John Lennon

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 II: The New Dads

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

Growing up in the 70s & 80s, I got to witness when dads were being called upon to start doing more than they had.  Beginning of the end of the era where men could easily have virtually nothing to do with actually parenting their kids.  Before, they could drift off to a living room with a drink and watch baseball in silent masculine machismo misery.  But back then it began to change, maybe thanks to progress like Gloria Steinem, burning bras, and the Equal Rights Amendment fight. (By the way, it still boggles my tiny little mind that the ERA didn't pass.  Of course, at that time, Congress was even more filled with men than it is now.  In fact, it was 200% men in Congress.  Basically almost all men and each of those men had at least two dicks, all the better to dick the American people over with.)  Along with society, pop culture was changing things with songs like Cat Stevens "Father and Son" and John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy" and dads on TV went from being brusque domineering wife and child beaters to being kind and somewhat understanding.  

However, it still wasn't a time where real life dads did a ton more with their kids than before or shared their feelings or didn't mostly just communicate primarily through sports.  (There might be a double negative in there, but don't go all negative on it.)  But that was then and this is now and even if I was back with Don Draper, I couldn't be Don Draper.  I'm an oversensitive, whiny baby and I overthink things.  This might be good traits in a writer trying to find emotion in characters, but in a dad, it can get complicated. Because I overthink things, there's not virtually anything that I do as a dad that I don't think will do damage to them in some way.  

If you don't show them enough attention, they'll grow up and turn into raging pricks.  If you show them too much attention, they'll grow up and turn into entitled douchebags.  There are 5 trillion studies that prove all of this and that EVERYTHING you do is wrong.  I'm not an expert in raising kids or child psychology, but I do know when I see my kids emulating me in various ways, I'm not all full of yippees.  I don't want them to be the man I am, I want them to be so much better.

Driving in Los Angeles, my kids get to see me at my worst.  Once you get in a car in Los Angeles, each driver is in need of an exorcism as things take over our mouths and bodies in ways that would never occur.  When you get cut off in the supermarket by an old lady's cart, you aren't a flurry of middle fingers and shouting offensive words.  (Which is because that would be rude - and she's probably very close to death, so who cares?)  So you behave like a decent human being when dealing with people in person.  But once you get in your little moving box of glass and metal and plastic, you are in a very expensive tank that everyone should respect, just as you respect their moving tanks.  

Despite those unrealistic hopes though and trying to model good basic human behavior, you drive on to the freeway and all bets are off.  Immediately words and gestures come flying out of you.  Most of the time you remember you have ears in the backseat, but sometimes not.  And when you don't, you realize they're these little snitch sponges that soak up everything and regurgitate it out when you least expect it.  They also can pick up on things you don't think they can pick up on.  

Years ago, when driving down the street and a guy walked right down the middle of the street as though it wasn't for cars, I muttered to myself, "Out of the way, dickhead."  From behind, I heard my three-year-old ask, "Why'd you call him that?"  Without missing a beat, I answered casually: "Because that's his name... Richard Head.  Dick's a nickname for Richard."  And to be honest, I didn't know that guy's name wasn't that.  

So the key to me being the kind of me dad that I can live with, I have to reconcile my being an okay dad.  And with a lot of dads not being present, merely by showing up I'm probably ahead of the curve slightly.  I start the dad game with house money just by being around.  By waking up with my kid in the middle of the night and rocking him back to sleep.  By not spanking them or belittling them.  By listening to them talk about Minecraft and Terraria and Plants vs. Zombies as if it makes sense to me and pretending to be terribly interested.  By trying to understand that I need to just be the best I can be and hope that therapy in the future will cover the rest.

My TCM Week

(I love DVR-ing random films off TCM.  Here are some things I recently watched, probably a long time after they initially aired on TCM.)

This past week of what I've been watching on TCM from my DVR are two films that are part of their Female Directors series.  The first I watched was VALLEY GIRL.  I'd seen it before a few years ago and it didn't do much for me then, but this time it was pure magic. The music is beyond spectacular with a ton of hits of that time.  One of the key songs is the constantly cheerful, "I Melt with You."  But the real find for me this time was this song by Sparks that played during a romantic scene.  Immediately I had to go and find it and now I've been doing nothing but listening to Sparks songs for the past week.  

Here's the song I dug and it's a delightful earworm of the first order.

(The odd thing is that my favorite song of the summer is a surprisingly chirpy song called "Piss Off" by FFS, which is Franz Ferdinand with this band Sparks from the 80s.  And I had no idea because I put the "idea" in "idiot".)

And it had Nicholas Cage with some very weird V-shaped chest hair, so there's that, too.

Also, I watched FIRST LOVE with William Katt and Susan Dey, another of the female directors series.  So in it, basically, the Greatest American Hero and the L.A. Law lady have a fair amount of sex, Katt calls her the c word you're really not supposed to call a lady, and he asks her if she has an orgasm.  

Now, I loved THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO so much as a kid that I shout-sang crazy-"Let-It-Go"-FROZEN-style the theme song during my elementary school music class like a deranged person.  (I might have even been weeping.)  Thus, years later, I turned my love of that song into a bedtime lullaby for both my sons when they were babies.  And now that I saw this film, I'm not sure I'll ever look that superhero or sing that song the same again.  Once you hear Ralph Hinkley ask Ms. L.A. LAW about orgasms, it's all a bit tainted.

Also, Dey is involved with a much older Robert Loggia.  And she's choosing between a young soccer-playin' William Katt and a mid-40s cheatin' Loggia.  Because why would you choose Katt when you can break yourself off a piece of Robert Loggia.

What's amazing to me is that this film came out in 1977.  The same year a film William Katt auditioned for a character called Luke Skywalker came out.  How things could be so different with the smallest of changes.

So that's it for now.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you all have a brilliant week!

So long,
Patrick T.
the T stands for Machismo