Tuesday, August 7, 2007

That Deaf, Dumb and Blind Kid Sure Plays a Mean Pinball

After grumbling and mumbling for (according to Wife) an eternity about how I need a vacation (despite, or perhaps because of, my inability to coherently explain to anyone what exactly it is I do), I finally took Friday and Monday off, and tried to relax. Since being stressed out doesn't appear to be helping my productivity, perhaps some chillaxin' would do the trick.

Friday was spent taking Son to the doctor, dragging him home from the park in a thunderstorm, and generally spending some quality father/son time. At some point I texted The Boxer, wanting to see if she felt like basking in Son's radiant glory (and my own, lesser, light). She declined on the laughable pretext of being a couple hundred kilometers away, and thus unavailable.

"Ottawa, eh?" says I, "Hmm...". And so, the inspiration for an epic family road-trip was born. Wife and I packed a bag, got a hotel using some sort of mysterious "points" system, the mechanics of which elude me, and boogied on down the T-Can to O-town for the bitchin' night-life and wild orgies.

Okay, no seriously. We went for the museums. First stop was the Museum of Nature, which is just like a zoo, except all the animals are dead, stuffed and mounted. This used to be called the Museum of Natural History, but that had a nasty boring historical ring to it, so they renamed it. The dinosaur exhibit is still in full effect, thank God (that's right, Creationists, "God" and "dinosaurs" in the same sentence. Suck it!), so Son spent a good hour and a half ogling the petrified skeletons of Devonian sea-creatures and the like.

They even had dinosaur poop! Which really didn't smell as bad as it sounds, and actually had a sort of burnished quality to it, as though transformed through the magic of fossilization into bronze or (*gasp*) Gold! I couldn't believe it. Here was a creature whose fleshy bits became oil, whose bones became stone, and whose poop became Gold. Truly a masterpiece of Intelligent Design, all form and function designed to serve that pinnacle of creation, Man (or, you know, Woman, whatever.). No wonder the creationists let this place slide!

We then whipped through the other five floors of the museum in about fifteen minutes, and adjourned to Sparks street, where a Buskers Festival assailed our senses. Seriously. That guy on stilts who plays the saxophone and looks like he's gonna kick you in the face with his skinny two-by-four legs? He was there. So were the break-dancers, the guy who draws Vermeer on the sidewalk with colored chalk, the man who bites the heads off chickens, that fucking string quartet who don't seem to know any songs other than Pachelbel's Canon, the Spoon Man, the puppet-show guy, the cotton-candy lady who always has a cigarette in her mouth, the chicken who bites the heads off men, the bloody Peruvian Pan-Pipe Band (or maybe they were Andean?), and various T-shirt, slushy, and snake-oil vendors. The highlight of the affair for Son, though, was bouncing around in an inflatable trampoline at 2 dollars a minute.

Lunch was crappy and expensive, and would set the tone for all our culinary experiences in Ottawa. Maybe living in Montreal has spoiled me, but the trip seemed salted and peppered with universally shitty and expensive food.

Finally, it was check-in time, and we repaired to the hotel for a quick nap. The rest of the day was spent in a whirlwind walking tour of all the salient touristy parts of Ottawa: the Hill, Byward Market, the Canal. We finished off the night with a dip in the hotel pool, and a light show on Parliament Hill, and hit the hay.

Sunday was breakfast at Chez Cora, more Byward Market, watching the boats in the Rideau Locks, then hitting the Museum of Science and Technology on the way home.

The Museum of Science & Technology was a heterogeneous mélange of the mundane and the fascinating, the old and the new, the shiny whiz-bangery of The Future and the insufferably dull nincompoopery of "The Future". Believe me, it's a subject for a whole other post, but by way of a tempting morsel of Things to Come, check it. I came across this unassuming black box in the "History of Radio" section of the museum:

Herald of the age of Bakelite and cast-iron, the "fathometer", I assumed, was used to gage how Fat one's "Ho" was. Not so! (I was informed by a patient museum volunteer) In actuality, submarines had this on-board to determine the depth of the sea bed, in order to avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of running aground on the bottom of the ocean.
Another miracle of the future: The Satellite Phone! According to the plaque, in distant 199?, "Earth stations like this, forecast for the future, would let you be in contact with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Would you want one?"

Gosh, and how! What won't they think of next?

Lately I've wondered about my qualifications. (I'm not, after all, an expert.) And not in any specific way, like "Am I qualified to do my job", but am I qualified to do anything really? Be a father / husband? Be a (yuck) "blogger"? What the hell qualifies me to try and make people think, when I can barely bestir my own gray-matter from it's perpetual hibernation?

Some people are uniquely unqualified for specific tasks. You wouldn't ask a gay man to judge a "Miss Nude Hawaiian Tropic" competition, for example, any more than you would ask a Catholic priest to babysit your kids, or an esotropic homeless man with an inner-ear infection to lead a firing squad. There are some specific unsuitabilities (all racism, sexism, ageism, creedism and nationalism aside) that simply cannot be overlooked.

When you're interviewing prospective employees for a position involving, say, fire safety, are you going to hire the former chief of the Asbestosville Fire Department, or a three-time convicted arsonist? Arguably, the arsonist knows a lot more about fire.

But this isn't a question of being uniquely unqualified. My disqualification feels, at times, universal, and I flash on the image of myself, or the meager accomplishments of my life, gathering dust in some Museum of Human Nature, atop a faux-brass plaque inscribed with my various paleontological vital statistics. And the sum of my contribution to the universe will be Son. The torch is passed, and now no light falls on me.

The good news is that you can't be fired from any of the really important stuff (short of a court order, and if you're reading this, Kevin Bacon, stop calling me). Sometimes, a nearly infinite series of second chances awaits. And I figure, if a four-year-old can offer unconditional forgiveness and acceptance, then how hard can it be?

It's a fucking work in progress, is all. Cut me some slack.