There is this family…let’s call them the Andersons, because I’m way too lazy to think of something more clever. The Andersons are old friends of my parents with two sons who are about my age (actually they sandwich me, one being almost two years older and the other almost two years younger). When I was very young, the Andersons and my parents hung out together all the time, and their two boys were two of my best friends. Then my parents got divorced, and along with the house, kids, and material goods, the friends had to be divided up. My dad got the Andersons, mostly by default of location (he lived closer to them). Though they were still friends with my mom, they were no longer an active part of our lives.
Fast forward to…now. For the past three or four years, the Andersons have an annual summer BBQ at their home, and they always invite us. My mom and sisters always gladly attend this event. I managed to get dragged along once, and spent a bored few hours making awkward small talk with strangers and awkward family talk with my dad. I left with zero desire to return for another.
I got dragged again this year, thanks to the junior high style peer pressuring of my sister, Amber. Amber, bless her soul, has sadly mistaken our family for one of those families that…you know…does stuff together. So when I made it known I had little interest in attending the Anderson Bore-fest ’08, my sister came in strong with her masterful version of the West Coast Guilt Offense (first popularized, of course, by Bill Walsh’s mom).
“Well, everyone else is going. Mom, April, me, Jeremy, JD…,” my sister struggled to come up with more names, but our family is small, so that LITERALLY is everybody.
I’m not going.
“Jeremy will be disappointed if you don’t go. Dad always clings to him. He needs another male there to talk to.”
He can talk to me at home. I’m not going.
“There will be free food, games…”
The Andersons are vegetarians. There will be tofu. I can play games on my XBox. I’m not going.
“There will be free booze.”
So as I’m jumping out of my sisters van and walking up the Anderson’s lawn to the BBQ, I immediately notice that there is not a single soul I recognize at this thing. I don’t even see the Andersons. Are we at the right place? Do I care?
My family and I huddle together at a table by ourselves, as we usually do at these things, making them seem even more pointless to me. I decide to get started on drinking myself into a comfortable stupor. I go to sample some of the free drinks, and it’s…wine coolers. Fuck me. I left the house for this?
As I’m sitting with my brother-in-law, drinking the admittedly tasty but not very alcoholic wine cooler, I look around the yard at the festivities, and notice there are children. Lots and lots and lots of children. I was worried my sisters son, JD, would be the lone 1 1/2 year old at this thing, but let me tell, there was a pack of them. The Andersons had a sandbox in their backyard, and I swear it looked like someone was staging an all-midget production of “West Side Story.” Little kids, roaming free in huge packs. Jesus, is anyone in the world NOT making babies just as fast as they can get a penis up in them? Miracle of birth my ass…the women at this BBQ’s wombs were spitting out babies like a Nerf Air-Gun. Pow…pow…pow…
At this point arrives one of the Anderson’s sons whom I used to be very close with. Let’s call him…ah hell I’m so bad at making up names…let’s just call him Bruce Willis*. So Bruce Willis comes up to me and says, “Hey, Tim, how’s it going? Haven’t seen you in a while.” We exchange the normal idle, completely stiff pleasantries: “How are you?” “What have you been up to?” “That’s a nice beer gut you have growing there.” And then he wanders off. It’s weird, but I find interacting with Bruce Willis far more uncomfortable than I would a complete stranger, mostly because we were so close, and now for the past decade have not seen each other at all. Making it doubly weird is our wildly divergent life paths: both Bruce Willis and his brother (whom we will call, uh…Tom Selleck**) are married and have children now. I am childless, the closest thing I’ve had to a “career” is when I got moved up from pushing carts at the grocery store I worked at, and I’m giving serious though to buying Madden ’09 for my XBox when it comes out. In short, I’m 12.
*(Note: Not the real Bruce Willis)
**(Note: Not the real Tom Selleck)
Now, no boring, socially uncomfortable family outing is complete without my dad showing up with his super long hair and sarcastically upbeat attitude towards his life that is all the more depressing strictly because he tries to act upbeat about it. Since my parents split up, my dad has perfected an attitude of martyrdom that I daresay is unmatched in the world. He is the Tiger Woods of making people feel sorry for him. No, fuck that, because sometimes Tiger Woods loses. He is the ROCKY BALBOA of making people feel sorry for him. That’s right, even if you secretly trained a 7″ communist Russian super-martyr, complete with drug enhancements and state-of-the-art computer led pity training, my dad would STILL out martyr the guy, then wrap himself in the American flag and yell, “My life sucks!”
His newest “poor-me” tactic is to buy two tickets to a concert, and then ask us all if we want to go with him at the last minute, saying, “Well, I was HOPING I could get a date, but that didn’t happen. Oh well…guess it’s just the optimist in me…” Truthfully, I doubt he ever actually looks for a date, and just gets the two tickets so that he can complain about not having anyone to go with. Why would any sane human being do this, you ask? It’s just the optimist in him, I guess.
One of these times I see my dad, I fully expect that he will just be wheeled in on a giant wooden cross. And when the rest of us are like, “Holy crap, Dad, what is that?” he will just say, “Oh, what? This? Oh, yeah, I’m nailed to a giant cross now. Oh well, what can you do? LIfe sucks, then you die, right?”
So after awhile of ducking out of my dad’s most recent pity concert (“No, none of us want to go to Sheryl Crow with you”) and asking what the crap was all the red stuff on the palms of his hand (“Oh it’s just from poor circulation from getting old. People say I should go to the doctor, but…” <shrug>), my brother-in-law and I decided to kill time by playing with the Track Ball game they had laying in the yard. If you don’t know what this is…well, you’re out of luck because I don’t really know what it is either. It’s sort of like playing catch with a ball, only you throw the ball with this plastic thing that looks like half an egg-beater. It’s more fun that it sounds. My dad inevitably joined us, and so followed what should have been a touching scene…a father playing catch with his son…spoiled by the fact that A) I am so horribly out of shape that I was exhausted after only ten minutes of this and B) My brother-in-law thought it the height of comedy to continually throw the ball over my head towards a rock hedge the Andersons had set up in their yard as decoration. What resulted was inevitable: an “American’s Funniest Home Videos” worthy moment as I attempted to catch this ball with my half egg-beater and went ass-over-elbows over a pile of rocks. I don’t have the moment on film, but this should serve as a pretty accurate re-enactment:
It was exactly like that, except replace the “ta-da” part with “Ouch, ow, oh, I think I bruised my spleen!”
The rest of the BBQ was mostly uneventful, ending with me drinking several wine coolers and getting not at all drunk, and having a couple more semi-awkward exchanges with Bruce Willis***. We said our goodbyes, loaded up into the van, and went home.
***(Note: Still not the real Bruce Willis)
The night ended with me, my sisters, and Jeremy playing some games. This is mostly off-topic for this blog (which seems fine, since this has been mostly a rambling epic anyway), but we ended the night doing some Mad-Libs, and…fuck, why did I ever stop doing those things? That shit is funny as hell! Psst…here’s a little secret about Mad-Libs, though: You have to try to use dirty and/or nonsense silly words, otherwise it won’t really be funny. Just try it next time you are playing Mad-Libs. You can thank me later.
I guess, in the end, sometimes it’s <ADJECTIVE> to get out and spend some time with your <NOUN>, even if it is doing something <ADJECTIVE>. But if my <ADVERB> Dad shows up at another of these <NOUN> again and gets all <ADJECTIVE> with his <PART OF BODY> little <PLURAL NOUN>, I’m pretty sure I’m going to projectile <VERB> a load of <NOUN> all over the <PLACE>.