Our lost together locations

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Product of My Environment

(A tip of the cap to MC Serch and PM Pete Nice AKA 3rd Bass, for the post title)

I feel like this is a relevant/necessary post.

January 14, 1970 will be my 40th birthday.

My father was 40 when I was born.

I have always had an issue (resented is too harsh a word) with my father's age, but I'm not sure if it's his mental or physical age that I've had the issue with.

Obviously, I didn't know my dad when he was 20 or 30 or 40. From what people tell me he was a little bit wild 'n crazy and a whole lot of smart. As everyone reading this knows, we all make decisions in life that affect us later on. In my dad's case, he chose to dropout of high school and never went back. I suspect there have been times when he looked back, but that really hasn't been a conversation we've had. I'd like to have it in person when we're back in February. I even tried to convince him to go back to school (high school or university) when he was in his early 60s, but he declined.

Those of you that know me, and I mean KNOW me, know that I can be a "boy". I giggle in staff meetings when people bring up having "yard duty, stair duty, basement duty" because they usually say "doodie" instead of "duty". I think it's funny when people burp or "bum burp" (fart, and one of my new fave expressions thanks to Martin and Tamara!), though I think it's all about time and place really. Mind you, I seem to do it everywhere. Just ask Jodi. I have been inappropriate my whole life, and sometimes it's not having the editing function needed, while others it's just about doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. As I've gotten older, I've aged more like a (fine?) wine (whine?) versus a vinegar. Or at least I think this to be the case. But for those of you who may find my behaviour sour, I'd like to think of myself as a well aged balsamic, in that there's some sweet in the taste, and it's not all acidic/sour.

Oh, and I love naked women. I think they're GREAT! But as my friend James says, "EVERYONE loves breasts!"

I have never played catch with my father. I've played catch with my mom a few times. I've played catch with Jodi's dad, and Wally is in his 70s. I've heard that my dad rode his bicycle to Hamilton from Toronto one day, but I don't remember seeing him on a bicycle.

Don't get my wrong, my dad has given me a lot. Maybe more than he'll ever know. He has been a kind, loving father and husband. A man who made sure his children and wife were provided for, no matter what he needed to do. We never went hungry, always had a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. We were taught right from wrong, and whether or not we chose to follow this was not his (or my mother's fault)!

My father has always had a love for music. Opera and classical often filled the house on the weekends when we were cleaning or lazing around. The blues and jazz were a close second. Without these things, I would be sorely lacking in culture. This was the base for me to fill in the blanks on where rap/hip-hop came from, and to know who Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters were, when I stumbled across their London Sessions with The Stones and Clapton, among others.

I know that my s**t disturbing side is thanks to my dad. For better or worse I suppose. For those of you that like this about me, it's him. For those of you that don't, it's him. Deal with it. He's got a sense of humour too, in a "dad" sorta way.

My dad grew up in Toronto's Kensington Market, the son of Polish immigrants and his first language was Yiddish, or Jewish. (Not Hebrew, for those of you unsure of this distinction.) As a child, I fondly remember going downtown with my dad to Chinatown for lunch or dinner. Sometimes we'd even have the pleasure of going to Sam The Record Man, where my dad would seek out Sid Sniderman (Sam's brother), who he knew from "the 'hood" and they'd kibbitz and we'd get a discount. (Yes, my desire/ability to score a bargain also comes from Stan The Man AKA my dad!)

I've always eaten Szechuwan or Cantonese "authentic" food because of my dad. It was never "gwai lo" Chinese for us, and I have always (ALWAYS!!!) turned my nose up (yep, I'm a snob and damn proud of it!) at Ho Lee Chow (now out of business on Davenport!!!!) or food court Chinese. Unless it's been in Markham, where it's heavenly. I learned how to cross the street "Stan Style" in Chinatown. It involves sticking out your arm like you're at a crosswalk, and walking. No, there isn't a crosswalk, but like my friend Saul says, "If you go, they have to stop."

In theory this works, and thus far in practice as well.

We have driven from Yonge/Steeles (AKA Home) to Finch/Weston Road for a hamburger. (Really only relevant for Torontonians, and even then, most wouldn't know how far that is. Trust me, it's far to go for a hamburger.) We have gone from Home to Knob Hill (R.I.P.) at #7/Woodbine because mushrooms were on sale. Now some of you might better understand why I go to T&T in Thornhill or Trader Joe's in the U.S.!

One major thing that I have to give my dad props for was his analysis of Wal-mart. When they announced they were coming to Canada, he said that they come to a city/town, set up outside of the city centre and one-by-one the local shops go out of business. I argued with him (as I was much more conservative/pro-unfettered capitalism and consumerism) and told him how wrong he was.

He was right.

I was wrong.

Wal-mart sucks ass.

I have "kitchen talents" because of my father. He would do one of two things. The usual was to take what was around in the fridge, pantry and freezer and make something. This "something" was usually good, rarely bad ands sometimes GREAT!!! But he never remembered how he made it, so subsequent attempts to recreate it would usually far short. Or, the second, was to find a recipe and make it. He wouldn't always follow the recipe, and the deviations would often result in HEAVEN!!! Refer to the first one for what would often happen when he tried to recreate them.

I'm not so good at following recipes, but thanks to Jodi getting on my case about it, I now try to write stuff down when I'm creating things, or what changes I've made to a recipe, that in theory I'm following.

These are things that I would consider to be mainly positives.

Ah, the other side.

My father is a quiet, conservative man who has watched the past twenty years sorta pass by. In the early 90s, he was working at Pascal Furniture, selling....furniture. They went out of business, and he was suddenly out of work. He worked at a few places for a couple more years, but the momentum/way of life that he had when at Pascal - the routine, the people, getting out of the house - was gone.

He started watching "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air", "Family Matters" and "Oprah", and spent more time on the couch or in "his" chair, than anywhere else. He had dealt with physical issues - his back, hips and legs - for a few years, and this started to get worse. In large part probably owing to his not being overly active, but his diet being that of an active man, his weight didn't help, as he began to be less able to get up and go, and do things.

For a man who could do the "muscle dance" (I can do it. In fact, pretty much anyone with a bicep can do it. Ask me, and I'll show you how!), who painted/wallpapered the whole house, did the hardwood floors when the carpet was torn up (I helped!), and any manner of other super duper handy things, it's hard not to be able to do what you once could.

The work room has gone "dark" as the handy items don't get used any more.

My dad and I agree on less and less as we both get older. I suppose it's natural/normal, but I also think it's part and parcel of who he is, as to who I am.

I have consciously spent the last half of my life trying not to be my father. I have become outspoken on issues that I consider to be important for me, and "my world". I want to be an agent of change, and don't tend to accept status quo as good enough on several levels. Whereas my dad would shrug his shoulders if encountering something, I speak up. I yell. I try to rally the troops. I live my life with some sense of righteous indignation and look to smote "evil" with wrath. (Now I'm channeling Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction".)

I purposely try to stay connected to my friends. The people who augment my existence, complete me on several levels and make my life better. Like the fresh ground peppercorns (change your peppercorns/spices every year at the very least for a better "spice" experience!) I want to be connected to them. Being away from home for three-plus months hasn't meant being away from them, thanks to Facebook, email and Skype. Oh, and thanks to Joe and Alessandra for the great Netbook wedding gift, it's been even easier! Sure, I miss getting together with my folks, Saul, James, Marcos, Emily, Steven/Noam, Jen/Noam, Martin/Tamara, Jean, Daniel, Meredith/Asa, the Montreal, Ottawa and NYC crews - to name but a few, and time with my siblings, Julie and the nephews/niece.

I am passionate about life and living, because I have seen my dad seem to lack the passion that he once had. The passion for life that I've heard about from people who knew him "back when". I suspect this is normal for many as they age, to lose aspects of their life that they consider important, as other things become more important. Or when you're just not able to do what you once could. I can't see that happening with/to me. I sense that I'm too connected to the things that make up who/what I am to lose that grasp on them.

I don't know what lays ahead for me. No one ever really does. Life has a habit of throwing some unexpected curveballs, or high-inside fastballs. Not to mention that when you try to throw that heater down the middle, sometimes it's "just a bit outside".

In twelve days I turn 40. Jodi and I are talking about having children. There's a possibility that I could become a dad at the same age my dad was when I was born. This does not scare me in the least. Only death scares me. Heights freak me out, but only death has the ability to put it's cold, harsh hands on my psyche and make me sweat. It's not all that much different from the kids in "Fame".

"I want to live forever....."

But I know I won't.

I do know that when I lay my head to rest, and they put me six feet under, I don't want to "go" with regrets about what I could have said, could have done, could have been.

I was concerned that my dad was going to die the weekend of our wedding. Truth is, I was more than concerned. I was fairly certain of it. I had a sobbing phone conversation with my brother, while driving home from seeing my mom in the emergency room in the hospital when my dad was taken in by ambulance. I was concerned that my dad would not see one of the most important days of my life. For those you that were there, you know that it wouldn't be an easily explained day/experience, and I'm thankful beyond words for the sacrifices that my mom and other people made in order for my dad to be there.

Like many people I went to junior high and high school with, I'm an under-achiever. I'm okay with that. As Jake Duncan says, "I'm a classic gifted under-achiever." I enjoy life, I enjoy living, I enjoy the people in my life (generally speaking, but we can't always remedy ALL the people we don't want around - after all, that's called homocide, and illegal pretty much everywhere!) and most of all I can look in the mirror and like the person I see.

All-in-all that's because of my dad. I've both embraced and rejected who my dad is. Thanks Stanley (no middle name - he was the oldest and said his parents couldn't afford a middle name!) Kruger.


canadianfoodiegirl said...

Great tribute, David.

David said...

To be honest, I don't know that it's a tribute. I think it's more giving a voice to some feelings inside me that have been there for a long time. I've had "father issues" for ages, much the same as I have other issues.

I think it's healthy to talk about things, so that you can make more sense of them. It's something I've been working on for a while now.

That said, there's so much of me that "belongs" to who my dad is, or isn't, and the same can be said of my mom too.

(Mom, I know you're reading this. I haven't composed that blog post yet. :) )

Rydon said...

David, based on that I think that you are FINALLY beginning to get it. Well done, I was thrilled to read that. You just made my day! Love Jordan.