Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sorry it's been so long -- I've been a wee bit distracted. Here's another from a few years back.

Jeffry P. Lindsay
"The Real Reason Tarzan Never Drove A Mini-Van"

When I was young I was addicted to the Tarzan books, and the older I get the more I realize that reading those books has warped me beyond repair. I don’t mean that I walk around the house wearing only a loincloth with a big sheath knife on my hip. That would be pretty dumb, and that’s why my wife put a stop to it right after we got married.

And I have pretty much given up climbing trees, too, since the last time I tried it I found out in unmistakable terms that tree-climbing is for slightly younger people who weigh less than a refrigerator.

But one thing I have hung on to, and that is the Tarzan Code of Silence and Toughness. And one of the most important parts of this Code is that if human beings only spoke when they really needed to, most of us could go through life without saying more than three words. Hello, good-bye, and – if you have kids – No. And that’s it. So it was something of a shock to me when I realized that both of my kids are afflicted with ICS, or Incurable Chatterbox Syndrome.

When my first child, T.L. Bear, was born, she was no more than three seconds old when she opened her mouth and made a sound like an angry duck. And as far as I can tell, she hasn’t stopped talking since. Bear even talks in her sleep. When she was two or three I would wake in the middle of the night and hear her talking. Because I am a dedicated neurotic, I would leap out of bed and race into her room with a golf club in my teeth, since I was sure she was talking to a long-lost member of the Manson family who had broken in to her room with a set of Ginsu knives and a hedge trimmer. And as I stood at her bedside, dripping panic-sweat and slowly becoming aware of the pain in my teeth from the golf club, I would see that Bear was sound asleep – but nevertheless carrying on long conversations with The Kids, her invisible gang.
And because I believe in the value of silence, I would simply turn around without a word and go back to bed, where my wife would usually wake up and tell me to for God’s sake take the golf club out of my mouth.

The last year or so she has finally begun to slow down a little, but since this is because she is a pre-teen now I am afraid the cure is worse than the disease, since for the next few years I really want to hear what she is not saying.

Bear’s younger sister Pookie is pretty much cut from the same cloth as far as sheer non-stop chatter is concerned. But either she was born with a full knowledge of Edgar Allen Poe, or she has inherited a twisted nature from one of her parents, probably the big one with the mustache. Pookie’s monologues are punctuated by bizarre statements and questions that seem to come from nowhere and very quickly plunge into strange and terrifying corners of the human mind we are all better off not entering. "Dad. Dad. Dad. Hey, daddy," she said to me midway in a recent trip to Tampa. She had to call me more than once because she had been going on for an hour and I was trying to listen to the radio. "Dad?"

"Yes, Pookie?"

"How do elephants throw up?"

This is a very difficult question to answer at any time, but at 70 miles an hour while listening to a stock market report it is close to impossible. "Pookie," I said, as I steered back off the shoulder and onto the highway again. "Where on earth did that come from?"

She shrugged. "God put it into my brain and it came out my mouth," she said.

And then she went right back to her play-by-play coverage of the trip, including but not limited to counting the stripes in the road, saying hello to all the other cars, and asking me what would happen if the moon fell on my head.

And then just for good measure, Bear chimed in with a report on the ecology of the Arctic Circle, and how many words the Eskimos have for "snow," and why that means we should have more words for "hot," and I have long ago given up trying to hear the radio and I am just concentrating on keeping my head from exploding.

And it occurs to me that in all the many Tarzan books I read, it never mentions him driving a mini-van. And now we know why. Because even though he probably knew exactly how elephants throw up, he wouldn’t have to answer. He could just grab a grape vine and swing off into the jungle.

Which of course, I can’t do, because the van is finally paid for.