Monday, November 27, 2006

Was that a turkey I saw?

I was struck by my friend Charles' recent comments about the loss of his family's Thanksgiving traditions. My own Thanksgiving, this year, seemed to further mark that same steady progression away from the familiar in my own life.

Thanksgiving day had been a gathering of my wife and kids and my brothers wife and kids at my parents house since I was a kid. When my dad passed, we attempted to maintain this tradition, but we sometimes went out to eat, and sometimes we had my mom over to our house for the day. One year, we all went to my brothers' in-laws for the Turkey meal, which was a different but pleasant experience.

After my mom passed, the Thanksgiving tradition was broken. Last year we spent our first Thanksgiving in Texas and the sense of loss and seperation from home and the past became almost overwhelming. Some friends here were very kind and invited us to their home. The people were extremely nice and the food was incredible, but the experience could not quell the steadily mounting sense of holiday homesickness that seemed to permeate the entire season in 2005.

This year, I realized I was coming down with a cold on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I missed work on Wednesday and hoped to feel better for the Thanksgiving meal at Taura's cousin's home. Taura's cousin is the geographically closest family here in Texas and I was looking forward to spending the holiday with ACTUAL relatives.

Sadly, Thursday morning saw my cold becoming a full blown respiratory infection and I was unable to go anywhere. I sent Taura and the kids off to enjoy the day with family while I stayed home in bed. I was fairly sick most of the weekend, but got well enough to return to work today.

I realize all this reads like quite the pity party, but it is weighing on my mind with Christmas quickly approaching, that I miss home and friends...and family...

...and mom and dad.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lightsabers, camera, action...

Halloween approached and our boys' facsination with Star Wars, Jedi, and lightsabers in particualar, combined with the increased asthetic sense that greater maturity brings, led to the wife moving on from the store bought Jedi costumes of last year to something a little more...elaborate for 2006.

She spent weeks making the costumes seen here and NO that is NOT me in the Vader outfit. In order to get more bang for the buck we took them to a local comic con the week before Halloween and then to Wizard World Texas this past Saturday IN COSTUME. This photo was taken at the Dallas Comicon where the kids won second and third place in the kids division of the costume contest. They were beaten out of first by a baby in a Poison Ivy costume. Go figure.

In between these two pop culture events at which the boys were a big hit, was Halloween night. There is a tradition, it seems, in Texas of taking children to certain neighborhoods which are somehow mystically designated as the 'place to be' for Halloween. Last year we took them to a recommended Trick or Treat locale only to be lost in a sea of humanity. It was a mob of costumed children and the kids literally waited in line to get candy at each house. It was overwhelming. This year, I thought of a neighborhood which we had discovered that took Christmas decorating pretty seriously. I surmised Halloween would get a similar treatment.

I was not proven wrong, as we had once again found one of the 'special neighborhoods'. While not as bad as last year, it was still unbelievable as police officers were there to direct traffic. It was a more upscale neighborhood and not quite so crowded and therefore resulted in a more satisfying and less frustrating experience in general.

The costumes are a little over the top but these times won't last forever. The oldest will be eleven on his next birthday and I'm sure the desire for this aspect of Halloween will begin to fade soon. I guess knowing that drives Taura and I to enjoy these times as much as possible. They are growing up so very, very fast.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Legend is a Legend...

It dawned on me recently that I had failed to comment here on this year's G.I. Joe Convention in New Orleans, except to philosophize about the state of BBQ in Texas.

The show was a great time to be sure. I saw many familiar faces and got to spend time with old friends. Taura got to see New Orleans again for the first time since spending a summer there as a child and the boys got to see, first hand, the city recounted in many a mother's tale. It was also good to see a city rebounding from the terrible human tragedy left in nature's wake.

In retrospect, though, the actual high point of the show for me was meeting Sgt. Slaughter. I am not really a fan of pro wrestling, but back in the 80s, the man known in wrestling circles as Sgt. Slaughter had actually become a character in G.I. Joe cartoons and an action figure in the toy line several times over. In doing so, he transcended his primary vocation as he was forever tied to the incarnation of G.I. Joe known as 'The Real American Hero'. I didn't know what to expect when we arranged to have him as a guest at the show, but I was very impressed once I met him. He was quite the gentleman and had more incredible stories to tell than almost anyone I've ever met.

At a dinner with the folks from Hasbro, Sgt. Slaughter told of meeting U.S. Presidents, a request for an autograph under the men's room stall at Disney World and more tales than I can remember. The stories never stopped while we chatted over catfish and po' boys. He REALLY needs to write a book about his career and those of us seated near him at the retaurant just off Bourbon St. told him so repeatedly.

I strive to remain as non-starstruck as possible in these situations, but the experience was something like meeting Batman. Like Batman, Sgt. Slaughter is an almost mythic figure in pop culture. But unlike the Caped Crusader, The Sarge is at the same time a living breathing man. Despite being an icon, his gentle manner often disguised his sharp wit and he was never at a loss for words. At one point during the weekend, The Sarge jokingly offered to wrestle me for the Custom 12" Sgt Slaughter I had made, but I declined telling him he could probably take me. He wanted to buy the figure, but I promised instead to make one for him and send it to him. I am still fighting to find the time to make good on my promise. Putting together the correct mix of odds and ends is a challenge as well, but I will get it done. He was so good at the show - to the fans, and to me - it is the least
I can do.

Pro wrestling was never really my style, so to speak, but a legend is a legend.