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Zippy The Changing Man

I’ve seen him laughing, crying and howling. I’ve even seen him dead.

Fortunately, he was only playing dead as part of a film project while away at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Today is the day we celebrate every single aspect of the young man known to one and probably that’s all (known to me, of course) as Zippy the Travelin’ Boy.

Yep. It’s another birthday. This time, my middle not-so-little dude is leaving the teens behind and venturing into his 20s. It’s a bit of a shock to see the literal little handful, who had the most amazing head of thick, black hair when he was born, now grown into a young man who towers over his dad.

Zippy the Monkey BoyZippy the Travelin’ Boy has always been the most mutable of our sons. He’s gone through fashion statements (I’ll never forget the violent 180˚ turn he made from surfer punk to cowboy), loves, hates, political perspectives and just about everything else in his life as if he were in a fire sale at a department store and he needed to try on the clothing before it disappeared.

He’s been a bit of a chameleon, is what I’m trying to say. Oddly, considering he took so long to actually speak both understandably and out loud as a child, he’s probably the most verbally accomplished of the three dudes.

By which I mean that he’s always been the type to try out different accents and verbal tics and patterns, sort of like me. I started out early as well. As a young kid, I lived in England and got teased for being an American. So I developed a deep Southern accent, which came in handy when we moved back to Texas. However, as I grew older and started playing football, my teachers assumed I was an idiot because of the accent and the football so they expected nothing from me.

I didn’t like that. So I decided to drop the Southern accent and did, beginning to speak in a bland, newscaster-ish accent. To me, it was easy, but I learned that other people have a hard time doing that. I thought I was unique.

Until Zippy the Travelin’ Boy came into his own. He began copying the various accents I used when I read aloud to the boys and then doing better at them. He started mimicking the unusual voices he heard on television and in the movies, doing a stunningly accurate Bane voice that always cracks me up.

His latest chameleon turn came when he hit college. Since he was 2 and able to mispronounce it relatively consistently, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy (then known as Zippy the Monkey Boy both for his climbing skill and love of animals) wanted to become a marine biologist. Until he hit campus and discovered he would actually have to work and learn to earn that degree.

At which point, he discovered acting and fell in love. Since he wanted to make a living once he graduated, he decided to major in psychology while minoring in both Spanish and theater performance. It’s been fascinating to watch his ambition and skill flower in this new environment.

Whenever we talk about it, his mother and I are smiling like fools.

Which hasn’t always been the case. As he was growing up, I would only have given Zippy the Travelin’ Boy break-even odds that I would let him live to adulthood. He was the most stubborn kid I’d ever met and almost never used those powers for good.

Fortunately for us all, I was able to restrain those homicidal urges and even filled in the suspiciously shallow grave I dug on the sly in the back yard. He’s still stubborn and more than a little of a know-it-all, but he’s learning to actually listen to people with different opinions and has actually been known to listen to the advice from others without disdain.

All of which makes for a great opponent when I want to have an argument or refine my own opinion by seeing how it holds up in combat. His quick wit and merciless attack posture are the ultimate test of survivability.

As much as I enjoyed snuggling with the little dude when he was, in fact, little, I’m finding that I’m enjoying even more being around the young man he’s becoming.

Happy birthday, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. We love you!

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

From one Richard Jones to another, Happy Birthday.

It’s an important day for me to celebrate, because without him getting borned, I sure wouldn’t be here at the keyboard blathering away at you dudes.

I’ve said it before and probably will again, but it is something that bears repeating: My dad is a good dude.*

He’s generous to a fault, with his time, his money and his experience.

He’s the only person I know who can whip my butt in trivia, no matter how annoying that happens to be. And it is very annoying.

Dad’s example drove me to try and get better, even if it was only so I could beat him in a game of H.O.R.S.E. or one-on-one basketball.

I’m not saying he’s perfect. Not by a long shot.

However, his good points far outweigh his bad.

A world-class orthopedic surgeon, Dad’s since retired and closed his practice, but he’s still spending his time giving folks their lives back. In addition to traveling the world to teach other doctors how to do procedures, he also takes time to fly to poor nations and work with other similarly-minded physicians to provide surgical interventions to people who otherwise would never see the inside of an operating theater and who might never be able to walk without them.

So, while I’m wishing him a happy birthday, I also wanted to thank my dad for all the good things he’s done, the good things he’s doing now and all the good he’ll do in the future.

Footnotes & Errata

* Even if he does seem to harbor some resentment for a certain wooden railing at the St. Augustin Alligator Farm and a particular laughing red macaw.

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Let The Games Begin*

Today should be a national holiday.

I’m serious, dudes. Very serious.

Well, as serious as I can be when I’m jumping up and down inside and giggling and laughing and clapping my hands together and basically imitating a little girl who’s just been given a magical unicorn kitty who smiles rainbows.

Yes, it’s the start of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament today at noon. I cannot wait.

There’s nothing to compare with the feeling of sitting down a few minutes before noon, clicking on the television and seeing the first tip off, knowing it’s only one of many that will happen during the day. And tomorrow. And the next day and the day after that.

Could this be the year that a 16 seed beats a 1 seed? (Maybe, but not in the South. And I’m not just saying that because I graduated from the University of Florida and love the Gators with a frightening intensity**.)

Who will be the Cinderella story of the tournament, the team that comes out of nowhere and makes a strong run, beating teams it has no business even being in the same auditorium with?

Will I be able to make it through the tournament without wanting to hunt down a certain announcer’s parents, travel through time and slap them both until they no longer want to have children? Thereby saving us from the long national nightmare that is. . .

Sorry. I need to calm down a bit. Hyperventilating isn’t good for me, I’ve been told.

This Madness that is March is yet another thing I need for which I need to thank Hyper Lad. See, it was because he was born just before we moved to North Carolina that allowed me to stay at home full time to take care of him.

And, because I was home alone with the little dude, that I turned on the first basketball game of the 1999 tournament while he was napping and started to watch. And didn’t go anywhere for the rest of the afternoon except upstairs during a commercial break to fetch the little dude down with me.

Sarcasmo and Zippy the Monkey Boy came home from school and couldn’t believe I was so distracted and it wasn’t football season.

This was a revelation. An epiphany. A Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment.

“The band, Elwood! The band!”

Yeah, that kind of moment. Only with less gospel singing and no back flips.

And so that is where you will find me today. On the couch, drink in hand, smile on face and finger on the remote so I can switch back and forth to find the perfect game, to see the best play.

Because, even though today and tomorrow aren’t national holidays, I’m still taking the days off.

This is going to be good.

Footnotes & Errata

* I realize the gag First Four started playing on Tuesday, but I’m not counting play-in games. We’re talking tournament.
** Yes I am.

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