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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dances With Iguanas

My grandchild is spoiled. It’s true that in the past his grandmother and I have been guilty of a fair share of the indulging, but I have resolved to end my part of the pampering post haste.

I was never so praised when I made a doo (I cannot bring myself to say doo-doo), nor do I now receive acclaim for such even though it currently takes considerably more effort than it did then. Maybe if I had been so adored I wouldn’t be the angst ridden maniacal columnist you read before you.

One would think our grandson Toddd (Yes, there are three d’s. It’s an in-law thing), who is in his terrible two’s, had just cured cancer or discovered spam for the response he gets when he fills his incredibly elastic shorts.

We give Toddd nice things--as is our responsibility as grandparents. He doesn’t know they are nice. He dunks them into the toilet along with his dominoes, his hot wheels, and his collectible Iron man action figures.

Part of his youthful indiscretion is due to his--you guessed it--youth. Very young, he. And I can almost forgive him this when he does his post potty happy dance. However, a big part of his spoil-atude is because we don’t expect him to act any differently around nicer things.

If I let him play with my cell phone after he has been flushing, chewing, or banging on his rubber cell-phony facsimile, is he going to treat my real one any better? When I have to climb into the iguana habitat at the zoo to retrieve it, who gets the blame? Is it the cute two years old lamenting the lost phone he just hucked, or the forty year old with half his shirt dangling on the concertina wire above him coaxing the head iguana with the brass knuckles to give him back his phone.

If Toddd breaks the crystal lizard from the gift shop, we promptly buy him a new one so he can break that too. Okay, I shouldn’t be buying him crystal lizards to begin with. I just remember how fascinated I was with crystal when I was young, and so I expect that he will appreciate the same things I did. Nope.

In addition to the appalling appreciation factor, I should mention casually that Toddd pukes on my nice couch, draws on my leather ottoman with a black sharpie, and randomly paints stuff that came pre-painted.

So the issue I am presenting for myself and for the world at large is: at what age should kids start appreciating excellence? That is the evolved, mature query. My real question is: at what point can I stop using duct tape and a leash while babysitting, and how do I remove colorful finger paint from my ornamental Japanese Koi?

Another matter: at what point can I stop finding his mess making charming? His parents just smile and laugh and then strap him neatly into his car seat/throne bolted into their armored car and go home. This leaves me to glue the dog’s hair back on, and to peal my special anniversary Veal Parmesan from the guest room carpet.

Grandpas are supposed to take all this in stride--at least those Grandpas who are fortunate to have pharmacologist friends. I do not. My wife just smiles, looks all misty, and says “they grow up so fast”. I would like to know what bizarre, misguided, imaginary planet she’s living on. The child has been in his terrible two’s for the last four and a half years now. Four and a half years is not "time flying fast". At this rate I will be wearing a rug and gnawing on nitroglycerin tablets when it comes time for the youngster’s quinceaƱera--or whatever kind of party they give for non Hispanic blond boy children when they are presented to society (which in my day was called a booking/fingerprinting).

My dad doesn’t say anything when I call him to complain. He puts himself on mute and lets me rant while he laughs his bald little head off. It is clear that no one is going to rally round or even to commiserate with me. I have been abandoned like so many floating elasto-diapers on a sea of frightened but colorful Koi.

Consequently, I am thinking of renting a hotel room for the kid’s third birthday party which I plan on celebrating in, oh, five or so more years based on the snail paced passage of time. The party will not be at my house, however. Not even in my neighborhood.

“Help yourself to the hotels omelet bar, thanks for coming, and take a piece of birthday cake with you”.

So when he cuts holes in someone else’s sheers and spray paints his name on the rented linens I can walk away like a real grandpa and call it good because the joke is on him. There are three d’s in Toddd.

mission to mars

Who is going to sign up for colinizing mars?

Friday, January 14, 2011

I’m Going To Disneyla… Chernobyl!

And Now, Off To The Sandwich Shoppe!
The next in off-the-chart, fast tracking, jet setting tourist hot spots and adventure lands has turned out to be smack in the middle of the Ukraine which, for all of you who haven't played RISK, is somewhere around Scandinavia and Russia, but west-ish of Ural.

Frankly, I have never heard of Ural outside of the board game milieu. Ural always sounded like the answer to a sophomoric joke or the name of someone’s grandma from Idaho. Gratefully, there is no real reason to discuss Ural at length because no one lives there anymore except refugees from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. This mass departure of Ural’s natives inspired, by the way, their new National Anthem, the Hope-To-Get-Right-Out-Of-Here Blues soon to be recorded by Duran Duran for their comeback tour.

I know, I know, you all are thinking "Where can I get tickets for Duran Duran?" And you are also thinking "Nuclear disasters? Where can I go for more info, and by the way, where can I go for vacation this year?" Lucky for us, written on all Eastern Europe's travel brochures is the catchy phrase “Want a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and gift shoppe."

The old Soviet Union's officials are planning to open the area around Chernobyl, home of the 1986 nuclear plant meltdown, to "extreme tourism." A flashing neon billboard from the area promises that you can bring home a lifetime of lasting memories--which was a lovely thought until I realized that the billboard had no apparent power source.

Beginning January of 2011, the zone around reactor number four which exploded and spewed radiation over a large path of northern Europe will be opened to interested parties. This area has been hermetically sealed for twenty years. "Tourists will be able to learn more about the event that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago,” says a joint press release from the Emergency Situations Ministry and the Ministry-of-Quickly-Fleeing, “…and all will be able to spend time in the naturally heated spas and saunas.”

Personally I am so stoked that, at least mentally, I am packing my electric blue father’s day European Speedo that has been calling my name for months as well as the matching snorkel/personal flotation device.

Regarding tourism, the Ministry-of-Trying-to-Get-Folks-to-Spend-Money has recently said that it hopes to finish building a new safer shell for the exploded reactor. The new shelter will cover the original iron-and-concrete structure hastily built over the reactor that has been leaking radiation and threatening to collapse.

Incredibly, all visits to the site were prohibited until recently, but corporate America has been enthusiastic to defer some of the cost. A prosthetics company out of Pocatello is purchasing rights to sponsor a thrill ride which may or may not be attached to the new protective shell which may or may not be in place before 2015. Apparently there is not a ministry for being specific.

Today many employees (referred to as cast members according to the brochure) maintain what are now the remains of the closed nuclear plant, and they are tirelessly working in shifts to minimize their exposure to hair frying radiation. Meanwhile, several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a frowning international task force. Current support however, comes via corporate America’s sister city sponsorship through Three Mile Island Reality and by the hair removal product Nair.

Oh look honey! Our just born child has three eyes and an arm growing out of his patella; Reminds me of that treasured family trip to Chernobyl!

This good news has come in the nick of time if you ask me. My kids are now old enough to waste money on and have them remember the gesture. I was planning a trip to my favorite magical place on earth until I priced it. Who knew I was going to have to choose between money for their higher education or a family vacation? With these new developments we can fly to the Ukraine and spend two weeks enjoying the warmth and radiant heat for less than half what I would spend in sunny So-Cal.

Though my wife is somewhat circumspect, I am convinced. Emergency Situations Ministry spokesperson Yelena Y. Yershacovastain confirms that experts have developed travel routes that will be both medically safe as well as informative for foreign visitors. She did not give exact dates of when the tours were expected to begin nor, when asked to provide her credentials, did she leave any type of forwarding address.

"There are beautiful things to see there--if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group," Yelena said as she sprinted back to her office with a face mask muffling her last words which we think were “Come see us! Bring a shovel, a smile, and haz mat suit if you’ve got one handy.”

And remember to visit the Gift Shoppe for a souvenir fuel assembly rod, a handy Dry-cask storage unit, and a gallon of fudge.