First of all, lets establish right away that the Jawa is not known for his demure and respectful world view. Fact: if you happen to be sitting in the main sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El ten days from now, you will hear Sandra Bullock read from a speech I wrote that heralds our son for his indominateable spirit and his zest for life.
She will go on to point out great our respect is for his willingness to stand up for his beliefs -- not ours, a subtle difference often unacknowledged by zealotous San Francisco parents -- but his alone, even if it means having to slowly explain once at a cocktail party that even if your child makes the "wrong" choice -- say, he decides as a six-year-old that he really likes George W. Bush because "he has cool hair" -- what the child is doing actually IS "questioning authority," which he wouldn't be doing were he merely parroting his parents' beliefs. You will hear of this, but AT NO TIME will you hear us speak of our Jawa's core respect for authority (at least that of his parents), his ability to deftly avoid conflict or his powers as an arbitrator. The "listens quietly" option does not appear on his pull-down menu.
Which is something we live with, an often infuriating but completely understandable part of the "spirited child" package. Hey, I'm the one who let him run around saying he liked George Bush, right?
And I will be the first to admit that, as the Bar Mitzvah gets closer, the tension in our house rises, creating periodic outbursts completely in character with our personalities. I think my wife almost threw something at me tonight when I made her repeat the instructions for contacting the San Francisco Police Department (Traffic Permits Desk) because I wasn't paying attention the first time she said it. No, I'm not kidding. I looked over there and she was fingering an apple with malice in her eyes.
More importantly, why on earth do we need to obtain a traffic permit from the SFPD? I went over the guest list; there were no dignitaries on it. We haven't scheduled a motorcade.
What we have scheduled are buses, running to temple and Tarantino's and the Golden Gate Yacht Club from the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero. When we ordered up these buses, I imagined them sidling into the turnaround in front of the hotel, all of our guests filing out the revolving doors and lining up -- unhurriedly, away from the street -- to get onboard. Yesterday, we found that it is not to be so.
Despite their decades of experience extracting visitors from stopped vehicles, the Hyatt claims it cannot accommodate buses -- not even buses that hold a mere 40 people -- in the turnaround. They didn't call it a "turnaround." They had another word for it; something French.
Their solution is to park the "buses" -- that are not actually buses but more like very bulbous, overgrown SUVs -- on Market Street. Do you know of Market Street? It is often described as "one of the most congested streets in San Francisco." Market Street runs from the Ferry Building to Twin Peaks, passing what is essentially an open air drug market between Sixth Street and City Hall before changing its name to Portola Drive and continuing almost to Brandeis Hillel Day School, way past anywhere casual tourists would want to go. Portola Avenue is very pleasant, save for the cars whipping down its gentle curves at freeway speeds.
Market Street is another thing entirely. Our buses will be competing with tourists, a cable car turnaround, several makeshift vendor booths selling amateurish watercolor paintings of San Francisco, angry cab drivers playing sitar-heavy music at elevated volumes while flaunting California law by speaking on their cell phones while driving. Into this we plan to park two (very small, barely worth mentioning) buses and ferry 60 people -- some of whom will likely already be wrapped in blankets not because of the fog that we told them wouldn't go away but they didn't believe us because who thinks it's going to be 57 degrees in August? but because they're still in shock after negotiating BART from the airport after never setting foot onto any public transportation for their entire lives.
And this, only if we can get the permits, which require access to a fax machine. I am one of 46 freelance writers in the U.S. who does not own a fax machine. Pretty exclusive company.
It's things like this -- piddling little details, traffic permits, the fact that Denon & Doyle ask for your slideshow on a DVD and you have no blank DVDs so will be driving to Target tomorrow to buy about 100 blank DVDs, even though you need only one and last burned something to CD right about a week before you discovered the iPod -- these are the unexpected glitches that ratchet up the stress in our 1,079 square-foot piece of paradise, here in Baghdad-by-the-Bay.
So should we just look the other way when the Jawa answers a pointed question ("Do you realize you've been playing with your phone from the moment we got into the car until the moment we arrived home?") with a similarly pointed response ("So? You're obsessed with your Blackberry!"), chalking it up to stress that otherwise is imperceptible?
Or are we being fools, saying, "Let him play 'Roller Coaster Tycoon' for a few hours, not stopping until we threaten to remove his CPU unit from his bedroom. He's under a lot of pressure," instead of laying down some kind of law and implementing a forced legal separation between Jawa and keyboard?
It's hilarious unless you're up to your eyeballs in it. We probably have little explosions and sparks coming from our heads that we don't even notice. Every so often one of us mentions a particularly heinous night of insomnia. Otherwise, we act like everything's normal, except that we don't watch TV anymore because we're sitting in front of the Jawa's computer trying to sync music up to our eight-minute "This is your Jawa's Life" slideshow. And nobody agrees on what music we should use, so we yell at each other or say something sarcastic then storm out of the room, at which time the Jawa quickly switches back to "Roller Coaster Tycoon," assuming that we are done working for now and he can finally have some peace.
I'm afraid not, boy-soon-to-be-a-man. Just now I ducked my head into his doorway and said, "Nine days."
"Scary," he answered.
On the contrary, I thought; by the time we get to August 21, all of the scary stuff will have already happened.