Fly away, baby bird!

Technically, he’s not my son.  About ten years ago, however, The Boy Genius worked for me.  Brilliant young man, with a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Prestigious University.  Although he was in his early 30’s, he looked like he had just turned fourteen. 

At the time, my group was beginning the long, slow nosedive into scientific oblivion – but this kid was the “great white* hope” for technological resurrection.  When he confided in me that he saw nothing but frustration ahead within our hallowed labs, i became nervous, but certainly couldn’t argue with the logic of The Boy Genius.  He was annoyingly never wrong.

He was also pure as the driven snow, despite a penchant for twisted and dark humor.  He was a “good” boy.  In fact, part of my retention strategy was to try to find him a local honey to keep him in town**.  He didn’t care for fast cars and loose women, and went to church every Sunday.  Needless to say, none of my theater friends were going to meet his tough standards…

Despite – or perhaps because of – my feeble attempts at retention, he left our team and went to work for my close friend, Titan of Industry, ToI.  When ToI called me for the official “checking his references” call, i ended the conversation with “Oh, and by the way – if you don’t take care of him?  i keel you…”. 

To say i had maternal feelings toward the kid was perhaps an understatement.

So The Boy Genius left home for greener pastures.  It was comforting for me to know that he would be coached by a brilliant corporate master, ToI.  It was also comforting to know that i’d be running into him at technical meetings and conferences – a chance to keep tabs on him.

“Tabs”… Well something like that. Turns out, ToI and i are Co-Chairmen of the Board of “Dawg Boyz, Inc.”, the rowdy band of “drinkin’ and whorin'” reprobates that create mayhem and foment debauchery at nearly every conference we attend.  Invariably, there was an opportunity for the two of us to take The Boy Genius out to an adult entertainment establishment, about a year after his departure from my group… 

ToI and i passed ourselves off as his parents in Cheetah’s (Atlanta, GA).  We managed to convince several of the dancers that the fresh-faced lad was our son, and that Mom and Dad were taking him out to his first strip club to celebrate his 21st birthday.  Oh, yeah.  He got done that night.  He got done and then some.

i let loose a slight sniffle, and a bittersweet shake of my head, when the photo below came across my desktop in the wee hours of Sunday morning.  The Boy Genius is getting married next month.  Saturday night, my friend ToI led the charge of the Bachelor Party.  That’s my baby, surrounded by five topless performers… climbing the fucking stripper pole.

They grow up so fast…

* and when i say “white”, i mean that in the “bleached like a fishbelly in the sun” sense of the word…

** Although i never made it official, i betrothed my daughter to him.  This sort of creeped him out, given that she was about 16 years old at the time… She wasn’t particularly enthused about the idea either.

Little Pitchers…

Without a doubt, the introduction i received for yesterday’s Junior Workforce  “Career Talk” event was perfect!  AU* is a bright 30-something, with an MIT pedigree, wild science-boy hair, trendy nerd glasses – and even sideburns.  We’ve worked together on one large program, but until he introduced me to the assembled, theoretically impressionable, young nerd herd?  i had no idea that he’d been paying much attention.

AU:  I’d like to introduce our “Career Talk” guest.  daisyfae… ummm…. this may not come out quite right, so bear with me…  When I first arrived in the organization,  I had a few interactions with daisyfae.  I had to ask myself “How the hell did someone like that rise to a position of authority in this organization?” 

i was, by then, laughing my ass off!  As were many folks in the audience!  He went on to explain that he’d seen me demonstrate fearlessness, commitment to the organizational mission, and an absolute contempt for all things bureaucratic.  And that it later became obvious to him that i must be pretty damn good at my job to operate in such a manner… and not get fired.

It was fun.  They asked questions – such as “what was your first impression of the organization and how has it changed?” and “when you came here, did you plan to stay forever?”  i answered honestly – and they seemed amused.  But then there was this, later in the afternoon from my friend, RJak, who had been unable to attend.  Jabbing a perfectly barbed fork, right up the ol’ ego…

RJak:  Sorry I couldn’t make it, I had a conflicting meeting.  Besides, I might have blurted out “She sits around in her underwear, drinking gin like juniper berries were going extinct, begs her son to ‘Go get mama some smokes <belch>’, and when she takes the dog out, she forgets the underwear altogether.”

Damn.  So much for my plan to start my own religion**.  i could get used to the worshipful masses…

These are not the 'droids you're looking for... Well... maybe they are...

These are not the 'droids you're looking for... Well... maybe they are...

* His real initials… for those of you with at least a passing acquaintance with the periodic table, he’s definitely a “Golden Boy” .

** Good enough for uncle keith?  Good enough for daisyfae…

Passing the torch

Perhaps the best part of my job is the opportunity to mentor “young ‘uns” in the organization.  My career path hasn’t followed any prescribed path – mostly improvisational dance with loads of energy*.  Despite no serious attempt on my part to “advance”, i’ve done pretty well.  Especially considering that i was voted “Most Likely To Be Found Dead in a Gutter” in the informal poll of my high school class. 

Got this from one of the members of the local “Junior Engineer-Force” council last week:

SUBJ:  Opportunity to Influence the Minds of the Young

As part of our monthly meetings, we try to give members a sense of what it takes to make it as a successful employee in the organization, and what to expect from a variety of career paths.  We’ve hosted members from organizational senior leadership at our meetings for informal chats.  I’m trying to be selective about the people we ask so that we don’t just get “the line”.  I feel that your frankness in these matters makes your perspective particularly valuable.    Typically they are around a ‘brown bag’ lunch on the first Wednesday of the month.  The next opportunities are March 4th, April 1st (seems fitting) and May 5th.

Needless to day, i chose April Fool’s Day for this particular event.  i look forward to warping impressionable young minds.  And free cookies…

Beyond the workplace, i also coach and mentor my own spawn.  The Girl has been buried under a ridiculous workload as she careens toward the end of the semester and is trying to knock out enough credits to secure her dual major.  With massive reading/writing assignments, final exams lurking and classroom presentations hanging over her head, she’s been operating under pressure and sleep deprivation**.

This afternoon she called on her way to class – dreading giving her portion of a team presentation.  She’d been up most of the night, and seemed a bit rattled.  Rather than just cheer her on, more guidance seemed in order.  So, i dug deep into my slacker psyche and pulled out one of my favorite tactics for presentations/performances:

focus on your intro and your closing!  if you open and close strong, you’re more likely to make them forget everything in the middle.

Which is a lesson i learned in 5th grade.  Clarinet*** solo.  This is the first year i’d been playing, mind you, but the music teacher told me she wanted me to do a solo at the Spring concert.  i said “whatever” when she gave me the music.  And promptly ignored it, never practiced it, and never bothered to get together with the music teacher to let her know i hadn’t bothered… 

On the day of the Spring concert?  We’re all on stage, and i’ve completely forgotten about the solo.  She has one kid do a trumpet solo.  Then we go on with another painfully executed ensemble number.  i’m in shock when she calls my name.  In front of every student, teacher, janitor, child molester and rat in the elementary school.  Finding the piece in the back of my music folder, i strode confidently up to the front of the stage.  Shitting my pants****. 

She started playing the piano accompaniment – which i’d never heard before.  i can barely read music – i’m 10 years old.  So i just dived in – i sight-read the first line of the piece, playing it when it seemed like a good spot.  i repeated this phrase – getting stronger with repetition – until the music changed.  And i just stopped playing.  Rather than run off the stage, humiliated, i dodged it…. by looking over at the piano teacher and acting as though i was waiting for her “solo”. 

When the phrasing sounded about right again i dropped back to the intro phrase, and just repeated it until the merciful end.  i knew i screwed the pooch.  The music teacher knew i screwed the pooch.  Perhaps 10 adults in the audience were writhing in pain during this event because they’d figured it out… But the rest of the school was just tired of sitting there, throwing spit balls or excavating the inner reaches of their nostrils.  And no one really cared…

Faking it.  The next best thing to actually preparing…

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

* Before i burnt out and gave up on my plot to take over the universe…

** Unlike her mother, the kid has high standards.  She isn’t comfortable turning in shitty papers, or operating at less than “stellar” when it comes to her writing (Arabic or English).

*** Yep.  Clarinet.  There go any remaining “cool” points i may have scored with my readers (sigh).

**** Figuratively speaking. No, i wasn’t *THAT* kid…