FD2K June 20, 2000
Tuesday June 20, 2000 11:05:22 PM

Last Sunday was my second Father's Day. It feels odd to realize that the last one was a whole year ago. I have been raising my child for about a year and a half now. This thought humbles me. I want to strive harder to be worthy of the task.

On a lighter note: Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for last Saturday morning. OK, Mr. Peabody.. Here we go.

The first item of the day was my (only slightly overdue) haircut.

The barbershop I am proud to call "mine", The Sportsman's Barbershop, is a marvelous place. It is a man's place. Women are not unwelcome, they just have very little reason to be there since it is a barbershop and not a hair salon. Sometimes a mother may sit and wait while junior is shorn for the summer, or sometimes a proud mommy watches as her son gets his first haircut (as Ruth did while I held Isaiah to make sure he didn't squirm and get his little ear cut off). I suppose the occasional missus may step in to pick up her mister, but other than that it is the realm of men only.

The Sportsman's Barbershop is the kind of place where you may have to wait over an hour for your turn in the seat, but the time passes quickly because plenty of guys are telling jokes or hunting stories or discussing the big game. Even if the crowd happens to be quiet, there is always a current issue of Motor Trend or Outdoor Life to read while you wait.

Yes, from the old bee hive hanging from a tree limb leaning against the wall over there in the corner, to the cardboard display selling unbreakable combs (three empty slots, three combs remaining) The Sportsman's Barbershop exemplifies the spirit of a meeting place- a common ground, a community where everyone is accepted. I guess, simply put, it's a place you don't mind wait around a while to get your ears lowered.

The next item on the list was a visit to our insurance agent to inquire about a ballpark figure for home insurance on the property we hope to move into next week. I had, however, left all the other members of my family at home, happily asnooze, when I departed for my visit to the above mentioned temple of the tonsorial and so returned home to get them.

On the way back home, I noticed that there was a "flea market" going on in the building that used to house a bowling alley near our house. Having passed right by this very building all my life and never having stepped inside, and also being not only a fan of cheesy junk, but the strange sort of person that would be curious about the inside of that building simply because he'd passed by it all his life and never been in it, I resolved to mention to Ruth the notion of having a look at the "flea market" sometime during the day.

After visiting the insurance agent, Target (for the wedding gift registry list of the couple we are traveling to Kansas City, MO next month to see get hitched and a scan through the toy department for some cars for Isaiah- "Isaiah did too say he wanted to look at the cars, Ruth. You didn't hear him because he whispered to me..."), and McDonald's for some lunch, we in fact did stop by the so called "flea market"

I not only say "so called", but put the words flea market in quotation marks because this... event surpassed my wildest imaginations.

First off, I'll mention that my curiosity was satisfied about the architectural delights to be observed inside the now empty and somewhat dilapidated ex-bowling alley. It was, let us say, pretty bowling alley-ish- dark paneled walls, green industrial carpet, and a dimly lit murky gloom of old grease and cigarette smoke. It was quintessentially bowling alley-ish except for the fact that the big open space where the alleys used to be was just that. No wood lanes on the floor, no back wall hiding the pin setting machines, no nothing except a concrete floor and cinderblock walls.

The "flea market" itself was somewhat more remarkable. It was not remarkable in the rows of tables covered with interesting items of kitsch from previous decades, or for sets of wooden shelves made by retirees in their garage workshops, which would be hardly remarkable at a flea market anyway. No, it was remarkable for the almost unbelievable crapitude of the whole deal.

It was raining fairly well as we sprinted from the car through portal that transported us to a new dimension of junk (Let me interject here, that although with my somewhat non-mainstream sensibilities, the word junk usually is uttered with positive connotations, in this context nothing the least bit positive is meant. When I say junk, I mean j u n k.), but whoever had set up their table of crap outside the door had not bothered even to throw a plastic drop-cloth over it. As you may guess, this was a portent of what was to be seen inside...

To the right as we first entered, was set up several tables covered with old clothes and a number of bars with clothes hanging from them. As we passed by this display, we approached an area set up with the cheapest and cruddiest of objects that were obviously the wares of someone who had wasted their $49.95 on the dream of "making millions in the import export business". Would you pay ¢79 for a smiley face keyring- the ring of which was rusty? Oh, these folks were also (trying) to sell homemade fudge "free samples of fudge". I suspect even that price was too high.

We came next to the main area of the "flea market". Here, one long table was set against the low wall that separated the upper area of the bowling alley from the empty space where the lanes used to be. Once again, what we found was mind boggling in that someone thought that someone else might buy it. Cheap paper back books from the 80s (all non-fiction), scratched LPs of holiday music, unnameable electronic crap "Don't work- $1", and sets of plastic dishware.

The desolation wasn't total, though. There were a few interesting items. Namely two time clocks, which I would have liked to have had, but was afraid to ask the price of, a box containing a number of videos and paperback books, all of "The Rifleman", which piqued my interest until I saw the small tag that said "whole box $40" which may have actually been a bargain but was out of my price range, and a small plaster hanging after the fashion of a coat of arms.

The last area, though, was the one which made me certain our time at the "flea market" would be described in this forum.

As I approached, I saw glass display cases containing knives. Knives which, judging by the prices attached to them and the size of them, must have been forged from the finest pot-metal that could be found in the trash heaps of Taiwan. "8'(sic) blade- great for hunting. $10"

This, however, was hardly outside the realms of what I had so far seen. It was when the rotund and elderly fellow standing behind the cases said to me as I turned away, "I have another table over here, around the side. Funny how most people miss it..." That I found myself inexplicable drawn to the pinnacle of, well... I don't know a good word for it. I'm not sure there is one.

Out of common courtesy, I turned back and drew nigh unto the table. I was not disappointed. Now, honestly, I can remember very little of what was on that table, only two different things, one of which was almost sensible, the other however...

The two items I remember are an electric typewriter from the early 80s marked $20, this is the one that shed a little ray of reality over the whole affair, it could have been seen in any garage sale nationwide with no problems, the other item, though, for some reason, made me wish to remove myself and my family from the premises post-haste, for sitting next to that old electric typewriter, that touchstone of common sense, was a pile of empty, brown plastic video cassette cases... for sale.

Perhaps I'm playing the whole thing up a bit. Perhaps I'm exaggerating and embellishing (not much), but when I saw those video cassette cases I had had enough of that place and I'm sure you can understand where I got the quotation marks around the words flea market when I described this affair.

After we left, to get the bad taste out of our collective mouth, I suppose, we headed to one of the local antique/junk (note: from here on out the word junk has regained all positive connotations which I would normally ascribe to it) shops that are so numerous in this area.

This shop is a known quantity. Decent stuff, and plenty to look at. This, in fact, is the place where we found the Miller beer tap handle which was a gift to my father and now adorns the counter of the Full Gospel Bar and Grill. I found a volume of works of Joseph Conrad dated 1942 for $4. Ruth decided that the price was right and told me to get it for myself.

Our next destination, we decided, would be the decidedly more antique and less junk shop where we got the 1950s vintage silver formica kitchen table and chairs that I could see through the doorway to my right this very moment- if the kitchen light were on.

This is where we made the big find of the day- a tricycle for Isaiah. Not any tricycle, mind you, although tricycles in general are becoming rarer to find each year, no this tricycle is EXACTLY like the one I had as a youth and, in fact, could conceivably be the very AMF Junior that transported little "Hot Rod Roger", as I called myself then, from the front door of 731 Jackson Lane to the furthest tricycl-arily accessible reaches of the neighborhood.

It needs some work. It is rusty and the paint has faded. The pedals are missing and the wheels squeek. I think, though, that $10 was a fair price for this childhood memory trans-temporised to the childhood of my son.

Isaiah knew what it was for and wanted to put it to use, too! He was strapped into his ATS (All Terrain Stroller, so named for the big treaded wheels that make it easier to roll in the grass) and as soon as he caught site of the 3-wheeled contrivance, all he wanted was out of that stroller, into the seat, and behind the handlebars. But since we were surrounded by numerous blood-chillingly priced breakables, he had to remain content with leaning forward in the seat of the ATS and holding onto the back of the seat of the tricycle as we wheeled it and him to the front of the shop to pay.

The plan for the celebration of Father's Day this year was much like that of last year- everybody would meet at the Outback Steakhouse after church. Once again everybody, including Wilma, Isaiah's official extra grandmother, was present.

We arrived first this year and Isaiah was fast asleep. Ruth and I sat out front with Isaiah in my arms for about 15 minutes till my mom arrived and then about 5 more till the Denbys arrived.

When the Denbys walked up, I told Mark, Ruth's brother, to give me his celphone so I could call my dad in Arizona. Of course he balked, but I ended my little joke by explaining that Dad has a 800 number for such uses.

Isaiah enjoyed lunch much more this year than he was capable of doing last year. He sat in a highchair this year instead of his baby seat. I think his favorite thing about the afternoon was the 24" tall ceramic, anthropomorphic alligator wearing a safari outfit which he kept pointing to and giggling about all afternoon.

His decidedly least favorite thing was the sweet potato we bought as a side item just for him. In the past he has eaten them with glee. This time he spit out the very first bite quite emphatically. Instead, he wanted whatever Ruth or I had in front of us at the time- bread, soup, chicken, steak. Whatever we had he wanted that instead of his own stupid, old sweet potato.

He was good, though. He is very well behaved (in public, anyway...) for a child of his age. He can retain a happy and playful attitude for long periods of time and seems to have an attention span greater than most adults. Even so, he got fussy a couple of times. Fortunately Daddy's rendition of "The Yodelling Veterinarian of the Alps" (a VeggieTales song) was all it took to get him to trade in his frowns for smiles.

I scored some prime loot this year- a $20 giftcert for Sears from Mom (that'll be most of a new pair of jeans), a flagpole and a huge flag with Snoopy barbecueing on it from the Denbys, a toolbox from Mark, and last but best a T-shirt from Ruth that says "The Old Block". The T-shirt was accompanied by one for Isaiah that says (did you guess?) "A Chip Off The Old Block". These shirts, let me tell you, will get a lot of wear.

All that gear, though, even the shirts, pale in the light of the joy I get from my son. Isaiah is a wonderful little boy who already has a distinct, powerful and endearing personality. His brain is developing so quickly, I can actually see his mental faculties grow from day to day. He is clever and a quick learner. He is friendly and sweet and affectionate. He is the greatest blessing and the brightest delight in my life and I pray each night that I will be the father he deserves, that I will help him to fulfill his potentials, and that I can help him become the person God wants him to be.

It's a big job, but I'm proud to do it.

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