Saturday, December 8, 2012

The first guy

I usually keep these things fictional but today is my Dad's Birthday. Below is my first attempt to write about the legend that is my father. 

I've been thinking a lot about my Dad. In my twenties I feel like I dated many versions of what I think my father was like in his early twenties. Tall nordic looking boys, who like to talk about Joseph Campbell, music, and drink whiskey. Boys that can talk for hours about art, and creating,  boys who can make you laugh, but hold a little darkness. Boys who do their own thing, despite yours. I imagine that's who my father was, the tall blonde, pensive, troublemaker at the end of the bar who could talk about anything. If I had met a guy like my father in my twenties, that guy would have surely destroyed me. Luckily I met the real deal later, or earlier, depending how you look at it. .

 It's a strange to realize that my father was younger than I am now, when I was born. Just six years older when after two kids he was thrown into a divorce. He was forced to grow up, and balance his emotions with that of two small people.  Sometimes he was better at balancing those emotions than others, but he tried. For a while I held up what he wasn't, what he couldn't understand about me, what I couldn't understand about him. In one of the only e-mails that my dad ever sent me he wrote: 'The key is getting to trust people as they are, and not as you want them to be' , I'm still trying to implement that one. 

So on this his birthday, I'd like to list some of the things I've learned from my father, the most beautifully strange man I know. Qualities I'd want from anyone:

Explore, don't be to precious with creativity. If you have an idea try it, make it. Making things is for the fun of it, for the process, not to please anyone else. This was done with everything from balsa wood planes, to ice cream in coffee cans, to tin foiling our entire house like a castle. (Yes, my dad tin foiled the exterior of our house like a castle.)

Find humor. Chances are you're probably taking yourself too seriously. This was true of me 87% of the time.

As a woman you should know how to cook, sew, use power tools, curse, and fix your own toilet.  Not knowing what to do with two kids on weekends, my dad decided to teach us everything. We found ourselves doing everything from going to zydeco halls to building birdhouses. The sight of old men gawking at two blonde children flinging themselves across the dance floor, is one I will never forget. 
Because of him I can put up my own shelves, fix my own toilet, fix my own clothes, host a hell of a dinner party, and yes my mouth does get me in trouble. 

Don't write a lot, but when you do write in CAPS.  I have only received only two e-mails from my Dad, both were gorgeous and written in all CAPITAL LETTERS. In art school when you drafted you wrote in all caps, so Dad still does. He doesn't get virtual yelling yet.

Find creativity in the little things; Whether my dad bakes a cake or fixes a garage, he does it differently. Cakes have blue icing,  garages diamond shaped windows, picture frames have poetry carved into them. He doesn't talk about these things, he does them.

Education through humiliation;This involved my father dancing at gas stations, singing the Rolling Stones really loudly anywhere, and asking me in a grocery store, and in front of my boyfriend at the time if I was a lesbian. His take on this; it was fun, and "Don't care what others think, that's their problem."

You can connect with anyone. The one time we went trick or treating with my father, we had to pull him down the street as he was talking to everyone. Candy was not plenty that year.

Never stop learning, but learn for you. Be curious.  My dad reads the dictionary, literally. His fascination with the iPad is amazing, he's pretty much going to culinary school through that thing. I think this is genetic as Google may have been the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Make space for yourself; this can be found early morning on the jersey shore, flying a kite, sitting on your porch, or watching the Eagles.

Never call when the Eagles are on. (See reasoning above.) 

Sing loudly, even if it's off key. However, your kids may eventually know the difference, and pick on your for it. 

"You were the best tree out there." My dad used to say this to me after shows whether I was in the chorus or the lead, reminding me that whatever I was doing it was important, but not too important. For the record I played an ant in college once, but never a tree. 

Listen to music. Do it, now. Stop reading this. 

Rest when you need to. Sundays on dad-weekends were notorious for fried apples, biscuits and NPR. I remember sleeping away entire weekends at my dads, because he let me. When asked why he didn't wake me 'Cause you needed it or you wouldn't have taken it".

'Ultimately marry someone who is nice to you. This seems intuitive, but a lot of people don't do it. Dad has now taken to closing phone conversations, not with "I love you" but "Okay, marry a nice guy." 

Whenever possible break patterns. 'Patterns of thought are things we hold onto to preserve our ideas and sense of self.' Whether it's the pattern of who you think you are or the route you take to get somewhere, switch it up and see how you feel.

Sometimes in art you have to go back from a place of 'not knowing shit' and 'stop trying, clear your mind of perceived thoughts, and just listen.' 

Get outside.  Whether it's to throw a foxtail, fish, fly a kite, write, or read a book; sometimes you just need air. 

"I'm not an artist I'm a guy who makes things, I can be an artist when I'm dead." Value your work, but don't take it so seriously that you become pretentious. People will stop telling and showing you things, then  you'll never make art.

Don't post everything on the internet. Keep your own artistic endeavor for yourself. (Trying at that one, Daddy, trying...)

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