Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stall Tactics

Admit it.  You feel a little embarrassed for this guy.

I don't really want to write this entry.

It's not the subject matter, which examines what seems to be a particularly sad and shameful chapter of my family's history.  Sometimes you have to talk about difficult things.  You don't relish it, but you do it.

Some people get their kicks focusing on sad and shameful.  I knew a guy in Buffalo who gleefully told anyone who cared to listen that one of his ancestors was hanged as a horse thief.  That's like the weird Australian compulsion to remind the world that their nation started as a giant penal colony.  We get it: Great Grandad was a deviant.  Mazel tov, you wacko.  Mike Leach, the Texas Tech football coach, is obsessed with pirates, not the ones who play baseball in southwestern Pennsylvania, but the yo, ho-ho, and a bottle of rum types, to the joyful approbation of the Tech faithful.  This, too, strikes me as crazy:  Pirates were psychotic, bloodthirsty terrorists, who raped and pillaged and tortured and murdered and terrified most of the civilized world (again, I'm talking about the yo, ho-ho types; the Pittsburgh Pirates don't terrify anyone, least of all the other teams in the National League).  If Coach Leach chose to find inspiration in someone with similar proclivities -- Idi Amin, say, or The Son of Sam -- I doubt the folks up in Lubbock would be so sanguine.  This is football in Texas, though, so he could probably prowl the sidelines dressed as Henirich Himmler and people would be OK with it, so long as he was winning ballgames.  A guest on "The Dan Patrick Show" once observed that if Jeffrey Dahmer could run a 4.0 40 yard dash, football scouts would dismiss his cannibalism as "an eating disorder," so anything's possible.

It's not the potential for embarrassment that the story carries, either.  I am pretty easily embarrassed, although being easily embarrassed tends to be a trait that fades with the years.  I have one of those fairly high-pitched voices, the kind that mothers tell their sons is "a ringing tenor" but their best friends assure them is  "really femmy sounding."  My job involves a lot of telephone contact with customers.  Combine a "ringing tenor voice" with a gender ambiguous name, and you are guaranteed to have old men calling you "Sweetie" and flirting with you at least a couple of times a year.  When I was in my Twenties, it mortified me.  Now, I just call them "darlin'" and flirt right back, unconcerned about the randy thoughts pinballing around their decrepit old man brains.  I will never get used to the rampant Oprahfication of our society, where every personal matter, bedroom secrets, bathroom details, and everything in between, becomes a matter for the public record, but  when you get right down to it, there isn't one of us whose presence here is not directly linked to a pair of elevated heart rates and a certain measure of stickiness, so we need to get over ourselves.

What's bothering me is that I'm not sure I know the real story of the person I'm writing about.  I have some clues, but they're just bones and fossils, scraps and implications.  I've sculpted a heaping load of Plasticine around these fragments, to make them into something believable.

I'm not sure I've created the right dinosaur.

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