Well, it's almost here, my annual summer vacation! Time to cram
the wife, the kids and all our crap in my aging, battered Subaru
and hope like hell we get where we're going before it blows up.
Superstitious guy that I am, I've gone through a number of
personal rituals leading up to our scheduled Friday departure. I
can't leave home without making sure I've got my lucky rabbit's
foot, unplugging all the appliances except the fridge, having
six or seven screaming arguments with my family and sinking
about a grand in repair bills into the car.
This is an annual thing. I meet up with my Mom, my brother and
his kids at some rented beach house and we spend a week hanging
out, getting sunburned, losing the kids, reminding each other
of horrible things from our past that can be forgiven, but
never, never forgotten and seeing who can empty the most boxes
of wine. It's fun. I'd tell you where we're going this year, but
then you might show up, and it's not really a family vacation
when attended by strangers you'll almost certainly hate, is it?
I like to pick out a theme for my vacation before I go. It's a
habit I picked up from my Dad. I don't think he did it
consciously the way I do, but he had some really memorable
themes nonetheless. "Daddy's reading" was a good one, as was
"Kid's sandcastles are for shit" but nothing topped "The last
family vacation I ever go on". THAT was a classic, even before
the police copter showed up.
I find having a good theme makes for a good vacation, so I
thought I'd share a few from past years, just to give you a
sense of what I'm talking about.
THE "I'M PUTTING MY FOOT DOWN" SUMMER VACATION
God gave every father a foot, and this is the only thing it's
good for. I put my foot down a lot that vacation, starting with
games we would play in the car, which that summer was 'none'.
Let's face it, any kid under twelve sucks royal butt at 'Twenty
Questions' and I don't really care what it does to their self-esteem to let them know that. Other things I put my foot down
about? How much I could eat, how early I could start drinking
and how often it was fair to use Grandma as a babysitter. Does
it matter that no member of your family recognizes or even
notices the authority your foot wields as it goes down? Mot
really. Putting your foot down is much more about what you have
the right to than about what you get. The sooner you learn that,
the better your chances of staying married, out of jail, and
THE NO GUFF SUMMER GET AWAY
This is a tricky one to pull off. It's all about
taking 'No Guff' the same as 'taking no shit' or is it more like
'not taking any lip'? Where does 'back sass' come in, and can
you take any of it at all without also taking some 'guff'? How
do you tell when 'the usual hijinks' are getting dangerously
close to 'shenanigans'? I once jumped the gun and threatened to
'turn this car right around' over an incident of what I thought
was 'guff' that later turned out to be just 'harmless tomfoolery'. This one is really for the seasoned pro. If you have
any doubts at all about your ability to pull it off you should
probably stick with 'DO NOT FUCK WITH ME' as your theme, a
variation with far less rules and a good deal more liquor.
THE DRINK FOR DRINK VACATION
Not recommended. This one did not work out at all well for me,
as my Mother can drink like a Russian sailor and you'd never
know it unless you let her drive you somewhere. Three days into
this vacation I thought I was getting a boardwalk tattoo the
wife had unequivocally forbidden me to get, but it turned out I
was actually having my stomach pumped at a local emergency room.
THAT was embarrassing!
THE "DADDY IS THIS CLOSE" BEACH HOUSE BONANZA
The key to this one is simple, but important. You do not need to
be one pill away from a complete nervous breakdown; you only
need to convince everyone you are one pill away from a complete
nervous breakdown. In fact, by the time you are one pill away
from a complete nervous breakdown is a very bad time to try to
pull this theme off. The whole point of this theme is to get
quality naptime and be able to read an entire book or have a
sandwich without interruption. These are simple pleasures
trembling, panic, paranoia and guns tend to put a damper on.
THE SUMMER OF
"MY OWN LITTLE WORLD"
While often confused with vacation themes like 'Recovering From
Head Trauma' or 'The Wrong Medication', 'My Own Little World' is
a forgotten classic, sometimes thought of as not being masculine
enough for today's dad on vacation. Well, I say 'Au Contraire!'
and that don't mean I'm gay! In 'My Own Little World' you can
completely ignore the constant, vacation destroying demands of
your children without being 'rude' or 'a bad father' or 'even
worse than your own dad'.
It's not that you're a selfish bastard who doesn't give a damn;
it's just that the view of the ocean at sunset has really
brought out your spiritual, contemplative side. This is the
perfect vacation theme for dads who didn't give up smoking pot
after they graduated from college, got a job, or failed to do
either of those things.
THE "YOUR MOTHER AND I ARE THINKING OF
SPENDING SOME TIME APART"
Know what kids today need more of? Fear. Back in the seventies,
all us kids lived in constant fear our parents would get a
divorce, unless they already were divorced, in which case we
wondered about who they where going to bring home next and how
that stranger might impact us in the whole destroying whatever
was left of your life department. Kids today are complacent as
hell and have no damn character whatever and it's almost
certainly because they don't spend enough time contemplating the
utter disintegration of everything they know. So this theme is
really for them. Plus, you wouldn't believe the improvement in
their behavior. Seriously, you have to try it.
THE "LOST WEEK" VACATION
This one is honestly not for most people and isn't really a
theme so much as it is a consequence of mishandling the popular
but dangerous 'Downward Spiral' theme.
THE FEDERAL WITNESS RELOCATION PROGRAM
Again, not exactly a theme.
Okay, I don't know what I was thinking with this one, it
escalated very fast, it was supposed to be a joke and as God is
my witness, she told me she'd just turned eighteen. And that she
was not a man. Look, the theme was supposed to be 'It's all
About New Experiences', by which I meant I thought I might try
wind surfing, and no amount of rehashing the whole thing with
the district attorney is going to get me any closer to figuring
out exactly how it turned into 'Mambo Italiano'. Let's just
agree to disagree about solicitation being a victimless crime
and forget about the whole thing since she ended up getting
deported anyway. I mean he did. For which I do not feel guilty,
as I understand his country of origin is very nice if you have
job skills, which he most certainly did.
THE "JUST BECAUSE IT'S GOING TO RAIN ALL WEEK DOESN'T MEAN IT'S
NOT A VACATION" VACATION
This was originally supposed to be the 'A Little Me Time'
vacation but when Hurricane Gloria rolled into town I had to
improvise. You know the kind of dad Jack Nicholson played in
"The Shinning"? It was sort of like that, only in one room at a
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