Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Jalen Cameron -- The 7 Day Theory
On November 9, 2001 -- exactly one year before my wedding day -- I learned the secret to a long, successful marriage. The future Mrs. Bootleg and I were up in Long Beach for the wedding of one of my former co-workers. During the reception, we engaged in idle conversation with everyone else seated at our table and met a couple who'd been married for 16 years. At the time, this seemed like an eternity so we listened intently as they dispensed the advice I've never forgotten:
Maintain separate interests. Don't do everything together. It's OK to be away from each other.
Depending on your perspective, this either sounds obvious or absurd. The couple at our table added additional context as the evening wore on, explaining that the time apart -- due to their respective jobs or hobbies or even the occasional vacation -- made their time together that much better. Corny? Probably. But, my soon-to-be wife and I were intrigued by their ideas and wished to subscribe to their newsletter.
I wisely decided NOT to enthusiastically endorse this couple's "separation proclamation" at the reception. It could've been a meticulously-planned trap set by my fiancée with reasonably-priced day players in the roles of wedding guests, baiting me from a script designed to test my commitment. Thankfully, on the 90-minute drive back to San Diego, future Mrs. Bootleg offered her own enthusiastic endorsement. (If it were a trap, she wouldn't have sold it so hard. "Let the mouse FIND the cheese". Right, ladies?)
To the surprise of no one reading this lightly-read blog, I've followed the above advice with far greater frequency than my wife. But, on July 14 -- on the heels of my four-day vacation in New York -- Mrs. Bootleg and one of her best friends left with their bags packed for a SEVEN day trip to New York. And, Rome. A-a-a-and, Paris.
I suppose I could pen a third-person travel diary about their adventures through Newark, New Jersey, The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway or the 14-hour train ride from Rome to Paris. Or, I could write about how Jalen and I spent our week as abandoned black men. Yeah, let's do that one.
Wife's out of town for next seven days. Getting chance to introduce son to new foods my wife wouldn't allow in house. Tonight: pizza rolls. -- from my Twitter feed; Thursday, July 14.
Whenever I play the stereotypical "man who can't cook" card, I feel obligated to point out that I can cook. I make a solid little lasagna, a respectable chicken jambalaya and the greatest tuna salad known to man. I can make a few other foods, but this paragraph is already guaranteed to garner a "why come you don't cook, then?" comment from my wife, so we'll leave it at this.
I've previously mentioned that my seven-year-old son is the pickiest of eaters. Despite allowing him to examine the pizza rolls box and the obvious smell of cheap frozen pizza permeating throughout Stately Bootleg Manor, Jalen was convinced I was trying to slip him something healthy.
Jalen: "What's in this?"
Me: "Pepperoni and cheese. It's a PIZZA roll, J."
Jalen: [pauses] "You eat it first."
Well played, Jalen.
Taking son to Giants v. Padres. Lincecum pitching. Wrong to leave during postgame fireworks show so I beat the crowd? No? Thanks! -- Twitter; Friday, July 15.
Since Jalen LOVES the kid-sized baseball diamond that's just beyond the left field wall at the Padres home ballpark, we're required to arrive moments after the gates open -- 90 minutes before first pitch. Jalen didn't seem fazed by his embarrassing performance with the bat -- hitting the ball roughly three feet from home plate -- and took the field where he chased down every groundball, fly ball and baserunner. Sometimes successfully!
The Padres didn't put up much of a fight that evening, falling to the Giants, 6-1. And, I'm happy to report...we beat the crowd.
At my barbershop. Bootleg copy of "Cars 2" on TV. This sends several mixed messages to my son. I assume he's morally torn. On the inside. -- Twitter, Saturday, July 16.
The day after I got back from New York, I took Jalen to see Cars 2. He didn't seem to enjoy it, as his favorite parts from the original film (the NASCAR-esque racing sequences) were deemphasized in favor of a disposable Disney spy story. Three weeks later, Jalen was staring slack-jawed at the flat-screen TV that displayed the unmistakably grainy video of an illicitly-duplicated DVD.
After our haircuts, Jalen turned to me and sadly asked, "Can we go to the movies and see Cars 2, again?" Judging by Jalen's melodramatic tone, he wasn't asking for permission. He was asking if it was even possible to see the movie again. As of this writing, Jalen and I have seen the movie four times. I'm left wondering if it's possible to un-see it from here on out.
Sunday, July 17
Jalen and I met up with several other fathers and sons for a few hours of baseball practice. After we took the kids through the usual hitting, fielding and pitching drills; the afternoon ended with some good-natured competition: fathers vs. sons. I was stationed at shortstop when an especially uppity eight-year-old stepped to the plate. This little boy was obviously talented, but his incessant trash-talking turned all the adults against him. We were NOT letting him reach base.
Predictably, he smashed the first pitch towards me. I took two clumsy steps to my left, made a stumbling lunge into the infield dirt and watched the watched the ball rocket past my glove. On the play, I somehow managed to scrape and bloody BOTH of my elbows and BOTH of my knees. Jalen's unintentionally derisive response ("Don't worry, daddy. Mommy bought more Band-Aids.") was the most painful owie of them all.
Monday, July 18
Jalen: "What are you making?"
Me: "I thought I'd make you a peanut butter sandwich to take for lunch."
Jalen: [watching] "That's not how mommy makes it."
Me: "It's a peanut butter sandwich, Jalen. Peanut butter and bread. I make it the same way mommy makes it."
Jalen: "No, you don't. Mommy makes it with love." [casually walks off]
Tuesday, July 19
Five minutes before leaving the house to drop off Jalen at summer camp, he doesn't even look up from tying his shoes when he says to me, "I need fabric because we're making backpacks today." As his father, I'm obligated to run through the usual parental interrogation: "What do you mean you need fabric TODAY?!" "How long have you known about this?" "Are you SURE you need it today?" "Do you REALLY think there's a fabric store open at 8:00 AM, Jalen?!"
Thankfully, I was able to procure a 24-hour arts-and-crafts rain check from Jalen's camp. Now, all I had to do was find a fabric shop somewhere in San Diego and buy a half-yard of material. After explaining my plight to a co-worker, she recommended a shop called Jo-Ann's -- just 10 minutes from my office. I expected a quaint, old-timey storefront with "Jo-Ann" greeting customers at the door and offering a plate of freshly-baked ladyfingers. Instead, Jalen and I entered a sterile airplane hangar filled floor-to-ceiling with fabrics. It had been 15 years since a more intense fish-out-of-water story had been told.
After 15 minutes, we'd completed three laps of the building's interior and still hadn't found anyone on the floor to assist us. Jalen hastened the incineration of my increasingly short fuse by asking "Are you sure this is the fabric shop?" over and over...as we were surrounded by nothing BUT fabric. Finally, we came across some blue fabric with baseballs all over it -- and, I had no idea what to do with it. Do I buy the whole thing or just tear off what I need?
We figured it all out. Eventually.
Wednesday, July 20
Our last full day without Mrs. Bootleg and Jalen gets in trouble at summer camp. His swim instructor sent home a page-long "note" stating that Jalen was overly competitive, only concerned with winning and reacted extremely negatively to losing during their spirited rounds of "sharks and minnows".
Good to see that a week without his mother had no impact on Jalen's behavior.