Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tales From a Great Indoorsman

J.S. Bankston looks at the week and life including marriage: "Compromise is a dirty word to me—it means neither person gets his way."

Saturday – 11/5
Today was the day for the Austin Collector's Show. I'd been looking forward to this for awhile, and was intent on buying lots of old postcards.

You may remember how several months ago I went to our local National Guard base to research an article, and was driven by a cabbie who looked quite a bit like Saddam Hussein, which made for a lot of fun at the base gate. Well, this man lives a few buildings down from me in my complex and has often driven me all over town. He even saw me walking to the grocery store one day and offered me a lift for free.

Well, I'd not seen him for awhile. I didn't call specifically for him, but he was the one who s
howed up. I barely recognized him. He looked ashen and tired and barely spoke above a whisper. It turns out he's been getting treatment for colon cancer. He explained more about his condition during the trip, but unfortunately I couldn't hear anything else that he said, because he had the windows down and the wind drowned his voice out. I've felt really bad about this news and hope everything turns out all right. He's been a real gentleman with me.

I reached the exhibition hall early, and wound up standing in line with a bunch of paunchy guys aged between 20 and 60. Many had mullets. One wore a T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, greasy hair--and an ankle-length hooded black cloak.

I had planned to spend the whole day at the show, but it turns out there was only one postcard dealer there. The rest of the vendors sold sports memorabilia, over-priced old toys in dodgy condition, comic books (I guess that's where Gandalf was headed), Beanie Babies, and a bunch of other stuff I didn't want.

One guy had a small collection of old architectural magazines from the 20s and 30s. Normally I'd have been on something like that like stink on shit, but he wanted $20 or so for each, and they weren't in that great a shape.

There was also an autograph dealer that had some stuff that interested me, including some autographed photos of Bill Shatner and a canceled check signed by Jack Lord, but I was there for postcards and postcards only.

The postcard dealer was an older man from San Antonio with whom I'd had profitable dealings in the past. Since the crowd did not consist by and large of postcard collectors, I pretty much had the table to myself, and I stayed there for two or three hours and amassed quite a few cards. It took the guy 15 or 20 minutes just to figure out the price of it all. I spent way more money than I sh
ould have, and was in sticker shock for quite awhile after I left, and that's even after he knocked off $100 from my total (his idea, not mine) because I'm such a good and regular customer of his.

I like talking with this man, because he's lived in SA for decades, and likes to reminisce about the way SA was when I was a kid, vacationing there in the 60s and 70s, when it was a hopping town. We discussed the O'Neil Ford estate sale. He said he had thought about going to it, but he'd been elbowed and trampled at so many sales in the past he decided to skip it. He said the biggest estate sale he ever attended was that for Atlee B. Ayres, my favorite SA architect, who dominated the San Antonio of the first half of the 20th century the same way Ford dominated the second half. The old dealer said, "Those people had everything. They'd been everywhere. I'd never seen so many belongings and artifacts in one place. They must've gone all over the world."

(I once worked in a children's bookstore and took a check from a woman named Mrs. Robert Ayres and I asked if she was any kin to Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, and she got very excited and was amazed anyone still knew the names. The men were, in fact, the great-grandfather and grandfather of her husband, and she encouraged me to go to the UT Architectural Archive and look at the firm's drawings. I never got around to doing that, but about two years later a definitive book on Atlee Ayres's work was released.)

The Collector's show was in James and Nyssa's neighborhood, where I lived a couple months last year after the fire, and which is mostly populated with working-class Hispanics, blacks, Orientals, and Middle Easterners, which means lots of Mom and Pop groceries, every kind of automotive-related business under the sun, and lots of really cool ethnic restaurants that Whitey don't know about.

(During my time there I really dug patronizing tacquerias where you actually had to order in Spanish because no one on the premises knew English. There was also a halal market I prowled once. The owner kept giving me the fish-eye, as if he thought I was a shop-lifter, until I spotted a stack of brochures on various aspects of Islam, and asked, with genuine interest, if they were free. He said they were, I grabbed one of each, and he lightened up considerably.)

Anyway, I made a beeline for a Vietnamese/Chinese place I'd wanted to try out. Although it was 12:30, there was only one other party in the restaurant: a man and a woman, both in their 30s, both fat. He wore shorts and a t-shirt, while she had on a wife-beater, ugly turquoise-colored tattoos all the way down her bare arms, and a droopy black Goth-style dress that ran down from the middle of her ponderous belly to her ankles. She was, in fact, shaped like a giant bell.

The owner/hostess/waitress seated me by the window. The fat couple was seated in the center of the room. Maybe they wanted me and the owner to hear them talk, maybe the fact they were almost alone made them think they were at home, but for some reason, these two carried on their entire dinner conversation, when not stuffing their faces and gnawing, speaking at full volume, as if they were seated at opposite sides of the street and not three feet apart.

He was a displaced New Orleanean. She was his know-it-all friend. She lectured how his benefits would soon be ending and that he needed to go find a job. She held forth on all the things she likes about Austin—all the same banal shit everybody else always mentions when they extol the "quality of life" here—things which I either never cared about in the first, or eventually grew indifferent of.

She bitched about what a loser her ex-boyfriend and all his friends were, but said she might take him back if he ever grows up. She boasted about what a mature, take-charge person she was. And then she went into an embarrassing level of detail about her sex life, bellowing, "As far as looks go, I'm mostly still attracted to women—the way they're shaped, their skin, their overall looks, but the thing is, I really like to be penetrated. I like having that cock in me, and that's not something a woman can give. I'm basically just an old dyke who likes cock."

I don't like loud people to begin with, but this was really too much. I put down my fork and gave them a "Do you fucking mind?" look, but they didn't even see me—they were too engrossed in their spare ribs.

One of my problems with that is I suffer from a sort of reverse racism, I guess you'd call it, in that I get really offended when Americans are rude in front of foreigners, be they visitors, temporary residents, or naturalized citizens. Most of the foreigners I've dealt with in this country have been so polite that it just pisses me the fuck off when my fellow Americans break out their rudeness and crudeness for all to see. It reflects badly on us. And yes, I realize that people from other countries are rude too, but you know what I mean.

Sunday – 11/6
The Austin area Friends of Russian and Ukrainian Adoption had its Adoption Fair today. I've wanted to go to that event for three years running, but keep missing it for one reason or the other. A few years ago I was reading about adoption pretty much non-stop, but I think maybe my interest is waning.

Dorothy Parker said something to the effect that she didn't like writing, but she did like having written. I like the idea of having children, but I don't know how much I'd enjoy the reality of having them around all the time. Pets are really all the company I want or need most of the time, and I fear that kids would get on my nerves.

It also seems that when a person has kids it becomes the central fact of his life. When, for example, someone brings his kids to an adult party, then suddenly it becomes a kid's party that just happens to have some adults in attendance.

I like kids in small doses—as long as they are quiet, clean, attractive, and intelligent. Noisy, dirty, ugly, stupid kids need not apply. If I had kids I have no idea what I would do with them. I am not the kind of person who'd go outside and play catch with a kid—I'm just not that active. Museums, bookstores, libraries, zoos, movies, shopping—that's about the best I can do.

I also fear I might be too selfish to have kids. I know if a kid of mine got involved in something that didn't interest me, like soccer, for instance, I'd either make lots of excuses in order to skip the games, or bitch and moan about how much it all bores and annoys me. I'm childish that way.

I've always wanted to carry on the family bloodline, to be able to tell my kids about their famous ancestors and the roles they played in history. If I adopted I wouldn't be able to do that—the line would end with me and I would definitely feel a sense of failure.

The only reason I've thought about adoption is I have never come remotely close to marrying. The examples of marriage I've seen in my generation and in the generation after mine really don't make me very envious. In most of the situations the wives always wear the pants and have the final say, and I'd be goddamned if I'd sit still for that. I'm not cut out to be hen-pecked. Compromise is a dirty word to me—it means neither person gets his way.

Frankly, most couples, married or otherwise, don't seem very happy. Even if they don't say so, they seem to give off a vibe that says, "I made a huge mistake getting married." And thanks to my mom, I am hyper-sensitive to any behavior that seems to me like nagging.

As for Russian adoption, well, apparently single men are at the bottom of the parent desirability totem pole, right under gay and lesbian couples. People just assume if you're a single man you want the kid for sexual purposes, and you're pretty much guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Also, when you are at the bottom of the list agencies and officials assume you're so desperate you'll take any kid they throw at you—a two-headed crack baby, whatever--which is definitely not the case with me.

Russian adoption is the most expensive way to go—I think it now runs around $30,000 to $35,000 per kid, though you can sometimes get a deal if you adopt siblings—but it is also a single man's best option for adopting Causcasian children. But you don't run much of a chance of the kid's family showing up in America and wanting him back. (There is a growing trend toward something called "open adoption" in the US, where adopted kids grow up having contact with their birth families. Sex columnist Dan Savage went that route when he and his boyfriend adopted a child. His book about the experience, "The Kid," while entertaining, champions open adoption, yet it convinced me that I would absolutely under no circumstances ever want to do it that way. I would be too threatened.)

Of course I would want to write a book about the whole Russian adoption experience. (Janis Cooke Newman's "The Russian Word for Snow" is an excellent and beautifully-written example of that sort of thing.)

So, hell, I don't know. I think I sound like I'm trying to talk myself out of this. I have difficulty imagining any major changes in my lifestyle, but at the same time, who the hell have I been buying all these kid's books for over the years? Who's going to inherit all the millions I've made blogging?

Some say the way a person treats his pets is a good indication as to what kind of parent he'd make. Well, if Fred is the standard, then that means I would spoil my kids rotten, allow them to do pretty much anything, worry about them constantly, and regard them as an extension of myself. It would also mean, disturbingly enough, that my kids would wake me at 4am to go crap in the yard.

The thing is, I've rarely been able to support myself, and I would not want to have kids unless I could raise them very, very comfortably, and yes, spoil them. (I would probably also need to be able to afford a house and a housekeeper as well, since I neither drive nor cook, and anyway, Bankstons traditionally do not do day-care.)

More on this much later...I have a feeling.

Monday – 11/7
Started my local history column, but got bored with it 1/3 of the way through and went back to bed.

Tuesday – 11/8
Finished my column, but not before running out for chew strips for Fred and dinner at a Carrabba's Italian restaurant. The meal was so-so. The waitress was obnoxious in her zeal to try to sell me pricier dishes after I'd already placed my order. She also made like she was gonna sit down to take my order, but I gave her a look that conveyed I'd snatch her bald-headed if she tried.

But the most significant thing about the meal was the almost complete absence of light anywhere in the dining room. There weren't even little candles on the table. It was all I could do to read the menu. I felt like I was dining in a fucking aquarium.

Wednesday – 11/9
Sleep. IHOP. TV.

Thursday – 11/10
A guy killed his girlfriend in the Austin area today, bussed it to San Antonio, and killed the security guard at the bus station there--the same one I patronized in August—before finally being caught by the cops.

Friday – 11/11
My mother finally has said something that makes sense to me: she thinks the reason I've been so sleepy and sluggish lately is that I'm not getting enough oxygen, due to my fluid-filled lungs. It seems plausible. God knows breathing has gotten more problematic of late, and I seem to have less and less staying power. I have a great deal of trouble staying awake much of the time now.


At 10:16 PM, Blogger SportyChick said...

Oh my God, man, lighten up. Did someone beat you as a child? Please don't adopt; parenting (and, dare I say, really loving someone) clearly aren't for you. I'm hoping you just woke up on the wrong side of an uncomfortable mattress, and that this is just a blip.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Gee. Thanks for the overwhelming vote of confidence there.

Well, um, I wasn't beaten any more than anyone else in those days when spanking was the norm. But if you ever saw "This Boy's Life," my father acted toward me pretty much the way Robert DeNiro's character did toward DiCaprio's. I was actually exhausted when I left the theater after seeing it, because it brought so many unhappy memories back--the constant needling and humiliation, etc.

I won't deny I have a boxcar full of issues, but at least I am willing to examine them openly and see what I can do about them, rather then keep them wrapped up and hidden and allow them to fester.

But thanks for pointing out I'm a lost cause. That's a great start to my week.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger SportyChick said...

My bad. I forgot to give you one kudos: You're a pretty good writer. So don't feel all beat up. It's the viewpoint that I take issue with.

But you're right, awareness is the first step, and I never think anything is a lost cause. That said, you lost me at the first paragraph though, where you slammed the concept of compromise. When you love someone, the thought of a joint decision as being a compromise never enters your mind. You don't end up feeling like you hadn't gotten what you wanted. Exactly the opposite: You just had the honor of making a joint decision with the one you love. Call me a sap, but I'm in love and glowing.

Cheer up and lighten up; you can have that too.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It also seems that when a person has kids it becomes the central fact of his life. When, for example, someone brings his kids to an adult party, then suddenly it becomes a kid's party that just happens to have some adults in attendance."

That makes me laugh. I have 2 kids and am plenty guilty of converting adult parties into kid parties....

At 9:39 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Well, never having really known that kind of love, I cannot speak intelligently about it. I can only talk about what I know. I've only been on maybe one or two dates in my life, and the idea of another person loving you even remotely close to the way you love them, is alien to me. I think I understand one-sided infatuation better than love.

Two friends posited a theory a few years back that did a lot of damage to me. These two guys didn't know one another when they said what they did, but they both said the same thing--that every guy reaches a point where he wants to give up and let a woman take over and make all his decisions for him.

That horrified me. I wanted to do like Superman and turn the Earth backwards on its axis and change time, so I could keep them from saying such a thing. The idea of anyone, male or female, willingly surrendering his will, autonomy, and independence to another, was just beyond comprehension.

I think part of the problem was I grew up under such an authoritative father that when he died I decided that by God I was not going to take any more shit from an authority figure ever again, and that has probably made me over-vigilant in that area.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

In reply to you, anonymous, I would say, I grew up almost exclusively in the company of adults, and when my parents went out anywhere, they and their friends felt no need to caper and do cartwheels to entertain me. If we went to someone's house, the owners would show me where the TV or the books and magazines were, and I'd sit quietly and have a blast just doing those things on my own.

I had been raised to behave well in public, so there was no problem with me eating at the same table with the adults when that part of the evening came along. And if the adults would once in awhile fix me a dilluted cocktaile--well, all the better.

I wasn't being abused or ignored or anything---I enjoyed being left to my own devices, and anyway, my father was such a pain in the ass so much of the time I kinda enjoyed not being in his radar for awhile.

I have of late been watching with great amusement this donnybrook in Chicago, where an ice cream store owner has put up a small sign on the front door of his shop, at child's eye level, warning kids to behave and use their "indoor" voices in the store.

The suburban-entitlement pre-soccer moms have been having a fit about this, that anyone has dared suggest that little Kelsey and Kody running amuck and screaming and bouncing off the walls might ought to be nipped in the bud.

Much of the current generation of parents just seems to not give a shit about what anyone else thinks--whether their screaming kids annoy anyone, whether their enormous urban assault strollers get in people's way--they just refuse to offer the world beyond their noses simple consideration.

A few months ago some friends had a surprise going-away party for a teenaged girl who is the unofficial niece of many of us. I didn't know most of the adults there or the teenagers. I spent most of my time with the kids of some friends of mine, a boy who is elementary school age (who, though a ball of energy, doesn't annoy me at all), and a girl who is about two. I didn't play with them so much as practice my portrait-work on my camera on them--especially the toddler. The boy and I discussed "The Aviator" and Howard Hughes.

Kids don't have to be hell-beasts, but you'd not know that from the way some parents behave.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about obnoxious parents...and sometimes i'm one of them, i'm sure...

but i'm sympathetic to parents with unruly kids too. usually the screaming kids on a plane or in a restaurant are just snapshots of a moment and it's hard to know if it's indicative of the how the kids or the parents really are in general. kids, particularly young kids, don't have years of honing verbal and non-verbal, "socially acceptable" ways of telegraphing their frustration, wants, needs, etc. so they go with some basic ways -- crying, screaming, laughing, running, etc. you also can't throw a switch or train a child like a pet...or you can try, but then you either wind up 18 years later with a serial killer or insurance auditor and i'm not sure that's any better. and anyone who has ever been a kid should know the limits of parental control (especially, and particularly, if you celebrate artists of rebellion and revolution, like i like to think i do). kids act out at 6 months or 16 years or 60 years...though the older they get the more refined their forms of defiance.

but it's the messiness and unpredictability of it all that is the greatest value, i think, for adults whose lives are controlled -- people who insist on their libraries hushed and the furniture spotless and their transatlantic flights subdued. i've been on planes where people have declared that since they paid for their seat they have a right not to be feeling is always that they don't have a right to any of that. it's public transporation. get over it.

They should realize that they can't control the way the world collides with them, especially when their strapped into some tin can with 150 strangers. in other words, they should stop acting like a baby -- they've had years more practice for god's sake -- or scrape up the money for their own private flight.

if they have that kind of money, they can afford live in whatever world they purchase, and they can leave the rest of us alone in the tumult of the every day. where kids throw tantrums and people are rude and the marketplace is full of small indignities and humiliations and the possibility of great and beautiful things.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

And it's that messy tumult that has been forcing me inside myself and inside my home more and more, over the last decade or so. The First World (if that's what it's called) is becoming too much like the Third World to suit me. I just lack the money to set up my own personal Xanadu or Graceland. Of course, it does seem like my collisions with this ugly, filthy, noisy world that I detest so much are what gives me the most interesting things to write about.

I also have to disagree with you about things like planes, though I confess that at the age of 42 I have still never flown, though I welcome the opportunity. Something that offers drinks and movies and so forth seems to me to be a little more than mere public transportation, and God knows it costs a hell of a lot more than a bus or subway. I think anything that costs hundreds of dollars gives the purchaser a right to make demands. Anything that expensive should be pleasant, at very least.

But at the same time let's look at going to the movies. That's pretty cheap, but I still think a ticket-holder has every right to watch the movie in peace without hearing kids cry all the way through it or some asshole yuppie yapping into his cell every few minutes.

I can accept that in a store or restaurant a kid might make a noise, a brief eruption. But for the kid to make a prolonged noise with no break and for the parent to not have the goddamn common courtesy to take the kid outside when that happens, is inexcusable.

And if people can't make their kid behave ever, they should either hire a sitter if they can afford one, or stay at home all the time if they can't. I don't think one couple's right to go out and have a good time outweighs the right of the general public to not be disturbed when it goes out. Just because you can make babies doesn't make you special, and it doesn't earn you special priveleges in this society, but there's a lot of people who've not gotten that memo.

As far as kids go, all I can say is I remember how I did and did not act in public when I was young. In stores I walked with my hands behind my back--I didn't knock things onto the floor and expect clerks to pick it up or my parents to pay (or not pay) for them. I was taught to be respectful of public and private property. I was taught good manners, including table manners. I held the door open for ladies and walked old women across the street. I definitely wasn't a screamer.

The two worst public displays I did were belching loudly in a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio (one of my few cases of poor table manners), and the time, when bored in the service area of the post office and waiting on my grandmother, I got on the floor and, like Curly Howard of the Three Stooges, laid on my side and kicked my way around in a perfect circle. And yes, I was punished for both occasions of misbehavior.

I think a lot of people with perennially unruly children tend to fall back on the excuse that children cannot be trained. People just don't have the perspective or the memory to realize that kids were not always raised in this slad-dash manner.

I know a lot of people who like to moralize that TV is the big enemy, but I call bullshit on that. TV is a great thing and can be a fine educator, impating both the knwoledge of the ages as well as pop culture that is absolutely necessary if a kid is going to fit in with others his age. I think a lot of people paint TV as something evil because they want to sound morally superior and are also looking for an easy scapegoat. TV is not the villain---lazy-ass parents are. Kids can watch gunplay and suggestiveness and even Dennis Franz's bare ass, and it still won't turn 'em psycho as long as they have a good, solid foundation. Hell, sometimes they don't even need that--all my family was at least half-nuts, and I haven't gone on a killing spree yet.

In public I see numerous cases where the children are in charge and the parent is negotiating and begging with the child: "Oh, Little Kayla, please don't scream? Will you not scream? Will you do that for Mommy? I'll buy you that My Little Pony." It's always a case of putting the ball in the child's court, letting him wield the power, and that is no way to raise a kid.

I'm not saying you have to be the Great Santini here, but I seriously believe there are ways to raise kids to where they can develop into free, creative, self-actualized human beings without either shipping them off to a convent or letting them become a noisy, rude nuisance. You just have to take the time and give a shit.

Ye Gods, I think the world deserves another generation of Bankstons--for its sins if nothing else.

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a couple of thoughts...i hope you engage more and not less -- you mention that the tumult drives you more inside -- but i hope it doesn't. you're a great observer of things and people, so i hope you get more in the mix.

on flying -- i fly a decent amount. about once a month, sometimes more. and i've always flown, ever since i was a baby through the last 4 decades and, there's no question in my mind, it's public transportation. it could be free, like the buses in northhampton, or thousands of dollars, like first class, and it's all public. you don't pick your neighbors and there you go. that makes it public.

but if you haven't flown, you ought to try it. the first time it's neat and novel and every other time it's uncomfortable and a pain but better than a greyhound.

and it's not like a movie. movies are all about listening and seeing something in the dark. that's the experience you pay for and your $10 entitles you to that. if the popcorn machine is broken or the candy sucks, that's the breaks. you're not entitled to popcorn. unless you pay for it.

flying is about going from here to there. that's what you pay for. you're entitled to a good pilot and full tank of gas and an arrival time relatively close to the time promised on your ticket. the fact that video is broken (happens a decent amount), the food is non-existent or your neighbor is overweight -- an all too common complaint -- or a family of 4 with 2 unruly kids, is all a bummer, but part of the breaks. just get me there in one piece w/o too many delays. everything else is gravy.

lastly, if you have any advice on how "to raise kids to where they can develop into free, creative, self-actualized human beings" don't keep that kind of stuff secret. not only is there money to be made dispensing that kind of advice, but there's a world to be made better...

from my experience, raising kids is about 10 times harder and 10 times better than i ever thought it would be. that's generally the experience of other parents i know. and it seems like the folks who have the most ready and certain thoughts on how to raise children either don't have kids or have kids who are now about 40 years old. it's a bit like the difference between watching someone get drunk and getting drunk yourself, but a thousand times more intense and involving and complicated. the two experiences seem like cousins, but they're vastly different.

i always feel if raising kids were simple, then we would have figured it out thousands of years ago and we would have more adults that are "free, creative, self-actualized human beings".
as it is i don't see much of that around me. but that's ok. that's life...

At 6:50 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Well, I'll have to admit I worte the line "free, creative, self-actualized human beings" with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

As for airplanes, well, God knows comedians tell enough airline jokes, and I do get the impression from them that the expereince is less than pleasant.

Yes, experience does tend to trump observation, but I have still learned a great deal just through the intense observation of the ups and downs of other people, while managing to miss the muss and fuss. I've learned the great lessons you're supposed to get from alcohol and drug addictions. And I've learned those things by watching others have those problems, not by having those problems myself.

Most people I've known are too shallow and insufficiently contemplative to draw more than the most basic lessons from such experiences anyway. And many people learn nothing from their experiences, and just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. This is especially common where love and sex are concerned. How many divorces, for instance, must a person rack up before he learns that maybe, just maybe, he's not cut out for marriage? How many men have fucked up their lives just by convincing themselves that marriage will not corral them in any way?

As for parenthood, it does seem when you're a child--or it did for me anyway--that the adults are all-seeing and all-knowing, wise, powerful, godlike, etc. Only once you grow up do you start adding things up and realize your parents were probably just making the shit up as they went along.

For example, my father tended overdo the heavy-handedness. Once in 1973, we were eating spaghetti for dinner and I put on too much Parmesan cheese, to the extent I couldn't clean my plate. This annoyed my father so much he banned me from eating Parmesan cheese for ten years. Fortunately, he forgot about this ruling a few months later.

Towards the end of his life I told him this story, and said that had that ban stayed in effect, I would've been a sophomore in college before I could've eaten Parmesan cheese again. And he laughed his ass off when he heard that. I could tell he realized it was all bluster and bullshit, but sadly, he didn't begin to drop the facade until he was almost dead.

There is a fine line to walk in parenting between strictness and permissiveness. If you're too strict, your kid may rebel to a disastrous degree. If you're too lax, the kid will have other types of problems.

Take the case of me and one of my friends. We're the same age. Neither of us have achieved even modest success in life. Both of us suffer from serious depression and ADD. He's had problems with drugs, especially crack, and has been homeless and prone to sudden, unexplained disappearances. We're both just this side of being basket cases.

He's lived much of his adult life with his parents. I have had to get financial support from my family for large chunks of my life because I've rarely been able to land jobs that paid decently. I have therefore been under parental influence and nagging to an inordinate degree for more years than are normal. I've had to submit to their interference and string-pulling just to survive.

And I have received consistently bad career advice from my family--they've always insisted I just land survival jobs so I don't have to get money from them, when probably a well-planned career strategy would have been the better course of action to pursue. As a result I have no past, present, or future, apart from whatever I might be able to scare up with my writing.

I was raised in a pretty strict environment. And my mom scoffs that all my friend's problems are the result of his "permissive parenting." But it seems to me that he and I grew up under totally different parenting styles, yet still managed to wind up in virtually the same spot, as near-identical fuck-ups and failures.

And all this tells me is that parenting is at best a very random crap-shoot, that it's pretty much all left up to happenstance.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Martin McFriend said...

You guys gotta seriously check yourselves. How the hell can one read these comments without 30 minutes to spare? Good stuff, though. Loving sportychick's idealism. Are there any beautiful young lassies out there with her attitude who are looking for a master of the dark arts? Drop me a line from my blog if so...

At 6:41 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Ah, but MMcF--I do have 30 minutes to spare. All the time in the friggin' world....I wait around all day for people to update this site the way folks in nursing homes wait for their daily pills, 3pm dinner, and diaper changing.

Never mind idealistic young lassies--are there any heiresses out there young enough to be my daughter who wanna crank me out some sons?

At 8:11 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I doubt anyone's still monitoring this thread, but there's unlikely to be any NJK updates for a few days, and I wanted to ask sportychick something.

You spoke of joint decisions--do you find you make a lot of major joint decisions in your life? I make very few in my life as a single, and those that I do I would hardly classify as major, at least major enough to bring anyone else into the decision-making process were I coupled up.

Apart from, say, deciding whether to buy a house, or have kids, or what religion to raise your kids in, etc., what to you constitutes a major decision? Are there really that many? Whether to have, say, a Turkish or a sissal rug in the living room is not, to my mind, a major decision.

Is it a semantical thing, depending on a person's perspective? I mean, I know many, many people who'll say, "Oh, I've got to take this--this is an important phone call," when I'd say I haven't had six phone calls in my life I thought were truly important.

Do minor decisions become major when someone couples up? Or do women regard more things as major than men do? It's just that I am so disgusted by much of what I see in male-female relations in the younger generations that I'd like to know why things are happeneing the way they are.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger SportyChick said...

Interesting question, jsbankston, and it's clear that this has been on your mind for a few days. When I mentioned joint decisions, I was reacting to your comments around "compromise" as meaning neither side gets what they want. Compromise, to me, and joint coupled-up decisions, revolve around the mundane as well as the "major."

For example: I want grilled salmon for dinner and my love wants pizza. Y'know, sometimes you get warm fuzzies inside from having pizza and knowing that he's happy. Compromise. Or from going to the italian place that has so-so pizza and also serves fish sticks. Compromise. Neither side got exactly what they wanted, but they're both happy knowing that they budged, just an inch, for the happiness of the one they love.

To put this in perspective for you, I should add that my adult life has been a balanced mix of coupledom and singledom. When I was unattached and wholly so, I do recall having the same defiant feelings as you've expressed that compromise is a dirty word. Even in a few dating moments when it was just dating and nothing serious I remember feeling resentful at not getting my way. Now that I'm squarely in coupledom and thrilled to be there, there's a rosy glow on the world and I relish in the opportunity to put his needs ahead of mine. Most of the time. A lot of the time. Sometimes. Oh ok, once in a while.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

You will I hope forgive me if I come off as an asshole in this dialogue, but we are, as I said, treading along what is for me unfamiliar terrain.

In my defense, though, I should point out that our beloved Triple J highlighted the compromise quote in his brief intro. I imagine it stuck out to him like a sore thumb because of its potential to arouse ire and spark lively debate.

My intention was not so much to discuss my feelings pro and con on marriage and relationships so much as it was to discuss parenthood and adoption and child raising and my fitness or lack of fitness for same.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Your whole restaurant illustration really hits home, though. I must just be too selfish to grasp the idea of really putting myself out and sacrificing my comfort on behalf of another--other than my dog, of course. I'd take a bullet for him.

I should point out that despite my nine step- and half-siblings, I was fortunately raised an only child, and a spoiled one at that, so that I've never been able to see beyond my own nose.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger SportyChick said...

You don't believe it can happen until you fall in love and then one day it hits you that you just compromised yet you don't feel the least bit slighted.

The parenting question is a bigger one and one I should stay out of (I'm not qualified to comment on that).

Merry Christmas! (can we say that?)

At 1:10 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Well, I totally believe it could happen exactly the way you say. If I've learned anything in life it's to never say something could never happen, because then it invariably will.

I was looking at some old photos of me and my family and friends fron 25 and 30 years ago and had you told the kid in those pictures what would happen between then and 2005, he'd never have believed you.

God, I'll be pleased when NJK gets going again.

Merry Christmas to all you crazies, from me and Fred the Basset Hound.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger kaymaria said...

Oh dear. Don't make me start worrying about you again.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

How do you mean?

Your handle doesn't look familiar, but I may be wrong. I see you liked "London Fields." I've not read any of Amis's fiction, but his memoir, "Experience," which I read a few months ago, was quite interesting. But mercy, he made me feel uneducated. The Brits have that effect on me.

At 8:42 PM, Blogger kaymaria said...

I thought you'd be able to figure it out from my blog & its photos that link to Flickr. It's me, Kay - formerly of Arlington & Park Slope, Brooklyn. Words from The Past!

At 6:51 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I don't know what Flickr is. Are you friends with Rex and Raymond (now formerly of Park Slope and currently of Richmond, Va.)or Culley? Do I know you from mass e-mails? I confess I'm drawing a blank, but as Triple J will tell you, I have a really bad memory with names. I fear I'm soon to embarrass myself here.

E-mail me at and see if we can jog my memory.


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