I would never consider myself a manly man. From outward appearances I think it seemed as if maybe I might’ve become one. I was always a big guy, even when I was a little guy. “Stocky” was used to describe me as a kid. “Big-boned” was another. Because of this it was assumed I’d be a coveted player on the football team. Relatives would say “Say, you planning on going out for the football team? You’d be great as a defensive linemen or running back, John.” I didn’t know what either of those meant. I knew the rebel forces tried to defend their base on Hoth against the Imperial attack. And I saw The Running Man. Was that the same as a running back?
I grew up amongst manly men. My dad’s dad was a boxer in Chicago back in the 30s. My mom’s dad liberated concentration camps at the end of World War II. Two of my uncles fought in Vietnam(one was a gunner on a chopper, even.) My dad excelled at three different sports in high school and joined the reserves. He worked on cars and built actual working model engines for fun. My brother was a top notch baseball pitcher, partied like a God on Asgard, and has been a lifelong fan of Manchester United.
Me? I had an extensive toy gun collection and set up elaborate battles between the GI Joe forces and the Cobra army in the basement. There would be elaborate lip syncing sessions with a tennis racket in place of a Fender Strat where various Van Halen and hair metal-affiliated songs were performed for an audience of one(a miniature schnauzer named Klaus.) I loved sports. Well, Van Damme’s Bloodsport, anyways. And sports movies were great. The Bad News Bears, Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, North Dallas Forty, and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was always a good workout.
Guns seem to be a big part of my family(immediate and extended.) While I have nothing personal against a gun as a tool, I’m not too sure about the idea of owning an arsenal. In the early 90s when the Clinton Thought Police were going door-to-door forcibly taking American citizens’ personal weapons(wait, that never happened) my uncle and cousin began buying up Chinese assault rifles before they were completely banned. You know, because it should be every guy’s right to own semi-automatic weapons made by a Communist country that armed a Communist regime. I even went to a gun show with my cousin once. If there ever was a time to realize I’m NOT a manly man, it was at that sh*t show.
There’s also lots of hunters in my family. Both my cousins owned shotguns and would often head out at the crack of dawn hunting things small and furry. I was invited to go along but declined the offer. My uncle hunted deer with a bow and arrow(just like Oliver Queen.) My dad owned a .22 rifle and pistol, and even bought my mom a small .25 caliber pistol for protection(against what, I don’t know.) My dad’s hunting experience extended to just noisy crows that would wake him up at 4:30am and squirrels that would destroy his bird feeder(he once ran a dead squirrel through our chain link fence as a warning to other squirrels looking to snag Mr. Bluebird’s seeds.) My brother has recently gotten the Dirty Harry itch and currently owns 5 firearms. 5. Firearms.
Me? I’ve got a couple pocket knives and a boot knife I bought with lunch money when I was 14. I’ve also got a vintage Return Of The Jedi Han Solo laser pistol(batteries not included.) There’s a 3 inch diameter dowel rod that’s been cut down to a 2ft length that could leave some nasty welts if needed for home protection.
I can’t fix much, whereas my dad’s dad built an extra room on his house with nothing but a “How-To” book and lots of swearing. My dad built two rooms in their basement, and helped me finish off our basement as well. I’m what you’d call “helpless help”. I stand there and wait for instruction and/or emergency, with 911 at the ready. I can build things like album cabinets and simple boxes that my kids can store books and display action figures in. I built an entertainment center where my stereo equipment and turntable live. I can do a reasonably good job with yard work, but nothing fancy. You want lines mowed straight in the yard? I can do it. You want pretty flowers and a garden? Ehh, I’m not sure about that. I can get by as a homeowner. I’m slightly above functional. The local handyman and/or heating and plumbing guys and gals love me. I’ve got no problem asking for help(definitely not a manly man.)
Wanna talk arthouse films? Frank Miller vs Jeph Loeb vs Scott Snyder Batman? Would you like a thesis on why Electric Miles is better than Hard Bop Miles? Maybe we could discuss John Irving or Kurt Vonnegut? Hard science fiction or soft science fiction? I’m happy to sit and listen to you while you tell me what’s bugging you. Maybe I can help you work through it? I’m a good listener, or so I’m told. I’m totally down for watching Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven or Tarkovsky’s Solaris and sit and discuss them all over a couple pints. My son and I will be hitting Chimp’s Comix later, you’re welcome to come and browse with us. Let’s go album diving at the local brick ‘n mortar then grab some sandwiches. I know a great place. I’m not terrible at painting, if you need some help. I can detail a car halfway decent, too(thanks dad.) And if you prefer to eat in, I’m pretty decent in the kitchen. I keep a clean house as well(thanks mom.) We could go downstairs to the studio(that my dad helped me build) and we could just plug in to some amps and see what happens. We could jam or improvise, whatever you prefer to call it.
So yeah, I’m no manly man. I don’t hunt or play sports or work on cars or put roofs on houses or build rooms with my own two hands or fight behind enemy lines or ride a motorcycle or know the score to last night’s game. I can’t fix the toilet or the kitchen sink, and hooking up the water heater is out of my wheelhouse. I can set the timer on the VCR(do people still have those?), or set up your home stereo system. I can tell you which Wilco or Coltrane album to start with. Or the best record shop in a 40 mile radius. That’s the kind of man I am. I’ll cop to my feelings and maybe we can talk it out or something.
I’m no manly man. I’m just a man, man.