The sweat gathered in glassy beads on my father’s brow as he carefully threaded the long, completely unstable fiberglass pole through the fabric of the tent it would soon support. I was with him two weeks before when he had bought this tent and I had heard the disinterested, underpaid store clerk mumble quick assurances of the tent’s “easy-as-cake” set-up. An hour spent fumbling with fragile fiberglass pole sections, Velcro dome support straps, and a patented rain canopy that clearly didn’t fit right proved the clerk’s promise to be false.
Yet here we were, my father and I, taking part in the grand male ritual of learning how to be properly frustrated at inanimate objects that don’t perform as promised. Some fathers impatiently snatch greasy spark plug wrenches from their inexperienced son’s hands with a grumble and a sideways glance, secretly questioning the true paternity of their mechanically disinclined offspring. Other fathers, at the behest of their picky wives, grouchily set their end of a sofa down, first accidentally on their foot and then on the floor, so that they can dramatically gesture with their arms to turn the sofa on its side, like an insane semaphore flagman.
Which looks precisely like this to a perpetually distracted pre-teen son.
I attended my first writer’s workshop this last week, primarily on the invitation of a kind friend whose commitment to democratizing the act writing is rare and inspiring. At different times in my life, I’ve enjoyed writing for pleasure, but I haven’t been open to developmental opportunities like this. It’s summertime, though. My schedule is a bit lighter now and if the summer months are good for anything, with their long, hot days and sultry, starry nights, it’s for exploring the kinds of new possibilities that an icy, isolating winter seeks to prohibit.
I signed in and took my seat at the nearest table, knowing that I was overdressed for the occasion after having taught all day. Between the near constant fanning of faces of all colors and ages and the awkward volleys of conversation amongst strangers, I wasn’t the only one who looked uncomfortable and out of place. Still, we soldiered on and waited for the workshop to begin. Summer is a wondrous time of year and I’m glad that we have all four seasons here in the Sooner State. On the other hand, icy winters mean that crowded community rooms at public libraries aren’t sweltering saunas harangued by houseflies whose sole purpose seems to be interrupting the creative process.
Rest in Peace, Jeff Goldblum.