17 May 2008

Daniel Waving Good-bye

I’ve been estranged from my father’s side of the family for almost exactly as long as I’ve been estranged from my father. That’s because in the midst of the turmoil caused by him running off with a chambermaid, evading his taxes and failing to pay our mortgage, his mother (my grandmother) informed us that Dad had prayed for forgiveness—God had forgiven him and so should we. Yes, he closed his eyes and spoke to his imaginary friend and because of that we should over look the money he stole and the fact that he left us homeless. His family couldn’t understand why that was a problem for us.

There’s been very little communication with any of them for almost ten years. In that time I’ve moved, gotten married and even changed my name. Since none of them was invited to any of those events, I don’t expect them to be necessarily aware of them (in fact, one of the ideas behind the name change was that it would prevent them from getting in contact with me—that and it would help prevent my father from committing fraud against me like he has with the rest of my family).

When I was talking to my mom the other day, she informed me that a letter had come to her house intended for my siblings and me. It was an invitation to an upcoming family reunion. Yes, it’s absurd that these people have so little grasp on reality as to think that my brother, sister and I would be interested in such an event (we never even liked that side of the family when we had to spend time with them). And yes, it is absolutely insulting and infuriating that my mother, who was better to that family than my father ever was, was purposely omitted from the invitation (divorce is a sin) which was mailed to her house. That alone would be reason enough for me to boycott the reunion if a myriad of other reasons didn’t already exist.

The most remarkable thing about this invitation, however, trumps those other things. The invitation was addressed to: “E.J., Jane and Daniel” (emphasis mine).

Yes, I’ve changed my name. My last name. I am not now, nor have I ever been a ‘Daniel.’ If you’re sending out invitations to your family and you can’t quite remember someone’s name apparently the thing to do is just guess. Don’t look it up or anything. Don’t call Aunt Alice and say, “What’s the name of Jim and Sandy’s quiet, pudgy son? I know his twin sister is Jane, but what’s his name? . . . Daniel? Are you sure? . . . Well, if you’re not sure I’ll call a few other people to verify so that I don’t end up looking like a complete mutherfucking idiot when I send out the invitation.”

Am I just that forgettable? I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’m not sure that “wallflower” is a label that would stick. Or quiet. Or hell, anything short of loud, obnoxious and intrusive.
It’s funny, too, because the only other place where people constantly struggled with remembering my name was the church where I grew up.

After every service, we’d file out and shake hands with the people assigned to door duty. Invariably, it would go like this: “Good to see you, Julie. That’s a very pretty dress, Jane. How are you Sandy? Jim. Hello . . . uh, Champ. Hey, EJ, how’s school?” Substitute “Sport,” “young man,” or “Tom?” for “Champ” and you have an accurate idea of my exit from church every week for the first 13 years of my life*.

I’m now thinking that the only reason I’m estranged from the family and the church is because neither group could remember my name. My ego, my sick need to be in the spotlight wouldn’t allow me to bother with those who refused to acknowledge my stardom.

Then again, maybe my abandonment of them had something to do with the fact that my dad’s family is a group of cattle ranching bigots and the church is a group of bigoted cattle.

Hard to say, really.

*After that point it stayed pretty much the same for the next seven years, but every few years we lost someone from the line-up. You’d think the novelty of that alone would help make me memorable, but alas, no.

09 May 2008

Fletch's Rules to Live By

I am no role model nor would I like to be considered one. But, there are a few habits and practices of mine that should, nonetheless, be adopted universally. I've compiled a list of a few of these universal maxims.

I am not the only one who does these things, but I am the one who is about to list them for you so the history books will one day give me the credit. I beat you to it, so there.

1. Pay at the Pump

Welcome to the 21st century, ladies and gentlemen! We have a lot of amazing things here in the 21st century, not the least of which are credit cards and gas pumps that take them. Truly, inserting one's plastic into the slot of a pump and quickly withdrawing it is nothing short of capitalist intercourse. There is no reason why one should ever have to leave one's car sitting at the pump while one goes inside to pay. There are, in fact, only two reasons why anyone should ever enter a gas station: a. to use the restroom during a long car trip and 2. to purchase cheap candy to smuggle into the movie theatre. And when doing either of those things, one should pull into a parking spot at the gas station, not leave one's car sitting at the pump.

2. Reusable Bags

Yes, it's ecologically responsible and blah blah blah but really the best reason to do it is because nothing quite beats the feeling of superiority you get when you go through the checkout with reusable bags. Regardless of what you are purchasing, people will actually look up to you for using reusable bags. Even if you're purchasing nothing but a tray of sushi and two silk ties (true story) they will think you are a good human being. I'm fairly certain that you could purchase a stack of porno mags, a case of batteries and a box of Toaster Strudel while using cloth bags and the cashier would still say "How responsible of you!" And, of course, you get to look down on everyone who isn't using them*! It's awesome. You may be inferior to them in every other way (as I usually am) but when it comes to the grocery checkout lane: You are officially their better if you are using reusable bags.

3. Donate

I don't care what it is: money, time, blood, other bodily fluids . . . Whatever. Just give something you don't have to** to someone you don't know.

4. Listen to Radio Lab

This isn't a matter of opinion here, people. I'm not just trying to tell you that this is a good show. It can actually be objectively proven to be the best show ever created. I mean, I really like This American Life but that's an opinion. It is a scientifically verifiable that everyone in the universe should be listening to Radio Lab.

5. Do Not Turn In To The Center Lane

Turning in to the center lane does not solve any of your problems, it just delays them. Having a hard time turning onto the street? That sucks. But you know what sucks even more? Trying to merge into busy traffic from a dead stop with the potential of someone going the other direction coming into your lane at any moment. Just don’t do it.

6. Take a Course in Logic

Why is Gym Class required but Logic optional? And sure, PE has its merits but I truly believe that if everyone took a course in Logic the world would be a much better place. Think of how much better equipped people would be to deal with difficult problems if they had a background in Logic. This should be a core class along with Science, English and History. Middle school, high school, college . . . people should even have to take a test in Logic when applying to work at a video store.

7. Make an Ass of Yourself

I don’t expect everyone to take to it quite as well as I have, but I do think that everyone should do this at least once a day. It doesn’t have to be a large scale “Mission Accomplished” kind of self-ass-makery, it could be something as small as using the phrase “self-ass-makery” in a blog. At any rate, the world would be a better place if everyone made an ass of themselves from time to time.

So there you go. These are seven rules that I live by and, though I would not recommend living as I do under any other circumstances, if everyone were more like me in the above ways the world would be a better place.

*I realize that if this were universally adopted the feeling of superiority would be moot. That is why it is ever so important that you start this practice as soon as possible, that way the early adopters will always be able to rub that fact in the noses of all the Johnny Come-Latelys. And for the record, I beat you to it, so there.

**Giving to a church, while technically a donation, doesn't really apply for this particular rule since the threat of damnation for not giving is an act of coercion and therefore it's not really giving something you don't have to.