December 5, 2012

Eyes in the Sky (and underwear on the kitchen floor)



Took Jackson to his first silent film last night. Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.” I brought him because I thought he’d find it funny, for sure. And did he ever. Eclipsed only, perhaps, by how hard I was laughing. It was a little embarrassing. I had forgotten what a genius Chaplin was. After last night, I put him squarely in the class of the kings–Plato, Mozart, Pele…John Candy.

But I also brought Jackson with the hope that he might realize how much can be communicated without making noise. I think the percentage of Jackson’s waking hours where some kind of noise is coming out of his mouth may be upwards of 85. The first 50% is welcomed, intelligent, endearing. But the other chunk I think I could do without. No idea where in the world that tendency toward noise comes from…probably Sarah. Yeah, most likely it’s Sarah.

Strange how it works with kids, though. For we had a really wonderful evening last night. Popcorn, Junior Mints and all. And Jackson even woke me up again this morning to look at the sky (this is after all, a sky blog).

Yes, Jackson ran into our room (sprinted may be more descriptive), saying “daddy, daddy. I know it’s not 7, but you HAVE to see the sky.” (See we’ve drawn a line in the sand at 7am, across (or before) which we don’t want to see or hear from either of our boys.) Well, he was right. The above isn’t even the best pic I took, for I think tomorrow’s sky of the day will be from this morning’s series. But the sky was magnificent. Brilliant enough that I didn’t waste time putting pants on. No, I tromped right out in a bathrobe, a wool hat and no shoes. Walked down our block, past a neighbor getting the paper, and to a patch of (I assume) vacant land, where I snapped a bunch of pictures like some crazy photo-happy vagrant.

This brings us to a point I’ve been meaning to discuss, for so many of you have asked. (Actually, the vast majority of you reading are now thinking, “well, not me, I’ve never asked, must have been someone else.”) I have a Samsung Galaxy phone. I think it’s the original model. It’s definitely not the new one being advertised now as “the next best thing.” I bought it used from a suspicious character I found on Craigslist. We met outside a Starbucks in Sacramento. But that’s beside the point. The point is that the little camera that comes stock in that phone is how I take all these pictures from the now famous #100skies series. Recently I discovered that the camera gives me the ability to alter the exposure of my shots, so I often mess with that setting. But that’s the only setting available to mess with. The rest is just being outside enough to notice when the light changes, to look up enough to see how the clouds form and shift. I do crop it to a square on the Instagram and try out the various filters they provide. At first I was dazzled by some of the more intense ones (the Kelvins, the 1977s, for example). And It’s still hard to pass up the Low Fi filter, the Xpro and Hefe. But I try not to alter it too much, I try to keep it in normal, perhaps just using the color boost setting that brings out a bit of the contrast. So there you have it, for all of you who were wondering.

But back to the matter at hand. I returned to the house to find Jackson had already gotten himself dressed for school (and Noah had already built himself a pretty impressive train track loop). This has been happening now for a few months, and it’s a great change–the getting dressed on his own bit. But there in the middle of the kitchen floor lay his red dinosaur underpants. I asked him to pick them up. It seemed like he didn’t hear. So I said it again, asking him to bring them to the hamper. No response. I asked again. Nothing. I kind of shoed them over in his general direction. “Come on Jackson, just bring them back.” No response. “Jackson, do you hear me?” Apparently not. “Can you please take those to the hamper?” I was still calm, still saying please even, but there was definitely something building in my tone, no doubt. Well, he assumed a classic sort of James Dean “I could give a shit about you” recline.

And so I got angry. Yes, like framing a shot, which can cut out the power line from the frame, this blog tends to focus on the sweet side of the father-son bond. And man, can it be sweet. But it isn’t always so. Yes, it does sometimes descend. I yelled. I sent him to his room. I took away his bike. I delivered his bowl of cream of wheat to his bedroom floor. I closed the door behind me hard (though the effect was less than dramatic due to a weird stuffed animal in the shape of a sloth(?) that blocked the door.

It was only about 7:20. Not half an hour ago, he and I were celebrating the colors of the rising sun. Not 12 hours before that, he was on my lap in a little art house movie theater, and we were in hysterics as Charlie Chaplin found himself locked in a cage with a lion. And yet, there we were, a closed door between us, his new bike confiscated, and my dander (an under-used word for sure) way way up.

And it’s tough to come back from that. For both of us. He had to go to school. Blood vessels still showing through beside his eyes from crying, he had to navigate the world of kindergarten, trying to learn to read, trying to make friends. And I had to start my day, to salvage my fading hopes of working on my new book, of maybe even writing a new song. Ultimately, he did come out and apologized. And ultimately, as I was pushing him through the school gate, straightening the collar of his shirt, brushing his hair out of his face, I pulled him close and told him how much I love him, of how proud I am of him, even, despite it all.

And I am. I love the hell out of that boy. I believe in his brain, in his creativity, in his imagination. But I worry about his lack of respect, for the absence of any trace of fear of authority, for his lack of sensitivity even. And my mom will remind me that he’s only 6. And I know that. But I think there’s a measure of that that most of us were born with, and I don’t know that he possesses. His is a unique and powerful potion of traits. And most of the time it’s brilliant and beautiful. But sometimes it’s cold and cruel. Much like the sky, I suppose. Which, on many days is full of hope. But on other days, like on the day pictured up top, can on occasion appear to be scowling down at you. Like the eyes of Zeus (or some evil elephant?), there to mock your hopes, your plans, your ambitions, there to remind you that the world is very big and you are oh so very small.
Chin Up,