Thursday, May 17, 2007
Lord of the Fruit Flies
I was walking to the subway station this morning when I saw a man on the corner wearing a t-shirt with a simple message:
He was a Mexican, doubtless waiting for day labor, like the rest of his buddies who hang around 68th Street.
Usually they hang out by the coffee shop up the block, but maybe this man wanted to stick out from the crowd. I don't know how this particular spot got to be the pick-up area, but that's where you'll find these guys.
I was in the coffee shop one time and a Mexican fellow ahead me thought I was his buddy, who was, in fact, behind me.
The first man handed me a cup of coffee without looking. So I took it and said, “gracias.” We all laughed and I gave the coffee to its rightful owner. We all got along just fine. I honestly don't know how to solve the problem of illegal immigration but building a wall, literally or emotionally, isn't the answer.
That guy's t-shirt was getting to me, though. Especially the ellipsis—the three little periods seemed to be full of bad medicine.
I could almost hear the bomb whistling through the air like an old war movie as I ran around in circles in an open field desperately looking for cover.
Yes, I do have this incredible ability to find the negative in just about anything, so the words "get ready" had an ominous tone to them.
Get ready for what? Armageddon? The Rapture? Get ready to get hit by a car because you're too busy reading the Mexican guy's t-shirt?
Maybe this has something to do with the fruit flies. I read an article online about a new study that found fruit flies have free will and spontaneity.
I didn’t know that this was ever in dispute or that anyone actually cared one way or the other, but then I don't give too much thought to fruit flies to begin with. Having a free will doesn’t seem to be doing them much good. Of course it’s not helping me much either.
It's one of these stories that wind up being the worst of both worlds: I can't see what it has to do with me, but I can't get it out of my mind. I wonder if fruit flies have this problem.
I've got my 50th birthday party coming up on Saturday and I'm a nervous wreck. I'm worried no one will show up; I'm worried too many people will show up.
I'm worried we're going to run out of food or the food will be awful, or my various friends and relations will all hate each other and the party will turn into a bench-clearing brawl with blood and bake ziti covering the walls.
Get ready to put on a strait jacket.
I was riding home on the subway the other night, brooding about the party and some part of my mind decided to speak up.
"I don't want to go to this thing," the voice in my head said quite plainly.
I recognized that voice. It's the voice I used whenever I plan to go to some single's event or party and pull out at the last second. There's no logic to it, just the stubborn baby voice saying "I don't want to go."
I took a minute to explain to myself that since this is going to be my party, it's pretty hard not to make an appearance. Unless the food is good. Then you can leave town and nobody will care.
I heard a real baby voice at work on Monday when George, on my co-workers, brought his young son to the office. George is one of several young, or relatively young fathers in my office.
Two other colleagues recently had children and they share baby war stories like army vets meeting up at a reunion. I, of course, have nothing to say.
It’s strange to see George as a father. He’s kind of a class clown in the office, constantly making jokes and old movie references. Watching him hold his young son and kiss him on the cheek allowed me to see a different side of someone I usually rely on for laughs.
The Boy, as George calls him, is cute. He went stumbling around the newsroom clutching an Elmo doll, until he decided to drop it on the floor. I like having kids around the office. It makes the place seem a little bit more habitable.
George had to conduct a video interview so one of the women in the office, Andrea, agreed to watch The Boy while the old man went to do his thing. The quite lasted about two minutes, until The Boy realized that his father was not around. Then he went insane.
The Boy stomped all over the office shrieking, “Daddy!” in deafening tones. Nothing Andrea did could get The Boy to come down. He just wailed louder and louder, Daddy, Daddy!
“I think I can wait until I have kids,” Andrea said later. "I can wait a long time."
Some of the other fathers in the office chuckled softly, recognizing the sound. I tried to remember what it was like to when I was his age, how I wanted my dad to be with me no matter what.
No Questions Asked
The Boy was at the age when the father is something akin to God. You want him and nobody else and when you finally get him, you know that he’ll cure whatever’s bothering you.
It’s a child's view, of course. This is the age when a kid is supposed to worship his father. The rebellion, the competition, the outright warfare that plague many father and son relationships hasn’t happened yet.
George finally came back and The Boy jumped all over him. I wonder what's it like to be in George's shoes, to get that boundless, unconditional love coming at you. I bet it feels great, but I'm never going to know.
I have this memory fragment of being with my father in a crowded room someplace. For some reason I think it's a bar, but I can't imagine my dad taking me into a saloon. And I don't see any bar allowing him to do it.
I felt like Gulliver in this land of giant men. I grabbed what I thought was my father's wrist, tugged on it, and chanted, "Daddy, Daddy." Then I looked up and this total stranger was looking down at me. He started laughing at me and I quickly let go of him.
I guess I found the right father and got the hell out of there. I don't remember anything else about that day. Some days I have the memory of a fruit fly.
My memory failed this week, but in a good way when I caught a break on the nightmare front. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling fearful and I knew I had just had a bad dream, but for once I couldn't remember it. It was like my subconscious hit the delete button.
The only thing I remember was that Stan, an economist I use as a source was in the dream. I had spoken to him earlier that day about a breaking retail story and he surprised me by saying he wasn't following the news. I could hear the agitation in his voice and then he told what the problem is.
"My mother was diagnosed with leukemia just this morning," he said. "I'm not paying any attention to the market."
I don't blame him. It's amazing how the allegedly important things in your life shrink the moment something truly serious happens. I wished him the best and got off the line. That night I had some kind of dream about him and, while I have no details, I know it was bad.
Stan came by the office on Wednesday where I got a chance to shake his hand and wish him all the best in person. We traded sick parent stories, which are not quite the same as new baby tales.
People in our position, who have to tend to and eventually bury their parents, are the real combat veterans and we're fighting a battle that can't be won. We have to deal with death, not life.
So in light of that, maybe I should just go and have fun at my birthday party. I've done just about everything to make sure all my guests have a good time; now it's up to them. I can chose to be happy, I have a free will, just like a fruit fly.