Dropping off wifesy this morning was quite the experience. California is a new home-base for me and there are several thing about it that I didn’t know. For 1) TUMBLE-FECKIN’-WEEDS. When I was a kid growing up, the only tumbleweeds I ever saw were in old western movies. I had no idea what they were. They looked like big rolls of brown, cotton candy, and they always seemed to roll through town when something ominous was going to happen.
But, tumbleweeds in California are like pigeons in New York city. They are everywhere to the point where if you didn’t know, you’d assume they owned the place. Wifesy tells me they are sage brush. Dried out, sage brush, I suppose. Never mind that I never see this “sage brush” actually implanted in the ground. I never walk by something and go, “Oh, what pretty sage brush” – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this brush anywhere except dried up, balled together, and coming straight for the grill of my car. So, my guess is that these tumbleweeds fall from the heavens. It’s god’s version of ‘space invaders’. She drops the tumbleweeds and guffaws as multiple cars on the California highways try to dodge them without hitting each other. Yep, tumbleweeds are god’s video game. God is having a laugh.
As we dodged tumbleweeds, collecting points as we went, I was very thankful for one thing – MY SUNGLASSES. Sunglasses aren’t just a necessity in California, they’re like an unspoken law. In New York, you wear sunglasses in the summer, just to sort of say to people, “Hey, I’m a New Yorker and I’m prepared for any season. You should see my winter snow/ rain boots. They are very trendy.” But, if you went without them in the big apple, really, it’s no biggie. In Scotland, where I lived briefly after New York, when you wore sunglasses people thought you were an a**hole. Literally, people thought you were ‘putting on airs’. That’s how unnecessary sunglasses are in the land of rain and good beer. But, in Cali they are a lifesaver. If you’re not wearing them within seconds you will be blinded by the sun and probably have an eyeball’s full of dust. Your retinas will be blinded, burned, and dirty, all because you forgot your protective eye goggles, I mean, cute surfer-looking, Von Zippers.
I shifted my sunglasses and adjusted the radio, as wifesy and I weaved down the highway. Guns N’ Roses came on. It was “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and I said to wifesy, “This is back when Guns N’ Roses” were good. She nodded in agreement and smiled. Then I started talking about Little Monster, the husky pup we fostered for a few days. Turns out, on top of losing an arm, Little Monster was sick with parasites. Something the breeding facility gave her. So, back to the hospital she went to clear up that mess. I definitely had a heart surge for that little pup, but after a few days of being covered in liquid poo, I was kind of done. I mentioned to wifesy that maybe a husky just wasn’t the right breed for our little pack. My frenchie, on the other hand, I’d take a bullet for. I’m a big Cesar Milan fan and he always says that you need to find the right breed for the right family.
That’s such a big concept. The right breed for the right family. I have a vivid memory of one Dog Whisperer episode where Cesar visits a tough Latino guy and his family. The guy is deathly afraid of pitbulls, probably from being tormented by them in his neighborhood growing up. Unfortunately, pitbulls are known as the thug-dog and crappy owners condition them to be much more aggressive then they should be. Cesar works with his Latino friend and his family to get over his pitbull fear, which he does. The Latino guy wants a dog and being a macho Latino he assumes that he should get a big dog, maybe not a pit, but a big dog so he won’t look like a maricon in his neighborhood. (That’s Spanish for gay, people.) Cesar tries out a couple of dogs on the family and then he settles on some kind of Chihuahua mix. A small, little, tiny, teensy, weensy dog or this big feckin’ guy. I loved it. Cesar says, “Listen, amigo, this is the right dog for you.”
Continuing our commuter chat, I said to wifesy, “You know, wouldn’t it be great if much like getting the right breed of dog for your family, you could get the right breed of kid?” For example, you have a bookish kid born into a family that likes to play football and spends their weekends enjoying motocross sports. The bookish kid is constantly frowning, reading, wearing black, and listening to Morissey. Then Cesar steps in and says, “No, this is the wrong breed of kid for your family.” He takes the bookish child and drops him off with a couple in upstate New York. In Ithaca, specifically, the town that houses Cornell University. His new parents are college professors. They spend each evening quizzing each other and Sundays languishing over every major national newspaper while sipping coffee and making homemade waffles. Bookish kid is beside himself with happiness and if he had a tail, you’d be sure to see him wagging it.
This idea got me thinking about my own family. My mom and dad are such suburban conservatives who want nothing more than bushels of grandkids. Instead, they got two gay kids. Sadly, more than anything, I think this embarrasses them. They’re coming around, in their own way, in their own time, but I know my dad, for one, is mainly embarrassed. This saddens me because I can tell you – confidently, due to many, many years of therapy – that I’m not really someone to be embarrassed about. In fact, you might want to feel the opposite about me – maybe proud, even? I am with a woman, yep, but there’s also a strength and a courage there that could highlighted, instead of being embarrassed by it.
My “cousin” – on the other hand – lives ten minutes away from my parents. She is not really blood related, but she’s closer to me than any blood cousin I have. We’re about the same age and we’ve known each other since birth. She is the daughter of my dad’s oldest and best friend. Her dad passed away and my dad stepped in as a sort of surrogate grandparent to her kids. My mom and dad go over there almost every holiday and a lot of weekends. She raises her kids in her suburban house, ten minutes away from my parents, with her dentist husband. When I think of her, I can’t help, but think this is what my parents wanted for us. Meanwhile, my brother and I live across the country in big urban areas that are supportive of gays. Maybe my parents got the wrong breed.
Nevertheless, I can’t be anything, but myself.
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