Monday, August 22, 2005

Hyperbole Generation

We laugh, my sisters and I, when we talk about my Dad, who slipped this mortal coil in 1993, and his tendency to overinflate all manner of things, people, places, events, whatever. Once, he told me, “I’ve got a direct line to the Governor’s chair”, because he was certain that, since the governor’s brother was a regular at my Dad’s Kiwanis group, that he would surely be afforded special treatment. And once, above the din of kitchen noise and crying babies at “Poor Richard’s Steak House Restaurant”, in Portland, where he had scheduled a family Christmas dinner party, right before the “two-fer” steaks we had all ordered arrived, and which were not that tasty, he spoke, proudly and loudly,“This is the best restaurant in the State, bar none.” Even when he was alive, at moments like this, my sisters and I, and even our spouses, would have some sneaky eye contact, and later, crack up over his enthusiastic lack of taste and less than perfect grasp on reality. And we are not talking just once in awhile, friends, we are are talking all the time, the best this, the best that, the best everything. It kinda creeped me out.

I admit that there is a lot of my Dad in me, but there are some behaviors that, given my sensitivity and knack for making fun of him over the years, I have been successful at avoiding. I like to think I exhibit only the good parts, like a nice even portion of his verve and enthusiasm for things. You know, the quintessential, “gets up on the right side of the bed” sorta dude.

So it came as a complete surprise to me, nay, a complete disappointment, when, driving to the beach this weekend, my wife caught me, yet again, being my Dad. As we were floating down one particularly glorious section of highway 101, alongside the surf and Mazanitas, I spoke, “we gotta get some clam chowder while we’re down here”, to which I received a welcome grin from my spouse. And then, with visions of some creamy and clam filled bowl before me, I said, “You know, if we can find some clam chowder as good as the clam chowder they serve at “The Sizzler” in Portland, that’s what I want.” My wife Marie, who is not particularly fond of “The Sizzler”, or any salad bar kinda place with e-coli potential and less than choice cuts of beef, sat silent. She knows I like “The Sizzler”, and mostly tolerates my lack of restaurant discernment. And then, not yet satisfied with her reaction, I spoke more assertively, “Yep, that clam chowder at the Sizzler, it rules. I’ll tell ya, I don’ know how they make that stuff, but that clam chowder, well, it’s just THE BEST!” Suddenly her silence turned to giggles, and then full blown laughter. “WHUT!?”, I replied to her snickering, and as she went on, "whut?” “You are sounding just like your Dad, Ric”, she spoke, as I immediately became defensive. “Hey, I’m not one to go on and on about something if it isn’t true!”, I replied. But then, as she was exploding with belly laughs, I realized she was right, totally right, and I began to laugh myself. And then, for comic effect, I retaliated, in feigned anguish,”I can’t believe you’re saying that!” But standing her ground, still laughing heartily, she hit the nail on the head with, “Oh Ric, you come from a long line of 'hyperbole generators'”.

Some of you might remember how, at times, I have been amazed and thrilled at my wife’s use of language, so much so that I have included many of her words and phrases in my songs. And when she used that term, which just fell out of her brain, “hyperbole generator”, I completely lost it. For the next few minutes, I laughed as hard as I ever have, till I finally composed myself, as I drove, and asked for a tissue. Since she was laughing right along with me, as was our son Blaine, in the back seat, I once again thanked her for her brilliant mind and the way she uses words. “Oh, I wasn’t laughing at that”, she said, I was laughing ‘cause you’re just like your Dad.”

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