Archive for September, 2006
I’m a 35-year-old man. I have a family, a good career, a nice house in the suburbs. Regardless of how I may feel inside sometimes, I haven’t really been the fat, greasy, nerdy geek I was as a teenager for a long, long time. So I feel like I shouldn’t really still like anything by Weird Al Yankovic, should I? I mean, c’mon… shouldn’t I have outgrown him by now?
You certainly can’t say that Weird Al doesn’t know who his target audience is and just how to play to them â€” while I have absolutely no data to back this theory up, I’d imagine that geeks in their thirties who’ve grown up with Al make up an even bigger part of his audience than the geeks in their teens who would seem to be the most natural fit for Al’s shtick. Weird Al happened to luck into a unique situation and has ridden it to a career far longer and more successful than I think anyone (including Al himself) ever could have imagined: a large segment of the nerdy crowd who latched on to him originally grew up to use the skills and interests which got them mocked as kids to become reasonably affluent adults. And many of those adults are still Weird Al fans, so he has a dedicated, well-off following who’ve been with him (even if, like me, it’s just occasionally and somewhat passively) for twenty years.
There’s something about the video I wanted to point out, because if I’m gonna be a big geek about it I might as well go all the way: I paused the clip to check out Al’s “top eight friends” on his MySpace page. Completely unsurprisingly, his top friends include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Pee-Wee Herman, Screech from Saved By The Bell, Frodo Baggins, Napoleon Dynamite and one I can’t read. But then there’s also “Tom” â€” the creator of MySpace, the guy who every single user gets by default when they create their account… and even moreso than the nerd shoutouts listed above, a very, very nice visual way of indicating that this guy has no real friends. It’s that kind of subtle attention to detail (and this particular detail will only be visible on your screen for less than two seconds, if that) that I appreciate, and something Al’s always really done well â€” when someone puts the effort into crafting details you’re either going to have to work hard to catch or possibly never catch at all, that’s usually a damn good sign that the crafter really and truly loves what they’re doing.
On Monday, we lost Alex.
Any of you who know Laurel know exactly who Alex is and how traumatic these last five days have been her, but for the benefit of those of you who don’t:
Alex is the Beanie Baby lion Laurel has carried with her everywhere for more than a year — and a year’s an awfully long time when you’re still four months from turning three. We’re not sure just how old Alex actually is, but his worn, matted mane and general state of manginess lead us to suspect he’s been around quite awhile; Laurel found him in a box of old toys which used to belong to her cousins while we visiting them sometime last summer, and he’s seldom left her arms since. (The “Alex” comes from Alex the Lion from Madagascar, a movie she first saw around the same time she discovered the toy.) Alex is, in a way, part of the family: he’s never been “Laurel’s lion” or “Laurel’s toy,” but always, always “Alex.”
The last time Alex was seen was at the grocery store on Monday. Terry knows Laurel had him when they went in, but she didn’t have him when they got back to the truck with the groceries. Terry went back into the store and went up and down every aisle looking for Alex, and she left her phone number with the customer service office. She’s even been back twice checking with the store’s lost and found and called once.
But it’s obvious at this point Alex is gone.
Laurel, understandably, has been distraught all this week, though she hasn’t been able to express exactly why — advanced though her speech skills might be, expecting her to communicate emotions of that complexity is a bit much. She’s had a hard time going to sleep (Alex slept cradled in her arms every night) and has taken to pulling out her hair in anxiety. She’s been carrying around a small puppy Kelsey had given her a couple of weeks ago, but we can tell it’s just not the same — she likes the puppy fine, I suppose, but she’d had her heart invested in Alex. Unlike Kelsey, who happily flits from Most Favoritest Friend to Most Favoritest Friend with the wind, Laurel and Alex have stuck together solidly for almost half of her life.
Not quite as understandably, I’ve also been distraught this week. Every time I think about Alex’s absence, every time she asks where he is or sullenly says “I miss Alex,” I find myself having to fight back tears. (I’m sure that shatters the image of me as Tough Stoic Manly Marlboro-Man-Without-The-Marlboros so many of you hold of me.) Most of it simply has to be my not wanting to see my daughter upset, I guess, but I’m wondering if there’s be something more to it that I can’t quite get at, some childhood trauma of my own I don’t even remember.
Regardless, my daughter was upset, so I jumped into action Monday night. I crawled out of bed in the middle of the night, hit Google, and found and ordered her a replacement Alex… not sure whether I’d be able to pull off the switch, but feeling like I had to give it a shot. (Part of me felt like I was in a bad sitcom, some episode where my neighbor asks me to watch his dog while he’s on vacation and I accidentally kill the dog through some bizarrely contrived negligence and try to buy another one that looks just like it hoping my neighbor will never notice but of course he does and I learn Valuable Life Lessons about Facing Up to My Responsibilites and Lying Is Just Wrong. Or something.)
Terry’s been prepping Laurel the last couple of days for Alex’s imminent return, pulling out the kinds of fantastic lies that could really only work on small children still gripped by their imaginations: “Alex went on vacation! He went to a spa to relax and get himself cleaned up, and when he comes back he’ll be prettier than ever!” We weren’t sure how much she bought it — two-and-a-half years old or not, she’s a really, really smart kid and we wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised had she seen through our film of bullshit. But we had to try.
This afternoon, a small box was waiting for us in the mailbox when we got home.
Both girls were asleep in the truck, so I grabbed the box and we drove around a little more so we could examine Imposter Alex before presenting him to Laurel. He’s not exactly the same as Original Alex; in addition to his much better overall health, his eyes are a little different and the underside of his jaw is white, details we were hoping she wouldn’t notice. (My suspicion is that Original Alex was actually a cheap knockoff of Imposter Alex, who has his pedigree: he’s an Authenic Ty Beanie Baby.) But the body’s largely the same, and I was counting on that being the aspect she’d focus on: how he felt in her arms.
After we got home and got the girls inside, I snuck back out to the truck, cut the tag off and set Imposter Alex up on the ground right outside the front door. If we were going to ride this lie, we were going to ride out to the end: Terry knocked on the wall where Laurel couldn’t see, and we encouraged Laurel to go answer the front door. We helped her pull the door open and directed her gaze groundward, where Imposter Alex was looking up at her expectantly.
“Oh,” she said quietly. “Oh.” She looked at Imposter Alex for a minute.
And then she picked him up.
And she didn’t put him back down for the next three hours.
“This is Alex,” she said to Terry later. “He’s my lion. He’s very special to me. He came back to me.”
(Here’s where I completely demolish the rest of my image as Macho Man Holt by admitting that after it became obvious Laurel was accepting our ruse, I cried. Hard. I felt like I’d done something Good: I’d managed to alleviate my child’s pain and anxiety. I realize there’s benefits to your child learning how to cope with loss and grief, that children need to learn to deal with those emotions, but dammit, not just yet and not with her very favorite toy.)
The book Kelsey picked out for me to read to her tonight was The Velveteen Rabbit — a book she’s never had me read to her before, a book I wasn’t even aware we had. If you know this story at all — and being that most of you were once kids, you most likely do — you can appreciate why that book hit me a little hard tonight. (If you don’t know this story, I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Google.)
I hate The Velveteen Rabbit. I’ve always hated it, ever since I was Kelsey’s age. Tremendously. (That hatred either is symptomatic of whatever real or imagined childhood grief guided my actions this week… or possibly was the root cause of it. I’m honestly not sure.) Yeah, okay, it’s a happy ending for the rabbit and al, but I’ve always felt just awful for the kid, who had all of the toys and books which were meaningful to him taken from him — especially that damn rabbit.
But when I got to the end of the hated story tonight, I tried to reframe it within the context of Alex Lost and Alex Regained, and it made me hate the story a little less:
I imagined that some night, Laurel (who’s maybe five or six now) will be sleeping peacefully in her bed when she’ll be woken by a noise just below her window: a soft, playful growl. And she’ll go to the window and look down into the bright, clear night to see a majestic lion standing beside the swingset in the backyard, smiling up at her with a familiar spark in his eye, moonlight dancing through his mane. And she’ll look down at the now-well-worn lion in her arms, the lion that she can’t remember ever not sleeping next to her. But she’ll smile at the familiar-looking lion in the backyard and she’ll wave and maybe she’ll blow him a kiss, and then she’ll climb back into her bed and snuggle down next to her Alex and return to her peaceful sleep.
UPDATE, June 2010: We’ve recently had to move on to Alex v3.0. So far, she still has no idea.
Ever since the move, I’ve been feeling more than a bit on the, shall we say, constipated side creatively. What with the new job and all, I haven’t felt good about writing anything during the day while at work (both because I’ve been trying to make a positive impression and because I’ve been really friggin’ busy since the day I started here, and that’s not likely to ease up any time soon). At night, I’ve been doing some freelance work for a friend and when I haven’t been, I just haven’t been able to unclog my backed-up wordflow.
But I don’t like the fact that I haven’t written anything lately. I don’t like the fact that my online empire has grown so stale during the last six weeks or so. As a friend pointed out a little while ago when Terry mentioned the aforementioned creative constipation: “The video of K is cute and all, but…he should think about fiber.”
So this is me thinking about fiber.
It’s not that I haven’t had stuff to day, but rather haven’t been able to organize anything in my head to make a coherent post out of it. Thusly, coherent posts be damned, and let’s move on to a bullet list, shall we? Maybe doing so will be like Metamucil for my brain.
- North Carolina is just beautiful. Most of the days for the month we’ve been here have featured bright blue, mostly cloudless skies, nice breezes, reasonable temperatures, and lots and lots and lots and lots of green. (We do live in Greensboro, after all.) But man, when it rains here? It friggin’ rains. Forget those pansy little “rain showers” we got up in New England, the kind where you can’t even hear the rain on the roof, the kind where you’re actually surprised to discover it’s raining when you step outside. Here, we get real rain, big ol’ honkin’ drops that hit your skin like heavy bullets of water — this ain’t rain that’s gonna sneak up on you. It’s not quite torrential Florida rain, at least not that I’ve experienced yet, but the first time it rained on us here was yet another reminder that we’re back in the South (along with Waffle House and the ability to buy beer and wine in grocery stores).
- Monday night, for those of you haven’t heard, is Sorkinalia (a.k.a. the debut of Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). I doubt it’s much of a secret that I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for more than a year. But unlike the ridiculous amounts of anticipation I built up for Superman Returns, my expecations for Studio 60 are a tad more reasonable. It doesn’t have to be the best TV show I’ve ever seen; it only has to be better than most TV shows. Given that Sorkin’s behind it, I think that’s a reasonably safe expecation for me to harbor. I encourage every single one of you out there to watch it Monday night at 9 EST on NBC; I hope to be posting my thoughts about it on Tuesday.
- I think I want my DVR back (we didn’t get one when we set up our cable in the new house). Too many new shows I want to try out and no way in hell I’ll be able to sit down and watch them all at broadcast time. Having little kids makes being a TV fan difficult, I swear.
- Speaking of little kids, hearty congratulations are in order for my buddy Jeff Newberry, who recently discovered he’s going to be a first-time dad. Good on ya, Jeff! I fully expect to hear about you reading poetry to Heather’s belly as she hits the latter stages of her pregnancy.
- Also speaking of little kids, Terry’s got her report on Kelsey’s initial foray into organized sports up over at Mother Mirth. Terry was all witty and wistful and pensive and stuff so I didn’t have to be.
We only have a cassette player in our Jeep. We’ve always planned to install a CD player at some point, but never have had both the spare cash and the gumption to get it done at the same time. And for the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve only had one tape to go in that cassette player, a tape that Kelsey got in a gift bag at a friend’s birthday party: Wiggly Safari, by The Wiggles and Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin.
I’ve heard this tape, no lie, a thousand times over the last couple of years. I know every bit of it by heart. This isn’t to say that I like it, oh god no, but it’s become one not-so-small swatch of the fabric of my life — and it’s practically been the soundtrack to Laurel’s life, to the point where she doesn’t want to listen to anything else when we’re in the truck. (Heaven forbid we try to turn on the radio — she starts crying immediately, begging us to put in The Wiggles. The child doesn’t much like change.) Hell, the first song on the cassette is about Irwin himself (“Crocodile Hunter! Big Steve Irwin! Crocodile Hunter! Action MAAAAN!”).
So that’s why I’m a little bit surprised at how sad I feel about the news of Steve Irwin’s flukey death from a stingray barb to the heart while filming in Austraila (though, like many others, I’m not truly all that surprised that he went out in this manner). More days than not, I wind up listening to Irwin’s thick accent, his voice not quite able to contain his infectious enthusiasm for the animal kingdom — I’ve certainly never heard anyone else so fervently insist that camels have beautiful lips and eyelids.
Rest well, Steve Irwin. I’m sure you’ll live on in the speakers of my Jeep for some time to come.