It's graduation season and some of the inmates are considering making a break for it, looking at the horizon and dreaming their sweet dreams. Eyeing the razor wire.
"Many of us will become doctors and lawyers and businessmen," the student speaker says in his high school commencement speech. "Some will have a family and settle down to live the American dream."
"Don't do it!" yells someone from high up in the bleachers, drawing the biggest laugh of the evening.
As always, the best wisdom comes from the cheapest seats.
It's graduation season and the wives are a little stressed, sort of like Nixon in his final days in office--shrill and nonsensical. Nostalgic one moment, vindictive the next. They scold their kids, then suddenly hug them. They set impossible curfews, eavesdrop on phone conversations.
If they keep this up, most of the mothers are headed for some sort of Senate impeachment.
"How come," a graduating senior asks me, "our parents suddenly want to be in our lives again?"
"What do you mean?"
"Three years ago, we wanted our parents in our lives," she says.
"No, you didn't," I say.
"Yes, we did."
No, they didn't. Three years ago, the kids started planning their break. Digging the tunnels, plotting their escapes.
Now their plans are complete.
Only, I've noticed my lovely and patient older daughter back in the house more often lately--just hanging around, like she hasn't for years.
For no good reason, she's back here at home--eyeing the razor wire and falling asleep on the couch next to her mother, who strokes her pretty head like she did when her baby was still a baby.
It's moments after dawn on a Wednesday and two dachshunds are chasing me along my regular running trail. I'm fortunate this way. The sort of stuff Freud only dreamed about, well, it happens to me. On a pretty regular basis.
As I run, the dogs try to shred the shoes from my feet and sever my Achilles' tendons. I've had sandwiches bigger than these dogs. Yet I play along, pretending to fear the little idiots.
Later--same morning--a neighbor's German shepherd suddenly lunges against its leash and attempts to take a chunk out of my face. Probably smelled the dachshunds, its distant and violent cousin.
Dachshunds and shepherds. My life is a Woody Allen movie, only I never see a share of the box office. No points. Nothing.
The shepherd did leave a nice scar next to my left eye, though, tiny as a hound's tooth.
It only hurts when I blink.
You are entering a world of dwindling oil reserves and spotty electricity. Tires that melt. Computers that freeze.
Sure, that Kraft IPO looks tasty. And there are some very promising things coming from stem cell research. (Don't you wish now that your parents had saved you your umbilical cord instead of that cheap hospital baby bracelet?)
You kids today. You wear rings on your thumbs and that ridiculous thong underwear that can't be comfortable.
When you bend down, you show more undergarments and lower-back cleavage than any plumber ever dared.
"Some of us will become doctors and lawyers and businessmen," the commencement speaker says.
But he doesn't mention songwriters or teachers. If ever a generation needed better songwriters, it's yours.
Wait, there's more. Last night, I went to make a sandwich and there was no peanut butter, just this unsalted organic peanut blend from some overpriced food store. Tasted like envelopes.
This is the world you inherit. Increasingly flavorless and spinning slowly beyond human control.
Careful with it. Don't make your fathers' mistakes. Hug your mothers often.
And watch out for dachshunds.
We found you eating the ferns, forcing my wife to rush out to the garden center to buy a plastic container brimming with ladybugs, allegedly hell on aphids.
"Come on," she says, and leads me out to the flower bed, where she releases the ladybugs, which fall to the Earth in a giant ladybug clump.
"You think they're OK?" I ask when I hear the ladybugs smack the ground.
"Sure," says my wife. "Look, one's still moving."
The next morning the ladybugs are nowhere in sight.
I check the ferns. I check the surrounding garden.
"That's so sad," the little girl says when she hears the ladybugs have vanished.
"Don't overreact," I say.
"It's so sad," she says again anyway.
I suspect that the aphids ate the ladybugs.
Either that or the ladybugs have returned, like carrier pigeons, to the ladybug canning facility in Alhambra, where the same 100 ladybugs are sold over and over again to unsuspecting but crazed mothers, who are vulnerable this time of year, especially when one of their babies is graduating.
Of course, I have no proof of this bug scam.
And actually, three ladybugs did turn up later on the kitchen ceiling, high enough where I couldn't swat them outside with the sports section.
Apparently, that's the way it is these days with bugs and kids. They keep sneaking back into our homes.
At graduation, it's probably good to remember this.