Silly Grins

Friday, January 27, 2012

What Holds It All Together

For the record, so to speak, that last post was slightly intoxicated. No, not in an “I drink alone” kind of way, but in one of those “let’s get started with a new year” – but with a twist.

The evening was spent with a group of fathers in planning a mini-hike into the mountains with the kids. The ‘planning’ took maybe less than a quarter of an hour, with only a little bit of who’s on first.

During the debriefing at home, wifey didn’t quite believe business had been taken care of so quickly.

Wifey: “Fifteen minutes?!”

Me: (Affirmative grunt)

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the female contingency had already re-planned the event. Kind of like what seems to happen around any barbecue I’ve ever tried here.

To most of us knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, barbecue = meat, fire, and usually beer. To the fairer sex, that which often claims to think more rationally about these things (rational?), a barbecue is some kind of dramatic event requiring much more effort that usually involves an actual kitchen.

On the domestic front, we’ve more or less learned how to plan and execute a barbecue without too much hassle. I used to think people were stoopid when they would say things like, “If there’s no fighting, it’s not a relationship.” Now, I wished I’d been paying a little more attention.

There is no kitchen in the barbecue equation.

As for hiking, there’s another learning curve ahead of us.

Back to the dinner with the dudes…

The rest of the night was spent listening to a few stories (one definitely worth repeating) and tossing around ideas for the group.

These guys obviously care about their kids, the future, and are at least trying to be prepared. No one in the group really needed to justify the need for the plan. Fifteen minutes of a basically read-set-go kind of conversation. No one was particularly worried about working out a pecking order either, definitely not an encounter of the PTA kind. Cooperation was already there.

One guy showed up late because of work. So, he got the condensed version of the fifteen-minutes, basically getting down to brass tacks: who, what, & where.

“Is your wife onboard with it?”

“Yeah, she good.” 

“Okay, we good.”

Being among people with a focused and aware sense of importance was a refreshing shift from the unnervingly clueless approach witnessed all too often.

Clueless is defined as those who are hurriedly texting behind the wheel of life while their kids are crawling all over the place.

During the evening’s exchange/conversation/banter, one of the fathers was noticeably keen on forming a neighborhood watch group. It wasn’t like he was itching to do something just for the sake of it either. He already had a clear plan with a specific purpose.

And when I got home, I told my wife about the idea.

Me: “Honey, don’t these things usually start in spring, when it starts to get warm around here?”

Her: “Not anymore. Weird people are out all the time now.”

Apparently, the kids in the neighborhood need a sentinel of sorts to ensure a level of safety on their way home. This seemed to be based on practical concerns of the father who put forth the idea. He seemed a little edgy for a reason he wasn't ready to just talk about, but I think the message was clear.

Back at the table…

Only one guy in the group seemed to still have the urge to do something badass. He didn’t/doesn’t speak English, but he’s been to New York. On his own dime. And alone. You see, he’s a firefighter or what some might call hero material.

He’d gone to New York for the ten-year anniversary/memorial. Passing through the security gates at the airport, he said he was hit with the weight of what it actually meant to be considered brave the moment he was waved through immigration. He’d been wearing his badge, hung around his neck.

Chomping at the bit, there was somebody willing to step up to the plate. Refreshing and strange for here.

Roughly translated, I said “Yeah, in the US, they might be busy, but they never know what’s going to happen. Shit is very real. But it’s real here too, only mellower. Frankly, I’m glad that’s the way it is over here. No disrespect. People might drink like there’s no tomorrow, but at least they aren’t trying to drive all over the place while they are doing it. Not having to fight fires is good.”

He reply was something like, “Yeah, but we can do better. If a real disaster strikes… I’m not confident that we’ve been trained to deal with anything except the status quo.” So the conversation went.

I could see his point, wanting to do better is good. No doubt about that. But doing better when you have to, that’s different. In the near future, we all might have to do better.

The kids will probably have no idea what the trek is all about. Our first goal is to just do it. Guess this is it. To remember what it feels like to be able to travel light.

Part of me, somewhere inside, is thinking… thinking that this ‘life thing’ is on. And finding just the right pace can be a real bitch sometimes.



  1. Firefighters are the real deal. Braver than soldiers, and killing no innocents. And when you meet a 'real man' who's Japanese, it knocks you off balance a bit, eh? God, they must be even more disgusted with the panty-waists than we Gaijin...

  2. He seemed to be impressed by what he saw at the conference in New York in terms of what can be done (probably because it has to be done). My presence at the table that night was almost negligible. When I told Wifey how almost normal it all had been, she was quick to point out that she considers those fathers the exception to the rule in that they care and they are pretty solid. They were definitely not dishing me out any unearned respect that I wouldn't be up for anyway. For some reason, I sensed that firefighter hadn't seen anything too ugly yet...he still had that sparkle in his eye. Ready to save lives, regardless. (Wifey just out of shower now...must wait for hair to dry)

  3. My Big BBQ's gotta be managed by me alone or feelings would be hurt at the least. I dunno how some folks get outta bed in the morning and put their own socks on. I had 3 meetings the 1st time I tried to BBQ with some Japanese and it was for 20 people.....the fuck? I do it for a 100 by myself and it's MUCH easier.