Doctor Who

Episode VI: Paris With Kids

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

A lot of parenting is filled with not knowing what to do.  This past week defines that in ways to horrific to really comprehend.  I don't know what to do.  Crushed and gutted and still shaking my head in confusion, sadness, and anger days after the violent insanity in Paris, I don't know what to tell my kids.  

That's not entirely true.  The five-year-old will definitely not know anything.  Right now, he's having enough fear and separation anxiety every day he's being dropped off at kindergarten so we're not going to throw in the fact that someone with a gun or a bomb or a knife or a car or whatever might take him out into the mix.  That's definitely too much for five.  (Hell, it's too much for grown-ups to be honest.)

But for my nine-year-old, it's a different ballgame.  Last year, one of the books in his class library dealt with 9/11, so it's definitely on their radar.  Plus (and this is thing that really hits me hard), he's got two French classmates in his class.  One of the students is one of his best friends and while this kid's totally Americanized and into Minecraft and Terraria, his parents are fully French with the dad always at school waving around his long French hair, cool accent, and the whole she-bang.  

The other kid in the class is a girl who just moved here this year from Paris.  Fresh from France, I've spoken to her mother a number of times through the year and found out that her daughter came in speaking virtually not English.  So with this girl still not fluent in English, I can only imagine how tough it would be not only to be the new kid at school but to be the new kid in a new school where people don't speak your language.  

In addition to overcoming that, to find out the horrors of home in a way that makes no sense to any one, it must be devastating.  So my nine-year-old's probably going to know.  Or not.  

I don't know what I knew when I was nine, what news I found out.  Looking back at the news of when I was nine, I don't think I knew there were other terrorist attacks in France at that time, that time by a dude called Carlos the Jackal.  (By the way, if you have a nickname like that, please understand, it's a top indicator that you are probably an asshole.)  I might have heard about Carlos the Jackal later, but not at nine.  I might have heard of the Chicago Tylenol murders.  That was a big deal.  And maybe when the embassy in Beirut was bombed.  But I don't think I really knew.  In fact, Spock dying in Wrath of Khan probably damaged me more than anything in real life.

But in the end, I just don't think I really knew about what was going on in the news.  I don't think my parents sat me down and explained how the world is a scary place.  Of course, this didn't happen probably because those things seemed far removed.  They could have been event on different planets, but with us all in connection with each other it's not the same as the 80's.  

What I remember most as a kid was John Lennon getting shot.  I remember being an insensitive dick to my mom who was rightfully upset about it.  I remember Reagan getting shot, too.  But those incidents - while being huge events - didn't really scare me because those both occurred to famous people.  Not regular ones.

The only thing that could possibly match this fear now back then would be the threat of World War III and the delightful thought of thermonuclear war.

Shall we   play a game   ?

Shall we play a game ?

Throughout my childhood there were constant talks of how the Soviet Union would bomb us and that we in Nebraska would be particularly at risk because we had SAC (Strategic Air Command) in our state.  Not only that, there was a TV movie called THE DAY AFTER that scared the crap out of everyone when I was in elementary school.  I didn't watch it because I was and always have been a coward.  And a true coward knows not to expose one's self to things that will make you more scared.  

Yet I still heard from other kids the night after about THE DAY AFTER.  And what I heard and how we were all going to be obliterated in a nuclear winter chilled me.

For a day or two.  

Because the greatest weapon against cowardice is ignorance.  And I can ignore like a champ.  (Like how I'm ignoring the fact here that I should say that I ignore better than some sort of big ignoring thing and I'm ignoring that I should do that.)

So really for the rest of the 80's, I never really thought for a second that I was gonna get done blown up by the Russkies.  I even went and saw a movie with a young Joaquin Phoenix (then known as LEAF Phoenix) called Russkies.  I even went to the Soviet Union in 1989.  I was more scared of never having a girlfriend than a Cold War heating my insides out.  

Leaf me alone or I'll shoot you with a Red Rider BB gun.

Leaf me alone or I'll shoot you with a Red Rider BB gun.

But now's not then.  

We've had 9/11.  We have school shootings.  Mall shootings.  College shootings.  Movie shootings.  

And I can't really bring myself to tell my kids, to tell my oldest son that this is the world, here you go, pal.  Good luck with this turd of a world we've given you.  It used to be that we could blame the Baby Boomers, but my generation ain't helpin' much either.  

What makes this tear me up more than anything else is that most of the horror was at a rock concert.  

I love music.  More than maybe anything - movies, books, whatever.  And I could have been there at a concert like that.  I've never wanted a superstar athlete for a son, but I have desperately hoped some day my kids will feel what I feel about music and go to concerts with an unfettered glee, especially as there are few happinesses I've had greater at a show than seeing the Pogues live.  

So I have to figure out what I want for my kids and I've come up with two things.  

One, I want the Doctor from DOCTOR WHO to be real and come in and save everything.  To show us the error of our ways with wit and intelligence and no guns but a sonic screwdriver.  To materialize the TARDIS and solve everything while showing what idiots we really are.  Then maybe take me and the fam on an adventure, possibly against the Cybermen.

I had this poster up in my room when I was a kid.  Because that's what all the cool kids in Nebraska in the 80's were into.

I had this poster up in my room when I was a kid.  Because that's what all the cool kids in Nebraska in the 80's were into.

But that's not going to happen.  So, instead, I'll try to teach my sons to live as best they can in this world.  To know how to live with fear.  To always live with hope.  To live life as best you can with what it is.  

Violent and peaceful.  Dividing and uniting.  Mean and kind.  To be more of a decent man than an asshole. And realize that life is unbelievably messy and unpleasant.  That there are so many tears in it.  And so many laughs.  And most importantly that at times life can be truly sublime and extraordinary.  

Because they are my sublime and extraordinary.  

My TCM-ing

Recently, I'd DVR-ed and watched a bunch of French films off TCM before any of this tragedy happened.  And these films actually worked on me in splendid ways.  

I watched a couple Godard short films.  The first I saw was All the Boys Are Named Patrick - which I watched first because I clearly love myself too much and it had my beautiful name on it and I'm a terribly wanky guy that way - and it instantly reminded me of the films of Whit Stillman, whose stuff I've loved forever and deeply influenced my first play Four Guys Eating Out. The other film - Charlotte et su Jules - was funny and dealt with the end of a relationship in a clever and charming way that made it far more timeless than it probably should have been.  

I also viewed a few films by Agnes Varda. The short films Diary of a Pregnant Woman and Du Cote de la Cote led me into her work, but then I watched her feature Le Bonheur, which dazzled - yes, dazzled! - me with the colors and story about marriage and fidelity in ways that you'd expect from a French film.  Truly captivating and darned visually sumptious (I just wrote "visually sumptious" and feel like such a pretentious wanker of a turd).

gr_varda_bonheur-04.jpg

Final Thoughty-Thoughts

Thanks for reading.  And if you have any thoughts on how and when to tell your kids about tragedies like Paris and Beirut and everywhere else, feel free to share.  

Also, while we're busy fixing the world, something that doesn't exist but should are elves that come in and clean waffle irons.  

Recently I remembered, one time when my oldest son was quite young, he was helping at breakfast.  Proudly, he brought me my cereal bowl and proclaimed, "I didn't wipe my penis on your bowl this time!"

So proof people can change.  And that things can change.  And we can all hope to have cereal bowls of peace, untouched by dicks.

(Wow, went a long way for that one.  And although I'm glad my son doesn't do that any more, I kinda always wish I didn't know he didn't do it to begin with.)

So long,
Patrick T.
the T stands for peace

Episode V: We're Going to Be Friends (Or Enemies... we'll see)

(Some language as always will be a little salty and slightly NSFW.  Just so you know.)

As a parent, one of the most omnipresent worries before school starts is the worry of whether your kid will have friends.  They worry that, too. Nothing in school is more important to your child than not being alone and having a group of people to hang out with that they can count on, especially just to complain about those other kids who are clearly awful and will grow up to be the worst of the worst: criminals, star athletes, and politicians. They need new friends to grow emotionally and to protect themselves against everything school has to throw at them.

As an adult though, you don't really wonder if you're going to get any new friends.  Most likely, you're all set in the friend department.  You've reduced your friend interactions to mostly Facebooking and living passively at a distance with most of your acquaintances.  We all live in Facebookia, where we can all pretend that nothing too horrible happens, trust everything anyone posts on face value (that's what the "face" in Facebook stands for), and assume that everyone is a decent parent and has a decent job and a decent home and how-did-I-get-here sort of life.  But outside of having to muster up some yip-yapping chit-chat with someone on a plane or in a Soviet-like line at the supermarket, I generally don't meet or interact with people I don't know.  

Having kids changes all of that.  You have to deal with tons of people in ways you could never have considered before.  First off, you're part of the parenting club.  You are all over-connected with every parent everywhere and anyone seeing your kids can automatically ask how old they are.  And you HAVE to answer.  You are morally obliged to share with strangers your child's age in a way you'd never do with anything else.  You don't go around an old folks home randomly asking oldies how old they are or how near death they feel.  You don't show up at a holiday party and just start asking when people were born.  So with this nefarious parenting cabal, your children have born you into something you never thought you'd have to be part of.  A trip to the park is a trip where you not only have to have a variety of items for your child to play with or eat, but you must be equipped with the emotional wherewithal to talk to total strangers as though you're a person capable of not being a complete asshole.  

Not the exact kinda parklife one lives as a parent.

But that's just - as Blur would sing about - Parklife.  Then your kid starts schooling.  And then it kicks off a whole new set of parents that you have to be friendly with and be friendly with for years.  You hope your kid picks the right kid with the right parents, but you know you can totally get shafted with parents you'd like to throw off the Space Needle along with their bratty kid.  And then if you're totally cool with the parents, you're the parents that they loathe.  

I know for a fact that there was a pair of parents who couldn't stand us at pre-school.  I don't think we'd ever been mean to them or lock them and their kid in a room with a facehugger or did anything warranting them hating us worse than disco-dancing Nazi cockroaches.  Yet the contempt they held for us was never really hidden.  And although I didn't want to hang around with them either, for some reason their open dislike stuck in my plentiful craw.  Especially as we had to see them all the time and I didn't know what led to them to treat us this way.  But just like a pubescent teenager preoccupied with people liking them despite not liking those people at all, it hurt (or at the very least irritated like a hangnail on the heart.)  

But as this crusty cold war goes on, your child goes to a different school than theirs.  And you're freed.  Until you meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.  Because if you're a weird kid like I was, you grow up to be a weird teenager.  Then you grow up to be a weird adult.  And a weird parent.  And even though for the most part "weird" is in (or at least everything that helped defined you as weird when young is totally accepted from comic books to Star Wars to Doctor Who), you still function as a person that's different from the rest.  

Especially here in Santa Monica, where even for a public school, the dads are keeping things tight.  Sure, there's a few of us chubs, but we're the minority to all the actors and other professionals who make a point of being totally in shape.  In the greater Los Angeles area, everyone is attractive.  From the police to the doctors to the folks who check the gas to the homeless, there is a sea of beauty here unlike anywhere else.  Whereas in the rest of America dads come in a standard slightly chunky size with doughy gallons-of-milk guts instead of six packs, here, they are all majestic adonises (or Adoni?).  So glorious in their presentation, you kinda hope that by you appearing to be a disfigured gargoyle in comparison will make YOU the rarity... the attractive one.  

(It does not.)

A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

A picture of bald me next to every dad in Santa Monica.

After wading through meeting billions of parents where you're all defined by your owner ("I'm Crispin's dad."  "I'm Lady's mom."  "I'm Lord Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang's father."), you do what we humans do best as a civilization: We make acquaintances.  And we do so with no expectations that they'll become friends.  However, even in the hodge-podge of random moms and dads and inbetweens, you will find a few on your same wavelength.  Who will laugh at the same thing.  Who will wear a t-shirt of a band you like, too.  Who will talk about Star Wars, but not like someone who just casually saw the movies, but someone who can rage out when you fear any word that starts with pre- will end with -quels.  All in all, you will find them.  And you will talk privately with gusto about the wretched other parents there are.  Griping about the entitled and slightly insane parents who yell at teachers not treating their kid like the messiah.  The uncaring, daredevil dickhole ones who drive Teslas too fast through the school parking lot.  The snotty ones who aren't as cool as all of you.  You, the cool parents.

It may seem you won't find your people.  It may seem that every other parent is an idiot or too involved in their kid or not enough involved in their kid or that they may wear t-shirts that seem at odds with any kind of taste or they may seem slightly sexist.  You may wander years without a parenting pal.  But then one day, you will arrange a playdate for your kid with another kid.  And you won't want to go to it.  You'd rather have a nap on a Sunday or do something that requires even less effort.  But because you love your son, you will go on that playdate.  And you will talk to those parents.  And you will realize they are awesome.  That they share your same thoughts on what a travesty MAN OF STEEL is.  How they also carry a first aid kit with them.  How they have awesome deeply enviable hair.

This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

This is the only Zod.  I don't know what you're talking about when you mention this MAN OF STEEL business.

Then you return home.  Surprised to find some folks you actually like.  And then you wait by the magic email machine, hoping they'll email again.  You smile, pleased that you found some folks you won't mind talking to for the next ten years until your kids graduate and you become your own human again.  

(But then you worry all junior high style that YOU are their horrible parent that they don't want to deal with.  That you aren't cool enough for them.  That you talk too much and griped about a teacher they may actually like and that you're an obnoxious turd and it's amazing anyone likes you at all.  And right then, you realize that kids turn you into emotionally turbulent kids in all kinds of twisty horrible ways that makes Cronenberg's worst visions look like Play-Doh in comparison.)  

All you can do then is just put on the White Stripes "We're Going to Be Friends" and LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" and hope for the best.  (Well, that and that your kid doesn't become best friends with the son of a dickhead.  That would be the worst.)

My TCM-ing

Recently watched OVER THE EDGE, a late 70s film about discontent teens who rebel against their absentee parents and jerkhead authority figures.  If you've seen the sterling documentary about Kurt Cobain MONTAGE OF HECK, clips of this film are sprinkled through it, as it was Cobain's favorite film and one could see why.  It's actually the debut of a young Matt Dillon - wearing an always classy half-shirt.  The film actually works pretty well even today and helps me - as did that Cobain doc - to be hopefully be less of a dick parent hopefully.

That's all for now, folks.  Thanks for reading and hope you all have a week filled with so many extraordinary adventures that even J.K. Rowling looks on impressed.

So long,

Patrick T.

The T stands for Montage