Bowie and My Boys

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

My kids know quite well who David Bowie is.  Because I’m that kind of dad.  There are other dads who make their kids know football players better than their own relatives.  Or soccer stars more than Star Wars characters.  Or basketball players who take the rock to the hole instead of rock stars that make life whole. 

That’s where I am.  More than anything else as a dad, I have always taken it upon myself to introduce them to the music that means (and has meant) so much to me.  Not to force them to love what I love.  But to expose them to wide variety of music and hope that it takes hold. 

My kids are the ones who’ve had to suffer through playlists and mix CD’s since they were born.  And it’s not like those mixes are filled only with high-falutin’ Beatles and Bowie and Dylan.  There’s a hell of a lot of Styx on there, too.  (Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.)  My sons are the ones who have to (and willingly surprisingly) watch The Monkees with me (my first concert, during their 80s resurrection due to MTV) and know that Davy Jones is the reason we have David Bowie.  (Because Bowie’s real name is David Jones and there couldn’t be two of those in rock.  There just couldn’t!  And what other nine-year-olds and five-year-olds know that bit of useless but slightly interesting information?) 

One of the big ones though in rock that’s always been important for my sons to know of was the Thin White Duke.  Nobody did an opening of a song better than Mr. Bowie.  Think of the start of "Queen Bitch" or "Under Pressure" or "Little Wonder".  What other song starts like "Modern Love"?  It’s like a box of springs dropped off the planet Mars by spiders and bounces to happiness like no other.  But those songs, especially those songs and videos of the eighties that so shaped me were only the beginning. 

As I got older, I drifted into his seventies work, while continuing to follow him forward in the nineties where he was appropriately afraid of Americans and even to now.  He was a time and space machine that went backwards/forwards and through different galaxies.  Which fits perfectly now where everything exists all at once.  Where my kids can instantly get music and movies and anything else that’s been made in the far past right now where it co-exists perfectly with the arty canvases of today and the future to come.    

When my boys were quite young, I did the proper parent manner of introducing Bowie to your kids the way you should do.  I showed my kids the film that can bring him to them in a way that appeals to kids. You know...

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

No, just kidding.  Twin Peaks is only for teens.

I clearly mean...

The Last Temptation of Christ.


No, not that one. I'm talking about...

The Hunger

Because kids do love vampires. 

This is either before or after he decides you have to "slap that baby, make it free."

This is either before or after he decides you have to "slap that baby, make it free."

No, it’s clearly Labyrinth

And my kids dug it.  More than I thought they would.  And more than I ever did.  It’s one of those films that I didn’t see right when it came out and thus it never really has held much allure for me.  The same goes for The Dark Crystal, The NeverEnding Story, The Last Starfighter, and a few others.  If I had seen these at the right time as a kid, it might be different, but seeing each of those later did me no favors.  (Although I did love one kid in The Last Starfighter shouting in surprise, “What the shit!”  In fact, if at some point when it’s not too age-inappropriate if my kids can shout “What the shit!”, I’ll be terribly proud indeed.)

Every time Bowie comes up on my shuffle, I ask my kids who it is.  (I do this not just with Bowie, but other music that means a lot to me and makes me happy.  The Pogues, Bob Dylan, New Order, the Who, the White Stripes, etc.)  My youngest for some reason frequently says Bob Dylan when he means David Bowie.  I guess there is a reverse symmetry to their names with B’s and D’s and it doesn’t help that sometimes a song called “Song for Bob Dylan” by David Bowie comes up.

(Speaking of that, it’s odd that Dylan’s outlived him.  Oh, hell, that Keith Richards has.  Or that Shane MacGowan has outlived the majestic Bowie and has a new set of teeth besides is one of the most unpredictable never-not-surprising wonders of life.) 

Bowie is such a part of all facets of my life and my kids life that I can’t conceive of an existence without him.  Each Christmas, we watch the Bing Crosby and Bowie singing Little Drummer Boy.  It’s so lovely and generation jumping from Crosby to Bowie to my kids now, I can’t imagine a Christmas without it.  The fact that’s it’s wrapped in a 70’s Christmas show reminds me of that time and the Star Wars Holiday Special and makes it even more spectacular. 

But it goes beyond that.  Because Bowie is in everything with his music, his presence, his influence, his acting, his style, his everything.  From Guardians of the Galaxy to Twin Peaks to Extras to all that’s inbetween. 

As a young teen, one of the biggest moments of teen glory was when we got MTV.  We’d heard Mr. Bowie and others say I want my MTV, but in our house in my town in Nebraska, we had to depend on Night Tracks and Friday Night Videos for our music videos.  Like animals!!!

We couldn’t have videos all day.  And when I’d stay up and watch Night Tracks, Bowie’s songs charged through me with a power unlike anything else.  (I also hold a special spot for “Our House” by Madness there, too, but that’s a weird bit of me-joy.) 

However, one day we got MTV.  And the big news was there was a world premiere video to air.  And not a regular video, but a long video, which was something I’d never even known could be done.  It seemed like someone was doing something exciting and new on a channel that was designed to be exciting and new.  And yes, it was Mr. Bowie.  The video was for “Blue Jean” and I was entranced.  It had a filmed story with a hell of a song and I made sure to be back and watch it again when they replayed it later that night. 

(I don’t know why I didn’t just record MTV on our Betamax.  Yeah, we got cable way late and had Beta.  Don’t be so jealous of me being the 1980s equivalent of Laura Ingalls.)

Being a boy in the eighties in Nebraska meant wallowing in a cesspool of homophobia that’s astonishing to think of now.  Every day – especially if you were different from the football loving other boys – you would be called a “homo” or “gay” or a ton of slurs that were meant to make alpha dogs feel more alpha-y.  And no matter how much you liked women (so much you could barely talk to them), it didn't matter (and it shouldn't have mattered one way or the other.)  But in Bowie we had a Diamond Dog.  For all us weirdos and aliens and strange beings that didn’t fit in, he did what he did and looked so damn cool it offered a way out.  A hand up to a galaxy we never knew existed nor dreamed we could ever be part of.

More than anything, Bowie’s passing off the mortal coil has reminded me of how much my parenting is about sharing the soul-inspiring, life-changing music that I love and hoping my kids love it, too.  If they don’t, that’s fine.  But with my oldest, he’s clearly digging music in a profound way.  Some of it not my kind of music – he’s recently been digging some grunge he started playing on Rock Band – but the fact that he loves any music is huge for me.  My youngest doesn’t seem to care as much about music and I’m considering trading him for a Tribble.  (An old school one at that!)

As I told my kids that David Bowie died, I told my son about how great Bowie looked in his final days.  My oldest asked what he looked like and I showed him the pictures of the man that we’ve all seen now.

I showed him those pictures.  A man on the verge of his final transformation, looking far better than anyone ever had.  So while I’ll have the 300 plus Bowie tracks I have playing constantly for the next week or two, it won’t be as any kind of dirge.  It will be a reclaiming glory.  Because as many times as he inspired us to be a hero “just for one day”, he will be ours for eternity.

So long,

Patrick T.

The T stands for Oddity

Episode IV: The Great Pumpkin Is a Turd

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

(Also, to kinda protect my kids, I've changed their names. The oldest I'll just randomly call Han and the youngest Luke.)

I arrived at school at my regular time.  The same as usual.  But there was my youngest kid, openly weeping like Sophie just made a choice and it wasn't him.  I thought maybe another kindergartner stole something from him or was unnaturally mean to him.  That maybe one of the teachers said something horrible - like maybe he was "too adorable" or "too smart".  

One of Luke's friends told me that Luke he didn't think I was going to come to get him.  Instantly, I jumped at the belief that another student tricked him into this belief and was ready to lash out at the dirty turd who dared to trick my son into tears.  But no.  It wasn't any of that.  Luke believed I wasn't coming to get him.  He believed it was much later than usual and I wouldn't pick him up.  And so he started losing his shit - thankfully only metaphorically as with kids it can get literal and deeply unpleasant - and he told his tiny friends his worries which led to more worries and a full cascading of tears.  

The truth was that I was right on time.  He wasn't even close to the last kid picked up - in fact there were tons of kids still there waiting for their parents.  A full litter really.  But as it had been a busy Halloween day, Luke felt it was later than usual and got all discombobulated with general feelings of being orphaned.  Otherwise, known as "the usual".  Because as a kid, that's the worst case scenario.  Even with an oafish dad like me, being left by your parents is as bad as it gets.  It's the heart of most Disney films, Star Wars, and a million other stories as well.  It's the easiest way in for a kid (or for any human with a heart at all) with a story and it's the go-to when a kid needs something to really freak out about.  

So once I figured out it was this general soul-shattering feelings of abandonment, I crouched down and told him I'd never not come get him.  That either his mom or me would always pick him up.  We hugged, his tears abated and then he went to cheerfully tell me he'd gotten candy in class.  

Myself as a kid in a very classy Spider-Man knockoff costume.

Myself as a kid in a very classy Spider-Man knockoff costume.

For all this, I blame Halloween.  For months, my kids had been looking forward to it.  The older ordered parts and bits to make a Tron outfit weeks before.  The other fought off every question as to what he was going to be, but still kept counting down the days until Halloween.  Eventually, he made his own cool penguin costume with his mom, an act he was proud of.  But come the day of the Halloween parade at his school, he had to be coaxed into wearing it.  He feared people making fun of it.  And then next day at his soccer game, he was reduced to tears again when another kid on his team asked what he was going to be for Halloween.  When he told this kid "a penguin", this 5-year-old bucket of evil sneered at Luke: "That's not scary!"

And again, the tears.  It's not the way you want to end a soccer game, but here he was wracked with the raging eye waters.  His older brother tried to comfort him, but that verbal arrow from a turdy teammate struck too close to the bone.  Myself and Luke talked about what happened, about how he shouldn't care what that kid said.  I asked Luke if he even wanted his costume to be scary, to which he admitted he hadn't.  So his teammate saying it wasn't scary dismissively was like saying an apple didn't taste like a hamburger.  His costume was just a cute, cool penguin.  Not some bloody, Hannibal Lecter cannibal penguin who fed off the hides of other penguins, especially those ones from Madagascar, Pingu, and Opus.  It wasn't Revenge of the March of the Penguins - although that would be awesome.  (Hit me up, SyFy Channel if you want a pitch on that.)

So that night, Halloween night, Luke gave up on being a penguin.  He wore an old sci-fi soldier-y costume of his brother's.  Peer pressure and his own doubts crept in and knocked the one he made out of consideration.  And he was totally happy in his random future soldier outfit that was some sort of weird knockoff that we'd never heard before.  But it felt like a slight loss, him not wearing his own home-made costume.  Even if he was clearly happier and less angsty by putting on this other costume.

Then we went trick-or-treating with other families we'd gone with for years.  And I eyed each trick-or-treater in too scary costumes or terrible teens out for terror with the idea that I'll jump into action if they do anything to my kids.  Most likely, I'd use some extraordinarily vulgar words put together in ways that will make them weep for years.  Because there are people who love Halloween.  And people who don't.  I'm am in the don't.  

Myself with horror master Wes Craven and the brilliant director and cast of the film  The Girl in the Photographs .

Myself with horror master Wes Craven and the brilliant director and cast of the film The Girl in the Photographs.

Because it's filled with people trying to scare people.  And in the 80s when scaring was at it's peak with Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and others, I ran away from those films.  Hell, I only saw Poltergeist.  Which scared me enough.  But now in the real world with real kids, I'm taking them to strangers houses, asking to trust these strangers to give my children candy poison while surrounded by hoards of people going around in the dark with their faces hidden so they could totally stab you and run off and get away with it.  

So thanks for scaring me more than I already am, Great Pumpkin and your Halloween.  I hope one day Linus catches up with you.  And wreaks a revenge that's never-before-seen with a blue blanket of carnage.  And then we'll never have to do Halloween again.

Except my kids already started talking about what they could be next year.  

Crap.  This Halloween stuff never ends.

My TCM-ing

Over the past week, TCM has been showing a lot of scary films.  The most scary, for me always, has been the short films of David Lynch.  I love David Lynch.  I've seen a fair amount of scary films even though I missed so many in the 80s, but the only thing that consistently freaks me out is David Lynch.  Twin Peaks did a number on me that no other show or movie ever could.  So showing these early short films (and other works) that he did while at AFI like The Grandmother and The Alphabet and I'm still weirded out.  Check it out if you never have and it will infect your soul.

David Lynch's  The Grandmother .

David Lynch's The Grandmother.

Also, they've been showing a lot of old Hammer films.  The movie Dracula A.D. 1972 showed that The Godfather had nothing to worry about that year for best film.

What I love is that it says Dracula has "an eye for London's hotpants".  Repeat: he has "an eye for London's hotpants".

What I love is that it says Dracula has "an eye for London's hotpants".  Repeat: he has "an eye for London's hotpants".

Also, watched Race to Witch Mountain, which as a child was a big deal.  Watching it with my kids, it's not a bad film and holds up pretty well.  What I loved most was that the film had a very pro-bald casting agenda.  Baldies were everywhere in it.  

A couple last random thoughts...

While out taking the kids trick-or-treating with other families, I joked that my wearing my regular clothes was actually a costume of Dad-Who's-Given-Up.  And then one of the women laughed really hard.  Like, too hard.  Like too much truth.

Also, do parents let their kids eat all the candy they get?  Each year, we've let our kids pick out a small amount and then we bring it to the school to send off to the troops.  Not to be kind or awesome or any of that, but because we don't want any sugar-crazed chubbos bouncing off our walls.  (...And because if some troops get our candy and like it, that is kinda nice.)

So that's it.  Thanks for reading and I hope each of you have a brilliantly awesome week of adventures and laughter.  (Also, go listen to Styx's "Come Sail Away".  You'll feel better after you do.)

So long,
Patrick T.
the T stands for pumpkin