Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Man Maketh The Man

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up Owen?
OWen: A construction worker. Or a sandwich.

For six months of last year I lived 2000 miles away from my kids. They were raised by their mother. For those of us in the United States we are all well aware that there are strangely powerful political bodies that think that's the sort of thing that corrupts young men. And by, "corrupts" they mean, "makes them gay". Except they tend to use words like, "sissies". Or even go for what they think is the academic-sounding, "effeminate". By which they still again mean, "gay". Mind you these are the same people who think the over-three years I was a stay at home Dad was an even bigger makes-them-gay stain on my family's life. And yes - clearly I'm waiting with baited breath for the Google searches that bring people here purely for their search of, "gay stain".

Anyhoo - as everybody knows what a boy needs is a strong, father-figure to develop into a real, balanced, masculine man. Someone who can show him what a Man actually means. You know - flannel, guns and chewing tobacco. To paint that picture of strong, brooding masculinity. A cast-iron, Jason Statham-like avatar he can take as an example as to what to drive towards when he grows into stereotypical, American Manhood.

Thank God I'm here. To be fair I am the gayest straight man you're likely to meet. I like window shopping in Hobby Lobby and Home Goods, smelling nice and have a fervent shoe-fetish. Actually let's back that up a touch - not a shoe fetish. That strongly insinuates that I spend my Sundays putting my willy in random shoes at DSW (I don't care what anyone says - those photos were faked). No - I just really like nice shoes. So no - I don't want to fuck shoes. But do want to fuck you in really nice shoes (you know who you are...). Then go shopping in Home Goods and Lush for candles and bath bombs.

Anyway - I thought you might like to know what Owen has become. How's he's changed and how he's the same as he ever was. First and foremost - he still has a sometimes-religious fear of having his photo taken. The kind of suspicion of photography that makes you think he's either Amish or in the Taliban. Seriously - look at the distrust in his eyes.

Unless he's doing something incredibly cheeky. Usually involving underpants. Then he's a massive camera whore. Can't stop him shutting up about how I should take a photo and send it to my best friend. The fact he's aware I'm writing on this again has him giddy at the prospect of a photo of him doing something completely absurd will be online again. Of course I'd never go along with that.

Outside of that he spent a period of time absolutely convinced the highest number in the world was 209. Utterly convinced, he was. Right up to the point where I told him about the number 210 and it was like showing a caveman fire for the first time.

He still has an incredible knack for picking out the worst choices for the Weekend Family Movie Night. His sister might be famous for being able to hunt down stunningly, iffy books to read. But Oboe - he can find the dodgiest DVD every time.

 In short though - Owen though has basically turned into a sixteen year old boy. As in he can't stop talking about boobs and arses and wants to spend the entire day on the computer. Since getting to Arizona I've at least managed to get him to stop saying, "butt" every five minutes. Granted he's replaced that with either, "bum" or, "bum cheeks". And he does still stick his arse out like a baboon presenting itself. But eradicating the word, "butt" at least is something. It's a horrible word. I know a lot of Americans think it's a milder, nicer form of, "ass". But it's just an unpleasant word. It's a lot sharper and blunt than the lovely, round sound of the word, "bum". Still - I wish he'd stop singing, "Daddy's bum cheeks are so good. I want to eat them for dinner" ten times a day.

His boob thing is just what boys do, I gather, Granted Owen had a raging, nipple obsession. That's gone (mostly). But been replaced by a passion for remarking - quite loudly I might add - that random women he can see have boobs. The few times we've been off swimming in the pool near my house he's openly told a few women that their boobs are big. Which in an odd way I'm sure is flattering. Until he asks them, "why?" I probably shouldn't have cheekily added as explanation, ".....his mother doesn't have any" that one time. But I have had to have the chat with him that some people don't want their body parts remarked upon. He seems t get it. But still has that astonished look in his eye if he wanders by someone he can't quite believe has deliberately grown boobs. It's a far cry from when I was a kid and I'd flick through the Littlewood's catalogue underwear section cheekily giggling because you could see ladies belly buttons.Nope - he's graduated straight to boobs. Little pervert.

Add his latest line of he-thinks-he's-hilarious line of questioning is to state that, "wouldn't it be ridiculous if someone wanted to ride someone's bum cheeks daddy!?" Partly this is because since he's been in Pre-K he's picked up a stunning amount of second hand information and habits that every parent has to battle through. Partly because this means he still gets to say, "bum cheeks" out loud in a brazen oh-my-God-I'm-so-bloody-clever way. And partly - I cling in hope to anyway - is because he knows that I've told him that no question is a bad question - no matter how weird or rude it might seem at first. The last few days though he's modified that to asking me very loudly until I answer, "you don't want to ride anyone's bum cheeks do you Daddy!?" At which point my strong sense of never wanting to lie to my kids has me considering saying, "...well actually...." before enthusiastically gushing about who is on my very short list of one. But instead I tend to frantically answer that by asking a question in return about anything in particular I can think of at the time.

As far as his computer obsession goes - that's got to change. Part of the reason his mother argues she moved to Arizona was to be able to go outside as much as possible. The irony of course being that the kids and I didn't care what the weather was like in NY state - we just went outside in whatever clothes were needed. Add that today it's 105 degrees and Owen appears to be quite sensitive to the heat to the point of chundering all over my car earlier. So naturally he wants to stay inside and play on the computer. I've considered trying to shock him out of it by firstly boring him about the history of computers. A few dull tales about the Enigma computer codes, Alan Turing, BBC computers when I was in school and a 45 minutes lesson about Tim Berners-Lee and maybe he'll just want to do something else. Or I could show him that principally people go online now either to meet women or watch women doing foul, depraved, wonderful things. Then swing it back to how surely 100 years ago Enigma Porn must have been a thing. Surely Nazis must have tried using the Enigma machines to send rude messages back and forth.

Lastly though - one thing you can rest easy about is that the boy can dance. Like a twat - but it's a dance all the same. 

Now if you'll pardon me - I'm off to look at jewelry charms on Etsy.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Big Bad Mother Clucker

My kids won't stop talking about Minecraft.

I remember three or four years ago gloating about how my kids didn't adhere to the regular model of childhood because they weren't fervently addicted to whatever trendy thing all kids were hoovering up like crack. Sure my son carried his toy Thomas the Tank Engine around like an extra appendage. He still was through last summer when he remembered to as well. See - this is last July (when I came to visit) and he's clearly just realized Thomas is too far away.

By the time I arrived for Halloween Thomas was done. He and every bit of wooden track Owen owned was shoved into a big, storage tub and was ignored. By that point him and his sister were religiously addicted to Ninjago. That's Lego Ninja, for the uninitiated. It's your usual kids formula TV. Basically four or five friends who live together - each ones main characteristic pretty much displayed by the kind of hair they have - who say sarcastic things in between doing heroic things that involve kicking the piss out of people. As is typical of this sort of show EVERY single character is male. Right up until the show introduces a female character that divides the main characters firmly between two camps of, "ewww girls" and over-exaggeratedly horny. Obviously she disguises herself as a boy-ninja to avoid being all gross/hot and girly to everyone. Think the portrayals of boys and girls in the Bob/Flasheart episode of Blackadder and you're in the right area. I presume if you buy the Lego you have to build your own Ninja erection.

Anyway - they're still into that a bit. But after a brief dalliance with Iron Man and Spiderman (the new cartoon ones - so dudes hanging out being sarcastic and kicking the piss out of people) they've fallen into the cult of Minecraft. Quite honestly - I don't get it. On the one hand it seems like pure marketing seeing as they're just blocky, lumps that do......something. I mean come on - the main guys name is Steve. What kind of hero is called Steve?! But it's a lot more harmless and entertaining than an awful lot of things they could be hooked on. Here's Oboe with one of his Steves.

Strictly speaking though they aren't obsessed with Minecraft. No - they're obsessed with Dan of the Diamond Minecart. He's an English bloke who basically has a gazillion videos of himself on Youtube playing different Minecraft games. My son could watch it from waking till falling asleep. His addiction level is that high right now that if I'm not letting them watch it on my laptop they want to know why - as if a grave injustice is occurring. And as with most things I have no problem with Dan or his Diamond Minecart. He's nice enough. I know some people can't tolerate his monotone voice. But nope - it's just the "all things in moderation" thing. There's only so much Dan I want in our day. Actually my best friend pointed me in his direction. Thanks honey.

But as is the way every single moment lately all I can hear is them talking about Minecraft. "Daddy do you know what Mooshrooms are? They're cows that are also mushrooms in Minecraft..." This will inevitably be followed by a five minute diatribe of unrelated pish that involve what appear to be very important facts (judging by their tone) about things you can and cannot do in Minecraft. Followed usually by a not-actually-funny tale about how once Dan did something and oh my God it was hilarious. Which again - is fine. But we went swimming. Nothing but Minecraft talked about. Went to the zoo. Minecraft. We rode a train around the zoo and the entire trip was spent with Owen and Evelyn asking each other what exactly happened in an episode called The Big Bad Mother Clucker. Which they wont stop repeating. Endlessly. I'm at that point where I have to erase that memory from them in case they say it out in public. Or in front of their mother again.

So instead we've been doing lots of wholesome things that good little boys and girls should. Lots of educational things to purify their minds and expand their learning. Wholesome things. For example I took them to the Science Museum a while back where they could climb inside a huge bowel and then be shitted down a slide.

And then I showed them a video on how babies are made. Clearly by the look on Owen's face he wasn't expecting to learn  those things about vaginas.

That'll learn them. One mention of Mother Cluckers today and I'm putting The Walking Dead on.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Man Who Sits In Toothpaste

Daughter: How are you so white daddy? Your bum looks like it's made of coconut.

I've asked people here a ludicrous amount of questions since I moved. Admittedly at first it was either "why in God's name are you wearing a coat?" And, "please - it's so brutally hot - why do people live here? You have to tell me..." I remember spending a morning at coffee shops and the library asking other people if they also spend their relaxing evenings on their apartment balconies under the warm glow of police helicopters. After some deeply uncomfortable encounters that then moved to me asking random people (and I genuinely do mean random strangers) "how the hell can there be a bug in my house the size of a babies foot?" And, "if there really is no way to stop scorpions from getting inside your house WHY DO PEOPLE LIVE HERE?" After a very short period of time  - as I warmed to the place (very much in a solar sense) that changed to asking people why every other block you drive down has a dentist, an Urgent Care and a Wallgreens on it. And why the Urgent Care places have named themselves Ouch! Personally I think that makes minor wounds seem a little too playfully cute. Very much in the American lexicon of, "Friendly Fire." Although that has convinced me that all STDs should have an exclamation mark at the end of them when written from now on. Imagine much brighter would someones day would be after going to the doctor because their urethra itches to look down at the pamphlet they've given to read, "So - You've Got Herpes!"

My curiosity spilled over to my kids. Who in turn remembered lots of questions they had when they moved here six months earlier. However - just like me - that was a startlingly brief period, and their questions quickly evolved into asking (usually whilst laughing) why I was so white. Or, "can I have a milkshake?" Or why people spent so much time and money trying to grow grass in their yard when a) it's the desert, and b) it always ends up looking like the world's worst mini golf course. My son wanted to know why there are so many girls in bikinis on every other street corner jiggling at you to go get a car wash. Actually that's hilarious - there are LOADS of these bikini-girls. The hilarious part being that almost every time if you look fifteen feet to the nearest parking lot where you can get your car washed you will nearly always see four or five massive Mexican men waiting to wash your car. It's the perfect boner killer for those perverts that saw the fifteen year old girl jumping and down - only to now find themselves sat uncomfortably in their car outside a Title Max Loans as that girls dad and his brothers glare menacingly through the windshield.

I cannot stress how hilarious my daughter thought the whiter parts of my body were as the more exposed parts became more tanned. She would ask me how I was so white all the time. She'd even ask if I'd visited the opposite of Arizona and somehow got whiter. Coconuts. Milk. Toothpaste. These are just three things she accused me of sitting in to get such a white bottom. Every other hour I could tell by the lilt in her voice that she was driven again to ask, "But Daddy - How!?!" My son wanted to know why anyone would be remotely interested in Thomas the Tank Engine. Yeah - let that sink in. If ever there was a candidate to grow up and be on one of those Channel Five television shows about people who might have put their willy on a train it would have been him. But not now. Thomas is so 2013, man. More on that another time though.

My daughter also wanted very much to know why scientists hadn't invented a playground that wasn't made out of plastic and metal - especially considering that in Upstate New York in Summer you couldn't go down a slide because you'd singe your arse. Yet here we were in Glendale, Arizona where it was Summer in December. Actually parks have canopies over them. So do parking lots and cafes and outdoor sitting anywhere. This is a place where people move to so they can spend their days avoiding seasons, rain and having to stay indoors because the weather is crappy. And yet from the end of June through early October people avoid going outside for fear the sun might touch their skin and burn it instantly. Think that bit in Indiana Jones and The Raiders of The Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Arc of the Covenant. Or getting Russell Brand's sperm on your skin. That kind of brutal.

And no - I didn't consider resolving the Casper The Friendly Ghost whiteness of my derriere by taking a few trips down a slide or two. Good old fashioned flashing joggers in the park did the trick there.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Wilted Cheesestick

The very first person I saw in Phoenix opened their car with an oven glove.

You know those science fiction movies where people are taken to a barren, suspiciously-beige, prison-planet to be left to rot in the brutally, relentless desert heat for the remainder of their lives? Welcome to Phoenix. I know what you're thinking. "But Gavin - you're a delicate flower. A tender, shockingly white cherubin who'd surely wilt in the desert. And yes - while it is true that if a Jason Bourne-style, super spy/assassin was to hide undercover within the general populace, then absolutely no-one would suspect it would be a milk-bottle-white Englishman in Arizona (although it totally, probably is you Gavin....tough as ten bears as we all know....) - the desert is no place for a girly, Milky Bar Kid, man-boy like you."

A native Arizonian
Alright. Steady on the girly, man-boy stuff. Jeez. Anyhoo - the first hour I set foot in Phoenix it was 107 degrees and my shoe melted. That's when I saw the oven-glove lady. And said, "fuck" out loud every four minutes purely because of the relentless heat. And realized that Arizona is bona fide mental after watching someone watering the driveway outside their house because it gets so hot the concrete cracks. That's right - people  here think using a hosepipe in a desert to keep the concrete cool is a thing. Think of it this way - the first Transformers movie and post-apocalyptic, nightmare movie The Postman were filmed here. So was Natural Born Killers. As were two of the Star Trek movies. And two of the Star Wars movies. And Planet of the Apes (the original and the remake). And Psycho. And Tank Girl. And Rambo III - which is set in Afghanistan. And Jarhead - which is about Operation Desert Storm. Basically if you want to make a movie that looks like aliens might bugger you, psychopaths might butcher you, scary foreigners might genocide you or gay Mancunians might try to be and gay and from Manchester on you (no idea on the last one - but it was on this list) - Arizona is the de facto place to do it. 

And seriously - I can't over-emphasize how hot it is here. Pardon me - I mean how fucking hot it is. That is the only word that helps articulate how hot it actually is. The locals bang on about a "dry heat" and how that's great. Well yes - if it was also humid nobody in their right mind would live here. Except Doug Stanhope and Hunter S. Thompson. But I repeat myself. Actually when I visited last year my thermometer in the rental car said 118 Fahrenheit. That's 48 degrees Celsius. I actually took a drive out into the desert and stopped to take this photo because I was stunned to see something green. At which point a guy passing stopped, said he noticed I had no tan (seriously.....) and refused to leave until I drove off because he said us tourists are always doing demented nonsense like wandering about in the desert without water being unusually white. He didn't say this I'm sure - but my memory of him has him telling me, "this isn't fun boy - this is Arizona."

That was last July. I only visited for four days and thought it was pure Hell. I hated it. I knew that despite the fact that my children now lived on what felt like the surface of the sun that every physical part of my body couldn't survive in Arizona. So obviously late last October I moved to Glendale, Arizona. There were a few reasons I didn't move in the early Spring of 2014 when my ex wife up-and-moved 2000 miles with our kids. We'll conveniently avoid those. But in October 2014 I called my son and he didn't want to talk to me. Or the next day. Or the next week. So I knew I had to move. Finally at the end of October he said he would only talk to me if I picked him up from school. Three days later I picked him up from school.

So Arizona. Very much the Mel Gibson of states. Yes, there's something incredibly likeable about it - but lurking not that far underneath there's something quite unsavory. Not to mention drive five minutes from anywhere and it looks exactly like the kind of place that Toecutter will show up trying to ram you off the road to siphon your gasoline in Mad Max. Arizona has got quite a stigma. On the one hand - it's known as an extremely right-wing, geriatric-dense, strangely fundamentalist, prejudicial, Sherrif Arpiao-run shithole teeming with cockroaches, old people from up north hiding from the Winter and Mexicans that somehow scare people as far as Upstate New York into thinking America is being taken over by nefarious foreigners who don't speak proper English like what they does.

And I'm sure it is seeing as politically that's who seems to run quite a lot of Southern Arizona. Personally I haven't really come across that. A majority of people I've met aren't from here at all. Quite a few of them aren't even Americans. To be fair I have met some spectacular lunatics. I was accosted quite early on by a "Soldier of Christ" whilst going out for iced coffee. They were quite shouty. And I know everything is relative - but everyone of those buggers I met wearing coats the day I moved into my place because it was a chilly 80 degrees can piss off. Plus there are a sizable number of escapee Mormons down this way. Met an eccentric-but-nice Mormon lady first week I was here. Who also happened to be a Goth. And a witch. And writes erotic vampire fiction. Apart from telling me she knew I was supposed to be in Arizona because she'd cast a spell specifically to bring me here, she was actually pretty nice. In fact most everyone else I've met has been kind, open, liberally-minded and nice. Really nice. It makes you wonder if there's just a cultural misunderstanding when you see this below next to quite a pompous, organic grocery store. Basically that's everything that Arizona seems to be portrayed as in one photo - a strip mall with a church and a gun shop with a name newspapers seem to give to people who massacre people at a school.

Anyway. That'll do for now. I have a ridiculous amount of things to talk with you about.

Oh - and hello again by the way. Absolutely fucking delighted to be writing this inane pish again.