Hello, I’m five years old

Gary_the_snail

My son Austin just turned five, which is awesome because now he’s finally surpassed my level of maturity and it’s only a matter of time before I can con him into buying me beer.

The thing is, I just wrote two posts about being crazy. One is here, just a few posts back. The other will be on the Project Mojave blog soon if it’s not by the time this runs. (And by the way, you should head over there right now and subscribe to the RSS feed because I’m already PM faculty and as such will be posting there regularly.) But “crazy” has a cool vibe about it. Like that guy on the subway who thinks pulling his pants up over his face makes him invisible? Totally a mover and shaker in the world of cool. So you can say you’re crazy and it’s like saying you’re injured while you show off a scar. It’s like, “I’m wounded, which means I’m tough and dangerous. And I might pull my pants up really high.”

But maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe I’m just… an idiot.

For Austin’s fifth birthday, he got all these new Transformer toys, like this big Leader Class Megatron from the animated series where he transforms into this dual-rotor helicopter. And he got this big Bulkhead, and Bulkhead comes with the Headmaster unit, which everyone knows was created and piloted by this douchebag named Masterson in the cartoon, and the Headmaster unit sits over Bulkhead’s head and makes it so that Bulkhead says, “OWNAGE! TOTAL OWNAGE” in the Headmaster’s voice instead of the Bulkhead expressions. And then he got Lugnut, who is a Decepticon, and with his birthday money, he got Blitzwing, who is like a drunk Nazi with three personalities who is actually a triple-changer, going from robot to tank to jet, and he’s totally badass, and kind of sounds like Colonel Klink.

It’s cool when Austin goes to bed because I’ll sit on the couch and transform his toys from robots and then into planes and shit and I’ll be like, “You know, he really does need a better Optimus Prime. Optimus is the leader of the Autobots for Christ’s sake, and the only one we have has some sort of degenerative joint disease where he can’t stand up and collapses into an amorphous pile.”

My wife Robin will look at me and say, “How old are you?”

“Austin and I were talking, and he wants to get Blurr next, and then Sentinel Prime after that, but I really think our Optimus is pathetic. Like, a disgrace.”

“Ours.”

“Right.”

“Like, ‘Our car’ or ‘Our furnace.’ Optimus Prime as a staple of this family’s existence and keeping up with the Joneses.”

“You know the funny thing about Optimus Prime? He’s a truck, and he has this trailer, like he’s hauling crates of oranges or cigarettes or something. But whenever he has it and then transforms back into a robot, the trailer just kind of skids away and we’re supposed to forget about it. Where does it go? And where does it come from when he transforms into a truck with a trailer again? And most importantly, what’s in it, and why does he need it at all?”

She’ll get this look of mild amusement (or perhaps it’s pity) when I do things like that, but the joke’s on her because she likes the Transformers show too because she’s burned out on SpongeBob SquarePants, which I’ve been watching for eight years. Remember, my oldest child is five. The math does itself.

None of this is helped by the fact that a few years ago, I watched this Dvinsk Clan parkour video and this breakdancing video and decided I wanted to be able to do  cool stuff like that. So I tried to learn some rolls on my own and went to the park to learn stuff on the playground equipment, but then I hurt myself and got strange looks from mothers on the playground and decided I should go somewhere with big soft mats and fewer implied pedophile accusations.

So I started calling gymnastics facilities.

Most taught only kids, but it was okay because I wasn’t trying to learn kiddie stuff. I wanted to be Dvinsk! I wanted to learn parkour! I wanted to breakdance! I am manly!

And I finally found one that would teach adults and left a few messages for the instructor and she called me back after some good-natured gameplay wherein she pretended to be ignoring my calls. And she said, “So, I don’t understand. You want your kids to take lessons?”

“No,” I told her. “I want to take lessons.”

“Oh. How old are you?”

At the time, I was 31 and told her so.

“Oh.”

“I’m not really a typical gymnast, either. I’m six feet tall and weigh 205 pounds.”

“Oh. And you want to learn with your kids?”

“No,” I told her. “Just me.”

“Oh.”

So I’m sure she had a bet that it was a practical joke, but after a few lessons I was still refusing to go away and so she merged my “class” with the “class” of another singleton she had — a 9-year-old girl named Nicole. It became harder to convince myself that I was being manly, especially when Nicole’s parents showed up one day to watch.

“I’m not a creep,” I told them. “Honest.”

Luckily, the gym hired a male instructor shortly thereafter — a guy knowledgeable about the rings, the pommel horse, and all the other manly stuff. However, all hope for redemption died when his students showed up — a large group of high school girls who were clearly stronger than I was (bodyweight-wise, anyway, but can any of them deadlift 475? I THOUGHT not) and who kept looking at me with what I pretended was infatuation but which was actually probably closer to the way convenience store clerks are trained to study the defining characteristics of armed gunmen.

But if they had seen how quickly I can transform Megatron, they might have changed their minds about me. Like, he’s not a creep. He’s just a manchild, like Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

Sometimes I’ll be on a call with a client or something and Austin will poke his head into my office, asking me to transform Blitzwing into a tank. I can totally do it while conducting business. There are a lot of people out there who have been advised by a guy who knows that Shockwave actually infiltrated Autobot command by posing as a different bot by the name of Longarm. And a guy who, despite the suspicions of high school girls, can do an aerial and a back flip.

If that’s not a Renaissance man, I don’t know what is. Can Seth Godin make the claims I can? What about Frank Kern?

I have a 17-month-old daughter, too. She’s quite girly. I don’t think I’ll take up ballet, but I also used to laugh at grown men who knew so much about Transformers.

This could get interesting.


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Comments

  1. Tracy says:

    Wait, was that a how to keep a monkey in suspense style ending? She merged your what man? Your what?!

    Transformers was my least favorite stage. And I think it sucks and is unfair that you totally get what you pay for in Transformer quality. You should not have to pay over $20 for a transformer that doesn’t break the first day. You just shouldn’t.

  2. Mr Crash says:

    Johnny told me the rest of this story one time, it goes like this:

    she merged my class with an adults class on fencing. Figuring that fencing had very little to do with gymnastics, that it might actually make me go away. What she was neglecting to realise was the simple fact that being a pirate is awesome and some serious swashbuckling skills would definitely help on my next voyage across the high seas. But apparently people don’t take you seriously if you turn up to a fencing class with a parrot and an eye patch.

    See what you make me do when you don’t finish your posts?… Please finish next time, I’m terrible at this

  3. Johnny says:

    Weird. I wonder why that got cut off?

    I’ve added back in the truly emasculating part. Enjoy.

  4. Tracy says:

    I’m glad you tweeted this so I could read the rest. It reminded me of when I was 19 or so going out clubbing and being totally and completely creeped out by the very old dudes that were there. They must have been your age!

    Maybe ballet dad will be the soccer mom of 2010.

  5. Johnny, I’ve got two girls so our house if fully of Barbies and Build-a-Bear animals. Not a Transformer in sight. Which is why the whole time I was watching the movie — which, by the way, was freaking awesome (haven’t seen T2 yet [and also, by the way, didn't T2 used to refer to The Terminator?]) — I kept thinking, “Okay, fine, but do the names have to be so ridiculous?”

    Tracy, several years ago a friend suggested we all go out to a club. I said I can’t, because I’m Creepy Older Guy. If I shave my head and dress like an idiot I can maybe shave 15 years off my apparent age, but this hairline don’t lie.

  6. And by the way, when you feel compelled to tell people, “I’m not a creep,” do you really think they’re buying it?

  7. Johnny says:

    Saying “I’m not a creep” is like explaining why a joke is funny. If you have to do it, you’ve already failed.

    Incidentally, I went to the Warped Tour when I was 25 and felt like an old man. Can’t imagine going now.

  8. Johnny says:

    Which sucks, because I still love the music.

  9. Anne says:

    Please take ballet, JohnnyB – then put it on YouTube. Love the picture of Gary. This was a great (and hilarious) post.

  10. Dan Cosgrove says:

    I had the exact same experience when I wanted to learn gymnastics at 26. I guess I’m supposed to just play golf or something.

    They need to have t-shirts that say ‘I’m not a creep’

  11. Johnny says:

    So did you do it, Dan?

    It’s so badass. I’m now working with the guy instructor and he was on the national team and has worked with Olympians. I keep proposing complicated stuff to teach me and he always says, “Oh, that’s EASY!” and then it’s hard as shit.