"Write when you feel excited by the prospect. Otherwise, don’t bother. Break your deadlines, default on your due dates, wander in the streets, go to the movies, eat lavishly, fornicate, blaspheme, bless a street urchin, browbeat a civil servant, and when you’re done with these things, if you feel excited by what you’ve seen and heard, then go write." —Rick Moody, The Art of Fiction 166
We went to Cedar Point and Cuyahoga Valley National Park last month, and on the travel day between the national park and the amusement park, we wound up watching the 1998 version of The Parent Trap in our hotel room. When Meredith (Elaine Hendrix), the gold-digging wife-to-be of Nick (Dennis Quaid) first appeared on-screen, Jackson sort of perked up and said, "She is h-o-t!" Which, of course, is when you know it's over. He has also recently starting talking about posting Minecraft tutorials on the internet. He actually used the word "tutorials." I may have been in college the first time I heard that word.
So anyway, this is way late, but here's the birthday picture rundown for 2016. Jackson is nine years old, and he just started fourth grade.
Before this year, I had been to three national parks in my life: Grand Canyon (twice), Mammoth Cave (twice), and Mount Rainier. (Those are the ones that I can recall having been to, anyway. It's possible that we got one or two more during family vacations when I was a kid.) So far this year, we have been to five national parks, increasing my total by 167%. We hit Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Joshua Tree on our pilgrimage to see a moose back in March. Today, we got back from a trip that was originally just supposed to be an outing to Cedar Point, but which happily turned into a mini-vacation that netted us another national park, due to my misinterpreting when Amy would want to leave for Cedar Point. That misinterpretation meant that I had to ask for an extra vacation day from the old juke joint - and the extra day meant that we got the chance to spend most of this past Thursday wandering around Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is in northeast Ohio, between Cleveland and Akron.
Once again, I'm going to lead with just one photo of Jackson, and hope that this inspires me to write some more about this park, and to post more pictures of our little boy while he can still be considered a "little boy." I don't know what constitutes an official "growth spurt," but he's in the throes of something that's going to have him on the threshold of adolescence before long. He's really into Minecraft these days, and he spends more time than I would like for him to spend watching Minecraft videos on the magic internets. Tonight, he showed me something he was building in the game, and he said that it was for his Minecraft "tutorials." Not so long ago, this was a little person who was incapable of speech and who could not feed himself. Now he's developing tutorials for Minecraft - with plans to post them on the internet, of course. Darwin help me. This picture is of Jackson contemplating Brandywine Falls, at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Why are we here?
Because we're here.
Roll the bones.
When I was 9, we took a three-week family vacation by car - and when I say "by car," what I really mean is in a mid-1970s Buick LeSabre - to California, mostly to visit my uncle in San Francisco, but also so my parents could take me and my brother to Disneyland. They're not big Disney people, and we were never the kind of family who went out and did things only because other families were doing those same things and we wanted to fit in; but there was some kind of bugaboo buried somewhere in their collective psyche that told them they should probably take us to one of the Disney parks at least once while we were kids, just to have done it, so we would know what it was like, how much less satisfying it is than roughly any other amusement park anywhere on (Spaceship, natch) Earth. (Okay, I threw that last part in. They felt like it was something they should do as parents. I thought it was unsatisfying, at least in terms of the rides.)
And yes, we drove. Not because getting there is half the fun, as Clark W. Griswold would have said, but probably because it would have been much more expensive to fly. We camped overnight, in a Coleman pop-up camper, in places like Gothenburg, Nebraska; somewhere in Wyoming; and Winnemucca, Nevada, before arriving in San Francisco and staying with my uncle, who would have been 30 or 31 at the time. Being a tech person, he had a number of fancy gadgets in his apartment, and one of them was a laserdisc player. Remember laserdiscs? Same technology as a CD, but the size of a vinyl record album, and they played movies. So what did my MIT-educated uncle elect to play on laserdisc for his impressionable 7- and 9-year-old nephews?
National Lampoon's Vacation.
And we, much to my mother's chagrin, devoured it. We watched it over and over again, and we aped the lines; and for whatever reason, the pimp-daddy's reply to Clark's request for help getting back on the interstate, "Hey, fuck yo mama!", was the one we latched onto and aped the most. I have since maintained a deep and abiding love for that film, and the whole point of this digression is that, because of all of the fond memories I have wrapped up in the concept of National Lampoon's Vacation, I have come to think of any trip to California, from some place far enough afield as the Griswolds would have traveled in the film (Chicago, in point of fact - which is close enough to Indianapolis for government work), as a trip to Walley World.
We have recently returned from just such a trip.
We did not go to Disneyland. Amy took Jackson to Florida to visit her grandfather last year during spring break, and while they were there, they went to Disney World. That might just get me off the hook for Disney parks. Our trip this year was for the purpose of seeing friends and family, and visiting national parks. We started in Sacramento, ended in San Bernardino, visited five relatives and one of Amy's friends from college, and made it to four national parks - Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Joshua Tree (and collected what I am roughly estimating as around a gajillion dead bugs on the front end of the car I rented when we landed in Sacramento).
I wanted to include more than one picture in this post, but - surprise! - it took me way longer to write the post than I had imagined it would. So for now there is only one picture. However, we have about a thousand pictures to go through, and I have a lot more to ramble on about, so there will be more posts about the trip. And more pictures. (No, really. There will be. Pictures of Jackson, too.)
So for starters, here's a picture that contains Jackson way down in front in the foreground, and Half Dome, one of the impressive granite landmarks at Yosemite National Park, way up at the top in the background.
So my brother, bless his heart, refuses to engage with Facebook, which is where my wife would have attempted to post the video shown below - attempted, because the original was close to 1GB. (I don't know if that would have worked or not, because - wait for it - I refuse to engage with Facebook!) The Blogger website just laughed at me when I tried to post it. I had to crop it quite a bit to get it under the 100MB Blogger limit - so Jess, if this is simply unwatchable, let me know, and I'll put the original on a flash drive and bring it with me on the Walley World trip.