Sunday, February 17, 2008


This morning at work, one of the designers greeted me with an observation. "You know what the secret of life is?" he asked rhetorically, "It is what it is."

"Huh," I answered, "No argument there."

Then I continued with another thought. "I know how to say that in Spanish: 'Esso si qué es."

Now how did I know that?

Back sometime in the last century, there was an ad on whatever NYC radio I was listening to at the time for a method of learning languages. The example given on the air was that you could remember the Spanish for "it is what it is" by remembering how to spell socks, S, O, C, K, S. I have no idea if my Spanish is anywhere near correct there, but I do know that phonetically how to say "it is what it is" in Spanish would be by pronouncing S-O-C-K-S.

It is what it is.

We were awfully busy at work today. I was going all day long. Yesterday was great for eye candy. Today, not so much. but today was awfully good for pleasant people to work with. Awhile ago, I arrived at the algorithm for the Best Possible Ho(t)me(n) Depot customer: there to spend money, in a hurry, and pleasant. Amazing how rare it is to find all of those elements together in one person, but today was the day. They were out in droves.

Good thing, too. Today was Day Five of working eight straight days in a row. And last night, I didn't sleep so well. I got to bed at a decent hour, but at 3:00 a.m., I was suddenly wide awake after a strange dream reached its culmination. In the dream, I had joined the Navy. Not quite by choice, but not quite against my will either. The night before, I was in a motel with a bunch of other guys who had also joined the Navy. We stayed up late drinking--although me not too late since I'm old and can't do that any more--shooting the bull and acting like we weren't nervous at all, even though we were. The next morning, we all boarded a bus that would take us to boot camp. (Do they have boot camp in the Navy? I can only imagine that they have something like boot camp. It's probably not like they toss you on a ship and say "welcome to the Navy, Sailor!". But I doubt they call it boot camp. Although a friend of mine who was a naval intelligence officer started his career in the Navy by going to Marine Boot Camp. Which he loved. Because he's insane.) But anyway, there I was on the bus to Navy Boot Camp. As the bus pulled up outside the naval base, I started to think about how I would disembark. I was nervous, and thought about holding back to the very last. Nah, that would look bad. One guy who was sitting in the middle of the bus pushed his way past all of us so he could be first one off. The rest of us looked at each other. As guys left the bus, they were being screamed at, boot camp style.

"Well," I thought, "let's get this over with."

And then I woke up.

"What the hell am I doing dreaming about the Navy?" I asked. Never in my life did it cross my mind, even for an instant, to join the Navy. The Marines, yes. The Navy? Nope.

Then I saw the point.

My therapist in NYC, Helen, once explained to me that a lot of puns show up in dreams. And that's where things became clear. Navy whites. Right. Who else wears white? Doctors. So there I was, embarking on this Big New Thing. Not quite coerced, not quite unwillingly. Kinda scared, but getting off the bus nonetheless. Yeah. In the Navy. Sure one way to think about it.

So after work came today's Tour of Duty (do they use that term in the Navy). My father wasn't in bad spirits, considering that he has his colonoscopy tomorrow. (Way Hot Man and I have been joking about making sure my father is well supplied with poppers for the experience.)


My Dad and I are sooooo... something.

When I arrived, he was watching Sands Of Iwo Jima on TCM. It was like the last twenty minutes. So after emerging victorious, the Marines reconnoiter. John Wayne, who plays the platoon commander (are Marines in platoons?) comments that he never felt better in his life and... Oh no! A japanese sniper! Bullet right through the heart!

"The Duke is dead!" I observed.

His men just then discover (and read???) a letter in his pocket addressed to his infant son whom he'll never see. "Be good to your mother and do your best to make her happy. I guess I'm not much good at writing. In some ways, I hope you're like me. And in some ways, I hope you're not. Maybe someday somebody who knew me will tell you about who I was." (Followed by reaction shots in the faces of his men, hearing that.)

As far as I could tell, neither I nor my father was particularly moved by that.

By that, I mean the poignant exchange about the nature of fathers and sons.

But we sure liked the flag raising thing.

But on the drive back home, I had a recollection. Two or three years ago, I was having one of my Bad Times. Walking my dog that night, I was furious at God. "I can't take this! I can't take any more of this! I can't endure any more. How much longer? How much longer do I have to be here?"

That kind of thing.

And then, I heard this still, small voice: "Until you learn everything you need to learn. Then you can move on."

And all of a sudden, it was all alright.

For awhile anyway.

So I'm wondering. Now that I seem to be on the verge of moving on, does that mean I've learned what I need to learn?


Esso si qué es.

1 comment:

-bastian said...

It plays into my only bilingual joke:

A Spanish man walks into Mervyns and asks for calcetines. The clerk doesn't know Spanish but holds up pants.

No, quiero pantalones. Quiero calcetines.

[Clerk holds up a shirt]

No quiero camisa. Quiero calcetines.

[finally clerk holds up socks]

Eso si que es!

Clerk: If you could spell it, why didn't you do that earlier?

'Cos calcetines means socks you know....

Maybe like many things it depends on oral delivery...