Good Dad

I’m a good dad. I know this because I’m not only willing to let my kids do things that might kill them, but I’m letting them do things that might kill me. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of the story here.

Over the winter my dad bought a geezer 4-wheeler to use at the cottage. It’s kind of like a golf cart on Viagra or maybe what a pick-up truck would look like if made by Toro. A functional little ride which allows him to fetch water, the mail, and most importantly, keep up with all the rest of the retired squadron on the road who seem to devote most of their energy thinking up reasons to hop in their little rural roadsters and go somewhere to move something to someplace. He stored it in my garage during the inclement months where he visited it frequently to add little accessories and touches so it was ready for the spring season. We called it “Grandpa’s Toy” for months, and he seemed to take the ribbing in stride. Little did I know he was planning his revenge even then.

You see, my boys asked a few times about how old they had to be to drive it. I simply said they had to be old enough to get Grandpa’s permission. That seemed safe. He’d certainly not risk his baby to an unsafe driver, and it would be a good bonding experience for him to teach his grandsons to drive. But my dad’s a crafty bastard. I have much to learn yet.

We get to the cottage this weekend, and he’s encouraging everyone to take a turn driving. Where’s Grandpa? Safely tucked into the barn having inexplicably super-glued himself to the bench. So guess who gets to take the maiden driving voyage with my boys? Yup… revenge is sweet.

So Son #1 has a go. He’s driven a few other things so I’m not too worried. He does try to start it while it’s running and I cringe as the starter drive grinds on the flywheel. But Grandpa doesn’t flinch. Now convinced that the rumbling he hears is the running engine and not my intestines, Son #1 places both hands firmly on the wheel, stares straight ahead, and punches the accelerator flat to the floor. But I’m calm. I know something he doesn’t. Namely, that we are still in neutral. Besides, it stalls flat. So we discuss “feathering” the pedal.

Second try. He starts it again, hanging onto the starter just a tad too long. I begin to wonder if he is associating the pained look on my face as an indication the motor is running and he can now let go of the key. Okay, both hands firmly on the wheel, staring straight ahead. Blissfully unaware we are in neutral. As the engine revs, he slowly looks at me with incredulity. Over the roar of the engine at full throttle I point at the gear shift. The light dawns, and he reaches down to engage the tranny. Mind you, his foot is still firmly on the floor and the engine wound up tight. My hand quickly grabs his as images flash in my mind of me spending the rest of the weekend trying to put Grandpa’s transmission back together like some sort of psychotic Lego project. So we have another short lesson.

Third try. He’s away. He drives us to the pump for water and back again. Honestly, his driving wasn’t too bad once he got out of the blocks. Better yet, his little brother didn’t say anything about “his turn”. Besides, it was lunchtime.

So during lunch, doesn’t Grandpa ask when Son #2’s turn is? Man, he’s good. I want to be just like him some day when my kids are old enough to torture like this. So, despite my best effort to eat for 3 hours straight, the meal ended.

Son #2 takes a seat at the wheel. Now, remembering my learnings from #1, I pre-started the vehicle and even pointed it down the driveway. He grips the wheel, deftly drops it into gear, and proceeds to demonstrate that he has absolutely no grasp of the relationship between the position of the steering wheel and the direction of the small vehicle. He’s overcorrecting more than Newsweek. But not to fear, the further he goes off the road, the harder he pushes on the gas. This is a future Audi driver if ever there was one. After several frantic grabs by me at the wheel and a few near tip overs, we get back to the barn. He’s grinning. I’m kissing the ground.

I’m a good dad. I can’t wait to grow up and be an evil Grandpa.

Star Wars Review

So after being asked for the 1500th time in 3 days, I took my boys to see the latest Star Wars movie. WARNING: There are minor spoilers in the rest of this post, so if that sort of thing annoys you, please stop reading now.

On a whole it was a satisfying tale. Virtually every aspect of Episode IV was set up and all the loose ends were tied nicely. The only major plot hole was at the end. You see the unmistakable frame of the Death Star being constructed as Darth Vader and the Emperor look on. Unfortunately, Luke was born just hours before that, so apparently the Death Star takes about 18 years to build. Maybe they outsourced the construction to save costs?

The kids were also bummed that Han Solo wasn’t shown. I did explain that he would only be a kid now, but given that they shoe-horned Chewbacca into the story via a completely irrelevant sub-plot, they are probably right. Han should have at least made a cameo. And I really hope there was an actual Wookie story that wound up on the cutting room floor. It would make the DVD worth seeing.

I also could have done without the massacre of the “younglings”. There was ample opportunity for the emerging Sith to show how evil he is becoming without slaughtering children. It was a disingenuous and unnecessary plot device. It seems out of character for Lucas, and given how many children will see this film, is minimally in bad taste. Fortunately, the actual murders occur off-camera. But still, there was little need to convince the audience that Darth Vader was a really bad guy.

On the flip, the action was first-rate. There were great space ship effects, and a couple of memorable fight scenes, but honestly I think the art of the light saber dual reached it’s acme in Episode II, so this kind of came off as more of the same.

This is obviously a must-see movie for anyone who’s sat through the first five. And it’s money well spent just to see the tale all the way through to the middle. On it’s own though, it’s hardly great cinema.

The Meaning of Life

The President is coming! The President is coming! No, seriously. President Bush is visiting a local community to pitch his Social Security plan. I know this because groups are currently scouring the region look for people “of the right demographic” to attend the pep rally. I’m guessing I won’t get a ticket, and not just because I’m too old. I do have to wonder though, how do you succeed in converting heathens when you only preach to the choir?

Oh well, the good news is that the local paper is soliciting “letters to the President” which it will publish. Hopefully the letters will not be screened by the same people that are handing out rally tickets. On that chance, I submitted the following. I’m not optimistic they will publish it, but I guess we’ll see on Tuesday.

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing in hopes that you can explain the meaning of life to me. You have been on record countless times defending the sanctity of human life. Your May 20th statements condemning South Korea’s advances in stem cell research bear witness to this position. On the other hand, there were 152 people executed during your term as governor of Texas. This is an accomplishment that you defended with pride during your presidential campaign.

I am at a personal loss for how to reconcile these two seemingly oppositional positions. Perhaps you could clarify for me the rules for determining which lives are sanctified? Also, would it be ethical under your rules to employ the new South Korean cloning process for stem cells provided that only the cells of condemned prisoners were used? That seems like a win-win position.


Real Country Music

I’ve never heard of The Notorious Cherry Bombs before, but apparently they are a compilation group similar to The Highway Men or The Traveling Wilburys. This group centers on Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell. At last night’s CMA awards, they were nominated for Best Group, despite having never made the radio. So of course, I looked them up.

Their signature song defines what people love (or hate) about country music. Feel free to have a listen for yourself. It’s called, “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night (That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long)”. You have to have been married to appreciate this. Personally, I’ve been snickering since last night.

The Secret Downing Street Memo

Why has there been little to no U.S. publicity of this memo?? Does the current administration really have that much of a stranglehold on the media? This is damning stuff. It is a verified internal memo documenting a discussion held in Tony Blair’s office where the Brittish admit that they knew full well that Bush doctored the case for war and had no exit strategy.

We live in a country where Iran-Contra, Travelgate, and other comparatively minor scandals have rocked or at least haunted administrations. Why do these guys get a pass on this? I’m obviously missing something. This should be front page news and a Senate committee should be formed immediately. Oh yeah… never mind. The Senate is busy investigating steroids in MLB.