Dear Jack: To You On My 34th Birthday

4 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack: To You On My 34th Birthday

Dear Jack,

Turning 34 years-old means I’m now officially in my “mid-thirties.” It only makes sense that Mommy and I finalized getting set up with a life insurance policy for ourselves this week. Because that’s what you do when you’re 34; you buy a new house and you set up a life insurance policy. Sounds fun, right?

Well, in all serious, we definitely had plenty of fun this weekend as a family for my birthday. Nonna and Papa drove up from Alabama to see your soccer game Saturday morning; then they took care of you while Mommy and I got to go out on an awesome date to the movies, the Nashville Symphony, and out for dinner in downtown at Bakersfield.

It couldn’t have been any better!

Dear Jack: To You On My 34th Birthday

Then on Sunday, you helped make my vegan chocolate birthday cake. Mommy used 3 squiggly candles for the “3” and 4 regular candles for the “4”, to make the “34”. (My actual birthday is on April 20th.)

Of course, you blew out my candles for me. Plus, you took it upon yourself to open my presents for me as well; all while accidentally wearing your t-shirt backwards.

You and Mommy had slipped by Old Navy at some point and bought me some new clothes, including some “thunder socks” you specifically picked out for me. I shall wear them with pride!

Dear Jack: To You On My 34th Birthday

After removing all the decorative paper in my gift bag, you decided you wanted to make “paper pants.” So you tried them on for everyone.

Then you tried on my size 31 shorts Mommy bought me for our upcoming Pensacola road trip. They fit you about as well as the paper pants.

My 34th birthday weekend was perfect. It definitely felt like a real birthday. And I’m excited to buy Magix Movie Edit Pro 2015 with some of my birthday money, as I begin the process of teaching myself how to edit videos; to enhance Family Friendly Daddy Blog.

Let’s see if I end up being any good at it. I’ll make you a star, kid!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: To You On My 34th Birthday

America’s Got Talent But That Doesn’t Mean They All Have Fans: Why Getting Rich and Famous Like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber is Just So Darn Tough!

The first thing I randomly thought of when I woke up this morning was who else shares my birthday with me.  There’s Adolph Hitler (b. April 20, 1889).  And Joey Lawrence (b. April 20, 1976).  And then I (b. April 20, 1981) realized that Joey Lawrence is one of those washed out actors I keep forgetting about.  I’m sure if he had the chance, he would love to be back acting in the spotlight.  But the best he could do was to sign up for Dancing with the Stars a few years ago.

Because despite his ability to act and his good looks, America isn’t buying his product anymore.  Like Pauly Shore and Alyssa Milano, they will always have a place in our hearts.  The place labeled “early 1990’s”.

To a degree, almost everyone can sing decently, at least.  But having an amazing voice like Adam Lambert or Taylor Hicks means nothing if people don’t actually buy their music.  Or even buzz about their music on Twitter.

And that is the Survival of the Fittest of the entertainment industry:

“You can sing?  You can dance?  So can I.  So can everybody.  So what?”

 

Without that personal connection with fans, without that “Gotta Have It” trait an entertainer needs, their talent is as forgettable as any failed TV show that Christian Slater or Jerry O’Connell or Jay Mohr has tried to pull off.  Likeable guys, just not enough of that connection with the audience.  What they don’t have, wondergirl Lady Gaga is full of.

Some people are born with it, others are not.  Will Smith has it.  He can pull off being an action star by fighting aliens in Independence Day and he can play a cool, charming gentlemen in the romantic comedy Hitch.

Why do so many people feel they can connect with Will Smith and Lady Gaga?  I don’t know.  And if I did, or if anyone did, that secret would be utilized by everyone struggled to be noticed.

Heck, even Paris Hilton has talent and knows how to use it.  Though it’s easy to say she can’t act, or they she’s fake, there’s no denying that she knows how to play one part very well: the part of a rich American heiress.

She knows how to look like a movie star, speak like she’s from Connecticut, and at the same time she knows how to foolishly party like any young “in the moment” actress in Hollywood.  And as long as people say they are annoyed by Paris Hilton, she’s doing a good job.  The day she is taken seriously is the day her career is over.

 

Of course, sports stars are a little bit of a different story.  Arizona Cardinals running back Tim Hightower’s athletic career isn’t based on his ability to connect with fans.  It’s based on his physical ability to perform.

But even then, there is that professional golfer whom I’m way tired of hearing about.  And his disconnection with his fans definitely caused a distraction in his career.

But when an actor or singer does the same thing, if anything, it may even help their career.  It’s not uncommon for them for have multiple failed marriages.  It’s almost expected.

Funny how we hold different people to different standards like that.  I’m so glad I’m not famous.


Snail Trails: Your Memory May Be the Only Proof an Event Ever Happened

Nothing, not even a blank screen. Then suddenly on April 20, 1983, life as I know it began. Not the day I was born, but the day my memory started. With all my family gathered around me at the kitchen table, my first memory of life begins with a song- “Happy Birthday”. Maybe I was simply overwhelmed by that many people in the room at once. Maybe I thought the song had a sad tune. Maybe this is where I got my fear of being in front of a bunch of people with nothing to do or say. But all I had to do was just blow out that giant number “2” candle on my Mickey Mouse cake. Instead, I cried.

Flash forward to the summer of 1985. I put on my cowboy boots, grabbed my He-Man lunchbox, stood by the front door, and announced to my mom, “Okay, I’m ready for school! I want to meet friends.” I wasn’t even enrolled for pre-school yet, but my mom took care of it and a month later I was present at First Methodist’s “Mother’s Day Out” program (the year before Kindergarten: 1985-1986).

Though I was four years old, I can specifically remember that Simon Milazzo had a toy dog that I liked so much that my mom bought me one like his. I remember Meg Guice crying one day because somebody ate her pineapples when she was looking the other way. I remember Laura O’Dell gave me a valentine with a scratch ‘n’ sniff vanilla ice cream cone that smelled really good, while Alex Igou gave me a valentine with Darth Vader that said “Be Mine or Else…”.

I remember having a daily “play time” where we all went to the dark green carpeted fellowship hall where we were often forced to play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or sing and act out “The Farmer and the Dell”. Meg Guice would always want to be the wife when “the farmer chose a wife”. I never wanted to be chosen to play a character.

Instead, one day I wandered off to play with my fire truck. Alex Igou also managed to escape from the group, going to the opposite side of the room. We both got in trouble for doing this so the teacher put us in “time out” together. Alex said to me, “Do you like your truck I got for you?” (It was the one he gave me at my birthday party.)

I used to think I was weird for having such detailed and vivid memories from such an early age. But while in my Childhood Developmental Psychology class in college, the professor asked those of us who had a vivid memory from age two or younger to raise our hands. Twenty-five percent of us raised our hands and then had to share with everyone what our memory was. We were told that having a memory that clear from such a young age isn’t common, but it’s not abnormal either.

When I think of elementary school, I don’t remember much about what I learned, but I definitely remember clear conversations and events starring my classmates: In 2nd grade (1988-1989) while in line for a relay race during P.E., I was standing next to Cody Vartanian and Charles Robertson. In honor of the new Nintendo game, Cody said to Charles, “Skate or die!” Charles firmly responded, “I don’t have to skate if I don’t want to skate and I don’t have to die if I don’t want to die”.

Last week I told the story of breaking up a fight while dressed as a giant wolf exactly ten years ago, during my final month of high school (see “Cry Wolf”). I feared that it may come across like I had in some form exaggerated the details. According to my memory, no one I was friends with was there to witness it. So I was much relieved when Adrianne McClung Smith commented on the story, saying she was fortunate enough to see the event in person.

For many childhood memories we have, however, there was not a “constant” in the equation. In other words, without someone else who was there who still remembers a specific event taking place, in essence it only happened in our own minds. It makes me think of the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it…” question. My immediate response was always to ask if I could put a tape recorder in the forest before the tree fell. My next response was to realize I didn’t care if anybody heard the stupid tree fall anyway.

In the same way, I exclusively hold thousands of memories recorded in my mind. Memories about people I grew up with. Memories these people would never have known happened unless I tell them. Since I am the only person to verify such specific events, in theory they happened BECAUSE I remember them.

All anyone else can do is question the validity of my memory. But I know for a fact these memories are real, not simply evolved from a dream or an old snapshot. Everyone else has this ability though, at least to some degree if nothing else. Every person alive owns exclusive copyrights to memories involving other people.

I am constantly disappointed with the sad truth that even in the year 2009, there is no such thing as time travel. So badly I want to go back to those actual random memories; I want to replay them. In the back of my mind I’m hanging on to this thread of a hope that somehow someday I can revisit my past. Not to change it. Just to see it again, like a good movie.

This hope that when I get to Heaven there will be a series of doors with a different year written on each one, allowing me to revisit- in the likeness of Disney World’s Epcot Center how you can visit several “countries”. Evidently I have a condition which causes me to leave a trail of me behind throughout the history of my life, like a snail. At any given point, I am living in both the present moment and simultaneously each year of the past since my memory began in 1983.

As a writer and as an every day conversationalist, things seem incomplete to me without a nostalgic year or story in there somewhere. Some people have a habit of going off on “rabbit trails”. I end up on “snail trails” instead. My short-term memory is awful- I can’t remember who won American Idol last season. But my petty long-term memory is a little bit Rain Man-esque.