immediately retreated into my workshop to sulk.

As I sat there at my Fishing Stuff Bench, sulking, it hit me that now, finally, I realize what it means to be a Dad; mostly because: I've turned into mine.

So, instead, of decking the attic and painting the hallway on the weekend, I wore myself out all week doing it at night, then I went hunting on Saturday at 4AM, got my truck stuck, found a deer skull in the woods, got covered in ticks even though I know about Lyme disease, heard 5 turkeys gobble, got soaking wet, got covered in mud, then came home feeling very pleased with myself.

Maybe you can also learn to be a Do-It-Yourself-er (see below) and a Lifelong Wild Boy; but I can tell you one thing: it is definitely hereditary.

Thanks Dad. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Free Market

For a number of years we have had a mailman notorious for spending his lunch break parked at the top of my parents' driveway reading Dad’s gun magazines. As a child we’d pull out in the minivan and wave. He’d hold up "American Rifleman" and wave. Later, Dad would get his magazine all nice and fluffed out from being pre-read. I didn't realize that wasn't normal until I was in college.

To this day he still leaves a note in my mailbox on June 23 wishing Mom a happy birthday and now he reads my gun magazines and Dad's. Certain unforeseen perks arise from living on the street you grew up on....

Our mail arrangement is a pretty equitable system. Arthur’s reading certainly doesn't cost us anything and most of the time he manages to shake all those annoying loose inserts out into the street as a public service. It is a symbiotic relationship based on an exchange of value. We let him read our magazines, he takes care of the inserts. Everybody is square. I appreciate that sort of courtesy from service providers and it further illustrates how prevalent the concept of "exchange" is in our society. To me, our arrangement with Arthur says "hey, ain't a free market friendly"?

We are a capitalist society, so if you live in the USA, no matter who you are or what your philosophical leanings; you’ll eventually have to enter into an exchange and generate some cash to get from A to B. I know that and I’m fine with the concept of “profit.” Profit means that I have to pay you some negotiated amount more than it costs you to do or make something, and you get to keep the extra. The key is “negotiation”. I don’t really have to pay you anything at all – you could give it to me. Or, I can pay you a ton. It’s up to us to work all that out.

Isn’t it fun?

If negotiations go properly, all parties ultimately feel the satisfaction of "winning". I get what I want - you get what you want; and we each leave convinced that we have somehow hoodwinked the other. In my experience, that is rarely ever true, but it is a pleasant fiction nonetheless.

My brother, Young George, calls that little bit extra from negotiation: “walking-around-money.” My other brother, Fred, calls it “cashy-spendy-money.” Whatever you call it - I’m glad to get it, but I’m also glad to give it because I don’t want to Roto-Root, for instance, or formulate my own termite spray, or grow huge volumes of tomatoes, or manufacture hairdryers for myself, or pump well water, or drill for oil and refine gasoline. Instead, I just pay someone a little bit more than it costs them to do it for me. Brilliant!!

Sometimes, even though I CAN, I don’t even want to do certain things to my own vehicle. Sure, I CAN put in a new set of wheel bearings, but that’s 3hrs I don’t have right now.

Due to time constraints, I recently crumbled, violated my strict DIY mentality, and took my ailing pickup to the shop. They have not yet called to attempt to take advantage of me, but when they do I anticipate a negotiation of some sort is shortly to commence. I shall report back the results directly.