Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jobie

I know... I know... sorry!
To those of you who fanatically follow this blog and who hang on every word, I humbly apologize. I've fallen a bit short, haven't I?
The last post was... well.. quite a while ago.
Sorry. Sometimes you just don't feel like writing. Stuff happens... and there are things to say....but you just can't make yourself start typing. And at times it just seems absurd. Why? Why bother? What I have to say is borderline nonsensical anyway.... and certainly not worth the cyberspace it occupies. To think otherwise is hubris.
And yet... there are worse things out there, I suppose. Worse ways to occupy your time....and my time.
And I have occasionally heard that there are those among you who do enjoy these hebrephenic rants.
So I'll do my best to begin again.
There's been a bit going on of late. And it's kind of sapped me. It's becoming a repetitive joke, I'm sure... but it's been a hard couple of years. And the past week has been no exception. The summer was intense. Moving the shop...
And my dad passing away.
A few months ago, my father died of lung cancer. And it kind of effed me up.
Odd... it's been a while... and I've certainly done my grieving. But typing those words, that my father had died, I feel a new rush of grief . I don't know the last time I said them.

This will be a bit emotional for me, so I beg your forgiveness in advance. But then... if you've read anything I've ever written before... you know the drill.
It had been a long fight. Upon my return to Greensboro in early 2002, he had most of one lung and his lymph nodes removed. It had been a diagnosis that surprised none of us. My father's sport, aside from golf, was smoking. One after the other. My siblings and I are still waiting to see what kind of damage we've sustained from years of confined car rides and proximity.
It swings both ways.... but in our case, our parents constant smoking galvanized a revulsion to cigarettes in us. I can't even type the word without getting the heeby jeebies. To this day I'd rather smell the foulest decay than cigarette smoke.
The cancer came back less than a year ago, and proved to be very aggressive.
Jobie, the middle name that my father was universally known by, fought so hard... to the very end. He held on tight, getting weaker every day, but never losing his humor. In the end, his compulsions and impulsiveness hit an all time high, and it could be taxing for those around him... going over and over his lists, sticking to routines, addled phone calls as the cancer spread to his brain. But we understood. And it was nothing compared to what he was going through.
He had an optimism that I can't even fathom. Optimistic to a fault. Borderline oblivious. It could be maddening sometimes.
But I could use his optimism right now.... and I really miss him. I'd like to talk to him about so many things going on in my life right now. I wish he was here.
Toward the end, I traveled down to Charleston quite a bit, to see him and to help my brother, who had taken on the bulk of his care.
After one particularly bad weekend, I returned to the shop to find an angry message from a customer. Although maybe that's too strong a word.... customer. Demanding a hook up and generally being a pain in the ass doesn't define customer for us.
This person berated me for not returning a phone call they had made in my absence. It was an abusive message. Punctuating every other word with an f-bomb, he accused me of being unprofessional... which I found very amusing.
I shrugged it off. There was no reason to pander to this person.
Later I found out that he had approached one of my vendors and told them that I "didn't have my s*** together" and that the vendor would do better to place his product in another store.
Classy.
And as much as this person isn't worth a second thought....the fact is that he was right about one thing. I didn't have my s*** together. I was, in fact, in danger of losing it completely at the time. Spending the past four days helping my father bathe and make it to and from the bathroom, helping clean him up when he didn't make it.... Helping him take care of long list of things he needed to set in place before he died.... Watching him decline so rapidly... and watching him come to terms with his own mortality with such humor and strength...
I was very much losing my s***.

My Dad, for whatever reason, was very proud of me. And he told me this frequently. He was proud of the man I'd become. Proud of the kind of parent I was. Proud of the things I'd done. Proud of the shop. And he always wanted to help. In his own way, which sometimes could be extremely frustrating.
As a former marketing man, Dad was always trying to give me marketing advice. And most of it was pretty damn sage... but some of it I thought was just bats*** crazy. Dad had built a very successful advertising agency in Atlanta. An agency that at one time had lead the national sales campaign for McDonald's. If you're of a certain age... I guarantee you've seen one of my father's commercials. Remember MacTonight? That was my dad.

At not quite the other end of the spectrum, Dad was also responsible for the oddness of Mr. Big Fish... a brief, but iconic, campaign by Long John Silvers. (I'll find a picture.)
One time, when I accompanied Dad on a commercial shoot, he convinced the director to put me in the commercial. As a vegan, anti-establishment, Guilford College freshman with a dreadlocke mohawk (no... I'm not kidding) I had absurd issues with the whole thing, but I went along. Partly to please Dad. And partly because... how could I refuse? Be in a national commercial? Are you kidding?
I was one of 5 people poking their torsos out of the sunroof of a stretch limo, with Mr. Bigfish relaxing in the hot tub in the back. We were supposed to pull out of the drive through and look stoked about our bags of fried fish. And I was having a hard time finding my motivation. We pulled out of the drive thru at least 15 times, and I'm sure they did the shot over and over because of me. Because I couldn't feign that excitement... and my dreadlockes kept poking out of the hat they made me wear.
I was surrounded on both sides by buxom women in bikinis... women who were committed to the craft and who, while with their own moments in TV history.... a onetime guest spot as the mother in law on a shortlived sitcom, or as a one episode girlfriend of Matthew Perry in Friends.... were still waiting for their break. And work is work. So here they were, in bikinis, looking good in their 40's, with fish sandwiches in their hands... finding their motivation and working it.
Dad was full of ideas. Some were brilliant... some were just f***ing crazy. But he threw them all out there with the same zeal.
He published a book not long before he died. A project he had been working on for a while. It was a book on how to foster and bring out our own innate creativity. The working title for this book on the creative spirit: How to be Creative. After much goading, teasing and insistence by we, his loving children, it was finally changed to Innovate: Leap outta the Bowl, a reference to one of my father's more insane and widely know advertising campaigns, done while he was an underling at Proctor and Gamble. One that is still discussed during training seminars for new marketing folks at P&G. His idea started simply. Give out a goldfish with every box of Spic and Span laundry detergent. Without listening to his boss's admonitions to "forget it", (and going behind his back) Dad began one of P&G's most successful, albeit crazy drives ever, puzzling out every minute detail of how to transport, maintain and distribute millions of these bagged fish. They called him "Goldfish."

My father once bought me a number of Star Wars costumes, which you'll still find tucked around the shop. The idea being we were to don them and stand down at the street, waving people in to the shop... like the dancing lady at the corner of Spring Garden and Holden, or like Gigantor, who has since taken her place....
"It works, Watts. Just do it!"
We didn't...but we did put the costumes to use and took a whole bunch of absurd photos with them, using them in our emails and on facebook for various events.

One time, while visiting, my Dad wanted to go "scope out the competition." He was proudly wearing his Revolution Cycles t-shirt, but felt it very important to remain incognito and not let on that he was with me. I tried to explain that it didn't matter and that I visit the competition all the time... but he was insistent. Finding that the Marshall's Member's Only knock off jacket he was wearing had a busted zipper, he proceeded to snap the top button and walk around clutching his jacket together in a manner so conspicous and bizarre that if he had come in MY shop doing that, I'd have likely called the police.
Another time, a few months before he passed, he stopped by the shop to see me. As I was talking to a customer about a bike, I heard a voice behind me say, "Darth Vader says this is a good bike!"
Stopping midsentence and feeling a flush creep into my face, I turned to find my Dad standing behind me in a Darth Vader mask and cape, laughing.The customer had no idea what to make of any of that. At this point my Dad had lost all of his hair and looked 30 years older than he was. He was also dressed in what my siblings and I called his "street jobie" attire. A dress shirt tucked into sweatpants, white tube socks pulled over the cuff. The same Member's Only knockoff he'd worn for the past 10 years. And loafers.
Sigh.
I miss my Dad. And I feel that very acutely these days.
And I want to talk to him...
...ask him for business advice...
...ask him life advice...
...ask him why girls are so mean... (and know that he's going to give me a quote from one of his all time favorites, Men Are from Mars, Women from Venus)...
.... and I just want to let him know how much I love and miss him.

Bye Jobie. I'm proud to be your son.


1 comment:

  1. What a touching and wonderful tribute to your Dad. It made me laugh out loud and brought tears just the same. Your Dad would be proud of the beautiful memories you've shared with us. He raised you well.

    And to think, I just came here to find out what the shop hours were today. *Sniff* *Sniff* :-)

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