My Father’s Son

I was 16 when I got my learner’s permit. Soon I would know the freedom of driving a car. As a 16-year-old, this is basically the peak of the American Dream.

Only problem is the learner’s permit meant I had to have a guardian in the passenger’s seat while I drove. My father, he’s like the Buddha. I’m not sure I have ever seen him upset or out of control. But most of the time it was my mother in the passenger’s seat. She would be making all kinds of horrified sounds: “Oh!” “Watch out!” She would put her hands on the dashboard and yell out orders like, “Put your blinker on!”

Often I would stop the car and tell her I was going to walk home. She would pick me up a few blocks down the street like some troubled teen movie and I would get in and we would drive home in silence.

My family and extended family are big on holiday gatherings and BBQs. The longer I have been away from this tradition, the more I have missed it.

Recently, I flew home for one of these gatherings. It’s funny how distance and time change your view of things. I watched one relative get completely wasted and then go on a rant about how much they did not approve of another relative’s lifestyle. They tried hard to involve me and anyone in earshot. I played like my father, the Buddha. I could barely keep from saying, “I thought you were a hippie once. When did you become a fucking Republican!?”

Family gatherings might be best held every 5 years. It’s like getting a tattoo: you go back after you forget how much it hurts.

Back to being 16 with my temporary driver’s permit:

We were at a family gathering at my uncle’s place. He had served as a professional polka drummer for 10 years, playing the wedding circuit. As a musician wanna-be, I was very impressed by this. He told me many times, “When it’s your job and it’s paying your rent, it’s a totally different feeling.” He was not implying it was good.

But his parties were great and always alcohol-fueled. My older cousins spent the afternoon sneaking me rum and Cokes. By nightfall, I was a very drunk 16-year-old.

I have almost never seen either of my parents drunk and to this day, maybe only seen my father drunk twice. I saw my mother approaching, so I quickly finished my latest rum and Coke and set it on the table. I don’t know what I was thinking. My breath was probably awful and every time I closed my eyes, I would start spinning.

But she didn’t notice. In fact, she said, “Your father and I have been drinking and are going to need you to drive the family home.”

Everyone lived.

Written by Daniel Overberger

Edited by Nancy Winebarger

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A Crack In The Sidewalk

I eat at this taco stand in Atwater Village pretty often. I like the food. I also like that it is family-run and owned. Not some faceless corporation that makes their employees wear unflattering polyester uniforms. Sometimes it’s hard to find parking. I guess that goes for all of LA. When I’m king, we will build great parking structures with beautiful gardens on the roof where people will do yoga and take naps.

But I found parking and was walking to the taco stand and a guy 10 feet in front of me starts yelling, “Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” and waving his arms. While I was initially shocked by the outburst, I really admired his utter lack of restraint.

When the yelling man got to the taco stand, an overweight man (he might have been Samoan) gave him a dirty look and said something. The yelling man threw some food at the guy. It looked like a hamburger or a donut. (I didn’t even know he had food.) Then the overweight guy starts yelling, “Fuck you!” and gets up to confront the yelling guy, which agitates the yelling guy even more. He’s moving fast now down the street. The overweight guy is chasing him but really slow (like an old Frankenstein movie). He’ll never catch him.

The yelling guy passes the mailman, then U-turns. He grabs the mailman’s bag and starts throwing the mail into the street. Then he takes off his shirt and spikes it like a football. The mailman and everyone around are completely outraged. People are running away in all directions while they call the police.

I felt like I was watching some strange experiment. Real reality TV.

Five cop cars, a cop SUV and a cop helicopter show up. The yelling man stops yelling, drops to his knees and puts his hands behind his head. He looked so calm. I tried to look in his eyes but was blocked by the now growing group of spectators.

As they put the now quiet yelling man into the cop SUV, I was reminded of a plant I saw growing out of a crack in the cement.

The cops drove him away and everyone stood around talking and in disbelief about what we all just witnessed.

I ordered a papas breakfast burrito with extra hot sauce.

Tuesday June 2nd 11:35am

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