Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Rainbow Connection

My Dads heart's been broken an inordinate number of times. Of course, most of those heartbreaks were probably his own doing. Just as his heart attacks have been mostly due to high stress, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure; I think his heartbreaks have been due to low self-esteem, low morale and low self-control.

But the thing about heartbreaks is, you've gotta love something a lot to be crushed by it. In my dad's case he has a flowing well of love for his kids, and he's got kids in spades. 5 from his first wife, 5 from his second wife (my mom), 2 steps from wife #3, 8 steps from wife #4 and I think 4 steps from #5. I consider myself fortunate to be one of only ten he personally sired (as far as we know).

The other night as I slept I gradually became aware of someone singing. It was the voice of Kermit the Frog singing "The Rainbow Connection." I hadn't thought of that song in years, but now I remembered all the lyrics. I lay in bed, in the dark warmth of thick blankets, arms around my 2 year old daughter (who absolutely refuses to sleep anywhere else), and the song repeated itself in my minds ear until dawn.

"... Have you been half asleep? And have you heard voices? I've heard them calling my name.
... Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same"

I learned "The Rainbow Connection" in first grade for one of those programs they have kids put on for their parents. I sang my guts out. My mom was there. It was during the bitter first months separation prior to the divorce being final, so I don't blame Dad for not coming. Plus he would have missed a whole day of work to drive down from Salt Lake. But he used to tell us we could call him collect anytime. (This was back when we couldn't afford long distance.) So later that day I went to the school nurse for help with my grief and called him. He was probably at work, but I didn't know that number so I called his home. I got an answering machine-- first time I ever heard one. I thought it was something seedy, like if he had run out and bought a waterbed as soon as we moved out. Now I realize it was him missing us, and not wanting to miss our calls.

"Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?"

Dad almost never missed a weekend visit (or a child-support payment). Fridays after school Mom would load us up in the Toyota Corona station wagon and take us to the Park and Ride at the off-ramp just before the point of the mountain. Dad would meet us there in his white Cadillac ElDorado (another post-divorce waterbed-like acquisition) and drive us back to Salt Lake. We'd spend the night there, then meet back at the Park and Ride the next evening.

During these short road trips between Salt Lake and Provo, Dad always asked us to sing to him. "The Rainbow Connection" was immediately one of his favorites. We sang it for him over and over.

"What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?"

As I lay in bed the other night, I thought about my dad and how much sadness must have filled his life back then. Knowing how much joy I have in my own children, I suddenly had a better taste of what my dad must have felt back then, desperately wanting to remain a part of our daily lives, but demoted to weekends and holidays.

"Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see."

I'm not as close to my dad as I'd like. Sure, we talk, we have our heart-to-hearts, but there's something missing. We don't really know eachother. Quality time is important, but it can't replace the experience of actually living with someone. Now that I'm an adult, I can see it clearly. I grew up, but I didn't grow up with my dad. We missed it. We missed out on eachother. And I don't know whether that can be recovered. Dad probably knew this back then, as he mourned this loss times five and slept alone in a queen size bed-- the steady light of an answering machine for company, but it has taken me 25 years to realize it. As I tried to sleep, I hugged my little daughter a little tighter and shed silent tears in her hair.

"Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me."

Monday, October 02, 2006

I love Mexican food.
Not the bastardized crap you get from most places, but real, authentic Mexican food. You're probably saying to yourselves, "I'm with you on this one Dave, authentic Mexican food is the best!" But you are a liar and your pants are on fire, because I bet you're saying this to yourselves while thinking of someplace like Cafe Rio.

The first time I ate at Cafe Rio must have been ten years ago. My mom had been raving about this place in Saint George for months and on a road trip to my brothers wedding in LA we stopped for lunch. She was so excited. I was sceptical.

I chose the Smothered Pork Burrito. Whoever the hell smothered it didn't smother it long enough. It wasn't dead yet. Long story short: I got irritable bowel syndrome. That little piggy wanted to go back to the pigpen real bad. This wasn't your basic IBS either, it was the kind where your colon throws a tantrum and you want an epidural. These were brutal, vicious cramps, like the ones that killed Elvis. And I was stuck in the backseat of my moms car for hours before the pain finally subsided.

If you want to avoid the soul-rending pain I experienced that day, you need to know the following:

I present to you "The Law of the Kitchen Staff." This is an irrefutable law of the universe, much like the law of gravity and the law of "Tom Cruise is a major douche."

At just about any restaraunt you go to, be it Chinese Buffet, Italian, Martian or whatever, the guys working in the kitchen are Mexican but when you go to one of those fake Mexican places, the kitchen staff is white trash. Sure they may have their token Juans and Joses in back, but there's always a Duane or a Bud slinging the beans. This should be your first clue to stay very far away.

Before you start making excuses like "So what if it isn't authentic, it tastes good," you should know that I don't usually have a problem with fake Mexican food. It is what it is. You won't hear me complaining much about Taco Bell even though it sucks, because nobody claims it's authentic. But if I go to a place whose tagline is "Authentic Mexican Grill," and there is a line in front that resembles the line at the Log Flume ride at Disneyland, and after waiting about eighty years to be served I squeeze into a seat among people going on and on about how great the food is when what I see is an eight dollar pile of sweetened meat, beans and lettuce strips and a five dollar glass of bad horchata with no refills, then I can get a little whiny. It isn't authentic, not even close! And give me a break with the sign on the door already. If I wanted to start my own restaraunt I wouldn't take pictures of your crappy one.

Last week I discovered a little joint called "Maria Bonita." It's around the corner from the new shop, so we all checked it out for lunch one day. The food is unbelievable! Besides the usual stuff they serve things like Lobster, and Molcajete. They have two kinds of Mole. They have HUGE Mango, Strawberry and Pina Coladas too. The staff barely speaks English. Maria Bonita has superceded Disneyland as "The Happiest Place on Earth."

Ever since the Saint George incident, I frequently experience bouts of IBS, usually coupled with frenzied bowl evacuations. Kent has the same problem. After lunch we usually race for the bathroom. An additional benefit to Maria Bonita, as if you wanted to hear about this sort of thing, is that Kent and I were fine afterward. Even Dustin commented on how unusual it was for us to eat without having subsequent rides on our own "log flume".

I realize you may still want to have your "red-headed-stepchild mexican grill." You may not want to try the real stuff. You might still prefer to eat some bastardized sludge that has the nerve to call itself authentic. That's ok. I can take a dump on a tortilla, and throw it on a pie tin for you, I've got time. And if I eat at Maria Bonita the night before, it will still be more authentic than Cafe Rio.