My Tatus and I could yickety-yack for hours and not be bored by one another if time and opportunity were limitless. Though we come from very different eras, backgrounds, and shared little common life experience other than in the field of medicine for a few years and his dad pronouncing my dad dead 28 years ago, he said he had a very enjoyable time entering the zone of alternative culture of which I'm a flag-flying, fearless freak last week during The Tattoo/Piercing Adventure. It positively glows my soul to take him out of his suburban dad, lawn-mowing, Ravinia-attending comfort zone and into into the bowels of the city to do, of all things, walk into a body art studio with me on a rainy night. We indeed did celebrate the ALMOST 4 years of sobriety I DID achieve and the 3 years of the no-cutting thing. (It's not every day you go out with a psychotic, former self-harmer to "celebrate." What an oddity.)
(I actually did a lot of research and received recommendations from tattooed friends on the studio I ultimately chose, which was spotless, professional and employed artists that were intelligent, friendly, and swore a lot. Read: People like me. We went to the Tattoo Factory on Broadway in Uptown. My tattoos, cartilage and eyebrow piercings are healing beautifully, by the way.)
I went so far as to pre-write him a thank you note for having bravely done so, handing it to him when we parted ways in the car when I got home. (It said on the front, "You put the NERD in NERDALICIOUS" and spelled out "nerd" in elements from the scientific Periodic Table.) Ha ha ha. I don't mean he's a nerd as a put-down because I love nerds, and Luke thinks he's a nerd/geek, though when asked the difference between a nerd and a geek, my answer is always "Nerds like 'Star Trek.' Geeks like 'Star Wars.'" (FYI, we're a "Star Wars" family, we Miklasz/Bechtels.) I don't know if likes either, I was just poking fun at him a little. I habitually try to out-cool him. He never fights back. And I want him to!
In the annals of what alterna-chicks would consider a totally awesome nerd, he never leaves the car if "Won't Get Fooled Again" is on the radio until it ends. Huge plus. He doesn't (to my knowledge) wear yellow Carl Sagan t-shirts, loitering in comic book shops. (If he does, I apologize but we're going to have to re-think this whole friendship thing.) He's been inside a resale shop and purchased things when he could blow his cash at Neiman Marcus if was grossly materialistic, which he isn't. He's as allergic to most pretentiousness as I am, except when it comes to him affirming his knowledge about his job, where he wants things done a certain way in a certain time for a certain reason, though he was only mean to me once in 3 years, and I deserved it at the time. I find him predictably enigmatic, which I know sounds like a total contradiction, but I'm famous for such statements. All of these are crucial distinctions when my metronome of coolness is ticking back and forth. So the kids are alright, as it were. He's cool enough for me.
We have a lot of common interests (the exception being golf, which while my dear brother plays, who's not a typical suburban dad, I think is boring and bourgeois, and sports in general...yawn) and have a mutual teacher/pupil vibe and I appreciate his wisdom, as he does mine, though our wisdom each stems from vastly different origins (the exception being that we're both Christians, though he's Catholic and I'm Lutheran and he had to explain to me the ins and outs of the act of confession, which I questioned some blogs ago about the Catholic ritual, see "Ash Wednesday").
I think mutual education is a vital part of *any* type of partnership, whether it's as friends, or parent/child, or between romantic partners, or co-workers, doctors/patients, whomever. There isn't a single one of us who can't learn something from someone else, in my opinion. (Unless you're hopelessly, too-far-gone simple, then enter "lost cause.")
We talk about music a lot. In the car, he was listening to this mix CD that a male friend made for him that was laden with Lilith Fairesque chick artists and, most bizarrely, The Divyinyls' "I Touch Myself." It was made by a guy he wanted me to meet at a group gathering downtown he invited me to a couple of weekends ago but I sadly could not attend due to my band commitment. I asked him, "Who MADE you this CD?" and he said, "My friend Dave." My curiosity was insanely piqued to meet this fella and talk him up, since I've given Tatus several mix CD's for various reasons, but THAT song coming from, well, ANYONE? That's akin to me making a mix CD for Kate and including Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself." The CD was like something I'd, as a woman, make for another woman (the "I Touch Myself" notwithstanding) if, for example, Kate or I didn't largely dislike so many other women in general so much. Having said that, I've given him a CD with the Stones' "Rocks Off," so you do the math. (Holy fucking fuck! "Rocks Off" just shuffled onto iTunes! It's on shuffle! That's amazing!!)
At dinner, which ended up being a comfortable sushi restaurant since our raw vegan place is now boarded up and gone, in our mutual naivety, neither of us knew the difference between sushi and sashimi, though I ended up having the correct guess that it had something to do with the matter of rice. (I don't eat sushi often, though I enjoy it a lot, and only order vegetarian sushi. He likes most of it, but is allergic to shellfish. I begged him to stay away from the dishes involving eels and octopuses.) "Why don't you ask our server?" I said. Because women do things like ask for directions, ask for advice, ask for help. Men would rather sit and wonder like dorks. He reluctantly obliged, asked the server and placed his order.
He's very encouraging when it comes to how much I eat and critical of how little I eat sometimes, though more so encouraging, given my thinness. I wasn't hungry for dinner, but I managed to eat most of my sushi, some of which I gave to him and some I left on my plate. I had no desire to share the raw fish he was happily ingesting, and we were both confounded at the absence of a tea POT while we got individual cups of tea we had to keep asking to be refilled so he could stay awake.
I have a restaurant neurosis. I panic when I don't know where the restrooms are. He escaped my clutches and went to the restroom, and I had to go shortly thereafter. I asked him where it was and he told me how to get there. I told him I had this weird phobia, and nearly had a spatial orientation freakout walking down the steep stairwell on the way back down to our table.
We parked like 4,597 blocks away from the tattoo studio and walked in the rain for the big to-do. He is a gentleman, and offered to drop me off at the studio, but I told him I'd walk with him, because I'd rather walk in the rain with him any day. The tattoo artist sketched out George Harrison's Sanskrit OM and Christian cross perfectly and I took some deep breaths (as well as an anti-anxiety pill at dinner) and let the needle go in, squeezing the crap out of Tatus' hand on an as-needed basis. The whole tattoo process only took about 10-15 minutes altogether, and not all that bad, except when he was tattooing over my veins on the bony part of my inner wrist. But I guess if you're out celebrating how you haven't sliced yourself up with a steak knife right there for 3 consecutive years, a needle for a little while doesn't seem so bad.
Due to schematics, he was unable to hold my hand during the multiple piercings, which hurt far more than the tattoos. I guess I blocked out the pain of my first eyebrow ring at age 26 because I was brave enough to get another one. I'm inhaling and exhaling and having big needles gouged through my head and Tatus is sitting there chit-chatting with the piercing artist about all sorts of stuff. The artist was very smart and spoke very intelligently, explained what my responsibilities were towards my jewelry healing, but he talked to Tatus more than he talked to me.
The freakiest thing? One of my friends is amazingly clairvoyant, something in which I believe, clairvoyance. Stronger than pure instinct. *I'm* the one with on-target instincts. She knows things about people she's never met in her life. The artist and Tatus were talking about living in the suburbs versus living in the city, and Tatus said something about wishing he had a condo in the city or downtown he could live in or stay at or whatever (I dunno, I was probably still bleeding out my eyebrow as the artist was having trouble jamming in the jewelry and paper towels were being frantically ripped off, so I didn't hear it all).
Busily being pierced, I missed out on for what purpose he'd use said condo in the city, but after I quit bleeding or inhaling/exhaling, I enthusiastically turned around towards him and told him he should totally go ahead and get one and offered myself up to mooch it if I really wanted to get away from Park Ridge. I never said he had to be there. He just laughed with a "Yeah, right, Annie, we'll get right on that" look on his face. Cough it up, brother, go wild. Live a little. (That's essentially one of the life lessons I've been trying to teach him in our teacher/pupil vibe: LIVE A LITTLE. IMPULSE AND SPONTANEITY ARE OFTEN SOUL-QUENCHINGLY WONDERFUL! OK, JUST THIS ONCE. SPLURGE, MOTHERFUCKER!)
Anyway, clairvoyance? This friend of mine told me MONTHS AND MONTHS ago during some random anecdote I was telling her about him, I think, that Tatus had a secret wish to have a place to live in the city. Swear to God. And I don't think it's just so he can more fully utilize his pass to the Art Institute, though that's cool if he has one. And the commute from downtown to where he works is actually worse than from work to his suburban home. He goes into the city but it's often to entertain out-of-towners, which means he probably chiefly hits all the major Chicago hot spots of tourism and must-sees, not off-the-beaten-path quite as much. Me? I've been to the "Bean" exhibit within Millennium Park once or twice, tops, in my life, even when I was spending most of my weekends downtown with my ex-boyfriend who lived a couple of blocks away from it and don't find it all that thrilling apart from the photographic possibilities from an artistic standpoint. Tatus has probably shown it to 4 dozen people. I don't know. Cool, but after a while, zzzzzz. And there are only so many times you can walk up and down Navy Pier or Michigan Avenue before that gets tiresome. And Chicago stuffed pizza? How many times can you take tourists for that? Take 'em for Ethiopian food you have to eat with your hands, like a wild man where everyone at the table shares everything and it's this communal vibe. You know what I mean. It's not meant to be fun for you, it's meant to be fun for your guests, but I'm just thinking of ways that would be even more fun if the situation involved me and a bunch of out-of-towners.
(I'm a life-long Chicagoan, love Chicago, and presently live at the edge of a suburb in the suburb's literal ghetto area of what's otherwise a very tony area, across the street from the expressway and the train tracks into the city. Across the street it's Chicago, on my side it's Park Ridge. I don't get into the city as often as I'd like to, still have to print out maps for myself or use my GPS to get to some places, have no concept of the grid system of streets that encompass the city that, according to most people, make it really easy to get around Chicago, but as I've previously said, I'm book-smart but seriously lack any practical life skills.)
My clairvoyant friend strongly felt that the urban scene was secretly very intriguing to him and that I was at least a little bit, partially responsible for introducing him to cultural scenes he'd otherwise never, ever partake of, which he found odd, unique, but fun and that he didn't have a large number of friends who are into what I'm into, e.g. a Flaming Lips concert, not that anything I do is dangerously freaky, illegal or immoral.
(I was first introduced to some really offbeat urban culture by an ex-boyfriend who I'm still friends with, Spaz, who opened my eyes to all SORTS of freaky places that I fell in love with after leading a relatively sheltered adult life in my safe neighborhood.)
I figured that life for Tatus in the burbs was happy enough, stable, alright, comfortable, albeit an inconvenient commute sometimes, not close to his one daughter who goes to school in the city (not that he shouldn't be untying the apron strings a little), and that he, too, suffers from the blahs once in a while. We all do.
When all was said and done at the studio, I asked him "Well, what do you think?" and he said, "Beautiful." (I couldn't help but wonder if he was silently suffixing that with "If you don't mind being a total anti-conservative looking social outcast who's scary to kids, whom everyone will assume is a gangsta and will never get a straight job again in her life!") It was said in a tone unlike my mother's reaction, which was: "Well, let's see." And in a hostile tone, "Lovely. Just lovely." (She hated the first ring years ago and isn't fond of my piercings and even less fond of the tattoo.) Tatus has smoothed his tattoo emotions some since his daughter got her first, when I distinctly recall him plotzing in the office in dismay.
Here's the thing about my Tatus: I never *asked* him if he would want to or would be comfortable or even interested in being like a father figure, even after we'd become friends, or what his real family might think of it, or whatever. It's not my wish to invade or upset his world but it is my fervent hope to always be a part of it. The last I heard from him was that his wife was cool with him having female friends and I assume she would've been on the trip downtown with Dave the CD maker and friends, so I would've met her and possibly a kid mixed in there, I'm not sure.
(Still, goddamnit, I want to see his face when I wake up from surgery for reassurance on March 26th. By the way, the doctors and nurses in the OR for my hysterectomy will love my demanding diatribes. The ear piercings will be out, but the body jewelry HAS to stay in. So gauze and tape it up, don't put the IV anywhere near my tattoo, if you're putting a catheter in, do it after I'm fucking asleep and we'll all be happy.)
To this day, I don't know what he really thinks of being sort of filling a fatherly void for me. (I am the reigning queen of abandonment and Daddy issues, having lost my father at a crucial time in my development, at age 11.) For all I know, he might hate the moniker, detest the responsibility he never asked for, not to mention, feel really old as a result. I freely admit I told him one day that I assigned him that role, and he was kind enough to take it on without predication or even asking me why. He's got enough actual kids of his own to have another one to take care of in his busy life, never mind that *this* one turns 40 this year, and lest we forget, I'm a handful. Yet he is there for me when I need him, which I always appreciate. I choose to invite him into parts of my world that are special to me that, when he can, he takes the time to participate in with me. That's a good friend to have on your side.
What is Tatus really good at? Science. Angioplasties. Musical trivia. Telling a good story. Remembering plots of movies. Dispensing advice that makes practical sense. Hugs. Parallel parking. Logical sympathy. Humanitarianism. Eating salad. What's he really bad at? Responding to texts. Managing his social schedule in his head, by himself. And answering a direct question unless he's verbally confronted, preferably off-guard, in person.
I was emailing him about the shitty goings-on I was having with 2 of my dear friends (one I'm now totally fine with and the other is mending slowly) and asked him something to the effect of, if I'm such a (paraphrasing) stupid fucking bitch who has all these negative qualities, why is he friends with me in the first place? I was feeling decidedly unlovable and cast-off. I was asking for a lift-up, not a Kennedy Center Honor.
He answered my email promptly because I told him it was important, for which I was thankful, but he avoided my question. Twice. He did offer advice and empathy towards the situation I was in with my friends. I reminded him about the question in a subsequent email that he probably hasn't logged in and read yet (he doesn't spend a lot of time on the computer at home).
The more I thought about it, the less I felt an answer was requisite. I know why he's chosen to be friends with me, just as I know why Kate is my best girlfriend. Just because I'm Annie and I am deserving of love and good things, as the vast majority of people. I'm flawed, sick in both body and mind, troubled, unpredictable, but my heart's usually in the right place, as a human being. I have not made amends to all the friends I've somehow hurt or let down over the years, but that will come in due time. I'm simultaneously both seriously weak and ferociously strong. Tatus said that I'm wise beyond my years and I don't hold grudges. I take that as a high compliment.
When I found out one of the doctors who gave me the axe was ill in the hospital and deteriorating instead of improving, I gave serious consideration to visiting him in the hospital. I was worried about him and wanted to check in on him and see if he was going to be ok. At first, I told Tatus it was poetic justice that the guy had what they thought, at first, was the stomach flu, so he would get a feel for what it's like to spend a few days on or over the toilet constantly, but I meant that mostly out of jest. (His appendix burst.) I'm not mad at him at all. He's the one I hugged and hugged minutes after I was fired, who I wished nothing but the best to and for and he, vice-versa, both of us sorry. (I also demanded the little man run down the hall and get my Tatus immediately to walk me out, because I was about to have a nervous breakdown.)
But I'm a dreamer. An idealist. Idealists are fun but hard to be friends with, because they dream big dreams and when those dreams don't come true, or plans go awry, the disappointment or feeling of failure can be a royal bitch to deal with and the fallout difficult.
My Tatus is friends with me because I feel reasonably sure he doesn't know anyone else who thinks the video clip below is the single most intensely awesome minute of film she's seen in the last decade, who relates to this video clip as if it were happening in real life. Two words about this clip: fucking awesome.
Tatus? Being male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of age. But being a gentleman is a matter of choice. Thanks for it all, the ass kicks and the good stuff. May the Lord bless you and keep you. Let's keep it real, bro.