Tuesday, January 19, 2010


On Saturday I went to my daughter's basketball game.  She's a natural-born athlete.  She's even a better swimmer than basketball player and the swim team coach moved her up to varsity.  She had acquired a number of ribbons and awards before starting high school.  Now she already has a letterman jacket after her first semester of 9th grade!  I'm quite proud of her.  Anyway, her team won the game this past Saturday, but she was disappointed with her own performance.  I like the fact that she's aggressive when boldness is indeed called for.  She was blocking this big girl--and I do mean heavy--and challenging her with no fear.  I played sports as a kid, mostly soccer and baseball, but Jessi must have inherited agility and an intrepid spirit from her mother's side of the family, because she's really good.  I suppose the only thing I contributed was her height, as she appeared to be the tallest on the team.  By the way, I'm not much of a photographer, but I did take the photo above.

I offered to take Jessi and her friend Lauren to the movie theater later in the evening and I tagged along.  I snuck in some of her favorite treats: sour gummy candy and Reese's peanut butter cups.  She also likes Butterfingers.  Anyway, we watched The Lovely Bones.  The movie was good, but somber, as the plot revolves around the murder of a 14-year-old girl by a lone neighborhood weirdo.  Afterwards in the car I told the girls that the novelist and filmmaker could have easily based the evil character on real life.  For instance, the white middle-aged loner built an underground bunker and after he killed the hapless teen he placed the body in a safe in his basement.  He also kept the girl's bracelet as a souvenir and would fondle it in his fingers from time to time.  Last year, when Jessi and I saw the Liam Neeson movie Taken about a couple of girls being abducted in Paris and sold on the sex slave market, I likewise warned her that such things really happen.  In fact I had wanted her to see the movie so that she would at least be mindful of the possible dangers out there before she someday gallivants across Europe with friends.  As I was telling Jessi and Lauren about similarities of the character in The Lovely Bones to various serial killers whom I've studied, it occurred to me that they might think I'm a weirdo--hopefully not the sadist killer type of weirdo but a weirdo nonetheless.  In retrospect I thought this might be freaky telling them what I know.  But, again, I wanted to warn them of the dangers that lurk beyond our doorstep.

On Sunday I took Jessi out to practice driving.  She turned 15 in November and will be starting driver's training in a few months.  I had already started her out on driving in the late fall but that was before the snow and ice hit.  I have to say that she's doing quite well.  She's practicing on my wife's car because it has automatic transmission.  Eventually she'll graduate to stick shift, but she's gotta get the basics first.

The last couple of times we went out I had her drive around the well-landscaped and spacious grounds of a Catholic pastoral center that's perched atop a hill overlooking the west part of town.  It's absolutely beautiful and serene, and it's also eerily vacated.  We've both commented that it would make a great set for a horror movie, especially one of those old-school satanic movies about demonic possession or whatnot.  The weird bronze statue of an Eastern Orthodox-looking Jesus with outstretched hands that greets you when you enter the long driveway adds to the freakiness.  I like to pretend that strange, ghastly faces are peering out of the windows of the brick buildings as Jessi drives by.  I can totally see a bewitched nanny on the roof of what I take to be a parsonage with a noose around her neck, ready to jump, and crying out, "Check this out, Damien.  This is for you, Damien."

There I go again.  I gotta learn to bridle my imagination when it comes to horror because Jessi can easily get nightmares.  I should know better.  It's difficult for me not to think about such things, however; it's congenital, I think, because I've been fascinated with monsters and evil since I was a child.  But I think Jessi has accepted my perverse fascination with the perverse, just as my eldest daughter, Erika, has.

Jessi and I went to Japan last August.  I've discussed this trip before, and I'll perhaps talk about other aspects of it later; but I wanted to mention something about Jessi.  Before the trip I was a bit worried that she wouldn't have a good time, that things would go awry, and that she would complain about walking around so much or have difficulty keeping up (I have a wide gait).  I found all of these worries to be groundless.  It was a great time, and I was impressed with Jessi's attitude throughout.  Also, she not only kept pace with me (and never complained about walking so much) but sometimes I even had trouble keeping up with her!  Sure, we could have taken the subway more often, and we did indeed use the subway and train system for long distances.  But when I visit a place, especially an exotic land like Japan or Turkey, I want to get a feel for it.  I don't want to see only the tourist attractions and I don't want to whiz by these places.  No.  I want to walk the whole city if possible, looking through alleys and observing regular folk on the street.  I think that Jessi enjoyed this experience too.

Speaking of foreign places, I'll never forget the cute little baby crying in the window when we lived in a house in Bavaria, Germany.  By we, I mean my wife, Jessi, our eldest daughter, Erika, who was four years old at the time, and me.  I was conducting archival research for my dissertation.  I recall one morning--maybe more than one--when I left the house in the morning to catch the train into the city.  Jessi, only six or seven months old, was looking out the window at me from the dining room window.  She was crying up a storm (not literally).  What a cutie she was, a full crop of dark brown hair and the biggest brown eyes you've ever seen.  Memories like these, I'm almost certain, add time to my otherwise lugubrious life.

My plan is to take Jessi (who exhibits a particular wanderlust among my children) to every continent before, say, she turns 21.  I'm not sure if her time in Germany counts for Europe.  Since I'm a wealthy man (not), I hope to visit South Africa within the next three years.  As you can gather, I like spending time with my daughter.