Saturday, June 24, 2006

Not Your Usual Father Figure

A brief summary of Father's Day with my dad last Sunday:

  • Drove away from downtown, where he picked me up from work, looking for a McDonald's, which is like driving away from Wrigleyville looking for a gay bar--there are some, but you're much more likely to find what you're looking for if you just TURN AROUND.
  • Settled on a Church's Chicken, asked me to run in and get him a sandwich, fries and pop, then looked at me funny when I waited for his money. "It's Father's Day, ain't it?" At least he laughed while saying this. If I were still a child, this line would have been followed by a pop in the mouth. Sent me back in to ask for a piece of cheese for his chicken sandwich (they don't do that at Church's).
  • Took me home so that I could set my VCR for the NBA Finals, which I guarantee only happened because he was headed to the West Side anyway to see one of his buddies play guitar at a club.
  • Dropped by a car repair chain, asked me to go in and find a certain product so that he could come right in and purchase it, and then we'd be off. Well, he didn't come in until 15 minutes after he sent me in. He was on his cell phone when he finally came in, so he had to yak away for a while before he could ask for the manager and yak with him for a while. Finally got to the counter, but disputed the price of something until the manager told the cashier to override and cut the price in half, presumably to get him the fuck out of there. Instead, Dad handed out flyers for his latest gig to the cashier, manager, and security guard, then had me run to the car...and fetch him his harmonica. "He does this all the time, doesn't he?" asked the security guard. I solemnly nodded. "Know why women like harmonica players?" asked my dad after chatting up the much younger cashier. "Cause you gotta know how to suck and blow and use your tongue, and they love that." Total time of brief trip to car repair chain--almost an hour and a half.
  • Stopped at a corner liquor store that had a big sign that said "We Make Keys" (I'm the one who noticed the sign because we were on our way to look for a Home Depot so that my dad could get some keys made, and looking for a place with my dad can sometimes take months). Two 8-year-old girls came out of the store and woke me from my nap after about 10 minutes to ask me if I could spell "invisible." When I asked why they would ask me, they responded, "The man in the store said that you can spell anything." Yes, he still embarrasses me by telling complete strangers that I was the spelling bee champ in 1990.
  • Despite having the address, he drove right past the club where his friend was playing because it looked so small that he just assumed that it wasn't the place. After 15 minutes of trying to reach his friend on the cell, he asked a woman in a sparkly disco-type outfit walking out of there if that place was hosting a blues band tonight, and she said yes. This dive tried to charge both of us $15 for the right to set foot in there, but my dad dropped his usual jive talk--former drummer for the Chi-Lites, played with James Brown at the Apollo, etc.--and talked his way in. They still made me give up $10. I stayed for two seconds, because my dad saw someone he wanted to talk to leaving and followed him outside, and I followed him and did not return. My Father's Day present was not going WWE on that shithole demanding my money back. He introduced me to the guys, I shit you not, as "This is my son--you know he was a spelling bee champ?" I sat in the car for an hour waiting for him to get through schmoozing these guys. I don't know where he gets the energy, honestly. Then he drove me home while on his phone yapping the whole trip.

So it was the whole gamut of emotions that I always feel about my dad--anger, pity, pride, awe, humor, embarrassment--all at once at times. I've picked up a lot of his bad habits and none of his few good ones, so for all I know, he's embarrassed that the only time he can be proud of his boy is when he talks about the spelling bee 16 years ago. But Sunday did remind me that, no matter how small-time he is as an entertainer, he has always cast a large shadow that I've struggled to fit into, which is why I hardly ever talk when I'm with him. That will probably never change. What I can do from this point until he dies is just watch him do his thing and pick out the finer points of his schtick and apply them to my existence. After all, many people would love to have a father around at all.

Who else would teach me that women get hot for harmonica players?

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