Thursday, May 15, 2008

Deciphering Dad

I grabbed a cheesy men's magazine at the gym this morning, thumbed past the ads for clothes I wouldn't wear in a million years, and stumbled upon an excerpt of Augusten Burroughs' new book A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of my Father. Later in the magazine was an essay by Michael Chabon, whose writing I prefer to Burroughs', but what caught my attention in the excerpt was Burroughs' mention of his father's interest in ham radio and the Q-codes that amateur radio enthusiasts use. His father chatted with strangers from far away, while right next to him his young son yearned for the same connection.

I thought of Wilco's 2002 masterpiece album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The climactic track on that album, "Poor Places", begins with Jeff Tweedy's words

It's my father's voice trailin' off
Sailors sailing off in the morning

and ends with a big knot of noise and a captured radio transmission of a woman's voice repeating Yankee... Hotel... Foxtrot... Yankee... Hotel... Foxtrot...

A meditation on the physical and interpersonal obstacles to communication.


After my grandfather's funeral, we returned to the line of cars with purple flags. My dad put his knurled hands on the steering wheel, exhaled, and opened the valve on emotions that he'd bottled for the previous weeks, months, years. I put my left hand on his shoulder, and he tensed -- an involuntary message that said "not now". The moment was too direct and too raw.

What's the comfortable language with my father? Golf, sports on TV, politics, and -- lately -- geocaching. Facts and tasks and made-up goals and little triumphs that serve as a sort of Q-code for underlying messages that are too direct and too raw to say out loud.


I found LucidOndine's puzzle cache Topsy Turvy after two failed attempts. I'll let the logs tell that story.

FSU*Noles' event Cup of Joe (Puzzle Edition) - Maple Grove! is Saturday morning. I'll be there at the Panera with close to 100 other geocachers and the muggles who love them.


Bill Roehl said...

I'm a Burroughs and a Wilco fan. You own me. I'll have to pickup his new book soon!

firstbass said...

Maybe Wilco owns both of us. I saw them in Detroit when they were touring to promote their album A Ghost is Born.

Part of the pleasure of reading Burroughs is thinking "Man, I'm glad my life isn't that f***** up!"

Bill Roehl said...

Part of the pleasure of reading Burroughs is thinking "Man, I'm glad my life isn't that f***** up!"

Hmm, I always thought it was because I had so much in common with him ;-)

Karen said...

I LOVE the mathematician's multi-tool!! I'll have to email that pic to my mathematician brother!