Da Black Whole

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Giving Father Thanks

little dynamo [dye-namm-oh], this pitiful site's URL, is the moniker Ricky van Alphen gave me on the blacktop basketball court one long summer day, when i'd been particularly pesky (read: maniacal) guarding the opposition

. . . and who is Ricky van Alphen you politely query?

nobody -- just like yrs truly!!

even at ten, tho, Ricky was cool, chicks dug him (but not me!) and eventually the older guys stopped letting The Pest play with them, and yrs trooly little dynamo was reduced to shooting alone for hours

snifful . . . snufful . . .

[short hankie-break]

once in a great while, i'd harass my dad into walking over to the playground with me for a quick session, amazed that he could still dunk (eight-foot rims!)

i recall after one game, he said he didn't mind taking time from weekend chores, the day would come when i wouldn't want him around

i told him that wouldn't happen

but of course it did, too soon

anyway, my folks were tremendous givers, and my dad was very involved in community activities, especially athletics -- mowing the little league field, coaching a grammer-school boys team, volunteer umpiring before certain smart-ass, ungrateful parents who contributed nothing but foul air at the games . . .

i grew up during the fifties in Vallejo, a working-class shipyard town -- a pretty wild and tough place, held together mostly by solid local men

the kinda place where geeky, teensy, neurotic goofs like me had best be involved in athletics -- or, in my case, fool folks into thinking i was a potential "athlete"


sad commentary to admit that my lifetime highlight took place four decades ago

shows what progress i've made! :O)

on Friday nights, once out of diapers, my dad would drive my brother and i to the local football game at Corbus Field, a huge hedge crescent around the turf's front, to ensure that the paying customers remained paying


sports was one of the few areas of agreement and bond between his generation and mine, and, though many guys have no interest, athletics -- even spectator -- is still the national glue among males

many of us sense our fathers most viscerally in athletics and its traditions, like huddling under their overcoats in the drizzle of a late-autumn Friday evening

these days, athletics is the last stronghold of masculine values and ideal behavior, the last mass-cultural bond, so American men particularly cleave and obsess over sports

unfortunately, they often do it -- willing or not -- in the absence of their sons or other boys, and that loss is felt, though rarely expressed, in this nation

it takes a village, but it shocks and outrages many that the village includes men

now i realize how HARD my father, mother, and other community members worked so i could have my shining boyhood moment -- an instant that still sustains little old dynamo

it was still a good time to be male in America, and a core of men -- not all of them fathers, by the way -- carried the dreams of the children on their backs, gladly, without coercion by the State, and usually without pay

my dad -- family called him "bim" -- was one of those unassuming guys who built homes for other peoples' dreams, castles he believed he'd never inhabit

one year i was upset at not making the all-star team

my dad sat me down and explained that although i deserved to be on the team, the decision was made to include some boys in their last year of age-eligibility, and that i'd have my chance next year

i complained it was unfair and sulked, and of course once again he and the coaches were right: merit must be served, but not adored -- and how much wiser, it turned out, to let another boy's dream come true, and save mine for its time

wiser indeed . . . not some massive intellectual leap necessary among these men, to make the community work, to make the nation work . . . mostly just a sense of general goodwill, faith in the future (often involving church, but not always), and a love of life and the children under their charge

of course they had all the imperfections folks of any age and place are subject to -- but these faults were not yet seen by society as potential weaknesses to exploit for monetary, political, or personal power

looking back, i have a feeling that when the all-star-team selections were made, the coaches asked my dad's permission to leave me off -- though he was not a coach, just a kind of general helper

i recall being somehow disappointed in him for allowing that Terrrible Unfairness to occur -- but it took courage, and the vision of tomorrow's love, to leave me off the team, knowing he'd get heat from me for it ("little dynamo," remember?)

the next year, i was picked for the team, but was again crushed when someone else started at second-base

i watched the 0-0 game from the dugout, cheering but still bummed at not playing

the coach finally put me in late, and i led off the last inning, got a hit, stole a couple bases, scored the winning run

trivial, yes, it was Little League fer godsakes -- but it was everything at that moment, and my father -- and many others -- presented it to me like a chalice, a golden home for my memory

indelible is sliding across home plate, looking up, and seeing family and friends in the stands jumping and yelling, and my team-mates pouring from the dugout towards me, faces of eternal joy

there is no kingship that matches being carried off the field on your comrades' shoulders: the perfection of a world that took thousands of bloody, brutal, miserable years and lifetimes to bring forth

the rest of it's kinda hazy, i remember my folks took my brother and i to a cafe as reward -- and probably to show off a little

i still had my uni and cleats on! lol

chocolate milkshakes and fries and whatever i wanted in my sunly moment, and my dad was so proud in that coffee shop, i could smell it over hot apple pie

i started the next game, but we lost and . . . well, life went on . . . you know that tune!

that was a great treasure my dad and so many others gave a lippy, self-centered little boy

unobsessed by greed, power, notoriety, or materiality, those men gave the REAL gift that keeps on giving

i have not forgotten, and will do my best to make it last

america will not survive if men are not restored to boys, and to the larger community in general

scapegoating and marginalizing males, especially for profit and hidden power, must stop

good men -- not perfect men, but good men -- once again must be allowed to be good

we owe it to the kids, and to all generations to come, and those who oppose reconciliation steal from those generations

woe unto them

oh . . . and special thX from little dynamo to Ricky van Alphen, wherever you is!

that's my prayer this thanks giving


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